Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Attend the Tale...

I just came back from seeing Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and my heart is still racing.   At the time I'm writing this, the movie has earned an 87% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and personally, I think that's a bit low.  Before seeing Sweeney, I suggest that you remember a few simple points.

First, Sweeney is a musical.  A very different musical, but a musical nonetheless.   There are some people in this world who can't stomach musicals. Having grown up with wonderful shows like The Sound of Music and Oklahoma, I don't understand this, but there it is.   If you can't abide musicals of any kind, you might want to pass on Sweeney Todd.

Second, Sweeney is not The Sound of Music or Oklahoma.   Julie Andrews will not sing about her favorite things. Shirley Jones will not vocalize about love.   This musical is about the depravity of man, the loss of hope, insanity, murder and mayhem.   It is very dark, intense and gory.   The film is bloody.   Think the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, make it realistic, and raise it by a factor of a hundred.   Lots of arterial action.  If you have a weak stomach, you may want to pass on Sweeney Todd.

Third, Sweeney is a movie.   If you saw the musical on Broadway or the film of the national tour, expect some differences.   Theater is more removed than film.   Theater is fantastical.   Although the movie did not significantly deviate from the script, the medium is much more realistic, more personal, far more intense.   Expect a different experience from the stage production.

The performances were outstanding.   Vocally, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter give respectable performances of Stephen Sondheim's music, but it was their acting that distinguished them.   Their performances are intense, manic, powerful.   The best musical performances were by Jayne Wisener (Johanna) and Ed Sanders (Toby).   Along with Jamie Campbell Bower (Anthony), these young actors light up the screen.   Alan Rickman was predictably wonderful as Judge Turpin.   Timothy Spall (Beadle Bamford) was good, but I kept wondering how Wormtail ended up in 19th century London.   Sacha Baron Cohen did a good job as Signor Pirelli.

My biggest disappointment was that the Ballad of Sweeney Todd was not sung.   The greatest improvement was the direction for the song By the Sea.   That song never worked for me in the stage production, but in the movie, it's very funny and effective.

I have seen several theatrical productions of Sweeney, and at one time, I owned the soundtrack.   Knowing what to expect did little to lessen the tension.   If you ride a rollercoaster several times, you may know when to expect the drops and loops -- but anticipation only heightens the excitement.   Sweeney is very bloody, very graphic, very, very dark and intense.   It is a total thrill ride.   It's poignant, frightening, funny, gross, and sad.  Director Tim Burton is a genius at telling dark, quirky, surreal tales -- and Sweeney is no exception.  I give Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street five sanguineous stars.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Book Challenges for 2008 -- Part Two

I've picked my books for the 888 Reading Challenge and In Their Shoes Reading Challenge. The overlapping titles are in color.

Books by TARAns
1. Scream for Me, Karen Rose
2. True Pretenses, Karen Lingefelt
3. Good Girls Don't, Kelley St. John
4. Phantom Pleasures, Julie Leto
5. Kill Me Twice, Roxanne St. Claire
6. Chasing Charlie, Kathy Carmichael
7. The Twisted Trail, L. W. Rogers
8. Atlantis Unleashed, Alyssa Day

Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographies (In Their Shoes!)
1. Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, Terry W. Glaspey
2. Statesman and Saint: The Principled Politics of William Wilberforce, David J. Vaughan
3. Roman Lives, Plutarch
4. The Parish Papers, George MacDonald
5. Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose (Lewis & Clark)
6. Stephen King, On Writing
7. Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck
8. The Pirate Hunter – The True Story of Captain Kidd, Richard Zacks

Award Winners (eight different awards)
1. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (Pulitzer)
2. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (Nebula Award)
3. Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card (Hugo Award)
4. Bootlegger's Daughter, Margaret Maron (Agatha)
5. Lisey's Story, Stephen King (Bram Stoker)
6. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (Richard and Judy Best Read Award)
7. The Devil to Pay (RITA)
8. Citizen Vince, Jess Walter (Edgar)

Fantasy/Science Fiction (including Romantic Fantasy)
1. Dark Celebration, Christine Feehan
2. The Hollow, Nora Roberts
3. Sizzle and Burn, Jayne Ann Krentz
4. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
5. Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
6. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
7. A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
8. A Storm of Swords, George. R. R. Martin

Religion/Philosophy/Christian Living
1. Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyon
2. Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis
3. Stepping Heavenward, Elizabeth Prentiss
4. Hind's Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard
5. The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
6. Pray with Your Eyes Open, Richard Pratt
7. Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, John Milton
8. The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis

1 Animal Farm, George Orwell
2. We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
3. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
4. 1984, George Orwell
5. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
6. The Giver, Lois Lowry
7. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
8. The Stand, Stephen King

Thrillers (Including Romantic Suspense)
1. The Last Goodbye, Reed Arvin
2. The Good Guy, Dean Koontz
3. Scream for Me, Karen Rose
4. Predatory Game, Christine Feehan
5. Shadow Dance, Julie Garwood
6. Have You Seen Her? Karen Rose
7. The Monk, Matthew Lewis
8. Shadow Music, Julie Garwood

Written before 1940
1. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939)
2. Paradise Lost (1667) and Paradise Regained (1671), John Milton
3. Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyon (1678)
4. Evelina, Frances Burney (1778)
5. The Monk, Matthew Lewis (1796)
6. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)
7. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
8. The Parish Papers, George MacDonald (1867-1872)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book Challenges for 2008 -- Part I

My friend Kristi introduced me to book challenges.   I will participate in these two for 2008.

"In their shoes" Reading Challenge. Read memoirs, biographies or autobiographies.   You choose the number to read.   I plan to read eight.  I'm not sure yet which ones.

Triple 8 Challenge   Read eight books in eight categories of your choosing in 2008.   You may have eight overlaps, so a minimum of 56 books.

Here are my thoughts on categories so far:

  • Books by TARAns
  • Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographies (In Their Shoes!)
  • Award Winners (eight different awards)
  • Fantasy/Science Fiction (including Romantic Fantasy)
  • Religion/Philosophy/Christian Living
  • Around the World
  • Thrillers (Including Romantic Suspense)
  • Written before 1940

    I'll let you know when I figure out the books.   Please let me know if you are doing these or any other reading challenges.
  • Monday, December 10, 2007

    Perspective and Purpose

    One of the best ways to get out of a funk is to help someone else.   Part of the reasons this works, I suppose, is that when we see others in need, it reminds us that we aren't alone in our problems.   Serving others gives us perspective and purpose.

    Serving and giving are great ways to show thankfulness and to demonstrate love.   The world's needs are great, so finding a place to plug in and help is pretty easy.   I have links to some of my favorite charities and ministries in my blog.   Find a place of your own and start giving of yourself -- your time, your talents, your treasure.

    Happiness cannot come from without.  It must come from within.  It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.   Helen Keller

    Christmas gift suggestions:
    To your enemy, forgiveness.
    To an opponent, tolerance.
    To a friend, your heart.
    To a customer, service.
    To all, charity.
    To every child, a good example.
    To yourself, respect.

    Oren Arnold