The Sweeney Todd Post

Musicals…not among my favorite things in the world. But Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Sacha Baron Cohan are, so this one was worth a try.

Art direction was classic Burton and looked pretty phenomenal on the bring screen, the opening credits in particular where pretty cool. The characters looked particularly downtrodden and London-y, as did the soggy, disease riddled streets they lived on. The only thing I’d have changed was Sweeny’s Bride-of-Frankenstein coif. It made him look like a joke walking though the streets. Like a Hot Topic shopper who accidentally got lost in the food court.

Casting was right on the money in all roles, particularly Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. But it was Helen Bonham Carter that stole the show and proved that she was there for additional reasons besides banging the director. While many roles where lost to either bizarre (but effective) costuming and/or silly singing segments, Carter kept Mrs. Lovett strong through the whole film and proved to be one of the only really ‘likable’ roles in the film.

I did feel that the film took an unnecessary amount of gore to convey the plot. While I understand that the nature of the story involves thorought slitting and cannibal pies, I think one or two streaming fountains of blood would have sufficed. However Burton seemed to think that we need multiple angles of every slain Londoners windpipe and Kill Bill levels of squirtage. I also don’t think that we need to see so many dead bodies falling on their heads after each kill, but if I had to pick my battles I’d cut down on the neck razorings.

If Burton had abandoned the musical aspect there simply wouldn’t have been enough movie to pad out two hours. The film dragged, particularly in its second act and once the ending finally came about I can’t say I wasn’t relived that the exacerbated story was finally wrapping up. 90% of the film is Sweeny holding up his razor to the sky and singing to it, while looking at his reflection. Wait, maybe 91%. While it makes for a nice dramatic finish to one of the opening songs, it was defiantly not needed to the degree it was used. Overall though, this film is a classic example of the final product not being as good as the sum of its parts. With a solid cast, brilliant art direction and a well recognized story the film should be an instant hit. But I feel that the very nature of the musical has forced this film into the average category, despite efforts from the cast and crew. Glad to have seen it. But can’t see myself watching it again.

The US Airways Post

Airtran has just been replaced as my least favorite domestic airline. US Airways is the new champ of sucky aviation. I had never flown with them before (I’m a United man myself) and probably never will again if it’s up to me. This time was the result of a last minute attempt at securing tickets with Expeidia. So after my very merry holiday with the family I headed to the airport ready to go, and found that one of my connecting flights had been delayed. Firstly, who needs a connecting flight down to Florida? Its 2 hours away. Strike one. Strike two would be that the connection was delayed to the point where I’d not make the second leg of my trip and needed to reschedule my itinerary. Strikes Three through Six would be that; all flights out of Dulles are booked full (3), all flights tomorrow out of Dulles are booked full (4), the only flight she can get me on is at Regan Airport (5), and that the Regan flight leaves tomorrow morning and I’ll have to catch a cab first thing to catch the flight (6). Admittedly the Regan flight was direct, and they paid for my cab, but just when I was about to lift Strike 6 from the record, they oversold the flight and needed five volunteers to abdicate their seats before the damn thing could take off. Normally I would have volunteered, because a free roundtrip ticket is pretty tempting and I was already missing work that day as is. But the next available flight wasn’t until 7pm the following day. So too bad.

Eventually 5 suckers…err.. model citizens came forward and we took off 45 minutes late*. While the flight itself was better than Airtran (boo, hissss) all the drama and preboarding issues left a sour taste in my mouth. Plus they don’t give you snacks for free on the flight. They offer to sell you a five dollar “Snack Pack” as they march up and down the isle. Also, they did an in-flight announcement to try sell you on a credit card and proceeded to come down and ask every passenger (that wasn’t faking sleep) to fill out an application. With flight prices the way they are now, I find it crazy that this is the route the airline is taking. Cheapens everything.

Moral of the story: Don’t leave Christmas flight booking till Thanksgiving.
Bonus Moral: US Airways sucks.

*Strike 7. You’re out! I love baseball.

The Christmas Post

Christmas was terrific this year, as always. And, like last year, I felt an incredible yearning just to stay home when it came time to head back down south. I had a great time and managed to squeeze a lot of activities, family fun and fantastic meals into an extended weekend. Ali, Bob, Lel, Cromar, Andrew and Craig were all in town, as was my whole family as well as Sarah’s. Plus Stefan, Andrew and Jake’s significant others (Courtney, Maddie and Lauren) where over too, so there where lots people to see, presents to open and merriment to be had. Nana and Papa where notably absent this year, due to them taking a trip with Iris and Bob for the holiday, which was a shame, but nice to know they are having a great time over in Scotland with their friends. We spent one night over at Lel’s new apartment, which is shaping up really nicely. It’s nice to see it become very ‘Lel’ and see her fitting in stateside so well. Having Andrew, Craig and Cromar around for the festivities made it feel like Christmases I remember from my childhood. Maddie is really great, and it into the family dynamic really well (i.e. laughs at our jokes and has a similar sense of odd humor), it was lovely to meet her and see both her and Andrew so happy together.

Christmas Eve Mum and Dad took my siblings and I, out to the Russian House restaurant in Herndon for a nice meal together. Stefan brought Courtney with him and we had a great meal, fantastic food and lovely company. The plan is to head back once Stefan returns from his tour overseas at the end of next year. I know Sam is stoked about going back, because she left the restaurant declaring that “seriously…that was the best steak I’ve ever had” and went on to dream about it the following night.

I managed to steal a car and make a trip out to the Wantula’s one morning to surprise little Andrew (who was in his pajama’s and had no idea ‘Mr. G” was coming), which was nice. They have recently had heavy renovations done to their house, transforming the kitchen, master bed/bath and dining room areas. It looks like something out of an Ikea catalogue and is stunning. The whole family seems very pleased with it, and even more pleased that they can start living in their house normally again. After the traditional whooping of Mr. G in Super Smash Brothers, I left the Wantula’s to stop by Duncan’s to whish him a Merry Christmas and visit the family briefly. I do feel bad doing the ‘pop-in’ visits whenever I go back, but with the time restraints there really is no other option. There are so many people in VA that I’d love to spend day’s catching up and hanging out with… At least with the holidays in full swing everyone was just as busy as I was. We did get to see thing King’s this year which was nice though. It’s crazy too see how fast everyone grows up when you aren’t in day-to-day contact.

The Hunt’s had a photographer come by to capture some candid (and posed) pictures of the family hanging out around the tree and fireplace. It’s an interesting concept to me to have someone come in and just float about snapping pictures, but I have the feeling that quite a few of them turned out pretty well. Bart, the photographer was really nice and made the whole exercise surprisingly less awkward than I’d have expected. Sarah’s family is all doing well, and it was great to see everyone again. Melissa’s fiancé Andrew* was there as well, which was the first time I’d met him. Good guy, a lot of fun and always good for a laugh. I enjoyed myself at Sarah’s, and as before, felt bad that I had to limit my time there to such quick visits. But I look forward to seeing how those pictures turned out. Should be a few goodies of Sarah and me, if I managed not to blink.

Christmas Day was awesome, and blew me away. The best part about family Christmases is that everyone knows each other so well, and the gifting that takes place definitely reflects that. I was spoiled extra rotten this year and found myself lugging an extra large suitcase home from the airport to prove it. After the traditional morning Christmas at Mum and Dad’s, then a second round at the Hunt’s, Sarah and I headed over to Ali and Bob’s new house for some Christmas dinner and Batchi. The house is perfect for them, and is extremely charming. With odd nooks, slanted rooms and doorways that make Lel blush in their shortness, the house is “Just as F’d up as we are”-Bob Ragsdale. We had a great time rolling spuds, eating far too much and swapping gifts, so much so it’s going to be hard for me to imagine a family Christmas any other way.

Boxing Day was a lot of fun and even more food. Despite the miserable weather, we where able to get the Fairy Launch underway. More on that and a video from Christmas morning in a later post…

*This is the 3rd Andrew I have mentioned in this post-Just so you don’t get too confused.


The Co-Op Post

As I briefly mentioned before in a previous posting, Xbox Live pal Treebeerd and I are working jointly on an online comic called Co-Op. The comic centers around two friends that don’t know each other in real life, only online and converse via videogames. The characters are loosely based on Treebeerd and myself, and the comic will alternate artists each week with me kicking it off with this first stab at the thing. I’m sure styles will alter, characters will evolve and changes will be made all around, so don’t get too comfortable with the thing just yet. It’s an acquired taste I think, and requires a healthy understanding of online console gaming; so if you don’t know what the Friends of Friends feature is or anything about Bioshock achievements or playing Uno online then it probably won’t be for you. The comic will be online at ComicSpace in the very near future if you like what you see. Everyone else; don’t worry, I’ll keep the gaming-nerdyness and my general blog-nerdyness separate in the future.

Click to read.


The Netflix Post

“What you haven’t seen _____? Really?!?– It’s this phrase that I hear all too often and can’t stand. The indignant response and obligatory repeating of the movie you just said you hadn’t seen, but by someone who feels the need to repeat back to you with a raised tone. I’ll admit it; I have terrible taste in movies. That and if a film came out over 10 years ago, I probably haven’t seen it (with a few exceptions of course). It’s now that I am recognizing that it’s a problem.

One of my New Years resolutions this year is designed to help me catch up on all the films I haven’t seen. I’ll detail the other resolutions at a later posting, but I decided to start this particular one early. The resolution states that I will attempt to watch at east one movie a week, in an attempt to see all the films everyone else has seen as well as those films that are particularly revered or noteworthy. To do so I have signed up for Netflix and have filled a list of over 100 movies I feel I need to see. So far the service has impressed me, with lightning-fast delivery and a polished selection/rating system that makes it all to easy to get films coming your way. So far I have seen Amile, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Usual Suspects. 'Ridgemont and 'Pan where impressive and respectable films, but didn’t blow my a way like Amile and ‘Suspects did. Amilie might just be one of my favorite movies-absolutely hilarious. And considering it’s French, that’s saying something. The Usual Suspects is one I have actually seen before, but need to see again, and is possibly even better the 2nd time around. Kaiser Sose!!

I look forward to checking out all that I’ve been missing. If you have a recommendation either for essential viewing or a particularly amazing film let me know and I’ll add it to the ever growing list.

The Wii-Hunter Post

Wii’s are still the hot item this Christmas it seems. (Tickle Me Elmo is in tears) Personally I think it’s crazy that the demand is still as high as it is a year and a half after the system’s launch. Apparently Nintendo only ship enough to a location to sell out immediately whilst still outselling the other consoles in quantity. Pretty clever on their part because it keeps the demand up I suppose, but upsetting for families that don’t have the time to camp out at stores and chase after delivery trucks. Susan and the Zollo clan have been in search of a Wii this year as the family Christmas present, and have thus far been unsuccessful in snagging the illusive little system. Fortunately for her I now have the video-game-hook-up and was able to secure a system for her thanks to help from the crew at the store. Had to leave out the back after making the purchase and sneaking around by the dumpster to avoid the throng of customers who we all looking for the same thing. I love Christmas hype…but it’s almost ridiculous. Still anything that’s important enough to do a secret deal with a stealth extraction is cool enough, and adds a little flavor to a lunch break.

The Tyson Christmas Post

Last weekend I was invited to Henry’s holiday party which was sort of the unofficial company Christmas party this year. Having never headed out to Henry’s place before I copped a ride with Buck and Lola who stopped by to check out the apartment before hand. After realizing I was underdressed for the occasion and a prompt wardrobe change I was ready to ride. The party was a lot of fun and very festive feeling. Quite a few families from work where there as well as a few others I hadn’t met before. I ran about a bit snapping the odd shot here or there, lost horribly to Sue at 9-ball and spent a lot of time drinking beer and doing Yager shots with Henry at the T-Bar™. The ‘Jungle Room’ Henry has set up is pretty awesome, and would easily trump any hangout room I’ve been in recently. With a big screen, pool table and Henry’s homemade bar in the corner I felt right at home. The uber comfortable lounge couches didn’t hurt any either. Sue and Arnold where nice enough to give me a ride home after a stop off downtown to see Buck spinning at Sky 60. Very fun night, defiantly got me in the Christmas spirit. Now if only I can think of something clever to write on a dollar to put up on the back wall...

The Grinch Returns Post

Universal Studios is brining back its seasonal celebration “Grinchmas” at Islands of adventure this year. The event features a holiday parade, some themed shows and Christmassy decorations throughout the park. The star attraction though is that the mean green one himself is available for a character photo with guests. The picture is taken by our company in front of a green screen that has some artwork I drew up for the event superimposed behind the photo. I would have through that getting to work on these sort of projects would have lost its luster with me, but over a year of working here, they still get me excited. Grinchmas is a pretty big deal for Universal this time of year and its just cool to see billboards and television commercials advertising a character photo that I had a hand in. If you get a change to make it out that way say hey to old Grinchy for me.


The Golden Turd Post

I am disappointed with this year’s big family trilogy starter. While pretty, technically impressive and brimming with magical charm ‘Compass offers little more than an average fetch-quest plotline pumped up on magical CG-steroids.

I wont go into detail but the world of the Golden Compass is no-doubt a magical one. People’s souls are manifested as animals, polar bears live in castles, and witches are commonplace. Part Potter and part Pinocchio, the plot focuses on young Lyra as she sets off to free kidnapped orphans from an evil organization that seeks to separate children from their magical souls. Along the way she befriends…well everything possible, and forms a band of mismatched comrades that would seemingly die for a young girl they apparently barely know. I’m sure all this will be explained in later chapters, but in this film it’s almost obnoxious how this little girl (who has the most annoying voice of all time I might add) befriends everything from a balloon riding cowboy and a ninja witch to a talking prince-polar-bear and a boatload of traveling gypsies. Ok bad guys need their asses kicked, that’s fine with me. But how does everyone and their magical dog seemingly know that dying for this little urchin is a good idea?

With talking animals, battlefield clashes and magical children; this movie has all the cliché necessities’ of a blockbuster fantasy romp, but sad truth of it all is that ‘Compass is not greater than the sum of its parts. While it has everything it needs to succeed in its genre, ‘Compass presents everything in a flat and overly linear manner that does little but bore the audience as it leads them through to the credits. With a cast as revered as this there is only direction to blame. The characters deliver lines in a George Lucas-ian deadpan style that further flatten the already clichéd roles. Christopher Lee even makes his staple trilogy appearance in a role that outshines Count Dooku in blasé redundancy.

With a ‘to be continued'-ending that would irritate me if I cared, and very little progression from beginning to end I find myself unable to enjoy this movie as much as I had expected to. With many unanswered questions constantly filling the CG-enhanced screen, the film is really nothing more than a pretty and mildly entertaining question mark. I have a feeling that when the trilogy is completed and the story has a defined beginning and end, that this will all change. However as it stands as a single movie, this one is weak in the knees and struggles to stay standing left alone.


The Gaming Related Post

So I officially work for GameStop again, and am available for closing shifts after work at the office. The perks of the job are great, what with my consistent need to exercise an employee discount, game checkout policy and 10% off at the Panda Express next-door. Unfortunately I don’t think the venture will offer much in the way of income though, being that there are barely any shifts available due to limited hours to designate. I have made myself as open as possible, but in all honesty it doesn’t look like I’ll be putting in much time. I almost feel bad exercising my benefits without really earning them, but its just the way things are shaping up so I can’t really worry about it too much.

In video game related news; Xbox Live pal- TreeBeerd and I will be working on a joint comic book venture (Tentatively titled 'Co-Op') in upcoming weeks, which will center on gaming and the online community. The comic will feature our combined dry sense of humor and both of our art styles, and will be available online as soon as we get our act together. More on that as it happens. In other-other gaming related news if you like video games do yourself a favor and pick up Assassin’s Creed. I’ve been plugging away at it most of the weekend and its terrific. Best game since Shadow of the Colossus, Narf. End nerd-rant.

The Shoot Straight Post

Sunday, I tagged along with Bruce and Greg to Shoot Straight, a gun range north of here. I’ve been wanting to go to a do some target shooting for a while and we had long talked of heading up there, but never got around to it, so I was pleased when I got the call. Grabbed some bullets from the always charming Wal-Mart gun counter from a decidedly depressed woman and headed up the Trail to meet up with the guys. Once we where there we signed in and got the gear we needed so we’d not go deaf and have targets to shoot at. Greg and Bruce both brought their own handguns, Bruce’s; a 9mm and Greg a 40 and 45 caliber. The first ones I had a go with where Greg’s, which was probably a mistake… The kickback on even a relatively small handgun was far greater than I had anticipated. Honestly I was rather scared at the apparently lack of control I had when discharging and pulling back on the trigger. After a few rounds with both his hand-cannons I stood out for a while, not really too desperate to get back to shooting. While the idea of target practice is very appealing to me, the odd feel of danger and harm that I get when holding a gun is unsettling, least it was initially. With something that requires the utmost of control, I felt like I didn’t have much, and that didn’t sit well with me. After a breather I had a go with Bruce’s much more manageable 9mm. And while I am far from a cracks hot, I was able to hit the target constantly and keep my shoots relatively grouped (if not too low and to the left). All in all a very interesting experience and one I’m glad I got to try. If I got back I’d be include to stick to the smaller rounds simply due to my inexperience and awkwardness with Greg’s beefier guns. It was cool for the guys to invite me along, and I appreciate them letting me try out their gear and practice. Afterwards we hit up Garibaldi’s for some Mexican food which hit the spot, and called it a night.