Saturday, 29 January 2011

"Tangled"

Rapunzel - the story of a girl kept in a tower by a witch from whom her parents had stolen some weird cabbage. Her hair is reaaaaaaally long, and strong enough for people to climb up it. It's a classic story, and pretty much everybody knows it. 
When I heard that the story might be more from the point of view of 'the prince' figure, who in this film is pretty much a skit on Errol Flynn, in order to make the story more "universal" to both sexes, I was worried that Disney would go too far the wrong direction - why choose a story about a girl if they wanted to make more boy-friendly films? Bit retarded if you ask me. But they've managed in this film, by lengthening the tale so it is essentially Rapunzel, but with extra characters that both sexes can love and enjoy. (Though I've known plenty of boys that liked "girls" disney films.) 


At the start of the story, we hear Flynn Rider (yes, that is his tribute name) narrating the back story, we find out that Rapunzel was the only child of the king and queen of the pretty kingdom - immediately I cringed, taking in the grim point that once more Disney emphasises its Princess Franchise. The film could have gone downhill from there - helpless blond girl with good hair and a prince goes to save her yadda yadda. But it didn't: it was uphill from there.
Anyway, Queen gets into difficulty and is ill during labour. The king searches for a mystical flower that heals all and keeps a selfish witch young forever. They take it, and brew it, and the queen drinks it and is healed. The side effects are shown in Rapunzel's hair, which has healing properties - hence why the witch took her; to maintain the youth that the flower was giving her.


She teaches the world that
 saucepans are effective weapons
Rapunzel as a character is very creative - she paints, she cooks, she sings, she cleans, she dances. She lives a boring life, and dreams of going outside on her birthday to look at lanterns that are released by the kingdom in commemoration (though she doesn't know it) of the Lost Princess's birthday. When she is outside, she is wide-eyed and in awe (and really really cute!), and to start with, very conflicted because she's left the tower very much against her ''mother's'' (the witch) wishes. As you can see in the first picture, she has a companion in a Chameleon called Pascal, who eggs her on gently with fantastic facial expressions and nods of the head and arm movement.


They fail to get his nose right.
Flynn Rider is a thief on the run who happens to hide from the psycho horse, Maximillian, who is on his tail, in Rapunzel's tower. He is captured by her and she makes a bargain with him to take her to see the lanterns and to bring her back, in exchange for the valuable item he'd stolen and she'd hidden.
He's a lost soul, with dashing good looks (and he knows it) and a reluctance to do a deal with this naive blonde girl. 
Naturally, he becomes fond of her - not least because she wins over everybody she meets: thugs and ruffians in the local tavern; the psycho horse Maximilian; and every person living in the royal city - which is pretty to look at and rather vibrant. 


The psycho horse, Maximilian, is fantastic - he's dog like, horse like, bad tempered, law abiding (there is a conscience conflict later with some apples Flynn gives him) and militant in his pursuit of Flynn. He's a good counter weight to the very facially charismatic chameleon. He can fight with a sword, he can walk over thin planks of wood, and jump from roof to roof. He's also cleverer than his masters and has a keen sense of smell.


Alan Menken, score-writer for Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, has done very well with this film too.
The soundtrack is great - and the songs are fun. "I Have a Dream" sung by the ruffians is a great laugh, and "Mummy Knows Best", sung by Mother Gothel is musically good and verbally stinging as she constantly belittles her 'daughter' and insists that the World is a dangerous, selfish place in which she wouldn't last five minutes.
The customary 'I've just realised how much I love you' duet song between Rapunzel and Flynn is cheesy and naturally causes eye-rolling from the older audiences - for some reason, when it's a musical performed by real people, it's less cringe worthy to have songs like that. 


The end of the story is predictable if you know the ending of the original story of Rapunzel - and I thought that the almost fine scene with just Rapunzel and Flynn was over done, but my friends liked it. It was pretty, just after a previous healing scene it seemed a bit over-done. But never mind, that's just my opinion.


Overall, the film is a triumph over my expectations - I was a bit unsure about it, since it had shrek-like animation, was supposed to be ''boy friendly'' (whatever that means) and was, as I said, turned into a Princess Film. But it is funny, soppy and really great to watch. I saw it in 2D, and whilst there were one or two scenes where I thought the 3D would have looked cool, it was still very enjoyable. 
I think I prefer it to The Princess and the Frog, and I'll definitely be buying this on dvd. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sloppiness in the face of Blu Ray

I remember when DVD first came in - in fact, in all honesty, my VHS still hasn't conked out and has its uses. DVD was shiny and new, it was a slimline format - where one VHS box was, you could have two and a half DVD boxes on your shelf. The compact disk had more longevity than the VHS, which could go flickery and ''old'' after one bad summer or extremely cold spell. You didn't have to rewind them, you could get special features, and it was just all very impressive.
Especially with the way Disney drew in the younger audience using a 3D and flying Tinkerbell, lauding DVD up as the biggest improvement since sliced bread. (My 1990 copy of Snow White on VHS is actually pretty good, so I'll be surprised if they've restored that mammoth-aged film all that much)

The only problem was that you'd have to buy a whole new media player, and they were far more expensive than videos and VHS players, and if you wanted to keep your videos, you'd have to keep the VHS player, or rebuy your favourites on a new medium, and hope that that VHS you really liked wasn't too new a release.

Now, blu-ray, a smaller version of the DVD and with greater visual capabilities, is being phased in. That's right; phased. The difference with this change in medium is that the blu-ray player can play your old dvds - if you're happy with the quality of a dvd, which are still relatively new, then you don't have to worry about having three players clogging your television area (VHS, DVD and Blu-ray) - though I should want to get a blu-ray player with freeview AND a recorder included, so that my DVD player can be made obsolete properly - and you don't have to rebuy your films onto yet another medium. Something which for some has taken years to do with the VHS.
Blu-ray copies of new films tend to be somewhere between £5 and £10 dearer, rather than the initial £15+ difference between DVD and VHS, but their low-effort capacity for recreating a HD film on such a small disc is apparently fantastic.

I can't wait to get a blu-ray player when I have my own house, but it's not because of its ability to play HD films. It is because of my experience so far this year with new DVDs that have been released on Blu Ray as well. The Blu-ray reviewers are more than happy with their copies. Those that got the DVD+Blu-Ray packs of new releases are very happy with the Blu-Ray copies as well. But those with DVD are left with the stark laziness and consequently poor quality dvd copies.

I ordered Inception on dvd, after seeing the film at the uni cinema - I liked it that much. I knew that transferring it to dvd would lose *some* quality - but considering that there have been quite a few such films that have converted to great DVD quality, I wasn't worried, until I read the complaints in the Amazon reviews.
They weren't complaining about the snow. No, they were complaining about the quality of the dvd - fuzzy images, pixellated effects. Possibly they were exaggerating. I emailed Amazon asking their policy for DVD returns where poor image is concerned - they assumed I'd opened it, and therefore made an exception and prepared me a returns label.

I watched it, therefore, and I was optimistic - the advert for the other films that came out that year were sharp and clear, and looked perfectly normal. Then the film menu came up and my heart plummeted.
The image behind the menu options was fuzzy and the menu buttons were pixellated. I thought that this could be the worse that it would be, so I watched through the film, skipping through it a bit.
The main talking scenes were passable - it wasn't quite HD, it was true, but it wasn't horrendous.
Then when running through Mombassa, it was hard to tell, as I could barely keep my eyes on that scene. I ignored that - I can be like that with too-fast movement on a screen.
Then they were in a dream, teaching Ella Page about their work. It was pixellated. The mirror scene was awful and with that I switched off the film, repacked it, and returned it. I have now received my refund.

I've also ordered two dvds, which are of my favourite anime series - I have the fan subs, and I thought I'd like to transfer it to hard copies, with the fancy boxes.
I was disappointed again - not only have Funimation used Ariel as the font (could get used to it, I suppose, and the colour) but the area around the subtitles is fairly pixellated and the quality of the image in general is just... old looking. On top of that, the subtitling is poorly done - often the subs are wider than the screen and main image. Whilst you can override that on the computer, possibly, what's the point when first and foremost, it is a DVD, something to be enjoyed in the living room on a television screen?
The improved grammar of the subs (since they're professional, not speed subs) and the hilariously bad American dub is not enough to make me keep the DVDs.

I am all for updating to Blu Ray. Change happens, and usually it happens all in one swift and clean movement. But in such a change where DVD will take a while to be phased out completely, I have to express my deep disappointment in the film industry for simply not bothering to keep their DVD releases up to the quality and standard that they were less than 5 years ago. It's as though in the last three years since I last bought a new release, dvds have been dropped as a format, and are only made because they have to be.


But RE Inception: You should be thoroughly ashamed, Warner Brothers.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Yo-ho, yo-ho, the pirate's life for me...

I was out in a bay, about to return to my ship with the captain and one other member of the crew, when we were taken by very rough men belonging to another ship. I had a pistol sticking into my back as I carried the vegetables I'd acquired at the market. 

The captain on that ship was kinda ugly, and doing the usual - threatening us for information and our ship, holding a gun in my face so that my captain would co-operate. But then he redirected his gun and shot towards our ship - I saw my a member of my fellow crewmembers get hit - not too badly, probably just a graze, but I dashed to the side of the ship and climbed up on the side. The men with me wrestled the captain with a gun, whilst my own captain was yelling at me not to be stupid.

Then I did one of those only-in-the-movies dives into the sea, and swam towards the other side of my ship out of shooting range. I was pulled up on the anchor, and I rushed to the person I'd seen shot. The bullet had grazed one, but not significantly, and had hit another, who was the only other woman on the ship. I took her downstairs whilst the fighting ensued and dealt with her - it was probably just as well I was the one to sort her out, since it was her upper half and you know, in those days, it wasn't fittin' for a male to handle a woman's body in places like that. I bandaged her and then went up to see what was going on.

The people that had been with me on the attacking ship had somehow got back, and were drying off. The captain (who, incidentally, had morphed into a strange mix of Jack Sparrow exterior and Howl (from the book, not the film) personality or concerned annoyance for me). He told me off for being wreckless - I could have broken my neck, the water might have been more shallow than I thought, I could have been hit, the fall could have hurt me blah blah. Either way, I should go and dry out and get changed.
I changed my shirt and trousers and left my boots on deck to dry in the heat, then got around doing my share of the work - fixing the netting.

We got to an island and used the (wide) rivers as a sort of canal channel to cut through, rather than waste time going around. We could get off and walk and get wild fruit and game whilst we were at it - it was like a giant canal walk, really, on the bank. I walked along the riverbank which was full of lush greens and exotic pinks and blues. The ship loomed up next to me as it moved down the river - impossible in real life, but it was cool in my dream.

I took a small group with me to explore off the beaten path a bit, and we found a sort of temple complex ruin. I was looking at the statues and runes when a member of my 'team' called out that Someone I Know From Uni was coming. This person is unfortunately one of those people you sort of avoid when you see coming. We all scrambled into nooks and crannies trying to avoid him - one or two of us hid behind this sort of alter. He must have noticed movement from where he was, cause he came looking around and stuff.

He found us; as I was the principal person in the group he knew, I remained hidden and tried to move around the alter at the same time as he did, so that he didn't spy me at all - but he did. He was quite merry about it and we all laughed - even if there were those of us who didn't feel too pleased about him finding us inside.


Then the phone rang as I was trying to continue dreaming :(

Saturday, 1 January 2011

All my New Years rubbish

I thought I'd group everything New Year's related (apart from what I did on the night) into this one post, just to save all the boring, stereotypical and rehashed material from seeping into my entire blog in general. Then those that are not interested can simply ignore this entry. Aren't I considerate? One of my qualities.

Stuff I learned in 2010
  1. Change can be hard to reconcile oneself with, but it'll have to be reconciled in order to get on with things.
  2. Rumtopf requires rum that is not sold in ordinary supermarkets - it has to be import, even if it's ''made in London''.
  3. That children are an absolute certainty in any of my life plans.
  4. That I am a hopeless as a regular blogger.
  5. That I am able to use the Bend It Like Beckham Off-side rule explanation as an analogy for the 3rd Crusade.
  6. How much people just come and go in a person's life.
  7. That I still hate all the popular Christmas songs as much as I did when I was younger.
  8. In that vein, how influential an online campaign can be - even if it was just for fun and otherwise inane.
  9. That WoW is not for me, in the long-term.
  10. I feel quite funky when using a screw driver or any other building equipment otherwise associated with men rather than women. It's stupid, I know, but get over it. =|

New Years Resolutions that won't be kept
  1. Maintain the weight I currently am - or rather, not put on any more, cause losing it again is tricky. 
  2. Tone said weight gain so that it's less noticeable to my own conscience.
  3. Get at least a 2.1 in my degree - I definitely will, unless I do no work whatsoever this year, so at least I'll be keeping this one.
  4. Have a proper clear out of clothes and shit once uni is finished. Those pjs are getting old and so are many of my everyday wear tops.
  5. Not to take life choices too lightly.  

Happy New Year everybody!!
 

What I hope for in 2011
  1. To be happy for most part.
  2. To be healthy.
  3. To get that degree without a glitch.
  4. To get a first - but I'll be happy if I get a 2.1 (just like everybody else...)
  5. To find a good voluntary/paid placement as a classroom assistant.
 Not really asking for much, I guess.


I'm not going to do all that crappy self-reflecting stuff - I do that enough in my diary or once in a while during the year. I don't need to reflect on 2010 as a whole, because I did it in chunks anyway, if only because I think in academic years, rather than calender years.

Graduation Year Christmas - II

Christmas at my house has been a pretty low-key affair for years. We had been abroad every year 1999-2006, when our holiday was cancelled because we got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a jack-knifed lorry on the M25, and then we just didn't go away again at Christmas time after that, either cause we couldn't be bothered or cause we'd done more expensive ones other times in the year.
=D Fun times, going back to a freezing house with no decorations or food in the fridge, but it couldn't be helped; Heathrow sold our seats despite saying they wouldn't and our getting there just half a minute before the gate closed.

So after that, we didn't bother with decorations - just on Christmas Eve we'd pass around a sack with presents and pull one at random and give it to the appropriate person, then watch t.v. and eat good food. Nothing major. Two years in a row I spent Boxing Day with my then boyfriend, and that was as lively as it got. (Which could be pretty lively actually)
When we saw my relatives, it was in a restaurant somewhere, since it's quite a drive and easiest to meet in the middle.

This year, I asked for a tree, as I said. I'd been feeling marginally more festive, and I wanted this year to be different and less bleak. And I had fun decorating the tree - with Granddad doing the candles. It looks lovely in the living room, and we've a gloriously tacky curtain thing free from New Look (they were giving away tacky decorations) hanging from the banister in the hall.

On Christmas Eve, soon after it was dark outside, we began the opening presents stuff. I got a new digital camera with more modes than I can use - but each of them useful and fun to try out. Two books from my brother, a Pride and Prejudice mug and some money from the extended family - with which I've ordered the first two volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood on dvd. =D

As you see, even our present-giving these days are a pretty meagre affair, but then my brother got a very expensive leather jacket, and as I said, I got the digital camera, which is carrying over to my birthday, too. Tbh, we're happy with simple things. Don't need Tiffany's diamonds or cars or a new t.v. or anything. If we did, we'd bloody well buy it ourselves and not ask our grandparents to dig into their hard-saved funds for such things.

Then we watched my brother's new copy of Kung Fu Panda, drinking tea and coffee.

We all saw my uncle and two of my cousins on the 28th, and had a nice dinner with them in a Pizza Express in a little town in Hertfordshire. Then the day after I met the group of friends I'm most in contact with these days for a good afternoon/evening out, and the next day met with my other friend who couldn't make it.

New Years Eve is usually pretty low-key. Have a family friend over for dinner, and maybe invite one or two people over for drinks afterwards. I would have gone with my friends to one of their houses in Hatfield, but in the end it was just as well I didn't, as there was no room in the car, and my brother needed the company. This year we also had our two neighbours from across the road, who are a lively couple and were very much appreciated by my brother and me.

"Boring" for most people, I know, but then I tried Rumtopf for the first time - don't have it if you don't like 100pf 57%vol Rum or fruit. Not that you can tell what the fruit is unless it still looked like a segment of tangerine or pear or pineapple.
The food was also superb, and we had a good laugh and giggle until the new year came in.

I don't particularly understand the fuss of New Years - I suppose there's the hope of a new start and all that, but really you can do that at any time of the year. Just an excuse to get wasted for most, really.
And to make an inordinate number of dishes with your closest friends.


How's my dissertation going? A grand total of 400 words, referenced and everything. I've done a lot of note taking though - well, a lot in that I've written about a page of typed notes and footnoted those as well. I'm definitely going  back by the end of the week, I really need to get into a work-based environment. By third year, you just associate uni with study, and home with relaxing and doing what feels like endless dish-washing.