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Lawrance Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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Annotated Wizard of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (The Annotated Books)
Annotated Wizard of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (The Annotated Books)
von L. Frank Baum
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 38,07

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Everything you wanted to know about the Wizard of Oz, 1. Oktober 2005
Each holiday season I am comie on strong as the Ghost of Christmas past and one of the things I strongly advocate are annotated editions of beloved books. One title that has to be on any short lists of beloved books would be "The Wizard of Oz." As you know, this book is a potent political allegory representing a nation divided between an agricultural past, represented by the Scarecrow, and the industrial future, symbolized by the Tin Woodman. Baum's position on the free silver issue that dominated American politics at the turn of the last century is self-evident, from the silver slippers that Dorothy wears to the caricature of William Jennings Bryan as the Cowardly Lion.
Of course, this interpretation has been around for years and you can certainly make up your mind after reading what Michael Patrick Hearn has put together in this wonderful Centennial Edition of "The Annotated Wizard of Oz." For starters, we have all of the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow, reproduced in their correct colors. That alone is worth having, but this volume also includes lots of rare drawings, photographs, and maps having to do with Baum's classic tale. Hearn's annotations focus not only on where Baum got his ideas but where "The Wizard of Oz" fits into the grand scheme of folk tales and children's stories as well as Baum's collective writings. Obviously, Hearn knows about a lot more than just Baum's career and writings, but he avoids sounding like a scholar speaking from an ivory tower.
Obviously, "The Annotated Wizard of Oz" is not for the first time reader. I would contend that an annotated edition of this, or any other beloved book like "Anne of Green Gables," "Alice in Wonderland," or "The Hobbit," is for those who are in double-figures when it comes to the number of times they have read the book in question. This is a chance to discover new levels of meanings. There is really no need for persuasion here: if you know how you feel about this story and you see what is collected in this annotated version, that should be more than enough to convince you this is worth getting for yourself (or someone you love) even if you do not find it under the tree on Christmas morning.


Samurai Executioner Volume 5: Ten Fingers, One Life
Samurai Executioner Volume 5: Ten Fingers, One Life
von Kazuo Koike
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,56

5.0 von 5 Sternen More interesting characters cross the path of Asaemon, 29. September 2005
"Ten Fingers, One Life," Volume 5 in the "Samurai Executioner" series, has four short stories and three longer tales from writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. The common denominator is that seven characters come into contact with Yamada Asaemon. Only five of the seven have a fatal meeting with the shogun's executioner, with two of the longer stories being about two rather different law enforcement officers. By this point in the series the title character is more of an observer, who offers wise comments or appropriate quotes from sacred texts as the denouement of the various stories:
(16) "Ten Fingers, One Life," has to do with why it is that when Asaemon cuts off someone's head their hands clench. This becomes a question that the great thief Inaba Kozo discusses with this executioner before deciding that he wants to die with his hands wide open.
(17) "'Matta'" is what Hachizo of Yasho yells right before Asaemon is about to decapitate him. The cry stops the executioner in mid-stroke, and after completing the execution he seeks out the dead man's sister to learn the meaning of that terrifying cry.
(18) "A Puff of Life" is about the final request of a young woman who wants to enjoy a last smoke before her execution. Again, Asaemon seeks out someone to explain.
(19) "The Leaf Thief" is a young girl who insists on sweeping up the fallen leaves around town. When she starts coughing up blood Asaemon insists on taking her in and the doctor reports she has tuberculosis. Even though it is killing her, the young girl continues to sweep up leaves and before she dies she offers a few words of explanations. This time, however, it is the next person he executes who is able to complete the puzzle for Asaemon.
(20) "Togane Yajiro" is the name of the demon of the jitte, lord of the northern town commissioner's office. He has been a patrolman for forty years who still gets his man every three days. When Yajiro refuses Asaemon's help in arrest a trio of thieves, the executioner takes exception to the patrolman's need to get all the credit. This means taking the matter before Yajiro's boss. But like most of those who cross the path of Yamada Asaemon, it is only at the point of death that Yajiro explains his actions and the catch-22 of his life.
(21) "Spark Umbrella" is a sequel to (11) "Catcher Kasajiro," a regular patrolman who became proficient with the kaginawa (hook rope). Now that he is successful, Kasajiro finds that his reputation precedes him and that criminals are prepared for him. This means that Decapitator Asaemon must help Kasajiro learn another lesson.
(22) "Life Link" is the story that justifies the parental advisory label for explicit content. A young woman has killed another woman and fatally wounded a man, but he has not died yet and the young woman does not want to die before her victim. The other women in the prison have only one solution and that is to be impregnated by one of the guards before the order comes for her death. If she is pregnant her execution must be postponed. But fate has a final irony for the young woman to confront.
"Samurai Executioner" is certainly different from "Lone Wolf and Cub," the manga series that first introduced most of us to the work of Koike and Kojima. The attention to period detail is still a hallmark of their work, but as you read through these small volumes, which are published in the Japanese format, you really come to an appreciation of Koike's ability to flesh out the characters who appear for a single story and how Kojima works elegantly works in cinematic techniques into his artwork. Now if Dark Horse could just speed up getting these volumes published because I am ready for the next one now.


The Adventures of Tintin: Volume 1 (3 Original Classics in 1)
The Adventures of Tintin: Volume 1 (3 Original Classics in 1)
von Hergé
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The first three adventures of Hergé's Tintin, 28. September 2005
This is Volume 1 of the seven hardcover collections each other a trio of the Adventures of Tintin written and drawn by Hergé. The first is rather quaint by the overall standard of the series, but it does serve as a clear indication of how much Hergé's creation grew over time. There are a pair of even earlier adventures, "Tintin in the Soviet Union" and "Tintin in the Congo," but they are more political and cultural oddities today and not really part of the main Tintin canon (because of the political sympathies of the former and the inherent racism of the latter). Just be aware that once you start here you are going to have to complete your Tintin collection, because this is one of the landmark comic books in history:
"Tintin in America" has our hero coming to America, which is a land of Chicago gangsters and Native Americas. The art here is a bit more cartoonish than what comes later, but the most important difference is that this is basically Tintin and Snowy on their own with the wonderful cast of colorful supporting characters that end up populating the Tintin universe nowhere to be seen at this point. That may explain why Snowy "talks" a lot more in this early Tintin adventure than is his habit in later volumes. This is not a great Tintin adventure, but it is certainly an interesting one because of the way Herge presents America to his readers. Tintin arrives in Chicago to clean up the city ruled by gangster bosses and Al Capone is not happy to see the world famous reporter. Tintin survives so many attempted gangland hits that you lose count of them, and it is a toss up whether there are more last second escapes or scenes where Tintin pulls a gun on a gangster. The perils of Tintin continue even when our hero and his faithful terrier companion make their way out West and become involved with some of the quaint customs of the local natives.
As for "Cigars of the Pharaoh," if your understanding of human history leads you to believe that the Pharaohs did not smoke cigars, then you already have a leg up on the fact that this adventure of Tintin is not what it seems. Our hero is sailing the Mediterranean with Snowy when he encounters a strange academic type named Sophocles Sarcophagus whom he dismisses as a clumsy nitwit. Tintin also has a runin with Rastapopoulos, the film tycoon who owns Cosmos Pictures. The next thing we know we have the first appearance of the Thom(p)soms, who arrest Tintin for having heroin in his cabin. Obviously, our hero is getting to close to something, but what could it be? From an Egyptian tomb filled with cigars, to floating in an coffin on the Mediterranean, to wandering the Arabian desert, to being lost in the jungles of India, Tintin does some major traveling to solve this particular mystery. Herge certainly shows more of an understanding for various cultures than he did in the previous Tintin adventure, but the overall improvement of "Cigars of the Pharaoh" over "Tintin in America" is pretty noticeable and quite impressive when you think of the state of comic books stories in the early 1930s.
"The Blue Lotus" begins where "Cigars of the Pharaoh" left off, with Tintin and Snowy in India as the guests of the Maharaja of Gaipajama. The evil gang of international drug smugglers had been smashed and all of them are now behind bars except for the mysterious leader, who disappeared over a cliff. A visitor from Shanghai is hit with a dart dipped in Rajaijah juice, the poison of madness, which is enough to send our intrepid hero to the Chinese city where his rickshaw runs into Gibbon, an occidental who is not looking where he is going and starts beating the rickshaw driver for daring to barge into a white man. Tintin intervenes, calling the man's conduct disgraceful and Gibbon vows revenge. The next thing we know Tintin is being shot at every time he turns around. Things become even more mysterious when another bystander is hit with a Rajaijah dart and Tintin embarks on a ship for Bombay only to wake up in the home of Wang Chen-yee, who begins to unravel the mystery for our hero.
This Tintin adventure was first published in Belgium in 1934-35, but the story is actually set in 1931, which was when Japanese troops were first occupying parts of China. Hergé incorporates several actual events in this narrative, including the blowing-up of the South Manchurian railway, which served as an excuse for further Japanese incursions into China, and led to Japan walking out on the League of Nations. Of course, it is the Japanese invaders who are after Tintin, who is pretty much on his own for most of this adventure until the Thom(p)sons show up with orders to arrest. The title of the story comes form an opium den that figures prominently in the resolution of the tale. "The Blue Lotus" finds Hergé fully committed to providing accurate cultural details in is stories, although this story has the added virtue of being the most "realistic" in terms of portraying current events in a world poised on the brink of war. His drawings of Asian figures can certainly be considered caricatures, but then this is pretty much true of the way he draws everybody in these stories, with the simplistic look of Tintin being the exception that proves the rule.
"The Blue Lotus" is also the adventure in which Tintin meets Chang Choug-chen, a young orphaned Chinese boy our hero saves from drowning. Chang is surprised a white devil would bother to save his life and Tintin haas to explain how not all white men are wicked. The character of Chang is based on Chang Chong-Chen,a young Chinese student who became Hergé's friend in 1934, as is the case with Chang and Tintin, and who would inspired the classic adventure "Tintin in Tibet" in 1960. "The Blue Lotus" is a first rate Tintin adventure, made all the more special because once World War II began Hergé made a concerted effort to distance his stories from the horrors of the real world. After the war Hergé would deal with East-West tensions on a completely fictional level, making this early adventure of more than passing interest in Hergé's career. So by the time you get to the final story in this first trio, it should be clear to you that you are reading something special.


No Direction Home (Bob Dylan) [UK Import]
No Direction Home (Bob Dylan) [UK Import]
Wird angeboten von RevisionNet UK
Preis: EUR 27,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Documenting Bob Dylan's glory years, 1941-1966, 24. September 2005
Park when between songs he pointed out to the crowd that he had been born here in the Zenith City in a hospital on the side of the hill. This was the second time that Dylan had played Duluth, and the fact that he acknowledged this is the city of his birth was seen as icing on the cake because most of us were surprised he would ever come back here to play. That is because the man born Robert Zimmerman has been running from northern Minnesota pretty much since the day he graduated from Hibbing High School.
The title of "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" emphasizes that the singer-songwriter was a construct and attempts to chronicle the transformation from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan. The key influence has always been considered to be Woody Guthrie, and Dylan's visit to Guthrie in the hospital is an iconic Sixties vision quest, but this documentary is able to work in many more names into the mix. The connections to the music at any time during the early stages of Dylan's career are only addressed tangentially, but that only underscores that this is not a music appreciation course on Bob Dylan, as much as that would be nice. This is an attempt to preserve the extant record on the first quarter century of Dylan's life, with an emphasize on the five years at the end of that period that represent the most creative and significant portion of his career, aided and abetted by talking heads the likes of Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Liam Clancy, and Al Kooper, who provide memories and retrospective insights (Kooper's story on how he ended up playing the organ on "Like a Rolling Stone" is a testament to serendipity in the music business).
Since Martin Scorsese was basically given 10 hours of film footage to shape into a four-hour documentary, the sense in which he served as "director" of "No Direction Home" would be in laying out the basic structure for film editor David Tedeschi. Obviously the main thrust of the documentary is the chronology of Dylan's life, which mixes archival footage with contemporary interviews. But this narrative plays out against Dylan's 1966 tour of Great Britain, already the focus of D.A. Pennebaker's documentary "Don't Look Back," during which he offended a large segment of his fans by picking up an electric guitar. Night after night Dylan would play an acoustic set to raves from his audience, and then return with a backing band for an electric set. Time and time again you hear audience members scream "Judas" and other insults, while Dylan tells the bad to just play louder. The main narrative and the subtext come together when Dylan shows up at the Newport Folk Festival supported by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and shocks the world. The U.K. tour kept the wound open and it was the motorcycle accident in the summer of 1966 that turned Dylan into a recluse that adds the exclamation point on the
One of the things that resulted from that decision was the song that "Rolling Stone" magazine picked as the top rock song of all-time, "Like a Rolling Stone," which also happened to be the first single Dylan ever released (it went to #2 on the Billboard charts). This was taken as clear evidence that Dylan was going "commercial," yet even the fans who booed and shouted curses when Dylan came on stage with the Band (nee the Hawks), applauded that one song. The problem was not that Dylan was becoming commercial ("Eve of Destruction" was a #1 song and that did not hurt Barry McGuire's bona fides as a folk rebel), but that for the most part he appeared to be giving up being the voice of his generation. In that regard the biggest slap in the face to those who worshipped him was not "Like a Rolling Stone," with its powerful onslaught of pointed lyrics, but "Mr. Tambourine Man," which we see him performing at a folk song workshop, because that is not a song that is going to send young people to the streets let alone to the barricades.
The interviews done with Dylan are actually the least important part of "No Direction Home," because if there is anything we have learned from listening to Dylan over the past four decades it is to let the music speak for itself. In all of the footage from the first half of the Sixties showing Dylan talking with reporters he repeatedly dodges their questions. They want to know what the songs are about and he refuses to tell them. It might seem like he is waiting for somebody smart enough to pose a question worth answering, but I have to believe he would never play that game. This is a man who insisted he grew up in Gallup, New Mexico rather than admit to being from Hibbing, and his willingness to sit in front of a film camera and talk about his past does not automatically mean increased veracity. I would like to believe that when Dylan talks about the musicians he listened to growing up that he is telling the truth, but I always wary.
What is potentially the most illuminating thing that Dylan says about himself in this four-hour documentary is his insistence that he was never a topical songwriter. If you can wrap your mind about the truth in that obvious lie, which is possible if you keep in mind Dylan's contemporaries on the folk scene in the early Sixties and remember that sometimes words have two meanings, then you can arrive at a better understanding of the truth inherent in Dylan's music. "No Direction Home" does not fully illuminate Bob Dylan, but that impossibility is hardly Scorsese's agenda. Ultimately, Scorsese is making the case for why Dylan should end up getting a Noble Prize for Literature some day soon. The only better way to make the case is to simply listen to the man's music.


The American German
The American German
von Arthur C. Rathburn
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen A Wisconsin born youth lives through war torn Nazi Germany, 24. September 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The American German (Taschenbuch)
When he was ten years old Juergen Frank became a member of the "Hitler Jungen," the Hitler Youth Organization. However, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, after Germany declared war on the United States, Frank was kicked out of the group when it became known that he was born in Wisconsin. Young Juergen was sad because this meant he had to go to church with his family instead of attending the Hitler Youth meetings with his friends on Friday. He also had to miss the big dirt cloud throwing fights on the hill called "Cokacolaberg" (Coca Cola Mountain), in which the kids were practicing for battle. Another kid, Udo Schmidt, who was the group's "Faehnleinfuerer" (standard bearer), a an avid Nazi, tried to turn the rest of the kids against Juergen since he was neither a true German nor a loyal Nazi, but the other kids ignored Udo's rantings and accepted Juergen as one of them.
"The American German" is the story of a young boy who is born in Wisconsin but raised in Nazi Germany. The idea that a kid would be kicked out of the Hitler Youth because he was born in Wisconsin is certainly going to catch your interest, but what makes this book interesting is that most of Juergen Frank's life was not so different compared to the rest of the people where he lived. Author Arthur C. Rathburn tells the story of what life was like for Frank in Germany during the war years, as well as his experience of being repatriated back to the land of his birth where his problems become more mundane (a pastor decides that Juergen is too hard for people to use so he "Americanizes" it into George even though the two names are not related). The book is illustrated with black & white photographs from Frank's personal collection, from a small boy in lederhosen to a proud American farmer. One of the obvious lessons of this book is that not even a World War could stop people from living the American dream.
I read this little book after I read Rathburn's "Meeting the Enemy," a novel that is based on the a true story of an elite German paratrooper captured by British troops in North Africa and sent to P.O.W. camps in the United States. One of the people that Rathburn talked to about their life experiences during World War II was Juergen Frank. Like "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," Rathburn's "Meeting the Enemy" was a powerful story giving us a memorable look at what it is like for those on the other side, the real people behind the propaganda posters, the ethnic slurs, and war films. Rathburn has also authored a corresponding book, "The American Japanese," about Akira Richard Toki. Like Juergen Frank, Toki was born in the United States but had to endure overt racism during the war. For students who are interested in World War II and in having a different perspective these books are well worth reading. "The American German" is a quick read, which means it should hold the attention span of even younger readers, who I think will be captivated by learning what it was like for someone from Wisconsin to end up in Nazi Germany.


An Enemy of the People (Dover Thrift Editions)
An Enemy of the People (Dover Thrift Editions)
von Henrik Ibsen
  Taschenbuch

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Ibsen on the conflict between idealism and practicality, 22. September 2005
Henrik Ibsen is the father of modern drama and his 1882 drama "An Enemy of the People" ("En folkefiende") was one of his more controversial works. In the play Dr. Stockmann discovers that the new baths built in his town are infected with a deadly disease that requires they should be closed until they can be repaired. However, the mayor of the town (the Burgomaster), who is Stockmann's brother Peter, rejects the report and refuses to close the baths because it will bring about the financial ruin of the town. When Dr. Stockmann tries to make his case to the people of the town, the mayor counters by pointing out how expensive it would be to repair the baths and dismisses the doctor for having wild, fanciful ideas. At the public meeting Dr. Stockmann is declared "an enemy of the people" by the Burgomaster.
To really appreciate this particular Ibsen play you have to look at it in the context of his previous dramas, because they all represent a conflict between the playwright and his critics. In 1879 Ibsen's play "A Doll's House" ("Et dukkehjem") was produced, wherein the character of Nora pretends to be a silly little wife in order to flatter her husband, who is revealed to be a hypocritical fraud. The idea that a woman would leave her husband and children was seen as being outrageous and basically obscene. Ibsen upset his audience and critics even more in his next play, "Ghosts" ("Gengangere"), an 1881 drama that again attacks conventional morality and hypocrisy. The topic is of congenital venereal disease but the true subject is moral contamination. Mrs. Alving has buried her husband, a degenerate who has left behind a son dying from syphilis and an illegitimate daughter who is probably going to end up being a prostitute. The play ends with Mrs. Alving having to decide if she should poison her son to put him out of his misery or let his agonies persist.
Again, Ibsen was attacked for outraging conventional morality. The following year after "Ghosts" the playwright responded with "An Enemy of the People" and the character that is most identified with representing Ibsen on stage in Dr. Stockmann. The allegory is quite plain when the play is considered within the context of Ibsen's work during this period, although while Stockmann is portrayed as a victim there is a sense of destructiveness to his behavior. At the end of the play Stockman has decided to leave the town, but then changes his mind to stay and fight for those things he believes are right.
As is the case with most of Ibsen's classic works, "An Enemy of the People" speaks to larger issues than those in conflict in the play. The debate is over the bad water pipes at the new baths, but the true conflict is over the clash of private and public morality. Dr. Stockmann is by far the most idealistic of Ibsen's characters, and that fact that he is opposed by his own brother, the Burgomaster, harkens back to Genesis and the fight between Cain and Able. As was the case with "Ghosts," there is an ambiguous ending where what happens next can be seen as going either way given your own inclinations as a member of the audience.
Both of the Stockman brothers are flawed. Dr. Stockman's idealism is at odds with the practical realities of the world in which he lives while the Burgomaster ignores ethical concerns. Ultimately, Ibsen is not forcing us to choose between the two but rather to reject both in terms of some middle ground. The Burgomaster is certainly old school, believing those in authority get to make all the decisions and that the people must subordinate themselves to the society. But he was the one who made the mistake of putting the new water pipes in the wrong place, so even his claims that he is looking out for the welfare of the community are dishonest. Dr. Stockman argues for individual freedom and the right of free expression, but his attempt to fix the problem ignores any effort at persuasion or building public support. He also seems to take pleasure in be able to show that his brother made a mistake. Still, in the end we have to favor the doctor over the mayor because his integrity is clearly stronger, while still recognizing that his idealism is tragically flawed.


Titanic
Titanic
DVD ~ Sybille Schmitz
Preis: EUR 7,97

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Nazi propaganda film about the sinking of the Titanic, 10. September 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Titanic (DVD)
"Now money means nothing. Now it's just about survival."
This 1943 version of "Titanic" made in Nazi Germany is not the first sound film of the Titanic story, let alone the first movie devoted to the famous disaster. "Atlantic" (1929) was a fictionalized account (changing the name of the ship) directed by Ewald André Dupont in England. In the silent era Pier Angelo Mazzolotti made an Italian "Titanic" in 1915 and in Germany "In Nacht und Eis" ("In Night and Ice") was made by Mime Misu and released a few days after the sinking of the ship in 1912. The 1943 version was begun by director Herbert Selpin, who made the mistake of criticizing its writer and the Germany navy, so Joseph Goebbels had him arrested by the Gestapo and the next day Selpin was found hung in his cell. The film was then finished by Werner Klinger but was never released as Goebbels ordered the negative locked up. Speculation is that the scenes of mass death would considered too upsetting to show German audiences, but I am not sure if that ironic explanation rings true.
This Nazi version of the story of the "Titanic" can be reduced to two key elements. First, in an attempt to drive up the price of the stock of the White Star Line by Sir Bruce Ismay (Ernst Fritz Fürbringer), who invites the company's board on the Titanic's maiden voyage. Titanic assumes a record speed of 26 1/2 knots, which gets many of the rich men on board to buy stock, but the price is being driven down. Apparently Ismay is not as smart as John Jacob Astor (Karl Schönböck), whose wife is referred to as Lady Astor (Charlotte Thiele) even though she is American. Second, as the ship heads towards its fatal encounter with an iceberg, the only person on board who thinks this is a bad idea and tries to do something about it is 1st Office Petersen (Hans Nielsen), who happens to be the only German officer on board. Ismay dismisses Petersen's concerns, saying the German simply does not want England to win the blue ribbon (apparently the prize for being the fastest ship on earth). Petersen even tries to convince Ismay's mistress, Sigrid Olinsky (Sybille Schmitz, technically the star of the movie since her name comes first, plus she starred in "Vampyre") to persuade him to slow down the vessel, but that does not happen. When the ship hits the iceberg and starts sinking, Petersen blames Sigrid as much as Ismay, and consumed by guilt she gives up her seat in the lifeboat to a woman from steerage. Petersen is moved and gives her his coat.
Obviously there are some interesting aspects to this version of the familiar story. After hitting the iceberg the ship stops and the passengers down in steerage notice, so they all decide to march up to the big party that is going on above them and demand an explanation from the captain. A ship is sighted and they try to contact it by radio, but apparently it is an old ship without a radio. A recurring theme here is that for all the opulence of the ship's massive ballroom, Ismay did not spend money on spare filaments for the searchlights or the right colored rockets for an S.O.S. The flares are seen, but it is assumed the Titanic is celebrating since they are the wrong color (an interesting twist on what really happened to be sure). Oh, and the band on the Titanic? This time it is a virtual marching band with a tuba and xylophone who are still playing "Nearer My God to Me" as the ship goes down. But the oddest sight has to be when the Titanic goes down by the stern.
This "Titanic" is certainly interesting, although its inherent propaganda value is more interesting than its dramatic impact. The latter is conveyed more by the screams of the panicking passengers than anything in terms of the limited special effects. After all, we are talking a model of the ship and a luxury liner that is clearly not sinking; all of the lifeboats are away before suddenly the camera tilts to indicate what is happening. Besides, while the panic might have been intended to show the English as being cowardly, the fact that most of those screaming passengers are from steerage and going to die takes away notions of racial superiority. I assume that the couple John and Anna are German, which explains why they are calm and compassionate while the non-Aryan passengers are trampling each other to death. The fate of John and Anna is one of the key attempts at pathos here, along with the radio operator's pet bird, but the tacked on melodrama in the final scene undoes what had been effective with the couple up to that point.
Meanwhile, the ship is going down and Ismay is trying to make a deal to save his job, because this guy is really scum, which is certainly an indictment of the capitalists. No wonder Captain Smith (Otto Wernicke) refuses to do anything to save him. Fortunately Petersen is too good of a guy to let Sigrid go down with him and the ship; their parting is the one point in the film that tries to do something artistic, along with the capsizing of one of the lifeboats. Again, the desperate fight for survival, as those who are in the water try to climb aboard a overflowing lifeboat only to be beaten off by those already safe, can be read either way: as the inherent baseness of the English or as what happens to all human beings when they are reduced to simply trying to stay alive. But if you have any doubt about what the point of "Titanic" was, that is settled by the declaration at the end of the film that, "The deaths of 1,500 people remain unatoned for an eternal condemnation of England's quest for profit."
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Batman Begins
Batman Begins
von Scott Beatty
  Taschenbuch

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Using "Batman Begins" to get the Dark Knight more readers, 8. September 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Batman Begins (Taschenbuch)
I think it is clear that the idea here is to get people who liked the movie "Batman Begins," which I have no problem seeing as being the best Batman movie to date, to read some of the Batman comic book titles put out by DC. The hook here is the official comic book adaptation of "Batman Begins," by writer Scott Beatty, penciller Kilian Plunkett, and inker Serge LaPointe," but the stories included in "Batman Begins: The Movie and Other Tales of the Dark Knight" are taken from those sundry titles and are intended to get young to pick up current issues to see what Gotham's caped crusader is up to (although DC really prefers that you check out some of the collections advertised on the last pages of this trade paperback). The movie adaptation is fairly faithful to the movie, but you will probably notice a couple of missing scenes, so that even at 60-plus-pages it could have been longer. One of the strengths of the movie was the depth it displayed, and that is sacrificed in this retelling. The artwork is certainly functional, although the brown and gray color schemes get to be a bit much at times. But it is a decent enough adaptation (4 stars), which will tide you over in terms of remembering what happened in the film before the DVD comes out.
After the adaptation of "Batman Begins" we get to read the origin of Batman from the comics, specifically "The Man Who Falls," from the "Secret Origins" trade paperback. Written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Dick Giordano, you have the same basic structure with young Bruce Wayne falling into the bat cave, the murder of his parents, and then traveling to the Orient to be taught by a wise master on top of a snowy mountaintop. The story, which ends with Batman donning his costume for the first time and heading off into the night, is told entirely in captions (no word balloons). It would be interesting to have a collection of Batman origins (you probably cannot fit all of them into a trade paperback this thin), going all the way back to Bob Kane's original one and tossing in the relevant pages of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight" returns just to see how the story has evolved and elements have been added over the past half-century plus.
The other tales of the Dark Knight are relatively ordinary Batman adventures. "Air Time" from "Detective Comics" is by writer Greg Rucka, penciller Rick Burchett and inker Rodney Ramos, takes place one night when the Lucky Hand Triad kills some cops making a grab for some drugs. In trying to get away the gang drives a SUV with a father, mother and son off a bridge and into the bottom of the lake. The question is how they can stay alive until somebody comes to rescue them, and that cannot happen until the Batman figures out what has happened. "Reasons" is a "Batman" story by writer Ed Brubaker, penciller Scott McDaniel, and inker Andy Owens, has our hero tangling with Catwoman and finding out something when she calls him on hanging out in the neighborhood of the Monarch Theater (where Bruce Wayne went with his parents before they were killed), along with his tendency to let bad guys shoot him while he is wearing his Kevlar armor. So this story actually fits the grand design here.
The final offering is "Urban Legend," written by Bill Willingham with art by Tom Fowler and inks by James Sinclair, drawn from "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight." Basically Batman is beaten so badly that he does not remember that he is Batman. That means the great detective has to figure out what he was doing, because clearly whatever he was trying to do he has not finished the task. Fortunately the gang that ends up with an unconscious Batman believes that the enemy of their enemy is their friend. A minor story, but it does focus on what Batman means, as the twist at the end clearly indicates. So chances are that you will probably like the other tales of the Dark Knight collected here more than the movie adaptation.


The Mighty Thor (Marvel Masterworks (Numbered))
The Mighty Thor (Marvel Masterworks (Numbered))
von Stan Lee;Jack Kirby
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen The first stories of Don Blake becoming the Mighty Thor, 6. September 2005
This first Marvel Masterworks volume of "Thor" provides the stories of the Mighty Thunder God that appeared in "Journey Into Mystery" #83-100, including the five-page "Tales of Asgard" that started appearing in issue #97. In the Sixties I did not start reading Thor until the comic had taken ditched the old "Journey Into Mystery" title and switched to "The Mighty Thor," so this was the first time I had read most of these stories, although I did pick up the "Tales of Asgard" collection that Marvel put out way back when. In retrospect it is hard to ignore that the original conception of this particular superhero was rather lame. However, once Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby began to take the Norse mythology aspects of the character more seriously, the dynamic of these stories changed considerably.
The initial story is that Dr. Don Blake, an American physician with a bad leg vactioning in Europe, ends up fleeing from Stone Men from Saturn who have landed in their spaceship. He stumbles into a cave and discovers an ancient cane. When he strikes it against an immoveable boulder it transforms into a hammer and Blake becomes the legendary god of Thunder. The hammer has an inscription, in English no less, proclaiming "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of...THOR (yes, the inscription even includes the ellipses).
Don Blake, with his bum leg, and his secret affection for his pretty young nurse, Jane Nelson, is set up in the mold of mild mannered Clark Kent and bookworm Peter Parker, where he is two-thirds of a love triangle all by himself (and his alter-ego). On the one hand the first couple of issues clearly give Thor the powers of the Norse thunder god--he not only calls forth rain and thunderstorms, but makes a volcano erupts--but the stories do not deal explicitly with whether he is indeed a deity. However, all of that begins to change in the third story when Loki, god of mischief, shows up and starts living up to his name.
Loki's arrival is crucial in Thor's transformation, not only because it is the beginning of taking the Norse mythology angle seriously (and the Thor comics would provide a scholarly fidelity to the subject), but also because the god of mischief became Thor's major foe. The opposition was ideal because unlike Thor's human opponents, such as the Cobra and Mr. Hyde, Loki could keep coming back for more issue after issue, either directly or through a proxy. Loki only arrived on earth after sneaking by Heimdall, the warder of the rainbow bridge called Bifrost, and once that door was open Odin, Balder and the rest of the Norse gods and goddesses were close behind.
Unfortunately the Tales of Asgard fillers are uniformly superior to the main adventures in "Journey of Mystery." Part of it is that they were written by Lee and drawn by Kirby, unlike the other stories (Lee and Kirby actually do less than half of the actual writing and drawing in this collection), and part of it was that they stuck to the ancient Norse legends about the gods. The other flaw was that they stuck with Don Blake and his romance with Nurse Jane, even while Odin went off on his "no son of mine is going to marry a mortal" rant. Eventually we will get around to the Lady Sif, but that is still a long ways off. For now, the more these early issues focus on Thor, Loki and the rest of the Asgardians, the better the stories. The rest require us to believe mere mortals and various meta-humans have a chance against an actual thunder god. But we still are not up to the glory days of the character, which will require Marvel Masterworks to get to volumes 3 and 4 in this particular series.


Little Vampire Goes to School
Little Vampire Goes to School
von Joann Sfar
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen The ghosts are aghast: Little Vampire wants to go to school, 5. September 2005
Little Vampire lives in a great big mansion and while he has the ability to change into a rat, a wolf, or a bat, he is a sad Little Vampire. That is because even though he does not have to follow rules and does not have to do anything he does not want to do, Little Vampire wants to go to school. The ghosts are aghast at such an idea and even his mother's reminder that he has his dog, Phantomat to play with, cannot stop Little Vampire from wanting to go to school. So one night Little Vampire and Phantomat head off to the school at the edge of town. It has a playground with swings, wooden hooks in the hallway for hanging up coats, and on each desk there is a notebook with a child's name on it. But there are no students and Little Vampire's name does not appear on any of the notebooks. Little Vampire comes to the conclusion that students only go to school in broad daylight and at night there is nobody at the school.
Now, that could be a cute little story just by itself, but that is just the opening of Joann Sfar's "Little Vampire Goes to School." The Captain of the Dead decides that if Little Vampire wants to go to school he should have the opportunity. So all of the ghosts go to school each night and the Captain teaches school. This could also be a nice payoff to this story, but we are not even halfway through, because the Captain has one rule for his class. The ghosts had to bring their own school supplies so they would not write in any of the "daytime" students' notebooks. However, Little Vampire does not care and decides he is going to write in the notebook of a student named Michael who forgot to do his homework and gets quite a surprise when his teacher makes him open his notebook to read what it is he did not write.
This is a marvelous story, originally published in France as "Petit Vampire va à l'école" (and there is even a video version of the story, which makes me jealous), and translated by Mark and Alexis Siegel. My description of the book's narrative thread ends before the halfway point and there is much more of the tale to tell (such as what you have to wear when you stand in the corner because you rely on others to do your assignments for them). Sfar matches the marvelous story with delightful drawings, which is often where such stories fall short of reaching classic status. I like the simplicity of the Little Vampire's appearance along with the wonderful look of the Captain of the Dead and many of the other ghosts.
The only downside is that Sfar refuses to tell you what a hemzalleh is even though it is very yummy and you have to stop reading the book and get on line to find out what it is (I had to do it; you have to do it). But the good news is that there are more stories about the Little Vampire and I have "Little Vampire Does Kung Fu!" sitting on the shelf to be read next and find out more about our young hero and his new friend. This book had earned five stars before I got halfway through it and it just kept going. When you read "Little Vampire Goes to School" and see how right I am pass the world along, because you certainly know someone who will love this story (no, they do not have to be of school age).


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