Archive for September, 2005

Batman (1989)

Rothe Blog BatmanFour & A Half Stars

The original, and what would be natural to say next, “the best”. But after Batman Begins this summer, this one is a classic, but isn’t necessarily a better story, if you minus any special effects evaluations.

I love this movie. A lot of my childhood and teenage years are tied to it. Superhero movies were not as easy to pull off at this time, and it really needed to be a cool story for it to work. Tim Burton directed the first two, and he did an excellent job. But, one thing that I did notice that he didn’t pull off quite as well as Chris Nolan tonight, a small detail, a large city feel to Gotham. Nolan gave it a modern feel, that isn’t what I am talking about, I am talking about the sheer mass of people in a city that is supposed to be as big as New York. Burton’s Gotham is more like a small city with huge buildings.

I will love Burton’s movie more for the quirkiness and gritty feel it had. From the crazy surgeon who worked on Jack Nicolson’s face, to Michael Keaton’s performance as the true eccentric that is Bruce Wayne. Keaton did place this aspect a little better than Bale, or maybe differently. Thinking that Keaton up to this point had been known as an oft kilter slap stick actor, who then channeled that into Wayne’s personality as well as being convincingly driven and focused, is pretty amazing in itself.

I liked the translation of Jack Napier as figure who killed Bruce’s parents. But looking back, I think maybe it was a touch too easy to kill as many people as Batman did in the first movie, and how much he used guns. That was a huge thing in the comics, and Nolan’s explanation of how Wayne comes into all of his toys is perfect.

I think though, the best part of this movie is, going back to the beginning, is Burton’s twist. Only his direction in color and camera angles made it a perfect fit with the entrance of the Joker. Especially in the utter calm scene where Wayne is shot by Napier in Vicki’s Vale apartment, to the weird painting of the paintings in the museum scene, to the Joker and his men parading with balloons through Gotham.

This seems a little dated to me. But looking through un-biased eyes, this is a great movie, and only falls a half star short of Batman Begins because the newer movie is that much more true to the original story in every detail and a great story at the same time. But this is what kicked it all of, thanks to Burton to a classic that everyone should see.

Stealth (2005)

Rothe Blog Movies StealthFour and a Half Stars

Starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx and Sam Shepherd, I was expecting this one to be a “Bruckheimer-esqu” summer blockbuster, and it started off that with the intention to please.

As the movie progressed to the point where the AI flying fighter jet went wacko, things got really interesting. The whole movie kicked it up a notch, from average acting and buddy buddy scenes. Quick enough there is suspense, then Foxx dies, and the perfect pilots are in harm’s way and you are on the edge of your seat not knowing how they could possible win.

Jessica Biel is just soft enough to be female, without be stereotypically overboard as the fighting female pilot. Ripped and believable, she has a number of scenes where you forget she used to be on the WB and hot beautiful she is, and that she could actually be intelligent enough to be one of these elite fighters. Sam Shepard is the perfectly power war-hungry army stooge and bad guy, and Josh Lucas plays the main good guy with a great amount of zeal as well. Usually he is a baddie, so I was suprised, pleasantly, to see him in the lead role and not Foxx.

With bits of Behind Enemy Lines, and maybe even Saving Private Ryan, this has dazzling effects that fit the movie, but don’t go over the top. You feel the speed and taste the sky in some of the scenes, and the amazing camera work really give you a sense of what it is like up there and just adds to the danger and tension in most of the airborne scenes.

The “My Parents” rating – My Dad would like this, my Mom I think wouldn’t be able to believe that this fighter jet could think on it’s own. So, if you can believe that, and can sit through the first 30 minutes of the movie with a positive attitude, I think that most anyone would enjoy this movie. Not too violent, it was a summer movie with content and intelligence.

Dark Water (2005)

Rothe Blog Dark WaterTwo and a Half Stars

Starring Jennifer Connelly, Dougray Scott, Tim Roth, and John C. Reilly, this movie was middle of the road. I knew that it was supposed to be a thriller, and I really like Connelly, and the disturbed and imperfect characters she often plays, but this movie seemed like it never really got off the ground.

It reminded me a lot of movies I have seen before, but can’t place, other than The Ring. A little girl is lost, left behind by her confused parents, and she drowns on top of a Gestapo looking apartment building on an island in Seattle. Connelly’s daughter talks to the girl even though she is dead, and they have a connection that as a viewer, can never be good. Eventually the dead girl wants to become the real girl, and to have a mother again, just like in The Ring.

Connelly does a good job of the single mom, she is really convincing, but most of the movie revolves around the damage that water causes to an apartment building, and a ton of climax that revolves around the water itself, but never comes to pass. One of the final scenes is pretty cool when Connelly tries to save her daughter and dirty water shoots out of every outlet in the bathroom, but that is too little too late.

Unless you are a big Connelly fan, this movie won’t be particularly rewarding for you. I wouldn’t recommend this for my parents, and Sarah didn’t like it either.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Rothe Blog Movies Planes, Trains, and AutomobilesFour and a Half Stars

Most of the movies my dad would bring home when I was growing up, were James Bond movies, and movies with Steve Martin in them. I never liked either, but as I have grown up, I still don’t like old Bond movies, but I get a profound enjoyment from some Martin classics, and this was one of them.

Co-Starring the late John Candy, this is a movie about an uptight advertising exec. who meets a down on his luck but upbeat shower ring salesman. Martin is on his way home for Thanksgiving, but he can’t seem to make it there no matter what he does, via any transportation as the name implies. And along the way, he can’t shake Candy, who keeps showing up to cause trouble.

My parents wouldn’t ever let me watch this one, because of the one scene when Martin makes it back to the rental car lady at the airport. The rest of the movie was really clean, and not foul mouthed, and could be a family movie otherwise.

The whole thing is classic, from the opening scene in the hotel, to the car burning it is always funny and always simple. Everyone should see this movie.

Guess Who (2005)

Rothe Blog Movies Guess WhoFour Stars

I really enjoyed this movie. Not a new concept, unspoken boundaries in culture in relationships that cause tension, but I think that the casting was perfect. Bernie Mac as the stern dad, and Ashton Kutcher as the mostly polite but proto-typical American male.

It does get a little sappy, but I think it fits the movie fine. From the start with stereotypes being flung out left and right, to uncomfortable jokes at the dinner table, to the awkward conversations between a father and a boy dating his daughter, just about anyone can enjoy this movie.

If you don’t like Ashton, you might want to skip this, but he isn’t obnoxious. He doesn’t seem to carry over any of his acting from “That 70’s Show” into any of the movie roles I have seen him in. He is a mature guy who is trying to be as politically correct as possible.

Check this one out. Lots of typical scenes with “Women Power”, and “We aren’t talking about the relations you had with my daughter” but perfect to wait to rent at home on a Friday night with the other grownups who can appreciate the possibly real world situation.

Thoughts on Dragon*Con

I am certain I have liberally thrown around the term “adventure” when talking about our con trips. Ah, but never has the word been more appropriate than in reference to Dragon*Con.

The eight hour drive passed quickly. Sure – because I wasn’t driving & the magic of portable DVD has made thinking autonomously unnecessary. Yeah, I’m a punk – I’ll admit I had it easy.

We drove in Thursday because my traveling companion, David & his friend Andie had been invited to Adam Hughes & Allison Sohn’s second annual house warming party. After a quick shower at the hotel & swinging by to pick up Andie we were off.

Allison was the perfect hostess & really outdid herself on the food – it was all fabulous. Next to the bar you also had the opportunity to spin the wheel of drinks & take your chance on what you got from the bartender. I played it safe & opted to try a highly recommended “Pineapple Upside-Down Cake” & was not disappointed.

Many had gathered in the living room to play an X-box game that involved creating a car crash. The bigger the pile-ups, destruction & mayhem caused – the bigger the score. It was hysterical to watch them play.

After the real gamers had taken their turns even I tried it out. This is where you must know an important fact – the last game I had any mastery of was Centipede, so we are looking at a near 20 year gap in my gaming experience. Plus I’ve never even held an X-box controller. As you might well image I sucked in epic proportions. It didn’t diminish my fun though.

But mostly I engaged in my favorite party activity – I met and chatted with lots of very friendly folks. I had a great time & I’m sure I could go on – but I’m here to talk about Dragon Con, so I’d better get right to it.

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Day One

We arrived early – David was hell-bent on meeting the cast of Serenity. After making the rounds to offer warm hellos to some of the vendors with whom I’ve become acquainted we went to wait for Serenity cast members to arrive.

I’d call myself a Firefly fan (and a Joss Whedon Freak), but in general I’m not a wait-in-line-$20-a-signature fan. I can’t explain it, but the comic book artists (and creators) just get me more fluttery than the actors do.

For all the crush of people we made it through very quickly. I snapped digital pictures of David with the stars which we would later print out & bring back for signing. Of all the cast – meeting Ron Glass had to have been the most enjoyable.

He was so pleasant. I passed by his table repeatedly throughout the weekend & he always looked relaxed & happy. He took his time with everyone & seemed very down-to-earth.

After the Serenity tables, we proceeded on to the Star Trek row because David wanted to get his picture with the guy who plays Tripp on Star Trek: Enterprise. Again, I’m a Star Trek fan, but I never got into Enterprise, so I stayed on the periphery.

Okay, pausing for evil, snarky girl moment. Down the row Marina Sirtis (Troi from ST:TNG) was setting up her table. The top she was wearing was so wide open in the front David & I both Literally jumped when she turned around. But that’s not the snarky part. Disclaimer: This is pure gossip & I should be ashamed of myself. I have nothing more to base this on other than the fact I am a large busted woman over the age of 30. But believe me when I tell you – those are new. ‘Nuff said.

Finally I had a chance to roam around & check out all the tables. There was so much cool stuff for sale.

For the uninitiated (which up until a week ago included me) Dragon*con is an enormous con that takes place in three adjacent hotels. It is not so much a “comic book” convention. In fact I remember thinking as I drifted off to sleep after the first day that I needed to check to see if there were even any vendors selling comics, because I didn’t remember specifically seeing any. (I did find a few tables on Saturday.)

I’m not sure I’d label it Sci-fi either – maybe “Fantasy” is the right word. There were comic books, science fiction stars, a teeny-tiny artist’s alley & role playing card games, but the vendors were heavy on costuming.

And costumes were the big thing. Not only were there an abundance of fictional characters being portrayed by con guests, but I have never in my life seen more corsets & bustiers in one place at one time.

Sidebar – just so you fellas know; pulling that off all day is no picnic. A tight bustier is difficult enough to manage, but those lace-up corsets – yeesh! Who wants to breathe or digest food anyway? I overhead a corset wearing gal in the bathroom groaning that the salad she had just eaten was about to cripple her. All right, back on topic…

The costumes cut a wide swath across genres, media & personal proclivities. There were superheroes, movie & television characters, literary characters, period costumes, fairies & fantasy – I could go on all day. It’s practically useless to describe – it’s something you need to see. I hope Jeff will be able to post some of the pictures we brought back.

At the end of the day Friday we stayed in the lobby & took pictures of the endless parade of costumed & otherwise lavishing dressed (& undressed) con patrons. We re-grouped later with a bunch of friends in the hotel restaurant. We commandeered a large corner table overlooking the lobby where costumed con attendees had gathered. We ate, drank, talked & watched the parade pass by. I am a people watching junkie. It was nearly 1 am when we left but the throng of people in the lobby still packed the area end to end.

Day Two

We got a later start on Saturday. After getting nice 8×10 glossies of yesterday’s photos printed we returned to the con. I left David on his own to get his signatures. The area where they had the celebrity signings was a zoo. It was packed, movement was limited & it was HOT. I preferred to get out & prowl around on my own.

The dealers were amazing. I was fascinated with all the headdresses, jewelry, cloaks, ornate dresses, replicas of TV & movie costumes, etc. I’m telling you if I had money to set on fire I would have been coming home with bags of that stuff. A lot of it was hand crafted & the workmanship was exquisite.

I got to spend more time in artist’s alley too. I said “hi” to Adam & offered him a granola bar. He’s always working so hard I think he doesn’t get to eat sometimes – it makes me go maternal. Then I headed around the corner. They had Andy Lee, Stuart Sayger & David Mack all lined up in a row. All that cuteness, all in one spot – it’s almost more than a poor fan-girl can take.

Oh & I picked up Stuart’s new sketchbook that weekend too. I love it! My gosh, he is so good! Great news too – my Wolverine is in this edition. I never got it into the scanner before I got it framed. Now those who possess the sketchbook can all reflect back to my earlier essay about my love affair with this picture & see how completely right I was.

The rest of the day passed in a nanosecond. Suddenly we were out to dinner with one of David’s friends, and then it was party time. This seems to be another proud Dragon*con tradition – there is a heck of a night life attached to this con.

The first party had kind of a weird vibe. It was an invitation only suite party. They had the door roped off & bouncers & everything – I know, could I possibly sound like more of a yokel? I didn’t know a soul there, but I’m pretty gregarious so I did make an effort to communicate but it was challenging.

I think I was talking to Peter David & I think I unwittingly referred to someone who may have been related to him as surly. Yeah, that got things off on the right foot. It was definitely an interesting setting but as soon as we felt safe that our next party was underway we moved on.

Next was the Linsner post-Dawn Contest party. We hooked back up with a couple more friends & took a lovely white-knuckled glass elevator ride way, WAY up to his suite. I’m not that bad with heights, but boy did we have a bunch of people crammed into that little elevator.

This was much more relaxed & social party. I still didn’t know anyone other than the folks I came with, but this time I had no trouble finding interesting conversation (which is the equivalent of Nirvana to me). This again reaffirms my belief that the creator & con community is very friendly as a whole. Plus I think you have to be a little brighter than average to appreciate comic books – but that’s a whole different essay.

We headed back to the hotel late & left early the next day.

Overall Impressions

In a nutshell – Dragon*con is a blast, a non-stop, free-spirited party. The convention itself has more to look at & do that you can get to in a weekend. I could see attending all three days & not getting bored. If I’d had more time or had gone on my own I may have sought out more panels. They had quite a few that looked interesting. I hear the “Buffy Track” had speed dating – how cool is that? Oh & there was music too & I missed out on all of that, maybe next year.

What set this con apart for me is the social scene. The only things I bought were Stuart’s sketchbook & a couple souvenirs for my kids & my Dad – everything else was about people. It doesn’t end when the exhibitors’ doors close for the day. There are things do around the clock.

This gets a big recommendation from me – pffft! Like anybody cares what I think. *laughing*

My plans for Baltimore fell through so my next convention will be Mid-Ohio – back to where it all started. So I’ve been on the con circuit almost a year now & every trip I learn new stuff. Maybe after that show I’ll take a minute & figure out just what it is I learned. Until then – thanks for listening!


Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Rothe Blog Movies SmithsFour and a Half Stars

What a good fun summer movie. Good action, but the plot wasn’t forced and was really funny. Starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie plus Adam Brody from “The OC” fame if you can call it that.

You’ve seen the previews, these two government killers that somehow manage to marry each other. Now they are after each other. That is just about all they could get into the :30 second preview. But what they don’t show is this great portrayal of American marriage, the things left unsaid, and the role that time can play in driving two people apart. It is really funny, and I think that my parents and most people could enjoy it, if they could handle the brief sex type scene, and the violence between themselves and the other characters. But it isn’t bloody, it is just a ton of gunfire.

But Brad Pitt is great, he has just the right delivery for this role, and Jolie did as well, as the housewife, which I was surprised she pulled off.

This is one you’ll want to own and laugh with friends. See it. Have an open mind, but this is a good movie that just didn’t hit it at the summer box office as well as it should have, due in part to the downturn in the film industry attendance.