Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movie Review - Watchmen

So, yes, I'm a comic book geek...big time. I read many titles, and I love Alan Moore's classic Watchmen comic. Along with Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", these books from DC pretty much saved the comics industry. Rumors have existed for years about a possible Watchmen movie. I even read Sam Hamm's terrible script for it, which, thankfully, was not used. In fact I, like many people, was fairly convinced you couldn't make a Watchmen movie and have it be any good.

I am so happy to be wrong.

I enjoyed the Watchmen immensely. I was at first skeptical...then the trailers came, and I got excited. Then I got nervous...some bad reviews started showing up...but then I realized that what a lot of reviewers were sayign was "Oh, this is too dark!" and I thought, "oh, good! Maybe they got it right!"

I feel they did. In my opinion, the movie is brilliantly cast, well acted, choreographed like a ballet version of a favorite piece of work. I found very few flaws...primarily with the terrible make-up job on the actor playing Nixon. Given how good everything looked around him, how ridiculous he looked really stood out.

There are some changes from the book, of course. Certain scenes are gone, and a major element of the ending was changed. Despite this, it comes across as very true to the original material, sometimes slavishly recreating frames from the book. It's really quite a work of art.

I also had a chance to see the DVD that was released of "Tales of the Black Freighter" and "Under the Hood". It's defintiely an enjoyable companion piece, though I doubt anyone who hasn't read the original will understand how Tales of the Black Freighter fits into the Watchmen mythology. I've heard that, someday, an ultimate director's cut that includes these Black Freighter and Under the Hood material may be coming. Hopefully that will make things clearer for the non-geek population.

Walt Disney World, Day 7-8

We love Epcot so much that we put two days aside for it, so Day 7 was our return to Epcot day. And so we did! We returned to Epcot and enjoyed a second day of filling in the blanks. We repeated rides we wanted to repeat...did more Kim Possible missions, wandered around World Showcase...and engaged in a tradition that is unfortunate and wonderful..."Eating Around the World".

Basically, the dining plan gives you X number of counter service meals and X number of sit-down meals. We invariably end up with a stack of counter service meals left over at the end of our trip, and so, since there are so many great places to eat counter service in Epcot, we run around World showcase, indulging in small bits and bites. Since we share them out between however many folks are with us, it never seems like TOO much food....mostly.

We started in Great Britain with their excellent fish and chips. This is always delicious, and it's a traditional stop for us.

Although the siren song of the cheddar cheese soup of Canada and the pastries of France were strong, we resisted and moved on. In Morocoo, however, we know that the counter service food is excellent and plentiful. We got various shwarma, hummous, tabouli, and other yumminess, ending with a bit of baklava. Delicious indeed! And mint tea from there is so good to settle a complaining tummy. Heheheh.

We'd never eaten at any of the restaurants in Japan, so we decided to rectify this. We had sushi and chicken teriyaki, and the food was all very good. I think we may need to eat at the Japanese table service restaurant next time.

America has the American Adventure, which always makes me feel patriotic...but not patriotic enough to blow a dining option on a hot dog. I would have loved to do some Italian food, but Italy is kind of a chintzy pavilion, and they have no counter service. We turned our noses up and walked past. Germany could've yielded sausages and beer, but we'd just had those two days prior, so we passed and moved on.

In China, we stopped for some very decent orange chicken. Nothing to write home about, as it were, but fresh, hot, and definitely tasty. At this point, we were hitting sufficiency, and we decided to save our last treats for our last day. We coughed up some cash for a sweet pretzel in Norway.

And if all that eating wasn't enough, later on we returned to Normway to the restaurant Akershus. Now, we all had find memories of meals here that included a smorgesbord...literally!...of cold meats and cheeses, salads, venison stew, and other goodness. Sadly, the massive demand for more princess restaurants has invaded Akershus. When we entered, we were forced (at gunpoint!...well, okay no...) to have our photo taken with Belle. Over the course of our meal, we also met Jasmine, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel, who all dropped by our table but who were very perceptive at seeing that we were just three gay dudes having dinner. They were all very nice, they all offered to sign things or have a photo taken with us, but they were also all cool about just being cool with us.

Sadly, the food and enjoyment was another story. Although our server did his best, the insane atmosphere of screaming children made it hard to feel anything but overwhlemed. The wild buffet had been reduced to a shadow of its former self, and the entrees were extremely forgettable...tasty, but nothing to trumpet. We got out of there as quickly as possible.

We paused to watch Illuminations again...yes, it's that good...but, sadly, our exit was marred by the presence of cheerleaders. These kids get to go to Disney World for their finals, and that's cool, I expect. The trouble is, they don't know how to act while they're there. They invade, take over, scream, lead cheers at inopportune moments... I'm sure some of them are very nice, but, if you are one of the nice ones, please understand that your peers are ruining it for you. You will be lumped in with them, and I'm sorry for that. As we were exiting, I was listening to the exit music for the park, and these girls (and a few guys) kept showing up in waves, dancing, knocking into people, shrieking, and generally making my exhausted, sick self even more tired and unhappy. We paused and let al ot of them go by so that we could enjoy a quieter atmosphere.

On Day 8, I know I was pretty much done in. We went to Downtown Disney, Disney's mecca of shopping and dining. We ate a delicious counter service meal at the cheesily-named, but totally excellent Earl of Sandwich. Their sandwiches are really fabulous. We did some souvenir shopping, and then, I decided...I'm done. I took some bags of souvenirs and rode back to the hotel, relaxed with a drink, and let the boys run off to the Magic Kingdom for just a few more rides. We reconnoitered, said good bye to our hotel room and hotel and rode back to the airport.

Sadly, you may recall that there was a nasty delay on our return. We weren't home or in bed until after 2 AM, and that was sad. But still, it was a very fun trip, all in all.

Walt Disney World, Day 5

Today, we made it over to Animal Kingdom. This was a very special event for me...after many years of trying, we finally timed it right so that we were able to enjoy extra magic hours at Animal night. Normally, the park closes at 5 PM. I've always wanted to see the park at night, and it's every bit as beautiful as I remembered it.

The one thing we did today that was new for me was the Finding Nemo: the Musical show they've added. This huge, Broadway-style show has live performers, puppets, video effects, great music, and...yes...I know...the Finding Nemo movie wasn't a musical. Well, Disney got some of the folks involved with Avenue Q to help make it one, and the result is excellent. If you go to Walt Disney World, this ranks up in must see attractions.

Also on that list is Expedition Everest, the big Himilayan train-gone-amok "Beware of the Yeti" themed roller-coaster. The theming on this awesome attraction begins when you're in line. As you wait, you pass through the Yeti Museum, perusing artifacts related to this strange creature. The ride itself is so much go forwards, backwards, forwards again, and then come face to face with the monstrous Yeti himself. That's all I'm saying on the subject.

Other than this, we wandered around, did the Safari ride, which is always different, but usually great. They've toned down the goofy plot on it, making it much more about just seeing the cool animals that are seemingly roaming free. We checked out animals, got a bite to eat at the new Chinese fast food place (nothing to write home about, truly), and generally passed an enjoyable day. By now, however, my big bear belly was truly working against me. I was getting physically exhausted to the point of my endurance and beyond. I let the Otter and the Roo run off to do stuff sometimes while I relaxed. I figured that was better than being totally unable to participate if I couldn't walk. It did, however, kind of put me in a more tired than usual state of mind...

Which may be why tempers were fraying when we made it to Jiko, the restaurant we were eating at. Now, we've been excited to eat here for years, and I wish I could tell you it was worth it. The food was, indeed, quite tasty...but the service we had here was the worst we had anywhere during our trip. Our waitress seemed either new or just shockingly bad at her job. A big for instance...Jiko is known for its vast collection of South African wines. The host who brought us in mentioned it again. When the Otter asked our waitress what she recommended with his Maize-crusted Halibut, however, she seemed baffled. "Do you like citrusy wines?" she asked. He allowed that he did but asked again if there were any specific wine that was paired with the fish...touted, I might note, as one of their signature dishes. She again seemed baffled. "'s fish, so you'll want a white." After a few fruitless attempts, he gave up. It's worth mentioning that the roo and I both ordered the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon...not for the filet, which was quite good in its red-wine sauce, but for the signature macaroni and cheese. This was easily the best part of the meal. Desert was good, but literally forgettable.

The combination of the fact that we were spending two options from our dining plan for this meal (instead of one at every other restaurant we visited) and the bad service made us feel a little ripped off, and the meal wasn't the nicest experience of our trip. As I say, tempers were fraying a bit, and it definitely came out. In conclusion, I would eat at Jiko again (the mac and cheese was honestly that good), but I would just pay cash rather than feel like I was being ripped off on the dining plan.

Walt Disney World, Day 4

Day 4 was back to pleasant weather, and we were off to Epcot, my favorite of the parks. The day was great from moment one, when we got to see Spaceship Earth (the big Epcot Ball) restored to its original look. See, during 2000, someone got the brilliant idea to put a big Mickey Mouse hand holding a wand with all kinds of crazy sparkle effects and the number "2000" as an attachment to Spaceship Earth. It's been up there with the 2000 changed out for the word Epcot ever since, and a lot of fans, myself included, hated that. Now the wand is gone, and I hope it's gone for good.

We wandered around Future World, the front half of the park, for most of the morning. We enjoyed al ot of favorite rides, including the new, excellently revamped Spaceship Earth attraction (there's a ride in that there ball!) As lunchtime hit, we meandered over to the World Showcase area of the park and went to the Canada pavillion. There, we had our reservations for Le Cellier, a very hard to get into restaurant. Once inside, I understood's tiny! Also, it's excellent! The Roo and I both had a filet mignon with a wild mushroom risotto that he's been raving about ever since he visited with his folks in 2007. For desert, there are such tempting treats as a chocolate whiskey cake, various fruit cobblers, and a maple pie. All very yummy.

We wandered around the rest of Future World as well as some areas of World Showcase. We also got to experience one of the new attractions...the Kim Possible secret agent missions that're turning World Showcase from a place parents love and kids get bored to a place where everyone has a great time. Even if you've never seen Kim Possible, you're likely enjoy these kind of weird Scavenger Hunt-ish games. Armed with a Kimm-unicator (think high tech spy cel-phone), you wander around World Showcase, solving mysteries and defeating super-criminals. The Kimm-unicator interacts with features of the landscape in various ways, doing everything from causing a phone booth in the Great Britian area to dispense a golf ball to making beer steins in the Germany area sing. All in all, a really fun bit of secret agent-ness. We did several different missions, and they were all really entertaining.

When dinner rolled around, we headed over to the Germany pavillion for our reservations at the Biergarten. This rollicking German buffet restaurant has schnitzel, various sausages, sauerbraten, pretzel bread, various roast meats, and plenty of it's It's themed inside like the center of a small German town at night during Oktoberfest, and there are live performers who come out and play various traditional German music. We've always had a great time here.

After that, we stayed long enough to catch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, Epcot's spectacular nightly fireworks display. To call it a fireworks show is really a misnomer...they have explosions, lasers, videoscreens on a giant floating earth...really, it's a great show. I always get choked up...I blame the music.

We made it back to our hotel totally satisfied, but exhausted.