Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for December 2013

Commuter reviews a true trek: the new Hobbit movie

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Honestly, I didn’t realize there would be three new Hobbit movies. For some reason, I’m not on top of the “Lord of the Rings” news like I was the first time. And, considering “The Hobbit” was only one book, I thought it would be one movie. So, in fact, they’ve fooled me twice.

The good news is that we were two hours into viewing “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” at the first 3D showing in my little ‘burb before I realized Smaug had not made a visual appearance in the action at all. So, I must have been plenty entertained anyway. Thus, this review will be all good and reveal almost no surprises for the folks who will be viewing the movie because they are equally Hobbit-crazed nerds.

The only other disappointment for me is that Smaug did very little flying. Me, I like a flying, fire-breathing dragon. Everything else is all good.


My favorite part

The movie itself made me feel like a kid again on the log ride at Six Flags, my favorite amusement park ride ever. The 3D put us right there in the barrels with the dwarfs, riding over waterfalls and dropping thousands of feet under water, only to resurface again. I could feel the cool water dousing my face in the hot Texas sun just as it was dwarfing these guys in New Zealand (I mean Middle Earth.)

We saw both rain and snow begin to fall and turn into a full blown weather. Birds and butterflies flew right out into the seating area beside me. And once, I totally jumped to get out of the way of a flying Orc head, lost in battle. Orcs are so much more disturbing when you can almost smell their breath, look at their decaying teeth and see what damage has occurred to their noses and eyes.

The elf vs orc fight scene during the barrel ride is my very favorite scene of the entire movie, perhaps because it highlights Legolas. He is as great of an archer as ever and now – 12 years after we first heard of him at age 23 in “Lord of the Rings” – he’s even more agile. I’d say his moves were equal to Spiderman – new or old.


Legolas is the hero of the movie for me. Perhaps it’s because Orlando Bloom is reprising his role from the first trilogy and I’m a sucker for remembering old times. It’s nice to see an old face from the first three Ring movies carried over to maintain the thread of the plot and all the legends that make up this finely woven new world with all its history.

His girl elf, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly from “Lost,” is equally spry and deadly and was my new favorite character. She’s just as beautiful as Lady Galadrial, Cate Blanchett, or Liv Tyler as Arwen. When the light shines through her in her big scene, I, too, believe I’m witnessing magic, just as the dwarves say. By the way, this character was not in the original J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m going to reread “The Hobbit” again because I’m just that much of a weirdo, but I can assure you she’s not there.

This new trilogy is at least equally well cast or better cast as the first three. I certainly adored all of the new characters introduced in today’s movie and have been totally taken with the role of Bilbo as portrayed by Martin Freeman, Watson from the new Masterpiece Sherlock Holmes. He gives us excellent acting as well as comic relief. He is our every man; our small, ordinary folk doing great deeds and keeping darkness at bay. Others:

  • Thranduil, lord of Mirkwood, is beautifully and exotically played by Lee Pace. His desire to shield his Elven world from what’s going on around him is portrayed nicely and a bit on the evil side.
  • The ultimate human hero Bard, Luke Evans, is attractive and interesting, although we don’t get a whiff of his big role in this movie, just groundwork is laid.
  • More humans, especially Bard’s kids.
  • Kili, the sexy dwarf? What? Played by Aidan Turner from “Almost Human.” He’s in the original books but his love triangle with Tauriel and Legalos is totally not. Remember, this was a kid’s book, written by Tolkien. I’d say all the Tolkien books were totally asexual (even rowdy and boyish) until Hollywood had a hand in.


When the action and the excellent 3D finally slowed for me, I began to know I’d been had again and to count the minutes until Smaug. When he finally makes an appearance, there are only 41 minutes left of the two hour and 41-minute-long movie.

Smaug is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, also of Masterpiece and Sherlock Holmes. Everyone loves to love Cumberbatch, and he has been getting excellent reviews left and right from his portrayal of Holmes to taking over the second Star Trek as Khan. He does a deep, British, growling version of a dragon, exactly how it sounded in my head even as an elementary school girl in Southeast Texas. Oh wait, maybe not. But it really works for me now.

I missed Gollum in this outing. He’s always a favorite of mine.

I nudged my husband-movie companion when Bilbo named his sword Sting in this one because this was the name of John’s racquet from his competitive racquetball days. (He’s at least a borderline Hobbit nerd.)

My perspective

I’ve probably read these books more than I’ve read and re-read anything else in my life, and I’m a pretty rapacious reader. That said and to give you my perspective on your own Hobbit scale, my favorite book of all four is the second book of the trilogy, Twin Towers.

I read the trilogy first, before I finished elementary school and then again in eighth grade before the re-reading when Peter Jackson first started the original trilogy. Thus, I read The Hobbit last and was disappointed compared to the world I was transported to by the trilogy. I remember the frozen lake vision from Twin Towers so clearly even today. It was the first time a book actually caused me nightmares. I still remember that scene and the scene from my dream vividly.

Bottom line: I can’t wait for the next one. More Smaug! More flying!


Clarence takes a hit for me

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Clarence decked out for Christmas

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was commuting to the city as part of our skeleton workforce for the day. It couldn’t have been a smoother ride. I’d breezed in without a hitch, not even bothering to take the toll (it was closed anyway) because there was so little traffic. I’d say it was among my most pleasant drives ever. Until it wasn’t.

I’d spoken to my niece — hands free — on the cell phone, but we’d finished our conversation minutes earlier, me saying I was in the final one-mile stretch before I arrived at work. I remember looking at the passenger seat on my right, taking my eye off the road briefly, perhaps. It was in that seat that I had all the paraphernalia that I insist on bringing into the office every day. Books, pencils, pads, iPad, lunch, etc. I know I had leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner and that was unusual but nothing else. I’m not quite sure why I glanced away from the road.

Then, here’s the surprising part, I heard voices screaming “no.” A ton of commotion erupted in my head just as, to my left, a car came careening at my driver’s door, T-Boning me and Clarence and shoving us the rest of the way out of the intersection and near the right side of the street. Did I hear the cries of the folks in all the other cars? Was I imagining it? Is this some adrenalin rush that happens when your instincts kick in and tell you of danger? I don’t know, but I heard warnings.

The unique part of this car crash, unlike about a dozen before in 40 years of driving, is that it happened out of nowhere. I didn’t even see it coming. You know how it typically is when a car pulls out in front of you on a rainy road, like my first crash ever, and you can’t stop and instead see it happening for what feels like hours. You are helpless for what feels like a long time.

Instead, this was: One minute totally fine and wonderful. Next minute: Totally crushed and out of commission.

The other driver and I had a he-said; she-said situation on the sidelines. He felt like I’d entered the intersection too soon and before the red light had turned green. I felt like my light was green and I just have quick reflexes.  I suspected he was crashing through a yellow, near red light, into me. In the end, I was guilty enough at having taken my eye off the road to knuckle under and not continue with my objections.

No one got a ticket. As a matter of fact, in Houston, you don’t even have to call the cops if you can get both cars to the side of the road. Later, Houston police came to the scene at the insistence of our insurance folks (none of whom quite understand the dynamics of Houston traffic, certainly being from smaller cities.) But the two patrol cars and their officer-occupants didn’t even take out a notepad.

Everyone looked at the tragedy that was Clarence, wheels bent in like he was pigeon-toed. Then, they expressed concern at my condition – totally uninjured but high strung, edgy and standing in the middle of the intersection of Fannin and Binz in  one of the most congested cities in the country. The other driver kept being overly concerned about me and kind of over-the-top gentlemanly. His license plate was New York so certainly he knew about city driving. Maybe he was sincere, but I felt undermined. Of course, I’m prepared for a wreck. I drive Houston streets every day. I’d be silly to think this wouldn’t happen every few years or so. I wonder now at the social implications of such a pleasant person at the site of a car wreck. Did he suspect he could send me over that edge too easily so he needed to be extremely friendly? Probably so. All turned out for the best in the end.

So, it is today, almost two weeks after the incident occurred, that my true holiday begins. Clarence has been cleaned up, polished and repainted. Fortunately, his engine experienced no damage so he’s as good as new. I picked him up today and decked him out in his Christmas finery.

And me, I feel more attached to my new road warrior than ever. It didn’t hurt that while I was in a rental, I came to appreciate my First World attachment for my new Rogue with his moon roof, hands free phone, full navigation gear, Sirius radio, keyless entry and electric seats that can be warmed in the cold weather. New is good.

The same type of crash had happened in the early days with Vinny and then four more rear-enders. So, while I feel unscathed in my daily travels, I’m certainly not. Clarence had the tough wheels of Vinny to fill, but this life experience has accelerated my growing affection.  He took a hit for me and we both survived.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm