Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Birth of Psychoanalysis...

There are times when several great people get together under the hand of a master and accomplish something beyond awesome. It happened with the Ocean's Eleven remake and I think it's going to happen again. Check out the following trailer for A Dangerous Method:

I doubt that this will gain the same level of press buzz as Ocean's Eleven, but many great films were ignored by the masses. Just think about this, we have Michael Fassbender (Hex, 300, X-Men: First Class), Keira Knightley (POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl, King Arthur, The Jacket), Viggo Mortensen (The Prophecy, Hidalgo, Eastern Promises), and Vincent Cassel (Ocean's 12, Eastern Promises, Black Swan) all in ONE Movie under the direction of David Cronenberg (Scanners, eXistenZ, History of Violence)... This is a MUST SEE MOVIE!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Welcome to Fright Night... For Real

There was a time back in the day when horror movies were fun to watch. They didn't take themselves too seriously, but they weren't complete spoof movies either. Then came movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th which proved that horror movies can be a serious money making  genre for Hollywood, and a good portion of the fun left the genre. Like the original, Fright Night is a fun movie.

The storyline isn't really original. A teenage boy, Charlie (played by Anton Yelchin), finds out that his next door neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell) is actually a vampire. Predictably, no one believes him, so he goes to the nearest vampire expert Peter Vincent (played by David Tennant) to help him kill Jerry. Honestly, it sounds like the plot of practically every vampire movie before Blade. But Fright Night differs in how it treats the concept of it's story line.

For example, it's a trope of modern day vampire lore for vampires to have exotic sounding names or old world versions of common ones, which is played with by naming the vampire Jerry. And then have the characters in the film riff on that. And there are plenty of other clever little tricks thrown in to give the overloaded vampire movie genre a fresh cleansing breath of laughter. I would say that the closest I've seen to this style of writing comes from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the tv show), but that's not really a surprise since the main writer of this movie, Marti Noxon actually wrote for that show. Obviously the script for this version covered a great many of the plot holes of the original as well as updated the story for modern times. It also added more dimension and depth to the characters, giving the cast more to sink their teeth into, so to speak.

Speaking of the cast, the casting was also phenomenal. For me, most movies starring Colin Farrell tend to be hit or miss depending on whether or not the director chooses to let Farrell act or just focus on his movie star looks. With Fright Night, there really wasn't a chance for a miss since either approach, given the tone of the film, would just enhance the performance. Anton Yelchin is perfectly cast as Charlie, since he seems to specialize in being able to display courage, fear, sincerity and intelligence all at once. My favorite role of his is still the young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, but Fright Night is a close second. But the real surprise for me was how much I loved David Tennant (formerly the 10th Doctor Who) as Peter Vincent. This Criss Angel clone version of Peter Vincent really played to Tennant's major strength as an actor which is the constant switching from semi-serious to completely outrageous and back. I do have to admit, it was awesome seeing Tennant again.

Overall, I can't say that this movie will be winning any Oscars, or even MTV Movie awards. This isn't an award type of movie. I would this more as a modern day cult classic along the lines of Army of Darkness. So, if you're looking for a cool flick to pass a couple of hours with, I would DEFINITELY recommend Fright Night. Oh and if you go see it, keep an eye out for a couple of cameo appearances, one by Lisa Loeb and the other... I'll leave as a surprise.

Oh, and to end this particular review, I'll leave you with my favorite song off the Fright Night 2011 soundtrack, Hugo's cover of 99 Problems! Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

More Medical News...

Today was the day I met the surgeon that is going to eventually take out my gall bladder. The appointment was little more than a 15 min conversation. And at the end of that conversation, I have to ask a question: Do all doctors go to a class that teaches them how to deliver news in the most doom & gloom, creepy way possible? I mean, I get it. I've watched the requisite medical shows. I understand the psychology here. Most people in my situation are kind of clueless about the dire circumstances they are in. And an overly blunt, even slightly cold recitation of the possible outcomes can be a shocking awakening, kind of like a bucket of glacier cold water dumped on you. But in my case, all it really did was showcase how little this doctor knew of the kind of man I am.

I already knew the risks, and I know the dangers I'm currently facing as well as the factors I have on my side. So while the shocking speech really had no effect on me, it did allow me to learn something about my surgeon. And I liked what I deduced. He seemed to be a no nonsense, straight talking kind of man. The type that will always tell you the truth, whether you like it or not. This is the type of man that can be a good ally in the medical battles ahead of me.

As for the medicine, we covered the risks of the procedures I have to have done. There are two. One is the gall bladder removal, and the second is an endoscopic procedure to check and make sure that all the gall stones are out of my system (and if not, remove them). There is a risk in delaying the procedures, but that same delay also buys me time to lose more weight and increase the safety factor. My surgeon has done this many times and according to him 800,000 gall bladders are removed in the US every year. It's a very common procedure with minor risks.

We went over my gall stone incident in the broad strokes, and I sketched out the particulars of the diet program I'm in. He wanted to discuss permanent weight loss options, meaning gastric bypass surgery or the lap band ring. But I pretty much vetoed that. This diet is working for me, and I want to give it a real shot before I start to consider more drastic, surgical options. As for how well the program is working, realizing how much I lost in such a short time kind of clued the doc into the fact that I was taking this very seriously.

By his assessment, (and I agree) my weight loss progress is good so far, but now I have to step up my game. The easy part of my weight loss program is pretty much over, now it's time for more strenuous activity so I can ramp up the drop in weight. A side benefit of more powerful workouts is that my muscles, skin & other organs will tighten up. This will reduce the amount of excess skin I will most likely have to remove as I keep up the weight loss.

I also got a time frame for the surgery. Balancing risk vs reward, safety vs medical necessity,  he would recommend the procedure be done within the next 2 months. I set up another appointment with him in a month to further assess my progress. If things are going well, he'll schedule the surgery at that time. But the surgery will have to be at least a month out. We both agreed that this is the best course of action.

From here on out, my goals are basically to stick with the diet, ramp up the physical exercise and focus on losing as much weight as I possibly can. I still believe that I can lose all the weight I need without surgical intervention. Now, it's time to put my money where my mouth is and PROVE IT!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Diet Update: Week 5

Well, it's Tuesday night, again, and you all know what that means!! That's right, it's time for my diet update!! Grab the popcorn, put the kids to bed, this is going to be an amazing ride!!! (Not really..) For those of you who don't remember, my diet changed last week due to financial difficulties. I couldn't afford the diet with all the medical supervision, so they dropped the doctor visits. This had the unexpected side effect of switching me to an alternate beginner's track.

Before, my diet consisted of a minimum of 3 shakes & 2 entrees. I could have more, but that was the basic minimum I had to consume daily. The numbers approximate 1,000 calories a day. But that was with medical supervision. Now, my diet has an added "catch", I have to have 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. MINIMUM... What's a serving? Usually about 1 cup of whatever item your discussing. Unless it's salad greens.. one serving of lettuce (for example) is THREE cups!! DAMN!!

According to their numbers, the average U.S. citizen eats about 1.5 cups of fruits & veggies COMBINED in a day. My diet requires I almost TRIPLE that. Nice, right? Well, this first week, I tried the best I could, and managed to get up to about 3 servings a day for 3-4 days. But something about the switch worked. Check out my weigh in results!!

Previous Weight: 480.8lbs
Current Weight: 476.2lbs
Weight Delta: -4.6lbs

And another 4 lbs down!!! Yeah!! Right now, I'm at the weight I was when I left the hospital after my GSI (gall stone incident). This is kind of a mind blowing thing. Get this: I was on IV fluids for 4 days with no food of any kind and then on hospital food for 2 days. When I left I was 474lbs. Get that? In less than ONE WEEK, I dropped from 506 to 474. When I started eating solid foods, I gained it all back.

It took me FIVE WEEKS to lose almost the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF WEIGHT!! Fucked up, right? And this latest 4 lb drop was INCLUDING fruits & veggies!! All in all, this was a good weigh-in. I kinda feel like celebrating, but I don't really have a way of doing that just yet. I'll think of something!

Strange Events Today...

Today has become kind of surreal for me. First, I realize that all my clothes are starting to feel looser than they were before. I have 3 pairs of jeans, 1 pair that is blue and 2 that are black. The blue jeans were always loose on me. One of the black jeans was a little tighter than the blue but still kinda loose. The other black jeans were tight. Both of my black jeans were so tight in fact, that I didn't need belts to wear them. Yesterday, around mid-afternoon I noticed that I had to keep pulling up my jeans (they were a black pair). Today, I grab the other black jeans and the same thing starts happening, to the point where I had to dig around to find my belt or risk my pants sliding half way down my butt and making me look inappropriately cool (NOT).

Secondly, at lunch today, one of my co-workers tells me that there is a noticeable difference in my appearance! I've been looking at myself and referencing an old pic (prior to all of this) and I have NOT seen a difference. Then a second co-worker concurred! This part is cool, but kind of unbelievable.

Finally, there's my walk. One, I noticed that I've gained speed again. I'm now at 6 min per quarter mile. Which is great, until you realize that the same 18 min that it took me to do 2 laps, I'm now doing THREE laps!! DAMNIT!!!! What's worse is, I did 3 laps and I only had minor cramping in my back. It looks like my new shoes and insoles are helping out my cause.

But this walking thing is getting kind of dangerous, I was almost hit by a FedEx truck during my second lap. I'm still a big guy, I can't believe the guy almost didn't SEE me!! But I'm okay and it looks like this new diet stuff might actually be working!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looney Tunes Auto Insurance

I've always found the art of filming commercials interesting. Such a short time to hawk a product to millions of people. And very few make good ones. One such company is my car insurance company, Geico. For years, their commercials have had me rolling on the floor laughing my ass off!! (or ROTFLMAO for those of you who can't read normal english anymore)

I just saw a new commercial (to me) for Geico that I think is hysterical!! Check it out:

However, my favorite commercial is the one with "the Movie Trailer Guy" Don LaFontaine. *does the voice*

In a world where no recognizes a man, his voice becomes memorable..

Check out this one:

That is by far my FAVORITE Geico commercial!!

Economic Implosion....

I am very particular about the movies I like. I used to think that I was open to any and all movies, but to be completely honest, I'm a movie snob. And being the "larger than life" personality that I am (a quote from my friends, I don't actually believe that about myself), I make sure that everyone knows how much of a movie lover I am.

The cool thing about my friends is that whenever they find an interesting or "out there" kind of movie, they bring it to my attention. This was after they stopped trying to find movies that I haven't seen at the local video store. The age of the internet makes it easier to just send me links to movie trailers. Here's the latest trailer I was recommended by my friend, Rafael.

Hollywood continues it's obsession with beginning of the fall of US economy in 2008. But given how little has been actually explained, it is a rich topic for exploration. The really interesting part of all this is the casting though.

For a single film to attract the attentions of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore, the concept and script must have been an AMAZING read. This is a movie I'm DEFINITELY going to see. Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts On... The Nuances of Morality

This past weekend I was given the opportunity to try a new activity. One that, when I first heard about it, I thought went against my established principles and morals. Granted, I wanted to do it, after all, trying something new is always interesting, but something in my head put the brakes on, and I was locked in indecision.

And that was the key thing. Normally, when I find that something goes against what I believe, I just refuse and drop the matter. But something kept pushing me to reexamine the situation. It was like I knew I would be making a mistake by refusing. And it turned out I was right. In re-thinking the issue, it turns out that I was refusing because the opportunity was being provided by someone who wasn't acting according to what I thought should be done. And once I figured that out... everything changed.

The single biggest rule in my personal code of conduct is that my rules apply to ME. I can't expect the rest of the world to live by MY rules. Who am I to tell everyone else what to do? God? Hitler? The Republicans? No. Just because someone is acting by what they believe is right instead of what I believe is right doesn't make their actions wrong. I don't eat snails or frog's legs, but I don't say that the French are wrong to enjoy that. In re-examining the situation from that perspective, my whole outlook on the matter changed and I think it became much more accurate.

However, in looking back, I'm surprised how subtle the influence of my principles are. It was a gentle pressure to guide my "kneejerk reaction" to land against something that turned out to be greatly to my benefit. I think that in the future, I will be much more vigilant in how I apply my philosophy to the world around me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Diet Update X2

As you may have noticed, I skipped my diet update last week. There wasn't any real reason for it, I just forgot. Hey, I'm human, I'm entitled to some forgetfulness every once in awhile, right? I still went to my diet class, I'm still on the diet. Nothing's changed... Well, that's not exactly true, but we'll get to that a bit later. Because I forgot, today you're getting a DOUBLE DOSE of diet magic!! Here are the numbers for last week's meeting (8/9):

Previous Weight: 486lbs
Current weight: 482.2lbs
Weight Delta: -3.8lbs

Now that was a bump up in the right direction! Unfortunately, I broke my diet again this past weekend. I had some Chinese food on Sunday and then some bar snacks on Mon. I don't really have an excuse except to say that I did it of my own free will, and I accept the consequences of my actions. Those consequences are below:

Previous Weight: 482.2lbs
Current Weight: 480.8lbs
Weight Delta: -1.4lbs

I checked with the diet people and today I've closed out my 4th week on this diet. I've looked back on my progress and my biggest issue is exercise. I've upped my physical activity a great deal this past month, but I need to really step it up. My calories burned need to jump drastically. So, by the end of this week, I will have joined a gym and started working out on a daily basis. And this will be IN ADDITION to my lunchtime walks! I'll just have to see which gym I can afford.Now, one month is a good milestone, right? So lets look back and see how I'm doing by the numbers.

Career High Weight (just before the hospital stay): 506lbs
Current Weight: 480.8lbs
Weight Delta: 25.2 lbs <===== Can you BELIEVE THAT!!! In just over FOUR WEEKS!! Right??

I mentioned earlier that something's changed. It's always been my belief that I wasn't going to be able to afford this diet. And at some point, I was going to be unable to continue because of the financial burden. Well, the first domino in that direction has fallen. In looking back on the past month, the higher ups in this program have identified that I'm struggling with the fees of the program. So they've moved me out of the medically supervised level of the diet. This by necessity means I'm now in the track that allows fruits & vegetables as part of my diet. This is the big change I was talking about earlier.

I'm hoping that this will help me save some money (since I don't have to pay for the doc visits any more) and make my life on this diet easier. We'll see how that plays out.

A Chill Falls Over Gotham....

There's two months left and my anticipation builds with each passing day. So far, every thing I've heard & seen for Arkham City makes the game look even more awesome. Yesterday, they jumped to a new level of awesomeness!!!! They revealed a new boss and he looks off the HOOK!!! To modify a phrase from a tv show I'm watching:


Now, I have to admit, when I first read Mr. Freeze in the comics, I wasn't too impressed. He just seemed like a blank slate villain of the week to me. But when the people creating Batman: The Animated Series re-wrote him, he became much more fascinating. They maintained the hard-nosed aloofness of the comics version, while simultaneously adding a layer of tragic sadness & misery to him that made me empathize with Victor Fries's plight. These same people are working on the Arkham City game and they are carrying on with Dr. Fries's story in excellent fashion. Check out the trailer:

Wasn't that amazing? And I noticed a few things. One (and this is really awesome) they managed to get Michael Ansara (the voice actor who played Freeze in Batman:TAS and Batman Beyond) to reprise the role!!!!* Second, in terms of game mechanics, it looks like the boss fights in B:AC are going to be more customized to the style of the villains you're facing, which is amazing considering that the repetitive nature of the boss fights in B:AA was one of my pet peeves with the game. October 18th can not come fast enough!! What are YOUR thoughts on Mr. Freeze?

*NOTE: Turns out I was wrong on the actor playing Mr. Freeze. It's actually Maurice LaMarche.Another great veteran voice actor. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Young Cimmerian ...

Below, I have a video that I found of the first scene of the new Conan movie. It shows a young Conan eager to fight with the Warriors. There's nothing really spoilerish about it, and there's a trailer afterwards.

Check out the quality of the fighting and cinematography here...

After watching this scene, I'm feeling a GREAT DEAL better about this version of Conan The Barbarian. The trailer afterwards is pretty good too. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Top Ten Book Movies....

So, there I was taking a 5 min mental health break at work and I decided to cruise some of the blogs my friends like reading and I came across the blog of a new author, Jennifer Hillier, who had a post about her top ten favorite movies based off novels and the idea caught fire in my mind! Come on, I'm a movie buff and I read a lot. Are you seriously surprised that I'm enthusiastic about this idea!!

But, being a movie buff, I can't just spit out a bunch of movie titles. After all, there are so many great (and not so great) movie versions of books. But the rules here are very simple: I can only include movies based on novels I've ACTUALLY READ. So, a great movie like, Shawshank Redemption, is out because I never read the story it was based on. Let's see if I can actually make it to ten!

10) Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling - While I did have some problems with the pacing of the film (it came across like a series of vignettes and not a school year in the life of Harry Potter), the movie managed to capture that sense of awe & wonder that is part & parcel of being a child and that the books had in spades. For me, it's what made the books so enjoyable to read.

09) Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Reading this series of books is taking a trip into a sci-fi wonderland built on complete and utter nonsense. A feat that I thought would be impossible to bring to live-action film. This movie proved me wrong. Now, I grant you the dry British style humor didn't really carry over to American audiences, but I still LOVED the movie.

08) Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - In every book-to-movie translation, there are ideas that have to be dropped for many reasons. Watching the movie, I was amazed at how the filmmakers managed to retain so much of the core philosophy of the book with just a fossil (get it?) of the story line. And despite the media hype over the special effects of the movie, I was very relieved that the story had just as much importance as getting the dinosaurs as photo-realistic as possible.

07) LOTR: Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien - Unlike the other two movies which mostly descended into a pattern of walking, fearfully waiting for major battle, inspired speech to dispel fear, major battle, and repeat, the first movie did exactly what the first book did: Make you fall in love with the Hobbits and their way of life. Pulling you into their world through kindness and affection and then gripping you with fear as that world is threatened. It was awesome!!!

06) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown - This movie was basically a carbon copy of the book. Since the book was so awesome, the movie was therefore just as awesome. There's nothing like a good religious conspiracy to get the blood pumping!!!

 05) Noble House by James Clavell - This is probably the longest book I've ever read without it being assigned in some class. The incredible depth of detail that Clavell poured into that book was masterfully reproduced in the movie. (Granted it's a made for TV movie that was split over 3 nights, but it was such an amazing work I had to include it!!)

04) The Dark Half by Stephen King - As this blog proves, I like to write. And given my predisposition to the Sci-Fi & Fantasy genres, I had come up with the idea of writing something that becomes real, but Stephen King did an EXCEPTIONAL job with this book and the movie really captured that spirit. It's one of the few movies that EVER creeped me out.

03) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis - When I heard that this book was being made into a movie, I thought it would suck. There was no way a human being could portray the multi-faceted psychological landscape of the main character. Then I watched the movie and it was like I was watching the book play out before my eyes. I was riveted. This was also my introduction to Christian Bale, who soon became one of my FAVORITE actors.

02) Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice - This book was recommended to me by the chaplain at my college. Yes, that's right. A man of God recommended a vampire novel to me. And I was with Anne Rice when she made it publicly known that she disapproved of the movie and the casting. Then I WATCHED the movie & I was blown away. The movie captured the book so well it was startling. And, I still owe Tom Cruise an apology for doubting his ability to play Lestat. I just wish the other movie in this series had been done as well.

01) Silence of The Lambs by Thomas Harris - This movie introduced my all time favorite movie villain, Dr. Hannibal Lector, to the rest of the world. And while the movie modified certain details (as they all do), it did a fantastic job of capturing the soul of the book and the style of Hannibal himself. This movie is by far my all time favorite adaptation!

Honorable Mention:
A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson - While it couldn't find a spot on my top ten list, this movie definitely deserves an honorable mention. Again, the movie captured the creepiness of the novel, but it also managed to perfectly display the escalating frustration of the main character, a normal blue collar worker, who has to deal with an exceedingly bizarre series of events occurring in his life. This is probably my favorite Kevin Bacon movie!

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Daily Walk

As part of my new diet program, I have to burn about 2000 calories a week. I'm not there yet, but in an effort to comply, I have started to do a ten minute walk around my office buildings. I checked on Google's Distance Calculator and if I stay on the asphalt, one lap is equivalent to a quarter mile. I've been trying to do it on a regular basis. Normally, I wouldn't remark on something so mundane as walking, but yesterday something rather interesting happened.

Usually, there's someone walking with me so my walk goes by in conversation. Yesterday, I went by myself and about a minute into my walk, I decided to sing. There's usually no one around, so I just started up with "Swinging On A Star". As I was singing, a blonde on the other side of street (walking past the Crowne Plaza hotel next to my job) started smiling at me and told me I have a beautiful voice! Then on my second lap, I was joined by a co-worker who after I told her what the blonde said, virtually begged me to sing and she concurred!!

Like I said, the song I was singing was "Swinging On A Star". It's the version I heard on this amazing hidden gem of a movie called Hudson Hawk. Rather than torture you with MY version of the song. Here's the one I learned from:

Isn't it a great song???

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Diet Update

My weekly weigh-in this week did not go as well as I'd hoped. This past weekend, I broke my diet twice. It was partially emotional eating (I was stressed out due to car issues.) and part of it was strategic due to a mis-calculation in the needed amount of diet food. I'm back on the diet now, but the consequences of my break were felt this week. The worse part is I did an unofficial weigh-in in the morning at my house and the scale reported 476.8lbs!!! I was ecstatic!! But the official weigh-in told a different story. Here are the results:

Previous Weight: 487.2lbs
Current Weight: 486lbs
Weight Delta: -1.2lbs

That's what I get for breaking the diet. I should be back on track with my "aggressive" weight loss next week. Here's hoping!!!