Friday, August 15, 2014

The Giver (Film)

I recently posted my thoughts on the upcoming theatrical release of The Giver.  In short, I thought the trailer looked terrible - and I still think so.  At least, the trailer I was referring to was terrible.  Since coming up with the idea for this post, I've come around a little bit on some recent trailers and have upgraded the movie to just above terrible.

I think when I last gave my little review of the trailer, I was judging the film as an adaptation of the book.  However, the problem with this is that in the past I've always tried to treat the film and book versions of a story as separate; this is completely necessary, because the two mediums provide different ways to tell the same story.  I think it's reasonable for a director/writer to take some liberty with the subject matter rather than just do a scene-for-scene adaptation of a book.

The Giver (film) looks at least like a lot of focus was put on cinematography and visual effects.  It also looks like the action has been ramped up quite a few notches from that seen in the books.  I think I can understand why; the book is not exactly the fastest in terms of what's actually happening between the pages.  If you were to just adapt the book as written, it would be a pretty short film.

Still, I have some nagging feelings about this movie.  I think it's definitely unfair to judge it based on how I think it's adapted the book (and my initial reactions were that I thought it looks more like a "loosely based on" type of movie).  However, from what I've seen in the trailer, I don't really like the direction they've taken - and some of the acting looks rather poor.  It's unfortunate that they seem to have used the poorer takes of some scenes in the trailer.

Lastly though I was just reading an interview given by Jeff Bridges, who acts as a producer for the movie.  Apparently he is a huge fan of the book, and even made his own 'fan film' years ago.  It's been my experience that when an actor really loves a book, the film they push to produce tends not to be the best quality.  That's not always the case (see Moneyball), but it happens often enough.

Friday, August 1, 2014


I haven't had a lot of things itching to get out of my mind lately, but I've been wanting to write something - so I thought I would throw something together.  A hodgepodge, if you will.  I figure a paragraph on everything will do.

- I was introduced to reddit a few weeks back; I had heard of the website before, but never really made use of it.  It looked like a jumbled mess to me, and when occasionally I'd find reddit in search results, I didn't know how to navigate it.  I'm still no pro at it, but I get it now and it has given me new things to read about.

- This week I've been dropping pounds like crazy.  It hasn't been due to any extra exercise (that was last week...I put in some extra time due to some external pressure that ended up being unfounded).  The main difference this week has been smaller dinners by using portion plates.  Oh, the best part?  I'm down 14.17% body fat - or, 39.3 lbs since November 2013.  Crazy!

- 2048 is a simple yet addictive game.  In short, the object is to move numbered tiles around a grid and combine them to ultimately create the number 2048.  I've gotten has high as 1024, but that's about it.  I'm close...I can feel it!

- A while back I watched Thor: The Dark World.  It's not a perfect movie, but I found it really enjoyable - which is great for a character I've hardly related to in the past.  I've never been a big Thor fan, so it's great that the movies can make the character relevant to me.  Good comedic moments balanced with action set pieces.

- The Blue Jays are on a roll.  Sort of.  They had a spectacular month of May, which has set them up great considering the mediocre performance they've put forth in June & July.  They've picked it up since the All-Star Break, but they have a long way to go if they want to do anything in the post-season.  Sounds like Jays fans are excited again though, which is's been too long.

- Recently read The Giver; I really liked this novel.  It's really short, so it's an easy read.  I gave it five stars on Goodreads, though thinking back to the book, it's not spectacular.  Don't get me wrong - I'd still rate it five stars; but a book like Brave New World or 1984 are more up my alley than this was.  Have you seen the trailer for the movie coming out soon?  It looks terrible!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011); I've been meaning to see it for some time now, especially with the next Transformers film due out this summer.  Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've seen it, so it's not entirely fresh in my head; but to be honest, that doesn't really change my outlook on the film.  I even missed the first 20 minutes, and I don't feel like I missed out anything.  That in itself should probably give you some indication of how good (or bad) the film is.

I recently listened to a podcast reviewing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; in it, the reviewers had the notion that maybe the producers were trying to "forget" The Motion Picture and start fresh with a new movie.  Thinking about Dark of the Moon, I really get that same sort of feeling: that the producers were trying to ignore the existence of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  Gone are the annoying "twins" (though replaced with equally annoying but less featured smaller Autobots) and Megan Fox.  Sam has a new girlfriend - whom apparently he loves and has always loved.  Some of the Decepticons are different - Megatron's form is changed, as is Soundwave's (Soundwave is definitely better this time around).  I did some reading, and apparently Michael Bay did acknowledge the poorly-received Revenge of the Fallen and made some decisions to reflect that, but in my view, he didn't go far enough.  Still, this movie fits the overall feel of the other two movies, so it's definitely not out of place.

Interesting to note - though I'm not sure how I feel about this - the Transformers seemed to be much more "organic" than ever before in that they bleed when injured.  It's a little strange - Transformers seem like they should be completely mechanical.  However, this helps to illustrate that they are alien beings from another world.  I just don't know if it worked for me or not.

Thematically, the connection to NASA here mirrors the first film.  I really appreciated that, and thought it added a nice touch to the film.  It makes the second film seem even further out of place, which lends more support to my theory that Bay just wanted to move on from the second film.

One of the more interesting aspects of the film's plot line was Sam's apparent existential crisis in the first half of the movie.  He's graduating from college and going for his first job - but he's saved the world twice now, so understandably he feels that an entry level position has no meaning for him and is beneath him.  It's a little God-complex-ish in the first two films - a coincidence almost - that he is so central to saving the world.  In this movie, I feel that he has less to do, and is actually held a little bit helpless / hostage to the Decepticons and can't really do much to affect the outcome of the film.  Wisely, it's the Transformers (and military-trained humans) who do the bulk of the saving the world.  I honestly forget how Sam figures into the end of the story, but I think he's satisfied or something.  Either way it's pretty clear that he's not important for the future of the franchise.

I liked that there were some bad humans in this movie.  I don't like that it was obvious who they were, but when you think about it, it makes sense that the Decepticons would coerce some of the less scrupulous members of society to get what they want.  After all, aren't the Autobots essentially doing the same thing by having the humans act as support for their fight against the Decepticons?  Of course there is a difference - the Autobots feel responsible for the humans, whereas the Decepticons use them as they see fit - and they see them as disposable.

Overall, this isn't a huge thinkpiece of a movie, but Transformers: Dark of the Moon gives you a bit more to chew on than the previous two installments.  I don't hold the same expectations for Age of Extinction, but come on - Dinobots!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Recently I watched the latest installment in the X-Men movie series, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  You can creep my twitter profile for the short version, but where's the fun in that?  Read on (sort of spoiler-y I guess)...

Let me start off with the best part of the movie: Magneto as played by Michael Fassbender.  All of the sequences involving him (either taking part of the action or just in the action) are excellent.  The best sequence is from the end - and I'm definitely not spoiling the contents of that scene, because it's worth experiencing.  A close second would be Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique.  She also had some very strong scenes in the film, and without spoiling it, was very central to the plot.

Now then...there were some weaker moments, as I alluded to on Twitter.  The worst moments: Wolverine piping in with "...but I know someone who can help us!" when they run into a road block.  To be fair, I think this only happens twice, but the overall characterization of Wolverine is actually not very strong.  To me, he comes across as much more emotional than we've seen in any of the previous movies.  Yes, he's shown some strong emotions (other than "GRR!  I'm angry!") in the other movies, but in this one he almost seems sentimental.

That's not the character we know; however one could argue that this decades-long war against the sentinels with deaths of all his friends has changed him.  I would buy that argument if maybe we'd seen a movie set completely in the future (or the present? I know it's supposed to be the future in the comic book, but it's a little muddy in the movie).  It does help that we see some of the mutants get killed in horrible ways in the opening sequence - it helps cement the idea that this is a terrible state of affairs for mutants.

I also feel that James McAvoy's Professor Xavier recovers a little too quickly from his depression.  I feel like this should have been a more important part of the plot, but it's not handled with much grace.  On the other hand, I think this is a third strong point I found in the movie - James McAvoy.  I won't say too much - I just liked his performance in the movie.

I would definitely watch this movie again and anticipate the day it arrives on home media.  One thing to note if you were let down by X-Men 3 - this movie pretty much wipes its events out of the movie series canon.  I liked parts of X-Men 3 but I feel like that was a good move; unfortunately the movie also undoes some of X2, but it's unclear exactly how much of that has been undone.

The next X-Men movie should be pretty good - it's supposed to be set in the '80s, so none of the "old" trilogy actors should be appearing in it (though wouldn't you think that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are still a little too young-looking in the '80s to pass as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen?).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Deep Space Nine: The Adversary

Full disclosure: Deep Space Nine is probably my favourite TV series; while TNG might be the Trek I grew up on, DS9 has always been my favourite.  It's a shame that I never watched it during the original run (until the later seasons) and had to watch it as re-runs.  It's also a shame that no network carries them in syndication that I know of - they instead prefer to show TOS, TNG, and Voyager.  Weird.  I think DS9 is very underrated.  I'm currently re-watching DS9 with Vanessa, mainly as an excuse to watch my favourite TV series.

Episode: The Adversary (Season 3, Episode 26 - S3 finale)
Directed by Alexander Singer

The season 2 finale of DS9 really kicked off the whole Dominion plot line, which continued into the third season; season 3 was still rather episodic when compared to the latter episodes though.  The Adversary really kicked the Dominion plot into high gear.  The short version of the episode is that a Changeling (one of Odo's species, if you don't know) infiltrates the Defiant and attempts to start a war with an alien species in order to take the Federation out of the picture to ease an Alpha Quadrant invasion.  Surprise!  It doesn't work, but Odo learns of a very important fact: it's too late, the Changelings (also called The Founders) are everywhere.

As an episode, it was fantastic: the writing was on, all the character notes were great - but I wanted to highlight the technical aspects of this one, because I thought they were above and beyond the rest of season three.

Very often in Star Trek (and especially DS9), we're presented with a giant ship (or station), where the characters have tons of room to move around.  The Defiant, though, is a tiny ship in contrast.  It's designed to be highly maneuverable, and highly efficient.  The bridge is nice and big, and by necessity so is the engine room, but the rest of the ship is small.  It's basically a submarine in space.

The Adversary does an excellent job in depicting the size of the ship.  Camera angles were very tight and close, and the characters were put in some claustrophobic situations.  Unfortunately I don't think many other episodes featuring the Defiant use these techniques as well as The Adversary; ironically I feel that these tight shots really showcased the Defiant more than wide shots otherwise would have.

The other thing that was really neat were the lack of cuts from the camera.  I think this is directly related to the director (Singer) choosing to film the characters up close, so that when the camera needed to move to another area in the scene, it pulled back in a fluid motion - as if the viewer is the camera, and has to back up ever-so-slightly in order to survey more of the scene.  It was really neat.  But this also helped to simulate the effect of the Changeling watching the crew and being careful not to be noticed.

I don't normally notice these things, but I thought I needed to highlight these sneaky-but-awesome camera tricks in a well-written episode.  If you haven't seen this one, track it down - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Toe-riffic Challenge

I've never broken a bone before in my life; that's a 30-year streak, which is pretty impressive!  I've had my fair share of massive bruises, but I guess I'm just big-boned.  Hopefully, that streak has not ended as a result of dumb luck.

This past Monday afternoon, I somehow managed to stub my toe on one of the pipes that stick out in the basement while carrying a basket of laundry to the laundry machines.  At the time, I simply thought it was a run-of-the-mill toe stub: no visible marks to my toe, it seemed to be pointing in the right direction.  It was just sore - which to me seems normal for a stubbed toe.

I went on to play some softball Monday night, which required wearing cleats - they were a little tight against my toe, and I played with a pretty bad limp.  After the game when I took my cleats off, my toe was pretty much black and blue all over.  Not a good sign!  (For those who haven't researched broken toes on the Internet, this is pretty much the number one indication that it is broken.)

Since then, the bruising has gone down a LOT, and I'm just experiencing some minor pain (I'd qualify the toe as "tender").  I went to see the doctor, and he was able to move my toe around quite a bit.  Without doing an x-ray, his best assessment was that it's probably not broken - and either way, the treatment would be the same: ice it, keep it elevated, and don't wear tight-fitting shoes.

Which brings us to the challenge - I have some fitness goals to meet, but I'm not supposed to wear shoes, essentially.  It's great that it's the summer time and I can wear sandals, but it's also softball season.  I'm not 100% sure what to do here - maybe it would be best to not play for a week?  And, there should be plenty of exercise that can be done that doesn't require wearing proper shoes - I just can't go to the gym.

The whole point of this rambling is just to say that I'll have to find a way to stay active despite this really tiny limitation ('s my pinky toe).  This really shouldn't be a huge problem - I've hurt my feet in different ways before; this one just could have been, and potentially could still be, much worse.  All because of a stupid pipe in the basement.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Short Post About Glee

Please allow this brief interlude from talking about weight loss (I think I need a break from talking about that anyway).  I'd like to talk about Glee.

I like the show; that apparently is not a popular opinion for guys to hold, and I'm not sure why.  I guess some guys don't like singing and dancing?  Anyway, having said that, I don't like the last two seasons of Glee as much as the first three.  I think we're at 5 seasons - it's hard to tell with the amount of hiatus periods this show has (which is something I definitely do not like).

I liked the first three seasons because of several reasons, chiefly that there was actual character growth.  The overall plot was also somewhat realistic - the Glee club didn't win it all the first go-around (or even the second time), and had to deal with true adversity.  It wasn't until the third season that they actually were able to pull it all together and win - and it felt like a truly well-deserved win.  I liken it to a professional sports team, who after learning how to lose, finally wins it all.

I felt that the writers/producers hit all of the right beats in those first three years, and that's where the last two seasons fell short.  I will grant that they tried to make me care about the new cast and give them original stories; but you could tell that they realized that avid fans still wanted more of the original cast - hence the split time between Lima and NYC.  However, I don't think it's a coincidence that the show changed focus to NYC and dropped the Lima stories.

Going back to character growth for a quick minute - it just seemed that the characters in the last two seasons were cardboard, and that the whole show became a parody of itself.  I like that it is self-aware (if it wasn't, I think I would have hated these seasons), and I'm glad that the high school kids didn't win Nationals in the end - I swear, everything I was watching felt like they were going to win it, even though they didn't deserve to.

The show is apparently going in another new direction (haha...get it??), so I'm not sure what to expect.  All I know is that if I were to want this show on DVD, I would stick with the first three seasons.  It was a solid show, but it's just faltered a little bit.  Who knows, maybe it will pick itself up again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Goal Update

Whoops - I meant to write something up as a follow-up to the Mini-Goal I set for March 28th.  My apologies for missing that mark; I was also supposed to set a new stretch goal for May 4th.

Mini-Goal Results

As of March 12, I weighed 258.4 pounds and my goal was to reach 245.5 pounds by March 28 (5% body weight loss).  This was close to the original number I wanted to reach by March 5th.
Actual Weight March 28th: 250.8
Difference: 7.6 lbs (3%)

Holy cow, I missed my goal by 2%!  I could write a book about The Extra 2%...oh, wait a minute...

Updated Goal: May 4th

I never truly set a weight loss goal on Monday March 31st, which was what I was supposed to do.  Let's set one retro-actively - I think that's still fair, considering my current progress (more on that in a bit).
Weight as of end of day March 31: 251.9 lbs
Goal weight, end of day May 4th: 219.6 lbs
Weight Loss Goal: 12.8% (32.2 lbs)

What I did to get that number, actually, was to take my weight on March 12 (258.4) and reduce it by 15% (which is the 219.6 number).  So in total, I'd like to have lost 38.8 pounds.

The reason why I think it's fair to set this goal retro-actively is because my progress of late has not been great.  As of Sunday, I finished the week at 249.2 pounds - but as of last night, I was back up to 250.2.  This is not a coincidence, or hitting a wall; quite simply, Vanessa and I haven't been able to get out and be active as much as we would like.

No excuses or anything, but that's just the reason why progress has stagnated.  There are a few external reasons, but to be perfectly honest, we should be able to overcome these and get our butts to the gym.  That's not our reality though, so I'm OK with this "lack" of progress (though I should point out that we're not putting weight back ON, so this is still GOOD).

Obviously, we need to get back into our good habits that had some really positive results.  In short, that was going to the gym 3-4 times a week (our goal is 4) and eating well.  We haven't really changed our eating habits, so we only have one place to look.

We have to do more than just say we'll get back to the habits - here are some things that I hope will work for us, and maybe someone else might find them useful.
  • Assigning a weekly value to our gym visits; we have a weekly goal of a minimum of 4 visits per week, so based on what we're paying for our gym membership, we can assign a cost per visit.  Any fewer visits than that and the cost per visit jumps, making the investment incredibly bad.  At 4 visits, the cost per visit is pretty reasonable right now - so from a financial point of view, it makes sense to keep going!
  • I recently borrowed Fit To Curl by John Morris from the library.  The curling season is officially over for me, but I intend on starting up again in October.  I'd like to improve my fitness level specifically for the sport, which is what the book is designed to do.  But I feel that a lot of the exercises and stretches will help for the upcoming softball season, so I should see some benefits there too.  In short, a focused training program will help get us out to the gym and doing something other than bike/weights/stretch/go home.
Obviously there will be some audibles called during the summer - I'm willing to flip some outdoor activity for a visit to the gym, for instance - where working out will not be ideal.  We'll just have to deal with those circumstances when we get there.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mini Goal

I forgot to write on Monday about my next goal.  I should say, "our" goal, because Vanessa and I are going for the same date (just different numbers).

So just a quick update...Monday I started out with an average weight of 258.4 pounds.  Vanessa and I are going to try to lose as much as we can by March 28th, the Friday of her birthday weekend.  While "as much as we can" is nice, it's nicer to have a concrete I'm aiming for 5% weight loss, which would put me in at 245.5 pounds - pretty much the original number I wanted to hit on my birthday.

I'm going to have to crunch some numbers to figure out the next goal after that, but the next goal takes us to May 5th, so there's opportunity to lose more than 5%.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 119

I started this weight loss plan (to lose 30 pounds by the time I turn 30) November 8th.  The goal was to drop from 275.2 pounds to 245.2 pounds by March 5, 2014.  Officially, the last date of this personal challenge was yesterday - Thursday March 6, because my daily weigh-in schedule was on a Friday-Thursday week.  So how did I do?  Prepare yourself for some numbers.

But first...a little background on how I went through this challenge and gathered information.  I read that the best way to get an accurate progress report of your weight loss is to weigh yourself three times a day, and take the average.  For best results, these times should be consistent.  Because I only had time and access for two weigh-ins, I ditched the third and have done a decent job of weighing in at the same time each day.  Armed with those daily numbers, I measured my progress based on my 7-day average weight.

I also participated in a free health clinic offered by my employer.  I was given a CANRISK (your risk of developing diabetes) of 28, which is moderate.  They measured my waist circumference, as well as my body fat %.  I won't bore you with all the numbers - they're a few posts back.

But, my BMI back in November was 39.2.  Today, it's 36.6.  My score is still 28 - but I feel like that's partly to do with my waist measurements not changing (which I don't get - everybody says that they can see I've lost weight, but I don't know where they see it if my waist is the same).  Either way?  Reducing my BMI is really good.

On Friday November 8, 2013, I weighed 272.4 pounds in the morning and 278.0 pounds in the evening for an average of 275.2 pounds.  On March 5, 2014, I weighed 257.2 pounds in the morning, 260.4 pounds at night, for an average of 258.8 pounds.  That's a total loss of 16.4 pounds by the 30-years-old mark.  Just over halfway to my actual goal.  Considering that's better than losing 0 pounds or GAINING weight, I'm happy with that number.

As of Thursday March 6, 2014, I weighed 258.0 in the morning, 261.6 in the evening, for an average of 259.8.  The total loss from November 8th is 17 pounds.  That also gives me a 7-day average of 258.1 - which is still a 16 pound loss over 119 days.

I'm not nearly done yet, either.  I'm taking a bit of a weekend break from tracking everything so I can re-start on a new Mon-Sun schedule, but the new goal is to lose even more weight.  I haven't determined the exact amount yet, so I'll report back on Monday.