Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ian Abercrombie 1934-2012

Another British actor I like, Ian Abercrombie, has passed away this week. The notices I see refer to him as being "best known" for stuff I care not one scintilla for, such as a role in Seinfeld (a show I roundly despise) or as Alfred on Birds of Prey (I wasn't even aware the character was on this show, much less the actor). So I also wanted to point out that I love him in things I'm sure you don't care about, such as Army of Darkness, and most recently as Professor Crumbs, my second favorite character on Wizards of Waverly Place, and as Chancellor Palpatine on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Oh, and one of my favorite episodes of NewsRadio, as Bill's gentleman's gentleman.

Sorry to see him go.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And I Think to Myself

Welcome to Lexapro Withdrawal

I mentioned a while back that I might have to just give up Lexapro entirely because of the prohibitive cost of the medicine. It's something I just can't afford in our situation, and I frankly feel guilty devoting $118 a month of our extremely limited income to pills for my anxiety and depression.

A few weeks ago, I was finally forced to just stop taking the damn things.

I ran out, and I can't afford to refill. I applied with the makers of the drug to get on a patient assistance program, but I've yet to hear anything from either the company or my doctor's office. So I just made the decision to go off until I could get back on again, even knowing that it might bring back a lot of my old anger problems and issues. I've been on this drug for, what, 2 years? 3? I knew it wasn't going to be easy just going off of it. I tried to wean myself off, but the closest I could really come to that was to take a pill every other day instead of every day until it ran out.

Currently, I am in hell.

I've been trying to keep up a happy attitude, and for the most part I've been doing okay. But I've been getting these terrible migraine headaches, and that's really been bothering me. Every afternoon, like clockwork. I thought I was just getting sick--I felt terribly sick last week--but Becca looked up the symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal today, and there it is: migraine headaches.

And it's not just the headaches, but it's other things. I'm reading about peoples' withdrawal experiences and recognizing what's been happening to me for the last two weeks: insomnia, dizziness, nausea (which is why I thought I was sick last week), sweating (or feeling like I was sweating even when I wasn't), forgetfulness, bad mood swings, feeling freezing cold all the time, aching all over, feeling oversensitive (not just emotionally but physically), even feeling suicidal. That impending sense of doom that drove me to Lexapro in the first place has not come back. I really hope it doesn't.

And also this sort of feeling of shocks in the brain. Sometimes my body aches so much that it feels like everything inside of me is moving seconds too late. My body will turn in one direction, but somehow it's like my mind doesn't catch up right away. I can physically feel it. It's like being in two times, seconds apart, at once. It doesn't help that I just don't want to sleep. I saw someone describe these feelings as like having someone just physically reach inside of your head and give your brain three hard shakes. That's it exactly. And then these feelings in my head, like a sudden electric shock traveling very quickly from one side of my brain to the next. Just right over from ear to ear. It makes me so uneasy. Jittery. Dazed, sometimes.

And the crying. I've had a few jags of emotional crying. Full-on, hard sobbing. Thankfully these have happened when I'm home alone. And even without the crying, there are just times when my eyes hurt so damn bad. The sadness is sudden and overwhelming, just triggering without warning. From 0 to 60 immediately.

I didn't realize how much Lexapro changed me. It evened me out, yes, but there were other things. I was too even. I didn't have a lot of lows, but I didn't have a lot of highs, either. I think it may have made it harder for me to focus. I've been focusing on things a lot easier lately without my mind drifting so much. Some people say they gained weight on it; I gained a lot of weight, too, but it wasn't all the drug. It's been so hard taking it off; I wonder if it will be easier without Lexapro. I'm basically hornier now, too. Most of the medications I'm on for my blood pressure don't do your libido any favors, but I've seen where some people say Lexapro basically took it away. I feel more responsive lately.

I'm actually kind of scared right now to even consider getting back on Lexapro. I'm seeing more and more things about the side effects of SSRIs that give me pause. One of the adverse side effects I'm seeing is akathesia, which is a type of agitation that can drive people to suicide, and though I'm reluctant to just diagnose myself with something I'm just reading about online, like I said before, I'm just feeling agitated and suicidal lately. Irritable. Snapping at people I love for no reason. Involuntary movements is another side effect, which happens to me every night in bed, when my legs will just suddenly jump for no reason. Tardive dyskinesia is another, which I'm frankly terrified of after reading what that did to Brian Wilson. For the record, sexual dysfunction is on the list, too.

I've been reading that taking 5-HTP while withdrawing helps you sleep, because it increases serotonin naturally with no side effects. Advil migraine medication has helped get rid of the headaches for a few hours. People recommend staying away from caffeine, but coffee has been making me feel better, too. Coffee and a lot of water, which helps my weight loss, anyway.

Maybe I'll be able to get through the withdrawal and then just stay off the drug. I'd like to do that. I can't afford it, anyway, and it seems like if you can make it through the first month, it gets much easier. One person said they were almost normal again. I wasn't normal before, but I'm going to work to get there. I'm going to try and channel my nervous energy into exercise. Even going in the hallway and just walking up and down the stairs a few times helps me calm down. Calm down and stop snapping at people. It's unfair to people to take it out on them. I don't want to put people through that. I won't do that. I will accept their help and not be irritated.

I will do this.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Seven

And here we are, the final season of Star Trek: Voyager. It's something of a mixed bag, much like the series itself, and for a final season I think it could have been handled better. Obviously, this is just armchair quarterbacking a decade later, but these are just my reactions to the honest work of others. Or as they call it today, blogging. Let's soldier through it.

1. Unimatrix Zero, Part II (my rating: 3 out of 5)
Kind of more of the same from last season's finale.

2. Imperfection (3/5)
This episode is a really good showcase for Icheb, a character I'd like to see more of. I'm actually more interested in the next generation of characters than I am in the main cast. Someone needs to put a show together with Icheb, Naomi Wildman, Nog, and Jake Sisko, or something. Jeri Ryan is quite nice in this one. I'd really like to see her doing more now than ending up on shows like Shark.

3. Drive (1/5)
Harry and Tom enter a sub-warp race, predictable plot twists, and Tom and B'Elanna getting together, because why not pair the two most boring characters? Eh.

4. Repression (1/5)
Robert Beltran's pretty good on this completely unnecessary return to the Maquis...well, "story" obviously isn't the word I want there, is it? "Arbitrary motivation"?

5. Critical Care (3/5)
The Doctor is kidnapped again, but there are some interesting ethical discussions here.

6. Inside Man (3/5)
As much as I like seeing Reg Barclay, this episode where a Barclay hologram stolen by Ferengi is used to attempt to steal Borg nanoprobes didn't do as much for me as other appearances he's made. I'm also getting over the writers' infatuation with nanites as some sort of plot-healing magic. Dwight Schultz is great, as ever.

7. Body and Soul (4/5)
This episode is hilarious because of Jeri Ryan. I love the idea that the Doctor is forced to download his program into Seven's Borg implants, and then he's able to experience physical sensations like eating. Ryan is marvelous, and her impression of Robert Picardo's performance as the Doctor is hysterically good.

8. Nightingale (2/5)
It is nice to finally see Harry get put in a leadership position, because I still think there was much more potential for both actor and character than we ever get to see on this show. I could have done without Seven giving him heavy-handed moral lessons about leadership, though. Chakotay, maybe, but Seven rings false. I also could have done without Icheb's sudden crush on B'Elanna. Ugh, B'Elanna.

9. Flesh and Blood (4/5)
I don't think it's a home run, but I do like a lot of what happens on this feature-length episode. Here we're exploring one of the biggest themes on this show, which is what constitutes sentience and humanity, and this episode isn't afraid to really delve into the conflict. The idea that Hirogen holograms have rebelled against their masters is an intriguing one; they can have a concept of freedom and individuality, and want to escape into space to explore their own lives. They firmly put Captain Janeway in the wrong on this one, in my opinion, and I'm glad the Doctor calls her on her inability to think of the possibility that holograms could also be people. It rings a little hollow, since a) Janeway has encountered sentient photonic life in "Bride of Chaotica!" and b) she fell in love with a twee Irish stereotype hologram. I can't decide if the point gets muted or not by having Iden, the leader of the holograms, turn into such a fanatic.

10. Shattered (2/5)
More time travel. At least Chakotay has something to do in this episode, but like a lot of science fiction plots on Trek, Farscape later did it better. I am beyond caring about Seska at this point.

11. Lineage (2/5)
The story is actually handled well, but it does bother me that B'Elanna's apparent hatred of her Klingon ancestry is only ever a part of her character for the sake of plot convenience.

12. Repentance (1/5)
The wife tells me this was a really good episode, but I honestly have a hard time even remembering it. I'm looking at the description right now on Wikipedia and I barely remember it.

13. Prophecy (3/5)
You know, I was surprised by how much it made me smile to see an old Klingon D-7. I made a model of a D-7 back in junior high. I made the Enterprise, too. Always wanted to make a Romulan Warbird, but I guess that was never in the cards. Wonder if I could find one now, one from the original series. Anyway, on to this episode. Every time I see Klingons I'm surprised by how much I miss them and am glad to see them back (real Klingons, not B'Elanna Torres, who is only a Klingon when it motivates a story). Damn, Ronald D. Moore, you made me love Klingons after all. And who could replace Moore as the keeper of the culture? This episode has six credited writers. I like how these older Klingons, still enemies of the Federation, come to believe that B'Elanna's unborn child is a prophesied savior of the Klingon Empire. Good Klingons on this episode, too, and I always like to see Sherman Howard on TV.

14. The Void (4/5)
What a neat episode. I wish we could spend a whole half-season in the Void, seeing all of these new lifeforms and watching Janeway make all of these alliances. I hate how these things are always just one-off episodes and they don't build. Really neat stuff. The idea of Fantome's species communicating through specific musical sound sequences is really intriguing. And I like that Jonathan Del Arco got to play Fantome, since "Descent" was such a lame return for Hugh compared to the classic "I, Borg."

15. Workforce, Part I (1/5)
16. Workforce, Part II (1/5)
Shouldn't we be wrapping up individual plot threads by now? After the surprising vibrancy of "The Void," here we grind the season to a halt with a not-very-interesting story that's mainly a heavy-handed metaphor about workers' rights. I like the love story between Janeway and James Read (always like him), and seeing Don Most was kind of a kick.

17. Human Error (3/5)
Nice try at a personal, character-building story, although instead of just seeing Seven try human interaction on the holodeck, they have to add in the fake drama of the holo-addiction angle. And Chakotay, really? I'm sorry that we didn't get to see Seven and the Doctor together, but okay, Chakotay's not bad, he's just barely a character. The writers seemed to lose interest in him somewhere in the fourth season.

18. Q2 (5/5)
A nice final appearance from Q, though the way he's aged here makes me too aware that I was in 6th grade when TNG premiered. I like John de Lancie's son, Keegan, as Q's son. You kind of know where the story is going, but it's enjoyable getting there. I wanted to see Q2 stay human and hang out with Icheb and Naomi (wherever the hell she is) and end up in Starfleet Academy together. I had more fun imagining that show than I'm having watching Voyager.

19. Author, Author (4/5)
Another episode exploring the Doctor and any claims he has to humanity. It's irritating for almost the first half, but when they finally get to the issue of what rights the Doctor has as a creator or an artist, that's the interesting stuff. Nice ending, too. "Q2" and "Author, Author" both feel like a show that's tying up its story threads. There should have been more of this.

20. Friendship One (1/5)
More Prime Directive crap.

21. Natural Law (1/5)
Even more Prime Directive crap. Guys, the Prime Directive is not an interesting plot motivation now matter how much you think it is. And are Seven and Chakotay together now, or what's going on?

22. Homestead (5/5)
This is a beautiful way to end Neelix's story; not only does he get to be with other Talaxians, but he gets the one thing that's most been missing from his life: a family. This is one of the few episodes this season that makes me think someone was paying attention to characterization. I'm also glad Neelix's ambassadorial status is made official by the Federation. I know there are only two more episodes left, but I'd hate to think that this was the end of Neelix's affiliation with the Federation. He deserved a nice send-off, and he got it. And I even teared up when Tuvok said his goodbye. What a lovely moment. How can there be an episode this lovely and then the episodes surrounding it are just filler and burn-offs of old scripts?

23. Renaissance Man (2/5)
This belonged on a previous season. It's a good enough plot, mostly, but as the second-to-last episode it just feels like filler.

24. Endgame (3/5)
And this is how they went out... Hm. What I liked: the tense stuff between Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen (Alice Krige again), the way Admiral Janeway uses a pathogen to defeat the Borg, Starfleet finally being able to utilize the Borg conduits, the makeup (the only old age makeup I've seen on a Star Trek series that didn't look utterly ridiculous), Neelix's cameo, Miral Paris, and Tuvok's storyline. What I didn't like: yet more goddamn time travel, the idea that the underdeveloped and new Seven/Chakotay romance is already so passionate that her death could destroy him, no Icheb or Naomi Wildman, and the ending. This episode just kind of whisks past everything, trying to do so much in one shot that the end just comes off as abrupt. The whole series just sort of stops. It feels incomplete without at least getting to see these people we've followed really come home. I'm not asking for a half-hour of saying goodbye, I just would have liked some sense of what happened to everyone when they got home. Jeez, let's see Harry reunite with his girlfriend or Reg Barclay and the Doctor shaking hands or Tuvok see his wife again or something to let us emotionally connect with the end of this journey. And what the eff happens to Icheb? Or Naomi?

I don't feel satisfied at the end of this. Like I said, it just sort of stops and then it's over. It's not like the potential wasn't there with the series, it just always feels like the writers and producers don't really care and aren't paying enough attention. Because of Rick Berman's and Paramount's resistance to serialization, there's just no build on the characters, there's no through-arc, and there's no emotional pay-off or resonance at the end. I honestly think they cared more about milking the damn franchise than about telling a story, which is a real shame, because I love Star Trek and Deep Space Nine was such a high note.

Missed opportunities abound. Oh, well.

Moving on, I guess it's time to start Enterprise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nicol Willamson 1938-2011

Sad to discover today, via his son's official announcement, that an actor I've long admired passed away over a month ago after complications with esophageal cancer. The first movie I ever saw him in was Excalibur; one of my wife's favorites but a movie I've just never, ever liked (though I do love him as Merlin and consider him to be the only part of it worth watching the film for). Since then, I've loved him in the 1969 version of Hamlet, The Wilby Conspiracy, Robin and Marian, The Exorcist III, Spawn (another movie with badness that doesn't overtake him), The Wind in the Willows, The Hour of the Pig, as the Nome King in Return to Oz, and especially as Sherlock Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution.

I didn't even realize he hadn't appeared in a film since 1997. I actually saw Spawn in the cinema. Do you remember that Roger Ebert gave that thing 3 1/2 stars?

Anyway, I was a fan. Sorry to hear he's shuffled off this mortal coil to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

50/50 (2011)
Surprising. I wasn't sure I wanted to see it after the bro-heavy trailer, and after you lose someone to cancer you tend to be wary of movies (like, say, The Bucket List) that act like cancer is totally tolerable as long as you act crazy and selfish. I like that this movie was just about a guy with a good friend and a shitty girlfriend, trying to keep his cool and repair his relationship with his mother while pondering what could be the end of his existence. It's a very human, very emotional movie, one which doesn't make light of cancer or dying, but which takes those things very seriously without making its characters ciphers for some idiot message about life. It's about people, and it's excellent. **** stars.

I think I'm done with Steven Soderbergh. He makes competent movies, well-directed and professional-looking with big casts, but so what? His movies are almost never about anything. It's more like a director just waving at the audience and saying "Hey, look what I can do." Every so often there's something really enjoyable, but not too often, and I'm not going to chase them down anymore. This movie: looks good, well-made, utterly pointless and not interested in depth or emotion. Just things happening. Meh. Soderbergh's like the Michael Bay of Oscar bait. ** stars.

I'm a sucker for two things: movies about the inside of political decision-making and things directed by George Clooney. The real star here, of course, is Ryan Gosling. As of this movie, I've officially turned a corner on the lad and can call myself a fan. I never thought, watching the execrable Young Hercules, that I would ever say that. Potentially irritating cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti in the same movie can go so wrong) used very well. Could've used more Jeffrey Wright, but that's true of everything. **** stars.

It can't be said enough how beautiful Hedy Lamarr was. Good Bob Hope comedy, though by this point I think the "mistaken for a spy" formula was wearing thin. *** stars.

So it turns out that Bob Hope can make an unfunny movie without pretending he's 25 years younger than he is, which is what makes so many of his movies from the 60s so ridiculous... I'm sure you knew that, but I didn't even know I was a fan of him until, like, three years ago or summat. *1/2 stars.

Creepy, soppy, and predictable movie about a frustrated artist falling in love with a child. Actually, it's mostly predictable (with some outrageously silly dialog); there are some surprises at the end, where some of the cheese that would've at least made the silliness understandable isn't even gone for. Come on, if you're going for cheese, go the full wheel, at least. Overwrought, but nice New York location shooting. ** stars.

Starts off quite promising, then starts to dull, and finally turns into the movie that just won't end. Lots of good points, though, such as the mere existence of George Sanders. Most of the actors are quite good, but especially Angela Lansbury and Hurd Hatfield as Dorian; I think this is the only thing I've ever seen him in. A very good-looking film, too. I like the painting when it gets weird and horrid; it's by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, but it reminds me a bit of Jack Davis. I wish this movie had been better. All the elements are there, but the pacing is so poor. **1/2 stars.

Hilarious, ridiculous, so-bad-it's-kind-of-awesome Lifetime docudrama (or their sensationalist version of what a docudrama is). Rob Lowe as jokester/wife murder (allegedly, etc) Drew Peterson is automatically hilarious, but I just had to see it in person. And Kaley Cuoco's in there, so bonus for me. Right after high school, I dated a girl who lived in the exact same neighborhood as Drew Peterson, so I was curious to see if the movie got the look of Bolingbrook right. I don't know where they filmed it, but it's a decent job; I figured it would look like Vancouver, with mountains or something. A train wreck, but a fun one to make fun of. ** stars. "I'm untouchable, bitch" will be quoted in my home for at least a year.

A very nice-looking failure. This is a very good-looking movie, but the story is just average and kind of cliched, and this is Eddie Murphy at the height of his ego directing and producing his own performance. He just goes on and on and on and on in some scenes, and Richard Pryor--who proves himself the superior comic by saying less and having more of an impact--even sometimes looks at Murphy like, "Aren't you done yet?" Pryor's very good in this, and so is Redd Foxx (as always), but Eddie Murphy's ambition here exceeds his grasp. Too bad. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. **1/2 stars.

Fantastic horror comedy about two hillbillies (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) who are mistaken for backwoods psychos by a bunch of college kids when one of them falls for the prettiest girl in the college group (Katrina Bowden, skinny but pretty). So the central premise is that Tucker and Dale are in a slasher flick, but don't know they're in one. One of the best horror films of the decade. **** stars.

PULP (1972)
I tried. * star.

Pure insanity. If you're the right kind of person, in a good way. I mean, yeah, it's super-stupid and intentionally-poorly-made, and tries a bit too hard, but it's Rutger Hauer, with a shotgun, in an incredibly over-the-top movie. I have to give it **** stars just for going all the way with the joke.

So, Jeff Bridges is still inside a computer and the computer was never turned off but it's been running for years? Damn, that's a good CPU fan. I had my Dell for, like, 7 or 8 years and the fan burned out once and the computer crashed to the point of needing to be reformatted three times. I wonder if the potential computer issues are why Jeff Bridges' creepy CGI face is so fucking creepy. Seriously, you couldn't just pull his skin back, or something? * star for Daft Punk's excellent score. It's an album I've never gotten tired of listening to, utterly divorced from this shitty movie.

On the one hand, my wife made me watch this movie. On the other hand, not everyone I know has a wife who sees a cheesy action thriller from practically the 80s with Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is going to be on cable and asks her husband to record it just in case it is, and I quote, "a trainwreck of awesome badness." So I still win. *1/2 stars for some of the silliness, and a little bit for having a wife that never, EVER wants to see anything with Julia Roberts in it.

X (2011)
Terrible Australian movie about a young hooker and a veteran call girl who team up for something or other and end up on the wrong side of something or other and blah blah predictable blah happens. I'm going to be very honest with you: I just like Viva Bianca on Spartacus and wanted to see her in something else, preferably something naked. So, mission accomplished. * star.

Excellent black comedy about a man (Charles Grodin) who marries a girl (Jeannie Berlin) and then, on their honeymoon, discovers she's kind of awful. He falls in love with Cybill Shepard (at the height of her cuteness and desirability, before freaking Daisy Miller) and spends the rest of his honeymoon wooing her and trying to tell his wife he wants a divorce. More satirical edge than I'd expect from a Neil Simon script, honestly (even for this time period). One of the great comedies. **** stars. I've actually wanted to see this movie since I first read about it in high school, but it actually took me this long to finally track it down. Now it freaks me out that this movie is 40 years old, and only about four years older than me...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dick Tufeld 1926-2012

I was sorry to read today that Dick Tufled died at the age of 85. I used to hear his voice all the time as a kid on reruns of Lost in Space, The Fantastic Four, and Disney's Zorro. I was also very happy to hear Tufeld when he reprised Robot's voice--this time with a creation of Jim Henson's Creature Shop--in the 1998 film of Lost in Space, one of those movies I'm supposed to be too good for or something but which I've always adored (seen five times in the cinema, and the first DVD I ever bought).

Rest in peace, Mr. Tufeld. Another figure from my childhood--especially from elements borrowed from earlier childhoods--passes on.

Man, I love that Robot.

National Peanut Butter Day Is Here

A la peanut butter sandwiches!

Cookie Monster Covers Tom Waits

The maker of this video somehow knew exactly what I wanted to see today... Thanks for the heads-up, Phillip!

Oscar Nominations

Wow, how much of a joke are the Oscar nominations this year? Apparently the theme for the Best Picture nominees was "Nice Movies That Won't Get Your Grandmother's Heart Racing Too Much." I'm not even going to go into them except to say that I'm happy The Muppets got a Best Song nomination out of this shit year. I haven't seen everything I'd like from 2011--and I've thus far only seen two of the movies nominated for Best Picture--but I'm going to go out on a limb and say there were a lot better movies this year than Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and War Horse.

I'm not even going to watch the Oscars this year. Why bother? I don't actually care about any of the races. I loved The Descendants, but where's the excitement in seeing if it wins to The Help? No thanks, Oscar. Don't care.

And just Best Sound Editing for Drive, the best movie I saw all year? Yeah, stick it in your ear, AMPAS.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jim Henson's Alexander the Grape

A reconstruction of a sadly unfinished, very charming Jim Henson cartoon. Read about the reconstruction over on Jim Henson's Red Book.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Well, I said it would be back occasionally. Here's an occasion.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Song of the Week: "Through the Years"

Eh, why not? An anniversary only comes once. Um, yearly. Anyway, it's one of those cheesy songs I heard a lot as a kid and am totally affectionate for. Take it away, Kenny.