Monday, November 16, 2015

my 30 favorite movie quotes of 2015

(NOTE: not all of these movies were first released in 2015, but that's when I saw 'em!  Also, I tried my best to avoid any spoiler quotes, and these aren't in any particular order.)

1. "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine."  (The Imitation Game)

2. "Looks like somebody used a landmine to clear their sinuses."  (Kite)

3. "Once I got fingered by Boz Scaggs."  (Tammy)

4. "I love kids.  Except the fat ones.  Fuck those little turds, right?"  (The Skeleton Twins)

5. "The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?"  (Gone Girl)

6. "Dear God, is that a tear in your eye? Are you one of those single-tear people? Do I look like a double fucking rainbow to you?"  (Whiplash)

7. "I'm so very tired, Mr. Tusk, battered by a life of cruel fate and poor decisions and the terrible consequences of both."  (Tusk)

8. "You know the difference between Americans and Canadians? Canadians don't get sad. We're red and white but never blue."   (Tusk)

9.  "You don't want the gun?  What kind of American ARE you?!"  (Tusk)

10. "He's not the boogeyman!  He's the one you send to KILL the fucking boogeyman!"  (John Wick)

11. "[Cosmology] is religion for intelligent atheists."  (The Theory of Everything)

12. "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job'."  (Whiplash)

13. "Amish got more flavor than you."  (A Walk Among the Tombstones)

14. "I like to think if you're seeing me, you're having the worst day of your life."  (Nightcrawler)

15. "What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you'd have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that's what I'm telling you, as clearly as I can."  (Nightcrawler)

16. [Baymax the robot, while petting a cat]  "Hairy baby!"  (Big Hero 6)

17. "Next German you see with a weapon, you rake the dog shit out of him. I don't care if it's a baby with a butter knife in one hand and his momma's left titty in the other."  (Fury)

18. "You know what hell is?  A world without narcotics."  (Maps to the Stars)

19. "Why don't you just eat your breakfast instead of blogging about it?"  (Insidious 3)

20. "Espresso?  Is that like reefer?"  (Big Eyes)

21. "Hi, I'm Jade. Welcome to Chick Planet Massage! Please take a look at today's Pussy Eater's special which is good all day until closing time."  (Inherent Vice)

22. "This morning I woke up and there was a pubic hair on my pillow shaped like a question mark. And it really got me thinking of unanswered questions, like all the times in my life when I was supposed to feel something but I felt nothing and all the other times in my life where I wasn't supposed to feel anything but I felt too much and the people around me weren't really ready for all of my feelings."  (Welcome to Me)

23. "It's very bad for a girl to be too pretty.  It stops her developing a sense of humor...or a personality."  (About Time)

24. "It's like their apartment is full of everything we once threw out, but it looks so good the way they have it."  (While We're Young)

25. "I'm a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. Hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon."  (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

26. "Take her to the moon for me, Joy."  (Inside Out)

27. "There are no bears in San Francisco!"  (Inside Out)

28. "They look like the entire cast of The Goonies grew up and became rapists."  (The Wedding Ringer)

29. "By the way, I can see your gun, unless you're so extreme that you have a second dick coming out of your hip!"  (Spy)

30. "God, you guys eat like rescue dogs."  (Adult Beginners)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

best of 2015: random edition, part 2

And now it's time for part 2!  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not everything here was first released in 2015, but that's when I played/read/watched them.
  • I used to provide pictures, but it was such a formatting nightmare that I've discontinued the practice.  Sorry, but I need hair on my head and not ripped out and thrown on the floor.
  • In years past, manga and graphic novels received their own entry, but there were so few contenders this year that I've put them here instead.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0: 7th grader Mirai is unhappy when her mother makes her take her little brother Yuuki to a robot exhibit.  While they're there, a gigantic earthquake hits (no prizes for guessing the magnitude), and they have to try to find their way home again.  Along the way, they meet Mari, a young widow who takes them under her wing.  It's beautifully animated and genuinely moving, but be warned that it will punch you in the gut more than once.  (Free on Hulu; also available on DVD)

2. My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering with My School Romantic Comedy: In this anime (also known as NouCome, a shortened version of its Japanese title), Kanade Amakusa is a normal high school boy except for one thing: he's been cursed with something called Absolute Choice, which forces him to make snap decisions, usually between two really embarrassing things.  (Example: when he finds a porno mag in a playground, he has to either eat some of the pages or start smelling it while making appreciative noises.  Oh yeah, and there are kids present.)  If he doesn't make a decision, he gets a severe migraine that lasts until he finally makes a selection.  It's like the anime version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only with crude jokes and lots of fanservice, and it's really funny.  Props for being the only harem anime where I could actually see why the girls were all so crazy for the hero; he's not only good looking, but he frequently makes choices that are bad for him to benefit others.   (Free on Hulu; also available on DVD)

3. The Order: 1886: When Victorian England comes under attack by forces both human and supernatural, an elite group of knights comes to the rescue.  Some of the most breathtaking graphics I've ever seen, combined with good voice acting and some fun fights, made me glad this underappreciated gem didn't fly under my radar.  Bonus points for full frontal male nudity, although none of the dongs in question belonged to Lafayette, the suave Frenchman who stole my heart. (PS4 exclusive)

4. Until Dawn: One year after a tragic incident, a group of friends meets up at an isolated mountain lodge, but they're not alone.  I reviewed Until Dawn in my September media update if you'd like a more detailed review, but for now I'll just say this was by FAR my favorite video game of the year. (PS4 exclusive)

5. Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine:  By turns heartbreaking and funny, this collection of short stories in graphic novel format is a must.  Most pictures are worth a thousand words; Tomine's drawings are worth ten thousand.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

best of 2015: random edition, part 1

2015 is slowly but surely coming to an end, so I figured I'd go ahead and start my annual "Best Of" lists a little early!  Before I begin, a few notes:

  • Not everything here was first released in 2015, but that's when I first read/saw/played/smelled them.
  • In years past, I provided pictures for each item, but that became such a formatting nightmare that I'm not doing it this time around.  I have crappy hair, but I'd still like to keep it as opposed to ripping it out in frustration!
  • Some of the video games are available for multiple consoles, but I'll list the one I played them on.
  • I usually have a separate entry for the best manga/graphic novels of the year, but I only had a couple of titles this time around, so I'll just include them here instead.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd:  An insanely addictive rhythm game featuring virtual idol Hatsune Miku and her pals singing an array of catchy J-pop tunes.  (Playstation 3)

2. Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX:  Look who's back!  And this time around, Miku and her friends are in chibi mode, making them even more adorable than usual.  I don't know why everyone on GameFAQs shits on my absolute favorite song in the game ("LOL"), but even if you hate "LOL", which why, there are sure to be at least a dozen songs you'll enjoy.  (Nintendo 3DS)

3. The Evil Within: I had very high hopes for this game, both because I love the survival horror genre and because it was created by Shinji Mikami, who brought us several Resident Evil games (including, in my opinion, the best ones) and the Devil May Cry series.  And to be honest, it fell far short of those expecations, largely because of the bland protagonist and a few blisteringly hard bosses, but it still had a stratospheric creepy factor and some really fun fighting, so it's worth a rent if you like the genre.  (Playstation 4)

4. Displacement by Lucy Knisley: In this graphic memoir, Lucy takes her elderly grandparents on a cruise and learns a lot about them and herself in the process.  The watercolor art is charming, and the writing is quietly, beautifully heartbreaking.

5. A Lab on Fire Paris/L.A.: When perfume blog Now Smell This described this scent as "Coca-Cola meets macarons", I knew I had to try it, so I bought a sample from Luckyscent.  About two minutes after trying it, I placed an order for a full bottle.  It's fizzy and sweet, and far more sophisticated than the description would have you believe.  It's happiness in fragrance form.

6. Citrus by Saburouta: In this manga, cheerful and popular high school girl Yuzu is astounded to discover she has a new stepsister, Mei, who's also the student body president at Yuzu's school.  Yuzu is attracted to Mei, who keeps giving her mixed signals, and Yuzu isn't sure they'll ever be friends, much less something more.  It's a massive cocktease (please excuse the phrasing), but the art is beautiful and the story is intriguing enough that I'll keep reading to the end to see if they ever get together.

7. P.T.: This playable teaser was meant to be an appetizer for the now-cancelled Silent Hills, which had Guillermo del Toro, Hideo Kojima, AND Norman Reedus attached to it, so it was basically too awesome to live.  Even though it was in first person, which tends to make me vomit and/or get a massive headache, I knew I had to play it since it was the closest thing I'd get to a new Silent Hill game for a long time, if ever again.  And oh my god, it is fucking TERRIFYING.  I literally did not want to continue at certain points, and even G-Vo (normally much more unflappable) was freaking out.  It's been pulled from the Playstation Network because Konami threw a hissy little baby fit, so good luck finding it, but it's worth watching on YouTube at the very least.  (And for the record, I didn't get sick playing it, probably because I took frequent breaks and made sure to move very slowly.)

8. Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Claire Redfield (my favorite female video game character of all time until Ellie from The Last of Us came along) makes her triumphant return, and this time, she's got a friend named Moira Burton, estranged daughter of Barry.  Lots of great action, and Moira is a fucking riot.  (Playstation 4)

9. The Wolf Among Us: Telltale Games hits it out of the park again with this intriguing video game based on Bill Willingham's Fables comics.  Sheriff Bigby Wolf looks into the murder of a prostitute, and his investigation uncovers some dark secrets among the residents of Fabletown.  Familiarity with the Fables series is a plus, but not necessary; they do a good job of explaining the universe.  (Playstation 4)

10.  Broad City: Aimless twentysomethings Abbi and Ilana have adventures in New York City; think a much funnier Girls with much more likable characters.  All of the episodes are funny, and some have left me literally helpless with laughter.  I want Abbi and Ilana to be my BFFs.  (Comedy Central)

To be continued!  

Sunday, November 01, 2015

media update: October

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.


1. Pretty Girls** by Karin Slaughter:  Rich trophy wife Claire and her sister Lydia have been estranged for over twenty years.  When Claire's husband Paul is killed during a robbery gone wrong, the sisters reconnect and try to come to grips with their past, but there are some very nasty skeletons lurking in the closet.  I don't want to say more for fear of spoilers, but goddamn is this a CORKER.  Good luck getting anything else done once you start reading this.  Warning, though: even by Karin Slaughter's standards, Pretty Girls is extremely disturbing, so caveat reader.  I've read every single one of her books, so I thought I was prepared for how dark she can get, but nope.

2. After You by Jojo Moyes:  This is a direct sequel, so I can't properly review this without spoiling Me Before You.  I'll just say that it's well worth reading if you enjoyed its predecessor. 

3. A Song of Shadows by John Connolly:  Private detective Charlie Parker rents a house in a small Maine town to recuperate (from what is a spoiler from The Wolf in Winter, so I won't get specific), and while he's there, he uncovers some dark secrets involving WWII.  Not as good as most of its predecessors, largely because I'm not very interested in war themes and because this was written in third person, which was jarring as all of the other Charlie Parker books have been written in first person.  Still, it features some great scenes with gay hitmen Louis and Angel, as well as some interesting developments concerning Charlie's young daughter Sam.

4. The White Rose by Amy Ewing:  This is a direct sequel to The Jewel (the YA equivalent of The Handmaid's Tale), so I can't properly review this lest I spoil its predecessor.  I had really high expectations because I loved The Jewel so much, so I was a bit disappointed.

5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:  In the city of Ketterdam, gang leader Kaz Brekker is offered a huge sum of money to rescue a scientist who's just discovered something huge.  He can't do it alone, though, so he recruits a motley crew to help him.  It took a while to get going, but once it did, I enjoyed it.

Side note:  although it takes place in the same universe as Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, you don't need to have read those to enjoy Six of Crows.  I think it would help, though.

6. The Walking Dead: Invasion by Jay Bonansinga:  This is the latest installment in the Walking Dead novel series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessors.  It was meh. 

2015 tally so far: 75


1. Furiously Happy* by Jenny Lawson:  In this new collection of essays, the author discusses everything from her love of taxidermy to her struggles with mental illness.  It's not as funny as its predecessor (Let's Pretend This Never Happened), but it's definitely more important.

2. Bad Kid by David Crabb:  A memoir of growing up gay in Texas in the early nineties.  The writing is a bit choppy at times, but it includes plenty of funny moments and lines, like the one where he compares his overworked penis (he'd recently discovered the joys of masturbation) to E.T.'s glowing finger.

3. Home Is Burning** by Dan Marshall:  While on vacation, the author returned to his hotel room to find that he'd missed several calls from family members.  He feared that his mother, who had been battling cancer for many years, had taken a turn for the worse, but the news, although not what he expected, was just as bad: his father had been diagnosed with ALS.  When the burden became too much for his mother to shoulder alone, he moved back home to help.  I know it sounds unbearably depressing, and it can be, but more often it's brutally honest and profanely, mordantly funny.  (Example: During a phone call with his long distance girlfriend, she complains about not being able to use a treadmill at the gym and he says "Well, my dad's arms don't work, and I had to clean shit off his balls.")  If you've ever had to take care of a terminally ill loved one (raising my hand here) and you don't mind swear words in practically every sentence, you have to pick this up because it will be a tonic for your soul.  I could have done without the chapter in which he and the housekeeper dream up violent punishments for the family's messy cats (though they don't actually hurt them), but everything else is golden.

2015 tally so far: 21


1. Food Wars! vol. 7 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

2. The Walking Dead vol. 24 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

3. Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol. 5 (final volume) by Naoki Serizawa

4. So Cute It Hurts! by Go Ikeyamada

2015 tally so far: 64 volumes of manga and 15 graphic novels


1. Unfriended:  Several friends hanging out online notice a lurker in their midst.  As weird shit begins unfolding, they start to wonder if the lurker is Laura, a girl they'd bullied by posting an incriminating video of her online...but Laura killed herself.  It takes place entirely on a computer screen, so it's surprisingly immersive and much better than I thought it would be.  It's a shame that the last few seconds are so lame.

2. When Marnie Was There*:  Due to her chronic asthma, young Anna is sent to live with distant relatives in a small seaside town in hopes that the fresh air will help.  She meets another girl named Marnie, and they become fast friends, but Marnie has a big secret.  As you'd expect from a Studio Ghibli film, it's absolutely gorgeous, and I enjoyed the story too.

Side note:  I'm usually a subtitle snob, but I wound up going with the dub for this so I could appreciate the art instead of reading.  It wasn't too much of a sacrifice, because the dub is really good and features such big names as Hailee Steinfeld, John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, and Geena Davis.

3. Magic Mike XXL:  The gang gets back together for a road trip to a stripper convention.  It's better than the first movie, largely because it doesn't take itself seriously.  Still, it only really comes alive during the performance scenes, especially the one where Joe Manganiello (nfff I said NFFF) does a routine to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" that's about a million times sexier than anything in 50 Shades of Grey.  (Not that that would be difficult, but seriously, the scene in question is a legit panty drencher.)

4. Justice League: Gods and Monsters:  An alternate universe take on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  The animation isn't all that great, but it has some really sharp dialogue and good voice acting.

5. Dark Places:  25 years after her mother and sisters were murdered and her brother was convicted of the crime, Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is approached by a group who wants her to investigate further and exonerate her brother.  Considering its pedigree (it's based on the novel by Gillian Flynn) and the cast, I thought this would be better, but the direction wasn't very good.

6. Tomorrowland:  Casey, a super smart teenage girl, finds herself in possession of a pin that transports her to the utopian world of Tomorrowland.  She teams up with a grumpy genius (George Clooney) to try to make our own world better.  It's a bit preachy and corny, but it didn't deserve to bomb so hard at the box office.

7. San Andreas:  When a massive earthquake hits Nevada and California, an LAFD rescue pilot (Dwayne Johnson) heads to San Francisco with his estranged wife in hopes of rescuing their daughter.  G-Vo put it best when he said this movie is "disaster porn that's about as predictable as REAL porn", but it was still a very entertaining popcorn flick with excellent special effects.

8. Insidious 3:  Quinn is a grieving teenage girl who asks a psychic to help her contact her dead mother.  Unfortunately, she arouses the interest of a decidedly less benevolent spirit, and after an accident leaves her bedridden, Quinn gets a very unpleasant visitor.  I'm not sure why I popped this onto my Netflix queue, since I thought the first one was just meh and I hated the second one, but it was surprisingly decent and even made me tear up at one point.  Not very scary, though.  (I'm not counting jump scares, as they are cheap.)

9. Spy*:  Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) works as a handler for hunky CIA operative Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  When a mission goes awry, Susan is sent into the field.  It's hysterically funny, and Jason Statham shows surprising comic chops.  I'd like to see him do more comedies, and also more nude scenes.  (Not that he has any in this movie, but goddamn do I wish.)

10. Pitch Perfect 2:  After a wardrobe malfunction makes them outcasts in the acapella community, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition in hopes of reclaiming their throne.  I liked the first movie quite a bit, but this one was terrible.  Practically every line fell flat, and several scenes could have (and should have) been cut out entirely.  Hopefully the third movie is able to capture at least some of the original's magic, because this one was an aca-flop.

2015 tally so far: 90


1. "Jealous" by Drootrax & Rena

2. "Fine on the Outside" by Priscilla Ahn

3. "Sweet Magic" by Rin Kagamine

4. "3" by Britney Spears

5. "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls

6. "Finder" by Hatsune Miku

7. "Mickey Mouse" by Sparks

8. "Words" by Missing Persons

9. "Eaten by the Monster of Love" by Sparks

10. "Johnny Are You Queer" by Josie Cotton

11. "Tryouts for the Human Race" by Sparks

12. "Criminal" by Britney Spears

13. "It Should Be Easy" by Britney Spears feat. Will.I.Am.

14. "LOL" by Hatsune Miku

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

media update: September

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.


1. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica:  Softhearted Heidi keeps seeing a homeless teenage girl and her baby around town.  One day, she impulsively invites them to move in with her and her family, and it doesn't turn out so well.  The book jacket calls it "unpredictable", which is true only if you've never read another book in your life.

2. The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon:  Piper is horrified when she receives a call from her sister Margot telling her that their childhood friend Amy murdered her family.  Before Amy kills herself too, she writes a message that says simply "29 Rooms".  Piper knows immediately that Amy is referring to a motel in the town where they grew up, but the motel only had 28 rooms.  Is there a 29th room, and if so, what secret does it hold?  Well, lemme tell you: the stupidest fucking secret you can imagine.  It's not a badly written book, and it's good until the big reveal, but that reveal actually made me laugh out loud...which I'm pretty sure was not the author's intention.

3. Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano:  After her parents divorce, Paige moves to Idaho with her mother and younger brother.  Their new house is infested with bugs, but it soon becomes obvious that there are even bigger issues with living there.  Meh.

4. The Creeping* by Alexandra Sirowy:  When she was 6 years old, Stella and her friend Jeanie disappeared, but only Stella came back.  The police tried to question her, but she just kept repeating "If you hunt for monsters, you'll find them."  Now, 11 years later, Stella's life is disrupted when the fresh corpse of another little girl is discovered, and she tries to recall what happened to her and Jeanie in hopes of preventing yet another tragedy.  The title and cover are kind of cheeseball, but if you like atmospheric mysteries, it'll keep you engrossed until the very last page.

5. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys:  Like all anthologies, this collection of horror stories by popular YA novelists features some standouts and some duds.  My favorites were "Verse Chorus Verse" by Leigh Bardugo, "Sleepless" by Jay Kristoff, "On the I-5" by Kendare Blake, and "The Birds of Azalea Street" by Nova Ren Suma.

6. X by Sue Grafton:  Private investigator Kinsey Millhone has her hands full with several cases, so she's not too happy when she's tasked with going through the files of a now-deceased coworker.  But she finds something interesting that opens up a big and very dangerous can of worms.  Not one of the better entries in this series, largely because a major chunk of it was taken up with information about water conservation.  Timely, I guess, but boring.

7. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray:  In this sequel to The Diviners, Evie has reinvented herself as the "Sweetheart Seer" and is basking in her newfound fame.  Meanwhile, her friend Henry meets a girl named Ling who has the same Diviner power as he does: walking inside dreams.  But, of course, not all dreams are good ones.  I liked The Diviners much more, but this was still quite enjoyable.

8. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman:  A lives with her roommate B, who's starting to go Single White Female on her.  A also has a boyfriend named C, who's obsessed with porn and a creepy reality show called That's My Partner!  A spends a lot of time watching TV as well, and she's particularly fascinated by commercials for Kandy Kakes, a completely artificial dessert that's more sinister than it seems.  This book was very surreal, and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not, but it certainly was different.

9. Queen of Shadows* by Sarah J. Maas:  This is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, and as such, I can't give it a proper review lest I ruin its predecessors.  It continues to be great, though.

10. Bird Box by Josh Malerman:  When mysterious creatures appear that cause people to go insane at the mere sight of them, Malorie finds sanctuary with a group of other survivors.  But when shit goes down and she needs supplies, she blindfolds herself and her children and heads downriver in a small rowboat.  Very creepy, but I would have liked to know the origin of the creatures (although the fact that nobody knows what the hell they are is more realistic) and I'm not sure why it's called Bird Box.  It's not totally out of left field---the survivors keep a box of birds outside as an early warning system---but it doesn't factor into the story enough to give it that title.  I think Blindfolded would work better, but that sounds 50 Shades of Grey-ish so maybe not.  

2015 tally so far: 69 (uh huh huh huh)


1. Voracious* by Cara Nicoletti:  Part cookbook and part memoir, this is about the author's favorite books and the food contained within.  It's very charming, with lovely watercolor illustrations, and it brought back lots of great memories of some of my favorite books too.  Props for not spoiling Gone Girl, too, unlike everything else ever.

2015 tally so far: 18


1. Say I Love You vol. 9 by Kanae Hazuki

2. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall vol. 5 by Ryo Suzukaze and Satoshi Shiki

3. Wraith by Joe Hill and Charles Paul Wilson III

4. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

2015 tally so far: 61 volumes of manga and 14 graphic novels


1. Skin Trade:  An investigation into human trafficking takes NYC detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) to Asia, where he teams up with a Thai detective (Tony Jaa).  It's not exactly a high quality movie, nor does it rank among inimitable ass kicker Tony Jaa's best, but it still features some great action scenes.

2. Fury:  During WWII, the odds are against a sergeant called Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and his small crew as they undertake a mission behind enemy lines.  I was really bored for the first 30 minutes or so, but it picked up and became a solid war flick.  Pre-freakout Shia LaBeouf is surprisingly good in this.

3. The D Train:  Dan (Jack Black) is working as committee chairman for his 20th high school reunion, and it's not going so well.  But one night he sees his old classmate Oliver (James Marsden) on TV in a Banana Boat ad, and he gets a great idea: if Dan can convince Oliver to come to the reunion, maybe everyone will finally think he's cool. So he flies out to LA to track Oliver down, and things get complicated.  This movie did NOT go where I was expecting at all.  I can't get more specific due to spoilers, but during a certain scene, I was just stammering "um...uh...WHAT." 

4. Boulevard:  Nolan (Robin Williams in his last starring role) is a married man who impulsively picks up a male prostitute named Leo, and he tries to come to grips with the sexuality he's been suppressing for his entire life.  Not a particularly cheerful movie, and I kept laughing every time Nolan would offer to pay Leo more and then ask if that was okay (because a prostitute, or anyone else for that matter, is going to say no to more money), but Robin Williams is excellent.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road*:  In a post-apocalyptic world, a dictator called Immortan Joe controls all of the water.  Furiosa (an incredibly badass Charlize Theron) rebels against him by taking his sex slaves on a road trip to freedom.  Along the way, they meet up with Mad Max (delicious Tom Hardy), and he helps them on their quest.  Filled with gleefully anarchic action that's over the top in all the best possible ways.

6. Inherent Vice:  "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator who manages to drag himself out of his drug-fueled haze long enough to look for his missing ex-girlfriend.  It's based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, so you know what that means: lots of dense dialogue and headscratching moments.  G-Vo put it best when he said it's like Elmore Leonard on horse tranquilizers.  I didn't hate it, but I could have used those 148 minutes in a much better way.

7. The Overnight:  While at the park with their young son, Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) befriend Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche), who have a little boy of their own.  They accept a dinner invitation, but as the night drags on, they realize Kurt and Charlotte have some ulterior motives.  It's pretty funny, but mostly in a squirmy kind of way.  Bonus points for using a Sparks song ("Tryouts for the Human Race") on the soundtrack.

Side note: sorry, Jason Schwartzman fans, but that's a prosthetic.  Fortunately for you Adam Scott fans, he's wearing one too!

8. True Story:  After being fired from the New York Times for fudging some facts, journalist Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) gets a strange call and finds out that a man named Christian Longo (James Franco) had been using Mike's identity while on the run.  Christian has been arrested for killing his wife and 3 kids, and he wants to talk to Mike about the crime.  It's pretty engrossing, and the performances are very good.

9. The Theory of Everything*:  This biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking focuses primarily on his relationship with his first wife, Jane.  I thought it was going to be "mind broccoli", i.e. something that was good for me but not enjoyable, but it turned out to be really good.  Eddie Redmayne won the best actor Oscar for his role as Hawking, but more importantly. he also redeemed himself for his cringeworthy "whisper like an old man then SHOUT" performance in Jupiter Ascending.

2015 tally so far:  80


(NOTE:  This review does not contain any story spoilers except for the basic setup.)

A group of teens is partying at their friend Josh's parents' isolated mountain lodge when they decide to play a cruel prank on Josh's shy sister Hannah.  She's so devastated that she runs out into the cold night, and her twin sister Beth goes after her, but they both disappear.  One year later, on the anniversary, Josh invites everyone back to the lodge for a weekend of fun and remembrance, but they're not alone on the mountain, and they have to survive until help arrives at (you guessed it) dawn.


  • Your decisions actually matter in this game.  If someone dies, they're dead for good.  And even the tiniest choice you make can affect things down the road in both good and very bad ways.  I can't give a specific example lest I spoil anything, but one helpful hint:  be nice to Mother Nature and her creatures.  
  • Lots of replay value, and like Heavy Rain, it's almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.
  • As Kotaku put it, if you've ever watched a horror movie and screamed at the characters to do something, here's your chance to actually MAKE them do something!  It's incredibly immersive, and it really is like playing a horror movie.
  • Between chapters, "you" (with "your" back to the camera and wearing a baseball cap and gloves so you can't tell who it really is) have sessions with a shrink, and your answers to his questions can affect the gameplay.  This mechanic is similar to Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and it's really fun.
  • Mike and Jessica's raunchy banter is really entertaining.  All they want to do is bone without some cockblocking killer getting in their way, GOD.
  • Gorgeous graphics, including some excellent mocap (and voiceovers) by "real" actors including Hayden Panettiere, Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot). 
  • The lighting effects are terrific.  Sometimes (assuming I wasn't being pursued,  of course) I'd just stop and wave my flashlight around to admire them.
  • It has plenty of jump scares, but there are some tense and legitimately creepy moments as well.
  • The script was written by horror vet Larry Fessenden, and the dialogue proves that he's actually met a teenager or two in his time.  Sometimes they're a bit more clever than "real" teenagers, but the way they interact with each other is overwhelmingly realistic.
  • I liked most of the characters and wanted to see them live until the end.  (There's a huge exception in the "loathed" section.)  I failed in this mission, though, as four of them died during my playthrough, including my favorite.  :(
  • The controls are great.  One of the most innovative uses is when the screen says "DON'T MOVE!" and you have to remain perfectly still until the warning goes away.  If you accidentally jiggle the controller, well...say goodbye to whichever character you're playing at the time.  Another cool feature: if you have a Playstation camera (which we don't), it will take pictures of your face during certain key moments.
  • The cover art is fantastic.  It reminds me of the glory days of VHS, when I'd go to the video store and sneak into the horror aisle and look at those huge video boxes with the lurid art.


  • It's not particularly challenging, at least if you're familiar with the Playstation controller.  (Full disclaimer: I often mix up the positioning of the circle and square buttons, but I still didn't have much difficulty with this game.)
  • Although the facial animations are generally excellent, they do suffer from occasional "rubber lip" and eyes that are way too shiny at times.
  • One of the characters, Emily, is the WORST HUMAN BEING ALIVE.  She was so bitchy that I kept hoping she'd get killed, but of course she lasted until the very end.  Fucking Emily, man! When Hannah runs away at the beginning, Emily calls out "It was just a prank, Han!" and her voice made me want to leap through the screen and stick a fork in her jugular vein.  Kudos to her voice actress for making her so loathsome that she makes Idi Amin look like a more acceptable dinner date.
  • Whenever the characters are inside, there are tons of dust motes floating around, which is kind of distracting.
  • Did we REALLY need to have Hayden Panettiere in a towel throughout the vast majority of the game?  This didn't bother me so much from a feminist standpoint as it did a practical one, because it must be one magical fuckin' towel to stay on while she's fleeing from a killer.  Shit, I can barely keep a towel wrapped around me for the two minutes it takes to comb out my hair after a shower!  Plus G-Vo has a thing for Hayden P., so I came down with a terminal case of the hmphs every time she appeared in her towel.  (And yes, I know you're saying "How is that fair when YOUR tongue flopped out of your mouth every time Lafayette came onscreen in The Order: 1886?" to which my reply is, "Shhhhh, this is MY blog.")

Until Dawn is a solid and thoroughly enjoyable entry into the survival horror genre, which just happens to be my favorite.  If you've got a PS4 and love horror movies, check it out!  I give it 8 butterfly tattoos out of 10.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

media update: August + some other stuff

I thought I'd updated this blog with news about my dad, but turns out I didn't, so here's the scoop: he has Hodgkin's lymphoma, and if that isn't shitty enough, it's a rare strain.  (Because god forbid anyone in my family have something NORMAL, right?)  He's already had several chemo treatments, and despite the sheer suckiness of the whole s(h)ituation,  he's got a really good attitude and is looking forward to getting better and getting on with his life.  I'm so proud of the way he's handling this, and I'm especially grateful for my stepmother, who's taking good care of him and has been an amazing advocate for his care.  She used to be a lawyer for a major hospital---if you live in the US, you've heard of it---and she is NOT the one to fuck with on this kind of thing.

Good thoughts on his behalf are very much appreciated.  Throw in a few for me and my brother too, if you wouldn't mind.  Not to be whiny, but we've had more than our fair share of this kind of shit and it fucking sucks rancid hobo ass.

In more pleasant news, the reason this media update is a couple of days late is because I was in Las Vegas for a short stay.  It was just me, since G-Vo hates Vegas about as much as I love it, and I don't mind traveling by myself.  I was only there for 3 days, but that's my Vegas limit anyway; after that, it becomes way too difficult to resist the temptation to gamble too much, and because I'm too miserly to waste money on cabs (to/from airport excepted, of course), I hoof it everywhere and my feet are basically sashimi by the end of my Vegas trips. 

I got a lot packed into those 3 days, though:  lots of eating (highlights: my first Shake Shack experience, Pink's, a swanky steak dinner followed by vanilla buttermilk pannacotta for dessert, and best of all, french toast dipped in creme brulee batter), quality time with my dear friend J, a comedy/magic show by Mac King, a 4 hands massage (i.e. two therapists working on me at the same time; pricey as hell but deliriously awesome), and Britney Spears' show "Piece of Me".  Yes, I am a closet (not-so-closeted now, I guess) Britney Spears fan, and I have a soft spot for her because she went through a horrible struggle with mental illness in the public eye and seems to have come out ahead.  The staging was terrific, she did all of my favorite songs (and followed my favorite one, "Toxic", with my second favorite, "Stronger"), and goddamn the woman is fucking HOT.  Tabloids that claim she's fat can fuck off out of here with that bullshit. 

Anyway, I had a great time, despite a very crappy travel day back (flight delay, long wait for the flyaway bus, traffic to the flyaway station, traffic HOME, and then my much needed nap being interrupted by extremely loud work on the roof; seriously, I almost cried) and the fact that, despite winning some decent jackpots here and there, I wound up in the hole.  Not by much, though, so whatever.

On with the media update!  Southern California had a brief respite from the heat, but then it came back full throttle, so I got a LOT of reading done since I was doing that in air conditioned comfort rather than walking 3+ miles every weekday, as is my wont. 

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As ever, your mileage may vary.


1. Local Girls by Caroline Zancan:  Longtime friends Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina are hanging out at their favorite dive bar when movie star Sam Decker walks in.  They strike up a conversation with him, and to their astonishment, he sits down at their table.  Over the course of several hours, long buried resentments rise to the surface, and nothing is ever the same for anyone at that table again.  I wanted to like it more than I did.  It certainly isn't bad, but it wasn't what I was expecting, and not in a good way.

2. The Three* by Sarah Lotz:  On a day that comes to be known as Black Thursday, four planes crash simultaneously.  Only four people survive: three children and one woman who dies shortly afterwards, leaving behind an ominous phone message.  Some people think the children are miracles, but others think they're signs of an impending apocalypse.  One thing's for sure, though: there's something wrong with them.  Utterly fascinating; I had a very hard time putting it down.

Side note:  I read the author's most recent book, Day Four, last month, and it wasn't until halfway through that I found out it was a sequel of sorts to this one.  You could read them out of order, but I wouldn't recommend it, as I think some foreknowledge of the events in The Three would add a lot to your reading of Day Four.

3. Little Black Lies by Sandra Block:  Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training at a psychiatric ward.  She's put in charge of a new patient who murdered her mother, which makes Zoe start thinking about her own mother's mysterious death.  She begins to investigate, but she's not prepared for what she finds.  It was okay.

4. Mindwalker by A.J. Steiger:  Lain is a teenage girl who's in training to become a Mindwalker, a therapist who can access a patient's brain and delete traumatic memories.  Her classmate Steve asks her to help him off the record, and she agrees, but it turns out that he's linked to a government conspiracy.  The premise was better than the execution; I probably won't bother with any future installments.

5. In a Dark, Dark Wood** by Ruth Ware:  Nora is a writer who's a loner and likes it that way.  When she receives an invitation to an old friend's "hen do" (bachelorette party to us non-Brits), she really doesn't want to go, but she feels obligated.  It's being held at a creepy glass house set deep in the woods, and tensions among the group build to the point that Nora begins making plans to leave, but...well, I don't want to spoil it.  It's the kind of clever, excruciatingly suspenseful book that makes you want to call in sick just so you can read it in one sitting.  Keep your schedule clear before you start. 

Side note:  This is probably the fifth book I've read this year that has a comparison to Gone Girl somewhere on the cover, and I'm getting awfully sick of it.  It's just lazy shorthand, and it's almost never accurate.  (There was one exception to this rule, but I don't want to say what book it was because it's a bit of a spoiler.)  The only thing this book has in common with Gone Girl is that it's an excellent book written by a woman.

6. The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker:  Elizabeth Grey (wow, a heroine with a normal name in a YA novel!) is a witch hunter, tasked by her king to bring witches to justice.  But when she's accused of being a witch herself, she's thrown in prison.  A notorious wizard frees her under one condition: she has to break the curse that someone has placed upon him.  Decent enough that I'll read the inevitable sequel; I'm assuming it's a trilogy like all other YA books these days.

7. The Barter* by Siobhan Adcock:  Bridget gave up her job to stay at home with her baby daughter, and she doesn't regret it...until a ghost starts haunting her house.  Over 100 years ago, beautiful Rebecca married a childhood friend, but a careless remark she made to her husband on their wedding night changed their relationship forever.  What do these two women have in common?  Well, you'll have to read this book to find out, and I definitely recommend you do so, because it's really good.  I know the whole ghost angle sounds goofy as fuck, but it isn't, and it legitimately freaked me out when I was reading in bed late at night.

8. The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich:  When Morgan comes home one day, her blood-covered dogs greet her at the door.  She thinks they might have injured each other, but the truth is even worse: her fiance Bennett has been mauled to death.  She tries to track down Bennett's parents to tell them about his death, but in the process she discovers that he wasn't who she thought he was.  The mystery has a very unusual conclusion that I don't think I'd ever seen before, but a certain person in the story is so obviously involved that the author might as well have scrawled "[name] is a VILLAIN" on the page where they make their first appearance.

2015 tally so far: 59


1. Fat Girl Walking* by Brittany Gibbons:  The author discusses her life, ranging from her unusual childhood (including an unfortunate use of Scotch tape) to her current role as a body image advocate.  It's refreshingly candid and often uproariously funny.

2. Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison:  The former Playboy bunny spills the tea on her former life as one of Hugh Hefner's live-in girlfriends.  It's actually pretty interesting and loaded with juicy gossip.

3. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget* by Sarah Hepola:  A very well-written, thoughtful memoir about the author's struggle with alcoholism and how she tried to redefine herself once she was sober.

4. The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery:  I love octopuses, so I enjoyed this look at what makes them so smart and interesting.  One of the coolest facts:  the slits of their pupils always remain horizontal, no matter what position the octopus is in.  Their eyeballs have balance receptors that make them shift in response to gravity and motion.

5. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day:  The "queen of the geeks" talks about her lonely childhood and how she found acceptance on the internet and through online gaming. 

6. Stir by Jessica Fechtor:   While she was running on a treadmill, an aneurysm burst in the author's brain and almost killed her.  As she slowly recovered from numerous surgeries and setbacks, she found solace in cooking.  A lovely little memoir filled with delicious recipes.

2015 tally so far: 17


1. Ajin: Demi-Human* vols. 2-5 by Gamon Sakurai and Tsuina Miura

2. Citrus* vol. 3 by Saburouta

3. In Clothes Called Fat* by Moyoco Anno

4. Black Rose Alice vol. 5 by Setona Mizushiro

5. Spell of Desire vol. 5 (final volume) by Tomu Ohmi

2015 tally so far: 59 volumes of manga and 12 graphic novels


1. Run All Night:  When his estranged son is targeted by the mob, retired hitman Jimmy Conlon must try to save him.  Not remotely essential, but it's decent, and of course Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman (who will always be Holder from The Killing to me) are quite nice to look at.

2. Love Is Strange:  When the Catholic school where George works finds out that he's just married Ben, his partner of many years, he's immediately fired.  No longer able to afford their home, they're forced to sell and live separately with friends and family, since nobody has space for both of them to stay, and it takes a toll on everyone involved.  It's pretty slow and the ending is kind of WTF-y, but (of course) John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are terrific as Ben and George.

Side note: there's a scene where Ben is talking to his nephew's wife while she's trying to work on her new novel, and the expressions that flit across her face reminded me of when I'm trying to read in the break room and some oblivious twit natters at me.  Dude, take a fucking hint!

3. Insurgent:  Because this is a direct sequel to Divergent, I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  It was pretty meh.

4. Faults*:  Ansel Roth is an expert on cults and mind control who's become jaded by his work and a string of personal misfortunes.  After giving a lecture, he's approached by a couple who are desperate to save their daughter Claire from a cult called Faults.  He agrees to take on the job, and he kidnaps Claire and keeps her in a hotel room to try to deprogram her.  This is a very hard movie to review without spoilers, so I'll just add that Leland Orser is absolutely fantastic as Ansel.  I haven't been that impressed by a performance by an actor I wasn't familiar with (though it turns out, after checking his IMDB page, that I'd seen him in supporting roles before) since Michael Parks in Red State.

5. Dracula Untold:  In a desperate bid to save his kingdom, Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) becomes a vampire.  Dumb but enjoyable.

Side note: there's a scene where Vlad's son hands him a food item, and G-Vo said "What the hell?  Is that a TACO?"  It was not in fact a taco, but I still couldn't stop laughing at the thought of Dracula chowing down on a fuckin' taco!

6. Adult Beginners:  After his company falls apart, Jake moves in with his pregnant sister  and reluctantly agrees to serve as nanny to her 3-year-old son.  Not bad, but not remotely essential.

7. Into the Storm:  A group of storm trackers gets caught up in one of the worst tornados in recorded history.  An entertaining slice of disaster porn.

8. Unfinished Business:  After Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) quits his job, he opens his own company.  He and his two associates, horny older guy Tim (Tom Wilkinson, as ever stealing the show) and sweet but dim Mike (Dave Franco), go on a business trip to seal a major deal, but things go awry.

This had some of the worst reviews I've ever seen on Netflix, but it wasn't bad at all!  Sure, there are some touchy feely moments involving Dan's family that feel shoehorned in, but there are also some really funny parts too.  You could do far worse if you're just looking for a fun comedy that doesn't require thinking at all.

2015 tally so far:  71

Friday, July 31, 2015

media update: July

Oh, my dudes, this year has not been kind.  As you know from previous posts, 2015 has "gifted" me with the following: my brother's health issues, a friend's freak accident, work tsuris, computer tsuris, and now my dad is sick.  He went in for a general checkup, and his doctor was so alarmed by his blood work (elevated calcium levels) that she had him admitted to the hospital immediately.  He was there for several days, and although not all of the lab results are back yet, chances are that he has lymphoma.  Needless to say, this was a real sucker punch.  But he is optimistic and remaining positive, and I shall try to do the same.  I hope you'll understand if I don't really feel like talking about it much; it's just too painful right now.

On that fun note, let's get to the media update.  This is probably the first time it's featured more movies than books!  We also went to the movies twice, which is pretty rare for us these days.  Asterisks denote something that I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme. Your mileage, as ever, may vary.


1. Throne of Glass* by Sarah J. Maas:  Celaena is an assassin who's offered a deal: if she can defeat 23 very nasty people in a competition, she'll be released from prison and work for the king.  But something starts picking off her fellow competitors, and it ain't her, so she has to figure out what's going on before it gets her too.  It's pretty good, so I picked up the sequels and novella collection too.  I won't bother reviewing those since I can't do so without spoiling the series; I'll just list that I read them for the record.

2. Dietland** by Sarai Walker:  Plum Kettle is an overweight woman who spends her days answering mail for a teen girls' magazine and dreaming of the day she can finally afford weight loss surgery.  Then she receives an unusual proposal: the heiress to a weight loss empire, who feels guilty about how she got her fortune, offers her $20,000 to undergo a series of challenges.  Meanwhile, a secret group is taking out people they consider dangerous to women, and Plum starts to wonder if the two things are connected.  Sharp, subversive satire that's so assured it's hard to believe it's a debut novel.  I thought the diet drug called Dabsitaf (read it backwards) was a bit too forced, and I still don't know why the porn star had to get murdered when the reasons she was IN porn to begin with were pretty well explained (this is not a spoiler; the first time you ever hear about her in the book is when she gets killed), but if you've ever wanted to read a feminist version of Chuck Palahniuk, look no further.  It's really fucking great.

3. Crown of Midnight* by Sarah J. Maas

4. Heir of Fire* by Sarah J. Maas

5. The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas:  Although it was enjoyable enough, I didn't like this collection of novellas as much as I liked the actual novels in the series.

6. After the Storm by Linda Castillo:  After a tornado rips through town and uncovers human remains, police chief Kate Burkholder's investigation is stymied by members of the Amish community who don't want to dig up the past.  Further complicating Kate's life, a good deed she did during the tornado comes back to bite her in the ass and she discovers something shocking about herself.  I thought the prologue gave away far too much of the mystery, but it's still another good installment in the series.  

7. Second Life by S.J. Watson:  Julia is devastated when her younger sister Kate is murdered.  She learns that Kate had been active on a personals site, and she sets up a fake profile to see if she can find any clues.  She begins an affair with a man who might have more information on Kate, but he isn't what he seems.  Most of the "aha!" moments were pretty heavily telegraphed, but there were a few moments that took me by surprise.

8. Day Four* by Sarah Lotz:  People are enjoying their cruise aboard the Beautiful Dreamer until things go completely to hell on (yup) the fourth day.  A woman's body is discovered in her room, norovirus rages through the passengers, the communications system goes down and the engine dies, and the medium who was hired as the feature entertainment might not be the sham everybody thought.  It's like The Shining on a cruise ship, and it's absolutely gripping.  I'm just glad I didn't read it before my cruise last year, or I probably would have canceled!

Side note:  I didn't find out that this was a sequel of sorts to The Three until I had already started reading, and by then I was too hooked to stop.  There are references to the previous book's events, but honestly I don't think you HAVE to have read The Three to enjoy this one.  I'll be grabbing it at the library, though!

2015 tally so far: 51


Nothing this month.

2015 tally so far: 11


1. My Love Story!! vol. 5 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

2. The Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto

3. Citrus* vols. 1-2 by Saburota

4. Rin-Ne vol. 18 by Rumiko Takahashi

5. Ajin: Demi-Human* by Gamon Sakurai and Tsuina Miura

2015 tally so far: 51 volumes of manga and 12 graphic novels


1. The Good Lie:  A group of Sudanese refugees win a resettlement lottery at their camp and are sent to live in the US, where they experience severe culture shock and try to come to grips with their past.  It's not a must see or anything, but it features good performances (including Reese Witherspoon as a prickly job counselor) and it's very touching.   

2. Jupiter Ascending:  Jupiter discovers that she's actually an intergalactic heiress, and she tries to protect Earth from evil forces.  Beautiful eye candy, but the story is convoluted, Eddie Redmayne (yes, the winner of the 2015 Best Actor Oscar!) is cringeworthy, and Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum have zero chemistry together.  And I really like both of them, so this isn't haterade.

3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion*:  This movie picks up where the anime series ended, so I can't really review it properly without spoilers.  I'll just say that the animation is absolutely gorgeous (more than once, G-Vo and I made appreciative noises; it really is some of the most unusual animation I've seen, Japanese or otherwise), and if you liked the series, you need to see this.  As of this writing, it's available on Netflix streaming, along with the full series and the other two movies (which are just the series in condensed form, so if you've seen the series, you don't need to see Beginnings and Eternal and vice versa). 

4. Focus*:  Nicky (Will Smith) is an accomplished con man who reluctantly takes on a gorgeous protegee (Margot Robbie), but their mutual attraction starts to complicate their mission.  Very fun and clever.

5. St. Vincent:  Vincent (Bill Murray) is a grouchy old asshole who's none too thrilled when single mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver move in next door.  When Maggie becomes desperate for a babysitter, Vincent agrees to take on the job.  It's predictable as hell; of course Vincent and Oliver become BFFs and Important Life Lessons are learned.  But it's decent enough.

6. While We're Young:  Cornelia and Josh (Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller) feel like they can't relate to their friends anymore.  Then they meet a younger couple named Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who shake up their lives in both good and bad ways.  There's a great scene where shots of Cornelia and Josh using their Kindles and watching TV on their iPhones are interspersed with shots of Jamie and Darby watching a VHS movie and reading books, which was an interesting contrast, but overall this is a mildly entertaining indie with not much to really recommend it.

7. Kingsman: The Secret Service*:  Eggsy's father was killed in action while serving in an elite spy organization, and when Eggsy gets into trouble as a teenager, debonair Harry Hart (Colin Firth, obviously enjoying himself immensely) steps in and recruits him.  I had high hopes for this movie because, like Kick-Ass, it was based on a Mark Millar graphic novel and directed by Matthew Vaughn.  While it's nowhere near as good as Kick-Ass, it's funny and has some deliriously over the top action, so I still really liked it.

8. Maggie:  The title teenager (Abigail Breslin) is slowly succumbing to the "necroambulatory virus" after being bitten.  Despite everyone telling her father (Arnold Schwarzenegger, surprisingly low-key) that he should turn her in for quarantine, he insists on caring for her at home.  It's more of a terminal illness story than a straight up zombie movie; think The Fault in Our Stars meets The Walking Dead.  But despite good performances, it falls flat because it never makes us really care about the characters and the ending blew.

9. The Town That Dreaded Sundown:  65 years ago, a masked murderer terrorized the small town of Texarkana and then mysteriously disappeared.  But as a local drive-in commemorates the event with a showing of (meta alert!) The Town That Dreaded Sundown, 70s version, he reappears and stabs a teenage boy to death while his horrified girlfriend watches.  The killer's attacks continue as the community scrambles to figure out his identity.  Most notable for featuring the ugliest dress I have ever seen in my entire life (an orange monstrosity with GOLD FRINGED SLEEVES) and death by trombone stabbing, which was as stupid as it sounds.  Skip it.

10. Cake*:  After a car accident which killed her young son and left her in severe chronic pain, Claire becomes obsessed with a woman in her support group who killed herself.  Jennifer Aniston was excellent as Claire, and deserved the acclaim she received, but I thought Adriana Barraza as her overwhelmed housekeeper was just as good. 

11. Inside Out*:  Riley's life is turned upside down when her family moves to San Francisco, and her anthropomorphized emotions battle for control.  A surprisingly honest look at the feelings of an adolescent girl, with plenty of humor as well (including a very sly joke about bears), and since this is a Pixar movie, you better have tissues handy. 

Side note:  G-Vo and I saw a 9:30PM showing of this, and when a group of teenage boys sat down behind us, we braced ourselves for 90 minutes of "this is stupid" and popcorn throwing.  To our surprise, they not only kept quiet throughout, but there was audible sniffling behind us during a key scene.  It was incredibly refreshing.

12. The Wedding Ringer:  Doug is about to marry the woman of his dreams, but there's just one catch: he doesn't have any friends.  He hires a guy who specializes in being a professional best man, along with a motley crew of dudes to serve as groomsmen, and complications ensue.  Much funnier than I was anticipating.

13. Trainwreck*:  Thanks to her philandering father, Amy (Amy Schumer) never thought monogamy was a good idea.  But when she meets a genuinely nice guy, she wonders if she can change her ways.  Like all Judd Apatow movies, it's at least 20 minutes too long, but it's also very funny and surprisingly touching in parts.

14. The Lazarus Effect:  A group of medical researchers discovers a serum that can bring the dead back to life.  Are there side effects?  Duh.  Was this movie lame?  Duh 2: Electric Boogaloo.

15. Ex Machina*:  Caleb works as a programmer for Bluenote, a wildly successful search engine.  He's chosen to visit the secluded estate of his boss and evaluate the A.I. capabilities of Ava, a beautiful robot, and see if she can pass the Turing test.  At no point was I able to predict what was going to happen, which was a rare treat.  Clever and thought-provoking.

2015 tally so far:  63


1. "Assassin" (Grand Omega Bosses edit) by Muse

2. "Gimme Chocolate!" by Babymetal

3. "Megitsune" by Babymetal

4. "Real Existence" by Band-Maid

5. "Prince Johnny" by St. Vincent

6. "I Prefer Your Love" by St. Vincent

7. "Nippon Manju" by Ladybaby:  This is an odd song performed by two Japanese girls (literally; one of them is 14) and a crossdressing Australian wrestler.  Really!  Check out the YouTube video if you haven't had enough weirdness in your life recently.

8. "Madness" by Muse

9. "Birth in Reverse" by St. Vincent