Thursday, August 31, 2017

media update: August

I've got a particularly big media update for you this month, as a couple of personal days and blistering heat led to lots of hours inside reading in air conditioned comfort.  There aren't a lot of movies listed, though, because G-Vo and I are addicted to Persona 5, so we're spending the bulk of our time together playing that instead of watching movies.  Obviously I can watch movies on my own too, but I've gone through a massive string of flops.  (Oh, Dwayne Johnson, I love you and your charms are ample, but I couldn't make it through Baywatch even for you, my darling.)

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

FICTION

1. Sugar by Kimberly Stuart:  Pastry chef Charlie Garrett is sick and tired of being unappreciated at her job (join the club, sis), so when she gets a juicy offer to work for her ex-boyfriend, she agrees.  But then it turns out he's developing a reality show about his new restaurant, and the drama that ensues isn't just on the screen.  A fluffy bit of fun; have something sweet handy, as you will want it after reading the borderline pornographic descriptions of desserts.

2. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware:  Four women who have been friends since boarding school share a dark secret that's come back to bite them in the ass.  I loved Ruth Ware's previous two novels, but this one was really disappointing.  I swear to god, half the book was devoted to scenes with one character's baby breastfeeding (nothing against breastfeeding, of course, but there was a breastfeeding scene on practically every other page) or throwing a fit.

3. Domina* by L.S. Hilton:  This is a direct sequel to Maestra, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  It wasn't as good as Maestra, but it was still really frickin' good.  I'm curious to see how this trilogy wraps up.

4. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong:  Reeling from a breakup, Ruth moves home to help take care of her father, who's losing his memory.

5. The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham:  Agatha is a lonely supermarket worker who's pregnant, but her boyfriend is away at sea and not returning her calls.  She starts to fixate on a customer named Meg, who's also pregnant but seems to have a much better life than Agatha.  This is a book that rewards patience; I was close to giving up on it, but was glad I didn't.

6. Fierce Kingdom* by Gin Phillips:  Joan and her 4-year-old son Lincoln are getting ready to leave the zoo when Joan sees a man with a rifle.  She grabs her son and runs back into the zoo to hide, hoping they can survive until the police get there.  A tense thriller that explores some tough moral questions as well.  My only real gripes are that it didn't wrap up as well as I would have hoped (it was a double star until the last 15 pages) and that Lincoln seemed too articulate for a 4-year-old, but I'll admit that I don't have much experience with kids of that age, so I could be way off base on that.  Anyway, it's fantastic, and I think it would make a great movie.  I can see Naomi Watts as Joan, although good luck finding a child actor that young who could pull it off.

7. See What I Have Done* by Sarah Schmidt:  A fictionalized version of the Lizzie Borden murder case that reads like an exceptionally creepy fever dream.

8. Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber:  After her father's murder becomes the subject of a wildly popular podcast and her mother commits suicide, Josie reluctantly returns to her hometown, where she's reunited with her estranged twin sister.

9. The Good Daughter* by Karin Slaughter:  When sisters Charlie and Sam were teenagers, their lives were ripped apart by a horrifying tragedy.  Twenty-eight years later, they're estranged from each other, with Charlie still living in their small hometown and Sam working in patent law in New York City.  Then Charlie is witness to a new tragedy, which uncovers some shocking truths about the previous one.  It's much different than her usual novels, and I didn't like it as much as the ones featuring Will Trent, but it was still riveting.  Usual warning, though: Karin Slaughter is very aptly named, and her books aren't for the faint of heart.  This one isn't nearly as bad as most of them (seriously, Pretty Girls was legitimate nightmare fuel), but it still has some really disturbing moments.

10. The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka:  Private investigator Roxane Weary is contacted by a woman whose brother Brad is on death row for the murders of his girlfriend Sarah's parents fifteen years ago.  Sarah disappeared on the night of the murders, and Brad's sister insists that she just saw Sarah at a gas station.  Roxane thinks the sister is grasping at straws and that the case will be easy money, which couldn't be further from the truth.  An enjoyable debut novel.

11. Mrs. Fletcher* by Tom Perrotta:  After her son Brendan leaves for college, lonely divorcee Eve Fletcher becomes obsessed with MILF porn.  Meanwhile, Brendan finds out that the somewhat caddish charm on which he's coasted his entire life won't fly in today's world.  Funny and incisive.

12. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott:  Alice was abducted when she was 10 by a sadistic pedophile.  Now 15, she's become too old for his tastes, and he wants her to help find her replacement.  Alice knows this will mean her death, but she's looking forward to it.  It's not even 200 pages long, but it still manages to be one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.  It's categorized as a young adult book, which in my opinion is a grave error.

13. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang:  A collection of loosely connected stories about Chinese American girls coming of age in New York City.  The ending of one of them ("The Empty the Empty the Empty") was fucking horrifying, making this the second book in a row I read that made me feel really gross inside.  I mean, it's well written, but it's no chucklefest.


2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 69 (nice)


NONFICTION

1.  American Fire* by Monica Hesse:  A riveting account of a string of arson incidents in rural Virginia.  I knew I was going to like it as soon as I read this paragraph on the opening page:  "I spent the next two years trying to understand why he did it.  The answer...involved hope, poverty, pride, Walmart, erectile dysfunction, Steak-umms, intrigue, and America."

2. The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder by Carolyn Murnick:  As kids, the author and her friend Ashley were very close, but drifted apart.  When the author found out that Ashley had been murdered (a case that gained some notoriety due to Ashley's association with Ashton Kutcher, who went to pick her up, looked through the window when she didn't answer the door, saw blood on the carpet, thought it was red wine, and left, which: WTF?  Considering that she was stabbed 47 times, that would've been a LOT of fucking wine), she decided to investigate Ashley's troubled life to see what had happened.  I liked it, but it seemed like the author managed to make the whole thing about herself instead of Ashley.

3. Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller:  A memoir of the author's lifelong struggles with her weight, interspersed with historical anecdotes about how the idea of the perfect body has changed over the centuries and what people have done to try to attain it.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  24


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Sweetness & Lightning* vol. 7 by Gido Amagakure:  I don't think I've ever given this series a star before, but this volume made me cry twice, so I figured it deserved one!

2. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 10 by Nico Tanigawa

3. Rin-Ne vol. 24 by Rumiko Takahashi

4. Monstress** vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

5. The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 2 by Rei Toma

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  27 volumes of manga and 9 graphic novels


MOVIES

1. The Belko Experiment*:  Eighty employees in an office building are locked in and told they must start killing each other or they'll all die courtesy of the microchips implanted in their heads.  I was expecting this to be a bit funnier due to a review that called it "Office Space meets Battle Royale" and the fact that James Gunn (Slither, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) had written it, but it was still a really good, tense, viscerally upsetting movie.

2. Ghost in the Shell:  A visually stunning but incredibly dull live action version of the classic anime.

3. Colossal*:  After her boyfriend kicks her out, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her hometown, where she discovers that she has an unusual connection to a monster terrorizing South Korea.  Quirky and entertaining, though quite a bit darker than I was expecting.

4. T2 Trainspotting:  This sequel to the 90s cult smash was way better than we expected it to be.  Fair warning, though: unless you're Scottish or exceptionally good at decoding accents, you WILL need your subtitles on.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  57

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

media update: July

Oooof, this was not a particularly good month for entertainment; only 2 books and one movie got asterisks, and there were a few things I legitimately hated!  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.

FICTION

1. Sycamore* by Bryn Chancellor:  In this beautifully written novel, the disappearance of a teenage girl continues to haunt her small Arizona town long after she vanishes.

2. It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell:  When Aubrey, Jenny, and Kate are assigned to the same dorm room in college, they become fast friends, even though they couldn't be much different.  But after a tragic accident, their relationship sours, and several years later, one of them is found dead.  I probably wouldn't have finished this book if I hadn't been hard up for reading material at the time.  Some of my reasons for disliking it are spoilery, so I'll skip them, but I will tell you that none of the main characters are sympathetic and some of the writing is unbelievably clunky.  Example: a police detective is looking through the victim's house, and in a parenthetical, the author says "(He wore latex gloves to avoid contaminating any evidence.)"  Gee, no shit?  Could you maybe assume your reader isn't a total moron and already knows that?  If it's so important for you to point it out, maybe say something like "Owen snapped on a pair of latex gloves and began going through [the victim]'s house" instead.

3. Final Girls by Riley Sager:  When she was in college, Quincy was the lone survivor of a massacre at a remote cabin.  Dubbed a "final girl" by the press and lumped in with two other spree killer survivors, she hides out in her apartment as much as she can, taking comfort in her baking blog.  Then fellow final girl Lisa commits suicide, and Sam, the other one, unexpectedly shows up on Quincy's doorstep.

Oh man, I REALLY wanted to like this; I'd go so far as to say it was my most anticipated book of the summer.  Perhaps my hopes were too high, but I was pretty disappointed.  It's not bad, but it felt like it was written with the inevitable movie in mind (although there are already two other movies with similar titles), and it was pretty predictable.

4. Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo:  Police chief Kate Burkholder is called to a hostage situation, and things escalate when she realizes the man responsible is someone she grew up with.  He was convicted of murdering his wife, but he claims he's innocent and begs her to find out the truth.

5. A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly:  When a private investigator vanishes, Charlie Parker is tasked with finding him by an enigmatic FBI agent whose reasons might not be to Charlie's benefit.  I found it awfully confusing at times, but to be fair, I read it during a period of great stress (training for my new job duties, which involved getting up 2 hours earlier than usual, and since I'm a lifelong night owl and unable to fall asleep before midnight unless I'm really sick, I was completely exhausted), so that might be my fault and not John Connolly's.

6. The Party by Robyn Harding:  When their daughter's 16th birthday party goes tragically wrong, Jeff and Kim's perfect lives begin unraveling very quickly.  Much like #2 above, I hated pretty much everyone in it, and I was glad when it was over.

7. Now I Rise by Kiersten White:  Sequel etc.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  56


NONFICTION

1. Hunger by Roxane Gay:  A memoir about the author's struggles with body acceptance.

2. Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer:  When the author turned 44, she started having a bit of a midlife crisis, and this memoir contrasts her youth with her current life.  She can be awfully annoying, but this has some worthy moments in it, most notably an open letter to Roman Polanski.

3. The Grim Sleeper* by Christine Pelisek:  A riveting account of the titular serial killer who preyed on African-American women in Los Angeles over many years. 

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  21


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Mockingbird vols. 1-2 by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Ibrahim Moustafa

2. Everyone's Getting Married vol. 5 by Izumi Miyazono

3. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 13 by Go Ikeyamada

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  23 volumes of manga and 8 graphic novels


MOVIES

1. Okja:  The title character is a genetically created "superpig" who lives in the rural Korean countryside with young Mija.  When the company that created Okja wants her back for slaughter, Mija will stop at nothing to save her friend.  It's sort of a very modern take on Charlotte's Web, with one big exception: it is absolutely NOT for children.  In addition to lots of profanity, there are gruesome scenes of factory farming, including a scene of forced breeding that had me sinking into the couch wishing the movie would end.  (And why is Jake Gyllenhaal so TERRIBLE in this?  I know he can act---hell, in my opinion he should have won an Oscar for Nightcrawler---but he's just dreadful here.)  Okja is cute, and the friendship between her and Mija is very sweet, but it's just a dark fucking movie.

Side note: the day after we watched this, G and I were watching TV when an Arby's commercial with a long, lingering shot of frying bacon came on, and G yelled "OKJAAAAAAAAAAA!"  Goddamn, my dude is funny.

2. Miss Sloane:  The title character (Jessica Chastain, excellent as always) is a powerful lobbyist who decides to take on a controversial gun bill.  The script was pretty sharp, but as G pointed out, it really wanted to be Aaron Sorkin-esque and fell a little short.

3. Beauty and the Beast:  This live action remake of the classic Disney animated movie wasn't bad, but it sure as hell didn't need to be remade.  To give you an idea of how unnecessary it really was, I didn't tear up ONCE, and the original made me cry so hard my eyes practically swelled shut.

4. Fifty Shades Darker:  Well, this was better than the first movie, which is like saying the last bout of diarrhea I had (three days ago, thanks for asking!) was better than my most recent migraine.  Seriously, these movies are CRAP.  The acting sucks, the dialogue is unbelievably cliched, and there was a (SPOILER ALERT) helicopter crash in this one that did absolutely nothing to advance the plot.  Why even bother showing it at all?  Take it out and use that CGI money towards acting lessons for Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.  (I really don't get why Jamie Dornan is so bad in these movies, because he was excellent in the British TV series The Fall.)  The sex scenes are reasonably hot, but cue something up on Redtube to get your jollies instead.

5. King Cobra:  Sean is a hot young dude who changes his name to Brent Corrigan and starts making gay porn for a smitten producer (Christian Slater).  Once his career takes off, Brent becomes dissatisfied with his contract, and a rival producer (James Franco) swoops in for the kill.  It's good, but it's pretty graphic, so let that be a warning or an endorsement depending on your personal preference.  (Also be sure to have the remote control handy; I was scrambling to find it between the couch cushions when James Franco started yelling "Fuck my asshole!" and I realized that my downstairs neighbor might not appreciate such crudity at 10PM.  Sorry, Dalisay.)  Loosely based on a true story, though the real life Brent has publicly disavowed this movie.

6. Resident Evil: Vendetta*:  Fan favorites Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy team up to fight an evil dude who created a new type of zombie that can distinguish friend from foe.  To quote G, it was as awesome as it was terrible.  The storyline is nothing special at all, and they did something weird with Chris and Leon's character designs so they look a little off (but don't get me wrong, I'd still climb both of them like a tree), but the action is FANTASTIC, particularly a hallway gun fu fight that had us cheering.  Recommended only for fans of the series who are willing and able to overlook the wooden script and often cringeworthy dialogue.

7. A Cure for Wellness:  A young executive is sent to Switzerland to retrieve his company's CEO from a wellness spa, but finds himself stuck in a nightmare.  One of the weirdest wide release movies I've ever seen; it's what I imagine Shutter Island would have been like if codirected by Tarsem and Dario Argento.  I would have given it a star except it goes batshit crazy near the end, and not in a good way, but if you like bizarre movies, give it a whirl.  If nothing else, it's got some gorgeous cinematography.

8. The Zookeeper's Wife:  After the Nazis invade Poland, Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Jan use their zoo as a cover for hiding Jews.  It's pretty good, but I have a beef with the title (though, to be fair, it's based on the book of the same name so it's not the filmmakers' fault).  Antonina is more than just a frickin' WIFE; she's a zookeeper in her own right, and the main character of the movie, so it's not really fair to define her by her marital status.  (Sorry for getting all Tumblr feminist on you.)

9. Kong: Skull Island:  A group of scientists and soldiers heads to an uncharted island, not knowing that it's inhabited by a giant ape.  For a movie that has "Kong" in the title, you sure don't see as much of him as you might expect, and the whole movie just had a weird tone to it.  (Re)watch Peter Jackson's infinitely superior King Kong instead.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  53


VIDEO GAME OF THE MONTH

Telltale is one of my favorite video game developers for a good reason: they have great writing and voice acting, and for the most part the properties they license, such as Fables and Game of Thrones, are extremely relevant to my interests.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is no exception.

In the third installment of the series, you play Javier, a former baseball star who left the sport in disgrace.  He's living with his parents, brother David, David's second wife Kate, and David's kids Mariana and Gabe.  When the zombie outbreak begins, Javier, Kate, and the kids get separated from David, and he, Kate, and the kids wind up on the road together, looking for a safe place they can call home.

LOVED
  • As mentioned above, Telltale consistently knocks it out of the park with the writers and voice talent they hire.
  • The cel-shaded style works perfectly for a game inspired by a graphic novel.
  • Some fan favorites show up along the way.
  • There are a couple of scenes in this game that made us gasp.
LOATHED
  • I'm not sure it's fair to say I "loathed" this, since it was pretty funny, but it WAS a glitch and I don't really have much else to complain about here, so I'll mention it.  At one point, a character who had died and was absolutely NOT a zombie at the time showed up in the background, strolling along like nothing happened.  Considering how many different branches the story can take depending on your choices, I guess it's understandable that dead characters might accidentally pop up along the way.
  • It's a pretty short game.  It consists of 5 chapters and I'd estimate each one only takes about 2 hours to complete.
Overall, TWD:ANF was an enjoyable addition to the series.  If you haven't already played seasons 1 and 2, don't start with this one, but otherwise, give it a go!  I give it 8 cans of purloined pudding out of 10.

Friday, June 30, 2017

media update: June

It's gotten hotter'n hell here, so this is a particularly meaty media update as I was spending my work breaks reading instead of walking.  I also took 3 personal days, during which I managed to plow through a nice stack of books in between epic naps.

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

FICTION

1. Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar:  Young Gwendy receives an odd present from a stranger: a box that dispenses silver dollars and chocolate candy, but also has the ability to destroy any location she chooses.  It was pretty disappointing, to be honest.

Side note #1:  This book isn't even 200 pages (many of which were either blank or full-page illustrations) and costs $25, which is fucking ridiculous.  Thank god for libraries.

Side note #2:  Stephen King has a novel coming out this fall which is also co-written, this time by his son Owen King.  I really hope he's not starting to go the James Patterson route, i.e. giving someone a story outline, making them do all the writing, and then raking in the cash.

2. The Leavers by Lisa Ko:  When he was 11 years old, Deming's mother Polly went to work and never came home.  Her boyfriend Leon and Leon's sister take care of Deming for as long as they can before handing him over to social services.  He's adopted by a white couple and renamed Daniel, and he tries to assimilate to his new life, always wondering what happened to his birth mother.  I found Polly's sections much more interesting than Daniel's, but the whole book was moving.

3. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn:  After moving to a small New York town, Owen and Lucy attend a dinner party where the topic of open marriage comes up.  At first the idea horrifies them, but then they decide to give it a try for six months, with some strict ground rules.  Needless to say, things get a bit complicated.  For the most part, it's often quite funny, although there were a few things that bothered me, such as this line:  "Sunny Bang narrowed her already narrow Korean eyes."  Uh, seriously?!

4. Grit by Gillian French:  Darcy has a reputation as the town tramp, but she doesn't care; she's much more worried about the disappearance of a friend and a dark secret she shares with her cousin Nell.  A little slow, but good.

5. The White Road by Sarah Lotz:  In order to write an article for his website, Simon hires someone to guide him through the infamous Cwm Pot (not a typo; it's a Welsh name) caves where three spelunkers lost their lives.  The trip goes horribly wrong, and Simon barely manages to survive.  To his shock, the story of his nightmarish journey goes viral, so he decides to top it by climbing Everest; suffice it to say that trip doesn't go much better.  I loved her previous books, but this one left me cold...no pun intended.

5. Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf:  After a freak accident leaves her deaf, trauma nurse Amelia Winn drowns her sorrows in alcohol and loses her job and her marriage.  She's trying to get her life back together, but when she finds the corpse of a former coworker, she's drawn into a mystery that could wind up unraveling her life all over again.

6. Spectacle by Rachel Vincent:  This is the sequel to Menagerie, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  But MAN, was it disappointing!  I absolutely loved Menagerie, but this one was just not very good at all.

7. Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers:  Sequel etc.

8. Do Not Become Alarmed* by Maile Meloy:  Two families decide to go on a cruise together, and the children disappear during an onshore excursion.  Wildly improbable at several points, but still very entertaining.

9. White Fur* by Jardine Libaire:  Elise grew up in public housing with a single mother; Jamey was born to an actress and a powerful banker.  Sparks instantly fly when they meet, and they try to forge a relationship despite the fact that everybody tries to keep them apart.  It sounds like a romance novel, but it's not...well, at least in the traditional sense of the word.  Beautifully written.

10. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne:  Helena is happily married with two daughters, but she has a secret: her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by a survivalist and held hostage for many years, and Helena was born as a result.  When Helena's father escapes from prison, killing two guards in the process, she knows that she's the only one who can find him.

11. What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris:  In 1800s England, Sebastian St. Cyr is a brilliant nobleman with almost superhuman senses.  When he's accused of the brutal murder of an actress, he goes on the lam in order to prove his innocence.  I love a good historical mystery, and I enjoyed this enough that I'll be picking up the other books too (and there are a LOT of them).

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 49


NONFICTION

1. On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen:  This book is both a personal account of the author's struggles with anxiety and a look at past and present treatments and research.

2. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life** by Samantha Irby:  Another outrageously funny (and occasionally heartbreaking) collection of essays by the Bitches Gotta Eat blogger.  I was reading this in bed while suffering from a massive allergy attack, waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, and there was one scene where her cat was hugging and kicking her dildo and she was screaming "Give me back my dick!" and I started laughing so hard I was weeping.  As I began passing out,  I was still chuckling intermittently, which is honestly a pretty terrific way to fall asleep.

Side note: Samantha Irby favorited a tweet of mine once and it was like getting a benediction from a foulmouthed, witty angel.

3. My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues* by Pamela Paul:  Since she was young, the author has kept a diary of every book she reads, from the cheesy to the literary.  A fun love letter to the joy of reading.

4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen:  A collection of essays about women who are "too" whatever for some people.  Similar to, but not nearly as good as, All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 18


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

2. The Water Dragon's Bride by Rei Toma

3. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters** by Emil Ferris:  This was fantastic and I very highly recommend it, BUT a caveat.  It ended on a cliffhanger and I was like "wait, whaaaaaaaaat?" and it turns out there's a second volume coming out in October.  I don't know if there will be any more after that (considering how labor intensive this must have been, I'd be amazed), but you might want to wait until the entire series is out before starting.  It's one hell of an achievement, I'll say that.

4. Food Wars! vol. 18 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

5. Erased* vol. 2 by Kei Sanbe

6. Sweetness and Lightning vol. 6 by Gido Amagakure

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  21 volumes of manga and 6 graphic novels


MOVIES

1. The Great Wall:  I might have been asleep when they taught this in history, but it turns out that the Great Wall of China was built to repel ravenous lizard-dog aliens!  Thankfully, William (Matt Damon) and his buddy Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are ready to lend a hand to the beleaguered Chinese army.

Okay, hear me out.  The recap above makes this movie sound dumb as hell, and that's because it was, but it was also REALLY FUN.  Yeah, the "great white savior" thing is tacky and the special effects weren't all that special, but it had a surprisingly snappy script, a fun bromance between William and Tovar (I ship it!), and a kickass female general.  I couldn't bring myself to give it a star, because it wasn't THAT good, but honestly, it was entertaining.

2. xXx: Return of Xander Cage:  I never saw the other two xXx movies, but somehow I doubt it mattered.  In this one, Xander (Vin Diesel) comes out of retirement to help stop a powerful weapon falling into the wrong hands.  It was incredibly dumb, but it had some nice eye candy (Ruby Rose, nnnffff girl, I see you) and some good action, and I'm always glad to see Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa getting work, although Tony Jaa was completely underused.  Seriously, you nab one of the world's best martial artists for your flick and you waste him on a couple of flips and kicks?  Criminal!  Director, I insist that you (re)watch The Protector and think about what you did.

3. John Wick: Chapter 2:  John Wick reluctantly returns to the life of a hit man once again.  Some really fun action in this, but some of the "gun fu" got repetitive, and as much as it pains me to say it because he's so goddamn hot (seriously, does he age?!  HOW IS HE 52) and reportedly one of the nicest celebrities ever, Keanu Reeves is a terrible actor.

4. The LEGO Batman Movie*:  Batman tries to stop yet another takeover of Gotham City by the Joker, aided by Barbara Gordon and Robin, an orphan he accidentally adopts.  Really cute and funny.

5. Get Out*:  Chris is nervous about meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time, because he's black and they're white.  They're very welcoming, but something just isn't right.  A smart horror flick with a satirical edge that slices deep.

6. Life*:  A team of scientists is returning to Earth with a life form they discovered on Mars, a cute little thing they call Calvin, and let's just say Calvin doesn't STAY cute.  Way better than expected; it was a box office bomb, but we really enjoyed it, and it has one hell of an ending.

7. Vacancy 2: The Final Cut:  Tired from a long drive while moving across the country, a couple and their friend check into a motel.  But their night turns out to be anything but relaxing, because the sleazy motel owners have a side business selling snuff tapes, and our unlucky trio is about to be their newest stars.  This prequel was nowhere near as good as Vacancy, but not bad; the female lead makes some smart decisions (always refreshing, and rare, in a horror movie) and it had one really great line in it. 

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 44

Friday, June 02, 2017

my favorite broad

The check came on Monday, and I held it in my hands, staring at the words "The Estate of Sue [redacted]" until my eyes blurred.

Should have kept in touch, should have called, why didn't you at least pick up the fucking phone every once in a while.

Brain, you are correct.  But while I can't go back in time and stay in better touch with her, I can honor her now by sharing this incredible woman with you.


Read more »

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

media update: May

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

FICTION

1. The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda:  After her career implodes in a spectacular fashion, Leah Stevens impulsively relocates to a small town with her old friend Emmy.  Shortly after they arrive, a woman who looks like Leah is attacked and left for dead and Emmy goes missing, and Leah discovers that pretty much everyone she knows has something to hide.

2. Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis:  Khosa was born to be the Given, which means that once she has a child, she'll be sacrificed to the sea to protect her kingdom from flooding.  Needless to say, she's not real thrilled with her destiny.

3. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins:  After her sister commits suicide at a spot notorious for such events, Jules reluctantly returns to her hometown and discovers there's a whole lot of nasty shit going on.  It was a bit of a slog, to be honest.

4. A Court of Wings and Ruin* by Sarah J. Maas:  This is the latest in the series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessors.

Side note:  it's interesting that the main character's name, Feyre, could be pronounced so many different ways: fair, fairy, fire, Farrah, fiery.  (According to the internet,  it's FAY-ruh.)

5. Skitter by Ezekiel Boone:  This is the sequel to spider apocalypse novel The Hatching, so I can't give it a proper review lest I spoil its predecessor.  It wasn't as good as the previous book, largely because it was sorely lacking in spider action.  (This is the only time you will ever hear me criticizing something for not having enough spiders!)

6. Virgin by Radhika Sanghani:  Ellie is a 21-year-old virgin who's determined to change that fact.  Not particularly good, so don't pay attention to the blurb from Joan Rivers (this is not a recent book, obviously) on the front cover.  I almost wonder if it's from someone who just happens to be named Joan Rivers, but not THE Joan Rivers.  That would be rather clever, actually; I'd respect that hustle.

7. This Is Not Over by Holly Brown:  After she stays in a rental house, Dawn receives an email from Miranda, the homeowner, telling her that she's deducted $200 from Dawn's deposit to replace stained sheets.  Dawn doesn't think she had anything to do with it, and moreover, she's pissed off at the implication that she's dirty.  Thus begins an epic catfight in which both parties refuse to budge.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 38

NONFICTION

1. There Is No F*cking Secret: Letters from a Badass Bitch* by Kelly Osbourne:  In this memoir, written in epistolary form, the reality TV star reflects on everything from life with her (in)famous family to her struggles with drugs and alcohol.  Highly entertaining and often quite funny.

Side note: the censorship is in the original title; I obviously have no problem typing "fuck"!

2. The Fact of a Body** by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich:  The author had always been against the death penalty, so when she started an internship working to help people accused of murder, she was shocked when she learned about a case and instantly wanted the defendant to die.  She decided to dig deeper into the case of Ricky Langley, convicted of murdering a young boy, and in the process started to come to terms with her own complicated past.  Absolutely gripping.

3. One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter* by Scacchi Koul:  An excellent collection of essays covering everything from racism to the joys (and horrors) of the internet.

4. Priestdaddy* by Patricia Lockwood:   After a medical crisis wiped out their finances, the author and her husband Jason moved back in with her eccentric family, including her guitar playing, frequently semi-naked father, a Catholic priest.  (Despite being married with children, he got ordained through a loophole.)  Extremely funny and occasionally moving (especially the chapter called "Abortion Barbie"), and practically every page has a quotable line.  (One of my favorites: Jason sees an extremely gory crucifix on her parents' dining room wall and says "It looks like someone screamed into a ribeye."  Another favorite is when she has a sip of a particularly strong drink and says "It tastes like being thrown through a window.")

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 14

MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Erased* by Kei Sanbe

2. Monstress** by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda:  This series is so fucking good oh my god.  The art is spectacular, the world-building is fantastic, and I absolutely adore Kippa, the little fox-girl who's sweet but no pushover.  (If anything ever happens to her---not a spoiler---my heart will fall out of my asshole.)  Definitely give this a look if you like graphic novels.

3. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 12 by Go Ikeyamada

4. My Love Story!!** vol. 12 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  I think this series is only topped by Persona 4 and Harry Potter in terms of having characters I'd kill to be friends with in real life.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  17 volumes of manga and 4 graphic novels

MOVIES

1. The Conjuring 2:  Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren go to England to help a family being tormented by a demon.  Like its predecessor, it's not particularly scary aside from one scene, but it's decent.

2. A Monster Calls*:  Trying desperately to cope with his mother's impending death, young Conor (Lewis MacDougall, who's terrific) is visited by an enormous tree creature who promises to tell him three stories in exchange for the truth that Conor can't bring himself to admit.

Ooof...I mean, JFC.  I can't imagine anyone not being touched by this movie, but if you've ever loved someone with a terminal illness, it's going to fucking WRECK you.  It's one of the most honest depictions of grief I've ever seen.  It bombed hard at the box office, probably because it was sold as a fantasy film for kids, but honestly, I think most kids would be traumatized by it.  For adults, though, it's beautiful and cathartic.

3. Why Him?:  Ned (Bryan Cranston) is horrified when he meets his daughter's boyfriend, tattooed tech millionaire Laird Mayhew (James Franco).  Some scenes dragged on WAAAAAY too long, but it had some very funny moments.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:  In this movie set decades before the events of the Harry Potter series, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) visits New York and accidentally frees a horde of magical creatures.  Visually stunning, but they took far too long to make Newt a sympathetic character.

5. Split*:  In M. Night Shyamalan's latest, James McAvoy plays a man with dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps three teenage girls to fulfill the needs of his newest (and extremely dangerous) identity, "The Beast".  I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, mainly because I had a few things ruined for me, but it was still quite good, and James McAvoy was excellent.

6. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract:  Pardon this extremely generic write-up, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers for those of you who might care:  the Teen Titans battle a new threat.  Fairly standard animated DCU fare, but it had some good (and surprisingly adult) lines.

7. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas:  After the goddess of chaos steals an important book and frames Sinbad for it, he has to find it before his childhood friend Proteus (who nobly offers himself as collateral) is killed.  The inclusion of this older Dreamworks movie on my list probably has you wondering "Da fuq?", but it had just started on HBO when we were channel surfing and we got sucked into it.  It's not GREAT, and Brad Pitt is a terrible voice actor, but it was fun.

8. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter:  Promise?

9. My Life as a Zucchini*:  After his mother dies, Zucchini (not his real name, but the one he prefers to go by) is sent to an orphanage, where he begins to rebuild his life.  We only watched this because it was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, and we're glad we did; it was really sweet and touching.

10. Rings:  Set 13 years after The Ring, this movie follows...oh, who cares.  This movie was BALLLLLLLLLS and I'm angry I wasted almost 2 hours of my precious life on it.  Please do not make the same mistake.

11. Ocean Waves:  In this melancholy animated film, a high school student's world is turned upside down by an enigmatic transfer student.  It's not bad, but it's for Ghibli completionists only.  (I was thrilled to hear Toshihiko Seki, though; he's one of my favorite Japanese voice actors.)

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 37

Monday, May 01, 2017

media update: April

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 always, your mileage may vary.

FICTION

1. Rabbit Cake* by Annie Hartnett:  After her mother drowns, 10-year-old Elvis and her family try to come to grips with their grief.  Her older sister Lizzie sleepwalks (and sleep-eats), her father wears her mother's lipstick and brings home a parrot that speaks in her mother's voice, and Elvis decides to finish writing her mother's book.  It's quite good, but it really needed to end one chapter sooner than it did.

2. Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves:  Anna is a member of the Luminates, an order of magicians who use their power to control pretty much everything, but her only real ability seems to be breaking other people's spells.  When she screws up her talented sister's magical debut, Anna is sent to live with family members in Hungary, and she discovers that her power might not be as useless as it initially seemed.  It wasn't bad, but I doubt I'll pick up any future installments as it never really grabbed me.

3. The Secrets You Keep by Kate White:  After a car accident, Bryn is slowly recuperating mentally and physically, so she isn't thrilled when her husband Guy wants to throw a dinner party.  She reluctantly agrees, and regrets it almost immediately when the caterer turns out to be a bitch, several hundred dollars go missing, and someone leaves a box of burnt matches behind, which she takes as a reference to the car accident.  Things continue to go downhill from there, including the copyediting, because there were a shit ton of typos in here.

4. One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel:  The narrator of this book (who's never named) and his older brother move to New Mexico with their drug addicted father, whose behavior keeps getting worse.  Dark and sad.

5. A Simple Favor* by Darcey Bell:  Stephanie is a young widow and "mommy blogger" who befriends glamorous Emily, the mother of her son's friend Nicky.  One day Emily asks if Stephanie can pick up her son after school, and Stephanie agrees, but Emily never picks Nicky up, and her disappearance leads to all sorts of trouble.  This cribs pretty heavily from something else I won't mention for obvious reasons, but it's still really good.

6. Lola* by Melissa Scrivner Love:  Lola's boyfriend Garcia is in a gang called the Crenshaw Six, which has recently partnered with a Mexican drug cartel.  Everybody outside of the gang thinks Garcia is the leader, but the Crenshaw Six knows the truth: Lola is the boss, and when a drug drop goes horribly awry, Lola has to use her street smarts and the cartel's ignorance of her true status to survive.  The author is a screenwriter, which probably explains the super sharp dialogue.  An addictive page-turner that practically begs to be made into a movie.  I was going to give it one of my rare double star ratings until some nonsense near the end, but it's still a great read.

7. Marlena* by Julie Buntin:  Cat isn't thrilled when her family moves to a tiny Michigan town, but then she meets her next door neighbor Marlena.  They quickly form a close friendship, but Marlena's problems catch up with her, and decades later, Cat tries to come to grips with the tumultuous year they spent together.  Beautifully written and a keen observation of female friendships.

8. It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany:  Amber and Tyler have been friends since they were teenagers, and although Amber wants to keep it platonic, Tyler doesn't feel the same way.  After college, Amber comes home and starts spending more time with Tyler, and one drunken night, she impulsively kisses him, and then he sexually assaults her.

I've read all of Amy Hatvany's books, and her work is similar to Jodi Picoult, except that she doesn't throw in stupid and/or enraging twists.  So if Picoult has pissed you off one too many times, like me, then give Amy Hatvany a try.

9. Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows:  Emma doesn't care that her mother has started dating another woman, but she DOES mind when the other woman moves in and brings her daughter Quinn, a nightmarish bitch who makes Emma's life hell.  But when Quinn dies of an allergic reaction (which doesn't happen until well past the halfway point; I'd have skipped this detail due to spoilers, but the title kind of gives it away), Emma reconsiders her relationship with Quinn.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 31


NONFICTION

1. Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving by Michelle Stevens, PhD:  When the author was 8 years old, her mother became involved with a man who was only interested in Michelle.  He proceeded to make the next several years of her life a living hell, sexually abusing and torturing her and pimping her out to other sick fucks.  She developed multiple personalities, but managed to survive, get her PhD, and help other abuse survivors.  My synopsis might have been enough warning, but I'm going to give you another one:  she doesn't spare many details, and this book is exceptionally disturbing.  I'm glad she went on to live a beautiful life (her words, not mine), because she certainly deserves it.

Side note: at a couple of points, she mentions a civil suit she brought against her stepfather and mother (who knew about the abuse and did jackshit to stop it), but she never mentions the outcome, which was frustrating as I wanted to know what happened!

2. The Rules Do Not Apply* by Ariel Levy:  A memoir about how the author thought she had it all and then watched as it turned to shit.  It's deeply sad, but it's full of thought-provoking moments and even some humor.  (She even managed to make me laugh at her cat's funeral.)

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 10


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Carry This Book by Abbi Jacobson

2. Rin-Ne vol. 23 by Rumiko Takahashi

3. Food Wars!* vol. 17 by Yuto Tsukuda and Saeki Shun

4. Sweetness and Lightning vol. 5 by Gido Amagakure

5. Everyone's Getting Married vol. 4 by Izumi Miyazono

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  14 volumes of manga and 3 graphic novels


MOVIES

1. Logan**:  In the near future, Logan (aka Wolverine) is slowly losing his regenerative powers.  (He even has to wear reading glasses, which I thought was a nice touch.)  He's isolated himself in the Mexican desert with Professor X, who is suffering from dementia.  All he wants to do is save enough money to buy a boat where he and Professor X can safely live out the rest of their days, but he reluctantly finds himself charged with getting a young mutant (newcomer Dafne Keen, who's really good) to safety.

I mean...goddamn.  It's violent, dark, exciting, often quite funny, and the performances are terrific.  (Patrick Stewart deserves a supporting actor Oscar nomination.)  And ooof, the feels.  So many feels!  It's my favorite movie of the year so far.

2. Moana*:  After demigod Maui's antics put her island in jeopardy, young Moana sets off across the sea to right his wrongs and save her people.  Beautifully animated and quite charming.

Side note: considering that this is a Disney movie, I was really surprised (though not in a bad way) that there was no romantic angle at all. 

3. The Edge of Seventeen*:  Surly Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) has always lived in the shadow of her super popular older brother Darian.  She finds comfort spending time with her best friend Krista, but her world falls apart when Krista and Darian start dating.  Excellent performances and a great script; it was like an updated John Hughes movie.

4. Desierto:  A group of Mexicans trying to cross the border are targeted by an unhinged sniper (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).  The ending is a bit abrupt, but the performances are good and it was suitably tense.

5. Nocturnal Animals:  When Susan receives a copy of her ex-husband's new book, a dark revenge thriller, she starts to think it's actually about her.  Great performances, but I found the sections from the book much more interesting than the main story.  Also, the ending was kind of ambiguous, but we found some pretty good theories online.

6. Hell or High Water*:  Two brothers resort to robbing banks in order to save their family's ranch, but a Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges, who was excellent) is hot on their heels.   A beautifully shot modern western.

7. The Girl with All the Gifts*:  An unusual young girl named Melanie may hold the key to humanity's survival after a fungal infection causes a zombie outbreak.  A very good adaptation of Mike Carey's excellent novel.

Side note:  If this sounds a lot like The Last of Us to you, you're not alone.  When I read the book a couple of years ago and got to a particular point, I thought the author had completely ripped TLoU off!  But I read an interview with him that mentioned the similarities, and he said he was almost done writing the book when the game came out and considered scrapping the whole thing, but he'd put too much time and effort into it.  

8. La La Land*:  Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone, who won the best actress Oscar) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) fall in love while chasing their dreams in this bittersweet musical.  It was a bit overhyped, but still charming enough that I really enjoyed it.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 26

Friday, March 31, 2017

media update: March

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 always, your mileage may vary.

FICTION

1. The Burning World by Isaac Marion:  This is the sequel to Warm Bodies, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  I'll just say that I didn't enjoy it very much.

2. Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman:  Child psychologist Alex Delaware is surprised when Thalia Mars, a woman in her late nineties, calls him for an appointment.  He goes to see her at the hotel where she's lived for many years, and Thalia is cryptic about what she wants, but she promises to tell him everything during their next meeting.  When her body is discovered the next day and foul play is suspected, Alex and his police lieutenant friend Milo Sturgis decide to look into it.  Not one of Kellerman's better books, but still entertaining.  I could have done without Alex saying "The Internet raped privacy a long time ago" at one point.  Not cool, Kellerman.

3. The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill:  While living at an orphanage, piano prodigy Pierrot and charming Rose fall in love.  They're separated as teenagers, and their lives take squalid turns, but they never stop trying to find each other.  Some really gorgeous writing in this book.

4. I See You by Clare Mackintosh:  Zoe Walker is stunned when she sees her photograph used in a classified ad, but the next day, a different woman's picture is in the ad instead.  Zoe tries to put it out of her mind, but the ad shows a new woman every day, and some of them are turning up dead.  It was okay.

5. What You Don't Know* by JoAnn Chaney:  Jacky Seever was beloved by his community until the discovery of 33 bodies in his crawl space.  He's now on death row, but the effects of his crimes still continue to reverberate with the cops who arrested him, the reporter who wrote about him, and his unsuspecting wife.  Then new victims with ties to Seever start showing up, and everyone's lives are thrown into turmoil again.  It reminded me a lot of early Lehane; it's terrific.

6. Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh:  Yasmin is having a miserable adolescence:  her father recently died and she's being bullied over her weight.  She idolizes her beautiful classmate Alice, and when Yasmin sees a man watching Alice, she fantasizes about him kidnapping Alice so she can rescue her...and then Alice actually disappears.  A decent read, and the ending is quite good.

7. Dead Letters* by Caite Dolan-Leach:  Ava fled her dysfunctional family and moved to France, but she's forced to come back home when she finds out that her twin sister Zelda has died in a fire.  She hadn't spoken to Zelda for two years, and she's convinced Zelda is really alive and just playing an elaborate game on her, so she starts following the clues she thinks Zelda left behind.  It took a while to hook me, but MAN does it get good at about the halfway mark.  One of the best last lines I've read in a while, too.

8. Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas:  Freya is a teenage girl who's 23rd in line to the throne, but she has no real desire to be royalty anyway; she just wants to experiment in her lab.  But when a Red Wedding-esque banquet leaves everyone else in line dead, she finds herself with a crown on her head and a target on her back.

9. The Roanoke Girls** by Amy Engel:  When her mother commits suicide, 15-year-old Lane Roanoke is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin Allegra on their huge estate in rural Kansas.  Lane enjoys her new life until something happens that forces her to flee.  She never plans on going back, but eleven years later, her grandfather calls to say that Allegra is missing, and Lane reluctantly returns to see if she can find the cousin she left behind.  The big secret won't come as any surprise, and to her credit, the author doesn't draw out the suspense, but it's still good; imagine a beautifully written V.C. Andrews novel.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 22


NONFICTION

1. How to Murder Your Life* by Cat Marnell:  The author is a trainwreck, and before you chastise me for being mean, she'd be the first to agree.  This memoir covers her life of magazine jobs, pill popping, alcoholism, bulimia, and stays in both rehabs and psych wards.  I'd say it needed tighter editing, but the stream of consciousness style works really well because it's like she's telling you all about it in person.  Exhausting and occasionally frustrating (so many enablers!), but---please pardon the pun---addictive.

2. Dirty Thirty by Asa Akira:  A collection of essays by the popular porn star.

3. Eating Korea: Reports on a Culinary Renaissance by Graham Holliday:  Title says it all!

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 8


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Black Dahlia by Rick Geary

2. Sweetness & Lightning vol. 4 by Gido Amagakure

3. The Walking Dead* vol. 27 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  10 volumes of manga and 2 graphic novels


MOVIES

1. Moonlight*:  This coming of age story follows Chiron as he grows up in a rough neighborhood with his crack addicted mother.  It's pretty slow, but I'm giving it a star on the basis of its strong performances, especially Mahershala Ali (who won the best supporting actor Oscar) as a drug dealer who serves as a father figure to Chiron.

2. Bad Santa 2:  Alcoholic crab-ass Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) reluctantly teams up with his old friend turned nemesis Marcus and his estranged mother (Kathy Bates) to rob a charity.  Not nearly as good as the original, but it was still much funnier than the dismal reviews would have you believe.

3. Elle:  After she's raped in her home, Michele (Isabelle Huppert) decides not to go to the police because she's had bad experiences with them before.  She proceeds with her life as though the assault didn't affect her all that much, but has she really put it all behind her so easily?  I had a shitload of problems with various aspects of this movie, but Isabelle Huppert (who received an Oscar nomination) is absolutely magnificent.   Major trigger alert: the movie starts with Michele's rape and revisits it several times, and it also includes an extremely violent tentacle rape scene from a (fictional) video game.  (Oh, and a brief clip from what appears to be a real crush video, so thanks to Paul Verhoeven for THAT.  Seriously, he couldn't just have Michele reacting to what she's seeing on the computer instead of actually showing it?  JFC.  Without getting too graphic, it wasn't one of the more problematic kinds of crush videos, but it was still fucking gross and awful.)

4. Passengers*:  On an intergalactic voyage to a new planet, the passengers are placed in suspended animation for the 120-year flight, but a computer malfunction wakes two of them (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) up 90 years early.  This was a huge commercial and critical flop, but we actually liked it a lot!  I had the same problem with [plot spoiler] that a lot of people did, and G-Vo had some great ideas as to how different elements could have been improved, but overall, it didn't deserve the hate.

5. Justice League Dark:  Batman has to team up with John Constantine (nfffff) and several other supernaturally inclined superheroes to fight an evil threat.  The animation was just okay, but the plot was decent and it had some good lines.

6. The Handmaiden*:  A Korean woman is hired to serve as a rich Japanese woman's handmaiden, but she's secretly conspiring with a con man to steal all of her money instead.  Gorgeously shot, clever, and erotic.  I was also really impressed by how they adapted Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith; they kept the meat of the story but added a very unique spin.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 18