Wednesday, November 30, 2016

media update: November

Hello, everybody; I hope this finds you in fine form and that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday.  G's family (except his nephew I.), plus nephew D's girlfriend, came to California for a visit.  On Thanksgiving itself, we had dinner (underwhelming, which especially sucked because the Yelp reviews were so good) at a local joint, and on Friday, we went to the Getty.  Unfortunately, G had to work on Saturday, but the rest of us (except his parents, who were visiting friends) went to Little Tokyo, where I managed to score 12 bags of the jyaga bata chips that G and I love so much.  (They're a seasonal item, so we have to grab as many of them as we can on the rare occasions we find them!)  Afterwards, we dropped the kids (they're both 19, but I've known D since he was 7 so he'll always be a "kid" to me) off at the Greyhound station, and the rest of the group left on Sunday after the Giants/Browns game.  All in all, a lovely long weekend!

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.

You'll note that I don't go into much detail on some of the following titles, but that's because I honestly couldn't think of a thing to say about them.  

FICTION

1. Replica by Lauren Oliver:  The most interesting thing about this book is its format: one side tells the story of a clone named Lyra and the other tells the story of a teenage girl named Gemma, and after reading one side of the story in whichever order you choose, you flip the book over and read the other.  Aside from the novelty factor, though, there's not much to recommend it.

2. The Patterns of Paper Monsters by Emma Rathbone:  Jacob Higgins is a teenage boy living in a juvenile detention facility.  While he’s there, he pines for a girl named Andrea and tries to figure out what a creepy resident named David is planning.  I still have no idea what the title means.

3. Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt:  When Lucy runs away with her high school English teacher, her sister Charlotte and guardian Iris try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

4. The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Jay Bonansinga:  Sequel etc., and not a very good one.  Christ, the author referred to a character as "the portly woman" three times in TWO PAGES.  We get it, Norma is portly, stop fatshaming the poor chick.

5. Paris for One by Jojo Moyes:  A novella and eight short stories by the author of Me Before You.

6. IQ* by Joe Ide:  Isaiah Quintabe is known around the neighborhood as IQ in deference to his intellect.  He solves cases and charges those who can afford it higher rates to make up for the people who can only pay him in tires and blueberry muffins, but there are far more of the latter than the former, so a job involving a rapper is just the cash cow he's been hoping for...if he doesn't get killed in the process.  Really different and enjoyable; think Sherlock Holmes in the hood.  The epilogue hints at a sequel, and I'll definitely pick that up too.

7. Chaos by Patricia Cornwell:  The discovery of a dead bicyclist turns out to have startling connections to Dr. Kay Scarpetta.  Meh for the most part, like most of Cornwell's recent novels, but the ending takes a very interesting turn.

8. The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati:  Catherine is a bipolar teenage girl who's stockpiling medication for the day that Zero (as she refers to depression) finally takes over.  But when she falls in love with a classmate and forms a close bond with a girl in her therapy group, she starts to gain hope for the future again.  Handled in a very sensitive and realistic way.

9. The Diabolic* by S.J. Kincaid:  Nemesis is a Diabolic, bred to have superhuman strength.  Her sole reason for existing is to protect Sidonia, the daughter of a galactic senator.  But when the emperor orders Sidonia to be sent to his kingdom, Nemesis undergoes body modification and goes in Sidonia's place.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, especially because the names are so goddamn goofy, but it was really good!   

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 115

NONFICTION

1. The Best of Dear Coquette: Shady Advice from a Raging Bitch Who Has No Business Answering Any of These Questions*:  I'd never heard of Dear Coquette, but I saw this on the shelf at the library and couldn't resist the title, so I had to pick it up.  Good choice!  Her advice is brutal but usually fair, and occasionally so sharply witty you could cut yourself on it.
 
2. Bandit by Molly Brodak:  A memoir of the author's relationship with her bank robber father.

3. On Living* by Kerry Egan:  The author, a hospice chaplain, reflects on the lessons the dying have taught her.  It may sound maudlin, preachy, or depressing, but it's absolutely not; it's very moving and thought provoking.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  21

MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Ajin vol. 8 by Gamon Sakurai

2. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 9 by Nico Tanigawa

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  60 volumes of manga and 18 graphic novels

MOVIES

1. Holidays:  An anthology of horror shorts revolving around different holidays.  The best were Easter, which featured a creepy Easter bunny/Jesus hybrid (and gave me a huge jump scare; I was watching it on Netflix with headphones and just about leaped out of my skin, which of course startled the shit out of G too) and Father's Day, which reminded me of Silent Hill 2 (music and general mood, not story).

2. X-Men: Apocalypse:  The X-Men team together to fight an ancient mutant named, yup, Apocalypse.  It could have been much better if Apocalypse had been a more interesting villain (and if they hadn't buried sexy Oscar Isaac under all that blue paint and prosthetics), but it's decent enough.  As usual, Quicksilver gets the best scene by far.

3. Disconnect:  A drama about a group of people and the effect technology has had on their lives.  Interesting character studies (and some nice eye candy in the form of Alexander Skarsgard and Max Thieriot), but not required viewing or anything.

4. The Legend of Tarzan:  Now living in London under his birth name of John Clayton, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard yet again, looking particularly nffff-able) is reluctant to go back to Africa, but he's convinced by an American to go and investigate rumors of slavery. 

5. Sausage Party:  In this extremely raunchy animated flick, the sentient food items living at a grocery store are excited to go out into the "great beyond", but when they find out what really happens to them, they stage a revolt.  Not nearly as funny as it should have been, but it has its moments, and I'll give it credit for a scene that shocked even me.

Side note:  the character design for the hot dog bun freaked me out.  WHY DID IT HAVE BOOBS.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  95

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

media update: October

Hey folks, what's the haps?  Not a whole lot is new with me, although there is a light at the end of the shit chute that is my job.  (Quick recap: a reorg meant all phones all the time for me and my fellow cube jockeys.)  But hark!  New boss emailed me and asked if I would be willing to work on a project that would keep me off phones 100% of the time.  I was like "Lady, unless the project involves crush videos, I'm your gal!"  (paraphrased)

Well, because absolutely nothing can ever be easy, the new project sucks balls.  It involves proprietary software that I've never used before, and it's about as user friendly as a barbed wire toilet seat.  I don't consider myself to be particularly stupid (math excepted), but this is making me feel like a real goddamn dunce.  I'm going to suck up my pride and ask for help tomorrow, because I don't want to go back on phones.  Shit, I had to log into phones today because the call volume was unusually high, and I was very quickly reminded WHY I hate phones so much.  Prime example, though not from today: a woman called and was pissed that Hertz gave her a Mercedes rental instead of a Jaguar (pronounced "JAG-you-are", because of course) and, AND, the car was "filthy".  I expressed empathy because we're supposed to even if we don't give a shit (and believe me, barring a fatality/serious injury call, we DON'T) and she said "Someone left a MAP in the glove compartment."  Oh no!  Not a MAP!!!!!!  God, the way she built up to this horrifying revelation, I thought she was going to say she found a turd or used condom in the car.

Despite taking 4 glorious days off as staycation, I didn't get much reading done this month, at least by my lofty standards.  The reasons are twofold:  SoCal's heat wave FINALLY eased up, which meant I walked on my work breaks instead of reading, and goddamn fucking Hidden City.  It's a downloadable game where you find hidden objects in crowded scenes.  It's got beautiful art and the barest of storylines, and in addition to the hidden object sections, it also has three minigames (as far as I know, anyway): a Minesweeper ripoff, a Bejeweled ripoff, and a memory card game.  It's about as addictive as black tar heroin and if the energy wasn't limited (i.e. once it runs out, you have to wait a while to play again, and it reups SLOOOOOOW), I would probably do little else.  I got G-Vo hooked on it and I feel so bad about it.  Don't download it.  It will eat your life.  Say nope to dope, ugh to drugs, and...uh...tough titty to Hidden City?  IDK IDK.

Anyway, on to the media update!  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. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess:  Victorian England is under attack by seven horrific creatures called the Ancients, and sorcerers are the only hope of killing the creatures.  Henrietta Howel is the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years, and as such is the prophesied "chosen one" who will end the fight once and for all, but she might not be up to the task.  The author's acknowledgements mention that a friend referred to this book as "Victorian Cthulu Harry Potter", which is pretty much dead on.  Mind you, it's nowhere near as good as the Harry Potter books, but despite a slow start, it got pretty good by the end.

2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: This is the sequel to Six of Crows, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

3. The Regulars by Georgia Clark:  Evie, Krista, and Willow are best friends and "regular" women who are trying to get by in New York City.  One day Krista is approached by a woman and given a bottle of "the Pretty", a magic potion that turns all of them spectacularly gorgeous.  Needless to say, the process has major complications, and shitting their pants during transformation is the least of it.  I saw this book described as a feminist fairy tale, and that description is pretty spot-on.  The writing is occasionally a bit clunky, but it's still a fun read.

4. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult:  Ruth is an African-American labor and delivery nurse who is told that the white supremacist parents of a newborn don't want her anywhere near them or their infant.  Ruth complies, but when she's the only nurse around, the baby goes into cardiac arrest and she hesitates before performing CPR.  The baby dies, and Ruth is charged with murder.  This is the first Picoult novel I've finished in a long time, and reading it, I was reminded why I peaced out on her last 3 books.  It's got an intriguing premise, but it's SO frickin' heavy-handed and melodramatic, and there's a twist near the end that sucked BAAAAAAAAAAALLS.  (I don't normally say if something has a twist because that's kind of a spoiler, but saying a Jodi Picoult book has a twist in it is like saying an M. Night Shyamalan movie has a twist in it; people expect it by now.)

5. The Black Key by Amy Ewing:  Sequel etc.

6. The Trespasser* by Tana French:  Irish detective Antoinette Conway is finding her plum gig on the Murder Squad a bit different than she expected; everybody but her partner seems to hate her, pissing in her locker and Photoshopping her face onto porno pictures.  She thinks she may have finally landed a case that will make everybody respect her, but of course there are complications.  A typically excellent thriller from Tana French, and BOY can she nail an ending.  I've read every one of her books, and I don't think there's been a single one where I didn't think the ending was perfect.

7. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things* by Bryn Greenwood:   Wavy's father is a drug dealer and her mother is mentally ill, so she's left to her own devices most of the time, which is the way she likes it.  She's obsessed with constellations, and one night she's staring up at the sky when a man passing by wrecks his motorcycle.  The man is Kellen, an associate of Wavy's father, and they form a sweet friendship that other people don't seem to understand.

Boy, is this a hard one to review, because I really don't want to spoil it.  Suffice it to say that it's beautifully written and extremely uncomfortable reading at times.  It's probably the only book I've ever read where I agreed with both the 5 star and at least one of the 1 star ratings on Amazon.

8. Arrowood* by Laura McHugh:  When Arden Arrowood was eight years old, her twin sisters vanished and were never seen again.  As an adult, Arden moves back into her family's historic house hoping to discover what really happened on the day the twins disappeared. 


2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 106


NONFICTION

1. This Is Not My Beautiful Life by Victoria Fedden:  While her house was being renovated, the pregnant author and her husband moved into her parents' beautiful Florida mansion.  Unfortunately, she found out just where all that money came from when her parents were charged with wire fraud and money laundering.  An interesting read that will remind you that your family ain't so dysfunctional after all.  (Well, probably; I don't know your life.)


2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 18


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. A Bride's Story* vol. 8 by Kaoru Mori

2. The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 6 by Aya Shouoto

3. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 9 by Go Ikeyamada

4. My Love Story!!** vol. 10 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  This is by FAR my favorite currently running manga series.  The characters are just goddamn delightful!

5. Food Wars! vol. 14 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki:  Man, there sure are a lot of manga titles with exclamation points in 'em (and even double exclamation points, like #3 and #4 above.)

6. The Greatest of Marlys* by Lynda Barry

7. Say I Love You vol. 16 by Kanae Hazuki

8. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

9. Trashed by Derf Backderf


2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 18 graphic novels and 58 volumes of manga


MOVIES

1. The Shallows*:  While surfing, Nancy (Blake Lively) is attacked by a shark and has to fight to stay alive.  Very tense and exciting; I'm glad we didn't see this in the theater because we kept yelling at the screen!

2. The Neon Demon:  Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles to become a model and finds herself the target of jealous bitches in this visually stunning but heavy handed and poorly acted flick.  My friend Ruth said it was like Showgirls without the laughs, which is spot on.  Please see my previous two entries if you'd like a more detailed (and, fair warning, spoiler-filled) review.

3. The Jungle Book*:  In this live action (well, sort of!) adaptation of the classic novel/Disney cartoon, man-cub Mowgli explores his jungle home with his animal friends and tries to avoid the very nasty tiger Shere Khan in the process.  The CGI is fantastic, and I appreciated the fact that it didn't end the same way as the animated movie did.

4. Neighbors 2:  Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are about to sell their house, but a sorority moves in next door, putting the sale in jeopardy.  Fortunately, their former nemesis (Zac Efron) is willing to help them drive the sorority away.  Uneven in several spots, but often very funny.

5. Ghostbusters:  Hoo boy.  I WANTED to like this reboot, because it passes the Bechdel test in spades and it has such a great cast and it got so much hate before it even came out, but it just was not good at all.

6. The Big Short*:  A group of people working in finance predict the housing bubble collapse of 2008, and they decide to bet against the banks and make a fortune.  Fascinating and surprisingly funny; it won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and rightfully so.

7. Dead Rising: Endgame:  Reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) discovers that the government and pharmaceutical giant Phenotrans are in cahoots to profit off the zombie apocalypse, and he must expose the plot before millions of people are killed.  Nowhere near as good as the first movie, largely because they took it way too seriously (and if you've ever played the Dead Rising games, you KNOW how wonderfully goofy they are), and the zombie action takes way too long to get started, but it has its moments.  Currently streaming for free on Crackle, although you will have to sit through the same McDonald's/Call of Duty ads over and over again.

8. The Purge: Election Year:  A presidential candidate vows to eliminate the Purge (a yearly occasion when all crimes are legal for 12 hours), which puts her squarely in the crosshairs on Purge Night.  Scary, but nowhere near as scary as this ACTUAL election year.

Side note:  one thing I appreciate about the Purge series is that although all crime is legal on Purge night, they've never shown or even hinted at sexual assault, which I really appreciate.  (I could be forgetting something, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this, and I'm not just saying that.)


2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 90

Friday, October 07, 2016

The Neon Demon: part 2

Y'all really gonna make me continue this?  Ugh, fine.  Here's the second (and thankfully final) part of my review of The Neon Demon.  This will make no sense unless you've read the previous entry, and probably not even then. 

***MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD***

When last we left our lovely heroine Jesse, she had just passed out after receiving flowers.  Dean decides to go pay Keanu Reeves a visit and pay for the damages done by the mountain lion that inexplicably found its way into Jesse's room.  Keanu continues to be a skeeze and tells Dean that there's a 13-year-old runaway in the room next to Jesse if he's interested.  "Real Lolita shit," Keanu says charmingly.  Dean is repulsed and peaces out.

Later on, Jesse and Gigi are getting ready for a runway show.  Oddly enough, although Gigi  is wearing some real dramatic clown-ass makeup in her reflection, her actual face is bare.  Whoa dudes!  Is it a clumsy art school metaphor for things not being what they seem?  Of course it is because that's how this movie DO, yo.  Gigi tells Jesse about all the work she's had done and then adds "Anything worth having hurts a little", which: groan.  During the show, we see that inverted Triforce logo again and Jesse kisses her reflection (BETA KITTEN PROGRAMMING) and yawn.

After the show, Jesse gets dressed up in a gold halter top and black "Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease" pants and she looks really fucking hot.  (I checked IMDB to make sure Elle Fanning was at least 18 before writing that.)  She and Dean go to a bar and run into the designer, Gigi, and Sarah.  Dean introduces himself and the designer snipes, "Your name's BEAN?"  Oh, the comedy!!!  The designer starts blathering on about how Jesse is so gorgeous because she hasn't had anything done and adds "Beauty isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing", which: Groan 2, Electric Boogaloo.  Jesse starts acting like a bitch and Dean doesn't like it, which of course is completely fair.

Back at the motel, Jesse is asleep and Keanu lets himself into her room and starts sliding a knife into her mouth and down her throat.  She wakes up, of course, and he says "Wider".  This scene is really fucking gross and uncomfortable and reminded me of the chicken scene in Killer Joe.  (Side note: I saw Killer Joe in the theater because the movie I wanted to see was cancelled and there was a guy behind me that absolutely CHORTLED during that scene, and I wanted to fucking haul off and smack him.)  It turns out to be a dream, which is good and makes it less icky but honestly, I was squirming.  Things continue to be cringeworthy when Jesse hears someone next door (presumably the 13-year-old runaway) being sexually assaulted.  She calls Ruby instead of, you know, the POLICE, and Ruby tells her to come over, which she does.

Ruby is housesitting, and after Jesse takes a shower, Ruby starts brushing out Jesse's hair in my grandmother's room circa 1983.  Ruby starts getting really excited and tries to have sex with Jesse despite Jesse's protestations, saying "I want to be your first" and instantly losing her place as the most sympathetic character in the movie.  Jesse rebuffs her and Ruby isn't happy about it.  She draws a big face with X'ed out eyes on the mirror.  FORESHADOWING ALERT.  Also, she is a terrible housesitter and, as it turns out, morgue assistant because...

...oh god...

...she goes to her second job at the morgue and is putting makeup on a female corpse when she begins thinking about Jesse.  She closes the door and strips off her gloves and now we see why the rating advisory at the beginning mentioned a "scene of aberrant sexuality".  Yes, Ruby begins fondling the corpse's breasts and Y-incision (vomit) and then reaches between her/its legs and rubbing vigorously.  I couldn't tell if she was rubbing herself or the corpse and frankly that is the one small kindness this movie did for me.

Tangent time!  I once had a very long and heated argument with a dorm mate over whether necrophilia was truly a victimless crime.  (This argument was precipitated by a viewing of Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Animation Festival, which had a really horrifying cartoon about necrophilia that upset me so much I was in tears and had to go to the lobby until it was over.)  His argument was that necrophilia is a victimless crime, and I said although the corpse couldn't really be called a victim, the deceased's friends/family could be considered victims because who the hell would want to learn that their loved one had been used like that?  This was what college life consisted of pre-internet.

Okay, so Ruby gets back from a hard night of corpse friggin' and Jesse has put bright pink makeup and glitter all around her eyes.  All I could think about was how much that glitter would hurt if it got in her eyes and I wanted to offer her a bottle of Visine.  She's standing on the diving board of the empty pool talking about how hot she is and how "women would kill to look like this".  First of all, arrogant much, and second, FORESHADOWING.  "[Women] are praying they'll look like a second-rate version of me" and I was like stay grounded, sis.

Well, Jesse never gets a chance to redeem herself in the viewer's eyes, because when she goes back inside, she's attacked by Sarah and Gigi.  They chase her around and when they corner her back outside, they push her into the pool where she appears to bleed out.  Then we see a blood-covered Ruby in a tub, watching Sarah and Gigi shower for what seems like twenty minutes.  It's like an Andrew Blake porno but with WAY more blood.

Now Ruby is outside wearing nothing but really ugly pants.  She's watering the plants and takes a moment to wash Jesse's blood off the concrete.  Then she's lying in a grave she's dug in the garden.  I will not be giving her a good review on Angie's List.  Then she's back inside and blood is gushing out from between her legs because I don't know why.

But what of Sarah and Gigi?  Well, they're at a seaside mansion, where Gigi is getting prepped for a photo shoot next to another model who asks Sarah about her competition.  Sarah says "I ate her" and the other model laughs and says "Ew".  Oh, if you only knew, unnamed model!  Quinn from Dexter decides he wants Gigi to be in the shoot instead and sends Anonymodel away.  Sarah and Gigi are standing outside and Gigi starts looking all sweaty and uncomfortable.  She runs away and goes inside, where the wallpaper has swastikas on it (?!?!?), and she tries desperately to puke.  Sarah comes inside and watches dispassionately as Gigi cries and then, ugh, barfs up one of Jesse's (just assuming here) eyeballs.  Gigi screams "I need to get her out of me!" and stabs herself in the stomach as Sarah just stands there doing everything but examining her fingernails and yawning.  Sarah grabs the eyeball out of the puke pile and eats it, because of course she does, and then she goes back outside to become America's Next Top Really Fucked Up Model. 

At this point, the screen changed to a shot of dry cracked ground and I thought "goddammit, I thought this fucking movie was over" but thank Christ, it was!  The credits started rolling and Sia started singing and FINALLY, my 2-hour nightmare was over.

What did I like about TND?  Well, it was visually striking and the score was quite good, but other than that, it fucking blew.  As my friend Ruth said, it was Showgirls without the laughs.  The acting was dreadful, the writing was clunky, and what was the point, anyway?  That the modeling industry eats up young women and spits them out?  Because if THAT was the point, then goddamn, it was about as subtle as, well, neon.  (Speaking of which, why the hell was it called The Neon Demon anyway?)

Look, if you want a movie with a similar feel/aesthetic, here are some much better ones you could watch:  Suspiria.  Mulholland Drive.  Starry Eyes.  Entrance.  Black Swan.  The Hunger.  But take my advice and give TND a hard pass, as everyone involved in this flick should have.

And Sarah?  Next time, try the steak sandwich instead. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Neon Demon: part 1

So I started watching The Neon Demon (hereafter referred to as TND) a couple of nights ago, and about 30 minutes in, I realized just how hypnotically awful it really was.  I decided to grab a notepad and a pen and start again from the beginning so I could write this entry, because I need to talk about just HOW fucking weird and terrible TND really is.  I'm going to discuss it in detail, so if you have any interest in watching it---which, honestly, you really shouldn't---then you should back out now.  This will be your last warning.

***MASSIVE SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT***

The Neon Demon is a 2016 film by Nicolas Winding Refn, director of Drive and Only God Forgives.  As you can tell from those two titles, he's created some really polarizing work, and TND is no exception; in fact, it was booed at the Cannes Film Festival AND it received a standing ovation.

The movie opens with a shot of a young woman (Elle Fanning) sprawled out on a couch with her throat slit and her face bejeweled like a dollar store Mardi Gras mask.  Oh no!  What happened to her?  Fear not; the camera pulls back and we see that she's actually doing a photoshoot.  Why would any fashion spread feature a murdered young woman?  Because ~FASHION~, darling.  This is not as outlandish as it may seem, by the way; one only needs to look at the Symbolic Pictures of the Month column on Vigilant Citizen to see that photoshoots featuring death and/or violence aren't exactly rare in fashion magazines.  I mean, seriously, this was an ACTUAL FUCKING AD:


Granted, it certainly catches your eye, but how does a dog biting a woman's wrist make you want to buy fucking jewelry, exactly?  Also I hope that model got paid REALLY well and that dog was REALLY well trained, because holy shit.

Back to TND, if we must.  Our bloody model is named Jesse, who's 16 years old and has just moved to Los Angeles to make it big as a model.  (Seems like New York City would be a better bet, but if you're looking for logic, you came to the wrong movie.)  After the shoot, she's standing in a dressing room, listlessly wiping at her arms with a moist towelette.  There's a woman watching her in a mirror, and oh boy did they pull the "predatory lesbian" character straight out of the ol' cliche playbook.  This is Ruby (Jena Malone), and she's a makeup artist.  She invites Jesse to a party at a club, and in the bathroom, Jesse gets to meet Gigi and Sarah, two other models who alternate between fawning over Jesse and being intensely bitchy to her.  "I hear your parents are dead."  Gee, thanks for ripping off that emotional scab, Gigi/Sarah/whoever the fuck it was.  When they leave the bathroom, which by the way is pretty deserted for a club, the music goes straight up Silent Hill 2 and they watch a performance which...well...I can't really tell you what happened because the strobe lights went into overdrive, which is a surefire migraine trigger for me.  So I looked away for that part, but I doubt I missed much.

The next day, Jesse goes to a modeling agency where she talks with an agent played by the effortlessly gorgeous Christina Hendricks.  "I would never say you're fat," Christina tells Jesse.  Why, thank you!  Christina also says something about how girls come to LA thinking they can be models because some dude named Chad in a mall food court told them they were pretty, and I'll be honest, I got a genuine laugh out of that one.  Christina is pretty impressed by Jesse, and she signs her under the condition that Jesse tells everyone she's 19, because sure why not.

That night, Jesse goes on a date with Dean, the guy who was taking her picture at the beginning of the movie.  She twirls around with the lights of Los Angeles all fuzzy in the background and it's very prettily shot and dreamy.  She says something about the moon being a big eye in the sky and ILLUMINATI REFERENCE and also cliche.  Dean takes her back to her crappy motel (I'd ask how she managed to rent a room when she's only 16, but it's the kind of place that doesn't care) and doesn't walk her up to her room, which: seriously?  The place is totally sketchy and probably has at least one or two meth addicts and pimps roaming around, so maybe escort a young lady to her front door.  Jesse opens the door, tries to turn on the lights, and they don't work.  She sees the sliding glass door is open and something is looming in the shadows, so she understandably freaks and jets right on out of there.

So Jesse runs downstairs and bangs on the manager's door.  Oh look, it's Keanu Reeves!  Keanu ain't happy about being bothered and proceeds to bust out some really terrible acting.  Oy, Keanu.  He's very good looking and by all accounts is a genuinely nice guy IRL (I read basically every celebrity gossip site/rag and have never seen a bad word about him, which is really saying something; I've even seen shit about Tom Hanks, for chrissakes), but the man cannot act.  (I refer you to the "Whaaaaaat did you SAY to him?" line from The Devil's Advocate if you want to argue with me.)   He and his baseball bat wielding friend, who I'll call Negan because I can't remember his actual name and who gives a fuck, go upstairs to check it out.  Guess what's in the room?  Why, it's a mountain lion!  Why is everyone so blase about it instead of fleeing and calling 911?  How did it get into a room on the second floor?  How did it fuck with the lights?  Why is it roaring like a REAL lion when they don't actually do that?  Shhhh, logic has no place here.

Keanu is pissed!  He wants Jesse to pay for the damages!  What a dick! 

The next day (where did she sleep while the mountain lion was in her room?  IDK IDK), Jesse goes to a test shoot and Ruby's there.  Ruby decides to decorate Jesse's face with gold leaf, which makes her look like a Final Fantasy character.  Unfortunately, Jesse is wearing a sundress, and the effect is really fucking incongruous.  She needs to be in Alexander McQueen with makeup like that, not Forever 21!  Seriously, look at this shit:


"Use the Amulet of Lethe for +10 damage against the neon demon"

The test shoot is with a photographer named Jack, who is played by Desmond Harrington.  I've got a soft spot for Desmond because he played Joey Quinn in Dexter and had one of the hottest sex scenes I've ever seen on TV, wherein he went down on Brandon Routh's wife (trivia!) and yeah, it was high noon on my sundial.  Unfortunately, he went through a spell where he was looking borderline cadaverous, but he's looking a bit better now.  Still not at his Quinn peak, but at least he doesn't look like a strong wind would knock him over.

Jack tells everyone to leave the room, and I was like "Um, get the fuck out of there, girl."  Ruby doesn't like this either, because she's smart, and she offers to stay, but Jack tells her to piss off, which she does.  Fortunately, and much to my pleasant surprise, Jack does not have bad intentions despite telling Jesse to take off all her clothes.  He smears her with gold paint and I was like "Uh, you better leave a bare patch or she'll suffocate like the Goldfinger chick" but he leaves her face clean aside from the shit Ruby applied earlier.  (Between the gold paint and the fake blood, I sure hope Elle Fanning has a good dermatologist because this movie probably wrecked her skin.)  She probably would have been better off suffocating under gold paint than going through later events and oh yeah, did I mention I'm going to spoil the shit out of this movie?  'Cause I am!

After the shoot, Ruby tells Jesse to be careful around Jack and also to call her any time if she needs anything.  She does everything but wink at her and say "I mean scissoring" here.  Ruby goes to lunch with Gigi and Sarah who continue to be nasty bitches.  The waitress starts to recite the specials, one of them (they are basically interchangeable) says "We don't need to hear that" and the other one says "Oh, but they work so hard to memorize them!"  One of the specials is a steak sandwich with fries, which sounds fucking delicious and I will have that, please.  But they get three coffees and a fruit cup, which is boring and also sounds like a surefire way to get diarrhea.  They talk about Jesse and Ruby says "She has that...thing."  Very specific.  Thanks for that.

At a casting call, all of the models are wearing only bras and panties.  They do a quick walk for a designer who is more interested in folding his pocket square over and over again.  But Jesse catches his eye!  He even puts down his pocket square!  He wants her to close the show.  Sarah is not pleased and punches out the mirror in the bathroom, fracturing her reflection.  (Yet another Illuminati reference.)  Jesse comes in and Sarah does a whole "woe is me" routine and says "In the middle of winter, you're the sun."  Well, Sarah, if modeling doesn't work out for you, you could always write Hallmark cards.  Jesse accidentally cuts her hand on broken glass and Sarah lunges for her and licks the blood off her hand.  Jesse doesn't like this, because duh, and she flees.  She does a lot of fleeing in this flick.  It's a flee flicker!  (LOL FOOTBALL REFERENCE LOL)

Jesse goes back to Motel Shit and the mountain lion has bounced.  She starts hallucinating triangles that look like an upside down Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series.  Yep, another Illuminati reference.  (Disclaimer: I don't actually believe in the Illuminati, but I love a good conspiracy theory and I know what the symbols are.)  Then some hands come pushing out of the wallpaper like a scene from American Horror Story: Hotel.  Dean shows up with flowers and Jesse takes them and faints very prettily on the carpet.  Her blonde hair streams out around her face, the flowers land just so, and she looks like a beautiful corpse.  FORESHADOWING AHOY!

At this point, I had to stop the movie and write up this entry while it was still fresh in my mind.  Lucky you.  Stay tuned for the next installment!










Friday, September 30, 2016

media update: September

Ugh, what a weird month.  My job continues its merry spiral down the shitter as they've taken all of the physical work away from us and basically turned us into a call center.  As you may recall, I started with this company in the ACTUAL call center and fucking hated it, and that hasn't changed.  The only good thing about this "call center" as opposed to the initial one is that they aren't randomly scoring our calls.  Everything else, though, remains sucktacular:  rude and/or stupid people, constant emails from management nitpicking over your average call time/why you took 2 extra minutes of lunch (not kidding), etc.  I was actually sort of enjoying the work they had us doing, which of course is why they had to take it away.

And if THAT bit of asscrackery wasn't enough, they added to the fecal fiesta by changing the way we request time off (mixed bag) and update our timecard.  The new system is about as user-friendly as a barbed wire dildo, so it's been a lot of fun figuring THAT out!

One final peanut in the turd sundae is that they're closing our lobby down.  It sounds counterintuitive, but the receptionist doesn't have to answer phone calls; she only has to sign for packages and direct visitors to the right place and so on.  Needless to say, she is STEAMED at having to come back here and answer calls with the rest of us peons, and I don't blame her.  I'm personally irritated by this because every once in a while, I have to cover lobby and it is fucking awesome.  It's basically like an additional, really long break because I can read or putz around online while waiting to help people.  Shit, sometimes I'm up there for 90 minutes and don't have to do a single fucking thing!  So yeah, the closure of the lobby is not a good thing.

In less obnoxious news, my work bestie J, who transferred to Arizona 6 months ago, came out for a visit so I got to spend a lot of time with her, and G's sister, brother-in-law, and youngest nephew were also here for a few days.  We went to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA, and it was really cool.  If you're a GdT fan and live in/are planning to visit Los Angeles anytime soon, it's definitely worth seeing.

Anyway, on to the media update, which is a big 'un again since SoCal hasn't gotten the memo that it's actually fall now.  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. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn:  Mercedes is a girl with an interesting secret: she specializes in deflowering teenage boys in hopes that they'll then go on to provide the perfect first time for their girlfriends.  But obviously she can't keep her hobby a secret forever, and when her best friend's boyfriend doesn't take kindly to Mercedes' refusal to help him, shit gets complicated.  Not badly written, but completely unrealistic; I didn't believe a word of it for a second.

2. Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry:  When Nora arrives at her sister's house for a visit, she discovers that Rachel has been stabbed to death.  Nora becomes obsessed with finding the killer, so instead of going home after the funeral, she stays in town to investigate.  It's a good mystery, but where it really shines is in its exploration of grief.  (The title refers to a C.S. Lewis quote comparing grief to being trapped "under the harrow"; a harrow is a sharp agricultural tool.  The quote is at the beginning of the book, but I had to google harrow!)

3. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena:  Bogged down by postpartum depression, Anne doesn't want to go to a party next door, and when her babysitter cancels, she looks at it as a golden opportunity to stay home.  Her husband Marco convinces her that their daughter will be fine alone, so Anne reluctantly drags the baby monitor with her and she checks on Cora at regular intervals.  But when Anne and Marco get home, they discover that Cora is missing.  The writing seemed really off at times, to the point that I wondered if it had been translated from a different language, which it hadn't. Not only that, but this book made me SO FUCKING ANGRY because it was all so cliched and stupid and obvious and argh.  Some major authors provided blurbs on the back cover, but do not be fooled. I hereby proclaim this novel an overrated turd.

4. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow:  After being discharged from a mental health facility, Charlie heads to Tucson to start her life over, but the strain of being on her own is making her want to cut again.  It's pretty good, but because it contains several graphic descriptions of self-injury, I've got to slap a big trigger warning here. 

5. The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood:  When she was a teenager, Mila's 3-year-old half-sister Coco disappeared during their father's debauched 50th birthday party.  12 years later, their father has died, and Mila reluctantly agrees to take Ruby, Coco's twin sister, to the funeral.  But many of the people who were present on the night of Coco's disappearance are also at the funeral, and some long buried skeletons begin bobbing up to the surface.  I didn't like it as much as Marwood's previous novels, but damned if the epilogue didn't give me goosebumps.

6. The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel:  This is the sequel to The Moon in the Palace, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

7. Loner by Teddy Wayne:  David is extremely smart but very socially awkward.  When he arrives at Harvard for his freshman year, he meets a beautiful young woman named Veronica, but his infatuation spirals into obsession.  Unnerving and creepy.

Side note: if you're interested in reading this novel, do NOT read the blurbs on the back first as one of them contains a massive spoiler. 

8. Losing It* by Emma Rathbone:  Julia is a 26-year-old virgin who isn't particularly happy about that fact.  She quits her job and moves in with her aunt Viv for the summer, only to discover that Viv is also a virgin.  Julia becomes even more determined to lose her virginity so she doesn't end up like Viv, but is being like her aunt really such a bad thing?  Funny and strangely touching.

9. Empire of Storms* by Sarah J. Maas:  Sequel etc.

10. Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger:  Rob is excited to go on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods with his boyfriend Liam, Liam's best friend Mia, and Mia's boyfriend Galen, but it soon becomes obvious that someone else doesn't want them there.  I appreciated the fact that it had a gay protagonist, but the rest of it was just meh, and the ending was pretty much exactly like [movie title withheld to avoid spoilers].

11. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis:  When her older sister Anna was murdered, Alex tracked down the culprit and killed him.  You'd think that would be the end of it, but Alex's desire to mete out justice has only gotten stronger.  Not as Dexter-esque as that synopsis makes it sound.

12. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake:  Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of female triplets is born.  One has the power to control the elements, one can control animals and plants, and one is immune to poison (which is a pretty shitty power in comparison!).  They're all equal heirs to the throne, but when they turn 16, they have to kill their sisters in order to become queen.  The premise was much better than the execution, though I'll admit that the ending was so good that I'll probably pick up the next one when it comes out.

13. All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker:  After a teenage girl is brutally raped, she undergoes a controversial treatment that removes the memory of the trauma...but is it really gone?  Some provocative ideas and an interesting conclusion.

14. The Kept Woman* by Karin Slaughter:  When a dead body is found at a construction site, it turns out to have startling links to detective Will Trent.  As you'd expect from Karin Slaughter, it's engrossing as hell and filled with plenty of surprises.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  98

NONFICTION

1. Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family's Journey Through the Belly of Japan* by Michael Booth:  Curious about Japanese food, the author took his wife and two young sons on a culinary adventure through Japan (lucky).  A really fun book that (as you can imagine!) made me ravenously hungry.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 17

MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Citrus vol. 5 by Saburouta

2. Dragon's Breath by MariNaomi

3. The Walking Dead** vol. 26 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard:  This series has gotten SO GODDAMN GOOD that I read this volume twice.

4. Your Lie in April by Naoshi Arakawa

5. Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 15 graphic novels and 52 volumes of manga

MOVIES

1. Keanu:  Rell (Jordan Peele) has been depressed since breaking up with his girlfriend, but when an adorable kitten shows up on his doorstep, it's just the thing to make him feel better again.   But when Keanu is stolen, Rell and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) pose as drug dealers in order to get the kitten back.  It's about as dumb as it sounds, and I wish the kitten had been in it more because goddamn that is a cute fuckin' kitten, but it had some good laughs.

2. The Intern:  70-year-old Ben (Robert DeNiro) has been in a rut since retiring, so he jumps at the opportunity to serve as an intern for an online fashion company.  His new boss Jules (Anne Hathaway) is high-strung and not too thrilled about having to mentor Ben, but he soon makes himself indispensable.  Gentle and endearing, and DeNiro and Hathaway have great (platonic!) chemistry together.

3. Batman: The Killing Joke:  Based on the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore (who, in his usual grumpy way, refused to have his name on this movie) in which the Joker proceeds to do some very horrible things to Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon.  The animation is pretty blah, but the story is good aside from one absolutely perplexing and decidedly gross scene that wasn't in the original source material.

4. Midnight Special:  A man (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his young son, who has some very strange powers.  Do not believe the rave reviews; it's not a bad movie, but it wasn't all that great either.

5. Take Me to the River:  A family reunion turns ugly when a teenage boy named Ryder is accused of sexually assaulting his young cousin and his mother has a strange reaction to her brother's claim.  Beautifully acted, but really unnerving.

6. Hush:  Maddie is a deaf writer who lives deep in the woods.  When a masked murderer shows up and tries to kill her, she has to use all of her wits to survive.  Surprisingly good for a low budget horror movie, probably due to the fact that it was co-written by the same guy who wrote Oculus, and I appreciated the fact that it avoided some of the more tiresome horror cliches.

7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping:  A raunchy mockumentary about a singer named Connor4Real and his rise to the top.  The concert scenes are so funny that everything else completely pales in comparison.

8. Now You See Me 2:  The Four Horsemen are recruited to steal a priceless piece of tech that will allow its user to hack into any computer on the planet.  This was an odd movie in that a really fun or exciting scene would be followed (or preceded) by something almost unbearably embarrassing to watch.  Mark Ruffalo remains the tastiest of dishes, though.

9. Me Before You*:  Perpetually cheerful Lou (Emilia Clarke, who's absolutely charming) is hired to look after Will Traynor, a bitter quadriplegic.  Lou wants to show him that life's worth living, but it might be too big a task for her.  The book made me cry; the movie made me wail.

Side note: Charles Dance is also in this movie, so it was kind of weird seeing Tywin Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen interacting and not trying to kill each other!

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 82

Thursday, September 08, 2016

rubbed the wrong way

During my lunch break, I got to experience the kind of embarrassment that makes you feel like your entire body has been engulfed in flames.

A bit of backstory first: 

There's a massage school in my city where you can get super cheap massages from the students because they need hands-on (pun intended) hours to get their certification.  By "super cheap", I mean $30 for an hour of full body massage.  They also have a few graduates who either haven't gotten jobs elsewhere or want to make some cash on the side, and they get $45 an hour.  Still cheap, but generally not worth the extra money.  Obviously, some of the massage therapists are better than others, but I've been going there at least once a month for the last 11 years, and I've only had a few really bad experiences.

Anyway, like Bill Clinton, I always prefer a female intern.  It's not like I think the male therapists are going to do something awful to me; the doors don't have locks, and it's such a small office that a scream would bring someone running.  But like every woman in the history of the world, I have body image issues, so I really don't want any strange dudes checking out my goods.

But last month, they didn't have any female interns OR graduates available, and my shoulders felt like granite and I was stressed out as hell, so I went ahead and booked a massage with a male graduate named Tony.

What can I say about Tony?  Well, Tony turned out to be pretty fuckin' awesome.  He has the warmest hands ever and his playlist (ambient, Hotel-era Moby, stuff like that) is a very welcome change from the usual Enya/whale songs/Gregorian chants.  Plus he's just really, really talented.  Sometimes he can be a bit too rough---I swear we need to set up a safe word---but he's always very quick to ease up when I say something.  I've seen him three times now, and he's definitely worth the extra money, especially because the effects of the massage actually last for a few days.  Usually I go to bed the night of a massage and wake up the next day with my shoulders and neck just as tense as they were before, but not when Tony works on me.

As far as how Tony looks, he's basically a human version of the city of Portland, Oregon.  He's got a man bun and a beard and his arms and legs are covered in tribal tattoos.  He looks like he knows every vegan restaurant in the area and he probably attends a drum circle at least once or twice a year.  I don't mean any of this in a pejorative way; I'm just trying to give you a general idea of what he's like.

Okay, back to today.  (You:  "JFC, about time!")  I had to go to the bank on my lunch break, and the ATM is located inside a grocery store, so after I got my money, I decided to grab a few things.  I walked into the beverage aisle and lo and behold, there was Tony!  He was with a woman in a batik skirt and a "Free Tibet" shirt, i.e. exactly the type of woman I'd expect Tony to be with.  I don't know if they were actually together or not, but the vibe between them sure read as romantic to me.

As they approached, I said, "Hey, Tony!"

He squinted at me and said "...hi?" in a voice that sounded like he was trying to place where he knew me from.

I said, "Oh, sorry, I'm [name].  You probably didn't recognize me when I'm not lying down!"

And that's how I know embarrassment will not actually kill you; it will just make you wish you were dead.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

media update: August

Another blisteringly hot month, another meaty media update!

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.


FICTION

1. And I Darken by Kiersten White:  Lada and her brother Radu are given by their father to the sultan of the Ottoman empire as political collateral.  Lada dreams of revenge, but things get complicated when she falls in love with the sultan's son.  I'm not ordinarily big on political fiction, but I enjoyed this book because it was unusual for a YA novel in that the heroine is both ugly and mean.  (There was another unusual facet, but it's a spoiler, so I can't share it here.)

2. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware:  Still traumatized by a recent break-in at her home, journalist Lo Blacklock jumps at the chance to take a gig reporting on a luxury cruise.  But one night in her cabin, she hears a scream next door, and rushes out onto the veranda just in time to see a body fall into the water.  She immediately reports the incident, but all of the passengers and crew are accounted for, and there's no sign that anyone was ever in cabin 10.  Is Lo losing her mind, or did something really happen?  Not nearly as compelling as the author's previous book (In a Dark, Dark Wood, which received one of my rare double star ratings), but still a nifty little mystery.

3. A Time of Torment* by John Connolly:  When Jerome Burnel intervened to stop a homicide, he inadvertently made himself the target of some very bad people, who proceeded to ruin his life.  He goes to private investigator Charlie Parker with his story, and Charlie agrees to look into it, which puts Charlie in the crosshairs of a reclusive community that really, REALLY hates outsiders.  Connolly's books have been hit or miss the last couple of years, but this one (despite a couple of florid passages) is a definite hit.

4. The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson:  This is the final book in the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors.

5. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott:  Devon is a gymnastics prodigy whose parents, Kate and Eric, have high hopes that she'll make it to the Olympics someday.  But when an unexpected death rocks the community, Kate is forced to take a closer look at her life and what she's willing to do to ensure her daughter's success.  I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but I will say this: Megan Abbott sure knows how to write about teenage girls in a realistic way.  (See also The Fever and Dare Me.)

6. I'm Thinking of Ending Things* by Iain Reid:  I really don't want to spoil this book, because I think the less you know about it going in, the better.  It didn't end as well as I would have hoped, but I still decided to give it a star because parts of it made me so tense I was actually nauseated.  It would make a fantastic movie.

7. The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy:  Lana is devastated when her stepbrother Ben is murdered.  But then the body of Ben's girlfriend is found, and more bodies start popping up, some with bizarre links to stories Ben had told her.  I loved the author's previous book The Creeping, but this one was a bit disappointing, largely because I figured out where it was going pretty early on.

8. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris:  Grace seems to have it all: she's beautiful, she has a gorgeous house, and she's married to a handsome and rich attorney who adores her.  But why does Grace keep backing out on hanging out with her friends, and why is her purse completely empty?  The writing can be a bit choppy and the ending seemed very rushed, but it's still a diverting read.

Side rant: I am so freakin' tired of every single psychological thriller in the last few years being compared to Gone Girl and/or The Girl on the Train.  It's almost never accurate (seriously, I can think of ONE book in the last three years where that comparison even came close to fitting) and it's fucking lazy to boot.

9. Harmony* by Carolyn Parkhurst:  Tilly is a 13-year-old girl with emotional problems that nobody seems to be able to diagnose; she's smart as hell, but prone to things like repeatedly touching her head to the floor of a restaurant and making inappropriate comments.  (On page 6, she's telling her father that she's going to suck his cock.)  Desperate for help, her parents take her and her younger sister Iris to Camp Harmony, a place run by a child behavior expert named Scott Bean, but will it be a place of healing or make things even worse?

Carolyn Parkhurst's novel The Dogs of Babel was one of my ten favorites of all time until relatively recently, so I was anxious to get my hands on this, and it did NOT disappoint.

10. Watching Edie by Camilla Way:  Edie and Heather were friends in high school until one terrible night wrenched them apart.  Now Edie is living alone with her baby daughter, and just when it seems she'll collapse under the strain, Heather reappears in her life.  At first Heather is a huge help with the baby, but Edie begins to wonder if Heather's intentions are completely benevolent.  A compelling psychological thriller, and bonus, not a SINGLE blurb (out of 11!) on the back cover mentions Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, which (as you can tell from my mini-rant above) is a huge pet peeve of mine.  (The Amazon page for this book, however, makes the dreaded comparison.  Sigh.)

11.  Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard:  Married couple Mark and Maggie are taking a road trip to visit his parents, but things are strained from the get-go.  Maggie is still traumatized by a recent mugging, and Mark's patience is wearing thin.  When Mark and Maggie are forced to stop at a remote hotel due to a major storm, things manage to take an even sharper turn for the worse.  It's good, but it was REALLY mismarketed.  The inside cover and several reviews made it sound like a thriller, but it's not.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 84

NONFICTION

1. Playing Dead : A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud* by Elizabeth Greenwood:  The author made an offhand remark to a friend about faking her own death to get out of her student loans.  The comment spurred her interest in the world of "pseudocide", and this fascinating book covers everything from people who believe Michael Jackson is still alive to the author's trip to the Philippines, where she successfully faked her own death just to prove she could. 

2. I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland* by Michelle Leon:  The subtitle says it all!  I was lucky enough to see Babes in Toyland live in the mid-90s, and this brought back some good memories and spurred a downloading spree.

3. True Crime Addict by James Renner:  The author became obsessed with the case of Maura Murray, a college student who wrecked her car and disappeared immediately afterwards.  Don't read this if you want closure, since she's never been found, but it's a pretty solid read.

Side note:  I plucked this at random off the library shelf because it sounded interesting, so I was pretty surprised to see that I'd chosen a book in which a potential pseudocide factored so heavily since I'd just read #1 on this list the week before!

4. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo* by Amy Schumer:  An entertaining collection of essays ranging from the hysterically funny to the decidedly not, like the heartbreaking chapter about the two women who were shot and killed during a showing of Trainwreck.  (Actually, although there are certainly funny parts, I'd say it veers more towards the serious; there are also chapters about the nonconsensual loss of her virginity, an abusive ex, her father's battle with MS, and her mother's affair.)

5. Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette:  The magician talks about how his mounting health problems (including a systolic blood pressure over 200, which: JFC!) forced him to finally make drastic lifestyle changes.  There's one breathtakingly delightful line in which he says that Donald Trump's hair looks like cotton candy made of piss that I will think of every time I see Trump.  (Hopefully not much after the election.  Please, God I don't believe in.)

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 16


MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Say I Love You vol. 15 by Kanae Hazuki

2. A Silent Voice vols. 5-7 (final volume) by Yoshitoki Oima

3. Saga* vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples


4. Kaze Hikaru vol. 24 by Taeko Watanabe

5. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall vol. 8 by Ryo Suzukaze and Satoshi Shiki

6. Dark Night* by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso

7. Food Wars!* vol. 13 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

8. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 8 by Go Ikeyama


2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 12 graphic novels and 50 volumes of manga


MOVIES

1. The Bronze:  Despite being injured, Hope (Melissa Rauch, best known as Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory) won the bronze medal in gymnastics at the "Olympics" (it's not actually called that, no doubt due to trademark issues, but it's very obviously supposed to be the Olympics) and has been coasting on her fame ever since.  She wears her team jacket everywhere so nobody can miss her, cons people out of free meals and pot, and treats her sweet (if enabling) father like crap.  In short, she's an asshole. When she gets a lucrative offer to train a new contender, Hope takes it, but finds it hard to share the spotlight.  Occasionally quite funny, especially a particularly, uh, creative sex scene.

2. Eye in the Sky*:  A planned drone strike to take out terrorists in Kenya goes awry when a little girl chooses the worst place possible to sell bread.  Very tense, and as you'd expect from a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul, the performances are excellent.

3. Kung Fu Panda 3:  Meh.

4. Short Term 12:  Grace (Brie Larson) works at a residential facility for at-risk teenagers.  She's good at her job, but not so great at maintaining an emotional distance from her charges.  The story isn't anything you haven't heard before, but the cast is great.

5. Demolition:  After his wife is killed in a car accident, Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes a bit unglued, taking solace in destroying things and writing deeply personal letters to a vending machine company.  An interesting character study.

6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:  We had pretty low expectations for this movie, and they were certainly met.  Wonder Woman was cool, though.

Side note: How many fucking times do we need to see Batman's origin story?  WE ALL KNOW.  Jesus, when the dude pulled out the gun to kill Bruce's parents (I am not even bothering with a spoiler alert, because like I said, we all know this story already), G-Vo said "Wait...wait for it...yep, there goes the pearl necklace!  Aw, shit, Martha!"

Side note #2: Thomas and Martha Wayne were played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan, aka Negan and Maggie from The Walking Dead, which was just REALLY odd.

7. The Boss:  After spending time in prison for insider trading, entrepreneur Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) tracks down her former assistant (Kristen Bell) and convinces her to start a new company with her.  Started out pretty good, but turned into a mess by the end.

8. Kubo and the Two Strings**:  Accompanied by a sarcastic snow monkey and a beetle samurai, Kubo embarks on an epic quest to find a magical suit of armor.  Absolutely stunning stop-motion animation from the geniuses at Laika, combined with terrific voice acting and an alternately exciting and touching story, made this a perfect afternoon at the movies.

Side note: if you're interested in this movie, I would highly recommend catching it as soon as you can, because it's not doing so hot at the box office and will probably leave theaters soon.  If you miss out, it's still worth watching on DVD, obviously, but it really is worth experiencing on the big screen.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 73


ADDED TO MY IPOD

1. Glory (full album) by Britney Spears:  I am not ashamed for my love of Britney and I never will be as long as she keeps putting out quality bops like this one.  (We do not speak of Britney Jean in this household.) My favorite track is "Man on the Moon", possibly because the melody reminds me so much of "Way Back into Love" from Music and Lyrics.  (I'm no music expert, though, so I'm going to run it by trained musician G-Vo and see if he agrees.)