Thursday, December 18, 2014

best of 2014: movies

Et finalement, my ten favorite movies of 2014!  The usual disclaimers before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first released in 2014, but that's when I saw them.
  • The first two were my favorites of the year, but the rest are in random order.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.


1. Her:  Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely man in the process of divorcing his childhood sweetheart.  One day he purchases an operating system (think Siri, only much more advanced), which names itself Samantha, and he quickly falls in love with her.  It sounds like a comedy, but although it has some funny moments, it's most certainly not.  Rather, it's a strangely moving look at how our dependence on technology can prevent us from forming bonds with real people.  Very deserving of its Oscar for best original screenplay.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street:  Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) started out as a stockbroker selling penny shares and became filthy rich.  He was living the good life until the FBI started taking notice of his schemes.  I'm about to pay this movie one of my highest compliments:  it's almost 3 hours long and I wasn't bored for a second.  Plus there's a scene involving a delayed reaction to quaaludes that was one of the funniest things I'd seen in a long time.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  When S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised, Captain America and the Black Widow have to get to the bottom of it.  But things get even more complicated with the appearance of the mysterious Winter Soldier.  Thanks to lots of terrific action and some snappy lines, it's the very definition of a fun popcorn movie.  Plenty of eye candy, too.

4. The Raid 2:  Indonesian cop Rama is sent undercover to expose corruption in the force; cue bone crunching, hardcore silat martial arts action that sent my T levels through the roof.  Jesus Christ, there are some awesome fucking fights in this movie.  It's brutal as hell, so caveat viewer, but if you like this kind of stuff, you'll be in heaven.

5. The Fault in Our Stars:  Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl in remission from cancer.  She meets Gus (Ansel Elgort) at a support group, and they fall in love.  Even if you're not familiar with the book this is based on, you can probably guess what happens.  Funny and sweet in equal measure, and oh god will you need tissues.

6. Bad Grandpa:  After his wife dies, Irving (Johnny Knoxville in amazing old man prosthetics) just wants to enjoy himself.  But when his daughter is sent to prison, Irving finds himself in custody of his grandson Billy, and he reluctantly takes the "little cockblock" on a road trip to reunite Billy with his father.  In Borat fashion, the story is interspersed with scenes of Irving and Billy interacting with real people who aren't in on the joke.  It's pretty damn funny; the scene where Irving enters Billy in a child beauty pageant had G and me in tears.

7. Prisoners:  After his little girl and her friend disappear and the primary suspect is released by the police, Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps the man, intending to get the truth out of him.  Very tense and well done, and Hugh Jackman is excellent as the anguished father.

8. X-Men: Days of Future Past:  Wolverine is sent back in time to prevent an assassination that would have dire consequences for mutants and humans alike.  It was a lot of fun, especially a terrific scene with Quicksilver.  Oh, and you get to see Hugh Jackman's nalgas, which is worth the price of admission all by itself.

9.  Edge of Tomorrow:  Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a bit of a coward who's never actually engaged in combat.  But when an alien race attacks Earth, he's dropped into battle and caught in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again.  By learning from his mistakes, he gets closer to ending the fight once and for all. Very clever and surprisingly funny, and Emily Blunt is terrific as the badass who helps Cage out. This movie tanked hard, but it didn't deserve to.

10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:  After the simian flu decimates most of the world's population, a small band of survivors gathers in San Francisco.  They need to access a hydroelectric dam, but there's just one problem: getting there means going through territory run by hundreds of hyperintelligent apes.

Look, there's only one thing you really need to know about this movie:  there's a scene with a chimp riding a horse while double fisting machine guns John Woo style.  If that doesn't make you want to see it immediately, well, I'm sorry you hate fun.

Monday, December 15, 2014

best of 2014: fiction

And now it's time for my favorite novels of 2014!  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2014, but that's when I first read them.
  • Aside from the first three listed, these aren't in any particular order.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.


1. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes:  When the corpse of a young boy is found with his upper half fused to the bottom half of a deer, Detective Gabriella Versado hopes that it's just a one time thing.  But then more bizarre creations are discovered, and it becomes apparent that a serial killer has made Detroit his hunting ground.  A beautifully written and surreal thriller.

2. You by Caroline Kepnes:  Joe is instantly smitten when a young woman named Beck walks into the bookstore where he works.  It's a classic "meet cute" story, but with a twist:  Joe is fucking nuts. I won't say any more lest I inadvertently spoil something; I'll just add that it's twisted and darkly funny and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  This came very close to being my favorite of the year, but just missed the mark because of something I can't mention due to spoilers.  (Speaking of which, don't read the inside cover as it ruins some major shit.)


3. Burn by Julianna Baggott:  The final book of the Pure trilogy wraps up perfectly, making it my favorite YA dystopian trilogy series ever.  Yes, even more than The Hunger Games.

4. The Secret Place by Tana French:  At an elite girls' boarding school, someone pins a postcard onto a bulletin board that says "I know who killed him" and shows a teenage boy who had been murdered on the grounds the year before.  Detectives Moran and Conway investigate, and they open a very ugly can of worms in the process.  I mainlined all of French's books a couple of years ago, and I was sad when there weren't any more to be read, so I was anxious to get my hands on this, and I wasn't disappointed.  Few people can end a book as well as French does.

5. The Troop by Nick Cutter:  A troop of boys and their scoutmaster head to a remote Canadian island for a camping trip.  But an alarmingly emaciated man crashes the party, and he's brought some very nasty company along with him.

I knew I had to read this when I saw the cover blurbs from Scott Smith (The Ruins) and Stephen King (duh), and they didn't steer me wrong, because The Troop is excellent.  Fair warning, though:  it gets extremely gross.  REALLY gross.  As in, "don't read it right before bed or you will have seriously awful dreams" kind of gross.  Learn from my fail.

6. The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh:  When the dismembered body of her childhood friend Cheri is found stuffed into the hollow of a tree, Lucy is determined to find the killer.  But in her quest for justice, she discovers that the disappearance of her mother many years before may have a shocking link to Cheri's murder.  It's like Gillian Flynn crossed with Winter's Bone, and it's really freakin' good.  I tore through it in two days.

7. Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little:  Janie Jenkins was a socialite whose world came crashing down when she was convicted of murdering her rich mother.  After spending 10 years in prison, she's released on a technicality, and she begins her search for the real killer.  A very clever mystery with some seriously funny lines.  (One of my favorite passages: "The denim of his jeans was rougher than I'd expected.  Probably a cowboy sort of thing...protection against tumbleweeds and accusations of metrosexuality.")

8. Wolf by Mo Hayder:  Detective Jack Caffery is approached by the Walking Man (a recurring character) with a strange request.  The Walking Man has found a dog wandering alone with a scrap of paper under its collar that says "HELP US".  He wants Jack to find the dog's owners, and in exchange, he'll give Jack an important clue about a case that's haunted Jack for years.  Jack takes on the request, but can he find the terrorized family in time?

Engrossing as hell, like all of Mo Hayder's books (I was late to work because I only had 15 pages left and had to finish it), but two caveats.  First, it bears some striking similarities to a particular movie.  Both the movie and the book are far too recent for it to be anything other than a coincidence, but thinking "Hey, I wonder if this is going to turn out like [movie]" meant I inadvertently spoiled the book for myself!  Second, I would strongly recommend that you not read this if you haven't read Birdman and The Treatment, as it spoils a few major things from those books.  You should read them anyway because they're awesome, and The Treatment has one of the best endings I've ever read in my life, so get crackin'.

9. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey:  Melanie is a young girl who lives on an army base.  She is only removed from her cell to attend class.  Why?  Well, the less you know about this book going in, the better.  I'll just say that it's excellent, and if you don't trust my judgment, trust Joss Whedon's blurb on the back.  ("As fresh as it is terrifying...It left me sighing with envious joy...a jewel.")  

10. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken:  A mysterious disease called IAAN kills the vast majority of the children in the US, but the ones that survive are endowed with powers and sent to government internment camps.  Ruby thinks she's a Green, one of the most benign types, but it turns out that she's actually an Orange, one of the most dangerous types of all, capable of reading people's minds and making them do whatever she wants.  She manages to escape the camp before the authorities can kill her, but it turns out that the outside isn't much safer.  I highly recommend the entire trilogy.
 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

the 35 best movie/True Detective lines of 2014

These are the bits of dialogue that really stuck out to me this year.  They're not in any particular order, and I tried to avoid spoilery ones as much as possible.  There are a couple that might SEEM spoilery, but really aren't.  (And no, I'm not telling you which ones, since that's kind of a spoiler in itself!)  A lot of these are from memory, so they might not be verbatim.  And finally, not all of the movies listed originally came out in 2014, but that's when I saw them.

1. "My jim dog is stuck!"  (Bad Grandpa)

2. "Machete don't tweet."  (Machete Kills)

3. "How can I complain?  Women in Darfur, you know?  They walk 14 miles to get water, get raped on the way home, spill all the water, have to go back."  (Afternoon Delight)

4. [pointing at a gravestone] "There's Woody's little sister, Rose. She was only nineteen when she was killed in a car wreck near Wausa. What a whore!"  (Nebraska)

5. "There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are."  (Thor: The Dark World)

6. "You hit like a vegetarian!"  (Escape Plan)

7. "Screw the FDA, I'm gonna be DOA!"  (Dallas Buyers Club)

8. "My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week."  (The Wolf of Wall Street)

9. "I'm never eating at Benihana again!  I don't care whose birthday it is!"  (The Wolf of Wall Street)

10. "Eat the fish, bitch."  (August: Osage County)

11. "What do you mean you're gay?  Like dicks in butts gay?  Or, like, retarded gay, like 'Man, Nicholas Cage movies are so gay'?"  (Date & Switch)

12. "You wanted to fuck a hobo when you were 7?  Is that what you're telling me?"  (Date & Switch)

13. "These guys are so hot my g-string is turning into a Slip 'n' Slide!"  (Best Night Ever)

14. "Why are there dwarves coming out of our toilet?"  (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

15. "I do some web design."  (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

16. "If you were drowning, I'd throw you a barbell."  (True Detective)

17. "Guys, I'm kinda fucked up right now, but I think Omar from The Wire is sitting on our couch."  (That Awkward Moment)

18. "This place is like someone's memory of a town, and the memory is fading."  (True Detective)

19. "You gotta get together and tell stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day?  What's that say about your reality?"  (True Detective)

20. "The hubris it must take to yank a soul out of non-existence into this meat, and to force a life into this thresher."  (True Detective)

21. "I can't tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. You gave me forever within the numbered days."  (The Fault in Our Stars)

22. "Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt."  (Her)

23. "If this is what happens when God is looking out for us, I'd hate to see Him pissed."  (Lone Survivor)

24. "Why don't you take your potty mouth, go locate your preteen cocksucking son and stuff him back up that old blown-out sweat sock of a vagina and scoot off back to whatever shit-kicking town you came from?  Like an elephant's trunk, I bet...gray and distended."  (Bad Words)

25. "Would it be all right if I showed our children the whoring bed?"  (Nymphomaniac)

26. "You didn't let me finish earlier because I died."  (The Lego Movie)

27. "Scotland brought the world television, the steam engine, golf, whiskey, penicillin, and of course, the deep-fried Mars bar.  It's great being Scottish.  We're such a uniquely successful race."  (Filth)

28. "When Henry Altmann fell from the bridge, time had slowed. And it occurred to Henry that life didn't have to be a burden, that life is short and fragile and unique. And each hour, each minute, each second could have something to offer. Something beautiful and astounding. The fact that this only occurred to him seconds before he would hit the water and die made him very, very angry."  (The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, made especially poignant by the fact that Robin Williams played Henry)

29. "I'm trying to distract you, you big turdblossom!"  (Guardians of the Galaxy)

30. "Well, now there will be no berries in the fruit salad, so we all lose."  (Year One)

31. [woman speaking on the phone]  "Yeah, he went down on me for hours and oh my god, I came SO HARD.  Oh wait, my boss just walked in, so I better go.  Talk to you later, Dad!"  (They Came Together)

32. "There is something about connecting over mutual hatred that is just so much deeper than connecting over mutual love."  (A Million Ways to Die in the West)

33. "I am in love with you. And I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed. And that one day all our labor will be returned to dust. And I know that the sun will swallow the only earth we will ever have. And I am in love with you."  (The Fault in Our Stars)

34. "Fuck you, doves!" (22 Jump Street)

35. "What the fuck you doin'?  Y'all rationing around here?  Come on, hook me up!  Two little fucking string beans?  Gimme the goddamn string beans!  I want some fucking deviled eggs.  I want fruit.  Don't you like fruit?  I like fruit!  [grabs roast chicken and begins tearing it apart]  I'll break your motherfucking legs!  Break yo' legs!"  (22 Jump Street)


Monday, December 08, 2014

best of 2014: nonfiction

And now it's time for my favorite nonfiction books of 2014!  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally released in 2014, but that's when I read 'em.
  • The first book listed was my absolute favorite, but the rest are in random order.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Meaty by Samantha Irby:  A collection of brutally frank essays by the Bitches Gotta Eat blogger that had me howling out loud, with the exception of an utterly heartbreaking one in which she describes being the caretaker to her severely disabled mother and one in which her father has a violent reaction to the way she's washing a skillet.  Man, was this good.  Not only was it funny, as previously mentioned, but it actually managed to make me feel better about myself.  And Ms. Irby is a huge Muse fan and has a cat named Helen Keller, so I want her to be my BFF.

2. Autobiography by Morrissey:  I was a bullied and lonely teenage girl in the 80s, and The Smiths made me feel like someone out there understood me, even if it was an effeminate vegetarian singer from Manchester.  So of course I had to pick up Morrissey's autobiography, and it didn't disappoint.  I was particularly thrilled to see that he spent almost 2 full pages singing the praises of Sparks, the criminally underrated band that's one of my favorites of all time.  (Refer to my blog title as proof.)  I'm still not thrilled that Morrissey famously compared meat eaters to pedophiles, because seriously WTF dude, but I will always love the guy.  I was lucky enough to see him in concert in San Jose, Halloween 1991, and it remains one of my most treasured memories.

3. Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America by Kevin Cook:  In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death as 38 neighbors watched from their windows and did nothing...except that wasn't entirely true, and what would have been a tragic but quickly forgotten story instead became a defining moment in American history.  The author does an excellent job of revealing the truth without diminishing the horror of what happened to Kitty.

4. My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag...and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr:  A highly entertaining guide to cleaning everything, ranging from the basic (best way of defrosting a freezer, how to fix an unusually stank bathroom) to the unusual (cleaning sex toys and bongs, getting jizz stains out of sheets).  This should be a mandatory housewarming gift.

5. The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson:  The author was in a relationship that started wonderfully and ended with him kidnapping her and holding her hostage.  This memoir is about her struggle to overcome the emotional toll the experience took on her.  It's really good, but because it includes many descriptions of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, I must include a trigger warning.

6. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell:  An engrossing (emphasis on "gross") memoir about the author's two years of training as a forensic examiner.  One of the best anecdotes in here involves a police detective bringing her a bucket full of mysterious objects, some of which were obviously biological in nature, that was found in the hallway of an apartment building.  The bucket contained a porcelain figurine of kissing angels, dozens of maraschino cherries, and what turned out to be two enormous penises from a donkey or horse.  A coworker who had trained in Florida said he used to see that kind of thing all the time and it was probably a Santeria love potion. I'm dying to know if it actually worked!

7. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay:  Excellent essays from a feminist perspective that cover everything from the problematic lyrics of "Blurred Lines" to the women on Twitter who said they'd let Chris Brown beat them whenever he wanted.  Warning: in the essay titled "Not Here to Make Friends", she spoils the shit out of Gone Girl, so skip that one if you haven't read GG and/or plan to see the movie and have magically remained unspoiled up to this point.

8. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty:  The author (best known for her "Ask a Mortician" webseries) discusses her work as a mortician and how we view death in our culture.  Morbidly fascinating, but if you're squeamish, stay away.

9. I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan:  A collection of weird stories from the author's job as a librarian, many of which are laugh out loud funny.

10. Kawaii! Japan's Culture of Cute by Manami Okazaki and Geoff Johnson:  A very enjoyable look at all things kawaii, ranging from elaborate bento boxes to the ever adorable Hello Kitty.  I particularly liked the interview with artist Macoto Takahashi, whose aesthetic really appeals to me. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

best of 2014: manga and graphic novels

It's time to reveal my picks for the best manga and graphic novels of 2014!  The usual notes before I continue:
  • This list is in preferential order.  (Hey, it was easy with only 5 titles to choose from!)
  • All of these are commercially available in the US.
  • I doubt anyone still thinks manga and graphic novels are strictly kids' stuff, but just in case, I've added content warnings where applicable.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky:  This graphic novel about people who can stop time when they have an orgasm is pretty goddamn good and you should read it.  One of my favorite things about it is the little details in the background, like a poster in a porn store that shows a woman staring forlornly at the camera.  The title of the movie is Not the Life That I Anticipated, But Here I Am I Guess.   (Strong sexual content and language)

2. Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki:  After a betrayal by her friends, Mei Tachibana has cut herself off from others completely.  But after she accidentally kicks the most popular boy at school, he becomes interested in her and decides to pull her out of her shell.  Very touching and funny; the prickly protagonist reminded me of Tsukushi Makino from Boys Over Flowers.  (Mild sexual innuendo)

3. My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  Takeo Goda is a gigantic teenage boy with the proverbial heart of gold.  One day, he rescues a girl from a sexual harasser on the train, and she's immediately smitten with him.  But clueless Takeo completely misreads her signals and thinks she's actually in love with his gorgeous best friend.  It's really charming, and I love the fact that Takeo isn't your typical shojo hero.  (Nothing objectionable that I'm remembering offhand)

4. Attack on Titan: Junior High by Saki Nakagawa:  This spinoff of the enormously popular Attack on Titan manga/anime is incredibly funny, thanks to some brilliant creative license by the translation team.  (Just one example: a character mistakes a foreign man for Brad Pitt and, taking umbrage at something the man does, cries out "What would Zahara and Maddox Chivan say?  To say nothing of my mom!  She'll remove her Tumblr fanpage when she finds out!")  The original is unrelentingly grim, so it's fun to see a more humorous take on the series.  (Language, innuendo, some cartoony violence)

5. What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga:  A delightful slice of life manga about a gay couple in Japan and the many meals they share together.  Fair warning: it will make you very hungry.  (Mild sexual content/innuendo) 




Monday, December 01, 2014

media update: November

And how was your November?  Mine was quite nice, thank you.  G-Vo, C, J, and I went to the Hello Kitty 40th anniversary exhibit in Little Tokyo, and it was terrific.  They had tons of classic memorabilia (I kept excitedly pointing out things I'd actually owned way back when) as well as modern artworks depicting the beloved icon.  If you love Hello Kitty and live near Los Angeles, you should definitely check it out before it closes in April.

As for Thanksgiving, I spent the long weekend with G-Vo doing nothing but eating, watching TV and movies, napping, and playing video games.  In a word: perfection.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.

FICTION

1. Unraveled by Gennifer Albin:  This is the final book in the Crewel World trilogy, so I can't review it lest I spoil its predecessors.  It was okay.

2. Mother, Mother by Koren Zailcka:  The Hurst family is thrown into chaos after the oldest daughter, Rose, runs away with her boyfriend.  In response, Josephine Hurst tightens her grip on her other children, and what initially seems like mere overprotectiveness is soon revealed as poisonous narcissism.  I guessed where it was going about halfway through, but it's still pretty good.

3. Atlantia by Ally Condie:  Rio is a teenage girl who lives in the underwater city of Atlantia with her sister Bay.  But when Bay makes the decision to go Above, Rio is determined to follow her no matter what it takes.  And Rio has a special advantage: she's secretly a siren, and she can make people do whatever she wants just by asking.  It's decent enough.

3. Revival* by Stephen King:  When Jamie Morton is a kid, a new pastor named Charles Jacobs comes to town.  He's unusually interested in electricity, but everybody loves him.  Then a tragedy strikes, and Jacobs loses his faith in a spectacularly public way and moves out of town.  Many years later, Jamie---now desperately addicted to heroin---runs into Jacobs, and suffice it to say that weird shit goes down.  To be honest, it took a while to really interest me, but once it did, I was hooked.  There are some indelibly freaky scenes in here.

4. The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly:  The small town of Prosperous is aptly named, but its good fortune comes at a high price.  When private investigator Charlie Parker starts looking into the death of a homeless man, the residents of Prosperous will stop at nothing to keep him from uncovering the truth.  Not one of Connolly's best, but I liked it fine.  As usual, gay hitmen Angel and Louis get the best scenes and dialogue.

5. Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell:  Dr. Kay Scarpetta's vacation plans are rudely interrupted by a homicide that turns out to be more complicated than it initially looks.  Cornwell used to be terrific, but once she got majorly successful, she started coasting on her name.  Still, this is better than her last couple of books, which isn't saying much.  I'm not sure why I keep reading her; nostalgia, I guess.

6. In the Afterlight* by Alexandra Bracken:  This is the final book in the Darkest Minds trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors, but it was excellent.

NONFICTION

Nothing this month.

MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVELS

1. Judge vol. 5 by Yoshiki Tonogai

2. A Bride's Story vol. 6 by Kaoru Mori

3. What Did You Eat Yesterday?*  vols. 2-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga

4. Black Rose Alice vol. 2 by Setona Mizushiro

5. An Age of License by Lucy Knisley

6. Revival vol. 3 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton:  No relation to the Stephen King book.

7. Rin-Ne vol. 16 by Rumiko Takahashi

8. Attack on Titan: Junior High* vol. 2 by Saki Nakagawa

MOVIES

1. Deliver Us from Evil:  NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie teams up with a priest to investigate paranormal crimes around town.  A couple of decent scenes, but mostly meh.  G-Vo hated it.

2. Sex Tape:  Jay and Annie decide to spice up their marriage by making a sex tape, but complications ensue when the video accidentally gets uploaded to the cloud. Some very funny moments, and Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz have good chemistry together.

3. Bears:  This Disney documentary follows a bear and her two cubs as they search for food in the Alaskan wilderness.  The narration can get awfully goofy, no doubt due to its target audience, but the footage is absolutely stunning.

4. The One I Love*:  Ethan and Sophie (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) are sent on a weekend retreat by their marriage counselor.  The property is gorgeous, but they quickly discover something unusual about the guest house.  I wasn't crazy about the ending, but the premise is so clever that I gave it a star.  A word of advice:  if you're interested in seeing this, go into it as unspoiled as possible.

5. Chef:  After blowing up at a restaurant critic and losing his job, a chef (Jon Favreau) opens a food truck in hopes of rekindling the joy of cooking on his own terms.  If you'll pardon the metaphor, it's not exactly a hearty meal, but it's a tasty snack.  And oh my god, the scene where they're making Cuban sandwiches made me moan like a porn star.  I've been to Florida many times, but I've never had a proper Cuban sandwich, which really needs to be remedied.

6. Hulk Vs.:  This movie is split up into two 45-minute segments, one in which the Hulk fights Thor and the other in which he fights Wolverine.  The latter is MUCH better, thanks to improved voice acting and Deadpool's presence, but it's still pretty skippable.

7. Surveillance:  After a horrifying incident on a desolate highway, two FBI agents try to unravel the truth.  If you can't see where it's going within the first five minutes, congratulations on watching your first movie ever!  There's one really well done scene in the middle, but the rest of it is unbelievably predictable.

8. 22 Jump Street*:  Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) go undercover at a college to stop a drug ring.  To be honest, it took about 15 minutes to get into its groove, but once it did, it was hysterically funny.  The leads have great bromantic chemistry, too.

9. Maleficent:  After an unforgivable betrayal, Maleficent curses the king's baby daughter.  But as Aurora gets older, Maleficent becomes fond of the girl, and she tries to undo the damage.  I was expecting it to be really meh, but it wasn't bad, and Angelina Jolie was terrific as Maleficent.

10. Afflicted:  Derek has a brain aneurysm that could go at any time, so he decides to start on his bucket list and travel the world for a year.  His friend Cliff comes along to keep him company and document their adventures.  But when Derek has a one night stand that goes wrong, the vacation takes a very dark turn.  A decent little horror flick.

Side note:  I'm pretty prone to shaky cam induced motion sickness, but this one didn't bother me much. There were a few running scenes where I looked away to be safe, but mostly it was fine.

ADDED TO MY IPOD

1. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey

2. "Not Yet" by Orange Caramel

3. "Superwoman" by Orange Caramel

4. "One Love" by Orange Caramel

5. "Shanghai Romance" by Orange Caramel

6. "Catallena" by Orange Caramel

7. "Cannonball" by The Breeders

8. "Safari" by The Breeders

9. "For Love" by Lush

10. "Cat Brain Land" by Melt Banana

11. "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" by Ministry

12. "Go" by Moby

13. "Feeling So Real" by Moby

14. "All Your Way" by Morphine

15. "No Rain" by Blind Melon

16. "My Copycat" by Orange Caramel

17. "Clara's Dream" by Orange Caramel

18. "Cool Places" by Sparks feat. Jane Wiedlin

19. "Barbecutie" by Sparks

20. "Honey Power" by My Bloody Valentine

21. "Twist Barbie" by Shonen Knife

22. "Not Too Soon" by Throwing Muses

23. "Very" by Moby

24. "Beautiful" by Moby


VIDEO GAME OF THE MONTH





Nick Ramos is a nice dude living in Los Perdidos when a massive zombie outbreak occurs.  The government plans to bomb the city to contain the outbreak, and Nick has to round up as many survivors as he can and find a way out before it's too late.


LOVED
  • This is the biggest Dead Rising game to date.  Los Perdidos is huge, and you'll spend many, many hours exploring it all.
  • So.  Many.  Fucking.  ZOMBIES.  You won't believe the sheer numbers onscreen at any given time!  To give you an idea, I racked up over 23,000 kills by the end.
  • In a new addition to DR2's weapon combinations, you can now find blueprints for super combos, which enable you to craft some glorious stuff.  My personal favorite was the fire reaper, a flaming scythe which cuts through zombies like butter.  And appropriately enough, since Nick is a mechanic, you can also combine cars to make them stronger and/or deadlier.  The best one is the Rollerhawg, a combination steamroller/motorcycle that's so effective it probably accounted for about 50% of my body count.
  • When early details about this game started trickling out a couple of years ago, I was worried that it was going to be a more serious entry into the franchise, but my fears were in vain.  There's a psycho boss who shoots flames from his crotch and another one who's a monstrously obese woman riding a scooter.  Nick can wear goofy outfits like a Borat-style banana hammock.  And there's a survivor you find who's wearing a meat dress a la Lady Gaga.
  • It's addictive as hell.
  • I can't go into details due to spoilers, but there's a part near the end where I actually screamed with delight.
  • Considering how much processing power must have gone into putting all of those zombies onscreen, there was absolutely NO slow down and surprisingly few glitches.  I only noticed one or two, and they didn't affect the gameplay at all.

LOATHED
  • The facial animations are not as good as you might expect. 
  • It ended.  (Although I still have the DLC to look forward to!)

All in all, if you enjoyed the previous Dead Rising games, you must pick this one up too.  It's a shot of pure pleasure injected directly into your happy vein.  I give it 8 Freedom Bears out of 10.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

the best of 2014: miscellaneous edition (UPDATED)

UPDATE 12/2:  Items 11-13 have been added.

As 2014 draws to a close (how the hell did THAT happen?), it's time for me to look back and reflect on the wonderful things I discovered.  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these things were first released in 2014, but that's when I first watched/played them.
  • In years past, I've included a photo of/from the thing in question, but for reasons too lengthy and boring to go into here, I'm not doing it this year.  I apologize, but I don't look good bald and I need to keep SOME hair on my fucking head.
  • For the video games, I mention what system we played it on in parentheses and what other systems it's available on if applicable.
  • These aren't in any preferential order.
  • Should something else tickle my fancy (say now!) between now and the end of the year, I'll update this list accordingly.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary.

1. The Chase:  In this game show, "The Beast" (Mark Labett), a supersmart British dude, faces off against three contestants to see who will try to beat him in the final round.  It's really fun, and the Beast is all bark and no bite.  He's very gracious and complimentary on the rare occasions he loses.  I actually root for him over the contestants!  (Currently airing on GSN)

2. Breaking Bad:  Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who's diagnosed with lung cancer.  He gets the idea to make meth in order to leave a tidy sum behind for his family, and he recruits a former student named Jesse Pinkman to help him out.  Walter's got the purest meth in the business, and soon he's rolling in dough, but of course there are complications.  G-Vo and I were latecomers to this series, but it was worth it to be able to queue up another episode immediately after one ended!  The writing and acting are just as phenomenal as you've heard.  Bryan Cranston (Walter) deserves all the awards he received, but I thought Aaron Paul (Jesse) was equally as good.  (Available on DVD and Netflix Instant)

3. True Detective:  Louisiana homicide detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart try to track down a serial killer over the span of 17 years.  Like a lot of people, I was disappointed by the ending, but I still thought it was well worth watching, and cynical Rust gets a LOT of great lines.  Also, I never really had an opinion of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson one way or the other before seeing this, but holy crap, they can fucking ACT.  (Available on DVD and HBO Go)

4. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F:  Rhythm game + Japan's #1 virtual idol + a soundtrack that's catchier than the flu = my idea of hog heaven.  A new one comes out next week, and I can't wait!  (PS3)

5. The Last of Us: Left Behind:  I can't really discuss this DLC without spoiling a ton of stuff.  I'll just say that if you loved The Last of Us and haven't played this yet, what the hell are you waiting for?  The story's terrific, the voice acting is superlative, the action is tense, and Ellie and her friend Riley will break your goddamn heart.  (PS3; it's also available on the remastered PS4 edition)

6. Chozen:  After being released from prison, gay white gangsta rapper Chozen is determined to become a major success and get revenge on the former friend who put him there.  G-Vo and I weren't sure we'd like this show, but it turned out to be hysterically funny.  It only lasted one season, but I'll never forget that Willy Wonka music video.  It doesn't appear to be on DVD at this time, but maybe you can still find reruns on FX. 

7. The Returned:  In this eerie French drama, a group of people come back from the dead, looking exactly like they used to.  But of course, they're not quite normal, and neither is the town.  I would like season 2 now, please.  Not to be confused with the current American TV show Resurrection, which has a similar premise.  (Available on DVD and Netflix Instant)

8. Shark Tank:  On this reality show, aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas and inventions to a panel of megarich investors, hoping to strike a deal.  It's really interesting, and I have a massive crush on Ukrainian fox Robert Herjavec.  (Currently airing on NBC)

9. Candy Crush:  I'd heard a lot about "match 3" phenomenon Candy Crush, so when I finally got an iPhone, I went ahead and downloaded it...and promptly forgot to do anything else for about six months.  It's basically black tar heroin.  I did eventually get tired of it and move on to an equally colorful and addictive competitor called Book of Life: Sugar Smash (based on the animated movie), but it's still fun to play while taking a dump at work.  (Candy Crush can be found on pretty much every phone/tablet ever, as well as online; BoL:SS is only available on the iPhone as far as I know) 

10. The Walking Dead: Season 2:  I wasn't able to give a proper review of this game last month because it would have spoiled the original game, but I'll say it again: if you like zombies in general, the Walking Dead universe in particular, and/or games with great storytelling, look no further.  (XBOX 360; also available on PS3, PS4, PS Vita, and XBOX One)

11. Dead Rising 3:  The second game in this franchise is in my top 10 of all time, so I was anxious to get my hands on it, and it didn't disappoint.  As nice guy mechanic Nick Ramos, you have to round up survivors and get the hell out of Los Perdidos before the government nukes it to contain a zombie outbreak.  There will be blood...and banana hammocks.  (XBOX One; also available on PC)

12. Murdered: Soul Suspect:  After falling to his death from a window, Salem cop Ronan O'Conner has to solve his own murder.  It's not a great game, but it's enjoyable enough to warrant a rental. (PS3; also available on PS4, XBOX360, and XBOX One)

13. Akiba's Trip:  In this delirious love letter to otaku culture, you have to strip "synthisters" (basically vampires) of their clothing in order to expose them to the sun and weaken them.  Trashy, shameful fun.  (PS3; also available on PS4 and PS Vita)