Monday, June 30, 2014

media update: June

And how was your June?  Mine was quite nice, thank you.  Work was unusually slow, which led to some pretty long and boring days, but three wonderful things happened.  First of all, the Raccoon officially retired, and you have no idea how magnificent it is to come in every morning and see her empty desk. She did come in for a visit last week, which set my teeth on edge because seriously, bitch?  YOU JUST LEFT AND NOBODY MISSES YOU.   Yeah, it was still better than seeing her 5 days a week, but it really pissed me off.

Secondly, my boss got transferred to a different division, and since she tended to be unreasonable and not a particularly pleasant person, I can't say as I was too freakin' sorry to see her go.  (Neither was anyone else; when the official email went out, people were CHEERING.  No, she wasn't around at the time.)

Best of all, my work bestie/next door neighbor J, who was planning on transferring to Arizona, changed her mind!  She's the only person at work that I consider a friend, and our late afternoon bitchfests keep me sane, so I was ecstatic at this news.

Another nice thing that happened this month:  G-Vo, C, C's lovely lady, and I saw a live taping of Conan O'Brien, which was fun.  Jack White was the musical guest, and he SLAYED.  Afterwards, we ate at the original Bob's Big Boy, which filled me with nostalgia since we used to eat at Bob's when I was a kid.  I took a selfie with the Bob statue outside because I'm a dork.

Anyway, on to the media update!  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Mr. Mercedes* by Stephen King:  Early one morning, hundreds of people are waiting for a job fair to open when a stolen Mercedes plows through the crowd, killing eight people.  The driver escapes and ditches the car, leaving behind a clown mask that's been washed with bleach to destroy evidence.  The crime still haunts retired detective Bill Hodges, so when he receives a taunting letter from Mr. Mercedes, he's determined to stop him before he kills again...and time is of the essence, because Mr. Mercedes has plans to mount a terrorist attack that could wipe out thousands of people.  One of King's scariest novels, because the events in this book could actually happen.  I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, but other than that, Mr. Mercedes is really good.

2. Young God* by Katherine Faw Morris:  Nikki is a 13-year-old girl who is determined to keep her family's drug trade profitable.  The prose is sparse (some pages only have one sentence on them) and it can be pretty disturbing, but it's an excellent debut that reads like Winter's Bone written by Dorothy Allison.

3. Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau:  This is the final volume in a trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil the previous books.  It was aight.

4. 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.")  


1. Carsick by John Waters:  The notorious filmmaker decided to hitchhike from Baltimore to San Francisco.  The first two sections of this book are his fantasies about the best and worst possible scenarios, and the final section tells us what really happened on his journey.  For the most part, I thought the fantasy sections were a little too weird and/or gross for my tastes, but I did enjoy the real stuff.

2. Insatiable by Asa Akira:  The porn star tells all in this explicit memoir.  I had never heard of her (and no, I'm not playing coy; I would tell you if I had) but saw this at the library and was intrigued.  It's a pretty good look behind the scenes of the adult entertainment industry.


1. Over Easy by Mimi Pond

2. Kamisama Kiss vol. 15 by Julietta Suzuki

3. This One Summer* by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

4. 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.

5. The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff


1. I, Frankenstein:  I, stupid for watching this pile of shit.

2. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones:  Jesse is intrigued by his downstairs neighbor, who is rumored to be a witch.  After her death, Jesse begins to investigate, but he unleashes something evil in the process.  Like all of the PA movies, it's not particularly scary (I don't count jump scares), but it's well done and I enjoyed it.

3. 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, and highly recommended.

4. Son of Batman:  In this animated flick, Batman learns that he's the father of a young son named Damian.  When the boy's mother, Talia Al'Ghul, asks Batman to train Damian, he reluctantly agrees.  Decent story and animation, but the voice acting is surprisingly flat.

5.  Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit:  CIA analyst Jack Ryan discovers a Russian plot to destroy the US economy.  Takes a while to get going, but it has some fun action, and Chris Pine is quite pleasant to look at.

6. Three Days to Kill:  A CIA agent (Kevin Costner) wants to retire, but after he's diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, he's offered the chance to receive an experimental drug...if he's willing to take on one last case.  It's decent enough, though nothing special.

7. The Monuments Men:  A group of museum curators and architects are tasked with recovering priceless stolen artwork before the Nazis can destroy them.  It's an intriguing (and true!) story, and you can't beat the cast, but it had a really strange tone to it.  As G-Vo mentioned, it gets practically Hogan's Heroes-esque at times, and then you'll see a barrel full of gold fillings taken from dead Jews or a soldier dying.  I wish the tone had been a bit more consistent. 

8. Lone Survivor*:  When a mission to capture a Taliban leader goes horribly awry, a group of Navy SEALS struggles to survive.  The title is a spoiler, but considering that it's based on a true story, I'll give it a pass on that.  It's very intense, and I appreciated the fact that they honored the people who died that day by showing their photos at the end of the movie.

9. Knights of Badassdom:  A group of LARPers accidentally conjures a real succubus in this horror comedy.  It's packed with geek favorites like Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, and Ryan Kwanten, and it has a few fun moments/lines, but mostly it's just really stupid.  Probably better with the addition of alcohol or your favorite, ahem, herbal remedies.


1. "Lost Cause" by Beck

2. "Shy Guy" by Diana King

3. "Fell in Love with a Girl" by the White Stripes

4. "Soramimi Cake" by Oranges & Lemons


Massachusetts police detective Ronan O'Connor is not having a great day on the job.  He's in hot pursuit of the Bell Killer, the serial killer terrorizing Salem, and just as he has the killer cornered, the killer tosses him out a window.  Not content to leave things to chance, the Bell Killer saunters downstairs and finishes Ronan off with seven shots to the chest.  You'd think that would be the end of it, but thanks to the supernatural forces in Salem, Ronan becomes a ghost.  And the spirit of his dead wife Julia tells him that he can't join her on the other side unless he ties up a few loose ends first.  Determined to be with Julia forever, Ronan teams up with a psychic teenage girl named Joy to bring the Bell Killer to justice.

During the course of the game, you search for clues, possess people to read their minds or influence them to act a certain way, and take control of cats (yay!) to access tight areas.  Dementor-like demons roam around and will kill you all over again (this time permanently) if you don't sneak up on them and take them down first.  You can help other spirits find peace by solving their problems or collect artifacts to hear ghost stories revolving around them, though none of the stories were really worth the trouble.

M:SS got terrible reviews, but honestly, it's not bad.  The story takes some interesting turns, and Ronan and Joy have a fun (if occasionally prickly) camaraderie.  The graphics aren't particularly great, but the atmosphere is suitably creepy.  It's a pretty short game that should only take about 10 hours to complete (maybe 12 if you want to find all of the artifacts and notes), so if you like action adventure games, it's worth renting.

Friday, June 13, 2014

five stars

I have a pretty boring diet.  With rare exceptions, I have the same thing for breakfast (yogurt) and lunch (PBJ) every day.  Dinner varies, but not by much.  G-Vo and I eat out on weekends, but we still only choose from a small group of favorite restaurants.  And that's fine; I eat these things because I like them.

But every once in a while, I'll eat something so amazing that makes me realize how everything else I usually eat is just empty calories, quickly consumed and then forgotten.  One of the best meals I've ever had was filet mignon and basmati rice, with key lime cheesecake for dessert.  It was one of those meals where I sat back full and happy and knew that I'd remember it for a long time.  It didn't just nourish my body; it nourished my soul.

These are the movie and TV equivalents, culled from my five star ratings on Netflix.  I thought I'd share them in case anyone is looking for something worthwhile to watch over the summer.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.  I've added comments or clarifications where needed.  Also, there's a very real possibility that I forgot to rate something that I thought was worth five stars, so I may update it at some point in the future, but this is a good starting point.

In alphabetical order:

  1. Aladdin
  2. American Beauty
  3. Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV show, NOT the movie!)
  4. The Avengers
  5. Borat
  6. Breaking Bad:  We haven't actually finished this, so I reserve the right to go back and change this rating.  But the writing and acting so far deserve a five.
  7. Bridesmaids
  8. Clerks
  9. The Dark Knight
  10. E.T. 
  11. The Fall:  The movie, not the unrelated TV miniseries (which is also excellent).  I pulled this DVD off the shelf at the library, thought I'd watch about 15 minutes and toss it aside, and wound up watching it twice in 24 hours.  It is so beautiful and heartbreaking and has made me a Lee Pace fangirl for life. 
  12. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  13. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  14. Game of Thrones:  I want to say it's my favorite TV show of all time, but I hesitate to do so until it's actually over.  It's got a damn good shot, though, assuming it doesn't pull a Lost or a Dexter on us in the final season.
  15. The Green Mile:  Based on one of my ten favorite books of all time.
  16. Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 2:  Mainly for sentimental reasons.
  17. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  18. Her
  19. The Hunchback of Notre Dame:  The Disney version.  No exaggeration, I was howling in the theater.  And I don't mean laughter, I mean tears.  People were actually turning around to look at me.
  20. The Incredibles
  21. Kick-Ass
  22. Kill Bill:  The first one only; I was really disappointed in the second.
  23. King Kong:  Peter Jackson's version.
  24. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  25. Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers:  Probably my favorite movie of all time.
  26. Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King:  Yes, I went out of alphabetical order there because I felt weird going out of sequential order for a trilogy.  (nerd)
  27. Me and You and Everyone We Know
  28. Memento
  29. Mulholland Drive
  30. Mysterious Skin
  31. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  32. Paranoia Agent
  33. Perfect Blue
  34. Pinocchio
  35. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  36. The Protector:  Also known as Tom Yum Goong.
  37. Pulp Fiction
  38. Running Scared:  The 2006 movie, not the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines one.  One of the most exciting and audacious movies I've ever seen.  A scene of Paul Walker (RIP) going down on Vera Farmiga most certainly did not hurt its rating.
  39. Shortbus
  40. Sideways
  41. The Silence of the Lambs
  42. Sita Sings the Blues
  43. Sixteen Candles
  44. The Sopranos:  As of this writing, my favorite TV show of all time, though (as mentioned above) Game of Thrones is not just nipping at its heels; it has an actual foot in its mouth.
  45. Titanic
  46. Toy Story 3
  47. Up
  48. Welcome to the Dollhouse
  49. Zodiac
Aw man, I don't have a full 50?  Oh well.

UPDATE 6/15:  I couldn't easily add these without messing up my list above, so please mentally add Freaks and Geeks, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Shaun of the Dead, Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back to the above list.

Monday, June 02, 2014

media update: May

This month, I wrapped up an experiment in which I kept track of every penny I spent over the course of a year.  It was pretty interesting; for one thing, I learned that I spend WAY too much money in the vending machine here at work.  Once I noticed that trend, though, I managed to cut the amount down by 75%.

I was going to break everything down by category, but oh my god, no thanks, I'm not THAT bored.  But here are a few highlights:

Most common purchases that weren't strictly necessary:  Vending machine items, massages (though I could make a strong case for those being necessary because they improve my mood/back pain), Sprinkles cupcakes, contributions to the lottery pool at work, and assorted subscriptions (Gamefly, Netflix, about eight thousand magazines, and Booksfree, although I cancelled that in March because they kept removing so many items that my queue went down from 300 books to 12 in the course of three months).

Most unusual purchases:  Jon Snow, Daenerys, and Ned Stark Funko figurines (gifts for G); an original watercolor painting titled Skeletons Under the Mistletoe by Lissa Treiman; a "small sausage" (oddly enough, I don't remember this purchase at all and I only eat sausage on the rare occasions I go out for breakfast, and I wasn't being euphemistic, so it will remain a mystery).

Stores that get most of my money:  Target, Whole Foods, CVS, and Albertsons.

Anyway, it was interesting, but I'm glad it's over because it was a pain in the ass to keep track of every freakin' penny.  If I ever feel the need to do it again, I'll stick to one or two months.

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


1. 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'.

2. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead:  In 1975, an American ballet dancer named Joan helps Arslan Rusakov, considered to be the best ballet dancer in the world, defect from Russia.  She falls deeply in love with him, which has unexpected consequences that reverberate throughout the rest of her life.  It's okay, but I probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been hard up for reading material at the time.  Also, it should have ended one chapter earlier.

3. Tease by Amanda Maciel:  Sara is in big trouble.  After her classmate Emma commits suicide, Sara, her best friend Brielle, and three classmates are charged with stalking and harassment.  While awaiting sentencing, Sara is forced to confront her part in Emma's death.  It's pretty good, although (much like Tampa by Alissa Nutting and The End of Alice by A.M. Homes) it feels kind of squicky to try to sympathize with a narrator who's a terrible person.  Also, the cover is shiny silver with the title written out in red lipstick, which makes it look like erotica.  Not that I have anything against erotica, of course; it's just not something I want people to think I'm reading in the break room at work.

4. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculi:  Minnie Graves is not happy when she's pressured into being a bridesmaid at her sister's wedding to a guy she hates.  Bored, she wanders off to explore the Bellweather Hotel, the sprawling resort where the wedding is taking place, and witnesses a murder-suicide.  Fifteen years later, when a group of teenagers comes to the Bellweather for a music conference, another tragedy makes everyone wonder if the past is repeating itself.  The book jacket describes it as "The Shining meets Glee", and although it's not as engrossing (and not remotely scary) as The Shining, it's still pretty good.  There are some stretches that drag, but it redeems itself with some great set pieces and lines like this one:  "When [Minnie's] parents wake her to talk to the police, again she will scream and kick and fight like an animal, afraid to be awake in a world of so many monsters."


Nothing this month.


1. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! vol. 3 by Nico Tanigawa

2. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

3. Midnight Secretary vol. 5 by Tomu Ohmi

4. Otomen vol. 18 (final volume) by Aya Kanno

5. Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki by Mamoru Hosoda and Yu

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru


1. 47 Ronin:  Loosely based on Japanese history, this movie tells the story of a group of ronin (guess how many!) who are determined to avenge the death of their master.  This was a massive commercial and critical flop, but I liked it quite a bit.  It's visually appealing (aside from some iffy CGI at times) and has some fun action.

2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug*:  This is a sequel to The Hobbit, so I won't go into great detail lest I spoil something from its predecessor/book.  I will say that it's considerably better than the first movie, thanks to a couple of terrific fight scenes, a badass dragon, and the return of LEGOLAS.  Not only is he pretty to look at, but he's a fucking boss.  Glad to have you back, my Elvish sweetheart.

3. Bettie Page Reveals All*:  A look at the iconic pinup girl whose playful poses and obvious delight in her sexuality continue to resonate decades later.  What I particularly enjoyed about this documentary is that it's not just a regurgitated slideshow of her photos (though there are plenty of those, of course); it includes a very rare interview with her done shortly before she died.  My main complaint is that at one point Bettie talks about a shoot where the photographers got her drunk and she wound up posing in a much more explicit fashion than usual, and how much that upset her once she'd sobered up and realized what happened, and then they showed one of those pictures onscreen.  I thought that was disrespectful.

4. Stranger by the Lake:  In this French flick, Franck spends most of his days at a lake known for gay cruising.  He's instantly attracted to Michel (who looks a lot like a young Timothy Dalton), and his attraction doesn't wane even when he sees Michel drown his lover in the lake.  An interesting little thriller, but be warned that it includes more nudity than a men's locker room and graphic, non-simulated sex.

5. Out of the Furnace:  After his brother disappears while engaging in an underground fighting match, Russell takes matters into his own hands.  Excellent performances, especially from Christian Bale as Russell and Woody Harrelson as a vicious redneck, but unrelentingly grim.

6. Pompeii:  This was a shameless Gladiator ripoff until Mount Vesuvius erupted.  It was another big budget flop that didn't quite deserve the critical and commercial failure, because the disaster porn is really cool and Kit "Jon Snow" Harington's abs are a force of nature too.  Don't get me wrong, it's not a great movie, but it's enjoyable.

7. Chinese Zodiac:  Jackie Chan plays a relic hunter tasked with retrieving several priceless statues and returning them to China.  There's an almost unbearable slapsticky part in the middle, but the beginning (in which Jackie speeds around hairpin turns in a rollerblade suit) and the fight scenes are great.

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 that Joss Whedon will have a very hard time topping in the next Avengers movie.  Oh, and you get to see Hugh Jackman's nalgas, which is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Side note: It's sad that this even warrants a mention, but the audience was extremely well-behaved throughout the entire movie.  I hardly ever go to the movies anymore (this was the first time in 7 months), both because of the cost and because people are so goddamn rude, so I was gratified when everyone was quiet and kept their phones in their pockets/purses.


1. "Cherry-Coloured Funk" by Cocteau Twins

2. "Heaven or Las Vegas" by Cocteau Twins

3. "One Small Day" by Ultravox

4. "Love's Great Adventure" by Ultravox

5. "Original Don" by Major Lazer

6. "Be Aggressive" by Faith No More

4. "Love's Great Adventure" by Ultravox

Friday, May 16, 2014


I don't have that many female friends, and I never have.  It's not internalized misogyny; it's just that when I was growing up, I had interests that skewed far more closely to "guy stuff", like comic books and video games.  That wouldn't make me a special snowflake now, but it sure did back then, so I got much more comfortable hanging around guys than girls.  I wasn't interested in clothes or putting on makeup or playing with dolls; I wanted to hang out at Scotty's Liquor, where I'd consistently rack up the high score on Q*Bert or Eyes (a bizarre Pac-Man ripoff) while coolly sipping a soda and soaking up the compliments of the boys watching me.

But as a teenager, I didn't have very many friends of either gender.  My best friend R was two years older than me, so I had to brave the dangerous, awful, bully infested waters of junior high by myself, eating my lunch in the bathroom and trying to avoid insults and hard slaps in the head.  By the time I got to high school, R had a boyfriend whose side she rarely, if ever, left, and then she got into crystal meth, so I lost her too.  I felt so lonely, and back then, I wasn't comfortable being by myself because, when left alone too long, my thoughts went to dark places.  I just wanted someone to fucking understand me, to share inside jokes with, to see the cracked and damaged places inside me and love me anyway.

Travis (not his real name) was in my French and economics classes, and he obviously did not give a single solitary fuck what anyone else thought of him.  He always wore a neon green cardigan, usually over a Dead or Alive or Divine shirt, which back in those days was tantamount to taking out a billboard and advertising that you were gay. 

I was instantly smitten by Travis.  I tried to woo him with M&Ms and copies of Crackpot, and although he always thanked me, he didn't give me the validation I desperately desired by inviting me to have lunch with him, so I eventually gave up.  I still said hi to him when I slid into the desk next to him, and once I asked him to decipher an Erasure lyric that I couldn't figure out (this was before the internet, remember), but other than that, I left him alone.

One day, in economics, our teacher was talking about civil rights and said "The problem was that once the blacks had them, the f-----s wanted them too."  I happened to be looking right at Travis when Mr. H said that, and his forehead furrowed slightly, but he never stopped doodling on his folder.  I can't even begin to imagine how he felt, knowing that a TEACHER felt like he could use a vile homophobic slur in class and nobody would do a goddamn thing about it.

The whole reason I'm even writing this is because I dreamed about Travis last night.  For some reason, we were playing Rock Band and he turned to me and said "It's okay that you were alone, you know.  Nobody was cool enough for you anyway."  And this is so stupid, but I woke up crying.

Is it dumb to feel so validated by a dream?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

media update: April

Well, I finally drank the Kool-Aid and got an iPhone.  My cell phone provider gave me a pretty good deal, and I figured I might as well because I'd had my Nokia flip phone forever.  (Yes, you read that right...a FLIP PHONE!  Every time I pulled that thing out people looked at me like I was about to crank up a gramophone and do the lindy hop.  I'm the exact opposite of an early adopter; I'm more like a "as long as it works I'll keep it until it breaks or I'm forced to switch" adopter.)

I was sorry to see my old phone go.  It managed to survive being grabbed and chewed on by a monkey (true story) and being dropped in a toilet.  But it was time to let it go, and I gave it a loving pat before sealing it up in an envelope and sending it off to Hopeline, an organization that refurbishes donated cell phones and gives them to domestic violence survivors and other people in crisis.  Farewell, my sweet little ancient Nokia, and thank you for your many years of faithful service.

By the way, my new phone is pretty goddamn cool except I am completely flummoxed by the thing.  I guess I'm too dumb to have a smart phone.  Fortunately, I have my own Genius Bar in the form of C,  who's been unbelievably patient with my many stupid questions.  I owe him a beer or twenty.

Oh, and FUCKING CANDY CRUSH.  I'd heard how addictive it was, but I had no goddamn idea.  It's like Heisenberg meth.  Whenever I get the notification that my lives have reupped, my pupils dilate like I'm in Requiem for a Dream.  I managed to clear level 70, widely believed to be the hardest one in the game, about twenty minutes ago and you'd think I just won the lottery.

In other news, lots and lots of stuff happening at work.  I can't discuss some of it because I'm paranoid, but on the plus side, one of my least favorite coworkers is retiring, and I'm over the goddamn moon about it.  My nickname for her is the Raccoon because I once came back from the bathroom and found her pawing through my trash.  (No idea why, unless she has a fetish for used Kleenex, which: ew.)  She also called me a bitch once when she thought I wasn't listening, so fuck her.  I'm insanely jealous that she gets to retire, but at least I don't have to look at her every day.

On the negative side, my work bestie is transferring out of state.  I've known her since I moved back here in 2001, and she's the only person here I'd consider a friend.  She also lives next door to me (literally!), so this is kind of a blow.  I'm going to miss her so much that I would actually accept the Raccoon staying here if it meant J could stay.  The Lord giveth etc etc.

Anyway, on to the media update!  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Dark Triumph* by Robin LaFevers:  This is the sequel to Grave Mercy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil something from the previous book.  I will say that I liked it even more than its predecessor because it's told from the point of view of Sybella, and I found her to be a more interesting and complex character than Ismae.  Plus there's lots more of the Beast (so called because of his appearance, not his personality), who I really like.

2. The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga:  Sequel, can't review properly, etc.; you know the drill by now.  It was meh.  Also, I swear to god the word "tendrils" was used every other page.

3. Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke:  On Christmas morning, while her husband goes to the airport to pick up his parents, Holly is left alone with their beautiful teenage daughter Tatiana, who they adopted in Siberia when she was an infant.  When a blizzard strikes and her husband is delayed, Holly notices that Tatiana is acting irrationally, and she becomes convinced that something followed them home from Russia.  An interesting premise, but the writing can be a bit stilted and I didn't find the ending as amazing as some of the reviews claimed I would.

4. The Winner's Curse* by Marie Rutkoski:  Kestrel lives in an empire that wrenched power from the people it conquered.  As the daughter of one of the empire's most elite generals, she enjoys the finer things in life.  When she attends a slave auction, she is drawn to a young man named Arin and impulsively buys him for her household, but Arin isn't quite what he seems.  Yes, it's another YA novel, but I really enjoyed it.  I kept telling myself that I'd stop at the end of a chapter, and then I'd plow through another 50 pages.

5. Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes:  After a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, Claudia is pregnant again and close to her due date.  Because her husband is away on a military mission and she has two young stepsons to look after, she hires a nanny named Zoe to help out.  But she doesn't trust Zoe, and when a series of vicious attacks on pregnant women rocks the community, she begins to wonder if Zoe is involved.  I would have enjoyed this book much more if the reviews hadn't spoiled the shit out of it.  If you have any interest in reading it, please skip the reviews and the blurbs on the back cover.


1. 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.

2. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney:  An account of 24 hours in the kitchen of a popular restaurant.  It's told in second person, which I'm not generally a fan of, but it's pretty good.

3. 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.


1. Saga* vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:  This series is so freakin' good oh my god.  If you have any love in your heart for graphic novels at all, please check it out.

2. Library Wars vol. 11 by Kiiro Yumi

3. Attack on Titan: Junior High by Saki Nakagawa:  This is a bit of an odd duck.  It's a humorous take on the decidedly NON-humorous anime/manga series Attack on Titan, and it's actually pretty funny.

4. Beautiful Darkness* by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet:  Man, this was fucked UP.  The art is deceptively pretty, and it starts out like a sweet fairy tale, and then things get horrifying.  There are images in this book that will stay with me for a long, long time. 

5. Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano

6. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall by Satoshi Shiki and Ryo Suzukaze


1. Dallas Buyers Club:  In 1985, ultramacho electrician/rodeo rider Ron Woodroof is horrified when he is diagnosed with AIDS, because he considers it to be strictly a "f----t disease".  His doctors tell him that he has only 30 days to live, but he hears about alternative treatments and heads to Mexico to stock up on non-FDA approved drugs.  He starts a club to help other patients get the drugs as well.

Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (as Rayon, a fellow patient who helps Ron with the club) won Oscars for their roles, and although they deserved them, I think the movie overall was lacking a bit.  I can't even put my finger on why, although the fact that Ron comes across as a total asshole (though he does redeem himself a bit by the end) probably didn't help.  Then again, I loved the next movie on this list and the main character in that is far worse than Ron, so I just don't know.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street*:  Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, very deserving of his Oscar nomination) 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's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.

3. August: Osage County:  After their father commits suicide, three sisters return home and struggle with their pill popping, incredibly manipulative mother (Meryl Streep).  I usually think Julia Roberts is overrated, but she was so good as the brittle Barbara that I think she should have won the best supporting actress Oscar instead of Lupita Nyong'o (who, don't get me wrong, was terrific). 

4. American Hustle:  A con man and his mistress (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to help the FBI take down corrupt politicians.  I was expecting this to be great, but although I enjoyed it, it was just good.  Terrific performances, though.

5. Homefront:  After serving as a DEA agent, Phil Broker (Jason Statham) moves with his young daughter to a small Louisiana town.  But after his daughter tangles with a bully whose parents are meth heads, Phil finds himself at war with the local drug lord.  The story is just whatever, but you cannot beat Jason Statham kicking ass and taking names.  Bonus points for Doting Daddy Statham and Kitten Cuddlin' Statham!

6. Nurse:  By day, Abby Russell is a devoted nurse; by night, she entraps cheating men and kills them.  But a coworker starts to suspect her, and Abby has to choose between her job and her mission.  Paz de la Huerta is AWFUL in the lead, and the movie as a whole is almost hypnotically bad, but I'll give it this: it ain't boring.  I watched it stone cold sober, but for optimal viewing pleasure, I recommend the liquor of your choice.  Also, mega LOLs at Katrina Bowden wearing panties in the shower.  If she didn't want to show her nekkid bottom half, why didn't the director just shoot her from the waist up instead of being all "oh yeah, just wear panties"?

7. Date and Switch:  Lifelong friends Michael and Matty are determined to lose their virginity before the prom.  But when Matty comes out of the closet, Michael is thrown for a loop.  It's not phenomenal or anything, but it has some genuinely funny lines and scenes.

8. The Counselor:  A lawyer (Michael Fassbender) gets involved in the drug trade, which leads to some unfortunate consequences.  This movie has an A-list cast, it was directed by Ridley Scott, and it was written by Cormac McCarthy, so you'd think it would be great, but it was confusing and unbelievably depressing.  But if you'd like to see Cameron Diaz humping a car, by all means check it out.

Monday, March 31, 2014

media update: March

Hey yo.  Sorry I haven't been posting much recently, but not a lot is going on.  I have a few interesting things in the works, though, so watch this space!

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

G-Vo, skip fiction review #2.

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1. Grasshopper Jungle* by Andrew Smith:  Austin and his best friend Robby are bored with life in their tiny Iowa town.  But things get considerably less boring when they inadvertently release a plague of gigantic praying mantises.  This novel is a breed all its own; the closest counterpart I can think of is John Dies at the End with a splash of Naked Lunch.  I mean, there are chapters titled "There's Blood on Your Spam" and "Never Look for Ice Cream in a Sperm Freezer".  If that doesn't pique your interest, stay far away; otherwise, dig in for a delightfully fucked up treat.

2. 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.

Side note: There are several extremely disturbing scenes of animal cruelty, so caveat reader.

3. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes:  In 1916 France, in the middle of World War I, a young woman named Sophie catches the eye of a German commander.  When she takes a risk in hopes of being reunited with her husband, things go very wrong.  Almost a century later, a portrait of Sophie becomes the centerpiece of a heated legal battle.  I found the sections from Sophie's point of view far more interesting than those of Liv's, the woman who owns the portrait, but the entire book was pretty good overall.

4. 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.

As soon as I saw the blurb on the front cover from Karin Slaughter, one of my favorite authors, I knew I had to pick this up, and Ms. Slaughter didn't steer me wrong.  It's like Gillian Flynn crossed with Winter's Bone, and it's really freakin' good.  I tore through it in two days.

5. Half Bad by Sally Green:  Nathan is shunned by society because he is the illegitimate son of a white witch mother and a black witch father, but not just any black witch...the most reviled and vicious witch in the world.  (Imagine Harry Potter if Voldemort was his father.)  He's never known his father, but he wants to find him and receive the three gifts that will cause his own magical powers to blossom. 

I was really excited to read this because it's getting so much buzz, but it left me a bit cold because I didn't like most of the characters.  Still, it's not half bad (hurr hurr see what I did there), so I'll probably pick up the next volume as well when it comes out.  Yes, it's going to be a trilogy; I think it's an actual law now that all YA novels with any sort of fantasy/dystopian/magical bent have to be trilogies.

6. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers:  As if to prove my previous point, this is book one of a trilogy.  It's about Ismae, a teenage girl raised by a convent that worships Saint Mortain, the god of death.  She's trained as an elite assassin and sent to a court in Brittany to deal with some political shiz.  It's pretty good, and I've already requested the second book from the library.  (The final volume drops this fall.)

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1. Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney:  A memoir of the author's quest to find a boyfriend.  Like most books of this type (with the very notable exceptions of Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and Meaty by Samantha Irby), the author thinks she's much funnier/more interesting than she really is, but it has some good moments.

Side note:  The front cover has a typo on it, if you can believe that.  The FRONT COVER!  Lame.

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1. Locke & Key* vol. 6 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez:  An excellent ending to an amazing series.

2. Midnight Secretary vols. 1-4 by Tomu Ohmi:  I wouldn't call this a hate read, because the art is pretty and the story is entertaining, but holy balls is the male romantic lead a dick.  He's a vampire who uses his secretary Kaya for her particularly fragrant blood, and he apparently went to a charm school run by Christian Grey.  "You are mine", "You no longer belong to yourself but to me", that kind of bullshit.  So of course she thinks he's the greatest thing ever.  Kaya needs to stake him in the heart and get together with the nice non-dick non-vampire dude who also likes her and has a cat. 

3. Black Bird vol. 18 (final volume) by Kanako Sakurakoji

4. The Walking Dead* vol. 20 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn

5. Rin-Ne vol. 14 by Rumiko Takahashi

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1. In A World...*:  A vocal coach (Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed) is determined to become the first female movie trailer announcer, but she'll have to beat out her wildly successful father first.  This was a delightful little surprise; the dialogue is quirky and funny without being completely unrealistic.  (*cough Juno cough*)  G-Vo and I really liked it.

2. Nebraska:  Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an elderly man who thinks he's won a million dollars in a sweepstakes, and he wants to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the "prize" in person.  After trying to dissuade him without success, his son finally agrees to take him.  Along the way, they visit family and friends who want a chunk of the money.  The performances were great (especially June Squibb as Woody's sharp-tongued wife), and it had some really funny lines, but it was a bit overhyped.  Also, there was absolutely no reason for it to be in black and white other than sheer pretentiousness.

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire*:  Although everybody who cares has already read or seen this, I'll refrain from spoilers.  I'll just say that I really enjoyed it.  Bonus:  Effie Trinket's costumes are really amazing.

4. Thor: The Dark World:  Megahunky superhero Thor fights to protect the Nine Realms from an evil dude who wants to plunge the entire universe into darkness.  Goofy but fun; it has some really funny scenes and a nice cameo.  Also, there's a special feature on the DVD about the Mandarin (from the Iron Man movies) that's well worth watching.

5. Dark Touch:  After her entire family is killed, young Neve insists that their house was possessed and caused the tragic accident.  Needless to say, nobody believes her...until things start happening again.  It gives things away WAY too early and I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but for the most part it's a decent little thriller.

6. Escape Plan: Ray (Sylvester Stallone) has made a good living by figuring out how to break out of maximum security prisons.  But when he finds himself stuck in a prison that stumps even him, he enlists a fellow inmate (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to help him break free.  Not essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its moments.

7. Justice League: War:  The Justice League bands together to fight an alien menace.  The voice acting isn't particularly good and the plot is meh, but there are some really funny lines (mostly courtesy of Green Lantern being snarky towards Batman) and decent action sequences.

8. 12 Years a Slave*:  This best picture Oscar winner is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery.  It's very well done and the performances are terrific (especially Michael Fassbender as a particularly cruel plantation owner and Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey, the slave he takes a fancy to), but it's almost unrelentingly grim and watching it kind of felt like a punishment.  I know that sounds rich, like "Awww, sorry you found this historically accurate movie hard to watch, white woman", but that's how I felt.  I'm still giving it a star on the basis of its performances and the beautiful cinematography, and because it's a story that deserved to be told, but I never want to see it again.

9. Frozen*:   After she inadvertently traps her kingdom in eternal winter, Elsa flees to the wilderness and isolates herself in a castle made of ice.  Her sister Anna, accompanied by a mountaineer, heads out to find her and break the curse.  Beautifully animated and sweet, and the talking snowman didn't annoy me nearly as much as I thought he would.

Side note:  G-Vo pointed out how much the song "Let It Go" sounds like Katy Perry's "Firework".  Listen for yourself!

10. Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher:  The title characters team up to stop an illegal arms dealer, but Punisher's methods go against SHIELD's directives.  The animation (by Japanese company Madhouse) is gorgeous, but the story was just meh.  I was astounded when the credits rolled and I saw that Black Widow was voiced by Jennifer "Deb from Dexter" Carpenter and Punisher was voiced by Brian "Alex from Silent Hill Homecoming" Bloom, because I didn't catch that at ALL.

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1. Pure Heroine by Lorde:  Yeah, I'm sick of "Royals" like everybody else with a radio, but there are some great tracks on here.  My favorite is "Tennis Court".  It amuses me to no end that there are actually Lorde age truthers out there, i.e. people who refuse to believe she's only 17, but after listening to this album, I'm about to join their ranks.

2. "FU" by Miley Cyrus

Friday, February 28, 2014

media update: February

So I played The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC, and oh my god, it was absolutely amazing.  I know a lot of people (myself included) grumbled about the $15 cost, especially considering that it's only about 3 hours long, but you know what?  Would you complain about spending $15 to see a really good movie?  I can't review it without massive spoilers for the original game, but please trust me:  if you loved TLOU, you're going to love this too.  It's gorgeous, it's exciting, it's emotional, and the voice acting is superlative.  It's well worth your money and your time.

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

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1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd:  In 19th century Charleston, Sarah Grimke receives an unusual gift for her 11th birthday: a slave girl named Handful.  Sarah is appalled, but she and Handful become friends, and as Sarah gets older, she's determined to put an end to slavery.

This was an Oprah Book Club pick, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.  It isn't bad, but it really started to lose my interest in the final third.

2. These Broken Stars* by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  Tarver is a war hero traveling on a luxury spaceliner, but when it's pulled out of hyperspace and crashes, he discovers that the only other survivor is Lilac LaRoux (I know, I can't handle that name either), the daughter of the galaxy's richest man.  She's spoiled as hell and obnoxious, so you know what that means: love connection!  It's like a mash-up of Titanic, Lost, and (oddly enough) Beyond: Two Souls, but you know what?  I actually really enjoyed it, especially when the plot took a very interesting turn about halfway through.  It's not cerebral reading or anything, but it's fun.  I shall eagerly await the second book (because of course it's a trilogy) in December.

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. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd:  This is a direct sequel to The Madman's Daughter, can't review it know the drill by now.

5. Killer by Jonathan Kellerman:  Dr. Alex Delaware is called upon to assist with a very messy custody case that gets even uglier when one of the plaintiffs turns up dead.  An entertaining mystery; Kellerman can be pretty hit or miss, but I enjoyed this one.

6. The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley:  Eve's son Tyler has xeroderma pigmentosum, which basically causes him to be allergic to light.  She's spent his entire life keeping him safe from harm, but when she makes a fateful decision, she puts her entire family at risk.  It's very Jodi Picoult-esque, only without the irritating twists that Picoult likes to toss into her endings.

7. Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas:  In 1885, socialite Beret Osmundsen heads to Denver after hearing that her estranged sister Lillie has been murdered in a brothel.  Despite the warnings of her aunt and uncle, who had taken Lillie in after the sisters' falling out, and detective Mick McCauley, Beret is determined to find Lillie's killer.  The writing occasionally seemed stiff, but I liked it fine.

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1. Meaty* by Samantha Irby:  A collection of 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.  And I shit you not, she actually managed to make me feel better about myself with the brutally frank entry in which she details her physical flaws.  I was like "Oh my god, other women get hyperpigmentation from their bra too?  I'm not alone!  Praise Jesus!"  She's also a big Muse fan and has a cat named Helen Keller, so basically she and I are meant to be friends and I will go out and buy us a set of broken heart BFF necklaces just as soon as I post this entry.  

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1. Juicy Cider by Rize Shinba

2. Revival* vol. 2 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton
3. Sakura Hime vol. 12 (final volume) by Arina Tanemura

4. Kamisama Kiss vol. 14 by Julietta Suzuki

5. Judge vol. 3 by Yoshiki Tonogai

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1. The Lone Ranger:  Sometimes I see a notorious box office bomb on DVD and wonder why it flopped so hard...which was not the case with this bloated, embarrassing mess.  Skip it unless you want the William Tell Overture stuck in your head for three days straight.

2. 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.

3. Sunlight Jr.:  Melissa (Naomi Watts) lives with her paraplegic boyfriend (Matt Dillon) in a seedy Florida motel.  When she finds out she's pregnant, they begin to think they can turn their lives around, but it won't be that simple.  It's decent, but unless you want to spend 90 minutes watching people trying to claw their way out of desperate poverty, you could probably find a more pleasant way to spend your time.

4. Despicable Me 2:  I liked the original well enough, but this was weak:  not very funny and not emotionally engaging at all.  If there's a DM3, I think I'll take a Pasadena on it.

5. Fast & Furious 6:  Plot synopsis?  Who cares?  All you need to know is that it has lots of cool cars driving really fast, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's enormous biceps, and a really cool stinger.  It was really weird and sad seeing Paul Walker, though.

6. Carrie*:  Okay, so the original was good enough that it didn't really need to be remade, but the story of bullied telekinetic teen Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her bloody revenge is still immensely satisfying.  And as Carrie's religious fanatic mom, Julianne Moore is terrifying.

7. Ender's Game*:  Ender's Game:  Gifted teenagers are recruited by the military to prepare for battle against the Formics, a buglike alien that nearly decimated the human race.  The Formics have lain low since their previous invasion, but the military doesn't want to take any chances, and young Ender may be humanity's last hope.

This movie tanked, no doubt to Orson Scott Card's ill-timed and idiotic homophobic rantings shortly before release, but it was actually pretty good if you're in the mood for some sci-fi action.

8. Captain Phillips*:  The true story of how Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) survived the takeover of his cargo ship by Somalian pirates.  Unbelievably tense and, as you'd expect, beautifully acted.

9. Machete Kills:  This deliriously (and deliberately) cheesy sequel to the neo-grindhouse action flick has ex-Federale Machete going up against arms dealers and a psycho cartel boss.  Lots of fun.

10. Blue Is the Warmest Color*:  Adele is a young French woman who is mesmerized when she sees a blue-haired woman on the street.  When she runs into the woman, who is named Emma, in a gay bar, they quickly form a bond and soon fall in love.

This movie was based on the graphic novel of the same name, which I read last year, and they made quite a few changes, mostly for the good.  I do wish it had been a bit shorter; it was 3 hours long (and apparently there's a director's cut coming out soon that adds almost an hour!), and there were many scenes that could easily have been pared down.  But the performances are amazing, so it's well worth a watch if you don't have a problem with graphic sexual content.  Because let me tell you, there's a masturbation scene and a heterosexual sex scene (including a shot of an erect penis) in the first 20 minutes, and plenty of lesbian sex too, so even though it's not porn, you better be ready for how explicit it is.

Speaking of those sex scenes, be sure to have the remote handy because some of them get LOUD.  I wasn't prepared for it and had to leap from the couch to turn the volume down lest my neighbors think I was having a super sexy lesbian fling in my apartment.

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1. "Tenshi no Yubikiri" (opening theme to KareKano)
2. "Go All the Way" by The Raspberries:  Mmmm...sweet sweet 70s power pop.

3. "Crown on the Ground" by Sleigh Bells

4. "Drop It Low" by Ester Dean

5. "212" by Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay

6. "FML" by Deadmau5

7. "Go All the Way" by The Killers