Tuesday, January 31, 2006

media update: January

I recently learned that one should italicize, not underline, book titles. Dag, why didn't anyone tell me before now? I have a reputation as an anal-retentive to uphold, you know.

Damn, I watched a lot of movies this month! I also watched The Machinist and Unleashed, but I'd seen them before, so they don't get added to the list.

As always, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer: Standard chick lit (albeit with more profanity) about a woman whose relationship with her best friend becomes strained after the friend loses weight and finds a fiance.

2. Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman: The Germans are FUCKED UP.

3. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005*: I always eagerly await each year's intallment of this anthology because I am a big geek. The essential read in this one is "Free Burgers for Life" by Ryan Boudinot.

4. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz: Wow, there are some really overbaked descriptions in here! Take this description, for example: "Overhead, an eight-legged harpist moved, and silent arpeggios trembled through taut strings of spider silk." Other than that, though, this isn't a bad book. I especially loved the ghost of Elvis, who also showed up in this book's predecessor, Odd Thomas.

5. S Is for Silence* by Sue Grafton: The latest Kinsey Millhone mystery, in which a woman asks her for help in finding her mother, who disappeared 34 years ago. A typically absorbing effort from Grafton.

6. Cell* by Stephen King: It's about time! King's back in fine form with this gutclencher about a bizarre phenomenon which travels through cell phones and turns people into insane, bloodthirsty zombies. I devoured every tense, gore-soaked page.


1. Devil in the Details* by Jennifer Traig: A fantastic memoir of the author's battle with scrupulosity, which is obsessive-compulsive disorder based in religion. God, is this book funny! Read it and marvel at your relative normalcy.

2. Marley & Me by John Grogan: Okay, so this story of "the world's worst dog" (Worst? Really? What about the dog that chewed off that French chick's face while she was passed out?) has the feel of a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" anecdote stretched out over almost 300 pages. But man, if you don't go through a fistful of Kleenex---or a whole box if you're a dog lover---while reading this, I don't think I want to know you.

3. Geisha by Liza Dalby: An informative look at the world of geisha as told by the only non-Japanese woman to ever serve as one.

4. Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields: Tom Cruise can eat a plate of dicks if he honestly thinks vitamins can cure postpartum depression.

5. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: See, now, if economics had been this interesting in high school, I just might have gotten an A.

6. The Best American Magazine Writing 2003: A collection of notable magazine articles, covering everything from the Notre Dame coaching scandal to Yellowstone National Park.


1. Swan* vols. 4-5 by Ariyoshi Kyoko

2. Royal Seventeen by Kayono

3. My Wife Is A High School Student by Hiyoko Kobayashi

4. Luv Clinic* by Sugi Emiko

5. The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don't Read the Newspaper* by Aaron McGruder

6. Honey and Clover* by Morita Shinobu

7. Nana* vols. 11-12 by Ai Yazawa

8. The Virgin Mary Is Watching vol. 2 by Nagasawa Satoru

9. Deep Love vols. 1-2 by Yoshi and Yuu Yoshii: Okay, most depressing manga ever. Seriously, I needed a Xanax afterwards. How much shit can you possibly throw at one poor Japanese high school girl? (Wait, I've seen the infamous "tub" picture...don't answer that.)


1. In Her Shoes: I watched this on the flight back from New Jersey, and although it wasn't fantastic, it was a pleasant enough way to kill a couple of hours.

2. Murderball*: Terrific, unsentimental documentary about the sport of wheelchair rugby, or murderball. Be sure to watch the DVD extra in which the boys of "Jackass" play cattle prod jousting with some of the sport's best atheletes.

3. The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Not bad, and it had a couple of creepy moments, but something about it struck me as very amateurish.

4. House of Wax: The only reason I wanted to see this was to watch Paris Hilton die, but it actually wound up being very enjoyable in a completely trashy way. Plenty of squirm-inducing moments and some cool special effects near the end.

5. Red Eye*: A surprisingly taut little thriller about a woman who discovers a fellow passenger is up to no good…and wants her help assassinating a high government official, or else he’ll kill her father. The movie loses steam once the venue switches from plane to land, but I still enjoyed it. The performances by Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are quite good, too.

6. Wedding Crashers: This wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought it would be, but it still had plenty of good laughs, and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play well off each other.

7. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo: Okay, so it's unbelievably juvenile and really crass and stupid, but it's also funny. Yeah, that's right, I said a Rob Schneider movie was funny. You can have my street cred card back now.

8. The Constant Gardener*: When a British diplomat's wife is murdered in Africa, he learns that she was investigating some very unethical practices by some very bad companies. It's depressing as hell, but it gives you lots of food for thought, and the acting is stellar. Ralph Fiennes can convey a thousand words with just his eyes; he's brilliant.

9. Ong Bak*: The story is utter ass, the acting ranges from adequate to laughable, and the dubbing is atrocious. So why does this movie still get a star? Because Tony Jaa is eighteen shades of awesome. He leaps through a circle of barbed wire, kicks the shit out of someone while his legs are on fire, and tears through an astounding chase sequence on a crowded Bangkok street...all with no wires and no special effects. Give him a good part in a decent American action film and he could be the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li over here.

10. Steamboy: The story didn't grab me---I missed about 30 minutes in the middle, opting to shower, but I'm still putting it here because I did see the vast majority of the film. However, it's one of the most visually stunning animated films I've ever seen. The dubbing didn't make me want to puncture my eardrums either, which is always a plus.

11. Four Brothers: Mildly entertaining homage to the 70's revenge genre, wah-wah music and all.

12. The Aristocrats: A documentary about the filthiest joke in the world. To be honest, it got a little old after a while, and the camera work was really irritating, but man, there are some good laughs to be had here. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is not a film for the easily offended.