Monday, October 02, 2006

media update: September

Wanna be a ghostbuster, first black president, owner of Hustler...

Oh, hello there; hope you all had a good weekend. This is a couple of days late, but since I didn't watch or read anything on Saturday (aside from an issue of Entertainment Weekly and two episodes of CSI), it's still accurate. Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. We Are All Welcome Here* by Elizabeth Berg: I always make sure to have Kleenex handy whenever I read one of this author's books, because she has never failed to make me cry. This novel, about a teenage girl growing up with her disabled mother in the 1960's, was no exception. I disapprove of the deus ex machina near the end, but I'll forgive her.

2. Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston: A woman tries to forgive her husband after discovering that he's having an affair with his trainer. Not as good as Winston's debut novel, Good Grief, but it has its moments.

3. Journal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason by Joyce Atkinson and Kristine Atkinson: This is a murder mystery done in the form of an illustrated journal kept by its unlucky title protagonist. The book is voyeuristically beautiful in a Griffin and Sabine sort of way, but the story is lacking. It would be worth leafing through in a bookstore or getting at the library, though, just because of the unique way it's laid out.

4. Triptych* by Karin Slaughter: Three stories---a cop with dark secrets, a sad sack ex-con who stumbles across a sinister scheme, and a promiscuous vice cop---seamlessly intertwine in this taut thriller. More twists than a jumbo-sized bag of pretzels, and I guarantee you won't see most of them coming. Warning: Karin Slaughter is very aptly named, so if you have a weak stomach, you're not going to want to read any of her books. This one isn't that bad, at least compared to her previous novels, but it still has plenty of wince-worthy moments.

5. Girl in a Box by Sujata Massey: In the latest installment of the Rei Shimura mysteries, Rei---now a full-fledged government agent---is sent to Japan to investigate the shady business practices of a major department store. Not one of the better books in the series, but I still enjoyed its setting.

Read so far this year: 38


1. Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death* by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen: A fascinating peek into the newest trends in the funeral industry, from whimsically shaped caskets to diamonds made out of human cremains. Am I just tetched in the head, or are those diamonds actually beautiful? I don't know that I could ever wear one, though. I felt bad enough when I lost a $25 silver ring my parents gave to me when I was a teenager; I can't imagine how I'd feel if I lost a ring made out of a loved one.

2. The Best American Magazine Writing 2005 (anthology): One of the articles in here ("The Wronged Man", about a man who spent 22 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and was eventually freed when DNA proved his innocence) made me burst into tears.

3. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman: A collection of humorous essays about the author's childhood, overwhelming desire to get laid as a teenager, and wondering if you can still be a feminist when you go apeshit with glee at David's Bridal. I picked this up at [temmahkrik]'s recommendation, and I agree with her that it gets better as you go along.

4. Tabloid Love by Bridget Harrison: The author moved from London to New York City to work at the New York Post, and eventually she was given her own column to talk about her love life...which got awkward when she started dating her boss. This book has a lot of funny moments in it, but it's the poignant moments (her recollections of 9/11, spending Christmas Eve interviewing an elderly man about his wife's death) that I particularly enjoyed.

5. Straight Up & Dirty* by Stephanie Klein: A chronicle of the author's return to the single life after her divorce (or, as she puts it, after leaving her "wasband"). It's not only gloriously raunchy, but it's hysterical, and those are two great tastes that taste great together.

Read so far this year: 63


1. Teacher's Pet by Miki Aihara
2. Imadoki! by Yuu Watase
3. Sexual Harassment Avenger by Oumi Shinano

Read so far this year: 69 (uh huh huh huh)


1. Crank: A hit man is injected with poison by one of his enemies, and the only way he can stay alive is to keep his adrenaline up, which he does by driving through shopping malls, snorting coke, humping his girlfriend up against a newspaper machine in the middle of a crowded Chinatown marketplace, and so on. I love me some Jason Statham, but this movie was disappointing, especially since he didn't get a chance to show off his martial arts chops. Catch it on DVD, or rent The Transporter instead and entertain naughty thoughts during the oil scene.

2. Friends With Money: Jennifer Aniston plays the lone broke woman in a group of very wealthy friends. Smart and realistic dialogue and excellent performances, although ew on Jennifer using a stranger's vibrator.

3. Eight Below: Paul Walker, looking less hunky than usual thanks to windburn and eighteen layers of clothes, plays an Antarctic guide who must abandon his beloved sled dogs during a storm, and fights to get back to them while the dogs struggle to survive. Considering that it's a Disney movie, the dogs were refreshingly unanthropomorphized (if that's a word), and I teared up a few times. (Okay, once was due to the horrible CGI during the leopard seal attack, but most of the time it was due to something touching or tragic.)

4. The Protector*: Do you like intellectually challenging plots and Oscar-caliber acting? This isn't the film for you. Do you like nonstop, hardcore martial arts action that's so exciting you leap from your seat and yell "Tony freakin' Jaa in the house, mothafuckas, serving up piping hot beatdowns! Recognize!", causing your boyfriend to shrink away from you in fear? Then this is most definitely the movie for you.

5. Cache: A French thriller about a man who starts receiving surveillance tapes and creepy drawings on his front porch. This would have gotten a star except for the ending, which had G and me screaming "WHAT?!" at the screen. Helpful hint: if you watch this, pay very careful attention to the last scene; it doesn't explain everything, but you'll have a new angle to mull over. (Or you could watch the director interview for some more ideas, but he's so goddamned pretentious that you probably won't want to.)

6. The Black Dahlia: I'd been looking forward to this movie for a long time, but I was pretty disappointed. The story is convoluted as hell, Josh Hartnett has the charisma and talent of a week-old piece of deli meat, and ohmyfuckingGOD on the fanged dildo. On the plus side, the sets and costumes are top-notch, Scarlett Johanssen and Aaron Eckhart turn in capable performances, and Mia Kirshner does a good job of portraying Elizabeth Short. I still think Jennifer Connelly would have been perfect, but she might have been too old for the role. Ah well.

7. Brick*: This film noir set in a high school gets tons of bonus points for originality. Joseph Gordon Levitt is especially good as the teenager who wants to find out who killed the girl he loves and why. I wasn't sure if I was going to star this or not, but after remembering a certain surreal scene, I've got to.

8. The Notorious Bettie Page*: Remember back in the 90's when Gretchen Mol was on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing a clingy white shirt that prominently displayed her nipples? And everyone was all "Ooooh, she's the next big thing" and then she basically disappeared? Well, she's back, and I gotta give the girl credit; she is fantastic as Bettie Page, the 50's pinup girl and bondage queen whose refreshing blend of sexuality and innocence still resonates today. It's a damn good movie.

Seen so far this year: 73 (holy crap!)


1. "Gone Daddy Gone" by Gnarls Barkley
2. "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley
3. "When You Were Young" by The Killers
4. "I My Me Mine" by The Polysics
5. "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
6. "We Used to Be Friends" by The Dandy Warhols


Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

I liked the first installment of this series, but this one was much better. The voice acting is greatly improved, the storyline (twin sisters wind up in a haunted village that participates in a nasty religious ritual) is more engrossing, and it features the biggest jump scare I've ever gotten from a video game. I was so startled I actually dropped the controller, which has never happened before...not even during the infamous two-way mirror scene from Resident Evil 2.

Rule of Rose

Okay, anal-retentive side note first: I actually finished this game on October 1st, but since I played the vast majority of it in September, I'm including it here.

Anyway, you play Jennifer (not shown), a young girl who's heading to an orphanage after a tragic airship accident claims the lives of her parents. On the bus, she meets a mysterious young boy who asks her to read him a storybook, and then he gets off the bus and runs up a hill. She follows him into the orphanage, and things quickly go horribly wrong. The adults have long since vanished, and the orphanage has descended into chaos, ruled over by an elite group of girls whose word is absolute. Jennifer must try to stay alive, aided in her quest by a loyal dog she rescues, and figure out why everyone hates her so much.

The first time I played this through, I got the bad ending, and I was about to take the game outside and fling it across the street like a shuriken. None of the intricate plot was explained, and I felt like I'd just wasted 50 bucks and 13 hours of my life. But G and I did some research, and we found out how to get the good ending, which fortunately didn't entail much backtracking. With the good ending, you get an additional chapter which explains almost everything...and once I got the whole picture, the emotional impact of the storyline left me in tears.

Sure, the combat is terrible, but since you're playing an average teenage girl and not, say, an elite special agent, I suppose that could be forgiven. The camera isn't the greatest, which is a standard complaint with just about every survival horror game, and the loading times are ridiculous. But man, that storyline, the exquisite CGI cutscenes, and the beautiful presentation make up for the flaws and then some. If you like twisted fairytales, then this is the game for you; it truly is, as Kotaku said, Lord of the Flies in petticoats.


The Polysics: This is a brazilliant Japanese band that's very heavily influenced by Devo. This video for "I My Me Mine" features a cool little girl, a body poppin' cop, a Japanese dude imitating Michael Jackson, and a majorette. What else could you ask for? Polysics provide you with 200% of your awesome RDA. Crank up your speakers and terrify your pets!