Friday, February 29, 2008

media update: February

Sorry this looks so crappy; I think all of the pictures/videos messed up the formatting. Oh well.

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


1. Secrets of a Lady by Tracy Grant: In Regency London, an upper class couple's world is turned upside down when their son is kidnapped and, in the process of trying to find him, their darkest secrets come to light.

2. Breaking Her Fall by Stephen Goodwin: A man receives a phone call from someone claiming that his 14-year-old daughter is drunk off her ass and blowing guys at a party. He rushes over there and commits an act of violence that has far-reaching consequences. The themes and style reminded me of Jodi Picoult.

3. Mademoiselle Boleyn* by Robin Maxwell: An excellent fictionalized account of Anne Boleyn's adolescence, complete with some nice racy scenes.

4. The Diving Pool* by Yoko Ogawa: Three disturbing novellas by one of Japan's best-known female authors. The title story is about a teenage girl who, unable to deal with her feelings for her foster brother, begins taking it out on a baby in her parents' care. "Pregnancy Diary" is about an unhinged woman cataloging her pregnant sister's state of mind, and "Dormitory" is about a woman revisiting her old dorm in hopes of finding her missing cousin.

5. The Serpent's Tale* by Ariana Franklin: I was chomping at the bit to read this because Mistress of the Art of Death was one of my favorite novels last year. In this one, Adelia investigates the murder of King Henry II's mistress. It's nowhere near as good as Mistress of the Art of Death, but it's still an engrossing historical mystery, and I happily plowed through it. The blurb on the back cover sums it up best: "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales."

6. The Opposite of Love* by Julie Buxbaum: The protagonist breaks up with her boyfriend and promptly regrets it, but he's angry and won't take her back. Her life continues to spiral downward when she gets involved in a messy legal case, her boss sexually harasses her, and her beloved grandfather becomes ill. I know this sounds like one colossal downer of a book, and there are times when it's almost unbearably sad---the scene where she talks to her dead mother had me reaching for the Kleenex---but it's also occasionally funny, and I was anxious to discover how everything turned out. Warning, though, to anyone planning on reading this: I would advise skipping the prologue, because it's chock full of spoilers. I don't know why on earth the author and/or editor thought that would be a great idea. They should have made it an epilogue instead, or just left it out entirely.

7. Celebutantes by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper: Lola, the protagonist, finds herself in a pickle when she promises her budding fashion designer friend that she'll convince a celebrity to wear one of his gowns to the Oscars. It alternates between fluffily amusing and mindnumbingly stupid.

8. Beautiful Children* by Charles Bock: Holy fucking wow, is this good that I don't want to spoil it by giving away too much. I'll just say that this funny, sad, and scary book, in which a 12-year-old boy disappears in Las Vegas, is one of the best debut novels I've ever read.


1. Helping Me Help Myself* by Beth Lisick: The author spent a year taking advice from various self-help books and seminars. It's hysterically funny and occasionally quite moving (such as when she goes on a Richard Simmons "Cruise to Lose" cruise, expecting it to be stupid and campy, and finds herself surprisingly touched by the experience).

2. Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter: A "meh"moir about the author's journey through the foster care system.

3. Her Last Death* by Susanna Sonnenberg: When the author received a phone call saying that her mother was on the brink of death after a car accident, she decided not to visit her; this memoir explains, in brutally honest detail, why. Exquisitely written, painful, and redemptive.

4. Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch: A mildly entertaining memoir about the author’s stint working at Per Se, one of the most renowned restaurants in New York City. Not the best thing to read during my lunch break, since the description of one of the desserts (a Valrhona chocolate brownie with milk chocolate ganache, milk chocolate snowflakes, and spiced caramel ice cream) made my cup of vanilla yogurt seem like dog shit in comparison.

5. Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge: Another memoir about going through the foster care system, although considerably better than #2.

6. Have You Found Her* by Janice Erlbaum: The author spent time in a homeless shelter when she was a teenager (as detailed in her previous memoir, Girlbomb) and, when she got older, decided to volunteer there. She met a brilliant teenage junkie named Sam, and eventually they became very close. But then, as Sam became sicker and sicker, she discovered something truly shocking that forced her to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about her friend. A heartbreaking and infuriating story.


1. The Savages*: Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings who must put their aging father, from whom they've been estranged for years, into a nursing home. There are some moments of dark comedy, but in general it's a painful, exceptionally moving film with superb performances.

2. The Eye: A blind violinist (Jessica Alba, turning in a performance so wooden that the producers should have saved a few million bucks and hired a mannequin instead) receives a cornea transplant which enables her to see dead people. So, so, so very bad. Not even the "okay, this is stupid but I'm enjoying it anyway" kind of bad; just plain BAD.

3. Cloverfield: An incredibly intense thriller about a monster wreaking havoc on New York City. I would have given it a star if I hadn't had to sprint to the bathroom and puke. Yes, I am one of the poor souls that got severe motion sickness from the shaky camera. I even took Bonine beforehand in hopes of staving it off, but no such luck. (I ran past a theater employee on the way to the bathroom, and when I emerged five minutes later, he said sympathetically, "Cloverfield?" I replied, "No, Meet the Spartans.") Anyway, I hope the inevitable sequel doesn't use the same technique, or there's probably no way I can see it, which would be a shame because (nausea aside) I really liked this movie.

4. Rush Hour 3: Aside from a couple of good action sequences and a decent quip here and there, this sucked so hard. Poor Jackie Chan tries to retain his dignity, Chris Tucker mugs shamelessly, and the dialogue has more clunkers than a scrapyard.

5. Shoot 'Em Up*: Now THIS is a rollicking action film! Clive Owen (excellent as always) plays a mysterious man who helps deliver a baby and then tries to protect it while evading a group of hitmen (including Paul Giamatti, who looks like he's having a blast). Along the way, he recruits a lactating hooker to help out. It's improbable as hell, so if you insist on realism in your movies, don't bother. But if you're in the mood for a bloody, audacious, stylish bullet orgy, this is a must-rent. It's the best movie John Woo never made.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum: The third installment in the Bourne series involves some insane fighting and car chases. Although I enjoyed it, I think my expectations were too high after reading so many reviews claiming it was the best action film of the past ten years.

7. The King of Kong*: An awesome and surprisingly suspenseful documentary about a sad sack family man and a mulleted jerkwad competing for the world record Donkey Kong score.

8. Music and Lyrics*: Hugh Grant plays a former pop star capitalizing on his 80's heyday by performing at high school reunions and amusement parks. A Britneyesque diva asks him to compose a new song for her, but he's no good with lyrics, so he recruits Drew Barrymore to help out. A very charming movie.

9. Gone Baby Gone*: When a 4-year-old girl disappears, her desperate aunt hires two private detectives to investigate. Excellent performances and a script full of surprises.

10. The Heartbreak Kid: Ben Stiller plays a man who impulsively marries a woman he's only known for a few weeks, and on their honeymoon, he discovers that his dream girl is more of a nightmare. To complicate things, he falls in love with a woman vacationing at the same resort. Some great, raunchy laughs, but ultimately it's a bit too uncomfortable and mean-spirited.


1. "Erotic City" by Prince
2. "Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club
3. "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper


After reading that this game had been produced by Shinji Mikami, the genius behind the Resident Evil and Devil May Cry series, I decided to rent it from GameFly.

This bitch is HARD.

Granted, I don't usually play fighting games, so my problems with it are understandable, but G's much more adept at this type of game, and even HE had moments where he wanted to take the game outside and fling it across the freeway.

So why is it game of the month? Well, despite its flaws (which, in addition to the insane difficulty, include some serious clipping issues), it's the funniest game I've played since Bully.

You get to fight Mr. Gold and Mr. Silver, who shamelessly flirt with you right before beating your head into the ground. (And make no mistake; they may be gayer than a pink hairnet, but they're two of the hardest non-boss enemies in the game, and they will fuck your shit UP.)

You get to fight a gorilla!

And, best of all, you get to spank people! Well, female enemies; there's no man-on-man stuff like in Bully, although one of Gene's alternate costumes wouldn't look out of place at a gay pride parade:

I've mentioned that this game rules, yes?


I was a teenager in the 80's, and I watched more than my fair share of MTV. This video from Music and Lyrics is a brilliant parody of disposable 80's pop, from the cheesy outfits and dance moves to the faux-deep lyrics like "You are gold and silver". Fair warning, though: if you watch this video, the song will never leave your head.

(And booo to iTunes for making you buy the entire soundtrack if you want this song. I mean, I love it, but I'm not willing to pay ten bucks for it!)

Oh, I ain't gonna spoil this one for you. NSFW due to language and, er, themes.

This ought to tide you over until David Lynch's next movie comes out.

One of my favorite cinemas from God Hand, mainly because I'm secretly a 12-year-old boy and think the word "douchebag" is insanely funny. (If you don't want to watch the fighting sequence after the opening, fast forward to 3:10 to see the rest of the cinema.)

This may very well be the most important film you will ever see. Despite the freeze frame above, it's not that raunchy, but I'm going to err on the side of caution and say this is NSFW.