Tuesday, April 01, 2008

media update: March

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


1. The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky: The protagonist, Deborah Monroe, lets her teenage daughter Grace drive home one rainy night. Grace hits a jogger, and Deborah decides to protect her daughter by claiming that she was driving instead, but when the jogger dies, Deborah finds herself in a whole mess o' trouble. Not bad, except for the weak ending.

2. The Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone: In 1889 Philadelphia, a young doctor becomes embroiled in a murder mystery when he becomes suspicious of a young woman's cause of death. Kind of dry.

3. We Disappear* by Scott Heim: When he learns that his mother is dying, the narrator returns to his childhood home in Kansas. He discovers that she's become obsessed with missing children, and he tries to unravel why. Luminous prose and some achingly beautiful moments. Scott Heim's novel Mysterious Skin was one of the best I read last year; with this one, he lands on the short list of authors whose work I will always seek out.

4. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult: About fifty pages in, this started ripping off The Green Mile so blatantly that my jaw dropped. Death row prisoner with miraculous powers? Check. A jailhouse pet callously killed by a prison guard, only to be revived by the aforementioned prisoner? Check. In addition to this shameless plagiarism, there's a ton of religious mumbo-jumbo, a lame twist that I saw coming about two hundred pages away, a groanworthy title (it's about an inmate who wants to donate his heart to his victim's sister! Ha ha, change of heart, GEDDIT?!?), and the stupidest fucking ending ever. Jodi Picoult has written a couple of good books, but this appalling, manipulative mess isn't one of them.

5. City of the Sun* by David Levien: A 12-year-old boy disappears during his paper route, and after the police give up on the case, his desperate parents hire a private investigator to help out. Eventually, he uncovers some truly horrific information that leads him and the boy's father to Mexico. A powerful and disturbing debut. (Oddly enough, so far this year I've read three books and seen one movie dealing with missing children, and all of them were excellent.)

6. Compulsion* by Jonathan Kellerman: Dr. Alex Delaware and his friend Milo, a police detective, investigate a series of strange murders that seemingly have only one thing in common: the murderer steals black luxury cars and then returns them after his crimes. When Kellerman's good, he's damn good, and this one is a corker. My only quibble is that it bugs me when he spells out accents phonetically (for example, one Russian character says things like "nyow he's gone" and "nyo, I nyever saw them"), but that's a pretty minor gripe.


1. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles* by Jennifer 8. Lee: The author decided to investigate Chinese food in the US, and this fascinating book covers everything from the dangerous lives of deliverymen to the origins of chop suey. (And no, I didn't make a typo; the author's middle name really is the number 8.)

2. Confessions of a Carb Queen by Susan Blech: A memoir about the author's struggle with obesity. The title and cover (which features a sprinkle-covered donut) make it seem like a lighthearted read; nothing could be further from the truth.


1. Miracle Dieter Miyuki* by Satosumi Takaguchi: This is about a pudgy teenage girl who discovers a magic barbell that makes her skinny and sexy. Her biggest nemesis is an evil chef who tries to break her diet with his tempting desserts. I know it sounds borderline offensive, but it's actually a sly parody of both magical girls and dieting and not to be taken seriously at all.

2. Swan vol. 12 by Kyoko Ariyoshi

3. The Best American Comics 2007*

4. Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters

5. Princess Diana by Kao Yung


1. The Darjeeling Limited: I've always found Wes Anderson's movies a bit too self-consciously arty for my tastes, and this movie did nothing to change my mind. Absolutely gorgeous cinematography, though.

2. Resident Evil: Extinction*: This is by far the best of the three Resident Evil movies. Oh, sure, it's loud and stupid, and it doesn't begin to compare to the sheer balls-to-the-wall thrill of playing the actual games, but it was really fun.

3. 30 Days of Night: Vampires attack a small Alaska town after the titular "thirty days of night" set in. It's extremely gory, but it had some surprising plot developments that redeemed it.

4. My Kid Could Paint That*: An engrossing documentary about Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old painter whose work sells for thousands of dollars. But is she really a prodigy, or does she have some help from her father?

5. DOA: Dead or Alive: This movie exists only so teenage boys can fap to scantily clad women beating each other up. But, believe it or not, it's actually pretty entertaining, and better than you might expect.

6. Michael Clayton: George Clooney (tasty as always) plays a lawyer who tries to do damage control when a coworker goes off his nut and endangers the settlement of a huge case. Great performances, but it really didn't grab me at all.

7. Born to Fight: A small Thai village is taken over by a drug lord's thugs, and the villagers decide to fight back. It gets pretty grim at times, but the action sequences are truly awesome and innovative. You haven't lived until you've seen a one-legged man kicking ass!


1. "Pop! Goes My Heart" by Hugh Grant: Muchas smoochas to the kind person who sent this to me!

2. "Songbird" by Eva Cassidy: This song seriously makes me well up every single time I hear it.


This is absolutely, positively, unbelievably NOT SAFE FOR WORK. But if you're 18 or older, have a perverse sense of humor, and are in the privacy of your own home, have a look at LOLhentai.


Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."


Anyone who's known me for more than a week knows that I'm a rabid Silent Hill fangirl. My absolute favorite shirt has Alessa Gillespie on the front, and my ringtone is the opening theme from the first game. I'll never forget sitting in the basement and playing it at 3AM, wandering through Midwich Elementary, so scared I could barely bring myself to open each door.

Once someone asked me which series I like more, Silent Hill or Resident Evil, and I told her that I love them equally, but for different reasons. Resident Evil is filled with funhouse scares, but Silent Hill gets inside your head; it's the difference between Dawn of the Dead and Jacob's Ladder.

Silent Hill Origins, as you might guess from its title, is a prequel. You play Travis Grady, a trucker, who's driving along one night when someone runs in front of his rig. He slams on his brakes and gets out to investigate. Then he sees a little girl reflected in his rearview mirror, and when he turns around, she runs away. He decides to follow her, and things quickly go crazy apeshit, as they are wont to do in Silent Hill.

Okay, bad things first. The graphics aren't as good as you might hope, especially after SH4. But that can be forgiven, since it's a direct port from a handheld system, and it stopped bothering me after ten minutes. What's less forgivable are some cheap attacks (gee, thanks for having a monster grab and choke me half to death the second I walk out of a door, with no chance whatsoever to fight or dodge) and the scarcity of health items. Since the monsters are tougher and quicker than ever, this poses a real problem in the nastier areas. There are some truly shitty camera angles and a couple of really weird glitches. And the voice acting isn't the best; I particularly disliked Lisa Garland's voice, especially because she had the best voice actor, bar none, in the first game. I don't know why they didn't get the original VA back, but even if she was busy, surely they could have found someone better than they got.

Now for the good things about this game. The soundtrack is, as ever, awesome; Akira Yamaoka is a bonafide genius. The songs range from melancholy instrumentals to vocal tracks featuring the talented Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and the creature and ambient noises made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. The monsters are appropriately repulsive, especially the one that looks like two flayed amputees having sex. One of the puzzles, in which you must match the proper medication to the correct doll, was so creepy and cool that it's now one of my favorite survival horror puzzles ever. Silent Hill games have the best map system of any series, bar none, and SHO is no exception. The storyline sheds some light on the town's mythology and has moments both pants pissingly terrifying and surprisingly poignant. And there's decent replay value, thanks to three endings (one good, one that's bad for the protagonist but good for the viewer in that it's so fucking freaky, and one humorous) and "accolades" (new costumes and weapons) that you can earn.

So, in conclusion, will it change the mind of someone who either hasn't been able to get into this series or doesn't like this type of game in the first place? Most definitely not. And it's certainly not the scariest SH game (in my opinion, that would be the first one), the best written (SH2), or the best period (again, SH2). But I enjoyed the hell out of this game, and if survival horror is your cup of tea, drink up, my friend.