Friday, May 30, 2008

(early) media update: May

I’m posting this a day early because I probably won’t be online much, if at all, this weekend.

This month's selection includes everything from porn star vigilantes to crossdressing zombie slayers! As always, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Money Shot* by Christa Faust: In this prime example of pulp fiction, a former porn star is lured out of retirement when a friend calls and begs her to perform in his latest film. When she gets there, she discovers that her friend was forced to call her by a gang of mobsters who are looking for a briefcase of stolen money. She doesn't know anything about it, so they shoot her and abandon her in a seedy part of town. She vows to get revenge, and things quickly turn into a bloodbath that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. Juicy hardboiled fun with an awesome lead character and some snappy dialogue; I loved it.

2. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin: A happily married woman's life is turned upside down after a chance meeting with her former flame, and she begins to wonder if she made the right choices. I loved all of Giffin's previous books, but I thought this one was kind of disappointing. She's still much better than most chick lit authors, though.

3. The Reapers* by John Connolly: As longtime readers of this humble blog know, I'm one of John Connolly's most rabid fans. Granted, I haven't loved every one of his books, but Dark Hollow is one of my ten favorite books of all time, and I always look forward to his latest. My one constant complaint is that there's never enough Louis and Angel, the awesome gay hitmen who get the best dialogue. Well, slap my ass and call me Fanny, because this one is ALL about Louis and Angel! They're being targeted by a fellow hitman named Bliss, and when a contract killing goes horribly wrong, they go on the lam. JC's coming to my neighborhood next month for a book signing, and I can't wait to see him for the fifth time and gush like the obsessed fangirl I am.

Side note: If you’ve never read a John Connolly book before, this is definitely not the one to start with; it’s better to know the characters beforehand.


1. Pretty Is What Changes* by Jessica Queller: After her mother died of cancer, the author was tested for the BRCA gene mutation, which leads to a greatly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. When the test came back positive, she decided to have her breasts removed as a precautionary measure. This book is damn good, but because the chapters about her mother's illness and death hit so close to home, parts of it were also excruciating for me to read.

Side note: there's a charming anecdote about Harrison Ford in here that proves my years of childhood crushage were well deserved. What a mensch!

2. Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter by Elizabeth Hess: Needless to say, I was awash in tears throughout most of this book.

3. Losing It by Valerie Bertinelli: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn't care so much about her weight loss odyssey as I did the story of her marriage to Eddie Van Halen.

4. Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer* by Jen Lancaster: In her inimitably snarky fashion, the author chronicles her struggle to lose weight. (No, I'm not going on a weight loss memoir binge; the fact that I followed #3 with this one is pure coincidence, and an odd one considering that she talks about Valerie Bertinelli.)

5. I Was Told There'd Be Cake* by Sloane Crosley: Witty essays about everything from the author's penchant for locking herself out of her apartment to a mysterious turd left on her floor during a party. (The latter, unsurprisingly enough, was my favorite.)


1. Fun with Milk & Cheese* by Evan Dorkin

2. After School Nightmare* vol. 7 by Setona Mizushiro


1. P2: On Christmas Eve, a young woman is trapped in a parking garage with an obsessed security guard. This idiotic, poorly acted, bloody mess makes the remake of The Eye look like The Shining. Avoid.

2. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead*: In desperate need of money, two brothers scheme to commit the perfect crime. The taut script is amazing (although I'm still not sure how I feel about the last five minutes or so), and Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance really stands out in a uniformly stellar cast. It's a great movie, but be forewarned that it's almost unrelentingly grim.

3. Enchanted: Complications ensue when an innocent fairyland princess winds up in New York City. A very cute movie, and Amy Adams is utterly charming as Princess Giselle.

4. Iron Man: While being held prisoner by terrorists, a billionaire industrialist develops a superpowered suit of armor. I thought this was surprisingly light on action for a superhero movie, but Robert Downey Jr. is excellent, and there are a few great lines and scenes.

5. Police Story 2: Like most of Jackie Chan's movies, this is seriously lacking in the plot department, but the stunts showcase the master at his best.

6. Sicko*: A searing indictment of America's health care industry. If you plan on seeing the DVD, be sure to check out the extras; there's one on Norway that made our heads spin.


1. "Gone Guru" by Lifeseeker

2. "Fly Routine" by Hostile Groove


There's no way I can describe MTV's The Paper better than Rich over at fourfour did, so click on the link if you'd like a detailed analysis and review. I'll just say that I got hooked immediately; it's like watching a slightly defanged, real life version of Welcome to the Dollhouse.


Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Ex-Porn. In case the name didn't tip you off, this is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There's no actual nudity,'ll see.


When G and I first heard about Dead Rising, we knew we had to get our hands on it. A zombie survival horror game, put out by Capcom no less? Yes please! Unfortunately, it was an XBOX 360 exclusive, so we had to wait until one of us shelled out the cash for a new system.

Well, G recently bought a 360, so I kicked Dead Rising to the top of my Gamefly queue. As soon as it arrived, I tossed it in my overnight bag and hurried over to his place. "It's here," I said reverently, handing him the disc.

About three hours later, we watched in horror as the words "The truth vanishes into the darkness..." scrolled across the screen and our game ended.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that you are allowed ONE save? And that areas where you can save are few and far between? And that, in addition to the zombies, you occasionally have to deal with human psychopaths who are so hard to kill they might as well be immortal? And you also have to escort other survivors to a safe area, and many times these survivors will begin freaking out and just stand there while zombies swarm them, so you have to rush to their rescue or lose out on the huge bonus points you get for saving them? And the bonus points help you level up, so it's kind of not optional unless you want to go through the game as weak as a wet kitten? And there's a janitor who keeps calling you, and you can't turn off the ringer, and he seems to pick the worst times to call? ("Oh, hi, Otis, you say there's a woman trapped in a clothing store? Well, great, but I'm a little busy FIGHTING A FUCKING CHAINSAW JUGGLING CLOWN RIGHT NOW.") And there's a time limit?

This is the most addictive game I've ever played that I still wanted to throw across the freeway like a really expensive Frisbee. I mean, G and I aren't exactly n00bs; we've probably got at least 60 years of gaming experience between us, and G in particular plays some really difficult games, but this one nearly kicked our asses. (They should have called this game Dead Rising: If You Ain't Already Bald, You Will Be.) After the second time our game ended abruptly, G stood up and said, "That's it. Send it back to Gamefly. I'm done." I was tempted to agree, but I told him to hold off on sealing the envelope, because I had a feeling that we were going to want to try again.

And sure enough...

Anyway, you play Frank West, a photojournalist who's heard about a strange outbreak in a small town. He goes there to investigate, and he winds up barricaded in a shopping mall with other survivors. (Yes, this is basically the video game version of Dawn of the Dead.) He's determined to get the scoop of a lifetime, but he also wants to survive and help other people, so in addition to taking photographs of the carnage, he guides survivors to safety and kills zombies.

And this is where the game rocked my socks off: killing zombies. You can run them over with lawnmowers, slice them in half with katanas, shoot them, throw teddy bears at them, sling a boomerang at them...basically, if the game lets you pick it up, you can use it as a weapon. It may say something unpleasant about me psychologically, but I had an absolute blast finding new ways to kill zombies. This is definitely the goriest game I've ever played; it makes Illbleed look like Hello Kitty's Happy Rainbowland. Take a look at this trailer to see what I mean.

Other pluses: the graphics are amazing, especially when you consider that there are up to one THOUSAND zombies onscreen at any given time. You start to see some "repeats", but there's still a pretty wide variety. The voice acting (trailer narration notwithstanding) and music are generally excellent. Frank is an awesome protagonist. And there's a great deal of humor in this game too, ranging from funny lines to the fact that you can change into a dress if you feel like it. Gotta love a rugged photojournalist running around a mall in a frilly flowered dress, whacking zombies off at the knees with a chainsaw.

This could easily have been one of my favorite games of all time if it weren't for the serious problems I mentioned earlier. The good things are absolutely fantastic, but the bad things are so aggravating that I practically ground my teeth down to nubs. If Capcom is working on a sequel, I can only hope that they took a look at what the gaming community had to say, because it's not just me bitching about its flaws. As it stands, playing Dead Rising is like watching your class valedictorian mopping floors in K-Mart: guilty fun, but you can't help but cringe over so much wasted potential.