Tuesday, March 31, 2009

media update: March

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


1. The Scent of Sake by Joyce Lebra: A rather dry and dull novel about a 19th century family of Japanese sake brewers. Might have been more enjoyable if I'd actually had a bottle of sake before reading.

2. The Local News* by Miriam Gershow: In this powerful debut novel, Lydia is a 16-year-old girl whose older brother, Danny, disappears. Her parents are devastated and throw themselves into the search, but Lydia is somewhat indifferent to the whole thing because Danny was often cruel to her; as she puts it, "Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done." But as the months pass, Lydia begins to wonder just how unaffected she really is. Funny, achingly sad, and beautifully written; I tore through it in a matter of hours because I couldn't put it down. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it.

3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: This novel is about the growing romance between a young Chinese boy and Japanese girl during WWII, and how they struggle to keep their love alive when she's sent to an internment camp. The main problem I had with this book is that there are several inaccuracies. For example, the modern parts of the story take place in 1986, but at one point, the author mentions that a character belongs to an online support group, and he also talks about Brandon and Bruce Lee being buried next to each other. Um, Brandon Lee was still alive in 1986. (And, according to Amazon reviewers, there are many more mistakes that I didn't catch.) Plus the writing style is kind of simplistic, so although there are some sweet moments, overall this book was really disappointing.

4. Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock: A stay-at-home mother feels like she's sleepwalking through her own life, desperate to understand her troubled teenage daughter and connect again with the husband she used to love. Well written, but it's almost unbearably depressing. The pink cover, with its quirky font and photo of a smiling woman with her eyes shut, makes it look like chick lit; I imagine there are going to be a lot of women who pick this up expecting frothy romance and one liners. Boy, are they gonna be surprised.

5. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult: Willow is a 6-year-old with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that makes her bones so brittle that something as minor as sneezing could cause a fracture. Her mother, desperate for money to pay for her enormous expenses, files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her obstetrician (and best friend) for not advising her to have an abortion. As you know, I have a love/hate relationship with Jodi Picoult; Change of Heart was one of the worst books I read last year, and the ending of My Sister's Keeper pissed me off so much that I literally threw it across the room. But this one, despite the unsympathetic character of the mother and some florid writing (like the sex scene that ends "I threw my head back and burst into bloom"), kept me absorbed to the very last page. I wasn't too thrilled with the ending, though, so no star.

6. True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman: A young woman disappears, and when a cop and a private investigator start looking into it, they discover a whole lot of serious ugliness. I missed Kellerman's usual characters, Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis, but this wasn't bad.


1. The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid: A chronicle of the author's struggles with obesity and how it affected every facet of her life; as she puts it, "It's funny how the more space you take up, the more you blend into the wallpaper." Good, but it has the same problem as every other weight loss memoir I've ever read: it made me fucking ravenous. I mean, come on, like reading about a big greasy KFC dinner followed by a Cadbury milk chocolate bar and some Ben & Jerry's isn't gonna make me want to chow down?


1. High School Debut vols. 4-7 by Kazune Kawahara
2. The Kindaichi Case Files (3 volumes) by Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato
3. Love Com* vols. 10-11 by Aya Nakahara
4. Pretty Poison by Yutta Narukami
5. Love for Dessert* by Hana Aoi
6. Kaze Hikaru vol. 12 by Taeko Watanabe
7. Papillon vols. 1-2 by Miwa Ueda
8. Object of Desire by Tomoko Noguchi
9. Make Love & Peace by Takane Yonetani
10. Real Love by Mitsuki Oda


1. Chocolate*: An autistic teenage girl learns martial arts by watching movies. When she finds out that people owe money to her dying mother, she puts her newfound skills to good use. When I read that the lead actress was being called the female Tony Jaa, I scoffed; color me repentant, because they weren't exaggerating. The fight scenes are so creative and exciting that G and I were yelling "Whooo!" and "Yeah!" at the screen. The story is surprisingly strong, too. (Caveat: I mean for a martial arts movie; we're not talking Memento here.) Great fun if you love this kind of thing.

2. Transsiberian: A taut thriller about an American couple who get involved in some nasty business while riding the Transsiberian railroad.

3. Role Models*: Fueled by energy drinks and discontent, two guys accidentally knock down a statue and are sentenced to 150 hours of community service. They begin volunteering at a Big Brothers type of organization, where one of them gets stuck with a foulmouthed little kid and the other one gets a geeky teenager obsessed with live roleplay. Crass and uproariously funny.

4. Transporter 3: I watched this two days ago and I can't even remember what the plot was, but it doesn't really matter. It had Jason Statham kicking ass, wrecking cars, and stalking around shirtless. I mean, really, what else do you need to know? I must quote Patton Oswalt's brilliant JaSta blog post here: "Jason Statham has never been in a great movie. He's also never been in a boring one. Statham's IMDB profile, collectively, is a promise to you, the weary filmgoer. It's a promise that says, 'I promise that you will not FOR ONE SECOND be bored during one of my movies. You won't learn shit about the human condition, or feel a collective connection with the brotherhood of man. But if you give me $10, I will fuck an explosion while a Slayer song plays.'"


1. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" by Scissor Sisters

2. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" by Beyonce

3. "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.

4. "Womanizer" by Britney Spears


G and I waited literally four years for this game to come out.

Was it worth it?

Oh, yeah.

In this insane, balls-to-the-wall installment, Chris Redfield (who looks like he's been hitting the 'roids since Code Veronica) is sent to Africa to investigate rumors of bioterrorism backed by his old nemesis, the Umbrella Corporation, and Umbrella's African offshoot, Tricell. They've been infecting locals with parasites to test their efficiency as bioweapons; it's sort of like The Constant Gardener with rocket launchers and zombies. Chris is partnered with a local woman named Sheva, and together they set out to take the corporations down.

Some reviews have complained that it's just like RE4. These people are the same ones that whine about too much ice cream, too many kittens, or too much oralgami. Granted, it's very similar to RE4, but since RE4 is one of my five favorite games of all time, I don't consider that a negative.

Another complaint is that Sheva's AI is terrible, but for the most part, the computer handled her admirably. Sure, she was a little fast and loose with our ammo and healing items, and once she ran straight into a fire and died, but overall she was a good shot and had our back.

And finally, the biggest (and ugliest) complaint lodged against RE5 is that it's racist, since you're mowing down hundreds of infected Africans. I don't necessarily feel qualified to comment on this, since I'm so white I make Casper the Friendly Ghost look like Dave Chappelle, but personally I don't think it's racist. I mean, he's in AFRICA, and there are, um, Africans there. Zombification knows no race, no creed, no gender or sexual orientation...and neither does my shotgun. Besides, Chris and Sheva are trying to help them by taking down the bastards who are using them as human guinea pigs, and the only truly evil (i.e. nasty of their own free will) characters, with the exception of one Latina, are all white.

Enough about the negatives and on to the good stuff. The graphics are absolutely breathtaking; they may actually be the best I've ever seen. I'm old enough to remember when Pong was exciting, so playing a game that's almost like being in a movie is really amazing for me. The voice acting, with a few eye-rollingly hammy exceptions, is excellent. And if this game doesn't get your adrenaline going, have a doctor check your vitals, because you may actually be dead.

Another great thing about this game is that it offers two player co-op. G and I decided to play solo the first time through, because co-op splits the screen, and we wanted to focus on the breathtaking graphics. But now that we've finished the game, we've started co-op mode, and it's a blast. I'm playing Sheva and he's playing Chris, and more than once, we've saved each other's bacon.

And unlike my AI counterpart, I'm not going to walk into a goddamn fire.


Warning: contains a few spoilers (some minor, one huge), so if you haven't seen or read Watchmen yet, you probably want to skip it. Otherwise, enjoy; I award this video one (1) free internet.