Monday, February 01, 2010

media update: January

Among this month's offerings: two novels (one excellent and one shitty) set in Japan, a virgin Mormon, the catchiest song I've heard in a donkey's age, tall blue catpeople, and the weirdest fucking movie I've ever seen in my life.

As always, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Concubine's Daughter by Pai Kit Fai: A sweeping historical novel that follows Lia Xia, the title character, and her daughter Siu Sing throughout their tumultuous lives. Drags in spots and suffers from the occasional bit of purple prose, but for the most part, it's an interesting read.

2. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: I'm not even going to bother recapping this sequel to The Nanny Diaries because it sucked so bad. The first book was enjoyable fluff (though not the movie; when even Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney can't save your flick, you know you have a stinker on your hands), but this is swill.

3. The Wrong Mother* by Sophie Hannah: Sally is a British woman who has a big secret: she told her husband she was going on a business trip, but---overwhelmed by the demands of her two small children---she went on a solo vacation instead, met a man named Mark Bretherick, and had a weeklong affair with him. Cue present day, when she's watching the news with her husband and they announce the murder-suicide of a woman and her young daughter. When they show her grieving husband, his name turns out to be Mark Bretherick...but it's not the man she had an affair with, despite every other detail (such as his job position and the names of his wife and child) matching up. Not only that, but the dead woman could be her twin. Sally starts to investigate, and pretty soon she's in way over her head. A creepy thriller that practically glued itself to my hands until I finished it.

4. Sayonara Bar* by Susan Baker: Set in Osaka, Japan, this engrossing novel follows three main characters: Mary, a young British woman working at the titular hostess bar; Watanabe, the bar's cook, who believes he has fourth-dimensional powers and is determined to protect Mary by using them; and Mr. Sato, a salaryman haunted (perhaps literally) by his dead wife. Their lives connect when Mary's boyfriend Yuji steals from the yakuza.

5. The Blonde Geisha by Jina Bacarr: In the late 19th century, a young British woman desperately wants to become a geisha; cue dozens of poorly written, ultra-flowery sex scenes. I was reading this in the break room at work, and I started laughing so hard that someone came over to see what was so funny. I couldn't tell them that it was because of this particular passage: "She must submit to the pleasures of his jade stalk in whatever position he requests...and lie facedown as he inserts his penis into her moon grotto, raising her buttocks slightly so he can rap at her scarlet pearls, the moist flesh surrounding her flower heart, until her fluids flow and she rejoices at the pleasure he is giving her." Oh my god. First of all, what the eff are "scarlet pearls"? If it was singular, it would be easy enough to figure out; perhaps it's a typo. And "moon grotto"? "Flower heart"? Not to mention other fabulous euphemisms like "Buddha seed", "jade fountain", "sand mound", "the frog's mouth of his penis", "fire juice", and "dear little slit". I'm laughing again just typing this out! Oh, and there's this choice bit of dialogue: "My sweet Kathlene, you're so filled with desire any man would want to thrust his penis into you." Why, you sweet talker!


1. The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance* by Elna Baker: A memoir about being a Mormon in New York City and how difficult it is to date when you know you're never going to have sex before marriage. I really enjoyed this, because it's alternately funny and sad (like when the man she thinks could be "the one" turns out to be an atheist), with one major exception: her constant boasting about her appearance is seriously irritating. Yes, Elna, we saw your author photograph and you're very pretty; you can stop crowing about it now.


1. Mixed Vegetables vol. 6 by Ayumi Komura

2. Butterflies, Flowers* by Yuki Yoshihara

3. Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo vols. 1-4 and 6 by Matsuri Akino

4. Pet on Duty by Nase Yamato

5. Yotsuba vols. 5 and 7 by Kiyohiko Azuma

6. Wild Ones vol. 6 by Kiyo Fujiwara

7. V.B. Rose vol. 7 by Banri Hidaka

8. Rin-Ne* by Rumiko Takahashi

9. Lover's Flat by Hyouta Fujiyama

10. The Walking Dead* vol. 11 by Robert Kirkman: In a series that's been filled with "holy SHIT!" moments, this ranks as one of the most jawdropping volumes.

11. Love Com vol. 16 by Aya Nakahara

12. MPD Psycho vols. 1-5 by Eiji Otsuka and Shou Tajima

13. Sand Chronicles vol. 7 by Hinako Ashihara


1. Orphan*: A married couple, grieving the stillbirth of their daughter, decides to adopt Esther, a 9-year-old Russian girl. She seems perfect at first, but like the tagline says, there's something wrong with Esther. Like, HUGELY wrong. I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail because I would hate to ruin this movie for anyone, but suffice it to say it's tense as hell and one of the most deliciously twisted flicks I've seen in a long time.

2. 9*: In a postapocalyptic world, a group of sentient burlap dolls takes up arms against the terrifying machines that now roam the landscape. The ending was weak as hell, but the stunning computer animation and exciting action sequences merit a star. Warning: take the PG-13 rating seriously; it may be animated, but it's not appropriate for children who still need a nightlight. There's some really creepy shit in this movie.

3. House*: When I read about this Japanese horror (ostensibly; seriously, 9 was scarier) flick on fourfour, and then I saw the comment from someone who said "[It's] like Argento meets Monty Python and takes a bottle of crushed up Prozac to the face", I knew I had to track it down online. (Which I ordinarily wouldn't do---honest!---but it's not on DVD and I doubt I could convince anyone to go with me to the LA showing in March.) Verdict? It's the most bizarre fucking movie I've ever seen in my life, bar none. Made in 1977, it's about a young woman who flips the bitch switch when her widowed father brings home his new fiancee. She decides to visit her aunt in the countryside, and she brings her friends with her. Turns out the aunt is a bit strange, and the house is hungry...FOR VIRGINS! There's a severed head biting a girl on the ass, proudly fake backgrounds, weird animation, panty sniffing, a different severed head watching a piano eat her body, a fluffy white cat with sparkle eyes, a woman sighing "Chocolate, candy, biscuits, love, and dreams!" (my personal mantra), a dancing skeleton, a bear serving ramen, a scene where a girl jumps up and then quickly grabs a tray and flings it down as though remembering that she's supposed to be knocking things over in her fear...the list goes on and on. If you still aren't sure whether you want to see this or not, go to the above link, read Rich's description, and gape at the bizarre GIFs. I guarantee you'll either say "Okay, way too weird for me" or "Holy shit, I have to see that immediately!" If you've never taken acid and want to know what it's like without the physical and legal risks, see House.

4. Pandorum: After an extended period of hypersleep, two crew members wake up aboard their spaceship and quickly realize that things have gone a bit batshit. I'm not ordinarily a big sci-fi fan, but I enjoyed this Dead Space/Event Horizon hybrid way more than I thought I would.

5. Terminator Salvation: After Skynet destroys most of humanity, John Conner leads a band of survivors in the fight against the machines. The weak plot is somewhat redeemed by terrific action sequences.

6. Avatar*: I won't bother with a description since everybody and their brother has heard of this movie. I will say that, although a lot of the dialogue is groanworthy and the Native American allegory is hamfisted, it's such an epic visual masterpiece that I had to give it a star.

7. Funny People: When a famous comedian learns that he's dying, he decides to mentor a younger comedian and try to get back together with the (now married) love of his life. Once again, Adam Sandler proves that he has dramatic chops too, and I love Seth Rogen in just about everything, but this movie was waaaaaaaaaay too long. I found myself losing interest with an hour left to go!


1. "Lisztomania" by Phoenix