Wednesday, June 30, 2010

media update: June

As much as I'd like to say that I haven't written recently because I've been having exotic adventures, that ain't true. For once I've been busy at work, and not just dreamily scrolling down page after page of adorable cats on Petfinder. Seriously, only the terms of my lease are keeping me from driving down to La Jolla and adopting Stella Lugosi and Lady Gaga. They're besties, so there's just no way I could separate them. And unlike Beyonce and Jay-Z, I don't think I'd even change their names.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Like I was saying, work's been busy. I think I mentioned this, but I moved out of that department I hated so much (praise Jeebus!) and back into my old one. My former boss Red, who was working in management on a trial basis, didn't get the permanent position, so they imported some chick from Texas. I felt bad for Red. Oh, sure, I was irritated that he kept trying to get me to be more outgoing, and he once told me that he doesn't believe in evolution (he's literally the only sci-fi freak I've ever met who isn't an atheist or agnostic), but I liked him well enough. The new chick, on the other hand...well, let's just say I'm glad she's supervising my FORMER department. To give you an idea: one Thursday afternoon, she said "Tomorrow's Donut Friday! As in...'donut' eat anything for breakfast tomorrow because I'm bringing donuts for everyone!"

...yeah. And she walked down EVERY FUCKING AISLE repeating this witticism. I was like, "Yeah, bitch, I heard you the first time, and it wasn't funny then either." Seriously! These cubes are crammed so close together you can hear a mouse pissing on a cotton ball in the next aisle. I hardly think her loud ass would have any trouble being heard.

What else? Well, Daddy-O came to California last weekend. G joined us on Saturday, and we all went to the Self-Realization Fellowship in Malibu, which was gorgeous and peaceful...until some bitch (not an employee) came marching up to us and told my dad in a very pissy fashion to speak more quietly because people were meditating. Like most people his age, he's going a bit deaf, so I don't think he knew he was being a bit loud. I was probably much more to blame, because it was my responsibility to tell him to take it down a notch, but then again I didn't think he was being all that loud, or that anyone would be such a twunt about it! Plus we didn't even SEE anyone meditating near us. He would have been fine with lowering his voice if she had asked politely, but she was so rude that he got into a pissing match with her. But it was merely a small blot on an otherwise lovely day.

During his visit, we also went to a botanical garden not too far from my place, sat in Borders and read in companionable silence, went shopping for early birthday presents, and talked for hours. It was a very short visit, but of course it's always wonderful to see my dad!

This is one of my shorter media updates, despite the fact that I have, no exaggeration, 32 library books checked out right now. Practically my entire hold list came in at once, and I just about shit a kitten when the librarian plopped that teetering stack on the counter. I usually give a book 50 pages before deciding whether to finish it (unless it's by one of my fave raves), but I might have to be ruthless and cut it down to one chapter until I make a decent dent in that pile. I figure the average author will pull out his or her A game at the beginning in hopes of hooking readers, so if the first chapter blows, I can't imagine the rest would be any better.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary. And a PSA for my fellow gamers: I review Heavy Rain at the end of this entry. I tried to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, and I certainly don't spoil any major story elements, but if you don't want to know ANYTHING about the game, you might want to stop reading as soon as you see the box art.


1. Gone by Mo Hayder: Detective Jack Caffrey investigates when a carjacker steals a car with a little girl in the backseat. At first Jack thinks that the carjacker didn't mean to take the child too, but then another car with a little girl in it is stolen, and it becomes obvious that something truly sinister is afoot. Unfortunately, I didn't like this one nearly as much as her previous books, though it's diverting enough.


1. People Are Unappealing* by Sara Barron: A hysterically funny collection of essays covering everything from the author's stint as an Olive Garden waitress (where on one memorable occasion a customer asked her if a pork dish was vegetarian) to landing a date with her dream guy and discovering his pee fetish.

2. Orange Is the New Black* by Piper Kerman: Shortly after graduating from college, the author's girlfriend convinced her to smuggle money for a West African drug lord. Kerman initially enjoyed the excitement, but eventually it got too scary and she stopped doing it. She thought she'd gotten away with it, but years later the police showed up at her door and arrested her. After pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Kerman was sent to federal prison for 13 months. Her experience in prison wasn't nearly as harrowing as you might think; she made friends with several other inmates, and she was never sexually or physically assaulted. But, of course, it wasn't exactly summer camp either. A fascinating look at a place most of us will hopefully never visit, and peppered with black humor and lots of bizarre details, like a prison recipe for cheesecake (ingredients: graham crackers, 4 pats of margarine, Laughing Cow cheese, vanilla pudding, Cremora, and a squeeze bottle of lemon juice) and how to make a dildo using a spork, a maxipad, and a rubber finger cut from a glove. Crafty!

3. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain: A selection of essays from my favorite celebrity chef, covering everything from the evils of McDonald's to a secret meeting during which he and several other foodies shamefully, but with great pleasure, ate ortolan (a small bird that's roasted and eaten whole, including the beak and bones; it's illegal to eat it because the ortolan is a protected species in Europe). Marriage and fatherhood have defanged him somewhat, but not entirely; one chapter is called "Alan Richman [a food critic] Is A Douchebag."


1. Kaze Hikaru vol. 17 by Taeko Watanabe

2. Rin-Ne vol. 3 by Rumiko Takahashi

3. Wild Ones vol. 10 by Kiyo Fujiwara

4. Small Favors* vol. 2 by Colleen Coover

5. V.B. Rose vol. 8 by Banri Hidaka

6. Kick-Ass* by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

7. Rasetsu* by Chika Shiomi

8. Sand Chronicles* vol. 8 by Hinako Ashihara


1. From Paris with Love: The title is misleading as all hell, because it sounds like a romantic comedy or the latest sex tape from a certain obnoxious hotel heiress. It's actually an action flick in which a man working for the US Embassy in Paris partners up with an American spy, and together they try to stop a terrorist attack. It's much more fun than I expected, and John Travolta (as the foulmouthed spy with an itchy trigger finger) has some great lines.

2. Edge of Darkness: Mel Gibson plays a Boston detective whose daughter is gunned down right in front of him. When he begins investigating, he uncovers a conspiracy that some very influential people will do anything to keep quiet. A particularly good jump scare and an excellent performance by Ray Winstone just aren't enough to redeem such a depressing movie, especially considering the appalling and incongruous schmaltz generously ladled all over the last scene.

3. Toy Story 3*: When Andy is getting ready to go away to college, he decides to only take Woody with him and put the rest of his old toys in storage. But a mix-up leads to the toys being donated to a daycare center, and when it turns out that things are much more sinister than they initially seemed, Woody has to figure out a way to save his friends.

Not surprisingly, Pixar hit it out of the park again. TS3 is gorgeously animated, funny as hell, and bittersweet. During the last ten minutes, you could barely even hear the dialogue over the sniffling coming from the audience. I don't know how Pixar manages to consistently make such amazing movies (excluding Cars; I didn't hate it, but I didn't think it was up to their standards), but I hope they never stop.

4. The Road: After the apocalypse, a man and his son set out in hopes of finding safety. Along the way, they must hide from cannibals, find food and shelter, and try to keep a small spark of hope alive. The DVD should have come with a free prescription for Prozac. It was very well done, but one of the most intensely depressing movies I've ever seen.

5. Youth in Revolt*: Nick Twisp (played by Michael Cera, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the character) is dragged to a trailer park on vacation by his mother and her boyfriend. While there, he meets a sophisticated teenager named Sheeni and falls instantly in love. She's got a thing for Frenchmen, so he creates an imaginary alter ego named Francois Dillinger. Francois serves as Nick's id, doing and saying the things Nick can't in order to win Sheeni's heart. I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie, but it was a riotously funny and delightful surprise.


I've loved video games ever since they came into vogue in the early 1980's. Many an allowance dollar was fed into the change machine at the local convenience store so I could play Q*Bert, Burger Time, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or Jungle Hunt. Eventually, the video game craze cooled off considerably, arcades began to close down, and it was rare to see a machine outside of a bar or bowling alley.

But then video game companies started shifting their focus to the home market. I was working as an assistant manager at Blockbuster in 1997, and one particularly slow night, when the store had been thoroughly cleaned and all of the movies had been checked in, one of the employees asked me if he could switch the game in our demo Playstation and play something else. I said sure, and about ten minutes later, I went over to see what he'd picked. A woman onscreen was unloading a clip into a moaning zombie.

"Whoa, what's that?" I asked, awestruck.

"It's called Resident Evil. It's really cool 'cause you get to kill zombies and shit. Wanna try?" he asked, handing me the controller.

And thus, my dormant video game addiction came raging back to the surface. I bought a Playstation and copy of Resident Evil the very next day. Eventually, I added a Dreamcast to the mix, and shortly after moving back to California in 2001, I bought a PS2. Now, in addition to those systems, I own a Gamecube, Nintendo DS, and Wii. G has an XBOX360 and a PS3, so between the two of us, we have our video game needs covered.

Sorry for the trip down Memory Lane. My point is that I've played hundreds of video games over the last 30+ years, and Heavy Rain has secured a place in my top 5 of all time.

Two years after a tragedy that changed his life forever, Ethan Mars is a broken man: divorced, haunted by the past, and trying desperately to bond with his emotionally distant son Shaun. One day, he and Shaun go to the park, and while Shaun is riding the carousel, Ethan blacks out. When he comes to, he's standing in the middle of an unfamiliar street and Shaun is nowhere to be found.

It turns out that Shaun has been abducted by the Origami Killer, who kidnaps little boys and traps them in a well during the rainy season. The child has about 4 days before the well fills up and he drowns, after which the murderer dumps the body in a deserted area and leaves an origami figure in its hand and an orchid on its chest. Ethan is contacted by the killer, who demands that he undergo several trials. For each one that he successfully completes, he gets more clues to Shaun's location. But the trials are physically and psychologically excruciating, and as the city continues to get pelted by record rainfall, Shaun's time is quickly running out.

One of the print ads for Heavy Rain has the tag line "How far would you go to save someone you love?" Of course, we'd all like to believe that we'd go through anything in order to protect our loved ones. But here's an example (which I've made as vague as possible in order to avoid spoilers) from the game. Imagine you're in Ethan's shoes, and you've just gone through a horrible test only to find yourself faced with another one. There are only two ways out of the room. One is a door right next to you that leads to safety. The other way could kill you instantly if you're not careful, but at the end, you'll get more clues to your loved one's whereabouts. You want those clues, but you're already so exhausted and wounded from your previous trial that you don't know if you can do it. Besides, how do you know that the killer isn't just toying with you? How can you be sure the clues are legitimate? Who wouldn't (even if only for a split second) be tempted to go out that door to freedom?

Heavy Rain has lots of choices like that, and some of them are TOUGH. During my playthrough, I made a decision that caused G to gasp in outrage. I paused the game and we had a very lively discussion about what I'd just done. Heavy Rain is filled with moral quandaries. You can make arguments for and against just about everything major you have to do in the game.

Although Ethan is the main character, you also play as three other characters (not including one spoilery character that you briefly control), all of whom bring special skills to the table. Norman Jayden is an FBI profiler with a nifty virtual reality device that helps him find and analyze clues. Madison Paige, who looks like Mariska Hargitay's less attractive sister, is a young woman who tries to help Ethan with his quest, and she's not afraid to use her sex appeal to get information. (Apparently the developers aren't adverse to it either; notice how she and her tight tank top are front and center on the game box.) Scott Shelby is a private investigator hired by the victims' families, and even though he's in his late 40's and out of shape, he can throw down with the best of them.

Gameplay primarily consists of quicktime events (or QTEs). For example, if you're engaged in a physical altercation, you might have to hit the triangle button to deliver an uppercut, thrust the controller down to smash something over your opponent's head, or press a combination of buttons simultaneously to choke someone out. If you're not fast enough, you could get hurt or even killed. None of the main characters are safe; ALL of them can die, and the story will go on without them, so you really have to pay attention and have excellent reflexes if you want everyone to survive to the very end. Non-QTE gameplay also involves following onscreen prompts, but you generally don't have to be speedy about it, just accurate. The first half-hour or so of Heavy Rain is devoted to menial, non-QTE tasks like brushing your teeth, shaving, and getting the table ready for lunch. I'm sure lots of gamers were bored stiff by that section, but this was the first PS3 game I'd ever played, so I appreciated the opportunity to get used to the controls in a safe setting.

It's hard to believe Heavy Rain was written and directed by David Cage, the same guy who did Indigo Prophecy. I enjoyed IP, but the story took such a massive and bizarre shit near the end that it almost ruined the whole thing for me. Heavy Rain is like a cross between a Choose Your Own Adventure book and a really good thriller, and when it was over, G and I looked at each other, shook our heads in amazement, talked about what we'd just experienced...and started up a new game. It's one of the rare games that's almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.

The graphics are astonishing. At times, the characters look real, although they occasionally suffer from the same "rubber lips" that plague just about every CGI human being. Most of the backgrounds are so detailed that they might as well be photographs. The soundtrack is perfect, ranging from haunting piano themes and swelling violins to thumping techno during a nightclub scene. The opening and ending credits are really cool. And there's lots of fun bonus content after you finish the game, including concept art and videos of the game's creation.

Of course, Heavy Rain has some flaws. Most of the voices are good or at least tolerable, but there are a few cringeworthy exceptions; the kids are especially bad, and one character sounds EXACTLY like porn actress Bambi Woods, who spent the entirety of Debbie Does Dallas sounding like she was stoned out of her gourd. (I, um, read that somewhere. Yeah.) I think part of the problem is that the characters are supposed to be American, but many of the voice actors aren't, so some of the line reads sound strange. For example, I didn't know the FBI agent's first name was actually Norman until another character said it, because his voice actor pronounces it more like "Nahmah". We ran into a few technical glitches ranging from the sound going out to a character showing up where they definitely weren't supposed to be. The controls can be a bit unforgiving, and the camera angles aren't always particularly helpful. But these cons are so insignificant compared to the pros that they hardly even matter.

This game certainly isn't for everyone. Assuming you don't play on easy mode (which we didn't), you'd better know the PS3 controller backwards and forwards. It's not a "feel good" kind of game, and no matter what decisions you make, you're bound to encounter a few story elements that leave you unsettled. And it more than earns its M rating; it's violent, the language can be very salty, and there's a sex scene and both male and female nudity. (No nether bits, of course, but you do see buttocks and bare breasts, and since the graphics are so realistic, you'll be like "Whoa, boobies!") But if you're looking for a game that will make you mist up, make you exercise both your brain and your fingers, and make you tenser than you've ever been playing a video game, you absolutely must play Heavy Rain. It was one of the most memorable gaming experiences of my life.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

media update: May

They're filming part of a movie out in front of work today, which meant I had to park about ten miles away because the lot where I usually park is full of trailers and equipment. James Marsden is outside, but I haven't seen him myself. I did, however, see a craft services table groaning with all sorts of goodies when I walked by this morning. The owners of this building get a ton of money for film shoots, but the people who actually work here are the ones who get inconvenienced, which is bullshit. They should give us a meet 'n' greet with James Marsden, or at the very least let us have a crack at that craft services table!

WARNING: To anyone reading (or intending to read) As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, I review her latest book in this entry, and I start off by talking about AMLS. I don't think I spoil anything (certainly nothing major), but if you want to play it safe, you might want to skip to the next item on the list.

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


1. The Wilding* by Maria McCann: This is the book that I was chomping at the bit to read because the author wrote As Meat Loves Salt, my favorite novel of all time. And before I tell you about her new one, I'd like to explain why I love AMLS so much. (Hey, I'm always looking for converts.)

Back in 2002, I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings, and one night I was reading Aragorn/Legolas slash on LiveJournal. (Yes, yes, I know, but it could be worse. It could be Beavis/Butthead slash, and trust me, it exists. And is horrifying and hysterical at the same time, like a clown falling into a combine.) A lot of it was tripe, but one author really stood out because her stories were both scorchingly hot and beautifully written. I went to her user information page, and she listed AMLS as one of her favorite books. So I requested it from my library, and when it arrived, I immediately tucked in...

...and became hooked.

Seriously, if I hadn't had to work and sleep, I probably would have read it in one sitting. Set in 17th century England, it's narrated by Jacob Cullen (no, smartasses, no relation to Edward), a servant whose quick temper gets him into serious trouble. Immediately after his wedding, he's forced to flee the estate where he works, and things just keep getting worse from there. Eventually, he joins Cromwell's army, where he becomes obsessed with a fellow soldier named Christopher Ferris. There's much more to the story, of course, but I refuse to spoil it.

I remember sitting in the break room at work during lunch, and I had maybe 10 or 15 pages left when my time was up and I had to return to my desk. I had to stop during a particularly important scene, and when I got back to my cube, I couldn't concentrate on my work because I absolutely HAD to finish my book. So, under the pretext of going upstairs to the mail room, I hid AMLS in the middle of a stack of envelopes and went to the bathroom, where I locked myself in the last stall and finished. I sat there for a few minutes, absolutely stunned, and thought, "This is the best goddamn book I've ever read."

After returning the library's copy, I went to Borders and bought one of my own. Over the last several years, I've read it all the way through at least three times, and reread my favorite scenes countless times. (And no, not just "those" scenes; one of my favorites is where Jacob and Ferris are taking a walk, and Ferris is singing off key and Jacob is just so HAPPY.) I truly believe that Jacob Cullen is one of the most compelling literary characters of all time, because even as he did horrible things, I wanted him to be happy. He wanted nothing more than to be loved, but he didn't know how to go about it, and in the process of trying to attain it, he destroyed it.

Needless to say, I've foisted AMLS upon many people over the years, and they've either loved it or were like "um, that wasn't my kind of book", but they all agreed the attention to detail was exceptional. My girl Maria's got skillz.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I about sprayed 'em when I saw that she had a new book out, and not willing to wait an eternity for it to arrive stateside, I placed an order with It took less than two weeks to show up, and I shoved a teetering pile of library books to the side so I could dive into it immediately. I tried not to get my hopes up too high, since that was just asking for disappointment.

So was The Wilding as good as, or even better than, AMLS?
No, not even close. But it's a damn good book in its own right. It's set around the same time as AMLS and also features a male narrator, but that's where the similarities end.

Jonathan Dymond, a man in his late twenties, lives a peaceful life with his parents until the day a letter arrives from his dying uncle. His father reads the letter and destroys it, but Jonathan later finds a scrap that hints at some dark secrets. He decides to go visit his Aunt Harriet, a truly nasty piece of work, to see if he can find out more. While there, he finds himself growing attracted to her servant Tamar, and it turns out she's hiding a few things herself. Engrossing and beautifully written, it stands on its own, but I must confess that I hold out hope that her next book will be a sequel to AMLS. I doubt it would ever happen, but a girl can dream.

2. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris: Sookie Stackhouse is none too pleased when she finds out that a dead body is buried on her land...and it's not the one she expected. Her life becomes even more complicated when her haughty fae cousin Claude moves in and when Eric's maker comes to town, accompanied by the undead Alexei Romanov. Like all of the books in the series, it's fun, but it's not exactly cerebral reading. (Which is not always a bad thing, of course.)

3. Heart of the Matter* by Emily Giffin: Valerie is a single mother whose world is rocked when she gets a call telling her that her 6-year-old son has been burned in an accident at a friend's house. Eventually, she begins an affair of the heart with his plastic surgeon, Nick Russo...which, as you can imagine, his wife Tessa doesn't appreciate. I'm not generally a big fan of chick lit, but Emily Giffin's novels are a credit to the genre.

4. The Blonde Samurai by Jina Bacarr: Back in January, I read The Blonde Geisha by the same author, and it was TERRIBLE. The dialogue was lame, the sexual descriptions were more hootworthy than hot, and it was just really poorly written. But I gotta say, I enjoyed the hell out of it just because it was so bad, so I decided to pick this one up too. To my surprise, her writing has improved greatly---not that it's worth a Pulitzer or anything, mind you.

Anyway, this one is set in 1873 and follows blushing bride Katie O'Roarke, who goes to Japan on business with her nasty husband. She winds up falling in love with supersexy Shintaro, the head of a samurai clan. Cue lots and lots (and LOTS) of sex, including man on man action and threesomes. You could certainly do worse (like, um, The Blonde Geisha) if you're looking for a particularly spicy read, but don't expect high literary quality.

Side note: A blurb in the front of the book claims "The Blonde Geisha far surpasses Memoirs of a Geisha in bringing to life the scents, sights, and sensations that are uniquely 'geisha'." Um, how much did you pay that broad, Jina Bacarr? 'Cause I'll totes write you a fake rave review if you pony up the dough!


1. Rapture Ready!* by Daniel Radosh: A wildly entertaining book in which the (Jewish) author explores the lucrative world of Christian pop culture. He visited a Christian retail show and looked at everything from golf balls imprinted with Bible verses to Salvation Challenge, a board game so awful that "the only people I could imagine enjoying [it] were Rod and Todd Flanders". He also went to the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, explored the abstinence movement, and talked to Rob Adonis, the founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling. Many of these anecdotes are hysterically funny, and often in a snarky way (oh, does he ever rip on Stephen Baldwin), but I thought he was generally fair. (Though ultraconservative Christians would no doubt disagree with me.)

Side note #1: Jay Bakker (yes, Jim and Tammy Faye's son; he's now a heavily tattooed and pierced pastor in New York City) is seriously frickin' awesome. The author took him to a "hell house" (a religious version of a haunted house with graphic depictions of various "sins" and their consequences) and he was PISSED. "If someone was even considering looking into Christianity, would you still feel that way after seeing that? You'd be like, fuck that...Maybe they forget that their stereotypical characters represent real people, and they're telling them, basically, 'you guys are worthless'. When they put down gay marriage, they're devaluing people's love for one another and their relationships...Doesn't gospel mean 'good news'? That wasn't good news." To which this agnostic says, "Amen, brother."

Side note #2: Somebody wrote various comments in the margins in red pen, such as "Doesn't make any sense!" and "Evolution is Satan's lie". What would Jesus do? Um, for starters I'm pretty sure He wouldn't deface a library book, asshole.

2. Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren: When the author was 18 years old, she went on an audition that wound up being an offer to entertain rich businessmen in Singapore. Desperate for adventure, she accepted, and it turned out that she was actually going to be part of the Sultan of Brunei's harem. Although she received lots of money and gifts, she spent most of her time being bored out of her mind while waiting to be chosen and trying to avoid the cattiness and jealousy that inevitably erupted among her rivals. Not quite as interesting as I had hoped it would be, but a decent diversion.

An interesting factoid, though not particularly relevant: Jillian Lauren is now married to the bassist from Weezer.


1. Gakuen Prince vols. 1-3 by Jun Yuzuki

2. Walkin' Butterfly by Chihiro Tamaki

3. David Boring* by Daniel Clowes

4. Mixed Vegetables vol. 7 by Ayumi Komura

5. Otomen vol. 6 by Aya Kanno

6. We Were There* vols. 3-10 by Yuki Obata

7. Romantic Illusions by Reiichi Hiiro

8. Butterflies, Flowers* vol. 2 by Yuki Yoshihara

9. Wilson* by Daniel Clowes


1. Doubt: In 1964, a stern nun accuses a priest of sexually abusing one of the students at their school. He vehemently denies it, and there's no proof, but she refuses to drop the matter. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play, this is a fine drama (aside from some hamfisted symbolism) with excellent performances, as you'd expect from a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.

2. The Reader: In post-World War II Germany, a young man starts a passionate affair with an older woman (Kate Winslet, who won an Oscar) who loves being read to. She disappears unexpectedly one day, and years later, she comes back into his life in a startling fashion. It's good, but I was expecting more considering the critical acclaim and awards it received.

3. District 13: Ultimatum: In this sequel, a framed cop and his friend try to stop District 13 (a poor area of Paris controlled by different gangs) from destruction by corrupt officials. Lots of fun action scenes; my favorite was the one where someone used a priceless Van Gogh painting as both shield and weapon.

4. The Edge: Anthony Hopkins plays Charles, a gazillionaire who goes to Alaska with his supermodel wife and her entourage, including Bob (Alec Baldwin), a shifty fashion photographer. Bob gets it in his head that he needs to recruit the lodge owner's Native American friend for his fashion shoot, so he, Charles, and some other dude played by Harold Perrineau (aka Michael from Lost) take Charles' private plane to find him. But the plane crashes, the pilot dies, and Charles, Bob, and Michael (not the character's name, but I can't remember it so whatever) are stuck in the wilderness with few supplies...and an enormous bear who wants to nom on their flesh. It doesn't really get going until the bear enters the picture, but then it turns into the thinking man's action flick.

5. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Michael Caine plays a con man who's none too happy when another con man (Steve Martin) starts intruding on his territory. They decide to settle things with a bet: the first one who cons "soap queen" Janet Colgate out of fifty grand wins, and the other one has to leave town. A cute caper with a couple of very funny scenes.

6. Daybreakers: In 2019, a disease has turned almost everyone into a vampire, and most of the few remaining humans are kept in labs and "milked" for their blood. One sympathetic vampire researcher disapproves of this practice, and he teams up with a group of people on the lam in order to find a better solution. Not a great flick or anything, but it has some fun moments and gorgeous visuals.

7. Wonder Woman: When an Air Force pilot crashes onto the island of the Amazons, Wonder Woman is charged with returning him home. But Ares, who's been held prisoner on the island for centuries, escapes and Wonder Woman must recapture him in order to prevent a major catastrophe. The animation isn't anything to write home about, but the dialogue is surprisingly snappy and features good voice acting from Keri Russell as Wonder Woman and Nathan Fillion as the pilot.

8. Sex: The Annabel Chong Story: This documentary is about the porn star most famous for setting the world gangbang record (251 men in 10 hours, which has since been broken several times) in 1995. Although it features numerous (real, but no penetration shown) sex scenes, it's about as arousing as footage of open heart surgery. You never really find out what motivated her: the fleeting fame? The whopping ten grand she was promised (and claims she never received)? A way of reclaiming the power that was taken from her when she was gang raped as a teenager? Lots of food for thought, but you'd probably rather go hungry, because this is about as depressing as documentaries get.

Warning: a scene where she begins cutting her arm to "feel something" may be triggering for people who have issues with self-injury.

9. The Men Who Stare at Goats: An incredibly weird movie about a reporter who goes to Iraq and meets a man who claims to belong to a paranormal Army unit. Even though Entertainment Weekly gave this an F, I wanted to see it because it has a terrific cast (George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges), so I figured it couldn't be THAT bad...and it wasn't. Maybe the director ran over the reviewer's dog or something.

10. Red Cliff*: In this spectacular John Woo epic, three Chinese kingdoms go to war in the battle of Red Cliff. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the battle scenes are absolutely gripping. Even if you don't generally like war movies, I'd consider this a must-see.