Monday, January 31, 2011

media update: January

JESUS EFFIN' CHRIST is Dead Space 2 scary! G and I started playing it on Friday night, and it's one of the freakiest gaming experiences I've had in a donkey's age. One of the levels is the second most nerve-jangling area I've ever seen in a video game. (Midwich Elementary, from the first Silent Hill, is and will always be #1.) We aren't done with it yet, but unless the story or gameplay take a massive shit by the end, it will easily find its way into my top 20.

Anyway, I didn't read many "real" books this month, but I read a shit ton of manga and graphic novels and I saw 15 movies. I think that might be a personal record!

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


1. What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz: A detective fears that a serial killer has started butchering families again...even though he shot the man to death years ago. This is the first Koontz novel I've finished in years, and it skews a little darker than usual; Koontz usually stays safely in PG-13 territory. But it's not particularly good, largely due to the protagonist's children, who talk like upper class Victorian kids. Yeah, a modern 11-year-old would really say "pig fat" and "chestnuts" as swear words.

2. These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf: A young woman named Allison is released from prison after serving 5 years for a terrible crime. She tries to reconnect with her sister Brynn, who was there on the night of the crime, but Brynn wants nothing to do with her, and despite her desire for a fresh start, Allison finds the past coming back to haunt her in ways she never imagined. A decent novel in the Jodi Picoult vein, only without the standard irritating plot twist that Picoult likes to shoehorn into her books.


1. Half Baked* by Alexa Stevenson: A heartbreaking but often grimly funny memoir about the author's infertility struggle, the loss of one of her twins, and then the health problems of the surviving twin, who was born prematurely.

2. Dirty Secret* by Jessie Sholl: A fascinating memoir about the author's relationship with her mother, a compulsive hoarder, and how her mother's disorder affected just about everything else in her life.

3. Skinema by Chris Nieratko: Ostensibly this is a collection of porno reviews, but the author barely even talks about them. Instead, he uses their titles or themes to go off on assorted tangents ranging from the death of his first child ("Candy Striper Stories 5") to buying a house ("Party at Butts Place").


1. A Gentleman's Kiss vol. 2 by Shinri Fuwa

2. Fables vols. 4-11 by Bill Willingham

3. Y: The Last Man* vols. 7-10 by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.

4. Seiho Boys' High School* vol. 3 by Kaneyoshi Izumi

5. Future Lovers by Saika Kunieda

6. A God Somewhere by John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg, and Bjarne Hansen

7. V.B. Rose vol. 11 by Banri Hidaka

8. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

9. Hey, Wait... by Jason

10. Yotsuba vol. 9 by Kiyohiko Azuma

11. The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

12. The Stellar Six of Gingacho by Yuuki Fujimoto

13. Chew* vols. 1-2 by John Layman and Rob Guillory

14. Special Exits* by Joyce Farmer

15. Beast Master by Kyousuke Motoni

16. Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks

17. Baseball Heaven by Ellie Mamahara

18. Sand Chronicles* vol. 10 by Hinako Ashihara

19. Heart Transplant by Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso


1. Knight and Day: A woman (Cameron Diaz) accidentally gets tangled up with a special agent (Tom Cruise) who's trying to protect the teenage inventor of a battery that never runs out of power. A few decent action sequences, but ultimately forgettable.

2. Going the Distance*: After a summer fling, two lovers try to keep their relationship alive despite the fact that they live on different coasts. Justin Long and Drew Barrymore have excellent chemistry together, no doubt because they've been involved in real life, and although it's awfully predictable, it's also sweet and hysterically funny at times.

3. Dinner for Schmucks: Hoping to get a promotion, Tim (Paul Rudd) agrees to bring the biggest loser he can find to a cruel business dinner. The perfect candidate (Steve Carell) literally steps in front of his car one day, but as the dinner draws closer and his guest gets more irritating, Tim begins to wonder if the promotion will be worth it. A weird little movie with a few big laughs and some awesome dioramas featuring taxidermied mice. (Though I should point out that they are NOT real mice; they were sculpted for the movie.)

4. The Town*: Tensions mount between a group of bank robbers after one of them falls in love with their hostage. Some terrific action scenes and great acting elevate this gripping movie above the average thriller.

5. Mother and Child: Karen (Annette Bening) is a bitter woman who got pregnant at 14 and gave the baby up for adoption, a decision that's haunted her ever since. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is a total bitch who gets pregnant by her boss (Samuel L. Jackson). Lucy (Kerry Washington) is infertile and hoping to adopt the baby of a young woman. The lives of these three women wind up intersecting, and although there's some really powerhouse acting in this movie, it's a bit too depressing. There are a few redemptive moments, but they seemed forced to me.

6. Resident Evil: Afterlife: Alice makes her way to a supposed sanctuary called Arcadia, but finds out that it might be another one of Umbrella's traps. She teams up with total badass siblings Chris and Claire Redfield in hopes of taking down Umbrella once and for all. If you haven't seen the previous movies or played the games, don't bother; otherwise, this is a fun little treat. I'm not sure why there are so many references to RE5, like the mouth-sprouters and the Executioner (who, come to think of it, is very Pyramid Head, except nowhere near as cool), but I'm down with it.

Side note: Considering what a popular character he is, I'm amazed Leon hasn't shown up in any of these movies yet. Then again, who in Hollywood could POSSIBLY do justice to Leon S. Kennedy? That's gotta be why Leon only appears in the CGI movies; they need a team of expert Japanese programmers, fueled on delivery ramen and cans of Boss coffee, to carefully craft each delicious polygon and each sleek strand of hair.

7. The A-Team: This is one of those movies where you enjoy its loud stupidity and then, two minutes after you've turned off the TV, you've forgotten everything about it.

8. Despicable Me*: A supervillain named Gru decides to steal the moon, and he adopts three orphaned girls to help him with his scheme. Beautifully animated, and I loved the interactions between Gru and the girls.

9. Shrek Forever After: In the throes of a midlife crisis, Shrek makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that he soon regrets. To be honest, I've always thought the Shrek movies were overrated, but this was decent enough...and much to my surprise, I misted up at the end.

10. Devil: A group of people is stuck in an elevator, which sucks bad enough...but then it turns out the devil is among them. A few good jump scares, but otherwise, not all that great.

11. Salt: Angelina Jolie plays a CIA agent who goes on the run after she's accused of being a Russian spy. Some exciting action scenes and fun surprises.

12. Buried: A grueling thriller about an American contractor (Ryan Reynolds) who's kidnapped while working in Iraq and buried alive with nothing but a lighter, cell phone, and flask of alcohol. If you are even the slightest bit claustrophobic, do not watch this movie.

13. Red: Bruce Willis plays a retired CIA agent who reluctantly gets dragged back into the game. Along the way, he's joined by former coworkers Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich. Lots of fun, but it petered out near the end, so no star. Still, you can't beat Helen Mirren with a machine gun for pure WTF enjoyment.

14. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole*: I didn't give two shits about seeing this movie until I found out that Zack Snyder directed it, and I'm glad I did, because it's probably the most beautiful animated movie I've ever seen. Oh, sure, it's basically Lord of the Rings with owls, but the gorgeous animation combined with characters I cared about made for a terrific surprise. Plus, come on, owls are freakin' awesome.

Side note: Even though this is only rated PG, it might be too frightening and/or confusing for very young children.

15. Piranha: Right as spring break begins, a lakeside town is terrorized by mutant bloodthirsty piranhas. I enjoyed this schlockfest much more than I thought I would, but if you have a problem with copious nudity and gallons of gore, don't even bother.


Nothing graphic, but still not something you should watch at work, I really need to spell it out?


1) Would anybody seriously jerk off to this? I mean, yes, I know they would, but...why...?

2) Oh, maybe Hot Moe is why. Also, Moe should not be hot. I thought that was James Franco for a second.

3) That is a damn good Homer voice. If that dude gets tired of being in porn, he should take up voice acting.