Monday, April 02, 2012

media update: March

NOTE TO G: Please skip the first fiction review, because I'll probably have you read it at some point.

March was a pretty busy month for me, and mostly in a good way. (The unpleasantries were all work related and/or boring so I'll spare you the details.) In chronological order:

  • Our friend Root visited from DC, and if a delicious BBQ dinner with lots of hysterically funny conversation wasn't enough, she also brought me a HUGE bag of perfume vials, including several limited editions I'd wanted to try for years. As I sat momentarily stunned by my bounty, she mistook my silence for displeasure and said, "But if you don't want them..." and I hugged the bag protectively to my chest and said "I WANT THEM."

  • I finally met Kelly Not My Roommate after years of fangirling from afar. She's about 10 feet tall, absolutely stunning, and exactly how she seems in her diary, i.e. funny as hell and sharp as the proverbial tack. Our time together was brief, and I wasn't on top of my game due to wicked allergies that I tried to tamp down with brain befuzzing medicine, but hopefully we can meet again someday.

    Oh, and if you ever want to see heads swivel 360 like whoa, go to Little Tokyo with a gorgeous young woman in a sundress and boots who's talking about video games and D. Gray-man. A hundred hearts were stolen, and one of them was mine.

  • G, C, and I went to a charity screening of The Iron Giant in Los Angeles. I saw that movie back when it was first released on video (yes, video, I'm old), but I'd forgotten just about everything, so it was like seeing it for the first time! They had a Q&A session with several members of the cast and crew afterwards, including Brad Bird. He also directed The Incredibles, which is not just my favorite Pixar film but probably in my top 10 of all time, so I was just sitting there staring at him with big anime sparkly eyes going "hurrr durrrr you are talented and I like you".

  • G, M, and I went to LACMA for an exhibit of female surrealist painters. There were some absolutely gorgeous works there by (among others) Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo. It was raining like a motherfucker (whatever that means) and somebody stole M's umbrella in the bathroom, but other than that, it was a fun afternoon.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary. This month's unofficial themes: YA dystopian trilogies, illness and injury memoirs, and Daniel Craig, who was in three of the movies I watched.


1. Pure* by Julianna Baggott: After surviving a nuclear holocaust known as the Detonations, Pressia ekes out a meager existence with her grandfather, foraging for food where she can and trying to avoid the soldiers who either want to recruit her or use her as live target practice. Partridge is a "Pure", one of the lucky citizens who managed to escape the blasts inside a shelter known as the Dome. But their worlds collide when Partridge escapes the Dome, looking for the mother he thinks may still be alive.

As soon as I saw the blurb on the back that described Pressia as "part manga heroine, part post-apocalyptic Alice", I knew I had to pick it up. It turned out to be a great choice, because this is the best dystopian novel I've read since The Hunger Games. It's utterly riveting, with some indelible characters and truly creepy scenes. The next installment will be an instant purchase for me.

2. Victims by Jonathan Kellerman: When a woman's mutilated body is found in her apartment, psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis initially assume it was an isolated incident. Then more bodies start popping up, and it looks like a truly fiendish serial killer is on the loose. I've always liked Kellerman's books, and unlike many of his colleagues who started around the same time (*coughkoontzandpattersoncough*), he seems far less prone to suckage as time goes on. This wasn't starworthy, but I still liked it enough to finish it in two days.

3. Fever* by Lauren DeStefano: Unfortunately, since this sequel picks up immediately where Wither left off, I can't give a proper review for fear of spoiling its predecessor. I'll just say that I really enjoyed it and leave it at that.

4. Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung: When Janie's sister Hannah abruptly pulls up stakes and disappears from her family's life, their parents beg Janie to track Hannah down...a task given extra urgency by the fact that their father has just been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. A good debut that could have been excellent if a few important story elements hadn't been glossed over.

5. Pandemonium* by Lauren Oliver: Unfortunately, since this sequel picks up immediately where Delirium left off, I can't give a proper review for fear of spoiling its predecessor. I'll just say that I really enjoyed it and leave it at that.

6. All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson: Feng is a young woman living in Shanghai in the 1930's. When she is forced to marry her dead sister's fiance, her quest for revenge comes at a terrible price. Beautifully written, but it ends rather abruptly.


1. Hot Cripple* by Hogan Gorman: The author, an ex-model and aspiring actress, was hit by a car going 40 miles per hour. She suffered severe injuries, but because she didn't have health insurance, she went into debt and wound up on welfare and food stamps. To add insult to (major) injury, she had to deal with government workers who just didn't give a shit, a drunken judge, and "friends" who couldn't handle her situation. Occasionally grating, but it has some darkly funny moments and it's a sobering look at our fucked up health care system.

2. Are You My Guru?* by Wendy Shanker: At the age of 33, the author was enjoying her dream job and her life in Manhattan as a single woman. Then she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Wegener's granulomatosis, and she decided to try alternative medicine in addition to the more traditional kind. Shanker doesn't hold back any details---the scene where she gives herself an enema of hot oil and herbs made me both laugh and cringe---and it's filled with both black humor and pathos.

3. Tough Sh*t* by Kevin Smith: An enjoyable collection of anecdotes ranging from the infamous Southwest "too fat to fly" incident to working with Bruce Willis, who he calls "the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-bitch I've ever met at any job I've held down. And mind you, I've worked at Domino's Pizza."

Side note: No, I didn't bowdlerize the title---as fucking if! That's how it's written on both the cover and the spine, so I left it as is.


1. Sakura Hime vol. 6 by Arina Tanemura

2. iZombie vol. 3 by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

3. My Friend Dahmer* by Derf Backderf

4. Black Bird vol. 13 by Kanako Sakurakoji

5. Rin-Ne vol. 8 by Rumiko Takahashi

6. About Love* by Narise Konohara and Tomo Ootake

7. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

8. Stepping on Roses vol. 7 by Rinko Ueda


1. The Thing: In this prequel to the 1982 horror movie of the same name (don't ask me why they didn't call it The Thing: Origins or someshit), a team of Antarctic scientists finds a strange alien ship and a creature trapped in the ice. When the creature awakens, it promptly starts taking people down. Some really disgusting special effects, which of course I mean as high praise for a movie of this type.

2. In Time: In the future, people are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 and then live one more year. The time they have left is stamped on their arms in glowing green numbers, always ticking down, and they can earn more time through work, donations, or stealing it from someone else. Time is used as currency (i.e. a cup of coffee costs 5 minutes), and if you're rich enough, you can basically live forever. After the death of his mother, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) decides to take down the system by becoming a Robin Hood of sorts who steals time from the rich and gives it to the poor. A really cool premise, but the execution was unfortunately a bit lacking.

3. Puss in Boots*: In this Shrek spinoff, the titular feline teams up with his old friend Humpty Dumpty to steal magic beans from the nefarious team of Jack and Jill. If you're surprised to see a star next to the title, imagine how I felt! But the animation was beautiful and there were some really funny lines, like when Puss gets caught with a tin of catnip and claims it's for his glaucoma.

4. Dream House: After moving into their new home, a family discovers that its previous occupants had been brutally murdered, and the past is coming back to haunt them. The trailer not only spoiled a rather large plot point, but made it look like the supernatural is much more involved than it really is. Still, it had a few good moments, including some visuals straight out of Silent Hill, and of course I always like looking at the eminently UNF-able Daniel Craig.

5. Hugo: After his father dies, Hugo starts living in a Parisian train station. By day, he steals food and tries to avoid the stationmaster; by night, he tries to fix the automaton that his father left behind. Then he meets a young girl who literally holds the key to the mysterious machine. It's a beautiful movie, but I didn't get emotionally involved until the last third.

Side note: how in the name of all that is good and holy did this win the Oscar for visual effects over Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Like I said, it's beautiful, but there was certainly nothing in it that wowed me visually as much as Caesar did.

6. The Elephant in the Living Room: A fascinating documentary about people who keep exotic animals as pets, and how their misguided love often turns to tragedy. Warning: there is an extremely upsetting scene of a lion's accidental death by electrocution.

7. Young Adult*: Mavis used to be the hottest girl in high school, but as an adult, she's kind of a wreck. She ghostwrites for a once-popular teen book series, but she keeps getting distracted by reality TV, alcohol, and online shopping. Then she receives an email birth announcement from her old boyfriend and heads to the small Minnesota town where he lives, determined to win him back despite the fact that he's a happily married new dad. A dark comedy with plenty of cringeworthy moments and terrific performances, especially by Patton Oswalt (as a geek who tries to be the voice of reason) and Charlize Theron. I already knew Theron could act---her Oscar-winning performance as Aileen Wournos in Monster was probably the best I've ever seen---and she nails it as a completely different kind of monster here. Watch her reaction when someone tells her she sounds like one of her "crazy characters"; it's subtle but absolutely brilliant.

8. Take Shelter*: When a man begins having visions of a terrible storm, he starts working on a shelter in his backyard. But is he a prophet, or losing his mind? A very good character study that I gave a star primarily because of Michael Shannon's powerful performance.

9. The Adventures of Tintin: Based on the popular comic strip, this computer animated film follows intrepid young reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy as they search for lost treasure. The plot is a bit lacking, but the animation is absolutely gorgeous and a couple of the action sequences are excellent.

10. Martha Marcy May Marlene: When Martha (Elizabeth Olsen in a superb performance) escapes a cult, she moves in with her sister and her sister's husband. But the trauma of her time spent with the cult and the abuse she suffered at its charismatic leader's hands have taken a toll, and Martha may never be the same again. I would have given this a star except that it's unrelentingly depressing and the ending SUCKED. Seriously, it just may be the worst ending to an otherwise good movie that I've ever seen.

Side note in case you're wondering about the title: The cult leader renames all of its members as a form of brainwashing, and he gives Martha the name Marcy May. When women answer the phone at the farm where the members live, they answer as Marlene. It's an unwieldy title, but it works because it shows how fragmented Martha's sense of identity has become.

11. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*: After losing a libel lawsuit, a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) takes on an elderly man's request to find out what happened to his niece, who disappeared 40 years ago. Mikael soon acquires an assistant named Lisbeth Salander, an antisocial hacker, and the deeper they dig, the uglier things get. Almost painfully intense at times, but excellent performances and deliciously moody direction by David Fincher make it worth a watch if you can handle some of the nastier scenes.

12. The Muppets: When they hear about a greedy oil tycoon plotting to tear down their old theater, the Muppets reunite to save it. How? By putting on a show, of course! It's sweet, and "Rainbow Connection" always makes me cry (shut up), but it dragged a little bit.

13. Melancholia: Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is a young woman who's finding it hard to be happy even on her wedding day. Things aren't improved any by the news that a planet called Melancholia (metaphor alert!) is on a collision course with Earth. Thanks to assorted glowing reviews, my expectations were way too high, but I still liked it. Bonus points for being the only non-misogynistic Lars von Trier movie I've ever seen.


All of the following are by Blondie.

1. "Dreaming"

2. "Call Me"

3. "One Way Or Another"

4. "The Tide Is High"

5. "Hanging on the Telephone"

6. "Rapture"

7. "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear"


G and I were watching South Park when they showed this clip, and we laughed ourselves sick. Don't ask me how I missed out on a cat meme, but apparently this one's been kicking around the internet for a while. Sound is absolutely required, but it's safe for work.