Thursday, May 31, 2012

media update: May

I got my first mammogram yesterday morning, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. Obviously it wasn't fun getting my breasts squished between plates of glass, but the technician did a great job of explaining everything before she did it and made the experience as pleasant as possible. It was worse than going to the dentist, but better than going to the gyno. And it was over much sooner than I expected, so I had time to go home, watch The Killing, and take a short nap before I had to go to work.

Anyway, on to the media update.

I never put things on my list that I didn't actually finish, but I wanted to make note of four books that I skimmed because some of you might be interested.

First up, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Now, I'm sure you've heard of this pile of crap because everybody from Time to Entertainment Weekly has published coy articles about "mommy porn" and OMG how shocking and subversive it is that women like erotica! Hey, newsflash, media: water is wet, shit stinks, etc.

And speaking of shit...yeah. As you may know, these books were originally a very long Twilight fanfic. Then the author tweaked some deets and changed the names of her protagonists from Edward and Bella to Christian and Anastasia, and the rest is history. Christian is a zillionaire who likes beating and dominating women because he has mommy issues thanks to the abuses heaped upon him by his crackhead mother. Anastasia is a boring twentysomething woman who, despite the lack of any interesting qualities whatsoever, is absolute catnip to Christian. They get involved, she loses her virginity to him (and, I shit you not, she says "Argh!" at the moment of penetration; like, what are you, lady, a pirate?), he ties her up and does things to her, she likes it, they break up, get back together, weird people wreak havoc on their relationship, blah blah. Anastasia says "holy crap" and "holy cow" and "inner goddess" about eight thousand times. Christian broods.

I doubt it needs to be mentioned, but I have zero problem with erotica or consensual S/M or B/D or dom/sub relationships. My problem is with this festering turd of a story not only getting published, but making a trillion dollars. I'm going to dig through the piles of fanfics I wrote back in the day and profit like a motherfucker.

(And if you're craving some well-written S/M erotica, may I suggest the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice, written under the pen name of A.N. Roquelaure? The content is much stronger, but about a thousand times hotter in my opinion.)

Next up, we've got Full Service by Scotty Bowers, the memoir of a dude who claims to have hooked some of Hollywood's hugest names up with both male and female prostitutes. If you believe this book, basically everybody in old school Tinseltown was gay or lesbian except for Bob Hope and Errol Flynn. Anyway, there's a great anecdote that I wanted to share, though be forewarned, it's gross.

...okay, did you put your lunch away? Good.

So Charles Laughton ordered up a young hustler and then proceeded to leisurely make a sandwich, washing the produce, putting it between slices of bread, etc. Meanwhile the hustler and Scotty are standing there like wut. Then Laughton grabbed a pot and asked the hustler to come to the bedroom with him. Several minutes later, they both emerged, and Laughton was eating a sandwich that had a brown "paste" in the middle.

Yep. He'd asked the hustler to provide an extra-special filling for his literal shit sandwich.

At this point, you're like "And why exactly did you share that charming story with us?" Well, because the kicker is that the hustler leaned over and hissed in Scotty's ear, "Why the hell did he bother to wash the lettuce and tomatoes?"


Oh, and to my delight, I also discovered a ton of cheaply priced Kindle singles and novellas by Christa Faust, so I spent a leisurely weekend reading those. If you love hardboiled noir mysteries and you don't mind extremely graphic sexual content involving two ladyfolk, be sure to give Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick in the Double D Double Cross a looksee.

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


1. Deadlocked* by Charlaine Harris: As usual, Sookie Stackhouse is in a heap of trouble. She caught Eric feeding off a young woman who was later found murdered, and thanks to the cluviel dor (an artifact from the land of the fae that can grant one wish to its owner) her grandmother left her, plenty of people want her dead as well. Not exactly heavy reading, but it's fun, and there was one moment that actually made me gasp out loud with shock. This is the penultimate volume in the series, and I bet the final one will be a doozy.

2. All Woman and Springtime by Brandon W. Jones: Gyong-Ho and Il-sun are teenage girls who become friends during their stay in a North Korean orphanage. But when Il-sun's secret boyfriend betrays them and sells them into sexual slavery, they must find a way to survive hardship beyond anything they've ever known. Well written but intensely depressing.


1. Let's Pretend This Never Happened* by Jenny Lawson: This memoir covers everything from the author's unconventional upbringing to marriage and motherhood, and Jesus H. Christ is it FUNNY. One chapter, in which she's home alone with a horrible case of diarrhea and thinks a rapist is passing notes under the door to her (you just kind of have to read the story to understand), had me laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my face. I'd never visited her blog before reading this book, but I immediately bookmarked it when I was done. Good shit, y'all.

2. Wild* by Cheryl Strayed: Left reeling by her divorce and her mother's death, the author decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, dealing with rattlesnakes, creepy dudes, and fucked up feet along the way. This memoir has been compared to Eat Pray Love, but I doubt too many women will be copying her trip like they did with Elizabeth Gilbert's; there's a huge difference between pigging out in Italy and walking over a thousand miles through treacherous terrain! Plus I liked it much more than EPL. It's heartbreaking at times (be warned, if you've lost a parent, some of the chapters will rip you apart), funny at others, and riveting throughout. Highly recommended.


1. Sakura Hime vol. 7 by Arina Tanemura

2. Highschool of the Dead vol. 6 by Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato

3. Are You My Mother?* by Alison Bechdel

4. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

5. We Were There vol. 14 by Yuki Obata

6. Mr. Convenience by Nase Yamato

7. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service* vol. 12 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki


1. Haywire: After being set up, a black ops agent (Gina Carano) exacts revenge on the people who betrayed her. I thought I'd like this much more than I did, but the storyline was convoluted and there wasn't as much action as the trailer promised. To be fair, though, the action scenes, though sparse, were pretty choice. Carano used to be an MMA fighter, so she's got the chops.

2. Trigun Badlands: Vash the Stampede accidentally gets involved with an infamous bank robber named Gasback. I was a huge Trigun fan back in the day, so it was nice to spend time with Vash and his friends again. As a bonus, the animation is absolutely gorgeous.

3. War Horse: A young British man is horrified when his destitute father sells his beloved horse Joey to the cavalry, and despite the fact that World War I is decimating Europe, he's determined to get Joey back. I thought I'd like this way more than I did, considering its pedigree, but I thought it was merely okay. I did enjoy seeing Castle Combe, though, since we were just there in December.

4. Shame*: Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a successful man with a big problem: he's a sex addict. Practically every waking moment is devoted to getting off, whether by himself or with prostitutes or random strangers. But his routine is rocked when his equally troubled sister (Carey Mulligan) comes for an unexpected visit. For a movie about sex, it's about as erotic as open heart surgery; Brandon finds no real joy in what he does. But the performances are powerful, and it's almost impossible to look away.

5. The Innkeepers: Two employees of an old inn are forced to work during the last weekend before it shuts down for good. The inn is rumored to be haunted, so they decide to do a bit of exploring and find out for themselves. It takes forever to get going, and even then it's not particularly exciting. Plus I watched it at home alone, very late at night, with the lights down low---prime conditions for getting scared out of my mind---and I was never remotely frightened. Pass on this dud.

6. Michael*: In this Austrian film, the title character is a quiet loner who comes home from his job every day and goes down to the basement where he keeps a young boy as his prisoner. The actual abuse is never shown---I wouldn't have finished the movie if it was---but seeing the emotional aftermath is bad enough. (One scene, where the child responds to a joke Michael made, is one of the most horrifying and heartbreaking things I think I've ever seen in a movie.) It's absolutely not for everyone, and it's chilling in the extreme, but the performances and tension made it a very compelling character study. During the last 15 minutes or so, I was literally yelling at the TV.

7. Pariah*: Alike (Adepero Oduye) is an African-American teenager whose mother wants her to act more feminine, but all Alike really wants to do is find a girlfriend. The title is overly dramatic, but the rest is golden, especially Oduye's effortless performance. Plus I learned some awesome new slang: "Why you beastin'?", meaning "Why are you so angry?"

8. The Woman in Black: Grieving widower Arthur Kipps (Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village to wrap up the estate of a deceased client. But the house is haunted by the ghost of the titular woman in black, who has a particular fondness for making kids kill themselves. It's not particularly scary, but it has a few good creepy moments, including some of the freakiest toys I've ever seen.

9. The Ides of March: Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, the ambitious spokesperson for presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). Meyers has no illusions about politics being easy, but he's about to learn how nasty they can really get. I'm not generally a big fan of political movies, but this was decent enough, and you certainly can't beat the powerhouse cast, which also includes Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei.

10. The Avengers*: When Loki sets his sights on Earth, the Avengers must band together to take him down. It starts off kind of slow, but lots of terrific action scenes and a sharp script made this exciting movie an absolute treat to watch. And oh my god, talk about eye candy! Forget Fifty Shades of Grey; The Avengers is my idea of porn.

Side note #1: We were lucky enough to see this with the most well-behaved audience I can remember in recent history. If they could all be that polite, I'd go to the movies way more often than I do now.

Side note #2: How the hell has Robert Downey Jr. never won an Oscar? My god, the man is a national treasure! He handily steals every scene he's in.

Side note #3: I actually gasped when Loki called Black Widow a "mewling quim". I can only assume they got away with it because not too many people know that word!

11. We Need to Talk About Kevin*: Based on the incredible novel by Lionel Shriver, this movie stars Tilda Swinton as Eva, a woman who struggles to cope with her troubled son Kevin. When he commits a horrifying act of violence, Eva wonders how much her inability to bond with him has contributed to his crimes. The book is considerably better, mainly because the symbolism in the movie gets to be a bit overwhelming---so much red! But if you're in the mood for a flawlessly acted movie that will make you feel like crap for the rest of the day, here you go.


1. Live Through This by Hole: Man, it had been a donkey's age since I listened to this album, and it still holds up. It also includes some of my all-time favorite lyrics, like "I don't really miss God/but I sure miss Santa Claus" and Courtney Love's sly wink at her reputation as a lousy mother ("I don't do the dishes/I throw them in the crib"). I know she's, to put it gently, a bit wackadoodle, but this album is still brilliant.

2. "My Neck, My Back" by Khia: They played this song at the beginning of Pariah, and I instantly knew I had to have it on my iPod. I'd heard OF it, but never actually heard it, and oh how I love the unabashed raunchiness of it.


(This review contains mild spoilers.)

As you all know, I've been a rabid Silent Hill fan since 1999, so the release of a new installment in the series is like my birthday and Christmas all wrapped up into one. And while Silent Hill Downpour has some significant flaws, there's still much to recommend it.

You play convict Murphy Pendleton, who looks like he could be the hard-living older brother of Henry Townshend, SH4's sexy emo protagonist. Murphy's being transferred to a maximum security facility, but on the way there, the prison bus gets in an accident. When Murphy comes to, he manages to escape the wreckage and flee.

Lucky break, right? Well, not so much, because---you guessed it---Murphy's arrived in Silent Hill, a place which makes prison look like Happy Kitten Orgasmoland. He must atone for his sins and find a way out before the town's twisted inhabitants kill him. But they multiply and get stronger in bad weather, and it's rainy season in Silent Hill.

I'll put the rest of this review in handy-dandy list format.


  • The backgrounds are almost photorealistic at times. There's a wooded area with a waterfall that's especially pretty.
  • Murphy is an intriguing character, and I especially liked how you didn't really know whether you should be rooting for him or not until the game was almost finished. (I will not, of course, tell you which one it wound up being.)
  • Although he had some huge shoes to fill, I thought Daniel Licht did a very good job with the score. Nobody will ever be able to replace Akira Yamaoka, of course, but I have no nits to pick with Licht (heh).
  • The mapping system remains a thing of beauty.
  • It doesn't come close to being the scariest game in the series---that honor will always belong to the first one---but SHD had some truly creepy moments. At one point, I was almost too afraid to open a particular door!
  • If you played SH3, you may remember the red light in the Borley Haunted Mansion that could kill you instantly if it touched you. Well, something similar shows up in SHD, and although it's not an instant kill, it will fuck you up but good. Running from it provided some of the game's tensest moments.
  • There are several sidequests you can do, and although some of them aren't worth the effort---more on that in the "loathed" section---one of them just might rank in my top 10 favorite Silent Hill moments ever.
  • Ample fanservice for the Silent Hill fanatic, like a radio playing "Magdalene" (the music that plays in SH2 after a particularly pivotal scene) and Travis' truck parked by the side of the road. (I won't spoil the best one, but even G was delighted when it happened.) And I also appreciated that the fanservice did NOT include Pyramid Head! Excuse the mini-rant, but I got so fucking annoyed when Pyramid Head showed up in Silent Hill Homecoming. Pyramid Head has no reason to exist outside of James Sunderland's version of Silent Hill! Yes, he's a cool character, but he needs to stay in SH2 where he belongs.


  • Jesus Christ, that stuttering frame rate! It's not quite as bad when Murphy is indoors, but outside? Really, really, REALLY bad. I'm waiting for the patch to be released before I do a second playthrough.
  • The facial animations aren't always as good as they could be.
  • I know that disorientation is a big part of the Silent Hill universe, but I don't think I've ever gotten as lost in a game as I did in this one, even with the excellent mapping system. Frustrating.
  • Not much variety with the enemies. Excluding bosses, I think there were only six types.
  • A couple of the sidequests have really disappointing payoffs. One in particular took forever to complete, and then we got a really lame "present" for our troubles.
  • You can't skip the cinemas. Obviously you'll want to see them at least once, but there was one I got to see about six times, coming as it did before a clusterfuck of a fight.
  • The game autosaves, and not nearly as often as I would have liked.
  • They implemented a morality system, but they only use it three times. I would have liked to see them use it more.

So should you play it? If you're new to the series, not yet, grasshopper; pick up the recently released Silent Hill HD Collection to get a gander at the best the series has to offer. (Oh, Silent Hill 2, you will always be my favorite.) But if you're a longtime fan, there's much to enjoy here, assuming you wait until the patch is released. Just watch those skies, because the forecast calls for rain...