Tuesday, July 31, 2012

media update: July

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


1. Tell the Wolves I'm Home* by Carol Rifka Brunt: Set in the mid-80's, this novel tells the story of June Elbus, a shy 14-year-old devastated by her beloved uncle's AIDS-related death. Shortly after Finn's funeral, his lover Toby contacts her, asking for a chance to meet. Initially she's reluctant, because her mother has convinced her that it's Toby's fault Finn died. But she finally agrees to see him, and they form a friendship that will change both of their lives forever. A lyrically beautiful, heartbreaking book.

2. Starters by Lissa Price: After biological warfare kills everyone in America but the young and the old, who received vaccinations against the deadly spores, Cassie and her brother Tyler are living on the streets. When Cassie finds out about a lucrative program that allows the elderly to "rent" the bodies of teenagers and experience being physically young again, she signs up. But there's a glitch in her microchip, and she wakes up in the life of her wealthy renter, who has a sinister plan for Cassie's body in mind. I'm a sucker for a good dystopian novel, and although this wasn't great or anything, it was entertaining enough.

3. The Other Woman's House by Sophie Hannah: One night, Connie Bowskill logs onto a real estate website to look at a virtual tour of a house she's obsessing over. To her horror, one of the shots shows a dead woman in a pool of blood. She gets her husband out of bed to come look, but now the body and the blood are gone. Connie is determined to find out the truth, even as she fears that she may be losing her mind. It's good, but it gets so confusing near the end that I decided not to give it a star.

4. The Age of Miracles* by Karen Thompson Walker: Julia is a teenage girl who, like everybody else, is shocked when the earth's rotation inexplicably begins to slow. The change is unnoticeable at first, but its effects soon become catastrophic. But in addition to everything else, Julia has to struggle with the trials and tribulations of adolescence, family problems, and first love. A really gripping and unusual book with some gorgeous turns of phrase, such as this one in which Julia talks about spending her lunch hour alone in the school library: "On dark days like that one, the library windows looked lit up like an aquarium, the inhabitants on display for all the other kids to see: here the most exotic fish, the lonely, the unloved, the weird."

5. Criminal* by Karin Slaughter: GBI agent Will Trent is puzzled when his supervisor, Amanda Wagner, forbids him to work on a case involving a missing college student. But Amanda has her reasons, and in flashbacks, we find out exactly why she doesn't want Will to go digging through the past. As usual, Slaughter knocks it out of the park with this riveting novel.

6. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin: When successful TV producer Marian Caldwell answers the door one night, she's greeted by Kirby, a teenage girl who says she's the daughter that Marian gave up for adoption as a baby. I usually enjoy Giffin's books, but this one was way too predictable.


Nothing this month.


1. Beast & Feast by Norikazu Akira

2. A Liar in Love by Kiyo Ueda

3. In These Words* by GuiltPleasure

4. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise* vol. 2 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

5. Silent Hill: Dying Inside by Scott Ciencin, Ben Templesmith, and Aadi Salman: Why the hell is it so hard to make a really good SH based graphic novel? I mean, this wasn't bad, but I've read 3 SH graphic novels and they've been okay at best and complete shit at worst. I would love to see what Brian K. Vaughan or Garth Ennis could do with the franchise. Or, holy fuck, Alan Moore, who did a Lovecraft inspired graphic novel that was so disturbing I couldn't finish it.

6. Batman: Night Cries by Archie Goodwin and Scott Hampton


1. 21 Jump Street*: Two cops (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) take an undercover assignment at a high school to find out who's distributing a new drug called H.F.S. and bring them down.

If they'd done this as a serious remake of the 80's TV show, it would have blown. But they went the comedy route, and what a great decision that turned out to be, because this movie was fucking HYSTERICAL. Way better than it had any right to be.

2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: The legendary sleuth returns, and this time, his wits are tested by his nemesis Professor Moriarty. A bit overlong and convoluted, but Robert Downey Jr. is always a treat to watch, and I love the bromance between him and Jude Law's Watson.

3. God Bless America*: Frank is a lonely man who's tired of the cruelty and stupidity that permeate American culture. When he's diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, he plans to kill himself, but then he changes his mind and decides to take out assholes instead. Along the way, he picks up a teenage girl who wholeheartedly approves of his mission, and together they set out to clean up America, one jerk at a time.

If Idiocracy and Natural Born Killers had a child together that was raised by Beverly Sutphin from Serial Mom, it would be God Bless America. Be warned, it takes dark comedies to a whole new level, but if you've ever suffered through a movie with jabbering dickholes behind you or wanted to rip your hair out over bigots like Fred Phelps, GBA will be a gloriously cathartic tonic for your soul.

Viewer advisory: This movie contains a scene of people being gunned down in a theater, which may be too unnerving for some in the wake of the Colorado tragedy. (We saw it a couple of weeks before the massacre occurred.)

4. The Last Lions: After being forced from their home by a rival pride, a lioness and her three cubs search for new territory. Beautifully filmed, but here's a MAJOR caveat: it doesn't pull any punches when showing how cruel nature can be. It's only rated PG, but some parts are extremely upsetting. One scene in particular is probably the most heart-wrenching thing I've ever seen in a nature documentary. I was weeping.

5. John Carter: The title character is a Civil War vet who, through a series of events too confusing to get into here, winds up on Mars. He's captured by a group of aliens and eventually escapes, but then he meets a princess who desperately needs his help.

This movie is one of the most notorious flops in history; it cost $250 million to make (not sure where all the money went, because the special effects aren't all that special) and only grossed $73 million in the US. The acting is bad and it's way too long, but it's mildly entertaining, if only to watch Dominic West (aka Jimmy McNulty from The Wire) strutting around barechested and chewing the scenery like it was filled with delicious nougat.

6. The Debt: In 1965, three Mossad agents go to Germany to capture a Nazi war criminal and bring him back to Israel for trial. But things don't go quite as planned, and the secrets they agree to keep come back to haunt them in a big way. Superlative acting, as you'd expect from a cast that includes Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson, but the movie itself is merely adequate.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man: In this reboot of Spider-Man's origin story, Peter Parker is a teenager troubled by the disappearance of his parents when he was very young. In his quest to find out the truth, he starts talking to his father's former colleague Dr. Connors, and while snooping around, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him extraordinary powers...which come in handy when Dr. Connors' experiments on himself cause some unfortunate side effects. Some really fun action sequences, and the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) is terrific, no doubt helped by the fact that they're a couple in real life.

8. Friends with Kids: Two longtime friends decide to have a kid together without the complications of love and marriage. But of course, things don't go quite as smoothly as they'd hoped. It has some really funny moments, but its predictability cost it a star.

9. The Dark Knight Rises*: Even though we had tickets reserved a month in advance, I considered backing out because of the horrific shootings at a showing in Colorado the previous night. And although it was hard to push the massacre to the backs of our minds---not least of all because of the security guards milling about---eventually TDKR became too absorbing to think of anything else, which of course is one of the best things about going to the movies.

In the final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which takes place eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, his body and mind exhausted and damaged from years of fighting. But when a formidable foe (aptly named Bane) wreaks havoc on Gotham City, Bruce pulls his Batman costume out of storage and sets out to make things right again.

The Dark Knight is one of my ten favorite movies of all time, so my expectations for TDKR were pretty stratospheric. And although they weren't entirely met, it was a pretty damn good movie. I wasn't sold on her casting when I first heard about it, but Anne Hathaway was really good as Catwoman, and even though he sounds like Sean Connery gargling haggis, Tom Hardy is utterly terrifying as Bane. There are some fun surprises and virtuoso action sequences, and overall I had a boss-ass time.

Side note #1: We paid extra to sit in the "VIP lounge" of our local theater, which is 21+ only because you can buy booze at the concession stand. It was GLORIOUS. The seats were really comfortable loveseats, which meant I could cuddle up next to G, and we kicked off our shoes and split a small bottle of wine. And because we were in the balcony, we had a perfect view of the screen. If I could afford it, I would see every single movie there for the rest of my life.

Side note #2: When we left the theater, there was a gorgeous black Lamborghini parked at the curb. I was like "OMG Bruce Wayne is here!"

10. Little Big Soldier: In ancient China, as war rages through the country, a man (Jackie Chan) kidnaps an army general in hopes of collecting a huge reward. It's an interesting take on the classic road trip trope (say THAT five times fast), but I kept zoning out. I was pretty tired when we watched it, though, so it probably wasn't the movie's fault.

11. American Reunion: The American Pie gang gets back together for their high school reunion. A few good laughs (and full frontal Jason Biggs if that's what you're into), but not remotely essential to your quality of life.

12. Jiro Dreams of Sushi*: Jiro Ono is a master sushi chef who runs a tiny restaurant in Tokyo that has received three Michelin stars. This documentary covers Jiro's long career in the restaurant industry as well as his sons, who are also sushi chefs working in their father's considerable shadow. (As one patron puts it, his sons will have to be twice as good as their father to even be considered equal to him.) Much more interesting than I thought it would be, and even for someone like me who doesn't like sushi (or fish in general), this was food porn of the highest order.

...and yes, it made me want to go back to Japan. But what doesn't?

13. Wanderlust*: After losing their jobs, a couple (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) pack up their car and head to Atlanta to live with relatives. But along the way, they get into an accident and spend the night at a commune that makes them contemplate a new way of life. An underrated gem that was way funnier than I thought it would be, especially Rudd's filthy mirror monologue.

14. Project X: A group of high school friends decide to throw the most epic birthday party ever. It has its moments, but they might as well have called it The Hangover 3: The Teen Years. Also, for those of you similarly afflicted by motion sickness, this is a "found footage" movie with some shaky cam. I made it through the movie, but got a nasty headache afterwards. Might have been unrelated, of course, but caveat watcher.

15. The Reaping: Hilary Swank plays a professor and former missionary who lost her faith after her husband and daughter were murdered in the Sudan. She relishes any chance to debunk so-called miracles, so when she's asked to investigate a river of blood in rural Louisiana, she jumps at the opportunity. But even she can't explain what comes next. Goofy but entertaining.


Note: All of the following tracks are by The Smiths...

1. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"

2. "Shakespeare's Sister"

3. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"

4. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"

5. "Bigmouth Strikes Again"

6. "Ask"

7. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"

...and the next few songs are by New Order...

8. "Ceremony"

9. "Blue Monday"

10. "Confusion"

11. "Perfect Kiss"

12. "Bizarre Love Triangle"

13. "True Faith"

14. "Kiss of Death"

...and this final batch is from The Cure. (Can you tell I was feeling nostalgic for the songs of my youth?)

15. "Boys Don't Cry"

16. "A Forest"

17. "Let's Go to Bed"

18. "The Walk"

19. "The Lovecats"

20. "In Between Days"

21. "Why Can't I Be You?"

22. "Just Like Heaven"

23. "Lovesong"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

best of 2012, miscellaneous edition: part 1

Well, 2012 is more than half over...

(pause to wonder how in the freakin' hell THAT happened)

...and I've already got a ton of goodies in my helpful Word document titled "2012radshit", so let me tell you about the first few items in the miscellaneous category. There will be a part 2, probably in November, but I hope this list provides you with at least one or two things to keep you busy until then.

A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these things made their debut in 2012, but that's when I first watched/played/enjoyed them.
  • These aren't in order of preference, but more of a loose chronological order.
  • Photobucket is acting up, so some of the pictures are huge even though I resized them. No idea what's going on with that.
  • Your mileage may vary.

Madoka Kaname is a normal schoolgirl who is visited by a strange creature named Kyubey. He offers her the chance to have one wish fulfilled, but in return, she must become a magical girl and fight "witches", who are more like monsters than the witches we tend to think of. These witches are responsible for spreading grief seeds throughout the world, which lead to murders and suicides. Madoka hesitates to take Kyubey up on his Faustian bargain, but as she watches her friends become magical girls, she wonders how much longer she can resist.

Hey, see that art up there? Isn't it cute? Well, make no mistake: this series gets fucking DARK. I know it sounds funny to say that Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a realistic take on the magical girl genre, but it kind of is. I can't really say more without spoiling some major shit, so you'll have to take my word on it.

With an intriguing storyline and absolutely gorgeous animation (including some of the most beautifully bizarre art design I've ever seen; imagine if Salvador Dali and Hieronymous Bosch teamed up on an anime series), PMMM is well worth your time if you're an anime fan, and maybe even if you're not. (Available on Hulu)

This BBC documentary series shows how humans have adapted to even the most trying conditions on Earth, covering everything from African tribesmen boldly stealing a lion's kill right in front of its face to Indonesian people building treehouses 115 feet above the ground. It's produced by the same people behind Planet Earth, so you know right off the bat that the cinematography is top notch. A really fascinating look at our world. (Advisory: some disturbing content involving animal slaughter.)

Six months after TV personality/wildlife expert Emmet Cole disappears in the Amazon jungle, his wife receives notification that his emergency beacon has been set off. The producer of his TV show agrees to fund the rescue mission, but only if Emmet's wife allows him to film a documentary about the trip. But he gets more than he bargained for when supernatural forces seem to be impeding their journey.

This show was created by Oren Peli, the same dude behind Paranormal Activity, and like that movie, it's done in found footage style. It's got more than its fair share of goofy plot points, but it also has some great twists and turns and a couple of genuinely scary moments. Turn your brain off and enjoy, but watch out for this guy:

...hold me.

This puzzle game is crack and should probably be outlawed. Even as I type this, my fingers ache to play the Diamond Mine level again. Goddamn you, PopCap, you brilliant video game druglords. GodDAMN you!

In this prequel, Professor Layton receives a letter from his old friend Clark, the mayor of Misthallery, asking for help. When Layton and his intrepid assistant Emmy travel to Misthallery, they discover that it's being visited almost every night by a mysterious destructive creature. With the help of Clark's son Luke, a fellow puzzle fiend, Professor Layton must solve the mystery before Misthallery is destroyed for good.

This is the fourth game in the series, and to be honest, it's my least favorite because the story doesn't really stand up. But it's still got the same charming characters, unique Triplets of Belleville styled animation, and tons of puzzles that will either make you feel very smart or very stupid. But remember, a true gentleman never quits!

In this adaptation of a Danish TV series, the body of Seattle teenager Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a mayoral campaign car. As they dig deeper into the case, homicide detective Sarah Linden and her partner Stephen Holder discover secrets that should have stayed buried. But Linden is far too emotionally involved to give up, even if it costs her everything.

I absolutely mainlined the first season of this show because I was intrigued by the mystery and thought Linden and Holder were awesome characters. (I have a particular soft spot for Holder thanks to wisecracks such as this one, when he's being roughed up by a casino security guard: "Hey, we haven't decided on a safe word yet!") And although the second season suffered in comparison, I think it was a worthy watch. (Available on Netflix instant)

Okay, remember when I said Bejeweled 3 was like crack? Game of Thrones is like crack, heroin, meth, and "bath salts" all rolled up into one. It's pretty much impossible to discuss here without writing a novella and/or spoiling shit, so I'll keep it brief.

In the medieval kingdom of Westeros, several noble families fight to control the Iron Throne.

...yeah, that's all I'm telling you because holy damn do you need to watch this for yourself. Tons of sex, epic battle scenes, BAMF Peter Dinklage, pretty emo virgin Jon Snow, dragons, creepy black shadow babies, awesome costumes...TV just doesn't get any better than this. HBO, I need season 3 immediately please and thanks.

In the latest installment of my favorite video game series of all evertime, 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.

This game certainly isn't perfect, in no small part thanks to major framerate issues, poorly planned autosaves, and some tedious backtracking. But it has some gloriously creepy sidequests, tons of fanservice for even the most dedicated Silent Hill fanatic, and a gripping story. I shall remain an SH loyalist to the very end.

Monday, July 02, 2012

media update: June

Advance tickets for The Dark Knight Rises officially PURCHASED, yo! Because it's a belated b-day celebration, we plumped for the extra-spendy 21+ (because you can drink) balcony seats. Gonna have me a sweet lil' cocktail and geek out in my Batman shirt.

...shut up.

When G and I caught season 1 of Game of Thrones on DVD a couple of months ago, we were so blown away that we wound up subscribing to HBO On Demand so we could watch season 2 immediately instead of having to wait another year. Of course, now that means we have to wait a year for season 3, but holy shit, guys. It is so fucking GOOD. Even if the fantasy genre isn't usually your thing---it certainly isn't mine---you ought to check GoT out. Fair warning, it does get pretty gory and there's a ton of sex, but if you're not bothered by either one, tuck in.

We also watched Girls. At the end of the first episode, I was all "Jesus Christ, I hate these entitled obnoxious bitches" and then by the end of the series, I was more like "Okay, they're annoying and flawed but I kind of want things to work out for these crazy kids." And I admire the show's creator/star Lena Dunham for not being afraid to depict herself (physically, I mean; she may share some personality traits with her for all I know, but Hannah IS a fictional character) in the least flattering light possible. That takes some real ovaries.

And on my own, I've been watching Luther, a British crime drama starring Idris Elba as a troubled but brilliant detective. You may know Mr. Elba best as Stringer Bell from The Wire, and yes, he's a Brit. It's kind of funny that in addition to Idris Elba, two actors from The Wire (Dominic "McNulty" West and Aidan "Carcetti" Gillan, who by the way has THE best profile pic on IMDB) are British and I never would have known. Anyway, Luther is a really good show, although I have to turn the subtitles on because some of the accents are too heavy for my Yank ears to process.

Anyway, on to the media update! Unofficial themes this month: mysteries written by women and novels about thinly disguised music stars, both of which, oddly enough, include a love interest named Finn. Even stranger, I just started another book (Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt) that has a pivotal character named Finn. Must be the hot name for 2012.

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


1. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey: Kate Crane is a promising ballerina who has a complicated relationship with her younger sister Gwen. Just as Gwen starts to outshine Kate professionally, Gwen suffers a nervous breakdown, forcing Kate to examine how she may have contributed to it. An interesting peek inside the ballet world, though the protagonist can be very irritating.

2. The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman: Hazel has worshipped moody alt-rocker Finn Schiller for years, so she's shocked when she gets seated next to him on a flight to Los Angeles. Not only that, but they really connect and decide to keep in touch after landing. When their flirtation reaches a boiling point, she has to decide whether throwing away her comfortable life with her boyfriend is worth living her dream. It has a few funny lines, but the writing is choppy, I hated how every chapter began with a famous quote (one of my pet peeves), and I wish the author hadn't thanked Trent Reznor in the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book because then I couldn't read it without mentally inserting Trent Reznor for Finn Schiller, which was distracting. (Although I highly doubt Trent Reznor has ever texted "LOL" to anyone.) An excruciatingly predictable Mary Sue book.

3. Gone Girl* by Gillian Flynn: On their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne's wife Amy disappears.

...and that's all I'm going to tell you, because the less you know about the plot, the better. Trust me on this. It's a dizzying, gleefully nasty, blackly funny masterpiece. Gillian Flynn's first two books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, were my favorite novels in 2006 and 2009 respectively, and Sharp Objects is one of my ten favorite books of all time, so I had very high expectations for Gone Girl and they were more than met, they were exceeded. Although it's still a bit early to say for sure, I have no doubt that Gone Girl will be my favorite novel of 2012.

4. Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin: When Tommie McCloud receives a letter from a woman claiming that Tommie is her long lost daughter, she assumes it's a hoax. But while investigating, Tommie opens a particularly tangled can of worms that threaten her and everyone she loves. I liked it fine, but reading it immediately after Gone Girl did it no favors because it was bound to suffer in comparison.

5. Gone Missing* by Linda Castillo: Police chief Kate Burkholder is stunned when several Amish teenagers go missing. But did they flee the Amish lifestyle of their own accord, or was foul play involved?

Some of the writing does get repetitive; detective Tomasetti is apparently incapable of saying anything without "growling" it, and she talks about shock being palpable on someone's face twice in the span of four pages. Still, I'm glad Castillo is back in good form; I didn't care for the last book in this series, but I tore through this one in two days.

6. Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: When Logan Wade gets a call that her ultra-famous cousin, pop star Britney Spears Kelsey Wade, needs a new assistant, she gives up her life in New York City and flies out to be with her. But dark family secrets and the stress of being the sole breadwinner for her greedy parents has taken an emotional toll, and Kelsey's desperate attempts to regain control of her own life may drag Logan down with her. Tons of typos, but not a bad read.


1. Sweet Tooth: The Bittersweet History of Candy* by Kate Hopkins: A cultural history of candy as told by an avowed fanatic. Informative and lots of fun.

2. It Chooses You* by Miranda July: While struggling to finish her second screenplay, July started reading the Pennysaver and wondering about the people who placed ads. Accompanied by a photographer and a friend as backup, she drove across the Los Angeles area to meet them and learn their stories. Aside from a few comments she makes that could be hurtful to the people involved (I mean, what, she didn't think they'd read the book?), it's a very moving book.


1. Depression of the Anti-Romanticist by Yasuna Saginuma and Riyu Yamakami

2. Honey Colored Pancakes by Keiko Kinoshita

3. Sakura Hime vol. 8 by Arina Tanemura

4. Kamisama Kiss vol. 9 by Julietta Suzuki

5. Black Bird vol. 14 by Kanako Sakurakoji

6. Kobato vol. 6 (final volume) by CLAMP

7. The Walking Dead* vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn

8. Chew vol. 5 by John Layman and Rob Guillory


1. Justice League: Doom: Supervillains with a grudge against the Justice League band together to start some shit. The animation isn't phenomenal, but the voice acting (including scrumpdillilicious Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern) and story are pretty good.

2. The Grey*: After being stranded in the Alaskan wilderness by a plane crash, a group of men struggle to survive against the elements and a pack of nasty wolves who aren't too happy to see intruders in their territory. Fortunately, badass extraordinaire Liam Neeson has some experience in taking down naughty dogs.

...okay, this review is pretty flippant, but this is actually a painfully intense thriller with some surprisingly touching moments. I really enjoyed it.

3. Fido: After a 1950's zombie apocalypse, a company finds a way to tame zombies and turn them into docile servants for people. When his mother brings home a zombie, young Timmy immediately names him Fido and they become the best of friends. But despite his shock collar, Fido can't quite overcome his taste for human flesh. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but it has some fun kitschy moments and a great scene that spoofs Lassie.

4. The Secret World of Arrietty*: Based on The Borrowers, this animated film is about a family of tiny people who live underneath a house. At night, they sneak into the house and take only what they need to survive. But teenage Arrietty is spotted by the young boy who lives there, putting her family's entire existence in jeopardy. As you'd expect from Studio Ghibli, it's absolutely gorgeous, and the story is very charming too.

5. Battle Royale: In this infamous Japanese movie, the government sends a group of teenagers to an island, where they must fight to the death until only one is left standing. (Sound familiar?) It's actually pretty good, although for some reason, it didn't end where it should have and took the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King route (i.e. "It's over! Wait, no it's not! Okay, now it's over. Oops, still going!") instead.

6. Chronicle*: After discovering a mysterious glowing crystal in the woods, three teenage boys gain telekinesis and the power of flight. At first they only use their powers to goof around, but one of the boys is an angry loner with an awful home life, and he has other plans in mind. Really well done and absorbing.

Side note: I was a little worried about watching this because it's a "found footage" movie, and those tend to employ lots of shaky cam and give me motion sickness. (The Cloverfield Bootin' in the Lobby Incident of 2007: Never Forget.) Fortunately, the camera remained pretty steady in this movie, and only one scene had real potential to make me nauseated, but it was over too quickly to affect me.

7. Safe House: Denzel Washington plays Tobin Frost, a rogue CIA agent who finally gets caught. But when would-be assassins attack the safe house where he's holed up, operative Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has to keep him alive long enough to face justice. Some really good action scenes in this one.

8. Boy A: Jack is a young man who's just been released from prison for a horrifying crime he and a friend committed when they were children. With the help of his kind social worker, Jack manages to forge a new life for himself. But one day, he performs a heroic deed that gets him in the newspapers, threatening his anonymity. An absolutely gutwrenching movie marred by the last 10 minutes or so.

Warning to those of you who wish to avoid such things: there's a really disturbing scene of an eel being bashed to death. (And no, that's not the crime in question.)

9. This Means War: The lifelong friendship between two CIA spies (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) is threatened when they both fall for the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). They decide to use their skills to gain intel on Lauren and get the upper hand. Parts of it are creepy-stalkery, like when they bug her house, but it has some really funny moments.

10. Tower Heist: A group of workers at an ultra-exclusive Manhattan condo put their pensions in the hands of a Wall Street billionaire. When they realize that he's swindled them, they scheme to get their money back. Fun but ultimately forgettable.

11. Man on a Ledge: Ex-cop Nick Cassidy escapes from prison and checks into a New York City hotel, where he (spoiler alert!) climbs out onto the ledge, proclaiming his innocence. He asks for police negotiator Lydia Mercer, and she tries to talk him down. This movie didn't go quite where I was expecting, which is always a good thing. But like Tower Heist, it was fun while I was watching it and forgotten about two minutes after the DVD stopped.

12. The Artist*: Set in the 1920's, this Best Picture winner tells the story of a silent film actor who thinks the "talkies" are a passing fad. But his refusal to get with the times means that his fame begins to fade as his protegee's career starts to take off. Much more entertaining than I thought a modern, silent B&W movie could be, but perhaps a bit too slight to be deserving of its Oscar. (Then again, I checked the 2012 Best Picture nominees, and this was my favorite of the ones I'd seen, so maybe not.)


1. "Nothing Better" by The Postal Service

2. "Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack

3. "Big Boy" by Sparks: God, I love Sparks. Those crafty lyrics! Those exuberantly odd chord changes! Russ Mael's soaring falsetto backed by brother Ron's glorious synths! To be honest, I don't like their post-80's stuff very much, but before that, they were a veritable goldmine of glittering pop gems. (And, might I add, the source of this humble blog's name.) Truly a band well before their time, and if you like They Might Be Giants (who have cited Sparks as a major influence), you'll probably eat Sparks up like delicious pudding.

...mmmm, pudding.

4. "I Want to Be Like Everybody Else" by Sparks

5. "Nothing to Do" by Sparks

6. "Fill 'Er Up" by Sparks

7. "Everybody's Stupid" by Sparks

8. "Throw Her Away (And Get A New One)" by Sparks

9. "Confusion" by Sparks

10. "Screwed Up" by Sparks

11. "I Like Girls" by Sparks

12. "Tearing the Place Apart" by Sparks


I have a major soft spot for crabs because Cancer is my zodiac sign, so I kind of feel bad for this little dude. (No harm befalls it or the dog in this video.) But OMG, squee!

BIG FAT WARNING: The next three videos are parodies of political attack ads using Game of Thrones characters, and they contain massive spoilers for the first two seasons. If you haven't seen the show or read the books, I'd click on out of here right now, because even the still shots have spoilers in them. I won't put anything else after these videos, I promise.