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.