Friday, August 31, 2012

media update: August

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


1. Dare Me by Megan Abbott: Addy is a high school cheerleader who alternates between loving and fearing her bitchy best friend/squad captain Beth. The arrival of a new coach and a suicide make things much worse, and Addy finds herself entangled in a scandal not of her own making. This potboiler with literary pretensions is Bring It On meets Black Swan, and a decent way to spend a lazy summer night.

2. The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson: When they were teenagers, Poppy and Serena were accused of killing their teacher. Dubbed the "Ice Cream Girls" because of a photo of them eating ice cream in their bikinis, they became a media sensation. Many years later, Poppy has been released from prison and wants Serena, who was found not guilty, to confess to her part in the crime. Decidedly meh; I probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been hard up for reading material at the time.

3. Kill You Twice* by Chelsea Cain: Portland detective Archie Sheridan has a complicated relationship with the so-called "Beauty Killer", Gretchen Lowell, the psychopath who tortured him almost to death and then inexplicably let him go. Now Gretchen is in a psych ward, her legendary beauty marred by the effects of heavy medication. She claims to know who killed a man who was skinned in a local park, and although Archie knows he shouldn't trust her, he finds himself pulled into her orbit once again.

Cain's last novel, The Night Season, was almost completely devoid of Gretchen, and I think it suffered for it. But no such worries with this; the woman who would scare Hannibal Lecter is back in fine form. If you've never read any of Cain's books before, this is NOT the one to start with; it spoils things from previous books and you really need to know the characters. But if you're familiar with her work, dig in for this gory treat. (And I do mean GORY; I had to stop reading it during my lunch breaks. There was one scene in particular where I actually slammed the cover shut and chanted "Nope, nope, nope, nope" while pushing my PBJ away. Fortunately I was sitting in an empty conference room; people at work already think I'm a weirdo. No need to add fuel to that particular fire.)

4. Motherland by Amy Sohn: This book follows a group of NYC parents as they struggle with everything from anonymous gay hookups to stroller thieves. It was a diverting read, but I wish I'd known that it was a sequel to Prospect Park West before reading it, as I would have liked to read that first.


1. I Am Jennie by Jennie Ketcham: The author worked in porn under the name Penny Flame, and when she received an offer to go on the VH1 reality show Sex Rehab, she thought it would be a fun and easy way to make money and increase her brand awareness. But as she went through the mandatory therapy, she was forced to confront the fact that she was seriously fucked up. It's an interesting look at the emotional and physical toll that porn can take on its performers, although (for the most part) she refrains from demonizing the industry for the problems she had long before setting foot on her first set.

2. January First by Michael Schofield: When the author's daughter Janni (short for January) began acting up at a young age, he rationalized it away by saying that she was just bored. But then she began claiming that she had imaginary friends who told her to attack her baby brother and hurt herself. Eventually she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which is 20 to 30 times more severe in children and notoriously difficult to treat with standard psychiatric drugs. A compelling book, although the author doesn't exactly endear himself to the reader (props for honesty, though) and it isn't particularly well written.

3. How to Be A Woman* by Caitlin Moran: In candid and often uproarious prose, the author talks about many issues important to women---to wax or not to wax, fashion, love, abortion, childbirth---and shares anecdotes from her own life. She also has one of the best definitions of feminism I've ever read (though a bit reductive, since men can be feminists too): "So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants. A) Do you have a vagina? and B) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said yes to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist."

4. Tiny Beautiful Things* by Cheryl Strayed: Before her memoir Wild made her famous, Strayed wrote an advice column called "Dear Sugar". This is a collection of some of her most memorable letters and her perfect, beautifully written responses (to a young man whose religious parents are upset about his homosexuality: "We are all entitled to our opinions and religious beliefs, but we are not entitled to make shit up and then use the shit we made up to oppress other people"), and let me tell you: have some goddamn tissues handy, because I swear I was misting up every five pages.

Side note: I was reading this while waiting in an examination room for my doctor, and I got to a chapter where Strayed was talking about her mother's death. Instant waterworks, needless to say. So I got up and started looking for tissues, and my doctor walked in just as I opened a cabinet filled with vials of lidocaine, and I was all "Um...I swear I'm not looking for drugs, I'm looking for Kleenex." So she found me some and then asked what I was reading, and I showed her, and she opened to a random page and read for a couple of seconds and then handed the book back and said, "It is far too early for me to start crying."

5. American Gangbang by Sam Benjamin: The author was bored and living in near poverty when he had a revelation: why not make porn? So he packed up his stuff and moved to Los Angeles, where he dove headfirst into the scummy waters of porn, specializing in interracial gangbangs. Like I Am Jennie, it's an interesting look behind the scenes of the porn world, but it's about as erotic as open heart surgery.


1. The Boys* vol. 11 by Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, John McCrea, and Keith Burns

2. My Cute Crossdresser by Mitohi Matsumoto

3. Highschool of the Dead vol. 7 by Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato

4. Arisa vol. 8 by Natsumi Ando

5. Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.: To be honest, I hope this isn't the story they're using for the movie sequel. It wasn't bad, but...well, saying more would be spoilery, so I'll refrain.

6. Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

7. Kamisama Kiss vol. 10 by Julietta Suzuki

8. Rin-Ne vol. 9 by Rumiko Takahashi

9. Fables vol. 17 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Shawn McManus

10. Velvet Kiss by Chihiro Harumi


1. Silent House: Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) accompanies her father to their secluded lake house, which they're renovating in preparation to sell it. But when an intruder attacks her father and traps Sarah in the house, she has to fight to survive.

This movie was shot to look like it was done in one take (though it was actually edited every 10 minutes or so, according to IMDB, but you'd never know) and is done in real time, which adds to the tension. It's not particulary scary, but it's got a really creepy scene worthy of Silent Hill and it gets pretty damn suspenseful, so it's worth a look if you like thrillers.

2. Superman vs. the Elite: When Superman learns about a group of superheroes that call themselves the Elite, he's happy to have allies in the fight against evil...but then he finds out that they're willing to take things to a level he's not comfortable with. The animation is terrible, but the story is really good, and there are some surprisingly funny lines as well.

3. Ip Man: This biopic is about Ip Man, the Chinese martial artist who trained Bruce Lee, and how he struggled to stay alive during the Japanese occupation. It was pretty interesting, and it had some decent fighting sequences.

4. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory: The title sounds like a horror movie, and in a way it is. This is the third installment in a documentary series about the West Memphis Three, teenagers in Arkansas who were convicted in 1993 of murdering three young boys. Thanks to new DNA evidence and the support of such Hollywood heavyweights as Johnny Depp and Peter Jackson, they were released in 2011. But there was a catch: they had to make an Alford plea, which meant that they could maintain their innocence but admit that the courts had reasonable cause to convict them in the first place, which also means that they waived their right to sue. An absorbing look at one of the most famous miscarriages of justice in American history.

5. The Raid: Redemption*: A SWAT team goes after one of Jakarta's most notorious drug lords, who's hiding out in a scuzzy apartment building. But in order to reach him, they'll have to fight floor after floor of the bad guy's minions. A brutally violent, incredibly exciting film filled with tons of awesome fight sequences that can only be described as muay thai meets knife fu.

6. Wrath of the Titans: Perseus just wants to be a fisherman, but when his father Zeus (Liam Neeson, slumming it) is captured by Hades (Ralph Fiennes, also slumming it), he reluctantly descends into the depths of hell to save him. Some cool creature designs, but overall it's not a very memorable movie.

7. Weekend*: In this bittersweet British drama, two men have a one night stand that turns into a much more meaningful connection; think Before Sunrise with a gay twist. A beautiful and sad little movie, but I had two minor quibbles with it. First, I had to put the subtitles on, not because I couldn't understand their accents, but because the sound quality wasn't the greatest at times. Second, although I LOVED the song played at the end ("Marz" by John Grant), it didn't really fit the tone. The music itself was perfect, but the lyrics were all about candy and assorted sweets, and although I am staunchly pro-sugar, it just didn't work with the ending. I even looked it up to see if I was missing some deeper meaning in the lyrics, but nope; it's about a candy store John Grant used to visit as a kid, which doesn't exactly scream "heartbreaking gay romance" to me.

8. The Hunger Games*: Look, I'm not going to bother telling you what this movie's about, because you either already know or you're living under a rock and not reading this anyway. (I assume wifi sucks underground.) I'll just say that I didn't have high hopes for it because the trailers weren't particularly good, but I wound up really enjoying it. I thought it was pretty faithful to the book, and I teared up more than once.

9. The Dictator: General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is the dictator of the Republic of Wadiya. The UN orders him to come to New York City to answer for his war crimes, but complications ensue and he finds himself working in an organic food market while trying to sort things out. Nowhere near as funny as Borat or Bruno, but it still has some hysterically offensive moments.

10. Chimpanzee: This documentary follows a baby chimpanzee named Oscar, who is adopted by the alpha male of his troop when his mother is killed. The narration is a bit goofy/cheesy at times, but the footage is gorgeous, and it's G-rated, so there are no horrifying "here, let me punch you in the gut and then, when you're doubled over, smack you upside the head because you weren't in enough pain already" scenes like there were in The Last Lions. (Seriously, I think I have PTSD from watching that movie.) Plus, even though I don't generally like chimpanzees, Oscar is about as tooth meltingly cute as they get. Those huge ears, those big brown eyes, HIS LITTLE HANDS OMG OMG.

11. Killer Joe: When I was in a bit of a pet the other night, I decided to go see Celeste and Jesse Forever, starring my girlcrush Rashida Jones. Well, when I got there, they told me that they were having problems with their copy, so showings were cancelled for the rest of the day. Since I was already there and Killer Joe was about to start anyway, I decided to see it, and let's just say it was most definitely not a romcom. It earned its NC-17 and then some.

Killer Joe is a feverish slice of noir about a young man who is in dire financial straits. He conspires with his father, sister Dottie, and stepmother Charla to have his mother killed and split the life insurance. None of them want to do the deed themselves, so they hire moonlighting police detective Joe (Matthew McConaughey). But they can't pay him until the money comes in, so Joe decides to take Dottie as a "retainer".

Now, I love noir and black comedies, but this movie was fucking BRUTAL. In case you haven't heard about the most infamous scene, I won't spoil it, but I was cringing in my seat. I didn't hate this movie, but it's absolutely not for everyone, especially if you plan on eating fried chicken in the near future. Like, in the next ten years.


I went on a bit of a 60's girl group kick this month, and then after Mika songs kept showing up in my guilty pleasure Wii dancing games, I got his CD at the library. (Good timing, too; a couple of days later, he came out and then there were about a billion holds on it.) Mika's music is like an IV of sunshine and kittens mainlined right into my happy vein.

1. "Chains" by The Cookies

2. "Tell Him" by The Exciters

3. "Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)" by The Cookies

4. "Easier Said Than Done" by The Essex

5. "I Love How You Love Me" by The Paris Sisters

6. "Born to Die" by Lana Del Rey

7. "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey

8. "Radio" by Lana Del Rey

9. "Marz" by John Grant

10. "Trouble in Brazil" by Trouble & Bass: G and I are currently playing Max Payne 3, which has a scene near the beginning where Max is shooting his way through a Brazilian nightclub. Anyway, there are some fucking boss ass beats (side note: did a 41-year-old white woman really just write "boss ass beats"? Yes, yes she did) thumping in the background, and they took me back to those heady nights dancing at West Hollywood clubs like Mickey's and Studio One (my personal favorite), so I was like "Okay, I need these tracks". And it turns out that Rockstar has a free 25-minute downloadable mix on their website, so best believe I jumped on that. I mean, it's not something you'd put on for a relaxing evening at home, but when I'm getting ready for work or cleaning my kitchen, it's just the thing.

11. "Grace Kelly" by Mika

12. "Lollipop" by Mika: A review on Amazon said this song is like Jake Shears fronting the Jackson 5 and that is basically the most perfect description of anything ever.

13. "My Interpretation" by Mika

14. "Love Today" by Mika

15. "Relax (Take It Easy)" by Mika

16. "Ring Ring" by Mika

17. "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" by Mika


These pictures of gorilla brothers being reunited after 2 years apart gave me SO MANY FEELS. Background story here.


The magic in this video happens around 0:27 if you don't want to watch the whole thing (but why wouldn't you, because OMG baby elephant).


This is why the internet was invented. Bonus points: the cat is named Arya!