Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegas pt. 3: absinthe makes the wand grow harder

Wednesday was my final full day in Las Vegas, and it began with almost 3 hours' worth of pampering at the Mandara Spa, conveniently located on the mezzanine level of Planet Hollywood. After checking in and changing into a robe, I was ushered into the waiting room, which was stocked with current magazines and a fridge full of refreshments. I helped myself to a bottle of water and settled down with Marie Claire.

When my masseuse walked in, she led me to a dimly lit room and then left for a few minutes while I got undressed, climbed onto the table, and pulled the sheet over me. When she walked back in, she proceeded to lavishly coat my body with a lime ginger scrub, and belatedly I remembered why you're not supposed to shave your legs before a salt scrub. That shit fucking STUNG! But the feeling soon passed, and when she was done, she went in the other room and got the shower started for me. I rinsed the scrub off and then returned for my massage.

Oh, god. Sweet Jesus! I drooled copiously through the face cradle as she proceeded to work every last kink and knot out of my body. When she worked on my scalp, I almost groaned with delight. I'm like a cat in that if you rub my head the right way, I will press into your hand and hiss if you try to stop. And when she reached my poor abused feet, oh! I almost wept with joy.

Finally, the masseuse led me to another room and said, "The wrap is included with the cost of your treatment today. However, if you'd prefer, for an additional thirty dollars..."

Oh boy, here comes the upsell, I thought, mentally rolling my eyes.

" can choose the ocean float." She motioned at something about the size of a twin bed. "Would you like to touch it?"

I laid my hand on it and instantly said, "I'll take it."

I don't really know how to describe this thing, but basically, I laid down, she pulled the sides around me, and it filled up with warm water. It was like floating without actually getting wet, and it felt like fucking heaven. One of those things probably costs more than my car, but if I ever win the lottery, I'm installing one in my mansion immediately. The masseuse quietly took her leave, and I floated dreamily for a half-hour inside my cozy cocoon.

It was over all too soon, and I sadly got dressed. After all those oils and scrubs, my skin was so soft and dewy that I made newborn babies look like Magda from There's Something About Mary.

I returned to my room, showered yet again because I still had so much oil in my hair, changed clothes (pro travel tip: always bring at least one more shirt, one more pair of underwear, and one more dose of prescription meds than you think you'll need; this advice has saved my bacon on more than one occasion), and headed out to the Strip for gambling and sightseeing. I had an absolutely awful grilled cheese sandwich, and I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant so I could tell you to avoid it. Seriously, how do you fuck up grilled cheese?

In the evening, I went to Pink's for dinner (god, so good) and then walked over to Caesar's Palace to see Absinthe.

It's been described as a raunchier and funnier Cirque du Soleil, and that's pretty dead on. I'm glad I read the Yelp reviews before buying my ticket, because they warned against paying more for "good" seats. The venue was so small that every seat was a good one, and I actually would have preferred to be a bit further back. (White people problems!)

Aside from a blowjob joke that went on way too long, the show was phenomenal. The MC was filthy and picked on people in the audience as well as the performers. (Referring to the smokingly hot Asian tightrope walker, he said "Fucking Chinese guy doesn't understand anything I'm saying." Hot Asian guy: "I'm not Chinese, asshole!" MC: "See? Not a word of English!")

The following pictures were all swiped from Absinthe's website. Photobucket is still being a stinky butthole as far as resizing, but these aren't too distractingly huge.

This performer stacked the chairs in front of us; they weren't glued or nailed together in any way. You could actually see them wobble!

At one point, the dude was swinging her around and her head was maybe three inches away from the floor.

During their routine, the guy in the middle slipped and just barely caught himself. I would have thought he did it for dramatic effect, but I was close enough to see the look on his face, and unless he's an Oscar caliber actor, he was definitely freaked out. As you can see, there's no safety net.

Anyway, I very highly recommend Absinthe to all but the easily offended; it was well worth the money.

After the show, I called J and we decided not to get together because I was leaving the next day and had to make it an early night. We talked for a while and reaffirmed our mad platonic love for each other, and he asked me to text him once I got back to my hotel so he'd know I got back safely. I promised, and then I started walking back to Planet Hollywood.

Here's where I cursed leaving my camera in the room: on one of the pedestrian bridges, there was a dude holding a sign saying "Kick me in the nuts for $20" and people were actually doing it! He'd fall to the ground, moan and writhe around a bit, and then stand back up on wobbly legs and take some more abuse. I checked to see if he was one of the Jackass dudes or Horse (the nut kickee from last season of America's Got Talent), but he wasn't. Probably not the greatest way to make money, but props nonetheless!

On Thursday morning, I checked out and then took a cab to McCarran, where I had plenty of time to kill. Even though I'd heard that the slot machines at the Vegas airport have just about the worst odds, thanks to a captive audience, I sat down and inserted my last twenty dollar bill.

Within three spins, I'd tripled my money.

My finger hovered over the "repeat bet" button, and then I shook my head and thought, You got to do everything on your list and then some, you spent tons of quality time with your oldest friend in the world, you ate lots of delicious foodz, and you saw an awesome show. Cash out and end this fabulous trip on a happy note.

And I did.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vegas pt. 2: near deaf experience

NOTE: I apologize for not pasting photos directly into this entry, but no matter how many times I try to resize them in Photobucket, they show up as fucking enormous! I have no idea what the problem is, and yes, I'm saving my changes. If you have any insight, or suggestions for a more user-friendly free photo sharing service, I would be most grateful.

Anyway, instead of making you wait five hours for the pictures to load, I decided to just post a link to the actual photos, and you can take a gander if you have any interest. All pictures are safe for work.

On Tuesday morning, I got out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom, where I took a monster whiz and brushed my teeth. Then I took out the earplug in my right ear and reached up to take out the left one too.

"Stubborn little fucker," I grumbled, trying to get hold of it. But it was wedged so tightly in there that I couldn't get it out. Because I always leave a "ledge" for easy removal, I have no idea why it was pushed in so far; my best guess is that I scratched my ear in my sleep and pushed it in too far. I tried to use a Q-tip to break the seal, which didn't work, and then what little I was able to grasp crumbled off between my fingers. At that point I figured I'd better quit fucking around, so I called the concierge.

"Um, hi," I began. "This is kind of embarrassing, but I can't get one of my earplugs out and I was wondering if there's an urgent care center nearby?"

The concierge, who I imagine has heard of much worse things being stuck in much worse places considering that he works in a popular Las Vegas hotel, calmly told me that the Walgreens just down the block had an urgent care center inside. Then he added that the same thing had happened to his brother, and a hot shower had helped to dislodge the earplug. I thanked him profusely and proceeded to do just that.


So after blowdrying my hair, scarfing down a Luna Bar so I wouldn't pass out from hunger, and getting dressed, I walked to Walgreens, where a very nice nurse with a heavy Minnesota accent extracted the offending item. Then she irrigated my ear and all sorts of interesting stuff came out, including lots of little pink shredded bits of earplug. "Happens all the time, dontcha know," she said cheerfully as I forked over my credit card.

I decided to celebrate my return to the land of the hearing with a plate of red velvet pancakes at Sugar Factory. They came with little cups of maple syrup, cream cheese frosting, and white chocolate shavings, and they were fabulous. It was like eating birthday cake for breakfast, which I mean as a major compliment. I wasn't able to finish them because they were so rich, but I sure enjoyed trying.

From there, I kept walking and took a detour on a side street to visit the Guardian Angel Cathedral. (I was relieved when I didn't burst into flame immediately upon entering the sanctuary.) It was a welcome, if short, respite from the hustle and bustle of the strip. They're famous for their unusual stained glass windows, including this one. (I didn't take this picture; mine came out blurry so I found it online.)

I stopped in 7-11 to buy a Coke Zero, which I only mention because I finally found out why it's so hard to find Coke products in Las Vegas outside of grocery/convenience stores (and, of course, the World of Coca-Cola on the strip). J said it's because Pepsi is owned by Mormons and Las Vegas has a huge Mormon population. Which is all fine and dandy, but I have a pretty serious Coke Zero addiction, so the Pepsi monopoly in Vegas is annoying for me.

(UPDATE: I just checked online, and according to several sources, this is just a rumor. So why, then? WHY?!?!?)

Many years ago, on a trip to Vegas with my brother, we stayed at Circus Circus and it was a fucking dive. That (and my fear of clowns) didn't stop me from taking a picture of their iconic sign.

By this point, my feet were killing me, so I started making my way back to Planet Hollywood, stopping here and there to use the bathroom or lose money in the slot machines. Something I noticed that I didn't see much of last year: lots of people in costume wandering up and down the street, posing for pictures in exchange for a buck or two. And man, we are talking some low-rent shitty costumes, like a Hello Kitty who looked like she'd just been rescued from an alley and a dejected Cookie Monster. The only exception to this sad display was an excellent Bumblebee (of Transformers fame) posing in front of the Fashion Show Mall.

Oh, and when I was on one of the pedestrian bridges, a dude waved at me and said, "Hey, I like your shirt!" and I was like "OMG, Daniel Tosh just complimented my shirt!" But no; as I got closer, I realized it wasn't Daniel Tosh, but someone who looked an awful lot like him. And as soon as I got about two feet away, Not!Tosh said, "Hey, can we talk for a moment about why you're so unhappy?"

"Uh, I'm not unhappy at all," I said, trying to move forward, but he stepped to the side and blocked my path.

"Because I used to be unhappy like you," Not!Tosh continued, completely ignoring what I'd just said, "until I discovered [religion redacted]."

Okay, no. I made a hasty excuse and accepted the pamphlet he gave me, which I stuffed into my purse for later disposal.

Once I got back to Planet Hollywood, my poor abused feet were absolutely screaming at me, and no wonder; I looked it up later and it turns out I had walked just slightly under 6 miles! I was starving out of my mind, so I bought a Pink's hot dog and a Coke Zero and went back to my room to eat. Pink's is a Los Angeles institution, but I'd never had it before, and more's the pity because it was so fucking GOOD. I was glad that I took it to my room instead of eating in public where I'd embarrass myself with my O noises. I finished up, brushed my teeth, and crawled under the covers for a nice long nap. (No earplugs this time!)

I slept for a couple of hours, and then I called J and regaled him with my morning's adventures. As soon as he heard about the earplug fiasco, he burst into hysterical laughter.

"Thanks," I said dryly.

"I'm sorry, but seriously, only you! You have to be the most accident prone person I've ever met!"

We met up downstairs and drove to the Pinball Museum. When we got there, we noticed a store next door called A Gamer's Paradise, so we went there first. No lies detected in their name; they had used games for pretty much every system you can think of, including Commodore 64 and Dreamcast. Their prices were good, so I called Glenn to see if he wanted me to look for anything, and then I told him about my earplug accident.

Cue uproarious laughter from Glenn and a heavy sigh from me.

After hanging up, I bought Cactaur (Final Fantasy) and Jigglypuff (Pokemon) magnets as souvenirs, and then we went next door to the Pinball Museum. They had hundreds of machines, ranging from super old school to newer models. I've always been a big pinball fan, so I cashed in a couple of bucks and played for a while.

No I will not play with Peppy! BAD TOUCH STRANGER DANGER

Parking for badasses only; all others will be towed

Next up, we went to Fremont Street to watch the light show. The theme this time around was "American Pie", which involved lots of iconic American imagery and, inexplicably, go-go dancers rubbing their tits.

Vegas Vickie

Entrance to east Fremont Street

Then it was time for dinner at the famous Heart Attack Grill!

Over 350 pounds eats free (Which is a strange business model when you think about it)

Hello nurse!

Riffing on the famous Vegas sign

Oh my god, it was AWESOME. As soon as we walked in, a waitress (dressed in a skimpy nurse outfit that made Hooters waitresses look Amish) tied hospital gowns around our necks. She led us past a vending machine selling cartons of Lucky Strikes, seated us, and handed us menus featuring butterfat shakes, Flatliner Fries (fried in real lard), and Bypass Burgers. I managed to get through maybe half of my burger and a third of my fries before giving up. On the way out, emboldened by the atmosphere, I hopped on the scale in the middle of the room and it broadcast my weight to the entire restaurant. Horrified, I jumped off and J said, "You are quite possibly the bravest woman in the world for doing that."

Our final stop of the night was Insert Coin(s), a combination arcade and bar. Arcade machines lined the back walls, and they had comfortable couches where you could play console games for free as long as you were drinking. J and I perused the "menu", and he was curious about Resident Evil 6, so the server set us up. Initially I thought we'd be able to play split screen, but I forgot about the mandatory prelude.

"Oops," I said. "Sorry, I'll get us past this part as quick as I can and then we can play co-op."

When Leon appeared on screen, J put down his cigarette and let out a low appreciative whistle. "Hello, pretty."

"Right?!?" I cried, pointing a finger at the screen. "Look at that gorgeous floppy-haired piece of tasty pixilated ass! Now you see why I've crushed on him since 1998!"

Unfortunately, the game started glitching and I kept getting killed in the same area over and over again. A server came over to see what was going on, and as I swore at the screen, J said, "She has this game at home and got way past this part, but something's going wrong here."

"Huh," the server said in a voice that implied he didn't believe J, and I was like BITCH DO NOT EVEN BEGIN TO DOUBT MY GAMING CREDENTIALS OR I WILL PWN YOU AND EVERYBODY YOU LOVE.

Finally, I gave up on getting past the glitchy part, and we decided to try Lollipop Chainsaw instead. We played until our mandatory drinks (amaretto sours for me) got too expensive, and then we left and headed back to the Golden Nugget. A confused and quite pretty guy got on the elevator with us, and J said, "What floor are you on?"

"I don't even know," the man said wistfully. "I can't find my car."

As soon as he got off, I asked, "Gay or European?" and J said, "Honey, is there a difference?"

Back at Planet Hollywood, J dropped me off and I went upstairs to pop some Tums (that Bypass Burger did a number on my guts, I tell you what) and take a long hot bubble bath while reading an assortment of trashy magazines. Earplug incident aside, I couldn't have asked for a much better day.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegas pt. 1: the trouble with Tribbles

For reasons too long and boring to go into here, I got fucked out of both Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation at work this year. I mean, I still get the actual holidays off, but the weeks before/during? Nope. So, not wanting to go an entire year without a single vacation (not including the long weekend I took for Daddy-O's wedding, since the time was very strictly scheduled with rehearsals and whatnot), I decided to take a solo trip to Las Vegas. I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and got a free ticket (well, technically it cost $5 for taxes and fees, but that's like my workday vending machine budget), made reservations for my hotel and show, let my friend J (a Vegas resident for the past several years) know I would be in town, and I was good to go!

On Monday, I drove to the Van Nuys flyaway, parked, and hopped on a bus to LAX. About two minutes before reaching the first terminal, I got an automated phone call from Delta telling me that my flight was delayed.


See, I like to get to the airport 2 hours early to be on the safe side. Ordinarily this isn't a problem, but this time, it meant that I was sitting in LAX for four fucking hours. I finished a 400+ page book, for chrissakes!

At least the flight itself was short and uneventful, and once I got to Vegas, I cabbed it to Planet Hollywood, checked in, and hauled my shit up to my room. Every room at PH features authentic TV or movie memorabilia. I was hoping to get the coveted Manos: Hands of Fate room, but I got the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine room instead. I am about as far from a Trekkie as you can get, thanks to Daddy-O dragging us to the second movie and being absolutely traumatized by the ear scorpion scene (nightmares for months!), so this was not the greatest room I could have gotten. In addition to Star Trek posters, I also had this in the corner. (Apologies for not pasting it directly into this entry, but even though I resized it, it showed up as freakin' enormous when I copied the HTML here.)

The room itself wasn't particularly clean; there was a stray hair on the towel, the mirrored bedside table had long scratches with white residue in them (coke?), and the shower curtain was hanging loose in one corner. But it wasn't bad enough to complain about, so I did a bedbug check, freshened up, unpacked, and called J.

Cliff's Notes for those of you who are new here or have forgotten: J and I have known each other for almost 30 years. We bonded over an unintentionally dirty poem in junior high English class and have been friends ever since. Since he was insanely smart, hysterically funny, cute, and nice to me, I instantly fell in love with him. We spent many long nights in Denny's smoking (well, he did anyway), eating greasy shit, and laughing hysterically. We even went to prom and Grad Night together. But everlasting love was not in the cards; J visited me at college and came out, and although my heart was broken (no wedding! No supersmart nearsighted children!), I knew we would always remain friends.

Anyway, J and I made plans to meet up downstairs, so I went to the convenience store downstairs for a Coke Zero and stood outside to wait. When J walked up, I squealed and flung my arms around him, and he whisked me away to Texas de Brazil for dinner. It was one of those Brazilian steakhouses where they constantly bring assorted meats around to your table until you flip a sign telling them to hold off. It's basically a meat orgy, and I was starving half to death, so I couldn't wait to cram steak down my slavering maw. The waiters were excruciatingly gorgeous too, and when one of them sauntered over and said, "Would you like Brazilian sausage, miss?" I had to avoid J's eyes because I knew we'd both burst into hysterical laughter...which, of course, we did the second he left our table. I followed up my meatfest with caramel cheesecake, and J practically had to roll me out of the restaurant like a much paler Violet Beauregarde.

Next up, we went to J's place so I could meet his 6 month old kittens, Henry and McGregor, and his beagle Dory. When we were walking up the driveway, I said, "Um, I haven't been around dogs very often in my life and they kind of make me nervous. Is there anything I shouldn't do around Dory? Like, anyplace I shouldn't touch her?"

J laughed. "Oh, please, Dory loves people like a fat kid loves cake. You could stick your hand up her asshole and she'd just be like 'Oh, this isn't my thing but as long as it makes you happy!'"

J did not lie. I don't think any living thing, human or animal, has ever been as happy to see me as Dory was. The second I sat down, she was in my lap, panting and whapping her tail against the chair, covering my face with kisses. At one point I was rhythmically (and gently, of course) thumping my hand against her side and reaching behind me to scratch the head of one of the kitties, and I was in animal heaven. I have been a cat person for my entire life, but Dory was the Christina Hendricks of dogs: I could see myself switching sides for her.

After communing with sweet puppyface and delightful kittyheads, we were off to Frankie's Tiki Room, a glorious slice of kitsch. I mulled over the menu and decided that the Bearded Clam was too embarrassing to order, so I opted for the electric blue Tiki Bandit instead. J abstained because he was driving, and nothing's more annoying than being around drunk people when you're sober, so I limited myself to one drink.

Our final stop of the night was the Fun Hog Ranch. Probably owing to the fact that it was a weeknight, it was pretty dead, so we only stayed long enough to have a drink and play a few rounds of video poker.

After returning to Planet Hollywood, J gallantly escorted me inside and then took off. I played the slots for a bit (spoiler alert: didn't win shit) and then headed upstairs to my room. I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, popped in my earplugs, and drifted off to sleep.

If only I'd known how Tuesday would start...

(to be continued)

Monday, October 01, 2012

media update: September


Things are kind of craptacular right now. Work has been a shitstorm of epic proportions, and the pain in my left foot has finally gotten severe enough that I've made an appointment for Wednesday afternoon. And as you all know, I pretty much have to be bleeding out of an orifice (excluding my nose) to go to the doctor, so you know it's bad. Please keep your fingers (and toes, LOL 4-ever) crossed for me.

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

1. Broken Harbor* by Tana French: In a half-built Irish housing development by the sea, Patrick Spain and his two young children are murdered, and his wife Jenny is barely clinging to life. Detective Mick Kennedy and his newbie partner Richie take the case, and at first they think it's a slam dunk. But then the weirder details begin to nag at them, such as the baby monitors pointing at huge holes in the walls and the erased files on the family computer. Creepy as hell; it reminded me of Sophie Hannah at her best.

2. Faithful Place* by Tana French: As a teenager, Frank Mackey made plans with his girlfriend Rosie to run away to England and never look back. But on the night they're supposed to leave, Frank finds a note implying that Rosie left without him, and he never sees her again. 22 years later, Frank is an undercover cop, and he gets a frantic phone call from his sister telling him that someone found Rosie's suitcase in an abandoned building. Reluctantly, he returns to his old neighborhood and dysfunctional family to find out the truth behind the disappearance of his first love. Razor sharp dialogue and an intriguing plot made 400 pages fly by at the speed of light.

3. Origin by Jessica Khoury: Pia is a teenage girl who was bred to be immortal. She lives in a heavily guarded compound hidden in the Amazon rainforest, and the scientists who raised her are eager to start a new race of people who will never die. But one night she sneaks out of the compound and meets Eio, a teenage boy who lives in a nearby village. As they continue meeting in secret and fall in love, they discover the horrifying secret behind Pia's immortality. Goofy as hell, but it's fun.

Oh, an example of the goofiness: when Pia talks about how she's terrified of anacondas because they can swallow a person whole, and although that wouldn't kill her, she wouldn't want to spend "eternity" inside of a snake. She says this twice in the span of 400 pages, and I was like "Um, the SNAKE isn't immortal. Mess it up internally by biting through its stomach and then crawl out of its decomposing corpse."

...god, sorry. I hope you weren't eating lunch.

1. Life After Death by Damien Echols: The most famous member of the West Memphis Three talks about his early life and his time on death row. This memoir can often be wryly funny (when describing breakfast at a mental hospital where he briefly stayed as a teenager, he writes "The insane don't count carbs"; in another passage, he says that the worst thing that happened in that mental hospital was a day trip to see Sister Act) and heartbreaking, but he strays a little too often into Emoland. Then again, he spent literally half his life behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, so he's entitled to write the occasional purple prose as far as I'm concerned.

1. Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, and Langdon Foss

 2. Secretary's Job by Miki Araya

3. Colorful Harvest by Ponkotsu-Works

4. The Man I Picked Up* by CJ Michalski

5. Kaze Hikaru vol. 20 by Taeko Watanabe

1. Following*: A writer follows strangers around, mining their lives for material...and then someone notices him. I won't say more because this clever thriller is best served by knowing as little as possible about the plot. Made for only $6000, this was Christopher Nolan's very first movie, and although it has its flaws, you can definitely see hints of how good he'd become.

2. Piranha DD: In this sequel to one of 2010's guiltiest pleasures, piranhas overtake a water park; cue gallons of blood and tons of titties. Although it has a couple of funny moments, for the most part it's pretty wretched. And if you're wondering about the weird title, it was released in theaters as Piranha 3DD. It was in 3D and they added an extra D to capitalize on the aforementioned titties, of which there are many. They should have just called the DVD Piranha 2, but they didn't ask me, so whatever.

Side note: According to IMDB, this movie cost $20 million to make (though I'm not sure how, because the special effects are on a par with those deliberately crappy SyFy movies like Sharktopus) and didn't even gross half a million. Ouch! I guess there won't be a sequel called Piranha DDD: It's the Tits!

3. Safe: Former cage fighter Luke Wright (the always tasty Jason Statham) has his life destroyed when he runs afoul of the Russian mafia. Mei is a young Chinese girl with a gift for numbers who's being used by the Chinese mob as a sort of human computer. When their paths cross, Luke has to protect Mei from not only the Russians and the Chinese but a slew of corrupt cops. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but lots of bullets and bonebreaking action (and, of course, J-Sta) made this a fun diversion.

4. Starship Troopers: Invasion*: A spaceship infested with nasty alien bugs is heading straight towards Earth, but an elite group of soldiers is determined to take it down first. Surprisingly enjoyable, with some gorgeous computer animation. I'd recommend having at least a passing knowledge of the characters from the original book/movie, though.

5. Entrance: Suzy is a typical twentysomething living in Los Angeles: she works at a coffee shop, she has crappy one night stands, and money is a constant worry. When her beloved dog goes missing, it's the last straw, and she decides to move out of the city. Her roommate throws her a going away party that turns out to be anything but festive.

Stephen King raved about this movie in Entertainment Weekly, so I was happy when it popped up on Netflix Instant. It takes forever to get going, but then I started to notice little hints of trouble, and when things go horribly wrong, it's all the more intense because of the slow boil. I don't know that I would recommend it, but it was an interesting experiment.

6. The Cabin in the Woods*: Five friends go to a cabin in the woods for a getaway, and...yeah, not saying anything else because this is the kind of movie you want to know as little as possible about, much like Following above. I'll only add that it was written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and it puts the lie to the cliche that there are no new ideas.

7. Klown: In order to prove to his pregnant girlfriend that he can be a good father, Frank takes her 12-year-old nephew on a canoe trip. But Frank's horny best friend Casper comes along for the ride, and his decision to treat the trip as a "Tour de Pussy" leads to major complications. This raunchy Danish movie has some really funny moments, including a scene where a "pearl necklace" goes horribly awry. If you don't want to read subtitles (the DVD had no dubbing options), it's getting an American remake. Shocker.

Side note, which I'll keep as spoiler-free as possible: near the end, they showed something which made my jaw drop. I was like, "Um, I know Europe is way more liberal than we are, but holy shit!" But as it turns out, one of the special features on the DVD shows how that scene was faked, so if you see this and feel really creepy about watching the aforementioned scene, take comfort in the fact that it wasn't real. I'm pretty sure THAT ain't gonna be in the remake. (And I'll spoil it for you if you're curious, but only if you ask.)

8. Resident Evil: Damnation*: Delicious BAMF Leon S. Kennedy heads to Europe after being tipped off about biological weapons being used during warfare. Beautifully animated fun, and it totally whetted my appetite for Resident Evil 6, which COMES OUT TOMORROW! All the yays ever!

Shortly after I bought my PS2 in 2001, I rented the first Max Payne game. It just wasn't my bag, so I returned it with only 2 or 3 hours of playtime under my belt. Remembering my previous experience, I wasn't planning on playing Max Payne 3, but after reading numerous glowing reviews, I popped it onto my Gamefly queue. When it finally arrived, I wasn't expecting much, but happily I was proven wrong. Max Payne 3 was a bracing shot of adrenaline right in the heart. The title character is a former NYC cop who is, to put it mildly, a wreck. After his wife and baby daughter were murdered by drug addicts, Max sank into alcoholism and painkiller abuse. He just wants to drink himself to death, but when he's recruited for a bodyguard job in Sao Paulo, he decides to take it. Things go horribly wrong, as they are wont to do, and Max is determined to set things right, even if it kills him...which, considering that half of Brazil seems to be out for his blood, it just might.

  • Some of the most gorgeous backgrounds I've ever seen. In one particular sequence, Max is wandering through a favela (slum), and the details are astounding: the graffiti, the kids kicking around a soccer ball, people quickly closing their front doors when the intimidating, gun-toting gringo walks by. It seriously felt like watching a movie.
  • Excellent writing and terrific voice acting. Red Dead Redemption is going to be the gold standard for voice acting for a long time to come, but MP3 is no slouch in that department.
  • Style to spare. With the snazzy visual effects, like words suddenly popping up on the screen to underscore a point, it reminded me of a Tony Scott (RIP) film.
  • Some really thrilling and intense sequences, like shooting at corrupt soldiers while going down a zipline, holding a dead body in front of me as a meat shield.
  • I'm about the least violent person you could ever hope to meet in real life, but goddamn if gunning down dozens upon dozens of Brazilian gangsters wasn't the most gaming fun I'd had in a donkey's age.
  • The enemy AI is seriously smart. On more than one occasion, I took cover to shoot at enemies, only to get killed by someone sneaking up on me. Which was frustrating, of course, but reminded me of the importance of constantly checking my six. (Translation for non-gamers: looking behind me)
  • Although you don't have to have played the first 2 Max Payne games to enjoy the third, I'd highly recommend at least reading the Wikipedia plot synopses. There were several references to previous plot points that went over our heads.
  • I don't consider this a minus personally, since it was a rental game, but story mode is only about 12 hours long, so I'd suggest renting over buying unless you can score a great deal. However, if you like online multiplayer (which I don't), there are a couple of meaty MP modes.
  • A few audio syncing issues.
  • The game autosaves, and every once in a while I'd reach a long stretch without a save and then get whomped, forcing me to replay a big section.
  • When Max gets killed and you try again, they replace the gun you were using at the time of his death with his pistol, which was annoying as shit. (I don't mean that they took away your big gun entirely, of course, just that you had to go to the weapons wheel and reselect it manually.) I always liked to bring the heavy artillery like an LMG or whatever, so to restart in the middle of a clusterfuck of a gun battle and forget this quirk and then pop out from cover with my eensy widdle pistol was irritating.
Even if third person shooters aren't usually your thing, Max Payne 3 is well worth your time. Sit back, flex your wrists, and prepare to bring the Payne!

...I'm so sorry.

1. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Saint Etienne

2. "Don't Ask Me" by Public Image Ltd.

3. "Here's Where the Story Ends" by The Sundays

If Charlotte were still around, she would write "GOOD PIG" in her web for this little guy.

Advisory: although it starts off in a distressing way---it's uncanny how much that poor goat sounds like a human baby---it has a happy ending and there's no violence or gore. I do wonder if the guy shooting the video would have stepped in if Superpig hadn't. Then again, it's hard to tell how deep that water is and I don't know that I would have risked my life for a goat, especially since I can't swim, so judgment reserved at this time. I will reopen this case if further evidence warrants.

Also, I must have had  PMS when I watched this because it actually made me cry. I'm such a sap.

oh god i can't process this mind melting teeth melting so cute fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck