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