Wednesday, January 02, 2013

media update: December

Happy 2013, everybody!  I hope you all enjoyed your New Year's festivities.  G and I spent it with his family at a strange rental house in Santa Barbara.  It's owned by a French artist who rents it out during the 6 months of the year he's in Europe, and there was art and unusual furniture everywhere you looked.  (Also ants, but that's another story.)  My personal favorite piece was a huge portrait of Jesus composed of dozens of small oil paintings of candy and junk food.  I was madly in love with Candy Jesus and would have stolen Him in a heartbeat if I thought I could get away with it.

Anyway, 2012 wasn't a bad year overall, but December sure sucked what with everything I own breaking down:  my body, my car, my laptop.  May 2013 be kinder to my personal possessions, and just a kickass year in general.

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


1. Crewel by Gennifer Albin:  Oh look!  Another YA dystopia!  This one, at least, has an intriguing concept:  in the country of Arras, young women known as Spinsters have the ability to manipulate the "fabric" of reality.  They're given every privilege by the government, but once selected, they can never see their families again.  Adelice has a bonus gift: she can also manipulate time, which makes her extremely powerful.  I enjoyed it, and I'm curious to see if the author can sustain the conceit over three novels.  (Because I'm sure that it will be part of a trilogy, as all dystopian YA novels seem to be.)

2. Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye:  In the village of Hemmersmoor, the townspeople have dark secrets…none of them darker than the ones held by the children.  There’s a whole lot of creepiness packed into this slender novel’s pages. (And on the cover; if you tilt the book to the side, the words "IF YOU TELL ON ME YOU'RE DEAD" appear.  Duly noted, freaky little girl!)

3. The Language of Sisters by Amy Hatvany:  When she finds out that her mentally and physically challenged sister is pregnant, Nicole Hunter returns home to take care of her.  But dealing with Jenny brings up a lot of bad memories, and Nicole has to find the courage to forgive.  With the exception of one reveal that took me by surprise, it's pretty predictable, but sometimes there's a comfort in that.



1. Sharp by David Fitzpatrick:  In this memoir, the author writes about his struggle with mental illness, which manifested in cutting himself.  It's disturbing and grimly fascinating, but I would caution that it may be triggering for people who struggle with self-injury issues.

2. Heads in Beds* by Jacob Tomsky:  A memoir about the author's many years working in hotels that includes excellent anecdotes and valuable tips, like why you should never use unwrapped glasses (they've probably been cleaned with Pledge; housekeeping gets dinged for visible streaks or spots, and Pledge doesn't leave any, plus it's quick).  It's like Kitchen Confidential for the hotel industry. 



1. Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats* by Jeff Lemire

2. No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics* edited by Justin Hall:  If you're interested in GLBTQ comics, or just comics in general, this anthology is absolutely essential.  There's some terrific stuff in here, like "Billy Goes Out" by Howard Cruse (which had me tearing up by the end), "Cy Ross and the S.Q. Syndrome" by Burton Clarke (in which a black man is accused of being a "snow queen" by his friend), and several great pieces by the reliably fabulous Alison Bechdel. 

3. Triage X by Shouji Sato

4. 20th Century Boys vols. 21-22 by Naoki Urasawa

5. Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story* illustrated and adapted by Ashley Marie Witter

6. With A Dictionary and No Skirt by Enoki Tomoyuki

7. Batwoman: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

8. The Nao of Brown* by Glyn Dillon

9. Fairest: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham and Phil Jimenez

10. The Walking Dead* vol. 17 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn
11. Demon Love Spell by Mayu Shinjo

12. Soulless by Gail Carringer and Rem




1. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Abraham Lincoln is best known for being the president who abolished slavery.  But did you know that he spent his free time as an ass-kicking vampire hunter?  Well, that's the premise of this movie, and it's surprisingly fun.  The action scenes were really good, especially the "axe fu".

2. Magic Mike: In order to fund his dreams of making custom furniture, Mike (Channing Tatum) works as a male stripper at night.  He brings a newbie named Adam into the fold, and Adam quickly gets addicted to the money and women. 

I had a couple of beefs with this movie.  First of all, there's a weird yellow tinge to the outdoor scenes.  I thought maybe it was just my copy of the DVD, but other people complained about this on the IMDB message board.  Second, the scenes in the club are so exciting and vibrant (and no, I don't just mean because there are half-naked men dancing around) that they make everything else seem dull in comparison.  And finally, the actress who plays Adam's sister (and it's not a small role) is possibly the worst actress I've ever seen in a major feature film.  Turns out she's the daughter of a Warner Brothers bigwig.  Gosh, what a coincidence, huh?  "But Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa now!"  "But Daddy, I want to kiss Channing Tatum in a major motion picture NOW!"

3. Sin City*: Based on Frank Miller's graphic novels, this is a brutal, visually striking movie composed of three connecting stories:  a thug (Mickey Rourke) determined to avenge the death of a hooker who was nice to him, an ex-cop (Clive Owen) who gets involved with a group of territorial hookers, and a cop (Bruce Willis) who saves a young girl from a vicious rapist and has to come to her rescue again when she gets older.

4. Chernobyl Diaries: 25 years after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, a group of travelers takes an "extreme tour" to Pripyat, a nearby town whose residents fled after the disaster.  But things go crazy batshit, and it turns out the town isn't quite as abandoned as they'd been led to believe.  I thought this movie was going to be terrible, but I actually liked it; it's not remotely scary, but it had some very tense moments, and the music and creepy settings reminded me of Silent Hill.

5. ParaNorman*: Norman is a young boy who’s bullied because he claims that he can see and communicate with dead people.  But when a witch’s curse revives the dead and threatens his small town, Norman is determined to save the day. 

The trailers for this movie were awful, so I wasn’t expecting much, but terrific stop-motion animation and a clever script (including two awesome jokes that I can’t believe they managed to include in a movie made for kids) made this a very happy surprise.  And be sure to check out the extras to see how this movie came to life; the work that went into it is staggering.

6. Skyfall*: When MI6 comes under attack, James Bond has to cope with a missing list of undercover agents, a beautiful seductress, and a flamboyant villain who has a serious beef with M.  Lots of terrific action sequences, a bravura performance by Javier Bardem as the bad guy, and the icily gorgeous Daniel Craig add up to a whole lot of fun. 

7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey*: In this prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo Baggins sets out on a quest to help a group of dwarves reclaim their home.

As a dedicated ringaling, it pains me to say this, but I was kind of bored for the first half of this movie.  But then Bilbo meets the infamous Gollum (played once again by the incomparable Andy Serkis), and the movie got damn good from there.  Plus Ian McKellen will always be the coolest cat in the history of ever.

Side note #1:  We saw this in IMAX 3D, and although the 3D was worth the extra money, the IMAX format definitely wasn't.  Also, we saw the 24fps version (aka the "normal" version), not the much maligned 48fps version, so I can't give my opinion on that.  I heard the higher frame rate caused some people to get nauseated, so that was a big fat no for me, the woman who puked during Cloverfield.

Side note #2: We caught the 11PM showing, which meant that it ended after 2AM.  I blame this for going into the mens' bathroom afterwards, which I didn't even realize I'd done until I walked out of the stall and saw my friend C washing his hands.  Oops.

8. Ted*: When he was a kid, John Bennett made a wish that his teddy bear would come to life...and it did.  They've been inseparable ever since, which causes a rift between John and his girlfriend Lori.  As you'd expect from the creator of Family Guy, it gets pretty raunchy, and it's hysterical.  Bonus points for giving Flash Gordon the love it so richly deserves.  (Yes, I know it's cheesy as hell, but they used to play it on HBO about fifty times a day when I was a kid, so I bet I saw it at least ten times.  It was the SHIT!  And yes, I'm old.  Also: get off my lawn.)

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild:  In a shantytown located deep in the Louisiana bayou, a little girl named Hushpuppy lives with her father.  When he becomes ill and natural disasters strike, Hushpuppy sets out to find her mother.

I think my expectations were way too high for this movie, because I don't think I read a single bad review.  But it's still very well done, and as young Hushpuppy, Quvenzhane Wallis is astonishing.

10. Spun:  I was about to give up on this movie, but then Jason Schwartzman got sucked into a cartoon vagina and I was like, "Well, I kind of HAVE to see what happens now."

Anyway, it's a frenetically paced movie about a speed freak who goes on a bender.  Not as depressing as Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream (what is?), but also not as good.  Some interesting visuals, though, and pretty much everybody in the world is in it (Ron Jeremy, Deborah Harry, Brittany Murphy, Mena Suvari, John Leguizamo, Rob Halford from Judas Priest, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts...), so even though I didn't like it enough to give it a star, I'm glad I stuck with it.

11. The Watch:  After a shocking murder at the Costco he manages, Evan (Ben Stiller) forms a neighborhood watch with three other men who are more interested in hanging out.  But when the investigation takes a surprising turn, they start to take it much more seriously.  It's pretty stupid, but it has some funny moments.

12. Premium Rush:  An NYC bike messenger (my perennial crush object Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to keep an important package out of the hands of a bad guy.  Michael Shannon is a bit too hammy as a cop who interferes with JoGoLe's mission, but (please pardon the pun) it's an entertaining ride.

13. Resident Evil: Retribution:  Let's just get this out of the way first: filmmakers, please either use a CGI rendition of Leon Kennedy (like the Japanese did with their two animated RE movies) or don't have him in your Resident Evil movies.  They got the floppy hair and the clothes right, but there is just not a human alive who can match the perfection of Leon motherfuckin' Kennedy.

Okay, so about this movie.  I won't bother going into a detailed recap because you either know already or just don't give two shits.  It's loud and stupid and the woman who plays Jill Valentine desperately needs some acting and shooting lessons, but it's enjoyable.



1. "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar

2. "We Live for Love" by Pat Benatar

3. "Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benatar

4. "All Fired Up" by Pat Benatar

5. "Hasa Diga Eebowai" from The Book of Mormon (original Broadway cast recording)

6. "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" from The Book of Mormon (original Broadway cast recording)

7. "I Believe" from The Book of Mormon (original Broadway cast recording)

8. "Man Up" from The Book of Mormon (original Broadway cast recording)


Juliet Starling is having the worst 18th birthday ever!  A zombie outbreak has taken over San Romero High, and her boyfriend Nick is a casualty.  But Juliet's got a secret:  she comes from a family of zombie slayers, and with a special magic spell, she reanimates Nick's head and attaches him to her belt.  Armed with her chainsaw, a supply of her favorite health replenishing lollipops, and kick-ass cheerleading moves, she sets out to take down as many zombies as she can and still get home in time for her birthday party.


  • This is one of the funniest games I've ever played.  It was created by Suda51 (certifiably wacko creator of No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned, and Killer7) and written by James Gunn (director/writer of Slither, which you should immediately rent if you've never seen it and have a taste for gory comedy), so I knew it was going to be hysterical.  Two of my favorite lines (recited from memory so they might not be verbatim), both courtesy of Nick:  when Juliet walked through a cow pasture, he said, "Gross!  There's more shit here than a German porn film!"  And as Juliet modeled a new costume we'd purchased for her in Chop2Shop, he said "I really wish I had a penis right now."
  • A great soundtrack including such 80's gems as "Mickey" by Toni Basil, "Empire State Human" by Human League, and "You Spin Me Round" by Dead or Alive, as well as the classic oldie "Lollipop" by the Chordettes and some nice original music by Akira Yamaoka, the genius composer behind most of the Silent Hill games.
  • Kicking and slicing your way through zombies is a tried and true formula for fun.  Bonus: the hearts, sparkles, and rainbows that erupt from eviscerated zombies.
  • Some novel gameplay, such as an arcade where Juliet must make her way through games based on Elevator Action and Pac-Man.
  • Excellent voice acting.  Tara Strong (Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City and Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) provides the perfect voice for Juliet.


  • The graphics aren't as good as you might expect from a PS3 game, and the facial animations are weird and rubbery.
  • It's very short, so unless you plan on replaying to earn extra medals (used for purchasing new costumes, MP3s, skills upgrades, and concept art), it's a rental.
  • A strange and completely unintuitive interface. 
  • It gets pretty repetitive, both in gameplay and dialogue.  During one boss fight, I wanted to dropkick Nick's head through a window because he kept saying the same goddamn thing over and over.  Come on, developers, is it really that hard to put in a few extra lines of dialogue?
  • A minor quibble: Juliet Starling is a very pretty name, but boring by Suda51 standards.  He's famous for giving his characters unusual names (cf. Garcia Hotspur, Travis Touchdown, Mask de Smith, Letz Shake, Henry Cooldown), so I was hoping LC might have some good ones, but nope.

Zombie games are certainly nothing new, but Lollipop Chainsaw does add some fun elements to the mix.  If you've ever wanted to play a busty cheerleader who kicks ass but doesn't take names (she doesn't have time to take no fuckin' names!), here's the game for you.


Being a fan of the comics and the TV show, I was already pretty sure I'd like this game, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high.  It turns out I didn't need to worry about being disappointed.

At the beginning of the game, protagonist Lee Everett is being taken to prison in the back of a cop car.  When the car hits a person, it skids off the road and crashes, causing Lee to lose consciousness.  When he wakes up, he realizes that the world has quite rapidly gone to shit, and that "person" the car hit was actually a zombie.  He manages to escape and make his way to an abandoned house, where he meets a little girl named Clementine, and together they set out to find her parents.


  • An intense, gripping storyline.  I'm glad we waited until it came out on disc as opposed to downloading the chapters as they were released; the cliffhangers would have killed us!
  • The relationship between Lee and Clementine is genuinely sweet.  The writers knew what they were doing with her; she's a normal kid with a mischievous streak, but she's also sweet without being cloyingly so.  You wind up caring immensely for her and doing whatever it takes to keep her safe.
  • The graphics are simple, but beautifully done.
  • You have to make some really tough choices in this game.  At one point, you have enough food for four people, but there are ten people in your group.  Who do you feed?  Do you feed the kids, or do you feed the adults because the kids would be screwed without them anyway?  Do you give food to the guy who's a total dick to you in hopes of warming him up, or do you give it to the woman who probably would be magnanimous about not getting fed, but is really nice to you?  In another sequence, you spot a screaming stranger who's already been bitten and is struggling to get away from a group of zombies.  Do you put her out of her misery, or do you let her die in agony so her screams will attract the walkers away from you? 
  • Only three video games have ever made me cry, and this is one of them.  (The other two were Silent Hill 2 and Heavy Rain.)  And not delicate little tears, either.


  • It's pretty short; the chapters are only about 2 or 3 hours in length.
  • There are a couple of glitches.  Most of them are pretty minor, like audio syncing, but one major glitch made it impossible for us to continue.  We had to restart from our last save, which fortunately didn't involve much backtracking, but it was still annoying.
  • This didn't affect us since we played it on the PS3, but just a word of warning: apparently the XBOX360 version is incredibly buggy.  And this isn't me being a PS3 fangirl, because I have no loyalty to one console over the other; check the Amazon reviews if you don't believe me.

In conclusion, if you like the Walking Dead universe, zombies, games that make you think fast, and/or having your heart broken, then pick this up at once.  It's the best game I played in 2012.