Thursday, February 28, 2013

medi(c)a(l) update: February

Operation Brown has gone down.

I repeat, Operation Brown has gone down!

I won't go into the grisly details, but it happened late Monday night.  It was...not pleasant.  At all.  But at least it happened!  And there was a repeat performance on Tuesday morning and a couple of times since, all of which went much smoother.

Another question for those of you who have had gallbladder surgery:  do you find that artificial sweeteners taste gross to you now?  I had a pretty heavy Coke Zero addiction before my surgery, and now it tastes like complete shit to me.  Which isn't an entirely bad thing, of course, because I'll save about $10/week and anything that ants won't even touch is probably not great for the human body, but it's kind of weird.

Anyway, for the most part I'm doing fine.  My incisions still hurt if I forget and stretch too enthusiastically or anything like that, and every now and then I just get absolutely whomped with exhaustion and have to take an epic nap.  And my stomach still looks like Freddy Krueger used it as a sparring dummy.  But overall, I'm not doing too bad, for which I'm immensely grateful.

Enough o' that.

Before I get to the reviews, I just want to say that I have no idea why Dead Space 3 has gotten crap reviews.  G and I aren't done with it yet, but it's plenty tense and atmospheric and scary as fuck.  We're seriously pressed that there's no offline co-op, but other than that, it's really good.  Dead Space 2 is in my top 10 video games of all time, so you can consider my endorsement of DS3 as good as gold.  (Except that you can't sell it to Cash 4 Gold or use it to buy goods or services.  Sorry.  I'm working on it.)

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


1. Invisible by Carla Buckley:  Dana left home carrying a secret that kept her away for years, but after a frantic phone call from her niece, she returns just in time for her sister to die.  She notices how many people in the area are seriously ill, and she begins to investigate.  A decent medical mystery; it's not essential reading or anything, but it's aight.

2. Me Before You* by Jojo Moyes:  Desperate for money to help out her family, Louisa Clark takes a job as a companion for Will Traynor, a bitter quadriplegic.  I don't want to say anything else because I would hate to spoil this book for you, but I highly recommend it.  Also highly recommended?  Tissues.  I don't often cry over books (which is weird, since I cry at the drop of a freakin' hat), but this one really got to me.

3. Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman:  In rapid succession, two infant skeletons are discovered, one of which is found near the body of a woman who's been shot in the head.  LAPD detective Milo Sturgis enlists the help of his friend, psychologist Alex Delaware, to solve the case.  I usually enjoy Kellerman's work, but this wasn't one of his better efforts.

4. Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman:  After being kicked out of a birthday party, 11-year-old Alice and Ronnie are walking home.  They find an unattended stroller with a baby inside, and things take a horrifying turn.  When Alice and Ronnie are released from prison seven  years later, they become the prime suspects when other children start disappearing.  Good premise, but the writing seemed a bit stilted to me.

5. Sever* by Lauren DeStefano:  Because this is the conclusion to the Chemical Garden trilogy, I can't really give it a proper review without spoiling shit from the previous books.  I'll just say that I really enjoyed it and leave it at that.

6. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa:  A creepy collection of eleven connected stories.

7. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne:  At just 11 years old, Jonny Valentine was discovered online and became a pop star beloved by young girls everywhere.  But despite his fame and fortune, all he really wants is to find his long lost father.  Pretty good, but it was hard not to keep mentally inserting Justin Bieber's name throughout the whole book.


1. Rookie Yearbook One* edited by Tavi Gevinson:  The teenage girls of my generation had Sassy, the magazine that assured us we could care about fashion and boys without sacrificing our feminist principles; the teenage girls of today have Rookie.  This collection includes fashion spreads, essays covering everything from street harassment to thrift shopping (including a genius tip for trying on pants in a place without a dressing room), and guest appearances from awesome folks like John Waters, Joss Whedon, and Miranda July.  Even if you don't quite fit into their demographic (which is certainly the case for me), you'll find much to enjoy here.

2. Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless:  A memoir about growing up with a narcissistic, shitty mother.  Not much to add to that description.


1. Caramel by Puku Okuyama  

2. Ninth Life Love by Lalako Kojima  

3. My Bad! by Rize Shinba

4. Nemesis by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

5. A Bride's Story vol. 4 by Kaoru Mori

6. Stepping on Roses vol. 9 (final volume) by Rinko Ueda

7. Kamisama Kiss vol. 12 by Julietta Suzuki


1. Paranormal Activity 4*:  A suburban family takes in a little boy when his mother is hospitalized; demonic hijinks ensue.  It's the same basic formula as the other three movies, and it's more creepy than scary, but I still liked it quite a bit.  And I also appreciated that... 

VERY MINOR SPOILER:  ...the family's cat lives.  I always cringe when I see a cat in a horror movie because it usually winds up killed in a gruesome way, so I was relieved that the cat survived to the end. 

Side note:  why the hell was this rated R?  I've seen far worse in PG-13 movies.

2. The House at the End of the Street:  Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence, slumming hardcore) and her mom move next door to a house where a teenage girl murdered her parents and then disappeared.  Elissa befriends the only survivor, but things get weird.  It shamelessly steals a major plot point from an infamous 80's horror flick (I can't say what due to colossal spoilers) and it's really stupid, but it's surprisingly enjoyable in a trashy way.  

3. Celeste & Jesse Forever*:  Celeste and Jesse (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) have recently separated, but they're still very close, which confounds their friends.  But their unusual arrangement is threatened when Jesse falls in love with someone else.  A bittersweet comedy that I really enjoyed.

4. Flight*:  An airline pilot (Denzel Washington) makes a miraculous crash landing, but he has a little secret he's desperate to protect:  he was drunk and high at the time of the accident.  I thought the last 20 minutes or so got a little schmaltzy, but overall it's excellent.  Word of advice:  do NOT watch this movie if you're planning to fly anywhere in the near future.  The crash sequence is excruciatingly intense.

5. Life of Pi*:  After a shipwreck, Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and they must struggle to survive against overwhelming odds.  An absolutely gorgeous and heartwrenching movie.  If you haven't seen it yet and want to, I'd highly recommend catching it in the theater if you can because it deserves to be seen on the big screen.  And the 3D is terrific, because it's not all "OMG arrow coming out of the screen at you!"; it's more organic, if that makes any sense.

6. Girl Model:  A documentary about a Russian teenager named Nadya who goes to Japan to model and the scout (a former model herself) who seems a bit conflicted about her job, but continues to look for new girls.  It suffers from occasional slow stretches, but it's pretty interesting.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower*:  Charlie is a loner with a dark past who struggles with loneliness when he starts high school.  But he soon befriends a beautiful girl named Sam and her stepbrother Patrick, and things seem to be looking up.  Sweet and touching with some funny moments and a great soundtrack.  (Songs 1-9 on February's iPod list are from this movie.)

8. Seven Psychopaths*:  A screenwriter gets tangled up in his friends' bizarre dognapping scheme, but things turn nasty when they steal a gangster's shih tzu.  A clever and blackly funny script and excellent performances (especially from Sam Rockwell) made this an awesome surprise; I absolutely loved it.  Fair warning, though:  it's REALLY violent.

Side note: be sure to check out the DVD extra "Seven Psychocats", where they remade the trailer with...cats.  The genius who thought to use a Sphynx for Christopher Walken needs to be my bestie.

9. Take This Waltz*:  Margot and Daniel "meet cute":  he heckles her at a historical park, and then they sit next to each other on the plane.  When they share a cab home, they realize that he actually lives across the street from her.  Which would be great since they've got intense chemistry, but there's a catch: she's married.  A thoughtful drama with some wonderful performances by Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, and Seth Rogen.  And if you've ever wanted to see Michelle Williams or Sarah Silverman (yes, really!) full frontal, pop this on your Netflix queue pronto.

10. Sinister*:  Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer who moves into a house where a family was killed, hoping to get more insights into the book he's working on.  He finds a box of home movies in the attic that capture several murder sprees, and he begins to fear that his family is the killer's next target.  A really intense and disturbing horror movie that got under my skin something painful.  I think my fellow Silent Hill fans (represent!) would particularly like this because it has a similar feel, especially the soundtrack.

11. The Awakening*:  Shortly after World War I ends, a brilliant young woman named Florence makes her living debunking spiritualists and ghost stories.  She's contacted by a teacher (Dominic West, who will always be Jimmy McNulty to me) at a boys' boarding school who wants her to investigate the ghost of a former student.  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Florence isn't quite prepared for what she finds.  An old-fashioned thriller with some very spooky moments, including a nail biter of a scene involving a dollhouse.


While browsing on Gamefly, I saw The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (XBOX360; please pardon the lack of an image, but Blogger is being ornery again), thought it looked kind of interesting, and popped it onto my queue.  I wasn't expecting much from it, but it turned out to be a rather enjoyable surprise.

Sherlock Holmes has just solved a case and returned a priceless necklace to its owner.  But it turns out that the necklace he returned was actually a fake, and Holmes is the prime suspect.  Things get even messier when Holmes discovers the mutilated body of a bishop.  Can Holmes find the true culprits and clear his name?


  • An intriguing storyline with some sharp dialogue and genuinely funny moments.  It's not based on an existing Sherlock Holmes story, but it does its inspiration proud.
  • There are some clever puzzles in this game, including a couple of real brainbusters.  If you like Professor Layton, you ought to like this as well, though it lacks the charm of Professor Layton's world.  Speaking of which...
  • ...this is rated M for a reason.  There are some truly grim, nasty moments in this game.
  • They got a really good voice actor for Holmes, and Watson isn't too bad either.  (Everybody else is pretty meh.)
  • The backgrounds are gorgeous.
  • The music is quite nice, if a bit repetitive; one track reminded me of original recipe Resident Evil.
  • The ending credits are awesome, and reminded me so much of a Guy Ritchie movie that I'm pretty sure they were a tip of the hat to Ritchie and his take on the Sherlock Holmes universe.


  • There's a bizarre framing device for the story involving three of the ugliest and most obnoxious kids you've ever seen rendered in a video game.  Their inclusion does eventually make sense, but it could (and should) have been left out.
  • The facial animations aren't the greatest.  They obviously spent more time on Holmes and Watson, but even they suffer from occasional rubberface and creepy eyes.
  • There's an option to skip puzzles if they get too difficult, which is a total cop out; why would you even play a game like this if you don't like puzzles?  Not only that, but you press the right trigger to skip the puzzle, which is way too easy to do by accident, especially if you play a lot of shooters.  I accidentally skipped a particularly good puzzle, which was irritating.  I wish there was an option after finishing the game to replay puzzles so I could go back and do that one.  At the very least, they should ask you if you're sure you want to skip a puzzle before letting you do so.

Don't get me wrong; this is not a "must play" game.  But if you like old school point and click adventure games, puzzle games, or Sherlock Holmes, it's well worth your time.  I thought it would be something I'd play for 30 minutes and then return the next day, but G and I wound up enjoying it quite a bit.


1. "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners

2. "Temptation" by New Order

3. "Evensong" by The Innocence Mission

4. "Asleep" by The Smiths

5. "Low" by Cracker

6. "Teenage Riot" by Sonic Youth

7. "Dear God" by XTC

8. "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops" by Cocteau Twins

9. "Heroes" by David Bowie

10. "Lips Like Sugar" by Echo & the Bunnymen

11. "Only in My Dreams" by Debbie Gibson

12. "Two of Hearts" by Stacy Q

13. "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones

14. "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan

15. "Boy" by Book of Love

16. "Send Me An Angel" by Real Life

17. Heartthrob (full album) by Tegan and Sara