Tuesday, April 30, 2013

media update: April

So what's the haps?  April was a pretty uneventful month for me overall, although I did have two encounters that touched my geek heart.

First off, XBOX Live was offering free gold membership for a weekend, so G and I went online in hopes that we could find somebody to play the co-op sections of Dead Space 3 with us.  We immediately found a dude who wanted to team up so he could unlock some achievements, and he let us play as Carver.  It was my first time playing with a total stranger, and it went about as smoothly as I could have hoped:  no comments like "LOL pwned you [insert homophobic slur here]", no standing idly by as a necromorph ripped us apart, generous sharing of his inventory.  The Carver-only parts were creepy and cool, but if you can't or don't want to go online to play them, you're not missing much.  Still, I'm glad we got to do it; thanks to our partner (whose gamer tag I'm forgetting, but it had 420 in it, which probably explains his mellow nature) for making the loss of my XBOX Live virginity so pleasant and painless. 


And on Saturday, G and I went to Red Robin for dinner, and I was wearing my Teddie (from Persona 4) shirt.  When we stood up to leave, the kid in the booth behind G, who was probably 14 or 15, leaped up and joyfully said, "Oh my god, oh my god!  Every day's great at your Junes!", which is a quote from the game.  Then he gave me a fist bump.  It was truly bizarre but also really awesome, and I'm glad G got to see it because I doubt he would have believed me otherwise!

Anyway, on to the media update!  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. You Know What You Have to Do by Bonnie Shimko:  One of the blurbs on Amazon said this book was "Judy Blume meets Dexter", so it went on my Kindle pronto.  Maggie is a teenage girl who hears a voice in her head that tells her to kill people.  At first her victims are people who deserve it, like her friend's abusive father, but then the voice gets less picky and she struggles to ignore it.  The writing was very simplistic, and it didn't live up to that promising blurb.

2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight:  Kate is devastated when her teenage daughter Amelia jumps to her death from the roof of her private school.  But when Kate receives an anonymous text telling her that Amelia didn't jump, she begins digging deeper and opens up a particularly ugly can of worms...some of which belong to her.  It didn't resolve as well as I would have liked, but it was decent.

3. Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose:  Alex works as a blogger for Chick Habit, a snarky website aimed at women that's very obviously based on Jezebel, where the author used to work.  She gets a huge scoop when an incriminating video of a conservative author's daughter arrives in her inbox.  Alex is morally conflicted about posting the video, especially since an anti-Chick Habit website has threatened to expose some of HER dirty little secrets if she does.  Decidedly meh.


1. Where the Peacocks Sing by Alison Singh Gee:  The author was living a glamorous life in Hong Kong when she met and fell in love with a fellow journalist named Ajay.  She got excited when she found out that Ajay's family owned a palace in India, but it turned out to be much different than she expected.  It's an interesting look at culture shock, but I really didn't like the author at all.  She redeems herself somewhat by the end of the book, but I still thought she came across as spoiled and unsympathetic.  I'm sure she's very nice in real life; in print, not so much.

2. The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp:  The author's world was turned upside down when her son Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, which causes rapid degeneration and is always fatal, usually before the child turns 3.  There are some really profound meditations on grief in this book, but as you can imagine, it's almost unbearably sad.

3. Gulp* by Mary Roach:  The queen of weird science turns her attention to the alimentary canal, covering everything from fecal transplants to the bouillon enema Lenten loophole.  (Oh, I ain't spoiling that for you.)  Roach is by far my favorite nonfiction writer, and she serves up another awesomely icky, hysterically funny, and informative tome.

Side note: Chip Kidd is my favorite book cover designer (after G, of course), but I really hate the one he did for this book.  It looks like a deep throat manual!

4. Go Big or Go Home* by Kat Von D:  The tattoo artist muses about life, love, and art.  The essays, though interesting, aren't what made me give this book a star; it was the gorgeous photographs of her work throughout.  Say what you will about her personal life, but her talent is undeniable.  I would love to get this tattoo from her:


It would be like a secret nerd handshake!  Anybody who recognized it would instantly be my friend.

I wouldn't want the solid black background, just the burned edges, which would look absolutely awesome.  But it would probably cost a fortune and hurt like hell, plus I'm not planning on getting any more tattoos.

5. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris:  A collection of humorous essays, my favorite of which was "Memory Laps", about a classmate Sedaris' father kept raving over.


1. 7 Miles A Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger, and Marguerite Van Cook

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search* by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

3. Rin-Ne vol. 11 by Rumiko Takahashi

4. Library Wars vol. 9 by Kiiro Yumi

5. Girl Friends* vol. 2 (final volume) by Milk Morinaga

6. Castle Mango* by Muku Ogura and Narise Konohara

7. Batwoman: To Drown the World by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, and Amy Reeder

8. Arisa vol. 10 by Natsumi Ando

9. The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard

10. The Executor by Jon Evans and Andrea Mutti


1. John Dies at the End*:  This is one of those movies that's damn near impossible to describe.  Basically, there's a new street drug called Soy Sauce that has some very strange side effects, but there's a whole lot more to it than that.  I've seen some really weird movies in my time, and trust me, this is one of the weirdest.  Destined to become a cult classic.

2. Red Dawn:  In this remake of the 1984 movie that I probably saw about a hundred times on HBO, North Korea (Russians in the original) invades the US, and a group of teenagers decides to take down the enemy and reclaim their home.  Loud and jingoistic, but it has a few decent moments.

3. The Master:  After serving in WWII, Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) is a drunken, lecherous, angry mess.  He meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a new religion, and begins to think there may be hope for him after all.  Depressing and pretentious.

Side note:  On the IMDB message boards, somebody said "If you didn't like this movie the first time, please watch it again and you might change your mind" and G and I were all LOL no.  It's like somebody saying "Oh, you didn't like that nail-studded dog turd you just ate?  Try another one, maybe you'll like it this time!"  But at least a nail-studded dog turd wouldn't take 2 hours and 17 minutes to eat.

4. Bully:  A documentary about bullying in American schools that will pretty much rip your heart out and make you angry as hell.  I couldn't believe the moronic assistant principal whose reaction to a concerned parent was "Oh, it would break my heart if my beautiful grandbaby was bullied!  Look at my beautiful grandbaby!" and then showed them a picture.  Yes, that will comfort the mother who came to you about her son being CHOKED on a school bus, you clueless fucking twat.  That, plus a couple of other scenes showing her complete ineptitude, make me hope to god she got fired after this came out.

5. Django Unchained*:  In Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western (heavy on the sauce), Django is a freed slave desperately searching for his wife.  He's joined on his journey by a bounty hunter (the always excellent Christoph Waltz, who won his second Oscar for the role).  Lots of fun, and there's a scene with a racist posse bitching about their hoods that had me on the ground. 

6. Les Miserables:  Based on the Broadway smash, this retelling of Victor Hugo's classic follows Jean Valjean during the French Revolution as he tries to escape a policeman who has a vendetta against him.  It was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, but it was decent enough, and Anne Hathaway absolutely kills "I Dreamed a Dream".

Oh, one thing that bugged me:


When Marius fell in love with Cosette after seeing her for all of five seconds.  Dude, you've got Eponine all aching to get up on that ginger dick, and she's been your BFF forever AND she looks way androgynous hot in her revolutionary garb.  Forget that bland blondie and look to your right!


7. The Impossible*:  Maria and Henry (Oscar nominee Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) are vacationing in Thailand with their three sons when a tsunami hits.  Maria and her oldest son Lucas are separated from the others, and they desperately try to find the rest of their family.  Based on a true story, this movie is extremely difficult to watch at times, but the performances are well worth it.  Be warned, though, you will need Kleenex and lots of it.  The Impossible is about 120 minutes long and, no exaggeration, I cried for about 90 of them.

8. Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore:  After his friend Rhodie (aka War Machine) is badly injured, Tony Stark tries to track down the creepy dude who hurt him.  Gorgeous animation by Madhouse, but the story is just meh.

9. This Is 40*:  Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) try to deal with turning 40, which coincides with family drama and money issues.  By turns hysterically funny and painfully realistic, and it gets bonus points for the well earned dig at Lost's ending.


(Note:  we also played the DLC chapter, which I can't name due to a spoiler in the title.  It wasn't bad, but we didn't think it was worth the extra seven bucks.) 

When concept art for DmC: Devil May Cry was released last year, people went absolutely batshit...and not in a good way.  The Dante that we know and love from the first four games is a silver haired fox with cool style and snarky quips; the new Dante looked like a dour little emo bitch.  Personally I didn't see any reason to reboot the series, but it's more of a prequel than a reboot, and it's awesome. 

At the beginning of the game, Dante is recovering from a hard night of drinking and sexy times.  Then he gets a knock on his trailer door, and when he answers, this happens (start at 1:07):

So why's that monster all up in Dante's grill?  Well, Dante is nephilim, which means he's the son of a demon and an angel and has incredible power.  Kat, the young woman in the clip above, is a psychic who works with his brother Vergil in hopes of bringing down the demon lord Mundus.  At first Dante is like LOL whatever, but when he finds out that Mundus murdered his mother, Dante decides to help.


  • Dante is pretty fucking cool.  He starts off as a total smirky douche, but although he retains his smartass nature throughout the game, he does develop as a character.
  • I'm not a huge DMC fangirl; I did play and enjoy the first game in the series, but never tried the others.  G, however, has played all of them, and he said this is his second favorite.  (DMC3 takes top honors.)  I think the purists who dismissed this game without even playing a minute of it really need to get over their preconceptions and give it a whirl.  They might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Insane action.  After finishing the game, my wrists hurt for two days!
  • Super tight and responsive controls.
  • Unique level designs and one of the most bizarre bosses I've seen since D2's vagina supercomputer.
  • Excellent soundtrack ranging from Akira Yamaoka-esque moody tunes to hard driving metal.
  • There's a fair bit of platforming in this game, and it's pretty cool.  I especially liked swinging through the air using my angel or devil hook.
  • I appreciated the fact that they didn't totally sexualize Kat, the main female character.  Sure, she's showing a little cleavage and wearing shorts, but as evidenced by the clip above, you see WAY more of Dante.  Plus Kat's clothes aren't over the top and she's not just eye candy.  She proves to be an extremely valuable ally, and her motivation for taking up Dante and Vergil's cause is very interesting.
  • Overall, the voice acting is pretty good.  It's not Red Dead Redemption or anything, but I don't remember anything truly awful.
  • Refer back to the comment I made about my wrists hurting for two days.  I don't play a lot of hack and slash games, so that's probably the issue, but ow!  (There is an easy difficulty, but we played on normal.)
  • Occasionally you'd get into a clusterfuck of a fight on a very small platform, and if an enemy knocked you off, it meant restarting the fight, which was annoying.  (Though to be fair, it didn't count as a death in your end chapter stats and it only knocked a bit of your health bar off.)
  • The facial animations aren't always the greatest.
  • A few glitches, including one during a boss fight where the boss slumped over and I proceeded to furiously hack away.  Then G noticed that its health bar wasn't going down and it wasn't reacting to my attacks, so I had to jump off the platform and die in order to restart the fight, which was frustrating.
This is not a game for prudes (the dirty mouth on that luscious boy!) or people with carpal tunnel syndrome.  But if you're willing to overlook a few flaws for the chance to beat the ever lovin' crap out of hundreds upon hundreds of demons and monsters, DmC will more than satisfy your bloodlust.


1. "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears" by Julee Cruise

2. "The Adversary" by Crime & the City Solution

3. "Fretless" by R.E.M.

4. "Days" by Elvis Costello

5. "Death's Door" by Depeche Mode

6. "Calling All Angels" by Jane Siberry and k.d. lang

7. "Until the End of the World" by U2

8. "Lilith's Club" by Noisia

9. "Off to the Races" by Lana Del Rey

10. "Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey

11. "Diet Mountain Dew" by Lana Del Rey

12. "Dark Paradise" by Lana Del Rey

13. "Million Dollar Man" by Lana Del Rey

14. "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey

15. "This Is What Makes Us Girls" by Lana Del Rey

16. "Without You" by Lana Del Rey

17. "Lucky Ones" by Lana Del Rey

18. "Blue Velvet" by Lana Del Rey

19. Twin Peaks soundtrack

20. "Hataraki Man" by Puffy

21. "Never Surrender" by Combichrist

Thursday, April 25, 2013

book nerdery

ADVISORY TO G-VO:  Skip #8 and #10, since you might read those books at some point.

A blog buddy recently wrote an entry in which he talked about how he discovered his favorite books, and I'm shamelessly stealing his idea.  Just try and prosecute me, bro!

I'll start with a brief synopsis of the book and then talk about how I discovered it.  Aside from the first book on this list, these aren't in preferential order.

1. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria Mc Cann:  Yeah, yeah, I push this book on everyone, but there’s a reason for that.  It’s about Jacob Cullen, a disturbed young man who flees home and winds up joining Cromwell’s army, where he becomes obsessed with a fellow soldier named Ferris.  Sumptuous descriptions, vivid characterizations, some scorchingly erotic scenes, and an emotionally devastating climax all add up to make this the best book I’ve ever read, which is really saying something considering just how MUCH I read.  What astounds me the most about this novel is that even though Jacob does some truly horrible things, I still cared about him and I honestly wanted him to be happy.  I reread this book once a year and it still gets me every time.

The way I discovered this book is pretty embarrassing, but I love you so I'll tell you anyway.  I was seriously obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies, and I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at Aragorn/Legolas slashfic.  (My current fave slash couple is Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, aka the Science Bros.  Mark Ruffalo, upon hearing about this pairing, had a completely awesome response to it, thus validating the crush I've had on him since You Can Count on Me.)  I was reading a LiveJournal entry by one of my favorite A/L writers, and she asked what everybody's favorite gay themed book was.  Somebody recommended As Meat Loves Salt, and it sounded interesting, so I got it from the library and was instantly hooked.  I remember reading it in the break room at work, and I got to a particularly important part near the end, but I had to return to my desk.  But I absolutely couldn't concentrate, so I hid the book in a huge stack of folders and pretended that I had to run to the copy room.  Instead, I hid in a bathroom stall and finished the last 25 or so pages.  When I was done, I just sat there for another ten minutes, completely drained.  (I mean emotionally, though I'm sure I did take at least one whiz as long as I was sitting there.)  I reread it every year and it still gets me every single time.

2. The End of Alice by A.M. Homes:  A jailed pedophile starts getting letters from a young woman who shares similar compulsions, and their correspondence causes him to look back on the events that put him behind bars.  You don’t find out the full extent of his crimes until the last few chapters, and to put it mildly, it’s a doozy.  This is one of the most disturbing, uncomfortable books I’ve ever read, yet it still makes my top ten.  Why?  Because the writing, when it’s not splashing about in Grand Guignol excesses, is almost lyrically beautiful.  I didn’t read Lolita until long after I’d read The End of Alice, but Nabokov’s influence (puns, taking delight in the way certain words sound and fit together) is clear. 

I was still living in Minnesota when I discovered this book in the new fiction section of the library.  I was sitting in the recliner reading it, my cat Sprite snoozing on my lap, and I exclaimed in horror at one particular scene, scaring the fuck out of Sprite and getting a thighful of claws for my rudeness.

3. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder:  A troubled young woman, obsessed with the Japanese atrocities committed against the Chinese during the Rape of Nanking, goes to Tokyo in search of an elderly Nanking survivor.  She makes some dangerous friends and even more dangerous enemies, all of whom are determined to get their hands on a mysterious elixir.  I don’t usually get frightened by books, but there are some scenes in this one that literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  However, anyone who dismisses this as just another thriller is sorely mistaken, because the ending packs a powerhouse punch that left me in tears.  (Note:  Outside of the North American market, this book is published under its original title, Tokyo, which is craptacular because it sounds more like a travel guide.)

I'd read Mo Hayder's previous books, Birdman and The Treatment, before reading this one, so she was already an established favorite of mine.  I can't wait for Poppet, which comes out next month.

4. The Green Mile by Stephen King:  In 1935, an enormous black man named John Coffey is brought to death row after being convicted of raping and killing two little girls.  A prison guard named Paul Edgecombe starts to suspect that John is innocent after witnessing what can only be described as miracles.

I’ll admit that part of the reason I love this book so much stems from the circumstances under which I first read it.  Stephen King decided to publish it in serial form, releasing a volume (each one consisting of about 100-150 pages) every month until it was finished.  My mom and I, both longtime King fans, eagerly awaited each new release, and I can still remember our outraged screams over one major cliffhanger.  Anyway, that’s not the only reason I love this book; I also love it for its rich characters and its exploration of miracles both big and small.  It’s true that Stephen King has written more than his fair share of tripe over the years, but this is an example of what he can produce when he really puts his mind to it.

5. Dark Hollow by John Connolly:  This is the first book of Connolly’s that I read, and it remains my favorite.  Charlie Parker, the private investigator who’s the central character in almost all of Connolly’s novels, is asked to find a woman’s ex-husband and get him to pay child support.  But then the woman and her little boy are killed, and Charlie, who lost his wife and daughter to a vicious murderer, is determined to track down the culprit.  He’s assisted in his quest by his friends Louis and Angel, two morally ambiguous and decidedly gay hitmen, who get some priceless dialogue.  It’s a riveting thriller, dark and sad at its core, but not without redemption. 

Shortly after moving back to California, I was visiting the library near work and noticed this on the shelf.  After reading the inside cover, I checked it out and was very damn glad I did.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling:  I was a latecomer to the whole Harry Potter phenomenon, but a friend insisted that I would love the books, so I grudgingly picked the first one up...and I didn’t put it down, except to pee, until I was finished. 

7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling:  My favorite of the series so far, thanks to its unbeatable combination of magic, mayhem, tragedy, humor, and adolescent angst.  Of course, I picked this up because I was already a fan by that point.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:  On her wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears, and her husband Nick is suspected of having some part in it.  That's all I'm going to say about it.

I was already a fan of Flynn's; her debut novel Sharp Objects was one of my ten favorite books of all time until this one replaced it in my affections.  Dark Places is also excellent.  Goddamn it, Gillian Flynn, y u so talented?!?

9. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber:  Set in 19th century England, this book follows a young prostitute named Sugar as she struggles to survive and then finds herself the paid plaything of a wealthy man.  This sprawling novel took the author twenty years to research and write, and it shows; the descriptions are gorgeous, and my attention never wavered, even though the book is almost one thousand pages long.

I don't remember for certain, but I think I was driven to read this by a positive review in Entertainment Weekly, which is where I get most of my book and movie recommendations. 

10. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell:  Ava Bigtree is having a really rough adolescence:  her mother dies, her family's tacky alligator tourist attraction begins to go under, and her father and brother defect to the mainland in search of other employment.  Ava is left alone in the swamp with dozens of alligators and her dreamy older sister Ossie, who believes she can communicate with ghosts.  When Ossie disappears, leaving behind a note in which she claims to have eloped with one of the ghosts, Ava sets out on a perilous journey to rescue her.  Filled with gorgeous descriptions and thought-provoking lines, I couldn't stop thinking about it long after I'd finished it.  I'd never read anything quite like it before, and I doubt I ever will again.  One caveat: be sure to have a dictionary (or dictionary.com) handy while reading.  I pride myself on having a decent vocabulary, and I came across at least a dozen words I didn't know.

This was another Entertainment Weekly recommendation.  It was also nominated for a Pulitzer, but they wound up not awarding a fiction prize in 2012.

Monday, April 01, 2013

media update: March

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


1. Fuse* by Julianna Baggott:  Because this is the second installment of the Pure Trilogy, I can't give it a proper review without spoiling things from the first book.  I'll just say it's really fucking great and leave it at that.

2. Vampires in the Lemon Grove* by Karen Russell:  I'm not generally a big fan of short stories, but I made a rare exception for this because it's by the author of Swamplandia!, one of my 10 favorite novels of all time.  It's a collection of 8 stories heavily steeped in magical realism.  My favorite by far was "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis", a heartbreaking and eerie story which reminded me of "The Body" (which later became Stand by Me, but the original story is a bit darker) by Stephen King.

3. Requiem by Lauren Oliver:  This is the final book in the Delirium trilogy, which means---you guessed it!---that I can't give it a proper review without spoiling the other two books.  I wasn't super thrilled with the way it wrapped up, but overall it was okay.

4. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd:  Juliet is a teenage girl trying to fend for herself in London.  But when she's forced to flee, she heads to a tropical island where her estranged father is living.  Of course, there's a catch: her father is Dr. Moreau, and the island is populated by his dangerous creations.  Not starworthy, but a fun read.

5. Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus:  After the death of his son, Thomas locks himself in his bedroom for three years, only emerging late at night to buy groceries.  His desperate wife hires Megumi, a young Japanese woman with some personal experience in dealing with hikikomori (hard to describe; you can read more about the phenomenon here), to try to coax Thomas out of his room once and for all.  The writing is a bit choppy, but I liked it fine.

6. Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany:  Shortly after Grace gets engaged to her boyfriend Victor, his ex-wife dies.  Grace, who never wanted kids, has to learn how to deal with Victor's two traumatized children.  Melodramatic and too pseudo-Picoult for my tastes.

Speaking of Jodi Picoult, I started reading The Storyteller and instantly stopped when somebody discovered the face of Jesus in a loaf of bread.  That, coupled with a character who only spoke in haiku, tipped my NOPE-ometer into the red zone.


1. With or Without You* by Domenica Ruta:  In this memoir, the author writes about growing up with her mother Kathi, a charismatic alcoholic and drug addict who veered between doting on her daughter and treating her like garbage.  Searingly honest and beautifully written; I give it my highest recommendation.

2. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang:  The author talks about growing up Chinese-American, his troubled adolescence, and his eventual rise to fame as the proprietor of hot NYC restaurant Baohaus.  There were a lot of long passages about sports/rap/sneakers that I skimmed, but the rest of it was decent.

3. Her* by Christa Parravani:  In this memoir, the author tries to unpack the life of her twin sister Cara, who died of an overdose at the age of 28, and describes how she had to reinvent herself because she didn't know who she was without Cara.  She writes, "To see the world apart from her was to be there only by half."  Wonderfully written, but almost unbearably sad.


1. Fables vol. 18 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Gene Ha

2. Batgirl: Knightfall Descends by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, and Ed Benes

3. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 13 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki

4. Otodama: Voice from the Dead by Youka Nitta

5. 21st Century Boys vol. 2 (final volume; it also wraps up 20th Century Boys) by Naoki Urasawa


1. Samsara:  A documentary of daily life around the world, ranging from a Buddhist monk creating a gorgeous sand mandala to Thai bar dancers.  There's no dialogue at all, so you can easily fast forward through the stuff that doesn't interest you.  But it's visually stunning, and I think it's destined to become a stoner classic.  Warning:  some disturbing sequences involving animals and a nightmare fuel performance artist.  (Cue the aforementioned fast forward button.)

2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 2:  Based on the classic Frank Miller graphic novel, this follows an older Bruce Wayne as he reassumes the Batman mantle.  Suffers from lackluster animation (aside from some nice fight choreography) and voice acting, but the story is good.

3. Silent Hill: Revelation*:  Heather Mason has always been told by her father that she must never go to Silent Hill, no matter what.  But when he disappears, she descends into a nightmarish world to save him. 

Unless you're already a Silent Hill fan, don't bother with this movie.  But because they stayed so true to the visuals and had the good sense to use Akira Yamaoka's incredible music, and they included so many nods to the games (G caught a SH: Downpour reference that I didn't; I was so ashamed!) I had to give it a star.  Gotta say, though, that it was weird seeing Kit "Jon Snow" Harington and Sean "Ned Stark" Bean in the same movie together. 

4. For a Good Time, Call...:  Two women nursing a mutual grudge are forced by financial circumstances to move in together.  But when they begin a successful phone sex line out of their apartment, their animosity starts to thaw.  There's a surprisingly sweet core under all the raunchy humor, and I liked it quite a bit.

5. Hide and Seek:  Oh look, another horror movie in which a cat gets killed!  How EDGY.  Christ, can a fucking cat show up in a horror movie without a) being the cause of a cheap jump scare and/or b) getting killed?  Seriously, have you ever seen a cat in a horror movie that didn't fulfill at least one of those criteria?

(And yes, I already ranted about this last month.  But it KEEPS HAPPENING.)   

Anyway, a psychologist (Robert De Niro) moves his traumatized daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) to the countryside after his wife commits suicide.  Almost immediately, Emily makes an imaginary friend named Charlie.  But Charlie doesn't much care for her father, and he might not be so imaginary after all.  About halfway through, I thought "wait a second, I think I had this movie spoiled for me when it first came out" and I was right.  But it was okay, aside from the aforementioned cat killing. 

6. Wreck-It Ralph*:  Ralph is a video game villain who wants to be a good guy, so he ventures out of his own game into other ones in hopes of fulfilling that quest.  But in the process, he unintentionally endangers the entire arcade.  A funny valentine to retro gaming.

7. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2:  Oh, Lee Pace, my darling.  I don't want to begrudge you a paycheck, but why are you in this thing?

Anyway, the schmaltzy love story of a sparkly vampire and the most boring woman in the world finally draws to a close.  It's got corny dialogue, terrible acting, and an awful CGI baby (G: "She and the E-trade kid should hook up"), but it was a bit of a guilty pleasure.

8. This Must Be the Place:  In this slow and deeply odd movie, Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, a retired rock star (think Robert Smith with a voice like Salad Fingers) who tracks down the man who humiliated his father at Auschwitz.  I can't say as I enjoyed it all that much, but it certainly was different.

9. The Sessions*:  Confined to an iron lung since childhood, poet Mark O'Brien longs to lose his virginity, and a sex surrogate steps in to help.  It kind of sounds like a romcom, but it's based on a true story.  I have no idea how John Hawkes didn't get nominated for an Oscar, though; not only is it the kind of role that the Academy loves, but he's really freakin' good.  Helen Hunt, who did get a nomination for her role as the surrogate, is excellent as well.

10. Argo*:  When Iranian militants storm the American embassy and take hostages, six people manage to escape and take refuge at the Canadian ambassador's home.  Back in the US, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck, who also directed) concocts an outrageous plan:  get them out of the country by pretending they're Canadians working on a film shoot.  Astoundingly enough, this is based on a true story that was declassified by President Clinton in 1997. 

Argo won the Best Picture Oscar this year, and although I liked Life of Pi more, I'm not angry this won.  It's tense and exciting (although I think they took some creative liberties near the end), and definitely worth a watch.  Plus Alan Arkin and John Goodman, as the film producer and makeup artist who agree to help, are hysterical. 

11. Rise of the Guardians:  Jack Frost (who looks like a Final Fantasy bishonen) is pretty cheesed that kids don't believe in him.  But when boogeyman Pitch starts causing trouble, Jack bands together with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy to stop him.  Beautiful animation, but the story was just okay. 

12. Zero Dark Thirty*:  A retelling of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden that's almost painfully suspenseful at times, even though we obviously know how it turned out.  I had to keep reminding myself to breathe during the last ten or so minutes.

13. Bachelorette:  Reagan (Kirsten Dunst) is bitter when her friend Becky (Rebel Wilson, playing the only sympathetic character in the bunch) becomes the first of their high school clique to get engaged.  She agrees to serve as maid of honor, but the position comes with some unexpected headaches.  It's sort of a darker Bridesmaids, though nowhere near as funny or endearing.

14. The Man with the Iron Fists:  A blacksmith working in China gets entangled in a clan battle, and with the help of a raunchy Brit (Russell Crowe) and a cool madam (Lucy Liu), he decides to take them down.  Waaaaaaaaaay too much wire work for my liking, but there's some gorgeous set design and a few good lines.

15. End of Watch*:  Two LAPD officers working in South Central put themselves in grave danger when they piss off a drug cartel.  Excellent performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena and some gruelingly intense scenes elevate this a notch above most cop thrillers.

Side note:  There's a lot of shaky cam in this movie, which usually makes me throw up, but it was usually followed by a calmer scene, which helped settle my system.  So if you're similarly afflicted, you can probably watch this movie safely aside from one fight and some running scenes.  (I closed my eyes during those.)

16. Killing Them Softly:  After two inept criminals hold up a card game run by mobsters, a hitman (Brad Pitt) is dispatched to wipe them out.  Good performances, but the allegories are forced and it wasn't as good as I'd been led to believe.


(Note: we also played the DLC chapter called "Awakened", but I can't get into specifics about it because it spoils the shit out of DS3.  I'll just say that it's worth the extra $10.)

Dead Space 2 is one of my 10 favorite video games of all time, and the first one was damn good too.  Needless to say, I bought Dead Space 3 as soon as it came out because I was itchin' to plow through some necromorphs.

In DS3, which takes place 3 years after the events of DS2, you once again assume the role of space engineer Isaac Clarke.  He and Ellie became romantically involved after DS2, but they split up and now she's canoodling with a total douche.  But as much as Isaac would like to nurse his broken heart in peace, the Unitologists are up to their old tricks again, activating Markers and causing another necromorph outbreak.  Isaac reluctantly takes up arms again in hopes of ending things once and for all.


  • Uniformly good voice acting aside from one notable problem that I'll address in due time.

  • Gorgeous graphics and brilliant music/sound design.

  • Isaac's locator, which is used by clicking the right joystick, is still the best mapping system of all time. 

  • There are some really tense moments, and those horrifying bird monsters (who make the MOST HIDEOUS NOISE I'VE EVER HEARD) make a repeat appearance.  I swear to Christ, those fuckers are neck and neck with the stabby children from the first Silent Hill as my most traumatizing video game enemy.

  • You now have "scavenger bots" at your disposal, which are cute lobster-looking machines that search for scrap metal to use for new weapons.

  • It's just plain fun, and it will make you feel like a total badass.  If I may boast for a moment:  at one point I had swarms of monsters coming at me from both sides.  Turn to the left:  BOOM, take out the legs of a necromorph and stasis the dudes behind him to slow them down.  Turn to the right:  BAM, do the same on that side.  Return to the first guy and finish him off, swivel back to the right seamlessly and blow the other guy away, then clean up the stragglers, all in the course of maybe 20 seconds.  Even G was impressed, and G is a total OG (original gamer).  That's right, I serve up pipin' hot beatdowns like IHOP, no syrup, 'cause ain't nothing sweet 'round here when I'm popping caps in monster ass, you feel me?


  • The other female character (whose name I forgot) sounds way too much like Ellie, which made it confusing as to who was speaking if we weren't in the same room with them or they weren't facing the camera at the time.

  • This might not be a negative for you---it certainly wasn't for G---but the new weapon crafting system is complicated as fuck.  Whenever I reached a bench, I just passed the controller off to G so he could make us a bitchin' new weapon.  (For the record, you can't go wrong with the shotgun, especially if you use fire coating on your bullets.)

  • It's not as scary as DS2, and there are no indelible "set pieces" like DS2's nursery or auditorium.  The DLC has some pretty freaky scenes, but again, not as memorable as DS2.

  • I can't believe I'm going to complain about this, but they were TOO generous with the health and ammo drops.  Lots of people were angry when it was announced that DS3 would use microtransactions (i.e. pay real money to download ammo packs and weapon parts), but trust me, you ain't gonna need to spend any real money, especially since all weapons now use the same type of ammo.  My safe was full to bursting by the end with excess ammo and healing.  This unfortunately took a bit of the tension out of the game. 

  • And finally, my biggest complaint of all:  no offline co-op.  G and I were seriously salted when we found this out, because we were looking forward to playing DS3 together.  Boo to you for this obnoxious omission, EA.  Booooooooooooooooooooooo.

  • Although Dead Space 3 pales in comparison to its lofty predecessor, it's still a worthy addition to the series.  I don't know why it got such shitty reviews, but in my opinion, you can ignore them.  Load up your line gun and get to dismembering!


    1. Dial-A-Song (full album) by They Might Be Giants

    2. "Sugar Rush" by AKB48