Friday, May 31, 2013

media update: May

CONFIDENTIAL TO G:  You may want to skip fiction reviews #1 and #3.

Not quite as many movies this time around because May was an unusually busy TV month.  Here's a list of the shows G and I watched on a regular basis:  The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, All-Star Celebrity Apprentice (because of Penn Jillette), Hannibal, Tosh.0, My Cat from Hell, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, Teen Titans Go!, Game of Thrones, Inside Amy Schumer (which is hysterical, by the way; G said it's like The Chappelle Show with a white chick, which is pretty high praise indeed), and season 7 of Dexter.  And on my own, I watched Dancing with the Stars, Hell's Kitchen, Master Chef, Bates Motel, the Ai no Kusabi reboot, and Law & Order: SVU.  Whew!

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


1. NOS4A2* by Joe Hill:  Vic McQueen is a young woman with a talent for finding lost things, although nobody would believe how she does it even if she told them.  One day, she runs into Charles Manx, an old man who picks children up in his Rolls Royce Wraith (license plate: NOS4A2) and takes them to Christmasland.  Which sounds nice and all, except Manx is a type of psychic vampire who drains the children of any joy or kindness and turns them into needle-toothed killers.  Vic manages to escape, but many years later, when Manx takes her son, she taps into the talent she's neglected for years to bring Wayne back.  Of course, Manx and his assistant, the Gas Mask Man, aren't going to make it easy for her.

Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, a fact he tried to hide for years in hopes of being judged on his own merits.  I only bring it up here because if this book had been published anonymously, I would have sworn it was Stephen King.  It's creepy, it's strangely touching, and it will keep you riveted until the very last page.

2. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris:  This is a hard one to review because it builds on the events of the previous books, and I don't want to spoil anything.  Basically, as usual, Sookie is up to her pretty ponytailed head in trouble when a body shows up in the dumpster behind Merlotte's and she's arrested for murder.

This is the final book in the series that inspired True Blood, and I have to be honest, I thought it was disappointing, especially for a final installment.  (Apparently, I'm not alone; as of this writing, the majority of reviews on Amazon give it one star...ouch.)  The main beef people seem to have is that Sookie didn't end up with who they thought she should, but personally I thought she made the right choice.  Oh well, not like Charlaine Harris was going to please everybody on that front.

3. The 5th Wave* by Rick Yancey:  After a succession of alien attacks, the population of Earth is almost completely wiped out.  A teenage girl named Cassie roams the country, desperately searching for her missing brother.  But the aliens have adapted to look exactly like humans, and she doesn't know who she can trust.  This is the literary equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie; it's not going to tax your brain at all, but you'll probably enjoy the hell out of it.

4. Poppet* by Mo Hayder:  A rash of self-harm incidents rock a British psychiatric hospital.  The inmates, when questioned by staff, blame a mysterious creature they call The Maude.  A dedicated staff nurse calls Detective Jack Caffrey to investigate, and nobody is prepared for what they find.  Typically excellent fare from one of my favorite authors.  Word of warning, though:  it spoils a few things from previous books, so if you want to dip your toe into Mo Hayder's catalog, this isn't the one to start with.

5. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini:  In desperation, an Afghan man sells his daughter to a childless couple, and the repercussions of this act last through generations.  Touching and well written, but disappointing when compared to Hosseini's previous works.


1. After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey:  When the author was six years old, his father died unexpectedly.  As an adult, Hainey began to investigate after noticing that his father's obituaries had conflicting information.  I had my suspicions as to where it was going, but I was only half right.  Good, but not as good as the reviews led me to believe.


1. Demon Love Spell vol. 2 by Mayu Shinjo

2. Dial H: Into You* by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco

3. Crossed by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows:  Well, it finally happened; Garth Ennis wrote something too nasty for me to stomach.  The premise is interesting, if not particularly original (an epidemic causes people to turn into murderous psychopaths), but on every other page there's a rape or a cannibal incident (and in one case, both at the same time, with a little girl being ripped apart in the background to know, just in case you weren't already grossed out enough), and it got to be too much.  It was like the comics version of [infamously shocking movie title withheld because you'll google it and I don't want to be responsible for your nausea].  I finished the first volume, but I ain't reading no more.

4. Otomen vol. 15 by Aya Kanno

5. Black Bird vol. 16 by Kanoko Sakurakoji

6. We Were There* vol. 16 (final volume) by Yuuki Obata:  A perfect ending to a very touching series.

7. Relish* by Lucy Knisley:  There's a scene in this graphic memoir where the author is trying to buy pads in a Mexican pharmacy, and it made me laugh so hard because it reminded me of a similar incident in my youth. 

When I was 13 years old, my family went to Cabo San Lucas on vacation.  I had gotten my first period the year before, so they were still kind of irregular, and I unexpectedly got it during the trip.  My mom and I went to a pharmacy down the street from the hotel, and we didn't see anything, so we walked up to the counter.  Neither one of us spoke any Spanish aside from the bare necessities (hola, gracias, por favor, sin hielo), so my mom, falling into the trap of speaking English loudly as if it would magically lead to comprehension, asked for sanitary napkins.

The pharmacist walked around the counter, disappeared from view, and returned with a package of paper napkins.

"Um, no," my mom said.  "Um, sanitary?  Uh, for periods?" 

Head tilt from the pharmacist.

Finally, my mom---her face crimson---pointed at her crotch with one hand and at the package of paper napkins still sitting on the counter.  The pharmacist's face lit up, and he reached under the counter for an enormous box with a picture of a beaming woman sitting in a field of flowers, which is apparently universal shorthand for "This package contains items to stanch the flow of blood from your ladyparts".

And this, among many, many other reasons, is why I love my mom so much:  because she pointed at her crotch in a Mexican pharmacy so I wouldn't have to.


First up, I'll mention a movie that I didn't watch in its entirety, so I couldn't put it on this list, but I thought some of you might be interested.  The ABCs of Death is a horror anthology consisting of 26 short films by different directors.  Most of them didn't keep my interest, so I did a lot of fast forwarding, but there were a few gems in the mix:  "D Is for Dogfight", about an underground fight between a man and a dog; "F Is for Fart", a bizarre Japanese contribution about a teenage girl obsessed with her teacher's farts; "K Is for Klutz", an animated short about a woman trying to flush a particularly stubborn turd; "L Is for Libido", a truly twisted take on "ookie cookie" contests; and my favorite, the haunting (and very, very, VERY gory) "X Is for XXL", in which an obese French woman, fed up with street harassment, takes extreme measures to look like a bikini model on TV.

Now on to the movies I DID watch in their entirety, sometimes against my better judgment.

1. Footloose:  Despite growing up in the 80's AND having HBO at my house, I never saw the original.  For some reason, I thought I'd make up for it by watching the remake,  You probably already know what it's about, but just in case:  a rebellious teenager named Ren moves to a small town where dancing has been outlawed because five high school students died after a night of dancing.  (Personally, I think the drinking and driving had far more to do with it, but logic has no place in the Footloose universe.)  Ren is like "fuck yo rules" and proceeds to dance his ass off!  Happiness ensues, except for people who spent almost 2 hours of their life watching this instead of reading a book or, I dunno, watching flies fuck.

2. Silver Linings Playbook*:  After being released from a mental hospital, Pat (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents.  He wants to reunite with his wife, but a young widow (Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar) has other plans for him.  Funny at times, heartbreaking at others, and filled with excellent performances.

3. Hit & Run:  When his girlfriend lands a prestigious job interview in Los Angeles, Charlie agrees to drive her there.  But there's a catch:  Charlie is in witness protection after turning state's evidence, and his former bank robber colleagues want to kill him.  Some really funny moments, and real life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell have great chemistry together.

4. Bubba Ho-Tep:  In this delightfully weird cult classic, Elvis (Bruce Campbell) is living in a nursing home that's being menaced by an ancient Egyptian mummy.  Elvis and his friend John F. Kennedy (who's black; when Elvis points this out, JFK says "They dyed me this color!") team up to take the mummy down.

5. Sushi Girl:  After a man involved in a jewel heist is released from prison, he meets up for a special dinner with his cohorts.  At first it seems like it will be a fun evening of reminiscing about old times and eating sushi off the body of a naked woman, but his friends want to know where some missing diamonds are, and things get ugly real fast.  This brutally violent movie tries to be Tarantino-esque, but aside from an unexpectedly good ending, it's a pretty pale imitation.  The highlight by far is Mark Hamill as a creepy torturer who sounds like the Joker by way of Truman Capote.

6. Iron Man 3*:  First of all, if somebody out there has a petition to declare Robert Downey Jr. a national treasure, I would like to sign it. 

Anyway, gazillionaire industrialist Tony Stark has been left traumatized by the events of The Avengers, and he just wants to relax in his swanky Malibu pad with his main squeeze Pepper.  But when a terrorist called The Mandarin pops up, Tony reluctantly dons the Iron Man suit one more time.  Plenty of action and fun quips, plus of course RDJ, made this a fun treat. 

7. This Girl Is Badass:  In this Thai action comedy, a bike messenger gets in trouble when she's hired by gangsters.  I was really looking forward to this because it stars JeeJa Yanin, who was so awesome in Chocolate, but the action scenes are few and far between.  It's endearingly weird in its own way, but it needed less bizarre comedy and more displays of Yanin's mad skillz.

8. Punisher: War Zone:  Vigilante Frank Castle goes up against a mobster named Jigsaw (Dominic "McNulty" West), so called because his face is a patchwork of scars and skin grafts thanks to Castle tossing him into a recycling machine.  Features some of the hammiest acting I've ever seen, primarily from Jigsaw and his brother Looney Bin Jim (played by Doug Hutchinson, once most famous for his work in The X-Files and The Green Mile but now more famous for marrying a 16-year-old) but Frank Castle is a fucking boss and there are a few good action sequences, like the one where he hangs upside down from a chandelier and proceeds to decimate a dinner party.


1. "Beat the Clock" (remix) by Sparks

2. "All You Ever Think About Is Sex" by Sparks

3. "Amateur Hour" by Sparks

Friday, May 17, 2013

the last 10 movies I didn't finish watching, pt. 3

This feature was popular the last two times I did it, so here it is again.  As the title states, this is a list of the last 10 movies I didn't finish watching (according to my Netflix account history) and why they didn't cut the mustard.

Disclaimer:  Just because a movie shows up on here doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad movie.  I always try to give a movie at least 20-30 minutes to hook me, but my attention span has gotten grievously short as I've gotten older, so some of these may have gotten shorter shrift than usual.  If there's a movie you see on here that you enjoyed and think I gave up on too quickly, please feel free to argue a case for it.

1. Alex Cross:  In this movie based on James Patterson's popular character, Alex Cross (Tyler Perry, thankfully skipping the Madea fatsuit that made him famous) tries to track down a scarily gaunt serial killer played by Matthew "Jack from Lost" Fox.

Here's something you need to know about G:  he is a notorious completionist, and something has to be MAJORLY shitty for him to give up on it.  About 30 minutes in, we mutually agreed to eject the DVD and watch Game of Thrones instead, which is a solid life choice for pretty much any situation but especially when Alex Cross is your other option.  It was like somebody ran the script through software that added a cliche every two minutes.  (At one point, G said "Now it's personal!" in a booming voice and oh we did laugh and laugh.)  And although Matthew Fox turns in a decently creepy performance, everybody else sucked.

2. Norman:  A perfectly healthy teenage boy tells everybody that he has terminal cancer.  Why?  Because it's an indie movie that wants to be deep and edgy and merely succeeds in making you hate the everloving shit out of everybody in it.

3. L!fe Happens:  A woman (Krysten Ritter) instantly hits it off with a hunky dude, but she conveniently forgets to mention that she has a baby.  Oopsie!  Annoying characters + bad decisions + the !ncred!bly !rr!tat!ng decision to use an exclamation point instead of an "I" in the title = back to Netflix you go.

4. The Bay:  A parasite infects a seaside town during its 4th of July celebration.  Oh noes!  I stopped watching this due to lots of shaky cam (which usually leads to me barfing) and craptacular performances.  The parasite, which looks like a giant mutated albino pillbug, is pretty nasty looking, though.

5. Cosmopolis:  Robert Pattinson plays a Wall Street gazillionaire who gets stuck in traffic during Occupy Wall Street protests.  At one point he receives a prostate exam in his limo, which would be preferable to watching this movie from beginning to end.

6. LolliLove:  In this mockumentary starring Jenna Fischer and then-husband James Gunn (director of the awesomely gross Slither) play a yuppie couple who decide the best way to help the homeless is to give them lollipops with inspirational wrappers.  The satire falls flatter than a slab of stale matzoh.

7. All Superheroes Must Die:  Four superheroes are stripped of their powers by a villain who forces them to undergo several challenges with deadly consequences if they fail.  Interesting premise, excruciatingly bad execution.  About the only enjoyable part was watching the dude who plays Harry on Dexter chomp through the scenery like a termite on meth.  This is another movie that even G gave up on.

8. That's What She Said:  A foul, vulgar "comedy" about unappealing women doing obnoxious things.  One of them has a yeast infection, which is appropriate because this is the cinematic equivalent.

9. The Guilt Trip:  Barbra Streisand trades Yentl for yenta in this shrill comedy that plays on all the worst stereotypes of a Jewish mother.  She accompanies her son (Seth Rogen) on a road trip; hijinks ensue.  If you've ever desperately wanted to see Barbra Streisand plow through an enormous steak, well, that's weird but here you go.  I ain't gonna say a word; I read Hannigram slash fics, for chrissakes.  (And if you didn't have to google that term, YOU CANNOT JUDGE ME OKAY.)

10. Burning Bright:  Briana "Yes My Dad Is Greg" Evigan plays a young woman whose asshole stepfather cleans out her bank account and uses it to buy a tiger.  Then a hurricane hits and traps her and her autistic little brother in the house with the tiger, who's seriously salted.  It was okay, but after the billionth shot of Briana (I can't remember her character's name) tremulously peering around a corner, I was like "okay this is getting old" and left it on in the background while I played yet another round of Tri Peaks, the mystifyingly addictive solitaire game that came preloaded on my new laptop.  I did look up again when SPOILER ALERT the tiger made a tasty meal of Asshole Stepfather, but then it was over and I was all yay.