Wednesday, July 31, 2013

media update: July

So how's tricks? Aside from listening to the Saga of the Cake multiple times and accidentally turning my face orange, I had a pretty good July. I turned---um, a year older, and I had a most excellent birthday. I took the day off, slept in super late, and spent the day reading book #4 and watching movie #6 on this list. After G got off work, we went out to dinner (chicken picatta, spaghettini in lemon caper sauce, and warm butter cake for me) and then he gifted me with a brand new Nintendo 3DS and a copy of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. Yay! I'd never seen the 3DS in action, and it is BOSS. I have no idea how it even works, but it's really something.

And about a week after my birthday, I received an unexpected present when UPS dropped an enormous package (uh huh huh huh) on my doorstep. Turns out I'd won a magazine contest, and they sent me basically every Garnier hair care product in existence. I'm not exaggerating: I had to store most of it in a kitchen cabinet because there wasn't enough room under the sink or in the linen closet! I won't have to buy shampoo, conditioner, or hairspray for at least two years.

Oh, and I'm very grateful to my stepsister for having a baby so my dad can experience being a grandfather. He tells me all about his "granddude" and it's almost unbearably sweet. I haven't met the baby myself, but that's what happens when you acquire a set of stepsiblings and all of you are adults and live nowhere near each other. Shit, I can't even remember my stepbrother's name! Yes, this is embarrassing.

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


1. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo: Because this is a direct sequel to Shadow and Bone, I can't give it a proper review lest I spoil something from the previous book. I will say that I liked it better than its predecessor, mainly because of a new character that added some much needed humor to the story.

2. Sisterland* by Curtis Sittenfeld: The jacket of this book does it no favors; with its photograph of twin girls looking soulfully into the camera, it looks like one of those chick novels that Target always features prominently on an endcap. It's way better than the cover would lead you to believe.

Kate's living a comfortable life with her husband and two small children when her twin sister Violet makes a splash in the media by predicting an earthquake. Kate isn't happy about Violet's claims, because for years she's been trying to hide the fact that she and Violet are legitimately psychic. It's a great premise, the writing is superb, and although I wouldn't call it a funny book, there were a couple of scenes/lines that made me laugh loud and hard. (One of my favorites: "Children are nothing but a problem people create and then congratulate themselves on solving.")

3. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau: Oh look, another YA dystopian novel! In this one, teenage Cia and an elite group of her peers are chosen for the Testing. If they pass, they get their only chance at higher education and prestigious jobs; if they fail, well...I think you can guess what happens. It desperately wants to be the next Hunger Games, so no points for originality, but it's still pretty entertaining.

4. Unseen* by Karin Slaughter: Special agent Will Trent goes undercover to catch a near-mythical drug dealer. But when Lena Adams and her husband are brutally attacked in their home, Will's job gets even more dangerous. Not one of Slaughter's better books, but still engrossing, and the end of the first chapter made me say "Holy shit!" out loud.

5. Visitation Street* by Ivy Pochoda: On a sweltering summer night in Brooklyn, two teenage girls take a raft out onto the bay. One of them washes up onto the shore, barely alive; the other one disappears completely, and the effects of the tragedy reverberate throughout the neighborhood. Vividly drawn and beautifully written.


Nothing this month.


1. Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

2. Catwoman: Dollhouse by Judd Winick, Adriana Melo, and Guillem March

3. The Guild by Felicia Day and Jim Rugg

4. Saga* vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

5. Water Baby by Ross Campbell

6. Rin-Ne vol. 12 by Rumiko Takahashi


1. A Good Day to Die Hard: When he learns that his estranged son is being detained, John McClane travels to Russia to help him. But things aren't quite what they seem; cue lots of 'splosions and crashed cars. Some good action, but Bruce Willis totally phones it in and allusions to previous, better Die Hard movies come off as a bit too TRY hard.



2. Cloud Atlas*: I really don't know how to explain this movie, so here's Netflix's description: "In this star-studded drama, six seemingly disparate stories take viewers from a South Pacific Island in the 19th century to 1970s America to a dystopian future, exploring the complicated links that humans share through the generations."

This is pretty much the best endorsement I can give this movie: it's almost 3 hours long, and my ADHD ass was never bored. One of the stories is not particularly interesting (the publisher), but the others make up for it, especially the one set in a futuristic Seoul. (The Wachowskis co-directed this movie with Run Lola Run director Tom Twyker, and they serve up some Matrix realness in that segment.) It completely flopped at the box office, but if it's a failure, it's a beautiful one, and I guarantee you've never seen anything quite like it before.

3. Outpost: When I heard there was a movie starring the mouthwatering Ray Stevenson as a mercenary fighting Nazi zombies, I was like "um, yes please". But although he's a total badass in this flick, it takes a while to get going, and overall it's just okay. One of his fellow mercenaries gets some great lines, though.

4. American Mary: Mary is a medical student who decides to make some easy money doing extreme body modifications, but it's not long before she decides to use her talents for more personal reasons. Not as gory as you might expect, but it's plenty disturbing. Oddly enough, the gore didn't bother me nearly as much as characters like Beatress (a woman who had her face and voice altered to look and sound like Betty Boop) and Ruby Realdoll (who's been changed to look like a Barbie doll, and yes, that includes getting rid of her nipples).

5. The Three Musketeers: In this 1973 take on the classic, D'Artagnan moves to Paris, meets up with the other musketeers, and finds himself embroiled in intrigue. At the risk of sounding like a total heathen, I don't tend to like older movies all that much, but this had some funny lines and good fight scenes in it.

6. Spring Breakers: Four college students rob a chicken joint to fund their spring break. When they get to Florida, they fall in with a drug dealer named Alien (James Franco, turning up the scuzz to toxic levels) and continue their life of crime. It's something to look at visually, but there isn't much meat to it, and the only part that's really worth seeing is the crime spree montage set to "Everytime" by Britney Spears.

7. Movie 43: A collection of short, incredibly vulgar movies featuring basically every movie star you can think of. (No, seriously.) Some of them are hysterically funny, like the one where Kate Winslet plays a woman on a blind date with a rather unusual fellow played by Hugh Jackman, but others flop hard. It's worth a rental just for the sheer WTFness of it.

8. Identity Thief: When his identity is stolen by a con woman (Melissa McCarthy), Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) goes to Florida to track her down and bring her to justice. It's got some good lines, but it wasn't as funny as I thought it would be.

9. The Campaign: Two scheming CEOs who want to open a factory in North Carolina have just one thing standing in their way: Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell). They put up a mild mannered loser named Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis), but to everyone's surprise, he turns out to be a real contender. Glenn and I didn't think we'd make it through this movie since we both intensely dislike Will Ferrell (and oh, does it rile Glenn that they share a birthday), but it turned out to be much funnier than expected.

10. Pacific Rim*: When the ocean floor is breached, a slew of gigantic monsters come pouring out, wreaking havoc on Earth. The military builds huge mechs to battle them; cue monster punchin' action! Lots of fun, and if you have any desire to see it, I strongly recommend catching it before it leaves the theaters; it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen. The 3D was also excellent.

11. The Last Stand: A drug cartel kingpin escapes FBI custody and races towards the border in his super speedy Corvette. But he has to go through a sleepy little town run by a sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who's determined to bring him to justice. The trailers made this look like a comedy, but aside from a few lines (mostly from Johnny Knoxville, who plays a gleeful gun nut), it really isn't. But it's also better than I thought it would be, so if you're in the mood for lots of shooting and car chases, you could do worse.


1. "Super Shooter" by Rip Slyme

2. "I Don't Care (Sick Individuals Mix)" by Icona Pop

 photo TheLastOfUs_zps9a73c23f.jpg

TLOU takes place in a postapocalytic United States. A fungus called Cordyceps (which actually exists, but fortunately restricts itself to insects in real life) turns people into mutated monsters. In one of their most advanced forms, they're called clickers because they are blind and use echolocation, like bats, to get around.

Joel is a man worn down by tragedy. He lives in a quarantine zone in Boston and works as a smuggler with his friend Tess. One day they receive an unusual request: escort a teenage girl named Ellie across the country to a group of anti-government rebels called the Fireflies. Joel and Tess set out on their mission, but in addition to the infected, they must deal with soldiers, hostile bandits, and cannibals.

I'm going to break with tradition and tell you the negatives first.


  • I wish there was some way to tell when the game is autosaving. I kept having to go into the pause screen and see when it had last checkpointed, which disrupted the narrative flow somewhat.
  • This may not be a con for you, and I did like its inclusion in the game when it wasn't making me want to rip my hair from the roots, but there is a LOT of stealth involved. If you're impatient like me, you will die many, many times. I mean, you probably will anyway because this is a hard fucking game, but I'm just warning you.
  • TLOU has the most gorgeous graphics I've seen to date on any system. The backgrounds (which range from devastated major US cities to beautiful, relatively unspoiled mountainous regions) and facial expressions are absolutely stunning.
  • The story may sound like just your typical postapocalyptic zombie(ish) nightmare, but it isn't. I can't really explain why without wading into spoiler territory, but it's much deeper than that.
  • Ellie is freaking awesome. She's got a smart (and dirty) mouth on her, but she's so funny and vulnerable and tough that I fell in love with her. I saw a comment on a message board where somebody complained that she's a stereotypical "damsel in distress" and I was like dude what the fuck game were you playing because it sure as shit wasn't TLOU. Does Joel save her life at any point in the game? Yes. Does she also save herself and help Joel out too? Absolutely.
  • Great voice acting. Troy Baker is one of my favorite voice actors thanks to his portrayals of Kanji (Persona 4) and Jake Mueller (Resident Evil 6), but I never would have known he was Joel. He's terrific. Ashley Johnson (who also played Chrissy Seaver on Growing Pains!) is perfection as Ellie. Everyone else is really good too.
  • This game is freakin' INTENSE. At one point, I was in an abandoned house looking for supplies. There was a clicker standing between me and some desperately needed ammo. I had to creep slowly past it (remember, they're blind, but if you make noise they'll come right at you) and grab the ammo, then creep right back out. I swear my blood pressure went up about ten points!
  • I really want to tell you about a couple of parts that I absolutely loved, but I can't because you would track me down and beat the shit out of me for spoiling them. But OH MY GOD. I've misted up over plenty of games in my time, but there are only four that actually made tears roll down my cheeks: Silent Hill 2, Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead, and now The Last of Us. Oh man, we are talking ALL the feels.

As longtime readers of this humble blog know, there's an old Dreamcast game I love called Illbleed. It's pretty heavily flawed, but it's so batshit insane and I've always had such a blast playing it that it's managed to keep its place in my top 10 video games of all time.

Well, sorry, Illbleed. I'll always love you, and you had a good run, but you've been ousted to make room for The Last of Us. Welcome to the club, Joel and Ellie.