Monday, September 30, 2013

media update: September

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

In addition to the things listed here, I also played two video games that didn't really merit a full writeup, but I thought some of you might be interested. First up was the oddly named Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm game set to Final Fantasy music. I enjoyed it, but it did get repetitive, and because I've never played a "proper" FF game, I didn't get the feels. G, on the other hand, has played most of the FF games, and while he was watching me play, he was often moved to comment on how a certain song or cinema brought him back.

With lots of help from G (god that cubbyhole puzzle what the fuck), I also played Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, an adventure game whose plot is spelled out in its title. I played The Testament of Sherlock Holmes earlier this year, and I enjoyed it enough to pick up its predecessor. The tank controls are clunky as fuck, the voice acting is blah, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and it's full of glitches. But it also has an intriguing story (I especially liked how they "solved" the mystery) and some cool puzzles, so although it pales in comparison to the sequel, it's pretty entertaining.

As for right now, I'm doing a second playthrough of Silent Hill Downpour in order to get the joke ending. My next big game will be Beyond: Two Souls, the latest by Heavy Rain creator David Cage, which drops on October 8th. Cannot. Fucking. WAIT.


1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: When Ashley Cordova, the daughter of reclusive cult film director Stanislas Cordova, is found dead, it's ruled a suicide. But disgraced journalist Scott McGrath has his suspicions, and his investigation will lead him to some very dark places indeed.

I really wanted to like this book. It's been on my radar forever, and the premise sounded great, but it was a massive, pretentious disappointment. For one thing, the ending falls completely flat; for another, considering how transgressive and dark Cordova's films are supposed to be, we never really get a good feel for them. And finally, I swear Pessl got paid by the italic, because every single page is littered with them. What makes this even more annoying is that she often does it to underscore something obviously important, like "I knew I had seen that woman before!" For Christ's sake, trust your readers to figure out what's significant. Why don't you just throw some boldface and arrows and giant type in there while you're at it?

2. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood: When a serial killer begins preying on women in a seaside tourist town, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is dispatched to report on the crimes. But while she's there, she runs into the last person she ever expected to see again: a childhood friend who shares her darkest secret. An engrossing thriller, although if you're not British, you'll be doing a lot of googling. Some of it is obvious from context, but others are real headscratchers, like this one: "But exigency has driven her through the aisles of Waitrose like a WAG with a Man U pay cheque." (Here's what my research turned up: Waitrose is like the British version of Whole Foods, a WAG is the wife or girlfriend of a high profile soccer player, and Man U stands for Manchester United, a British soccer team.)

3. Tampa by Alissa Nutting: Celeste is a beautiful 26-year-old teacher married to a handsome cop. At first glance, she seems to have it made, but there's a catch: her husband is about 17 years too old for her, because Celeste is a sexual predator. And when she falls for Jack, a boy in one of her classes, she's eager to turn her fantasies into reality.

Man, this is a hard book to review. It's well written, but it contains numerous graphic sex scenes involving an adult woman and a 14-year-old boy. I'm not going to give it a star because it left me feeling like I needed a shower (and no, not to cool off), but I don't regret reading it. I say this at the beginning of every media update, but I've never meant it more strongly: your mileage may vary.

Side note: I'm not sure why this is called Tampa; I mean, it's set there and all, but doesn't really have anything to do with it plotwise. I hereby petition the author to take a tip from [james ensor] and rename it 50 Shades of Math Class. (Though Celeste actually teaches English, but w/e.)

4. Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta: A collection of short stories from the author of Little Children. My favorite was "Kiddie Pool", about a man who uncovers a secret after his neighbor's death. (And sorry to disappoint you, but the title story has nothing to do with a large donger.)

5. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton: PI Kinsey Millhone is startled when a homeless man she didn't know is found dead with her contact information in his pocket, but things are about to get even weirder. Like all of the Millhone mysteries, it's engrossing and a lot of fun.


1. Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain: The author describes his mother Debbie as a woman who "didn't take any shit from men unless she was in love with them". When she was murdered by her fourth husband, the author returned to his hometown of Tombstone to find out what happened. Decent, but I don't really have anything to say about it.


1. Mistress Fortune* by Arina Tanemura

2. Intriguing Secrets by Rize Shinba

3. Locke & Key* vols. 4-5 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: I am pleased to report that I got G hooked on this series. I wasn't sure if he'd like it or not, and gave him the first volume with that disclaimer, but when he returned it he said, "Why did you think I wouldn't like that? It was fantastic!"

4. Kaze Hikaru vol. 21 by Taeko Watanabe

5. Embracing Love* vols. 1-2 by Youka Nitta: When I was in Japan in 2005, I was in a bookstore and they had a huge promotional banner for this series. Across the top of the banner, in English, was written "HE HUGGED A HOOKER". And if I had known how to ask "Hey, can I buy that because it's really fucking awesome" in Japanese, I would have.

6. Arisa vol. 11 by Natsumi Ando


1. Trance*: Auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) gets hit on the head during an art heist, and when he's released from the hospital, the thieves come looking for him. They want to know what he did with a valuable Goya painting, but he can't remember, so they hire a hypnotherapist to help pry loose the memory. An unpredictable and trippy thriller.

2. Now You See Me: A group of magicians calling themselves the Four Horsemen somehow manage to pull off bank heists during their performances. The FBI gets involved, but can they figure out the trick in time? The premise is clever, and it has a great cast, but for some reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

3. Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie: In the late 80's, my family and I were obsessed with Morton Downey Jr's talk show, despite the fact that we disagreed with probably 95% of what he had to say. (Which is saying something, because my dad used to be REALLY conservative. And man, if you had told me back then that he would eventually go on to support gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, I would have had you committed to the nearest mental health facility.) But it was like a train crashing into a circus, and it was addictive. I don't know that this would be particularly interesting to anyone who didn't watch the show, but it brought back a lot of memories for me.

4. The Host: Alien parasites take over humanity, erasing their memories and occupying their bodies. But when a parasite takes over a young woman named Melanie, it discovers that Melanie refuses to be erased. Not only is it stupid, but it manages to wring a crappy performance out of Saiorse Ronan, which I didn't think was even possible.

5. Behind the Candelabra: This deliciously campy biopic tells the story of Liberace and Scott Thorson's tumultuous relationship. I expected Michael Douglas to turn in a great performance as Liberace, but I was really surprised at just how good Matt Damon was as his initially starry-eyed, then bitterly disillusioned, lover.

6. World War Z*: After the zombie apocalypse hits, former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) goes on a mission to determine the cause. Based on the excellent book by Max Brooks, it's seriously intense (I was white knuckling the arm of the couch during one particular scene) and highly entertaining.

7. The Bling Ring*: A group of disaffected California teenagers gets the bright idea to rob celebrities' homes. Based on a true story (albeit with some details changed), it's an expertly directed dissection of our culture's fascination with fame.

8. Room 237: This documentary explores the various conspiracy theories centered around the movie version of The Shining, the most notorious of which is that it was Stanley Kubrick's "admission" that he helped fake the moon landing. It's got its moments, but so many of the theories are confusing (like when one guy says that a scene showing luggage that crossfades into a group of hotel guests is symbolic of the Holocaust; um what?) that overall it was kind of a pointless exercise.

Side note: When I was about 10 years old, we were visiting my grandparents at their farm, and my aunt and cousin (who lived about an hour away) came for a visit. My cousin, who was about 16 at the time, and I had a sleepover in the barn, and she said, "Hey, I just saw this movie called The Shining, and there was a scene [SPOILER ALERT] where this guy goes into a bathroom and there's a beautiful naked woman in the tub, and she gets out and he hugs her and she turns into a horrible rotting old lady!" I was seriously traumatized and ran screaming back into the house. Thanks to my goddamned cousin, I STILL cannot go into a bathroom with a closed shower curtain without checking behind it. So if you know I'm going to come over, please be advised that I'm going to check behind your shower curtain. I promise not to judge the cleanliness of your grout or anything like that; I'm only ensuring our safety. You're welcome.

9. Oblivion*: Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, a man tasked with protecting Earth's resources after it's devastated by war. But when a spacecraft crashes and he finds a beautiful woman as its lone survivor, he begins to remember something he shouldn't. Absolutely gorgeous visuals and an intriguing story, with bonus Jaime Lannister! (Okay, fine, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. But Jaime Lannister is easier to spell.)

10. Jack the Giant Slayer: This movie flopped HARD; in fact, it holds the unfortunate distinction of making the least amount of money, compared to the amount of money spent on it, in box office history! But this retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" was actually way better than I thought it would be. I mean, it's not phenomenal, but you could do far worse if you'd like to turn your brain off for 2 hours and just enjoy yourself.


1. "Suteki Da Ne" (from Final Fantasy X)

2. "How Many Licks" by Lil' Kim

3. "Starlight" by Muse

4. "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse

5. "Assassin" by Muse: This song makes me want to be a superhero and kick evil's fucking FACE IN. It would also be the perfect opening song for Attack on Titan, the batshit crazy anime that G and I are currently in the middle of watching. So would song #7 on this list, come to think of it.

6. "Exo-Politics" by Muse

7. "City of Delusion" by Muse

8. "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse

9. "Assassin" (8-bit version) created by Florio003: God, I want this to be my ringtone.

10. "Supremacy" by Muse

11. "Panic Station" by Muse

12. "Liquid State" by Muse