Thursday, October 31, 2013

media update: October

G-VO ADVISORY: Skip movie review #4.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

So a couple of interesting things happened this month. The first is that my boss accepted a job offer in another department, so she'll be leaving in November. This is the epitome of a mixed bag. On the one hand, she and I have had our issues in the past, mostly due to the fact that she keeps telling me I need to be more outspoken and then when I AM outspoken, she bites my head off. (You may think I'm exaggerating; I assure you I am not, and other people have even commented on this to me.) On the other, she's very "hands off" and generally trusts us to get shit done without constant micromanaging, which I greatly appreciate. So I guess overall this isn't a good thing, but we'll see what her successor brings to the table.

Mid-month, I went to Florida to visit my dad. We got into a pretty unpleasant argument the second day I was there, so that sucked, but for the most part, it was a fun trip. We went to the Ringling Brothers Museum, a modern dance performance that had some really cool Silent Hill type music (a skipping record of a music box), the Mote Aquarium, a showing of Gravity, Selby Gardens, and the Big Cat Habitat, where I fed a sausage on a stick to a grizzly bear (the sanctuary sold the sausages for this purpose, so it's not like I was being an asshole and just randomly feeding grizzly bears) and watched a vervet monkey masturbating feverishly while a hysterical woman filmed it on her iPad. I also bought Daddy-O a nice steak dinner for his birthday, and for dessert we shared something called Dreamsicle cake, which OMG Jesus Christ yum. I hadn't seen him since the wedding, so it was good to spend some quality father/daughter time with him. (My stepmother was in Europe for the dedication of a WWII memorial, so it was just us. I'm sorry I missed her, but I wanted to be there for his birthday so he wouldn't be alone.)

And finally, I came down with a nasty case of acute sinusitis complicated by an ear infection, so that was a pantsload of fun. Then I had a bad reaction to the antibiotic (i.e. diarrhea, elevated blood pressure, and barfing so hard I almost passed out), which was even more fun! I wound up taking 4 days off work during a particularly busy time, so I'm thinking it's probably a good thing my boss will be leaving after all because I doubt she has too many fond feelings about me after I left her high and dry. (But, and I mean this sincerely, I would much rather have been at work than feeling like I'd deepthroated a switchblade.)

What especially sucked is that even after my symptoms cleared up for the most part, I got utterly whomped by fatigue. I'd get up after 9+ hours in bed, manage to stay upright for about half an hour, and then I'd wind up staggering to the couch and falling asleep again. I didn't even have the energy to read a fucking issue of People! Fortunately I'm doing fine now, but it was rough going there for a while. Many thanks to G for risking his own health to bring me avgolemono soup and groceries; he is seriously just the bestest.

Anyway, on to the media update. No video game review this month, because I was either gone or sick for a big chunk of October. I did finish Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi, which was fun (especially the photo booth mode), but it didn't really warrant a full review. I still have to finish my second playthrough of Silent Hill Downpour, and then G and I will probably start Beyond: Two Souls this weekend, which I'm very much looking forward to.

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


1. The Shogun's Daughter* by Laura Joh Rowland: In 1704, the shogun's daughter dies of smallpox. Initially everybody believes that her death was an unfortunate act of nature, but evidence soon points to murder. Sano Ichiro opens an investigation, but his worst political enemy has a sinister plan in mind. I've always enjoyed Rowland's historical mysteries, and aside from a mystical hoodoo subplot, this was a particularly good one.

2. The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag: After the horribly disfigured corpse of a young woman falls out of the trunk of a car, the police pin the murder on the serial killer they call Doc Holiday. Can they find him before he strikes again? Succumbs to a few too many thriller cliches, but it's not bad.

3. In the After* by Demitria Lunetta: After aliens invade and kill off most of the human race, teenage Amy is left to fend for herself. Fortunately, she's better off than most survivors, thanks to solar panels and a garden put in by her eco-fanatic father and an electric fence put up by her paranoid mother. One day, on a scavenging run, she finds an abandoned toddler, and after some soul searching, Amy decides to take her in. Years pass by in relative comfort, but then something happens that I won't spoil (though the book jacket does) and what appears to be a stroke of luck may turn out to be anything but.

Postapocalyptic YA novels are a dime a dozen these days, but this one was really freakin' good. The first half is better than the second half, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

4. Doctor Sleep* by Stephen King: Following the events of The Shining, Dan Torrance is scarred by his father's violence and desperately in thrall to an alcohol addiction. With the help of AA, he manages to get sober and begins working at a hospice where his psychic gift enables him to console terminally ill patients at the time of their deaths, earning him the nickname of Doctor Sleep. But when Dan receives a mental plea for help from a young girl, he finally has to face his inner demons...and a few real ones as well.

To be honest, this book runs out of steam (no pun intended, not that you'll get the pun unless you've read it) a bit near the end, but overall, it was really good. The Shining is one of the scariest books I've ever read (and the movie is THE scariest movie I've ever seen, never mind that Stephen King hates it), so I welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with its protagonist.

5. Cain's Blood* by Geoffrey Girard: In this absolutely batshit book, the US Department of Defense has developed a new form of bioweapon: clones of the most infamous serial killers in history. Yes, you read that right. I mean, why try to create a new form of germ warfare when you can have completely uncontrollable clones of John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy running around? That's just silly!

Anyway, the clones in question are teenage boys, and they're on the loose. A former black ops soldier is sent to track them down, and he's aided on this quest by Jeffrey Dahmer's clone! But this Jeffrey is a shy and quiet boy, lacking the impulses of his "father".

Yeah, like I said, it's absolutely batshit. The writing isn't phenomenal, but every once in a while there'd be food for thought: "Serial murder is the masculine zenith of this gender-based lust for dominance and execution. It is the asocial equivalent of our philosophy, mathematics, music, et al. To wit: There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper." So if you're grooving on that premise and can handle some really nasty gore, pick this up.

6. Project Cain by Geoffrey Girard: This is basically the same book as #5, only from Jeff's perspective and with a few new scenes, and since it's aimed at the YA market, it's much less graphic. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't, you know, read basically the same book only days before. So if you've read one, you don't really need to read the other.

7. After Her by Joyce Maynard: In 1979, teenage sisters Rachel and Patty spend most of their time together listening to music and playing on the mountain behind their house. When the "Sunset Strangler" begins murdering hikers and leaving them on the mountain, Rachel and Patty's detective father is put in charge of the case. But as more and more bodies turn up, it begins to take an awful toll on him. I liked this book until the end, which seemed awfully rushed to me and tied things up in a much too convenient fashion.

Side note: if you plan on reading this, I would urge you not to read the book jacket, which is unforgivably spoilery. They ruin something that happens with only 100 pages to go!

8. The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga: Summarizing this could spoil shit for people who haven't read the graphic novels, so I won't. My one word review: meh.


1. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller: When she was growing up, the author's father was a hoarder, and then her mother became addicted to home shopping channels after surgery left her depressed and housebound, adding to the clutter. At one point, Miller describes a spare bedroom as containing "a bed frame, a broken mirror, some newspapers from before I was born, and cat feces. It was the cleanest room in our house." She lived in constant fear of her friends or the authorities discovering the truth. There's a section in the middle that kind of meandered, but overall it was pretty good.

2. Cringe edited by Sarah Brown: A collection of excerpts from teenagers' diaries, mostly from the 80s and 90s. It's not as good as the similar Mortified, but it still has plenty of funny stuff, including one passage that made me literally howl with laughter. (G was watching an abysmal Giants game at the time, so he was not appreciative of my amusement.)


1. Honey Darling by Norikazu Akira

2. Kamisama Kiss vol. 13 by Julietta Suzuki

3. Black Bird vol. 17 by Kanoko Sakurakoji

4. Sakura Hime vol. 11 by Arina Tanemura

5. Green River Killer* by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case

6. Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges


1. This Is the End*: As a party rages at James Franco's house, the apocalypse hits, trapping lots of celebrities (all playing themselves) inside. The ending was a little off, but overall this was the funniest goddamn movie I've seen in a long time. Bonus points for Emma Watson swearing and a hysterical cameo I refuse to spoil.

2. Rapture-Palooza: Oddly enough, this was also a post-apocalyptic comedy starring Craig Robinson and a Freaks and Geeks alum (in this case, John Francis Daley, who played Sam Weir). In this one, the Antichrist falls in love with a young woman (Anna Kendrick), but she wants nothing to do with him, so she and her boyfriend cook up a scheme to take him down. It's decent, but nowhere near as good as This Is the End.

3. Kings of Summer: Chafing under their parents' rule, three teenage boys run away and build a ramshackle house in the woods. Overall, it's pretty funny (watch for their idea of living off the land), but a thread of melancholy runs through it. Some people have referred to it as a lesser Moonrise Kingdom, but I don't consider it "lesser" unless you require an enormous amount of twee in your diet.

4. Gravity*: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is working on a space station when debris destroys it, sending her and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) adrift in space. With their oxygen rapidly declining, they have to try to get to another space station before it's too late. The story takes an unwelcome detour into Hokeytown at one point, but for the most part this is a great movie. It's almost unbearably tense at times, and the visuals are absolutely stunning. If you want to see this, I highly recommend catching it in the theater as I imagine it would lose a lot of impact on a smaller screen.

5. The Place Beyond the Pines: When Luke (Ryan Gosling) finds out that he has a newborn son, he starts robbing banks to earn money. But one day his path crosses with a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper), and their encounter will have repercussions that last for years. Great performances, but my god is it SLOW. I know not every movie has to be (to paraphrase Patton Oswalt) Jason Statham fucking an explosion while a Slayer song plays, although that sounds like the best movie ever, but picking up the pace would have helped a lot. Then again, I didn't watch this movie under the most ideal circumstances. I watched the first 20 minutes on the plane back from Florida, but I had to turn it off because I was passing out. Then I got it from Netflix, watched about an hour before bed, and then finished it the next day when I was home sick from work. So I might be a little harsher on it than it truly deserves; maybe it seemed like it lasted forever because it took me almost two weeks to finish it!

6. Maniac: In this remake of the infamous 80s video nasty, Frank (Elijah Wood) likes to murder women and put their scalps on the mannequins in his store. He meets a photographer who takes an interest in his wares, and he starts to have feelings for her. Can a serial killer and a beautiful French artist live happily ever after? Spoiler alert: nope.

This movie was well done, but it is BRUTAL. Not only that, but the whole movie takes place through Frank's eyes, so that you only see him in reflections, which has the effect of making you feel queasily complicit in his crimes. If you like slasher movies, this is decent; if you have a weak stomach, stay far far away.

7. Blackfish*: A devastating documentary about SeaWorld star Tilikum, the orca responsible for the deaths of several people, and what a travesty it is to keep orcas in captivity. There's a scene where a former trainer describes how they took a young whale away from its mother in order to relocate it to another park, and how the mother began letting out these piercing vocalizations that they apparently only do when they're trying to locate a member of their pod from far away, and oh my GOD I was a sobbing ruin on the couch. Not an easy watch, but an important one.

8. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox*: The Flash goes back in time to fix something, but he royally fucks everything up in the process and loses his powers to boot, so he turns to Batman for help. The character designs are aggressively ugly, but the action sequences are beautifully done and the story is astoundingly dark, so it's well worth seeing.

9. 13 Going on 30: During her 13th birthday party, Jenna wishes to be 30 years old; thanks to a bit of magic, her wish comes true. Now she's living a glamorous life as a magazine editor, but all she wants to do is reconnect with Matt, the childhood friend who got away. A fun and sweet trifle that was the perfect thing to watch while recuperating from my illness, and the scene with Mark Ruffalo (at his tousle-haired charming best) and Andy Serkis doing the Thriller dance was awesome.

10. Only God Forgives: Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a boxing club in Bangkok. When his brother Billy rapes and murders a teenage girl, Billy is killed by the girl's father. Julian is willing to let it slide because he thinks that his brother deserved it, but his psychotic crime boss mother wants revenge. A badass blade wielding cop doesn't take too kindly to her plans, and oh the blood doth flow. Slow and brooding, but visually stunning; the colors are so bright and saturated at times that it's almost like a giallo film.

11. The Waiting Room: A compelling documentary covering a day in the overwhelmed ER of a public hospital in Oakland. When it was over, I wanted to take my insurance card out of my wallet and kiss it.


1. The Go-Go's Greatest

2. "Time Is Running Out" by Muse

3. "Sing for Absolution" by Muse

4. "Stockholm Syndrome" by Muse

5. "Falling Away with You" by Muse

6. "Hysteria" by Muse

7. "Blackout" by Muse

8. "Butterflies and Hurricanes" by Muse

9. "The Small Print" by Muse

10. "Thoughts of a Dying Atheist" by Muse

11. "Ruled by Secrecy" by Muse: Am I high or does the opening to this sound like the music that plays when you first meet Angela in Silent Hill 2?

12. "Cruel to Be Kind" by Nick Lowe

13. "Save It for Later" by Harvey Danger

14. "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow

15. "Nowhere Girl" by B Movie

16. "More Than This" by Roxy Music