Thursday, July 31, 2014

media update: July

Thanks to scorching temperatures, I got a lot of reading done this month (five books in as many days at one point!) because it was way too hot to walk during my breaks at work.  My pants got a little tighter since I wasn't walking 3 miles a day and spending that time reading and eating delicious snacks instead, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  I also watched a ton of movies thanks to two 3-day weekends (4th of July and my birthday).

Speaking of my birthday, it was awesome.  Originally G-Vo and I were going to do indoor skydiving at Universal Citywalk, but I hurt my back and even though it was better by my birthday, we figured it wasn't worth the risk.  It was still a really nice birthday, though.  G-Vo and I both took the day off, and we watched movies 8 and 9 on this list and went to a super swanky steakhouse for dinner.  I had filet mignon that was so tender it barely needed to be cut and a slab of warm butter cake for dessert.  Most delightful.

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


1. The Fever* by Megan Abbott:  Deenie is a teenage girl who lives with her father and older brother in a quiet town.  But one day during class, Deenie's best friend Lise has a terrifying seizure in class.  As more girls begin exhibiting strange symptoms, the town is plunged into hysteria.  Really good; I tore through it in two days because I needed to find out what was happening.

2. Cop Town* by Karin Slaughter:  In 1974 Atlanta, Kate Murphy starts her first day on the job as a police officer.  She's woefully unsuited for the job, and everybody hates her: the women because she's beautiful, and the men because she's a woman.  But a serial killer is targeting cops, and Kate and her partner Maggie have to find him before he kills again.  It's definitely not one of Slaughter's better books, and I thought the ending was a little corny (which, trust me, is NOT usually an issue with anything she writes) but it's still pretty good.

3. Ruin and Rising* by Leigh Bardugo:  This is the final volume in the Grisha Trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Terrific last chapter, too.

4. That Night by Chevy Stevens:  Toni Murphy has just been released from prison after serving several years for the murder of her younger sister Nicole.  But life on the outside proves harder than she expected because nobody believes she's innocent, so along with her former boyfriend Ryan (who was also convicted of the murder), she tries to find out the truth about Nicole's death.

Chevy Stevens' debut novel pissed me off so badly that I threw it halfway across the room (don't worry, it was a paperback), so I'm not sure why I picked this up.  It was certainly better than Still Missing, but it wasn't very good either.

5. When the Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen:  Desperate to avoid an arranged marriage, Felicita fakes her own death and escapes to the slums.  She is befriended by a ragtag group of people and falls in love with their leader, but she finds out that he's planning to stage a rebellion against her family.  Not only that, but the suicide of her best friend has called forth a strange magic from the sea that might destroy the whole city.  Some interesting ideas, but not all of them are fully realized.  I did like it, though.

6. Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf:  Ellen is a social worker who races to the scene of a domestic incident one hot summer day.  She's assisting the children when she hears a crowd gathering behind her and breaking into her car because it turns out that she forget her infant daughter Avery in the backseat.  As Avery's life hangs in the balance and a CPS investigation is opened against her, Ellen finds redemption in the form of Jenny, a young girl her mother has befriended.  Some of the writing is clunky, and the way Ellen and Jenny meet is just way too convenient, but it's okay.

7. In the End* by Demitria Lunetta:  This is a direct sequel to In the After, so I can't review it properly; you know the drill by now.  I was surprised that this was the final volume, though; there seems to be an unwritten law that YA dystopian novels have to be a trilogy.  At any rate, it's really freakin' good.

8. The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe:  As a teenager, Mia was a fucked up girl who got pregnant at 15 and constantly fought with her alcoholic mother; her best friend Lorrie Ann was the sweet one from a good home.  But when they get older, Lorrie Ann falls prey to one tragedy after another, and Mia can only watch her friend's disintegration.  It's good, but so depressing it's just this side of emotional torture porn.  Don't let the cover fool you.

9. The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo:  The 1979 murder of an Amish man and his four children returns to the news when the perpetrators start getting picked off, and police chief Kate Burkholder has to track down the vigilante.  This is the fifth book in Castillo's Amish mystery series, and although it's not the best of the lot, it's still engrossing.


Nothing this month.


1. Judge vol. 4 by Yoshiki Tonogai

2. Demon Love Spell vol. 6 (final volume) by Mayu Shinjo

3. Midnight Secretary vol. 6 by Tomu Ohmi

4. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

5. My Love Story!!* by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

6. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 4 by Nico Tanigawa


1. The Great Happiness Space*:  This documentary follows a group of Japanese nightclub hosts as they go about their business.  Hosts make huge amounts of money (Issei, one of the hosts interviewed, makes upwards of $50,000 a month) to flirt with women, light their cigarettes, drink with them, do karaoke, etc.  The hosts all basically look the same, which I do NOT mean as a racist comment; rather, they all have the same chemically lightened hair done in Final Fantasy styles, dress the same, wear lots of flashy jewelry, etc.  One aspect I found most intriguing was that their biggest clients tend to be hostesses, i.e. women who do the exact same thing, which is weird because you think they'd know better than anyone that the flattery is just an act to get money.  (Then again, it's probably nice for them to get doted on for a change!)  It's definitely worth watching if you're interested in Japanese culture.

2. Bad Grandpa 0.5:  A look behind the scenes of Bad Grandpa, including additional footage.  Obviously it's not as good as the actual movie, but if you enjoyed BG, you should enjoy this too.

3. Robocop:  In this remake, Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, who will always be Holder to me) is critically injured and transformed into the titular Robocop, a cyborg who's out for justice.  Has its moments.

4. Vampire Academy:  Think Hogwarts for vampires and their half-human, half-vampire guardians, except not good.  You'd think that a movie based on a bestselling YA book series with a script by Daniel Waters (who wrote Heathers, fer chrissakes) would be decent, but you'd be wrong.  It does have some fun lines, but the acting is almost uniformly awful and the CGI is dreadful.  Put a stake in it.

5. The Motel:  Ernest is a 13-year-old boy who lives with his mother and sister at the seedy motel they own.  A charming guest befriends Ernest, and Ernest starts to regard him as a father figure, which perhaps isn't the best idea.  The cover features a blurb from a Salon reviewer saying "I roared out loud with laughter!" and I think maybe they saw a different movie than I did.  It had a couple of laughs, but it is most certainly NOT a comedy and it ended on a strangely depressing note.

6.  The Raid 2*:  Indonesian cop Rama is sent undercover to expose corruption in the force; cue bone crunching, hardcore silat martial arts action that sent my T levels through the roof.  Jesus Christ, there are some awesome fucking fights in this movie.  It's brutal as hell, so caveat viewer, but if you like this kind of stuff, you'll be in heaven.

7. Matchstick Men:  A con artist with OCD (Nicolas Cage) discovers that he has a teenage daughter, but her presence both enriches and complicates his life.  Good performances, but the plot was a bit more predictable than I would have liked.

8. Defendor:  Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) believes he's a superhero called Defendor, and he teams up with a prostitute to take down a mob boss.  It's not bad, but (re)watch Kick-Ass instead if you're in the mood for this kind of movie.

9. Snowpiercer*:  After an attempt to fix global warming brings on a new ice age instead, the remainder of humanity is herded onto a train circling the globe.  The rich live in luxury at the front of the train; the poor live in the back and eat protein bars made out of insects.  But the poor are sick of it, and led by a man named Edgar (Chris Evans), they stage a coup.  It's got a lot of interesting ideas and some good action, so it's definitely worth a watch.

10. Under the Skin:  Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious unnamed woman who drives around Scotland picking up men.  Why?  Well, I won't spoil it for you in case you want to see this, but you really shouldn't.  I read the book by Michel Faber several years ago and loved it, but the movie not only doesn't do it justice, it completely leaves out some very important details that make it confusing as hell if you didn't read the source material.  Plus it's so slooooooooooooooooow.  I'll be lucky if G-Vo ever forgives me for making him watch it, but in my defense, I thought it would be good.  The score is excellent and there are a couple of decently creepy scenes, but overall, it's a dud.  Rent it only if you want to see ScarJo full frontal or if there's no paint around to watch dry.

11. Non-Stop*:  The ever delicious Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an alcoholic air marshal on a flight to London.  When he receives a series of text messages threatening to kill a passenger every twenty minutes, he has to track down the culprit before it's too late.  The very definition of a fun popcorn movie.

12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*:  After the simian flu decimates most of the world's population, a small band of survivors gathers in San Francisco.  They need to access a hydroelectric dam in hopes of getting the power working again, but there's just one problem: getting there means going through territory run by hundreds of hyperintelligent apes.

Look, there's only one thing you really need to know about this movie:  there's a scene with a chimp riding a horse while double wielding machine guns John Woo style.  If that doesn't make you want to run out and see it immediately, well, I'm sorry you hate fun.

13. Bad Words*: Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) is in his forties, but he takes advantage of a loophole to join a children's spelling bee.  Extremely crude, but at times uproarious; as long as you're not easily offended, I guarantee at least a couple of belly laughs.

14. Blue Ruin:  After learning that his parents' murderer is being released from prison, Dwight lies in wait, follows the killer to a bar, and ambushes him in the bathroom, where he slashes the man's throat.  Dwight flees the scene, but the killer's family tracks him down.  It's a more "realistic" take on the revenge thriller, peppered with some darkly humorous moments, and Macon Blair is excellent as Dwight.


1. "Piccadilly Palare" by Morrissey