Saturday, January 31, 2015

media update: January

NOTE TO G-VO:  Please skip movie review #5 as I'll probably make you watch it at some point.

Hello, my cats and kittens!  My dad is currently visiting me, so I've been quite busy playing hostess for the last couple of days.  He's not staying with me, but at a very Mulholland Drive-esque hotel about 4 miles away from my place.  He's gotten on my nerves a couple of times (thank CHRIST for G-Vo, who listened patiently to me on the phone and provided some invaluable advice), but overall it's been nice having him here.  I must say, I never knew he had so many opinions on celebrities!  Here are a couple of choice bits:

- At lunch, he asked me to identify a singer on the radio and when I told him it was Rihanna, he said "Oh, Rihanna!  Man, she is SULTRY."

- Upon flipping the TV to Modern Family:  "Whew, that Sofia Vergara is one hot babe."

- While we were waiting in line at CVS, he noticed George and Amal Clooney on the cover of a magazine and asked the guy behind us if he thought Amal was pretty.  The startled dude said, "Uh, sure," to which my dad said "She's very classy!  George Clooney is a great guy, so I hope it works out for them."  (My dad has a friend who met the Cloons; it's a very long story, but the Cliff's Notes version is that George Clooney was extremely nice to the friend when he didn't have to be, and in fact if he had been rude it would have been somewhat justified, and the story made a huge impression on my dad.)

- Flipping through a magazine on my couch:  "God, [redacted because this isn't a nice thing he said] sure turned out to be a slut."  I chided him, and he said, "I'd say the same thing if a guy acted the same way she does!  It's tacky!"

- "Kate Hudson is pretty, but she's no Emily Blunt."  ?????

- And best of all:  I have a poster of Dante from Devil May Cry (reboot version, not original recipe) on my fridge, and my dad said "Is this that Justin Bieber kid?"  Dear reader, I ROFL'd.

Anyway, on to the media update!

Starting this month, I'm trying something new.  As usual, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time, but this month I'm adding double asterisks!  Double asterisks are for things that I couldn't stop thinking/raving about, and will be reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Party Girl by Rachel Hollis:  Landon Brinkley moves to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming an event planner.  When she lands an internship with celebrity party planner Selah Smith, she can't believe her luck, but her dream job quickly becomes a nightmare.  It's a pretty shameless ripoff of The Devil Wears Prada, but it was mindlessly enjoyable enough to keep me occupied on a 4 hour flight, and it had the occasional good line.  (My favorite, when Landon is about to get in a car with a hunky coworker she barely knows:  "This feels like the start of every Lifetime movie Tori Spelling ever died in.")

2. The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland:  In the final installment of the Sano Ichiro samurai detective series, Sano has to investigate an assassination attempt against the shogun.  Not one of the more engrossing books in this series, but I'm still sad to see it end as I've been a fan (uh, no pun intended) since the beginning.

3. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  This is the second book in the Starbound trilogy, and although it follows new characters for the most part, there's enough crossover that I won't go into details lest I spoil its predecessor.  I didn't like it nearly as much as These Broken Stars.

4. Her by Harriet Lane:  Nina is out running errands when she sees Emma, a woman she used to know.  Emma doesn't remember Nina, but Nina has a longstanding grudge against her, and she slowly insinuates herself into Emma's life.  As the novel progresses, you get hints as to what happened until it all unspools near the very end.  It was decent, but ends rather abruptly.


1. Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation** by Adam Resnick:  A hysterical collection of essays about everything from traumatic porn discovered as a kid to bizarre phone conversations with his dad.  I was reading this in the break room at work and started laughing so hard that people wanted to know what was so funny.  Great stuff, and I love this quote on the back from Chris Elliott:  "He's basically our generation's Norman Rockwell, if Norman Rockwell had ever painted a woman sucking off a horse."  (Yes, this is a reference to the aforementioned porn.)

2. I'll Have What She's Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington:  The author followed the diets of several famous women to see if she'd lose weight.  Which she did, which wasn't hard when she was eating things like sour cream and cottage cheese mixed together (a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor's).  Amusing enough, but not essential reading, and you can find many of these essays online if you're curious.

Side note:  This paperback book is 164 pages long, with double spacing between each paragraph, and it costs $15.  Fifteen freakin' bucks!  (The Kindle version is a much more reasonable $8.)  And the publishing industry wonders why it's in trouble.  Hmmm, go fucking figure.


1. Say I Love You volume 5 by Kanae Hazuki

2. My Love Story!! vol. 3 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

3. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vols. 5-6 by Fumi Yoshinaga


1. The Imitation Game*:  This movie is based on the true story of Alan Turing, a math genius who helped crack the Nazis' Enigma Code, ending WWII approximately 2 years earlier than anticipated and paving the way for computers.  Excellent, and Tumblr's boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic as Turing.

2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For*:  Because this is a sequel to Sin City, I can't review it properly lest I spoil the original movie/graphic novel.  I'll just say it's visually stunning and I liked it a hell of a lot more than I thought I would.  Helpful hint:  if it's been a while since you read/saw the first one, you may want to read the Wikipedia plot summary for the original beforehand.

3. Kite:  In this live action remake of the infamous anime, Sawa is a teenage assassin determined to avenge her parents' deaths.  It's not bad, but if you've seen the original, there's no real reason to bother with this version.

4. Snow Cake:  While on a road trip, Alex (Alan Rickman) reluctantly agrees to give a young woman a ride home, but when tragedy strikes, he pays a visit to her autistic mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver).  He decides to stay in town for a while to help Linda and come to grips with what happened.  The story, although touching, isn't exceptional, but the performances are.

5. The Skeleton Twins**:  Maggie is just about to take a huge handful of pills when she gets a call saying that her estranged twin brother Milo tried to kill himself.  When he gets out of the hospital, she asks him to move in with her and her husband for a while, and they begin to tentatively repair their relationship.

Jesus Christ, this fucking movie.  Holy shit.  There's one scene that rang so true and hit home so hard that I actually wept in recognition.  And Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as you might expect, are terrific.  Not for everyone, but the people it IS for will most likely love it.

6. To Be Takei:  This documentary covers George Takei's life from his childhood in a WWII internment camp to his role as Sulu on Star Trek to his current status as a gay activist and icon.  Quite enjoyable.

7. Horns:  Ig Parrish (Daniel Radcliffe, affecting an American accent that makes him sound eerily like Aaron Paul) has been wrongly accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin.  He thinks the crime will never be solved, but when he inexplicably grows a set of horns that compels people to tell him their darkest secrets, he sees an opportunity to get to the truth.  Decent performances, but the Joe Hill novel was about a billion times better, largely because of some unnecessary changes to the script and poor direction.  (I love how the DVD cover says "From the director of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D" like that's a GOOD thing.)  If you've read the book, skip this; if you haven't read the book, read that instead.

8. Wetlands:  Helen is a young German woman who's obsessed with everything that comes out of and goes into her body.  When she cuts herself trying to shave around one of her hemorrhoids and winds up in the hospital, she uses her recuperation time to flirt with her hunky nurse and plot to get her divorced parents back together.

I read the book a few years ago, so I was somewhat prepared for how gross it was going to get, but there's a huge difference between reading about it and seeing it.  And trust me, there's stuff in this movie that would make John Waters barf.  Despite that, I rather...well, "enjoyed" isn't the right word, but I admired its anarchic spirit.  Please believe me, though:  not REMOTELY for the faint of heart.  If you'd like a more detailed review, you can read Jezebel's very NSFW post (with screenshots!) here.

9. Gone Girl**:  When his wife Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne finds himself under intense scrutiny by the media and the police alike.  The book by Gillian Flynn is in my top 10 of all time, and David Fincher is one of my favorite directors, so I had high hopes for this adaptation...and I wasn't disappointed, because it's fantastic.  My only real complaint, and it's fairly minor, is that the musical score sometimes drowns out the dialogue.

10. No Good Deed:  When a stranger shows up on her doorstep asking to use the phone, Terri (Taraji P. Henson) lets him in, because a) she's fucking stupid and b) he looks like Idris Elba.  But the dude has bad intentions, and she must fight to protect herself and her children from the intruder.  It's basically a Lifetime movie with a couple of F bombs, and oh my god, it INFURIATED us because she incapacitates him at least four times and just runs away, which is one of our least favorite tropes ever in video games/movies.  Pro tip:  if you ever manage to get the upper hand and knock out an assailant/serial killer/monster, use that advantage and kill him/her/it!  That used to drive me nuts when I'd play Clock Tower because in one scene, Jennifer blasts Scissorman in the face with a fire extinguisher, he falls down and STAYS down, and she runs off.  Bitch, his giant fucking scissors are RIGHT THERE!  Stab his ugly ass to death!  Jesus Christ.

11. Tusk:  After a story lead doesn't pan out, podcaster Wallace (Justin Long) despairs of finding new material, but he discovers a notice in a bar bathroom offering free room and board in exchange for listening to a few stories.  He goes to the man's house, but his genial host (Michael Parks, who's incredible) turns out to have a much different agenda in mind.

This is a Kevin Smith movie, but although it's got some funny lines, it's more along the lines of Red State than any of his other work.  It's really goddamn disturbing.

12. American Sniper*:  This biopic covers the true story of Chris Kyle (played by a super beefy Bradley Cooper), the Navy SEAL sniper with the most documented kills, and the toll that his work took on him and his family.  Very intense and well done.


1. "Debonair" by Afghan Whigs

2. "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman

3. "Kids" by MGMT:  I still can't believe my dad saw MGMT in concert.  (They were playing at a music festival he was attending.  Let's just say he didn't become a fan.)

4. "Livin' Thing"  by ELO

5. "Turn to Stone" by ELO

6. "Secret" by OMD

7. "Tesla Girls" by OMD

8. "Me!Me!Me!" by TeddyLoid

9. "I My Me Mine" by Polysics

10. "It's A Mug's Game" by Soft Cell

11. "The Only One I Know" by the Charlatans

12. "I Wanna Be Adored" by Stone Roses

13. "Fools Gold" by Stone Roses