Monday, March 02, 2015

media update: February

Starting this month, I'm going to keep a running tally of how many books I've read/movies I've watched since the beginning of the year.  I'm doing this not to be all "OMG look how much I read LOL"; I'm doing it because it appeals to my OCD.

Asterisks denote something that I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  Your mileage, as ever, may vary.


1. The Deep* by Nick Cutter:  Humanity is being destroyed by a plague called the 'Gets, which causes people to forget things and eventually shut down completely.  When an unusual substance with miraculous healing properties is discovered at the bottom of the sea, a research lab is built eight miles below the surface to study it.  But when the scientists stop communicating, a ship is sent to find out what is going on, and it turns out the miracle cure may be far worse than the disease.  Gooey, disturbing Lovecraftian horror that actually managed to make me cry at one point.  Warning: like Cutter's previous book The Troop, it contains some very nasty scenes of animal cruelty/death.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:  Rachel has lost her marriage and her job due to her drinking, but every day she takes a commuter train into London so her roommate doesn't find out she's unemployed.  At one of the stops, she likes looking out the window at a particular house, making up stories about the attractive couple she sees there.  But one day Rachel glimpses something she shouldn't, and when the woman disappears, she decides to piece together the truth.  From the rave reviews, I was expecting something great, but it's merely good.  

3. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard:  In the world of this novel, people are divided by the color of their blood:  Reds, who are normal, and Silvers, who possess unique abilities and have all of the money and power.  Mare Barrow, a teenage Red, chafes under the Silvers' rule, but when a shocking secret comes to light, she finds herself at the heart of a rebellion.  It's okay, but awfully derivative of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Avatar: The Last Airbender.  (Seriously, there are benders in it.)

4. A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd:  This is the final volume in the Madman's Daughter trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors, but I really liked it.

5. Motive by Jonathan Kellerman:  Dr. Alex Delaware and his friend Milo Sturgis, an LAPD homicide detective, team up to solve a rash of murders with an unusual twist:  the killer leaves behind a feast.  It's annoying how Kellerman occasionally spells out heavy accents (verbatim example:  "Vut ken I do for you, surzz?"  Christ, just say the person has a heavy accent and leave it at that!), but otherwise, this was a solid read.

6. See How Small* by Scott Blackwood:  Three teenage girls are working at an ice cream shop when two men come in just before closing, tie them up, and set the place on fire.  (Horrifyingly enough, this novel was inspired by a similar crime in the 90s.)  As the community reels from the tragedy, the girls watch from the afterlife.  It doesn't wrap up neatly, which I appreciated because such things rarely do.  Haunting and lyrical.

7. One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis:  Emily Coleman has a great job, a loving husband, and an adorable son, but one day she walks right out of her life and starts a new one in London.  She reinvents herself, but even as she begins to thrive in her new environment, she can't entirely put the past behind her.  It's pretty good, but not as shocking as the reviews claimed.

2015 tally so far: 11


1. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace* by Jeff Hobbs:  Robert Peace was born in poverty, but thanks to brains, a bit of luck, and a lot of willpower, he managed to get into Yale, where he majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.  But after he graduated, he returned to his hometown, where he got tangled up in the drug trade that would eventually lead to his death.  The author was one of Robert's roommates, and this book is both a tribute to his friend and an incisive look at whether we can ever truly overcome the circumstances into which we were born.

2015 tally so far: 3


1. Spell of Desire vols. 2-3 by Tomu Ohmi

2. The Walking Dead* vol. 22 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

3. Happy Marriage!? vols. 1-2 by Maki Enjoji

4. Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vols. 1-2 by Naoki Serizawa

5. Food Wars!* vols. 3-4 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

6. The Wicked + the Divine* by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

7. The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez

2015 tally so far: 12 volumes of manga and 3 graphic novels


1. The Maze Runner:  A terrified teenage boy wakes up in a glade surrounded by an enormous maze.  He's told by another boy that they have to try to find their way out of the maze, but considering that it changes shape every night and is inhabited by steampunk scorpions, it won't be too easy.  It was okay, by which I mean I'll watch any future installments but won't make it a priority or nothin'.

2. Annabelle:  An expectant couple is attacked in their home by satanic cultists, but although they survive, their terror is just beginning.  See, the husband bought his wife the creepiest fucking doll ever, and one of the cultists bleeds out all over the doll, and it gets possessed.  You may remember Annabelle from The Conjuring, but that movie was actually scary; this one is just stupid.

Side note:  Someone on the IMDB message boards said that Annabelle was the scariest movie they'd ever seen, and I laughed out loud.  I can only imagine that something legitimately frightening like The Descent or Jacob's Ladder would traumatize them to the point they'd need to be institutionalized.

3. Starry Eyes:  Sarah desperately wants to be an actress, but nothing ever comes of her constant auditioning.  She finally gets what she thinks might be her big break, but it's not quite what it seems.  Much like House of the Devil and Entrance, it takes a while to get going, but once it does, things go absolutely batshit.  Features the most gruesome kill I've seen in a horror flick since High Tension.

4. John Wick:  After Russian mobsters do something very nasty to him, hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement to get revenge.  I came really close to giving this a star, but the ending desperately needed to be tightened up.  It's still quite good, though, and features some awesome action sequences.

5. Lucy:  Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced to work as a drug mule, but when a bag of an experimental drug breaks open in her stomach, she basically becomes a superhero.  Some fun action and a great car chase, but the last 15 minutes or so are too stupid to warrant a star.

6. The Wind Rises:  This biographical animated film is about Jiro Horikoshi, who designed fighter planes in WWII.  I wanted to love this movie, especially because it's reported to be Hayao Miyazaki's last, but oh my god it is so boring.  It's like watching gorgeous paint dry. 

7. The Interview*:  After scoring an interview with Kim Jong-un, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron (Seth Rogen) are approached by the CIA with an unusual request:  to assassinate the dictator.  It's no Team America: World Police, but it was still pretty goddamn funny.

8. The Boxtrolls*:  Eggs was orphaned as a baby and raised by an underground tribe of trolls.  When an evil exterminator decides to rid the world of every last Boxtroll, Eggs teams up with a spoiled rich girl to stop him.  I'm a sucker for stop motion animation, and the work that went into this was truly amazing.

9. Whiplash*:  Andrew (Miles Teller) is a student at a prestigious music academy.  He dreams of being a jazz drummer and thinks he's gotten a big step up when a professor decides to mentor him, but it turns out that the professor (J.K. Simmons, earning his supporting actor Oscar and then some) is a sadistic tyrant.  Really good.  

2015 tally so far: 21


1. "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell

2. "Surrender to a Stranger" by Soft Cell

3. "Drunken Butterfly" by Sonic Youth

4. "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails

5. "Head Like a Hole" by Nine Inch Nails

6. "March of the Pigs" by Nine Inch Nails

7. "Runaway" by Del Shannon

8. Gone Girl soundtrack:  Here's a fun fact for you, courtesy of IMDB:  when telling composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross what kind of score he wanted for the movie, David Fincher told them about a time he went to a spa and they were playing music that was supposed to be soothing but creeped him out instead.  Mission accomplished.  I'm about to give this one of the highest compliments I could give a CD like this:  Akira Yamaoka (the composer for almost every Silent Hill game) would be proud.  In particular, the track "Appearances" sounds almost exactly like the music that plays when James is looking in the mirror at the beginning of Silent Hill 2.