Sunday, November 01, 2015

media update: October

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


1. Pretty Girls** by Karin Slaughter:  Rich trophy wife Claire and her sister Lydia have been estranged for over twenty years.  When Claire's husband Paul is killed during a robbery gone wrong, the sisters reconnect and try to come to grips with their past, but there are some very nasty skeletons lurking in the closet.  I don't want to say more for fear of spoilers, but goddamn is this a CORKER.  Good luck getting anything else done once you start reading this.  Warning, though: even by Karin Slaughter's standards, Pretty Girls is extremely disturbing, so caveat reader.  I've read every single one of her books, so I thought I was prepared for how dark she can get, but nope.

2. After You by Jojo Moyes:  This is a direct sequel, so I can't properly review this without spoiling Me Before You.  I'll just say that it's well worth reading if you enjoyed its predecessor. 

3. A Song of Shadows by John Connolly:  Private detective Charlie Parker rents a house in a small Maine town to recuperate (from what is a spoiler from The Wolf in Winter, so I won't get specific), and while he's there, he uncovers some dark secrets involving WWII.  Not as good as most of its predecessors, largely because I'm not very interested in war themes and because this was written in third person, which was jarring as all of the other Charlie Parker books have been written in first person.  Still, it features some great scenes with gay hitmen Louis and Angel, as well as some interesting developments concerning Charlie's young daughter Sam.

4. The White Rose by Amy Ewing:  This is a direct sequel to The Jewel (the YA equivalent of The Handmaid's Tale), so I can't properly review this lest I spoil its predecessor.  I had really high expectations because I loved The Jewel so much, so I was a bit disappointed.

5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:  In the city of Ketterdam, gang leader Kaz Brekker is offered a huge sum of money to rescue a scientist who's just discovered something huge.  He can't do it alone, though, so he recruits a motley crew to help him.  It took a while to get going, but once it did, I enjoyed it.

Side note:  although it takes place in the same universe as Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, you don't need to have read those to enjoy Six of Crows.  I think it would help, though.

6. The Walking Dead: Invasion by Jay Bonansinga:  This is the latest installment in the Walking Dead novel series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessors.  It was meh. 

2015 tally so far: 75


1. Furiously Happy* by Jenny Lawson:  In this new collection of essays, the author discusses everything from her love of taxidermy to her struggles with mental illness.  It's not as funny as its predecessor (Let's Pretend This Never Happened), but it's definitely more important.

2. Bad Kid by David Crabb:  A memoir of growing up gay in Texas in the early nineties.  The writing is a bit choppy at times, but it includes plenty of funny moments and lines, like the one where he compares his overworked penis (he'd recently discovered the joys of masturbation) to E.T.'s glowing finger.

3. Home Is Burning** by Dan Marshall:  While on vacation, the author returned to his hotel room to find that he'd missed several calls from family members.  He feared that his mother, who had been battling cancer for many years, had taken a turn for the worse, but the news, although not what he expected, was just as bad: his father had been diagnosed with ALS.  When the burden became too much for his mother to shoulder alone, he moved back home to help.  I know it sounds unbearably depressing, and it can be, but more often it's brutally honest and profanely, mordantly funny.  (Example: During a phone call with his long distance girlfriend, she complains about not being able to use a treadmill at the gym and he says "Well, my dad's arms don't work, and I had to clean shit off his balls.")  If you've ever had to take care of a terminally ill loved one (raising my hand here) and you don't mind swear words in practically every sentence, you have to pick this up because it will be a tonic for your soul.  I could have done without the chapter in which he and the housekeeper dream up violent punishments for the family's messy cats (though they don't actually hurt them), but everything else is golden.

2015 tally so far: 21


1. Food Wars! vol. 7 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

2. The Walking Dead vol. 24 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

3. Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol. 5 (final volume) by Naoki Serizawa

4. So Cute It Hurts! by Go Ikeyamada

2015 tally so far: 64 volumes of manga and 15 graphic novels


1. Unfriended:  Several friends hanging out online notice a lurker in their midst.  As weird shit begins unfolding, they start to wonder if the lurker is Laura, a girl they'd bullied by posting an incriminating video of her online...but Laura killed herself.  It takes place entirely on a computer screen, so it's surprisingly immersive and much better than I thought it would be.  It's a shame that the last few seconds are so lame.

2. When Marnie Was There*:  Due to her chronic asthma, young Anna is sent to live with distant relatives in a small seaside town in hopes that the fresh air will help.  She meets another girl named Marnie, and they become fast friends, but Marnie has a big secret.  As you'd expect from a Studio Ghibli film, it's absolutely gorgeous, and I enjoyed the story too.

Side note:  I'm usually a subtitle snob, but I wound up going with the dub for this so I could appreciate the art instead of reading.  It wasn't too much of a sacrifice, because the dub is really good and features such big names as Hailee Steinfeld, John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, and Geena Davis.

3. Magic Mike XXL:  The gang gets back together for a road trip to a stripper convention.  It's better than the first movie, largely because it doesn't take itself seriously.  Still, it only really comes alive during the performance scenes, especially the one where Joe Manganiello (nfff I said NFFF) does a routine to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" that's about a million times sexier than anything in 50 Shades of Grey.  (Not that that would be difficult, but seriously, the scene in question is a legit panty drencher.)

4. Justice League: Gods and Monsters:  An alternate universe take on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  The animation isn't all that great, but it has some really sharp dialogue and good voice acting.

5. Dark Places:  25 years after her mother and sisters were murdered and her brother was convicted of the crime, Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is approached by a group who wants her to investigate further and exonerate her brother.  Considering its pedigree (it's based on the novel by Gillian Flynn) and the cast, I thought this would be better, but the direction wasn't very good.

6. Tomorrowland:  Casey, a super smart teenage girl, finds herself in possession of a pin that transports her to the utopian world of Tomorrowland.  She teams up with a grumpy genius (George Clooney) to try to make our own world better.  It's a bit preachy and corny, but it didn't deserve to bomb so hard at the box office.

7. San Andreas:  When a massive earthquake hits Nevada and California, an LAFD rescue pilot (Dwayne Johnson) heads to San Francisco with his estranged wife in hopes of rescuing their daughter.  G-Vo put it best when he said this movie is "disaster porn that's about as predictable as REAL porn", but it was still a very entertaining popcorn flick with excellent special effects.

8. Insidious 3:  Quinn is a grieving teenage girl who asks a psychic to help her contact her dead mother.  Unfortunately, she arouses the interest of a decidedly less benevolent spirit, and after an accident leaves her bedridden, Quinn gets a very unpleasant visitor.  I'm not sure why I popped this onto my Netflix queue, since I thought the first one was just meh and I hated the second one, but it was surprisingly decent and even made me tear up at one point.  Not very scary, though.  (I'm not counting jump scares, as they are cheap.)

9. Spy*:  Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) works as a handler for hunky CIA operative Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  When a mission goes awry, Susan is sent into the field.  It's hysterically funny, and Jason Statham shows surprising comic chops.  I'd like to see him do more comedies, and also more nude scenes.  (Not that he has any in this movie, but goddamn do I wish.)

10. Pitch Perfect 2:  After a wardrobe malfunction makes them outcasts in the acapella community, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition in hopes of reclaiming their throne.  I liked the first movie quite a bit, but this one was terrible.  Practically every line fell flat, and several scenes could have (and should have) been cut out entirely.  Hopefully the third movie is able to capture at least some of the original's magic, because this one was an aca-flop.

2015 tally so far: 90


1. "Jealous" by Drootrax & Rena

2. "Fine on the Outside" by Priscilla Ahn

3. "Sweet Magic" by Rin Kagamine

4. "3" by Britney Spears

5. "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls

6. "Finder" by Hatsune Miku

7. "Mickey Mouse" by Sparks

8. "Words" by Missing Persons

9. "Eaten by the Monster of Love" by Sparks

10. "Johnny Are You Queer" by Josie Cotton

11. "Tryouts for the Human Race" by Sparks

12. "Criminal" by Britney Spears

13. "It Should Be Easy" by Britney Spears feat. Will.I.Am.

14. "LOL" by Hatsune Miku