Wednesday, December 30, 2015

media update: December

Good riddance to 2015!  It wasn't the worst year of my life by a long shot, but it still had far more than its fair share of crap: my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, my brother had serious health issues of his own, work sucked, and my friend M's sweet cat Sonnet, who I loved like she was my own, had to be put to sleep.  Oh, AND because 2015 wasn't sucky enough, it gave me a parting shot yesterday when I slipped on an acorn in the parking lot at work and rolled my ankle.  I had to go to urgent care and get it x-rayed.  Fortunately it wasn't broken, but it's badly swollen and bruised all to shit.  Neat!

On the plus side, some of the happier moments in 2015 included finding out that my dad was officially in remission, fun trips to Las Vegas and New Mexico, and G-Vo and I celebrating 11 years (!!!) together.

Anyway, this is a little early but I don't think I'll be finishing any books or watching any movies tomorrow, so as long as I'm sitting here sulking about my ankle, I figured I might as well post this.  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli:  A beautifully written retelling of Snow White from the stepmother's point of view.

2. A Madness So Discreet* by Mindy McGinnis:  After being raped and impregnated by her father, Grace is committed to an asylum to hide her secret.  She catches the attention of a doctor who recognizes how smart she is, and they fake her death so he can take her to a different, kinder asylum.  She begins serving as his assistant at crime scenes, but her past keeps threatening to catch up with her.  It took a few chapters to hook me, but once it did, I really enjoyed it.

3. Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken:  A collection of novellas centered around the author's Darkest Minds trilogy.

4. The Killing Lessons* by Saul Black:  Two men go on a killing spree, murdering women and leaving seemingly random objects inside of their bodies.  Troubled homicide detective Valerie Hart is determined to stop them, even if it kills her...and it might.  Very dark and disturbing, but almost impossible to put down.

5. Need by Joelle Charbonneau:  Kaylee is desperate to find a kidney donor for her brother before it's too late.  When she learns about a new social network called NEED that promises to grant any request in exchange for completing a small task, she thinks it's the answer to her prayers, but NEEDless (hurr hurr) to say, the network isn't as benevolent as it seems.  Good premise, but the execution was lacking.  Read Natsumi Ando's similarly themed manga series Arisa instead.

6. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  This is the final installment of the Starbound series, so I can't give it a proper review lest I spoil its predecessors.  It was pretty good.

7. What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan:  Rachel is taking a walk in the woods with her eight-year-old son Ben, and when he asks if he can run ahead, she doesn't see any problem with it.  But Ben disappears, and Rachel finds herself under intense public scrutiny.  Decent.

8. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay:  In this intensely creepy novel, Merry's older sister Marjorie has begun exhibiting signs of schizophrenia.  But when doctors aren't able to help Marjorie, her parents turn to a priest for help, and in turn, the priest contacts a production company to do a reality TV show about the exorcism.  Suffice it to say that things go badly. 

2015 tally: 90


1. Troublemaker* by Leah Remini:  The actress talks about her life as a member of Scientology and how she finally got out of it, and hoo boy, she does NOT pull any punches.  She doesn't just spill the tea, she hurls it, and most of it lands squarely on Tom Cruise's face.  Leah Remini has more balls than a juggling act, and this is a juicy, fascinating read.

2. Girlvert by Oriana Small:  This memoir about the author's life as a porn star (under the name Ashley Blue) is truly one of the most depressing fucking books I've ever read.  It's not bad, but I felt like I needed an IV of Xanax while reading it.

(Disclaimer lest anyone think the above review is "sex shaming": in general, I have nothing against pornography made for and by consenting adults, though a few of the more extreme genres are problematic to me on a feminist and/or "that will cause you damage" level.  However, she talks about a porn director/costar choking her so hard during a scene that she thought she was literally going to die, the STIs she was constantly ravaged by, terrible relationships, and some other things that are too gross to share, so no, it was not an uplifting read.)

3. True Porn Clerk Stories by Ali Davis:  The title says it all!  It's a pretty funny read, and I could relate to a lot of her "bad customer" stories.  (Though I worked at Blockbuster and we obviously didn't rent porn, certain types of customers are endemic, like the "I returned those ten titles in the drop box after closing so you couldn't rent them out before the next day anyway so you need to take off the $20 late fee or I'll complain to corporate and they'll give me a free gift card and I hope you get written up because the customer is always right" type of fuckwit.  Yes, I'm still bitter, so FUCK YOU, Mr. Kroyer!)

2015 tally: 27


1. Ajin vol. 6 by Gamon Sakurai

2. Say I Love You vols. 10-11 by Kanae Hazuki

3. So Cute It Hurts!! vols. 2-4 by Go Ikeyamada:  Yes, this title has double exclamation points in it too, like #5 below.  Must be a new trend.

4. Rin-Ne vol. 19 by Rumiko Takahashi

5. My Love Story!!* vol. 6 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

6. Food Wars!* vol. 9 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

7. Step Aside, Pops** by Kate Beaton

2015 tally: 83 volumes of manga and 21 graphic novels


1. The Final Girls:  Max has been unmoored since the death of her mother, famous 80s scream queen Amanda Cartwright.  When she's asked to attend an anniversary screening of her mother's most famous movie, Camp Bloodbath, she reluctantly agrees, only to find herself and her friends drawn into the movie and fighting its killer.  A very clever meta movie.

2. Furious 7:  The crew reunites to stop a nasty (but extremely sexy, since he's played by Jason Statham) dude who's out for revenge and a warlord who wants to get his hands on a computer program that can track down anybody in the world.  The dialogue is ridiculous and filled with every cliche in the book, but there are some great action sequences, tons of man candy, the American film debut (I think) of legendary Thai ass kicker Tony Jaa, and a sweet tribute to the late Paul Walker at the end, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

3. Ant-Man*:  When cat burglar Scott Lang breaks into Dr. Hank Pym's house, Dr. Pym sees a golden opportunity to turn Scott into Ant-Man in hopes of saving the world.  It's a lot of fun, and Paul Rudd is always a treat to watch.

4. American Ultra*:  Aimless stoner Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) works in a convenience store and daydreams about publishing comic books and marrying his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart).  But when a woman walks into his store and says something very strange to him, his world turns upside down.  The less you know about this movie before watching it, the better, so I'll say no more except that it's well worth watching.

5. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny*:  In this bizarre flick from 1972, Santa Claus' sleigh gets stuck in the Florida sand.  What's he supposed to do now?  Well, summon a group of kids and then tell them about Jack and the beanstalk, of course!  And then get rescued by a white rabbit driving an antique fire truck.  Make no mistake, the star I'm giving this is not in any way a reflection of its quality, because it is godawful.  But we saw the live RiffTrax version (well, a simulcast, anyway; the gang was in Tennessee and we were in SoCal), and we all laughed really fucking hard.  Bonus points for the short films at the beginning, including a real headscratcher in which Santa tells a couple of kids about...monkeys.

6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens**:  I don't want to say anything about the movie's plot/characters lest I ruin it for someone who hasn't seen it yet, so I'll merely say that it was a really fun throwback to the classic trilogy and I enjoyed it immensely.

7. Cooties*:   After a virus caused by tainted chicken nuggets turns their students into bloodthirsty zombies, a group of teachers bands together to fight them.  It's so funny that it made me wish I'd waited to post my "best movie lines" list.  (One of my favorites:  "I'm giving you kids an F...for fuck you!")  My only complaint, and it's not a minor one, is that the ending is very unsatisfying.  The alternate ending on the DVD was a little better.

8. Tangerine:  When Sin-Dee finds out that her pimp/boyfriend Chester is cheating on her, she goes on a mad tear trying to find Chester and the woman who stole her man, dragging her reluctant friend Alexandra with her.  It's an interesting character study with a surprisingly sweet ending, and considering that it was shot on an iPhone (really!), it looks pretty good.

Side note:  According to IMDB, one of the reasons this got an R rating is "strong and disturbing sexual content".  Unless Netflix sent me an edited version, I have no idea what they mean by disturbing sexual content (though it was definitely strong), so don't let that scare you off if you're otherwise interested in this movie.

9. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation*:  Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his friends try to take down a shadowy syndicate.  This was a really fun installment in the series, thanks to tons of exciting and innovative action and a particularly enjoyable performance by Simon Pegg. 

10. Self/less:  A terminally ill billionaire finds out that for a mere $250 million, he can have his consciousness transplanted into a new body.  (And what a body it is, since it belongs to Ryan Reynolds!  No offense to Ben Kingsley, but MAJOR upgrade.)  But, of course, it's not as easy as it initially seems.  It's a pretty good sci-fi thriller, but it wasn't as visually stunning as I thought it would be, seeing as it was directed by Tarsem Singh.

2015: 107


1. "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" by Japan

2. "Lucky Number" by Lene Lovich