Friday, September 14, 2018

media update: September

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


1. Penance by Kanae Minato:  When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko, Emily, and Yuko were approached by a man asking for help.  Emily went off with the man and was murdered.  Because the others were unable to describe the killer to the police, he was never found, and Emily's grieving mother tells the surviving girls that if they don't find the killer, they must perform penance, or she'll make their lives hell.

2. Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman:  On their honeymoon in Bora Bora, Erin and Mark discover a duffel bag floating in the water.  They turn it in to the desk clerk, but the desk clerk misunderstands what they're saying and it winds up in their room.  Intrigued, they decide to open it...and it's full of cash and diamonds.  Mark has just lost his job, and Erin doesn't make much money as a documentary filmmaker, so they decide to keep it, and it's not much of a spoiler to say that this turns out to be a bad decision.  It reminded me of a seriously dumbed down version of A Simple Plan, so if you've read or seen that, you don't really need to read (or see; I have no doubt it will eventually be made into a movie) this.

Okay, I need to rant about something in this book, so skip the following paragraph if you want to read/see this:


I won't go into the details as to why they need to do this, as it will take a long time, but at one point, Erin and Mark need to get rid of CCTV footage at a hotel.  So Erin fakes food poisoning and Mark throws a fit at the front desk to distract the clerk.  Erin sneaks into the back, erases the footage, and comes back out, easy as pie.  It gets better!  Back in their room, Erin realizes they also need to erase all of their guest information on the hotel's computer database, and Mark says he'll take care of it.  She waits in the room, and precisely 46 minutes later, he comes back and says "It's done."  No explanation of how!  I mean, the fact that they were able to erase CCTV footage without anyone noticing (and it's a Four Seasons resort, not a tiny B&B where there could conceivably be just one or two people around) is LOL-worthy enough, but the database too?  And the author couldn't be arsed to give even a shitty explanation of how Mark did it!  This book is going to sell a zillion copies and meanwhile my favorite book of all time probably sold, like, 30 and I am peeved.

3. Cross Her Heart* by Sarah Pinborough:  Lisa has a secret past that she's tried to keep hidden for many years, but seemingly random incidents start making her think everything is going to come into the light.  An engrossing psychological thriller; it's not nearly as wackadoodle batshit as Behind Her Eyes (seriously, that had one of the most astonishing endings of any book ever), or as good, but I really enjoyed it.

Side note: kudos to whoever wrote the inside jacket copy; it tells you just enough to make you intrigued, but it doesn't spoil anything major, which is sadly quite rare.

4. Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle:  Police chief Thomas Lynch doesn't have much to do in the small town of Idyll; after working as a homicide detective in New York City, cases like illegally dumped clamshells are really boring.  But then a body is found in the woods, which brings back bad memories for fellow cop Michael Finnegan, whose sister disappeared many years ago.  Together they try to find out who killed the woman in the woods and what happened to Michael's sister.

5. The Silence of the Girls* by Pat Barker:  During the Trojan War, Briseis is taken as a war "prize" and given to Achilles.  But after Agamemnon demands that Achilles give Briseis to him, it sparks a new conflict that could change the course of the war.  I read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller earlier this year, and this was an interesting counterpoint as it focused not on the warriors, but on the women left to serve their needs and clean up their messes.  I love historical novels, and this fit the bill beautifully.

6. Sadie by Courtney Summers:  After her beloved younger sister is murdered, Sadie goes on the run to find the man she thinks is responsible.  Meanwhile, a radio personality starts a podcast about the case and goes in search of Sadie at the request of her surrogate grandmother.  Well done, with some stunning lines.  ("Eighteen years old, but the kind of eighteen they write about in books...the kind of eighteen that lives faster than the speed of hurt.")

7. #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil:  In the near future, convicted killers are sent to an island called Alcatraz 2.0, where they're stalked by internet-famous assassins with punny names like Hannah Ball and Cecil B. DeViolent (seriously, not Cecil B. DeKill?!?) and their murders are shown live on a wildly popular app.  Dee, wrongfully convicted of killing her stepsister, manages to kill her would-be assassin, Prince Slycer, on her first day on the island and finds the target on her back has grown even larger.

8. #fashionvictim by Amina Akhtar:  Yes, another book with a hashtag in the title!  (Oddly enough, both of their covers also feature stick figures, one of which has been decapitated.)  In this one, a fashion editor's obsession with her seemingly perfect coworker turns deadly.

9. Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake:  This is the latest installment of the Three Dark Crowns series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessors.

10. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock** by Imogen Hermes Gowar:  In 1785 London, wealthy merchant Jonah Hancock is horrified when the captain of one of his trading ships comes back and says that he sold the ship in exchange for a dead mermaid.  Jonah decides to try to cut his losses by exhibiting the mermaid, and it quickly becomes a sensation.  Meanwhile, a celebrated courtesan named Angelica has recently lost her patron, and when Jonah agrees to lend the mermaid to the brothel where she used to work, their lives intersect in unusual ways.  As I mentioned in my review of #5, I love historical novels, and this one was fantastic.  If you liked The Crimson Petal and the White, I can't imagine you wouldn't like this too.  It's my favorite novel of the year so far; I can't believe it's the author's first!

11. Come Closer by Sara Gran:  Amanda's life turns weird: she hears odd noises in her apartment, she inexplicably jabs a lit cigarette into her husband's thigh, and she keeps dreaming about a woman standing in a bloody ocean.  Eventually, she starts to think she's actually possessed.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  95


Nothing this month.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  20


1. Monstress** vol. 3 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

2. Citrus* vol. 8 by Saburouta

3. My Brother's Husband* vol. 2 (final volume) by Gengoroh Tagame

4. Home After Dark by David Small
2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  38 volumes of manga and 10 graphic novels


1. Housebound*:  After robbing an ATM, Kylie is placed on house arrest and moves in with her mother and stepfather.  Kylie scoffs at her mother's insistence that the house is haunted, but strange events start to change her mind.  An immensely enjoyable horror comedy from New Zealand; there's an American remake in the works, but this is perfectly fine on its own.  Why don't people ever remake shitty movies?

2. Rampage:  Dwayne Johnson (I can't remember his character's name, but like it matters) plays a primatologist who has to save Chicago after his gorilla friend George, a wolf, and an alligator become mutated and start rampaging through the city.  Incredibly stupid, but kind of fun.

Side note: someone on Twitter said that whenever Dwayne Johnson's character is referring to himself in ASL, he uses the sign for "rock", which is a fun little nod.  (Because you can't always trust shit online, I googled it and it's been confirmed by numerous sources.)  

3. Upgrade*:  Even though the world is almost entirely run by computers, Grey (Logan Marshall-Green, excellent) prefers the simpler things in life, like tinkering with his old-school car.  But when his wife is murdered and he's left paralyzed, he's given a new shot at life with an experimental computer chip that not only helps him walk again, but turns him into a total badass.  I didn't expect a whole lot from this movie, but it was actually pretty good!

4. Won't You Be My Neighbor?**:  A documentary about Mister Rogers and the impact he had on TV and generations of children.  I had no idea that some of his shows were so revolutionary; for example, he discussed the assassination of Robert Kennedy and showed himself sharing a foot bath on a hot day with an African-American man.  (Which doesn't sound all that amazing, but keep in mind that this was during a time when white hotel owners were pouring bottles of corrosive chemicals into pools while African-American people were in them.)  An especially poignant segment shows a woman singing a duet with Daniel Striped Tiger (a puppet voiced by Mister Rogers) after Daniel wonders if he's made wrong and, even though she is singing that she likes him just the way he is, he continues to sing about feeling like a mistake.  That's a pretty incredible insight into not just kids, but people...that even when those we love tell us we're fine as we are, we can't just instantly stop picking on ourselves, and Mister Rogers was kind and smart enough to acknowledge that it's not that easy.  This movie is like a warm hug from the man himself, and I didn't just cry...I sobbed.

Side note: at Mister Rogers' funeral, a group of protesters (I won't give them the dignity of sharing their name here, but it's the group you'd expect) stood outside with signs saying "Mister Rogers in Hell" because he was tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community.  My first thought was how fucking DARE these cretinous, maggoty piles of pigshit; my second thought was "If Mister Rogers is in hell, then literally every human being above the age of 6 is doomed."

5. Hereditary*:  Annie (Toni Collette) is a deeply troubled woman with a family history of severe mental illness.  After her mother dies, Annie thinks she might finally have some peace, but she's very wrong.  One of the most viscerally disturbing and upsetting movies I've seen in quite some time; at one point, we were tempted to turn it off because it was really getting to us.  We persevered, and I'm glad (?) we did because overall it was really good (though I have some major qualms with the last 20 or so minutes), with unrelenting tension, excellent performances, and some terrific set and sound design.  I'm giving it a star, but I never want to see it again; it was like having my nerves shredded by a cheese grater for 2 hours.

6.  Tag:  A group of friends has been playing the same game of tag for many years, and they're determined to tag the undefeated champion and finally make him "it".  Loosely based on a true story (you see footage of the real friends during the end credits), it was much better than expected and had some very solid laughs.  You'll have "Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies stuck in your head for days afterwards, though.

7. Searching:  After his daughter Margot goes missing, David (John Cho) desperately tries to find her by combing her social media for clues.  Told almost entirely via computer/phone/TV screens, a la Unfriended, it (and a box of pretzel nuggets with mustard on the side) made for a nice diversion on a mental health day.

8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:  Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard try to rescue the dinosaurs when a volcano begins erupting on the island.  Not great, but it had its moments.

Side note:  there's a stinger with absolutely dreadful CGI in it, which was startling considering the special effects in the rest of the movie were good.  It's like they decided to put a stinger in at the last minute and the CGI folks had already left, so they called Syfy and said "Hey, do you have any Sharknado people left that can whip out a quick stinger for us?"

9. Police Story: Lockdown:  Police officer Zhong Wen (Jackie Chan) investigates when a man takes an entire nightclub hostage.

10. It Comes at Night:  After an unknown disease ravages the world, a man barricades himself in his home with his wife and son, but another man shows up begging for refuge.  Not bad, but not remotely what I was expecting based on the title.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  82