Thursday, January 31, 2019

media update: January

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. Looker* by Laura Sims:  The unnamed narrator is a recently separated professor who becomes obsessed with an actress (also unnamed) who lives a few doors down.  A sharp little novel that cuts deep.

2. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:  Desperate for cash, Jessica signs up for a psychology study about morality that slowly starts to test her own.

3. Scrublands by Chris Hammer:  A priest guns down several people after being accused of child molestation.  One year later, a reporter arrives to do a story on the anniversary of the tragedy and how it devastated the small town where it occurred.  I was pretty disappointed in this book, but that might be because I saw it compared to Jane Harper, and the only thing it had in common with her work was an Australian setting.  Also, there's a female character named Mandalay Blonde and I was really irritated every time I saw her full name on the page.

4. The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott:  Rebecca and Paul's twenty-year marriage is thrown into a tailspin when she discovers that he's planning a new life without her in this psychological thriller.


1. The Woo-Woo* by Lindsay Wong:  The author grew up in a Chinese-Canadian family plagued by mental illness (aka the "Woo-Woo"), which they blamed on ghosts.  The kind of memoir that makes you laugh one second and then cover your mouth in horror the next.


1. Ajin: Demi-Human vol. 12 by Gamon Sakurai

2. Idol Dreams vol. 5 by Arina Tanemura

3. Yotsuba* vol. 14 by Kiyohiko Azuma:  I was shocked to see this at the library; it had been so long since the last volume I thought they'd stopped publishing it!

4. Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu:  If you're most familiar with Junji Ito's often squirm-inducing horror manga and are afraid to read this because of what might happen to the titular cats, fear not; it's an autobiographical manga about learning to love cats when his fiancee and her two felines move in with him.  (Though it does have some grotesque art done for humorous effect.)


1. White Boy Rick:  In 1980s Detroit, 14-year-old drug dealer Rick is roped into becoming an undercover police informant.  Based on a true story. 

2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post:  After getting caught having sex with her best friend, Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) is sent to a gay conversion camp.

3. The Equalizer 2:  Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a retired CIA operative who now works as a Lyft driver and dispenses occasional vigilante justice on the side.  When a friend is murdered, he'll stop at nothing to find the perpetrators.

4. The First Purge:  In this prequel, the New Founding Fathers of America decide to conduct a social experiment in which the residents of Staten Island are exempt from all laws for 12 hours to see if getting bad behavior out of their system will cause them to obey for the rest of the year. 

5. Peppermint:  After her husband and daughter are murdered, Riley (Jennifer Garner) reinvents herself as a badass vigilante and hunts down the people responsible.  The script is so filled with cliches that it's like it was written by software, but it has some decent action scenes.  G thought it should be called Jane Wick; I suggested The Poonisher because I am vulgar.

6. Hotel Artemis:  The titular hotel is actually a place where criminals can get fixed up and recuperate in privacy, and when a citywide riot breaks out, it's much busier than usual.  Weird and disjointed.

7. Reptilicus (MST3K version):  Scientists accidentally bring an enormous monster back to life in this 1960s groaner from Denmark. 

8. Three Identical Strangers: Three identical triplets, adopted by three different families shortly after their birth, unexpectedly meet as adults and learn the truth behind their separation in this "stranger than fiction" documentary.

9. Cry Wilderness (MST3K version):  A young boy befriends Bigfoot, although you hardly ever see Bigfoot, and when you do, the costume is so terrible you wish he'd stayed offscreen.

10. Boy Erased:  After confessing his homosexuality to his religious parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman), Jared (Lucas Hedges) is sent to conversion therapy.  Similar to #2 on this list, and was theatrically released at around the same time, but this one is better.  Based on a true story.


Quantic Dream created Heavy Rain, one of my five favorite video games of all time, and I also really enjoyed Indigo Prophecy and Beyond: Two Souls, so I was looking forward to playing Detroit: Become Human when it was released last year.  But then I read that it was only about 15 hours from start to finish, so I decided to wait until it was much cheaper to buy it.  Well, fast forward several months and it had only gone down to $40, so I rented it from Redbox.

DBH is set in the not-so-distant future in, you guessed it, Detroit.  Androids have become affordable for just about everyone, so they've taken over a wide array of functions and cost many people their jobs, creating a great deal of resentment and distrust.  You alternate between three android characters:  Kara, who takes care of the young daughter of an abusive drug addict; Markus, who helps a disabled artist; and Connor, a police investigator who looks into cases involving androids.  All of them start to become "deviants", meaning that they're beginning to gain consciousness, leading to a revolution.


  • This game is absolutely gorgeous, from the faces to the backgrounds, and like Red Dead Redemption 2, there were many times I'd stop just to admire the visuals.  (It was certainly an interesting segue going from RDR2, set in the late 1800s, to the futuristic glitter of DBH.)
  • For the most part, the voice acting is excellent.  There are a couple of secondary characters who aren't great, but the main characters are all terrific.
  • The QTE gameplay was actually challenging, but fair about it; one missed move didn't mean an instant fail.
  • Not a single glitch or crash.


  • Oooof, there are some really cringeworthy allegories in this game.  David Cage, the lead writer/director, insists that he wasn't trying to draw a parallel between android rights and civil rights, but come the fuck on.  To wit: at one point, the androids are marching through the streets, demanding equality, and one of their chants is "We have a dream".  
  • This is really on us due to a choice we made in the game, but something that happened pissed us off so badly that I have to put it in this column.  (I won't get specific due to spoilers.)
  • I'll be honest and say that one of the reasons I wanted to play this game so badly is that I saw so much delectable "HankCon" (i.e. grizzled detective Hank and his work partner, Connor) art and fic online that I was expecting to spend half the game fangirling out over them.  But aside from a friendly hug near the end, I saw nothing to stoke the fires in my slashy heart.  (Though to be fair, something might have happened in a scene we didn't get.)
  • Just as a warning, there is a domestic violence scene that can apparently get really graphic and disturbing depending on your choices.


Yeah, that 15-hour playtime I mentioned?  Well, turns out that's only really true if you don't want to see all the different branches of the story.  We're actually going to re-rent it because, thanks to #2 on the bad list, we got a really shitty ending for one of the characters, and we can't let it slide.  So if you plan on being a completionist about it, go ahead and buy it.

All in all, Detroit: Become Human is an engrossing slice of sci-fi that will dazzle your eyes and make you think.  I give it 8 mechanical birds out of 10.