Saturday, August 31, 2019

media update: August

CONFIDENTIAL TO G:  If you want to see The Kitchen, skip movie review #6.

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. The Escape Room by Megan Golding:  Four employees at an elite Wall Street firm are trapped in an elevator for an "escape room" team-building exercise that turns nasty.  It's fun, and I enjoyed trying to solve the puzzles along the way. 

2. Here to Stay by Mark Edwards:  After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Elliot agrees to let his new wife's parents and sister stay with them for a few weeks, and it turns into a nightmare...but not in a funny way.

3. The Wolf Wants In* by Laura McHugh:  After Sadie's brother dies unexpectedly, she wants to know the truth. Then the skull of a long-missing local girl is found in the woods, and Sadie's search for answers becomes even more urgent.  Both a gripping mystery and a look at how the opioid crisis has devastated small-town America.

4. Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith:  When her twin brother disappears after the brutal murder of one of his students, Mia returns to her hometown to try to figure out what really happened.

5. Take It Back by Kia Abdullah:  The gang rape of a girl with facial differences sets off a media frenzy.

6. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey:  Police detective Gemma Woodstock is sent to a small Australian town to investigate a young man's muder and his girlfriend's disappearance.

7. The Reckless Oath We Made* by Bryn Greenwood: When Zee's sister, a prison volunteer, is kidnapped by two escapees, Zee turns to the last person she would have expected to ask for help: Gentry, her stalker and a literal knight in shining armor.  No, seriously; he even speaks in Middle English (which admittedly does take some getting used to).  A very unusual but touching love story.
2019 total so far: 51


1.  Trick Mirror* by Jia Tolentino:  A collection of essays by the former Jezebel writer, the best of which is about her stint on a reality show that was like a teen version of Survivor.

2. The Girls by Abigail Pesta:  A searing account of the Olympic gymnast scandal involving shitstain Larry Nassar and how he was able to get away with his predations for so long.

3. Nobody's Victim by Carrie Goldberg:  The author, a victims' rights lawyer specializing in stalking and cyber-harassment, looks at some of her most challenging cases.  Warning: the author's description of her own sexual assault could be extremely triggering for some readers, and is indelibly horrific regardless.

4. Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power* by Sady Doyle:  What it says on the tin, though not nearly as stuffy and humorless as the subtitle might lead you to believe.

5. Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession* by Rachel Monroe:  A fascinating look at four women whose obsession with true crime manifested itself in both positive and negative ways.  The concluding chapter is a masterpiece.

2019 total so far: 17


1. Ao Haru Ride vol. 6 by Io Sakisaka

2. Food Wars!* vol. 31 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

3. The Promised Neverland* vols. 10-11 by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu

4. Mythical Beast Investigator by Keishi Ayasato and Koichiro Hoshino 

5. A Bride's Story vol 11 by Kaoru Mori 

2019 total so far:  37 volumes of manga and 17 graphic novels


1.  Spider-Man: Far from Home*:  Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is excited to leave the responsibilities of Spider-Man behind as he goes on a class trip to Europe, but trouble follows him.  It's not as good as Homecoming, but it's still a lot of fun.

2. Missing Link*:  An explorer goes in search of the missing link...and is shocked to succeed.  Another beautifully animated notch in Laika's belt.

3. Her Smell:  A fictional (though it's pretty obvious who this is based on) look at the collapse of a 90s band fronted by an unstable trainwreck (Elisabeth Moss).  Good acting, but it's kind of an ordeal to watch; I probably wouldn't have finished it if I wasn't hard up for entertainment at the time.

4. Alita: Battle Angel:  A cyborg wakes up in a new body and tries to remember her past. Visually stunning, but the writing was clunky and Alita's enormous eyes were really distracting.  I'm sure it was a nod to her origins as a manga heroine, but everyone else looked normal, so it really stood out.

5. The Curse of La Llorona:  A social worker tries to save her kids when they come under attack by La Llorona ("The Weeping Woman") the folk legend who drowned her children and now searches for new prey.  Not remotely scary, but entertaining in a mindless way.

6. The Kitchen*:  After three mobsters are sent to jail, their wives (played by Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, and Tiffany Haddish) take over their Hell's Kitchen protection racket.  It's similar to Widows, and not quite as good, but it's still worth seeing for the 70s music/fashions and the bravura performances.  I think Haddish should get an Oscar nomination.

7. Long Shot*:  After losing his job, Fred (Seth Rogen) unexpectedly runs into his old babysitter, Charlotte (Charlize Theron), who's now Secretary of State and eyeing a presidential run.  She asks him to help write her speeches, and he falls in love with her.  Rogen and Theron have great chemistry, and it's really funny.

8. The Room:  I'd heard how awful this cult classic is, and I saw The Disaster Artist, so I thought I was prepared; I was not.  It failed on all conceivable levels except one: entertainment value.  I only wish I'd thought to have adult refreshments while watching it, but to be fair I never expected to watch the whole thing!

9. Pet Sematary:  A doctor and his family discover that the titular pet cemetery (the misspelling comes from the sign kids put up) behind their new home has supernatural powers.  The second film adaptation of the Stephen King book that cost me several sleepless nights as a kid.

10. Shadow:  In ancient China, a military commander uses his lookalike, or "shadow", to execute a complicated plan.  Gorgeous cinematography, and although there isn't as much action as I would have liked, what's there is pretty good.

11. Hellboy:  This 2019 take on the comic book character was critically reviled, and it certainly wasn't phenomenal, but it wasn't as bad as we'd been led to believe, either.

2019 total so far: 66