Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2012

Here it is: the year-end blog I've been busting my ass watching movies the last few days to be able to write, the list of the best movies (in my opinion, of course) of the year. Seriously, in the last 72 hours I've watched like 12 movies... that doesn't sound like a lot, but, you know, I also slept. And drank. I won't really be writing about them, just a few words here and there maybe, and a link to a previous post if I covered them during the year already. Anyway, I admit, I haven't seen everything that came out this year, so the list might be missing a few things here and there, but whatever. At the end of the post I'll be revealing my favorite movie of the year, something I've been tracking since 2008 (here's the recap: 08: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, 09: 500 Days of Summer, 10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 11: Warrior). Quick aside, all this wouldn't be possible without the Flickster app on Facebook, on which I rate movies all year long.

Before I get to the best, though, here's a list of the worst movies of the year... seriously, I rated these movies 1/2 star each, and that's only because Flickster won't let you give a 0-star rating.

The Worst
Killer Joe
Silent Hill Revelation 3D
For a Good Time, Call...
The Watch
House at the End of the Street (seriously, this movie was so bad not even Jennifer Lawrence could save it.)
The Apparition
Chernobyl Diaries
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Wrath of the Titans
The Innkeepers
And, the movie I'm still calling the worst movie ever: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Now that those monstrosities are out of the way...

The Best (4 stars)
Ted - This shit was so funny I paid to see it twice. And the second time I paid for two tickets. And if you disagree, well, I hope you fucking get Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - A very heartfelt, funny apocalypse dramedy.
Liberal Arts
End of Watch - This surprised the hell out of me with how good it is. Seriously.
Zero Dark Thirty - Tense, gripping, well-acted... just fantastic.
Les Miserables - Yeah, I like musicals. Especially great musicals. Live with it.

The Best of the Best (5 stars)
The Cabin in the Woods
Marvel's the Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises

And now, that just leaves my favorite movie of the year, obviously in the 5 star category:
Silver Linings Playbook

There you go, there's my list of the best and worst movies of the year. Here's the part where I ask you what you think of these flicks and what your favorites of the year were and, if I'm lucky, maybe one person answers. Let's go, I'm psyched.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

New Year's Eve might not be until tomorrow, but tomorrow I'm doing my big "Best Movies of 2012" post because I still have a few movies to burn through tonight. So tonight, instead of that blog you get a brief look back at my roller coaster 2012, and a look ahead at what I'd like out of 2013.

2012 started with me and my family still dealing with the death of my grandfather, which, you know, sucked. January wasn't all bad, though, as it also saw the celebration of two of my favorite people getting married, with me performing the ceremony. And then there was my birthday, which, you know, is always an awesome party.  But the beginning of the year saw me still unemployed and broke, a trend that sadly continued throughout the year. There was some more good in the beginning of the year, though, as my grandmother and I moved to a better apartment in a better area, an apartment above family who could help take care of her and ease the burden off me a bit, which is very, very nice. That was literally the extend of the excitement in my life through Winter and Spring.

The Summer saw me become employed again... but don't get excited. It was only a one day temp job. But money is money, and I took it happily. The start of Summer also apparently saw me lose a friend, which, all I can say about that is that people do what they want to do, and only so much of it is in your control. Aside from that inauspicious beginning, the rest of the Summer was actually a very good one. I spent those months excited and walking around with a smile on my face. I saw a lot of movies, too, which you know I really enjoyed, but even without that, it was a great Summer.

Of course, the Fall came and everything else fell like a house of cards, and with the exception of another fun wedding for another close friend, October and November sucked mightily. You know, hurricanes and the like. December, though... things seem to have started to turn around as I got a job that'll last until at least February, and prospects of it becoming permanent are there. Even if that doesn't happen, though, it let me do some things for Christmas, and it'll make sure I have a fun New Year's Eve tomorrow night and a fun birthday next month as well.

And that's 2012 in a nutshell. Brief highlights that eventually got tarnished... one or two even outright regretted as I look back... amongst some crap. Which is why I can't wait for this year to end and 2012 to begin. But what do I want out of 2013? I'm setting my sights low so as not to be disappointed: I want this job to last, I want to enjoy fun times with my friends, and I want to drink in peace. In fact, my resolution is to not do anything to jeopardize that. So, you know... no women.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Leverage: The Final Con

The other day I posted a little look back at Merlin, a show I enjoyed that just aired it's final episode. The day after that final episode aired, another show I love, Leverage, aired its final episode as well. Both shows started in 2008 and in a connection that isn't immediately clear, both shows are based on a classic British legend. Merlin's is obvious, but what about Leverage?

The Leverage, Inc. team, l. to r.: Sophie, Eliot, Nate, Hardison, and Parker.

Leverage is the story of Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator who gathers a team of the people he used to investigate: Sophie, a grifter; Eliot, a former soldier, now a hired hitter; Hardison, a super hacker; and Parker, a thief. He brings them together to start helping the little guys of the world get back at the rich and powerful who have unscrupulously screwed them out of money or property or whatever else. Sound familiar?

It's a modern day Robin Hood. They're Robin and his merry man for the current age, fighting against the rich using cons and computers instead of swords and arrows.

The show is pretty brilliantly done. There's a different con every week, but the kick is that it operates on two different levels. There's the steps the audience sees as the show unfolds... and then there's the con within the con that the audience sees in flashback after the fact, seeing it as the mark sees it, experiencing just how badly they were screwed.

That's not the true joy of the show, though. The true joy is watching the four people he gathered, people who dislike and distrust each other ad all dislike him, joining together as time unfolds, learning that helping people feels better than hurting people and building real bonds of friendship and more by the time the show eventually ends. The show is all about character, as each con becomes personal to at least one of them, and there are cons that involve their families at one point in time or another... or their enemies, as in the case of an evil super hacker played by Wil Wheaton, or the team's ultimate nemesis, Interpol agent Sterling, played by Mark Sheppard, an incredibly famous "that guy."

Trust me, you've seen him in something: Leverage, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, Chuck, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, 24, Firefly...

The show's run is full of guest stars and great plots and even better acting, and there's even a two-part con in which they overthrow the dictator of a small African government. In short, i can't recommend this show enough. So, you know, if I've interested you, find it and watch it. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merlin: The End of a Story of Camelot

Here's something that everyone might not know about me: the Arthurian legend is one of my favorite things in the world. Seriously. The Once and Future King by T.H. White is my all-time favorite book. I devour pretty much anything related to King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table that I can find. In fact, one of the biggest regrets I have in life is that the semester after I had to leave college the first time, my favorite professor, Br. Edward Wesley, taught an honors seminar on Arthurian literature, and that was the only time in all the myriad occasions I was in St. Francis College that that course was offered. I even tried to bribe the man to do it again at one point, but I got nowhere. So, knowing all that, you can imagine I must have been fairly excited when the BBC premiered a new show based on Arthurian legend in 2008, a show simply titled Merlin.

A promo pic from the second season. From left to right: Guinevere, then-Prince Arthur, Merlin, King Uther Pendragon, Lady Morgana, and Merlin's mentor, Gaius... with the Great Dragon soaring above them all.

Right off the bat, Merlin played fast and loose with some of Arthurian legend, and I have to be honest, a good portion of that annoyed me. In the set-up of the show, gone was the sword in the stone aspect. Arthur was a prince in Camelot, the kingdom of his father, Uther Pendragon (and yes, that's totally Rupert Giles playing Uther; that's half the reason I stuck with the show despite what initially annoyed me), a kingdom in which magic was totally outlawed because of the role it played in the death of the king's wife. Merlin is a teenager sent by his mother to apprentice to the Royal Physician, Gaius... himself a former magic practitioner who was also to train Merlin in the use of his magic. Morgana Le Fay lived in Camelot as the King's ward and as such, Arthur's adopted sister. And Guinevere? Well, she was Morgana's servant, a role that mirrored the role Merlin fell into as Arthur's manservant.

I'm not going to point out all the different ways this set-up is wrong, choosing instead to assume that you've been done at least some reading in your life or, hell, seen a movie or two and know just how wrong it is. I almost gave up on the show with the first episode, but made myself give it a few episodes, if only for Giles' sake.

And I was glad I did, because once you look past the set-up, it becomes a quality show that sticks pretty closely to the intent of Arthurian literature, if not the letter of it. Throughout the course of the show, there are two types of episodes: fun, creature-of-the-week sort of episodes that Merlin tries to protect Arthur and Camelot from as he learns that his destiny is exactly that; and episodes of true Arthurian plots, as knights like Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad, and Percival are introduced, as Mordred enters the picture, as Excalibur is created, as Arthur becomes king and marries Guenevere as Morgana turns to the dark side... all the events you'd expect to see as well as one or two surprises, such as the appearance of Tristan and Isolde, as the show's five seasons build toward what happened in this weekend's two-part finale: in the French, Le Morte D'Arthur.

Yes, the show hits all the major beats, but in unexpected ways, ways that make it a fresh retelling that is always fun to watch. The cast is talented, and they have a great chemistry together, which is good because, in the end, the show is all about the bonds of friendship and brotherhood. It's a fun show that is left with an ending that is true enough to Arthurian legend and befitting what the show is about, while leaving it just open-ended enough for there to be more if they ever decide to revisit it.

Merlin rose above the NBC mini-series of the same name from over a decade ago to become my second-favorite filmed adaption of the legend of Camelot (the first being the brilliant BBC film Excalibur, of course), and I'd highly recommend it for any fans of the story of Arthur or, really, for anyone who is a fan of the swords-and-sorcery genre.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Goodreads Book Review - This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It

This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It (John Dies at the End, #2)This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I reviewed Wong's first book to which this is a sequel, John Dies at the End, I gave it three stars. I'm giving this one three stars as well, although I don't think it was as good. One of the negative things I said when I reviewed the first one is that I felt that it needed to make more sense and be more coherent to be a better story. This book made me eat those words a bit; it is definitely more coherent than the first one... and that is, in fact, detrimental to the story. I found myself wishing it was a little bit more of a crazy mess than it was and was a bit disappointed. Still, I absolutely love the main characters David, John, Amy, and Molly (yes, she's a dog, but I'll be damned if I leave her out!) and would love to read another story about them and the insanity they got sucked into. But maybe less spiders, because, lord, parts of this absolutely killed me with my arachnophobia!

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The twenty-fourth book in my Recommended Reading Challenge is the first time a sequel has been featured (you can see my review of the first book, John Dies at the End, here), and only the second time an author has made a second appearance. I've got three more books to burn through at the moment, but I'm always looking for more, so don't be shy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Top Ten Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

If y'all haven't noticed, 2013 is right around the corner. That is, unless a bunch of people who have been dead for centuries are wrong and the world isn't going to end in eight days. I'm operating under the assumption that we'll still be here to ring in the new year and all the new movies that come with it. Since I was off today, I thought this would be the perfect day to put together the list of the ten movies I most want to see next year. To that end, I went on IMDB (with a late assist from when IMDB failed me) and made a list of all the movies coming out next year that I wanted to see so I could whittle it down to ten.

Sounded like a simple idea until it became obvious there are forty-fucking-seven movies coming out next year that I want to see.

Yes, I know. I watch a lot of movies. Deal with it. I have.

Clearly I had to find a way to narrow the field a bit. So I decided the best question to ask myself was, "Which of these movies do I absolutely want to see in theaters and which would I be fine with seeing in other ways?" That took me from forty-six to twenty-one, and from there it was much easier to pick out ten that stood out above the others.

So here are the top ten, in no particular order because, well, it was hard enough picking them, I don't have nearly enough brain power left to put them in any kind of order other than the way they were listed on IMDB: by release date.

January gives us Mama, a highly creepy-looking horror movie from Guillermo Del Toro, which is a recipe for success if I ever heard one. Gangster Squad also comes out that month, and aside from having an awesome trailer, I'm down just for the talent involved: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone? That's a hell of a cast. I'm in.

Yes, THAT Emma Stone.

In February there's Stand Up Guys, an old-man-buddy-mafia-movie starring Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Walken. If you need to know anything other than that, well, we just really shouldn't be friends.

April gives us the controversial and long-awaited remake of Evil Dead. Normally I'm pretty leery of remakes, but this one has the blessing and endorsement of the people involved in the original, and has the hubris to declare itself the scariest movie of all-time. I like that kind of moxie, so I'll give it a go.

You probably already know what I'm going to say when it comes to May: Iron Man 3. No surprise there. Another round of RDJ in the role he was born to play, in the movie that kicks off what is being called Phase Two of the Marvel Movie Universe? Yes please.

We skip ahead to July, when another Guillermo Del Toro movie comes out: Pacific Rim. This one has giant robots fighting monsters, apparently. And did I mention it's by Del Toro? Del Toro + Robots + Monsters = guaranteed awesomesauce.

There are two movies in August. The first is another long-awaited picture, this one the sequel to Sin City, entitled Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Given how stylized and how much of a niche movie the first one was, I have nothing to say her, really... you either loved it and are eagerly awaiting this, or you didn't, and you aren't. August is a month for sequels, as Insidious Chapter 2 comes out. The first Insidious was a horror movie that did a pretty good job of fucking m life up; it also led to an absolutely hysterical moment between me and my cohort Jabba the Black that I will NOT be relaying here.

The last two movies both come out in November. There's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I absolutely loved the first one so I can't wait to see the next part. Plus, I just love me some Jennifer Lawrence, so, bonus. Lastly, there's Thor: The Dark World, the second Marvel movie next year which apparently picks up just seconds after Marvel's The Avengers ends. Do I have to say anything else?

So those are the ten. As hard as this list was to compile, I'm sure it'll change more than a few times, but this is where it is right now. Any of you out there have any movies you're looking forward to? Let's talk about it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The Lucky One

The Lucky OneThe Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A lot of people don't know this about me because I don't get much chance to show people this side of me, but I'm a total romantic. The last love story I read, Bet Me, had me awwing and even tearing up in a few places. So you can't say I just don't like love stories when I say that this might be one of the worst books I've ever read. The writing is ridiculously simple, filled with way too much exposition than is tolerable, breaking one of the #1 rules of writing, "Show, don't tell." Not only does all the exposition break that rule, it telegraphs just about everything that is going to happen in the entire novel way too early one; there was seriously not one piece of the plot I couldn't see coming a mile away. And the ending is a total cop-out. It was unbelievably bad and abrupt, with a ridiculously undeserved denouement. I will say, however, that the characters were fairly well developed and for the most part likeable, so it had that going for it, but the dog, Zeus, was the only saving grace of the entire affair, and the one star I gave the story is all for him.

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As you can see, the twenty-third book in the Recommended Reading Challenge has left an awful taste in my mouth. I need a really good book to cleanse the palette at this point. So who's got one?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's no denying that this is one hell of a beautifully-written book. There's a lyrical, poetic quality to the prose that makes it a real joy to read at times, and the story itself is incredibly moving; there were one or two times towards the end where I could feel my eyes moisten. The characters, even the background ones, are all very well developed and engrossing, too.  All that said, though, did I necessarily enjoy the book? In a word, no. While the language itself was written beautifully, I didn't like the way the book was put together almost like excerpts of different stories at times. The episodic nature of it put me off. Also, as much as I like the conceit of having Death be the narrator, I didn't enjoy many of his asides and I didn't like the way events in the book weren't just foreshadowed but where flat-out spoiled dozens... sometimes even hundreds... of pages ahead of time. At least one or two surprises would have been nice. So that's why I'm giving the book the rating it gets: while I didn't necessarily enjoy it, I appreciate the craft involved in it, so three stars seems like a fair compromise to me.

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Twenty-two books down now, and it's starting to feel like the challenge is really running out of steam as recommendations are coming much less frequently. If you'd like to change that, let me know! I've got two more random internet recommendations I can get started on, but I'd much prefer something more personalized, so if you've got a title, give it to me and I'll jump on it like Apache!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Stormtrooper's Christmas Soundtrack

Here at Stormtrooper, I have a bit of a tradition of doing Christmas-themed posts in December (last year there was a post about what I watch to get into the Christmas spirit [plus Gremlins and Santa Clause, which for some reason I forgot all about] and another reviewing the Batman Christmas special that came out last year). Okay, so last year was only the first year I did it and it was only two posts, that's why I said it's a bit of a tradition and not a full-fledged Charlie Brown Christmas kind of tradition, cut me some slack here.

Good grief.

For the first (and potentially only, I'm not sure yet) Christmas post this year, I've decided to turn my attention to music and list some of my favorite holiday tracks. Fair warning: don't expect Bing Crosby or any of his ilk on here; I have nothing against the classics, they're classics for a reason, but as my thirty-second Christmas on this earth approaches, I'm just tired of them. So this list of twenty-five songs instead features covers of classic songs by contemporary artists as well as new songs by contemporary artists... and, okay, maybe one or two classics as well.

Oh, in the interest of full disclosure, early last week before my new employment started, I put together a holiday playlist on Spotify of eighty-nine songs. If the list of highlights you're about to read puts you in a curious kind of mood and you'd like to see what else is on there, let me know and I'll see about getting you the full playlist. It has followers already and everything, so it can't be THAT bad.

The list isn't in any kind of order, but it's only fair to start off with the song that motivated me to do this, which is why it's also the only song I'm posting the video for (you can YouTube all the other ones yourself, don't be lazy!): All I Need is Love by CeeLo Green, featuring Disney's The Muppets!

Okay, the actual video wouldn't work. But that's just as good. Anyway, here's the rest of the list, in no certain order... twenty-five songs for twenty-five days of Christmas! Yesterday counts, damn it!

2. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
3. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
4. Yule Shoot Your Eye Out – Fall Out Boy
5. Ex-Miss – New Found Glory
6. I Won’t Be Home for Christmas – Blink-182
7. Forget December – Something Corporate
8. My December  - Linkin Park
9. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
10. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Matchbook Romance
11. Christmastime is Here – Gatsby’s American Dream
12. A Wonderful Christmas Time - June
13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Daphne Loves Derby
14. Christmas Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks
15. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings – Barenaked Ladies
16. Jingle Bells – Lisa Loeb
17. Good King Wenceslas – Relient K
18. Carol of the Bells – August Burns Red
19. Christmas – Blues Traveler
20. Little Saint Nick – Straight No Chaser
21. Christmas Day - Dido
22. The Twelve Pains of Christmas – Bob Rivers
23. Christmas Song – Dave Matthews
24. Merry Christmas Everybody - Oasis
25. Christmas Shoes – FM Static

So there you have my highlights for Christmas spirit music. Got any favorites of your own you'd like to share? Be like me, spread some cheer!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Back in the Workforce

It's been an interminably long while since I could say this, but I've got a job. And even if it's only an oddly-scheduled temp job, it's still a job,  it pays pretty well, and it's a relief; let's be honest, at this point in my life, any relief, even a temporary one, is much needed, and much appreciated. I figured I should try to explain just what the job is, because it is an odd little situation.

Apparently Morgan Stanley has decided to switch their employees' Blackberry carrier from whatever company was providing it to Verizon. To oversee the transfer, they got a company called Cobite (I think), and they gather all the employee information... names, e-mails, phone numbers, etc... and give it to the Verizon team to use when setting up the phones. The Verizon team, I guess, figured they didn't want to devote a ton of their full-time employees to that task, so they got the staffing agency Adecco to find temps for them, and that's how I got involved, because I registered with Adecco months ago.

Still with me? Good. That was the complicated part, I promise.

So what I do is basically spend all day sitting with the other people on the Verizon team... so far a few full-time Verizon employees and one other Adecco temp... and I pre-program the phones. Open them up, put the battery in, activate the phone, put in the person's e-mail address so it can sync everything for them download whatever apps they should have, put it in the box, and it gets delivered to them. That's it. Oh, and I have to make sure the pre-loaded Facebook and Twitter icons are hidden in the main menu, which just makes me laugh, because there I am checking Facebook and Twitter on my phone during our down times, which can be frequent, because syncing and app store downloading can take a loooong time, apparently. Best part? I don't deal with the employees at all. The Cobite team delivers them after I program them, so there's no customer service aspect of the job at all. That right there gives me a happy.

There's one other aspect of the job that is pretty fun. Morgan Stanley is doing this for employees in all their locations, so we actually will be going to different locations all the time. For example, we were in one of the McGraw-Hill buildings on Sixth Avenue the last two days, and next week we'll be in a building on 5th Avenue for three days before moving to one on 7th Avenue on Thursday, and then another one on 7th Avenue on Friday, and so on. I kind of like that. It'll keep me from getting too bored, and, if nothing else, will give me different places to go to for lunch every day!

Sadly, the job will only last until mid-January with a week-and-a-half off for the holidays, but I'm looking at the upsides here. It gives me money for Christmas, makes sure I can party my ass off for New Year's, and guarantees I'll have enough money to pull off the epic birthday celebration I'm planning, something that is happening literally the day after the job ends.  So all in all, I can say that this is pretty awesome, and I'm totally going to put off worrying about what will happen when I'm unemployed again so I can just focus on enjoying how great this is while I can.

Besides, if the Mayans are right, I'll be employed when the world ends and the rest won't matter anyway!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. There is no doubt about that. What is up for debate, though, is whether I loved it because it was well-written, or whether I loved it because I'm a pop culture expert who loves just about everything about the 80's and I'm a gamer who has in the past spent plenty of hours wandering Azeroth and so the book spoke to me because of that regardless of how well-written it might have been. Seriously, I got just about every pop culture reference made in the book... and that's saying something, since there are easily a few thousand. For the most part, the book is really good, and it pulled me along page after page; however, when our hero, Parzival, logs out of the OASIS to deal with things in the real world, the book kind of drags. On the one hand, that isn't a big deal, because it happens pretty rarely. On the other hand, considering one of the main messages of the book is that the real world is the only reality worth living in... well, there's a serious case of burying the lead here. However, the book is still a good read, the characters are all pretty damn lovable, the love story is cute enough, and playing "catch the reference" is a boatload of fun. So, in short, I loved it, and you should read it.

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The twenty-first book in the Recommended Reading Challenge is only the second one that I can honestly say has become a favorite book of mine. I'm about to embark on the twenty-second, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. It seems to have some heavy religious undertones, so I'm kind of wary about it, but we'll see what happens. In any case, keep those recommendations coming, folks!

Silver Linings Playbook

I'm going to start this off saying something woefully insensitive, but bear with me before you get all offended or whatever (although given the type of people I'm friends with, I doubt any offense will be taken. Ever. About anything.), I'm going somewhere with it.

Insanity is funny. Mental health issues are funny. Everybody loves to laugh at the nutjob character in the movie, going back to Rain Man, and hell, probably even farther back than that. But here's the flip side to that coin: while mental health issues might be funny, seeing people conquer those issues is heart-warming. But to take that one step beyond, seeing people find happiness without conquering those issues but instead learning to live with them? Well, that's even more touching.

And that makes Silver Linings Playbook a pretty much perfect movie.

Here's a really brief synopsis of the movie: Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, comes home after a brief court-mandated stay in a mental hospital because he flew into a rage when he came home one day and found another man going down on his wife in the shower and beat the crap out of the guy. It turns out Pat is bi-polar. Despite there being a restraining order against him, he spends the whole movie thinking everything he does is going to bring him one step closer to getting his wife back. In the course of this, he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, a young woman with issues of her own; her husband died after only three years of marriage and she snapped a little too and turned into a bit of a nymphomaniac, but she's trying to put that behind her. Long story short, Tiffany tells Pat she can get a letter to his wife for him as long as he agrees to be her partner in a dance contest she entered, and he agrees, and hilarious, heart-warming hijinks ensue.

If this sounds to you like a fairly basic plot for a rom-com, well, you're not entirely wrong. It's a variation of a plot we've seen before... boy in love with one girl he can't have meets another girl, blah blah blah... but with the mental issues twist. But there are two differences that elevate Silver Linings Playbook from being a simple cookie-cutter rom-com to possibly being my favorite movie of the year.

The first is the way the material is written and directed. There's a serious to the whole affair that focuses on the drama, on making you think about the situations and the characters and what they go through internally in more than just a romantic sense. The romance, while central, is almost secondary to everything else. And the comedy never comes from where you'd expect it, and it's never appropriate and it's usually awkward... and that makes it all the funnier. There's also more of a focus on family than on romance most of the time, as Pat's relationship with his father, played by good old Robert De Niro, is central to the plot; Pat Sr. is a little touched in the head himself, with a massive case of OCD, and his obsessive faith in both his son and the Philadelphia Eagles drives the plot in some unexpected ways.

The second, bigger way the movie is elevated is the acting. To start with, the whole supporting cast is fantastic, but Bobby D. definitely gets a shout-out for supporting actor, especially for one tear-inducing scene with his son. Likewise, Chris Tucker steals most of the scenes he's in as a friend Pat made in the mental hospital who keeps showing up unexpectedly and hilariously.

As good as the supporting cast is, though, this movie hinges on its stars, and there is nothing disappointing about their performances. Bradley Cooper is possibly the most watchable, charismatic man in Hollywood right now (sorry, Ryan Reynolds; maybe if you stopped banging Blake Lively long enough to make some movies that wouldn't have happened...), and he shines in a role that I thought would be outside his wheelhouse; he's definitely famous for playing the laid-back, wise-cracking, pretty boy, but he displays a depth and soulfulness and vulnerability here that kind of makes you ache for what he's going through the whole time. As good as he is, though, he's upstaged just a little bit by Jennifer Lawrence. And I'm not just saying that because she's probably the hottest actress around right now, both in terms of talent and looks and and I'm not at all saying it because I might be just a little... smitten... with her.

C'mon, can you blame me? I mean, really.

She plays Tiffany as a character that, while not immediately someone you can relate to, is immediately someone you can root for, and, eventually, someone you wish was yours, baggage and all. She's as vulnerable and sympathetic as Pat is, but with more backbone and intelligence and is more well-rounded, despite the fact that his character is at least a decade older than her, if not more. And it isn't just the level of talent that Cooper and Lawrence bring that makes their performances shine, it's the chemistry between them; whether they're trading barbs over which one of them is crazier than the other, or just looking at each other across a dance floor, the chemistry is palpable, and their performances completely encompass you.

In short (he said ironically, having already blathered on much longer than he intended), Silver Linings Playbook is a pretty damn amazing movie. It'll make you laugh, it'll touch your heart, and it just might make you think about your outlook on life a bit. I can't recommend enough that you see it. Immediately. In fact, I can't wait to see it again. I'll leave you with that, and with one parting word, the word that becomes Pat's catchphrase for his outlook on life when he gets out of the hospital:


Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Thankful Stormtrooper, 2012 Edition

Click to enlarge for the full Stormtrooper Thanksgiving comedy.

Welcome to my annual tradition of the blog version of that tradition some people have of saying what they're thankful for before they start eating. I did this for the first time last year and I'm doing it again this year; I don't know if twice is enough to count as a tradition, but, whatever, it's my blog, shut up.

Just to get this one out of the way, much like last year, I'm still incredibly thankful for John Jameson's wonderful creation.

I'm thankful for finally being able to say it seems like I have a job again (I say "seems like" because this is my life, after all, and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it inevitably does, and it's always the most ridiculous shoe imaginable). Sure, it's only a temporary job, but it's something while I wait for something better, so I'll take it.

I'm thankful for the summer I had. As I mentioned above, the inevitable other shoe did eventually drop and it didn't end how I would have liked, but it was still a great couple of months, and I had more fun and was happier than I have in a good while now.

I'm thankful to be living in an apartment in a good neighborhood now as opposed to last year, as well as it being an apartment where I'm not the only one here to take care of my grandmother because, as much as I love her with all my heart, I don't know if I could have handled it alone.

Lastly, like last year, I'm thankful for my friends; real friends, I mean, the kind who are always there for you, who don't drop you like a bad habit or who aren't just friends in name and not deed. There are people who I wouldn't be able to make it through without. They know who they are and they know I'm talking about them.

That's it for me, folks. What about you, what are y'all thankful for?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The Magicians

The MagiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think the best way to describe this book is that it is chock full of unrealized potential. It sets itself up as a much more adult Harry Potter with a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and even a little bit of Lord of the Rings mixed in, which, on paper, sounds like a recipe for a whole lot of awesome. The problem is, it ends up being too much for one book. Our main character, Quentin, gets accepted into a college for magicians when the book begins, and he's there for five years... and all five years are covered and done with in the first two-thirds of the book. There are a lot of good bits at the school, and it was a situation that deserved more than the rush job it gets. Likewise, the quest Quentin and his friends en up going on afterwards, a quest that easily could have been a book all it's own, is only given about twenty percent of the story, with a whole other ten percent left over for a rather lengthy ending. The reason for rushing the plot is obvious; there's a whole lot of character development and interpersonal reactions going on... which I'm generally all for, but here's the problem: Quentin and his friends are the single most unlikeable group of people I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. They're a bunch of maladjusted, self-absorbed idiots who find ways to take absolutely no pleasure in anything going on around them because they're too busy trying to find ways to hate everything because they're above it all, and they do this while trying to be ironic about everything. With the right amount of plot and better characters, this could have been a great book, but as it is, I don't recommend it... that is, unless you want to read what is basically a story about douchebag hipster magicians. In that case, knock yourself out.

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As you can see, I didn't much enjoy the twentieth book in the Recommended Reading Challenge, the second book in a row I took from random internet people because the recommendations have been dying down. I have two more of those to go through, but I'd rather read something from a friend, so if you've enjoyed a book recently, let's hear it!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Saga: The Best Comic You Really Should Be Reading

About a year and a half ago, I enrolled in a class on how to write comic books. I stopped going after one session because the class sucked and the "teacher," an actual comic book writer, seemed just horrible, but as prep for the class I had to come up with three ideas for my own comic. One of the ideas I came up with was for a superhero adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I would have changed the character names to heroic derivatives and given them powers to much, like turning Mercutio into the superspeed hero Mercury, or Benvolio into the electric-powered Volt, etc..., and would have had the Montague side be heroes and the Capulet side be villains. I mention all of this to prelude the fact that there is a comic out there right now telling it's own Romeo and Juliet story way better than I ever could.

Our heroes: Alana, Marko, and Hazel.

Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, tells the tale of Alana and Marko, two lovers who are literally star-crossed; their home planets, the Coalition of Landfall for Alana, where people have wings, and Marko's world of Wreath, where they all use magic and have horns and antlers, are at war. You can see the Romeo and Juliet aspect right away, as well as bits of why many people have described the book as being sort of Star Wars meets Game of Thrones. You'll notice, by the way, that everything the book has been compared to is awesome, and the book definitely deserves those comparisons.

Hazel meets The Stalk...

When the story opens, Alana and Marko are on the planet Cleave, and Alana is giving birth to their daughter Hazel. As it happens, Marko was being held as a POW on Cleave, where Alana was a prison guard, and the two fell in love. This, of course, is frowned upon by both of the warring kingdoms. The Coalition of Landfall send Prince Robot IV from their allies the Robot Kingdom after the lovers and their baby. The Robot Kingdom's subjects, by the way, are anatomically correct humans in every way except they have TVs instead of human heads. Wreath, on the other hand, employs bounty hunters: the first is The Will, a bounty-hunter with principles who travels with a Lying Cat, a talking cat who can tell when someone lies. The also send a bounty hunter called The Stalk, who is half-human, half-spider... and also The Will's former lover.

Those of you who know  of my arachnophobia can imagine how little I care for her.

Izabel. I'd still take her over Fran Drescher.

While trying to escape from Cleave, our hunted family finds help in Izabel, a ghost of a girl who died in the war, who helps Alana and Marko find a way off planet in exchange for being allowed to come with them as little Hazel's nanny. And that covers all the main characters, although most recently Marko's parents were introduced, which I can only imagine will end anything but well.

The Will and his Lying Cat.

Getting down to an actual review, well, Brian K. Vaughan has always been a great writer... just look at Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, or Runaways if you don't believe me... and he's brought his A game to this one. The writing is sharp, the characters' voices are all strong and the dialogue all feels natural. There's drama and comedy and some intensely disturbing bits as well. And having the series be narrated by Hazel is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius, because it really is the only way to make a baby a main character and still get to know her.

See? TV heads!

For a book to be truly great, though, great writing needs to be paired with great art. I have to admit to being completely unfamiliar with Fiona Staples' work before reading Saga, my only prior exposure to her being the covers she did for a series a few years ago that I absolutely loved, DV8: Gods and Monsters. Her art here though is pretty much perfect. It's both realistic and fantastical at the same time, while being absolutely gorgeous. But if I have her to thank for the creeps The Stalk gave me, well, maybe I'll take all this nice stuff back... which is, in and of itself, a compliment!

Not gonna spoil what that is, but it's pretty damn cool.

Saga really has it all. It has the political intrigue of Game of Thrones, as well as the weird, graphic sex. It has the space battles and clash between technology and mysticism of Star Wars. It has the romance of Romeo and Juliet, and, I suspect although I hope I'm wrong, a similarly unhappy ending... and ending I am in no hurry to reach. I'm sure Saga is the kind of story with a finite run, with a definite end in place, but I for one hope that end is nowhere near (and I doubt it is, the seventh issue only came out yesterday, after all), because I'm looking forward to reading this book for what I hope will be years.

And so should you.

And there's The Stalk, who pretty much speaks for herself. Shudder.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the WindThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found that this book featuring a story within a story starts out very, very slow, but with some dedication and perseverance, it picks up and more than makes up for the slow beginning. It's basically the story of a boy who falls in love with a book with a mysterious backstory, and as he tries to unravel that backstory, his own life gets sucked into the life of the book's even more mysterious author. This is a read that requires a lot of attention and focus because of all the names and places and convoluted relationships involved, but again, it's worth it. The author shows a mastery of plot and, even more, a mastery of language. Seriously, some of the metaphors and other uses of language, even something as basic as a description of the weather or a simple turn of phrase are put together beautifully. And there's a bonus to be enjoyed by anyone who truly loves books: there are quite a few descriptions of just how wonderful a good book can be, just how moving and transformative a good read can be. All in all, I can't recommend this book enough, and am very much looking forward to reading the prequel the author penned later.

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As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed the nineteenth book in the Recommended Reading Challenge, a recommendation I received from a random place online. I have one more random online recommendation I can fall back on next, but I'd much rather get one from someone I actually know, so if you know of a good book, that person can be you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Good Book Should Smell

"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a-a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and-and-and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a - it, uh, it has no-no texture, no-no context. It’s-it’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then-then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly." - Rupert Giles

I've always been a big reader, and right now, even though I'm in the midst of my Recommended Reading Challenge which is slowing down, that hasn't changed. What has changed lately is that, instead of physical copies of the books people are recommending, I've been reading e-books on my computer.  In fact, 14 out of the 18 books I've read since I started the challenge have been e-books, but I want to make something perfectly clear about this right now:

I hate e-books.

I'm only reading them because I'm broke and don't feel like spending money on books that I might like. So unless they've been able to lend me the book, I've been all about the e-books. And I hate every minute of it.

An actual book in my hands feels so much better than staring at a screen. It's like the quote above says. Books have a smell. You all know what I'm talking about, especially an older book, the pages starting to get yellow... it smells musty and rich. It smells like knowledge. You don't get that with an e-book unless you've been up to some funky things with your reading device.

It's more than just smell, though. It's touch. On an e-reader. You press a button over and over again and the page scrolls down repeatedly, endlessly. What you physically feel doesn't change. With an actual book, you have the heft of it in your hand. You feel how much it weighs. As you turn page after page... a very physical act that pulls you along, drawing you in... you can slowly but surely feel the weight of the book change from "unread" to "read" as you go along. You can stop, look at the chunk of book you've read, and feel like you've made progress. With an e-reader, all you have is a percentage bar... and if you have anything like the mental ridiculousness I have, you can occasionally become more interested in how fast that percentage bar is moving than you are in the book, especially if the book sucks.

One last thing about touch? You can totally clobber someone over the head with a book without worrying about breaking it...

Now, I know the counter-arguments. E-books take up no space at all, you don't need bookshelves everywhere. They don't get damaged the way actual books to. E-books can be cheaper. My response? I don't care. Save your iPad for Star Wars Angry Birds and pick up a book and read it the old-fashioned way. You'll enjoy it, I promise.

And if you don't... well, you got bigger problems than anything I can help you with!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Liberal Arts

I've been a fan of How I Met Your Mother for years now. It's a show that has added a great many things to my pop culture lexicon, like all of Barney Stinson's wonderful catchphrases, and an appreciation of just how talented a cast the show has. Possibly the greatest thing to come out of that cast is Josh Radnor... not because he's a great actor, mind you; he's decent, but he's easily the weakest part of the cast. No, what's so great about that show bringing Josh Radnor to prominence is that it has let him get noticed as a filmmaker, both as a writer and director. His first effort, Happythankyoumoreplease, was pretty awesome. Why I never blogged about it, I have no idea. Maybe I'll revisit it for that purpose one day. But for now, I'm here to talk about his second effort...

Liberal Arts is pretty damn awesome. I more or less fell in love with it in the first twenty-five minutes. It's basically the story of a thirty-five-year-old college admissions advisor who is pretty much lost in life named Jesse (Radnor). He goes back to his alma mater to give a speech at the retirement party of his favorite professor, Peter (Richard Jenkins), and while there he meets Zibby, short for Elizabeth (played by the absolutely brilliant Elizabeth Olsen). The cast is rounded out by Allison Janney, who plays a bitter English professor; a guy I've never heard of named John Magaro, who gives what it in my opinion a star-making performance as Dean, a troubled student Jesse connects with; and Zac Efron, who you'd think would be the weak spot in the cast but his Nat, a complete weirdo who sort of mentors Jesse at a few points, is flat-out hysterical. I never thought I'd say a nice thing about him in my life, but here we are.

Jesse and Zibby connect over their love of classical music and literature... Jesse at one point says he majored in English and minored in history in order to make himself completely unemployable. That's a statement me and my major in English and minor in communications can completely agree with, but I digress. When Jesse returns to NY after a fun day with Zibby, they keep in touch, not by texting or e-mailing, but by writing old-fashioned, honest-to-god letters back and forth.

I can't even begin to tell you how much the romantic in me loved that.

Anyway, eventually Jesse goes to see Zibby again, and... well, I'm not going to spoil it. Nor will I spoil anything about Jesse's interactions with Dean, or Nat. Part of the joy of this movie is seeing where the character relationships go; they don't necessarily go where you want them to go as you watch and get invest, but, in the end, they go where they need to go, which is the sign of something being truly, brilliantly written. The direction is just as brilliant in my opinion, but I'm not nearly qualified to really go into that. The cast rises to the level of the script and direction as well. All in all, it's just a really great, beautiful movie that touched me a lot and is easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

But that should come as no surprise. A movie that produces the line, "the purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness," is pretty much destined to be found, seen, and loved by me. It's easily my favorite movie this year that didn't involve a comic book character, so you should probably check it out. Like, now.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant FundamentalistThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this in the span of one day. That was partly because it was pretty short, and partly because it pulled me along, with its unusual narrative structure and the mystery of what exactly was going on in the framing sequence. However, while I enjoyed those bits and was interested in the fairly bizarre romance that was unfolding, I can't say I see exactly where all the praise  and hubbub for the book comes from. It was good, not great, and in terms of deep meanings or revelations or whatever, the most I got from it was, "love makes people insane," which, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I really didn't need a book to tell me. I've learned that one multiple times in my life already.

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It's been a long time since I read an entire book in a day, but this eighteenth book in the challenge pulled me along just enough to make that happen. Perhaps not the wisest thing to do, though, as I'm now officially out of books. So, how about a recommendation? Someone? Anyone?

Goodreads Book Review: Prey

PreyPrey by Michael Crichton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always loved Michael Crichton. He was the first "adult" author I ever read when I picked up Jurassic Park for the first time back in the fifth or sixth grade, and I went on a Crichton tear after that, devouring The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun, the Lost World, and Travels within months. Prey is the first book of his I've read in a very long time, and it still has the fun characters (although most of the ones introduced here are redshirts) and gripping narrative I've always remembered his writing to have. The problem with this book is that it very often abandons the narrative, sometimes in the middle of a conversation between two characters, to go on tangents that last for multiple paragraphs to explain the science behind what is going on. I realize that is an unfortunate necessity when dealing with a topic like sentient, evolving, nanotechnology, but it still distracted from the story, especially in the first half. Once most of that is out of the way, with the exception of short asides here and there, the book really picks up in the second half. When I picked it up yesterday I had read the first 39% of the book; once the technical stuff was out of the way, the narrative pulled me along and I finished it it one day. So overall, if you can push through the dry spots, it's a good read.

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Seventeen books in, I'd have to say the Recommended Reading Challenge is definitely a success so far; I'm reading things I wouldn't have read before, enjoying new authors and new styles and genres. Let's keep it going, we've got til the end of April to meet the year-long goal I set. Keep the recommendations coming!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Breathers: A Zombie's LamentBreathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another instance where I wish I could assign half-stars in this rating system, because this was a 2-and-a-half star book if I ever read one. It isn't bad. It isn't good. It just isn't much of anything. Because of the very limited first person point of view, there's no way to really connect with any of the characters except the main character, Andy, but even he is given only fairly shallow and vacillating characterization, so I had a hard time connecting with or even caring about him either. That said, even without emotional resonance, the book is entertaining enough, with a fun take on the whole flesh-eating aspect of being a zombie. I can't really think of much more to say in terms of a review, because like I said, for me this book was, at best, just... there. The one other thing I'd complain about is the author's overdependence on repeating a certain phrase... but if you never read this book in five days expecting something better and coming away mildly disappointed, you just wouldn't understand.

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This was the sixteenth book in my year-long Recommended Reading Challenge, and I have to say this challenge is taking me weird places; I enjoyed a zombie book a lot less than the chick-lit rom-com I read immediately prior. Now that this book is finished my list is sadly clear, so if you want to get in on the fun, let's see some recommendations!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: Bet Me

Bet MeBet Me by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God help me, I did not want to like this book. I am about as far from being a "chick-lit rom-com" reader as you can get, so I really didn't want to like this book... and for the first quarter of it, that was going swimmingly. I hated the characters, the way they thought, the way they interacted with each other, pretty much everything. But then the characters started to become likable, and the way they interacted with each other became fun. I started rooting for the main characters as I started to identify with certain things they thought and felt. I started laughing out loud at certain parts, and cursing at others. By the time I was halfway through the book, I had a hard time putting it down, reading literally the last 65% of the book in about 24 hours. So yeah, it turned me around from wanting to hate it to loving it, and now I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a little comedy and romance in their reading.

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Yes, I'm ashamed of myself for liking this one so much. And I'm going as far from it as I can by reading a zombie novel next. But in the meantime, keep those recommendations coming, I'm at the six-month point now, so there's still a whole lot of reading to do in this year-long challenge!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Early Review of Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is many things. It's creative. It's beautifully shot and really gorgeous to look at. It's well-acted. From a director's standpoint, it's well-crafted. It's well-edited. It's almost guaranteed to win an Academy Award for Best Make-Up if there's any justice in the world (seriously, if this movie doesn't win that award, you'll find me on the roof screaming, "Can we have a civilization?!?". And it's damn sure ambitious. But the real question is, "is it any good?"

The short answer is, "I have no idea."

Yeah, you're going to need the long answer here. Cloud Atlas is really six separate but connected stories. The narrative flashes back and forth between stories as the connections between them, both thematic and literal, are slowly revealed. For the most part, the same group of actors appears in each story, some of them so disguised by make-up that I didn't recognize them until the montage during the credits that reveals exactly who was who (the make-up is so good that at one point Halle Berry plays an old, male, Asian doctor and I had no idea it was her). The stories take place at different points in time: one during the 19th century, one between World War I and World War II, one in the 1970's, one in 2012, one in the near future, and one in the not-so-near-future. Some stories work better than others; for my money, the one in the present day is the best one, as it features Jim Broadbent leading an escape from an old age home, while the one in the not-so-near-future, with it's slightly different and sometimes incomprehensible version of the English language probably fails the hardest.

The other place Cloud Atlas failed horribly, at least for me, is in the narrative character monologues that play over a lot of scene transitions. Their messages about life, love, fate, slavery, and whatever else the Wachowskis and the book's author were trying to get across are about as subtle as a jackhammer to the base of the skull. I don't know if they were trying to be extraordinarily overt with the monologues to make up for how closely you had to pay attention to the unspoken connections between the story, but they ended up riding two separate extremes instead of walking the balance.

As my oft-mentioned cohort Jabba, who joined me at an advance screening of the film last night, said in his surprisingly succinct review, "heavy-handed and self-indulgent... but great make-up effects."

He isn't wrong about anything he said, but that doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching. In fact, much like Inception, you probably have to watch it two or three times to really get your money's worth out of it... except, with a running time of 172 minutes, that's a bit of a taunting task.

Still, as a final word, see the movie. It's worth watching, to see what you get out of it.

And if you do see it. let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: Haunted

HauntedHaunted by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish this site allowed half-stars, because three stars feels like too few but four stars feels like not enough; I gave Invisible Monsters four stars, and this wasn't as good as that in my opinion, so I'm going with three here. The first thought I had when thinking about how to review this book is that I hope Chuck Palahniuk has weekly therapy sessions to talk about what goes on in his head, because my man has one scary-ass mindscape. This is one disturbing, bleak book in and of itself, and some of the short stories found within take words like "discomforting" and "gross" and "twisted" and "perverted" and takes them to whole new levels. Some of those short stories I really enjoyed, some I didn't; which is odd considering he doesn't change styles or voices when writing them to sort of set the narrators of them apart, so you'd expect them all to be as good, but some fell flat to me. I did enjoy the framing sequence as a whole though, especially the bit of a twist at the end that I didn't see coming. All told, though, I definitely would recommend this to other people... if only because I want you all to be as disturbed by it as I was!

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Just four days away from the six month mark, this was the fourteenth book in my Recommended Reading Challenge and the first time an author made a return appearance. Fourteen books in six months is pretty good; not the fastest pace I've ever been on, but still good. The Challenge has reached a problem, though; there's only two books left on it, The Fuck Up and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, neither of which I've been able to get my hands on... so I need more recommendations! Let's go, people!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Cruel Hand of Jabba

In my blog yesterday about the wedding trip, I made mention of my heterosexual life mate, Jabba, who has traditionally been the co-star of most of my greatest adventures. But it isn't all candy, rainbows, and whiskey with us... no, there's another side o our relationship. As Jabba himself put it yesterday, "despite being one of your best friends I will always find a way to mushroom stamp the things that you love." Where oh where do we begin with that?

First of all, I'm not going to explain what a mushroom stamp is. If you don't know, you can find out for yourself at Urban Dictionary.

Now, let's dive into a few examples.  First, there's Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man's first girlfriend. I've always been a fan of their love story, so much so that watching it play out in The Amazing Spider-Man this summer was a crystallizing moment for something in my life. She's the co-star of one of my favorite comic book stories, Spider-Man: Blue, a story I love so much I wrote a quite thorough blog about it once. She's a beloved character. Her death is one of the defining moments in comic book history... and since I've known him, Jabba has put forth the idea that she was a whore. So of course, a few years after he first posited it to me, a story came out in which it was revealed that she not only slept with the original Green Goblin, but she had two kids with him from that night of passion. Boy, did Jabba enjoy being right about that one; in fact, he enjoys it so much he brings it up every time her name pops up...

This illustrated Tommy Lee Jones love scene brought to you by Jabba the Black. Fuck you very much, Jabba.

Then there was the time my favorite author, Terry Brooks, had his own panel at the New York Comic-Con because he had written a graphic novel. He's been my favorite author since the seventh grade when the first book I read of his, The Talismans of Shannara, gave me my first inspiration to be a writer. In this panel, someone asked him about books that he loves, and he responded with The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley... a book that I find to be a complete bastardization of Arthurian legend in which Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot have a threesome. It is one of the three books I loathe most in the world... so of course hearing my favorite author praise it filled Jabba with unimaginable glee.

Wait a minute. Gwen... Guin... I'm starting to notice a pattern...

Then there was the time we went to see Return of the King in theaters on opening night and, right before the start of that three-hours-plus epic, he points out to me a flaw in the screen itself that I was then unable to take my eyes off for the entirety of the movie. Fuck you very much Jabba, again.

I mention these few instances out of many to preface a story I left out of the wedding blog yesterday. During the course of our time listening to Spotify in the hotel room, I introduced Jabba to Marianas Trench, a band I've been listening to a lot over the last few months who have a lot of songs I've really identified with lately. One such song is:

I really like that song. The female voice belongs to guest-star Kate Voegele. Now, Jabba was unimpressed with their music, so he took to the internet and did his thing. After all of a minute of research, he found that they've performed this song live with the bane of my existence, Carly Rae Jepsen, on numerous occasions. I hate that woman and her mindplague of a song, Call me Maybe, with the fiery heat of a thousand supernovas... but I let it slide, because sometimes you're on the road and you need a voice and they're all Canadian so whatever. But then Jabba dug just an iota deeper, and discovered that the band's lead singer, Josh Ramsay, not only has a co-writing credit on that accursed Call Me Maybe monstrosity, he's also the song's only producer.

So consider Marianas Trench mushroom-stamped.

Fuck you very much again, Jabba, you sour apple asshole!*

* said with grudging love, of course.