Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

White Wedding Weekend

Two weekends ago (or the weekend of October 5th, for those of you who need it spelled out for you), one of my closest friends got married in Connecticut. This, of course, required a trip to the aforementioned state, so on that Friday I joined my heterosexual lifemate Jabba on the MetroNorth. The two of us were splitting a hotel room for the weekend, something anyone who knows us could tell you would lead to some fun times. The surprisingly sober train ride saw us have some ridiculous conversations ranging from Avengers vs X-Men to Supernatural to Doctor Who (which took up the largest chunk of the conversation, which only makes sense when you consider the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey-ness of it) to my love life (the admittedly shortest part of the conversation; I seriously lost two different dates to this wedding. Who does that happen to??).

We even tried to fix my ridiculously malfunctioning, randomly deleting pictures on it's own phone, but that was beyond even the power of the great technopath I traveled with.

Once we arrived in the land time forgot, we hooked up with Renaldo, the lucky(?) groom, and went to the hotel, where, along with his best friend, we pounded two quick rounds of shots before checking in, dropping our shit off at the room, and heading off to rehearsal; Jabba was one of the groomsman and I, in my capacity as Reverend Jim, was doing a reading, so attendance was mandatory.

For the first time in print, Rev. Jim in da hizzouse!

After rehearsal, we popped back to the room for a few minutes, where I fiddled with my netbook, also known as the only piece of technology I own that is more temperamental than my phone, until I had it hooked up to the hotel wi-fi and had Spotify rocking the tunes. We then headed out to the rehearsal dinner, which was at a BBQ/soul food joint where I filled up on fried chicken, wings, rice, and macaroni and cheese... so this place was basically heaven for me, but with beer and wine instead of vodka and whiskey. So I guess it was more like purgatory. Whatever it was, it was delicious. Apparently the wine wasn't moving as fast as was expected because when the dinner ended, there were quite a few bottles left. Rather than leave poor Renaldo with all these bottles, Jabba and I liberated two of them and brought them back to our room, where they joined the bottle I had brought up with me.

Our own personal Three Wise Men...

There were plans to meet up with whoever was game in the hotel bar a half hour later, so with that time to kill, we decided to have a glass or two of wine in our room while we waited. For me, that involved pouring wine into a glass once or twice. For Jabba, it involved this:

Dionysius incarnated!

We headed down to the hotel bar, joined up with Renaldo and everyone else who felt like drinking and did a bunch of shots and had a few cocktails, including a Red Ice Martini... I can't remember what was in it, but as Ferris Bueller said, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." Or two. Or five.

After a sufficient amount of drinks, the two of us and Renaldo's sister decided to mosey out to the McDonald's we had seen a block away for some literal midnight snackage... but the McDonald's was closed. At midnight. On a Friday night.

Like I said: the land that time forgot.

We ended up with some sandwiches from Subway, which we took back to the room and devoured over wine and more ridiculous conversation. We were up drinking til around 2am, with the alarms set for 7am so we'd have plenty of time before the 10am wedding. Which was fairly stupid of us, because even though we woke up at 7am, we didn't get out of bed until around 8:45am anyway. We suited up, and it was off to the wedding.

Looking that good and being dateless is just a crime, folks.

The ceremony was lovely, and I don't just say that because the reverend doing the reading from Genesis was brilliant. The officiant was spitting some wisdom, especially when he drifted away from all the religious stuff and just got down with some life lessons. My only criticism is that at one point he said something about living together through joys and celebrations, trials and difficulties... it really should have been "joys and celebrations, trials and tribulations," just for the poetry of it all, but that's just the arrogant writer in me sticking his head out.

We were joined at the ceremony by our friend Jose, and later by more friends at the reception, which was just good fun. Some drinking, some eating, some dancing, you know, all the usual. I did see Renaldo cat-daddy, which is a sight I'll never forget. Then we did our trademark typewriter dance to close the show.

As the song goes, after the party was the after-party, as Jose, Jabba, and I grabbed some more vittles at McDonald's, which was actually open. There was also a bit of a confrontation with a guy who swore he was pissing blood and needed to get to a clinic, which actually got a five dollar bill from Jabba. Back in the room again, we ate, had some more wine, and watched the Cosby Show, a show so black that one point Jabba said, "this show is even too black for me." We did see the first appearance of Rudy's friend Kenny, a.k.a. Bud, which is a plot point to remember later.

"My brother says..."

Jabba was tired, but Jose and I were still feeling froggy at this point, so the two of us made our way back down to the hotel bar, where I enjoyed another Red Ice Martini. Seriously, you should get one. Now. After spending awhile down there talking to the cute bartender, I said we should get back up to the room and finish the wine we had; the bartender asked us what kind and when I said we had half a bottle of red and half a bottle of white left, she suggested we make our own sangria.

Which is exactly what we did. And then Jabba drank it out of the room's coffee pot.

It's like a mug in his hand. He's a drinking god.

We watched a bad movie on the SyFy channel (because, despite what Jabba says, there isn't any other kind of movie on the SyFy channel), then watched some other TV and drank sangria til we all fell asleep, first Jose, then Jabba, then me. At some point during the night... or morning, for all I know... Jose left; when we woke up, Jabba asked me when Jose left and my response was that I had no idea he left in the first place left. We shrugged, and proceeded to finish the sangria while Jabba ate a burger and apple pie he had left over from the night before as we googled Kenny from the Cosby Show, looking for memorable quotes and video clips and giggling to ourselves like Asian schoolgirls. And with that, our wedding weekend came to an end. We got dressed, packed, checked out, caught the train, and made our ways home. After a tiring weekend filled with fun and drinking, I was never so happy than to be back home in Maspeth, crashing in my own bed.

That was a happiness I got over fast!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: The First Confessor - The Legend of Magda Searus

The First Confessor (The Legend of Magda Searus, #1)The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I haven't been this disappointed in a book in a long, long time. I've been a devoted fan of Terry Goodkind and the Sword of Truth series for eleven years now. Some of the books in that series are easily my favorite books ever... and some of them, towards the end, drop off in quality considerably. Sadly, that trend continues here. The prose in this book is boring. What's worse than the boredom of it all, though, is the unending repetition. The same explanations are given page after page, chapter after chapter, as answered to the same questions asked over and over again by the same characters. As an intelligent reader, i found that not only did that cast the intelligence of the characters in a bad light, making them all seem dense at best and completely stupid at worst, I also found it insulting to my own intelligence. That much explanation to things... I'm talking pages and pages and pages... is just unnecessary and kills some of the more fanciful aspects of the story that don't actually have to be explained. The plot was also transparent, with everything about it easily predictable. The characters were cutout copies of Goodkind's earlier characters, and the love story was completely unemotional and unbelievable. And don't get me started on the inclusion of zombies... in short, there was absolutely nothing about this book I enjoyed.

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The Recommended Reading Challenge hits thirteen books with this very, very bad reading experience. I need more books, people!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Does Arrow Hit the Bullseye?

Arrow premiered last night, and was the last of three new shows I was giving a chance this season to do so. The first, Revolution, passed with flying colors. The second, 666 Park Avenue, was a hideous failure. So where does that leave our tiebreaker?

Squarely in the middle. For me, Arrow didn't quite hit the bullseye, as it has its share of problems, but it definitely stuck one of the inner rings on the target. Let's talk about those problems first. This one might just be mine, but the show is based on the Green Arrow comic, right? He's an archer like in the comic, and he's still wearing green. They make it a point to mention the green a few times in the first episode... so why the hell isn't the show called Green Arrow?!?

Arrow?? What the fuck is that??
That little pet peeve aside, the biggest problem the show faces is that it falls into a lot of cliches in it's premiere. Some of them are unavoidable, as most superhero origins are cliches to begin with; this one has presumed dead main character returning, a dead parent with a mysterious pass, an angry cop who is tied in to not just the hero but his alter ego, a spurned love interest, a shady still-living parent and her new husband, a possibly shady best friend... the cliches go on and on. Which isn't actually a bad thing. Cliches get to be cliches for a reason: they work. But in small doses, and only if you eventually take the cliche and make it your own. So the cliches themselves might not be the biggest problem but the fact that Green Arrow's cliches so closely mirror Batman's cliches that the comparisons are impossible to avoid... and mere months after the release of The Dark Knight Rises, impossible to stack up favorably against.

Well, that, and the hackneyed and horribly delivered narration that occasionally pops up. They need to get rid of that with a quickness.

So what strengths does the show have? The action was a lot of fun. The cast, filled with people I don't know by name but have liked in plenty of other things (with the exception of Katie Cassidy; how could anyone NOT know her by name??), put in good performances and work well together. And there are enough mysteries to keep you interested. Plus, it's on the CW, and they never cancel anything... look at Smallville, that thing was on the air for a damn decade... so you know you won't be left hanging before the mysteries get solved. All in all, Arrow was good enough to keep me watching.

Although Arrow wasn't the only new show I tried watching last night. You see, I've always loved Connie Britton; from The Brothers McMullen to Spin City to starring in one of the best shows of the last decade, Friday Night Lights, I've always found her to be a wonderfully talented and captivating actress. So, for her, I tried watching Nashville.

Everyone makes mistakes, folks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's Halloween Marathon Time Again!

The weather is getting colder. The leaves are changing colors. It's October... and that means it's time for one of my favorite holidays: Halloween! As I covered in a few posts last year, I love Halloween.

I already have a costume (or two, depending on how many times I go out this year!) picked out. And, like every year, it's time for me to start planning my Halloween Marathon. This is where I set aside a block of time, usually around sixteen hours, and watch nothing but Halloween-themed programming, both movies and TV shows. There are some favorites I watch every year: the movie Trick'r'Treat is always involved, as is one of the three Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plus It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and Garfield's Halloween Adventure. That gives me three hours, folks, but that leaves me needing like 13 hours more... so this is where you come in! I'm looking for suggestions for movies or TV episodes to help me complete the list. Keep in mind, though, I don't just want horror movies. They have to be Halloween-themed... and not the Halloween movies, either; they're just too obvious! For an idea of what I'm looking for, here's a link to the post last year that gives you the full list of what I watched. So if you have any ideas, share away!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

666 Park Avenue: An Address You Can Skip

The television industry, much like movies and music and every other entertainment industry, is cyclical. Trends rise and fall and then rise again ten or fifteen years later. Every now and then, a show comes along that bucks the trends... before inevitably getting subsumed into them. Lost was such a show. It was definitely outside the paradigm (pronounced pa-ra-dig-um, folks). It was unique in its time; so what happened? Lost clones popped up everywhere. Shows like Threshold, Invasion, and Surface that presented mystery after mystery with only a few vague clues and even fewer answers popped up everywhere for years. Most of them failed miserably as the trend that Lost inspired faded, and a new trend arose: shows that had mysteries like Lost did but that gave us answers in a timely fashion; shows like FlashForward and Happytown both solved their main mystery by the end of the first season, even though they got canceled on cliffhangers after that. Once Upon a Time did the same thing, but it thrives. Now, shows with mysteries are providing us with answers even faster: this season alone has seen the pilot of Revolution reveal some pretty big answers right away, and even though it hasn't dropped yet, the producers of Arrow have said they give away more in the first episode than anyone would expect. That, then, brings me to Sunday night's first episode of 666 Park Avenue.

I wanted to give this a shot because, well, the name obviously employs something sinister and evil going on, and it stars Terry O'Quinn, who is usually pretty damn awesome. So, how did it go? Right in the very first scene of the first episode, we're pretty much shown that O'Quinn's character, Gavin Doran, is probably Satan.

So now that I know that almost for sure, why should I keep watching? I know. Maybe it'll be engaging and well-acted. After all, one of Lost's main points was that the answers don't matter, the journey to those answers is what counts (something I explain in detail in my blog about the show's finale... cheap plug!)

The problem with that logic is, at least in this first episode, Gavin Doran is the most bland, boring, monotone Satan I've ever seen in my life. I prefer my Satans in media to be more engaging, suave, and gleeful in their evil, like Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, or even the Lucifer in season five of Supernatural. This guy was just boring, like he was just in a zen-like state of being completely disengaged from everything around him... and the rest of the cast seemed like they were taking their cue from him, because absolutely no one was showing any real sparks of talent... or even life. Which doesn't really surprise me, because other than O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams, who has never been the shining pinnacle of talent, I've never heard of anyone in the show.

Well, except for Rachael Taylor, who was the chick with the Australian accent in Transformers. You know, because being in that movie means you're talented enough to headline a cast, right?

I feel your pain, Prime.
Long story short? This is the first of the three new shows I was curious about this season that I'm dropping, and the first show I hope gets canceled. And I won't be surprised if it does, so you probably shouldn't put this address on your trick'or'treat route...

Wow. I didn't stick that landing at all, did I?