Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Movie List 2012: August

* = rewatched


Hot Rod

A misfit stuntman tries to raise money for his dying stepfather.

Genre: Wonderfully Silly Comedy

Yeah, that's right, I watched this one again. One of my friends had never seen it and that seemed like something that needed to be rectified. I already talked about this one back when I watched it in January [ML2012 #13], but I can muster up some more.

I love this movie because I find it to be a perfect amount of silly. Unlike something like Zoolander which opens the flood gates of ridiculousness and never shuts off the valve, Hot Rod's silliness ebbs and flows. It moves between quirky and silly, hilarious and heart felt. And that just makes it all the funnier, because then you get laughs coming out of unexpected situations. I love the little quiet moments in the movie that come right before its best jokes.

What can I say? It's a little dumb, extremely silly, and it makes me laugh every time.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil

A blind man and a deaf man are suspects in a murder investigation. If they want to get out of this mess alive they're going to have to solve the case and clear their names by themselves.

Genre: 80's Buddy Comedy

If you were to tell me there was a new movie coming out about a blind man and a deaf man who try to solve a murder, I would tell you that that sounds like a terrible idea. And you know what? If this movie was made today, it would suck out loud. Yet this movie's from 1989 and guess what? It's brilliant.

First of all look at the main characters: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. If I had never seen this movie before I would watch it just to see what that team-up was like (hint: it's hilarious). Not only are they both amazing comedians in their own right, but I love that they're so different. They have very unique styles and yet they work well together. It makes their characters seem all the more like real people, unlike movies where the writer's style is omnipresent across all the characters' voices.

The weird thing is I first saw this movie as a kid and I enjoyed it just as much then as I do now. But when I was a kid I definitely didn't notice how raunchy it is, and by raunchy I mean they make a few jokes about sex and erections, and like so many 80's comedies there's a scene of some naked boobs as well. Yet none of it is gratuitous: it all makes a lot of sense within the context of the scene.  And that's one of the things I like about it. I mean adults make references to those things, they exist, it makes sense for such things to pop up from time to time.

It's funny, and it stars two infamous comedians, and with a premise like this you can't tell me you aren't a little bit curious.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The story of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and their divine quest to find the holy a manner of speaking.

Genre: Classic British Comedy

First of all, this movie is comedically brilliant. It's so insanely clever and the scenes in it are all so memorable.

But therein lies the problem. This was the first time I had seen this movie in many, many years and yet I think I could still reconstruct this movie for someone nearly scene for scene, nearly joke for joke. I probably have to blame this on the fact that when I was a kid people would not stop quoting this movie. I mean, yes, Monty Python is brilliant, but come on. There are other brilliant things out there. Let's quote something else for a while. And before you say it, Yes, I do realize that I'm being a total hypocrite because I'm always quoting The Simpsons.  But at least I quote The Simpsons and others. I swear there were some kids in high school who would quote this thing exclusively.

Now, why am I talking about this crap, instead of the movie? Because it's frickin' Monty Python and the Holy Grail! A frighteningly large number of kids found this movie to be so funny that they quoted it for years and years. I shouldn't have to say anything about classic movies, because you should have all seen them already. I mean, what's next? First you want me to tell you about Holy Grail, then next thing I know you'll be wanting me to tell you all about A Charlie Brown Christmas. I feel like an idiot sitting here and telling you these things. If you haven't seen this movie by now, I doubt I'm going to convince you to now.

It's a very funny movie, freakishly memorable, and I doubt I'll ever own it because I can remember the entire thing and thus generally have no reason to watch it.

Ernest Goes to Jail

Ernest P. Worrell is a lovable loser, but when he gets called for jury duty the crook on trial realizes that Ernest is the perfect double for the prison's most notorious inmate. The look-a-like manages to swap places with Ernest, and now he's got to find a way to get out of jail before that crook can hurt the people Ernest cares about.

Genre: Silly-Dumb Kids' Movie

Most of the things I said about Ernest Goes to Camp can be said about this one as well. Jim Varney is the sole reason to watch this movie. Pretty much all the other characters are annoying or bland...or annoying & bland. But Jim Varney makes me laugh. Even if he's doing some dumb slapstick bit that's obviously aiming at children, I still have to smile a little because he's so expressive while doing it.

I know I railed on Ernest Goes to Camp a little bit, but this one made me appreciate it more. Ernest Goes to Camp had a lot more characters for Ernest to bounce off of, a much bigger story, and a better backstory for Ernest. In Camp Ernest wants to be a camp counselor and that makes a lot of sense: He likes kids, he likes helping people, and he likes being trusted with important jobs. However, in Ernest Goes to Jail he dreams of being a banker...and I honestly can't figure out why. It really doesn't fit his character at all. Plus there are a number of bits in Goes to Jail that are just odd. It seems like a lot of stuff was shoved in willy-nilly. Lots of odd plot things too, like Ernest gets magnetized when he gets shocked with electricity? Why? Oh, because you needed to fill up some space with easy jokes, and you needed a deus ex machina in order to set-up the ending.

So, yeah, it definitely is far from the best. And yet, I did enjoy the movie. I just couldn't help myself. While most of it is pretty bland and dumb, there are a number of scenes that are just pure genius. I mean, there's a scene where Ernest is in the jury box listening to the case as he chews on a pen, and the pen breaks, and he's trying desperately to look nonchalant as he's got ink everywhere; it cracks me up so hard. The scenes like that one were just priceless, you guys. Priceless.

Back to the Future II

Doc Brown returns from the future to tell Marty that his future family is in danger. But when their time machine falls into the wrong hands, Marty and the Doc must travel all over time to set things right.

Genre: Time-travel Comedy Sequel

Back to the Future II is no Back to the Future. That's not to say that it isn't a fun movie, but it is to say that the original was a masterpiece and this one's...this one's a sequel. It definitely has that feeling of trying to cash in on the notoriety of the first one. Lot's of homages to past scenes and what not.

Anyways, it's still a really fun movie. And like the first one it's quite dark. When Marty and the Doc fracture the timeline, they end up creating a pretty dark world. It's kind of like a kid-friendly The Butterfly Effect in a way.

But I don't know. It's a really odd movie, and there really aren't any sequels like it. Part of it seems like a superfluous cash-in on a popular franchise, part of it cleverly weaves itself into an extension of the first movie, and part of it seems like an original dark-yet-kid-friendly story about time travel gone wrong.

I think what it comes down to is that if you liked Back to the Future, you'll probably enjoy this movie too. It won't impress you as much as the original did, but you'll get a kick out of it. If nothing else you'll enjoy references to the original as well as the 1980's view of the future which is hilariously off base. It's like the 80s on space steroids. I laughed out loud when they show that the house of the future is still using fax machines.

Hope Springs

An old married couple go to couple's counseling in order to try to bring intimacy back into their marriage.

Genre: Senior Citizen Romantic Drama

I know this is a bit of a cop out, but I don't think I'm qualified in any way to rate this movie. I am so very clearly outside of its target audience. I'm not a senior citizen and I have extremely limited relationship experience, let alone marriage, let alone 30+ years of marriage. Considering those are the main themes of the movie I think its safe to say that I can't relate. So who am I to judge it when I have no idea how well it handled those themes?

I will, however, say that this movie is a lot less funny than the trailer depicted it as. I mean, sure it has its comedic moments, but overall this movie is a pretty heavy drama. It also discusses sexual topics much more than I was expecting. Both of which seem like things people should know about it. I mean, at the theater I work at we had a family come in who apparently didn't realize what kind of a movie it was and they brought their 10 year old along for. Surprisingly they actually made it 40 minutes into the movie before they walked out; and you can bet they had to field some rather interesting questions on the ride home.

The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, and by "stars" I mean that they're practically the only actors in it. Sure there's a couple people here and there, and Steve Carell has some bits, but really Jones and Streep carry most of the movie by themselves. And as you'd expect they do a great job.

I will also say that although Streep's character is supposed to be the most sympathetic one, I personally found Jones' character to be the more sympathetic one. Streep's character did a lot whining, but it seemed that she was equally to blame and yet that fact was often glossed over.

So yeah, I don't know. I saw it because it was free and I was in the mood to see a movie. And it was kind of interesting and mostly enjoyable. So mission accomplished.


Norman is a young boy who can talk to ghosts. This, however, makes him come off as crazy to rest of the world who can't. Yet, now the dead are rising from their graves and Norman is the only one who can save the town from its haunting past.

Genre: Claymated Supernatural Adventure

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it contained a ton of elements that I like: zombies, the supernatural, claymation, jokes. Plus I had heard some really positive things about it and I was really curious to see what it was like. It far exceeded my expectations. Not only is the movie super cute, but the messages behind it are wonderful. It takes the plot in some directions I didn't see coming. The movie is kind of like what you'd get if you combined The Goonies, Doctor Who, and Hocus Pocus.

The only real complaint I have is that the art is both amazingly original and occasionally distracting. For instance I love the art style going on in the movie, and since claymation is so rare, it was a breath of fresh air seeing something done in clay, but not done in Burton or even Aardman's styles. And with that being said, the way a couple of the female characters have the most unnatural heads I have ever seen. I tried to look past it, but I couldn't. It is just bizarre. I can't even describe them properly. But if you watch the movie you'll see what I mean.

Similarly the animation was both amazing and slightly lazy. The action scenes were smooth, they took chances, they incorporated some really amazing effects, and they were just an absolute pleasure to watch. And yet a lot of the slower scenes seemed like they weren't being animating with as many frames and thus they seemed a little choppy. And choppy animation always slightly ruins the illusion of animation by reminding the viewer of the process. I don't really mind because I find the process fascinating, but I can see why it'd be a significant bother to some people.

I don't want to end this review on me complaining, so once again I'd like to say how much I love this movie. I saw it weeks ago and yet I've still got scenes from it replaying in my mind, and imagery bouncing around my imagination. It works on multiple levels and I think adults will enjoy it just as much as kids. If I get a chance I'd like to see it in theaters again, because some of those scenes looked so great on the big screen.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Timecard Typography: Jan-Sep 2012

You may recall that I try to write my name on my theater timecard in a different style every time we get new ones. However, this year I've been absolutely terrible at remembering to take pictures of them. It hasn't helped that with my other jobs I've had a lot less hours over there. But regardless of my excuses, I don't have picture of over half the ones from this year. I really need to start carrying my camera with me wherever I go.

I always hate to lose a timecard to the ether, but those are the breaks. What's really sad is that most of the ones I do have were taken on my phone, and my phone takes terrible pictures. And I just got a new phone recently and apparently it takes unusably terrible pictures (guess which photo it is!)

But without further ado, here they are.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 13

* = reread
GN = Graphic Novel or Comic Anthology
CB = Children's Book

I Suck at Girls
by. Justin Halper

The man behind Sh*t My Dad Says recounts the humorous history of his relationships with women over the years.

You've heard about Sh*t My Dad Says, right? It's that popular twitter account wherein Justin Halper quotes all the hilarious things his dad says. It was such a big thing that they even made a terrible TV show out of it starring William Shatner?

Anyways, when I heard that he had a non-Sh*t My Dad Says book out, I was curious to see if he had any talent, or if his only talent was quoting his father. And as it turns out he does have some talent.

Although if I'm going to be honest then I have to admit that the best parts of this book are by far the parts about his father. But I quite enjoyed the other parts as well. He's brutally honest about his forays with women even when that means telling terribly embarrassing stories about himself.

Sadly, if I'm still being honest here, I have to admit that I found his terribly embarrassing stories with women to be all too relatable...

...although his story ends with him being married...

...well played, Mr. Halper. Well played.

Every day for the next two weeks, my dad went to work at six in the morning so he could leave early, come home, and give me a driving lesson before sunset. He began each lesson by announcing a theme for the day. Among them were “A car is a murder weapon,” “Announce your presence with fucking authority,” and my personal favorite: “Your mother is bleeding to death.”

He said this late one afternoon as I pulled the truck out of the driveway. “If the shit goes down and you need to be across town in ten minutes without breaking the law, it?” he added, lifting his eyebrows.

“I would just call 911 if that happened.”

“Right. That's a fair point. But just bear with me, okay?”

“Okay, but that's not the kind of driving I'm going to have to do for the test.”

“No. But I'm not teaching you to pass the test. I'm teaching you how to drive. Driving is not always a stroll through the woods with your pants down. Now, I want you get from here to Clairemont in less than ten minutes. No illegal shit.”

“Clairemont's ten miles away. I don't--”

“Clock starts in three, two, one!” he yelled, looking at his watch.

“Dad. This is not a helpful driving lesson.”

“Nine fifty-nine, nine fifty-eight, nine-fifty seven, CLOCK IS RUNNING GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!”
pg- 57-58

Comedy of Doom
by. Joseph Scrimshaw

A collection of comedy writing relating to the wide world of geekdom.

To me, the word “geek” is sort of like Luke Skywalker going into the dark cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. The only things it means are the things you bring with you.
pg 6

Right off the bat if you're on Twitter you should be following Joseph Scrimshaw. He is one of my absolute favorite tweeters. Seriously, do yourself a favor and follow him.

I first learned about him when I saw his play Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical and I've been keeping tabs on him since. So when I learned of his Kickstarter to get a book made I was all over that.

And the book did not disappoint. So if you love geeky things like Dr. Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, D&D, and the like, then I strongly recommend you check this book out. I mean just look at some of the chapter's titles: “Emotional Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse,” “Sense and Seven Minutes in Heaven,” “Super Mario Subtext,” “Literature with Emoticons,” “Dystopian Kegger,” and “You Are An Awful Human Being!”

If you read those and find yourself intrigued than this is definitely the book for you.

I would like to introduce you to my favorite television show exactly as it was introduced to me. Imagine one day, your older brother tells you this guy at school says there’s an awesome science fiction show that plays every Friday and Saturday night on the Sesame Street channel.

You had no idea the Sesame Street channel even broadcast after 10 a.m., but you and your brother stay up late and tune in. Like literally tune in. You have to turn a PHYSICAL dial and adjust AN ANTENNA. Like you’re a steampunk or something.

Suddenly the opening credits come on. You are flying down a tunnel. It’s disturbingly similar to the video you saw in health class of a camera traveling through a urethra. The music is creepy, cool, and funny all at the same time, like if Al Yankovic wrote the music for your funeral. Then you watch as monsters come on the screen. Monsters outfitted with guns, toilet plungers, and bumps that look like the robot version of an STD outbreak. They match wits with a charming man whose nose is so large he would not be allowed on American television unless he was playing a serial killer or perhaps a defense attorney. You watch again on Saturday night and see an entirely different charming man with an entirely different giant nose.

And you wonder: What the hell is this?
pg 11-12

The Rise and Fall of the Bible:
The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
by. Timothy Beal

A look the history of the bible and of people's perception of the bible.

Many will be surprised to realize that there never has been a time when we could really talk about the Bible in the singular. There is no such thing as the Bible in that sense, and there never has been. The Bible has always been a legion, a multiplicity of forms and contents, with no original to be found. In the early Judaism and Christianity, there were many different scrolls and codices, variously collected and shared in many different versions, with no standard edition. Even in the early centuries of the print era, after Gutenberg, we find a burgeoning Bible-publishing industry with literally thousands of different editions and versions. The difference between Bible publishing then and now is a matter of degree more than kind.
pg 22

I think a lot of people assume I'm an Atheist for some reason, but I'm not. So to set the record straight I would label myself as a Christian Humanist. I'm not sure if that's a real designation, but it feels right. I believe Jesus was divine, not in the sense that he was the son of God, but in the sense that his actions and his ideals represent one of the purest distillations of what makes humanity divine. Likewise I don't believe the bible is a literal rulebook from the mouth of God, but instead just a book of ideas and metaphors that can be used to make sense of the world.

I came across this book at work while sorting the New Book shelf at the library. And it caught my eye. “The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book”. Since I've always thought it bizarre that anyone could think of the bible as the word of God, when it was edited and compiled by a bunch of biased people, I decided I should put my knowledge where my mouth is and see what the actual history of the book was.

In short, the book really is quite fascinating. It isn't a very long book and wasn't as thorough as I would have hoped, but it is fascinating. It talks not only about the history of the book, but also the history of the perceptions of it. And there are all sorts of fascinating ideas in here. Regardless of your religion the bible has had and continues to have a huge impact on the world and I would definitely recommend you give the book a gander if only to gain an idea about its history and the history of people's perceptions of it.

While I would've liked a large academic book on the subject, I've gotta admit that the lighter engaging style of this book is perfect for an introduction to the subject. It's short and interesting and I would recommend you give it a look.

Likewise when John of Patmos, in an ancient attempt at divine copyright protection written at the end of the book of Revelation (aka the Apocalypse of John), promises plagues of apocalyptic proportions for anyone who dares change a thing in “this book”:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book [biblion]: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person's share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18—19)

This passage is often used to argue that the Bible claims its own authority, that its perfect inerrancy is built in, and that messing with even one jot or tittle of it is grounds for damnation. But just because this writing, originally a scroll (biblion, like the scroll of Isaiah that Jesus read), eventually ended up as the last book of the New Testament and thus the Christian Bible doesn't mean that its warning here refers to the whole Bible. This scroll (a more accurate and less misleading translation) circulated independently for hundreds of years before it was bound together in a big book along with what eventually became the Christian canon of Scripture. Indeed, its inclusion in the canon was a matter of dispute among many Christian leaders well into the fourth century. And its author could never have even imagined such a thing as the Bible. Not even in his wildest dreams. And some of his dreams were wild indeed, including one in which an angel hands him a little scroll, not to read but to eat. No, this earning refers not to the Bible but to this particular text.
pg 107

by. Todd Bass

A collection of poems.

A Waltz for the Lovelorn

Like foot-worn wooden floors
that ache in common places,
the hearts of the lovelorn groan

as, through their paces, again
and again their roomers pass.
Isn't there a music—strings—

in the way an old floor sings?
And oh, but to leave our porches
and step into the grass! to bear

on our shoulders no more
than moonlight, and to settle,
suspended awhile!—to smile

at the weightlessness of things—
as children do,
               on swings—
pg 106

Do I really need to say anything about a book of poems? Poetry is a lot more about personal taste than prose. But personally, I loved this one. Personally I'd strongly recommend you go out and read it post-haste. Personally, I'll tell you that it single-handedly made me feel better when I was having a terrible day. But hey, that's just me.

Although you should know that his poems about love are some of the sweetest things ever. So take from that what you will. Here's another example of his poetry for you.

My Love for You Is So Embarrassingly

grand...would you mind terribly, my groundling,
if I compared it to the Hindenburg (I mean,
before it burned)—that vulnerable, elephantine

dream of transport, a fabric Titanic on an ocean
of air? There: with binoculars, dear, you can
just make me out, in a gondola window, wildly

flapping both arms as the ship's shadow
moves like a vagrant country across the
country where you live in relative safety. I pull

that oblong shadow along behind me wherever
I go. It is so big, and goes so slowly, it alters
ground temperature noticeably, makes

housewives part kitchen curtains, wrings
whimpers from German shepherds. Aren't I
ridiculous? Isn't it anachronistic, this

dirigible devotion, this Zeppelin affection, a moon
that touches, with a kiss of wheels, the ground
you take for granted beneath your heels?— 
pg 60

The Long Earth
by. Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

What would happen if there was an endless frontier? Infinite resources and space? Well the world starts finding out when it discovers a new technology called The Stepper that allows them to step into a seemingly endless chain of worlds. An infinity of Earths. And yet Joshua doesn't need the technology, because he is a natural stepper. But in this brave new world of endless land, this makes him a little too well known and certain powerful players want to use his abilities for their own ends.

Terry Pratchett may be my favorite author, but I was a little leery about this one, because of his last team-up: the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman team-up of Good Omens. So, as you can imagine, I went into this one with reserved expectations. And now I have to feel bad about that because this book was pretty amazing.

What really took me by surprise was the fact that the book really doesn't focus on the main storyline at all. The true nature of the book is to explore the idea of the Long Earth and that wonderful Science Fiction question of "What if?" If anything the Long Earth is the main character and Joshua is merely a tool used to help us explore that character. While Joshua is prominent within the story, many parts of the book aren't about him at all, and instead choose to show us some new aspect of this fascinating world.

At first I wasn't entirely sure how to respond to this decision and was confused why the book didn't simply follow Joshua exclusively. But as the book went on I found myself loving this approach, because it allows the book to address all the fascinating ideas and question that arise out of this world. What if humanity had all the land it could ever want? What would life be like on the frontiers of these new worlds, how would they be policed, what would the journeys across thousands of worlds be like, how do the worlds differ? What kind of creatures exist on these worlds? How would humanity handle the differences between Natural Steppers, Assisted Steppers, and Non-Steppers?

And really that's what makes the book so fascinating. I've really got to give it to these authors because the way they structured their story is really satisfying and it really invests you into this fascinating idea. I've also gotta say that this partnership really works well. I think the elements of Stephen Baxter were able to give the story that anchor into reality and hard science, while the elements of Terry Pratchett give a sense of fun and wonder. And they really compliment each other wonderfully.

The biggest gripe I can come up with is that there better be a sequel in the works, because this one ends on a cliffhanger and it would be terribly cruel to end things that way.

Earths, untold Earths. More Earths than could be counted, some said. And all you had to do was walk sideways into them one after the next, an unending chain.

This was a source of immense irritation for experts such as Professor Wotan Ulm of Oxford University. “All these parallel Earths,” he told BBC, “are identical on all but the detailed level. Oh, save that they are empty. Well, actually they are full, mainly of forests and swamps. Big, dark, silent forests, deep clinging, lethal swamps. But empty of people. The Earth is crowded, but the Long Earth is empty. This is tough luck on Adolf Hitler, who hasn't been allowed to win his war anywhere.”

It is hard for scientists even to talk about the Long Earth without babbling about m-brane manifolds and quantum multiverses. Look: perhaps the universe bifurcates every time a leaf falls, a billion new branches every instant. That's what quantum physics seems to tell us. Oh, it is not a question of a billion realities to be experience, the quantum states superimpose, like harmonics on a single violin string. But perhaps there are times—when you can get a separate experimental reality,a braid of quantum threads. And perhaps these braids are then drawn together through some high dimension by similarity, and a chain of worlds, self-organizes. Or something! Maybe it is all a dream, a collective imagining of mankind.

pg 7

145.* [CB]
The Dangerous Alphabet
by. Neil Gaiman
illustrated by. Chris Crimly

An Alphabet Book about two children and their pet gazelle who journey into a world of dangerous pirates and monsters.

I bought this book at a Borders because it was going out of business and it was really cheap. But it was a pretty fun find. I always love when kids' book get a little dark. The rhymes are clever and the art is really interesting and it's a kids' alphabet book so really you can't ask for much more than that.

G is for Good, as in hero, and Morning;

H is for “Help me!"—a cry and a warning;

I am the author who scratches theses rhymes;

J is the joke monsters make of their crimes.

146. [CB]
Action Alphabet
by. Marty Neumeier & Byron Glaser

A typographical alphabet book.

As you may know, I'm interested in typography. I'm not in deep enough to be able to tell you what some specific font is, but deep enough to be annoyed at bad ones. Anyways, I stumbled across a kids' book that was said to feature the alphabet using interesting typography. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

This was a mistake. This book is terrible...and that's saying something because it's an alphabet book so there's really not all that much of it. The crux of it is they have their letter, then they have a word that starts with that letter, and they'll use that letter in such a way to have acting out that word. Like I think for N the word was Net and then they showed a net made out of a bunch of N's. Unfortunately (luckily) I can't really remember most of them, because the majority of them were powerfully stupid.

The worst part is that this could have been really cool! For each letter you could show off an element of typography that starts with that letter. Or you could feature a font that starts with that letter, maybe with an interesting and fitting background? Like C could be Courier and the picture for that page would be a typewriter with the word Courier typed out on the page. I dunno, there's a million fun things you could do with this, but instead they made this and heaven help them.

In short, to read this book would be a...

Mm: Mistake

A Swift Pure Cry
by. Siobhan Dowd

A teenage girl in Ireland finds herself pregnant and with no one to turn to.

You may recall that I had some very nice things to say about the book A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness [BL 2012 #107]. You may also recall that the idea for A Monster Calls was Siobhan Dowd's, but that she died before she got a chance to write it. Since I had gone and read something else by Patrick Ness I figured I should read something by Siobhan Dowd as well.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. On one hand I thought the revelation at the end was entirely predictable and the main character wasn't very relatable. But on the other hand there were a ton of bizarre things that happen that kept me wondering where on Earth the story was going. And in the end I found myself curious enough to keep on reading. The best way I can put it is that the story isn't that great, but it's told very well. And for a short book like this one, that can be fine.

The place brought to mind a sinking ship. Wood creaked on the floor, across the pews, up in the gallery. Around the walls, a fierce March wind chased itself.

The congregation launched into the Our Father as if every last soul was going down. Heaven. Bread. Trespass. Temptation. The words whisked past Shell's ears like rabbits vanishing into their holes. She tried wriggling her nose to make it slimmer. Evil. Mrs McGrath's hat lurched in front of her, its feather looking drunk: three-to-one odds it would fall off. Declan Ronan, today's altar boy, was examining the tabernacle, licking his lips with half-shut eyes. Whatever he was thinking, it wasn't holy.
pg 3

The Future of Us
by. Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

It's 1996 and two friends find themselves able to log onto a strange website called Facebook. What's really weird is that people are on there with their names and faces...except 20 years older. Now these friends have a way of peering into the future, but it seems the future has ways of drastically changing how they see the present.

Okay, I had to read this one based on the premise alone, because that sounds so many kinds of ridiculous. But, yeah, it really isn't very good. I mean it's terribly predictable and cliched.

So instead I will complain about this book's incessant need to describe a million and one things that you don't need to know. I think they felt that you might forget that this was the 90s, so they insist on pointing out a ton of 90s things. She grabs her Discman, they're watching Seinfeld, oh now someone's listening to Nirvana. In any normal book you'd probably make a vague reference to what's on the radio or TV, but not here! And if that wasn't enough the authors have a ton of additional details beyond references. Take this for example, I grab another slice of pizza and transfer it onto my plate. Why wouldn't you just write: I grab another slice of pizza? Why does the plate matter? Hell, why not take it even further? I grab another slice of pizza with my right hand and transfer it onto my plate then promptly bring the plate nearer to my mouth so as to prevent any accidental spills on my clothes. The reader can fill in the basic details, folks! You don't need to hold our hand through everything. Jimminy Christmas, I think people know how people eat pizza.

To be fair I should mention that I'm extremely biased against this book. I'm biased because this book had the gall to write this:

“His eyes notice something behind me, and then he tosses up his hands in exasperation. "I told the interns not to leave empty carts near the copy machine. People set their books there and don't return them to the shelves.”
pg 124


WHAT THE F*CK!? Have you ever been in a library before? Librarians do not, I repeat, DO NOT want people to reshelve the books themselves. You will see signs all over libraries begging people not to try to reshelve the books themselves. In fact most libraries put empty carts near the copy machines explicitly because they want people to set their books there and not try to return them to the shelves. Why? #1 Because most people don't know the organizational systems well enough and put things back wrong, and #2 Because it gives the library an idea of what books people are looking at in the library.



So...anyways. This book is kind of dumb.

We're eating on TV trays while watching Seinfeld. They record it on the VCR every Thursday and then watch it on Sunday night. I grab another slice of pizza and transfer it onto my plate.

149. [GN]
Animal Man, vol 1:
The Hunt
by. Jeff Lemire
pencils by. Travel Foreman

Buddy Baker, a former superhero, has the ability to borrow the abilities of the animals. His daughter Maxine has started to show similar abilities, but her powers are exponentially beyond anything he's capable of. Now a wicked primeval force has taken notice. It's out to capture and corrupt her to gain her power and Buddy is the only one who can protect his daughter long enough for her to learn to control her powers...or can he?

This is the first trade paperback from the new Animal Man series. It's part of DC's New 52.

(For those of you who don't follow comic news, DC Comics revamped a bunch of their series in an attempt to give new readers a place to start without needing to know years and years of back story.)

I had heard a lot of talk about this one. Plus it's written by Jeff Lemire and as you know I've been all over his work recently (Tales from the Farm [BL2012 #89], Sweet Tooth [BL2012 #91], The Nobody [BL2012 #129]. So I figured I'd give it a try it out and DAMN.

It was definitely not what I was expecting. Jeff Lemire has managed to make one of the world's dumbest super heroes fascinating. It's a fantasy story with an epic scope. And what's more it's dark. It is so insanely dark! You've got a little girl reanimating people's decomposing dead pets and turning people's arms into chicken legs. You've got hippos giving birth to hideous flesh monsters. Buddy Baker's over there bleeding from his eyes. I mean DAMN! It's like The Thing crossed with The Fly up in here. Travel Foreman does a killer job on the imagery. Top notch stuff.

I've got a copy of this book ordered at my local comic book shop, because I've gotta own this thing. I mean dark fantasy crossed with super heroes? You know I'm all for that.

“Come on, daddy, it's time to go!”

“Maxine!? Go? Go where?”

“You'll see. But we gotta hurry, before they follow us again.”

“Who? Who's following us, Maxine?”

“The bad things that dress as men. The hunters.”

“Wait up, sweetie. We need to slow down...figure this out.”

“No time for that, daddy. You need to shut off your brain. Be an animal like me and Mr. Woofers. It's the only way to survive out here.”

“Oh, God! Maxine, wait, don't go in there...

...that's blood!”

“Well, of course it is, silly. Where else would we hide? Don't worry, we just need to follow the tree and we'll be okay. Look.”

“Huh!? What's happened to me?”

“It's them. Too late. We're all going to die now.

“But--what...what are they?



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Movie List 2012: July

* = rewatched

The Pirates!
Band of Misfits

A group of misfit pirates learn the power of the Dodo as they battle Charles Darwin and the Queen of England.

Genre: Aardman claymation comedy

I don't see as many movies in theaters as I'd like to, but on my birthday I generally make a point of treating myself and seeing all the movies that strike my fancy. This year I ended up seeing 3 of them and this was the first.

Generally I'm pretty biased due to being exposed to brilliant Aardman things like Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit at a young age and thus have a soft spot for stop-motion animation. Although I'll be the first to admit that most of Aardman Animation's new stuff hasn't been my cup of tea. However, the trailer for this one had some funny parts and it was playing at the sub-run theater where tickets are only $2, so why not.

Perhaps it was because my expectations were so low, but this movie was definitely a lot better than I was expecting it to be. It's irreverent, and fun, and best of all it doesn't mind being silly for the heck of it.

Not to mention that the voice acting was surprisingly good. Generally I hate when movies get big name actors to do the voices, because big-name actors aren't trained in voice acting. Thus you get people with no experience in voice acting delivering lines in their usual highly recognizable voice. In short: they're awful. However, this movie has picked a pretty strange combination of actors (ie. Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant) and for the most part every one does a great job.

Have I mentioned that the movie looks great? But, it is Aardman, so that's kind of expected. But really, the sets are all amazing. There was such attention to detail going on. There's all sorts of little jokes hidden in newspapers and flyers on the wall and so on. In fact during the credits they show a bunch of the props by themselves and you're able to get a better look at some of them.

So yeah. It isn't the best movie around or anything. They definitely decided to tell more jokes than to develop a more solid plot. But when it comes right down to it, I enjoyed it. I loved that it wasn't like anything I was expecting. I mean the movie is about pirates trying to win a science prize so that they can win a trophy at a pirates award show. The non-North American title is actually "Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists."

Really, it's just such an oddly silly movie that it's hard not to love it a little.

Safety Not Guaranteed

A magazine writer and his interns are trying to write a story about a man who wrote a strange classified ad about time travel. However, when one of the interns is sent to answer the man's advert she finds out that maybe he isn't so crazy after all.

Genre: Quirky Sci-Fi Comedy/Drama

This is the best movie I've seen all year. I will be very surprised if anything manages to top it. I just love everything about it. It's quirky, it's funny, it's charming, it's enthralling, it was just a joy to watch. I swear someone created this movie just for me. I can't say enough nice things about this movie. And you'd better believe I'm gonna buy it the second I see it in a store.


A young princess and her mother must come to terms with their changing relationship in order to defeat an evil curse.

Genre: Pixar Animation

You know what? I heard a ton of people bashing this movie. And frankly I think they're all nuts.

Was it different from Pixar's other movies? Definitely. For instance, Pixar movies tend to have a grand scope with adventures big enough to cross oceans, but Brave was very focused on a single place. So if you went in wanting some epic journey, you were going to be disappointed.

Another big complaint was that the plot was cliche and overly Disneyesque. "Oh, another movie about a princess who doesn't want to go through with an arranged marriage? Yawn." But honestly, anyone who says that wasn't paying attention to the movie at all...or those other movies either. Every example of the Princess-fighting-against-arranged-marriage storyline I can think of involves another love interest. Pocahontas had John Smith, Jasmine had Aladdin, etc. But in Brave the arranged marriage thing isn't the crux of the story; it is merely a catalyst to tell a story about a mother and daughter relationship. Or if you want to talk in English Class themes, the element of tension regarding arranged marriages is merely a metaphor for the tension that exists between offspring and their parents due to the differences in values across the generational divide and not, as some have posited, the primary subject of the story.

I could go through all the complaints and dismiss them one-by-one, but I don't want to bother. So let me say this, I love Pixar movies, but Brave is the only one I really want to own. I'm not going to say that Brave is better than Toy Story or Finding Nemo, but I am going to say that I like it a lot more. And a large part of that is because of the characters. The depth of the characters and relationships on display in this movie are amazing. As great as Finding Nemo was I didn't find Marlin even half as endearing as Merida.

If nothing else this movie stands above the rest because of Merida. She is an amazing character. Unlike all the other movies people like to compare this to, there is no man she's pining for. She's against an arranged marriage because she sees it as an intrusion on her freedom, not because she wants to marry some lowly stablehand or whatever crap like that other stories seem to force their heroines. She is an absolutely amazing female character. One of the best I've ever seen. If I had a daughter I would love to show her this movie. I wouldn't give it a second thought.

So there you have it. I loved it. I plan to own it. And that's something that I can't say about any other Pixar movie. So there.

Moonrise Kingdom

A young boy and girl run off together which sets off a flurry of events as people try to find the kids before a huge storm hits the island.

Genre: Wes Anderson Romance

While watching this movie I was trying to determine how I would describe Wes Anderson's style. Because unlike so many directors, he has a very apparent style. You can spot a Wes Anderson movie from a mile away. And I've come to the conclusion that a Wes Anderson movie is like a play. A play with scene transitions and other movie features, but a play nonetheless. Now what do I mean by that? Well, in a play everything you see is very deliberate. Movies often try to evoke reality, while plays use their sets and props to evoke a feeling of reality. Wes Anderson's costumes have the feeling of being costumes, props the feeling of props, and lines the feeling of lines. Now, maybe it's just me, but that's the same sense I get whenever I see a play.

...I'm not sure if that'll make sense or not. But anyways, this movie is very much a Wes Anderson movie. So if you don't like his work, you probably won't like this one either.

I, however, do like Wes Anderson. I like how he stamps his style upon his movies. And thus I enjoyed it. It wasn't as good as The Life Aquatic, but it was definitely one of his best.

Although I will add that the thing that held this one back from being the best, was the relationship between those two kids. A lot of the time it was really endearing, but other times it was uber creepy. I mean, they honestly need some sort of professional help level creepy.

Shaun of the Dead

An average guy tries to sort his life amidst a zombie attack.

Genre: Zombie Comedy

I could say a million nice things about Shaun of the Dead. But really, when it comes down to it I'm a fan of zombie movies. I love the zombie elements in this movie and I love the many references to classic zombie movies. And you know what? If you're a fan of zombie movies, you'll have already seen this already. So let's not talk about me, let's talk about the people who don't like zombie movies.

I can't quite remember how exactly things went down, but through some inexplicable twist of fate, I convinced my aunt Rosemary to see Shaun of the Dead and she loved it. Now, this is a woman who is definitely not a fan of horror movies. And yet she enjoyed it so much that she's convinced friends of hers to watch it as well.

I've asked her why she likes it so much considering that she doesn't like horror movies and her answer was simple: It's not a horror movie. And she's 100% correct. It isn't. It is a comedy. It is a comedy done so well and with such cleverness that it surpasses its own niche material. And really, the ability to be funny to people outside of subject material is the sign of a great comedy.

So if you've never been one for Zombie movies and/or Horror movies, consider giving Shaun a try. It's an extremely well done and very clever comedy that just happens to include zombies.

Morning Glory

An inexperienced producer manages to land a gig as the executive producer on the failing morning show of a major network. In order to boost rating she forces a legendary reporter to be one of the hosts, but she's in for more than she bargained for when he refuses to play by her rules.

Genre: Feel-Good Comedy

What can I say? I just like this movie. It isn't some feat of cinematic achievement or anything, but...I like it.

It's just so strangely offbeat. I mean first of all you've got Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford as the stars, so right off the bat you've got a pretty unusual pairing right there. And then from there on it dances right on the edge of cliche without ever really crossing into that territory. (Although I'm sure some people out there might disagree with me about that). There are just a lot of little things going on that I find intriguingly different from the norms of the genre.

So whatever. It's got great actors doing strange and memorable roles, it's too offbeat for me to agree to call it cliche, and it makes me laugh.


To pass the time during a rainy day a group of men discuss the story of a man who was murdered and his wife raped. However, everyone who bore witness to the story has a different version of what happened.

Genre: Classic B&W Kurosawa movie

Just like with literature, every once in a while I feel the need to wade into the shallows of the Classics. I more often than not walk away from it at the end wondering what the fuss was all about, but it's always nice to know what everyone was talking about.

There's a lot of little things about this movie that I don't really like, but I've gotta admit that overall I found it to be rather interesting. I love the idea that everyone creates a different version of the story, because it's so true. And thus it was fun to see someone playing with that idea. My biggest complaint is that a lot of scenes seemed excessively long. It's a very slow movie and I don't think it really had to be. But in the end I'm glad I saw it.

I'll probably never bother to see it again, but still, I'm glad I saw it.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones finds himself on the trail of his missing father, and subsequently on the trail to find the holy grail of legend. Plus: Nazis.

Genre: Adventure

Oh, Indiana Jones. I love these movies (all 3 of them). And clearly this one is the best of the bunch...which is really saying something about its quality.

The Sean Connery/Harrison Ford duo is amazing. I mean they are just brilliant together. Absolutely brilliant. The movie single-handedly makes the others seem worse in comparison, because neither of the others have the Connery-Ford chemistry going on.

The only big complaint I have is that there's only one female character in the whole thing. Which is a real shame, but the films are kind of based on those serial adventure stories, so I can't say I'm really surprised.

But other than that the movie is outstandingly amazing. It's got great action, amazing adventures, and huge laughs. I mean, you could ask for more than that, but it would be rather greedy.

Ernest Goes to Camp

The inept, but well meaning, groundskeeper of a summer camp finally realizes his dream of becoming a counselor when the camp sticks him with the problem kids. However together they may be the only ones who can save the camp from a greedy land developer.

Genre: Silly Fun 4 Kids

I was a pretty big Ernest fan when I was a kid. So it's hard not to be influenced by the nostalgia of it all. But If I'm being honest here, the movie definitely wasn't as good as it was when I was a kid. A lot of the jokes are pretty hackneyed and childish. And the plot is woefully cliched. But darn it all if Jim Varney isn't a pleasure to watch. If anyone else had the lead in this movie it would be absolutely terrible, but it isn't and that is all because of Varney.

He's funny, he's got such an incredibly expressive face, you just can't help but care about him, and I could go on. There's a scene that even chokes me up a little bit. I mean, that shouldn't happen in a film like this! But it does!

Basically what I'm saying here is that the man is a comedic genius.

The film might not be the best, but Lord help me, I love watching it for Jim.

Back to the Future

After the experiment of his eccentric friend, Doc Brown, goes awry, 1980's high schooler Marty McFly finds himself stuck in 1955. And to make matters worse he accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. Now a young(er) Doc Brown is Marty's only hope to get home, but that won't matter unless they can get his parents back together and thus insure he'll be born.

Genre: Time Travel Adventure-Comedy

Back to the Future is one of my very favorite movies. It is just brilliant. I mean not only is the writing super clever, but the more I see it the more I appreciate the way it was shot. There's a number of really clever shots. The opening one that pans across the machinery and then shows Marty enter but only from the waist down so we see the key being put back under the welcome mat. The one where Doc Brown says "Back to the Future!" as he turns to point at the camera/the audience. I mean they're subtle things, but really show some great staging.

And another thing I like is how this movie seems like a goofy fun movie, but really it's quite dark. Ideas of incest, rape, murder, to name a few. But they handle it in such a way that keeps the feeling of intensity and yet with none of the dark baggage. To be able to do that takes some real talent.

I dunno, I could talk about this movie for ages. But you've probably already seen it and if you haven't there is something wrong with you.

Something seriously wrong with you.

Going Postal

A conman named Moist von Lipwig is put in charge of a major city's dilapidated post office. However, the other major communications outlet in the city, The Clacks, doesn't like competition and now Moist has to add "Stay Alive" to his ever-growing list of seemingly impossible tasks.

Genre: Comedic-Fantasy Book Adaptation

This movie is a large part of the reason this post is so late. I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around it. It simultaneously destroys everything I loved about the book and gets everything right. I just...I just can't figure out how I feel about it. I'm going to watch it again in September and try to solidify my feelings towards it.

So until then.