November brings us season one of a show called K-POP Extreme Survival. I was hoping this was going to be a music have powers to tame the Savage Beast sort of thing but I was wrong. Instead of being about Korean pop idols singing crocodiles to sleep it's about a girl who pretends to be a boy so that she can become part of a K-Pop group. 4 reasons. To do with love.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which has been garnering tons of buzz, debuts on the 25th. Six children's Christmas offerings bow on the first; most of which are Thomas and Friends related. Burn After Reading, by the Coen Brothers, debuts on the 16th, along with season three of The 100.
In addition Netflix presents 3 films about the political cycle. Two of them are from this year and one of them is from 2009.
This month we get ready to say goodbye to some beloved and reviled shows and films. Fan favorites E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and four seasons of Courage the Cowardly Dog are going bye-bye. The Powerpuff Girls, all six seasons, are flying off into the sky while Legally Blonde one and two also bow out. At the other end of the spectrum, gritty films Urban Cowboy, Deliverance, and Fatal Attraction head for the hills.
Special Political Bundle: this trilogy of terror is available now.
Election Season 2016
Funny or Die Presents: Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie (2016)
In the Loop (2009)
Undecided: The Movie (2016)
The African Queen (1951)
Bob the Builder: White Christmas (2008)
Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
The Confessions of Thomas Quick (2016)
The Doors (1991)
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Jetsons: The Movie (1990)
King's Faith (2013)
Love, Now (2012)
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (2016)
Pervert Park (2014)
Stephen King's Thinner (1996)
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Thomas & Friends: A Very Thomas Christmas (2012)
Thomas & Friends: Holiday Express (2012)
Thomas & Friends: Merry Winter Wish (2010)
Thomas & Friends: The Christmas Engines (2014)
Thomas & Friends: Ultimate Christmas (2009)
Food Choices (2016)
Meet the Blacks (2016)
The Crown: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Ivory Game (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Just Friends (2005)
World of Winx: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Danger Mouse: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
All Hail King Julien: Season 4 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Case: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Estocolmo: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Roman Empire: Reign of Blood: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Tales by Light: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
True Memoirs of An International Assassin (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Under the Sun (2015)
Take Me to the River (2015)
Chalk It Up (2016)
Carter High (2015)
Dieter Nuhr: Nuhr in Berlin - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
K-POP Extreme Survival: Season 1
Men Go to Battle (2015)
The Missing Ingredient: What is the Recipe for Success? (2016)
The 100: Season 3
Burn After Reading (2008)
Jackass 3.5: The Unrated Movie (2011)
Lovesick: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL (Formerly known as Scrotal Recall)
Paranoid: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Battle of Midway (1942)
Beat Bugs: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Colin Quinn: The New York Story - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Divines (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Prelude to War (1942)
San Pietro (1945)
Sour Grapes (2016)
Tunisian Victory (1944)
Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines (1943)
Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia (1943)
WWII: Report from the Aleutians (1943)
Mercy (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Penguins: Spy in the Huddle: Season 1
3%: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Michael Che Matters - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Silver Skies (2016)
Ghost Team (2016)
I Dream Too Much (2016)
The Jungle Book (2016)
Level Up (2016)
The Addams Family (1991)
Almost Famous (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Bratz: The Movie (2007)
The 'Burbs (1989)
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
Chuck: Seasons 1-5
The Core (2003)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Echelon Conspiracy (2009)
Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
Empire State (2012)
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
The Family Man (2000)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005)
The Holiday (2006)
Into the Wild (2007)
Kangaroo Jack (2003)
Legally Blonde (2001)
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)
Major League (1989)
Mansfield Park (1999)
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (2013)
Open Season (2006)
Open Season 2 (2008)
Open Season 3 (2010)
Patton Oswalt: My Weakness Is Strong (2009)
Powerpuff Girls: Seasons 1-6
Scream 2 (1997)
Sex: My British Job (2013)
Shameless: Series 1-10 (UK)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)
Spy Game (2001)
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Total Drama World Tour (2014)
Underground: The Julian Assange Story (2012)
Urban Cowboy (1980)
Varsity Blues (1999)
What Women Want (2000)
The English Teacher (2013)
The Homesman (2014)
Seal Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines (2014)
Naked Among Wolves (2015)
The American (2010)
Let's Go to Prison (2006)
The Boxtrolls (2014)
Scenic Route (2013)
Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors (2015)
The Boondocks: Seasons 1-4
Chowder: Seasons 1-3
Courage the Cowardly Dog: Seasons 1-4
Uncle Grandpa: Season 1
Robin Hood (1973)
Stuck in Love (2012)
I heard very little about Black Mirror before I watched the first episode on Netflix. I heard it was science fiction and I heard that it was very good. That's it. So I was totally unprepared for the first episode, called The National Anthem. It was some of the most stunning, confusing television I've ever seen. And I really don't want to spoil it so I don't want to go into any details but it begins when a very popular princess is kidnapped and there is one demand only. And that demand is so hateful, humiliating, and bizarre that it's very difficult to take in. The prime minister is asked to do one very specific thing, which of course he immediately refuses to do.
But at its core the story is about public opinion, social media, and how one influences the other and then influences right back again.
This episode is extremely well done with some brilliant and often subtle, low key acting. (I couldn't help worrying about how much PTSD the actor who played the Prime Minister came away with.) It is extraordinary well-written and weirdly believable. I didn't want to believe it, but I did anyway. I found myself laughing at times and then feeling like a terrible person for laughing. I don't know when I'm going to be able to psych myself up to watch the next episode, which I hear is even more grueling; if that's even the right word.
Seasons one and two are currently available on Netflix. Season 3 is debuting in about a week. You can see the National Anthem trailer here:
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
Kubo and the Two Strings
We have a second run movie theater fairly close to my house. They are actually my favorite kind of theaters. And this one costs I think $3.50. I spent $20 for myself and another person, including popcorn and sodas. That's really not too bad for an afternoon's entertainment.
We managed to go and see Laika House's latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings, on the very last day it was showing. ( I.e. yesterday.) I really like Laika House's work. Coraline was a terrific adaptation and I absolutely love ParaNorman. I don't know why but I somehow missed the Boxtrolls but I plan to catch it in the next couple weeks. I actually didn't know a single thing about this movie before I saw it. Unfortunately I missed the first few minutes due to some miscommunication with myself and my reminder software, but my movie watching partner had already seen it and was able to fill me in.
Kubo is a little boy whose mother has some pretty serious neurological deficits and maybe some PTSD? His father is dead and he's missing one eye. He supports the family with his magic; when he plays his three-stringed instrument he can make paper come to life, turn into origami, and act out a story.
The great adventure begins as so many great adventures (and misadventures) begin; when he disobeys his mother and stays out after dark. This attracts the attention of supernatural creatures who have been hunting for him and his mother since he was an infant. His mother uses the last of her magic to help him escape and soon he is on his own, with only a paper samurai and a monkey charm for company.
But after he collapses in the snow he awakens to discover that the monkey charm has now turned into a full-sized what to me looks like a Japanese macaque also called a snow monkey. Soon they meet a Samurai/beetle, played by Matthew McConaughey. He always seems a little strange to me and when I saw his character scuttling across the ceiling I thought to myself if Matthew McConaughey could scuttle across the ceiling in real life I bet he would do it all the time.
There are some lovely quiet moments in the film but mostly there is lots and lots of adventure. Once Kubo escapes from his village he and the monkey go on a quest to find a set of magical armor; the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and the Helmet Invulnerable. Of course each separate piece takes them to a difficult and or terrifying obstacle that needs to be conquered.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous creation, with some scary creatures that are beautifully crafted. If you stay for the credits you can see some of the work that went into creating an enormous skeleton that Kubo and his friends have to fight.
You can watch the trailer here:
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
This week's bonus treat is a video of two valiant people helping a bear in trouble.
Let me show you two quick clips from Teen Wolf. One is Gerard (Aka Grandpa Werewolf Hunter) finding out he has been poisoned and flipping out.
The second one is Deucalion, an even more histrionic character, pontificating about how wonderful and amazing he is. Destroyer of worlds! Demon wolf! Yadda yadda yadda.
I think the first clip is from season two and the second is from season three. They are so over the top and ridiculous, especially the lightning strikes punctuating Deucalion's boasts. They are hilarious. And I can go back to watching the show after the actors finish chewing up the scenery and enjoy myself.
But when I try to get through the intense silliness that is the first half of season two of Gotham, my enjoyment level drops to a two. This after really enjoying season one. The consensus in my house is that Teen Wolf gets away with extremes because it's campy, but Gotham takes itself too seriously.
Three Men in a Boat
Also in the silly camp, but with some surprisingly deep and pressing topics intermixed, is Jerome K. Jerome's classic novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Written just about a century ago, it's the story of three men, who call themselves lazy and hypochondriac, and a little Terrier taking a trip up the Thames. Interspersed with the travelogue are some anecdotes. Most of the book is very funny, as in one chapter about fishing where every person in a bar insists that they are the onesbwho caught a big fish on the wall. And then they accidentally knock it down and it cracks into a million pieces because it's made out of plaster of Paris.
But there are some much more somber notes in the middle of this light-hearted story. Such as when they find the body of a poverty-stricken woman who drowned herself. Unfortunately this was a real problem around that time with what were called surplus women. Women who weren't married, couldn't find a job, or had been "ruined", were often in deep trouble and shunned by Polite Society. Amanda Quick writes about this phenomenon alun one of her historical novels.
However the parts that are funny are very funny indeed. Not only is Mr. Jerome excellent at describing his trip and the foibles of his fellow humans, he also predicted the future. He talks about how collector's items are just old and wonders if his current day ordinary objects will become cherished hundreds of years in the future. But they already are. He specifically mentions blue and white plates, which are definitely something that people collect, as well as other items that I frequently see at estate sales. He says, "The “sampler” that the eldest daughter did at school will be spoken of as “tapestry of the Victorian era,” and be almost priceless." I wouldn't say priceless but older needlework tends to do well at auction and estate sales.
Even if you don't read the whole book you should definitely read the beginning where he describes he and his friends' hypochondria. It's quite good.
You can read the entire thing here: http://www.authorama.com/three-men-in-a-boat-1.html
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
Despite the fact the fact that there are more recipes available, that take less time to find, than at any time in the entire history of mankind, I still can never figure out my menu for the week. It's almost like there are too many choices so I can't even begin to narrow them down. And somehow we end up eating the same meals over and over again.
In an effort to make the menu planning process easier, I recently got a trial run of three magazines. All of these happened to be on sale for $5 a year on Amazon, which made it fairly easy to justify the expense. One of them, Bon Appétit, I didn't care for it all. (I cancelled that one after flipping through one issue.) The second one, Eating Well, was good but kind of dull.
But the third one, called Saveur, was quite interesting, has some tasty-looking recipes, and the current is all about the origins of foods. (And some drinks, including wine.) They look at everything from eggs and chickens became so popular to how soy sauce was invented to how and why Sushi became more popular once it was put on conveyor belts. I did have a quibble; they said that Native Americans didn't eat eggs because there were no chickens butt people have been eating other types of eggs for a long time. Basically if we saw an animal eating it we gave it a try. And there are plenty of animals that lay eggs of all types.
The pictures are gorgeous and the recipes look interesting. I'll definitely hang onto this subscription for awhile. You can check out their website here: http://www.saveur.com
This week's bonus treat is a video if a robot making peanut butter chocolate balls. (Spoiler alert - it's not really a robot.)
The Pickwick Papers
I have been reading so many books recently that if I tried to include them all this column would be about a mile long. I finished the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. It's a peculiar novel in that it is full of anecdotes that are essentially short stories. It's Mr. Dickens' first novel, originally published under the name Boz, and it foreshadows the themes he will write about for the rest of his life; mainly the horrors of poverty and debtors prison.
I also read a YA novel about a fat girl who doesn't want to let her body define her called Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Dumplin's mother is a former beauty queen and still fits into her pageant dress. As Dumplin' feels more and more alienated from her friends, her mother, her former coworkers and her sort of ex boyfriend, she decides she is going to enter this year's beauty pageant, which begins a journey she finds very surprising. Perhaps she didn't know herself as well as she thought she did. Or perhaps societal expectations are much stronger than she gave them credit for. You can read the first 13 (!) chapters here: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/sneak-peek-dumplin-by-julie-murphy/
Half a King
I finished Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, which is about a young man with a deformed hand who becomes king when his father and brother are murdered. He has been planning on becoming a minister and is a terrible fighter, in a culture where being a warrior is the definition of being a man. Once he becomes king things go downhill, until he is pretty much as low as you can get in his culture. This was a fairly interesting read in general, but the part I liked the best was the middle of the book, when he and several other characters are trying to survive both fire and ice, while being chased by a bunch of murderous lunatics. The rest of the story with the betrayals and revenges was okay, but as I have stated numerous times revenge fantasies are not my thing. You can read an excerpt here: http://www.joeabercrombie.com/books/half-a-king/an-extract-from-half-a-k...
Etiquette and Espionage
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger unfortunately failed to truly engage me. I thought the concept was adorable and I was excited to read it, but the story and the writing itself left me feeling rather tepid. A young girl, called Sophronia, is bundled off to finishing school. She's the youngest in her family and she's a bit of a tomboy and a hoyden. So of she goes to finishing school where her mother thinks that she's going to become a polished model of good manners. But instead this finishing school teaches you how to finish people off, how to spy on people, how to gather information and all sorts of other useful things bad most 19th century young ladies were definitely not expected to be able to do. The plot of this first book revolves around a device that someone is hiding and that bad guys are looking for. There is a cute little clockwork dog and plenty of exploration and adventure but somehow the parts that I liked never cohesed into something I could love. You can read an excerpt here: http://www.tor.com/2013/01/31/etiquette-a-espionage-excerpt/
I believe that Tourist Season is Carl Hiassen's first novel. The novel is about a group of people who want to drive everyone out of Florida and return it to its natural state. Pitted against them are a reporter turned investigative detective, his former editor, a police officer, and a few others. Mr. Hiassen has a knack for teaching his readers about problems while still entertaining them. While the methods of these eco-terrorists are terrible, it's very easy to sympathize with their cause. This novel isn't as good as some of his later work but it's definitely worth a read. I particularly enjoyed a beauty queen character who isn't the sort of fluffy headed dingbat with that much of Pop Culture would have us believe she should be.
I'm rereading Ann Lecke's outstanding trilogy Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy. I read the first two for Hugo Awards voting last year and then I got the third one the day it came out. This series is the best thing that I read in 2015. I just got them for my son for his birthday and I'm rereading his copies. I wish I could read them again for the first time. I love them that much.
Set in a vast, ancient space empire, Ancillary Justice is the story of a woman named Breq who has lost everything and is looking for either revenge or justice, depending on how you look at it. I'm not usually a fan of revenge stories but this one is so intricate and so well told that it didn't matter to me that it was about a topic I usually find kind of distasteful.
I've heard a couple of complaints from people who had a hard time with this book because the Radchaai, the main race we encounter, don't differentiate between genders. They call everyone she. So some people don't like this and some people have complained that it's too hard for them to try to keep track in their mind if he's actually male and who is female. I'm puzzled by this. It literally does not matter what gender they are. This is a society that just doesn't care. If it doesn't care to them it shouldn't care to the reader. In that sense it has a little bit in common with the Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, in which the characters can change gender. Our society is really hung up on people acting feminine or masculine depending on their genders, so it's refreshing to read stories where it's not important at all. I really could not recommend this series anymore strongly. It's a must read. You can read an excerpt from Ancillary Justice here: http://www.orbitbooks.net/excerpt/ancillary-justice/
This week's bonus treat should be interesting to history buffs and those who watched the Hatfield and McCoy mini series that ran a couple of years ago. It is a collection of items pertaining to one of the people chosen to hunt down one of the members of this blood feud, Johnse Hatfield, following the murder of Alifair McCoy during the New Years Night massacre. There is some paperwork, a detective's badge and a photo of the detective.
Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's October offerings and vanishings?
October brings falling leaves, Halloween and season five of American Horror Story – the one with Lady Gaga that takes place in an extra spooky hotel. On the comedy side we get the Grinder, season one, a show I very much enjoyed, as well as iZombie season two, another winner. For the kids we have shows featuring Winnie the Pooh, My Little Ponies, and Skylanders.
This month we get ready to say goodbye to some beloved and reviled shows and films. If you can't get enough of people tapping their bottle covered fingers together and saying Warriors come out to play-ay, you'll be deeply saddened to see that the 1979 movie Warriors is leaving on the first. Why not have a double feature movie night, pop up some popcorn and watch Warriors and The Running Man, the terrible adaptation if the novel by Stephen King's alter ego, Richard Bachman, which goes away at the same time? We also wave goodbye to eight seasons of Psych and Heroes seasons one through four.
See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in October 2016.
All titles and dates are subject to change.
A Cinderella Story (2004)
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)
Blue Streak (1999)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dr. Doolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008)
Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Ghost Town (2008)
Grizzly Man (2005)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Murder Maps: Season 2 (2015)
My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree (2016)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Picture This! (2008)
Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997)
The Queen of the Damned (2002)
Quiz Show (1994)
Saving Mr. Wu (2015)
Snake Eyes (1998)
Snow Day (2000)
Three Kings (1999)
The Uninvited (2009)
Unsealed: Alien Files: Season 4
Without a Paddle (2004)
American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5)
Dartmoor Killing (2015)
The Flash: Season 2
The Grinder: Season 1
Arrow: Season 4
iZombie: Season 2
13TH (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Dinotrux: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Ranch: Season 1 Part 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Russell Peters: Almost Famous - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Siege of Jadotville (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Supernatural: Season 11
The Originals: Season 3
Vampire Diaries: Season 7
Kuromukuro: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Love Between the Covers (2015)
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1
Mascots (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Haters Back Off!: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Project MC2: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Being George Clooney (2016)
Chapo: el escape del siglo (2016)
Glitch: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Power Rangers Dino Super Charge: Season 1: Part 1
Dark Matter: Season 2
Black Mirror: Season 3 (Part 1) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Containment: Season 1
Joe Rogan: Triggered - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Word Party: Season 2 -NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Doctor Foster: Season 1
Big Eyes (2014)
Jesus Camp (2006)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
7 años (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Into the Inferno (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Skylanders Academy: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Trailer Park Boys: Out of the Park: Europe - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Fall: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Chewing Gum: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The following titles will be disappearing in October. Better watch them while you can.
10.0 Earthquake (2014)
Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Deep Impact (1998)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Exorcist (1973)
Heroes: Season 1-4
Honey 2 (2011)
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
Mr. Deeds (2002)
My Girl (1991)
Nick of Time (1995)
The Phantom (1996)
Psych: Seasons 1-8
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Live: The 2010s: Season 38
Uncommon Valor (1983)
The Warriors (1979)
The Big Green (1995)
Ivan the Incredible (2013)
Marvel's Avengers Assemble: Season 2
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
The Interview (2014)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
The Truman Show (1998)
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer is a cute book, about an art school that's suffering from the invasion of a reality show that's a bit like So You Think You Can Dance, or America's Most Talented or whatever it's called, or even American Idol. Called For Art's Sake, the series pits several seniors against each other, all of whom are competing for a gigantic scholarship.
The story is told from the perspective of a philosophical daydreamer called Ethan. He feels like he doesn't really belong in the Arts Academy. He says he can draw and he can play an instrument but everyone else is much more talented. While he has a close circle of friends, his best friend is a gerbil named Baconnaise. (Warning to anyone who has loved and lost pocket pets; semicolon Baconnaise gets a tumor towards the beginning of the book which of course runs through him like wildfire. It's extremely sad and brings up memories of past lost tiny furry friends.)
Ethan and his friends are not fans of the show, although they hate watch it together every week, but their dislike and distrust ramps up exponentially when Ethan inadvertently discovered that the show is scripted. He and his friends decide to protest, and since they are art school students they use the form of a very long poem, which they print and hand out to the other students. The school administration cracks down on them and they push back even harder, as they discover exactly how tightly the reality show has become entwined with the school.
If this book have been pitched to me as angry students write a long poem I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read it, but I'm glad that I did. It's entertaining and it's a quick read. I wouldn't call it great, but it's a nice way to fill up an empty Sunday afternoon, as long as you don't get terribly sad over lost pocket pets.
Beastly by Alex Flinn is another book that I liked but didn't love. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this one is a bit different in that it's told from the point-of-view of the Beast. Kyle is an incredibly obnoxious, stuck up, rich brat who goes to a fancy private school, where he looks down on just about everyone. He has no relationships where he isn't either using the other person or being used or both at the same time. As the story begins he's getting ready to go to the big dance at school and he sees an "ugly girl" in his class and decides that he's going to ruin her dance. He invites her to go with him, fully intending to ditch her in front of the entire school.
End result, she turns out to be a witch and curses him in the traditional Beauty and the Beast format. Suddenly everything this kid has relied on is gone. His good looks. His social status. He does still have his father's money which is very useful, but his father sticks him in a house in Brooklyn and leaves him there, not spending any time with him whatsoever.
But it's hard to feel sorry for someone who's deep down such an awful person. Of course the Beauty and the Beast story is all about growth, although usually the growth is coming from the Beauty who has to learn to see past skin deep characteristics. In this case it's the Beast that needs to do the growing.
My favorite part of Beastly was the interludes in which l the Beast is online as part of a support group for cursed characters from other fairy tales. There's The Little Mermaid, The Frog Prince and a couple of other from popular stories. I'd be very interested in knowing who the moderator is and what his story is but I never found out.
So this is a fun story but of course it's weirdly creepy. The original stories are also weirdly creepy, in that Beauty's horrible father gives her to a bear or beast or whatever in exchange for going free himself. Kyle justified taking his girl prisoner by saying that she's obviously better off with him than with her negligent father, who gives her away at the drop of a hat. Maybe he has a point, but kidnapping is not something to look at lightly. Beastly is an interesting exploration of all types of different morals and mores.
This week's bonus treat is inspired by the news that John Hinckley was finally released from the mental hospital. This is the incredibly creepy song from Assassins, which is a duet sung by Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme (also released, as is Sarah Jane Moore). He's singing to Jodie Foster and she is singing to Charles Manson.
Before I get started, I have a couple of thoughts about the upcoming season of Teen Wolf. According to MTV, who should know since they are Teen Wolf's network, this will be the final season. Why? It's hugely popular and lots of fun, so why get rid of it? Is it because the actors are too old to make convincing teens? Or did the creators just run out of interesting mythologies? Jeff Davis has done a terrific job incorporating gods and monsters from a variety of cultures. This time around our stalwart heroes and heroines will be interacting with the Wild Hunt, a terrifying phenomena no one in their right mind would want to tangle with. There will be a twist on the legend, with those who get caught up with/by the Wild Hunt vanishing from the memories of those around them. There is a terrific scene in the trailer where Stiles discovers his own father has forgotten him. This idea of losing our most basic identity is an old one that has lost none of its horror. You can watch the trailer for season six here:
The Lies of Locke Zamora
My arm, which I originally injured reading House of Leaves, will never heal at this rate, as I keep reading enormous books which are part of a series. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch clocks in at a little over 700 pages in the hardback edition and was a strain on my ridiculously flimsy arm. (One of the many drawbacks of lupus is joints and such are extremely prone to injury.) I was going to pace myself on the book, putting it down when my arms started to hurt, but it was too interesting and I ended up with an ice bag and an ace bandage helping my arm prop up the book.
The first in the Gentleman Bastard series, The Lies of Locke Lamora introduce us to an intricate, complex world and a set of rapscallions who call themselves the Gentleman Bastards. They are thieves, but they are more than that as they are also terrific con men, with a gigantic wardrobe, expert hair and makeup, and a variety of accents to back up the characters they create. The big con at the heart of this novel involves the pretend rescue of all of a particularly good type of brandy (no hangovers because alchemy), which is supposedly at risk because of impeding war.
But while Locke and his compatriots are setting up this scam they are also being drawn into the web of a mad killer called the Gray King. And his plans for them are dangerous and difficult. But Locke can't exactly say no because there is a tremendous threat hanging over everyone's heads.
Intercut with interludes that tell the story of Locke's childhood and growth as a thief, the novel is a delight. There are so many loose ends that are constantly trying to trip the characters up, but Mr. Lynch juggles them with seeming ease, creating an exciting and suspenseful story.
Almost as interesting as the story is the detailed world the author has drawn. The story is set in a port town, in a planet with three moons. While not science fiction, there are sci fi elements, with the characters existing in a soaring glass city left behind by unknown previous occupants. The people live in a society with technology I would date to our 1500s or so, so not terribly advanced by our current standards, but they do have artifacts left behind with useful attributes. They also have a kind of magic, which I found disappointing. While there is nothing wrong with having magic in a story, it can be a bit of a cheat, especially if it seems effortless and really changes the balance of power. I'll have to see if I feel any better about it in book two and three, both of which are sitting on my desk waiting for me to read. There are supposed to be a total of seven that will be written in the series, which is a pretty good number. Enough to get really into the world but not so many that the author runs out of things to say.
I do have one caveat to my recommendation; there is quite a bit of torture the characters go through. I found myself cringing through several scenes. So if you have a very weak stomach and a very strong imagination you might need to skip this one.
You can read an excerpt here: http://www.scottlynch.us/excerpts.html
This week's bonus treat is the Walking Dead; Puppy Edition. These husky pups just keep coming. And coming. And coming.
I wasn't very far into watching the film the Babadook before I turned to my son and said, “This is Home Alone meets the Exorcist.” It's a little odd to describe a story in which a child is almost constantly with his mother as Home Alone-esque, but this child's dogged determination and ability to create complex weapons and traps definitely reminded me of the little boy in the Home Alone series. Unfortunately in the Babadook the little boy, called Samuel, is having to protect himself from his own mother, called Amelia. And a monster.
As the story begins Samuel is about to celebrate his seventh birthday. He is out of control; riddled with anxiety, friendless, “too weird” to fit in, an insomniac, and obsessed with magic and monsters. He is a screamer and a whiner and gets kicked out of school in short order.
Meanwhile Amelia looks as though she is suffering from the end stages of a terrible, chronic illness. She works at an assisted living facility, doing time in the dementia ward, putting on an extra sweet face during work hours. She is obviously exhausted and would probably be suffering from fatigue even if her son didn't keep her awake at all hours. Her support system is almost non-existent and becomes even smaller as her son continues to act out.
Samuel loves to tell his origin story; blurting out his tale to complete strangers and causing his mother more pain. His father died in a car accident, as he was driving Amelia to the hospital to have Samuel. While Sam seems to get some odd enjoyment out of having such a dramatic beginning he is definitely feeling the lack of his father, especially as the anniversary of Dad's death approaches.
Into this morass of family problems comes a strange book called The Babadook. It appears on a shelf and Samuel chooses it as his good night story. It starts off kind of okay, although the pop-up drawings are stark and a little frightening, but quickly becomes alarming and threatening. Samuel ends up screaming and Mom quickly tries to soothe him with another book. But the damage is done and he fixates on this new idea of a monster.
Naturally things rapidly go downhill. Samuel is seeing the Babadook everywhere while his mother is trying to keep things together, while denying her grief over the loss of his father and running on little to no sleep, with a physically and emotionally draining job. Every time Samuel is naughty he blames the Babadook, which makes Amelia even crazier. When she finds glass in her food and Samuel says the Babadook did it she comes close to the breaking point. But when Samuel flips out over the monster in the car and has a seizure she is panicked and tries to make some changes.
But now the monster seems to be stalking her, while her son is becoming sweeter and more tractable; all while she is turning into a terrifying, screaming, dangerous mother.
The Babadook is one of those stories that I find so interesting. It is a supernatural story or is it a psychological thriller? Is there a monster? If so, is it the Babadook, the little boy or the mother? Or is it all three? Is there a mental illness? If so who is mentally ill? Everyone? No one? If you see this film with friends you'll have plenty to discuss over dinner afterward, including the ending, which is quite intriguing.
The acting in the Babadook is incredible, with Essie Davis (Game of Thrones, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) turning in a stellar performance as Amelia and Noah Wiseman (Spaghetti, The Gift) is stunning as Samuel. I have been lucky enough to see some terrific acting from children lately, between Stranger Things and Room, but Samuel brings acting to a new level. He's so spot on that you might want to strangle him during one of his whining/screaming spells.
The gloomy house they live in is practically its own character, creating an oppressive atmosphere that alone could make a person suffer from major depression. I kept thinking everyone in the film needed a nice long vacation, preferably on a super bright beach somewhere.
My son said he watched the movie with some friends, who thought the film was boring. I can only assume they weren't really paying attention and they don't know much about mental illness, or have ever heard any statistics regarding parents murdering their children. Or they just don't have any empathy genes? I don't know. It's a bit boggling.
You can watch the trailer here:
This week's bonus treat is five and a half minutes of a back to school meeting for school employees. But it's not quite as dull as it sounds as they break into a spirited parody of One Day More from Les Miz.
New Netflix Offerings and Old Netflix Vanishings September 2016
Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's September offerings and vanishings?
There is so much to look forward to in September. Fans of Jessica Jones (which just won a Hugo) will be delighted to hear that Marvel's Luke Cage is coming in the middle of the month. We're also going to have access to the Walking Dead season six, season three of Penny Dreadful, and season three of the Blacklist. Four Jaws films are coming as is Footloose and a few other blasts from the pasts. Unfortunately no dancing shark films that I know of. But Zootopia is coming, which is fantastic as that is a terrific film.
Fringe, all five seasons, is leaving in September, as is Alias, but there is still going to be plenty of science fiction available. For the kids, including the inner children, be sure to rewatch The Emperor's New Groove and Lilo and Stitch before they say farewell. Open Water and Open Water 2: Adrift are leaving, maybe because all of the Jaws movies are coming and Netflix thinks everyone will lose interest in these films? (Roboshark is also going away; not sure if that supports or invalidates my theory.)
See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in September 2016.
All titles and dates are subject to change.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker (2013) Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
Bratz: The Movie (2007)
Burn, Burn, Burn (2015)
Cats & Dogs (2001)
Crashing: Season 1
Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)
Europe's Last Great Wilderness (2015)
The Fierce Wife (2010)
Full Out (2015)
Game Winning Hit: Season 1
Heartland: Season 7
Hellevator: Season 1
Hope Floats (1998)
I Am the Ambassador: Season 1 - NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
Indochina's Wild Heart (2015)
The IT Crowd: Series 5
Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 3 (1983)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Joyful Noise (2012)
Keepers of the Game (2016)
Last Holiday (2006)
Lucky Days: Season 1
Man on Wire (2008)
Milk Money (1994)
Practical Magic (1998)
Road Trip (2000)
Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules (2000)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Shameless (U.S.): Season 5-6
Stomp the Yard (2007)
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Top Gun (1986)
True Grit (1969)
The Wicker Man (2006)
Wild Madagascar (2015)
The Womanizer: Season 1
The Year of Happiness and Love: Season 1
Baby Daddy: Season 5
Chef's Table: France - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kazoops!: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Narcos: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Young & Hungry: Season 4
The Finest Hours (2015)
Hard Target 2 (2016)
Honey 3 (2016)
R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House (2016)
The Blacklist: Season 3
Galavant: Seasons 1-2
Supergirl: Season 1
Extremis (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Hawaii Five-0: Season 6
London Has Fallen (2015)
Goldie & Bear: Season 1
Sample This (2012)
The Walking Dead: Season 6
Cedric The Entertainer: Live from the Ville - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)
The White Helmets (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Luther: Season 4
Penny Dreadful: Season 3
Call the Midwife: Series 5
Gotham: Season 2
Colliding Dreams (2016)
New Girl: Season 5
Bones: Season 11
Easy: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Wallander: Series 4
Audrie & Daisy (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Last Man Standing: Season 5
Longmire: Season 5 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
VeggieTales in the House: Season 4 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Portlandia: Season 6
Family Guy: Season 14
Margaret Cho: PsyCHO (2015)
The Fosters: Season 4 (Part A)
The Imitation Game (2014)
Amanda Knox (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Marvel's Luke Cage: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Scream: Season 2
The following titles will be disappearing in September. Better watch them while you can.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Anywhere but Here (1999)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013)
The Color Purple (1985)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Days of Thunder (1990)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Everybody Loves Raymond: Seasons 1-9
Exporting Raymond (2010)
Flight of the Intruder (1991)
Girl Rising (2013)
Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
The Haunting (1999)
Nick Cannon: Mr. Showbiz (2011)
Our Man in Tehran (2013)
Primal Fear (1996)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Sins of My Father (2009)
The Weather Man (2005)
The Wood (1999)
Melissa & Joey: Seasons 1-4
Shanghai Knights (2003)
Gabe the Cupid Dog (2012)
Hollywood Homicide (2003)
My Babysitter's a Vampire: The Movie (2010)
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Fringe: Seasons 1-5
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Bob Saget: That's What I'm Talkin' About (2013)
Gridiron Gang (2006)
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Gimme the Loot (2012)
Simon Killer (2012)
Something, Anything (2014)
The Lost Medallion (2013)
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Alias: Seasons 1-5
Open Water (2004)
Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)
666 Park Avenue: Season 1
Another Gay Movie (2006)
The Aviators (2008)
League of Super Evil: Season 1
We Were Soldiers (2002)
I was reading a medical report the other day and saw that the physician's assistant had made an error. It was supposed to say patient states she sees bugs crawling into her skin. Instead the report said patient states she sees bugs crawling out of her skin.
I don't know about you but the idea of bugs crawling into your skin is pretty bad but bugs crawling out seems so much worse. How many are there? What were they doing in there? How long were they in there? If these kinds of questions give you the willies and you enjoy being scared then you will definitely enjoy Scott Sigler's novel Infected.
I'm sure I read this a few years ago but I don't really remember what I thought of it then. My impression is that I didn't think it was terrible but I also didn't think it was terrific. This time around I really enjoyed it.
Infected is the intertwined stories of several different people who are intimately impacted by a type of parasite that is building weird little structures inside of people and making them go violently crazy. We see things from the perspective of the lead CDC agent, a Vietnam war vet who is in charge of containing the violence, and an enormous football player who has had a lifelong problem controlling his temper.
Naturally the football player gets infected. Nicknamed Scary Perry during his professional football days, he ends up with several of parasites growing in various parts of his anatomy, including the most delicate part of a man. Perry has an incredible drive to survive and, thanks in part to his football training, has an almost inhuman ability to keep going despite pain. As the parasites grow and he realizes the seriousness of the infection his efforts to eradicate them ramps up to gruesome levels.
While Infected raises a strong sense of anxiety, it's also pretty funny in parts. At one point the parasites begin to mentally communicate with Perry and they call him the same names that he's called them. So every time they speak to him they call him either fucker or sonofabitch. I don't know why but I found it completely hilarious. At one point he's watching television, which they don't understand, and he tells them that he was talking to Columbo, the television detective of days of yore. They equate Colombo with the soldiers that have been trying to eradicate them and soon has Perry also calling the soldiers Columbos, another image that tickled me.
Fairly gruesome and graphic in parts, you might need a strong stomach to finish this one. But if you enjoy horror and horrifying images that you'll love this book.
You can listen to the entire audio book for free here: http://podiobooks.com/title/infected
Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit?
I just finished reading an advanced review copy (a free copy to read before the book comes out, for review purposes) of Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit? This is a compilation of the first few comics in the series revival. While I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Eisner and what he accomplished, I've never actually read the Spirit before so it's difficult for me to say whether this new series lives up to the old series.
But that doesn't mean I can't judge it on its own. At the beginning of the series The Spirit, who is apparently what they used to call a “a red-blooded, two-fisted,he-man”, is missing. He is a sort of a detective who wears a mask and is excellent at getting in and out of tight spots. He is believed to be dead as the story begins but no one is sure. As the balance of power is about to shift in the hierarchy of the police station, several different people set out on the Spirit's trail. The most interesting of these is probably the duo of Strunk and White (I know, all of the names are quite silly, which I assume is Mr. Eisner's doing), a pair of very young Private Eyes. I'm not sure how young they're supposed to be, but they're young enough that people are surprised to see them working adult jobs.
They start going through the Spirit's files and interviewing all the villains with whom he's interacted. This is a terrific way for the new reader to get caught up on the Spirit's background. We see a fairly wide variety of bad guys and gals but I was disappointed in the villainesses. They're all drawn wearing slinky clothes and they all seem to have the hots for the Spirit. I would think that if I were a mastermind criminal I'd have more important and interesting things on my mind then some dude who likes to punch people.
However it's still an entertaining adventure story that's worth a quick read. The book debuts on the 25th of October and is available for preorder.
This week's bonus treat is a one minute video of someone flying a giant octopus kite. I find it a little frightening, probably because it reminds me of War of the Worlds.