Unfriended

MV5BMTUwNzg3Mzg1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDY2NTAwNDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Friday morning, bright and early, time for an Aven-. Wait. Uh-oh. Yep, it’s like that. I watched a movie like two Tuesdays ago, and its review has sat languishing in my brain ever since. In my defense, I’ve been swamped between work and social time and trying[1] to watch a stupid amount of TV before the release of that other movie I’m not reviewing yet. Mostly work. And commuting to work. I miss not commuting to work, or at least I miss my commute not being from the bedroom to the TV room.

Enough about me. This is about Unfriended, a movie that does its level best to remind you that it’s time to trim down your facebook account by at least a third[2] of the people in it that you have not thought about in the past year. Well, it’s probably only tangentially about that? What it is about is a very rough night experienced in approximately real time by a group of highschoolers whose classmate committed suicide last year due to cyberbullying. Probably also regular bullying, but the cyber part is certainly more relevant in a modern movie about antisocial media.

Plotwise, it’s a by the numbers revenge mystery, which, y’know, cool enough. What makes it stand out is the format, which is entirely comprised of a first person perspective of the main character’s computer screen. There’s still plenty of footage and people/events to look at, because, after all, skype is a thing. But I find that the focus on chat windows, music programs, web research, troubleshooting, and so forth was very cinéma vérité in a way that so few films with computers have ever been[3]. These kids live on their computers, and the movie was made for that audience, by someone who knows exactly what it looks like. By-the-numbers horror or not, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.

[1] And failing.
[2] AT LEAST. If this is untrue, you are either lying or you really have basically no #friends. Or no facebook account, which I applaud.
[3] It is a tragedy that the blonde kid in Jurassic Park has been so roundly mocked for saying, “This is a UNIX system. I know this!” I mean, it straight up was, and hardly anyone else has gotten computers on screen right before or since.

Reaper Man

51qK2OscKWLThe odds that you are a) reading this and b) do not know that Sir Terry Pratchett died last month or b’) why that is tragic and relevant are astronomically low. I’d have read the next Discworld book soon regardless, but I read it sooner still because of the tribute factor that seemed necessary. And then I’ve sat on it for a week or more, because… well, this is not a because that can be finished in the back half of a sentence.

I guess the first thing to be aware of is that Reaper Man is about Death. “I know, I know,” the hypothetical you who is reading this review without being aware of the intersection of facts above is thinking, “of course it is, it says so right there in the name that it’s about death.” Well, by coincidence you’re right, and that’s relevant too, but I mean to say that it’s about the personification of the force of death in the universe, who is about to be forcibly retired by whatever it is that audits the universe, for the crime of being a personification instead of an impersonal force as would be good and proper. So, he decides to take a vacation while he still has the accumulated time off to do that, and then everything stops dying, with probably less predictable results than you’d think.

It’s possible that you’ve already spotted what happened to me over this book, but us nodding knowingly at each other across the miles of fibers and routers is not really the stuff of which a good review is made, so I’ll pretend you have not and continue. You see, I’m reading this book, by an author I like and I know many of my friends love, who has recently died, and the book is about death. About not wanting to die, or about living beyond your term and trying to decide how good or bad that news is, about the impact of death on the world, about the impact of no death on the world.

So, you know what happened, right? I was disappointingly, but also inevitably, underwhelmed. How could I not have been?! Perfect storm, right? But it wasn’t just that. See, the book has three completely unrelated stories in it. There’s the Death on holiday thing I already mentioned, and a wizard who has lived on past his appointed time, and a threat to Ankh Morpork (the biggest city on Discworld) that the other wizards must band together to fight. And okay, I technically lied. All of these events are caused and/or affected by each other. But from a story viewpoint, no. They are not intertwined, they barely come together, and the city threat / wizard fight story that does the most to bring them together at all is by far the worst.

Basically, what I figure is, he had two really good story ideas (and they are, both of them, quite good!) that he figured were each too short to hold a book, but since they were related they could be tied together… and then he came up with nothing much of a much at all for how to accomplish that. But some editor incorrectly thought the joining story was funny and/or relevant, and here we are, with the worst tribute review in history.

Sigh.

It Follows

MV5BMTUwMDEzNDI1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAyODU5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I’ve been looking forward to this movie for several weeks, and no lie, both because it seems like the only horror movies lately have been possession oriented and also because it doesn’t seem like any at all came out in February as is good and proper. And then lots of other people saw it before I did, and I’ve already been reading and internalizing reviews, which I hate it when that happens, but here we are nonetheless.

It Follows is a very succinct title, in that it gives you like 80% of the knowledge necessary to understand the movie. Because there’s this person-looking thing, right? Different people at different moments, but always there (and only you can see it!), walking toward you. Always. Which means you can drive away and escape, right? Yes, but you have to sleep or let your guard down sometime, and it doesn’t. It only, y’know, follows.

What’s great about this movie is the lessons in fear that we have all learned over the past thirty or forty years of film-making. Because, I think anyone reading this knows full well that Michael Myers, for example, has never run a yard in his life. But he’s still just a slasher in a mask, whereas this thing was a little bit terrifying. In the audience, without the slightest inkling of a stake, I could not stop myself from looking for every single person walking with purpose toward the camera (or the heroine), because until they identified who else could see the walker, it might have been… the follower, I guess.

So, that’s that, pretty much. If you like quiet, moody, atmospheric dread that does not hold your hand and lead you from plot point to plot point, where even the frequent nudity is more terrifying than titillating, this movie is for you. Not quite nightmare-inducing, but definitely nerve-wracking. I dug it. Also, a quick spoiler-filled social commentary paragraph in the first comment.

Hack/Slash: Marry, F*ck, Kill

51Pv51LcgJLAs usual with an 11th volume of a series, it’s hard to not end up deep in spoiler territory. So, instead, a series of mostly unconnected thoughts.

1) It has been a long time since I’ve read one of these, so I guess I’m not surprised I couldn’t remember exactly where things had left off. What I guess is important to “know” is that the long-running arc with the (let’s say) Black Lamp Society had finally been wrapped up. Taking it a step further than that: by the end of this book, all but one dangling plot thread had been wrapped up, and only one new dangling thread had been created. It’s almost like the series is angling toward an ending of some kind?

2) The book is split into two arcs, of which the second arc is both the better and the more important. The first arc either highlights that the artist only knows how to draw one type of chick, or else it is meant to clumsily indicate that Cassie Hack[1] is lots of different characters in lots of different dimensions, depending on how she was raised, I guess? Including an oversexed lady in even skimpier clothing who likes to take over by blowing things up and the warden of an interdimensional women’s prison, for the incarceration of the kind of oversexed lady in extremely skimpy clothing who would choose to take over by blowing things up.

3) I’m glad the next book promises to be a lot more about Vlad[2], what with almost everything else being wrapped up and all, because I didn’t even remember that there was something wrong with him (spoiler alert: there is), but I was very disappointed that he was sidelined almost the whole book. Though I can definitely see why it was structurally necessary to get to the end point they got to.

4) The title: I cannot find any specific thing that fits Marry, Fuck, Kill, but if I squint sideways at it, I can see where there’s sort of vaguely a game of that going on throughout the book, just barely enough so to justify someone trying to get titles moved via shock value.

[1] She, you’ll no doubt have forgotten by now, is the teenager on the road in fishnets and carrying a nailed-up bat with “Kiss It” burned into the non-naily portions who hunts supernatural slashers to make them be more specifically dead than they previously had been.
[2] Cassie’s green-skinned, monstrous companion who helps her out on the whole destroying mystical psychos task, mainly because she’s nice to him when everyone else thinks he’s one of those same kinds of monsters.

All-New Ultimates: No Gods, No Masters

51MeEMpGe1LBack when I ordered this book, and every time between then and when it arrived and I started reading it earlier this week, I thought the title was a reference to one of the first Ultimates books, Gods and Monsters, from nearly ten years ago now. But as of cracking the cover open, I have realized that the title of the book is actually No Gods, No Masters, which is a completely different title. Apparently it’s a reference to a political book about anarchism? I don’t see a particular parallel here, but maybe I would if I’d read the other book.

So, you know the street level gang war the teenaged Ultimates were fighting / trying to clean up last time? This is the conclusion to that storyline. Which means, yes more irrelevant third-or-lower tier “super” villains, yes more Roxxon intrigue. Also, some of the art was all scribbly and lame, but only some of it. Still, though, the character evolutions among some of our heroes has made the pair of books retroactively worth the price of admission after all.

Well, actually, that may not be true. Spoiler alert based on news reporting of happenings at Marvel. But, the thing is, most of these characters and in fact the Ultimate universe in general may be coming to an end when it collides somehow or other with the regular continuity. Can’t blame the current authors who have been pushing things forward that everything since Galactus has been basically a meaningless placeholder. But it’s damn disappointing nonetheless.

The Alloy of Law

51ewY4KqOmLI should have finished this book weeks ago, right? But at 75% through it (and, as I later discovered, right at the cutoff before the climax started, so at least my timing was good?), I lost my tablet in a tragic accident involving angular momentum and inertia; a few hours later, I learned that the touch screen of my Kindle Touch had ceased working, which made it unusable also even though it powered on nice as you please. Both devices have since been replaced, which is nice, and in the meantime I read a paper book, as you know.

If you wonder why I roll my eyes every time someone disparages my physical collection of dead trees, this is pretty much why right here. You can say I could have read things on my phone in the meantime, but…. nope. Too small, wrong proportions, just, no.

In the meantime, though, I’ll keep buying stupidly cheap daily deal ebooks because I am Amazon’s bitch, which in this case explains why I didn’t have a physical copy of The Alloy of Law in the first place. Obviously I like Sanderson and would have bought a Mistborn sequel, right? Just, the ebook found me first, so.

As far as the book? It was interesting having the same experience as the characters, where history had faded to legend, and most of the details were probably wrong. See, the book is set hundreds of years after the Mistborn trilogy concluded, and while it has not been hundreds of years for me personally, I could hardly remember more than the broadest strokes of what went down, and the characters here thinking over the way the world used to be, it was just wrong enough for me to know they had things wrong without knowing what was right instead. I don’t know how to have that kind of experience except by sheer luck, but it made the book an extra bit cooler, no doubt.

Anyway: it’s a Mistborn book, right? People can use allomancy to take certain metals and give themselves cool powers, same as always. But now there are guns and trains and… it’s not steampunk, right? There’s no steam-based science, mainly. Magic, sure, and a Victorian period setting, but those do not steampunk make. If you’re allergic and that’s what was keeping you away, don’t worry! If you’re allergic to a world evolving over time, that’s silly. If you didn’t like Mistborn the first time around? Well, this is not epic fantasy like that was, and it may help? But it is almost certainly the first book in a trilogy rather than fully standalone. So if you’re allergic to that, I got nothing.

Otherwise, enjoy! I did.

Dark Carnival

51VKHsxpjILI wish I read the Deathlands books a little more often than I do, although the truth of this matter is you could insert any ongoing series[1] I am reading and not yet caught up to live publication for, and that would still be a true statement. I have an embarrassment of reading wealth, I guess? Kind of.

But as much as I enjoy reading them, they’re getting harder and harder to review, because of how much continuity is piling up. I have read 14 of these over the past 7ish years (they are published quarterly, I think, so yes, this means I’m falling behind), and they’re so far not the least bit episodic. Old enemies come back, the cast changes over time, the past (both the written past and the characters’ pasts before the series opens) has consequences. All that, on top of post-apocalypse porn with a deep sci-fi bent and surprisingly[2] egalitarian gender parity, and yeah, of course I want to keep reading more.

This one, leaving out all the piled up plot, centers around dire happenings in and around an operational amusement park in Florida that is conspicuously not DisneyWorld. Also, though, let me leave you this hilarious dispatch from the 22nd Century:

Doc returned to his own room and watched some vids of a television series that Boss Larry piped through. Ryan and Krysty tried to watch it, but it seemed a plot of such staggering complexity that they gave up on it.

“It wasn’t the giant and the dwarf,” Krysty said, lying back on the huge bed. “Nor the damned fine coffee and the cherry pie. It was the woman who was dead, then Japanese, then alive again.”

[1] I mean, not Anita Blake. Seriously. But otherwise, yes.
[2] Both for the genre and the publication date. And I’m not saying it’s perfect, it’s just a lot better than could have possibly been predicted, and objectively closer to the good side of the scale than the bad side.

Project Almanac

MV5BMjIyOTYxMjM0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE2NTI3MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Did you ever see The Butterfly Effect? The one with Kelso from the 70s Show, right before he turned into Ashton Kutcher? If not, definitely watch that instead. But if you have, it’s probably been quite a while, and you may be ready to walk that territory again. Project Almanac is an MTV movie about a bunch of high school students who find themselves via quirks of causality in possession of the ability to time travel.

Then, they use it to do the kinds of things high school students as envisioned by MTV would do (pass chemistry, go to Lollapalooza, you know), until, inevitably, things start to go wrong. Which is what the movie is really about.

I liked it well enough, probably because of how much I liked the other movie in the first place? I assume it was meant to be neither an indictment nor a non-judgmental representation of how high school popularity works, but instead accidentally represented and indicted that process. And from a time travel logistics perspective, well, I had issues. They used and tossed out causality pretty much at whim, which is annoying simply because time travel logic needs to be internally consistent. Pick your method, but then stay there. That’s all I ask.

Like I said, the only reason to watch this is if you can’t watch the Butterfly Effect for the first time instead. Not because Project Almanac was bad; it wasn’t. It just wasn’t nearly good enough.

Movie 43

MV5BMTg4NzQ3NDM1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjEzMjM3OA@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_What I actually wanted to watch last night was Project X, but it wasn’t on Netflix. But the reason I wanted to watch it was that I was watching Iron Man earlier in the evening and thought the Vanity Fair reporter looked familiar. Turns out she didn’t, but I saw Movie 43 in her credits, which reminded me of Project X. Because, you know, generic titles and all.

Movie 43 is a series of comedic shorts tied together by a movie pitch plot[1], and… well, let me offer you this quick guide. If you’ve ever wanted to see Anna Faris as a coprophiliac, or if you’ve ever wanted to see Halle Berry make guacamole with a breast prosthesis, or if you’ve ever wanted to see Hugh Jackman being a literal dickhead, you should watch this movie. If you actively want to avoid seeing those things, you should not.

This doesn’t feel like a “middle ground” type of situation, you know?

[1] No, seriously, it’s not a V/H/S sequel, and I’m pretty sure this is not the only kind of movie I watch anymore? Pretty sure.

 

Ghost Story

51PeXmFimqLThis has been a long time coming. Sure, I’m not yet caught up on the Dresden Files, but I no longer feel spoiled for them. So, hooray! That said, I have to figure out how to write this review without spoiling anyone else[1], which I’ll admit is easier said than done.

Ghost Story picks up after the perfectly named Changes, which I understand to be the midpoint of the series, and it focuses on one of the changes that occurred in Harry Dresden’s life over the course of that book. Arguably, the most minor change, certainly next to last. But still, it was a pretty big change, right? So, spoilers follow this paragraph / reside below the cut.

[1] Ha ha, joke’s on me, everyone has already read this book. Who am I fooling?

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