Tag Archives: reviews

Misc. Ratings

Books

‘Bird Box’,  by Josh Malerman — 4

‘Asylum’, by Madeline Roux — 3.5

‘The Martian’, by Andy Weir — 5 !!!

‘Friendship’, by Emily Gould — 3.5

‘Gun Machine’, by Warren Ellis — 4

‘Virtual Light’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Pattern Recognition’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Ready Player One’, by Ernest Cline — 4.5

TV

True Detective (season 1) — 5 !!!

Masters of Sex (season 2) — 4

Film

House of Wax — 3

Mama — 3.5

Not much to note; have been getting some good reading in. Cannot overstate how good ‘The Martian’ is, better than all the hype had even lead me to believe it would be. So incredibly smart, funny, and well paced. Ready Player One was as well, a book I wish I had gotten around to reading sooner.  Warren Ellis’ latest was everything I hoped for — the man simply doesn’t know how to put bad writing out into the world. He’s just so damn funny, in the blackest way possible, and simply knows how to write a good story. I was building my altar to him after ‘Transmetropolitan’ back when I was 17, and he’s never once disappointed me since.  There’s something incredibly earnest about how he approaches writing and his readers, he’s simply harsh enough on himself that he’ll never let a piece of shit out and tell you it’s worth your time. If he puts his name on it, you’re going to get him at his best.

Reread a bit of Gibson as sort of an old ritual, as he has his latest coming out later this month. I don’t really mark my calendar for any writer except Murakami and Gibson. Everyone is I love is insanely great, but those two are floating in their own universe, and  getting new novels from both of them this year feels like winning the lottery to me. Was thinking of rereading the entire ‘Blue Ant’ trilogy, but I’d really like to clear off some other pressing to-reads, as after finishing Gibson’s new ‘The Peripheral’ I plan to very seriously set aside most if not all of my reading to focus on writing again. I’ve had a couple ideas really eating away at my skull the last few years. Not sure which I’m really feeling right now, but I’m starting to lean a bit, having begun spending my time (via catching up on Ellis’ newest comics work) with comics again. We’ll see.

Stopped very early in the ‘Under 40’ alt-lit anthology just because…I don’t know. I feel the ‘alt lit’ ‘thing’ here and there, it never seems to quite sustain for long. Then I caught the slightest whiffs of all the mega cluster-fuckery going around Tao Lin ant HTML giant and everything and I just didn’t feel like it. There’s great writing in this anthology and I plan to come back to it down the road, it’s just not ringing my bells right now.

I’m working through Yerra Sugarman’s ‘The Bag of Broken Glass’, but I only read it in the late hours when I feel most focused, and it’s easily the most emotionally charged poetry I’ve read in a very, very long time, maybe ever. It’s a truly heartbreaking collection and I just can’t read it quickly, so it’ll take a bit.

I don’t know what to say about True Detective (season 1). Like Breaking Bad, I was sure it was good and had heard enough about it from people whose taste I trust that I knew it’d be good, but I had no idea it’d be the truly dark and strange and perfect beast that it is. Whatever big awards it pulls in (especially MM) it absolutely deserves without reservation. It took me to places I hadn’t felt since maybe Twin Peaks. I think it may have shot it’s own load though, I don’t know if any further seasons will ever match the voodoo that season 1 did, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. Easily, easily the best writing / acting / direction of any TV show since Breaking Bad, hands down, no contest.

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Misc. Micro Reviews

Books

 

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway — 4

‘Norwegian Wood’, by Haruki Murakami — 4

‘The Massive’ (vol. 1), by Brian Wood — 4

*

TV

 

Californication (final season) — 2

Masters of Sex (season 1) — 4

Louie (season 4) — 5

American Horror Story (season 1) — 4

*

Film

 

New Robocop Movie — 2.5

The Boondock Saints — 4

American Psycho — 5

Drinking Buddies — 5

V/H/S — 2.5

Edge of Tomorrow — 3.5

X-men: Days of Future Past — 3.5

Hunger Games: Catching Fire — 3.5

Lone Survivor — 3

Grand Budapest Hotel — 5! (holy shit)

Rushmore — 5

Misc. Updates

Her — 5
The Counselor — 4
House of Cards (season 2) — 5
Californication (seasons 1-5) — 5
Shameless (season 1) — 5
Metallica: Through the Never — 4

I ended up liking The Counselor a lot more than I thought I would after seeing a pretty staggering amount of negative criticism; the dialogue is definitely strange / stands out as being very ‘literary’, but what’s not to love about that? A lot of critics are accusing it of being ‘pretentious’ which is always a strange thing to say about movies that are at least trying to reach into a deeper / stranger ecosystem than the average Hollywood flick. The aesthetics were gorgeous.

‘Her’ was also beyond gorgeous, offering a very crisp approach to visuals and setting in regards to a futuristic Los Angeles that leans much more heavily toward what I guess we could label  ‘speculative fiction’ than ‘science’.  Manages with Jonze’s deft touch to remain  lonely and minimalistic despite the overwhelming technological foliage that’s the entire point really of the film. Reminded me of ‘Lost in Translation’, that way.

House of Cards season 2 was as addicting and perfect as season 1; it’s a show that never lets the tension go slack even for a moment, something that’s incredibly hard to do well. On the subject of criticism I don’t understand, it’s been getting a solid amount of flack from admirably wonkish political types for being ‘unrealistic’. Well, it’s fiction, of course it is. People enjoy it as a politically-framed drama, and most folks don’t want to binge on 12 hours of CSPAN for a reason.

Book-related updates will be a bit slow for me, I’m working my way through Donna Tartt’s new novel ‘The Goldfinch’, which is fantastic so far but is both lengthy and a dense-ish read, so it’ll be a bit before I finish it. I’ve also been trying to set more time aside to work on both poems and the straggling beginnings of a novel I cranked out a couple years ago. There are a couple of poetry chapbook contests ending this month that I’d like to give a respectable try at, so I’m trying to read a little less each day in general, as whatever I’m reading can (for better or worse) influence how and what I’m writing. 

Tomorrow it’s going to be 60 degrees here in Indiana, the land that winter won’t leave the fuck alone. One can almost believe we’re all going to live to see beaches and campfires again before we die.

Misc. Reviews

Scarface — 5

Full Metal Jacket — 5

A Few Good Men — 3

The Wire (Season 1) — 4

The Wire (Season 2) — 4

The Wire (Season 3) — 5

Blue Jasmine — 5

5 Centimeters Per Second — 5

Google Talks: Salman Rushdie — 3

Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: David Simon, ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’ — 5

FODI 2013: Lawrence Krauss & Peter Rollins, ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ — 4

FODI 2013: Panel, ‘Death Gone Wrong’ — 3

‘this emotion was a little e-book’, Tao Lin — 4

Some more catching up on some movie classics I had somehow managed to miss until now. I definitely get what the big deal is about Scarface.

The Wire is a series I’ve been hearing about for years but hadn’t gotten around to yet, which is particularly shameful considering how much I’ve followed and admired creator David Simon’s various writings and public talks. The show really does live up to the hype, and is without a doubt some of the best criticism of the continued War on Drugs, for which the label ‘failed’ is an understatement of abysmal proportions. The characters and writing are brilliant, as is the overall pace and production. I actually surrendered all forms of self control and dignity a few days ago and marathoned the entirety of season 3 in a single day; it really is that good, the epitome of ‘just one more’ addiction. David Simon’s background as a journalist comes through very strong, and is the mechanism driving all the gritty and realistic minutiae that make the show truly singular.

Blue Jasmine was absolutely fantastic, the best Woody Allen in a long while and by far his best cast that I can remember. Cate Blanchett rightfully gets the lion’s share of praise for a perfectly affected portrayal of a genuine nervous breakdown of life-crumbling proportions. Baldwin and Louis CK are very enjoyable and the presence of Sally Hawkins (who I fell completely in love with in Happy-Go-Lucky) pushes the entire film over the top for me in the best ways possible.

5 Centimeters Per Second is easily the best animated film I’ve seen in years, visually pristine and aesthetically wealthy in all the ways needed to carry through to make what would in most hands a bland and cliche trio of vignettes.

I’d never quite say Salman Rushdie is disappointing as a speaker or reader, but he really does just..lose something, when off the page. The writing of his I know (not enough) is the real deal, he studies everything with a writer’s mind and imagination that is childlike yet with the matured patina of someone who has been the target of and answer to some of the most visceral anger and violence on offer in the modern world. His talk at Google about his memoir (that I loved) was all right but nothing terribly interesting to anyone who has read the book or even been enough a follower of his life to want to.

Been slowly working through all of the YouTube recordings of this past year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which is always worth anyone’s time and always offers a genuinely complex range of topics. David Simon’s dark and only slightly hopeful critique of the lack of any social contract at all between America’s capitalistic balloonings of wealth and its people as a whole (i.e., the 99% vs. 1% dynamic) is thorough and emotional and uncomfortable, and I’m afraid that he’s almost certainly right in saying that, on the whole, it’s all going to get much worse before it gets better, and the turning point will be some kind of very real revolt, something along the lines of the Arab Spring meets Occupy Wall Street.

The ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ debate/discussion was all right but a bit flat. Lawrence Krauss is a fine speaker and getting better all the time, and represented himself well and did right by, I think, most anyone who could be called part of the ‘movement’. I had never seen Peter Rollins speak before and I get why he’s so popular — young, very charismatic, with a perfect sense for cadence and performance. Sadly, while markedly more enjoyable to listen to than Deepak Chopra, his pseudo-intellectual ramblings are equally hollow. Like Chopra he’s borrowed just enough jargon to weave together some admirable rhetorical stunt-pilotry that goes precisely nowhere — there’s just no there, there. His severely watered-down take on theology makes it so palatable even secularists might find it interesting, but it’s like popcorn, mostly air and quickly unsatisfying past his verbal theatrics.

Top 5 Books of 2013

Lin-credit-Noah-Kalina

I’m a couple of days late to the requisite end-of-year book list, but I read some true knockouts and really wanted to share them. Here in no particular order are my top 5 books I read this past year:

 

1. ‘Taipei‘, by Tao Lin

2. ‘Gross Ardor‘, by Bill Rasmovicz

3. ‘Invisible Cities‘, by Italo Calvino

4. ‘Little Brother‘, by Cory Doctorow

5. ‘i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together‘, by Mira Gonzalez

 

Review: ‘The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice’, by Christopher Hitchens

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and PracticeThe Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher Hitchens has arguably (no pun intended!) done more slaughtering of sacred cows than any journalist or polemicist in recent memory. This book is no disappointment and is a testament to the danger of the kind of zeitgeist-wide acceptance certain cultural figures have been privilege too without, seemingly, much if any close critique.

Hitchens brings to bear very specific criticisms of a few of Mother Teresa’s doctrinal and political views that should make any decent person uncomfortable as well as larger, more philosophical criticisms. Chief among these is a dismantling of the narrative that Mother Teresa did terribly much for the poor and sick, but actually celebrated these tragedies as blessings from God to be spiritually cherished–a searing hypocrisy for a woman who, Hitchens notes, was quick to take herself into the comfortable and expensive clinics of the world when falling ill herself. After finishing this slim but thorough thrashing, it’s hard to think of Mother Teresa as worthy of attention or applause, much less sainthood.

View all my reviews

Misc. Reviews

Breaking Bad (season 5) — 5

House of Cards (season 1) — 5

Louie (season 4) — 5

Good Dick — 5

Star Trek: Into Darkness — 4

Jiro Dreams of Sushi — 5

Scent of a Woman — 5

Elysium — 3

Man of Steel — 3.5

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug — 2

 

Considering my immense admiration for curmudgeons, I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to seeing Scent of a Woman, which probably has one of the best assholes to ever grace the silver screen. Elysium and Man of Steel were both decent but also disappointing, solid movies that could have been incredible with some genuine creativity.

The second installation of the Hobbit trilogy was okayish but just as disappointing as the first movie. It feels like Peter Jackson is going full George Lucas. The first trilogy always managed to feel immense and epic, peppered with levity and love and was always compelling despite very long run times. The Hobbit movies have largely failed in these respects, feeling rushed and anxious with themselves, running far too long with unneeded creative license pulling in phantom characters and spending too much time on scenes and minor side plots that either needed more attention or being cut altogether. One review called Desolation of Smaug “bloated and spastic” which feels perfectly accurate to me. When it tries to be serious the acting feels labored and thin, when it tries to be funny it feels awkward and too goofy (a la Jar Jar). Not a terrible movie but I wouldn’t want to sit through it again.

House of Cards is audacious and probably Netflix’s biggest experiment (and success) as it moves more into producing original content that seems very capable of outmatching anything on ‘real’ TV.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is easily the best food documentary I’ve ever seen, intriguing and perfectly produced, its titular character a testament to dedication to a labor of love.