Netflix Instant Picks: American Psycho, Thelma & Louise, Ninth Gate

American Pyscho (2000) / Black Comedy

Netflix Instant Movies American Pyscho

This is that rare occasion where the movie is better than the book. I shouldn’t say better. But this story fits better in movie form than text. The book is much more graphic than the film. And not in a good way. I don’t need to read multiple murder + rape scenes. The satire of it comes through perfectly in the film even though there’s less time to work with.

Christian Bale plays a perfect Patrick Bateman. Bateman lives on the upper west side of NYC, spends his time with vapid rich socialites, and kills hookers in his spare time. He also returns videotapes.

Starring: Christian Bale, Chloƫ Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon
Runtime: 103 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Dark satire about a rich homicidal sociopath in nyc.


The Ninth Gate (1999) / Supernatural

Netflix Instant Movies The Ninth Gate

This is a known bad movie that I still enjoy. Yes, this is a movie about Satan and Hell and books. It’s silly. There’s worse.

Starring: Johnny Depp
Runtime: 133 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Johnny Depp finds Hell


Thelma & Louise (1991) / Drama

Netflix Instant Movies Thelma & Louise

This movie is one of the few that has an unhappy ending. Well, depending on who you ask.

A fun joy ride between who women who are sick of the men in their life takes a turn for the worst when they accidentally kill someone. And their money is stolen.

But they have their convertible and life isn’t getting them down. Thelma and Louise, as characters, are riveting and charming and crude all at the same time.

Bonus: Young Brad Pitt appearance

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt
Runtime: 129 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: A spontaneous joy ride turns into an eternal new life for Thelma & Louise.



Netflix Instant Christmas Movies: Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, Hugo

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) / Goofy Comedy

Netflix Instant Christmas Movies National Lampoons Christmas VacationWatch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Netflix Instant

This is on my Christmas watch list every year. The jokes never get old. The schticks still make me giggle. Most of the movie is ridiculous. But in the most heart-warming way. Clark Griswold’s happy nature is so sincere you can’t help but truly want him to have the best Christmas ever.

Starring: Chevy Chase, Juliette Lewis
Runtime: 97 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Spend a happy holiday with the good natured Griswold family.


Love Actually (2003) / Rom Com

Netflix Instant Christmas Movies Love ActuallyWatch Love Actually on Netflix Instant

I generally hate romantic comedies. Yet, I love this movie. Generally, star-studded films are a convoluted mess. Yet, this movie is great. Sure, a lot of it doesn’t make sense, But just go with it. Each love story is unique to each other, unlike some other multiple-storyline movies.

And all the characters are on-screen long enough to have some sort of identity. There are sad parts but the never really takes itself too seriously. Especially in Wisconsin.

If you generally have a cold black heart, I suggest you give this a chance. I’m not privy to these types of films but this one might surprise you.

Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley
Runtime: 135 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Multiple romantic storylines are woven together and meet in surprisingly interesting ways.


Hugo (2011) / Whisical Family Drama

Netflix Instant Christmas Movies HugoWatch Hugo on Netflix Instant

Although Hugo is a movie about a child, it’s really a movie about… movies! Halfway through the movie you get a fun history lesson into the early world of movies. You can easily watch this without kids and enjoy it.

There isn’t any low-brow humor or slapstick jokes. There’s some goofy chase scenes but otherwise, it’s a pretty heart-warming story about the old days of film.

Starring: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen,
Runtime: 127 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Part child-adventure, part film history – this film is great to watch with or without kids.



Books List 2013: Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Graphic Novels

As I did last year, here’s a giant conglomerate post of all 65 books I’ve read so far in 2013. These aren’t books that were released this year (though some were) but just books I decided to read this past year. Some were good. Some weren’t. Take notes!

To make this easier to read, I’m only including writing about highlights of each genre. Books I really loved, hated, or had some emotional reaction to. Any books simply listed are ones that were okay. Not bad. Not my favorite. Just books that I read and liked but didn’t have any impact on me. If you’re curious about more details of one of these, let me know!


books I read in 2013

Books List 2013- Click to enlarge

Fiction: 36
Non-Fiction: 18
Comics/Graphic Novels: 11

Total Pages: 21,241
Total Spent: $225
Total Books Taken out from Library: 34
Total Saved by using the Library: $500 (at retail price)


Top Five

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  3. Preacher by writer Garth Ennis & artist Steve Dillon
  4. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg by
  5. Stoner by John Williams

Comics/Graphic Novels

Preacher by Greg Ennis & Steve Dillon / Blasphemous Comic

Preacher Vols 1-3 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

I marathon-ed Preacher volumes 1-3 and loved every single second of it. The characters are fun (my favorite vampire of all time!), the story is interesting, and the artwork is fantastic. Since the story predominantly covers religious themes, some scenes can take an emotional toll on you.

The exploration into religion should be for everyone. God is made an anti-hero, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered. Blasphemy, gore, sex, gunslingers, vampires, and other interesting characters are used well. And provides artist Steve Dillon plenty of material for his fantastic illustrations. The story would certainly feel stale without his artistic talents.


Page from NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki

NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki / Memoir & Folklore

NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki

Nonnonba is a combination memoir + whimsy. It is a memoir of Shigeru Mizuki’s childhood. But explores the whimsical nature of yokai, spirit monsters part of japanese folklore. The narrative is interesting and fun. But it’s the illustrations that make it. The drawings really bring the invisible spirits to life.


Fun Home a Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel / Memoir

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I did not like Fun Home. I know everyone else did. I know it’s a play now. But it’s just not for me. The book isn’t remotely interesting and the storytelling is full of pretentious jabber. The book eventually turns into a college literary criticism paper. Because Bechdel over-analyzes every single aspect of her life, this felt very empty as a memoir. There are many better graphic novel memoirs out there – shock value alone can’t save a bad story.


Others

  • Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey and Grady Hendrix – Leslie Rating: 4/5
  • Black Hole by Charles Burns – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Far Arden by Kevin Cannon – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Me Likes You Very Much by Lauren Barnett – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • The Sandman Vol 01 by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg – Leslie Rating: 2/5

Non-Fiction

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury / Writing Reference

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

This writing reference book by Ray Bradbury is a collection of essays written in various stages of his life. As far as “writing on writing” goes, this is my favorite. He asks writers to keep an open mind. And think more creatively. He explains how to turn simple life events into whole stories. Each essay hits upon a different topic with references to his own publications making the advice feel particularly sound.


Sample exercise from Drawing for the Right Side of the Brain

The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards / Drawing Reference

The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

I had been dabbling in drawing the past two years. I have zero formal education. I’ve never had that “artist’s eye”. I still drew houses as a square and a triangle. Then I began scribbling. Thinking of drawings more as cartoons instead of still-life’s. I tried reading some drawing how-to’s online and via youtube, but it was a struggle.

A co-worker, with a formal art education, strongly recommended Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain to me. I will never be thankful enough. This is an essential drawing book if you’re a beginner! And I mean beginner. I love how she really explains what you’re doing by drawing. She teaches you to see. You can’t draw what you can’t see! She urges you to outline exactly what you see. There are some very useful tools recommended to go along with the exercises. Everything is cheap and easy to obtain. I wouldn’t do the exercises without them.

Having a viewing pane was one of the most helpful tools for me. Being able to actually hold up clear plastic and outline something right there, really helped me to see it. She makes no assumptions of your level. This isn’t about anatomy or the rule of thirds or any technical art things. It really is teaching you to see the “correct” way. A must read for anyone interested in art!


Verlyn Klinkenborg Several Short Sentences About Writing

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg / Writing Reference

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

This book is one of the best books on writing that I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). It uses a new & different perspective to talk about how you should be writing. Instead of preaching the “write everything down” method, he asks writers to focus on quality. Focus on correct grammar. Not just the correct use of “your” but actual sentence structure. Can you label the transitive and intransitives verbs in a sentence? I can’t.

Instead of merely talking about writing as an experience, Klinkenborg talks about writing in practice. Writers should think about each single word they write. Then each single sentence. Then each single paragraph. Etc. He argues that sentences need to be simplified. For some reason we are taught academically to fill up each sentence with noisy words. And to fill up each sentence with multiple thoughts. His main argument is for, essentially, choppy writing. This could make some writers cringe.

One of his recommendations, similar to most other author’s, is to read everything! Read fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literature, comics. All media and all formats. Learn how others manipulate language. Expand your vocabulary. Learn from other’s mistakes. He helps you put this into practice by including a workbook section at the back. Sentence examples and critiques to give you examples. There are sentences from early works of author’s are shown as examples of poor language, awkward rhythm, and other language errors.


Example map from visual display of information

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte / Statistics History & Presentation

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte

I have been interested in interface design for a long time. Mostly based around web-design and online software. Now that I work with reports and charts on a daily basis, my interest has shifted slightly. It’s amazing how such small changes can really affect the interpretation of a chart.

When should you use a table? When should you use a bar chart? When should you use a pie chart? (NEVER)

Even if you’re not personally creating charts, this is still an interesting read. Tufte explores the history of information visual displays. He compares & contrasts two types of charts presenting the same information. He warns how easy it is to manipulate information with a bias. Since we all see charts & data tables every single day, learning how to correctly read them and what they mean, is really important.


A walk in the woods

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson / Nature History & Memoir

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

This is my first Bill Bryson book. Even though I have been recommended many others. I loved his perspective on the Appalachian trail. I love that he brought an alcoholic friend with him. I even loved his history rants about the park service. It’s a great story about interesting characters that are real enough to empathize with.

This not a book necessarily about the trail or should be used as a reference guide. But it’s light writing with plenty of history.


Your brain is sabotaging you...

The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer / Beliefs & Nuerology

The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

After suffering a severe depression last year, I began reading non-fiction books on brains & neurology. I wanted to understand how our brains could cause us so much pain. How our own brains could sabotage us. Why our brains made us think the way we think. There were many thoughts going through my depressed brain that I knew were wrong but so strongly believed. Whyyyy?????

The Believing Brain goes in-depth to explain exactly this conflict between us knowing and believing. Shermer discusses the inner brain workings of religious evangelists, conspiracy nuts, and paranormal believers. I can’t begin to sum all this up so I really recommend the book if you’re interested.

One factor to help explain this is that our brains are very sensitive to the power of suggestion. If someone takes you to a room and tells you it’s haunted, you might start feeling a cold chill. Or feel an invisible object brush against you. But if you were taken into that same room and without the mention of haunts, you wouldn’t feel a thing. Our brain is very good at tricking us.

Another interesting explanation I found specifically for the religious/conspiracy believers is the feeling of adrenaline. Think of a drug user who keeps using drugs to feel that initial high, even though they don’t feel it every time. Praying is similar. If you pray for something to happen, and it happens, you feel really good! You are happy. You tell yourself God loves you. You feel blessed. This is a very good feeling!

Yet, if you pray for something, and it doesn’t happen, you don’t necessarily feel terrible. You just say that God has a plan. You don’t stop praying. You don’t instantly stop believing in prayer. Because, really, you’re after that feeling of adrenaline. You will continue praying, even if your prayers go ‘unanswered’, because one time what you want to happen will happen (statistically speaking) and you’ll feel that good feeling again! That makes it worth it.

Do not kill me for butchering the explanation above, that is my paraphrased summary of what I remember from this book. But if all that interests you, I definitely recommend checking out the book for the details!


Others

  • Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob – Leslie Rating: 4/5
  • Longitude by Dava Sobel – Leslie Rating: 4/5
  • Goodbye to Berlin by Chris Atwood – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • On the Map by Simon Garfield – Leslie Rating 3/5
  • Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • War Trash by Ha Jin – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Descent by Brad Matsen – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Chaos by James Gleick – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – Leslie Rating: 3/5
  • Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg – Leslie Rating: 1/5

Fiction

watership down

Watership Down by Richard Adams / Adventure Fiction

Watership Down by Richard Adams

If I had to recommend one book to anyone, it would be this one. Adams’ insight into a fictional society of rabbits is far more complex and mature than you would expect. There is folklore (think Tolkien style), accurate animal descriptions, and a beautiful relationship to nature.

The plot itself is an adventure story. A small group of rabbits are on a journey to find a new home, after fleeing from danger. It’s not the obstacles and detours that keep your interest. It’s the characters. Adams’ power to feel so much compassion and empathy for rabbits is amazing. You may even forget they’re rabbits at one point.


Stoner by Jon Willaism

Stoner by John Williams / Literary Fiction

Stoner by John Williams

Stoner is one of the best pieces of literary fiction I’ve read to date. The main character, William Stoner, leads a simple, typical American life in the early 1900′s.

He leaves the family farm, attends college, and becomes a teacher. He has a loveless marriage, a child, then his wife goes crazy. He has an affair. There is a minor villain at work.

There are no adventures. No excitement. No journeys, well some personal ones. But the minimalism of the story and character is pulled off flawlessly. Williams’ writing is fluid without polluting the simplicity of the story.


Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville / Fantasy & Steampunk

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville / Fantasy & Steam Punk

Several years ago I read Kraken and hated it. It was verbose writing, a boring world, and a terrible plot. And whenever I told people that, they nodded and told me to read Perdido Street Station. So I did.

This story is fantastic. It’s exciting. A perfect use of fantasy. A perfect use of steampunk. His writing is still verbose at times. But I like how he doesn’t give things away. He doesn’t treat the reader like an idiot.

The plot holds strong until the end. It felt to me like Mieville gave up and vomited an ending. Maybe he had that planned all along. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I wanted to see how he pulled it off. But the story itself was so exciting and riveting, I give him a pass.

Even if you’re not a big fantasy fan, I really recommend this one. Think fantasy as in different worlds, not dragons and swords.


ender's shadow

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card / Fantasy & YA

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Reading Ender’s Shadow after reading Ender’s Game is interesting. Both books have the same exact plot. And are told during the same exact time. Just focusing on two different characters. And their perspectives are different enough to still make this interesting. It takes a lot to make a story unique twice.

I do think you could read these in interchangeable order, since they tell the same story. It’s impressive that Card made a story with two very complex characters. It’s clear that Bean is more than just a sidekick. I do wish I had read both of these when I was younger, but do not regret reading them at all.


Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury / Fantasy & Dark YA

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Let me say, I love Ray Bradbury. I love everything he’s done. I was so excited to get this book from the library. I was so excited to start reading it.

But reading it was difficult for me. This is another book that I might have enjoyed more if I was younger. But it wasn’t just that. This is a story of two boys who find an evil carnival. There is magic and whimsy. There is darkness and fear. There is an adventure of two best friends. The plot is fantastic all around.

It’s the story-telling I just couldn’t follow. His writing, smooth and beautiful, was too beautiful. The descriptions too descriptive. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell what he was talking about. The prose was so distracting, it took right out of the setting. I never felt scared or close to the characters. I was too busy trying to figure out what was happening. I would never say this is a bad book but it was a harder reading experience for me.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is terrible

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline / Fantasy & Bad Writing

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Admittedly, I couldn’t finish this book. The teenager writing and jaded world-setting bored me to death. The story was predictable and overdone. The superfluous 80′s references added nothing. It failed my 100 pages test. The characters were empty. The world dull. This story has been told over and over. I saw nothing new here. Nothing was done better. I typically enjoy adventure stories (even if they are predictable). But his writing was painful for me to read.


Others

  • American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout – Leslie Rating: 4/5
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Leslie Rating:4/5
  • Rumor of War by Philip Caputo – Leslie Rating:4/5
  • Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot – Leslie Rating:4/5
  • Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd – Leslie Rating:4/5
  • John Dies at the End by David Wong – Leslie Rating:4/5
  • The Prestige by Christopher Priest – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • True Grit by Charles Portis – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Canada by Richard Ford- Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Mort by Terry Pratchett – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Golden Compass by by Philip Pullman – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • So Long and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • How Soon Is Never? by Marc Spitz- Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Son by Philipp Meyer – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – Leslie Rating:3/5
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • Metzger’s Dog by Thomas Perry – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • Songmaster by Orson Scott Card – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – Leslie Rating:2/5
  • In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde – Leslie Rating:1/5

Netflix Instant Comedy: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Clue, Trading Places

MST3K: Beginning of the End (1993/1957) / Parody Comedy

Netflix Instant Comedy MST3KWatch MST3K:Beginning of the End on Netflix Instant
The concept behind television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a good one. Take old, bad sci-fi movies and make fun of them. In this episode, Mike Nelson provides witty banter while being forced to watch this film flop.

The movie plot involves giant grasshoppers attacking the city of Chicago. What’s not to make fun of!

Leslie Rating: n/a
Summary: Giant grasshoppers are terrorizing chicago!


Clue (1985) / Cult Comedy

Netflix Instant Comedy Clue with Tim CurryWatch Clue on Netflix Instant
Usually movies about board games are terrible (think Battleship). But Clue actually pulls it off. Largely thanks to Tim Curry, who is fabulous as usual.

When I first realized this was a movie, I was curious how they played out the ending. As a game, the ending is always different. How could they pick just one ending for the movie? Well…. you’ll see! The ending is very clever.

Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: One of the best movies about a board game you’ll ever see (plus Tim Curry).


Trading Places (1983) / Satire

Netflix Instant Comedy Satire Trading PlacesWatch Trading Places on Netflix Instant
Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy lead this strange satire about two men (one rich one poor, of course) ‘trading places’ in life. Eddie Murphy becomes rich and revered. Dan Aykroyd loses everything and wanders around homeless. Typical enough plot.

Their switch is predicated on a bet made by some of Aykroyd’s people. Well, Murphy & Aykroyd learn about the bet and decide to get the best of them. Ooooooh.

Lots of weird satirical things happen (like black face). I can’t say if it actually worked or not. It felt like the second half of the movie was completely different from the first.

Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Rich Dan Aykroyd trades places with Eddie Murphy because, unbeknownst to them, two men made a bet to see if they could handle their new lives. The tables get turned in satire fashion.



Netflix Instant Picks: Skyfall, Death Becomes Her, Addams Family

Skyfall (2012) / Espionage Action

Netflix Instant James BondWatch Skyfall on Netflix Instant
Bond movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. I plan to watch this one over the weekend since it’s finally available on Instant. I expect the plot to be thinly veiled, the explosions to be big, and the gadgets to be fancy. Let’s see if I’m disappointed.

Leslie Rating: n/a
Summary: Daniel Craig continues the James Bond tradition with explosions, treason, and the usual gadgets.


The Addams Family (1991) / Comedy

Netflix Instant The Addams Family ComedyWatch The Addams Family on Netflix Instant
Sure Halloween’s over for most of us but not for The Addams Family. For a comedy remake of a tv show featuring a quirky family of goths, this movie holds up very well. The plot is loose but who cares? You’re watching this just to see the family interactions anyway.

Every line is as morbid as you’d expect. And fun + weird characters keep showing up. The parents may be morbid but are actually happy and passionately in love. Awww. Then the kids behave like normal children trying to kill each other (srsly). The scenes are predictable but induce more smiles than eye rolls. Sure, there’s probably some nostalgia involved in my favor of this movie.

Highlights include a sweet & lovable Christina Ricci.

Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: This remake recreates the family perfectly with enough humor that it holds up yet enough one-liners to remind you it’s a 90′s movie.


Death Becomes Her (1992) / Dark Comedy

Netflix Instant Dark Comedy Death Becomes HerWatch Death Becomes Her on Netflix Instant
I was 10 when this movie came out and remember watching it probably a few years later on cable. At the time, I didn’t quite get satire or dark humor. I remember thinking the movie was goofy and stupid. As you probably would if you didn’t understand the concept of satire.

I’m sure I also had little appreciation for the make-up artists and special effects put into it. The plot is definitely goofy but the excellent cast pulls it off.

Highlights include well-dressed zombies, neat special effects, great make-up art and a whole lot of dark humor + satire.

Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Meryl Streep & Goldie Hawn find the secret to eternal youth then try to have a fight to the death which doesn’t work so well.



Horror Movies on Netflix Instant: Scream, Re-Animator, Slither

Netflix Picks are personal recommendations of movies/tv shows available on Netflix Instant.

There is a huge selection of Netflix Instant horror movies. Lots of cult horror like Toxic Avenger, Re-Animator, and Evil Dead. Horror originals that have now been re-made to death like Carrie (because we need another one!) Black comedy highlighted in last week’s line-up including Fargo. And even the Tim Burton animated musical Nightmare Before Christmas.

I don’t love Halloween the way most people do. I hate the dressing up part. But I love scary movies and yay for Netflix for making so many available.


Scream (1996) / Teen Slasher

Netflix Instant Horror Movies Scream 1996Watch Scream on Netflix Instant
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Wes Craven knows how to terrorize a highschool

Do you remember the first time you watched Scream? Major highschool nostalgia for me. I’m really am not sure if it would hold up or not. I do remember how exciting the murder reveal was – back before I turned into a curmudgeon who could predict a whole movie two minutes in (or think I can).

I can’t imagine the reveal being as shocking now but who knows! It’s still a fun ride and was the beginning of my highschool crush on Matthew Lilliard.

Re-Animator (1985) / Campy Horror

Netflix Instant Horror Movies Re-AnimatorWatch Re-Animator on Netflix Instant
Leslie Rating: n/a
Summary: A very bloody H.P. Lovecraft story about bringing back the dead

Even though I haven’t seen Re-Animator in full, I have seen enough to know that it’s gruesomely great. I think we watched clips of it in a media analysis class for who knows what reason.

Slither (2006) / Dark Comedy

Netflix Instant Horror Movies Slither 2006Watch Slither on Netflix Instant
Leslie Rating: n/a
Summary: Dark humor borderline parody but with gore aplenty

I know I try not to recommend movies for these posts unless I have seen them but Slither caught my eye. It looks like a horror film that is scary without taking itself too seriously. I appreciate that. Plus, it has Nathon Fillion.



September Reads Recap: John Dies at the End is Fucked Up

Reading recaps are mini-reviews of the books I’ve read each month.

Pick of the Month: A Walk in the Woods

“A Walk in the Woods” is the first Bill Bryson book I’ve read. I’ve been recommended several of his books over the past few years so I was really looking forward to reading this. I was not disappointed. Although this is a memoir about a life-changing experience, Bryson’s humor and honesty keep it feeling light and relate-able. He is exceptionally skilled at relaying the experience in a realistic way.

He doesn’t only describe the setting but also his feelings in such a direct manner. I have zero experience hiking long distances but was able to understand his experience (as much as possible without actually doing the work).

Spoiler! Although he decided not to hike the Appalachian Trail in completion, he never explained this defensively. As a reader, I appreciate that attitude. It made it feel like he was writing just to write and not for reader’s expectations.

The story is about his experience with the trail plus trail facts interwoven through his personal narrative. Some of the tidbits go a bit deep into the organizational structure of the National Parks Association. The history portions were my favorite. I enjoyed reading a mix of personal story on hiking the trail plus history about the trail itself. There is a good balance of the two and neither are dependent on each other.

This is an enjoyable read for people who like humor, memoirs, nature, or history.

Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Memoir
Source: NYPL
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Personal memoir + history lesson on hiking the Appalachian Trail


Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This was another first-time author for me and will most likely stay that way. I enjoyed Dark Places to the point that I tore through it because I really really really wanted to find out the killer(s).

Although the characters weren’t likable, the storytelling was done very well. No spoilers! The story switches back and forth between the past and the present. The past storyline chronicles the day of the murders from multiple character’s perspective. I honestly would have rather just read that story without any of the present-day investigation. But all in all the combination of both worked.

I can recommend this if you’re interested in murder thrillers based around highschoolers and selfish characters. The story was fun to read over a weekend but I don’t plan on reading another Flynn novel.

Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Murder
Source: Own (Thanks @fierian)
Rating: 3/5
Summary: A little girl’s family was slaughtered by her brother. Maybe.



The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

I first heard of Oliver Sacks last year when “Hallucinations” came out. That was fun but got a little bit bogged down in the middle. But it was a light read considering the material.

“The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” was quite different. The neurology-speak was much heavier. While the studies themselves were interesting and I did want to hear more details, some of the technical explanations went right over my head. I felt this book wasn’t written for general audiences.

His writing is top natch and the material is extremely interesting if you’re interested in the topic. At the very least, it never fails to amaze me just how often our brains sabotage us.

Author: Oliver Sacks
Genre: Neurology Non-Fiction
Source: NYPL
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Nuerological case studies featuring selective amnesia and perception.



The Woman who Dies A Lot by Jasper Fforde

After reading “Shades of Grey” last year by Fforde, I hungrily read more by him. His humor is a perfect blend of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. The world he created with Shades of Grey and Nursery Crimes is unique, elaborate, and engaging. I’ve been wanting to read more by him for a while.

When hunting for a new book in the library, I was happy to stumble upon The Woman Who Dies A Lot – part of his Thursday Next series.

I couldn’t finish the book. It didn’t pass my 100-page test.

This is the first world by Fforde that I just couldn’t get into. Maybe it would have made sense if I read other books in the series. Maybe things would have been explained later on in the story. Either way, within the first 100-pages I just couldn’t understand what was happening, what had happened, or why I was supposed to care.

I still highly recommend “Shades of Grey” and Fforde as an author and might try to finish this one later on.

Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Fantasy
Source: NYPL
Rating: n/a
Summary: There’s a woman. And she dies a lot. If anything else happens, I’m not aware of it.



John Dies at the End by David Wong

As I said last week, this book is weird.

It began as a website, then was published as a book, then turned into a movie. Good for David Wong.

The book is out there, crazy, ridiculous, stupid for the sake of being stupid, insane, boundary crossing, gives no fucks – yet somehow stay together. A story that you should hate, but don’t. There were definitely times I rolled my eyes, but kept reading.

None of it made sense, the reader is confused the entire time, but it’s an enjoyable ride. Read this if you like the weirdest of the weird.

Author: David Wong
Genre: Fantasy/Weird Shit
Source: NYPL
Rating: 3/5
Summary: This book is fucked up.


Dark Humor Netflix Instant: Evil Dead 2, Ghost Busters, Fargo

Netflix Picks are personal recommendations of movies/tv shows available on Netflix Instant.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
Genre: Comedy Horror
Mood: Cult Classics
85 mins; 1987
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: What happens when you’re in a cabin in the woods and you read from the necronomicon? Zombies!

Ghostbusters
Genre: Supernatural Humor
Mood: Classics
105 mins; 1984
Leslie Rating: 5/5
Summary: Ghosts are taking over NYC! Who you gonna call?


Genre: Dark Humor
Mood: Indie Crime
98 mins; 1996
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: A police chief in Minnesoooota investigates a kidnapping conspiracy.


Netflix Instant Picks: Disney, Drew Barrymore, Requiem for a Dream

Netflix Picks are personal recommendations of movies/tv shows available on Netflix Instant.

Lilo & Stitch
Genre: Animated/Family
Mood: Awww
85 mins; 2002
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Sappy family cuteness all around

50 First Dates
Genre: Rom Com
Mood: Adam Sandler
99 mins; 2004
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Silly love story cuteness all around


Genre: Drama
Mood: Dark
102 mins; 2000
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Drug-themed darkness all around


August Books Recap: Ray Bradbury + Preacher + Chaos Theory

Reading recaps are mini-reviews of the books I’ve read each month.

I spent a lot of time this month reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I wanted to love this book, really. I love Bradbury completely – everything he writes is just beautiful. Something Wicked is no exception. The words are so smooth, whimsical, soft, floaty, dreamy – the descriptions felt like you were floating as you read them. Everything was beautiful.

The problem, however, is the story in itself was supposed to be a bit creepy/scary/suspenseful considering it is about a carnival that kidnaps + morphs people into other things. Any time the boys in the story felt scared, I didn’t feel scared along with them. I was more entranced with Bradbury’ wonderful descriptions of their surroundings. In this way, I felt conflicted between the pretty writing & the dark story.

If you love Bradbury, you will absolutely love this and I do recommend it – it was just a strange reading experience for me.


Pick of the Month

The Cheese Monkeys
Author: Chip Kidd
Genre: Fiction
Source: Own
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Set a State University in 1957, the characters feel real, the “villain” relate-able, and strong writing throughout.


The Rest

Preacher Vol 3: Proud Americans
Author: Garth Ennis + Steve Dillon
Genre: Comics
Source: Own
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Preacher, the story of a possessed preacher, his lover, and a vampire, seemed to falter in this volume but still had some brilliant moments.


Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Genre: Fiction
Source: NYPL
Rating: 2/5
Summary: You know how you feel when listening to a Wilco album? That’s the same feeling this book gives you.


Big Brother
Author: Lionel Shriver
Genre: Fiction
Source: NYPL
Rating: 2/5
Summary: This had potential for a weekend read but the writing is so pretentious it wasn’t even fun to read.


Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: YA Creepy Sci-Fi
Source: NYPL
Rating: 3/5
Summary: The writing is so wonderfully beautiful that it actually distracted from the supposedly creepy story. A younger aged boy would probably love this.


Chaos: Making A New Science
Author: James Gleick
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: NYPL
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Great easy-to-read-for-non-math-people introduction to Chaos Theory and the history behind it.


American Vampire
Author: Jennifer Armintrout
Genre: Sci-Fi
Source: NYPL
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Fun Saturday read that is far from literary fiction but the writing is tight and the story is enjoyable.


Me Like You Very Much
Author: Lauren Barnett
Genre: Comics
Source: Own
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Oddball comics featuring silly characters like birds + bananas.