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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010): This Is What Horror Comedies Should Be

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig, 2010)

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The Canadian poster, because Canada does this sort of thing so much better than we do.

Back in the day (in the dark ages of 1997) there was a ridiculously awesome TV series called Breaker High that pretty much no one watched. Among its cast of up-and-coming young-and-beautifuls were a pair of young actors who portrayed best pals Sean and Jimmy: Ryan Gosling and Tyler Labine. Three years later, Labine would be making high-profile Hollywood blockbusters like Antitrust, while Gosling had gone into the quirky-indie market with movies like The Believer. Fast-forward ten years… and somehow the roles have been reversed, with Gosling headlining everything from romantic melodramas (I man, crap, he was in a Nicholas Sparks movie ferfooxache) to neo-noir (Drive), while Labine, who’s just as talented an actor, is now doing the indie thing. Ryan Gosling is in your face; you have to go looking for Tyler Labine. And here’s the best example in recent memory of why you really, really want to.

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Gaichu (Harmful Insect) (2001): Coming of Age Is Universal

Gaichu (Akihiko Shiota, 2001)

(note: review originally published 29 November 2008)

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The movie its distributor saw as “too Japanese” for the western market… and has subsequently never released outside Asia.

It would be tempting to see Gaichu (known in the west as Harmful Insect), Akihiko Shiota’s fourth (and probably best-known) film, as a kind of Japanese version of American Beauty, but focused on Thora Birch rather than Kevin Spacey. And while there’s certainly an element of alienation here that every girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen is more than likely to empathize with, and while American Beauty‘s unforgettable opening line casts a (relatively unsuccessful) pall over that picture, Gaichu finds nooks and crannies of desperation and depression that Sam Mendes has nightmares about.

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Flu (2010): Gotta Catch ’em All!

Wayne Simmons, Flu (Snowbooks, 2010)

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I get that damn shot every year, and for what?

I have seen a few reviews of Wayne Simmons’ Flu that take it (and him) to task for not pushing the envelope here. Most of those reviews gave no indication if the reviewer in question had read Simmons’ first novel, Drop Dead Gorgeous. If they had, well, I can kind of see where they were coming from—for that is very much a book that pushed the envelope, zombie lit-wise, and to this day it’s one of my favorite novels in the new wave of zombie lit. And no, Flu is not that. It’s a straight-up homage to classic zombies.

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Colors! (2011): It’s Been Done Before

Anonymous, Colors! (Modern Publishing, 2011)

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Someone stop me before I quote Ice-T down here.


Points off for lack of information (no author listed).

One of the Sesame Street-licensed bathtub books from Modern Publishing. I’m not a huge fan of the Bendon Publishing Sesame Street license books, but at least Bendon has some basic idea of how the Sesame Workshop team seems to work and consults with them on things. Modern, on the other hand, has always felt like it licenses the characters for the sole purpose of a cash grab. This is par for the course; it’s your basic colors book (character of a certain color, other things of a certain color, make the logical leap), but there’s no text at all save the name of the color; no helper text to read to the child or anything along those lines (cf. The Care Bears Book of Colors review elsewhere this ish). Add that to Modern’s usual lack of information about the book itself (in this case, no author—not that putting an author’s name on here would convey anything, really), and you have many, many better options when looking for this sort of thing. **

Bert and Ernie’s First Book of Opposites (2010): Repetitive, but That’s Not a Bad Thing

Heather Au, Bert and Ernie’s First Book of Opposites (Bendon Publishing, 2010)


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it ain’t fiction, just a natural fact…

While I know that, in general, Sesame Street books are (like Sesame Street scripts) written in a very specific manner—Sesame Workshop doesn’t do anything without it being documented in any number of research papers as being good for the kiddies—I have to admit that, stylistically, it’s starting to get on my nerves. There’s only so much posit thesis – repeat thesis – “Can you”-style question one can take before one feels, perhaps, one has opened The Necronomicon by accident and has been driven mad simply by looking at the ideograms. That said, good for the kiddies is a Good Thing(TM), and as someone who grew up on Sesame Street myself, I can at least anecdotally attest to their methods working pretty durned well. But I would suggest slipping these into the reading schedule maybe once every couple of days, or you may hit Bert and Ernie burnout pretty quickly. ** ½

In Grandma’s Arms (2001): Perhaps More Kidlit than Pre-lit

Jayne C. Shelton, In Grandma’s Arms (Cartwheel Books, 2001)


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Over the elbows and through the wrists, to grandmother’s arms we go…

Cute little item about the power of stories in the hands of the right teller. Surprisingly long, and more complex than the usual board book, which makes me happy. On the other hand, the rhyme scheme feels forced on occasion (not often), and the rhythm stumbles a time or two (again, not often). Recommended for slightly older children, those who are actively learning to read rather than the pre-lit set in general, but well-done illustrations and a soothing rhythm should be workable for infants as well. ***

It’s Christmas, David! (2010): For Completists Only

David Shannon, It’s Christmas, David! (Scholastic, 2010)


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David Shannon’s Greatest Hits

Everyone has to do a holiday greatest hits album, I guess. We’re big fans of David Shannon in our household, not least because our son is named David, and the Diaper David trilogy are frequent reads. He’s just turned one, so the No, David! books may be a bit beyond him (not that this stopped grandpa from giving him the first one in the series as a present), but grandma being a Christmas nut, this was destined to show up in our house as soon as the season started popping up in the local stores. And it is a greatest hits album—there are some images that have been recycled from earlier books, but updated with a winter theme (most notably David running down the street with no clothes on, but now there’s snow and he’s wearing mittens and galoshes). This one’s not going to have the durability of the rest of the David books, I don’t think, but if you’re collecting them… ***


The Little Pumpkin Book (1992): I’m Surprised How Much the Kid Loves This

Katharine Ross, The Little Pumpkin Book (Random House, 1992)


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Short, to the point, and very well done.

This was, as far as I know, a hand-me-down from my sister-in-law; grandma brought it over a few weeks ago. Very short, and very small (some folks with eyesight problems may have issues trying to read it), but while I’ve never seen the baby express a specific preference for it, when I start reading it to him, he stops and pricks his ears up. A very quick and easy story. While the language is obviously geared toward the pre-lit set, there’s never a feeling that the author is talking down to her intended audience, and she obviously put some thought into it before jotting this down, as it’s one of the very few pre-lit books we have around the house that actually has some sort of structure to it. We like this one a lot, and it’s growing on the bean. Thumb solidly up here. ****

Satantango (1985): The Novel that Started it All (kind of)…

László Krasznahorkai, Satantango (New Directions, 1985)

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Who is the puppet, and who the puppeteer?

Satantango, Béla Tarr’s seven-and-a-half-hour masterpiece of slow film, is infamous for being obtuse, joyless, not to mention bloody hard to sit through (to my knowledge, it has never been shown theatrically without at least one dinner-length intermission; I watched it the first time over the course of a week). It’s also one of my top twenty all-time favorite movies, so when word came down that after a quarter-century we were finally getting an English translation of the László Krasznahorkai novel upon which it is based, I girded my loins for a thousand-plus-page monstrosity of some sort of outrageously avant-garde writing I’d need a dictionary, two tomes on the history of communism in Hungary, and an online reference library just so I could get through page one.

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Beast (2002): Got Anything Good?

Various Artists, Beast (Hospital Productions, 2002)

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Hospital Productions, your home for animal husbandry… and animal wifery…

(Note: this review is from sometime in 2004)

Beast is about what you’d expect from a Hospital Productions release: it’s loud and ugly. Released in an edition of 500 (of which my copy is 363), packed in a cardboard box with an imitation fur lining, the disc itself is yellow and without detail.

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