Sunday, November 27, 2022

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Vol. 3 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Faelicy & Lily, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is a fantasy comedy danmei (m/m) story. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Shen Qingqiu (SQQ) has submitted to Luo Binghe (LBH), which makes him more than a little uncomfortable now that he's finally realized the book he's in has long since become a danmei novel and he's LBH's love interest.

Luckily for SQQ, there are still plenty of hidden storylines and details to save him from having LBH's undivided attention. Unfortunately, one of those hidden storylines involves LBH's father, who's so powerful that even the webnovel's original author never thought up a satisfactory way for LBH to beat him. That's going to be a problem.

REVIEW: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (book) by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a blend of contemporary fiction, humor, and a smidgen of fantasy. I bought my copy new.


Elsa is a smart 7-year-old who's regularly bullied at school and whose best and only friend is her grandmother. Elsa's grandmother is, to put it mildly, a handful. There is always adventure to be had when she's around, and Elsa particularly loves her stories, set in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas.

When Elsa's grandmother dies, Elsa learns that she's left her one last adventure, a series of letters that prompt her to gradually get to know the residents of her apartment building better and find out more about her grandmother's past.

REVIEW: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Season 1 (anime TV series)

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is a fantasy comedy with romantic aspects (but, just to be clear, it is not a romance, so don't expect it to be). It's based on a light novel series. I bought my copy new.


Catarina Claes is a spoiled child who bumps her head and suddenly remembers her past life as a Japanese high school student who'd enjoyed playing an otome game called Fortune Lover...which very much resembled Catarina's current reality. The only problem: in that game, Catarina Claes was the villainess, and just about every ending resulted in her either being exiled or killed. Realizing that she has only a few years to ensure her own survival, Catarina attempts to deal with as many of her future death flags as possible - if she has to have a bad ending, she'd rather be exiled with marketable skills under her belt than killed.

What Catarina doesn't realize is that her decisions have, from the start, deeply affected the story. Instead of being the villainess, she's now unwittingly the character everyone loves. But will even that be enough to help her escape her doom?

REVIEW: Down Periscope (live action movie)

Down Periscope is a 1996 military comedy. I bought my copy used.


Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge is being considered for promotion to submarine captain for the third and final time. He was previously passed over due to his unorthodox methods and a Russian submarine "brushing" incident. Also, he supposedly has a genital tattoo that makes him a bit of a joke.

Rear Admiral Yancy Graham, who dislikes Dodge, reluctantly agrees to allow the results of Dodge's final promotion attempt to be based on the outcome of a war game designed to test the Navy's defenses against an attack from diesel-powered submarines. Dodge is given command of an ancient and rusty diesel-powered sub and a crew consisting entirely of misfits no one else wants.

It's a test he seems doomed to fail, but Dodge is used to working with what he's been given, and his future depends on putting everything he's got into this.

REVIEW: Fantasy Island (live action movie)

Fantasy Island is a 2020 horror prequel adaptation of the original television series. I bought my copy new.


Five people arrive at Fantasy Island, a resort they are told will fulfill their greatest fantasies. Patrick, a former police officer, wants to be a soldier in honor of his hero soldier father. Melanie, a social media influencer, wants revenge on Sloane, her childhood bully. Brothers J.D. and Brax are the guests of honor at a mansion party filled with models. Gwen finds herself traveling back in time to the dinner at which her now ex-boyfriend proposed to her, with the chance to change her answer to "yes."

It's a magical place, but there's more going on than meets the eye, and these fantasies come with a price.

REVIEW: Halloween (live action movie)

Halloween is a 1978 slasher movie. I bought my copy new.


Years ago, little Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death on Halloween. In the movie's present, Michael escapes the mental hospital where he's spent the past 15 years imprisoned and has returned to his neighborhood to continue killing. While a psychiatrist who knows just what Michael is capable of desperately tries to find him before he can kill again, high schooler Laurie settles in for a Halloween night of babysitting, not realizing that a cold-blooded killer is stalking her and her friends.

I went into this expecting I'd get into it just like I did the Scream franchise and want to plow through the whole thing. Instead, this was painful enough that I was left feeling surprised it was ever continued. 

Most of the acting and dialogue was stiff and wooden, with only Jamie Lee Curtis managing to occasionally make her lines sound like something a real person might say. The tense/spooky music was used so heavy-handedly that it came across like the horror movie version of a sitcom's laugh track.

Again, this seems to be one of those areas in which I have unpopular opinions, because I've checked several "Halloween movies ranked worst to best" lists, and somehow this one is always rated as being the best. Is it nostalgia on the part of the people making the lists? I don't know, but rather than giving the franchise another stab (pun intended), I think I'm just going to stop here.

REVIEW: Scream [2022] (live action movie)

Scream is a 2022 slasher movie, the fifth in the Scream movie franchise. I bought my copy brand new.


It has been 25 years since the Woodsboro killings. Woodsboro high schooler Tara Carpenter is home alone when she gets a phone call that turns out to be from the newest Ghostface killer. Although she's badly wounded, she manages to survive, and Sam, her estranged older sister, comes to see her.

In this movie, Mindy and Chad, the twin children of Randy Meeks' sister, are the huge horror fans, and Mindy theorizes that the newest Ghostface killer is following the rules of a "requel," a franchise continuation that draws heavily from the plot of the original. Based on this, Tara's friends figure that the ones most in danger are those who have a direct connection to the original killings. With Tara, the connection lies in a secret her sister Sam has been keeping from her for years.

REVIEW: Office Space (live action movie)

Office Space is a 1999 workplace comedy. I bought my copy new.


Peter is a frustrated and unmotivated employee at Initech. His work friends feel the same way, but they all just keep putting up with their jobs because what else can they do? They still have bills to pay.

Peter's girlfriend (who is almost certainly cheating on him) suggests that he agree to see an occupational hypnotherapist. He goes along with it, but the hypnotherapist dies before the session is finish. Peter is stuck in a state of relaxation, and he's never felt better. His girlfriend breaks up with him, which leaves him free to ask out the waitress he's had a crush on for ages. He pretty much stops going to work, and instead of causing him problems, this somehow makes him look like management material. But that tremendous amount of chill can't last forever, and actions still have consequences. Maybe.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

REVIEW: Escape Room (live action movie)

Escape Room is a 2019 psychological horror movie. I bought my copy new.


Six people receive puzzle boxes that they think were sent to them by people close to them. Inside the boxes are invitations to a very special escape room experience. 

Jason is a cool-headed stock trader. Danny is an escape room enthusiast. Mike is a truck driver. Amanda is an Iraq War veteran with PTSD. Ben is a stockboy at a small grocery store. Zoey is a physics student struggling with anxiety. They're all very different people with a wide range of puzzle-solving experience, and they soon discover that they'll have to work together if they want to make it through the various rooms, each of which is designed to dig into a part of themselves they might have preferred to keep buried.

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Vol. 2 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Faelicy & Lily, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is a fantasy comedy danmei (m/m) story. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


It's now three years after the events that wrapped up volume 1. Based on his knowledge of the original web novel, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ) figures he has another two years to prepare for Luo Binghe's (LBH) return. However, while investigating a mysterious plague, SQQ discovers that LBH has, in fact, somehow come back early. He also understandably feels betrayed by and upset with SQQ. 

Everything is now out of whack - SQQ's preparations, his understanding of the overall story, his ability to predict how LBH will react and what he'll do. But he figures his best chance for survival involves sticking with his original plan as much as possible.

REVIEW: Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession (graphic novel memoir) by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

Murder Book is a memoir in graphic novel form. I bought my copy new.


In this graphic novel, comedian and New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell attempts to do several things:

  • Explore the roots of her true crime obsession (and why others, particularly women, share her obsession)
  • Provide overviews of some of the murder stories (Zodiac killer, Ted Bundy, etc.) that got her interested in true crime
  • Look at the history of the true crime genre, loosely organized by format, including books, movies, TV series, and podcasts. This also touches on true crime-adjacent stuff like crime dramas and police procedurals

One thing she isn't interested in spending much time on is addressing the problematic aspects of true crime obsession, in part because she seems to think that, if she recognizes it as problematic, she'd have to back off from it (page 294 - I'm aware she's at least partly joking, but still). Instead, she very briefly highlights the ways in which true crime storytelling has progressed in the way both victims and perpetrators are written about.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

REVIEW: Scream 4 (live action movie)

Scream 4 is a slasher horror movie. I bought my copy new.


This installment in the Scream franchise returns to Woodsboro. Sidney Prescott is now the author of a self-help book - her book tour has taken her to Woodsboro for a signing. Dewey is now Woodsboro's sheriff, and Gale is his wife. Gale is trying to leave her journalism career behind and write fiction, but she has no ideas and no clue where to start. Her general dissatisfaction with her current life is made worse by the knowledge that one of Dewey's officers is very clearly interested in him.

Anyway, not long after Sidney arrives in Woodsboro, a couple girls are murdered, and the police learn that the Ghostface Killer called two other girls with the victims' phones. One of the girls who got a call happens to be Sidney's cousin. Sidney, too, is drawn into the investigation by the discovery that the killer somehow put evidence in the trunk of her rental car.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 3) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a high school romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Nick has now come out to his mom, which went well. However, coming out isn't a "one and done" thing. What will happen when other people in his life find out? Charlie, for his part, is still scarred from the bullying he suffered after he was outed to the whole school, and he's worried that Nick might experience something similar.

Charlie, Nick, several of their classmates, and students they know at Higgs (Truham's counterpart for girls) all go on a Paris trip together in this volume. It turns into a giant relationship turning point for several people - not only does Charlie and Nick's relationship deepen, but things finally progress between Elle and Tao. Even the teachers overseeing the trip have a few moments together.

REVIEW: The Girl Who Kept Winter (book) by Giao Chi

The Girl Who Kept Winter is a Vietnamese martial arts story with fantasy, comedy, and romance. I bought my copy brand new.


Luu Dong Tu is the eldest daughter of the Luu family, which runs a well-respected dojo. She's a skilled martial artist in her own right, but unfortunately she's engaged to marry Vinh Phuc, the magistrate's spoiled son. Shortly before their wedding, Dong Tu and several other martial artists from the Luu family were sent to guard a delivery being made in a neighboring district. Something horrible happened during that mission, and although Dong Tu eventually made it back to her own wedding, she died of poison before it could take place.

Dong Tu had been poisoned by an encounter with Obsidian, one of the Monstrous Eighteen. With some assistance, she was able to resist his poison long enough to make it back to her wedding and ensure her family wasn't accused of going back on its word, but the poison that infuses Obsidian's entire body has no cure. Which doesn't stop him from seemingly raising Dong Tu from the dead.

And so begins this story of deadly poisons, martial arts battles, long-lost brothers, people with weird powers, jealous women, ridiculous matchmakers, and that one guy who thinks he's all that.

REVIEW: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun: The Complete Series (anime TV series)

Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is a supernatural school series. I bought my copy brand new.


Yashiro Nene is a young romantic who decides to try summoning a ghost at her school that supposedly grants wishes. What she ends up with is Hanako-kun, a ghost who admits to her that he can't make her crush fall in love with her. Nene isn't willing to give up, though, and accidentally gets herself bound to Hanako-kun as his servant.

Through her association with Hanako-kun, Nene gradually learns more about her school's various supernatural "Wonders" and how they function. Unfortunately, a Wonder with a painful connection to Hanako-kun seems to be trying to upset the balance of things at the school.

REVIEW: Death Becomes Her (live action movie)

Death Becomes Her is a 1992 black comedy fantasy movie. I bought my copy new.


Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) and Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) are childhood rivals/frenemies who never outgrew their rivalry. When Helen becomes engaged to Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a famous plastic surgeon, she decides to put him to the test by introducing him to Madeline before their marriage - Madeline always managed to seduce guys away from her, so if his feelings are genuine, theoretically he won't be swayed. What Helen didn't count on was that Ernest is a big fan of Madeline's acting career. Despite his assurances, he ends up married to Madeline instead of Helen. 

Seven years later, Helen is obese and completely obsessed with Madeline. Seven years after that, she has somehow slimmed down and become the author of a highly successful book called Forever Young. She flaunts her success and beauty in Madeline's face, and it works, because Madeline is now painfully aware of every little way in which her looks and allure are abandoning her. Ernest, now an alcoholic reconstructive mortician, is miserable as Madeline's husband and finds himself drawn to Helen. 

While Helen tries to charm Ernest into a plan to kill Madeline, Madeline visits Lisle Von Rhuman, a mysterious and beautiful woman who claims to have a rejuvenation potion. She sells it to Madeline and sends her off with a warning to take care of her body. And so begins the next stage of Madeline and Helen's vicious and obsessive competition with one another.

REVIEW: Black Friday (live action movie)

Black Friday is a 2021 horror comedy. I bought my copy new.


Ken, Chris, Marnie, Brian, Archie, Ruth, Emmett, Anita, and Bircher are all employees at We Love Toys who have to work on Thanksgiving. For Ken, that means missing Thanksgiving dinner with his daughters, who he dropped off at their mother's house. 

What none of the employees initially realize is that a parasitic organism has landed on Earth and begun taking over people, including shoppers waiting to get into We Love Toys for Black Friday. The first employee to be attacked is Chris. The store manager, Jonathan, and Chris's coworkers think he went nuts and attacked an innocent person, but it isn't long before they realize that there's something really horrible going on.

REVIEW: Us (live action movie)

Us is a 2019 horror movie. I bought my copy new.


In 1986, young Adelaide's parents took her to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. While there, she wandered away, entered a funhouse, and saw her own doppelganger in the house of mirrors. The experience so terrified her that she was mute and withdrawn for a while after.

In the present, Adelaide, her husband Gabe, and their children Zora and Jason go on vacation and spend time at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with some friends and their twin daughters. Adelaide is on edge, and that evening she finally tells Gabe about her childhood experience. She's trying to convince Gabe that they need to leave when Jason notices a family standing in their driveway. A short while later, the family finds a way into the house and reveals that they are their doppelgangers.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

REVIEW: Paradise Hills (live action movie)

Paradise Hills is a dystopian SFF movie. I bought my copy new.


The movie starts with socialite Uma's wedding to wealthy Son, who later comments on how much more obedient she now is. Then the movie flashes back to two months prior, when Uma first wakes up on an island called Paradise. Paradise is something like a treatment center for rebellious young girls. Although they initially appear to have free will and can choose to accept or reject the changes Paradise is trying to make in them, Uma gradually realizes that there's something more sinister going on. She and several of her new friends attempt to escape.

REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman (live action movie)

BlacKkKlansman is based on Ron Stallworth's memoir Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, which I read back in 2018. I bought my copy used.


When Ron Stallworth becomes the first Black cop in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he starts off in the Records room before being given his first undercover assignment, attending a rally where civil rights leader Kwame Ture is speaking. While there, he meets Patrice, the president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College.

After that, Ron is assigned to the Intelligence division. He calls the local chapter of the KKK and pretends to be a white man who's interested in joining and would like more information. Unfortunately, he accidentally uses his own name, and now the Klan members want to meet him. He manages to get permission to work with a coworker of his, Flip Zimmerman ("Chuck" in the original memoir), to somehow make it work - he'll be the phone voice of white Ron Stallworth, while Flip will be the in-person white Ron Stallworth.

So begins Ron's efforts to juggle multiple sides of his life. He begins seeing Patrice, who doesn't know that he's a police officer, occasionally deals with racist cops, and works with Flip to get in deeper with the KKK and monitor their plans.