Monday, April 23, 2012

review: The Strain (book)

This is another recommendation by Excuse the Quality and once again a good recommendation. I really enjoyed almost all of this book, really just becoming uninterested for about 50 pages about 3/4 of the way through.

The coolest part about this (for me anyways) was that the author is Guillermo del Toro (well, coauthoring... with Chuck Hogan). He is best known as a movie director for amazing movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, and the upcoming Hobbit movies (yes - that's right, movies... plural. oh, HP what have you done? First, four Twilight movies... now two Hobbits.... what next? At least the industry's taste has improved). [EDIT - apparently he dropped out of the hobbit movies and Peter Jackson is back on the scene, sorry folks - END EDIT] And now he's getting into books. The only real worry I had was whether or not this would read like a movie script. However, del Toro actually has quite a lot of experience writing as he has also written numerous screenplays including ones for the three movies listed above.

del Toro is considered to be one of the best in the fantasy/horror genre and boy does The Strain count. I really liked how this book was thought of. It really mixed the best of the classic one evil vampire with the zombie/vampire virus plot line. I felt that some of it was a little cliche but at least it was well done. The Strain is the first in the The Strain Trilogy; the second is The Fall and third is The Night Eternal. We start out following the landing of a 777 (it's funny cuz it's God's number) plane where all of a sudden after landing all the communication and power cuts out leaving the plane a shiny, mass of dark metal on the runway.

Eventually the cops decide to break into the plane and what they find prompts them to call the CDC. Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather is the man leading the team. He's a divorced dad with lots of issues - namely a very busy job which gets him into a lot of hot water with his ex-wife. Eph represents the "viral" side of the story. On the "classical" we have Professor Abraham Setrakian. He's a Romanian Jew and Holocaust survivor. His grandmother used to tell him tales of her childhood neighboring village where creepy thing would happen and children would go missing. So when the same thing started happening at the Treblinka concentration camp, he was aware of the signs. He is an expert in vampirism and has a major grudge against the beasties. He's this series Van Hellsing.

I won't give away the plot just be aware that although some of it is rather cliche there are definitely some really excellent twists in the plot. And of course, a cliffhanger to get you interested in books 2 and 3. I give The Strain 4 out of 5 stars and Excuse the Quality agrees with me. You can read his review here! For me, onto book 2 The Fall!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I know you folks are out there - I can see my visits going up! Leave me a comment! If you do (and you're in Portland) maybe the first 5 people will get a cupcake from Pizazz Sweets!!!!

***EDIT: i should probably mention you have to comment on something.... 
not just post a comment.... except Jessica... cuz she's special... and the first*** 

Monday, April 16, 2012

review: the Naked and Famous (music)

I swear all my music is suddenly becoming alt rock - not that this is a problem - it's better than the pop and emo-rock I used to listen to in middle/high school. All I can hope is that if I ever become a hipster someone will slap me.... please tell me I'm not that pretentious.

Anyways, I stumbled onto The Naked and Famous on the radio (like I do) about 6 months ago. The band was formed in 2008 and they're out of New Zealand. Unfortunately it's taken them about 4 years to get to the U.S. although they only got to Britain about 18 months ago. They recorded their first album "Passive Me, Aggressive You" in 2010 at Auckland College of Music's studio.

Pandora tells me that their music has: electronic influences, danceable grooves, rhythmic syncopation, vamping, and (surprisingly since most my music choices are not) major tonality. Their songs often feel like anthems to the listener - it gives them a powerful and punk sound which I am really enjoying. Their big hit is called "Young Blood" although some of their other stuff is making into daily rotations like "Punching a Dream" and "Girls Like You". A lot of their music has actually been featured in numerous TV shows, including Gossip Girl, the Secret Circle, and the Vampire Diaries, as well as many commercials.

Their whole CD is worth a good listen to if you like electronic anthems that you can groove to. I give The Naked and Famous 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

review: American Vampire (graphic novel)

Now most of you may know my stance on recently released vampire books, namely The Twilight Saga which is EVIL, but Excuse the Quality recommended American Vampire and his recommendations are usually pretty spot on. However the biggest draw was Stephen King's involvement with this series.  Not only is he a co-author for the first volume but he also wrote an awesome forward called Suck on This. His forward  glorifies the return of vampires as "cold blooded killers" and denounces the wimpy "dewy-eyed" vamp.

With Stephen King, the master of horror, endorsing this I had no fear that this series would turn out to be some about whiny bimbo with no goals who lets abusive men make all her decisions (that's my opinion of the Twilight Saga for all of you who didn't catch on there).  Scott Synder (author) and Rafael Albuquerque (artist) are the co-creators for the series.

We follow Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress from the 1920's, and Skinner Sweet, a murder and thief from the Wild West era. Sweet is the first "American" vampire. He is turned by one of the species of the European vamps accidentally by having some blood dropped into his eye. Fearing Sweets' revenge (because all it takes is one drop to turn you), the European vamps have him locked up in a coffin under 60ft of water. Too bad for them, Sweet escapes to wreak havoc on those who confined him. Unlike the European vamps with their classical weaknesses, Sweet can walk in the sun and is actually fueled by it and traditional methods of disposal do not work on him (sunlight, wood, or silver). Instead he's most weak during moonless nights. And if you want to kill him, it's best to use gold, otherwise he's basically immortal.

Thus he's still around in the 1920's to meet Pearl Jones. Now Pearl is in Hollywood trying to become an actress. And when some bigwigs invite her to a very swanky soiree she accepts (despite Sweet's warning) thinking that she might be a better part. Unfortunately, she gets eaten but Sweet finds her and, as I said, all it take is one drop - now we have two American Vampires. And the shenanigans begin!

With excellent plot and art, American Vampire should be in every 13 year old's (and everyone else's) bedroom. I give American Vampire 5 out of 5 stars. But don't just take my word for it - check out Excuse the Quality's review.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

review: The Sound of Noise (movie)

Like music? Odd music? Were you a fan of the tv show Doug and their "Banging on a Streetlight" music video? Did that reference go over your head? Good.

The Sound of Noise is the glorification of the sound and noise that makes music. Odd music, that is. These musicians hate what they deem to be bad music so much that they decide to hold a concert for the whole city to show them what "real" music is. So they stage an epic concert using non-traditional instruments - like back hoes, telephone wires, operation equipment and even the patient himself.

Some background info for you: This film is a Swedish-French crime-comedy... odd genre but that's what wikipedia tells me. It is in Swedish with English subtitles (yay!) and is currently showing in offbeat theaters stateside despite the fact that it was released in 2010 in Europe. It has received only positive reviews form the New York Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and even gave it "88% fresh".

The opening scene is a woman driving a truck with a guy playing the drum in the back. She drives the truck to match how he plays the drums... or vice versa. Anyways - it's really cool and not a little amazing. Speeding along they draw the attention of a traffic cop and to get away the drummer in the back throws his drums at the cop. The musicians make a get away but the accident draws the attention of Amadeus Warnebring, a tone deaf detective who comes from an amazingly musical family. For those of you who don't know - being tone deaf sucks. It is the inability to distinguish between musical notes. For Warnebring, music is torture. This detective chases the musicians through the city following their trail of musical destruction and chaos (since he can't actually follow the music).

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The concept was novel; the cast, funny; and the music, epic. The only criticisms of it that I have were that the love interest/relationship plot seemed rather forced and that the comedy, while funny, was rather one note. I give Sound of Noise 4 out of 5 stars!

You can watch the trailer here!