Friday, July 30, 2010

John Nolan - "Height"

Oh John Nolan. I want to like you so badly. I'm super glad that you're back in Taking Back Sunday, because that's badass, but wow. Honey. Um.

I've had Height in my car for a while now, and I've only listened to part of it. But since I was stuck in traffic for a solid hour yesterday, I decided "why the hell not give this a listen, since I'm just sitting here!" So I did.

It's... strange. Nolan doesn't seem to have the ability to keep his voice from going super gratingly nasal on occasion, which is a blower because otherwise he's got a pretty nice voice. But his solo album is like the bastard love child of Straylight Run's The Needles, The Space and Brand New's The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. The bastard love child that nobody wants to claim.

The first track, "'Til It's Done To Death" is weirdly electronic, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's all pretty weird, and it's strange to say that his cover of Primitive Radio Gods's "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand" is hands down the best track on the album.

Instead of getting this, you should pick up Live At Looney Tunes CDs, which is a live acoustic album (which you can get here at ThinkIndie for five bucks) to hear the good songs without the electronica weirdness, the cover, and a bunch of in-between song banter that involves the other dudes in Taking Back Sunday heckling him.


Robin Stevenson - Inferno

Dante thinks high school is an earthly version of hell. She hates her new home in the suburbs, her best friend has moved away, her homeroom teacher mocks her and her mother is making her attend a social skills group for teenage girls. When a stranger shows up at school and hands Dante a flyer that reads: Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to obedience school?, Dante thinks she’s found a soul mate. Someone who understands. Someone else who wants to make real changes in the world. But there are all kinds of ways of bringing about change…and some are more dangerous than others. - Inferno jacket copy from Robin Stevenson's website.

So this book came up when I was on a search for LGBT YA literature on Amazon to round out an order so I could get free shipping (I'm thrifty and it's books). So I bought it and it arrived and I read it.

It's kind of like a sub-par lesbian version of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Only instead of music, Dante is into running.

So Dante is this sixteen-year-old girl, and a huge part of the plot is that she's just changed her name from Emily to Dante, because she's super obsessed with Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. I mean, so of course her parents let her change her name to something totally ridiculous that she's only gotten into the year before!

I'm sure you can see where I have a problem with this premise, yes?

Anyway, there's all this fuss about how her name was Emily last school year and now it's Dante and nobody wants to call her Dante and seriously, this book would have been SO much better if she'd been a transman. I am not even kidding you, because the whole book sort of feels like maybe Dante as a character wants to transition, but the author didn't go there with it because she was too chicken to follow through with what she started.

Seriously. But maybe that's just me.

So she meets this chick Parker, she falls omg head over heels in love with her. Because that's what you do in high school, gay or straight. But see there's no actual conflict in the book unless Dante falls for Parker, because everything Dante does after that point is to make Parker like her. Even though Parker is straight.

As a sidenote, I recently read Julie Anne Peters's Far From Xanadu which had basically the same premise. And the same fucking fruitless ending.

SPOILER: Dante doesn't get the girl. Because Parker is straight. Also she has battered spouse syndrome. /SPOILER

Anyway, so there's some pathetic high school prankage anarchy and blah blah wow, this book really did not go anywhere.

It's not badly written, to tell the truth. But I found myself rooting for Dante to realize she was just bisexual and hook up with Leo because unlike with Parker, they actually had chemistry/made sense. But oh no, they're both in love with Parker.

Yeah, uh. If you're really bored and borrowing it from a friend or the library, you might read this book. Don't spend your money on it, though, 'cause it's not worth it. Pick up Peters's Xanadu instead, because it's got a better plot.

- Julieann

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When in Rome

After an unnecessarily awkward beginning, When in Rome started sucking a lot less! I guess that's not exactly high praise, but when you have read reviews that set your expectations so low, they're in the basement, you often end up pleasantly surprised.

That's really what this blog is all about, I guess: enjoyment via managed expectations. That and embracing the pleasurable part of guilty pleasures.

Enough of that. I'm pretty sure no one even reads this blog but I probably don't need to incorporate our raison d'ĂȘtre into every post.

When in Rome is supposed to be about the dumped single girl, Beth, disrupting a magical, love-enchanted fountain and a bunch of guys fall in love with her as a result while she also finds herself falling for someone after being closed off and broken-hearted. What it was actually about was Kristen Bell being dressed up and adorable while she navigated being stalked and nearly groped by said entranced men. Creepy!

Danny Devito was the standout love-stalker because he was so unexpected and awesome, but he was also the creepiest, and not because of the age factor either. Anjelica Huston stuck out for being Anjelica Fucking Huston and she's awesome, obviously. What the hell was she even doing in a movie with Fergie's husband? Yes, Josh Duhamel was the love interest. Bell's real life beau, Dax Shepard, was a self-obsessed model, stunned with his ability to suddenly be in love with anyone (almost) as much as he loved himself. Jon Heder played the same character he always does (Efren Ramirez even had a small part, just in case you could ever forget his and Heder's association) and Will Arnett had a bad fake accent which...seems to be par for the course for him.

Every other character could have been played by a cardboard cutout for how much they were utilized, which was especially sad in the case of Alexis Dziena who can ditz and crazy around like no one's business. Dziena's role as Beth's younger sister Joan was justifiably not that prominent, but I was happily surprised by her presence.

Anyway, the love story was cute but not sickeningly so. The ending was completely predictable if you are at all familiar with how movies work, but the rest of the movie leading up to the inevitable ending was pleasantly diverting without being nearly so obvious.

I was watching this with friends, which automatically made this a better time, but I wouldn't have been mad if I spent the half an hour watching it by myself. I wouldn't seek it out to watch again, but it's good for a single-serving time killer.

The verdict: don't pay to see it, probably don't even bother to dvr it, but if you come across it and there's no better Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson romantic comedy on right then...go for it!

- Lanie