October 24, 2016

Movie Monday: War Dogs

War Dogs If asked to guess what the director of the Hangover trilogy's follow-up project would be, I wouldn't have guessed it would be a political satire about war profiteers and the way the US government enables them.

Miles Teller stars as David Packouz, a masseuse who is drawn to the glamorous life of arms dealing by his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). The story of War Dogs is based on the Rolling Stone article "The Stoner Arms Dealers" by Guy Lawson and is generally more friendly to David than Efraim. Efraim is portrayed as a sociopath with a hilariously fake, creepy giggle. (Hill's giggle made my theater laugh every time.)

It's a fascinating story, and enough to carry much of the movie. The US government outsourced many contracts for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, giving small outlets a chance to make big money, including two twentysomethings who didn't know anything. To underbid genuine contractors, all they had to do was make shady deals with people the government couldn't work with directly.

Todd Phillips does a great job pointing out how outrageous it is, including the fact that the real Packouz and Diveroli will soon be eligible to sale arms again. At the same time, he's clearly very impressed with two dudes who managed to make a ton of money (unethically).

Teller and Hill do great work, as usual, and Bradley Cooper is strong in a small role as a real-deal arms dealer. I was impressed by Ana de Armas as Iz, David's wife. She gets the role of the nag who harshes David's buzz, but Armas does a great job of selling her vulnerability. She's a woman with a kid to protect, who wants to know that she can trust her husband far more than she wants a fancy apartment.

Phillips injects a great deal of flashy style into the proceedings, keeping the movie rolling along even when there's exposition about just how arms deals work. He even goes for an arty ambiguous ending. War Dogs is a fun movie most of the time, but it is also a sobering one.

October 16, 2016

Ladies' Night at Bedrock Comics

Yesterday, Bedrock Comics held a Ladies' Night of Horror with Hope Larson and Amy Chu at their flagship location on Westheimer. (Bedrock Comics has five locations throughout Houston.)

The night started after regular store hours and included food and drinks, a Skype Q&A with Larson and Chu, a coloring contest, a costume contest, and raffles.

I got there a little late and missed the very beginning of the Q&A. What I did hear was quite fascinating. Women in mainstream comics really have reached a tipping point. In five years, Marvel has gone from having zero female-led titles to 22. I did appreciate that Larson, who started and still works in indie comics as well, notes that women have always been working in comics outside the establishment. I also liked their observations on the growing diversity in comics, and how working with LGBTQ creators helps them expand their horizons even if they don't realize what they're doing at the time.

I did not participate in the costume contest, but there was some stiff competition. I did participate in the coloring contest, although I was too distracted by other things to put in much of a respectable effort. But I did go home with prizes, since I won a raffle -- a Supergirl apron and a DC Bombsells Supergirl bottle-opener keychain.

When I attend events like this, I always want to buy something to support the store. However, I was reluctant to buy too much since Bedrock Comics' giant Halloween sale starts October 28th. Fortunately, they gave all attendees 20% off.

I purchased two clearance T-shirts, one Power Rangers and one Doctor Who. I picked up the issues I needed to catch up on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina plus the first issue of the new Midnighter and Apollo mini.

I had a bunch of fun hanging out with other female comic-book fans. Bedrock Comics intends to hold their next Ladies' Night in March, and I hope to attend that one too. I think it is great that the store is doing events like this and hope they can continue to grow attendance and participation in the contests.

October 12, 2016

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Boy Is Back

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine.

The Boy is Back I love Meg Cabot. I don't love each and every one of her books, but she has written far more hits than misses in my opinion. Her stories are funny and romantic with a touch of feminist edge.

Recently, she's been returning to old series. Next week, on October 18, a new book in her "Boy" series is coming out. This is one of her adult series, and I remember it consisting mostly of unrelated contemporary romcoms. (I read the last one when it came out in 2005; it's been awhile.)

I'm quite excited to read it, because I love a good cute romance.

Here's the publisher's blurb:

In this brand-new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a scandal brings a young man back home to the small town, crazy family, and first love he left behind.

Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, ten years ago to become rich and famous on the professional golf circuit.  Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return . . . with a vengeance.

Becky Flowers has worked hard to build her successful senior relocation business, but she’s worked even harder to forget Reed Stewart ever existed. She has absolutely no intention of seeing him when he returns—until his family hires her to save his parents.

Now Reed and Becky can’t avoid one another—or the memories of that one fateful night.  And soon everything they thought they knew about themselves (and each other) has been turned upside down, and they—and the entire town of Bloomville—might never be the same, all because The Boy Is Back. 

Seriously, doesn't THE BOY IS BACK sound fun? I trust Cabot to make a romantic cliche shine.

October 6, 2016

Review: The Bitch is Back

The Bitch is Back Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier
Sequel to The Bitch in the House
Edited by Cathi Hanauer
Available now from William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Review copy

THE BITCH IS BACK is a collection of twenty-six essays by women in their forties, fifties, and sixties. Many of those women first contributed essays to THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE back in 2002, although some of the contributors are new.

I have not read THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE, but was still attracted to THE BITCH IS BACK due to the promise of stories about real, older women. When there is a repeat contributor, her essay is prefaced by a short explanation of her previous essay and how the two connect. I don't feel that I was missing context, but I do want to read THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE, which is noted multiple times to be the angrier of the two anthologies.

There is no overarching theme to the essays, although they're roughly arranged into four groups (midlife crisis, sex, rocky marriages, starting over). Each one is a personal essay that tackles what the author wants to say about her life and her choices. The contributors all have strong voices, although some of them have stories we've heard before.

Part of the reason there is no overarching theme is because editor Cathi Hanauer solicited  stories from a range of women. Jennifer Finney Boylan is a transgender woman, who writes about maintaining her relationship with her wife through her transition. Kathy Thomas is poor, her life of hard blue collar work a sharp contrast to some of the more privileged contributors. Veronica Chambers is black Latina, and writes about how her relationship with religion isn't traditional but still conflicts with her husband's atheism.

What I appreciate about this anthology is that it not only shows how many ways there are to be a woman, but that life continues. Most of these women have been through terrible things, including divorce, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, but they're still living and breathing and doing.

I wouldn't read all of THE BITCH IS BACK at once, because the essays can get monotonous. But it is nice to dole out these women's stories, because they've been through interesting times.


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