Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sausage Party

Breaking every law of nature, rule of common decency and political correctness, Seth Rogen has managed to do the impossible – transform a seemingly cute animated cartoon into a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed, raunch fest, that is – and here’s the most amazing feat of all – hilarious! As a simple word of warning before you buy your ticket, I’ll echo Winston’s “Brace yourself Effie” (obscure movie reference free for your pleasure). Yes, for all their look of wide-eyed innocence each one of Shopwell’s residents is as brash and offensive as Andrew Dice Clay during his prime and sure to shock even the most hardened cusser among you. This ain’t for the faint of heart. Pardon my grammar.

Sausage Party is the story of a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) and the love of his life, Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun, and a host of other foods that reside at Shopwell’s supermarket, who see human shoppers as gods, whom they hope will buy them and take them to “the great beyond.” Every day the foods start the day with a hymn to the gods; a song so embarrassingly irreverent and crass that you almost feel guilty laughing. To give you an idea of the hijinks in this song alone, well, a Hitler-like jar of sauerkraut hates the ‘juice.’ Are you still with me? Well, if the thought of racist jokes still hasn’t deterred you and I’ve piqued your curiosity, here’s a link to the entire song (The Great Beyond). You gotta admit, it’s catchy.

Back to the story, Frank and Brenda’s plans for happily ever after are spoiled when a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned to the store and battling PTSD shares the truth of the horrors inflicted by humans on foods in The Great Beyond. After a Saving Private Ryan Omaha Beach-like scene where lives are lost during a shopping cart collision, Frank is determined to get to the truth and following the advice imparted by Honey Mustard before his death he visits the liquor aisle and the wise Firewater (Bill Hader) looking for answers that could ultimately save all of Shopwell’s residents.

While I blushed and cringed at countless parts of this movie, I confess that I chuckled, cackled, and downright laughed out loud at countless more; in all honesty, it was filthier than I expected, but also funnier. For all its lewdness, in moments it was sweet and moderately thought-provoking, but without a doubt clever and original – though definitely not a movie for everyone, and especially not the kiddies.

Monday, August 29, 2016

You Will Know Me

If the Rio Olympics non-stop coverage of the “Final Five” wasn’t enough and you’re still jonesing for more yurchenkos and floor exercises, you might want to check out You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, the author’s latest mystery set amidst the cutthroat world of girl’s gymnastics.

From the publisher: "How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream."

While an engaging read, You Will Know Me didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. The plot was compelling, the characters well written, but though the writing was taut and the storyline fraught with a tension that early on kept me curious and turning the pages, the suspense never crescendoed and instead remained at a singular flat note; interesting but by no means ‘thrilling’. As for the mystery itself, well, it wasn’t much of one, especially given the heavy handed foreshadowing employed by the author at various points. In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that that my lack of enthusiasm for the book is in part due to my dissatisfaction with the tale’s resolution. What can I say, the real world is far from perfect, so when it comes to literary fiction I want my romances to have happy endings and in mystery/thrillers, my bad guys to get their well-deserved comeuppance.

I'm 0 for 2 when it comes to this author, as I had a similar experience with her 2014 novel, The Fever; another edgy teen-focused mystery that was all the rage at the time. Though I can wholeheartedly concede that Abbott is a good author with novels featuring intriguing plots and nuanced three-dimensional characters (with a special gift for writing angsty teenage girls that are the perfect mix of wide-eyed innocence and lolita-esque menace), there's been just that little something (je ne sais quoi) missing in each story that's kept them at blah and shy of BLAM.

You Will Know Me’s window into the high-pressure, high-stakes world of gymnastics was definitely intriguing, but on the whole, I felt the author didn’t quite stick her landing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Kind Worth Killing

I'm always leery when any book is touted as the "next" anything. The next Gone Girl or the next Girl on the Train seem to be the go-to comparisons lately for any twisty, page-turning suspense thrillers. Sadly, the comparisons usually fall short, but The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, deserves every complimentary comparison and word of praise for as they say in Boston, the book was wicked good!

From the publisher: “On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him… But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda's demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth. Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.”

The Kind Worth Killing was an enthralling and addictive read. A twisty tale of lies, revenge, double-crosses and murder. The pacing, plot and writing were perfect, with the cherry on top of this confection being the amazingly layered and complex characters. The book offers no real hero/heroine in the lot, they’re all pretty awful human beings, but as far as captivating – well hat’s off to Lily, a sociopath for the ages that inspired equal parts fear and reluctant admiration.

Other than the tale’s twists and surprises which abound, The Kind Worth Killing also parallel’s Gone Girl in its unforgettable delivery of a wonderfully wicked female character. Gone Girl’s author Gillian Flynn once said “Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women… Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? ... I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains… I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women.” In Lily Kintner, author Peter Swanson delivers in spades.

Ingenious, engrossing and more than a little chilling, The Kind Worth Killing is a page-turning must read with a killer ending.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


"To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others." - Francois Mauriac