Read it and Weep
Summary: Read it and Weep is a good podcast about bad books, movies, and TV. Each week 2.5 comedians and a guest make fun of things like Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, Going Rogue by Sarah Palin, and anything Keanu Reeves has been in.
Without a doubt, the worst thing about The Iliad is that it doesn't have Brad Pitt in it. Wolfgang Peterson fixed that in his 2004 movie that has almost no basis in the works of Homer. Troy completely re-imagines the epic poem about the Trojan war as an over-long action movie about people fighting for no reason. It also updates many things modern audiences would find boring. Instead of an all-stabbing war, the movie includes giant flaming balls of twine. Instead of a war without a Trojan horse, the movie includes a particularly plausible Trojan horse. Instead of women being property, they're people! It was much less pleasurable than listening to the book, but that was mostly because it was a short nap instead of a good night's sleep. Joining us once again is our favorite British blogger, Kyra of FerretBrain.
When we last left our friends, they were killing each other in front of the walls of Troy. After another 300+ pages, they're exactly where they started, though with slightly diminished numbers. But the Iliad, like so many things, is more about the journey than the destination, and like the band Journey, the Iliad tried my patience. The parts that aren't boring don't make a whole lot of sense. Achilles doesn't want to fight because of some stupid slight against him, then his friend dies (in a war. Shocker!) and he fights. At one point he kicks a river's ass. There's a funeral that lasts 10 days and consists of horse racing and wrestling. War is hell. In this episode, we've got regular guest Stephen Carter sitting in for the traveling Ezra, and special guest Nick Delehanty. The two most frequent guests, together at last.
War between the Trojans and the Greeks is like the battle for my Internet service between the cable company and the phone company. Neither side has moral righteousness, nobody is ever going to be declared the winner, and people are constantly getting stabbed. Yet despite the high level of stabbing, the Iliad is mostly about being boring. There are endless lists of people and where they're from, none of which are important to the story. There are speeches on speeches, mostly about how everybody should just keep fighting, just keep fighting. And the hunting analogies. Oh the hunting analogies! Fortunately, even this great work of the Western canon, isn't safe from our ability to sleep through something and then make fun of it.
Did you know that fairies like to have sex? I didn't either. Turns out it's pretty much all they do. They solve a crime here or there, try to kill each other to gain the throne, and they have lots and lots of sex. A Caress of Twilight is the second book in a series of disgusting fairy porn books in which every kind of magical creature lives in LA and is super horny. There's some kind of political intrigue between members of various courts and ancient races of blah blah blah. And then there's more sex. You see, in order to get a fairy pregnant she has to have sex with everybody she meets for about a year, ergo couplings of all kinds are encouraged and described in great detail. There's even a parasitic twin attached to a dwarf that can't talk but has fully functioning genitals. Have I talked enough about the sex? Because I want to ram this point home. Laurell K. Hamilton writes erotica about weird creatures. That's it.
We are truly blessed to have three of the worst TV shows ever on at the same time. Rob, Whitney, and Are Your There Chelsea? are impressively bad. Have no doubt, friends, we are living in the.... what's the opposite of a golden age? Meat age? We are living in the meat age of bad TV. Rejoice! It's a race to the bottom of epic proportions. Will it be Rob's racism and criminal abuse of Latina abuelas and Cheech Marin's career? Will it be Whitney's inability to make a joke and put John Cleese to good use? Or will it be Chelsea's.... uhn. I'm done. The always entertaining and likeable Bri Pruett helps us destroy these shows. Please someone give Bri her own sitcom already. It will be so much better than this.
Be prepared to meet the coolest dog ever. He drives boats. He breaks up smuggling rings. He orders hot dogs for hobos for crying out loud. This dog is perfect. Sadly, the plot and the rest of the cast are just not up to Cool Dog's standards. There's an evil step mother, a stupid bully, and a sea monster-esque landlady. They all suck, especially compared to Cool Dog. Thanks so much to the Denver Comedy Co-op's podcast, The First World Privilege Hour for sponsoring this episode and having great taste in bad movies. Joining us is comedian Anthony Lopez, who is freaking awesome.
We all know that some parents live out their dreams through their children. But it's one thing to know it and another to watch it happen in all it'srhinestoned, overly made-up sadness. Toddlers and Tiaras is another brick in TLC's plan to give every psychotic person their own reality show. This show follows the lives of prepubescent pageant contestants and their mentally ill mothers who force them to compete. Each episode focuses on three young girls who are hoping to take home the crown for Ultimate Mega Jumbo Laser Supreme, the highest title in beauty pageants. In almost every case the children hate it but their mothers won't let them quit. As an added bonus, some of the moms suffer from another mental illness called Extreme Couponing. There's only one person to bring on for an episode about at terrifying TLC reality show: Colleen. You may remember her from Episode #106 - Hoarders Reviewed and just like Hoarders, she's already watched this whole series. It's sick, but it comes in handy for our podcast.
The second half of Ender's Game is less good than the first. Instead of playing laser tag in space, Ender exterminates an entire race of sentient beings, then gets all preachy about it. The kids who wrote political comments on message boards are given supreme leadership of the world. There are dirigibles. It's the future, and people ride in freaking dirigibles! Despite the strange turns the story took, we focus on what's really important: the psychological impacts of all this killing on a child. And when it comes to children murdering people, there's only one person to talk to. You may remember Lisa from our review of The Hunger Games where she dispensed some great insight into the mass-murdering child brain.
Ender's Game is a sponsored topic by an anonymous fan who hates the book. That makes him a better hater than us, since we had a tough time finding things not to like about genius kids playing laser tag in space. Still, we do our best to find the hate. Allison Fields from Catwoman is on hand to speculate about a future where polar bears give back rubs along with actual science fiction writer and future overload David Barr Kirtley. Honestly, we hadn't felt this good after a reading assignment since The Hunger Games... which also featured kids killing each other... hmmm... well, that's disturbing.
If you look in the attic, you'll find flowers. It's true. But more interestingly, you'll also find four children who are locked in there being slowly poisoned by their mom. You see, Mom used to be married to her uncle and instead of hobbled British aristocrats, that marriage created adorable, well adjusted blond children. Grandpa the millionaire correctly identifies this marriage as weird and gross and disowns the lot of them. No big deal until Uncle Creepo dies mysteriously and Mom wants to win her father's love back so she can be rich. Grandpa will only love Mom again if the kids pretend they don't exist, so they hide in the attic and suck at escaping. Eventually, he dies and puts Mom back in the will as long as she promises not to have any kids from her previous marriage. That's when the kids notice their food tastes more like arsenic than it used to. It's a pretty creepy concept, but the 80s horror movie passed through so many creative hands, it lands just south of coherent. Most importantly, the sexual tension between the kids is unsettling. Oh, and mom somehow gets strangled to death by a wedding dress.
First the good news: The second half of this witch-book had actual magic in it. It also had the end of the book, which meant we could stop reading. The bad news is the book was still pretty boring. There was an extended scene involving balancing a colander on some scissors and asking it yes or no questions. Colanders, as would be expected, are terrible conversationalists. Still, joining us is the ever-delightful Amanda Leinbaugh from Skepchick who is able to unleash her grad-student know-how all over the scientific inaccuracies of this book. Plus you get a real-live witch trial. Jen, once again, Merry Christmas from Drew. He's an awesome guy. Drew, no refunds.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane follows intrepid Harvard grad student Connie Goodwin as she looks for a magic spell book from colonial America... very slowly. We're halfway through this novel and so far Connie thinks the book might exist. Somewhere. Maybe. Basically, if you were a fan of the first 10 pages of Harry Potter before anything good happened, and hoped that it would take roughly 6 hours to read through, you'll love this. For anyone else, it turns out this is the perfect book to take a nap to. Joining us is Mike, a real-live history grad student who does his best to class up the podcast with some academic rigor. Nick returns to the show and gives us insight into waffle cones, book-induced Lasik, and how many baths Demi Moore took when she was a Puritan. Also, there might be witches afoot. Expect the amount of cackling to go up exponentially.
It turns out all you need to do to become Santa is to kill the current Santa. To stay Santa, you just need to trick a frigid high school principal into marrying you. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is a crappy father. But after mostly ruining Christmas, he has the chance to redeem himself by putting on the suit of Santa Clause, whom he recently murdered. Suddenly, he finds himself bound by a contract he didn't see to permanently become King Christmas himself. Several elves (disguised as crappy child actors) explain all of this to him and all his problems as a father disappear. Eight years later, in "The Santa Clause II", we learn about another clause of this totally-not-legally-binding contract: he needs to get married. Fortunately, he's able to use his santa-magic to make it seem like there's chemistry between him and Elizabeth Mitchell from "Lost". And something about an evil toy-santa dictator. I've forgotten. Like most Christmas movies, everything is about the children and Christmas is saved. Unlike most Christmas movies, these both have lots of reindeer farting.
As is typical with terrible books, the movie adaptation of Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer is an improvement on its source material. They significantly toned down the baby-dating, wife-swamping aspects of the book and focused on pretty visuals like a wedding in the woods and an island off Brazil. Breaking Dawn Part 1 follows Bella Swan (the constipated Kristen Stewart) as she turns from an annoying teenager into a sex-crazed teenager, then into a pregnant skeleton, and finally into a pair of vampire eyes. During this transition, her ex-boyfriend/kiss-rapist Jacob Black (the triangular Taylor Lautner) leaves his pack of dog-people and puppy guards Bella until he sees the demon baby and decides (in a totally non-creepy way) that he must be it's body guard forever. The movie succeeds in being less crazy and even has a couple of manufactured near-action sequences that make it more entertaining that the book. But if you're looking for a movie without K Stew and Robert Nipple Hair in it, you'll have to go somewhere else.
Wow. Stephanie Meyer is all about the creepy in this book. Every step of the way something new and disgusting happens. I am almost convinced at this point that the whole Twilight saga was a big joke on the fans. Bella's pregnancy is killing her from the inside, but Edward's mind reading ability lets them know that the alien baby loves them both. Since his plans to trade Bella's monogamy for an abortion didn't pan out, Edward Cullen focuses on making Bella and the alien baby healthier by having them drink human blood. Not to be outdone, Jacob drives to Seattle to find love. When that brilliant plan doesn't pan out, he returns just in time for Bella to give birth. Edward chews through the placenta and Jacob falls in love with the newborn. Which is grosser? You decide. Wife swapping, baby dating, placenta chewing, Bella's personality. It's a multi-way race for most disgusting thing Stephanie Meyer has ever come up with. Oh, and Bella gets turned into a vampire and the pacing gets even worse.