This week finally sees the release of Inventory, The A.V. Club’s book of mostly new lists in the spirit and style of our weekly Inventory feature. We spent about a year putting it together, but even after turning in the final manuscript in February, it was still on our minds, especially when we ran across items that could have been in the book if they’d come out or come to our attention earlier. So here are the titles of 21 of the 102 lists you’ll find in Inventory, plus extra entries in the spirit of what you’ll find in the book. We’d stick these late additions into your copy on Post-It Notes if we could.
1. Book list: 22 movies with post-credits surprises
Late addition: The 1996 Keanu Reeves movie Chain Reaction. The film features Reeves as a student working on a University Of Chicago research project; when someone seemingly murders his research-team lead and frames him, he winds up on the run. A massive explosion and some massive stupidity ensues—most of it shot in Chicago, and some of it featuring Morgan Freeman offering an excuse for villainy almost as weak and offhanded as Samuel L. Jackson’s similar one in Jumper. It all culminates with Reeves setting a secret underground government base to explode, then barely escaping the shockwave with Rachel Weisz. The brief post-credits clip, which shows the underground base collapsing as Reeves voices his signature “Whoaaaaa,” may be a jokey afterthought; if it was ever intended to be in the film, it was probably pulled for being a little too Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
2. Book list: 24 stupid inventions for lazy Americans
Late addition: Speedy-Peel, the battery-operated, hand-held vibrating-blade vegetable peeler that saves you having to move your hand back and forth. Like so many of the highly unnecessary inventions being flogged at sites like AsSeenOnTV.com, this one invents a previously unknown massive crisis—the “hand strain” that makes peeling apples and potatoes a “dreaded chore”—and suggests that consumers fix it by throwing some money at the problem. Next up: a robot arm that will throw money at your problems, eliminating the elbow strain and hand fatigue that comes with pulling your credit card out of your wallet to buy stuff like Speedy-Peel.
3. Book list: 13 particularly horrible fast-food innovations
Late addition: 7-Eleven’s P’EatZZa. Years before KFC introduced its instantly notorious Double Down, the bacon-and-cheese sandwich with chicken for bread, 7-Eleven pre-trumped it with a product that combined “greasy” with “cardboardy” for the ultimate in gross-yet-unsatisfying food. The short-lived sandwich layered lunch meat and lettuce between two slices of flat, frozen-style pizza. But it never achieved the Double Down’s notoriety—in spite of an episode of The Apprentice where Donald Trump’s TV heirs were assigned to promote it—and it rapidly disappeared.
4. Book list: 15 movies with great dialogue-free scenes
Late addition: Thirst, the latest from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, is a vampire film with a medical/modern twist: The protagonist wasn’t bitten by an ancient undead night-stalker, he just fell victim to a disease that wreaks havoc on his body if he doesn’t drink human blood on a regular basis. As long as he keeps sucking down the red stuff, he’s also inhumanly strong and fast, but as an honorable, moral being, he doesn’t think the trade-off is worth it. Unfortunately (spoilers ahead!) his qualms don’t extend to his love interest, whom he deliberately infects with the disease in a bid to save her from death. Having been a victim all her life, she revels in her new power and goes out of her way to even up the scales of suffering. Which leads to the film’s glorious climactic sequence, some 10 minutes of wordless struggle between the two leads on a cliff-top as the sun slowly comes up and threatens to destroy them both. As he so often does in his films—witness the hammer fight in Oldboy—Park makes his violence so raw, small-scale, and personal that it’s terrifying, but has his characters throw themselves so intently into ridiculous actions that it’s hilarious at the same time.
5. Book list: 24 great films too painful to watch twice
Late addition: Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father is the sort of movie that destroys viewers for days, and the feeling is made much, much worse by the fact that it’s a documentary—there’s no telling yourself that these are just actors. It starts with a sad story to begin with: a truly nice guy murdered by a girlfriend whom all his friends seemed to realize was a psycho before he did. And it becomes immeasurably more heartbreaking due to a twist we won’t spoil here. Have Kleenex handy.
6. Book list: 9 stars who fell victim to horrible aging makeup
Late addition: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was highly praised for its special effects; it even won Academy Awards for makeup and visual effects. Which is beyond baffling, given that its idea of Brad Pitt as an old man was a weird CGI twisting that made him look like a flesh-colored California raisin plunked awkwardly atop a child’s body. Yes, the idea was that he was aging backward, so he was meant to be an oddity, but he wound up looking considerably less realistic than Gollum.
7. Book list: 10 American TV series with satisfying endings
Late addition: The Shield. Beyond “satisfying,” the series finale of the FX policier The Shield is in contention for best TV ending ever. Throughout its final two seasons, The Shield stripped away much of what made life worth living for anti-hero Michael Chiklis. He lost his family and most of his friends, and eventually left his job behind as well, all for the promise of immunity from the crimes he’d committed as a cop over the years. Then he gets the deal and has to confess everything he’s done—including murdering cops, stealing from the mob, and enabling the local pimps and drug lords—which causes the viewers as well as his co-workers to reassess our loyalty to such an awful man. The last episode heightens the tragedy by revealing the sad fate of Chiklis’ protégée Walton Goggins, and until the last few scenes, making an open question of whether Chiklis will face any kind of justice. In the end, Chiklis’ punishment is oddly fitting: He’s given a dull desk job, with no power and no promise of action. And that’s where we leave him to rot.
8. Book list: 10 movie scenes in which characters destroy rooms
Late addition: The Room. Nothing in Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 opus is subtle, or for that matter, good: The film is about what you’d get if you stretched out all the non-sex segments of a Skinemax movie. So it’s fitting that when the protagonist’s world comes crashing down—his “future wife” has been unfaithful with his best friend—the titular room and everything around it has to go. Writer-director-star Wiseau spends a few minutes near the end of the film knocking things off living-room shelves, throwing the TV out the window, ripping sheets off the bed, tipping over the dresser, and emptying its drawers onto the floor. He finishes by grabbing his fiancée’s red dress, rubbing it on his crotch, and going to town. It isn’t enough that he destroys the room (and The Room)—he has to defile it, too.
9. Book list: 11 videogames that prompted fear and outrage
Late addition: Guitar Hero 5. The Guitar Hero franchise had already attracted its share of scolds by the time the fifth installment dropped in late 2009—mostly humorless musicians who seemed to think that people goofing around with their friends on a plastic toy was somehow going to put honest guitarists out of work. But the self-righteousness really exploded when Guitar Hero 5 came out and it became clear that you could make a cartoon version of Kurt Cobain sing a 3 Doors Down song. Grim-faced purists insisted this was tantamount to pissing on Cobain’s decaying corpse; his widow, the always-classy Courtney Love, reacted to the controversy by going berserk and threatening to sue everyone who ever lived. Activision, the game’s manufacturer, merely shrugged, producing contracts Love had signed allowing the use of Cobain’s image and the minutes to meetings at which she collaborated on the design of his avatar. The fact that at no point in the game are you required to play as Kurt Cobain didn’t stop millions of people from getting outraged about it.
10. Book list: 7 terrible movies on the top 100 all-time box-office hits list
Late addition: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (#65 and climbing). The sequel was just as dumb and self-congratulatory as the first movie, but this one had a pair of racist-stereotype robots, an obsessive focus on Megan Fox’s ass (paired with a contradictory squirmy discomfort with sex), and John Turturro staring up into the giant gonging scrotum of a vaguely humanoid scrap-heap. Coming down the line in a few years: Transformers 3: Ha Ha Ha Poopies.
11. Book list: 16 career-jeopardizing labors of love
Late addition: William T. Vollman’s Rising Up And Rising Down. Even for a writer as prolific (more than 18 books written since 1987) and voluminous (his books average just under 600 pages) as William Vollman, Rising Up And Rising Down is a massive undertaking. He began writing it in 1982, but it wasn’t published until 2003; it aimed at no less lofty a goal than being both a history and an explication of the human tendency towards violence, along with a sophisticated moral calculus in which the author sought to advise when and where violence was justifiable. It was an inherently risky project, as Vollman is neither an academic writer nor a philosopher; the book discusses his own uncertainty over its rigor and utility at every turn. Even more daunting, though, and even more likely to put off potential readers than its unrelentingly bleak subject matter, is its massive length. The original, seven-volume version of the book registered a staggering 3,352 pages; even an abridgement, published two years later to great hand-wringing from the author, was nearly 800 pages long. Both magnum opus and labor of love, Rising Up And Rising Down feels like the culmination of a life’s work, and Vollman has confessed to feeling a certain emptiness now that it’s done.
12. Book list: 10 hilarious onscreen drug freak-outs
Late addition: Vincent Price in The Tingler. As a scientist who wants to understand the true nature of fear in William Castle’s 1959 horror movie The Tingler, Vincent Price takes his job very, very seriously. He’s studying the effects of fear on the human body, in particular a creature called the tingler that looks like a giant centipede, grows along its victim’s spinal column in moments of extreme terror, and can only be defeated by screaming. After conducting numerous inconclusive tests on animals, it naturally follows that he’d start experimenting on himself, which is why about 20 minutes into the film, he injects himself with LSD and has what can only be described as a deeply committed experience in something kind of like terror. Price does his best to sell the bit—there’s none of his usual sardonic distance here—but the period’s general paranoia toward narcotics, combined with the film’s already-ridiculous premise, make for a goofy, goofy trip.
13. Book list: 11 soundtrack albums better than the films
Late addition: (500) Days Of Summer. It’s an ambitious movie in some ways, and almost painfully conventional in others—one moment it’s a joyful sing-along to Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams,” the next it’s throwing clichés at the screen with vigor. The soundtrack fares considerably better, and though there isn’t much unreleased music, it’s nicely paced: The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” rubs shoulders with Regina Spektor’s terrific “Us,” and there’s also a smattering of classic sounds from Simon & Garfunkel and Hall & Oates. Zooey haters will gag at She & Him’s version of The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please,” but they probably didn’t see this movie anyway.
14. Book list: 9 musical artists with elaborate mythologies
Late addition: Lordi. Longtime watchers of Eurovision Song Contest, which tends to favor bland, mushy synth-pop, would never have predicted that a Finnish metal band dressed up like grotesque demons would win. But that’s exactly what happened in 2006 when Lordi, a bizarre amalgamation of Kiss and GWAR, took the big prize. Since then, Lordi has become nothing less than a media empire: records, TV shows, horror movies, and a series of comic books all tell the tale of Mr. Lordi, the bastard son of a raped goblin, and his eternal war against a time-traveling sorcerer. In the service of that battle, he’s gathered the other members of the band, a motley crew of mummies, vampires, minotaurs, and demons. It’s all pretty ridiculous—and, in spite of outcries from some Finnish religious leaders, much more influenced by The Munsters than the Church Of Satan—but fans continue to go crazy for the elaborate costumes and backstories, even demanding (and receiving) an apology from a rock magazine that dared print photos of the band out of costume.
15. Book list: 6 movies that make a lot more sense if you’ve read the book
Late addition: The Keep. It should be an unbeatable premise: Nazis take over an ancient castle, get set upon by the vampire who lives there, and have to hire a Jewish expert in vampires to save themselves from the unspeakable horrors of the night. And in a way, it is unbeatable—the problem is that Michael Mann’s version of The Keep takes the first half of Paul F. Wilson’s novel and makes a confusing, badly acted hash of things. (Ever wondered whether Ian McKellen has given a bad performance? Look no further.) But not even Mann can be blamed for what happens during the movie’s climax. In the final hundred pages, Wilson’s plot shifts from vampirism to something far more cosmic, and even in the book, it’s something of a disappointment, undercutting solid horror and drama with a kind of metaphysic mumbo-jumbo that isn’t badly written so much as deflating. Onscreen, though, it’s a mess: too much fragmentary exposition crammed into too little time, with a distracting lightshow at the conclusion that fits about as well as anything else in the film. (Which is to say, it doesn’t.) At least the novel makes some sense. Mann has always been more interested in visuals and impressions than exposition, and in his hands, The Keep plays like the scrambled dictations of a 9-year-old.
16. Book list: 13 sad movies about people trying to be funny
Late addition: Funny People. Judd Apatow’s 2009 dramedy sets itself up to be a pretty major bummer right from the start. Its main character is a depressed ex-comic turned movie star, dying alone of an incurable disease in a huge mansion paid for by his hacky movies. Casting Adam Sandler in that all-too-close-to-home role seems like adding insult to injury, even for non-Sandler-fans. And while Funny People is genuinely funny when it dives into the milieu of struggling stand-up artists (Aziz Ansari’s “Randy” bits justly became an online sensation), even those scenes have a bittersweet edge: Seth Rogen plays one such up-and-coming comic who gets hired as Sandler’s assistant, and even leaving aside his boss’s borderline abusive behavior, he gets to see exactly how shitty the life he’s always dreamed of might be. Funny People is a deeply flawed movie, but very few films have done a better job of exposing the inherent misery at the core of so many folks whose job it is to make us laugh.
17. Book list: 9 DVD commentators always worth a listen
Late addition: The RZA. He may be the architect of the coolest hip-hop crew in history, but deep inside, he’s a big nerd. His book, The Wu-Tang Manual, proves it: He spent his high-school years immersed in such classic geek pursuits as chess, superhero comics, kung-fu movies, and science fiction. His nerdish tendencies became even more apparent when he was asked to co-host the audio commentary for the Weinstein brothers’ re-release of the kung-fu classic The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin; sharing the mic duties, he runs rings around noted Hong Kong cinema expert Andy Klein, proving himself to be a bigger genre geek than even Klein is prepared for. The RZA brings the same combination of broad knowledge and goofy enthusiasm to other commentary projects, including the box set of Afro Samurai and a featurette on the music for Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai. He doesn’t do many audio commentaries, but after hearing just one of them, you’ll be howling for him to get more Hollywood work just so you can listen to more of his infectious, exciting observations.
18-19. Book list: 15 songs about the positive side of drugs
Late additions: Iron Knowledge’s “Showstopper” and Gran Am’s “Get High.” When Jones Records released the Chains & Black Exhaust compilation album in 2003, funk junkies the world over rejoiced: The songs on this anthology of black rock bands from the late ’60s and early ’70s were all incredibly rare. Most of the groups represented there were straight-up party acts, employed by divey bars to give the rowdy inner-city crowds a musical backdrop to their weekend debauchery; they lacked the technical prowess of Jimi Hendrix or the musical ambition of George Clinton, but their raw funk and soul was just as enthusiastic. And boy, did they like to have a good time: Unhindered by the compromise required from a mainstream audience, they unabashedly celebrated every intoxicant known to man. Iron Knowledge’s unbridled party jam “Showstopper” celebrated the white stuff, as the singer hollered that his band was “down with cocaine and doin’ our thing”; Gran Am’s wild funk breakdown “Get High” was even simpler, chanting the title phrase over and over to a crowd that probably didn’t need to be reminded.
20-21. Book list: 15 songs about the negative side of drugs
Late additions: Steppenwolf’s “Snowblind Friend” and Black Sabbath’s “Snowblind.” Steppenwolf sung about the pleasures of “smokin’ lightning,” but the good-times band drew the line at the harder stuff. (On record, at least.) The band famously covered Hoyt Axton’s anti-pusher anthem “The Pusher” on its first album, a version immortalized by the movie Easy Rider. Three years and six albums later, the groups returned to Axton for “Snowblind Friend,” the tale of a coke fiend who “said he wanted heaven, but prayin’ was too slow.” What’d he do, you ask? “He bought a one-way ticket on an airline made of snow… flyin’ low, dyin’ slow.” Ozzy Osbourne and company clocked a lot of frequent-flier miles on that airline, too, as evidenced by Black Sabbath’s “Snowblind,” which finds Osbourne singing about the dangerous pleasures of living in a “crystal world with winter flowers.” He says he’s happy, but the music behind him tells a darker story. Then again, Sabbath could probably make a song about Girl Scout cookies sound sinister.
22. Book list: 20 not-so-good movies based on good books
Late addition: The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh. From the other side of his career, Michael Chabon’s debut novel looks tenuous by comparison with what followed. But it’s still a memorable, lyrical coming-of-age novel that deserved better than the 2009 adaptation by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). Compressing several of its characters together might have been necessary to tell the story of a young graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life, from which career to pursue to whether he prefers sleeping with men or women. Sadly, most of the flavor fades thanks to bland direction and a pair of zeroes residing at two points of its central love triangle: Jon Foster and Sienna Miller. Peter Sarsgaard isn’t bad as a self-destructive criminal type, but it’s hard to see why he’d get worked up about either of the two mannequins who follow him around.
23-plus. Book list: 30 disturbingly specific Internet Movie Database keywords
Late additions: Bear in mind that somebody out there had to go to the trouble of coming up with these keywords, entering them into the IMDB’s system, and then applying them to films. A lot of people volunteered their time to make sure you can find films based on very specific gory mutilations and sex acts like the following:
Nail in the head (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Martyrs)
Intestines (Re-Animator, Rambo, Repo! The Genetic Opera)
Tongue ripping (Midnight Express, Salo: 120 Days Of Sodom, Snakes On A Plane)
Scrotum bitten (Dead Snow)
Incest rape (Gran Torino, Only The Brave, An American Haunting, Hamlet)