Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Four Spring Movie Reviews (2016)

Allegiant (2016)
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi

With so many teen book adaptations, there has been an interesting trend of the series declining in interest. In my opinion, although studios continue to release each book into film, I feel the hype wanes much quicker than they have as in the Harry Potter and Twilight days. Series like Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent seem to have a dwindling audience as they continue. Despite the trend, I have become invested in seeing the Divergent series to the end.

Allegiant being the third of four (though I thought this was a trilogy), takes the story in a very interesting direction. It picks up where we left off with Insurgent and slowly unveils the world that lies behind the walls of Chicago. We finally get to see just what kind of damage was done to the Earth, but also the advancement of the society that survived to rebuild humanity. It handles the often explored themes of how much should be sacrificed for the future of mankind and when to consider something a lost cause. The acting isn't too bad and up to par with the preceding movies. I feel the movies have gotten better with the CGI as they've gone on and this is no exception. Therefore even if the general interest in the series has died down, I'd say if you've liked it so far, give it a watch.

Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)
Genre: Comedy

When it was announced that Barbershop was coming back, I was excited with a slight side of skepticism. I always loved the franchise (I also include Beauty Shop), but after so long it seemed like an easy money grab due to nostalgia factor bringing butts to seats. Also, seeing so many new names being added to the brand was worrisome, namely Nicki Minaj. Yet, knowing everyone involved have had success in the comedy and/or acting scene gave me enough security to see the film.

Barbershop has always been a fun series with little sprinkles of social commentary included, yet this addition makes it the focal point. As Calvin's Barbershop is based in Chicago, they took advantage of it to comment on the gang violence currently plaguing the city as it does many inner city areas. Other topics that come along with the shop talk include double standards in gender, racial inequalities, and even the role of politicians in local affairs. All of this is squeezed into many laughs delivered between the slew of comedians and even a possible love affair between the trio of rappers turned actors (Common, Eve, & Nicki Minaj). I honestly was completely satisfied with the movie and highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good comedy with a message.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Genre: Action/Drama

DC live action films have always garnered inconsistent reception. Yet, it is the era of the superheroes and many are on the lookout for each peak and addition to the cinematic universes. BvS is no exception, yet I was just hoping it would be better than the divisive Man of Steel (me being on the unfavorable side of the argument). The Marvel movies definitely have the leg up in the reception department, so I was hoping that this could set up DC's catch up season.

One difference that many have noted between the DC and Marvel movies is humor. BvS is a certain demonstration of that contrast as it is a very dramatic story. Batman's introduction and integration into Zack Snyder's universe is very well done as it's as gritty and realistic as Man of Steel. The movie also succeeds at quickly laying down the groundwork to introduce a Justice League as well as the pivotal member, Wonder Woman. Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, was a nice villain as the maniacal genius as he is in the comics. My only gripe is the way some of the dream sequences play out and how stiff some of the fight choreography is. Overall, I have to say that it was a good movie...not great...but worth seeing if you want to prepare for the DC films to come. Plus, it's better than Man of Steel!

The Jungle Book (2016)
Genre: Family

"Oh, Disney...why are you making live action versions of all your cartoons?" I'm sure that's what all crossed our minds when this movie began being advertised. I was curious to see how this would turn out, though, since this would be a very CG heavy experience. Also, it has many big names cast on the bill doing the voice acting. Thus, the family wanted to go check it out for my younger brother's sake and I figured I'd tag along.

To be honest, this movie ended up being really great. The CG was very well done and managed to make the animals' speech very natural. The young Mowgli was performed greatly by Neel Sethi and story stayed intact. You still get the fan favorite music numbers and their placement doesn't feel groan-worthy when they are about to come in either. When I realized it was Jon Favreau directing the film, it all made sense that it ended up a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The only thing I can see being unlikable about this movie is Christopher Walken's "You-oo-oo-oo" during his song. I'm can say I was pleased by this retelling of this beloved story, so it's okay, Disney, I forgive your money loving ways. I highly recommend this remade classic to anyone who love family films!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

As much as I love AKi and he's been my favorite from SID since day one, I was a little skeptical about him going solo, but he's proven himself more and more with each release. This second PV release gives me a little more confidence and excitement compared to his debut "FREAK SHOW". It does give me a slight J influenced vibe in styling, but the overall appearance mixes the persona I know from his time in SID and a separate solo entity. I love the mix of studio, glamour shots, and vague storytelling. It has a good balance of polish, vintage, and indie in its respectful scenes. The song is also super catchy and it looks like AKi had a lot of fun filming this with his band buddies.

"QUALIA" by Arlequin
If you've known me for a long time, you know that I love indies jrock and I still do. I still check out new talent and this is one I picked up last year...I think. I'm not sure if I've shared them before, but this PV shows how much this band has grown in such a short amount of time. It's a very mature sounding song with a great bassline and vulnerable vocal delivery by Aki. Like most indies bands, the PV doesn't display a big budget in the least, but I enjoy the visuals provided to show off the emotional vulnerability with Aki and the mystery lady while also giving us glimpses of the band's chemistry, especially around the breakdown. This is definitely a great step in the right direction for the band and I'm looking forward to so much more!

"Rushiddo Dream" by DADAROMA
Aside from Pentagon and NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST, I've been really into this band lately. Their sound is something I didn't expect from them upon first glance, but I feel like this little ramble of "newer" visual kei bands is more suited for a separate post or something. Much like the previous PV above, this was a major growth in quality and depth for the band and it made my heart flutter with excitement. It has a very passionate and haunting sound from the musical to the vocal arrangements. I love watching each member lose themselves in the music while Yoshiatsu belts out his soul to the world. The visuals are very polished, haunting, and subtly elegant. The story with Yoshiatsu and the child are very intriguing and the atmosphere is very immersive for this song. Definitely check this one out if you're new to DADAROMA!

"JAJAJA" by YDG feat. Dynamic Duo & Crush
After watching Show Me the Money 3, which I swear I haven't forgotten, I've been trying to listen to at least a little more of YDG's music every time he pops up in my feed. This is one music video I'm happy I've checked out. This smooth, classy track brings maturity and sophistication to the Korean hip-hop genre to break up all the aggression and trap rap. It still manages to show YDG's fun charm and mixes elements of jazz and R&B while have a charming and subtle sensual rap delivery. Dynamic Duo definitely elevates the class level of this song and video as well as contribute to YDG's story, while Crush channels Zion.T and molds into the saxophone jazz style of the melody. It's a real treat for the eyes and ears for sure.

"ah-ah" by TEEN TOP
It feels like forever since I've genuinely enjoyed a song from these guys, let alone a music video. The boys have definitely grown up a little since their "Super Luv" days, but they still retain that cute, young charm from those debut days. The song is sweet, fun, and charming and shows off their vocal abilities very well. I'm truly impressed by some of the range these guys have in the singing department. The video does hurt my eyes a little with the pastels and whites, but the overly contrast and bright colors in the darker areas are a nice break. I enjoy both sides though. It fits the fun, party atmosphere, while being a fresh, cute, and flirty video. They definitely look like they're having fun. Also, that fancy footwork! Omg~

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Mini Album Reviews

GO - Krizz Kaliko
Genre: R&B/Hip Hop/Alternative Rap

Krizz Kaliko from the Strange Music camp is a monument on the label as his versatile talents aid everyone in multiple ways. It's one reason why most people can't envision Tech N9ne without Krizz by his side, whether by adding a verse or singing a hit chorus. This creative mind also always brought his well-rounded style to each of his past albums while continuing to push his limits with every one. So I was heavily anticipating this current project, especially because he was going to focus his efforts more on his singing vocals and more live instrumentation.

Kaliko presents a introspective journey through funk, R&B, pop, and hip hop tracks that detail his means to escape depression and finally facing his problems head on. The singles do well to demonstrate the album's range with the danceable "Talk Up on It" and the melancholy "Stop the World". Other tracks that I found to become favorites include "Logged Off", "Orangutan", & "Happyish". Yet, I must recommend that anybody who loves R&B give this whole album a listen.

Far From Familiar - Sylvan LaCue
Genre: Hip Hop

My introduction to Sylvan LaCue was as QuESt on the album Searching Sylvan which made a fan with his passion, story, and craft over many styles of hip hop. After that album, he took a small break to regroup and rebrand by starting his own crew with Wise Up and dropping his moniker for his government name. Following that, he dropped an EP called Evangeline dedicated to his current love interest who helped him during his changes. This showed Sylvan was ready to come back with full force.

Far From Familiar still shows the great craftsmanship Sylvan became known for. We pick up following his story right where he left off, bringing life after the success of the previous album. He chronicles over production similar to modern trap beats then switch to singing something 808's and Heartbreaks-esque leading to a sound akin to Because the Internet's experimental moments. Sylvan clearly emotes lyrically and each track's atmosphere making tracks like "Fall From Grace", "Studio City", & "Crosswinds" so great. Thus, I must recommend this project to fans of Logic, Kanye West, & Kendrick Lamar.

Twenty88 - Twenty88
Genre: R&B/Rap

Now being a fan of one half of the newly formed duo Twenty88, I got interested through Jhene Aiko's teasing of a new project on social media. I soon realized that it would be a collaboration project with Big Sean, who I've always saw as a subpar rapper that has slowly improved over time. Once it released, I was surprised it was first on TIDAL before finally becoming available everywhere else. That delayed my listen to this project, since I dropped my subscription after my free trial expired. (Thank you, Yeezus!) Yet, I still got informed that this EP was coupled with a short film,"Out of Love", on the website, so I hoped I'd soon get to experience it.

That time came and I must say that their synergy is actually very apparent throughout the project. Their past collabs together (and love songs in general) have always seem to bring some decent songs out of Sean and I have to admit this gave me 7 out of 8. Plus the addition of Big Sean I feel probably aided the more diverse production which helped Jhene not get too stuck in one sound. The short film, which is set to a medley of 6 of the songs, presented a simple, but interesting watch following the artists living as a famous couple in an alternate sci-fi world. To conclude, I can recommend a listen to those who dig mainstream hip hop love songs. Oh, and favorites on this include "On the Way", "Push it", & "Talk Show".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: The Forest

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Directed by: Jason Zada
Language: English, Japanese
Country: USA
Runtime: 93 minutes
Rating: PG-13

The Forest is a film that was potentially doomed from its conception. The tale is based around a very real place, Aokigahara Forest, located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. This forest is known as a destination for people wanting to commit suicide. As many interested in Japanese culture will know, suicide is a very serious problem in Japan. It's not all visual kei, cute Lolita girls or strange game shows. Setting a horror movie in such a place is highly distasteful because it seems to be making light of the suicide epidemic. The forest is thought to be haunted by yurei, the angry spirits of those who've died in it's midst. The mystery and supernatural forces wrapped in the folklore of such a place leads a plethora of possible plot points. However, those potential stories need to be respectful of the culture and everything that comes with it.

Another problem The Forest faced was being lumped into the white washing of Hollywood. The lead actors are both Caucasian playing Caucasian characters. Some felt that the movie should have been about Asian characters exploring an Asian landscape and societal issue. However, this is a film about a foreign woman going to look for her equally foreign sister who happens to be living and working in Japan. The main characters weren't written to be Asian in the first place. 

'A woman goes into Japan's Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.' [Source: IMDB]

Let's put aside the controversy that The Forest has been plagued by. The cast should be relatively sound. Natalie Dormer is quite popular for her work in The Tudors, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. Taylor Kinney is The Vampire Diaries, Zero Dark Thirty and Chicago Fire. Both have a relatively strong fan base that should have drawn in quite a few viewers despite the controversy. If nothing else, there would have been people who'd want to watch just to see what everyone was complaining about. 

The film opens with Sara receiving a phone call that her sister has been reported missing after a class trip to Mount Fuji. Jess, Sara's identical twin, was living and working in Japan as an English teacher. After discussing it with her husband and receiving a second phone call, Sara decides to travel alone to Japan in order to search for her sister. It was believed that Jess went into Aokigahara to commit
suicide. Once she arrives in Japan, Sara learns that the locals are reluctant to let her go into the forest. She meets Aiden, a reporter who has clearance to go into the forest with the help of Michi, a forest ranger. The trio sets out into the forest to look for Jess with the forewarning from Michi that the forest can play tricks on the mind.

This is where the film begins to fail. The scriptwriters began by trying to develop Sara into a character with real personality by giving us some time following her before she reaches the forest. Any of this development was cast aside once she reaches Aokigahara. Natalie Dormer tries her best to breathe life into Sara and by extension, Jess. Sadly, the other twin wasn't given any real screen time except in flashbacks. What was Jess' motivation? Why would she want to commit suicide? We're shown that she's on anxiety medication, but what person living abroad for the first time wouldn't be facing a bit of anxiety?

Aiden is also given no real time to develop as a character. Here is this mysterious reporter who frequently goes into the forest. What's his motivations? Is he hiding a sinister secret? Are the real
monsters human instead of yurei? The writers seem to have forgotten that he even needs a better personality. We're just expected to ignore the lack of personality as they get deeper in the forest.

Rather than developing a psychological horror, the filmmakers choose to use jumpy moments that don't result in any scares. The landscape itself could have led to quite a few intense moments. If you've ever been out in a dense forest at night, you're aware of how difficult it is to find your way. Disorientation, confusion and the sheer darkness would be enough to lead to horrifying moments. Add the additional psychological terror of knowing that every bump in the night could be the ghosts the locals believe in. Sadly, the writers didn't take these factors into consideration even after the director visited the real Aokigahara.

In the end, we're left to wonder why Jess would have gone into the forest in the first place. Was she suicidal? Why didn't Sara know what her twin's state of mind was? One could assume that they were on speaking terms despite the 6000 mile difference. It's not that hard to skype, call, email or text. If the bond between the sisters been elaborated on, the motivations would have driven the plot further along. The writing would have to be stronger for this to be possible. Instead, we get a thin plot with the usual jumpy moments thrown in to try to make the teenage audience happy. It's rather sad that this one couldn't grow past the controversy and be a strong film. The only real highlight is Natalie Dormer.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, April 22, 2016

Quick Movie Review

The Perfect Guy (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Much like No Good Deed, this movie seemed very cliched and nothing new for black cinema. I wasn't all that interested in seeing this movie in theaters and the only reason I would want to would be to stare into Michael Ealy's beautiful, light colored eyes. Despite my boss spoiling a somewhat major plot point, I surprisingly enjoyed myself more than No Good Deed; granted that the movie overall wasn't anything astounding in the least. Nonetheless, it wasn't a terrible movie or anything. Things are quite predictable for the most part, minus that little spoiler, but things with Ealy's character almost goes from zero to a hundred like The Boy Next Door, but less laughable. Don't know if it's bias or not as Ryan Guzman was great eye candy, but Michael Ealy's experience shines a little brighter than Guzman's Noah character. I just believe him as more of a threat in comparison, in other words. The movie was an entertaining experience and did what The Boy Next Door wish it did as of tone and concept. I would probably put this on the same enjoyment level as another obsessive Idris Elba movie, Obsessed, which had its flaws and cliches, but was still fairly enjoyable.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I'm not sure if I watched this before or after Cooties, but here's another comical zombie apocalypse movie. Although, I believe this one made it to the theater; I vaguely remember seeing the poster for it here. It wasn't anything I was anxious to see on the silver screen, so obviously I waited for the DVD release as it didn't look all that spectacular. Watching it at home proved my expectations...for the most part. It is quite silly, but it does have some laughs despite some of the perverted humor either fell flat or was overdone. I liked the main character and his romantic interest as they fight through the zombies and keeps his duties as a scout. I can see not a lot of people enjoying as much as say Zombieland, but I liked it more than another certain zombie comedy I will review later. In short comparison, I enjoyed Cooties more as it delivered more successful laughs than this one, but this movie wasn't terrible with its content or comedy.

Goodnight Mommy (2014, Austria) | Rating: 4/5

Looking at the cover of this movie, I thought this would be some cheesy straight to video American horror flick, but surprisingly it ended up being a surprisingly chilling Austrian flick. When I pick up these random horror movies at work and expect a funny time with a bad or cheesy movie, it makes me happy when they end up being remarkably good. When you go into this movie, don't be fooled by the trailer and think you're going to be immediately scared out of your skin or anything. No, this is a suspense builder that'll keep you thinking what's going on with these twins and their mother who may be someone else entirely. Throughout the movie, I tried to predict the conclusion of this, which in this case was a fun ordeal. Sometimes it can be just a fun thing to do to keep a bad movie (or show) exciting, but I genuinely was curious to know what the hell was happening. The twins were very convincing and I felt every bit of pain and struggle they experienced with each other and their mother. The cinematography is stunning and the story definitely keeps you on edge with the help of visual and audio atmosphere. The conclusion will either surprise you or mock you, but I felt a mix of surprise and a little sadness (in a good way). I definitely recommend this film for those who need a little foreign suspense in their life or those who simply enjoy that chilling feeling of the uncertain.

War Room (2015, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

It's another rare religious movie moment! Yeah, I still don't watch too many of these, but this one is one I'm happy I took the time in seeing. I didn't know what to expect with this one, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. I even claimed that it's one of the best religious movies I've seen, out of the small handful. It does have a bit of cliched Tyler Perry-esque broken relationship story, but the part of the story that deals with Elizabeth and Miss Clara are the scenes that shine the most for me. Seeing these two women interact and learn from each other brings a smile to my face. Thinking about it now, I do recognize the flaws in this movie and it seems like this is a common thing that occurs in these Christian films. Elizabeth's marriage problems and Tony's relationship with his daughter seemed very contrived and not very well executed. The humor is a bit hit or miss, but at least the writer(s)' attempt to keep the jokes somewhat realistic as Elizabeth feels like someone I could meet in the real world. Also the end segment with Miss Clara's "call to arms" prayer kinda made me a bit...uncomfortable. I'm all about the power of prayer and everything, but it seemed like too much. It didn't feel natural I suppose. I understood what they were going for, but it just went a little overboard. Lastly, the conclusion of the Jordan family's story really stretches reality, but tries not to make it happy happy. Honestly, if you treat this like the better Tyler Perry movies and don't think too deeply on the marriage situation and focus on the message the movie tries to convey, I think it was a successful and even inspiring film.

A Hard Day (2014, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5

If you've been here for a while, you've noticed I've watched quite a few Korean action films and I tend to have high expectations of the content. Of course, like any genre, it can be hit and miss. With such an inconsistent track record in my selection, I guess my expectations have lowered over time a little, but for the most part, South Korea tends to deliver some good quality action films. Watching this movie, I didn't know what direction it would go, but the end result was definitely positive. Our main character Go Geon-soo has some charming, anti-hero personality traits. You like him enough to root for him against the enemy, but you dislike him a little for his unethical police habits that make him a bit untrustworthy at times. There was plenty of action in this cat and mouse chase and a surprise mixture of humor that kept me even more entertained. I never seen humor like this incorporated in a South Korean action film, so that made me very happy. Sometimes, South Korea, you don't have to be so serious with your action flicks.

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Four Short Anime Reviews

Noragami (2014)/Noragami Aragato (2015)
Genre: Action/Comedy

I went to check out this show purely off the review from Arkada of Glass Reflection. I'm glad that I did as well. This cool show full of gods and their battles with the phantoms of mankind's negative mentalities was extremely entertaining! The mystery behind who Yato is as the calamity god that no one knows brought a lot of neat action scenes along with a fun romp through the city with his odd jobs in order to gain more followers. Plus the relationships he gains through his accidental half-phantom friend, Hiyori, and his teenage regalia (weaponized partner-in-justice), Yukine, brought many of the laughs as well as tension. The world that these seasons built gave an interesting one to delve into and learn about as the hierarchy is structured and dangers of multi-named Nora spirits. If you enjoy a good short shonen series, I recommend it!

Ping Pong: The Animation (2014)
Genre: Sports

This one has always been on my "To Watch" list since I heard it recommended by Gigguk. I heard that once you get used to the art style of the show, you really can get into the characters and it's true. You really get a quick dive into the world of competitive ping pong in the journey of childhood friends Peco & Smile. The viewpoints of having the natural talent and actually caring about using your gifts prove how your efforts can be rewarded. You get attached to the characters quickly as they all have their quirks whether calculated & emotionless to fun spirited & cocky. If you like this genre of show, this quick 11 episode journey is a fun one to digest.

 Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (2006)
Genre: Action/Comedy

Kenichi was a show introduced to me by my friend a while back and I remembered enjoying it thoroughly, so I decided to rewatch it in my sick bed since I had the time to sit through the 50 episode count. This show follows the journey of Kenichi who grew up as a cowardly boy, but after seeing a girl stand her ground against some street thugs decides to stop running from his own fights. This girl, Miu, befriends him and brings him to the legendary dojo, Ryouzanpaku, and its fearsome masters. There he trains in each masters' respective style from Muy Thai & Karate to Kenpo & Jiujitsu, while Kenichi becomes a target of a gang called Ragnarok. You follow his growth as a martial artist collecting friends and the respect of his peers with laughs and exciting battles. Definitely a shonen classic to me!

Steins;Gate (2011)
Genre: Mystery/Drama

Steins;Gate is a favorite of a friend of mine who referred me to it earlier last year. After watching it, I knew how it could be his favorite and later how other online reviewers recommended it. Being another show I could relive while sick recently, I gave this another go to see what new things I could catch. This little time travel tale had me dying of laughter and provoked with thought as I tried to piece together the conundrums of this group of friends who wrestle with the nuances of world lines. The invention of Future Gadgets Lab's time machine led by Rintarou Okabe chronicles how they can get to work, how they use it, and what it all leads to brings an emotional rollercoaster that anyone can enjoy. Once you get a taste of each member of the crew's eccentricities and how those dynamics play with each other, you won't get enough of their relationships and struggles to keep them throughout their troubles to reach the hallowed Steins;Gate!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Second Chances: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon began an expansion of Naoko Takeuchi's manga series Codename: Sailor V. The series didn't feature Sailor Moon, but was centered around Sailor Venus who later becomes Sailor Moon's companion in the extended series. The mangas have been adapted into several animes, a live action and musicals. Today, we're focusing on the animes only. The mangas are certainly on my reading list. I have seen an episode or two of the musical, namely for having a cameo by Shazna's vocalist, Izam.

Super 90s anime style

Back in the 90s, Sailor Moon was a popular anime that I didn't like. I felt that the characters could be quite annoying overall when I saw the dubbed version that aired on Toonami in 1998.There was so much that I disliked about the anime that I never gave it a second chance. Sure, this was probably blasphemy since magical girl anime is the cutest thing ever. I'm fairly sure that I blacked out most of what I'd seen of that version.

Super gorgeous updated style

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I found myself with the real desire to watch the updated version released in 2014. The art was quite lovely which is what I expect from an anime aimed at a female audience. I like the soft feel of it. It's updated, while still keeping a similar feel to what they tried to do on the previous version. I feel like this is a good balance of the old and the new as far as the animation is concerned. Toei does soften the animation even further for season 3, but I don't mind the change at all. Actually, I kind of like it a bit better because the transformations don't feel as cgi.

            90s version                                               2014 version       

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal has spanned three seasons so far. I ended up sitting in front of the laptop, starring at the screen as I absorbed episode after episode. I was enraptured with these characters that I once found annoying. Usagi is an adorable, complex character. Chibiusa is just as adorable as Usagi is. The other characters like Ami don't seem as brash as they seemed in the previous version. I keep finding myself wanting to see every episode and they don't come fast enough. I want to see what happens to these women (and Mamoru) next.

I've heard from a reliable source who has read all the manga, seen the original anime and watched Sailor Moon Crystal that the updated version follows the manga more closely. This gives me hope that I'll enjoy the manga as much as I've enjoyed Crystal. This is a huge change for someone who disliked the original so badly that I didn't want anything to do with it at all. Hurry up, Toei! I need more episodes!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fair Shake Review: Erased

(Genre: Drama, Mystery)

Sometimes, Miko introduces me to shows that she finds my interest me like they do her. This time, though, it was right before the season was about to begin. Thus I knew that if I was to watch this, the chances of me having to watch this subbed was high. Some stories are worth that change of habit, though and this seemed promising. Since I am also a binge watcher, I stayed clear of the show until the season was near done. That didn't prevent me hearing opinions of some reviewers, so I was happy hearing relatively positive thoughts overall. The premise of traveling back in time to change the future for the better is a tried and true formula, but its approach seemed unique enough to dive in!

The first episode really fleshed out the unique aspect of our main character, Fujinuma Satoru's, time traveling ability he calls "Revival". It's explained as a sort of deja vu phenomenon where he notices something wrong that needs to be fixed from a few minutes ago. The results of saving these people occasionally do some harm to Satoru, but nothing too harmful. Yet by the end of the episode, the event that triggers his most special revival sends him 18 years back to the before the childhood tragedy seemingly connected to who he has to save. What it takes to change the future is what will unfold, and it all must be done in the form of a child.

The twists and turns of this anime kept me hooked and watching each episode. I do believe that you must suspend your belief a bit to immerse yourself into the story, but I do feel that it is decently executed. If you don't mind kids almost having a Detective Conan way of thinking, you will certainly enjoy how each new trial is dealt with. I, for one, loved how all the characters interacted with each other and kept the theme of being there for someone prevalent throughout the show. Plus, I always get a kick out of shows that try to delve a little into how the criminal mind works. I did get some hints of who the true culprit was going to be, but I didn't expect resolution we got. Yet, I certainly have more to say in the more spoiler territory of this review. The video below will contain those thoughts. For those who'd like to see Erased beforehand, I'd advise you come back to watch my spoiler-filled musings on the anime.

Other Erased related videos
Erased Promo Video (What Miko showed me)
Weebing Out Over ERASED (What I heard while waiting to watch it)
ERASED Was Never That Good (Digibro's opposing review)
Glass Reflection Review (Arkada's take on ERASED)
Steins;Gate Promo Video (Another time traveling tale)
Read Monster's Synopsis (Monster is a GREAT Thriller I recommend)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: Session 9

Starring: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins

This is another movie that slipped through the cracks of busy-ness that should've been posted in October. *sighs* Fortunately here at Muddy Cult, horror media is not just reserved for October. It's safe to say that this post has been collecting a bit of dust while I tended to slightly newer things in my queue.

An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed, job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. In particular, Hank is dating Phil's old girlfriend, and Gordon's new baby seems to be unnerving him more than should be expected. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9, and as Hank disappears after finding some old coins. [Source: IMDb]

The downside of running a blog by yourself for a while is trying to keep up with everything. Matters are made worse when you're already majorly behind...which I still am, but I am getting a little better. In short, what I'm trying to say, is putting off certain posts for others leads you to forget things. I remember going into this movie not expecting too much. I haven't come across too many good movies that I've never heard, but sounded at least somewhat interesting. Once the movie started going, I increasingly became more and more interested in what was going on. The movie balanced the session tapes and the group's exploits throughout the abandoned building well. It didn't disrupt the flow of reveal and kept me wanting more as time went on. The characters were interesting and diverse in personality and produced a decent conflict among themselves and the mysterious assailant. While they cleaned up things and explored the area, I got to indulge in the slow building information of the former patient Mary through the tapes and her various mental inhabitants. The story does build up slowly and you're constantly wondering which direction it'll go, but once it picks up, it's quite a trip. Everyone gets to face their own set of demons: darkness, greed, and guilt.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of this movie and it successfully conveyed an emptiness and expanse. I believed that this area was big enough to lose people, although sometimes I had a tiny bit of difficulty keeping up with the layout in my head when everyone was separated. As much as I enjoyed listening to the tapes, I did have a bit of a hard time hearing certain parts and comprehending the contents completely. Some may brush this off as a minor problem, but these tapes play a major part in the overarching story. These tapes concede with our characters and reveals a bit of history of the asylum. It's also related to the climax and conclusion of their job. Thinking about it now, the contents aren't extremely remarkable or new, but the execution was at least interesting enough to keep watching and figuring out how the story would end.

Session 9 is honestly nothing super special and doesn't add anything new to the table, but what it does with its cliche contents is take a slightly different approach with its story, atmosphere, and characters. Watching these characters interact and develop kept me interested and curious on how their job would conclude. Despite the twist being either slightly predictable or cliched, I thought it was executed well and gave me a little surprise. In short, this wasn't a terrible movie and I was pleasantly surprised. It is intriguing and offers some good material to the mentally insane category.

Rating: 3/5

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quick Anime Review

Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction (2015) | Rating: 3/5

The sequel of this manwha adaptation (I believe) popped up on my feed of where I normally watch anime and I learned that it was indeed a sequel. While getting into this OVA, listening to these characters talk was slightly off putting and took some audible adjusting. It wasn't that the voice acting was bad or anything, but it was a Korean anime. Hence, all the dialogue is spoken in Korean. I'm no stranger to manhwa as I do own a small handful of them, but I've never watched a Korean anime or an adaptation of a manhwa. The animation was very vibrant and the action was very smooth. I enjoyed watching this story unfold, although at times I wish I knew more information about our two main characters and their relationship history. Despite the lack of character background, it didn't fail to make me feel strongly about their situation with each other and society. I am looking forward to continuing forward in the sequel and hopefully learn more about Raizel and Mujaka.

Divine Gate (2016) | Rating: 1.5/5

I guess I've finally become that person that gets into the new series of the year. Perhaps the overwhelming feeling has washed away some. It's still a little overwhelming, but something about this winter season has eased up the pressure to some extent. Perhaps it is the quality of what I have chosen. In my first entry of the winter season, I thought the premise seemed interesting and the art style was somewhat unique. It had a bold and vibrant color and suited its mobile app source material, although I have no idea what the app looks like. Anyway, I was skeptical on how this "adaptation" would go as there's only so much you can do with mobile apps in the first place and honestly, the story had good ideas, but was poorly executed. I'm surprised I got myself through all 12 episodes when I should've dropped it about half way. It really was lacking and didn't explain a lot of the fantasy/sci-fi elements it presented. It also didn't help that the characters didn't have much depth, so when they face their fears or those most precious to them, you don't feel anything. Lastly, spoiler, the final episode is a complete let down as the goal these characters are trying to reach throughout the series, they decide not to pursue it at all. *facepalm* In short, this series was a complete waste of time and I didn't find anyone disappointed or surprised by the conclusion in the comments.

Haikyuu!! Second Season (2016) | Rating: 4/5

Getting into Haikyuu!! was a very good decision and I was excited to jump into the next season so soon. Watching this second season and thinking of the potential content in the upcoming third, really reminded me of the game setup in Kuroko no Basket. They have their own Inter High Tournament and "Generation of Miracles" to deal with. You still get to watch your characters grow, learn, and interact with each other, especially with the pressure of the third years graduating looming in the distance. Expect the game to be stretched out over several episodes and leaving you on the edge of your seat. If you're used to the game setup in Kuroko no Basket, then this shouldn't be any surprise or inconvenience. I still love these characters immensely and watching them play brings out so many emotions and a bit of stress (in a good way). Let's bring home the championship, Karasuno!!

Dimension W (2016) | Rating: 2/5

Next new series of the winter was another show that I thought had an interesting premise and I had a mix art style of traditional and CGI. I loved the opening a lot and had a hard time skipping it as it's performed by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION, the same group that brought you the hyped opening "RENEGADE" for GANGSTA. Unlike Divine Gate, the characters had more depth and background and I kinda felt a little more attachment to some of the characters. Unfortunately, certain plot points throughout the series seemed either convoluted or confusing. I'm not even sure if the characters understood what the heck was going on in the second half of the show. I was surprised to find that people were looking forward to a second season, even though I thought it was only a tiny bit more exciting than Divine Gate. As much as I enjoyed learning about Kyouma and watching his relationship with Mira, I was bored and kinda pushed myself through this series.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi (2016) | Rating: 4.5/5

This winter season series I've been going back and forth on whether to do a full review or not. I know BlipMasta5 has something planned on his end, so I'll see how I feel later as I do have a ton of other things I'm working on here. Some may think this series is a little overhyped, but seriously I think this is this year's Zankyou no Terror a.k.a my favorite new series of the year (so far). The story was very much addicting and I loved following these characters from episode to episode. Any show that gives me a chance to form an emotional attachment to is a great one and this show succeed in that. Despite having to adjust to the character art style and the "big reveal" was quite predictable, it was still shocking to learn all these other details and sitting at the edge of my seat at the end of each episode. Sure, there are moments where you have to suspend reality, but overall, it's highly enjoyable and it's been awhile since I've watched such a great suspense, mystery series. I'm hoping at some point I can find the manga the show is based on and that it doesn't receive a second season. That might sound strange, but I have no idea where they would go from where they left off and I'm happy with where it ended. If it does happen, I won't ignore it.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.