Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Movie Review


The ABCs of Death 2 (2014, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I've already reviewed the first movie, which you can read here. I was excited to hear that they would be making a sequel to the anthology and that one of my favorite directors Sion Sono would be part of the project. Unfortunately, he didn't make the final cut for one reason or another. I have no idea why and a few IMDb commenters were curious too. Anyway, I thought this movie was pretty good and, depending on my mood, sometimes I think it's slightly better or worse than the first, but they're both worth watching. Just like the first movie, not all of them are gold, but the ones that are the most entertaining make up for what's lacking.



Life Itself (2014, USA) | Rating: 5/5

As someone who grew up watching Siskel & Ebert every night with my mother and becoming a film major in the long run, I felt obligated to watch this documentary/biography of one of the greatest movie critics of our time. This film takes excerpts from the book of the same name and recounts Ebert's personal and professional life as well as his final days. It was interesting learn so much about such a brilliant and insightful man and the passion he had for cinema. He held such an influence on Hollywood and he was well respected among his peers. He's definitely a man who has left an inspirational legacy behind. It is a very inspiring, insightful, informational, and emotional documentary. For those who have a passion for cinema, no matter what aspect of it, I highly recommend it.



Beyond the Lights (2014, USA) | Rating: 4/5

I remember seeing the previews for this movie in the theater and I didn't think too much of it. When it came in at my job, I figured I'd give the movie a chance because it did seem a little interesting. I'm sure some people let this movie slip under the radar when it was in theaters or whatever, but this is actually a good quality movie with a black female lead. Coincidentally, the star also was in another quality film people slept on, Belle. I was afraid that this movie was going be super predictable and basic like Addicted or some Tyler Perry movie, but it actually had some depth and an interesting storyline. I enjoyed watching Noni's development throughout the movie and her interactions between her mother and Kaz. Occasionally, Kaz did some unbelievable or outrageous things, but overall, I felt for what he was going through with their relationship. The movie isn't completely perfect, but it is an improvement from most movies with a black main cast.



Jessabelle (2014, USA) | Rating: 2/5

I haven't had too much luck with a lot of the horror movies I've been checking out lately, fortunately my expectations have been pretty low with them. But still, it's sad that it has come to this feeling of acceptance that most horror movies lately are simply subpar or mediocre at best. This one had some potential as it deals with hauntings, ghosts, and maybe a tiny bit of possession, but I guess voodoo is in play in some form as well. I had no expectations for this movie, meaning I didn't know what to expect from it, I simply went into it with an open mind. The story is fairly interesting as we follow Jessie after a horrific car accident and recovering in her childhood home in Louisiana. This is where the strange things occur for Jessie and the people around her. Up to a certain point in the movie, I thought of The Skeleton Key, which is also set in Louisiana and involves some sort of voodoo/witchcraft/magic. The difference between these two movies is that The Skeleton Key is more suspenseful, better written, and delivers a more satisfying ending, in my opinion.



Open Windows (2014, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I was warned that this movie was absolutely stupid and I believed him. Judging by the low budget-ish cover, the questionable cast, the premise, and a little bit of the name, I knew it was going to be dumb. The few Elijah Wood movies I've reviewed that have gone straight to DVD have been a little iffy and this is my second movie I've seen with Sasha Grey, although Would You Rather ended up being rather entertaining. Once again, Wood has to follow orders from a mysterious person, except this time he is a fan of a certain actress, which almost teeters into Grey's former real life profession. The premise is somewhat interesting, but Wood's acting and/or writing is kinda weak and unbelievable. Not only that, the whole execution of the movie's plot is flimsy. It seems like the writer(s) wanted to cram so many different hacker elements into one film that it seems confusing and possibly impossible or flawed in reality. The ending is also confusing and slightly anti-climatic. Grey also doesn't contribute much either, but honestly there was little for her to work with.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Magic Knight Rayearth Seasons 1 & 2


Title: Magic Knight Rayearth
Language: English & Japanese
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Magic, Mecha, Romance, Shoujo
Episodes: 49 (20 + 29)


When I was introduced to anime by one of my best friends, she exposed me and another best friend to a handful of shoujo series. One I've already reviewed, DiGi Charat which I might review later, Revolutionary Girl Utena which I'll be starting in place of this series, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Magic Knight Rayearth and DiGi Charat kinda became a foundation in the next level of our friendship. We were a trio of girls and they were also a trio of girls. To this day, I still remember our characters; I had Puchiko/Petit Charat and Fuu. As of last year, I picked up the series again, oblivious that I completed the first season so many years ago. I didn't realize it until I reached the final episode, but I've never seen the follow up season. Without further ado, seasons one and two of Magic Knight Rayearth!


Our story begins with Shidou Hikaru, Ryuuzaki Umi, and Hououji Fuu together at Tokyo Tower, during a field trip. These three girls come from different schools and possess somewhat opposing personalities. Suddenly, a mysterious light captures their attention and brings them to another world called Cephiro. They soon learn from the wise and powerful Master Mage Clef that Princess Emeraude has summoned them to become Magic Knights and rid Cephiro of the monsters that have inhabited the land.

The first season is definitely an emotional rollercoaster and it's hard not to feel and experience these ups and downs with our main characters. No matter how much pain and joy they go through, it strengthens and cultivates their hearts and friendship. Throughout the series, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu struggle to find and build pure love in their hearts worthy enough to work together with the Rune Gods of Cephiro.


Aside from promoting a message of selfless love, this series has a great variety of characters. The truly remarkable, the intimidating, the angered, and the innocent. Our main characters are easily very likeable and watching their development unfold is very rewarding and uplifting. The support characters that help them also manage to steal a small part in your heart such as Master Mage Clef, Presea, and Ferio. The series of villains present plenty of unique challenges to keep the story interesting and entertaining through magic, trickery, beasts, and other forms of clever manipulation. Even though they are briefly shown through each episode until the finale, the show effortlessly develops a gateway for viewers to develop emotions toward Princess Emeraude and High Priest Zagato.

Even though I didn't grow up strictly on 90's anime, I still feel a sense of nostalgia with Clamps' animation style. Even the music and signature "ohohoho" laughter makes me drift into memory lane. I believe if you love magical girls, you should at least watch the first season. But, what about season 2, you say? I will try my best to avoid spoilers, but there is no guarantee. So, if you are planning on watching the first season, I would suggest you skip ahead to the final verdict in the last paragraph.

<--more--!>

The story begins back in the real world with Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu reminiscencing on their time in Cephiro. The girls haven't seen each other since returning to the real world and their hearts weigh heavy after the events that occurred in Cephiro. So, they all coincidentally meet back at Tokyo Tower where it all started and wish to return to the wonderful land of Cephiro. Suddenly, the girls are teleported back, but things aren't as beautiful as they left it. Since losing the Pillar, Princess Emeraude, Cephiro has become unstable and other countries are fighting to take over the Pillar system. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu unite with Mage Clef and previous characters to help defend Cephiro and search for a new Pillar.


While the first season focused on selfless love, this season focuses more on self love, especially for Hikaru. The main characters are more mature and willing to fight as Cephiro is like a second home and the people they've encountered are like a family to them. Some characters return such as Mage Clef, Ferio, Caldina, and Ascot. We also gain some backstory on Princess Emeraude and High Priest Zagato's relationship with the introduction of Zagato's brother Lantis. As the first season delves into development of the characters and selfless love, the action is somewhat secondary, this season delivers more action as the Magic Knights defend Cephiro from Autozam, Chizeta, Fahren, and the mysterious Debonair. Even though there is plenty of action, the second season explores a different kind of love as the story shifts from friendship to a more romantic bond for the girls. There was already an establishment between Fuu and Ferio in the first season, but Umi and Hikaru get a chance to experience romantic feelings. Of course, more of the focus is on Hikaru, which makes certain plot points pretty obvious on the resolution.

For those who were wanting more action from the first season, this one definitely delivers that with a good mixture of mecha battles and personal battles on various terrains. My only gripe is that the mecha battles can be a little repetitive at times, even though they try to mix it up a little by involving the newer characters to assist. Either way the fights are entertaining, despite my disinterest with mecha anime. The shift on friendship to romantic love was a reasonable and believable choice for this season, but at times I did get a little annoyed with Hikaru's lack of self confidence. Her struggle with Nova is compelling, but sometimes I want to shake Hikaru to snap out of it every time she regresses. Perhaps they should've shorten the season and kept it to 20 episodes or something.

Overall, Magic Knight Rayearth is a fairly enjoyable shoujo anime that mixes the joys of friendships, the ups and downs of love, the pride of a country, and the excitement of battle. The story is very solid and cohesive among the two seasons and the battle elements are engaging for the most part. As I mentioned in the beginning, if you enjoy magical girl animes, I recommend this nostalgic treat.


Rating: 3.5/5


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos


"Rilla Go" by DGNA
I feel like this group is very underrated and under utilized. They have a ton of talent and I enjoy this unique mix mash of concepts. It's a combination of jungle and city. Perhaps wild animals in the city wild. It might look junky to some, but I enjoy it. Sure, it could've been executed sleeker with a better budget, but I enjoy what we're given. The beat is very infectious and the chorus is extremely catchy and energetic. Don't let appearances fool you, these boys have talent and I believe you should give them a chance with this video.



"Christmalo.win (Band ver.)" by Seo Taiji
I'm a very casual fan of Seo Taiji and it's mostly his solo work. I think he's very skillful at mixing rock and rap, which is possible despite what Show Me the Money 3 might say. Anyway, I was surprised that he was releasing something new, which was a great Halloween/Christmas gift of sorts. The song has a slightly playful electronic rock melody that has some interesting haunting sounds that make the ghost rise and send goosebumps on your forearm. I enjoy the transitions from the fun to sudden hard rock sounds and the vocals are very subtle, but aren't overpowered by the music. They have a very confident and emotional tone to them.



"Stress Come on!" by Big Byung
So, I think this is a gag group from a show called Hitmaker, but I could be wrong. I've never watched it, but I'm a fan of all the groups that are represented here: BTOB, GOT7, and VIXX. I know this music video is nothing special, but it feels like everything. The lyrics are hilarious and the delivery is just...perfect. It looks like the boys had a lot of fun putting this video together and I can feel their pain with all the stresses of life. This is definitely a good pick me up when you're having a rough time.



"BORN HATER" by EPIK HIGH feat. Beenzino, Verbal Jint, Mino (WINNER), and B.I. & Bobby (iKON)
I know a lot of people were talking about this music video when it first came out and I'm a little late to the party posting this, but whatever. I did enjoy it when it came out and it kinda made up for that underwhelming comeback under YG. I really enjoy concepts that involve the 7 deadly sins, especially when they're done well. Even though the aspect ratio of this video might bother me for the first couple minutes, it doesn't take long for the content and lyrics to distract me from it. I look forward to listening to their material on this album, thanks to this video.



"War of Hormone" by BTS
Ever since their debut, I've been very impressed with this group and I'm looking forward to sharing my full thoughts about them in a special post I've been working on for a few days. Let me zoom in on this video though. I can easily see Block B doing this same video, but it still feels very fresh and super enjoyable. The song is fun and the boys look like they're having a blast with the choreography. I enjoy the semi-monochrome color scheme of the video and the faux one-shot shooting of the guys showing off their charm and personality as they sing and rap to us in different scenes. This definitely is a video and song I could listen and watch over and over again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Review: [Rec]3: Genesis


Starring: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martín, Ismael Martínez
Directed by: Paco Plaza
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 80 minutes


I didn't think I would be watching the third installment to this franchise, but here it is. Just to recap, I have done a comparison post for the first movie and its American remake, Quarantine, which I enjoyed both. I also have reviewed the unfortunate follow-up as well. After watching the second movie and being enraged and disappointed, I was planning on not moving forward, but...I guess I couldn't resist my curiosity.


On a beautiful sunny day, Clara and Koldo are preparing to get married in front of their loved ones. This location is far from the original apartment featured in the previous movies, so the setting seems almost perfect. The ceremony goes beautifully well and everyone is ready for the reception which is full of food, lively music, and plenty of love to display. Unfortunately, something unexpected occurs during the festivities and one of the guests has bitten the other causing a chain reaction among the attendees.

I didn't know what to expect from this third installment, but my expectations were pretty low since the second movie really disappointed me. I will admit that this one wasn't as frustrating, but still not as frightening or suspenseful as the first. I was curious how this story would play out outside of the apartment and I think the director did a pretty good job. There's still an infection going around, but somehow they still kept the possession bit from the second movie, which I still think is silly. I think you should have one or the other, not both, but they don't really focus too much on defining what these people have like the first two movies. The main focus is survival and reuniting the newlyweds that were separated during the first bite.



Let's start with some positives! The first movie was shot completely in first person by the cameraman of the news station. The second movie jumped around with its first person point of view depending on the group we were following. The third movie opens up with one of the relatives attending the wedding recording the ceremony and the reception until the groom destroys the camera and the remainder of the movie is shot in third person, like most movies. I actually liked this choice with the camera as the group first person shots in the second movie kinda annoyed me. I also enjoyed the characters in this movie. I was really rooting for Koldo to find his new wife in the chaos and I enjoyed how strong and fearless Clara was throughout the movie, especially with a chainsaw. Since the movie didn't focus too much on the infection, possession, whatever it is that's going around, I surprisingly enjoyed the character centric story. They did dabble a little bit in an explanation on what's going on, but I'll get to that in a bit. Even though the characters are quite simple, they were easy to attach to, especially the newlyweds. Despite this being a horror movie, I didn't find it as suspenseful as the first, but I found myself not caring whether I should be scared or not. It seemed more comical than anything and the gore factor was exaggerated like Ichi the Killer or any other Tokyo Shock film.

Even though I enjoyed this movie way more than Rec2, there are some flaws in this movie. As I mentioned before about the infection, possession thing, this movie briefly mentions what's going. In Rec 2, the infected are actually possessed by some sort of demons, so this movie has some more religious theories and references in it, but it's probably a little obvious due to the title. I guess the reason this is all happening is because the new world is starting...the beginning...the genesis. I don't know. The movie explains it slightly better than myself, but not by much. Yeah, the explanation for what's going on is kinda confusing and it's just best to ignore it (like the movie). Personally, I like the first movie's explanation the best and even this third installment references it at the beginning.

Despite my initial feelings of not moving forward with this franchise, I don't regret watching this third installment. It was more entertaining and less frustrating than Rec 2 which is always a plus. I enjoyed the characters, especially the newlyweds, a lot, the choice with the camera not being first person throughout the whole film, and the simplistic story. Although it doesn't share the same suspense and a bit of fearful tone as the first, I still found myself enjoying it and I wouldn't mind recommending it either. Perhaps, watch the first, skip the second, and prepare for some amusement and thrills with third.


Rating: 3/5


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: American Horror Story: Freakshow


Title: American Horror Story: Freakshow
Starring: Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Episodes: 13


In case you missed it, I've already covered and ranted on Asylum and Coven, so check those out. I'm going to reiterate again that I absolutely loved the first season. I thought it was brilliant, unique, and extremely intriguing. TL;DR I wasn't too crazy about Asylum, in fact, I was disappointed, and Coven made up for it for the most part. Of course, you can click the links for details. So, what did I think of this season?


The setting is 1952 in Jupiter, Florida where the last remaining freakshows still exist. In this season, we follow Elsa and her troupe through their spectacular performances, relationship drama, and the struggles of surviving in society as a "freak".

Once again, I was very cautious going into this season as I got my hopes up with the asylum concept only to be disappointed. Even though I enjoyed Coven more, I still wanted to keep that cautious feeling going into this as the concept could lead to some spectacular things. Keeping with tradition, we have plenty of returning actors such as Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and surprisingly Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. Like previous seasons, the actors may be the same, but the characters are not, excluding Naomi Grossman as Pepper who appeared in Asylum. Speaking of which, this is the first season that obviously ties together two seasons: Asylum and Freakshow.


Like previous seasons, the show started off strong and kept my interest, wondering where this would all go in the end and offering a strong introduction the main characters. There was a good diversity of characters and personalities to keep matters entertaining. I enjoyed majority of the subplots presented throughout the series, from Jimmy's rocky relationship with his parents to Pepper's backstory with Elsa and her family. For the most part, I enjoyed them and the characters that inhabited Jupiter. Most of them were effective in pulling out certain emotions from me whether it was a positive or negative impression and the actors did an outstanding job being consistent delivering that feeling. The visuals are still consistently appealing and they didn't abuse Dutch angles this season (thank, God!). The most impressive thing about the visuals lies with the costume and make-up department. Lastly, I want to commend the casting director for including actual people with abnormalities, even more commendable is that they didn't exploit these medical conditions carelessly. Whether they had any previous experiences with acting or not, I felt that they portrayed their characters in a very believable light and I easily felt sympathy for their situations.

Similar to Asylum, the show did lose some steam somewhere toward the middle. While I already mentioned that I enjoyed the subplots and even the main story, it started getting more and more cluttered and convoluted. There was way too much going on and delivered to its viewers very sloppily. I felt this the most with Elsa, Jimmy, Bette, and Dot. Elsa's backstory more than anyone elses. It felt like the writers wanted the viewers to struggle with the choice of whether to sympathize or dislike her character, but couldn't quite convey that struggle properly. She had a tragic past, but she also did a lot of selfish and underhanded things. The story also seemed to lose direction with Dandy. He was an interesting character with some unusual and sometimes uncomfortable fascinations. Even though I disliked him, I wanted to know more about him to understand why he's so...messed up. I thought all of the "freaks" were intriguing and I enjoyed learning about them, even creepy Twisty the Clown. On the other hand, some of the events that occurred with these characters and later entries either seemed unnecessary or obviously exaggerated for shock value. Also, I didn't enjoy the musical most of the numbers presented in this show as it didn't fit the time period whatsoever and it completely distracted from the tone or setting of Freakshow. This is not Glee; please do not mix the two! Per tradition of every season of American Horror Story, the ending was a little on the weak side.

In the end, I can confidently say that American Horror Story: Freakshow was my third favorite season. I enjoyed a lot of the characters, built an emotional attachment to some of them, and the visuals were an upgrade from Coven. I will admit that it wasn't a perfect season and the story did become quite cluttered somewhere in the middle and toward the end. I'm sure my feelings may change a little as far as its position in my liking it as it's pretty close to how much I enjoyed Coven. I am curious what they're planning to do this year with American Horror Story: Hotel, especially with Lady Gaga speculated to be part of the cast. Lastly, I would like to leave my thoughts and prayers to Ben Woolf who played Meep in Freakshow and his family. May he rest is peace.


Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quick Movie Review


The Suspect (2013, South Korea) | Rating: 1.5/5

I was fairly impressed with The Man From Nowhere and A Company Man, so I was expecting the same quality of entertainment and action. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to the hype of the other Korean action flicks I saw previously. The story is kinda vague, the action scenes take away from the story, and the execution is very bland. Watching this movie felt like it was dragging on and on. It was hard to keep up with what was going on due to the poor dialogue and pacing. I would watch those other two movies I mentioned as they're a lot more satisfying and action packed!



Addicted (2014, USA) | Rating: 2/5

I remember seeing the preview to this movie in theaters and knew it was going to be ridiculous, especially since it's based on a book by Zane. I know I'm blindly blanketing all urban fiction as subpar, but it's definitely better than Fifty Shades of Grey. When I saw that my workplace had it in its collection, I wanted to check it out and...here we are~ Watching this movie was...interesting. It was very formulaic like a Tyler Perry film as we have a strong black woman with the perfect marriage, family, and job and simply throws it all away for as IMDb commenters would say "new penis". It was all fine and dandy with Quinton, but then it just went straight into "addiction". It all didn't make any sense. No logic whatsoever and the supposed explanation for her behavior didn't make any sense either. Supposedly, the book does a better job handling sex addiction and I'm kinda tempted to check it out as I heard it was pretty good and better than this movie from a co-worker. As for the movie, I found it as ridiculous and amusing as The Boy Next Door. Not a good movie at all, but somehow amusing.



Focus (2015, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

This year is having a slow start with interesting movies for me, meaning minimal trips to the theater until May. I saw the previews to this movie in theaters and my mother and I thought it looked pretty, so I was looking forward to taking a trip out to see it. We caught it on opening weekend and we really enjoyed this film. It reminded me a little of Ocean's Eleven (remake), mostly when they revealed the trick to their deception. I believed Nicky's ego, confidence, and charm and I enjoyed his relationship with Jess and his associates. I'm hoping this movie will heal any wounds people have gain from After Earth, because I found this rather refreshing in the midst of uninteresting movies. In fact, I might check this out again to catch all the hidden gems and tricks among the characters.



Fear Clinic (2014, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

Honestly, I picked this movie up on a whim and I didn't expect it to be any good judging from the cover art. I didn't notice that Robert Englund was starring in it, but yeah, he's there and some unknowns, at least to me. Apparently, this movie is related to a web series of the same name and also stars Englund in the same role as a scientist with the technology to rid people's phobias. The premise, I'll admit, interesting, but the execution and presentation isn't very polished. The CGI is very obvious, the characters are unrelatable, and the story dabbles between predictable and boring. I'm sure new generation horror fans might enjoy it for the gore and weirdness, but there's really nothing remarkable about this movie in the least.



Miss Meadows (2014, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I wasn't very sure if I wanted to watch this movie or not. It looked kinda silly and it starred Katie Holmes as perhaps some sort of sweet vigilante. Once I popped it into my PS2, I was not disappointed or bored. As one of the characters mentioned in the movie, it's almost a cross between Mary Poppins and Pulp Fiction. Miss Meadows is a prim and proper elementary school teacher and she's content with her solitary life full of cheerful children, worldly music, tap dancing, and gardening, but there's a little more to her character. She fights for justice without hesitation every day. This contrast in her character makes the movie interesting, especially when she's so passionate about her substitution job and a budding relationship with a police officer. If you need an unconventional action movie with a hint of comedy, this movie is for you.


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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos


"1414287356" by THE KIDDIE
It has been a while since I was excited about a new song by this band. Their sound has definitely grown over time and I'm enjoying this experimentation with traditional Japanese sound with a hint of dance pop and rock. The visuals also reflect that. It's a very simplistic look that resembles of photoshoot set with an umbrella, lights, and cherry blossom set pieces while the band members remain the main focus with their instruments and a few props. This is a fun, upbeat, and beautiful song that reminds me how great THE KIDDIE really is.



"Revelation of mankind" by Dir en grey
**WARNING: Graphic imagery**
Remember "Kodou" and "-saku-"? If you don't or have never seen it, I think this would be a good time to check them out as Dir en grey digs up a bit of nostalgia and connects some story arc dots with their latest PV. I'll admit I wasn't exactly excited about watching this PV as I've accepted that their PVs have been a bit lacking for a while. I just want the music, the live experience, and maybe a DVD for the library. I was surprised that they produced something interesting and brought back elements from previous PVs. Obviously, the song is wonderful. There's minimal growling and the melody is very smooth with some great hard to soft transitions. A bit of the old Diru is back, guys~



"You're So Fly" by BTOB
I'm so glad Cube Entertainment gave them something different from B2ST's leftovers for these boys. I still think they forget they have another boy group under their label, but anyway...This is a very fun little video that allow the boys to be as goofy and charming as possible. The video is very vibrant, colorful, and sleek. It has plenty of comedy and charisma from the group and the female actors featured in it. I enjoy the choreography, even if they do the silly Nene dance or whatever. The song is very lighthearted and fun just like the video and I hope BTOB receive more videos that don't reflect back on B2ST. They need their own identity~



"WITCH" by BOYFRIEND
Apparently, I like this group's darker concepts. The songs tend to sound better than their cutesy stuff, but I still can't see myself being a fan of this group. I will admit that their acting is a little goofy in places and the chorus is laughable, but I enjoy the mature, slight dark nature of this song. The visuals are very clean and the boys look very handsome, excluding a few moments where they're trying to look like intimidating vampires. I think "JANUS" was a little better than this video, but I still like the direction and concept they had going in this.



"Error" by VIXX
Speaking of dark concepts, these guys have perfected and changed the game when it comes to dark concepts in kpop. This video is no exception with its romantic cyborg story and theatric choreography. The story is very compelling and the choreographed moments don't take away from it at all. There's a nice balance between them. The song is all sorts of perfection with its great dramatics and swelling orchestral moments. Hongbin definitely took my breath away with his deep voice and it would be nice to hear more of it in other songs, but overall, I'm very happy Starlight and I hope the boys keep the momentum going with these flawless concepts, dark or light.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos


"MONSTER DANCE" by KEYTALK
This isn't just a live performance, this is art...this is an experience! This is everything I look forward to being in whenever I see a jrock live. The coordination, I'm impressed. I'm sure this took some time to master the choreography with the audience, but it's better than anything I would expect from an American live. The song is just as fun as the video, proving that you don't have to be visual kei to have fun.



"D.D.D ~Dead.Devil.Dancing~" by Black Gene For the Next Scene
I'm glad this band hasn't let up in the quality department. They definitely have been consistent with their releases and I'm very proud of them. I hope they continue this streak after Sala's departure. As for this PV, it reminds me of D meets Dio - distraught overlord, which is a very good thing. The boys look fabulous and the visuals are very simple, giving the members dual roles in the story. I love the mixture of electronic elements and a very strong bassline that I miss hearing from Rame since the old Vidoll days. It's both fun and dark and that's hard to pull off.



"CRY OUT" by SuG
I'm very happy with this rebirth of SuG since they left PS Company. The visuals and sound are a very smooth bridge from their previous release, "MISSING". The PV is mostly band centric with the guys performing with lots of colored dust and strobe lights, but there is some artistic elements to the video. The repeated drawing of a face and guns on the wall, the members posing in boxes, and the vague connection with a woman and Takeru throughout the PV. I'm looking forward to more releases like this from SuG. Keep it up!



"I'm him" by Mino (WINNER)
If you ask me what I think about WINNER's debut, I'll answer honestly that I don't remember. I could pull something out the air like "I must've not disliked it, but I really don't remember anything about it" and that's the truth, but Mino's solo I remember. Despite looking like G-Dragon's long lost little brother or Mini Me, I remember really enjoying his solo way more than WINNER's two music videos. I enjoyed the simple and playful visuals with majority of the video looking borderline black and white with vibrant colored animations decorating Mino and parts of the screen. I like how the music and delivery have a nice balance of confidence and fun. I hope YG gives this kid another solo because I really enjoyed listening and watching him rap.



"A.D.T.O.Y" by 2PM
Apparently, it took me a year to actually give this music video a chance and I surprisingly enjoyed it. There's very few 2PM songs I genuinely enjoy as they end up coming off try hard, cheesy, or boring, but there's something intriguing about this song. I like the dual melody mixing a smooth, mature R&B sound with bits and pieces of dubstep in all the right places. Although I think the notes are a little too high, I enjoyed the vocals of this song and I enjoy the harmonization between the guys. I like that they decided to use black and white for this video to counter their more upbeat and colorful previous promotional song. The choreography and small bits of story is very sensual, smooth, and subtle. I'm glad they didn't overdo it with such a slow song.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sasaeng "Fans": Who's to Blame?

If you're part of the kpop fandom or are at least familiar with some of the elements or terminology, you might already know what a sasaeng "fan" is. If you're unfamiliar with the term then I'll tell you. Sasaeng "fans" are a group of people who love a Korean idol and spend their time by getting closer to them or gain attention through extreme tactics by any means necessary. These tactics include, but are not limited to, stalking their idols through a special taxi service, breaking into their home, dorm, or hotel room; invading their idol's family's privacy, stealing personal items such as underwear or pets, sending intimate or disturbing letters, and causing physical harm to their idol such as breaking their finger or violently pushing them. Because of these shameless tactics, this is the reason "fans" are in quotes. Most fans want attention from their favorite celebrity, but there are limits and most fans, at least the ones with common sense, know to respect their idols.

People need to understand that celebrities are normal human beings like you and me. They deserve a right to privacy, space, and a sense of security as well as their families. So, causing a sense of fear for the idol you supposedly love is counterproductive and decreases the chances of them ever wanting to do anything, whether it's performing somewhere or just going out. Obviously, I strongly disagree with sasaeng behavior. No one likes it and there are plenty of rants online about how much people/fans loathe sasaengs. This post will not contribute to the complaints. No, I wanted to take a different angle on the situation and prod the inner workings on why sasaengs continue to exist and even possibly encouraged.

Whether international fans want to admit it or not, but the audience for Korean fans range from middle school to high school; so pre-teens and teenagers. This shouldn't be surprising if you look back at the big boy band era of the 90s or even Justin Bieber and One Direction fans. The same demographic applies. With that said, these fans are going through puberty and hormones tend to hinder certain decisions. So, it's up to the parents or guardians to guide them on the correct path of what the proper behavior to control these hormonal changes. If these sasaengs are traveling to all of these places their idols are especially by taxi, then how are they getting money and when do they have time? Sasaengs are usually still students and can't hold a job because of their age. Therefore their parents or guardian are financially supporting their stalking habits or they are obtaining the funds through questionable and/or illegal means.

Aside from parental figures, there are also the companies to blame. This might sound degrading, but idols are simply products. Companies select from their trainees, pretty them up, slap a label on them (dancer, visual, variety, bad boy, introvert, maknae) and ship them off or market them to potential fans. They restrict their products from being damaged and used so they have a longer shelf life meaning controlling their style, onscreen presentation, filter their words, and limit personal relationships (dating bans). The purpose of this is to portray a deceptive perception of innocence and/or exclusivity to the consumers (i.e. the fans). Along with cutesy and romantic words through interviews and music, these things are directed to "you" and creates an intimate relationship with fans which could be taken to extremes. An old LinzerDinzer video explains this fairly well.


I'm fully aware that other countries use this tactic as well with boy (and girl) bands like Japan, but there were less restrictions placed upon them, at least in America. I was a big Backstreet Boy fan and they utilized the "I'm talking to you" method, but they were able to have personal relationships later in their career. As time went on, they became less contained and their personalities blossomed. They might've kept their labels, but it became less of their overall identity such as boy next door Brian, sweet innocent Nick, and bad boy AJ. MTV's mockumentary/reality show starring faux boy group 2gether explain these labels and the industry very well. Since this "you" tactic is used with such strict restrictions, this feeds into sasaengs' motivation to get closer to their idols. The problem and difference is that companies do absolutely nothing to stop sasaengs from not only putting their idols in danger but themselves.

Some might believe that companies should upgrade their security and bodyguards, but they can only do so much thanks to South Korea's legal system. If they go too far, sasaengs could make up some sort of bogus case. The legal system will look over the fact that sasaengs initiated hostile activity and simply focus on the retaliation or protective maneuvers and how it "harmed" sasaengs. Sure, paparazzi can be just as bad when it comes to stalking and invading celebrities's personal life, but the difference between paparazzi and sasaengs is that they at least have a code of ethics and consequences if they invade their privacy or try to inflict harm to gain something. Why isn't there some sort of governmental punishment for sasaengs? It doesn't matter if they're minors either. They did something illegal and harmful, yet they get off scott free or even play the victim card. At least in America there are consequences set in place for minors in the legal system. If a minor pays someone to cause a car accident to get their idol's attention that is premeditated manslaughter (I believe that's the right terminology). Yes, this really happened! If sasaengs are loitering around a company's building, an idol's living space, or even an idol's family's home, that is illegal and could be considered trespassing. Heck, AKB48's company did something when a fan shared their bodily fluid during a handshake session or when two members and a staff member were injured by a fan with a hacksaw.

Seriously, companies could contribute to cutting down stalking tendencies at least around the company building and, for rookies, dorm buildings. Authorities could also be a little more forceful too. If this continues to happen, and this is directed to the sasaengs, you could be responsible for the death of your precious idol because you tried to get their attention by harming them and their associates (i.e. family, friends, romantic partners). Idol life is already stressful, they don't need to worry about their "fans" crashing private family events and putting their lives in danger.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Live: "The Milky Way" Global Showcase Live

"The Milky Way" Global Showcase Live
[2013.11.04] Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, TX
featuring: VIXX


Attending my first kpop concert honestly made me nervous as I have this preconception about all kpop fans in general. I just automatically assume that they’re a bunch of squealing high school girls, but I had no idea what kind of people VIXX’s fans, Starlights, were like. They seem kinda quiet compared to say Blackjacks, E.L.Fs, SONEs, and groups of that nature. VIXX aren’t from the Big 3 and don’t have that kind of popularity, which is another reason I was surprised they were coming to Dallas. My friend and I had never been to this venue before, Verizon Wireless Theater, but it was rather large and the crowd filled it up nicely. Sure, there were a lot of seats available up top, but I thought the crowd was good considering the timing. Our seats were on the floor level, right side of the stage, which was quite nice. Unfortunately, there were no cameras allowed during the show even though you can find some sneaky fancams of the showcase on YouTube.

Looking at the stage, it was rather plain. There were no props or scenery, just a stage with a few screens placed above. My friend and I joked around a little bit about some other kpop groups, saying the wrong fan names and stuff, and I must say that the fans around us were pretty nice. For the most part I can say that Dallas Starlights are pretty chill and positively passionate about VIXX.


The show started with some exciting visuals of the boys on the big screens and of course the audience was cheering. My nerves went away and I was nothing but excited...well, there might’ve still been a little nervousness lingering in the back of my mind. VIXX started off with a flawless performance of “On & On” and I was happily singing along “I need therapy, lalalala need therapy~”. My friend was automatically into it as well. The next song they performed I was surprised to hear at all. I expected all the singles they’ve promoted, but to hear my favorite track, “Light Up the Darkness”, made me super happy. I couldn’t help but let my body lose control and I probably embarrassed my friend a little. The song is awesome and remains my favorite VIXX song.

Two songs in and I was surprised it was already time for an MC break. Unfortunately, the whole section was partially translated, which is a shame as VIXX really loves their fans. I felt bad for them as they spoke and would look off stage for an English translation, but eventually they gave up and just kept trying to convey what they were trying to say to us as best as they could. During this segment, they picked some questions and requests from a board written by the fans. This gave me a chance to appreciate the bond the members have with each other and how playful they are. It felt very genuine. I think they also picked a winner from the audience to participate in something later. We also sung “Happy Birthday” to Leo.

Next were some special solo and duo performances. This section really opened my eyes to how talented these boys really are. Leo started with a piano solo of a song apparently called “Please”. It was a very beautiful song and it was great to hear Leo’s voice fill the room. I hope he receives more solos, maybe something similar to older Big Bang albums where they have solo songs on the group's album. The energy went up with Ravi’s rap solo, “Dirty Player”. Upon looking back at what the song sounds like, let me remind you that he was alone and there were no back-up dancers during this whole show, so Ravi had to hold down the stage solo. Honestly, he definitely held it down. He got the audience hyped and really nailed his performance. I really enjoyed him even more than I did initially. Next, the winner of the raffle appeared on stage with Hongbin and Hyuk and took a seat on a stool placed on the stage. There was a medley of American tunes like “Summer Lovin’”. The whole scene was Hongbin and Hyuk competing for the fan’s affection with different little gimmicks like holding an umbrella in the rain, giving her a car trunk full of balloons, showing off some abs. It was really cute and it made me smile. The fan ended up picking Hongbin in the end and Hyuk threw something out into the audience. I don’t know what it was. Maybe candy or something. Ken was next on stage with a cover of Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music”. I kinda cringed a little at the choice, not because I dislike the song, but just the artist’s dark past. I think Todd in the Shadows kinda brings up those sorts of feelings. Anyway, the cover was really fun and Ken’s pronunciation was for the most part decent. Ravi also made an appearance for a rap break in the song. They both entertained the crowd very well and I enjoyed myself along with the other fellow Starlights. Last but not least was leader N’s solo and the shift in my bias list for this group. N came on stage in all black, turned his back to the audience, and tied a blindfold over his eyes, then the talent was unleashed. I must say N owned that stage with his dramatic and powerful movements. I was very impressed. I’m really happy that each member got to showcase their talents. It made me appreciate what they each contribute to the group and just enjoy them as a whole even more.

After the solos, the boys regrouped to perform a very energized song from their debut, “Superhero”. I was very happy to see this song live. It definitely raised the mood 10 times more and we were all into it. Then it was time for another MC break with the audience. I believe they gave us a choice of which song they would perform from a girl group and decided on SNSD’s “I Got a Boy”. It was an amusement segment with leader N being really into it while the others obliged the request, especially Leo. They ended up stopping and starting the music a few times for N to pick on a couple members, especially Leo, about not being as energetic or in sync as the rest of the group. Eventually, they got it together and it was very entertaining, even though I despise the song. N is really good at these girl group songs like Infinite’s Sungjong. Continuing to cater to the fans, the boys performed “Love Letter”, which is a sweet acoustic track that really solidified our bond with VIXX. There was minimal choreography and more focus on coming close to the stage and reaching out to the fans, which I think is sweet and it felt very sincere. To keep up this connection with the fans, they started explaining a move they wanted us to do to the chorus of “Rock Ur Body”. It pretty much was a rolling motion with your arms. Very simple~

The guys walked off stage and naturally the fans chanted for more. In all my years of concerting, there’s always more. You can kinda tell by the dramatic pause. Let the guys hydrate and recharge! Soon they filed back onto the stage with an acoustic remix of “Hyde”. Would’ve liked to hear the original version, but this remix was lovely to hear. It brought back that intimate connection they formed with “Love Letter”. They finished up their set with “G.R.8.U” which is a cute and bright song which I’m sure made everyone feel good. Soothe those wounds of having to leave VIXX’s warm presence.

Setlist
On & On
Light Up the Darkness
MC
Leo Piano Solo
Ravi Solo
Hyuk & Hongbin Fan Skit
Ken Solo feat. Ravi
N Solo
Superhero
SNSD – I Got a Boy (Dance Cover)
Love Letter
Rock Ur Body
~*~
Encore
Hyde (Acoustic Remix)
G.R.8.U

My friend and I weren’t in a rush to leave the main venue as I didn’t want to fight the crowd out, but an announcement paused any potential movement. I was vaguely aware that there were perks for the VIP ticket holders, but I guess they wanted to put together a random deal of joining the hi-touch or whatever for non-VIP ticket holders by putting something under the seats. My luck is terrible, so I wasn’t expecting to be in one of the chosen seats, but the way they went about it was a little confusing. Fans looked confused, but once that was over and we were shuffled out to the lobby, I didn’t care anymore. Fans were gathered back at the nearly empty merch table and my friend and I discussed how much we enjoyed the show. It was our first kpop show and I’m happy I got to spend it with him. I would love to see VIXX again for sure.

Even without back-up dancers and fancy set pieces, I really enjoyed VIXX’s first showcase in Dallas. Their choreography was as on point as it is on their music videos and their voices were near flawless. I’m just happy they sung live for the most part. They seemed very genuine and loving when it came to performing and especially interacting with their fans. I definitely became a Starlight after this show. On the other hand, I was disappointed to hear that Jazzy Group failed to deliver their VIP incentives which included an autograph poster from the guys and hearing fan accounts that they either got one or none. I also heard that there was a lot of disorganization when came to the photographs and whatnot. I feel bad for those fans as those tickets were far from cheap. Considering my non-VIP tickets cost more than my Diru VIP passes, which was a little over $100, so you can imagine how much those VIP tickets cost. I hope the disorganization doesn’t hinder a second appearance from VIXX, because I thoroughly enjoyed myself.