Whether you've been part of the anime fandom recently or for more than a decade, you're more or less aware of the ongoing debate between subs and dubs. Subs, short for subtitles, is the original format most anime is first aired in, which is usually Japanese. Dubs are usually the redistributed version that is voiced over in a different language outside of Japanese. In our first Muddy Cult Gathering, I present this ongoing debate to our Cult leaders Ophelia and BlipMasta5 and see how they feel about it.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Lemonade - Beyonce
Queen Bey (still not sure which pronunciation is correct) came through with another surprise visual project, 'cause she slays. Now, I've always had an interesting relationship with Beyonce because she's had to grow on me ever since the Destiny's Child days. By the time B-Day came out, I was finally sold on her skills as an artist and entertainer. Thing is, I still managed to forget to check out her new albums after I Am Sasha Fierce. (Please don't throw things at my profile picture!) I only listened to singles, until last month when I finally gave the BEYONCE LP a full listen based off the merit of Formation.
Due to the exclusivity of this release (TIDAL again, then not having Apple Music), I debated the purchase of the controversial, yet highly lauded body of work. I finally got to hear some previews of the tracklist and convinced to buy Lemonade. I must say that I don't regret it at all as it ranges for all sides that Beyonce has displayed before, yet more focused as it chronicled her experience with Jay-Z's infidelity. Plus with the same expressive freedom she displayed in the previous LP that I heard a month prior. Some favorites include "Hold Up", "Sorry", "Freedom", and "Formation". I recommend this project to any Beyonce fan who already has the album...lol...also anyone who enjoys a mix of new R&B and old school R&B with other urban music influences.
Thank You - Meghan Trainor
To be honest, I was one of those intrigued by Meghan's emergence with "All About That Bass" and checked out the other future singles "Dear Future Husband" & "Lips Are Moving" to believe she might get trapped by her throwback niche. Therefore, I never looked into her Title album out of disinterest. What made me decide to give her another chance was knowing she was a positive thinking songwriter and the all-too-catchy single "No". This ultimately led me to giving Thank You a listen to see if she really had more to offer.
Surprisingly, I found she truly had made a fantastic album. What really took me aback was how it made me nostalgic of childhood days of hearing Britney Spears & "Genie in a Bottle" Christina Aguilera. I haven't really listened to such clean pop in so long, especially with pop radio (the rare times I do hear it) containing Selena, Ariana, and others cursing and more overtly sexual. The good thing is, the songwriting didn't really suffer from being kid friendly, save for "Dance Like Your Daddy". Though I was caught off guard by Yo Gotti's featured verse on "Better" that was on topic and clean as a whistle. Standouts on this project are the singles, "No" & "Me Too", alongside "Watch Me Do", "I Love Me", & "Just a Friend to You". Even with some Doo-Wop tracks in the mix, I can recommend this to any lover of good old pop music.
Nobody's Bitch - Lindsey Alderman
Genre: R&B/Hip Hop
I was introduced to this young lady through a good friend of mine, Brail Watson, who collaborated with her on a lovely song called "Old School Love". After that, I had to research her own work and came across Polarity that showed me just what her sound encapsulates. It has a very hip hop base, yet isn't afraid to revert to more traditional R&B sounds. I knew I had to keep my ears open for anything new she had to release after that first taste.
This recent release delved more into that lovely duality that she brings when I realized that she's like a combination of Rihanna, (newer) Beyonce, Ciara, & Nicki Minaj sonically. I feel like Lindsey approaches her songwriting much like a rapper would, but somehow channels it through singing somewhat like a female T-Pain (without the autotune.) She brings songs about her music hustle, her loyalty in relationships and that being betrayed, as well as how that has made her a strong, independent woman. This all delivered in that captivating artistry gave great tunes like "Hustle", "Paradise", "I'm the One", & "Know Ya Place". I recommend this to folks who enjoy tunes from artists like Tinashe and Jhene Aiko.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Views - Drake
Genre: Rap/Hip Hop
It's late 2008 and the birth of Young Money is well underway with one its star players emerging as the actor turned rapper/singer Drake. I slowly realize that Jimmy finally started to take his rap career more seriously and made connections with Lil' Wayne. Intrigued, I looked into his work and saw the potential. As time went on, I've witnessed him maintain his average rapper status and his "I can carry a note" singing, all while adopting any new trend to keep his name in the forefront of the hip hop game. In my experience, Drake delivers a great ear for production (usually) and clever wordplay from time to time. Though his authenticity as an emcee has been called into question often, many have to credit him for creating a lane that many would try to retread again and again just to stay relevant.
Thank Me Later solidified Drake's style to me. Take Care showed me he was becoming more ambitious with his sound. Nothing Was The Same had him proving his mark on game is indelible. If You're Reading This, It's Too Late made me see he let his success get to his head. Drake's emotional side has always been a double edge sword as it attracts females, but at times exposes his possessive/dependent tendencies. Then his hard persona can range from just a witty rapper to an unbelievable caricature of what a tough guy is supposed to be. This is why it seems like he's acting, since it never seems like he presents a multi-dimensional personality. He just plays a role for each song topic, but with the same finesse as his Degrassi days.
That finally brings me to Views, as it was a highly anticipated release. With no shortage of radio hits leading to this album, even I was curious to how this would sound despite my complete dislike of IYRTITL and disregard of What a Time to be Alive. I press play on the very first song, "Keep the Family Close", and instantly begin to get a sour taste in my mouth. Knowing Drake knew expectations were high, I feel you can just hear his efforts to make this seem epic and cinematic. As mentioned before though, it comes as conspicuous as his acting: it feels forced and noticeably unnatural. Every once in awhile there comes tracks that appear genuine, but others that could definitely could be ghostwritten and performed by our good boy, Jimmy. The album does execute one thing Drake set out to do, which was take you through Toronto in Winter and keep you company until Summer. He achieves that through his wrangling of production and a few sound bites in between songs.
Yet, this is just my results from my listens to the project. I ended up getting a few tracks I enjoy from Views, namely "Hype", "Weston Road Flows", "Too Good", & "Views". Plus, I'm still not tired of "Hotline Bling" due to my avoidance of the radio, although many wonder why its inclusion was even necessary after being out so long. I, personally, shouldn't be surprised with my takeaways from this project because I fared the same way with pretty much every project from Drake. Therefore, I can see fans of the actor formerly known as Aubrey not enjoying this album since it has just as much pop appeal as he's always had. Thing is, I've surprisingly heard some Drake fans were disgruntled with this LP. Some attribute it to the 20 song tracklist and others that there's just a little too much singing. Overall though, the "6 God" still has the hip hop game in his hands and Toronto is officially a "9" now since he's turned it upside down.
Views on the "Views":
Notable side assessments: Some of his corniest lines and most red flags for relationship behavior included. Kanye's better "Pop Style" verse not included.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Air (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5
Whether he captured your heart in Boondock Saints or The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus has significantly rose to fame and quickly became a hot item for fans. Obviously, I'm one of those fans that swoon over the crossbow wielder and won't shy away from admitting that one reason I watched this movie was because of him. Djimon Hounsou is also an amazing actor and Robert Kirkman being linked to this project also were contributing factors to watching this movie. I guess he really has a thing for the apocalypse or whatever, but there's no zombies, or should I say walkers, in this one. This movie is more psychologic with a sprinkle of suspense and action. Majority of the movie focuses on Reedus and Hounsou working in an underground lab and trying to keep up appearance until it's time to free the humans they are watching after. It is a little slow and the quality of the movie is equivalent to a Syfy network show. Not movie, but show...but one of those shows that is kinda sorta good, but you know isn't going to make it for a second or third season. Fortunately, my expectations were kinda low on this one, but I still wanted to see it for Mr. Reedus and my curiosity drove forward Kirkman's name. It's not a terrible movie, but I don't see too many people going crazy over it either.
Deadpool (2016, USA) | Rating: 5/5
By now, you already know how amazingly entertaining this movie is and that it was much needed to break up things in the superhero movie theater flood. You've probably already read BlipMasta5's review of it too and if you haven't, you should! Like most comic book movies brought to theaters, I know as much about these characters as the average person who doesn't read comics, more or less. I'm familiar with Deadpool through friends and watching playthroughs of the game, so I knew a little something going into the movie. At least, I knew enough to explain certain things to my mom, who was excited to see it as well. The most important thing I want to say is that I'm beyond happy that Ryan Reynolds was able to get this movie project approved with the MPAA rating it deserves. I think if they dumbed it down to a PG-13, it just wouldn't be as effective, but I wouldn't want other superheroes to cash in on this R rating train either. It's already bad enough with the "dark and gritty" motif that DC Universe is trying to implement with everything. The humor was perfect, the action was entertaining, the acting was spot on, and the story was a wild and exciting ride. More importantly, we had an actual threatening villain that delivered, something I feel that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is lacking. Ajax was threatening and heartless, but was just as fleshed and interesting as our anti-hero Deadpool. I'm cautiously looking forward to the upcoming sequel and pray that they don't over do the humor, crudeness, or anything that made this successful.
Stonewall (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5
This was a random pickup from work that sounded interesting. Aside from horror movies, I do like to watch things that deal with the LGBTQ+ community. Thanks to shows like RuPaul's Drag Race and other mediums here and there that I come across, I know a little something about the Stonewall riots. This movie is a movie with real life historical events and some people, but I think there's fictional people involved in this story of gay riots and freedom. This isn't a documentary or anything, since it takes a small town guy and brings him to a city of diversity that his town wouldn't ever dream of. There's a few cliches laced with the ugly facts such as the small town aspect, misunderstandings, poor living conditions, and over the top police harassment. I'm sure these things happened before the historic Stonewall riot and pride parades, but they could've been presented in a slightly more interesting way. The movie was an eye opener on the history of gay, lesbian, and trans people, but the focus on this small town guy was a tiny bit confusing and perhaps a bit boring too. It's not a terrible movie, but I'm sure there are better films and documentaries out there that explore and educate about Stonewall and the fight for gay rights.
Zombie Fight Club (2014, Taiwan) | Rating: 1/5
Zombies are without a doubt very popular, especially with the rise of The Walking Dead series and Fight Club was a stupendious movie with thought provoking content and mesmerizing cinematics. So, combining these two elements should be an instant win-win, right? Well, not exactly. This Taiwanese flick held a glimmer of promise for me, but once I popped it in that glimmer quickly dulled out. Don't let the trailer fool you! About 45 minutes to an hour of this movie deals with these random people that you barely get to know trying to navigate through this apartment building, while a crooked group of cops try to collect some drugs, money, or whatever. I never could figure out what they were trying to do, but they weren't very successful. Some of it is amusing, but sadly the amusement is in brief spurts. Then, the movie tries to add another movie to the zombie infection with this pseudo-fight club that barely has an explanation. It just appears! We barely know these characters, how they got to this point in the movie, or how it even correlates with what happened in the apartment building. Pretty much, B movie level material. Wait, no, it's definitely below that because it doesn't make sense, I can't laugh at how cheap it is, and it's just downright bad. Honestly, I think if they turned up the sex a little more, replace the badly CGI blood with some of that Halloween blood, and either go with the apartment or fight club story, it probably would've been a decent porno.
Visions (2015, USA) | Rating: 2/5
I'm sure this is another one of those straight to DVD movies and honestly, I think I would've passed this one up on my own. So, why did I bother watching it? A co-worker recommended it to me and for the most part, we have similar tastes as far as horror movies go. We both enjoy watching the laughably terrible ones as well as cleansing our eyes, ears, and minds with refreshingly good material. This was one she enjoyed and thought I would enjoy as well. The premise didn't really sound all that interesting and watching it, I was skeptical. It wasn't bad or anything, but most of the time, I was wondering where the story was going and when I'd be really hooked in with these characters. Unfortunately, I felt very passive towards this movie, especially the characters. While the story tried to paint our main character with sympathy and defend her with her visions, the execution was, for lack of a better word, flimsy. The story presented some good or at least interesting ideas, it just didn't keep consistently involved with the story. I'm sure someone else aside from my co-worker will find this enjoyable and worthy of recommendation, but for me, it was a fairly forgettable and borderline decent film. I didn't hate it, but I definitely wasn't thrilled.
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, May 18, 2016
Title: Bokura no☆Hikari Club (2011)
Author(s): Furuya Usamaru
Genre: Drama, Horror, Seinen, Psychological
I'm going to break the mold of putting a synopsis this time, because there's not really much to say about this manga. Bokura no☆Hikari Club is a prequel of Furuya Usamru's homoerotic, dark comedy Litchi☆Hikari Club. It was a prequel that I was super eager to jump into after reading its sequel. In short, this installment is the origin story of the Hikari Club (Light Club) and how these nine boys came together.
Clearly this post is massively delayed as the post for Litchi☆Hikari Club was posted about a year ago and at that time, I had started reading this installment. Of course, I finished it some time in May 2015 and here I am in May 2016 putting together my review. I really struggle with time, obviously, but I digress. Much like the sequel, this is definitely a manga I wouldn't recommend reading at work...like I did. Bad idea! It contains pretty much the same mature content as Litchi, so obviously if you're not into gay romance, homoeroticism, dark humor, and some gore, then this is definitely not for you. I almost want to say there's a little more gay in this one than Litchi, but I could be wrong.
Something I was clamoring for in Litchi☆Hikari Club was more character depth and this prequel definitely delivers on expanding the personalities and backstories of our characters. It might not touch on all nine club members, but it gave me just enough to make me happy. Something I mentioned that I really loved about Litchi were its characters and this prequel did the impossible and made me love them even more. Like most prequels, I'm happy this came after Litchi's release as it hid some aspects that would've made certain situations in Litchi predictable, but I think their personalities and storytelling might've saved it from being too cliche. One stand out character that I've grown to love significantly more from Litchi is Tamiya, the original or perhaps true leader of the Hikari Club. On the surface, he could seem like a bland or generic character that just got pushed out of leadership by Zera, but there's so much more to him. He values friendship and the bond between the members. He's a very loyal character and learning the true foundation of the Hikari Club made me sympathize with him even more for the future. Although we never find out where these kids' parents are, I feel like Zera's backstory gives us a little hint about his family life. His backstory explains this idea of beauty and damnation, more or less. He has this warped sense of manhood that you can almost say reflects reality. It also goes along with puberty and identity (i.e. discovering pornographic material). This self searching element links into Jaibo's character. I've already mentioned that Jaibo has surprisingly leaped and clung to my heart in Litchi and Bokura no☆Hikari Club makes me love this beautiful yandere even more. Similar to Zera, we get to learn a little bit about Jaibo's family, which fills in the gaps of how he is able to gather medical materials for the club. The story also doesn't hold back on showing how much of a disturbed character Jaibo is either. In a sense, he is the polar opposite of Tamiya, but holds a similarity in being secure with himself. Which brings the option of Zera going either direction with these influential characters. Of course, Jaibo's unusual aura overshadows Tamiya's light and feeds an ego that Zera didn't realizes his possesses inside, while also exploring some uncertainties that are buried within him. As mentioned earlier, I'm glad that this prequel came out after Litchi☆Hikari Club, otherwise it would've been obvious that Jaibo would derail the club's goals. While the story doesn't explore too deeply with the other members, we do get to learn how they became part of the club and their loyalty toward either Tamiya or Zera. There's just enough tension and progression that you can smoothly transition into or back into Litchi.
While I'm happy that the story opened up and dissected our main characters in a satisfying manner, I almost wished that I knew a little bit about their family background or relationship, especially Zera and Jaibo. It feels like these two characters are slightly influenced by their family, but the story only gently touches on these faceless adults. I can understand the possible reason for this as they seem rebellious toward adults or society as a whole. This can be evidence by the torture of one of their teachers in Litchi☆Hikari Club, but that's simply a theory. I also enjoyed that the light (Tamiya) and dark (Jaibo) got to interact significantly more in this prequel and solidify that divide in their ideals and goals with the club and ultimately Zera. I'm not sure if this was included in the serialization, since I read this manga through scanslation, but I enjoyed the humorous, random re-sketches of certain panels placed between the chapters. It was a nice little break between the heavy content and dark humor the story presented.
Once again, I yearn for a full length anime series for this manga. I feel like the yaoi genre truly needs something darkly humorous with beauty and gore. I don't get to indulge in yaoi or shounen ai often, but this series truly brings two things I enjoy together. It is great to hear that a new rendition of the play has been performed and released on DVD, but since my Japanese sucks, English subtitles would be greatly appreciated. I might watch the older version raw to keep me slightly sated, but it would be great to fully understand the source material of this homoerotic, dark comedy. Another thing I'm excited for and feel like it would get an English translation sooner is the release of the live action film.
If I already wasn't obsessed, Bokura no☆Hikari Club definitely solidifies my obsession with this story and these diverse characters. It saddens me that there isn't much available for non-native speakers that are part of the fandom and I really hope that the live action movie perhaps pushes more availability for English subtitles in the near future or even fansubs. Seriously, if you know where a version of the stage play exists with English subtitles, please please let me know. Otherwise, I will be waiting eagerly for the live action movie (as well as the impending Zera and Jaibo figures) to be released. It also saddens me that Vertical didn't keep their word of publishing the prequel for the States either. In short, this is a fantastic prequel that opens up doors to the personalities and backstories of the main characters of the Hikari Club. Of course, same warnings apply to this prequel as it did with its sequel as this series is definitely not for everyone. I also warn non-native speakers that finding more contain related to Litchi☆Hikari Club will be quite the challenge, but it is well worth it!
If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.
Monday, May 16, 2016
G-Dragon - COUP D'ETAT (2013, South Korea)
Favorite Tracks: COUP D'ETAT, Who You?, WINDOW
After the release of ONE OF A KIND, fans were looking forward to a full length album release. I know I was pretty curious what was in store for G-Dragon's experimental journey. When it comes to G-Dragon's music, I always go in with an open mind and I hoped that this second album would be a little more satisfying.
Starting with the first music video release and title track "COUP D'ETAT", I was a little nervous of what kind of video G-Dragon would be giving us as an introduction to his album. I was almost immediately on board with this track and video. It definitely took me a couple more listens as the beat is quite minimalistic and uses trap elements with its hard hitting bass. In the end, it was everything I wanted from G-Dragon since "She's Gone", something dark and personal. I admit that I watched this music video quite a lot. I liked the haunting, minimal sound and the deep, personal symbols laced throughout this nearly three and half minute video. There's so many lovely visuals! This definitely gave me some glimmer of hope of improvement from ONE OF A KIND.
The first time I heard "Niliria (Missy Elliott ver.)" was an airing of their performance from K-CON in Los Angeles on Mnet America. It's still surreal to see the iconic rapper and producer from my childhood collaborating with an artist I enjoy in present day. Watching them perform together made me kinda smile. They definitely know how to vibe off each other's energy and even listening to this song, there's a great balance of both of their styles. Missy always fused other cultures into her beats such as "Get Ur Freak On", so the introduction with the traditional Korean sounds is no surprise. The melody is very smooth, high energy, and danceable. It's definitely a successful party song for both of them to come back on the scene with. I hope kpop fans appreciate Missy's contribution to this track, because I definitely do. She wasn't under utilized or anything, which I'm thankful for. Perfect use of Missy!
"R.O.D." introduced me further to the talented Lydia Paek, which I know many YG stans recognize for her contributions to the company, especially 2NE1. This was a track that took me some time to enjoy as the beat is really disjointed and keeps going back and forth from hip-hop to pseudo-EDM. Lydia's voice works very well in the chorus and I enjoy hearing such talent
"Black" features (supposed) new artist Jennie Kim in this beautiful hip-hop track. Sometimes I like these slowed down tracks and hearing G-Dragon's voice straddle the fence of rapping and singing. I think what makes this song solid and truly enjoyable is Jennie Kim's soft, but powerful voice. It really works with the tone that the piano melody and G-Dragon's rap flow deliver. It's not a song I listened to often, but hearing it now, I might make a point to give it a little more attention because it really is beautifully put together.
If it wasn't for Rap Critic and Oancitizen's review of Jay-Z's "Picasso Baby" and some random Kanye West fans, I probably wouldn't have this reference of comparison for "Who You?. Just to make it clear, the Kanye comments were mostly about the concept pictures for "COUP D'ETAT" and not this song, but this music video is very "Picasso Baby" inspired. I think knowing that going into this video made me like it a little less. Obviously, the video concept is an interesting one and supposedly G-Dragon had a hand in making said video. I think it could've been edited a little better as the cuts and mix of video quality are a bit distracting for me. As for the song, I do like it more than "Picasso Baby", but that's besides the point. It's a fun, feel good song with a chipper melody. This track definitely got me back on board with enjoying the album a little more. It puts a smile on my face for sure and I'm a little embarrassed I didn't remember this song before reviewing this album, after all this time.
"Shake the World" has an interesting electronic introduction that reminds me of G-Dragon's Heartbreaker days. It has a semi-marching feeling in the chorus and lots of auto-tune. I'm not sure if it's a good fit for this album as the delivery seems too hollow and superficial, if that makes sense. It's not a terrible track or anything, but it just doesn't flow very well with the beginnings of the album.
"Michi GO" decided to hop out of Heartbreaker to the randomness of ONE OF A KIND. Since I wasn't too crazy about that album, I feel like this track was a step back in progression. I mean I enjoy watching G-Dragon play with these random
"CROOKED" got a little back on track with G-Dragon's current style and would later reflect back into Big Bang's music. The video is definitely more tame visually and has an interesting story. I feel like it shows the many sides of Mr. Dragon's personality: mature, wild, and crazy. As for the song, it's nothing special and this feeling might be slightly tainted by the similar sounds I've heard from Big Bang between their Alive and MADE eras. It's not a terrible song in the least, but it just doesn't stand out too much and it's nothing I would listen to as much as say "COUP D'ETAT".
In case you wanted to hear a G-Dragon only version of "Niliria", it does exist on this album as "Niliria (G-Dragon ver.)". In short, it's just as enjoyable as the Missy Elliott version, but being the Missy fan that I am, I don't know why you want to exclude her from this fun track. It almost seems unbalanced and empty without her contribution.
"Runaway" brings in the rock and plays around with another side of G-Dragon. I should enjoy this more than I really do as I've become such a rocker thanks to Linkin Park and Japan's rock scene, but it does nothing for me. The track is enjoyable and I like the vocal arrangement from the semi-singing voices to the howling chorus. It's definitely interesting and I feel like he could play around with these kinds of rock sounds more often.
"I Love It" features the extremely talented Zion.T and Boys Noize in a jazzy, semi-disco dance track. It's another interesting sound that surprisingly works well for all three parties, although G-Dragon sounds kinda whiny...if that's him. I'm not familiar with Boys Noize, so it could be them during the chorus instead of G-Dragon. I feel like if I listened to this song more often, I can see it growing on me.
"You Do (Outro)" is a chilled out rock song that features a few hip-hop elements and a subdue rap delivery from G-Dragon. It's another song that I feel like it could grow on me as it's pretty laid back in sound and everything seems less forced and in your face. It's definitely a pleasant shift from songs like "Michi GO". In short, it's a good closing track for this album...even though there's two more tracks left.
"WINDOW" was a surprising favorite track for me. It takes the good elements from ONE OF A KIND, nurtures it to fit in this new era, and blends it perfectly for the partial theme of this current album. There's minimal auto-tune and gimmicks featured in this track and G-Dragon's vocals sound soothing and beautiful. It's easily one of my favorite songs to listen to repeatedly from the album and simply enjoy this vocal vulnerability given by G-Dragon. It just proves that there is an artist deep inside all that "yoloswag" nonsense.
Lastly is another rendition of "BLACK" that features SKY FERREIRA this time. I don't know why this was an option when Jennie Kim's vocals were quite impressive. SKY's vocals aren't terrible in the least, but it is a little off putting as it's not as gentle as Jennie's and the chorus is completely in English. I would understand having this song on here twice if G-Dragon also rapped in English, but his verses remain untouched and the song seems disjointed.
COUP D'ETAT was an improvement from G-Dragon's mini-album ONE OF A KIND, but it still felt disjointed and didn't impress me that much. While I enjoyed his collaboration with the iconic Missy Elliott and commend him for experimenting even more with his sound, I feel like he could've made more of an effort of being more cohesive. I didn't understand the purpose of having double tracks for "Niliria" and "Black", other than maybe trying to pander to two different demographics or countries. I think he [and the producer(s)] should've been more confident enough in Missy and Jennie Kim's talents to carry out this album. I'm sure whenever his next album comes out will bring more experimentation, but I'm kinda hoping that G-Dragon finds a sound that really suits him and that he spends some time perfecting that sound.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Starring: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson
Directed by: Leo Gabriadze
Running Time: 83 minutes
I would like to admit that I didn't intend on seeing this movie at all. The premise seemed silly and for all I know it could be the same quality as Open Windows or something. So, what led me to this point of checking out this movie? The public opinion, of course. Usually their opinions cause me to roll my eyes, but I had to feed my skeptical feelings of this actually being good.
High school student Laura Barns took her own life after being bullied and harassed after a video of being drunk at a party is uploaded online. One year later, her closest friend Blaire Lily views the video of Laura's suicide and is soon interrupted by her boyfriend Mitch Roussel via Skype. They tease each other and joke around about losing their virginity together, until their classmates Jess, Ken, and Adam join them for a video chat. During their conversation, they notice a mystery extra person has joined their chat group under the screename "billie227". The group tries to get rid of the uninvited guest from their chat and suspect that it is another classmate named Val trying to prank them. They soon invite her to the group and decide to ignore the mysterious billie227, until some incriminating pictures of Val is posted on Jess's Facebook and their mystery guest begins to play a little game with them to expose the truth of Laura's death.
Going into this movie, I was skeptical and was waiting to cringe from the unlikable characters that horror movies like these are plagued with. Fortunately, this movie doesn't have that and that makes me really happy. I would like to think Leo Gabriadze maybe read my post or something, but that's clearly wishful thinking. I'm not saying that you're going to be on the characters' side or anything, because they're all unlikable except for Mitch as time goes on, but they're not annoyingly unlikable. These teenagers seem real and you can kinda tell how you're going to feel about them right from the start. I did care about their well being of at least most of the characters. I think the most intriguing thing about this movie is the way it is shot. Similar to Open Windows, it focuses on the action on Blaire's laptop screen. So, every time she checks her Facebook, looks up contacting the dead, or private messaging Mitch, we see it. Basically, the movie fuses found footage elements with a semi-first person point of view on a computer together in a unique way. I rather like this technique. It makes you feel like you're right there with Blaire in her bedroom, trying to figure out whether this is some sick prank, the dead is talking from the other side, or perhaps Laura isn't dead at all. With this slightly new perspective and the way the story unfolds really gets you involved with the supernatural presence playing with them. Whatever is going kept my eyes glued to the television and my brain tried to figure out what was going on. I also was internally hoping the conclusion wasn't some throwaway paranormal thing with a nonsense or convoluted explanation.
Returning back to the characters of this movie, there were a couple of useless classmates that didn't win me over completely. They didn't annoy me or anything, but specifically Ken felt pointless to me. I don't think he had much dialogue and he felt like a trope: that dorky, fat kid that people are friends with, but still make fun of. Yeah, that character. Adam and Val were borderline useless characters, but they did add a little bit to the story. I guess you can't have too much suspense with only 3-4 characters. Once the truth slowly revealed itself and things got more interesting, I did become a bit wary with the character deaths. They were either well executed with great suspense and camera technique or just plain odd and a bit ridiculous. Another thing I want to point out is that they didn't do much with Blaire's research on conversing with the dead. I don't know if it was completely necessary information or they could've left it on the cutting room floor, but the more I think about it, looking up such things does seem realistic. I can see someone copy Blaire's idea and use online sources like Google or Wikipedia to find out what the heck was going on, but I wish they did more with it. Since the sequel has been greenlit, maybe they'll delve into that more.
Unfriended is another addition to movies that are transforming the modern horror genre, which makes me happy. Although, I know that this movie can be hit or miss for some people, I did genuinely enjoy this cyber trip. The characters weren't obnoxious, it didn't turn into some Paranormal Activity stunt, and it hooked me right in when billie227 began to talk to our movie's group of friends. Seeing that there's a sequel in the works makes me both curious and worried. I feel like this movie should simply be a standalone, but I guess when you make over 10 times your budget back, it's hard to resist not expanding the lore. Hopefully, it doesn't get too crazy like the Paranormal Activity franchise and perhaps do something more innovative with this laptop perspective found footage gimmick.
If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Captain America: Civil War (2016, USA)
I'd like to begin this review by addressing Marvel directly, so please excuse me; You guys at Marvel Studios, from the writers and directors, know how to make great, entertaining movies! Alright, now let me explain in detail to you actual readers of this article why I made that statement. The comparison of the Marvel and DC Universes have always been in contention for years and the cinematic worlds have become no different. Marvel has had far lead in this area for a while and the latest Zack Snyder Superman films were to be the springboard for DC's answer to Marvel's success. Thus when Batman vs Superman was announced, Marvel responded with the unveiling of Civil War coming to a theater near us. The Snyder approach kept the dark, mature motifs of DC comics, though at times it dragged the viewing experience down by showcasing it too overtly. Being able to see Dawn of Justice right before Captain America allowed me to begin the contrast in Marvel's methods in film-making.
Marvel, being the more lighthearted (for a lack of a better word) of the two comic giants, in its cinematic universe revels in the spectacle of the superhero, while endearing you to the hero's own plights of the lifestyle. That's the main difference I can make between Marvel's M.O. from DC's. DC goes at length to delve into the struggles of the lifestyle that lead them to do spectacular feats. Both means tell wonderful stories, but Marvel has mastered making their means much more entertaining. Captain America: Civil War managed to balance character development, impressive action scenes, fleshing out themes and motivations, & grounding the supernatural with humor. These qualities are due to the fantastic work of the writers, who understand the voice of the each hero & storyline, and the directors, who aid in the pacing and framing of said story.
Civil War follows the events after Avengers: Age of Ultron, where in the Avengers are finally challenged to accept their accountability. The collateral damage from their heroics force the world leaders to ask for a leash to be put on the Avengers in order to prevent further unnecessary repercussions. This causes a split of ideologies in the group of heroes: one side believes that being under government control can lead to misuse of the Avengers strength and the other side agrees that being in check can stave off the death of innocent lives in the crossfire. The Captain, Scarlet Witch, & Falcon are of the former leaving Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision, and War Machine with the latter line of thinking. We see how this fissure of ideals puts stress upon the team morale especially after the meeting where the terms of agreement were to be signed get attacked by the Winter Soldier a.k.a. Captain's long lost friend, Bucky Barnes. This ropes in Black Panther as his father died in the incident and makes the Winter Soldier his main target while Cap tries to protect him, being not convinced his friend is the cause behind it all.
To keep this spoiler free, the journey to see how this disagreement all pans out brings out more development behind already known characters such as Iron Man and the Winter Soldier as well as newcomers like Black Panther and even Spiderman's introduction. Also seeing the interesting relationship Scarlet Witch & Vision share humanizes some of the most supernatural of the Avengers. The way the Russo Brothers balance the screen time amongst most of the team is rather masterful, yet almost calls into question why this is tagged under the Captain America side of the franchise. I can only rationalize that the Winter Soldier being one of the central parts of the plot warrants this film's title.
I can without a doubt recommend giving this movie a watch in theaters, IMAX optional. The world built by Marvel Studios will continue to lead the superhero market when it comes to live action movies for now. I might even dare to declare this my favorite Marvel movie to date. Being able to quickly get attached to the new characters and understand their motivations is accredited to the writers, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. They really came through with a feel good movie that also captured the ideological struggles of each team. And guys...don't worry...Spiderman is an excellent addition to movie and is superbly embodied by Tom Holland. Since I think I've given this movie enough praise now, do not delay to bring a friend and catch this marvelous movie!
Some Related Links:
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The Final Girls (2015, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5
...not to be confused with Final Girl, which is a different sort of movie. This movie brings about the what ifs when it comes to movies like Friday the 13th...actually, it's exactly like that movie. Our main characters are watching a movie similar to Friday the 13th and mysteriously get trapped in said movie. They point out all of the tropes and cliches in these sorts of movies and use this knowledge to their advantage to escape. It also presents an opportunity for the final girls to meet one more time. I had no idea what to expect with this movie, but what I received was sheer entertainment and a few laughs. I think if you enjoy movies like Cabin in the Woods and Scream, you can appreciate the meta humor and satire of this movie.
Amy (2015, USA) | Rating: 5/5
Most people know the rise and fall of the late Amy Winehouse. They might not know all the details, but they know that she had troubles with drugs and alcohol. Most importantly, the general public knows how talented she was as an artist and performer. I never really got into her music further than radio play and a couple of music videos, but this Oscar winning documentary made me want to listen to her music more than I did when she was alive. I don't watch too many music biographies, but I'm happy I chose to watch this one on my own terms. It was simply heartbreaking to watch Ms. Winehouse's life fall apart in this downward spiral of abuse, whether between her father or coping mechanisms. Even though I knew the outcome of her story, I couldn't help but yell at the screen for her to get out of toxic relationships or to leave Amy alone. It just really broke my heart every time something bad came her way. It really made me feel like I've been a fan of hers for years, when I was just a casual standby who knew she had talent and substance abuse problems. In short, this is a fantastic documentary that constantly keeps the focus on Amy by using photographs, archival footage, live performances, and voice overs by the people close to her.
He Named Me Malala (2014, Austria) | Rating: 4.5/5
I've learned of Malala Yousafzai's impact on the world through The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and online articles. What I knew going into this documentary was that she was a remarkable young lady with so much ambition and passion for change. I believe the documentary is based on or inspired by the book, I Am Malala, and does a great job of balancing the real young girl doing real young girl things and the passionate activist fighting for equality. The viewer gets to experience the day to day life with Malala and her family, her beginnings as an activist, her accomplishments after being shot and winning a Noble Peace Prize, and her ongoing goal for education. It was inspiring, informative, and entertaining. It doesn't bog you down with politics and terrorism, but does you inform you of what's happening in the world around us and Malala's journey around the world.
Minions (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5
I don't know anyone who did not enjoy Despicable Me. It was a great movie and had such lovable characters with some great humor. Despicable Me 2 delved a little further with Gru's relationship with the girls and kept his struggle to be both a loving father figure and a notorious villain. Of course, the minions also brought comedy to both of these films and naturally, they needed to cash in on these yellow, overall wearing mascots. Honestly, I think the appeal of the minions was for the little kids and not the adults who bring them to the movie like the Despicable Me entries. I know some fans were upset about their origin story as it contradicts that they were a product of Gru. Nonetheless, I wasn't eager to see this in theaters or anything. For what it was, I can see the kiddies enjoying it and some adults getting a few chuckles here and there, but if you're a diehard fan or whatever with the main branch of the franchise, then you're not missing much if you do skip out on it.
We Are Still Here (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5
I didn't know what to expect with this movie, when I picked it up from work. The blurbs on the cover made me skeptical of it being any good, but I was curious since it did sound interesting. While watching this horror flick, I remained skeptical yet curious as the story unfolded of this older couple moving into their new home after losing their child, then things got a little weird when some new friends arrived on the scene. Not long after their evening together, I was hooked into what was unfolding, which is good. I was almost worried that I was going to be bored and confused, then simply forget this movie like some I've skipped over for a quick review. It does follow some conventions and ideas of the 70s and 80s, but does offer a slightly modern take on these conventions. Thinking back on the elements presented in this film, there's some things that aren't really new to the genre, but the presentation was a little interesting and made me pleasantly surprised. I don't see everyone liking this film, because it does start off oddly, but it does give a somewhat satisfying conclusion. It has interesting ideas and presents what horror fans are familiar with a different packaging.
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, May 8, 2016
"Mr.Heartache" by SEKAI NO OWARI
With every PV release, I keep hoping this group gets more recognition because they really make some unique stuff! This PV shows even further how diverse this group can be. Some may know them for their more gloomy visuals or sound, but they also have this bizarre, upbeat side to them as well. This PV perfectly describes the group's sense of humor and natural chemistry, while they dance around in fruit, vegetable, and animal costumes or watch cartoons. Sure, the song is about dealing with a broken heart, but the lighthearted and real approach to it instantly puts a smile on your face, mending all wounds. It's really hard not to enjoy this PV completely.
"Nokoriga" by MORE
I never was much of a Sugar fan, but I did enjoy them live and their music is not that bad. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see another active (at the time) ex-Sugar member and, for me, Tomoyuki from 12012. The music does remind me of Sugar and Moran, which is a good thing in my opinion. It's a very jazz lounge rock sound that suits Loki's voice very well. The visuals aren't overly produced and mostly feature Loki interacting with a woman or flower petals. The shots of the whole band are just as interesting as you can really see them get into the music and move along as they play their respective instruments. It's gonna be difficult finding new music with such a band name as "MORE", but I am looking forward to more.
"DOPE" by BTS
Have I mentioned that BTS is truly killing the kpop scene lately? Well, they are! When this music video came out, I was super excited to see such a fun concept and even more fun of a song. The song gives each member a chance to show off their talents and gives us a glimpse of their personalities in each of their respective scenes. The costume concept with the pseudo-one take feeling with the camera really makes the video move along smoothly and makes it all the more interesting compared to the usual formulaic approach with some vague story and choreography laced in between. I do have to admit that the vibe I get from this video is very Block B and I mean that as a seriously good compliment. It's just nice to see the members let loose, show their passion through their delivery, and don't forget that ridiculously tight choreography.
"Oasis" by Crush feat. ZICO
If this was not your summer jam of last year or even one of your current jams, then you need to hop on board! This video utilizes location better than most Korean acts and makes you want to be there with Crush enjoying the beauty and space. He looks like he's feeling himself and admiring this beautiful lady from a far. I believe the chemistry without them being in the same shot. I even enjoy the indoor shot with the vibrant colors and beach set pieces. The song is easily enjoyable and has a very catchy chorus and bridge that makes you want to bop and sing along to. Even though ZICO has a "Keith Ape" moment, but somehow he pulls it off better than Keith Ape, he doesn't ruin the essence of this party track. Also, the brief appearance of Zion.T is very much welcomed. Looking forward to jamming to this in summer 2016!
"Bad" by INFINITE
As much as I love this group, their music has been a bit hit and miss for me lately, which is a little depressing as a casual fan. When this video came out, I was ecstatic! It felt like another growth spurt for the group and showed an elevated dark side to them. They've had dark concepts before, but this suited their style more than certain tracks previously. I enjoyed the polished, subtle dark, and abstract imagery. There's so much to look at and makes me want to look at more to see all that effort they put into these set pieces. The song has a very catchy chorus and has a lot of dimension in the melody and vocal arrangement. Sure, it's not the best song the group has put out in all their years, but it's a breath of fresh air for me compared to some of their more recent stuff around that time.