Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: High Tension

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Language: English
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93 minutes

Some time ago, my workplace received quite a bit of horror thrillers in its collection. This movie is one I've heard from several people and talked about in lists and reviews. Most of the comments I vaguely remember were positive about it; a movie that horror lovers should see.

Alexia and Marie are two college friends that decide to take a vacation to Alexia's family farm in the country. Alexia's father is very welcoming of Marie's arrival and getting to know her. One night, a sadistic killer breaks into the farmhouse and slaughters Alexia's family, including their dog, and kidnaps Alexia. Marie unfortunately witnesses the slaughter and chases after the maniac to free her precious friend.

This movie is a cross between a revenge flick and home invasion. I was in a lazy mood at the time when I watched it, so I watched it with the English track which has some awkward dubbing. I guess they could've matched the lip movements a little better, but it wasn't voiced terribly. Unfortunately, at times, it did take me out of the movie, but the action did make up for it some. Our main characters, Marie and Alexia gave me enough to care about their cause. Throughout the movie, I was amazed how badass and driven Marie was to save her friend and that she wasn't shying away from her more than friendly feelings for her either. It was kinda surprising for that sort of emotion to be revealed, of course the ending conversation about it was truly memorable, even though it has been seen before. The obvious most entertaining scenes to watch Marie in were the chase and hiding segments with her and the killer. There's definite tension built and you tend to tense up a little when you think she's going to get discovered or even surprised when her plan doesn't go as well as you would expect.

For all you gore nuts out there or the ones that believe that every horror needs, there's plenty of brutality and blood to keep you satisfied. For someone like me, I didn't think it was overly done. It was just the right amount of violence and gore featured in such a movie. When Marie and the kidnapper go toe-to-toe, it makes you want to cheer on Marie each time she makes contact. It's definitely exciting. As for "scaring the hell out of me", this movie didn't succeed in doing that at all. It's not that scary of a movie to me, but it might be scary to someone. It does have some nice tense moments in it and the payoff is usually pretty satisfying. The captor is successfully intimidating and does pose a believable threat. The acting is pretty good and it's easy to attach basic feelings to these characters, mostly our antagonist, Marie, and Alexia. I'm sure watching the movie in its original language could've pulled me in a little further and I would be less distracted by the dubbing, but the English audio isn't awful, just not synced very well.

High Tension has a very appropriate title by offering its viewers plenty of tension as well as entertaining action and a decent payoff. The characters are interesting enough that you want to root for them and see the villain suffer. There's enough gore to satisfy current horror fans, but not too much that puts off older fans of the genre. It's just enough violence that it feels absolutely satisfying. The ending may be a bit cliche, but I thought it was an interesting resolution to this thrill ride of a movie. If you haven't seen, check it out. It's definitely a fun ride!

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: HUM∀NS Season 1

Title: Humans Season 1
Starring: Gemma Chan, Katherine Parkinson, Lucy Carless
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Sci-fi
Episodes: 8

Honestly, I only watch AMC when a new season of the Walking Dead comes on, which may or may not be a surprise. When I saw advertisements for this show, I was definitely intrigued, then when it came on, I forgot that it came on AMC and not Syfy. Heh. Anyway, I wanted to do a First Impression video for it, but by the time I got around to possibly doing it, I was already 3-4 episodes into the series. Obviously, I didn't record anything and simply waited for this moment to write a full review of the first season.

Tired of his wife leaving him alone with the children and chores, Joe Hawkins decides to take his youngest daughter Sophie out to purchase a Synth for their home. A Synth is like a human android or robot that can be used to make humans' lives easier whether socially, physically, or with tasks. When Joe and Sophie arrive with their now activated Synth, Laura, Joe's wife, has returned home and is upset with his purchase as they made a deal not to bring Synths into their home. Laura begins to worry about having a Synth in their home doing tasks she would normally do, especially when Sophie names her after her friend that moved away, Anita. Elsewhere is widower and retired artificial intelligence researcher Dr. George Millican who lives alone with his outdated Synth Odi as his caretaker as well as a few other characters that somehow connect into the Hawkins family's life.

When the show first began, I was instantly intrigued, especially when it had similar flashback elements as How to Get Away With Murder within the first few episodes. It might be a little confusing, but it all makes sense as the story progresses. Speaking of story, let's talk about that. For the most part, I enjoyed the twists, turns, and reveals of the plot. There were definitely some moments where my jaw dropped at the end of the season or I was deeply into the backstory of a character or two. The story has, for the most part, good pacing and handles the various subplots well while bringing them together in a nice package.

For those coming into the show for the first time, you might be a little intimidated by the somewhat large cast of characters, but the subplots help tremendously. At first, the subplots pretty much group each set of characters in their own situation and gradually brings each group together to form the main plot of the show. With the arrival (or addition) of Anita, the viewers get a chance to learn the dynamics of the Hawkins family. You might expect them to be cookie cutter perfect, but they have some issues and those issues pile on and continue as the plot progresses. Even though the parents have their own faults, it's easy to understand why they do what they do since Anita came into their lives. You want to be mad at them, during certain situations, but you can't. They're very realistic and sympathetic enough for you to forgive them and root for a positive resolution. Next, we have the relationship of the stubborn former researcher Dr. George Millican and his out of date Synth Odi. He seems like your typical elder person that doesn't want to change or, in this case, upgrade, even though it would benefit his health and the way he's being taken care of in his home. This relationship shows that the bond between a human and Synth can go beyond the tasks the Synth was made for. It's a rather touching development to watch as Dr. Millican does whatever it takes to keep and defend Odi, almost like a son. Then we have our smaller subplots that bridges the larger ones together, while also developing these characters into a bigger scope: Detectives Pete Drummond and Karen Voss who are investigating the case of some special runaway Synths; Leo Elster, the son of Synth creator David Elster, who is mysteriously shown through flashbacks with Anita and a small group of Synths running away; and Niska, a Synth who is assigned to work at a brothel and is trying to reconnect with Leo and his group. Each of these characters have a connection to each other and, with great pacing, shows a bigger picture that will keep you engaged from episode to episode.

Upon the first episode, I was surprised to hear these British voices from these characters, which took me a little bit of time to adjust to. Fortunately, the characters and reveals made things easier and kept me into the story, especially when I wanted find out what the heck was going on in the flashbacks with Leo and the Synths. Humans has become a great addition and, hopefully, successful series on AMC. There's a great variety of characters and it tries to go a slightly different direction with its villainous scientist corporation. Overall, I enjoyed that it didn't put Synths versus humans in its usual scenarios such as making Synths completely evil, malfunctioning, or a threat of taking over the human race. Although, there might be a tiny threat with the possibility of consciousness in Synths, these various ups and downs broaden the way humans, in the show as well as its viewers, think more deeply about their existence. I'm very happy to hear that our journey with the Synths has not completely ended. AMC has commissioned another 8 episodes to be produced and is planning to air them sometime in 2016.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: The Gift

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 108 minutes

October is soon approaching and that means that scary movies will be occupying the theaters. I feel like at this time we have a few thrillers to keep us entertained for a while and this is one of them.

Simon and Robyn, a young married couple, move from the city to the suburbs to have a fresh start in their lives. Simon is moving up in his career and him and his wife would love to make another attempt at creating a family. While getting settled in their new home and becoming acquainted with the neighbors, they come across an old classmate of Simon's, Gordo. During their reconnection, Gordo awkwardly tries to create a friendship with the couple and constantly leaves gifts on their doorstep.

Coming into this movie, I assumed that The Gift was a horror movie, but it falls under the spectrum of a mystery thriller. I also was afraid that it would resemble the disappointment of 2009's The Box with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden. Instead, it does a successful job keeping you guessing and on your toes as these three characters continue to interact with each other. Simon and Robyn show a gradual display of their rocky foundation, during their move, and it contributes to the tension surrounding them with a standout performance from Joel Edgerton as Gordo. He has a definite feeling of awkwardness about his character and you want to completely sympathize with him, even though at times he makes you feel a bit uneasy. Whether he's onscreen or off, he feels like a threat to our main characters.

While the story may seem cliche or even simple, it does take a different direction with its delivery. There were times I tried to predict what would happen: what's hiding in the shadows or what could the next gift be. Often times, I was incorrect with my guesses, which made me enjoy it a little more because that tension made Gordo all that more of a threat and brought out the couple's true colors.

The Gift was kind of a refreshing thriller that kept me thinking and at the same time on the edge of seat. It is acted very well and Edgerton delivers of a performance that provokes sympathy and fear. The movie also encourages you to think and discuss what the real ending of this story is and with all that, it causes it to be a memorable film.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Linkin Park's "Reanimation" (2002)

Linkin Park - Reanimation (2002, USA)
Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Enth E ND, Frgt/10, Ppr:Kut, My Dsmbr

When it comes to remix albums, it's hard for them to live up to the greatness of the original tracks. Being a huge Linkin Park fan after the release of their debut album Hybrid Theory, I was curious what would come of this first remix album. Around the time the album was released, MTV2 did a special MTV:Playback featuring every track on the album. Looking it up now, I have learned that majority of the videos were specially made by MTV2 and only about 4-5 were or became "official". Nonetheless, I was pumped and, back then, I recorded the special on VHS and treasured it along with some other special features by the band.

"Opening" begins with some lovely strings and keyboard melody that gently lures you into this remix album. It's beautiful and soft introduction that eases listeners, while the piano carefully adjusts your ears to the first track. "Pts.Of.Athrty" features Orgy frontman Jay Gordon in an intergalactic robot battle. The song keeps the aggressive intensity in the lyrical delivery, letting Chester's words echo as he screams. Meanwhile, the music has a more electronic rock sound to it, stripping a few elements away from the original. This was the perfect jumpstart for the promotion of this album.

"Enth E Nd" features Kutmasta Kurt and Motion Man in a more hip-hop focused version of Hybrid Theory's "In The End" with Mike Shinoda. The video shows the three of them in the backseat of a car with a monitor and a DJ control panel. It's a very cool, stripped down take of the popular single that shows that the band really does straddle the fence of hip-hop and rock. The chorus maintains its pull for fans to sing along, even though the music quiets as Chester's voice is altered and played with by the DJ's hands.

"Frgt/10" features Alchemist and Charli 2na in an altered melody. "Forgotten" is a track I didn't listen to often from Hybrid Theory, so this new version was something I really enjoyed. It takes snippets of the original and repeats it throughout the verses, then it brings out a more hip-hop sound to the beat while still maintaining a few rock elements in the drums and electronic equipment. I really enjoyed the shared rap verses and the distorted singing chorus almost echoing toward your speakers. It's a very successful and slightly haunting remix compared to its original aggressive sound.

"P5hng Me A*wy" features Taproot's vocalist and guitarist Stephen Richards in an unforgettable (and probably disturbing or disgusting) remix that easily became one of my favorite tracks on the album. Stephen's vocals and the added electronic distortions and effects make it a bit ominous, but has an amazing build up that I always anticipate every time I listen to the song. I really enjoy how distant Chester's voice sounds in the beginning, then becomes more clear along with Mike's voice and the music. The altered and extended lyrics and vocal moments are very passionate and genuinely pleading to the listener's ears that you just want more. It was a pleasant surprise for the track that was an amazing ending to Hybrid Theory turned into an equally amazing remix. Every time the track ends, I feel sad that the journey is over, but excited for what's next on the album. "Plc.4 Mie Hæd" features Amp Live and Zion that leans more toward the band's rock sound. The song starts off with more sound effects than actual music while Mike raps the first verse. It's a track that I listen to more or less than the original. It has a good enough amount of energy from the dual vocals, but the guest rap by Zion can be a bit hit or miss in places (also depending on mood). "X-Ecutioner Style" is a short DJ scratching skills track that features Sean C and Roc Raida of The X-Ecutioners and Black Thought. The track mostly consists of scratches, fundamental hip-hop melodies, Chester's "Shut Up" line from "One Step Closer" that fans love to shout during shows, some musical snippets from "Cure For the Itch" and "One Step Closer", and a little rapping. It's a track I usually skip over. "H! Vltg3" features Evidence, Pharoahe Monch, and DJ Babu and is a track that I don't think I've ever listened to the original (or at least, not completely). Perhaps after writing this review, I'll give it a listen or two. From what I've gathered, this version of the song mostly retains its original form, but pulls back the beat to more outer space hip-hop sound with repetitive keyboard and more rap verses. Both "[Riff Raff]" and later "[Stef]" are simply answering machine/voicemail messages left for the members of the band and they're really not worth talking about. "Wth>You" features Aceyalone and showcases Chairman Hahn's turntable skills as he manipulates the original version. For the most part, it sounds almost exactly the same, but somehow sounds more...epic! Vocals sound more far away than others, Chester's bridge section and chorus sounds a bit more stretched out and more aggressive, and the music has some extra elements sprinkled here and there. Aceyalone's contribution fits in very well with the original lyrical arrangement as well. "Ntr/Mssion" continues a similar piano melody from the "Opening", but mostly bridging the transition from this song to the next, which the album does a lot of.

"Ppr:Kut" features Cheapshot, Jubacca, Rasco, and Planet Asia in an almost haunting and sped up version of the original "Papercut". I love the original and the remix is just as good. The music is almost exactly the same, but emphasizes the guitar and drum sections of the song. It definitely has a more panic sense about it and the guest rap verses are a great addition to the original lyrical layout by Chester and Mike.

"Rnw@y" features Backyard Bangers and Phoenix Orion in an epic journey of time restraints. The original track was something I would listen to every now and then, but something about this remix gives a feeling of urgency. For the most part, the vocal arrangement and music resemble the original quite a bit, but the lyrics are cut off in the chorus contributing to that urgent feeling along with the quieting and swelling of the music. The music video also emphasizes that feeling. My favorite part is Phoenix Orion's rap verse that gives you that moment to breath, although listening to the content of his words, I'm not completely sure how it relates to Chester's lyrics, but...whatever. "My Dsmbr" features Mickey P. and former Sneaker Pimps frontwoman Kelli Ali in a melancholy electronic rendition of "My December"; a track I've heard after the fact. This version of it is more sped up and has more musical elements than the duet piano and vocal arrangement of its predecessor. I think the pacing of this track makes me enjoy it more than the original as opposed to the order I heard both tracks. I enjoy Chester and Kelli Ali's vocals working together with a hint of support from Mike from time to time. It's a really beautiful track either version you listen to, but if you're like me and are picky about slow tracks, this version is your best bet. When I first listened to the album, I was looking forward to hearing what they were going to do with my favorite Hybrid Theory track, "By Myself". Unfortunately the Josh Abraham collaboration for "By_Myslf" disappointed me in areas. It lacked punch in places and the chorus was altered more than the previous tracks by changing the wording and pace of the delivery. I think the only part of the track that I genuinely enjoyed was the bridge with Mike partially rapping and Chester screaming, but for the most part, I think there was too much yelling and the beat didn't excite me. "Kyur4 th Ich" highlights Chairman Hahn's skills as a DJ and possibly one ups his original, "Cure for the Itch". It's easily an enjoyable track and I think he deserves more solos from time to time.

"1Stp Klosr" features The Humble Brothers and KoRn's vocalist Jonathan Davis in another track that I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, I found this track rather underwhelming and sounded too close to a KoRn song in a lot of areas. It has a nearly 2 minute intro before getting to the actual song that's more monotonous than exciting and it just doesn't live up to the high energy of the Hybrid Theory original. To my surprise, Staind's vocalist Aaron Lewis redeemed the conclusion to this remix album with "Krwlng". While it also contains a long intro before getting to the first verse, it actually has some sort of build up to the music and adds quiet vocal snippets from Chester and Mike. It's a very zen sounding remix that cleverly ties back to the "Opening" track of the album. I love the wondrous electronic sounds of the musical arrangement and even the dual vocals between Chester and Aaron. In short, it's a surprisingly beautiful remix to an anger filled song that kept me hooked to Linkin Park years ago.

Reanimation was a surprising and excellent follow up and remix to an equally excellent debut album. It was an album that truly solidified my support for Linkin Park and embraced my love (or obsession) for the band as my favorite American rock band. The album expertly displays the band's ability to take chances and experiment with their sound as well as elevate majority of their original tracks with the help of collaborations with other artists. It's definitely an album that no Linkin Park fan should skip out on!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Quick Anime Review

K (2012) | Rating: 3.5/5

Sometimes my interest in a series is because of cosplay and this one was inspired by the wonderfully talented and handsome KANAME☆. I also heard a couple positive comments about the series as well. I must admit that it took me a while to get into the series, but once it started to pick up with the mystery portion with our silver haired main character, I became a little more invested. The other plot with the kings rivalry was...a little confusing, like some bits of information are missing or something. Perhaps the movie and/or second season will fill in the gaps. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the mystery, action, and art very much. I'm looking forward to delving more into this universe and learning more about the characters. Lastly, both the sub and dub are quite enjoyable.

Show By Rock!! (2015) | Rating: 3/5

Curiosity brought me to this Sanrio anime and I ended up enjoying this cute musical series. It's another series that took a little while to get into, but mostly I had to adjust to the cuteness and the music anime genre. I wasn't super into the main character, but the supporting characters are what kept me watching. The story is very simple; having a threat of a masked evil music producer threatening popular acts. There were some small details in the story I wish the series expanded upon like Rom and Shuuzou's past relationship and maybe even seeing more background on the Plasmagica's members. Otherwise, it was quite enjoyable and suitable for any age.

Aoharu x Kikanjuu (2015) | Rating: 4/5

Thanks to anime YouTuber Gigguk, I decided to bend the rules of my anime rotation and watch more than one new series at a time. It was an overwhelming experience that I don't completely regret, but I'd rather not do it again. Some of the series that Gigguk mentioned I decided to check out and this is one of them. The rest will most likely be mentioned in the next quick anime review. Upon watching the first episode, I was worried that this would be another rehash of Ouran High School Host Club, but fortunately the potential expensive catalyst was not the driving point for these characters to come together and stay together. No! The focus of this show is the relationship of our main character Hotaru and the ups and downs of being part of Toy Gun Gun. The series' strongest point is its characters, which I absolutely loved watching, especially when they're interacting out of the games. I'm really hoping that there will be second season in the works, otherwise I'll have to get my Yukki fix through the manga.

Imawa no Kuni no Alice (2014) | Rating: 4.5/5

This was an absolutely agonizing OVA for non-Japanese speakers to endure. Not because the show is terrible, because it is by far anything of that nature. No, no, it took forever for the final episode to be subbed in English. It's unfortunate that this OVA was only 3 episodes long, because I was easily addicted to this violent game. I really enjoy concepts like this quite a bit and it was easy to get hooked into Alice and his friends in this strange world of cruel survival games. Each episode definitely leaves you wanting more and more and I hope that by chance it gets picked up as a full series and/or they decide to import the manga series to America. It is dark, suspenseful, and full of action that I cautiously recommend this OVA to those who enjoy survival games.

Hunter x Hunter (2011) | Rating: 4.5/5

I've been going back and forth on whether to do a full length review or a short one. For now, this quick review will have to suffice. A very good friend of mine suggested I watch this 2011 adaptation, so I made a deal with her that after reaching episode 200 of Detective Conan I would start this series. Now, the reason I'm choosing to write something short for the time being is because it is a lengthy series with tons of positive things, story, and characters to cover. The characters are great, whether they're major or minor to the story arcs; the art is vibrant and colorful, the story is extremely entertaining, addicting, and very well written; and overall, it's just one of those rare series you won't get tired of even with its long length. In fact, I was sad when I reached the final episode, so I'm hoping the creator doesn't spend too much time gaming and he gets back into creating more content for the anime to move forward. This series is great for all ages as it has the fun, uplifting moments that would make a child joyfully laugh and those serious, dark moments that would make an adult think deeply and possibly even cry over. This series has easily moved up into my top ten favorite anime series of all time and I'm looking forward to delving into more of it.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Zero For Conduct" by BASTARZ
I was really curious how this Block B sub-unit would go and I was happy my other favorite member from the group was getting more face time. The video has a very tough and mature style to it, but still maintains that fun energy that Block B is known for in their songs and videos. The choreography is both fun and a bit aggressive and their delivery matches that. I enjoy the dark and slightly neon color scheme throughout the video. I hope this isn't a one shot effort either, because I had a fun time watching this trio.

"Crazy" by Infinite H feat. Sanchez (Phantom)
I was a little surprised to see this duo releasing a follow up mini-album, but I was happy about it (especially since I'm very fond of Dongwoo). This is definitely a more mature direction compared to their debut as a duo. I enjoy the R&B vocal arrangement mixed with the slightly minimalistic beat and trap sounds. Sanchez's vocals effortlessly work very well with theirs. They picked the right person to take care of the chorus and bridge. As for this nearly black and white video, it has some great dramatic moments with the members individually in their own scenes and even together. The choreographed shots don't seem disruptive of the slight story either and it's no surprised that it's cleanly executed.

Old school kpop fans might recognize this iconic duo and some now might know them more for their appearance on Show Me the Money 4. I have heard of them before, but I've never listened to their music. Even now, this is really the only song I've heard by them and only because I heard it had lots of American hip-hop visuals in it. The music video kinda presents a game, for me, to see how many of these visual musical moments I recognize from each year like Run DMC and Puff Daddy and Ma$e. The song is pretty enjoyable as well, following the visuals by mixing different musical elements from different eras of music into the song. Easily fun and danceable for sure!

Since getting into this band this year, I just assumed all their videos would be colorful and full of fun. This video is quite the opposite. It's dark, cooky, and almost a bit unsettling visually. The song is quiet, cool, and sounds like something you could listen to around Halloween time. The vocal delivery is very calm and confident, while the music is smooth and laid back. Apparently, this is the theme for the Attack on Titan movie, which I heard is terrible, but hearing this song, it seems too mellow to be a theme to anything, especially Attack on Titan, but I could be wrong. I simply enjoy this band and their unexpected and sometimes unusual videos and music.

"Speed and Friction" by amazarashi
I really like the opening theme to Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace and the music video is just as mesmerizing and chaotic as the song. It's an unusual concept, having a girl dance in a bathroom stall while the lyrics of the song light up around her. It's like an interpretive dance in places or even an act of possession, but it works very well with the distress and panic of the song. As I said, very mesmerizing. I enjoy the rough vocals of the song and the various transitions of the music quieting, exploding, and bouncing about chaotically.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Title: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Language: Japanese
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Shoujo, Psychological
Episodes: 39

I've finally come to the conclusion of shoujo anime I was introduced to when I first got into it by one of my best friends. If you missed it, it consisted of DiGi Charat, Angelic Layer, and both seasons of Magic Knight Rayearth. Revolutionary Girl Utena is my final entry to this list, if I don't decide to write up a full review for DiGi Charat, and soon I'll be embarking on my second set of unfinished anime series which contains series that I was introduced to by her or shows that came on Cartoon Network's Toonami and Adult Swim. I'll be rewatching some series as well to possibly contribute to Throwback Thursday posts. Now, let's get into the review!

Just after Utena's parents died she was consoled by a prince who gave her a ring with a rose crest on it. Utena was so impressed by the Prince that she vowed to become one herself one day. A few years later Utena is attending Ohtori Academy where she gives all the teachers headaches because she dresses in a boys uniform so she can be like the prince she met long ago.

After Utena's friend is insulted by a member of the Student Council, Utena fights in a duel for her friends honor. Utena's rose crest allows her to enter the dueling arena where Utena wins the duel and becomes engaged to the Rose Bride. Unknowingly, Utena is pulled into a series of duels with other members of the Student Council for the possession of the Rose Bride. As she becomes fond of Anthy, the Rose Bride, she must fight to keep her friend safe and to discover the horrifying secret behind Ohtori Academy.
[Source: MyAnimeList]

I wish I could remember why I never finished this show years ago, but honestly, I don't think I would've appreciated or even understood the complexities of this show. While building up to adding this to my anime rotation, Utena related posts and cosplays would pop up in my friends circle. Before starting the show, I tried to prod as much information as I could from my past viewing. While watching each episode, I've concluded that I remember vague elements I've seen and heard such as rose symbols, Utena wanting to be a prince, surface information on her relationship with Anthy, the duals, and possible incestual relationships between some characters. Mostly, I confirmed that I wasn't experiencing another moment of replay like when I finished Magic Knight Rayearth season 1. I definitely never finished this series, so I was excited to see where this story would take me.

Among these 39 episodes are several story arcs. Each arc does contain its own storyline and end goal, but at the same time contributes to the overall story. I must say I don't know how kids would be able to fully get into this show because of the story. On the surface, it provides a simple goal, although said goal can be vague at times. Utena wants to become a prince, she wants to protect her friend Anthy from harm and the dueling rules, and ultimately she wants to meet her prince that saved her as child when her parents passed. The way the show goes about these goals is very intricate, smart, and complex. The characters often make use of this serious and kinda vague dialogue. Some of their words paint this bleak future of finality or destruction and I often times found myself wondering: what is their purpose...specifically in blunt terms. There's all this talk of End of the World and revolutionizing the world, but I don't think, even after watching, that I completely understand their ultimate purpose. Please feel free to help me along in the comments below. Certain parts I did understand when it came to smaller objectives such as Nanami's attention seeking ways around her brother and Akio's interactions with an extent. Of course, the complexities kept me watching for answers as well as the theatrical presentation it had visually. In the end, it made me want more to understand what's going on. Maybe rewatching the series, rereading Wikipedia, or giving an alternate story through the movie adaptation might paint a clearer picture for me.

So, what about the characters? Well, some characters you're going to immediately have feelings for, while others you're still trying to figure out and become neutral towards for quite some time. Utena is naturally an interesting character. She is a good representation for a strong female lead. She feels that conflict of falling into that well known cliche of women wanting to be sweet little princesses and waiting to be swept away and taken care of by Prince Charming. That's a black and white interpretation of it, but personally I kinda understand her plight to some extent. Anthy, on the other hand, takes some adjusting to. While I instantly liked her, I did have some frustrations with her submissive and pliable personality or even how she tends to hide her traits to fit others' needs. As for the supporting characters, I found that the story gave them plenty of diversity and I enjoyed how their backstories unfolded when the timing was right. Those historical presentations usually cemented my feelings toward a lot of the supporting characters. Juri and Kozue brought sympathy from their unstable relationships, Touga made wonder about his intentions with Utena and Nanami, and Nanami just made me dislike her even more. In the end, it is important to know as much as possible about these characters and their motives as they all intersect in the grand scheme that is Akio.

Shortly, I want to talk about the artwork. Since this show came out in 1997, it definitely has that 90s anime look to it, which isn't a bad thing. The character designs have a slightly unique look, especially when it comes to hair and eye colors. Occasionally, their eyes can seem a bit frightening due to lack of detail, but it works. The highlights of the art are the set designs, especially the transition to and actions in the dueling scenes and the silhouette/shadow puppet scenes. The dueling scenes are very dramatic, elegant, and flow well with the other scenes presented in the show, even if the dueling stage features some strange props. The silhouette/shadow puppet scenes are interesting and often times offer comical narrations of what's going on in the moment. Most of the time, they make sense with what's going on and other times they seem like pure entertainment moments. It does tie in with the style of Takarazuka theater and fits in well with the sophisticated and beautiful style of the rest of the show.

I know this review is getting quite lengthy, but there's just a few more things I want to mention. As much as I enjoyed this series, I did have some confusion, if that wasn't obvious with my word choices above. Some elements of this show, as I said before, can be complex and a bit vague. I never completely understood the motivation for The End of World and part of Akio's grand scheme. Parts of the Black Rose Saga arc made me question things, but I believe I understood majority of what the arc had to offer. The most confusion is in the final arc, Apocalypse Saga, and trying to piece together Touga's change of action and Akio and Anthy's history. In the end, I feel like there are probably some hidden meanings or even symbolism embedded throughout the series, but it most likely requires repeated viewing and possibly additional resources or even alternate material through either the manga or movie.

I am happy that I decided to return to Revolutionary Girl Utena and complete it. Even though I found myself raising my brow in confusion at moments, I thought the story was intriguing and entertaining. It has a good balance of drama, action, comedy, and a bit of "unconventional" romance. I'd like to believe that this series was probably revolutionary for its time, presenting new ideas of gender and sexual attraction. Even though the art screams 90s, the content does carry on effortlessly through time and doesn't feel that dated in my eyes. I highly recommend this series to (mature) anime enthusiasts out there and those who are getting into anime.

Rating: 4/5

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Lean On" by Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MØ
Never listened to any of Major Lazer's material until recently and, probably like most people, I've only heard "Turn Down for What" by DJ Snake, but this song has a little bit of that sound in the chorus. Perhaps that's his signature. Anyway, I really like this song and the video is beautiful with lots of rich color. I enjoy the culturally appropriate choreography and landscape while the performers just enjoy themselves to the beat...even though it is laughable. The song is both relaxing and danceable. I'm glad I saw it on TeenNick, because I've been playing this on repeat quite a lot.

"Wild Frontier" by The Prodigy
The Prodigy is back and I'm excited to listen to the newest release! This stop motion animated music video is definitely not for kids. I really enjoyed the story presented in the music video and has some interesting surprises. I'm also a fan of stop motion as well. This music video almost feels more like a short film in its presentation. As for the song, it has plenty of energy with a nice dark edge to match the visuals. I guess there's an argument (in the comments) that this doesn't sound anything like their old material, but I think it does with a few new additions to revitalize their signature sound.

"Pepe" by CLC
KPop girl groups are the hardest for me to get into. Well, even jpop girl groups are a challenge as well and it usually comes down to vocals. Most times they're too high and cutesy that my ears bleed or I just completely shut down. I was pleasantly surprised that this group retained some vocal dignity while still being cutesy, but not overly infantile doing it. It has some nice colorful set pieces and gives the members some personality. It doesn't completely stray from the limits for kpop girls, unfortunately, but it isn't obnoxious in its attempt.

"Evanesce" by Super Junior
Much like SNSD, I try to give almost every new music video they release a chance, even though I'll never like them. I was surprised to find myself enjoying this emotional R&B song by them. Even though the acting is wooden by some of the members, the unnecessary sound effects still exist, and I don't completely understand the slow downs and speed ups during the transitions, I thought it was a nice, mature shift. It just looks like there was actual effort put into this project and the song is beautiful on its own too. Also, that dance duet is by far the highlight of the whole video. It felt powerful with their vocals.

"AM 4:44" by Bang Yongguk
While Rap Monster was slaying, my bias from B.A.P released this thoughtful piece while the group was sorting out their legal issues with TS Entertainment. Before I say anything, it is very important to watch this with subtitles, if you of course aren't fluent in Korean. This song is extremely powerful and honest. The melody is very simplistic, but holds as much emotional strength as the lyrical delivery. The visuals are minimal, but has an artistic and vulnerable appeal to it that suits the content. You get glimpses of the artist behind the words with some abstract visuals and shadows. This proves that Bang Yongguk really needs a solo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Quick Movie Review

Ant-Man (2015, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

Out of all the superhero/comic book movies coming out this year, I would have to say that Avengers: Age of Ultron would be #1. This one would be second. I don't know anything about Ant-Man, but I just blindly go into these movies expecting a good time and...I had a great time! This movie is very entertaining and has plenty of laughs. It even ties into the latest Avengers movie as well. I'm hoping there will be a sequel and we're able to witness Ant-Man interact with the other Avengers. The actors are very enjoyable and the visuals are perfection, as usual. Of course, my consistent complaint with these individual spotlight Marvel films...the weak villains. Although, I have to admit that there was a little something to this one, but still weak. I don't know what's going on, Marvel Studios.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, New Zealand) | Rating: 4.5/5

Only hearing about this movie by name, I didn't know much about it, but a somewhat new horror critic Nightmare Maven has given it a positive review. I will just add onto the positivity and say that this was a very entertaining movie. I had no idea what to expect, but if you enjoy vampires and a bit of the supernatural mixed with mockumentary style filming, then you'll really enjoy this. The characters are entertaining and hilarious and it's simply just fun seeing these thousands of years old vampires living and interacting in the 21st century. There's not much I can say about this movie without giving anything away, so I'll simply say this: I highly recommend this comedic mockumentary vampire flick. There's great humor and plenty of roommate shenanigans to enjoy!

Hobo With a Shotgun (2011, Canada) | Rating: 4/5

If you enjoy Canadian B-movies, this is perfect for you! I've had a conversation about this movie with a friend, along with the ridiculous movie Rubber that I still have to watch, and I was expecting to have a fun time with this one. And...I did! This is definitely one of those it's bad in a good way. Low budget, over the top actors, and plenty of unrealistic gore and violence. I thoroughly enjoyed myself each minute that passed, while watching this movie. The plot was definitely not what I expected in areas, but it made me enjoy our main characters and his fight to bring justice to the city!

Cut Bank (2014, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I saw the preview for this movie in another movie and the trailer made the story seem interesting. Unfortunately, the great cast sans Liam Hemsworth didn't save the loose ends and slightly messy or even try hard execution. The characters are interesting enough to keep you watching, but some information and situations that happen it seems either awkward or incomplete. The most entertaining part of the movie is watching Derby Milton look for his "p-p-parcel". He's definitely my favorite character in the whole movie, but this small town just feels like it needs more secrets and commit to them more seriously. Overall, the movie could be better, but it isn't terrible in the least. The movie tries to be something that it's not with some ambition, but stumbles across the finish line.

Maggie (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

A movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and zombies sounds like a win-win to most people, but this isn't a high action shoot 'em up movie like most people would think. I didn't think that myself, anyway. This is a drama piece with some serious acting from Schwarzenegger. It's a different side from him that I've never seen from him compared to other movies in the past which range from sci-fi action and family comedies from the 90s. Yeah, I haven't really watched anything new from the Austrian action star. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this simple movie of a family dealing with a neurotic disease that's turning their daughter into a mindless human flesh eater. It definitely hits a reality in some ways, trying to keep the humanity in tact to a loved one who's turning into a "monster". It's no Academy Award winning film, but it is a sympathetic and enjoyable contribution to "zombie" movies. Give it a chance with an open mind.

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.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Quick Movie Review

Project Almanac (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

Seeing the previews to this movie didn't bring any interest for me. I pretty much pick this up on a slightly curious whim. Seeing the previews and completing the movie, it gave me the similar feelings as Chronicle: an interesting concept with an unfortunate decision on making it found footage. I think this movie would've been better off if it was simply filmed in a more traditional style then these conveniently placed cameras to bring us along for the ride. The characters are decent. They don't have any stand out personalities and I think the story and concept is what really keeps you going to the end...even though it isn't anything new. I's time travel. There's nothing wrong with time travel movies, I mean I enjoyed Looper, but the difference between these two movies is memorability. Looper presented a slightly new twist to time travel and police related movies while this movie just takes typical teenage shenanigans with some wonky, unbelievable camera work and time travel. It's far from a terrible movie, but it's not very memorable.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013, Japan) | Rating: 3/5

Around the time I found out and watched Song of the Sea, I came across another beautifully animated gem. It is a lengthy animated movie, but I don't see many children watching it as the contents are for maybe older children and adult. The movie based on a Japanese folktale and does a very good job illustrating the story to its audience. The story might be a little slow, but the animation and the interesting characters make the movie very enjoyable. The progression of our dear princess and her adopted family keeps you engaged and the story broadens your knowledge on Japanese culture and tradition to some extent.

Bedlam (2015, Australia) | Rating: 1.5/5

I picked this movie because the cover looked like a terrible and possibly cheap movie...which it was. Well, maybe not exactly terrible, just not executed very well. It has some interesting elements to it by uncovering the unorthodox and unethical methods of Bedlam Asylum, but a lot of things that occurred behind these concrete walls were hilariously ridiculous. It tried to mix up the slightly less insane with the funnily crazy people that it seemed unrealistic that people could be dealing with such mental problems, but I guess it is a tiny bit possible. The way the guards treated the patients was over the top and the acting for it made me laugh. This is a bad asylum movie, but I found it strangely entertaining in some ways. It wasn't funny bad enough to see it, but if you have absolutely nothing to do, it won't hurt anything.

Liars, Fires, and Bears (2012, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I've never heard of this movie and I'm pretty sure no one I know has either. I just saw the cover on a cart, read the description, and simply gave it a chance. As dark it might seem, it's a slightly light movie content wise. We have an adult male who is immature and can be childish with his decisions and he comes across a very mature little girl who tends to take charge and points out his immaturity. Running away together, they learn so much from each other and somewhat change for the short. The whole movie revolves around their relationship with each other and slowly reveals why this girl ran away from her parents. It's a nice little ride and the characters are interesting. I suggest giving this indie film a try.

Willard (2003, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

When this first came out, I briefly heard some comments about this movie. Whether they were good or bad, I really don't remember at this point, but I know this movie was talked about for a short period of time. Because of those vague talks about this movie, I wanted to give it a chance. It's definitely a different movie and almost a bit comical if you think about it. We have these elements that we've seen before: a loner/socially awkward main character who still lives with his mother/parents, is mistreated at school or work, and decides to take some strange approach to get revenge on those people who oppress him. That's pretty much the gist of this movie...with rats. Willard, the character, definitely struggles, but somehow finds a way to make it through life with his new rodent friends. The movie is a bit comical at times as a lot of situations seem ridiculous, for lack of a better word. It's strangely an entertaining and alright film.

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.