Friday, September 23, 2016

Fair Shake Review: Leo Rising - Karmin

Leo Rising - Karmin
(Genre: Pop/Alternative Pop)

The journey of Karmin has been one that I've been interested in for quite a while. Most popularly known for the duo's YouTube covers, especially the breakout "Look at Me Now", brought them to my attention. I instantaneously began diving into their budding catalog of indie pop originals on their second channel and continue to watch them grow into Sony signed recording artists. I was pleased with their Hello EP which was a preview of the sound they were crafting for the Pulses major label debut LP. Although the feedback was divisive on their new mainstream polish, I leaned toward a favorable opinion of the eclectic mix of styles they called hip pop. Yet, I also didn't mind them splitting from Sony for sole creative control of their future projects. That surprisingly took much longer than most Karminites expected, but the eventual reveal of this album got many filled with anticipation.

The road to this album was one that is strange when you don't understand how their YouTube career can blend with their music one. After Karmin's separation from the label, they took to the internet to share the creative process of their new pieces as well as the occasional Karmin cover upload. Fans enjoyed many versions of songs they released, but left confused with all that would actually be included in the next project they would drop. Then suddenly, they became less inclusive in the songwriting process with sparse singles released from time to time, until they announced the concept behind Leo Rising. Following an experience with an astrologist, they were inspired to make an album dedicated to each sign in the zodiac. Finally appeared an increasing amount of music videos solidifying this album's upcoming release date.

The singles showcased various styles of pop music as Amy and Nick have in the past, but it was notably more wholly their own voice. "Along the Road" was a ballad with a folk flair that brought one of Amy's most heartfelt performances. "Didn't Know You" brought an upbeat alternative pop jam to the table. "Sugar" has that sultry sound with an irresistible groove. Then "Come with Me" brings the fantasy to life as a new take on "Pure Imagination" of Willy Wonka fame. Karmin truly reach all influences in every track they introduce on Leo Rising.

I, personally, loved the array of soundscapes they played with throughout the album as they honestly bring their own flavor to everything they present. Some favorites outside of the singles they've put out include "Dance with Me", "Everything", "Blame it on My Heart", & "Can't Live". "Save Me Now", despite not being my sign's dedicated song, would probably be my absolute favorite song as it harkens back what made me fall in love with the duo in the first place. It provides an alternative approach to a rap song as it tells the tale of Amy heeding the call to leave her small hometown to follow her dreams while the guy she left behind never could take that chance.

In summary, I feel that anybody who enjoys some alt pop with an indie approach should definitely check out this project. Leo Rising is bound to at least have a handful of songs you can leave happy with. The fact they can bring such a range of soundscapes with only the two of them is amazing, even with a little help on just a couple of tracks. It's a really fun listen that music lovers and can truly get behind, including those who can't see it in the stars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Q&A: Nightmare

At Anime Matsuri 2014 in Houston, TX, Nightmare held a Q&A for the fans and here are the questions asked by the fans, during this event. I want to thank their management for bringing Nightmare to Houston and allowing the fans this opportunity. Not all of the questions asked and other shenanigans in this Q&A were written during this event as I felt they were irrelevant for one reason or another. Pictures were allowed, but mine are sadly blurry. I'd also like to apologize for the massive delay on these Q&As and concert reports, I am slowly but surely working on them one at a time. Please enjoy this fan Q&A with Nightmare.

Band Members
Yomi - vocals
Sakito - guitar
Hitsugi - guitar
Ni~ya - bass
Ruka - drums

Have you taught music?
Sakito: No

What happened to Zennin (former drummer)?
Yomi: disappeared

[This question really shouldn't have been allowed. It's kinda disrespectful, so make sure you never ask about former members.]

Who takes the longest to get ready?
Hitsugi: (in English) It's me!

Do you like fishing?
Ni~ya: I love it

What's your favorite thing about being in a band?
Yomi: They are my partners.

What's your favorite food?
Ni~ya: Ramen
Yomi: Yakisoba
Ruka: Rice
Hitsugi: Beer

Someone asked Yomi about his swan underwear. I didn't quite get what the question was about, but it took some time for him to remember what the fan was talking about.
Ni: Yomi is a very crazy boy.

What's the difference between performing for the first time and now?
Ruka: It was a long time ago, but we're less nervous now.

What's your favorite thing about America?
Sa: I love America and I wish I could live here.
Fan: (interjects) You can become a citizen by marriage!
Sa: I'll look around.

Do you have any pets?
Hi: I have 2 dogs.

To Sakito: How was it working on the Dead End Tribute Album?
Sa: Really fun!

What kind of hobbies do you have?
Sa: Video games
Ni: Fishing
Yo: Gundam models
Ru: Internet
Hi: Beer

What do you expect at tomorrow's show?
Yo: We have a lot in store for you, guys!

If you weren't in a band, what kind of job would you like to have?
Sa: Programmer
Ni: Fishing
Yo: Farmer
Ru: I wouldn't work.
Hi: Bartender

To Hitsugi, How did it feel recording "D.O.D" for the hide Tribute Album?
Hi: I was nervous, because hide was inspiration for me getting into music, but I felt very honored.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Sa: In the shower or bathroom

What's the difference between American bands and Japanese bands?
Yo: American bands are very honest with their emotions and love.

How did you do the opening and ending song for Death Note?
Ru: We talked to the produce and then we just wrote it.

To Sakito, How did you feel doing your nude shoot for Shoxx?
Sa: Very excited.

Outside of music, what is your inspiration?
Ru: I usually get inspiration from what we do.

Who gets drunk the most?
Hi: (in English) It's me!

Are you planning on doing a U.S. tour?
Yo: Right now, we don't have any plans to, but we would like to do one.

To Hitsugi, How is different working in a band compared to working solo?
Hi: Nightmare is family and being solo is like playing with friends.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Captain America: Civil War

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 147 minutes

Like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, this movie is coming out soon on DVD. So, I figured I should jump ahead and review this one, since I'm still terrible at getting these out immediately after seeing them in theaters.

With many people fearing the actions of super heroes, the government decides to push for the Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a hero's actions. This results in a division in The Avengers. Iron Man stands with this Act, claiming that their actions must be kept in check otherwise cities will continue to be destroyed, but Captain America feels that saving the world is daring enough and that they cannot rely on the government to protect the world. This escalates into an all-out war between Team Iron Man (Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, and Spiderman) and Team Captain America (Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant Man) while a new villain emerges. [Source: IMDb]

Despite not having a review for Captain America: The First Avenger, I have written a quick review for 2014's sequel Captain America: Winter Solider. Like most Marvel movies, I was looking forward to seeing what would happen to the Avengers after adding some new members, dealing with some unexpected threats, and adjusting their dynamics as a team. This was also the first time I've read a comic book related to this story, although the other one had more content featured in the film that I read later. So, it was kinda nice to have something to compare the movie to and understand a little bit more of what was happening on screen. I believe my mom and I caught this either the week after opening or not too long after that and we were both pretty excited since so far Marvel has been pretty good with their cinematic universe.

Going into this movie, I heard nothing but good things and people joking or half joking about what side they were on. For the most part, I've been rather pleased with the direction the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken, despite my complaints about their villains. In short, I was fairly optimistic going into this movie. After reading Civil War, I knew that this movie would be about whether superheroes should be accountable for their destructive actions. Some people thought this plot was a commentary to the destruction of Superman in Man of Steel, but this storyline existed before that movie did. The divide between these two groups: Team Iron Man and Team Captain America, had to deal with government control and also a bit of trust in their friendship. Fortunately, this feud, at least in my eyes, didn't cause too much of a series fan war compared to the ridiculous Team Jacob and Team Edward bout in the Twilight franchise. Sure, there might've been a couple comments here and there of not understanding why you would side with one and not the other, but nothing serious. As someone with the ability to understand both points of view, I can understand why anyone would choose either one. They both had valid points in their stance, but the way they went about proving their point seemed to cause more damage than harmony. The movie also provides us with pros and cons in both of our heroes' decisions.

Normally, I would go somewhat in depth with what I thought about the characters featured in the film, but majority of them we were introduced to in previous Marvel films. Whether I explicitly said whether I enjoyed these characters or not in their respective reviews, I can concisely say here that I enjoy all of the characters presented more or less, although I wish Quicksilver was part of the group currently. The newest addition to the universe and probably one of the most anticipated characters was Black Panther. Ah, you thought I was gonna say Spider-Man, but I'll give him his time soon. Black Panther is someone I'm not completely familiar with and I'm sure there are plenty of people who are on the same boat. I believe the movie gave him just enough backstory and reason for him to exist in this war between Captain America and Iron Man (or should I say Steve Rogers and Tony Stark). Every time he came on screen, whether in costume or not, I enjoyed watching him transform and interact with our cast of heroes we've been following for years. He definitely fits into the mold quite well and gives a more serious attitude to counter the short wit banter and commentary that are usually featured in comic based least in Marvel ones. Which leads me to our newest Spider-Man. I agree with most people who complain that Marvel should've kept the webslinger secret for audiences to cheer and gasp in theaters than outwardly displaying the new young actor in the trailer. His appearance would've been quite an exciting treat, although I am going to miss Andrew Garfield. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the little bit of background we got from Peter Parker and Aunt May without retreading the same territory we've seen twice. I will admit it felt a little disjointed when his story is introduced, but it did come together gradually when all the players were in place.

Going back to the story, it was mostly clear what the conflict was about and why Steve and Tony felt so strongly about their decision. It suited their characters and I never questioned their reasoning to either sign or not sign this new government act for the superpowered. The alliances also made sense as well. Although I found it interesting that their allies knew how to separate their beliefs and their friendship during battle with each other. It created some humorous banter and displayed their varying personalities very well, especially our newcomers Black Panther and Spider-Man. On the other hand, the situation affected Steve and Tony's friendship to the point of distrust. Ultimately, it created another problem that helped steer the story to "this is almost a third Avengers movie" to a "Captain America story". Bucky Barnes a.k.a the Winter Soldier was the bridge to that gap or potential blur. I admit at times it almost seemed too much like an Avenger movie with the inclusion of so many heroes from Avengers: Age of Ultron that it could almost seem a tiny bit cluttered. While I do believe that Marvel does a great job of compartmentalizing each character's own subplot, there were moments where I wished there was a bit less. But if you compare it to the Civil War comic (the one I linked above), it's actually a good thing there weren't as many heroes and villains going in a hundred different directions, because honestly it was hard to keep up with everyone in the comic, especially since I'm not familiar with every single character. What we're given in variety or scope was satisfying enough and contained itself with characters fairly well. The story knew which characters to focus on the most to possibly bridge to future installments such as Vision, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man. For the most part, it tried its best to keep the spotlight on Captain America and everything he's dealing with, which can be a bit of challenge with Tony Stark's big personality. With these various conflicts and large cast of characters, I didn't feel lost or bored. The pacing was pretty good and the story felt mostly balanced between the initial conflict at hand as well as with what to do about Bucky. It knew when to give us a breather with developmental dialogue and when to move things along with some fantastic action sequences. It never really felt like things dragged along. Also, Marvel finally got an actual villain that I'm pleased with. If you don't know what I'm talking about or forgot from previous posts, majority of the MCU villains have been built up to be these huge threats to be disposed of quickly by the climax, which is very disappointing. This time our threat is not only fleshed out, but actually puts up quite the fight for our heroes while adding fuel to the fire of their own disagreements. Hopefully, this will be a practice that will continue in further MCU installments.

But, Miko, how does this compare to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice...or even why bother with another versus superhero movie? Other than the obvious that this movie was clearly more successful and the other obvious point that I didn't write a 50 page essay on how problematic it was, there are some legitimate elements that both universes can learn from each other. It's something that came up after the movie between my mother and myself. The MCU knows how to have fun and when it needs to be serious. It doesn't try to be dark and gritty; it's a comic book movie! It knows how to make its audience laugh, cry, and think. It really gets us to invest in all of its characters, excluding most of its villains, which is something DCU excels at. Well...somewhat excels at. I admit I enjoyed the over the top General Zod and his right hand lady; Lex Luthor on the other hand, I didn't care for. But if you count the villains from the Christopher Nolan trilogy, they've had some downright memorable and fleshed out villains. I know, I know it's an unfair comparison, but they don't have much to pull from at this point. What I'm saying is, that I want those threatening villains to be threatening villains instead of jokes. Putting our beloved heroes in danger is thrilling and makes us cling even closer to them. There's also that tiny (or maybe not so tiny) part of us that want to like the villain or at least enjoy how big and bad they are. I think those two things are the major points they can learn from each other. Along with that is the writing and pacing, which is something I've already touched on at least to some extent in this post and the "BvS" review. Both movies are over two hours long, but when you have action that moves along smoothly and stimulating dialogue, it doesn't feel like you're sitting in a theater for 10 hours. Pretty much, when you're having fun, it doesn't matter how long the journey is.

Captain America: Civil War continues to be an exciting installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as a step in the right direction on what to do with their newly introduced heroes Black Panther and Spider-Man, along with a better development with their villain. The story not only continues to be consistently balanced between entertainment and overall development, but remains exciting and engaging throughout its over two hour running time. The movie also doesn't feel too cluttered with its extra characters and various subplots and maintains focus on the greater issue revolving around Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Iron Man. While at times it can lean a little toward another Avengers film, it does overall feel like a third installment to the Captain America series and makes me excited to see what they have in store for not only the characters we're familiar with but with our new heroes Spider-Man and Black Panther. Also, if you haven't already, check out BlipMasta5's review.

Rating: 4/5

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Couple of Album Reviews (Avalon Young & Futuristic)

 Shift - Avalon Young
(Genre: R&B)

I became aware of Avalon Young through Creator's Radio on Dash Radio. First I heard her cover of Oui by Jeremih, but soon I watched her on one of their livestreams. That's when I learned that she actually was on American Idol. I then was intrigued and decided to keep an eye on her after that. So recently I saw her teaser trailer on YouTube for this album and anticipation grew.

I really was surprised slightly by her sound, since she was definitely an R&B artist rather than a mixture like Ariana Grande which is what I was expecting. Her style is actually more akin to Kehlani with a smooth production with an ear pleasing vocal performance that's pretty without being overbearing. The songs touch on various aspects of having a love life to needing closure from a break up to finding the love you don't mind making time for. Folks who dig contemporary R&B should certainly give this a listen and I recommend "Closure", "Favorite", "I Know", & "Complicated".

As Seen on the Internet - Futuristic
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Exposure to Futuristic came to me by means of the YouTube channel TeamBackPack and their many cyphers of up-and-coming emcees. Futuristic caught my attention with his quick witted style and I slowly became more aware of his huge internet presence that was still growing. Last year, I finally snagged a couple of projects from the rapper and saw him as what I feel what radio would need. Futuristic manages to ride that balance of fun party music that's catchy, but not entirely ignorant as radio would showcase back in the day.

Thus, this album picks up exactly where The Rise & Coast 2 Coast left off with more tunes to jam to with plenty of replayable quips and dope production. The cool twist he brought with As Seen on the Internet is his use of collaboration with YouTube and internet celebrities, planning to make a video for nearly every song in the tracklist. Whenever I need something to rock to that's easily digestible and riddled with fake gun clapping & drug pushing, this is a go-to album to play. For hip hop heads who don't mind something light, this is what I'd recommend and for those partygoers, this is perfect for you! I enjoy these joints the most: "Do it", "Anti-Social", "Scrollin", "Nudes", "Alone in the City", & "Hashtag".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: K-ON! Seasons 1 & 2

Title: K-ON! Seasons 1 & 2
Language: Japanese
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Music, School, Slice of Life
Episodes: 39

Along with all the sports anime I've been exposing myself too, I've been delving into the music or idol genre. From the underappreciated Shounen Hollywood to Sanrio's Show by Rock!!, I've enjoyed what I've seen of the music/idol genre. Currently, I'm watching the Uta no Prince-sama series along with the two newest idol series of the summer season, Tsukiuta The Animation and B-Project Kodou Ambitious. Obviously, there's a lot of testosterone and pretty boys and I wanted to mix things up with this series.

Hirasawa Yui, a young, carefree girl entering high school, has her imagination instantly captured when she sees a poster advertising the "Light Music Club." Being the carefree girl that she is, she quickly signs up; however, Yui has a problem, she is unable to play an instrument.

When Yui goes to the clubroom to explain, she's greeted by the other members: Ritsu, Mio, and Tsumugi. Although disheartened at Yui's lack of musical know-how, they still try to convince her to stay to prevent the club's disbandment. After playing Yui a short piece which re-ignites her imagination, they succeed in keeping their new member and guitarist.

Along with the tasks of school and homework, Yui begins to learn the guitar with the help of the other band members, experiencing many mishaps along the way. However, with the school festival drawing near and Yui getting stuck with her practice, will the Light Music Club be ready in time for their debut?
[Source: MyAnimeList]

I'm sure I've expressed somewhere that I do enjoy slice of life anime. This series was one I've seen pop up from time to time, so I knew it was a fairly popular title. Getting into the first season, I was a tad bit skeptical on whether I would enjoy it or not. When it comes to Asian pop music, specifically idol groups from Japan and South Korea, I tend to lean more towards male groups than female ones. They usually are too cutesy or their voices are too high, so that thought kinda sat in the back of my mind when I began the first season. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed these characters and found myself identifying to an extent the lead girl Yui, while also seeing traits in my own friends...if we were to start a band. Yes, there are tons of cute moments, but it was infectious and fun. Honestly, I enjoyed watching these characters develop their musical skills, teamwork, and friendship over time. Something about their diverse personalities and friendship made me excited to watch the next episode while at the same time putting a smile on my face.

Since Yui is the character I identify with the most, but not completely, I'll start talking about her character first. Yui is kinda ditsy and tends to have a one track mind...or at least, she can only focus on one task at a time. She lacks instrumental skills, but is determined to reach the same level as her bandmates and make their band successful. Despite her being an airhead and kinda lazy sometimes, Yui is a very loyal friend and very dedicated to the group. I love watching her interact with her younger sister Ui, who mostly plays more of a motherly role to Yui. That's part of the cuteness of the show I enjoy. Easily scared Mio takes over the leader position of the group. When the group gets sidetracked with sweets, tea, and other club shenanigans, Mio takes charge and brings the group back on track...unless she gets reeled into it as well. She's very modest about her musical skill set, but she has a great voice, a creative and innocent mind for lyrics, and her own fanclub. Of course, you can't have Mio without her long time best friend Ritsu. Ritsu is a loud and energetic tomboy that encourages Yui's lazy habits as she'd rather goof around and enjoy tea time than study for finals. Like her bandmates, she's very fierce on the drums and is not afraid to make bold choices with the band's image or sound. She also likes to tease Mio whenever she can with creepy and spooky things. Moe keyboardist and hostess of tea and pastries Tsumugi is the grey area of focused leader Mio and sweet consumers Ritsu and Yui. She's a rich girl with the sweetest and purest personality. She loves to give to her friends and helps Yui out in her beginnings of purchasing an instrument and equipment. I also feel like she helps encourage each of her bandmates to improve and boosts their self confidence. Yui's childhood friend and student council member Nodoka takes a backseat to the Light Club's crazy antics. She's rather normal compared to Yui and is very well mannered and responsible. She can be seen being part of Yui's support system, keeping Mio company in homeroom, and getting annoyed at Ritsu when she forgets to turn in club forms on time. Lastly, we have their club adviser and undercover metalhead Sawako. Sawako is loved by everyone and honestly, I think some of the students have a bit of a crush on her too. She is an amazing mentor to our group and mostly knows when to get serious and when to have fun. Although, she does occasionally indulge in their tea time and always tries to get them to wear cute costumes for a promotion or live performance. Sawako has the perfect personality to bring out the best in the group and hone their developing skills. In the second season, the band gains a new member Azusa who's very skilled with guitar and a close friend of Ui's. She is the future of the club once Yui, Mio, Ritsu, and Tsumugi graduate. Her personality tends to be serious and she becomes embarrassed easily if she participates or is pointed out as being cute, but she blends in quite well with her seniors.

Since this series is part slice of life and part music, then you know that there isn't a strict storyline. The story goes back and forth on the daily lives of our characters either dealing with typical high school academia such as midterms and college entrance exams and their lives as musicians of After School Tea Time such as creating a music video, practicing for lives for orientation or school festivals, and writing lyrics together. Between these two lives we follow with our group of girls, this slice of life never ceases to be entertaining. There's plenty of comedy from episode to episode and even some emotional moments, especially in the second season. The pacing is quite smooth and realistic, so you never lose track of time as the seasons change. There's plenty of opportunities to watch the group's bonds grow over time during holidays, exam time, and club activities. The story does a great job including you into the group and it's easy to feel every emotion they feel. I must admit that I got a little misty eyed in that second season. The story really made you feel like you grew up with these characters and you're their biggest fan in some ways. I also was very impressed that the seiyuu's (Japanese voice actors) did their own singing vocals. I can't really comment on the dub to this series as the site I was viewing it on did not have a dub option, but I know it exists.

K-ON! was an unexpected series that I easily fell in love with. The story was simple, fun, and very entertaining! The characters are easily lovable and give you plenty of chances to connect with them throughout their daily activities. I really enjoyed how inclusive the story became for me and it always felt like an adventure with each episode I watched. The music was surprisingly not too poppy or cutesy. It had a good balance of fun rock and sweetness. I'm looking forward to checking out the movie at some point and enjoying more adventures with After School Tea Time!

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

4 Hip Hop Reviews (Mighty Jai, MC Kenna, Pryde, Wax)

Dreams $old Separately - Mighty Jai
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

This dude has been on my radar since last year after seeing his performance at HipHopalooza 3 in Tampa. This St. Petersburg emcee captivated me with his down to earth style with exuberant confidence. I then scoured the net to find his projects and came across a SoundCloud with a few singles attached. Therefore, I waited patiently for a full length LP or mixtape while putting his underground hit, "I'm Tellin' Ya", on repeat.

Finally, this came out and made me jump with joy! This album allowed me to finally pinpoint what his style reminds me of: 8 Ball & MJG, Scarface, Big KRIT, and my hometown's Stik Figa. His ability to relate his story and mix it with braggadocio-laden tracks gave this perfect balance. I highly recommend this to lovers of southern hip hop greats, for he can definitely be one in the future. Favorite songs include "Peachy Keen", "King Solomon", "Live it Up", & "One Time".

Stylistica - MC Kenna
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Since his last projects HYDU and HWY '98 earlier this year, to hear that he had more to release this year was a surprise. With this EP, MC Kenna continues to bring his signature rhyme style inspired by 90's rap while expanding the production he displays it on. This was a nice addition to his ever-growing discography as he continues to grow his name in the area and make moves towards the industry. If you've been enjoying watching the journey of this emcee, I recommend giving this a listen. I personally enjoy the tracks, "27", "VooDoo", & "Wood Tip".

Are U There? - Pryde
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop/R&B)

Not too long after the release of Pryde's last album, i don't belong here, he showed signs that grief and depression were overwhelming him. After finally taking the time away to grieve his mother's death, the announcement of a new EP aside from the formerly scheduled album, Russell, had many curious what its outcome would bring.

Are U There? marked the signature sound he maintained since the name change with a single, "Piece of Me", that almost resembles his older style of production. He mixes rap and r&b as he has in the past, but has a more focus on the r&b side on the latter half of the EP. Though, he still manages to give his bangers as usual with the second single, "Pour", and "Jheez it's Lit". Some of my favorites include the latter, "Grand National" and the very personal, "Beautiful Life".

The Cookout Chronicles - Wax
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Wax is someone I've always loved as an emcee being that he's always been a lyrical genius. Plus last year's album, Livin Foul, made me giddy since I knew he was back to making music more frequently. His fun and witty approach to songwriting always pleased me especially since he would use his talent to speak on relatable topics as the every-man.

This album is no exception to that M.O. as the whole project is the perfect BBQ soundtrack cohesively transitioning to funky hip hop, boom bap, and bossa nova & blues influenced rap. Wax brings his trademark punchlines in songs like "Chunky", "Bike Rap", & "Bulletproof". Then he questions love in "First Love", "Love Will Make You Do Dumb Sh*t", & "Never Thought I'd Be in Love Again". Then you're able to kick back and relax to the grooves of "So High" & "Inner Tube". People who enjoy heavy wordplay with a little bit of funk should enjoy this greatly. I have and definitely repeated these tracks: "Bike Rap", "A.O.", "Lackadaisical", & "Wet Brain". I really can't find any tracks skippable!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Scream TV The Series Season 2

Title: Scream TV Series Season 2
Starring: Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror
Episodes: 13

Here we are again with another exciting season of MTV's Scream The TV Series. I hope you read that with as much sarcasm as possible. Let's not dwaddle too much with this introduction and just jump right into the synopsis and review, shall we?

Three months after the string of Lakewood murders, Emma returns home after being treated for PTSD. All seems to be normal for the Lakewood Six: Emma, Audrey, Noah, Brooke, Kieran, and Jake. Emma tries to resume her life at home and finds comfort in her boyfriend Kieran as she gets back in the groove of school with her friends. Despite things being resolved and the killer disposed of, Noah becomes obsessed with the case and theorizes that the killer had an accomplice, which makes things uneasy with Audrey. Emma notices Noah's murder board and sees something familiar from her dreams, so she decides to investigate with Brooke and ultimately triggers another string of murders with a new killer on the loose.

Obviously, I wasn't too thrilled about watching another season of Scream The TV Series. If you haven't read my review on the first season, I really think you should check it out before moving further. I'll try not to spoil anything from the first season, but there's no guarantee. So, if you haven't watched the first season, proceed with caution. Anyway, going into this new season, I wasn't expecting much improvement, but honestly I was a little curious where they were going to go with Audrey and the cliffhanger ending as she was one of the few characters I liked and found interesting in the show. I didn't really care what happened to the other characters or who this new killer was. Pretty much I had a pessimistic outlook going into the second season, but I would try my hardest to find some redeeming qualities and improvements. On the other hand, I wasn't going to hesitate on dropping the series if I still didn't like it.

In this second season, the show kinda offers two plot points that eventually merge into one major plot. When the show begins, we have the situation between Noah and Audrey where Noah is trying to figure out if and who the accomplice was in the last season and the obvious new killer stalking our Lakewood survivors. Like the previous season, I enjoyed watching Noah and Audrey. Since it was revealed that Audrey had connections to Piper, she has this dilemma of balancing this dual life. She tries to cover her tracks while at the same time trying to maintain her friendship with the group. Then there's Emma trying to adjust to life after therapy, which is...meh, but let's not get into that just yet. Let's start with the good points and improvements in the show. Obviously, I still enjoy the chemistry between Noah and Audrey. To me, I feel like majority of the character development lies with them, while everyone else is stagnate. Noah becomes more confident in himself outside of his podcast and his obsession with Brandon James and the events that occurred in the previous season. Honestly, I feel like the second season finally gave Noah his own character and distanced himself from Scream's horror fanatic Randy. With Audrey, ah, she's still my favorite character in the show. I feel like she slowly pushed Emma out of the spotlight as the main character, which made me excited for reasons that'll be mentioned later. There was a lot of focus on her in the premiere episode and just following her made me happy. Her character was not just placed in a box because of who she is and she deals with a lot demons that gradually reveal itself. Their journeys/plotline was the reason I really kept going. I wanted to know how the dynamics of their friendship would change for better and worse when Zoe entered Noah's life and Audrey's relationship with Piper was revealed.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Cry Baby (1990)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane
Directed by: John Waters
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

When The Jerry Springer Show was a hot thing in the 90s, I was really into the Ricki Lake Show. It was my Maury for that time, along with Jenny Jones. I vaguely remember one evening at home that I saw the unimaginable: one of my favorite talk show hosts with one of my favorite actors in one movie that was a musical. Every time it came on, I tried to catch it from beginning to end. Recently, I simply wanted something light to watch to mix up all the bad horror movies and now I can share the good feelings this movie always leaft me with.

Allison is a "square" good girl who has decided she wants to be bad and falls hard for Cry-Baby Walker, a Greaser (or "Drape" in John Waters parlance). Spoofing Elvis movies and Juvenile Delinquency scare films of the '50s, this movie follows the adventures of Cry-Baby who, though he is sent to juvie, is determined to cross class (and taste) boundaries to get Allison back. [Source: IMDb]

When watching this DVD, it made me wonder if I've actually seen this from beginning to end and I just always caught this somewhere after the beginning or even in the middle. I also didn't realize how many memorable names were part of the cast such as Traci Lords and Iggy Pop. Then again, I didn't know who they were back then either. Cry Baby holds a small, but special place in my heart for somewhat obvious reasons. Watching it today, brings up some interesting and pleasant childhood memories. Pleasant because I miss staying up late to watch The Ricki Lake Show and seeing the crazy guests on there. Interesting because at the time my classmates were infatuated with a silly little movie called Grease. Every Friday night at my school's skating party, the girls would always request songs from the soundtrack and to this day, I still cannot stand Grease. Obviously, this movie is perfect for me as it parodies and kinda mocks it in an almost crass, but fun way a.k.a. the John Waters touch. Of course, back then, I also didn't know much about John Waters as I do now. Clearly, the little film knowledge I had as a child and pre-teen didn't lessen my enjoyment or love for this movie.

Cry Baby is a movie that satires and at the same time follows the tropes of movies that glorified the 50's (and probably movies of the 50's). The biggest comparison I can think of is what I've mentioned previously which is Grease. We have the good girl falling for the bad boy and wanting to do whatever it takes to steal his heart or just spend time with him and we have the bad boy who notices and wants to whisk her away, which I guess is a little different than Sandy and Danny in a way. Nonetheless, we have this preppy, rich lifestyle (the Squares) against this greaser, poor way of life (the Drapes) bumping heads over territory and love. Both groups have their own preconceived notions about the other, except our main characters Allison and Cry-Baby who see beyond the surface. For both of our main characters is another person trying to get their affection. Allison's admirer tries to keep her a good girl and sing clean cut songs for the people in the suburbs, while Cry-Baby's admirer is trying to be a down and dirty girl that's up for anything. Along with our admirers are the people that occupy these opposing worlds of our main characters. They really bring this universe to life and make things a little realistic. Allison's grandmother gives hope of change slowly but surely and the more she understands Allison's attraction and open mindedness, the more she loosens up, which provides some amusing moments. The Drapes provide the real color to the movie with their low class lifestyle, lewd music and dancing, and overall rebellious attitude toward the norm (a.k.a the Squares). They're not afraid to fight for what's right and defend one of their own, but they're also very accepting of Cry-Baby's love for Allison.

Despite Cry Baby not having the most memorable of soundtracks compared to Grease, it's still fairly enjoyable. From Allison singing with the Squares at a country club of sorts to Cry-Baby pleading behind bars to be free, these moments are entertaining and memorable to me and those who joined this movie's little cult following. I also felt like the choreography was full of energy, emotion, and fun. It really fit whatever tone the scene called for. If you're familiar with Grease and the 50's tropes and have a open sense of humor, then you'll understand what Mr. Waters was going for with this movie. It takes what we know and transform it into something we never would have imagine while making us laugh from beginning to end. The pacing is very smooth and the movie makes sure not to linger on one side or the other.

If you're looking for a fun musical with some crass humor that doesn't hold back, then Cry Baby is your movie. For someone who grew up being annoyed by the Grease trend, this made me feel right at home with the colorful and over the top characters. It mocks what I'm familiar with Sandy and Danny's relationship, but doesn't completely bad mouth the genre. It's funny, entertaining, colorful, and has a great cast of characters to keep you company.

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: UnREAL Season 2

Title: UnREAL Season 2
Starring: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer, Craig Bierko
Language: English
Genre: Drama
Episodes: 10

Lifetime has brought back the drama with another exciting season of UnREAL. After being introduced to the show by Ophelia, I was looking forward to seeing what crazy situations and dilemmas our cast of characters would get themselves tangled into. This time around, I was able to watch some of the episodes with Ophelia and share some fun commentary among ourselves.

After producing a surprising finale of "Everlasting", the stakes are higher for Rachel and Quinn to bring the ratings up a notch with their new season. Rachel makes a surprising pitch that has never been done before and presents the show's first African American suitor, a football star Darius Beck. Everything seems promising, especially when they cast a couple contestants with potential opposing views. When the new seasons begins to kick off, Chet enters the set and tries to spice up things with shameless eye candy and sex appeal.

First, I want to applaud the show's creators for this brilliant idea they've created. Not only does this show satire reality shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but also brings up the ugly truth on table and talks about controversial issues that people tend to avoid. This is also the closest we'll ever get to having an African American suitor on a show like this that isn't complete glorious trash like Flavor of Love. Now to focus on the review side of things. As I said before, I was looking forward to seeing how things would continue after the shocking finale of not only "Everlasting", but UnREAL itself. Of course, Rachel gets another chance at her career as producer, but in this season, it focuses more on her trying to find herself and her voice perhaps as not only a TV producer, but as a person as well. Rachel who is simply a great main character for a show like this deals with so much crap! She tries so hard to take charge, be her own person, and find someone who could mend the many wounds she's received over the years. She is constantly dealing with the consequences of her actions from the first season from the incident with Mary to her relationship with Jeremy. On top of that, she has deal with a new problem in the form of Coleman. Quinn continues to be a good, but not always ethical friend and at times mother figure to Rachel. She's still very controlling and wants her vision as well as Rachel's to come true and become successful. But in this season, we get explore a new side of Quinn that the first season didn't delve into. She wants to find true love herself; something that Chet failed to provide her in the first season and that made me like her just a little more. Obviously, the contestants on Everlasting present some great diversity and conflicts for each other, the suitor, and even our crew.

Along with the entertaining cast of characters, this second season does not hold back with the drama. With a show like "Everlasting", drama is required, especially if you want high ratings. From the girl who wore the Confederate flag bikini facing off with the African American activist to the girl who wants to be far away from football related things because of her father, there is an abundance of conflict for our fictional "Everlasting" viewers. With the crew, we have Rachel and Coleman trying to bring out the truth of "Everlasting" while gaining some positive recognition. Quinn tries to instill her vision of storybook/fairy tale love to the show, while also discovering that she wants love as well as being successful. Beneath that hard exterior, there is a hidden need to feel love and to give love. When reality and unreality collide, that's when things get really crazy! This season doesn't just tackle the controversies in reality TV, but in real life as well. I've already mentioned one of the contestants being an activist and the contestant who wore a Confederate flag bikini, but Rachel and Coleman took a huge risk in one episode. Darius, his best friend, and I believe a couple contestants decide to borrow the show's car to go on a little ride. Rachel decides to call the police and report the car stolen, then runs off with Coleman and a camera to film the results. This episode was a big game changer! It was so big that they had to put an advisory before the episode ran. In short, there are some racial issues they briefly talk about and they handle this subject matter very well.

Much like the first season, UnREAL continues to present quality, immersive drama that'll make your jaw drop. Watching the character development of our original cast along with new characters is still very entertaining and ultimately satisfying. I was very shocked and pleased that this latest season tackled some new controversial topics and did it with care. The finale was sweet and unexpected and I am extremely pumped for another wild ride with Rachel, Quinn, Chet, and Jeremy on "Everlasting".

Rating: 4.5/5