Friday, December 4, 2009

Quick Music Review

Juliette - MERCHEN A LA MODE (2009, Japan) | Rating: 3.5/5

Feeling excited about this amazing oshare kei band releasing their first album, I immediately obtained it and listened to it in my long list of new releases, after my vacation. They have great potential of being in the spotlight for new oshare kei bands. The album picked up some memorable songs from previous releases and combined it with a great variety of new songs to make Juliette fans and possibly oshare kei lovers happy. It's definitely worth a couple listen throughs and possibly worth adding to your jrock collection as well.

the GazettE - DIM (2009, Japan) | Rating: 3/5

I bet there was a mixture of excitement, anxiousness, dread, and hope for this new GazettE album. From the single releases, things were looking up and up, in my opinion. once it released, I got a little nervous to start up the first rack on my iTunes player and suddenly had horrible flashbacks of their last failure of an album, Stacked Rubbish. I started the first track and survived all 17 tracks without being disappointed or traumatized by another fail album. I was quite satisfied to the point that I added it to my wish list on CDJapan. I know a couple people disliked the album and thought it was boring, but you must admit it's a step up from the perfectly titled "rubbish" album. Although, I think I could've lived without all the meaningless instrumental tracks. For an added bonus, I would like to hear everyone's opinion on the album, since the GazettE is such a "big deal". So, please feel free to leave your comments below the review.

lynch. - SHADOWS (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

For those who don't know me personally, I love lynch. to death. I'm very grateful I was introduced to them by a couple friends, because I followed them ever since. I've mostly became attached to Hazuki's unique vocal talent and adored their relationship with each other. Clinging to some of their older songs like "the whirl", "liberation chord," and "I'm sick b'coz I love you" and pleased with their new songs like "Adore" and "ambivalent ideal", I was getting very anxious to listen to their new collection of songs. not being surprised by the first run through, I re-fell in love with the band and immediately repeated the album at least twice that day. Shadows is absolute genius! Lynch. kept their signature dark, slightly aggressive and alluring sound and mixed it with something fresh and addicting. I don't know if any of my friends had any complaints about the album, because they were too busy relistening to the album. It's definitely worth adding to your personal collection. My only complaint about the album is the PV for "Shadowz". It was too boring for such an awesome song and made me disappointed they took the simple route of flashing lights and camera rotation on the band, but I still manager to enjoy the song no matter what. I hope they continue on the genius path they've created over the years.

Three Days Grace - Life Starts Now (2009, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Some fans complain that the album is too soft, but I think it's mature by having a nice balance of heavy hitting songs to make your blood rush and something slightly mellow to make you mentally reflect on personal issues. In my opinion, Three Days Grace just keep getting better and better though each album. You can tell that they've definitely grown but maintain their signature sound that makes them stand out from the rest. My only fear after hearing this album repeatedly is for the band to hit that horrible creative brick wall that Linkin Park has smacked into this year. But everyone has one big flop in their musical career.

Tokio Hotel - Humanoid (2009, Germany & USA) | Rating: 4/5

I've had some personal conflicts from seeing them live that made me hesitant to listen to them for a while, but I feel this album has redeemed them some to me. I think this is an improvement from Scream and I've been listening to a few tracks repeatedly every day now. Although, I must admit their first video choice was kinda weak for me. "Automatic" tried to make Tokio Hotel's appearance to be more bad boy than pretty boy by going all out in black, racing expensive sports cars through the desert, and featuring robots that end up falling in love. I didn't really like the song that much anyway, but tracks like "Human Connect Human" and "Darkside of the Sun" made me feel better about liking the German pop/rock band. I enjoyed the bonus tracks and the German album is equally just as good. There are a couple tracks I prefer in their native tongue, but the rest I like about the same in either language. Despite me praising this album, there's a good chance I still won't see them live again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where to buy jmusic

Since I did a post about JapanFiles and jrock downloads, I figured I'd throw in a post about where to obtain hard copies, if you're the type of person who likes to own CDs instead. Now, if you don't already know, most addictions or passions can be rather costly at times, so the main struggles for Asian music lovers is finding easily obtainable, but affordable CDs and DVDs. Here's a few places I'd like to suggest.

The number one place I purchase my jrock merchandise from. Even though releases are a bit pricey compared to your typical American releases, it helps bring the artist/band go up on the Oricon charts. You also get the benefits of frequent shopper points and you some new release perks as well like mini posters.

Unfortunately, Japanese releases are a little more expensive than CDJapan, but international shipping is free and sometimes they have great deals on certain items throughout the year. Like CDJapan, they also give little freebies with new releases sometimes. On the plus side, YesAsia is a really good site for purchasing Korean music. For jrock (or Japanese music) lovers, this a good secondary spot.

Other places friends and acquaintances have mentioned are HMV, Brand-X, and Closet Child. MaruMusic also offers a few bands on their site like Miyavi, An Cafe, Kanon Wakeshima, and LM.C. I haven't used them myself, but I heard they're good spots to shop for your jrock needs. has mostly anime and video game merchandise like soundtracks, figures and the like, but they offer some jrock CDs as well. I bought a LuLu mini-album from them.

JHouseRock & JPopHouse offer some artist/bands that have visited the U.S. as well as tour merchandise and autographed goodies. JPopHouse has a little bigger selection than JHouseRock, but both sites are worth taking a look at if you're planning on purchasing artist/band merchandise.

CureMediaUSA is trying their hardest to bring affordable jrock music to the U.S. They're trying to expand their selection on their eBay account and their prices are definitely reasonable. They also offer a few tour merchandise like JHouseRock and JPopHouse and definitely put their all into making jrock music more accessible as well as affordable.

Amazon carries some jrock releases and I believe you can pre-order new releases like CDJapan and YesAsia. You can also try you luck finding older releases for possible lower prices, even though most likely it's second hand. eBay works just as good for jrock goods owners do not want and other jrock goodies. Most likely they're second hand, but sometimes you can come across some that haven't been open at all.

If you're fortunate enough to attend a jrock concert, buying CDs and other merchandise would help the artist/band even more. A friend informed me that most of the profits go to the artist/band through lives. Also, anime and jrock conventions are good places to purchase jrock items. Sometimes you may come across some overpriced booths and other times you'll run into something reasonable or at least about the same price as you would spend on an online site like CDJapan and YesAsia minus the shipping.

FYE has a few jmusic CDs and DVDs. If you watched the YouTube video from my online show with my friend, I mentioned that the store should carry some U.S. releases of Dir en grey's Withering to death, THE MARROW OF A BONE, and Agitated Screams of Maggots, D'espairsRay's Mirror and Spiral Staircase #15 Final DVD, and The Underneath's first release Moon Flower. Although, this place gets bashed by Japanese lovers, Hot Topic occasionally carries jrock CDs like Girugamesh's MUSIC and the D'espairsRay releases I mentioned above.

If you live in an area where there's some sort of Asian shopping area, you might be lucky to find some jrock items as well. Or you can try your luck with shopping services where people take group orders that live or visit Japan. Then there's good second hand communities on LiveJournal and possibly other places. Of course, remember to proceed with caution when putting your personal information on the internet. If you buy anything second hand, make sure to check their feedback from previous buyers. Also, don't pay more than you should for preowned items unless their old and/or rare. If you care at all, be sure you're getting something official and not some bootleg from Taiwan or Hong Kong. That goes with autographs as well. If you can, compare official signings with the autographs you're planning to purchase.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quick Movie Review

Zombieland (2009, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

Normally I avoid zombie movies, because I think they're boring, lame, and they just show the same things over and over again. I'm very selective when it comes to zombies, the undead, and infections like "Resident Evil", "Silent Hill", and "Planet Terror". But I think this is the first real zombie flick I wanted to see in theaters...and I'm glad I did. Zombieland is not your typical zombie horror flick of macho man versus the undead, it is a comedy and a story of trust and friendship. This movie definitely keeps your interest and laughter with ease. The acting is good and you can relate to the characters and situation in some way. It has its cheesy romantic moments, but not too cheesy to the point that it's lame. In the end, I highly recommend this movie. It's a good date movie and it's worth viewing at least twice.

SAW VI (2009, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

The newest installment to the newest highest grossing horror franchise has hit the theaters and, as usual, has brought attention to its fans and possibly horror lovers. Sadly, I'm part of this group that admires the originality and creativity of this series. Although, I personally (among a few friends) felt satisfied with concluding the series at five. Of course, directors in Hollywood are too money hungry to realize when a good thing is going sour to those who truly enjoy the art of this story. Watching this new addition made me truly satisfied with the twisted outcome. It filled in more gaps in my mind and traps were not that bad. I must admit that the dialogue and overall storyline is improving gradually through each movie, but the traps are lacking here and there. Nonetheless, I seriously believe that there are no more questions to be answered and creators, director, and everyone else should move onto the next genius idea...and I don't mean a Dead Silence sequel either.

This Is It (2009, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

Honestly, I thought this movie was created to profit off the King of Pop's death, but once I saw it with my mother...I didn't care anymore. For every die hard Michael Jackson fan and person who has been exposed to his music throughout their childhood should definitely see it. It's only going to be in theaters for one more week, I believe. It's worth seeing more than once as well. Watching this show made me realize several things: "Why I'm so determined to become a director and open people's minds to things they've never experienced before", "How much MJ has influenced the world and the people who live in it", and "How I would never be able to go to another concert if I had the opportunity to see something like that in person". It had a slight documentary/live feel that naturally pulled you in and possibly get you involved with MJ's greatest hits like one audience member moving to the tracks when I went to see it. Watching MJ's involvement with every little aspect of his tour added respect points, despite how society put him down due to his personal life. I never really cared about the rumors, but this footage was proof that despite his fortune and popularity worldwide, Michael was truly a genuine and humble person. He took his music seriously and he was very passionate about it, not caring how much he made he off it. All he cared about was pleasing his fans and giving them something truly unforgettable through enhanced visuals, crazy choreography, upgraded costumes, and pure love through each and every song. Just from those couple hours of preparing an amazing tour, you learn so much about this great performer and you can't help but be touched or in awe once it ends.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rant: JapanFiles vs. JRock Fandom

Ever since the birth of Napster and the angry words from Lars, drummer of Metallica, downloading has been the source of sampling free music before deciding on buying an album. Although, most music lovers abuse this privilege by not supporting the artists at all by hanging onto their free music files and sharing them with one another. Some also abuse it by trying to profit from this new technology by selling bootleg copies to the public, which I highly disapprove of. So, the question is whether downloading is the "root of all evil" or is it a simple new path to discover new music that people would never dream of hearing?

Through my own experience, I don't think I would be listening to half the stuff I do if it wasn't for downloading. Sure, it's wrong and all, but most times I either don't have the money and I'm desperate for a listen until I obtain the needed amount or I simply do not desire to buy the whole album, because I don't particularly care for the artist and/or I want a couple tracks for my own personal pleasure. I would never cross the line of actually making profit off of cheap burned CDs of Lady GaGa's Fame or the fanclub release of a Dir en grey DVD. I respect the artist and cash in my $15-$65 on a new or used release, but I want to make sure I get my money's worth.

In this rant, I wanted to bring attention to the infamous JapanFiles. Like a wildlife documentary, jrock fans quietly shared, promoted, and praised new jrock releases and bands, letting fandoms of indies bands grow and grow, as well as major and disbanded ones. We all tagged the lines of "please support the artist" and a good portion try their best despite having to pay for tuition, rent, and the ridiculously high album prices with international shipping charges. Although the fandom isn't squeaky clean, there are leeches out there, but you can't police everyone. Suddenly, an untamed force broke through with harsh words, unnecessary threats, and many questionable actions called JapanFiles. JapanFiles is a site for purchasing jrock mp3s, mostly of bands you don't care about at all like Atomic Poodle, mark muffin, and roly poly rag bear. Once they put their claim on an amazing band that people actually care about *coughs*Girugamesh*coughs*, war was declared. Now I can perfectly understand companies wanting the band/artist's audience to actually go out and buy the material, but simply targeting them and harassing them to do so is not the way to go about business. I don't know first hand how JapanFiles goes about notifying moderaters and/or users about uploading the bands they promote, but I've heard some pretty gruesome stories.

It's nice to have a place to achieve jrock mp3s for a small fee without having to hassle with the international boundaries of iTunes, but to threaten a group of people and endangering their user accounts is crossing the line. The jrock fandom isn't full of idiots, we do listen, but like a child being constantly yelled at, the words simply go through one ear and out the other. I feel that JapanFiles is doing this to the fanbase. Once things calmed down a little, a Q&A was open from the fans to the company and many questionable things arose. The system doesn't seem respectable or even trustworthy for possible customers to even consider purchasing such items and when certain questions were asked, they were simply deflected with "we cannot disclose that information". It makes the company/site even more suspicious. Aside from being completely unprofessional and consistently losing potential customers, I heard there was drama among the company when they brought Girugamesh to Sakura-Con 2009 in Seattle, WA. I think it was something about making the fans rebuy the album or something for it to get signed. They couldn't use their Japanese release for autograph purposes. I may be wrong, but that's what I heard, but if it's true...that's a truly douche move to pull on potential customers...SERIOUSLY!

Some people may be a similar jrock fan like myself that thinks that the Japanese release is superior and doesn't want to waste their hard earned money on a U.S. copy if it's basically the same stuff as the Japanese release. I'm also the type that rather spend my money hard copies and not a single mp3 file. I've always wondered how much profit you can get from a 99¢ download...really. Now there might still be a little hope for JapanFiles to redeem themselves from the failtastic grave they've dug for themselves, but their main competition for giving reasonably priced jmusic downloads is HearJapan. I've read the statement of how hard it is to get bands to bring over their stuff for the mass outside of Japan and how much money is being used for production, promotion, and all that good stuff that goes along with making a CD and getting their names out there. I can totally understand the pluses and minuses of downloading. There's also different views on it from artist to artist no matter what country they're from. Some may be pissy about the situation like Lars or somewhat encourage it while still making mad cash like System of a Down and D'espairsRay.

So, let me conclude this controversial rant with a break down of pros and cons, which may or may not have already been mentioned above. Strictly focusing on jrock, since that's where I zoomed in on this topic, there are a lot of indies bands that I enjoy and many others do that are not very well known except in the homeland of these bands: Japan, such as [_vani;lla], GallowS, and Pablo Honey and people wouldn't have ever known about these great bands if it wasn't for downloading. I know there are a lot of jrock bands that are in shock that they have so many overseas that support them and appreciate their music. I know a good portion of fans try their hardest to support their favorite bands/artists. Maybe some of them are like myself and just want to put in for the album and some live DVDs. Or even the vast boat of fans that have to worry about paying for tuition and dealing with the worldwide recession. Life is hard for a college student, so we do our best to show our favorite bands/artists as much support as possible. Downloading gives them more fans which could increase their profits and demand other places, especially overseas, as well. On the other hand, many people know that downloading also can decrease profits as well and risk the band's active status. Life is hard for an indies band that has to pay for studio time, costumes, and everything that goes along creating a catchy single and/or album as well as promotional costs. So, in the end, do I think it's wrong to download? Not completely no, but not completely yes either. As mentioned before, the major thing I dislike about downloading things for free is when people try to profit off of cheap copies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rant: Oni-Con Curse

For those who have never heard of Oni-Con, it is an anime convention held in Houston, Texas every year usually held on the last weekend of October. It has hosted many great Japanese rock bands such as Camino, Duel Jewel, echostream, Phantasmagoria, 12012, Sugar, and a few others. Personally, it's one of my favorite anime cons in Texas.

Anyway, there's a little topic floating around the Oni-Con forum that there's a curse on the jrock bands that perform there. I think it's amusing and I don't really believe in curses (most times). But let's start with the first jrock band I've seen live, Phantasmagoria. I think the reason for their disbandment is their growing popularity and success. Now you might think that's a weird reason to break up such an amazingly talented band, but I seriously believe that their band leader and bassist Kisaki has fear of being in a major band, but I will most likely expand upon that in a later rant. Then we have RENTRER EN SOI. I don't know enough to comment nor am I a fan of theirs. Next is 12012 who were in the transition of graduating Under Code with Vidoll. They're staying stong, but in my opinion they're becoming musically weak. I'd like to believe that this won't hinder their growing popularity and creativity, but a little break to get in touch with their roots will bring a new wave of love in their direction. Let's move on to last year's bands, Sugar and Dio - distraught overlord. To me, Sugar's disbandment seemed completely random. Maybe the fictious curse broke up the band, but the members personal relationship with each other, along with their former bassist Koto, is still on a positive note. As for Dio, I ca't explain what happened there either. After performing at Oni, they had plans to revisit Europe, produce more amazing tracks, and move to a new label. Maybe it was a sign the band was going major and Erina couldn't handle the chaos any longer. Whatever came up, I'm not upset with his decision. I wish the best for him and the band.

With all those bad news about bands, you must consider that indies bands have it hard whether they perform at Oni-Con or not. A few examples are Ayabie who signed to a major label and gained a great replacement guitarist, after Ryouhei's departure. Despite losing a member, Suicide Ali is making a U.S. comeback live this year. And for all the bands that broke up, good things have happened. Satsuki of RENTRER EN SOI is having a successful solo career and is reappearing to the Oni grounds this year with echostream and born. And to prove that the curse doesn't exist, we have the examples of Duel Jewel and Camino keeping things strong in the music world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rant: An Café Suspends Activities

[from left to right] Teruki (drums), Miku (vocal), Yuuki (keyboard), Takuya (guitar), and Kanon (bass)

It's amusing how fans freak out when their favorite band decides to "suspend activities". Most of them immediately jump to the conclusion that the members are considering disbanding, but that usually isn't the case. I think a band like An Café deserves a little break from popping out new singles and touring all over Japan and a little overseas, especially from their sudden lost of their former guitarist Bou. I know it's been a while since Takuya and Yuuki joined, so people figure things are settled. I wouldn't be surprised if they're still not by now.

The band had to adjust quickly to the new members while rushing to their first U.S. appearance without their blonde fourth member by their side. I'd like to believe that this suspension is to clear each members' minds of the stress of touring, recording, losses, and jetlag. I believe by the time they come back from this pause that An Café will hit harder than ever. With the new line-up, the band has more room to grow and gain an even bigger fanbase. I'd like to wish all the members luck and to all the Cafekkos (or people like me who enjoy the band more casually) to keep your spirits high and welcome the band back with warm hearts.

Promo: 2NE1

[from left to right] BOM, DARA, CL, and MINZY
|Official Site|

They have been called the female Big Bang and everyone was waiting for their musical debut. Originally planned as a female trio, CL, DARA, BOM, and MINZY teamed up with the infamous Korean pop boy group Big Bang to make a catchy, colorful video called "Lollipop". It was not only did it show off the girls' talents, but another version was filmed to promote CYON, a cell phone brand. The song spread like a wildfire and the public waited for more.

The girls busted out with another hot, catchy track called "Fire". They decided to make two different versions of the music video to showcase their creativity, uniqueness, individual personalities, and various talents. The space version gave us a clue to each girls personality and the street version focused more on the dance aspect that most KPop fans expect from Korean pop talent.

The girls kept themselves busy between each single release, leading up to the debut of their first mini album. They did interviews, various lives, cover songs of popular U.S. artists like Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez, and taking part of dance showcases with other female KPop artists.

Soon, they released "I Don't Care", a more mellow song that empowers girls in bad relationships to let things go and move on to something better. Once the single dropped, self titled mini album followed that featured the songs that brought the girls into the spotlight along with 4 newly released tracks.

Looking at the path they've created for themselves, 2NE1 has a very promising future. These girls have attitude and their sound and image are quite the opposite of other popular KPop girl groups like Wonder Girls and Girls' Generation. They're not afraid to get down and dirty and show that girls don't always have to display excessive innocent cuteness or sexiness. They follow along the hard hitting style of BoA and keep the fans wanting more. I hope the girls never change their image to something doesn't suit their original concept and continue to bring amazing and addicting tracks.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review: Nerima Daikon Brothers

Title: Nerima Daikon Brothers
Language: English & Japanese
Genre: Musical comedy
Episodes: 12

I've never heard of this series before and I don't think any of my friends have either. While at work, I came across some colorful DVD boxes on the shelf, read the back of the case, and decided to check it out. I ended up watching it with an online friend. She watched it in English on YouTube and I watched it on DVD in Japanese and we discussed and commented on it together.

Hideki is a daikon farmer that built a stage with his cousins in hopes of becoming famous performers. Mako is a former pop idol and a dreamer of debuting again and becoming rich, while informing Hideki that she can't marry him because of their relation. Although, it's not illegal to marry your cousin. Ichiro is supporting the others by working as a host and becomes fixated on a certain panda he comes across on their daikon field. Together they are the Nerima Daikon Brothers! They all share the dream of becoming performers and spreading their love of music to Japan, but end up plotting on stealing money from unique "villians" to get themselves known. Although, their constant plots always seem to fail and they end up more in debt.

Upon watching this comedic musical series, I didn't know what to expect. The more I watched it, the more I fell in love with it. My online buddy and I particularly became attached to the dancing money girls, the strange but amusing affection for the panda, the creative, catchy musical numbers, and our favorite animated host Ichiro's mellow personality.

This is a series you can't get enough of, if you don't mind a few perverse memonts, lots of singing, and an odd panda fetish. It's a little random, but not too out there like FLCL. Everything has a straight storyline and every challenge the main characters face are unique and entertaining; there's even a Michael Jackson-like character.

Nerima Daikon Brothers is a very colorful anime. I personally liked watching it in Japanese, because Mako's accent in the English bothered me a little and the dialogue seemed better overall. Either way there's perversion, but it appeared a little more forced in English and the panda song sounds better in Japanese. Sorry, Chris Patton.

If you're looking for a good comedy anime that guarantees to keep your attention and makes you constantly laugh, you should check this out. The character relationships pull you in and the songs will probably be burned into your mind after watching all 12 episodes. Power to the Daikon!

Rating: 4/5

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: Reincarnation (Rinne)

Starring: Yuka, Karina, Keppei Shiina, Shun Oguri
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Language: Japanese
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 95 minutes

I was a little hesitant to do a full on review of this movie, but I feel it deserves more detail than just an opinion filled paragraph. I downloaded this movie months ago and ended up watching the end online since it cut off.

The story starts off with Nagisa Sugiura and her friends at a diner or something. They have a discussion on reincarnation and we get the first glimpse of a potential ghost in the reflection of her friend's cell phone. Later, we learn that Nagisa has an agent and is working on getting a role in a movie based on a series of murders in a hotel. She starts seeing bits and pieces of the crime, during her work through the eyes of a little girl she portrays in the movie. Gradually, we see the murders in more and more detail.

The reason I wanted to watch this was the interesting storyline. Even though the director used a cliche element of angry ghost, I still wanted to check it out since it had to deal with reincarnation, whether you believe in that sort of thing or not. I enjoyed the way the director went back and forth between Nagisa's visions of ghost from the actual events that happened in the hotel they're shooting in and the scene being filmed by the director in the movie. There were a lot of great visual moments like the doll being a key element of the plot and also the lack of sound toward the climax of the movie.

I thought the acting was pretty decent, especially Yuka as Nagisa, since it was her first time being in a movie. She reacted to every situation thrown at her with skill and she should continue building on her resume. In the middle of it all, I became a little disconnected with the movie and a tad bored with some of the dialogue, but in a way I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen. There was a lot of good moments where anticipation built up inside me, but somewhere toward the end I became a little confused and I had to read some viewer comments to piece together everything.

In the end, if you're the type to watch angry ghost movies like The Grudge and The Ring, you should probably check this one out. It isn't mind blowingly fatastic, but it isn't a complete boring disaster either. The movie is worth watching and the ending to it guarantees some satisfaction.

Rating: 3/5

Quick Movie Review

Up (2009, USA) | Rating: 4/5

The latest Disney Pixar movie to hit the big screen and it has been doing great in the box office. It's another great movie to watch with the family. Like many Disney masterpieces, it is a bit of a sad film, but it brings joy by bringing two opposite characters together on a wild adventure and giving us a great message at the end of it all.

Dance Flick (2009, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Another crazy Wayans family parody to add to their list of Scary Movie series and other people's recent parody films of typical teen flicks, super heroes, disasters, and wandering in an alternate world of your own closet.
I know a couple critics complained about the movie being dated, but all parody movies are. I thought it was hilarious and entertaining. It was also worth seeing the movie a second time. The acting was good, especially the new generation of Wayans and the jokes kept me laughing (as well as my family).

The Proposal (2009, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I'm really picky about seeing movies in this genre...the whole romantic comedy. I already knew things would become predictable, but I still managed to be entertained and laugh at the jokes. It had a nice storyline and the chemistry was good, kinda gave me a Meet the Parents vibe at times.

Orphan (2009, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

This movie came out a couple weekends ago and it seems to have mixed reviews. Some believe it targets orphanages in a negative light. I guess in a way it could, but for me and the people I watch the movie with (my mom and a couple friends), we didn't read into it that deeply. We all really enjoyed the movie to the point we discussed it the next day. For me (and mi madre), we want to watch it again and I think I want to add it to my movie collection when it comes out on DVD. If I get a chance, I would like to rewatch 1993's The Good Son and compare the two, since a lot of people including my mother thought about this movie.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quick Anime Review

Elfen Lied (2004) | Rating: 4/5

Recommended by a good friend (and co-host), I was a little skeptical on whether I'd like it or not, but the story seemed interesting and dark enough to my liking. I checked it out from work and ended up thoroughly enjoying it enough to consider buying the whole series. I thought of a darker, slightly more serious Chobits. Although, there was one little thing that made me question the series that I'm sure is probably explained a little more in the manga series.

Papa to Kiss in the Dark (2005) | Rating: 3/5

A cute little yaoi OVA with a father/son pairing. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I'm a little picky about incest pairings. Sometimes I find them disturbing and other times intriguing. This...was moreso cute and weird. I liked the storyline and I thought things would turn predictable with the younger main character attracting his best friend and an older student at his school, but things went a different direction

Fruits Basket (2001) | Rating: 3/5

Probably one of the most overrated anime along with Naruto and InuYasha, I couldn't resist checking out the anime series last year. I ended up getting my siblings and cousins into the series. It's very enjoyable and follows the manga pretty decently. My only complaint about the series is that it was way too short, which might make Furuba fans disappointed if they haven't seen it yet.

Nerima Daikon Brothers (2006) | Rating: 4.5/5

I started this series this year and checked it out from work. I watched it with an online friend, who watched it in English while I watched it in Japanese with subtitles. She got hooked and I got hooked. This is very comedic and perverted little musical series that I would love to do a more in-depth review some time, but it's worth seeing if you enjoy comedies with random musical numbers in it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Bangkok Love Story

Starring: Rattanaballang Tohssawat, Chaiwat Tongsang, Weeradit Srimalai, Chatcha Rujinanon
Directed by: Poj Arnon
Language: Thai
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes

I normally don't watch a lot of Asian movies that are not Japanese or Korean, but I do find a couple interesting works that catch my interest by just the summary. If you hadn't noticed, I'm a pretty open-minded person and I can usually find some things very artistic as oppose to others who don't analyze movies as deeply as myself. One example could be Strange Circus which raises many controversial topics that most would think is for pure shock factor and not delving into the artistic symbolism of the film. This movie isn't for everyone, because the subject deals with homosexuality and touches a bit on HIV/AIDS as well. So, if you don't have an open-mind, you might want to skip this review or even attempt to try something new.

Mhek (Cloud) is a lone gunman who assassinates people as a living. He's very good at what he does and never misses his target. He uses his income to support his mother who is suffering from AIDS and his younger brother who has HIV and plans on taking them to the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province. The movie starts off showing us Mhek doing his job and soon spots his latest target...a police officer by the name of It (Brick), who is enjoying the evening out with his fiancée. After following his target for a good amount of time, Mhek captures It and brings him to his boss, but his boss orders Mhek to kill him and he refuses, saying he only kills the targets that are criminals. This response upsets his boss and the scene breaks out into a gun battle. It helps defend Mhek during the fight and helps him escape once he is hit by a bullet. They hop onto Mhek's motorcycle and head out to the streets. They make a little stop to Mhek's family and It informs them about the situation and passes Mhek's message along to Mhok (Fog), Mhek's brother.

Settling in Mhek's hideout on a rooftop it seems, It consistently takes care of Mhek's bullet wound and nurses him by staying by his side and cleaning him up. As he continues to care for the gunman, It gradually develops feelings for him and soon acts on them. Feeling conflicted with what was going on (and possibly an influence from his past), Mhek later threatens It to leave his home and to never come back.

I must admit, I normally get bored with the majority of romance stories. They become predictable and unrealistic, but this film had more than just romance. It added action, crime, and drama. Bangkok Love Story has a bit of unrealistic emotion, but in a way, you don't mind it, because you're so drawn into the story. The movie doesn't completely depend on mushy moments or graphic sexual scenes to keep your attention nor does it have senseless violence. It goes at a slow easy pace so you can get a good grasp of the characters and gather your opinions on how you feel about them and the situation that's going on around them. This movie allows you to study the characters' body language, the environment, and the emotion translated onto the screen with or without dialogue.

Bangkok Love Story has so many commendable elements that must be recognized in this review. Starting with Rattaballung Tohssawat and Chaiwat Tongsang who play the main male roles as Mhek and It, they both did an amazing job interacting with each other as well as the other characters who have a strong bond with them. Both men have stated that they are straight, I have read that Chaiwat took on the role to challenge himself and Rattaballung said it was an honor to take on a possible homosexual character. The article also stated that Rattaballung's girlfriend was a little paranoid about the kissing scenes, although both men thought they could fake it, but the director didn't want that. Being both heterosexual, it must've been a challenge to be something you're not and they did a great job of having this strong loving bond that you can't help but support. Rattaballung brought masculinity and a sense of wanting to be emotionless to his character. It's difficult to portray a character who believes he is strong and independent, but deep down inside he wants to grab ahold of his true emotions instead of shunning them away. Chaiwat also did just as good of a job being a little more sensitive and also masculine in certain ways. He portrayed the difficult task of wanting to be there for the woman he was planning to spend his life with, but also wanting to be a little selfish and lose himself with his feelings for Mhek. Weeradit Srimalai as Mhok, Mhek's younger brother, had a hard character of being frustrated with the world for judging him and his disease as well as his mother. He had a somewhat weak character that had a lot of pent up frustration building inside him, until he decided to take control of the situation in a way that isn't right. Although she had a minor role like the mother, Chatcha Rujinanon as Sai, It's fiancée, had an important task of moving the story along as well. Like Mhok to Mhek, Sai (Sand) has a close bond to It and the whole subtle emotional shift affected her, which created even more conflict in the movie. She was very quiet, emoted her emotions through her body language, and wasn't oblivious to the distance in her relationship with It like some characters in other movies. She reacted to the situation in a very realistic way, even though it could've been viewed as extreme.

What I've noticed by looking at other people's reviews on the movie is that they mention the beautiful soundtrack and the amazing cinematography used throughout the film, which I can definitely agree with. There are a few moments in the movie where there is absolutely no dialogue just music and great shots of the character(s) in this lavish environment. Not only does the acting pull you into the emotion of character(s), but the music plays a big part of prodding your mind and heart into feeling that same emotion. The scenery completes the rest of the emotional translation on the screen to the viewer's eyes. If you notice, the colors and lighting aren't that cheerful which emphasizes that this is a serious movie and there's a possibility that emotions will be flowing out uncontrollably.

In the end, the love making scenes could've been executed a little better, but they do their job of telling the viewer that there is a lot of emotion built up and the feeling between the two main characters are true. Sometimes the chemistry between them became a little frustrating and you're ready for them to hook up already, but the pace is tolerable. There's a lot of drama that goes on throughout the movie. When you think things are going to be "happily ever after", things tend to go downhill and drag the viewers along with it to the possibility of being in tears by the time the credits roll. If you can handle gunfights, discrimination against people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and suicide, then you can get through this Thailand masterpiece. Bangkok Love Story is a great movie to watch to get in touch with your inner most feelings about romance and just embracing what true love and sacrifice looks like. I highly recommend this movie and if you're going to watch it, be sure to have the tissue box on stand by, because I nearly cried...which is a very, very hard thing to do.

Rating: 4.5/5