Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quick Music Review

the GazettE - DISTRESS & COMA (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

Sticking with powerful guitars and dark lyrics, "Distress and Coma" definitely follows along the lines of the band's previous singles, LEECH and Guren. "headache man" is a little more fast paced and has a little group participation to add more energy to the overall song. To end the single, the band leaves their fans mesmerized with melodic acoustics and raw emotional vocals with "Without a Trace". Overall, the single has a little bit of every element GazettE brings to the table: original new sound; fun, fast pace melody; and a soothing, Gaze-esque ballad.

Matenrou Opera - acedia (2009, Japan) | Rating: 3.5/5

Not straying too far from their rock, elegant elements, the band shows improvement and even more promising potential for amazing music. "Hiai to Melancholy" starts the single with an upbeat tempo and keeps Matenrou Opera's majestic sound consistent. The band drifts off to a slightly darker sound with "Faust", but keeps fans in awe with amazing guitars and symphonic sounds. "Lawn Daisy" ends the single with keyboard and "twinkling" effects to keep fans moving to the catchy, upbeat song and a smile on their faces.

Moran - Helpless (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

Soothing lounge sounds of piano and saxophones greet us into the band's fourth single. Adding a clever balance of your basic rock instruments and Hitomi's voice, "Helpless" will definitely pull you into a wonderful ride with possibly a few mental flashbacks of those crazy Fatima days. This song will leave a pleasant after taste in your ears for sure. "Konya, tsuki no nai kaigan de" guides you with an undeniable toe-tapping sensation from the drums and guitar introduction and Hitomi's voice consistently flows with the melody changes throughout the whole song. You can't resist moving your hips to the bass line. "Flower Bed" lightens up the mood from the previous song with steady drum patterns and light piano sounds complimenting the band's signature sound.

VAMPS - I GOTTA KICK START NOW (2009, Japan) | Rating: 2.5/5

"I Gotta Kick Start Now" pretty much sounds like your typical Hyde/L'Arc~en~Ciel rock song like "Ready, Steady, GO!" or even "HELLO". The song is very basic, but it's not completely disappointing. The odd melody is undeniably catchy and Hyde's vocals do not disappoint nor does the duet guitaring with his partner K.A.Z. Following Acid Black Cherry's brilliant idea of doing a cover song as a b-side track, the boys decide to cover the catchy Shampoo song, "Trouble". They keep the basic dance-y type elements and add a bit of rock sound to it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Review: Strange Circus

Starring: Masumi Miyazaki, Issei Ishida, Rei Kuwana, Mai Takahashi, Fujiko, Tomorowo Tacuchi
Directed by: Sion Sono
Language: Japanese
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 83 minutes

After looking over a few reviews about this great Sion Sono classic, I decided that I wanted to add my input to the list of reviews. I heard many ramblings about Sono's most popular movie Suicide Circle (or "Suicide Club") and finally had the opportunity to watch it, but I'll save my comments on the movie for a later review. Later, I heard a friend of mine talk about another interesting movie called Strange Circus. I never heard of it until she told me about it and none of my other friends had heard of it either until I showed them the movie. Once I saw it on the shelves at Hasting's, before they decided to close down, I knew that I had to have it and hope that it was as good as it sounded. Perhaps even meet the creative standards of Sono's suicide trend movie...and it did! It actually became one of my favorite Asian thrillers and made me more curious about Sono's previous and future works. Now, I could just leave this review at that, but then it wouldn't be much of a review, would it?

Strange Circus tells the tale of a young girl named Mitsuko who seems to be living the normal life, until she sees her parents "making love". She soon runs away from the scene and her father, Gozo, builds a strange interest in his daughter. Confronting her in school, since her father is the principal, he makes sure to let her point out that he is a man and she is a woman. The story moves forward to horrifying thoughts of father/daughter incest and affects Mitsuko's thoughts on her relationship with both of her parents. Later, she is confined to a compact space of a cello case, provided by Gozo, and is forced to watch her parents "make love" through a peephole in the case. After repeated views, the mother Sayuri is oblivious to what is actually happening in her home, until she catches Gozo in the act with their daughter. Feeling that the time is right, Gozo later reveals that Mitsuko has been watching them "make love" through the case and decides to make Sayuri switch places with their daughter, forcing her to watch her husband "make love" to their child who felt an interchangeable connection to her mother. After these events have occurred, Sayuri suddenly becomes envious of Gozo and Mitsuko's relationship and tries to beat and nearly kill her daughter, until a tragic event happens involving an earring.

In the haze of Sayuri's funeral, Mitsuko begins associating herself as her mother, and living this great incestuous relationship with her father. Soon, we are revealed that this twisted tale is actually just a story written by a wheelchair bound author by the name of Taeko. A publishing company is gathered around the table to read the finish product, but a certain pretty face catches Taeko's attention and she ends up dismissing the rest of the men from her home as he interrogates her work. From there, we switch from the story that was written by the author and occasionally the metaphorical scenery of a "strange circus". Within these transitions, we tend to question which is reality, as the DVD box refers.

Strange Circus isn't your typical suspense movie that America normally puts out nowadays, this is definitely the type of movie that if you watch it over and over again, you'll discover something new each time. It's also the type of movie that if you can't handle twisted sexual acts, blood visuals, adoration of self-mutilation, abusive displays between a parent and their child, and a few other horrifying things you wouldn't expect from such a movie, then this might not be the movie for you, especially if you haven't been exposed to Sono's work and possible other directors who are experienced in this field of suspense movies. I would like to describe this movie as somewhat of a rollercoaster ride, at least that's how I felt when I first watched it. Watching this disturbing relationship that Gozo and Mitsuko had and anticipating the moment when Sayuri would find out that Gozo was forcing their child to watch them "make love" as well as repeat the same acts on her, then completely turning from this sorrowful feeling for both the mother and daughter to an upset emotion. You would think a mother would immediately leave her husband once she finds out that he has been having sex with their only child, but it is not the case in this movie. Jealousy builds up in Sayuri and she switches from this caring mother to an abusive one. Then you feel this sense of relief that this twisted story is just a story, until the movie proceeds forward and question which is a story and which is the truth. I think Sono did a spectacular job of balancing the two while using the "strange circus" scene as a metaphor for the happenings in the movie.

Also I think that Sono did a good job choosing actors to portray each character. After being away from the spotlight of the movie scene, Masumi Miyazaki did an amazing job becoming both the derange mother Sayuri and the unique writer Taeko while also going backwards and pretending to be Mitsuko's image of herself, after her mother's death. I thought it'd be quite challenging to switch off in such a wide range, but she did an amazing job of transitioning into all three characters. Also I would like to commend the actresses who had to perform the young Mitsuko and teenage Mitsuko in such a controversial, mature movie. While watching the making of the film, I noticed that they had to remove the younger actress out of certain scenes because of her age, but I wonder if she understands the full concept of what she had to put out there on the screen. Hiroshi Ohguchi had a difficult part of becoming the bastard father figure Gozo of the movie. I can't imagine anyone else playing that part as well as he did. Lastly, Issei Ishida had to go through a gradual character range throughout the whole movie without ruining an important piece of the movie to the viewer.

Aside from great casting choices and an intriguing storyline, Sono put a lot of effort in adding the perfect detail touches to the sets, costumes, and music. Not only do the characters pull us into the story, but the set compliments the mood of the character and script, such as the scene where Mitsuko enters her father's office and exits into an alternate world of red color oozing on the wall, a possible sign of corruption. Even though you might not notice the wardrobe choices of the main characters, the costumes of the circus participants stand out in your mind. From your hostess Madame Regine to the various performers, you can tell that Sono thought about all the details of each person's costumes and how they compliment each other as a whole. As for the music, Sono had specifically chosen certain themes to complete the atmosphere of the character's mood and the environment they're in, such as the classic piece involving light drumming, piano, and an accordion that is played throughout the movie and also by Taeko and the not so cliché circus theme sounds.

Overall, this is a movie you have to watch more than once and catch all the obvious hints and other little details of the environments used and the characters' behavior. The storyline is very unique from your typical American script as well as the slow pace of the whole film, but the speed is worth the untamed climax and the surprise ending. If you haven't seen it, you can probably find it for viewing online or renting it at your local rental store. But I must note that if you're sensitive to the subject of incest, suicide, abuse, and other themes mentioned in this review, I would go with your best judgment on viewing it.

Rating: 5/5

Quick Movie Review

Formula 17 [17 sui de tian kong] (2004, Taiwan) | Rating: 5/5

If you like foreign, homosexual romantic/comedies, then this might be the movie for you. This is definitely a movie I can watch over and over and it never loses its comedic charm. There's great chemistry between the characters and the storyline of a man who has been saving himself for true love is quite enjoyable and entertaining. A few notes for curious viewers, all of the characters in the movie are gay and there are no women in sight.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008, USA) | Rating: 2/5

When I first saw the previews for it in theaters, I immediately thought Hostel on a train, which is basically what the movie is minus the softcore porn scenes and drugs. This suspense thriller isn't anything particularly special. At times the storyline dragged on and you can pretty much predict the outcome of the movie. Although, the ending was kinda surprising, but nothing to make you wake up from this horrid, grusome movie.

Funny Games U.S. (2007, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Another movie I saw previews of and wanted to see, but it was in limited theaters and I wasn't able to see it until now. In a way, this Austrian based remake was somewhat worth the wait to see. The plot is interesting and definitely makes you think of the nature of evil, but it also leaves a question or two open when you get to the end of the movie. This might be a sensitive movie to watch since involves sadistic gameplay of two young men with an average family. After watching the movie, I had mixed emotions of being upset and/or annoyed with certain characters and a bit of disappointment.

Itsuka no Kimi e (2007, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

Another homosexual romance movie, but this time it's in Japanese. It was great seeing Takumi Saito starring in another light-hearted movie. It had the same heart-breaking emotion as a previos movie I saw with him in it, Boy's Love, and it still had a hint of comedic moments with Ryûnosuke Kawai's character Hayase. Like Boy's Love, it's worth seeing at least a couple times.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DBSK "Survivor" vs. KAT-TUN "Rescue"

Before I start this comparison post, I must make a few notes. First, I am not a fan of either DBSK and KAT-TUN, so please don't attack me if I'm overly critical or don't know all of the guys' names. Second, this is a totally unbiased opinion, despite the fact I have a couple friends or so who listen to DBSK and one or two who like KAT-TUN. As mentioned before, I'm not a fan of either...I'm more of the outsider (i.e. Arashi, KinKi Kids, H.O.T, Backstreet Boys).

I'll admit, I do like a few DBSK songs, and it kinda threw me off when they used the same little pitter-patter effect as they did for "Purple Line", but was quickly disappointed at the slight circus-like sounds and cheesy voice distortions. They really could've left that out. I did enjoy the harmonies and everyone's voices were on point, but I honestly thought of Duffy's "Mercy" once they hit the chorus. In my opinion, not one of their best songs.

We have light versus dark, then we have the rubble with few lights against a technologic, pure white world. I suppose that's a bit creative. I like the darker setting more than the clean cut white set up, since it looks natural and kinda fits the mood of the song, but I could be wrong. It is interesting seeing these two worlds cross into each other with the flashes of white light brightening the darker area and the red lights tainting the white scenery.

This isn't the best choreography I've seen from these guys. It seems kinda boring, a bit forced, and possibly some over thinking while doing the steps. At points, I swear they're not dancing together, but otherwise, I was disappointed again in this area as well. Perhaps they won't half ass their moves or just get a new choreographer altogether.

Overall Presentation
On a positive note, I thought the concept was an interesting choice and I also will give it credit that it was a clever one as well. The song is pretty decent, but I've heard a lot better and it's not good if I randomly want to listen to a Duffy song, especially since I don't listen to her in general. On the other hand, the video is kinda dull and the choreography is very boring and lacks passion.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting to like this song at all, like most KAT-TUN songs, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. I wasn't anticipating the singing during the intense heartbeats and the usual boy band harmonies, but the introduction definitely peaked my interest and I actually ended up liking the song. I really like the harmonies and the sectioning they did with the guys' voices. The music is ridiculously catchy and I like how smoothly everything just meshes together. I sadly had to rush to download the song, even if it had a cheesy rapping section and occasionally comical beatboxing in it.

I like the black and white contrast to actual skin tone colors in the whole video. Just the whole lack of color was a clever choice for this song. It's definitely dark just like the DBSK video and even the wardrobe is black. I think they put a lot of thought into the environment and incorporating a few little elements from the drama, "Rescue", that this song is for, which is also a smart move.

Even now, I still kinda think the choreography is just as cheesy as the DBSK video. At points, I didn't think it was neccessary to have the back up dancers and other times I thought it was interesting to watch, seeing the members and the dancers chemistry. During their individual dance moments in the video, the choreography ranges from cheesy to pretty decent, but it was better than what I was expecting.

Overall Presentation
Despite the fact that the choreography had it's cheesy points and the rapping and beatboxing sections made me giggle, I liked the scenery and concept of the video. It was a good representation of the video and the lyrics, from what I understood, were nice. It definitely made me want to keep an eye on these six talented men in the musical area and not just their acting abilities.

In conclusion, I think KAT-TUN won this fight. It's the first and only song of theirs I enjoyed. I liked the harmonies and how smoothly the music meshed with the mood of the overall concept. As long as Kame doesn't get that weird perm hair again, they can have the win this time and I might actually watch the drama this is for too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Movies Watched in 2009

I'm "borrowing" this idea from a friend, because I'm kinda curious as well about how many movies I watch in a year. I'm not limiting myself to only movies released in this year either. Hopefully, I'm not missing any movies. ^^;

Starting date: January 5, 2009
Finishing date: December 27, 2009

1. Exte: Hair Extentions [Ekusute] (2007, Japan)
2. The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006, USA)
3. The Spirit (2009, USA)
4. Push (2009, USA)
5. Madea Goes to Jail (2009, USA)
6. House Party 2 (1991, USA)
7. Romeo Must Die (2000, USA)
8. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993, USA)
9. Strange Circus [Kimyô na sâkasu] (2005, Japan)
10. Batman & Robin (1997, USA)
11. Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (2000, USA)
12. Major Payne (1995, USA)
13. Ratatouille (2007, USA)
14. Coraline (2009, USA)
15. SAW III (2006, USA)
16. SAW IV (2007, USA)
17. The Craft (1996, USA)
18. The Simpsons Movie (2007, USA)
19. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, USA)
20. I Think I Love My Wife (2007, USA)
21. Shutter (2008, USA)
22. Gremlins (1984, USA)
23. Junior (1994, USA)
24. Step Up 2: The Streets (2008, USA)
25. Formula 17 [17 sui de tian kong] (2004, Taiwan)
26. I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK [Saibogujiman kwenchana] (2006, South Korea)
27. Funny Games U.S. (2007, USA)
28. The Midnight Meat Train (2008, USA)
29. Bangkok Love Story (2007, Thailand)
30. Itsuka no Kimi e (2007, Japan)
31. Babe (1995, USA)
32. The Fifth Element (1997, USA)
33. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, USA)
34. Soul Food (1997, USA)
35. Legally Blonde (2001, USA)
36. Ghost Rider (2007, USA)
37. Jurassic Park (2001, USA)
38. Thir13en Ghosts (2001, USA)
39. Just One of the Guys (1985, USA)
40. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, USA)
41. Parent Trap (1998, USA)
42. Speed Racer (2008, USA)
43. Bedazzled (2000, USA)
44. Disturbia (2007, USA)
45. Meet the Spartans (2008, USA)
46. Bring It On (2000, USA)
47. Barbershop (2002, USA)
48. Obsessed (2009, USA)
49: Selena (1997, USA)
50. Meet the Parents (2000, USA)
51. Remember the Titans (2000, USA)
52. Prom Night (2008, USA)
53. Naked Gun 2 1/2 (1991, USA)
54. Home Alone (1990, USA)
55. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009, USA)
56. The Baby-Sitters Club (1995, USA)
57. Valentine (2001, USA)
58. Ocean's Thirteen (2007, USA)
59. Look Who's Talking Too (1990, USA)
60. Spaceballs (1987, USA)
61. X-Men (2000, USA)
62. Star Trek (2009, USA)
63. Meet the Robinsons (2007, USA)
64. The Number 23 (2007, USA)
65. Queen of the Damned (2002, USA)
66. MIRЯORS (2008, USA)
67. Beyond All Magic [Heung ssi monyeo/Black Heart] (2008, South Korea)
68. Dance Flick (2009, USA)
69. The Uninvited (2009, USA)
70. The Ring 2 (2005, USA)
71. Road House (1989, USA)
72. Tropic Thunder (2008, USA)
73. Space Jam (1996, USA)
74. Quarantine (2008, USA)
75. Paprika (2006, Japan)
76. Ichi the Killer [Koroshiya 1] (2001, Japan)
77. Suicide Club/Suicide Circle [Jisatsu saakuru] (2002, Japan)
78. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003, USA)
79. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004, USA)
80. Up (2009, USA)
81. The Crow (1994, USA)
82. Planet Terror (2007, USA)
83. Shimotsuma monogatari/Kamikaze Girls (2004, Japan)
84. Machine Girl [Kataude mashin gâru] (2008, Japan)
85. Baby and Me (2008, Korea)
86. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, USA)
87. Princess Mononoke (1997, USA)
88. The Princess Diaries (2001, USA)
89. Sukitomo (2006, Japan)
90. The Proposal (2009, USA)
91. Wanted (2008, USA)
92. Carrie (1976, USA)
93. Ai no Kotodama (2008, Japan)
94. Pineapple Express (2008, USA)
95. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007, USA)
96. Swing Vote (2008, USA)
97. Orphan (2009, USA)
98. Reincarnation [Rinne] (2005, Japan)
99. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008, USA)
100. Get Smart (2008, USA)
101. Ella Enchanted (2004, USA)
102. Ponyo (2009, USA)
103. The Final Destination 3-D (2009, USA)
104. Changeling (2008, USA)
105. I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009, USA)
106. The Dark Knight (2008, USA)
107. Zombieland (2009, USA)
108. Final Desination (2000, USA)
109. Dark Tales of Japan (2004, Japan)
110. Fame (2009, USA)
111. Corpse Bride (2005, USA)
112. Eagle Eye (2008, USA)
113. Saw V (2008, USA)
114. Saw VI (2009, USA)
115. Silent Hill (2006, USA)
116. This Is It (2009, USA)
117. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, USA)
118. Notorious (2009, USA)
119. Ninja Assassin (2009, USA)
120. Christmas Carol (2009, USA)
121. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, USA)
122. Men in Black (1997, USA)
123. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997, USA)
124. Men in Black II (2002, USA)
125. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005, USA)
126. Tales from the Hood (1995, USA)
127. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999, USA)
128. Shrek (2001, USA)
129. Sherlock Holmes (2009, USA)
130. Shrek 2 (2004, USA)
131. Spirited Away (2001, USA)