Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cinema Bizarre vs. Tokio Hotel

[from left to right] Kiro (bass), Yu (guitar), Strify (vocal), Rom3o (keyboard), & Shin (drums)

I'm not sure which online buddy sent ma link to "Lovesongs (They Kill Me)" video, but I immediately thought they failed despite their inspiration from jrock bands and artists. Looking at their work now, they have gone more the glam rock route than Tokio Hotel.

Band Chemistry
Unlike Tokio Hotel, the spotlight seems to be immediately set on the pretty boy blondes, Strify and Kiro. The others seem to sit back and just be cool, laid back background items. Sometimes it seems like they're in their own little world while Strify and Kiro pass the microphone between them and Strify is definitely the camerawhore of the group, always wanting to be in the spotlight. It's kinda sickening.

Cinema Bizarre depend on appearance a lot. Taking advantage of their glam pop/rock label and having fun with their jrock influences in costumes and make-up, makes me believe that making amazing music is a second priority, like a gorgeous jrock indies band with mediocre musical abilities.

Cinema Bizarre is more like 90's keyboard pop/rock bands like Orgy or Deadsy, just less mind blowing. Their music definitely sticks to you whether you like it or not. Balancing memorable guitar riffs, consistent bass lines, and mystic keyboard sounds give the band musical potential. Strify's vocals aren't that bad either especially combined with ex-keyboardist Luminor's hauntingly deep voice luring you in.

Music Videos
From what I've seen, the band bases their videos on beauty shots and sometimes dramatic special effects a lot. At times, their visuals do not relate to the lyrics or mood of the music at all. It seems they pick things that look cool and put half an effort into performing emotionally. "Forever or Never" and "Lovesongs (They Kill Me)" are the only partially decent videos that I somewhat enjoyed.

As mentioned before, I believe Cinema Bizarre cares more about appearance than their music. They tend to use their fans to make up for their lack of energy and still kinda obivously half-ass their performance by worrying about their hair and doing a poor job of fanservice, if you can even call it that. Sometimes it appears that Kiro is lazily plucking away at his bass while Strify tries to imitate Miyavi's sexy hip movements while distancing themselves from their fans on an emotional or at least more intimate level.

[from left to right] Gustav (bass), Bill (vocal), Tom (guitar), & Georg (drums)

I don't remember exactly how I got into this German pop/rock band, but I think my curiousity peaked from a former LiveJournal friend and many Bill and Tom icons prodding me mentally. I checked out their music and videos and fortunately caught them before their growing popularity in the U.S.

Band Chemistry
Reviewing a few clips they made for U.S. fans and some making of's for their music videos, the members get along very well like old high school buddies. Lately, with their growing popularity overseas, the balance has been thrown off by putting the Kaulitz twins in the spotlight and forcing Gustav and Georg to plaster a smile on their face and go along for the ride in the backseat.

Opposite of Cinema Bizarre, Tokio Hotel don't waste time with coerdinated outfits or entricate costumes. They just wear whatever suits them and stay comfortable with themselves. They do keep themselves together like putting time into accessories, hair, and minimal make-up.

Even though their music wasn't uber hardcore, headbanging rock, but it's simple, catchy rock songs that shouldn't challenge many aspiring musicians to learn. Tokio Hotel's music vary from catchy, group participation songs like "Schrei"/"Scream" and slow songs that make you sway to the acoustics like "Durch den Monsum"/"Monsoon". No matter what the song is, their music will stick to you even if you don't enjoy them.

Music Videos
Once you've gain major reign of your country's tweens and teens, bands usually go all out with cinematography and special effects. Tokio Hotel have kept their videos simple, yet creative to keep viewers', old and new, attention. "Der Letzte Tag" took the band on a rooftop to perform for their fans below. "Rette Mich"/"Rescue Me" has a few effects, but fits the mood of the music and lyrics to pull you in.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), I've had the chance to see these guys live, during their first U.S. tour. Basing off of what I've seen on my computer and what I've seen in person, I believe they depend on their fans too much to make up for their lack of energy like Cinema Bizarre. They are on the edge of making a great stage performance, but they hold back with their upbeat songs and don't add enough passion to their slower songs to truly connect with their fans on an emotional level.

Overall Evaluation
Both bands have great musical potential, especially if they plan on taking over other countries outside of Germany. They also have the potential to put on an amazing live if they both take a couple months vacation to Japan and observe their jrock idols on stage to improve their band chemistry on and off stage, their interaction and connection with their insane, rabid fans, and their energy level with every song they perform. If they both improve on those points, then there would be some major competition between them like Backstreet Boys and *N'SYNC. But for now, I think Tokio Hotel is a step ahead of the game compared to Cinema Bizarre.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick Movie Review

Exte: Hair Extensions [Ekusute] (2007, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

I was a little hesitant on buying the movie, because I never watched it, but a reliable friend enjoyed it and it was directed by the great Sion Sono. Comparing this to his previous works of "Suicide Club" and "Strange Circus", this movie seems a little lighter in plot line and almost comical. The characters are interesting and definitely make you have an opinion of them and the story moves smoothly with the hair admirer and aspiring hair stylist's agendas colliding into a bizarre climax and a satisfying conclusion.

Tokyo Tower (2005, Japan) | Rating: 2.5/5

I must admit the only reason I watched this movie was for Jun Matsumoto, but the storyline gave me more of an initiative to watch it. Junichi Okada did a very good job with Matsumoto of portraying young men interested in older women as well as best friends. The story is very sweet and has all the right twists and turns for Asian romance lovers, and possibly Jun fans, but for me, it was definitely not my cup of tea. For a movie that doesn't appeal to a genre I normally don't watch, it was pretty decent.

Arang (2006, South Korea) | Rating: 1.5/5

Recommended by a couple online friends, I decided to watch it with one of my friends last year. Honestly, I think I've become a little picky about ghost movies, especially Asian ones. The storyline didn't interest me that much, but it was executed in a somewhat interesting set up that raised questions in the viewer's mind. Unfortunately, the characters didn't draw me in and I became bored toward the middle. Once the climax point hit, my interest peaked, as well as my friend's, and I ended up enjoying the ending moreso than the rest of the movie leading up to it.

Tale of Two Sisters [Janghwa, Hongryeon] (2003, South Korea) | Rating: 4.5/5

My friend (and co-host, if you watch our online show) brought this movie to me one day and let me borrow it for a few days afterward. I think I watched it at least three times to get a full grasp of everything that happened and yet curiosity still lingered. This is a movie you definitely have to keep your focus on at all times or you'll miss some important pieces to figuring out the madness between these two girls and the house they're living in. The story is pure genius and it was treated like a true masterpiece by the director. It's a shame the U.S. wanted to recreate something simply untouchable.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quick Movie Review

The Strangers (2008, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Adding to the consistent stream of bad horror movies in America, this film is borderline bad. The storyline caught my attention and I dragged my friends to see it. I normally don't get scared and the friends I went with normally don't either, but we clung to each other a lot and one of them wanted to leave the theater a few times like a few movie goers. The movie used suspense to their advantage and most times when you suspect something to happen, it doesn't, then catches you off guard with the killers' attacks. The dialogue was lacking a lot, the character development was limited, and the conclusion left questions open in the air.

Speed Racer (2008, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I'll admit that I wasn't expecting for this to be a box office hit due to its highly anticipated competitors "The Hulk", "Iron Man", and "Dark Knight" and I mostly rushed to see it because of Rain. I used to be a fan of the old "Speed Racer" cartoon when they aired it on Nickelodeon. The storyline pretty much followed the classic TV show and the actors did a very good job performing each memorable character. The visuals were beyond stunning, balancing computer graphics and real life products then pumping the film with extra vivid color to add intensity to the pace of the movie. Although the ending is pretty cliché, "Speed Racer" fans can be proud of the movie.

Visitor Q [Bijitâ Q] (2001, Japan) | Rating: 2.5/5

I was curious to watch this film because (1) it was directed by the great Takashi Miike and I'm a fan of his work and (2) the storyline sounded very interesting. Plus, controversy intrigues me. The movie was executed well and the format was different from other movies he's done that I've previously viewed. There is a lot of stomach churning moments such as prostitution, drugs, incest, lactating, bullying, and necrophilia. Not many movies disgust me, but this is one of them. The movie is very strange and so far it's my least favorite from Takashi. Take caution before watching this film.

Eternal Summer [Sheng xia guang nian] (2006, Taiwan) | Rating: 1.5/5

I rented this movie a while ago when we used to have a Hasting's and I vaguely remember all the details of the movie. The storyline is what convinced me to rent the movie and it was pretty interesting. It kept my attention, even though a certain song got overused throughout the whole movie and the main female character was a bit annoying. The movie is good if you're easily pleased by predictable endings in this crazy little love triangle. Somewhere toward the end of the movie, I got kinda bored and the ending kinda upset me with the main characters not completely telling each other everything. So, if you want a cheesy homosexual movie with a mediocre happy ending, then this is your movie.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Quick Music Review

aicle. - Shinzo (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

It was nice to hear that aicle. finally made it up in status to produce their first album. It made me very excited to listen to it and I was definitely not disappointed with the results. The album displays tons of potential of even more improvement as well as the band's growth in their unique oshare abilities. They still maintain to stand out from other oshare kei bands by using voice effects, hints of sound effect touches in certain areas, and catchy melodies. So, if you haven't had a chance to listen to this band or didn't like their previous material that much, I would give their album a listen.

Dali - mind stripper (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

Dali keeps their everlasting strong guitar lines and odd sounds to lure their fans into the strange ride called "fictional dive". Ren takes advantage of his vocal range from a hush tone to something that pops out just a little more with the band's unique sound. "喜劇に傘" brings Dali fans to remember their signature sound and shows off their growth of creativity by mixing up their heavy hitting sound with softness and sorrow. Wild heavy guitars and ridiculously quick drumming bring in the next track, "ごっこ". Ren decides to take advantage of his wild side and go just as crazy as the song suggests he should do. "a habit" brings a little calmer sound of Ren's voice with a nice, soft piano to compliment it. This track displays Dali's more tamer and normal side of their music with skillful softness of guitars and drums and the right amount of bass to give the song a little something special. "glad09" closes out the CD with dance beats and a catchy guitar.

Kagrra, - Shu (2009, Japan) | Rating: 3.5/5

Never failing to keep the original genre of "Neo Japanesque" rock, Kagrra, manages to keep that alive in their newest album. Listening to the album, I noticed that not only did the band stick to their original sound of mixing traditional Japanese elements to rock ones, but that they decided to experiment with other musical elements such as jazz-like sounds and getting a little deeper into standard rock roots. Honestly, the first time I heard the album I felt a little iffy about it and that Kagrra, was beginning to go into a cliche jrock sound, but hearing it again, I can appreciate the creative effort put into the finish product.

Lolita23q - 【Marble_Shaking_Ward】 (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

Lolita23q have grown up a lot over the years. Starting with typical elements of oshare kei and moving forward to add their own creative twist to the genre, this album defines the band's transformation from their previous works. In their newest album, they take us on a journey through various areas of their musical abilities by using oshare elements, electronic dance sounds, soft, calming tones, and pure Lolita23 rock! Even though they have changed from their old sound, I think they have been going in the right direction and this album proves it.

machine - PHASE ONE "SPEED" (2009, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

Kiyoshi immediately reels in the audience with powerful guitar sounds in "BOOSTER" and Hakuei sets the tone for this speedy little track with a great bass like that tags along perfectly with the tempo set by the duo. Distorted sounds soon follow for the next track and a catchy guitar melody starts up "FASHION". This track keeps the mini-album's energy high from the previous track and keeps listeners moving around in their seats. Slowing the tempo just a little bit and adding deep bass tones with consistent catchy guitar riffs, Hakuei's voice lures us into the intrancing sounds of "SHERRY". I must admit, I believe this is my favorite track off the whole mini-album and it's worth listening to it a couple more times before moving onto the next track. Speeding up the tempo to a super quick pace of drums and vocals, "new human gate" wakes up the remaining senses that are still on snooze. I believe this song has the most energy than any other track on the CD. Quick drumming patterns and a rushing guitar riff introduce the last track of the mini-album, "SHAKE". Even though the song is very fast pace like the whole CD, they give you a little break and slow down things smoothly, but bring things back to speed to leave a lasting musical rush in your head.