Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quick Movie Review: The Classic Edition

The Bad Seed (1956, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Recommended to me by my own mother, we watched this little gem based off a stage play by the same name together. The set up of the movie is executed in somewhat of a play format with minimal scene changes, but it didn't seem necessary to go to ten different places. The acting is very overdramatic, but I think that's what adds to your emotions toward each character, even if a "basket of hugs" and a "basket of kisses" seemed like diabetic lines. Yeah, there's some sugary sweet cheesiness going on, but you get over it with the emotionless Rhoda and the effects her personality causes others around her. If you don't mind black and white films with sugary lines, then this is definitely for you, especially if you're a fan of The Good Son and/or Orphan.

The Shining (1980, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Thought spending time alone in an isolated cabin was a great idea to get the creative juices flowing? Well, how about a haunted hotel with your wife and son? It was a bit of a lengthy movie, but the things that go on during it keep you engaged the whole time. The thing I admired the most about this movie was all the foreshadowing, like the twins' line in the hallway to Danny, the flashbacks of horrific scenes, among a few other things. There were a couple parts I had to rewatch to understand, but I'm sure they might be easy to get the first time around if you're not doing something else on the side. This movie has some crazy and creepy moments that horror lovers would appreciate, especially since I haven't seen this type of creepiness in recent suspense films.

The Exorcist (1973, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

I've seen this movie before, years ago, but everything was vague. In short...I love my job~ Re-watched it different level of creepiness. I did not remember how vulgar and bold this movie was and I bet it was even more controversial in the 70's with it's content. Seeing it now, I think most people would enjoy it and still find it disturbing. Of course, there might be those who are just so use to the overuse of sex and blood. There were a lot of scenes that stood out to me and, like the previous two movies, it has an ending that will make you think and truly appreciate the art of classic suspense/horror movies back then. If you have a weak stomach, extremely religious, or can't handle obscene language or visuals, this might not be the movie for you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rant: Is there really controversy with Piggy Dolls?

New Korean female talent has been introduced this year. They have the style of 2NE1 and the sound of Big Mama. This strong female force call themselves the Piggy Dolls!

This great fresh talent has faced similar obstacles dealing with being rejected in the music industry due to their physical appearance. Sadly, the thing that makes them stand out the most is their weight, which they use to their advantage. I must admit that that's what caught my attention first and then the girls' powerful voices from their debut music video, "Trend".

I have a habit of reading people's comments when I want to get into something. I've noticed that a good portion of listeners focus on their weight too much, but most of those people do acknowledge their talent positively. Like GP Basic, people argue that size doesn't matter and it's wonderful to have something new enter the kpop scene. Others read into it too much and find this image unhealthy and their name to be degrading.

The trio has learned to laugh at themselves and embraced their name with pride as they blow their competition away on stage. Although I understand the purpose of their intro in their video for "Trend", being proud to not be stick thin and eat whatever, but I also understand how it could be a bad example to fans to be unhealthy. Honestly, I think they could've left that part out.

From what I've heard, Kim Min Sun has lost a bit of weight and the girls comment on their hard performances. They mention the pile of broken heels and putting dents in the stage. It's great to have "fiercely full figured" women representing Korea. Perhaps it will cut down a small chunk of the shallow factors emphasized in the industry.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vidoll's Dissolve

I know, I know...old news is old, but I think I'm ready to voice my opinion on one of the saddest recent disbandments: Vidoll.

When I discussed Ayabie's disbandment I mentioned how I loved Vidoll for the same amount of time. They were the core for my love of j-indies bands. Sure, I wasn't a fan in the beginning with Ayano, but I came in when Hide and Yukine were around. I was drawn in by Jui's strong and broad vocal range and Rame's emphasized bass in "Remind Story" and "[F]stein to [M]". Unfortunately, I had to deal with their dual guitarists leaving, but Shun and Giru have picked up the pieces with ease and later they progressed to a major label together.

I did miss their old bass driven sound, but I accepted and enjoyed a good number of their experimentations and growth. They appeared to still uphold a strong chemistry among each other on and off stage, so it was heartbreaking to hear that Jui was having trouble with his voice like many other vocalists last year. So, the band went on hiatus so Jui could recover from surgery and whatnot. The premature announcement of disbandment shocked the fandom.

According to Rame's optimistic blog entry on the matter, he mentioned how unhappy he was with the company's public announcement on their official site, especially since they were still deciding what to do. Tero revealed that he had contemplated leaving as he lost passion for drumming in Vidoll. It felt more like work and not fun. Jui's post kinda went around the subject of disbandment and focused more on his upcoming solo work where the label named him the next Gackt. Unfortunately, this news upset a number of fans further as many mentioned he would be taking a break for his voice until April, I believe. Some felt betrayed by Jui and laughed at the thoughts of him becoming another Gackt.

As much anger and sadness that has come from this news, it does appear that Jui is genuinely sad about the disbandment and is determined to put his all into their final live and his solo endeavors. Rame also kept spirits up by saying that one day they will reunite and has kept himself busy by reconnecting with former bandmates Hide and Yukine in session bands. He also supports Jui's solo career. Giru's post on the situation was a bit bland and felt forced, in my opinion. Shun also had an optimistic take, mentioned he was busying himself with his restaurant and session bands, and promised to give his all in Vidoll's final days. Although Tero expressed his disconnect with Vidoll's music, he openly stated that he still wants to continue his musical journey and it looks like he will with former 12012 guitarist Yuusuke.

Jui's solo debut PV, "Saidai Kouyaku Ai", was posted some time ago and had given mixed feelings for fans. I thought it was weak and it sounded like a new Vidoll ballad with less umph! I'm still optimistic that things will be good for all of them. I wish them luck on their overseas live in Taiwan and their final live together in Japan. Vidoll will live forever and I will be cheering them all on with whatever they decide to do with themselves, together or apart.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Live: A Thousand Suns

A Thousand Suns
[2011.03.03] Toyota Center in Houston, TX
featuring: Paper Tongues & Linkin Park

Paper Tongues

Originally, the Prodigy was supposed to be the opener, but since Chester's health was bad at the time, they had to postpone the show. I was sad and was really looking forward to seeing those crazy Europeans run amok on stage, but I'm gonna be tentatively looking out for U.S. dates.

Anyway, beforehand, I checked out these guys on and YouTube and they seemed to be pretty decent. I definitely didn't know what to expect when they came on stage. The arena still had some empty spots, but there were still a lot of people there to see their performance. They brought a lot of energy and entertainment on stage. Their music was very upbeat and catchy. You couldn't resist not moving to each song they played and it looked like the audience down below on the floor were enjoying themselves by moving along appropriately to the music. The vocalist was very charismatic and energetic. You could tell that he really loved what he was doing and moved around the stage a lot. My friend and I commented on his crazy dancing too. Made me want to imitate it where we were sitting.

Linkin Park

As the crew set up for the main performance, my friend and I were pumped to finally see Linkin Park live right in front of us. Deep down inside, I was a little nervous as well that things wouldn't turn out how I've pictured it in my mind for several years, since their debut.

The arena got dark and "The Requiem" played as the boys stepped on the stage. The crowd went wild and "Papercut" filled the arena. I immediately jumped up and started rocking out. Soon after, my friend was joining me and we were singing along to the lyrics with fiery and passion. You could feel all this amazing energy coming from the stage and flowing throughout the crowd as we united with this LP classic. They kept the energy up for a while and you could tell the audience was pleased with every lyric that echoed throughout the venue. My friend noticed that most people knew more of their older stuff compared to their new material. They did a great job mixing it up and even when they weren't on stage and one of their interludes from A Thousand Suns was playing on the screen, you could still feel something amazing lingering in the air.

After one of their interludes, the arena was really dark and kinda quiet, then you could seeing all of these illuminating cell phone lights sparkle in the crowd around the whole theater [as well as a lighter or two]. Chester returned to the stage in awe and commented that that was the most fucking amazing thing he has ever seen. He also added that he was sad that they had to cancel the show, but was happy that Houston was their last stop. Anyway, I believe this set list is mostly in order minus a few of their new songs. I was typing it into my phone after each song, but there were a few new songs I didn't know and made a mental note where they were.
[mostly in order]

The Requiem
Lying From You
Given Up
What I've Done
When They Come For Me
No More Sorrow
Burning In the Skies
Waiting For the End
Breaking the Habit
Robot Boy
One Step Closer
Wisdom, Justice, And Love
Shadow of the Day
New Divide
In the End
Bleed It Out/Place For My Head

I was extremely happy with the show and I could tell everyone else was satisfied as well, especially my friend. They mixed up the old with the new, interacted with the audience, and showed a new side of them that I didn't know about. Mike did a short solo on piano and spotlight on him and Chester played guitar on a couple songs. Definitely looking forward to another LP show!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is 2011 the year of label conflicts?

2010 was a troublesome year full of tragedy ranging from major bands announcing disbandment to great musicians' passings. This year seemed a little hopeful with the announcements of inactive musicians jumping back into the scene, j-indies bands coming back from hiatus, and exciting news of bands performing overseas. Unfortunately, all this good news has been overshadowed a little by label troubles.

I explained earlier the drama that led to the disbandment of Ayabie (and honestly, I think there's something fishy going on with AYABIE right now). Vidoll also had a little label trouble connecting to their disbandment. It seemed like the announcement was posted on their site before a decision was officially made among the members. This post caused an upset especially with Vidoll's leader and bassist Rame.

Sadly, jrock labels aren't the only ones that have been in the spotlight for label issues, but kpop's strict (and impossible) expectations have spurred some talk.

You'll probably be sick of me saying this, but I'm not completely sure how the kpop industry functions. From observation and a little analyzation, I've noticed that kpop contracts are very demanding and strict. It's basically signing your life away. You have to do things for a certain amount of time, conform to your superior's wishes, and have as little of a personal life when business is complete. Some of these demands and sacrifices come with a small percentage of money.

Unlike America, being involved in a scandal or even the tiniest rumor like dating can be very damaging for an idol. They are expected to be perfect role models for their fans, which I think is a ridiculous demand of their labels. I'm sorry, folks, but your idols are human like you and me. They need to be social, date whoever, and make a few mistakes here and there so they can grow as human beings.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, rising stars KARA were victim of mistreatment from their label and four of them threatened to leave, despite their growing success in both Korea and Japan. This decision, from what I heard, had to deal with being overworked and underpaid for their accomplishments, while causing worry among the girls' families. They are still together and fighting. They also have to work on regaining their Japanese fanbase due to that situation.

DBSK was also a victim of mistreatment with their label. Although it caused a divide in the fandom and a Twitter war, both parties are still active in the music scene with two separate groups. I believe they're still on good terms with each other as well.

So, I'm not a fan of KARA or DBSK, but U-KISS was my kpop upset. It was announced not too long ago that Kibum and Alexander left U-KISS, because Kibum wanted to focus on his business with his brother and Xander wanted to get back into studying for school. Truth is the company forced the two to terminate their contract, so they could replace them with more entertaining members. Now someone pointed out if they're planning on replacing everyone then they should do a graduation system like Morning Musume. It's less heartbreaking for the fans and members. I don't understand their reasoning for kicking these two out, especially at the eve of their comeback and international appeal. They've done good so far and hopefully the remaining members don't suffer too much because of this decision and that Kibum and Xander find their own success soon.

It's crazy when the performers don't meet the expectations of their label and it's a pity to see them suffer along with the fans, but sometimes label troubles can lead to better success. A couple examples are kpop idol Rain who left JYP and started his own label J. Tune Entertainment. He continued acting in both Korea and the U.S., produced boy band MBLAQ on his label, started a clothing line, and made a strong solo comeback. Miyavi also left PS Company to start a new life with his music and wife Melody. He toured around the world twice, released some incredible new material, and had two beautiful daughters. With that said, I hope label conflicts will decrease as the year progresses.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Live: Feeding the Wolves

Feeding the Wolves
[2011.02.28] Scout Bar in Houston, TX
featuring: A Cry Farewell, Digital Summer, & 10 years

A Cry Farewell

A mix between Rage Against the Machine and Saliva. I was a little skeptical on their sound, but they were pretty decent. My friends enjoyed them. We agreed that their RAtM sound is the best choice for them. They had a lot of energy and interacted some with the audience. They have potential and I kinda wanted to get their CD, but something about the second half of their set kinda turned me off from completing that decision.

Digital Summer

While setting up their instruments, their bassist caught one of my friends and my eye. He was very good looking. He was my main focus throughout their whole set. Their members' appearances were an interesting combination. The dude with the dreads didn't quite fit and I was not expecting to hear what I heard from their vocalist. He kinda reminded me of those tools from Jersey that work out all the time with their steroids and protein shakes, trying to be badass with their tribal tattoos and growling into the mic all badass-like. It was amusing. I (we) enjoyed the instrumentals and could live without him singing.

10 years

Unfortunately, certain people caused trouble during their set. So, I wasn't able to get any decent pictures of the band performing without having to get physical with said people.

As for the performance, it was flawless as to be expected. Now that they had some new material to mix in with their other songs, it was exciting and fresh! They still have that calming, inspiring energy about them. They had a good selection of old and new, popular and not so well known, and slow to rockin'! They also seemed a little more relaxed and at home on stage as well. The guitarist, I believed, had a cigarette hanging from his lips, Jesse took his shirt off for a little while, and Lewis taunted us with Mardi Gras beads. I was happy they did the rock version of "So Long, Goodbye" again, a little bit of Metallica's "Enter the Sandman", and a few other awesome songs. During the last song, Jesse dove into the audience and he got passed around on our side all the way to the merch table. Definitely something different. So, here's my shotty setlist attempt:

[no particular order]

Shoot It Out
Fix Me
11:00 am (Daydreamer)
Half Life
Paralyzing Kings
The Autumn Effect
Dying Youth
Russian Roulette
So Long, Good-bye
The Wicked Ones
Now Is The Time (Ravenous)
Chasing The Rapture
Fade Into (The Ocean)

Aside from a very small group of people making the environment somewhat unpleasant, the show was great and we all enjoyed ourselves. I managed to get a picture with Jesse that I longed for since the last time I saw them and one of my friends got one with Lewis. I complimented the drummer of A Cry Farewell's shirt and told him that it kinda resembled Kami of Malice Mizer. I also got a picture with Digital Summer unintentionally. They were all nice guys and I wanted to take the bassist home.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quick Music Review

Untouchable - Who's Hot (2010, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: We Got Game, I'm a Balla, Jiggy Get Down, Baby Girl

Since I'm not much of a Korean music fan compared to jrock, I don't keep up with these releases, so I'm not sure if it's been a while since these guys released something. All I know is that this album is very refreshing, especially since I'm getting into Korean rap. "We Got Game" is a very strong first track that definitely pulled me back in and reminded me why I like Untouchable so much. The next track I didn't feel as much as the first and just reminded me of a unhappy memory involving DJ DOC. "Hit Da Club" gave me thoughts of this Fat Joe song that used to be really popular and it was something I didn't expect to be coming from Korea. "Feelin Good" carried the same swagger and tone as the previous song with definite influence from American hip-hop artists a couple decades ago. "Talk To Me" digs up some elements from old school rap that was refreshing and gave me a little itch to listen to some George Clinton. "MC" gave me the vibe of BET's "Rap City" when they did those freestyles on generic or borrowed tracks. This is a compliment, by the way. "I'm a Balla" is a great song that shows a little cockiness for the guys along with a few other colleagues that mix it up just enough to make it enjoyable. "Jiggy Get Down" also shares a lot of that throwback sound that makes this album great and features a lot of great talent, even a female rapper. I was amused someone used a little snippet of Secret's "Magic". "Tell Me Why" was the reason I fell for these guys, because they had a hip-hop style and a smooth R&B flavor to their music at times. So, naturally, "Baby Girl" became an easy favorite on the album for me. "Makin Move Makin HOT" didn't quite click with me despite it having rock elements in it. It just seemed to have too much in it with the "screw" distortion or whatever that used to be pretty popular here down south. I never did like that. The last couple tracks cools down from that amazing ride of Untouchable attitude. Having this new found respect and liking for Korean rap now, this easily became a worthwhile CD to add to my collection.

Big Bang - 4th Mini Album (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: TONIGHT & CAFE

There was so much hype over Big Bang's comeback it was ridiculous (in some way). Now that this mini album was released, I believe some people are still waiting for their comeback. The intro was an okay way to start off by showing off everyone's vocal talent and reminding us of their chemistry as a group, since everyone had been working on individual projects. "HANDS UP" was originally on the Tell Me Goodbye single released in Japan, but now it's redone in Korean! Woo...I suppose the purpose of this song is to get the listener all hyped up because "we finally released something, y'all!" [pretty sure they don't use "y'all", at least I hope not]. I admit it is dancy and such, but kinda bland and unnatural for them. The grand song of all songs on the album is their third track, "TONIGHT". Sadly, I had fallen into this trap of loving this song. It's catchy and dramatic. I have some humorous commentary that has come from it like the laughable choreography, the annoying little kiss noise at the end, G-Dragon's opening with the irritating "two thousand and eleven~", and the fact he used a line from Eve and Gwen Stefani [5 points for everyone who caught that]. I wish that Daesung had more of part in the song and that they cut out the guitar part. It kinda ruined the mood for me. "SOMEBODY TO LOVE" is another track from a Japanese single turned Korean. Unfortunately, the radio has tainted my mind when I think of the title, but it's another dancy, autotuned track that is hit or miss depending on my mood. At least, Daesung has more vocal time. "WHAT IS RIGHT" is a little annoying for me. I don't know why...maybe because it has that "feel good" sound to it and a weird chorus that sounds like it should be in a Johnny's song placed on a beach. I actually really liked "CAFE". It has a warm, mellow vibe to it and T.O.P opening it up set the tone perfectly. I wasn't expecting G-Dragon's high voice to follow that either. I thought the vocal arrangement was perfect and it's even better that this so-so comeback ended on a good note.

AYABIE - Melody (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Melody & 0010101.0

I was a little uncertain on how this single was gonna turn out, especially after feeling a bit uncomfortable with the release of their first album. Upon listening to the title track, it kinda sounded like every other upbeat j-indie band. Yumehito's voice was better and the song was very catchy. "Kanata, Tsunagaru Sora He" has reminiscent sounds of Ayabie, but something new as well. It's a little jazzy, but smooth. "00101010.0" was a surprising track from the regular edition for me. I actually really liked this song. It had a strong bass, the guitars were a little heavier than usual, and the piano was a nice touch to the song. I'm not sure if it had any connection to Ayabie's "10101", but it has a somewhat similar structure to it.

Daichi Miura - The Answer (2010, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Answer, Gotta Make You Mine, Human Nature

I never liked a single so much that I wanted to repeat everything over and over again. All of the tracks are near perfect. "The Answer" is smooth and flows easily through the ears, settling in your mind. "Gotta Make You Mine" is a nice little jazzy R&B flavor that balances out the single even more. To wrap up the whole single is a Michael Jackson cover of "Human Nature" which suits Daichi's voice perfectly. Although, there were points of the music that sounded a little odd, but I still enjoyed the cover a lot.

12012 - SEVEN (2010, Japan) | Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: JUST THE WAY YOU ARE..., M, mayakashi

Guess who's back with an seriously strong force? Yes, the energy and intensity has returned in 12012's music through their latest album. Song after song resonates in my mind and leaves a permanent impression. Wataru delivers his glorious range of both fiery and soothing vocals through songs like "JUST THE WAY YOU ARE..." and "BIRTHDAY PARTY OF SECRET ROOM". More admirably you can hear the layers of instruments and how well they support each other. Each song showcases at least one of the member's musical skills, especially Tooru's fast pace drumming in "M" and Tomoyuki's strong basslines in "Ruri". This is definitely refreshing from mar maroon and Diamond. Seven brings back those hardcore roots from their Under Code days and blends them with their mature sound they've developed since graduating from the label. I hope they continue to grow and keep their momentum as they progress in their music.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quick Movie Review

Salt (2010, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I failed to see this movie in the theaters, but I'm glad we had it at my workplace. It definitely went a totally different direction than I thought. The movie is very fast pace and it barely slows down for your mind to calm down from what happened in the previous scenes. I enjoyed the twists and turns of this movie, but I was a little sad on how it ended.

Case 39 (2010, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I was a little hesitant on seeing this movie, but it wasn't that bad. Jodelle Ferland is definitely type casted as the creepy child lately. The movie did its job of playing with the audiences' emotions, but once you've seen one evil child, you've kinda seen them all in some shape or form. Some parts were a little open ended, but you can assume where it was gonna lead to.

Wise Guys Never Die (2006, Hong Kong) | Rating: 2/5

An unusual Chinese film that still hasn't quite settled in my mind yet on how I feel about it. It's a little hard to watch as the story is not the most interesting of choices. It has an interesting twist at the end that I was not expecting at all, but overall, it wasn't terrible or terrific.

Chloe (2009, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Another movie I wanted to see in the theaters, but failed to do so. It has a predictable storyline to it, but there's a twist to it as well. I don't know how easy it is to guess what happens in the film, but I took a wild shot in the dark and got it correct. It was a little boring and overdramatic in places, but in the end it was a decent movie that kinda makes you think about how relationships work.

Ninja's Creed (2009, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I don't even know why I even picked this up, especially when it starred a WWE Diva. It was a complete waste of time. The few good things about the movie was that Pat Morita was the bad guy (sorry, a little spoiler), Alexander Wraith was hot and shirtless, and Gail Kim was kinda sexy as she kicked people's asses. The movie should've ended a lot sooner instead of continuing onto this confusing add-on to Alexander's character's backstory.