Friday, April 29, 2011

Live: A Tour of the American Dream

A Tour of the American Dream
[2011.04.23] Scout Bar in Houston, TX
featuring: Egypt Central, Kopek, Oceans Divide, Raging Apathy, & Cold

Raging Apathy

I thought the name was a little ironic somehow. Their music was alright, but I could live without their vocalist. They weren't really memorable, so I can't say much for them. In short, instrumentals were good and vocals were not so good. Their image was pretty plain as well, but everyone that performed were casual anyway.

Oceans Divide

This band faced the same problem as Raging Apathy. Lack of vocal talent and interesting instrumentals. I actually ended up liking the first band more than this one. Off topic from their lackluster performance, I thought their vocalist was pretty good looking. I tried to take him home with me. It was quite interesting.


I kept seeing this short dude with dreads and never thought this guy was the vocalist of the band. They were alright. Less interesting than the previous two bands. They had a less generic rock sound. At first, they started having bits of Rage Against the Machine. Must be some trend for bands with dreaded up members to have that similar sound sampled somewhere, but it all went downhill from there. I couldn't really rock out like the other two to their music. They were a little interesting as they were from Dublin and even performed a tribute song for the troops, but not my cup of tea.

Egypt Central

The first couple bands were very mainstream generic and Kopek stepped out the box a little, but this band was my favorite out of the openers. They were heavier, more intense, and hard core. One of my friends enjoyed them as much as I did as well. I think that's where most of the damage was done, rocking out to them. I think the audience responded the most to them as well.


One of my friends, that's a die hard Cold fan, assured me that the fans weren't gonna get too crazy when Cold came on stage and she was right. There was still a lot of energy and a great connection between the audience and the band. It was an amazing show and Scooter interacted with the crowd every now and then. I was a bit in and out with my own energy, but that was because my body wasn't 100% in the first place. I try to give my all and my friends as well as they were a bit stiff from standing longer than they're used to. They gave a couple samples of their new material from their upcoming album, Super Fiction. I was surprised I heard some familiar songs, especially since I haven't listened to the band in months. Made me feel a little guilty, but it was amazing to hear live. Here's the so-so setlist with a big help from my Cold friend:

[no particular order]

Wicked World
Stupid Girl
Happens All the Time
What Happens Now
Just Got Wicked
When Angels Fly Away
End of the World
God's Song
No One
Back Home?
The Day Seattle Died

The Day Seattle Died

This experience changed my point of view them a lot. My main complaint were people walking past us too much. Stand still and enjoy the show! Also, the whole V.I.P pass was disorganized, but my friend and I got what we wanted and a little more. I'm really glad I pushed myself to go. Push the pain aside and simply enjoy the company of my friends and great music.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quick Book Review

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa | Rating: 4.5/5

A seemingly normal story that turns into something more intimate and disturbing. We follow 17 year old Mari through her routine of working at Hotel Iris with her controlling mother and prying, troublesome housekeeper and immediately meet the catalyst of this story. Hotel Iris is a definite page turner, but the pace is slow and steady until a major turning point between Mari and the catalyst. The book was extremely enjoyable and felt like the perfect movie, which pushed my ambitions personally to acheive my dreams.

The Devil's Whisper by Miyuki Miyabe | Rating: 3.5/5

Despite the chapters being a bit discouraging personally, it was worth the build up and frustration. It is also a bit slow paced and uninteresting in places, but if you're a committed reader, you will not be disappointed. This a bit of a murder/suicide mystery that'll keep you asking questions. These questions will probably fuel your curiousity and determination to keep reading. Aside from the chapter length, I did get a few of the characters mixed up, but I liked that they were listed in the front in play format. I was also a little unhappy with the ending, but I can't think of any other at the moment.

Villian by Shuichi Yoshida | Rating: 4/5

Another murder mystery that isn't that simple. It made my exploration for Japanese literature more enjoyable (and a little more appreciation for my job). Shuichi Yoshida makes reader/character relationship a high priority as you form definite opinions about each and every charcter, no matter how big their part is. This book allows you to get in touch with your emotions as the mystery progresses. Who is the real "villian" in all this? Especially in the end when everything is revealed. Once again, I had to adjust to to the lengthy-ness of the chapters, but a lot of my predictions for this story were wrong and that factor made it more enjoyable and encouraging to continue.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baddest Film Kid: "The Good Son" vs. "Orphan"

The original evil child from 1956 was a little blonde girl by the name of Rhoda from The Bad Seed. She was everyone's little angel, but there was one person who could see through all that sweetness: their maintenance man Leroy. Sure, there were other evil children coming out on the big screen from Damien to Isaac and Malachai duo.

In 1993, we met Henry in The Good Son. Before we met Henry, we were introduced to his cousin Mark and learned how he came to live with Henry and his family. While staying with him, Mark is encouraged to enjoy himself with Henry and open up to his Aunt Susan and a psychiatrist about his mother's death. Throughout his stay, Mark learns how devious his cousin is and is convinced that he is evil with no reason. Perhaps more formally psychopathic.

Before I move onto the details, let me introduce you to the artistically talented Esther from the 2009 thriller Orphan. A loving couple finally decide that they are ready to adopt, after an unfortunate stillborn of their third child. They choose a sweet, secluded girl by the name of Esther and bring her home to meet their other two children, Daniel and Max (who is hearing impaired). Daniel is immediately very wary, perhaps even a little jealous, and embarrassed of Esther.

Now, the only thing that ties these three movies together are seemingly innocent, but evil children. As far as stories go, they veer far from the blueprint. The Good Son and Orphan are my main focus due to similar situations. Before I begin the comparison, I must warn you that this post contains some spoilers, but nothing that ruins the ending. So, you have to watch them to see the conclusion.

Case 01: Henry (The Good Son)
His Main Target: his cousin Mark
Person that knows the truth: his little sister Connie

Henry displays very strange behaviors around Mark, but seems innocent and normal for a 12 year old boy around his parents. We slowly learn that he tends to delve into conversations about death, occasionally mentioning Richard, his decease baby brother, and uses this topic against his target. His mother, Susan, has something to remember Richard by, but cannot find it. This object was a rubber duckie. He is also very manipulative and uses love as a weakness toward others. Putting two opposing sides against each other and making one person think the other is crazy due to their supposed emotional/mental state. He doesn't have a sense of a conscience. He harms an animal and enlists Mark to help him hide the body, then somewhat uses it against him. He causes a ten car accident, makes his parents fight each other, and puts Connie in a near death experience on thin ice. He also plays with Mark's emotions he has for Connie and messes with him during a game of hide and seek in complete darkness. He also plotted to suffocate Connie in the hospital and convinces the psychiatrist that Mark's delusional. Later, Uncle Wallace, Henry's father, stops Mark from fixing things, because Henry has convinced him that he's emotionally unstable and Henry confesses the truth about the past to Susan, his mother. So, is it possible for someone to be evil with no reason?

Case 02: Esther (Orphan)
Her Main Target: her adopted mother, Kate
Person that knows the truth: her new gained siblings, Daniel & Max

Esther also displays strange behavior, but in a different way than Henry. She reveals that she knows more than the average 9 year old about sex. Kate has flowers to remember her stillborn child. Esther also causes an accident, but it's only a single car. She ends up enlisting Max on finishing the job and uses it against her. She also harms another girl in public, which is quite bold, but there are no witnesses. She also uses the thin ice maneuver and darkness against her target(s). She puts Daniel in a near death experience and tries to get rid of him during his recovery. Like Henry, she uses love as a weakness and forces Kate and her husband John against each other. John thinks Kate is delusional and is regressing back to her alcoholic ways, after Esther fooled their usual psychiatrist. Perhaps this is the face of evil.

Both children display a lack of conscience and enjoy what they do. Both movies also have similar elements to them like using the emotion of love against their targets, killing animals with no remorse, and being so seemingly innocent. Unfortunately, I can not decide which is the badder kid, but I would love you, my precious Cult followers, to discuss here in the comments who think is the face of evil.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Quick Music Review

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (2010, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach, Stylo, Empire Ants

After seeing them live, my view has changed a little about this album. It's hard to categorize Gorillaz into one genre and this album proves how diverse their sound is. "Orchestral Intro" is just what it says. It's not too classical or anything. It's just the right sound to set a light mood and smoothly transitions to "Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach". It features a smooth R&B sound with great band elements and smooth rapper Snoop Dogg make it an even cooler first full length song. "White Flag" mixes traditional Indian sounds and hip-hop together in one enjoyable package. "Rhinestone Eyes" is a seemingly simple electro-pop song with megaphone vocals and an interestingly, dramatic chorus that sticks to the mind. "Stylo" skillfully combines old school elements from the great Bobby Womack, a sprinkle of hip-hop, and Gorillaz's unique electronic twist. This song is easily catchy and enjoyable by fans of either artists. "Superfast Jellyfish" leans more on the hip-hop sound of the band, but in a very comical and catchy way. It kinda reminds me of PaRappa the Rapper game. The music steps down to something softer. Originally, I wasn't too fond of "Empire Ants", but hearing it live made a huge difference. It's a beautiful ballad mixing that old electro-funk sound and Asian ambiance. "Glitter Freeze" is purely an electronic instrumental song. "Some Kind of Nature" and "On Melancholy Hill" is a light hearted electro-rock songs. "Broken" is very down tempo song that keeps their signature electronic sound. "Sweepstakes" is a bit of a random song mixing brass instruments and raggae elements to a fun melody. "Plastic Beach" is a very mellow rock song that touches base with their roots and combining it with this new format. "To Binge" is very islandy. Mellow and familiar like a Beach Boys song. "Cloud of Unknowing" is a very deep, emotional song that proves that Bobby still has it. The album ends with a retro electro-pop sound in "Pirate Jet". In the end, Gorillaz stick to their original plan of being abstract and opening our ears to different sounds worldwide.

Rain - Back To Basics (2010, South Korea) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Love Song, Same, One, Hip Song

It had been 2 years since the last release from Rain (unless you wanna count the repackaged material), so I was really excited to see him finally releasing something new. I must say, this comeback did not disappoint. "Love Song" was the title track for this sexy mini. Usually I would whine and complain over love ballads, but...I sadly have a slight Rain bias. Yes! There are a few Rain ballads I can't stand, but this one wasn't so bad. It's passionate, soft, and the music has a nice build up. I believe "Hip Song" was the next target for promotion. Completely opposite of the first track and displaying a heavier R&B/hip-hop fusion of bass and a catchy chorus to keep you rockin'. "One" resembles a lot of Rain's older material, but suitable for his age. A mature R&B song with a lovely chorus that's easy to remember like the rest. "Same" also has the same type of sound as "One", which proves that he could blend easily with American R&B artists. The mini ends with "Love Song" once more, but in English. His pronunciation is improving little by little. It's a bit awkward to listen to, because my ears and memory are tainted by the original Korean lyrics.

f(x) - NU ABO (2010, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: NU ABO, Mr. Boogie, Ice Cream, ME+U

So, I wasn't part of the original fan club of f(x), but hearing their collaboration with Son Dam Bi and this mini album sold me for good. "NU ABO" is a strong electro-hip-hop/pop song with intense beats, catchy chorus, and signature Korean girl cuteness that isn't obnoxious like some female kpop groups. "Mr. Boogie" goes into that whole electro-pop trend that's just catching on every where, but it's a good arrangement. It's very dancy and has attitude written all over it. Missing a good old sugary sweet girl kpop song? Well, "Ice Cream" is definitely cutesy and pop. If you listen to this track too much, you might get sick of it. "ME+U" has become a recent favorite from hearing it in the car. It's fun, simple, and very dance worthy. The mini ends with something more mellow and slow. The arrangements are nice for both songs, but not my style.

Big Bang - Big Bang Special Edition (2011, South Korea) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Baby Don't Cry, TONIGHT, CAFE, I Need a Girl

If you weren't satisfied with the mini-album, prepare yourself to be disappointed with this not so Special Edition the boys have released for us. I wasn't even expecting another release so quickly, but I found it extremely unnecessary. Don't get me started on the Japanese version of "TONIGHT". So, pretty much we have 3 tracks from the mini: "TONIGHT", "Somebody to Love", and "CAFE". I like 2 out of 3 of those songs. Then we have a couple released solo material by Tae Yang and Seungri. And if you haven't picked up your GD&T.O.P CD, this includes "HIGH HIGH" and "Oh Yeah" with Park Bom. As you can see, majority of the tracks have already been released, but wait! There's 3 brand spankin' new tracks to rattle in your brain. "Love Song" has been the promotion song to convince fans to pick up this not so Special Edition. Sure it's mature and follows a totally different direction than most kpop male groups [and Daesung gets more voice time], but it proves that songs about complaining how you dislike love songs are annoying to me. *coughs*Ne-yo*coughs* I did think the video was beautiful, but could've lived without the half assed choreography and just mute the music. What's more annoying about whining about how much you hate love songs? Admitting how dumb you are...over and over and over again. "Stupid Liar" is an extremely repetitive and annoying song that seems like there was no thought put into it, but's just all over the place. After cleaning my ears from this blasphemy of a CD, I braced myself for the usual trot/ballad-y song that Daesung usually produces. And OMFG! It was the best addition to this train wreck and I couldn't get enough of it. Little Daesung is growing up ;~; Sure, it's a bit of a slow song, but it's not an obnoxious love ballad. It has a R&B/rock flare to it that makes it even more enjoyable with Daesung's sweet voice. At least they did one thing right.

Sadie - COLD BLOOD (2011, Japan) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: sabaku no SYNDROME, Graceful Angel, deathtopia, mabuta no yuuutsu

I wasn't sure what to expect from this album, since the singles leading up to it were a bit hit and miss. The album starts off pretty calm and you can hear every instrument clearly in "doukoku". It has a dramatic build and helps you get settled for the rest of the ride through the other tracks. "Juggernaut" was one of the singles that didn't quite agree with me. It sounded very anime, but still Sadie in some ways. Very generic. Nothing special except the chorus on a good day. "LOOSING MY WAY OF THE PROUD" shows a lot of Dir en grey influence. It's aggressive, sneaky, and energetic. "sabaku no SYNDROME" shares a similar Diru influence, but still true to Sadie's aggressive, dark sound. The musical transitions are interesting and Mao skillfully follows his own transitions from a low growl to raw vocal. "棘 -toge-" was another single they released for promotion and I'm sure you can find my thoughts on it in an older post. "deathtopia" made me a little skeptical with the name, but it had an interesting beginning that no one would expect from them and explode instantly into something aggressive. Very clever~ "Dress" was a miss single and I simple just skipped it as usual. "Graceful Angel" brought something a little new to the band and I really enjoyed this one. It had a great dual guitar and bass relationship and Mao's voice were flawless. "kasumi ni kieru hana" features a slightly softer side of the band that is equally enjoyable to their heavier sound without selling out to a mainstream "anime" rock sound. "GIMMICK" sounds like their roots back in the "Meisei" era when they first started out with mixed with that mainstream sound I mentioned before. "Kuraimoa" was actually a single I kinda liked compared to the others. It's fast pace and a little aggressive. "mabuta no yuuutsu" is another soft song with a dark undertone. The album ends with an unplugged version of "Dress" which I'm sure fans will enjoy if they liked the original, but for me it was a pass...obviously.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Kimi wa Pet

Title: Kimi wa Pet [You're My Pet/Tramps Like Us]
Starring: Koyuki and Matsumoto Jun
Language: Japanese
Genre: Romantic comedy
Episodes: 10

While reading the manga series, Tramps Like Us, I found there was a drama based off of it, which is the main reason I watched it. It's one of my favorite manga series!

Iwaya Sumire is an elite working woman, who devotes her life to working hard and being successful. Not only does she have high standards for herself, but she has the same for the men she dates. They must meet three important requirements: high pay, high education, and high height. One evening, after work, Sumire comes across an abandoned cardboard box with a beaten and bruised young man curled up inside it. Attempting to get some assistance by a few businessmen rushing to escape the downpour of rain, she decides to take him in and nurse his wounds. Once the young man recovers, she tries to get him out of her home and to his own, but the young man doesn't have a place to go and convinces Sumire to let him stay. But the only way he can live under Sumire's roof is for him to be her pet. She ends up nicknaming him after her childhood dog, Momo. He questions the name for a moment but accepts it.

We later find out that his real name is Takeshi Gouda and he is a dance prodigy. He gets offered to go abroad to a great performing arts school. Following Sumire, she later finds a man from her past that fits her three "highs" which stirs up the storyline to create comedy, romance, and drama.

Kimi wa Pet does an excellent job of moving the story along at a steady pace as well as making a cliche formula of a refreshing young man entering a workaholic woman's life. By changing it with twists and turns and letting the characters interact from past and present, it keeps this drama entertaining and interesting.

Koyuki does an amazing job keeping the emotion and strength of Sumire. She is able to keep a subtle sadness to her character and is able to act out the conflict of being frustrated with herself and her relationship with other people. Physically, she also embodies Sumire by her appearance and the way she carries herself in different places. From the slight tense, professional stance int he office to the soft, caring, and almost playful aure while bathing Momo, she has a definite range. I couldn't imagine a better actor to create the lively spirit of Momo than Jun Matsumoto. He has the perfect look and range to bring his character to reality. He tries to be a strong and carefree individual, but he gets tugged from every direction to decide and act on his future whether it's his relationship with others close to him or the hug opportunity to embrace his love of performing on stage.

Aside from the obvious main characters, the other actors and actresses do just as good as a job bringing the manga characters to life for us. Such as Sumire's best friend, Yuri, who gives us the chance to learn Sumire's personality before she was stuck behind a desk. She also brings a little comedy and intelligence to the drama by being open with her opinions. Ishida Yuta does well by being suave, but subtle. He tries to be kind to everyone despite their intentions against him. Sometimes he is a bit oblivious and lost, but overall he is a good guy and smart as well. The two problematic female characters, Fukushima Shiori & Shibusawa Rumi, are the perfect women to keep the story interesting and moving into other possible directions you think the story may lead to. They bring attitude and also a negative response from viewers for them to disappear. Lastly, Magii as the quirky, comical therapist was a lovely addition, although he doesn't exist in the manga. He also managed to keep the story together and keep the viewer's attention.

Kimi wa Pet also does a good job of following the manga series, although it does condense the storyline and changes a few minor details. If you enjoyed the manga, you'll be satisfied with the results translated into a live-action drama. You won't be bored, even if you know what's going to happen, but if you haven't read the series, it should keep your attention.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quick Music Review

U-KISS - Bran New Kiss (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5

I was a little torn whether to listen to this or not due to the leaving of two members, but I convinced myself to give it a shot and I didn't regret it as much as I thought I would. "IT'S TIME (Intro)" had a strong welcoming to this new line-up and showing off the guys' vocal ranges. Let us adjust to the new blend with a strong R&B dance melody. "0330" is, I'm guessing, a slow sad love song with about the same strong melody as the intro. The rapping section will take me some time to adjust to without Alexander's voice, but I'm sure I'll get used to it eventually. It's a decent song for what it is. It focuses more on the rappers and uses everyone else's vocal harmonies to set the tone with the music. "Words That Hurt Me..." is a bit of a generic pop song with a slight upbeat tone to it's music. Nothing super special. "Every Day", I'm guessing their secondary promo song, is another generic upbeat song that has more of a dance sound to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite stick to me for long. For me, Bran New Kiss was saved by the final two tracks. "I DON'T UNDERSTAND" also shares a dance sound to it, but I enjoy the arrangement a lot more than the previous track. It flows a little more smoothly with the new line up and I feel less tempted to compare it to their previous works. "MIRACLE" has earned the title of "Miko's favorite track". It's really odd that I enjoyed it so much, especially since the music is a little odd and the sound still falls under the line of generic. I guess it was the vocal arrangement and the familiar sound to an American pop song I can't think of the name. With that said, I wish they left out the "beautiful my girl" line and that they added a "d" to their mini's title name.

Girugamesh - crying rain (2009, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: crying rain, NITRO-99

Despite what everyone says, Girugamesh is still a strong band through and through and this single proves it. "Crying rain" is full of passion, strength, and emotion. If you don't feel it, then you probably need to clean your ears and open your heart. It is a simple, beautiful song that you can definitely tell that it is something precious to them. "S.T.F.U" gives the fans what they want by dabbling into their old sound. It's upbeat, energetic, and has catchy guitar riffs. "NITRO-99" has the same upbeat sound, but a more aggressive energy that takes their old and new sound meshed together into a chaotic, rockin' noise!

Chemical Pictures - Haikei...Sagiteki Dogeshi Ongakuai Fujoshi-Samagata e Shosen Tawagoto Saredo Muku na Ongaku (2011, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Präparat, Black Box, Reincarnation

It had been a while since their consecutive mini-album releases, but the band is back with something surprise there. With this new mini-album we have a new, smoother version of "Präparat". It's less chaotic and definitely a new take from the original, but doesn't take away too much from the genius of the blueprint. With a strong bassline and a smooth lounge melody, we have another amazing track by the name of "Black Box". It gives off the sound of coolness and a mellow feel deep down inside. "I WannA GetAway" takes a different direction than the previous tracks and goes a little more rock. It has a steady pace and still keeps to CP's unique imprint of guitar/bass balance and TenTen's voice guiding us along. "Reincarnation" is another remade track that has done a little growing up, but still keeps its oh-so perfect blueprint with a little more umph! "sPeakEr" brings us back down and let's the bass give us a ride through the song with TenTen's soft vocals to close off this great mini.

XA-VAT - Tsuyado(2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5

At first, I was bit turned off by this group, but I gave them a second chance and ended up liking them. "BLACK RUNAWAY OF DEVILS" sets us up for this lovely little retro trip we're about to embark on throughout this album. It has a definite retro electronic sound that leans more towards Japan's electro music like some of hide's earlier works. "ZEROTICA" was their debut song and holds onto that 80's synth-pop sound of Dead or Alive. It's quite catchy and it holds a unique vocal for sure that sounds familiar, but refreshing at the same time. "Mecca" is more fast paced and upbeat like an Iceman song or 8-bit video game. "VAT-DANCE" goes back to that 80's synth-pop melody that you can't help but move to. "Mr. Vital" has a more haunting electronic sound that distorts in all different directions with vocals and guitars. "E-Z" is another fast pace song that grabs you quickly down the rabbit hole. "INVASION-NOVATION" shows off the vocals a little more in a skilled, unique, and playful direction that still holds that 80's concept musically. "NUMANS-ROXETTE" is very much a head bobbing song that is a bit peculiar, but somehow sticks with it's melody, then sneakily hooks you in the chorus. "EPOC TRACE" keeps a playful 80's melody that'll make you rock a little. "THE 艶℃ BABY" closes off the album in semi-techno bits and throws you off into this chaotic arrangement that somehow works in some crazy genius way I think they could only pull off. One version of the album includes a remix CD which I thought was a bit of a waste. I felt awkward listening to it and, honestly, I didn't even complete all the tracks for the fact that it doesn't make sense to use the same elements in remixing on songs that already had them.

Beast/B2ST - My Story (2010, South Korea) Rating: 5/5
Favorite Tracks: Thanks To, Let It Snow, Lights Go On Again

I've passed up this little goodie from B2ST due to it's random appearance as opposed to "hey! it's a new single" or "check out their new album". I'm not exactly sure what class this falls into, but I went ahead and checked out it thanks to by playing a couple things from it. The whole package features duets and one group song. Yoon Doo Joon and Son Dong Woon bring us in with a piano duet of their song "When the Door Closes". It's definitely a well thought out and emotional song that shows off their amazing vocal range and musical skills. Yong Joon Hyung and Yang Yo Seob keep the pace steady of softness and power with "Thanks To". It features a nice piano melody and gives us a nice blend between YoSeob's power vocals and Joon Hyung's graceful lyrical flow. Joon Hyung also cleverly uses a little piece from a Far East Movement song as well. [5 points for anyone who caught that!] I believe Jang Hyun Seung and Lee Ki Gwang's "Let It Snow" was the first track that was introduced to me by It's a beautiful, deep R&B track that blends both guys' voices flawlessly. It soothes the soul and brings tears to the eye with all the passion flowing through their voices and the hard hitting beat. For the grand finale, we have a full version of "Lights Go On Again" which I have fallen weak for. I was really happy they decided to take this on an extended journey as I've noticed they have really strong and sadly short intro tracks that you want more of. The song proves why these guys are called "Beast"! It's beautiful, calming, and perfect.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick Movie Review: Hayao Miyazaki Edition

Spirited Away (2001, Japan) | Rating: 4/5

Probably my fourth favorite Miyazaki film, at the moment. We follow Chihiro as she rides in the car with her family, during their move. They stop by this tunnel, decide to go inside, and explore. Surprisingly this tunnel leads to a new world where spirits dwell. Spirited Away is a very imaginative and traditional movie. It allows viewers to learn a little about Japan, their beliefs, and their habits. This movie gives us a sense of family value and admiration for our surroundings and our being. It's a bit of a dark (in color) movie, but it has a very intriguing storyline to keep young and old attentive.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984, Japan) | Rating: 3/5

One of Miyazaki's older works that somewhat reflects the message of 1992's Ferngully: The Last Rainforest about being good to nature and it'll be good to you. We follow Princess Nausicaä on an exploration of the Toxic Jungle and learn how it's been getting back at humanity by growing into other villages. One village tries to take over and proposes to burn the jungle, but Nausicaä knows a secret about the Toxic Jungle and the environment they live in, proving she is a great leader. Despite the age of this film, it still holds a relevant message of taking care of our environment and finding alternative ways to survive and purify our mistakes for the future.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

A bittersweet story about believing and imagination. The story revolves around the Kusakabe family. They move into a new house as the lady of the household recovers in a hospital. Despite this bit of sadness, the father continues writing stories and the girls, Satsuki and Mei, stay positive and carefree. The youngest Mei keeps this feeling the most and meets a creature named Totoro. Upon meeting Totoro and few other wood spirits, he consistently brings these sisters closer and closer, giving us a new positive way of thinking with family downfalls.

Ponyo (2008, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

It's probably surprising that I didn't want to see this in theaters, but I ended up enjoying it way more than I thought. The message in this movie is strong bonds of love. The story follows a little boy named Sosuke and a fish he named Ponyo. It is a bit of a reflection of Disney's classic The Little Mermaid. The movie is very light and vivid. It has a great flow to the storyline and, like every Miyazaki film, it has relatable characters. I still have a bit of Ponyo fever and it has become my second favorite Miyazaki film.

Friday, April 15, 2011

T.O.P "Turn It Up" vs. NassuN & G.O. "O-IWI-O"

There's obviously a reason why I don't do music video reviews. I don't know how they work, therefore it is a little difficult to critique. Despite that small downfall, I'm doing another comparison for your and my amusement. Like the previous music comparisons, I'm gonna break it down into parts, but I'm changing it a little.

I'm going with the obvious on this one. To me, this is a song of seduction and a little ego boost for Mr. T.O.P. He talks about the things he has and what he brings to the table yada yada yada. Then he further proceeds on telling the subject of the song how they feel and how they're getting pulled into this alluring song. Not only does he want to seduce, but he also wants you to pay attention to the smooth flow that is penetrating your ears [like sweet, warm honey 8D].

Pushing all sickening thoughts aside. The music is pretty simple. You have bass, drums, and electro-hip-hop all fused together in one perfect package. It's easy to get stuck in your head to the point you're tapping this tune on a table and nodding your head unconsciously.

Visual Content
So, we have T.O.P. Of course! But we have many different sides to him to enjoy. Sleek rapper, cliche classic rap pimp, cozy comfy, dressy casual, throwback Bond, eclectic rebel, and sophisticated actor. Try to catch 'em all! Aside from him, we have one of the most important elements to every rap video: women! There are plenty of them. From mere accessories to encouragement tools for dorky dances, there are a lot of women to fit the song's lyrics. We also have various possession ranging from Dom Perignon to designer bags and even the Be@rbrick obsession. There's a lot to flaunt! We even have some cameo animal appearances to represent manliness (the dog) and don't forget the "monkey magic". With all of these elements, it gives the song a more playful direction, but still holding a strong, confident front.

I read on some YouTube comment that this is a response to SNSD's "Gee", but I really don't know. I don't see the relation any where. Anyway! From what I gathered in my head, this is a song trying to convince the other to come out of her shell. "Stop being shy." "No more games." "I want you to my lady." In some ways, it's a little alluring, but in a more smooth, down low, and at your own pace way...if that makes any sense. I guess you can say the girl has the control in this video, basing it off the lyrics.

Although NassuN is very much a rapper, the music has a very smooth, slick R&B sound. It feels very familiar and comfortable. I don't know if Korea has heard anything like this, but I have. It's been used in the U.S. and it is effective for making the ladies' hearts flutter. It still maintains a little hip-hop flavor, but it's more mellowed out to appeal to the lyrics.

Visual Content
Obvious statement, we have NassuN and mini Rain G.O. They sport black and white to contrast with the two little background changes they're in. It's simple, classy, and appropriate. Unlike "Turn It Up", we have one woman (at most, maybe two). There's no interaction with this woman. We see her silhouette moving smoothly to the music or whatever, a pair of lips with a cherry, and artistic profile shots with the wind blowing her hair. Aside from that, we have some pretty abstract visuals: water rushing toward each other, a flower, whipped cream, dice, a poker chip. [Feels like an I Spy book XD] Whether it relates to the song or not, it is interesting to look at. Combining all of these elements gives off a more serious and suave vibe while listening to the music.

Both of these music videos have a few similarities to them, but they also have some obvious and not obvious differences. They're both kinda seducing songs, but they have two different tones to them. They also share a suave, confidence that men can use to model themselves and women can easily swoon over. An obvious similarity is that they're both shot in black and white. Shocking! They also have a few similar elements featured in it like women, a fancy car, a dog, and a Be@rbrick. But the first video's shots went along with the lyrics more and the second took a more abstract artistic approach. So, who's the winner of this comparison. I honestly don't know. If I weigh out my options, it's seems a bit unfair. I've enjoyed T.O.P longer than NassuN and I'm not a fan of MBLAQ, but I've grown tired of "Turn It Up" due to overplay and I can still listen to "O-IWI-O" like it's nothing. Let the record show that I've listened to both tracks equally.

They're both really great songs and music videos in their own way. So, I'll call this a draw and let you guys decide. (^^)b

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Eye: China vs. America

Some time ago, I rewatched The Eye with a friend and realized my opinion about both movies have not changed. The first time I watched both movies was for my speech class. I was working on a persuasive speech on Asian and American horror remakes. If you haven't noticed, there was a heavy influx of great ideas introduced in the U.S. through horror movies but were originally created by Asian directors. A few great examples that I used for my speech, aside from this movie, were The Ring, One Missed Call, and The Grudge. Some remakes are passable and some fail to translate. The Eye did a decent job of being remade for American audiences, but some things could've been executed a little differently.

The plot remains the same about a young blind woman who is planning on getting an eye transplant. We follow her journey of her adjusting to her eyesight and learning how to associate things by using her sense of sight, instead of her sense of touch like before with the help of a doctor. We gradually learn that she also has to learn what is real and what isn't. Things in her life drastically change with her new vision, especially when her excitement for a violin concert is taken away and her sanity is tested for a good majority of the movie.

With confirming that the storyline is practically the same, there's also other things I'm pleased with that they kept the same. They kept the important characters such as the little girl in the hospital, the doctor that helps the protagonist, and some sort of relative to help her along the way. I was a little surprised they kept the little boy that lost his report card since it doesn't quite translate completely in this country. The remake tried to keep as much as the original as possible from scene to scene, but had to "Americanize" it to blend with everyone's bland expectations of horror suspense movies. Some examples of this was speeding up the elevator scene with the ghost, giving more vocalization to the elderly woman in the hospital, and keeping the relationship with Jessica Alba's character and the little girl very casual and brief as opposed to the original where the audience is able to establish a connection with her at the same time. The remake made the relationship between them seem insignificant and pointless, but in fact she is an important character to the protagonist.

There was also unnecessary portions the U.S. director added that could've been left out, like the outing with Alba's character and the orchestra director. It seemed pointless and just in there to scare the audience like a typical horror movie. The relationship between Alba and the doctor was a bit annoying since he kinda acted like a douche and then suddenly they're instantly in love or something. The visitation to Mexico was a bit all over the place like the director and/or writers didn't know what to do with all the characters.

All in all, The Eye featuring Ms. Alba wasn't completely a train wreck. The remake was pretty decent and mostly did fine reflecting the original concept from Hong Kong. Of course, the original gets the job done of establishing a personal character to audience relationship, luring us into suspenseful and emotional moments, and maintaining the steady interest of ghost stories in present day.