Saturday, March 31, 2012

Promo: Lycaon

[from left to right] Satoshi (guitar), Hiyuu (bass), Yuuki (vocals), & Rito (guitar)
|Official Site|

Joining together as a five member band, Lycaon came out with a strong alternative metal sound and equally strong visuals that highlighted each members' distinct personalities. Not too long ago, they released their first full length album, Royal Order, in 2010. Unfortunately, two of the members wasn't happy with the softer direction change and decided to depart. This didn't stop the band from experimenting with their sound and visuals, which has made them grow in the new direction.

I believe a close friend introduced me to the wonders of Lycaon. Their sound, visuals, and concepts are amazing and continue to evolve over the years. They have been a little silent lately, but they're slowly making a return on the scene and I can't help but be stunned by nearly every release. Their latest PV for "Mask" stopped my heart by the natural energy, band chemistry, clever camera work, and overwhelming sex appeal, especially if you watch Hiyuu's interview. With a few j-indies bands I personally enjoy falling prey to the dreaded "d" word, I'm hoping that Lycaon stays strong for years and years.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Hunger Games

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Directed by: Gary Ross
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 142 minutes

Every year there's a new hype movie and lately movies based on young adult book series have made a consistent appearance. I've never read this series, but I was somewhat familiar with its popularity from my previous job. The good thing about young adult book movies is having the reassurance that this age group are still avid readers.

Set in the future, Panem is split into twelve districts and the Capitol. Every year, they hold a lottery in each district to select two young participants for a televised show called the Hunger Games that is held every year. These participants are brought to the Capitol to train for the show and must defeat each person until there is only one survivor. These games are held for not only entertainment purposes, but as a retribution for the past rebellion. We follow 16 year old Katniss Everdeen who lives in District 12 with her mother and sister Primrose. When it's time for the lottery, Prim is selected to participate, but Katniss jumps out from the crowd and volunteers herself in place of her sister. A familiar face around town Peeta is also selected to join Katniss and their journey begins to gain sponsorships and fight to the death.

Honestly, I wasn't planning on seeing this movie. I was a little skeptical too as it seemed similar to other stories told before (namely Battle Royale). After seeing the film, I can see the similarities and concerns, especially for people who appreciate Battle Royale, but I assure you that this idea is fresh and a little brighter than Battle Royale. I was tempted to compare the two, but a simple review is enough (besides there's also Running Man and Lord of the Flies to consider as well).

For someone who hasn't read the series, I thought the movie was thoroughly enjoyable. The characters provoked emotional attachment for the audience as well as a clear cut feeling toward them. The visuals were very fitting for each scene and situation. The costumes suited the characters' backgrounds and personalities. The story was interesting and executed well. Lastly, the cinematography was pretty decent. Although, there were parts that seemed a bit rushed either camera wise or story wise, I'm not completely sure. There were also a few parts I found a bit predictable, but every movie has a cliche or two.

In the end, I did find a couple favorite characters and didn't regret being dragged by my mother to see this movie. I'm curious how the rest of the trilogy pans out and I'm planning on reading it when the hype dies down or I have space to read anything extra. Despite the similarities to other stories (not just Battle Royale), I'm interested and hope fans are pleased as well. Lastly, I hope that fans of the series and fans of similar storylines stop arguing with each other as well as those who are complaining about the race of Rue and Cinna. Get over it and enjoy the movie!

Rating: 3.5/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"SUICIDE" by 12012
Yes, I can see the Dir en grey in this (i.e. "-saku-" & "CLEVER SLEAZOID"), but for the most part this is the 12012 I fell in love with. I'm sure the rest of their songs aren't "Dir en grey rip-offs" as everyone keeps arguing. Stop being so butthurt, guys~ Enjoy the music! Even though I was slightly underwhelmed, I'm still satisfied with the full results. The song brings back that hard hitting sound with some new elements that they desperately needed to break away from that ballady, pop soft sound they inherited going major. Looking forward to delving into the comeback album and reviewing it here for you guys.

"Silent Assassin" by VII-Sense
I think this is a huge improvement for VII-Sense. I don't see any Kamijo or Dio in sight, except for Erina's new blonde look but that's forgivable. Anyway, the song is both catchy and badass. The guitar duet is amazing and the visual presentation is a definite upgrade from their previous works. I'm also enjoying the vocal changes Juka is trying out as well. I hope they continue with this new musical direction and grow more and more!

"Zero Gravity" by Kerli
Not really a fan, but I tried to like her music. It's a bit of a hit and miss, but her Natasha Bedingfield like vocals, reminders of Blood Stain Child's Sophia's looks, and stunning visuals in this video kept me more interested than the other two music videos I tried out. It's like a 90's raver/dance music lover's dream. It has a great musical and vocal flow and the visuals don't take away from the overall feeling while watching it. Those Europeans sure have talent!

"Devil" by Annyeongbada
One of my friends posted this on their Facebook and I must admit I'm not a huge fan of Korean rock. When I approach it, I'm usually very skeptical because it's hard to find good krock. This is one of them. The song is catchy, easy to listen to without it being cheesy. The guys aren't a bunch of pretty boy idols either like CN Blue or F.T. Island, which makes me very happy. The video also proves it deserves a spot on this week's recommendations. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the near future.

"待つ女" by Ziyoou Vachi
Another friend promoted this band on their LiveJournal and I thought they were interesting. They popped up again on my friends list and got reminded that this band isn't that bad. They're a little quirky and odd, but they remind me of cali≠gari with a possible gender bending twist. Either way, I think they're worth checking out. Not only does the music keep your attention, but the visuals are equally intriguing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Second Chances: M.I.A

I was introduced to this eclectic rapper on The N (or Teen Nick now) and the music video for "Boyz" came on TV. I thought the video and song seemed cheap and chaotic. It seemed like they were promoting her a lot there and on MTV. I was very disinterested, especially live with her odd style and noisy music.

It wasn't until her hit single "Paper Planes" came to the scene and after replays of the song on TV and radio, I became hooked. It had a catchy melody and an amusing, memorable chorus with silly words and gunshots. I delved more into her discography and "20 Dollar" became one of my favorite songs. "XXXO" was also an interesting track that stuck even though the video seemed cheap, but I understood the intention behind it.

Currently, I think she is a rap innovator with good intentions for society, despite controversies and censors misunderstanding her intentions with her music such as "Born Free", which was banned from YouTube. Ignoring her inappropriate gesture at the Super Bowl this year and that horrible collaboration with Madonna and Nicki Minaj, I love her and her unique rap style and what she's trying to do for the world with her charity and educating us with cultural issues. "Bad Girls" is my drug right now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Second Chances: MBLAQ

This is the first official post of Second Chances on the Cult. This was a random idea that came to mind and I asked around to my readers if they would be interested in hearing my trials and tribulations with certain artists/groups/bands I might've disliked or liked in the beginning and now I feel the complete opposite about them. If possible, I will post the music video that turned me off or made me like them and then a music video that changed my mind. So, let's get right to it and I hope you enjoy this new idea. Comments are appreciated!

It was around the time rookies B2ST, U-KISS, and Infinite entered more prominently and into my iTunes library. As you all know, I am a big Rain fan and when I heard about him departing from JYP Entertainment to do his own thing, I was curious. Rain had several projects going on under J.Tune Entertainment, one of them being a new boy group by the name of Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality or MBLAQ. Being the Rain fan that I am, I had to check them out and, honestly, I was disappointed. The costume choices looked like Rain's wardrobe rejects or his leftovers and "Oh Yeah" was a weak, annoying debut track. "Y" didn't help their case either. Therefore, I ended up ignoring them, continued supporting Rain's endeavors until his military departure, and enjoyed G.O.'s vocal contribution to one of my favorite NassuN songs, "O-IWI-O".

Shortly after the release of Hello Baby Season 5 Episode 2 or 3, I watched the boys interact with three multicultural children. Somehow, I fell for their charming and goofy personalities. The show helped me learn the members' names with faces and personality and made me enjoy the series due to their chemistry with each other and the children. This convinced me to give the boys a second chance musically. Coincidentally, a close friend listened to "Stay" three days before I gave them another chance, I believe I had a short negative response, and it ended up being the song that redeemed them for me. I apologized to her (if I didn't, sorry ._.).

So far, I like "Stay", "Cry", "Mona Lisa", and "Run" and I have grown attached to Lee Joon and G.O. Although, listening to "Cry" is a little frustrating because it feels like they're holding back on their vocals. I also remembered why I disliked them in the beginning as well...and I have decided not to revisit or investigate their debut days. Keep improving, boys!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Language: Spanish
Rating: R
Running Time: 119 minutes

Since the release of this movie, several people have told me many times to watch it and I know a lot of critics praised this film as well. Just like Maria Full of Grace, I watched this for my Spanish class and I had high expectations coming into it.

In 1944 Fascist Spain, a young girl named Ofelia is fascinated with the world of fairy tales and fantasy stories. She travels to her new home with her pregnant mother to her step father's home. Her step father is heartless captain of the Spanish army. Ofelia isn't very fond of him, but she tries her best to accept him for her mother's sake and her potential baby brother. While becoming close to one of the help Mercedes, she finds a labyrinth and learns that she is a princess from an old faun, but in order for her to meet her real father, she must complete three tasks before the moon is full.

Upon watching this movie, I was a little concerned about my attention span waning throughout the movie. Not because of the storyline, but due to the length of the movie and having to read subtitles for so long. I had flashbacks of a certain lengthy Japanese movie that had my attention drift every now and then, but I stuck through with little complaints on the time. Actually, the content was so intriguing, I forgot it was nearly two hours long.

The story is fantastic, but you may be a little confused in places. As long as you stick to it, you will be truly engrossed in it. This is one of those movies you need to re-watch, read up on, and/or discuss with friends to gain a clearer understanding and perhaps new perspective. Along with it being well written, it is well executed. You truly connect to these characters whether positive or negative. The characters also step away from some stereotypes which made me pleasantly surprised. Everything felt believable even though this is a fantasy.

Lastly, the setting, costumes, and effects were well thought out. It set the tone and time clearly to keep you engaged. They also didn't overdo it with the costumes or effects. I was a little worried about that. They separate and merge both worlds clearly and cohesively too.

In the end, I really enjoyed this dramatic fantasy. I loved it so much that I want to add it to my collection and re-watch it with my mom. Pan's Labyrinth is gorgeous inside and out and deserved every bit of praise it received. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't watched it to do so soon.

Rating: 4.5/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Monday, March 12, 2012

V-log: All Around Update

No annotations this time. I haven't been feeling well and while I was recording my brain was in and out, so it seemed too difficult to add them this time around. Next time, I'll be back on my game. Keep bringing on the questions too! I love them.

+ Miko 101 - Anime Exposure
+ Viewer's Question - Culture & History

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Climax" by Usher
OMG! The real Usher is back and I'm addicted! This song is not only addicting, but it's emotion filled and everything that I love about his music is back. The music transitions are smooth, dramatic, and memorable. The video, some like it and some don't. For me, I think it suits the lyrics and emotion very well. You can feel and see the confusion and emotional drawbacks. Simply said I can't get enough of this track. Keep it up, Usher, and leave that dance, electro-pop nonsense behind. Way behind~

"mimic" by Nightmare
They're at it again and I'm loving this as well. This goes back to what Nightmare is good at which is rocking upbeat tunes. I missed this side of the band. Yomi's vocals are still very impressive and the musical arrangement feels familiar yet fresh to my ears. The visuals are very interesting as it has a couple characters and intertwines the story with the band effortless without one distracting the other.

"Like!" by BABYMETAL
Yes, more cracktastic cuteness! From the DDR-esque sounds to the double pedal drums and growls of metal to...deep bass rap breakdown. Yes, I said it, there's a rap breakdown that makes these girls even more "wtf" than they already are. I'm not even sure if I wanna say I'm a fan of theirs or not, they just amuse me so much with their concept, cute appearance, and music. Way to go, Japan! So, get your fox signs up and rock out, cult followers. (>o<)\>/

"Ti Amo" by BENI
The lovely honey blonde goddess is releasing covers and this is one of them by EXILE. It's completely in English and the PV has the dramatics of a Koda Kumi PV, but it doesn't take away from the emotion or delivery. BENI's voice is flawless and she looks fabulous in this as well. Very beautiful cover and I think it's just as good, if not better, than the original.

"News" by Nine Muses
I know you're probably wondering where's the YG at, but, to be honest, I actually was thinking about adding them to the list this week. Unfortunately for them, there was some mental conflicts I have with "Scream" and "Fantastic Baby" that I can't discuss on this post. So, I wasn't a fan of "Figoro", but I really like this song and the video is quite stunning. I was worried this would be another SNSD, but I can mostly distinguish the girls apart if I wanted to start learning names. The song is catchy, but has some vocal depth to it which is something SNSD and a few other girl groups lack. There's a lot of quirky energy and it's light and fun. I know they have a new music video out now, but this one is my favorite for now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Maria Full of Grace

Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Orlando Tobón
Directed by: Joshua Marston
Language: Spanish
Rating: R
Running Time: 101 minutes

I had to watch this for my Spanish class and the story sounded interesting. It seemed like there would be a lot of drama and conflict to keep me alert for the project.

Seventeen year old Maria works at a flower warehouse, dethorning stems under sweat shop conditions, and supports her mother, sister, and nephew with her paycheck. She takes a break from her stressful life of taking orders from her inconsiderate boss and fighting with her sister by being with her friend Blanca and boyfriend. Soon she learns that she's pregnant with her boyfriend's baby and he wants to marry her for the baby instead of love. They break up and she quits her job.

Before Maria's break up with her boyfriend, she becomes close to one of her boyfriend's friends Franklin and he offers her a job later on as a drug mule. Once her new boss approves of her, she meets Lucy who also works as a mule. She trains Maria how to swallow fruit the same size as the cocaine pellets she would have to smuggle into New York and they become close friends. Shortly before flying overseas, Maria learns that Blanca has picked up a position as a drug mule to New York as well. From there, everything changes upon their arrival.

Before watching this, I knew to expect some drama, but I didn't expect what was happening in this movie which is a very good thing. Predicting a whole movie destroys any intention of watching it at all and this movie was not very predictable. It started off with some negative factors played against Maria and then you just hope that things will turn around for her in the end.

The acting was pretty believable and my attention stayed with the movie, even if this wasn't required for a class. Sometimes foreign films can make viewers' experience waning attention spans, but if the story is interesting and filled with drama then you can get through this movie with ease. I did get a little frustrated with her family and her boyfriend is a complete douche. Biggest character complain was Blanca. She's a good actor and her personality made you feel how Maria feels toward her during certain situations.

I can't delve into it any further than that as I watched this on YouTube once and it would give away some dramatic spoilers, but I remember I was a little disappointed with the ending. Nonetheless, this is a very good movie to watch and I recommend watching it if you like drama, drugs, and some messed up situations.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, March 5, 2012

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Paranoid" by Nightmare
Is it safe to say that Nightmare is back and better than ever? I'll admit as a long time Naito fan that their music has been a bit boring lately and too much anime involvement. I'm so happy to see them do something with more of a punch, musically and visually. It looks like Sakito and Hitsugi are showing off some new tricks too. Not quite flailing and squealing over this, but I can definitely jump up and down with some rockin' fist pumping action. So glad to see you back to yourselves again, boys!

"D-fiver" by downer
I don't think I know anyone who likes this band, but I'm so happy they've been improving over the years and staying together. It seems like they picked up some new tricks from UnderCode bands or something, but mixing it with own hard indies sound. I'm loving it! The costumes almost verge on the bright, cute side, but the chorus is a little like that too. The PV is simple, but it does the job by focusing on the talent...and some strategically placed editing effects.

"In Bloom" by ALSDEAD
Okay, the PV isn't all that spectacular. It's very band centric with a few effects like downer's, but simplicity isn't a bad thing. The song is great and the band hasn't done anything in quite a while. It looks like they dropped the visuals and joined Danger Crue somewhere down the line, which is a great company to be under and grow. I wish them loads of luck with that. The song is very bass and guitar driven and they still kept their unique sound about them with some added growth. Very proud of them, especially with the soulful guitar solo!

"Shine" by Sel'm
New vocalist and new PV. Of course I'm going to miss Tora, but this new guy totally proves himself worthy of continuing this band onto victory. The song is so badass and melodic that you can't help but headbang to the screams, wailing guitars, and thumping bass. The vocals are both soothing yet aggressive which matches the musical shifts perfectly. I also enjoy the dark simplicity of this PV; kinda similar to something lynch. or deathgaze.

"All Fired Up" by The Saturdays
To end today's recs is Big Bang's "Bad Boy"! Just kidding~ lol You probably thought I made a typo or just a really horrible joke. A few weeks ago, I got sucked back into the dance music cravings and discovered these lovely ladies. It reminded of what these kpop girls should be doing if they want to make it here. Unfortunately, I had to break some rules to download this song as it is not offered in the U.S. on iTunes or Amazon. >.< Anyway, the song is very simple and addicting. It's a great party/dance track to purely lose yourself to like dance songs should be. The girls have amazing vocals and I was happy this was not another Pussycat Dolls repeat either. Loving the diversity! Not only are these women stunningly beautiful, but the video is just as wonderful. It matches the beauty and energy of the girls and the music. May I has moar plz? ;o;

Thursday, March 1, 2012

born's "felony" vs. BORN's "Spiral Lie"

Recently, BORN has released a new PV and I didn't know what to expect. I've been constantly conflicted with their direction since the expansion of their library under PS Company and this further complicates my relationship with them.

"felony" is born's first PV and the first PV I saw of theirs back in 2008. I thought they had an amazing sound and with every release I fell further and further in love with them. They have great chemistry on and off stage and set, which is quite admirable.

"felony" is a smooth song with great transitions of heavy, fast paced energy and alluring, slow chorus line that draws you in courtesy of Ryouga's unique vocals and Kifumi's strong basslines. The setting is very basic j-indies empty room, band centric camera angles with emphasis on the vocalist in certain scenes, but it still keeps the viewer's attention. The costumes aren't extremely elaborate either, but each member has a very distinct look to them from each other that's very subtle. It makes fans focus on the music rather than the flashy costumes or attractive faces or bodies of the members.

About four years later, born has become BORN and under the label of PSC. My complaints with their move came when I realized that nearly every song had the same musical and vocal structures. They also didn't sound as powerful as before and their appearance concerned me that they would become a lesser Gazette.

Here we have another empty space, not so flashy costumes, band centric camera angles, and Ryouga tied up in a chair with some female in the same room. With these similar elements, I (and a couple friends) immediately thought of their first PV, except less impactful. The costumes look like Alice Nine. leftovers, the 360 degree camera around the room with combination of various cuts made it sickening and annoying, and the song was pretty much the same structure with a sprinkle of artificial hardcoreness. There is nothing memorable about the PV or the song. No alluring vocals or strong basslines, excluding the short duet with Ryouga and Kifumi.

It's clear that I'm very bias to BORN's old ways and their direction back then, but it's hard to ignore that "Spiral Lie" PV is just a lesser version of their past that is "felony". If you're going to repeat an idea, at least make it more epic than before. Out of all the PVs they've released under PSC, I think this is their weakest one, which is quite saddening since I wasn't all that impressed with "ProudiA". I still have faith that they will turn it around, so I'll keep fingers crossed.