Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quick Music Review

Hey Monday - Hold on Tight (2009, USA) Rating: 1/5
Favorite Tracks: Homecoming

When Paramore was new and popular, there were a few pop/rock female fronted bands that had a similar sound to them. Hey Monday was one of them. I saw their video for "Homecoming" on the channel Teen Nick (f.k.a The N). I really liked it, despite it being nothing super special. Some time ago, I was curious what the rest of their music sounded like from that album and I recently found out...very boring. There is nothing memorable or redeeming about this album at all. "Homecoming" is still enjoyable and simple, but everything else sounds like a whiny and annoying version of Paramore.

M.I.A. - Matangi (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: aTENTion, Exodus, Bad Girls, Know It Ain't Right

It's hard to stay consistent and remain fresh at the same time, but this latest album by M.I.A accomplishes that. Her collection of music on this album remains eclectic in sound like her previous albums and delivers strong, thought provoking messages in her lyrics. Some songs are still clashes and collisions of noises, some have an interesting vague dance beat, and others have this awe inspiring arrangement, but it all fits the M.I.A sound. I can't quite pinpoint why I like this album so much or even why I think this is her strongest work, but all I can say is just listen to it from beginning to end and let your soul flow free through the various shifts in melodies and tempos.

Icon For Hire - Icon For Hire (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Cynics & Critics, Hope of Morning, Pop Culture, Watch Me

I don't think I've ever pre-ordered a non-Asian album, but I believe this is the first. I got a little preview of a couple songs from seeing them live and it took me listening to it in the car to truly appreciate the shift in the band's sound. From what they said at the live, this was their opportunity to take control of their musical direction and sound. So, this is their true sound and something that represents them and I must say it's a very good representation. It doesn't remind me of other bands like Scripted, but it still has that signature sound that helps me identify the songs as Icon For Hire and no one else. I'm looking forward to what they have planned in the future for the next album.

Nocturnal Bloodlust - GRIMOIRE (2013, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: PANDEMIC, Sphere, Bury Me, A Day to Re:member

While I'm glad I gave this band a second chance, I will admit at times that some songs were too growly for my liking, but the music was thoroughly enjoyable. All the growls and double bass drums tend to make each track sound too similar. It's a problem I had with one of Dir en grey's albums, but I still enjoyed it. As I continue delve deeper into this band, I hope there is a better balance of singing and growling, because the vocals aren't that bad. He has a nice variation of alluring, haunting, and so on.

Pay money To my Pain (2013, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Innocent in a silent room, God drive, Resurrection, Rain

Surprisingly, this was kinda hard to get through. I admit there were a couple or so tracks that grabbed my heart and squeezed it over and over again. Similar to Daisuke's last album, they treated the remaining unfinished tracks with respect and allowed close musical associates to finish up the vocal parts that K left behind. These tracks turned out wonderfully and carried the essence of K's spirit and high energy. I hope the band's last live of the year turned out as wonderfully as this album did. For PTP fans, I think this is a great album that they could cry over with pride and sorrow.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quick Movie Review

Tormented (2011, Japan) | Rating: 1.5/5

I just saw this movie sitting on the shelf of Blockbuster and never heard of it before. The cover was ambiguous and the synopsis on the back sounded interesting. I believe the only movie I’ve seen from Takashi Shimizu was Ju-on and Reincarnation, so I didn’t really have any set expectations like I would Sion Sono or Takashi Miike. While watching the movie, I learned that there was an error on the box. It could be considered a spoiler if you really think about it. The movie itself was underwhelming. While the screencaps on the box looked intriguing, watching it was a different story. In short, the whole thing was odd…not even a good odd either. The story had good ideas, but it was poorly executed. I learned through the trailer on the DVD that this was originally shown in 3D, which explained the out of place, amateur CGI. It kinda brought down the visual aesthetic. There was a cross promotion inside the movie for another Shimizu 3D feature, The Shock Labyrinth, which doesn’t look that promising. There were some good ideas with the story and a few images, but it’s saddening that the movie tried to do too much all at once.

Oldboy (2003, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

I thought about writing a full review for this movie, but I think its probably received enough praise over the years. I was very pleased with this movie and I wasn't expecting to be so impressed by the stories, the characters, and the cinematography. This movie definitely deserved all the hype I've heard about it, before watching it. You're probably wondering why this didn't receive a perfect score. Well, there were a few odd camera moments toward the end that were a little off putting during such an intense scene. It's a very small flaw in this masterpiece. I don't think Spike Lee's remake will capture the essence of greatness of the original. I'm skeptical for sure, but even before I felt that way. I'm not sure if I'll go see it or not for comparison sake, but we'll see what happens.

Thor: The Dark World (2013, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I must admit I wasn't all that thrilled with the first movie, but I went into this movie with an open mind and I must say that I was very pleased. I really enjoyed this sequel a lot more than the first. The story was simple, but I believe the characters and the action made it entertaining. To take a little detour for a second, I'm really enjoying these strong female characters. In this movie was Thor's mother, which had several dimensions to her that made her likeable and someone you can easily attach yourself to. Thor became a more interesting character and wasn't completely dumb downed either. He loosened up some and brought more chemistry, not only with the audience, but with Loki. My only complaints with the movie was the villain's motive which seemed pretty typical and wasn't expanded enough to make him a real threat (especially compared to mortality) and the slight unspoken tension between Jane and Sif. Hopefully, they'll do something more with that in the future.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

I debated whether I wanted to write a full length review like I did last time, but I figured I could sum up my thoughts shortly instead. This might seem like a repeat of the first movie, but it's not. What makes this movie great is that you get to see the harsh realities of a "celebrity", the aftermath of the victory. To me, it feels like there's more at risk for the main characters and I found myself gripping a little tighter to the seat for characters I liked in the previous movie and even characters I wasn't attached to. The visuals are stunning and the character development is what kept me hooked. I even had those moments where I had to beat down my emotions. Anyway, if you want a full length review, you guys know what to do. ^^ This is worth seeing and I enjoyed it a lot more than the first.

A Madea Christmas (2013, USA) | Rating: 3/5

It's that time again for the end of the year Tyler Perry movie featuring Madea. Well, this was quite enjoyable. It had some interesting and encouraging commentary on bullying and interracial relationships...kinda. If you've read previous reviews on Madea movies, you already know that I don't review these set of movies as seriously as others. As a movie, there's a lot of problems, but just comparing it to previous Madea movies, it fits right in. Madea was a little toned down and it had some good intentions like most Madea movies, but I still believe that Mr. Perry should take a break from the cinema for a while and gather his creativity for something great later. If you like Madea, you'll enjoy it for sure. No disappointments. Slightly unrelated to the movie, I think I might make a special post about Tyler Perry and his work, but I have some catching up to do before I can work on it.

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Paradise (What About Us?)" by Within Temptation feat. Tarja
I think this is one of those dream vocalist mash-ups that people wouldn't think would happen in real life. Well, it happened and I'm glad it did. A really good friend of mine shared this one and she's responsible for getting me familiar with these two talented ladies. This is nothing short of perfection with an interesting story and balanced out shots of the band and Tarja performing together. The vocals don't overpower each other either and it's just something to experience.

"Get By" by Delta Heavy
I've learned something about dubstep mid-year to now, that there are different types of dubstep sounds. Anyway, I found this on my Tumblr dash and the nostalgia had a field day with not only the visuals, but the sound. The music has a mix of late night 90s dance music and vocals mixed with not too overpowering dubstep sound. I thought the visuals were very creative and it was fun naming all the different games seen in the video.

"Seseragi" by ADAMS
I hope in the near future I can talk about this duo, because I really like them and I hope they continue to grow next year. Anyway, PV to PV there's improvement and risks. Their whole theme revolves around homosexuality and honestly this PV is quite...depressing. Depressingly beautiful, actually. The simplistic music, soft vocals, and powerful visuals definitely provoke some strong emotions when you're watching it, at least it did for me.

"Let's Talk About You" by M.I.B feat. Yoon Bo Mi (A Pink)
It's interesting seeing a softer side of these fine young men. They have good control and wonderful singing vocals. This song definitely displays it more properly than their previous promotional efforts. The story is pretty simple and I like the editing. It reminds me of a couple Korean rappers and the music sounds a little late 90s R&B. I hope the group continues on this wonderful momentum, because they've been going in a good direction and pace.

"Shh" by After School
This year has been a strong one for this group and I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm glad I gave them another chance thanks to an After School loving friend. Anyway, this video brings back that creative shadow and black and white style seen in Madonna's iconic "Vogue". The music is even retro and amazing. I don't think the choreography is as tight as their previous videos, but it is refreshing compared to other kpop female groups. I hope Japan appreciates it and the fact that it isn't a translation of a Korean song.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Music Reviews

Normally I would go into detail from track to track with these music reviews, but this will be a less detailed version. I feel like these albums need to be mentioned, but I honestly don't have much to say from track to track. I guess that's what a "quick review" should really be, but hey, it's my blog and I think there's enough difference between my individual and quick reviews. Anyway, until I get my stuff together properly, here's something to hold you guys over for my lack of consistence. One more thing...thank you all for checking this place out even when I'm failing on the posts. I really appreciate the support!

Ariana Grande - Yours Truly (2013, USA) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: n/a

I've been hearing a lot of good things about the "ditzy" actress Ariana from Facebook and college friends that I got curious. I looked up couple videos for "The Way" and "Baby I" and I thought both were pretty good, excluding the fact that I thought Mac Miller was completely pointless. Listening to the album was like a blast from the past and revived those feelings of 90's R&B. I know in this day and age it's hard finding your own sound and all, but I couldn't help but noticing the music sampling in "Right There" and how much she sounds like Mariah Carey. The vocal similarities did bother me a little bit in certain songs, but she does have an amazing vocal range for her age. I'm curious what direction she'll take on her next project. Despite my criticisms, I really did enjoy this album and it's difficult to pick favorites as everything seems to fit together on the same level of enjoyment.

Lorde - Pure Heroine (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Tennis Court, Team, Glory and Gore, A World Alone

I heard about Lorde through a commercial on TV. I guess everyone else was exposed to repeated plays of "Royals" on the radio and little old me doesn't really listen to the radio. Honestly, I don't. Anyway, after seeing said commercial enough times, I decided to YouTube her and watched "Royals" and "Tennis Court". I immediately understood her subtle popularity as that "artistic" singer like one-hit wonder Gotye. She has something odd about her musically and visually and she's only 17. The whole album has this indie/mainstream mix with lots of atmospheric sounds. It reminds me a little of old Fiona Apple. The whole album is worth experiencing. Yes, experiencing not listening.

Lady Gaga - ARTPOP (2013, USA) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Applause, Swine, G.U.Y, Jewels N' Drugs

Some of you may know that I wasn't overly excited about this new album. I stalled a little, but when it was time to listen to it, I went in with no expectations and an open mind. Well, I guess I'm still in the process of completely formulating a concrete emotion toward it. It's not as great as The Fame, but definitely not as bad as Born This Way. It somehow falls in between in the neutral area. It's definitely not cohesive and it seems like it tries to please fans of the first and last album by mixing the sounds together. It also tries to step out of the usual Gaga box and reach out to those who enjoy her piano work. In other words, it's all of the place. I guess Gaga is trying to find her place in music again or something. I have to mention one specific track though, "Jewels N' Drugs". This is where most of my confusion lies. It sadly reminds me of that horrible "23" song with Miley Cyrus, but way more tolerable. I don't think I want Gaga to be delving into this genre too much...or that R&B track she did with R. Kelly (ick!). I guess it's a guilty pleasure track. It's definitely gimmicky, the rap lines are decent overall, and there's just something intriguing about it that keeps me coming back to it. Final verdict, if you haven't listened to this album yet, listen to it if you're really curious what it sounds like. Otherwise, you can just listen to those 4 favorite tracks and call it a day.

Linkin Park - Recharged (2013, USA) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES, I'LL BE GONE (Vice Remix)

This was another album I wasn't looking forward to, but I kept an open mind when listening to it. I must confess that I had no idea it existed, until a hardcord LP fan and close friend told me about it. I heard some samples from him and my heart instantly sunk. Well, mind completely rejected this as canon to their discography, if that's possible. With Reanimation, I expected the usual remix tactics everyone else was doing but somehow LP took their original tracks to a different direction and level. With Recharged, it falls into the typical remix territory which makes it disappointing. Some tracks sound like something from Dance Dance Revolution or novice dance remixes for a small club. Sadly, I'll be breaking my consistent purchases and skipping out on this one for the collection.

KoRn - The Paradigm Shift (2013, USA) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Love & Meth, Never Never, Lullaby For a Sadist

The Path of Totality was a complete misstep for KoRn, despite enjoying a couple songs from it. I didn't have any expectations for this album, but it was nice that they took the good parts from their previous album and mixed it in with their signature nu-metal sound. I really, really enjoyed this album and I've been using it to stall on the two albums above. In short, it's a solid album and makes up for the dubstep experimentation. It also makes me feel nostalgic for a live. Hopefully, they'll keep up in this direction.

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Sphere" by Nocturnal Bloodlust
I think I've given this band a try in the past or at least I've seen their name a lot in various places I check. Anyway, I'm not completely sure what I think of the band, but I do know that I really like this song and video has just the right atmosphere to match the tone. It's haunting, dark, and alluring. I guess I'll have more concrete feelings on the band once I listen to Grimoire.

"I Kyou You" by Uwakimono
I'm still a little unsure what I completely think of this PV. It is visually appealing and matches everything that Takeru is more than SuG, so in the end, this solo project was a good idea. His style wouldn't leak into the band like it has for several releases. It combines choreography, pop, dance, goth, and fashion. The song is upbeat enough, but doesn't feel out of place with the muted color palette of the PV. Curious what I'm gonna hear on the mini-album.

Clean ver.
Surprisingly, I've seen a lot of comments saying this video might be too gory, but I don't think it is. I don't know if it's because I'm desensitized by it as a horror movie fan or what, but it does go beyond the standard kpop creep factor. Anyway, when this first came out, I spazzed pretty hard. I love everything about this video, song, and concept. I might have to call myself a STARLIGHT now. They're really good with dark concepts compared to a lot of rookies. Their choreography has been consistently theatrical, so whether you watch it in the video or on stage, it still tells a story just like "Hyde". Anyway, I'm so pumped for this first album!

"Touchdown" by Koda Kumi
I'm surprised I didn't post this one. Well, if you follow me on Tumblr, you would've seen my teasing comment about this video...and the fact that CL released something around the same time. I won't repeat it here. Anyway, I wasn't expecting something like this from Koda Kumi. She always brings something new to add onto her mature, sexy image. It's a very minimalistic video with her and another guy. It looks like she has fun in it and the song matches the fun, confident, and sensual tone of the video.

"Icarus" by JAURIM
I'm not really into Korean rock, but when I saw this band on MAMA 2013 I wanted to check them out. I wasn't expecting to see a krock band with a female vocalist and she has a really beautiful and unique vocals too. There's a nice balance between her singing and giving some instrumental moments, especially with the simple imagery. I'm looking forward to checking out their latest album and maybe they'll gain a fan in me.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rant: Reasons America's Next Top Model Needs to End

I really don't want to make this habit of me talking or reviewing American television, but certain things come up and I feel the need to talk about it. I'm sorry. Anyway, I've been a fan of America's Next Top Model for quite some time now. From its humble beginnings on the first cycle to the all-star battle, it has been an interesting and entertaining journey. Unfortunately, the Top Model train has gradually been losing steam for me and it feels like there is a lack of ideas of where to go and what to do. The most logical decision to this probably is to take a break and re-evaluate the show's goals or accept that the show had a good run and end it after the all-star season. Instead, they decided to take an already existing idea from overseas to America (a.k.a the British Invasion cycle) and then it went downhill from there.

If you're expecting me to jump on the bandwagon with critics and probably viewers about the harsh criticism, exploitation, and give and take input on beauty standards, then you're expecting too much of me...or you haven't been paying attention to my older posts. No, no, this little list consists of simple little gripes I've had for the past three cycles (Cycles 18-20). You know, legit reasons for why I've disliked them so much, instead of simply saying, "this cycle sucks!" I'm sure my opinions won't affect anything as I've learned they've been renewed for a Cycle 21 and there are people who will probably disagree, but it's an opinion. So, here we go!

Use of Social Media
I understand that today's youth and Top Model's demographic is dependent on social media, but television shows shouldn't have to do that. Viewer participation only has a place when it comes to music related shows like America's Got Talent, American Idol, and America's Best Dance Crew. Shows dealing with fashion should be decided by experts. The general public usually doesn't know the basis of what works and what doesn't. If I wanted casual fashion commentary from outside the industry, I would just ask my friends about what they think. In short, I don't think America should have a say of who meets the requirements of being a model, especially when some of those viewers are infamously known for tagging their amateur Instagram pictures and claiming that they're professional models. Ugh!

Change of Judges and Creative Director
Yes, I'm fully aware that the judges have not stayed consistent from cycle to cycle, but they stuck around long enough to prove their expertise to viewers. Janice Dickinson was blunt and honest with her criticism, Nigel Barker understood what it's like to be on both sides of the camera and understood the relationship between a photographer and a model, J. Alexander was an expert on the runway in various scenarios, Jay Manuel served as a mentor on set and provided tough love, and Twiggy gave helpful insight of the fashion business as a former model outside of America. That's just to name a few of the most well-known judges that have stuck around Top Model. Tyra and producers have made a mistake of letting go of Nigel, Miss J, and Jay Manuel to "rejuvenate" the show. I have nothing against Kelly Cutrone as she shares a somewhat similar cutthroat and blunt attitude Janice had in the beginning cycles and is well respected in the fashion industry, but the new additions lack something. British model Rob Evans is suppose to add or at least support Tyra's input as a model, but clearly serves as viewer eye candy and a grope toy for the host. Occasionally he has some good insight, especially in Cycle 20, but it tends to fall flat or becomes forgettable, especially when it is directed toward the female models. Fashion blogger Bryanboy was probably the most useless additions as his duty is to show us what the fans' opinions are on each photoshoot while adding short, quick commentary every now and then. Honestly, it's hard to even consider him a judge. Do we really need a mediator of social media on the show? Lastly, the biggest slap in the face, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj's stylist and former model Johnny Wujek filling in the position as creative director. Why was this the worst addition? While Jay had a great balance of professionalism and personal connections with the models, Johnny doesn't have any of that. He lacks the ability to delivery constructive criticism and saves his critiques for the off screen banter to the viewers. There's also a lack of encouragement and personable connection with the models.

Appearance of Lower Production
Maybe it's just me, but I have asked a couple friends if they felt the same way and they agree. Something about the photoshoots seem cheap in appearance, from the make-up to the concepts. Sometimes the clothes feel thrown on or the make-up is just haphazardly trying to look artistic on the girls' faces. The worst was Cycle 20's decision to add animation to the photos which makes it look even cheaper. The surprise overseas trips aren't as exciting either. It just feels like the budget went to all the wrong things like the judging set, irrelevant stunt challenges, and probably the paychecks for the guests. I just miss the excitement of the models going abroad and experiencing the culture and atmosphere, even though it is a brief moment on TV. I also miss the diversity of quality in the photoshoots from high fashion to commercial to editorial. Everything just looks like an advertisement I would flip by in a magazine without a second thought.

Cheap Gimmicks
I don't know if I was the only person who was upset about The Tyra Show ending so she could pursue her degree at Harvard. I thought after Oprah's show ended that she could sweep up some of the viewers, but at last, she did not. Why am I bringing this up? Because Tyra did what she does best...boast her ego. Getting a college degree is still a big deal, especially from Harvard, but having a university themed cycle. The whole idea felt more like an excuse for Tyra to mention her college experience and nothing extremely new was brought to the table for the potential models. Another example is one of the reasons already listed which is the whole social media gimmick. What takes the cake is this past cycle, Cycle 20, where Tyra and the producers decided to add men to the mix. It's easy to capture cat fights and disagreements with a house full of women. That's a fact, but adding men is just pandering to those who live for reality, sex tension filled drama. Who was interested in who or whatever completely took away from the initial purpose of the show and made it like every other reality show with a house full of people.

Lack of Ideas
Most of the above mentioned could all be tied into this final complaint. Things that Tyra and the producers thought would freshen up the show: changing the judges and creative director, creating cycle themes (i.e. College, British Invasion, Girls vs. Guys), and getting the fans involved with the elimination process. Aside from those things, the concept for each photoshoot seems uninspired to me. Some of them seem like concepts I've seen before. I remember Top Model pushing the envelope in the creative department by playing with race, gender, ethnicity, social commentary, and so on. Another thing, as I mentioned before, was being excited about the models' experiences overseas, but the whole experience seems like an afterthought now as oppose to a staple experience to the show.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Favorite MAMA 2013 Performances

Welcome to the Mnet Asian Music Awards! Where everyone has fun and the awards don't matter~

Yes, this is the post to replace my usual long-winded v-log talking about the year end MAMAs. Why am I not doing a v-log this year? Well...honestly...there's not much to talk about. I could easily rant about everything I disliked about this year's awards and how it falls into the same problems as American music awards, but then you'd almost have an essay. So, for once, I'm gonna leave the extra commentary out and stick to the performances...more specifically the performances I enjoyed.

JAURIM, Lee Haneul, & Jay Park
Songs: JAURIM - Icarus (ENTER THE DRAGON ver.), Lee Haneul - Enter the Dragon

Over the 4 years of watching MAMA, I think this is the first time I've felt nearly satisfied with the opening musical performance. As someone who doesn't listen to a lot of Korean rock music, I felt the need to check out JAURIM. I really loved the female vocals and the music was dramatic and powerful, then Lee Haneul and Jay Park came in. I'm not familiar with Haneul, but I enjoyed his performance. The mixture of all three artists surprisingly worked out pretty well.

Songs: BTD (Before the Dawn), Destiny

I was really surprised to see this group at the MAMAs and I was a little embarrassed that I didn't recognize them right off the bat either. Anyway, Infinite is one of the few groups I can expect near flawless choreography live and I was pleasantly surprised that they chose their strongest song, "BTD". Even though I'm not that big of a fan of their new song, "Destiny", I think they did a really good job performing that as well. And just for added context of HyunA's appearance at the end, their set was tied in with Trouble Maker's story of two rival gangs. It really isn't worth mentioning in this post. ^^;

Ylvis & Crayon Pop
Songs: Ylvis - The Fox, Bar Bar Bar

I'm sure some people are sick of this YouTube hit song and I will admit that "Bar Bar Bar" gets on my nerves, but it was interesting seeing these two strange trending songs come together. Watching A Pink and Sistar laughing and singing along to "The Fox" is quite memorable. Also Ylvis did a very good job with the choreography for "Bar Bar Bar".

Songs: Growl, Wolf (remix)

It's a little scary to admit that I was kinda looking forward to EXO's performance. They were mere rookies last year and played it up with labelmates SHINee. This year, they were on their on and, since they're on this list, it's obvious they did a good job. I really enjoyed their imprisoned concept mixed with this ongoing school thing. For "Growl", I thought it was cool that they incorporated the same camera work as the music video. Kai and Luhan's section was slightly unnecessary, but entertaining nonetheless. Lastly, I enjoyed the remix and tweaks to both songs. Of course, their performance did have some criticism from my end that I won't be expressing here, but overall I'm proud of them.

Big Bang - The Human
Songs: T.O.P - Doom Dada, Tae yang - RINGA LINGA, Seungri - Strong Baby (remix) & Let's Talk About Love, G-Dragon - Crooked, Fantastic Baby

Another year of solo releases for Big Bang, so another year of solo performances leading to a reunion. Starting off with the most recent of solo releases was T.O.P. There's really not much to say. I mean T.O.P is T.O.P. He commands the stage with confidence and charisma while letting a little goofiness slip in the right places. Tae yang followed up with his own recent release and I feel that he really stepped it up with his choreography. I'll slip in one little complaint: I wish I could hear his voice more, but it's forgivable. Once Seungri arrived, I was surprised he threw in an old track along with a new one. Similar to last year's performance, everyone (except Daesung) had their own style and dancers to match their set. They concluded with the energetic "Fantastic Baby" and I think this time around was slightly better than last year's in certain aspects.

Rain - Man of the Moment
Songs: How to Avoid the Sun, It's Raining, Hip Song

If I wasn't already spoiled by this surprise appearance, I would've been spazzing all over the place...more than I did when I watched this. You have no idea how excited I was to see this man on stage, singing live, hypnotizing us with those deadly hips, and slaying all those youngins. Once Rain started performing "It's Raining", it felt like no time had past since the last time he set foot on stage. Aside from his amazing and nostalgic performance, the promotions following after of a documentary type of release for December and a potential comeback for January nearly killed me.

Stevie Wonder - It's a Wonder
Songs: Lately, Isn't She Lovely, Superstition

It was shocking to see the legendary Stevie Wonder grace the MAMA stage and nice to witness the reverence and respect the artists had for him. It seemed like they were overjoyed and near tears by his music. Mr. Wonder is proof that no matter how much time passes, he still brings an amazing presence and uplifting atmosphere to any stage his on.

I guess if enough people are interested in my gripes and complaints about the show, just leave me a comment. I'm sure everyone knows that I love to have a good rant.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Miko's Favorite MAMA Performances

KPop fans around the world have been looking forward to this end of the year event where actors, actresses, groups, and musical artists from various parts of the world come together to recognize the achievements and popularity in one venue outside South Korea. Or something like that. Fortunately, this posts isn't focusing on the awards, but rewinding to the past. I started watching the MAMAs in 2010 with little to near nonexistent care of happenings of the show. It was something new to experience and compare to other shows I've watched in my lifetime. Somehow I've been roped into watching it year after year.

After watching the MAMAs for 4 years, have I grown to care about the happenings of the show? Eh...I guess. I could expand on that thought a little more, but I'll save it for later. Just a heads up, I probably won't be doing a v-log about this year's...and I'll explain my reasonings for it later as well. For now, I wanted to share my favorite live performances from the past 3 years at MAMA.

Big Bang's Tae yang, T.O.P, and G-Dragon Triple Threat (2010)
Songs: Tae yang - Break It Down & I Need a Girl, T.O.P - Turn It Up, G-Dragon - INTRO of GD&T.O.P Vol. 1, GD&T.O.P - Knock Out, Hallelujah

Few may know my struggles with Big Bang, but back then I was a full on supporter of them. I know many would disagree, but it felt like around that time Big Bang, at least broken apart, was on a hot streak. What I enjoyed about this performance was that it highlighted the best of each member and showcased their individual strengths, then brought them together gradually to a powerful performance with one of my favorite songs, "Hallelujah".

Wonders Girls (2010)
Songs: So Hot, 2 Different Tears, Nobody

I remember being so shocked once this deep, sensual remix of "So Hot" kicked in, while the girls were hanging from the ceiling. My jaw dropped and I was engaged that they took a song that's been played so much and took it to a new level. The thing I love about this performance was how strong and confidently they performed in those heels together to "2 Different Tears". I was really impressed with their synchronization and vocals as they danced.

2NE1's Break myself (2011)
Songs: Lonely, I Am the Best

2NE1 was really hot that year and I didn't think it was possible for them to step their game up so much since they debut. Even though "Lonely" isn't one of my favorites, the song was performed beautifully and the box effects really complimented the tone of the song. The transition to "I Am the Best" wasn't too abrupt either and brought the energy way up. Honestly, I think this is one of their best performances.

B2ST feat. Lang Lang & Trouble Maker (2011)
Songs: Lang Lang - Moonlight Sonata, B2ST feat. Lang Lang - Fiction (Orchestra ver. & regular ver.)

I know a lot of people were anticipating the big reveal of Trouble Maker and we got it. A nice brief taste. Why did I like this performance? Well, Lang Lang's piano work was beautiful and added to the dramatics of the overall performance. I was so happy to hear an orchestra version of one of my favorite B2ST's songs being performed live. It wasn't overdone or anything. I was very pleased and they even gave those who enjoy the original version a moment to see that awesome foot work. Also, I want to add that Trouble Maker surprisingly didn't take away from the experience. A perfect sample of what was to come in the future, at that time.

Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre - Legendary Hip-Hop Stage (2011)
Songs: Snoop Dogg - Drop It Like It's Hot, Next Episode

I was really shocked to see this on MAMAs at all, since it isn't Asian and potential language, but I guess they're used to self censoring themselves for TV. Anyway, it has to be obvious why this is a favorite. Nostalgia! Plus it has been forever since the two collaborated on stage together and they brought a lot of energy and excitement to the stage. It was great seeing the Korean artists wilding out to it.

Koda Kumi - MUSE (2011)
Songs: Ai no Uta, V.I.P, Bling Bling Bling

The inspiration for this post lies within revisiting this live. I really, really like Koda Kumi and I was happy to have some diversity on the show amidst all the kpop artists. Koda Kumi looked absolutely beautiful and performed her heart out with "Ai no Uta". Reasons this is on my list is quite obvious: Koda Kumi completely slays your favorites! I was a little nervous with her performance of "V.I.P", but in my opinion, I thought she was quite tame, despite the risque outfit choice. Her music choices I think helped mix up the vibe of her performance from keeping it too mature.

Ga-in's Lady Mamalady (2012)
Song: Bloom

How do you follow up a sexy Japanese female artist? A sexy Korean female artist. I'm sure Ga-in got some flack for her music video for "Bloom" and probably her sexually charged live performance, but you have to admit that it was memorable. She looked beautiful, sounded amazing, and the movement was very smooth. I really liked the transitions and the manly accessories.

Epik High feat. Lee Hi - HATE Mental Hospital (2012)
Songs: It's Cold feat. Lee Hi, Don't Hate Me

I will admit that I'm still not completely satisfied with this label move, but this was probably the best performance last year. Essentially, I really like "It's Cold", but I felt like Lee Hi was not ready for the big stage. She has time to make up for that and it wasn't unbearable. The transition though from seeing Tablo and Mithra on screens to being on stage in full Batman villain gear was a shocker. I loved the chaos and energy. It looked like they had a lot of fun, but I wish they didn't experience so many technical difficulties though.

Adam Lambert (2012)
Songs: Whataya Want From Me, Trespassing

Adam Lambert is an artist that can simply command a small stage with himself and a band. He has such a powerful voice that you can't ignore it and he just gives his all when he delivers his lyrics. Although this performance may be forgettable compared to the big production, gimmicky kpop acts, I still think it's worth looking back on for its shear simplicity and strength.

Block B - Red Carpet (2012)
Song: Nillili Mambo

Even though this wasn't on the main stage during the actual show, I was happy to see them performing at all, especially to such an awesome song. I expressed in the v-log that I really love their costumes to point that I want to imitate them some day. Anyway, I will acknowledge that they are not the best of dancers and they know that too, but I believe this performance played to their strengths. There's minimal group choreography and it gives each member a moment in the spotlight with the back-up dancers. They really owned that red carpet stage with confidence and I hope they get another opportunity to perform for the MAMA audience again.

Big Bang's Monster in Me (2012)
Songs: Crayon, Fantastic Baby

Start with Big Bang, end with Big Bang I guess. haha This was a rough year between myself and them, but they surprised me in a good way. They took a song I wasn't particularly fond of and spun it into something creative to bring the members together. It was great seeing the individual sides of each member as they performed G-Dragon's "Crayon", color coded and all. Despite the technical flubs (and lyric mess up), I thought this was the best part of their performance. Because of the circumstances of their schedule, I was able to forgive their performance of "Fantastic Baby" since it was a great closer with tons of energy and visual appeal.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Papaoutai" by Stromae
I guess this has been circulating on Tumblr for a while, but I just now recently saw it on my dash. Anyway, I think this is a great example of understanding a foreign song through visuals that are both entertaining and emotion filled. The story is something people can relate to whether they've been through the same situation of abandonment or not. Aside from the visuals, I really love the choreography a lot and the song is both catchy and kinda odd, especially at the beginning.

"熱愛発覚中" by Shiina Ringo
When I saw that Shiina Ringo and Yasutaka Nakata of capsule were teaming up, I was immediately excited. This video and song combination was a win-win for the two Japanese musical innovators. With kick-ass visuals that properly represent Shiina's power and humor, it doesn't lose itself in the dance driven music and heavenly, light vocals. This is definitely one of those videos you can watch repeatedly and still find extremely entertaining, fun, and fierce.

What is this? A Big Bang related music video in the recommendations? Haven't seen one of these in my list, right? I have my reasons. I might explain in a possible future post about their solo projects, but for now let's focus on this visual cluster of images. To me, I don't find it all that odd as most do. It kinda strokes my inner cinemaphile in a very good way, obviously. Strangely, I think the hypnotizing music, playful but odd lyrics, and collage of imagery work very well together. It doesn't seem too out of place for T.O.P's character either. It combines his mature, sophisticated self, his stoic, confident demeanor, and his humorous, random self effortlessly. One more thing I want to add that I find amusing in the lyrics. Most of have heard the phrase "he/she could sing the phone book/alphabet/something mundane and it would sound amazing". Well, one line in this song is just the alphabet and sounds just as hypnotizing as the rest of the song. Thanks for proving that theory right, T.O.P!

"Party Rock" by Boys Republic
I think it's been a hit and miss for rookie groups this year for me, but I've been giving them a chance when something is released. I'm glad I gave these boys a chance, whether I continue to follow or not. This song is very upbeat and fun, good to bounce and dance around to. It's cute and charming and has an amusing visual story. The set pieces do remind me of a couple other kpop videos, but I kinda like this one the best.

"感電18号" by D=OUT
It's a shame how PS Company ignores this band's true talent. They have so much charisma and uniqueness compared to a lot of visual kei bands out there, especially the newer ones. This song brings me a lot of joy and reminds me of their pre-PSC days. It's very upbeat, catchy, and fun. The guys look confident and carefree as they perform with their instruments, sing, and act. I hope they continue to have more PVs that bring back their joyful roots and freshen up their bogged down image since the label move.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Horror Movie Annoyances: The Unsympathetic/Unlikable Characters

Long time horror fans probably noticed the evolution of the horror genre over the years. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I know older fans of the genre groaned and griped when the emergence of the slasher sub-genre came. For my generation, probably the supposed "torture porn" sub-genre was a grievance. The purpose of this post and the ones that follow will cover the annoyances I have with current horror movies. So please, have an open mind when reading these.

No matter what genre of movie you watch, you're going to run into understandably unlikable characters. I'm not talking about the story's antagonist, but those supporting characters that are minor obstacles in the protagonist's everyday life. It is a reflection of reality, so their existence is necessary in character growth. Obviously, horror movies are no exception to having the element of unlikable characters. One example is the classic Carrie. Carrie's mother and classmates are understandably unlikable characters. Carrie's mother is overbearing over her daughter and tries to protect her from sinful things and her classmates constantly bully her because she's different from them. Because of these unlikable characters, we are suppose to sympathize with Carrie and feel how she feels. Despite Thirteen Ghosts not being that great of a horror movie, it manages to get the understandably unlikable character down right. Even though there's not much background presented to us about our main character Arthur Kriticos and his family, we know enough to feel a little bit of something for him. Arthur is a widower and tries to raise his two children with the help of a nanny, despite their poor financial situation. When he and his family are brought to a glass house that he inherited from his late Uncle Cyrus, there's a tiny bit of betrayal when we see Cyrus' lawyer Ben Moss try to steal from them after playing the nice guy to Arthur and his family. Once it's revealed that Moss has a hidden agenda, he attempts to escape with some money. Unfortunately for him, his escape plan fails when he is suddenly killed off which might cause a feeling of satisfaction (and perhaps a sense of justice) for the viewers.

Somewhere along the way, horror movies have misinterpreted these understandably unlikable characters and just made them downright annoying with no substance. This shift forced audiences to cheer for the villain and the story suffers to cater to increased character deaths. It also makes the villains more of hero by torturing and killing off these annoying characters. The most tragic part about this misinterpreted element is that not only does the supporting characters suffer from being obnoxious and unsympathetic, but the main character that we're supposed to sympathize with and cheer for become insufferable and frustrating. If they weren't the main character, I'm sure they would be killed off like the rest with no hesitation.

As much as I enjoyed the first two installments of the Final Destination franchise, Final Destination 3 was the beginning of the franchise's decline by featuring ridiculously unlikable characters. More than half of the main cast of characters possess disgusting personalities that you can't wait for Death to catch up to them and take them out of the picture. Ashley and Ashlyn, two best friends that fall in the popular girls trope, are shallow, self centered, and unrealistically careless. Lewis, the athlete, is stereotypically cocky and that word pretty much sums up his whole personality. Pretty much his cockiness gets in the way of saving his own life. Ian, labelled as the "goth" by Wikipedia, suffers from the same personality problem as Lewis with a little bit of range thanks to his friend/girlfriend Erin. The least likable character in the bunch is Frankie, a perverted alumni with a camcorder who constantly sexually harrasses the female characters in the beginning of the movie and tries to get upskirt shots sneakily. In Rob Zombie's reimagining of the iconic Halloween, the movie's protagonist Laurie is reduced to a foul mouth, lewd, and obnoxious teenager that no one can relate to let alone root for like the original. She's disrespectful and just plain unlikable. I'm sure this change to an iconic heroine left a bad tastes in many Halloween fans' mouths.

So, Hollywood and feature movie makers, let's go back to having unlikable characters we actually feel something for aside from disgust. Don't make these characters simply bait for the villain. Give them personalities and make their unlikable personalities realistic.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

Sometimes I worry about this band's activeness and musical direction, but this PV has assured me that everything will be alright. The visuals kinda remind me of something from the early 2000s for some reason, but I obviously find it appealing for some reason. It's simple, but effective in its storytelling. I hope no one slings around "black face" careless over this. Aside from liking this simplistic PV, I think the song is pretty cool. The lyrical structure is consistent with their previous material and the sound is fresh for the band. I'm really looking forward to the new release by them.

I came across this group through the debut of a new kpop group Nature of Man (or N.O.M). I'm gonna jump on the bandwagon and say they borrowed this group's concept, but didn't do it as well. This MV is oozing with sex appeal and I must say the choreography is on point. I honestly cannot get over how amazing these men are in stilettos. I wish I could move like that. The song is kinda dark, gritty, and sexy as well and matches the concept of the song while being somewhat catchy. I'm looking forward to exploring more of their discography in the near future.

"Miss You" by Tiny-G
I must admit I wasn't too fond of their debut song and "MINIMANIMO" was too childish for me. This balances both images from the previous songs in a better way. It's cute, not too mature, and flatters each girl by giving them their own style while still looking together. The song is simple and somehow gets stuck in your head quick easy. I know the video doesn't have anything extremely interesting in it, but there's something about it that seems kinda refreshing to me. I hope the girls continue on this route of concepts, not overly sexy or cutesy.

"Gun" by Nine Muses
It's crazy how much I've grown to love this group's music, but I think this is exactly what I want for a female group that breaks my number count. Anyway, I liked the western, horn dance pop sound that Brown Eyed Girls have previously approved. The video is very simple and has tons of eye candy, whether you're looking at the girls or their romantic interest. They always look stylish and chic, but their talent matches their appearance in quality. I don't want them to burn out, but I look forward to the next release by them.

"There's No Tomorrow (Now)" by Trouble Maker
I almost completely nixed this video from my recommendations because 1) EatYourKimchi had to bring up the sad truth that it's a rip off of Rihanna's "We Found Love" video [stop ripping off Rihanna's videos, Korea!!] and 2) I just watched the uncut version of it which in certain scenes is kinda cringeworthy. Fortunately, it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the song completely. Well, y'know I gotta review the new release since I did the first one. Despite the mental conflict, I still managed to enjoy this more than their debut, both song and video. I think the chemistry is mostly believable [emphasis on mostly, all the cringeworthy chemistry parts are in the uncut]. I thought some of the imagery was bold for Korea, although it doesn't seem like they understand the concept of a silencer. On a shallow note, I think Hyun Seung looks like a good looking psycho. *shrugs* Anyway, it's worth checking out and I hope to have that review up soon.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: American Mary

Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk
Directed by: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 103 minutes

Around the time I was suggested to watch Excision, this movie was included. It had an interesting story and the trailer was intriguing. I found a used copy of it at Blockbuster and blindly bought it, hoping for the best.

Mary Mason is a passionate medical student and her dream is to become a surgeon. Her professor, Dr. Grant, is a constant aggressive push for her and the doctor who trained her and her peers in the hospital, Dr. Walsh, taught her to be blunt and almost cold in tough situations, specifically talking to patients' families. As a medical student, Mary struggles financially and goes in for an interview at a strip club. One evening, Mary goes to party with professors and whatnot in the medical department. After talking to Dr. Grant and Dr. Walsh, something occurs and she decides to quit medical school to pursue a new direction with her surgical skills.

Before I had a chance to watch this movie, I let a friend borrow the DVD and he assured me that I would love it. And did I? Well, I'll tell you know in just a second. Like I said, I was suggested this movie along with Excision and I found it interesting that it had some similarities between them before even seeing the film. Both main characters are female and aspiring surgeons. They both are very passionate about their dreams, even if it's for different reasons, and this passion fuels some pretty interesting visuals and story progression.

Now to get to my thoughts on the movie. I thought the story was really interesting and goes beyond the basic revenge driven plot. I don't know many movies with female protagonists that have a motivation that does not involve some sort of romantic relationship or one that involved body modifications in a respectable and tasteful manner. I really enjoyed the characters, even the supporting cast for the most part. Mary Mason was an interesting character that was easy to relate to or just simply attach yourself to, but I think her personality causes you not to attach yourself too much. You feel her pain and the struggle she goes through in the movie, but you're detached enough to feel a little against some decisions she makes. Even though there's not a huge in depth story on Dr. Grant and Dr. Walsh, the movie offers you enough to form your opinion of them. Aside from Mary, I think it's important to mention the supporting characters, Beatress Johnson and Ruby Realgirl. They may be a little off putting at first, especially if you're not used to that degree of body modification, but they offer another layer to Mary's character and even the story. Lastly, I want to touch on Billy Barker and Rat. Even though these characters are flawed on a moralistic standpoint, you can't help but see the good they contribute in Mary's reinvention of herself. Visually, I like the decisions they made on how they shot the torture and surgery scenes. I strangely have this aversion toward surgery scenes, mostly real ones, but American Mary puts the action off screen and allows the audience to feel in the gaps with some added audio. Honestly, I think that's more effective than on screen gore.

As for the negatives, I felt that the story was rushed in places. One example is Mary's character. Even though she has this blunt, cold side to her that she developed from Dr. Walsh, she's naturally a nice, warm person with a lot of passion built up inside her. She tries to be helpful and supportive to her new set of clientele, but the jump in personality after the party with Dr. Grant felt a little unnatural. I think if there was an established time displayed to the audience, it might make sense, otherwise her attitude change was very sped up. Not only does it seem like Mary's character development was sped up, but it also seemed like there were scenes missing from the movie. One example is when Mary is on the phone and she has a worried expression on her face during the conversation. Logically, you would think she would bring it up with Billy, but she talks about Dr. Grant instead, leaving the audience lost on the point of the previous scene.

Despite the negatives, and I'm sure these negatives could be seen as big problems, I still managed to enjoy the movie. The characters were unique and interesting. I felt something for each and every one of them, no matter how small their part was. I thought the torture and surgery scenes were executed well. The audio and the situation made it uncomfortable while fueling your imagination on what could be going on off screen. I also thought the scene with Mary and Dr. Grant at the party was even filmed well. No glorification of the act and showed Dr. Grant as a bad person. Even though it felt like scenes were missing, I still liked the uniqueness of the story. I would recommend this movie if you don't have an aversion toward body modification, surgical procedures, and rape.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Hannibal

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas,  and Hettienne Park
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Synopsis from Wikipedia: Hannibal is an American thriller television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and focuses on the budding relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a forensic psychiatrist destined to become Graham's most cunning enemy. 
Language: English
Status: 13 episodes – Renewed for 13 episodes more in 2014
Rating: 5/5

More than just a typical crime show dealing with the serial killers, Hannibal delves deeply into the book account -- layering and combining elements of the source material with themes found in other horror classics. Certain subplots and characters from the novels are followed more closely than others, others are completely scraped or modified in favor of giving a more modern day twist. There are also side characters and story lines introduced that never appeared in book (or movies) but I enjoyed them since they added a fresh addition to the overall narrative. One of Fuller's visions was to more thoroughly expand upon Will Grahams character and explore the idea of Graham, Jack and Hannibal maintaining a much more complicated relationship.

One of the best parts of this show is that every single character serves a dynamic purpose. The central actors, Mads Mikkelson, Hugh Dancy, and Laurence Fishburne are extremely well matched in chemistry, are cast excellently and deliver their lines convincingly. Episodes are an hour long, which allows the story unfolds at a natural pace, with calculated cut scenes and slick edits. The haunting soundtrack enhances the cinematic quality of the show and creates an atmosphere that caused the hair on my arms to raise during some of the more frightening scenes. There are silent, vaguely supernatural sequences full of visuals that never feel too heavy-handed or pretentious. Symbolism presented in these scenes make more sense after you've finished watching the series. The cat and mouse dynamics between Hannibal and Will becomes more and more fascinating as it unravels. This is where the writers get an A +. There's a uncomfortable, borderline intimate exchange between the two of them. As the show progressed, I begin to dread the inevitable outcome of their relationship.

Also, I didn't catch it the first time, but the writers intentionally designed the bathroom to look almost identical to the one used in that one crazy scene in the Shining. You know the one. And while this is an extremely dark/grisly show, it still has a stylized, dreamy feel to it with a similarly strong aesthetic. For those worried that this evening thriller would be laden with stomach turning blood splatter and nonstop gore, please rest assured that the camera never lingers on a moment of carnage for longer than necessary nor does it aim for maximum shock value through gratuitous violence. I read an amazing analysis that made me realize how often the camera would focus more extensively on a character's reaction towards a sickening crime scene, rather than the actual object of horror itself. This was more effective than zooming in on the gore – maybe because it left room for our imaginations to work as we react to the character's reactions as we try to envision what the character is observing?

Anti-hero, Hannibal is so urbane, sophisticated and polite that its unsettling whenever were reminded of whats hidden underneath his sleek, polished veneer. At one point I had to start covering my eyes during the scenes where he was in the middle of preparing the “gourmet dishes” his visitors found so delicious. The presentation is so pretty that its easy to forget you're most likely looking at human remains rather than Iberico pork loins drenched in sweet Cumberland sauce, for example. Protagonist Will is never portrayed overly sympathetically, though we can't help but feel sorry given how he's perceived by his colleagues as this twitchy, somewhat broken individual, his constantly traumatized mental state and the powerful, internal struggles he faces while dealing with his darker nature. The final scenes of the last episode are so twisted and disturbing, that they send chills down my spine whenever I recall it. This show has received critical acclaim from the most nit-picky  of reviewers, praise that's well-deserved. I'm looking forward to buying the boxset for the behind the scenes look at the show, and I'm honestly not the type that cares for such things. And for once I actually enjoy fandom with all its silly contributions of art, screen-recaps, crack videos and meme's that serve as a good way to lighten ones mood after watching such a dense, and psychologically stimulating show. Highly recommended!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

So far, I've been very pleased with the direction this band has been going ever since I stumbled upon them. The music has some great transitions, irresistible energy, and good use of vocal variations. It's making me pumped for their new album coming out this month. I like the consistent visuals they've been having since "KiLLiNG ME". Little hints of color here and there within the black and white scheme, then the prominent red and blue in the appropriate places.

For some reason, I'm always afraid this band is gonna fall off the face of the earth, so when they release something I'm always overjoyed. This has a simple concept similar to their "HIGH FIVE!!" PV by still being entertaining and a window to the members' personalities. Also similar to that song is the energy and uptempo melody that makes it easier to get into. I'm really looking forward to their next CD release.

"Shuuei" by Mejibray
With every release this band has had, I've been progressively more and more impressed with the material they come up with. I never thought I would enjoy this band so much, but I'm happy that I gave them a chance despite my feelings toward VanessA. Despite my dislike for a bit of the color filter choices, I really like the simple, band centric visuals that match the mood of the music. I like the quiet tone of Tsuzuku's voice, the guitar solo is amazing, and the bass/drum combo blows my mind. I'm really hoping and praying that this band doesn't lose it's momentum and fall in the visual traps like the GazettE.

"N.O" by BTS
I am absolutely in love with this group right now. Not to cause any feuds with comparisons, but I think this group brings the initial attitude of B.A.P with an inspirational and much needed messages that were laced in H.O.T's lyrics. This video has a nice balanced visual concept without being overly hip-hop, even the music fits that. The visuals are slick and naturally switch from the story of seven students to the choreography scenes, which is well pulled together. The vocal delivery is both powerful and encouraging. Even though Block B has returned to the scene, I'm really looking forward to more of these boys, but I don't want them to overwork themselves like their predecessors B.A.P.

"False Hope" by Song Ji Eun
I'm not a Secret fan and the only solo song I've heard is "Going Crazy", which is quite good. Somehow I totally forgot that I've heard her amazing voice before, but in a way, it was a good thing because I am easily blown away by her impressive range. The visuals are quite simple. It has a balance between artistic, symbolic, and typical R&B. I really like the bold color palette and the storyline doesn't feel forced. The song is really beautiful and emotion filled, especially with the acoustics.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Unboxing: Dir en grey's In Situ Tabula Rasa Tour12-13 LTD

Forgive me for my ditzy-ness.

Horror Movies That Everyone Likes, But Miko Doesn't

A popular question that's asked in the month of October usually pertains to what horror movies to watch. There are numerous lists of favorite scary movies, the best horror movies, or something similar to that. Over the years of browsing over people's lists on various sites and YouTube videos, I usually find myself seeing the same choices that I don't understand. The reason I don't understand them is because I don't particularly like them and I feel like I'm in the minority when people rave about certain movies. So, this inspired the post I am writing now as well as using it as a bonding tool between the moderators Cult leaders. Before you read any further, please have an open mind with my choices. Everyone has different tastes.

The Uninvited (2009, USA)

I must admit that this isn't the worst of the worst of Asian horror remakes. I almost didn't put this on the list as I didn't dislike it too much. The acting and visuals were pretty good, from what I remember. Its been quite some time since I've seen it. Perhaps I'll revisit it and the original for a comparison, if anyone's interested in it. The only complaint that I can remember I had with this movie is that the twists were dumbed down compared to the original. I don't know if it's because I saw the original before I knew the twist already or the movie really did spell out everything, in case the audience is too simple-minded to get it. Out of everything listed here, I won't discourage anyone too much from seeing this unnecessary American remake.

Uzumaki (2000, Japan)

I've seen this movie on quite a few Asian horror list and I remember being very underwhelmed by it when I first saw it. It had an interesting story, but it was kinda boring and didn't do much for me. The only thing I remember actually liking is the end. Not because it was the end of an unsatisfying movie, but the imagery and weird, creep factor was pleasing to the eyes. I also remember reading a comment that suggested to read the manga instead of watching this movie. Maybe one day I will, but I'm not very motivated to do that just yet.

Arang (2006, South Korea)

I was recommended to see this movie years ago and honestly it seemed like an interesting premise. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but compare this movie to better Asian horrors it borrowed from. I know hauntings and ghosts are a staple for Asian horror, but I believe there are still ways to make it effective and creepy. Due to the execution of the story, it became borderline cliche and dull. I felt nothing for the characters and nothing felt scary or at risk. The only positives I have are that the visuals were pretty good and I enjoyed the climax.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003, USA)

I remember when this movie came out in theaters and I wish I remembered what I chose to see that night. Anyway, I did ask a friend that was coincidentally there at the theater about the movie, mostly who "won" and just being a little more annoyed. Over time, it seemed like people actually liked this movie. When I saw it, I wasn't that impressed. When I went back to watch the whole Nightmare on Elm Street series, I completely skipped this movie. I'm not even acknowledging that this is part of the franchise. It has some smart little moments, but overall the characters are just uninteresting which makes the whole movie unnecessary! I guess I can somewhat understand that the main focus is on Freddy Krueger and Jason, but that doesn't excuse lazy characters.

Cloverfield (2008, USA)

Have you ever had a friend that claimed something you consider a bad movie as their favorite? Well, this movie is one of them. It's a bit of a cop out of a choice as I've never seen this movie from beginning to end, but from middle to end. Close enough, I guess. After seeing Quarantine and [Rec], this movie falls very short when it comes to first person horror. The characters are obnoxious, the shaky camera is a little annoying, and the story is a little weak. Most of all, the big reveal of the monster and the conclusion is underwhelming, if that's even possible for such a lackluster movie.

The Ruins (2008, USA)

The concept of vacations and infections are no stranger to the horror movie genre. Of course, these concept trends come and go in waves and I believe this movie came out during that revival. Unfortunately with these waves comes these annoying, unlikeable characters that you can't attach yourself to at all. This movie definitely suffers from that as well as ridiculous logic, dull moments, and a slightly flimsy plot. It might have its fill of gore, hormones, and claustrophobia, but the execution of this movie is poor.

Wolf Creek (2005, Australia)

It's not good to forget about watching a movie until it is brought up again in a better movie. I wish I remembered why I even bothered paying to see this torture fest in theaters, but I do remember which friend I saw it with and that we bursts out laughing at a very inappropriate scene. I'm not sure how much I should say about my opinion on this movie as I have a feeling I will be bringing it up quite a few more times. To quickly list off why I didn't enjoy this movie: it feeds into the stereotypical alcohol, partying, and sex; it doesn't add to the horror genre, there's barely any plot, and the characters are so unlikeable, unrealistic that it doesn't matter what happens to them.

Paranormal Activity (2007, USA)

This was a movie I thought I would never ever see, but curiosity got the best of me and I caved in. Luckily, it was from my job, so the only thing lost was time...and barely that since my attention was waning throughout the whole movie. I understand the appeal. "Let your imagination create the suspense." But for people like myself, paranormal movies just don't cut it when it's shot like this. I didn't go into this movie with much expectation, only the thought of it being a better budget Blair Witch Project and that's what it felt like watching it. There was nothing to trigger my imagination to create any fear or suspense, therefore the movie was very boring and felt like I was just watching a normal couple living their normal lives.

The Grudge (2004, USA)

If it wasn't for a school assignment, I probably wouldn't have bothered watching this remake. I lacked interest in it otherwise, but at the time Asian horror remakes in America was the big thing and I'm surprised that the original director of Ju-on is responsible for the remake. Unfortunately, this is my least favorite Asian horror remake that I've seen so far. My biggest gripes had to deal with the characters. There were extra, unnecessary ones that took away from the original suspense and connection that the main character was suppose to go through. I'm aware that there are people that dislike it just by looking at the average score on imdb, but it has made this list because I see it in a lot of horror movie lists saying it's their favorite, it scared them, or something of that nature. In my opinion, just stick to the original.

Hostel (2005, USA)

Out of everything I listed, this was the only movie I actually looked forward to seeing when it was released in theaters. I remember almost vividly asking a former friend of mine to accompany me to see it and I had hopes that this would change the horror genre. Unfortunately, it did...for the worse. The movie had a slow start with three unlikeable main characters. It was all about scoring drugs and hooking up with prostitutes. This might've catered to guys like my former friend's boyfriend at the time, but not us. We were bored. We were ready for some sort of violent action and at the rip of a nail from flesh, we rejoiced. In that moment, we surrendered ourselves to the entertainment of "torture porn" because the beginnings and characters were so uninteresting to us. There was a lack of consistent sympathy towards the leading male, since for most of the movie we don't care about him, but when he's chased by people we dislike even more, we want him to survive. I probably will harp on some other grievances on why I do not like this movie in a later post. For now, I will point out two scenes I really like: the prostitutes getting hit by a car and the gang of children who don't receive their "payment".

Blair Witch Project (1999, USA)

Before Paranormal Activity took over the tradition of releasing a new installment every year around Halloween and sparked the whole found footage movement, this movie was the scariest thing in theater. At least, that's what advertising told me. I got to hear the lovely stories from my mom about people puking in theater due to the camera movement. Fortunately, I didn't see it in theaters, but still I saw it. That's bad enough. Advertising got the best of my curiosities and my mom and I rented it. Thinking back on it, I still feel guilty that my mom sat through one of the worst horror movies ever that came to theaters. The characters lacked depth, the camera made me nauseous, and there was way too much profanity for it to be deemed realistic. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was more realistic than this movie. Also, the ending was extremely anti-climatic. To this day, I still do not understand why people find this movie so terrifying or worth mentioning in their top ten horror movie lists.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

Susanne Sundfør “Silicone Veil”
This music video is multiple levels of weird – and also nsfw, but I love it. Hm, to say it simply, it seems like a song of survival and transformation by one's own means. Her music is classified as electro-folk but genre's can be tricky little boxes, can't they? I think her voice really holds all the magic, especially in this song. The vocal pirouettes near the end are really haunting against the backdrop of heavy spiraling synthesized beats.

Gdragon  "Coup D'etat"
I think its safe to assume that Gd's finally broken free of the candy coated persona that made him so popular during his controversial heartbreaker era. I get the impression that the lyrics are meant to be self-depreciating, rather than arrogant but I wish he'd stop using outdated slang to express himself. Diplo & Baauer elevate an otherwise subpar hip hop track. The juxtaposition of beat patterns, skittering hi-hat and snares did little to compensate for the awkwardness of GD's flow, but I still enjoyed the myriad of beautifully rendered visuals.

Philtre ft Younha "Fade"
Philtre is the creative genius behind some of Epik High's most memorable instrumentals so I already knew his collaboration with Younha would further demonstrate his amazing composing abilities. The lyrics are uncomplicated and quiet but I find it amazing that sadness can be conveyed so well by simply outlining their shape in small ways. I think it allows the listener to fill in the gaps. The scenes of the girl lifelessly going about her daily routine in slow motion will resonate with anyone that's ever experienced the feeling of numbness after a painful separation.

Rphabet Ft San E "Black Suit"
I'm in love with the use of projected animation in this mv. It fills me with warm fuzzies to see simple but brilliantly executed art in my music videos. Monochromatic aesthetics aside, Rphabet ft San E has successfully secured a place on my playlist. Hip hop with a gritty, experimental edge? I'm always here for that. San E packs quite the lyrical punch and there's a subtle menace to his flow that other rappers struggle to convincingly achieve. I guess skull makeup is pretty popular these days but it doesn't look as tacky on San E it did on that other hiphop artist. *coughsorryjaycough*

Kim Sarang "ICU"
ICU is the perfect blend of shoegaze and alternative. The video feels very personal and introspective, full of strange but entertaining symbolism. From what I've read of the translations it's a social commentary piece that fits the theme/title of his album, Human Complex. It's been such a long time since he's released anything outside of the occasional one track single. I was beginning to worry he'd dropped out of the music scene once and for all. It's easy to forget that these things take time to produce and Kim Sarang is essentially a one man band. An artist of pure sound, technique, brilliant lyricism and execution, he treats his music like canvas for his voice, rather than a page out of a paint by numbers book. That's a pretty hipster thing to say but I recommend you try out the rest of his EP for yourself to see what I mean.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick Music Reviews

Ladies Code – Bad Girl (2013, Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 나쁜여자 (Bad Girl)

I have very little room for girl group albums on my playlist, but every now and then one or two manages to wiggle their way into my tiny collection of favs. I'm a sucker for swing jazz/big band inspired music, so when I heard that was their concept I fed into all the hype surrounding Ladies Code. 나쁜여자 (Bad Girl) takes quite a departure from the typical kpop sound, with its chord changes from verse to verse and Broadway-esque delivery. While their voices are in no way unique, the performers still scores above average – especially since all of them can sing with varying degrees of talent. It soothes the part of me that wishes Miss A sang in their own individual style, instead of JYP's obvious vocal puppeteering. Supergirl kinda sounds like something you'd hear during the credits of a Disney special, but empowering girl anthems are such a welcome rarity in kpop that I gave it a pass. Dada La rehashes the jazz theme from earlier but freshens up with a dash of burlesque. It's worth a listen or two to if only for the amazing vocals. No mini album debut is complete without at least one forgettable ballad track right? At least 안울래 (Won't Cry) gives the girls one more opportunity to show off their chops even if the ballad isn't memorable.

Ailee – A doll house (2013, Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 이런 법이 어딨어, 열애설 (Scandal)
Ailee is renowned as one of the only songstresses to utilize the same chest vocalizing technique you'd hear from singers like Christina Aguilara or Beyonce. That requires great control and flexibility, so not just anyone can pull this off. In my opinion she brings much more variance to her voice than Hyorin or Taeyeon, along with being able to straddle the line between soprano and alto. Her last mini album was a bit bland but was still a great introduction to an underrated artist struggling to set herself apart within the female solo corner of kpop. U & I is a step up from her previous title release, setting aside the disco theme in favor of a jazzy, horn driven title track that's similar to "Madonna" by Secret and within the same genre as popular multi charter "It's Over" by Lee Hi. While I think this 'version' is a much more interesting edition to the music trend, I found myself unable to get past the overall poor production value. A balance between vocals and instrumentals was just not reached. At one point, she was practically screaming over the drum set. Ailee slightly redeems herself in No No No. The shimmery guitar effects and conventional pop hook is merely a backdrop to further emphasize her vocal expertise. Rainy Day intros with an actual rainstorm instrumental, which was way too cheesy for my tastes. The song exudes the same passion and punch as the previous track but lingers on a melancholy note. To be honest, its really not all that memorable for me, but if you enjoyed "Heaven" you'll probably enjoy this song. 이런 법이 어딨어 (How Could You Do This To Me) was the weakest track by far but certainly the most soulful and heart-wrenching. I turned it off as soon as the backup choir kicked in near the end. It just wasn't really my cup of tea. Thankfully 열애설 (Scandal) completely blew me away in all of its sinister, eerie elegance. Its a ballad - yes, but it takes on a strong tango vibe and generally overflows with sensuality from beginning to end. She explores her ability in the most mesmerizing way possible, as she seems to know exactly when to hold back and when to pull out all the stops. I'd love to see her perform this someday. A's Dollhouse ends on a lukewarm note with I'll Be Ok, a mid tempo, beat laden acoustic track featuring some unnamed male artist.

Seungri – Let's Talk about Love (2013, Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 할말 있어요 (Gotta Talk To U), 그딴 거 없어 (Come to My)

I was ready to forgo listening to anything outside of the scheduled title track after I'd made the mistake of reading a few interviews detailing the inspiration behind the music. It's Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines” level infuriating, guys. I'd even go as far as to discourage watching certain performances, if only to spare you from having to witness him pretend to headbutt one of his female backup dancers. Man-child antics aside, I decided to give him a shot. As many reviewers have already said, Let’s Talk About Love is a little more than reminiscent of something Timberland/Timberlake would have released but Seungri's verses didn't really click with me. Not even GD's snarky line shooting caught my attention in this one (*gasp* ...I know). The credit actually belongs to 태양 for the clever little musical curve-ball thrown in at the end. I'm willing to ignore the usage of "biyatch" and "take us to the chorus/bridge" to listen to 태양's rap just a little longer since I've been less than impressed with his singing lately. Title track and MV 할말 있어요 (Gotta Talk To U) is just as deceptive as the controversial teaser video released a week before it's release. The song starts off with an acoustic arrangement that gradually builds momentum towards an euro-electro synth climax. The tone and timbre of his voice aren't exceptionally unique, but they're very easy on the ears so I highly recommend not to skip this. My only complaint is the constant and out of place 'hustlin, hustlin' bit strewn throughout. Piano pop GG Be (지지베) aka the headbutt song combines catchy hook and self-harmonizing while the jagged guitar work gave just the right amount of edge. Could have done without Jennie's part but she's basically a watered down Minzy. Comparisons between JT's "What Goes Around, Comes Around" and 그딴 거 없어 (Come To My) are unavoidable no matter which way you slice it, but his attempt to emulate the singer here wasn't half bad. I had to give him props for pulling something like this together. Even the cliche piano instrumental was excusable, as the arrangement eventually transitions into something a bit more complex. You Hoooo!!! offers listeners a glossy dubstep jam with the same synth-y undertones we heard in the title track. It's a little generic but breathes what little life it can into vocals that don't really take us anywhere we haven't already been before. Overall, this song is catchy enough to draw me in with its dance-able pulsing beat, which modulates and changes up its rhythm at its high points. I could have done without the shout out/call back? lyrics at the bridge. In some ways this song has the same energy as 2012's summer hit, Fantastic Baby. Remember what I said earlier about ballads? Well I have to admit that Love Box is a step above a random filler track usually thrown in at the end. The instrumentals are nothing to write home about - though they are very clean and crisp. Maybe its because he wrote the lyrics, but his voice feels it's most sincere in this one. I like something real from him.

I know I picked on Seungri incessantly and questioned his character, but overall I'm still willing to recognize the effort he put into this release. He's got a long way to go but he's headed in the right direction.

2ne1 – Falling in Love/ Do You Love Me? (2013, Korea) Rating: 3/5

The casual but elegant summer themed photoshoot teaser pics for Falling in Love sparked a little hope in me that this would be the one track that would propel 2ne1 back into the spotlight. Both the song and mv lived up to my expectations. They played it safe with a reggae tinged jam that buries itself into your subconscious without your permission. It doesn't stray too far from the familiar auto-tune entrenched mix up that we're used to hearing from them, but somehow the breezy, flirtatious melody felt like a refreshing drink on a scorching hot day. Minzy reminds us of her incredible vocal maturity in the verses and the English bits of CL's rap put a smile on my face. Even Bom's voice was worthy of a second chance as it sounds really good while she's performing this live.

Too bad my hopes were smashed in the followup track......

Do You Love Me? doesn't even register as music to me. I'm hoping it wasn't meant to be taken seriously. It's so overproduced and messy, the melody might as well be nonexistent -- might as well have skipped the singing all together, since most of it was repetitive and boring anyway. CL spells the entire title out one too many times in the most obnoxious way possible. Worst of all, the electro mix seems to be straight up lifted from previous tracks. That's just lazy, Teddy. Even the video for this song is cheap and screams “last minute comeback attempt.”  We can only conclude from this that YG is almost ready to abandon the girls, at least as a whole and most likely in favor of all the other up-and-coming talents he's hoping will save the company from the inevitable plummet in finances after Big Bang's temporary hiatus from the industry.
John Park – Inner Child (2013, Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: 지워져간다,  Sipping My Life (Bonus Track)

I really appreciate the sophisticated quality of John Park's previous singles so I'd been looking forward to hearing a full-fledged album from him this year. Tempered just right for lovers of urban contemporary r&b, soul, blues and soft rock, John Park's “Inner Child” appeals to a wide variety of listeners. Electro (neo-soul) Imagine hypnotizes and draws you in with its 90s r&b tempo. Baby is the most upbeat track on this album. It employs a variety of instruments, but is noteworthy for its funky guitar solo. In,지워져간다, gentle acoustics and a piano interlude create a sentimental mood that makes this the perfect song to wind down to after a long day's work.  John Park's voice wraps around you like a warm blanket you'll never want to unroll from. 
다시 is sung the way a story is told. Strange way of describing a song but you'll see what I mean. It's very uplifting. Spirally electro effects and a cheerful sounding piano highlight the verses while the electric guitar brings it all together. Bizzy's rap meshes in nicely without interrupting the flow of the song. That could have been a disaster had he chosen the wrong feature artist. Too Late 
is something you'd hear at the end of a very emotional film or drama (think Grey's Anatomy). John's voice is different here, especially during the verses - he sounds even more mature than usual. I'm rarely a fan of falsetto but I've made an exception for him. He flexes his vocals a little more at the end of urban guitar jam, Right Here. Though I kinda felt second hand embarrassment from the little bit of Snoop Dog he tried to sneak in there.... No. 철부지 belongs in the same category as Too Late but is a little more subdued. As I listened to this song, I began to realize how much I appreciated how organic his music is. There's only so much manufactured, digitally polished auto-tune mess one can take.  Filler comes in the form of  soft piano ballad, 어디있나요. His voice is so soothing and comfortable to sleep to and I don't mean that in a negative way. Blues-y, 그만
, is short but sweet with an incredible piano accompaniment and lazy but cute sounding choir backing up John's soulful vocals. To You And Me (Outro)
 wraps up a brilliant album on that same soulful note. If at any point you wish you could sing along with John Park, try Sipping My Life. itsinenglish