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

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