Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quick Movie Review

Hotel Transylvania (2012, USA) | Rating: 2/5

Ophelia gave a quick review of this movie, so here's a quick thought from my end. The movie was decent, but nothing I would highly recommend. I might've experienced some short inner chuckles, but I was far from rolling on the floor. It has a father-daughter element to it and the love interest is extremely dorky in a slightly obnoxious way. I would suggest The Croods over this movie for a more effective father-daughter dynamic that really engages a personal mindset.

Wreck-It Ralph (2012, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Ophelia has already mentioned this one as well, but it was on my list. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one. I thought Silverman's voice wasn't too terrible for her character. Everyone seemed to fit naturally. I had a good feeling of nostalgia seeing all the familiar video game characters and the history of arcades. This is a refreshing kids flick that I think audiences of all ages can enjoy.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012, USA) | Rating: 2/5

Yes, I still hear the controversy of whether this is a good or bad movie to represent the series, but I'm not sure if I mentioned that I have a vague understanding of the original plot line. I'm not a huge fan of the game. I'm a s Silent Hill fan. You can like both, but I just enjoy it more for various reasons. Anyway, I've seen all the Resident Evil live action movies and I enjoy them for the most part. I wasn't particularly fond of Resident Evil: Afterlife and the follow up is on the same boat. It was underwhelming, convoluted, and somewhat confusing. It seemed like there was a lot of fanservice pumped into this, especially in the character department. Anyway, Ada Wong was under used and just felt like a throwaway character which is a shame, but a couple other characters kinda felt like that in areas. I doubt this is the end, but the series is definitely falling apart.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013, USA) | Rating: 4/5

I contemplated doing a full length review on this movie, since it's another big summer movie and was also on my list to see, but I think I can sum everything quickly. After all this time, this movie was totally worth the wait, but unfortunately there's some controversy surrounding it pertaining to the end. I'm not a major Star Trek fan, but I'm familiar with the franchise and I can understand the fan gripes toward it. Nonetheless, I was surprised how smoothly two hours passed. The story was engaging and there was a good balance of action and dialogue to pass the time seeminglessly. The characters are more developed and I'm curious if there's another installment. The villain was great and the cinematography is astounding, except for those damn lens flares. Looking forward to more and what J.J Abrams has in store for Star Wars. If you want a full review, feel free to request as always.

Sinister (2012, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Another movie that Ophelia has covered, please check that out. I was pretty excited and a bit cautious about this movie, but it brought a refreshing look into suspense thrillers that I've missed so much in American cinema. Ethan Hawke's acting was convincing and you become really engrossed with everything going on with him. There was no mercy given to the characters which suits the title. There's minimal jump scares, lots of "on the edge of your seat" moments, and unsettling executions. I agree that they should've hid the demon a little more, but overall I was really pleased and might consider getting this myself. I'm hoping The Purge shows just as much promise with Hawke's talent this summer.

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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle
Directed by: Shane Black
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes

It's that time again to kick off the string of summer movies and this is the first movie on my list. I was really looking forward to this and coming back home. I was able to see it again with my mom with a slightly new set of eyes.

The movie starts off in Sweden of 1999, where Tony Stark is attending a New Year's Eve party. He talks to scientist Maya Hansen about her latest experiment, Extremis, and an eager Aldrich Killian approaches him about joining his company Advanced Idea Mechanics. Tony brushes him off by saying he will meet him later, but ends up standing him up to check out Maya's experiment. We fast forward to present day, after the events in New York. The Christmas holiday is approaching and Tony Stark is struggling with anxiety attacks brought on from a wormhole incident featured in The Avengers movie and uses his suits as a distraction from his problems. Throughout the movie, he fights against it and the effects it has on the people close to him while dealing with an unexpected terrorist threat, the Mandarin.

Now I know this movie has faced a great deal of controversy and criticism, but the overall feedback has been very positive. Some might even say this is the best Iron Man in the series, maybe because the sequel was lacking something. Anyway, let's move onto what I thought.

As mentioned before, I was really looking forward to this and I must say Iron Man 3 exceed my expectations. It was personable, entertaining, action packed, and funny. Robert Downey Jr. owned his role as usual. He brought a great range of emotion and a smooth comedic delivery when called for. He is Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle had role expansions and become important parts to Tony's struggles. Pepper Potts wasn't a typical damsel in distress. Her relationship with Tony was very 50/50. She needed him as much as he needed her. Colonel James Rhodes fits into this follow up more easily and his contributions doesn't seem as awkward as the sequel. He gives a good amount of support to Tony and even adds to the comedy when appropriate. Ben Kingsley also did a fantastic job as the Mandarin. I keep hearing comparisons to the Joker, but I feel his speech pattern is similar but his tactics resemble Bane. This seemed very Dark Knight Rises in areas, but still refreshing in points.

I really enjoyed the direction of the story following the events of The Avengers. This, to me, made up for the weak sequel. Some were disappointed in the lack of Iron Man, but it brought a new dimension to the character, a more human side to the hero. This could also be compared to Bruce Wayne in Dark Knight Rises. I feel every hero should face their inner demons and battle with normal trials we face. It brings out a sense of relatability and vulnerability to our hero. A struggle with the self can be a more challenging battle than the actual villain, because it hinders the hero's train of thought. As for the villain, I also enjoyed the direction they went with that. I won't go into detail, but it might contribute to breaking a cinematic trope.

I will admit that this movie is not completely perfect, but it was entertaining and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it enough to bear through it the following weekend to see it with my mom. I was pleased and I'm curious to see the future of Iron Man.

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Quick Music Review

12012 - 12012 (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5

After departing from two labels, the band joined the ranks of Free-will and fans were a little shocked by the band's makeover after Yuusuke departure. "MADARA" is an eerie atmospheric introduction to the album. It sets up the curious tone you may be feeling about this album. "SUICIDE" was the promotional track used for this interesting comeback. With soft introduction and tribal-like drums, the guitars kick in and Wataru begins to scream like a mad man. Sadly, I have to agree that this is straight out of Dir en grey 101 guide book. Perhaps this marks the death of the soft 12012 from the previous label? "BAAL-ZEBUL" starts off a bit eerily and then Wataru screams to bring you back to reality. It's another heavy song, but it seems to have more structure to it than the previous track. "ABUSE" lightens up just a little bit and adds more speed and clumsiness to the drums. The musical arrangement is quite daring and I like it. There's a bit more vocal variation in this one, just to remind us that Wataru can still sing like before. "SUIREN" brings in the piano and some distant vocals. It's a nice break from the heavy sounds and screams. This track sounds like the 12012 from "Just the Way You Are..." 12012. This is a beautiful song. It's not too soft and gives us a chance to let Wataru's vocals soothe our minds with a great musical arrangement. "JAZETSU" comes in with a subtle bass introduction and slowly eases into the song with a little bit a drums then guitar. This is another heavy track, but not as abusive to the ears. The music lurks and taunts during the verses as Wataru's voice echos, then there's a more harnessed screaming delivery in between the verses and chorus to tie in the old and new sounds. "EN" brings us in with a brief drum introduction and joined by distorted guitars luring you into the song. The track is a little more balanced out compared to most of the previous tracks and utilizes Wataru's voice to set the tone. You also get a little taste of Under Code 12012 in the bridge. "HESITATION" tugs back the metal elements the band has acquired along with aggressive vocals, screaming, and a few growls. It's more under control compared to the first couple full tracks. "FEROCIOUS" starts with an almost sensual, yet intimidating sound with strained vocals lingering beneath the music. When the verse kicks in, there's layers of distant screams and a growling delivery in the forefront. It's an odd sound and it might take some getting used to to accept that this is 12012. "HIDE & SEEK" breaks out wildly with heavy drums and a guttural delivery with some clumsy, fast pace verse delivery. "MADMAN" is a short track with more growling and fast paced instrumentation. Don't feel guilty if you skip this track. You're not missing anything. "FORTITUDE" softens things up and brings in the old 12012 from the previous label. More musical structure, emotion filled vocala, and something to latch into your mind. Quite beautiful. If you're lucky enough to receive the edition with the second disc, we have some remakes of older songs from the Under Code era. "「6」party -reprise-" keeps the foundation of the song, but lightens up the music compared to the original. The musical arrangement matches their new sound though and there's some growls here and there. This version pretty much sucks the fun out of the original. "Vomit -reprise-" was already a heavy song, but the instruments seem a little lighter than the original. There's some vocal variation from a mid-whisper, half screams, and distant singing. "My agony room -reprise-" tries to go a little more metal with it and takes away the dramatics of the vocal progression from the original. Unfortunately, 12012 is no Dir en grey and their remakes just cannot compare to their originals. Even though this is totally different from the softer material they've been releasing before this label, I think this band has something to work with to gather a more steady signature sound to calm the Diru fans.

Clazzi - INFANT (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Bad Girl, Love & Hate, 우리 변한거잖아, Can only feel

I feel like I'm late to the party for jumping on the Clazzi praise bandwagon when this album was released, but I suppose it's never too late? "Bad Girl" is a fun little retro tune that has some very quirky electronic elements and a sassy female vocals. It's slick and a great, fresh start to an album. "Love & Hate" is the second promotional track, I believe, for this album. It has a slightly dark club tone and mature male vocals to accompany the sound. You would think the rap input would throw off the smoothness of this track, but it compliments it just right. "Where's Dance" has a bit of a Daft Punk feel to the melody and some female vocals that remind me of something from the Europop scene. "40 nights" features a little more intense electronic sound that would kill for. Despite the slight intensity to the music, it does have a subtle charm to it thanks to the guest vocals. "Star child" is definitely Europop influenced with some nice sleazy, confident male vocals. A very good club song to taunt and tease. "우리 변한거잖아" is the reason I was so intrigued and excited for this album. Who would've thought I would go for the guy from 2am with a slick electronic track. I love the arrangement. The melody knows when to pull out the punch and pull back to emphasis the vocals. "Can only feel" has a deeper electronic feel and brings back the memory of late night dance tracks on the radio from the 90s. It has a good progression, pause, and delivery with the flowing female vocals. "Loving you" is quite minimal compared to the previous tracks and has more of a crowd hype feeling to it. "Sexy doll" is a little less minimal and has this familiar current Europop sound to it. It has a fun, confident female vocals that counters the male lyrical response. "Crazy for love" has a progressive club sound to it and some auto-tune female vocals. It's a little odd and definitely experimental. The final track is a remix of "우리 변한거잖아". It's a little more subdued and experiments with some different electronic techniques to be a bit softer and a hint of funk.

miss A - Touch (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Touch, Lips, No Mercy, Touch (Newport Mix)

"Touch" was a bit surprising how sped up the introduction was compared to the teaser, but the pace evens out before the first verse. It has a mature, broken tone to the lyrics and the music has a classy, slick electro-pop sound that breaks out of the norm in the industry. "Lips" comes in with a confident, sexy sound and delivery. I really like the music transitions from the verse to bridge to chorus. It works really well with the vocal shifts. Hearing it now makes me think that 2NE1 could something like this if they really put the extra effort in the vocal area. "Rock N Rule" is a few steps back from the previous tracks. It has an upbeat tempo to it that makes an awkward transition from such mature tracks. This sounds too generic to follow after that. "No Mercy" experiments a little better than the previous track by having some quirky electronic and rock elements mix together. It has a sassy, playful tone to it and has a bit of retroness to it that doesn't overpower the modern sounds. "Over U" carries on the electronic and slight rock sounds on into this track, but has this weird vocal arrangement. It tries to be confident, but comes off as cheesy with all the distortions and borderline cutesy repetition. "Touch (Newport Mix)" surprisingly builds on and improves on the title track. It makes it more tortured and haunting, leaving an eerie and guilt filled impression in your mind. But it doesn't leave you down in the gutter, the sound lightens in the chorus just to bring you back into the dreary shadows in the next verse.

Angelo - RIP/Moment (2012, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: RIP, The Crime to Cradle

"RIP" takes a hold of its listeners and shakes them with intense guitar rifts and a nice underlining bass to soften the blow just a little. The vocal attacks are just as fierce, then both the vocals and music pull back just enough for you to settle into the track around the bridge and following into the chorus, until the next blow comes from the next verse. "MOMENT" summons an upbeat Pierrot sound and lifts us up from the darkened mood from the previous track. It could be a deceiving song like "Psychedelic Lover", but it's an interesting contrast. "The Crime to Cradle" takes a harder sound and allows Kirito's voice to intertwine with the melody in a false seduction. Once the bridge hits, the vocals turn into screams and reel back in for the chorus, letting the music stray off for a moment before bringing it back to a steady hard melody.

Black Gene For the Next Scene - DOOM, Thirsty (2012, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: DOOM, Thirsty

This was a request from a reader and I was excited to do something from Rame's new band. "DOOM" quickly jumps from fun dancy to potential heavy rock to a steady mixture of both. It's an interesting combination, but it works and Ice's vocals keep up with the quick pace. I really like the musical and vocal transition from the verses to the bridge. The chorus is very high energy and I can just imagine the drummer sweating after this one. "DistRhyme" continues the electro-rock route, but adds some vocal distortions. It almost sounds like a copy and paste of "DOOM" with some minor changes to the music arrangement. "Thirsty" brings the electronic sounds forth and lets the rock sound support it in a upbeat pace while Ice's voice growls just a bit until the verse. It's a subdued aggressive, confident delivery, then it switches to a lighter tone in the bridge and chorus before cleverly easing us back into the electronic phase of the track. "A-jest" brings back the bass line and almost the exact same melody from "DOOM" with some tweaks. It's not exactly the same. It's nice to hear Rame do a solo. It's been so long. Anyway, Ice's vocals flow quite nicely and has a soft, mature edge to it that's a bit alluring to the ears.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quick Music Review

SHINee - 3집 Chapter 1. `Dream Girl - The misconceptions of you` (2013, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Dream Girl, Dynamite

I guess SM Entertainment learned how to properly compile all the tracks featured on the album as opposed to making it seem like a never ending song. *coughs*Sherlock*coughs* This track opener is called "Spoiler", which features bits and pieces of the tracks on this CD with some other stuff. I don't suggest doing this all the time, but it does work better than "Sherlock (Clue+Note)", "Clue", and "Note" following one right after another. "Dream Girl" is the promo track for this album. It took me a while to appreciate this song, but without having the visuals from the music video made me enjoy the retro sounds combined with booming electro-pop. It was something fresh, but familiar in the SHINee least their recent material after Lucifer. It's a fun, upbeat song with a good vocal composition that utilizes the boys' talents which I'm surprised by. Good job, SMEnt, you did something right! "Hitchhiking" has a slightly odd synth-trumpet thing going on and a lot of experimental electronic sounds. It almost feels like a combination of the previous track and "Sherlock", but it doesn't quite fit in certain places. "Punch Drunk Love" brings out the most simplistic beat of R&B of the 80's and tries to make it charming, but it comes off as cheesy and dated in the worse sense. "Girls, Girls, Girls" is a simple, upbeat melody with lots of feel good elements. Unfortunately, it doesn't make me feel good. It's too sweet for me! "Aside" departs from the cheesy vintage sound to a mature piano and acoustic combo of a love least I think it's a love song. "Beautiful" brings back the electronic sound ripped straight from capsule, but softened up to make it more endearing than in your face. Must admit "Dynamite" is my favorite track on this album, hands down. It's odd and quirky in some ways. It mixes retro and has a give and take electronic addicting sound to the melody. It flows more easily than "Hitchhiking", but the melody drop moment is a little questionable. It's not too bothersome to ruin the song, fortunately. "Runaway" closes out this album with more recycled capsule leftovers! This is practically Johnny's Entertainment C-side material. Nothing super interesting. Well, this album was definitely less annoying than Sherlock. Looking forward to listening to chapter 2.

B.A.P - One Shot (2013, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: One Shot, COMA

This was a request made by one of the readers and luckily I can easily comment on this mini-album. "PUNCH" has a grand opening of brass and hip-hop. It tries to be as tough as "Warrior", but comes off as weak as "POWER" and "NO MERCY" with a weak vocal aggression and a partially recycled beat. "ONE SHOT" is the main reason I was excited to listen to this mini-album. A lot of the group's releases have been pale comparisons to their debut song and usually it's the other way around. This track brings back the essence and attitude of "Warrior" with something new...even if it's only slightly. I love the vocal arrangement and how the rap and singing is balanced out perfectly. The bridge is beautifully delivered and flows effortlessly into the repetitive and simple chorus. I hope the group takes a little break and brings more of this sound to their harder tracks. "빗소리" is a softer, acoustic track that actually works. I haven't been fond of the group's slower tracks, but they found out how to make rapping and singing work for this steady and confident track. "COMA" is the other track that was slipped into the music video for "ONE SHOT". It's a more intense track with a tough rap delivery and a pleading tone to the vocals. Somehow, this song works as well. I have no problems with it and I even listened to it more than once which is a feat. This track definitely shows the group's growth for more vulnerable, emotional tracks. "0 (ZERO)" is the weakest track on this mini-album. It's upbeat, has a slightly poppy acoustic, and tries to be fun and hip-hop, but it comes off as an awkward inspirational song.

Dir en grey - Rinkaku (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Rinkaku (Eternal Summer Mix)

It's been quite some time since Dum Spiro Spero and, of course, any release from this band is an exciting one. "Rinkaku" is a beautiful, heavy song that reminds us that Kyo can indeed sing. I have no idea why people keep saying that all he does is scream. The delivery of the verse and part of chorus is calming and almost entrancing to the mind. It almost counters the heaviness of the guitars and bass, but it is skillfully balanced. "Kiri to Mayu" has been revived from it's MISSA era to the year 2012. The song keeps the foundation of the original and pumps it with growls, guttural screams, and hardcore instrumentation similar to the "ZAN" remake. "Rinkaku (Eternal Summer Mix)" was a track I was most excited for and I know a few of my friends were looking forward to it as well because it is remixed by Akira Yamaoka (a.k.a the composer of the Silent Hill game series). This remix definitely sounds like something straight out of Silent Hill with the perfect touch of softness and vocal performance from Kyo's end. It doesn't sound overly Silent Hill either. It has an ambient Dir en grey sound lingering in between the melody. I don't know if it's because of my bias, but I enjoy this more than the original. It's just beautifully haunting. They should do more collaborations!

Moon Hee Jun - BEGINS (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: PIONEER, SCANDAL

I was happy to hear that MHJ was making a comeback, but I was not expecting him to abandon his rock sound for the trending electro-pop sound of the idol world. "PIONEER" is full of unnecessary dubstep wubs and wobs. I would've been happy if it was just a pure electronic dance track because those parts work. Even though his voice is slightly auto-tuned, MHJ hasn't lost his touch in the vocal department. "I'M NOT OK" was chosen to promote this comeback mini-album and mixes current and 90's kpop electronic sounds together. It's below the usual level that MHJ reaches for in his music, even lyrically. It's a decent song, but a bit mediocre for MHJ's musical caliber. "SCANDAL" brings back what MHJ is good at which is emotion filled vocals and a nice piano pop mix. It's so refreshing to hear his voice without all the auto-tune accompanied by a less in your face electronic sound. "BLOOD-V" is the final track, if you don't count the instrumental for "PIONEER". It brings back the 90's dance scene in another sub-par song with dubstep sprinkled here and there and, of course, auto-tune. It's a fun track, yes, but MHJ doesn't sound like himself at all. I'm hoping he returns to the rock and ballad scene where he excels or at least bring the bar back up on his pop material.

DBSK - catch Me + Humanoids repackage (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Catch Me, Insaengeun Bitnatda (viva), Good Night, Humanoids

"Catch Me" is the obvious promotional track and the only reason I even bothered with this album. Ignoring the lack of chemistry in the music video, I can enjoy this song a lot more. It's catchy, has some good build ups, and the vocals are pretty good. It's also very addicting, but I could live without the robotic vocals and the dubstep break. SMEnt, step away from the dubstep! "Insaengeun Bitnatda (viva)" features some possible electronic guitars, deep bass grumbling at the base of the speakers, and a surprisingly catchy chorus. I was shocked that the follow up track would be this good. Sure, there's another dubstep break they could've been left out, but it has a simple beat and the sly, half whispered verses are kinda cool. "Destiny" mixes electronic elements and vintage R&B sounds for the mandatory love track that loses Miko's interest. "Binucheoreom (like A Soap)" takes a new direction with an upbeat tune of happy drums and a sweet acoustic guitar. This might work better with, I don't know, more members, but what they do with the vocals are good too. "I Don't Know" is a straight guitar pop tune that I can hear Britney Spears using...maybe a few years back or even solo Gwen Stefani. "Dream" is a cutesy song that really doesn't fit these men. It's meant for an anime opening. "How Are You" is another lovey dovey, acoustic ballad-y thing. "Getaway" wakes you up with the bombastic rock sound and makes you wonder if you're still listening to the same album, until you hear Yunho (I think) yelling at you. It almost works, but there's a lot of vocal strain. "I Swear" lulls me back to sleepy disinterest with an even softer love song. "Gorgeous" jumps back to the booming electronic sound. It has some interesting musical elements, but sounds like some other kpop rookie group I can't place at the moment. Not a bad song, considering I passed through some rather uninteresting tracks beforehand. "Good Night" surprisingly is a track I really like. It has that cheesy 90's R&B sound mixed with a good balance of electronic elements. The song really compliments the guys' vocals. Honestly, this sounds like a good love making song or something. Sensual and just enough charm. More of their love songs should sound like this. Now onto the repackaged material! Similar to "Catch Me", "Humanoids" is the only reason I bothered with the extra songs. The music video is even more cringe worthy, so it took me sometime to fully appreciate the song. It's a slightly weaker "Catch Me", but has this silly catchy chorus that just earworms into your mind with its electro-popness. "Here I Stand" is a track that tried to be U-KISS, but failed. It tries to be all cool and dynamic with its sprinkle of electronics, vocal levels, and upbeat chorus, but just falls flat.

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