Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"301 Byoushitsu" by LuLu
I'm so happy this band is back. I was really afraid that they wouldn't...and I am very pleased to see that they came back with something awesome. Not only is this song great, but it's a slightly different style for the band with a mix of their base sound. The guitar solo...just all the guitar and drum parts are great. The imagery is amusing and playfully dark. I can't wait to hear their new single.

"hyde" by VIXX
I must admit that this song took some time to grow on me, but I really do love it more or less than their previous songs. I'm so happy that this group is consistently growing with each release, but I believe they may only have an overseas appeal like U-KISS. Either way, this video is very well down. It's not overly dark or dramatic. The concept is conveyed successfully through the visuals, lyrics, and even the choreography, which is on point and creative. KPop groups better step it up to VIXX's level, especially last year's rookies.

"Smoky Girl" by MBLAQ
At first, I wasn't completely blown away by this whole package, but now it has grown on me and I can fully appreciate the boys' comeback. It's mature, slick, and unique from what's being put out there. I believe Zion.T had a hand in this as well. Anyway, I have not yet gotten a chance to listening to the mini-album, but this gives me high hopes. Welcome back and keep it classy!

"First Love" by After School
I blame my After School loving friend for spamming gifs on Tumblr for this one. I'm not an AS fan. I only like "Ah" and mostly because it's kinda annoying but catchy. This is another example of pole dancing done right. It's sensual and sexy at the same time with the help of the lyrics, editing of the sultry shots of the members, and the high caliber choreography. I am still in awe by that. The song isn't that bad either. It has a sound of the 90s.

I was very pleased with Ryosuke's solo work, even though I'm still sad about this indefinite hiatus of his band. Ryosuke continues to mix heavy rock with electronic/dubstep sounds with a good balance. His dance moves are on the same level as Gackt in "Mizerable", but it's okay. I love the breakdown a lot. It reminds me of Lolita23q's "-HIKARI-". The visuals are pretty cool and simple, but match the concept Ryosuke is going for in this new project. Looking forward to this new release.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Cloud Atlas

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving
Directed by: Tomy Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 172 minutes

I literally knew next to nothing about this movie. It looked like an Oscar contender, something that critics and audiences would be talking about nonstop. It's interesting that that didn't quite happen, but I'll go into that later.

From past, present, and future, the actions of people effect the outcome of certain events. Six stories from 1849 to 2321 link together in an extraordinary compilation. Thus delivering a moral or message of reflection.

It's hard to say exactly what this movie is about without ruining anything. The less you know coming into it, the more intriguing the story can become. There are six stories with different characters and somewhat different conflicts, but they all link together because of a past character(s) in a different story. Through each story the actors are recasted into different roles and I have a lot of praise for the make-up and wardrobe staff. Some of the actors were unrecognizable.

The interesting thing I noticed while clarifying the movie's story was that this movie received more or less a split review among critics. Honestly, I'm on the fence with this one. My reasoning for seeing this was a couple friend recommendation. Two of my friends saw it in theater and absolutely loved it, while I thought it was alright. So, without spoilers, I'm gonna break it down for the reason I'm not overly praising this film, but not completely discrediting it.

This was a very ambitious effort and a lot of critics mentioned this as a positive and negative factor. I feel the same way, but for now, I'm going to explain the positive of their ambition. First of all, it's hard to bring a book to the big screen, but a book that contains six stories and interpreting it to the screen is an even bigger feat. I commend them for taking on the task and doing a pretty good job. I haven't read the book, but either way, you can still commend the writers and directors for their efforts. The actors did an amazing job embodying their various characters as well and bringing something distinct to each of them. I already commended the visual department for transforming the actors, but the other visuals were just as up to par. The story overall was very interesting and enjoyable. I like how they tied together, especially at the end. A couple of them I enjoyed more than others, but they were good.

On the other hand, I had no idea what the connections were between each story until I looked it up on Wikipedia. Something about the dialogue or the audio levels didn't catch my brain's attention or something. I'll also agree with some of those critics that this movie was too ambitious and with that ambition it made a 3 hour long movie. The time length was bit discouraging for me and there's a ton of dialogue you have to pay attention to to understand the connections between events and characters. Speaking of characters, I had no idea what characters' names were either. The structure was interesting, but could be confusing for audiences who are not used to following more than two storylines. If you're confused then it decreases the interest of the movie sometimes and if you don't know character names it loses possible sympathy or a connection towards that character. I think only two or three of the stories I actually felt a little something towards certain characters despite not knowing their names. I also had moments where I wondered whether certain things could've been cut out to move the story a little faster. Not too fast, but enough to feel like there's some sort of progression happening.

Overall, I don't completely dislike or like the movie. I thought it was well done and there's plenty of good things happening visually and character-wise. Unfortunately, the length, structure, and possible dialogue issues detract from the enjoyment and clear connection I could've possibly had. Seeing this movie made me understand people's praise for it and also understand their discouragement to watch this lengthy film.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Man of Steel

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 143 minutes

Unlike Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Purge, I wasn't particularly excited to see this movie, but it was on my watch list for the year. There was a lot of hype and I didn't completely buy into it, but I was curious on what direction they would take with the iconic comic book hero.

Growing up on a farm in Smallville, Kansas, Clark Kent learns that he is not human and that the parents that raised him are not his birth parents. Throughout his life, he struggles to try to fit in and fight his temptation to save the people around him from danger. As he grows older, Clark tries to figure out who he is and who his real parents are.

I must admit that I don't find Superman the most interesting of superheros, but somehow I've seen some of his movies and I was interested in this one. It had nothing to do with the director or Christopher Nolan's name being attached to it, but purely curiosity on the "new direction" they were going to take. I went in cautiously and my expectations were barely existent. I've heard some mixed reviews from the few critics I follow online. One was extremely pleased, some did not like the movie [*spoiler warning], one did not like it, but acknowledged the good points [spoiler review], and one liked it, but acknowledged the weaknesses. What these reviews had in common were, to some extent, praise on the visuals, questioning or annoyances toward Lois Lane, and complaints about the length.

For me, I was afraid that Man of Steel would try to have this "dark and gritty" story or feel to it and it didn't. Although, the color palette reflected that and I wish it was a little more vibrant to match previous Superman movies. I guess I'll start with the pros. I thought the casting was quite good. They didn't quite own their characters, but they did good with what they were given. General Zod was intimidating, Lara was inspirational, and I adored Martha Kent's contribution. I also enjoyed Faora-Ul. I'm tempted to imitate her costume. Most of the fight scenes were pretty cool and the CGI was on point. I also enjoyed the flashbacks, especially when Clark couldn't control his powers. The way it was shot was perfect. As for the cons, the story didn't offer much and their attempts to make Clark's character more identifiable to audiences was a failure. There was definitely a lack of character development. The camera angles were shaky, especially during the fight scenes and some dialogue/dramatic moments, and the father figures were a bit bland or did senseless things just fit into Nolan's noble logic. Also, nature logic was thrown out the window. Clark's character wasn't really consistent and didn't match what most of us grew up with as the good guy that avoided harm to anyone (read this as "death" or "severe harm"). The editing of the present day story and flashbacks didn't make sense and sometimes seemed out of place. Lois lacked purpose and seemed to only be there for the sake of fanservice. When she appeared, it seemed illogical or pointless for her to exist. Lastly, I felt the length of the movie to be too long. The two major fight scenes were dragged on and became decreasingly entertaining and monotonous. At times, especially the end, I felt like I was watching part two of The Dark Knight Rises.

Despite my disinterest in the iconic Man of Steel, I didn't think the movie was terrible as some said it was. On the other hand, I don't think it was a fantastic representation of Superman for the new generation of cinema. There are plenty of flaws, but they did manage to do some good in this adaptation. Since it's already been confirmed, I hope that the sequel brings something fresh and more closely to the hero we know. For the most part, I did like it, but I am not overwhelmed enough to nag people to go see it.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Purge

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 85 minutes

Originally, this movie was supposed to be in theaters the same weekend as A-kon, but it was pushed back to the following weekend for whatever reason. Either way, I was still planning on seeing it in theaters.

Once a year, the United States holds an annual purge in the nation. The purge is a 12-hour event where citizens have an opportunity to commit any crime without consequences, including murder. During this time, authorities and emergency services are suspended. Of course, not everyone gets involved in the purge activities. The Sandin family is one example. James Sandin is an inventor of a home protection system that is used to lock down the house, protecting his family from potential intruders. One night, his son Charlie sees an injured man in dire need of shelter and help. Charlie decides to disarm the system and allows the man to enter their home. Unfortunately, this man was a target for a group of masked supporters wanting to bring "justice" to the man. The Sandins have a choice to give him up to the group or join him in death for being uncooperative.

Seeing the preview for this movie seemed exciting, but having our antagonists hiding behind masks and their motivation reminded me of The Strangers. They do have a suspenseful vibe to them as the characters run and hide in their house, but The Strangers was more nerve racking to not only myself but my friends and we don't scare easily.

The concept is quite unique and I kinda wish they explored the origins of the purge. They do mention a few extra details like how it has changed the nation for supposedly the better such as unemployment rates and crime. The event also offers a moral discussion among the family. Before the purge begins and the family is watching the monitors, Charlie asks his parents why they don't participate in the purge, would they if there was someone they wanted to kill, and reasons they support it. For audiences, it might spark some thoughts of whether this would be a good idea to have such an event. Would you take the same risk Charlie did and let the man inside the house or let him be caught by the group?

Honestly, I don't have any major complaints about this movie. There were times of suspense for me and things seemed amusing...for a lot of the time, unintentionally. For those who disliked certain characters, I didn't think they were that idiotic. They might have been the standard horror movie dumb, but nothing as annoying as the follow-up to [Rec]'s idiocy. There are a few predictable moments, but nothing that would upset me such as the twists. Although, there is one unexpected thing that happened that I was surprised about. I wouldn't spoil it for anyone who is interested in seeing it. The villains of the movie were a bit creepy. Perhaps a pale comparison to the trio of The Strangers, but still effective as problematic characters to the Sandins. They also brought a bit of the amusement. One of them seemed like he was trolling the wife throughout the house. I also had a small problem with the unsteady camera angles, but it wasn't too distracting.

Anyway, The Purge is a decent movie. It has flaws and idiotic moments, but it was entertaining for the most part. The thing that made the experience worth it in the theater for me (and my friend) was the audience. We all cheered and yelled and applauded together. I've never been in a thriller movie where the audience shared a similar reaction before and that is truly memorable.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Quick Movie Review

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012, USA) | Rating: 2/5

My prediction for this movie was good visuals and a poor story. I was right. Charlize Theron's performance as the queen was beyond the other actors, her brother was laughable, and the chemistry between Snow White and the Huntsman is nonexistent. The movie is way too long and there's a lot of unnecessary downtime full of Lord of the Rings-esque walking scenes between the group being caught and fighting. This is a constant pattern. The climax and resolution is underwhelming and I could probably be nit-picky about young Snow White too, but I'll just say that Mirror, Mirror was the better adaptation of last year.

Think Like a Man (2012, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I had slightly low expectations for this movie, but it was actually really good. It might seem a bit generic for the genre and has a dash of ethnic diversity. Some people might not like it, but it's definitely not a movie to think deeply about it. It's entertaining and funny. The characters are mostly likable and fit realistic archetypes. It also doesn't bash one sex or the other either. It carries realistic viewpoints from both sides as well.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

The same friend that nagged me about Seven Psychopaths nagged me about this movie. I was skeptical and a bit standoffish about watching it due to the critical acclaim it received after the Academy Awards, but I gave in and watched it. I don't regret it either! It's beautifully executed and the acting is superb. I was surprised by Chris Tucker's serious acting abilities and Jennifer Lawerence's mature portrayal through her character. There was good chemistry and the story is quite touching. This definitely deserves all the praise it received.

Dark Shadows (2012, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I must admit that I was looking forward to this movie as I enjoy the Burton/Depp collaboration, but later once certain reviews started rolling in, I realized how silly it looked. Well, it looked polished and followed a bit of the Tim Burton color scheme, but everything else, aside from casting, didn't feel like him at all. There were minimal successful comical moments and I'm assuming it didn't give the show any justice storywise. The acting was so-so. Very over the top and silly. The resolution felt a bit rushed, but mostly it lacked entertainment value.

Man Bites Dog (1992, Belgium) | Rating: 2/5

Apparently, some of my film friends saw clips of this in one of our classes. Fortunately for them, they didn't sit through the entirety of this brutal foreign film. Curiosity won this round. I don't completely regret watching this film, although I wasn't expecting it to be French. The imagery is quite harsh and unapologetic. The plot of this mockumentary is indeed interesting, but the humor is above (or below) me and the end half is the hardest part to bare through. The resolution reminds me of The Blair Witch Project, but deserving.

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, June 16, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"I Could Be the One" by Avicii vs. Nicky Romero
It's summertime and I always find good dance music to be the staple of the season (along with Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff's "Summertime"). I have no idea how I came across this. Probably exploring recommendations, but the message of this video and the song is just amazing and worth thinking about. To my lovely Cult followers, if you have any music like this, send it my way!

I seriously want this group at A-Kon, RIGHT NOW! Yes, the girls are back and rocking my socks off once again...if I was wearing any. SU-METAL's voice is gorgeous and the musical composition is high energy with a mix of traditional. The visuals have a nice balance of what the sound gives our ears. I really don't want this group to break up after SU-METAL's graduation, I believe, nor do I want her to be replaced. Just let her keep rocking alongside YUIMETAL & MOAMETAL!

"Wild" by Nine Muses
Ever since "News", I've jumped on the Nine Muses bandwagon. This is what SNSD should aim for when it comes to sexy concepts. It's mature, classy, and sensual. I'm a sucker for black, white, and red tones in videos, especially when done right. The choreography is on point, the vocals are great, and the members are utilized well. My only problem with the song is the weird music detour during the rap, but otherwise this song is just as good as the last.

"Would You?" by Swings feat. Seo In Guk
Korean rap has been so good to me lately and this song is one piece of evidence to support that statement. This is a different route for Swings with this smooth R&B melody and a great vocal collaboration by an artist I feel is underrated in the kpop scene. I love the story for this video and the silly, sweet vibe of the concept. Keep bringing the hits, Swings!

"No More Dream" by BTS
As annoyed as I am about rookie groups entering the scene, this group isn't that bad. They're far from perfect, but something about the looping cello, I think, makes the song pretty great. It reminds me of H.O.T. I guess we have a new entrant to the Block B, B.A.P, and M.I.B genre. The scenery matches the concept and their appearance matches them for the most part. I'm looking forward to listening to their other songs.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Live: A-Kon 23

A-Kon 23
[2012.06.01] Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, TX
featuring: AYABIE & -OZ-

Forgive me for the massive delay on this live report and also the shortness of it. I tried to remember as much as I could and it ended up being a summary of what happened that evening. Hopefully, it still provides some sort of entertainment or whatever. Anyway, this year was a little different. Babel Entertainment negotiated with the bands' team and allowed the audience to use their cameras during the show. I don't have any footage of my own as I felt odd about it during a convention, so the videos being posted here are from other fans. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and possibly other places, so feel free to check them out.

Yumehito: vocals
Takehito: guitar
Intetsu: bass
Kenzo: drums

AYABIE opened up the concert and they carried a lot of high energy throughout the whole show. The crowd was responsive and Yumehito talked to us quite a lot. He did an introduction of the members and there was quite a bit of Engrish thrown in and out. His interaction with Intetsu was very cute. Unfortunately, Yumehito had to do a long MC after about the second or third song due to technical difficulties on Takehito’s end. I don’t know what exactly happened, but the cuteness banter was distraction enough for the fans. The set list might’ve gotten cut short some because of that. I guess it was somewhat serious because it took Takehito and the staff quite some time to get it together. Anyway, like I said, there was a lot of high energy cycling between us. Yumehito was very charismatic and bouncy. He did some cutesy fanservice with Intetsu, did a little bouncy dance to “Merry go round“, and I was surprised to hear some deep growls just for fun. Kenzo had a laid back, cool energy to him while the rest held up the forefront. Here's an attempted set list:

Merry Go Round

Natsuki: vocals
Aki: guitar
Tama: guitar
Nao: bass
Zukki: drums

Next up was –OZ-, which was a whole different energy from AYABIE’s. I was hoping for a DEATHBIE surprise, but maybe another time. Anyway, the transition might’ve been a little odd since one band is more upbeat, happy and the other is darker, grimier. The members came on the stage like it was their second home. Everything seemed so natural with them and that made the energy so pure between us and the band. Every member simply dominated the stage with their movements and interactions with the audience. Natsuki did minimal MCing compared to Yumehito, but I remember clearly saying that music speaks to everyone no matter what language is your native tongue. A lot of passion was poured out, especially during "Rain Delay", and they definitely got heated on the stage. Here's another attempt at a setlist:

Rain Delay
Pressed Flower