Friday, May 29, 2015

Quick Movie Review

God Help the Girl (2014, UK) | Rating: 3/5

During my fascination with Emily Browning, I wanted to watch more movies with her, since I'm clearly lacking her in my life. I requested my workplace to order this movie and I was looking forward to it, especially since I saw the preview for it in another movie I had checked out. The story had lots of potential and the characters were indeed fun and entertaining, but I think there needed to be a little more development or background with Browning's character. It attempted to tackle some serious issues, but it kinda skimmed over them in places. The musical numbers were enjoyable and overall I found the film quite entertaining.

47 Ronin (2013, USA) | Rating: 2/5

Honestly, I really didn't want to see this movie, even though some people around me seemed super excited. In my perspective, it's just another white guy saving the day for Asians or whatever. It also didn't get very positive reviews in Japan. Apparently when reading comments on IMDb, I learned that there have been a few adaptations of this story. I guess this one was the worse; I'm honestly not sure. So, why did I watch this movie if I had no interest in it? A co-worker recommended it to me and I reluctantly gave in and gave it a chance. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely dragged and at times the story lost my interest. I think the weakest part of the movie was Keanu Reeves. His character was very lackluster and emotionless; I simply didn't care about his character at all. Meanwhile, the other characters had more depth and excitement going for them, I ended up wanted more development and focus on them. Also, Jin Akanishi wasn't that bad of an actor, even though his lines were quite minimal. This movie has potential, but Reeves and the duration kinda ruined it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

A very much anticipated movie of the year (and summer) and, of course, this was on my list. I really enjoyed The Avengers, so I was curious how they would tie things together once again between the three movies. With no surprise at all, the sequel delivers another thrill ride with its action and satisfying character development and storytelling. A little unpopular opinion, but it feels like their villains in The Avengers movies are given more time and development compared to the individual efforts. They posed a threat and the threat is definitely developed while the individual efforts (and Guardians of the Galaxy) seem to fall flat in areas during its climax. It was also interesting seeing another interpretation of Quicksilver and I thought him and his twin were interesting (despite their backstory being a bit cliche). I am also happy that they were very consistent with pacing. The movie may be long, but it certainly doesn't feel that way when you're watching it. I'm looking forward to next part of this epic adventure Marvel has cooked up for its cinematic universe.

Ex Machina (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Ever since I saw the previews to this movie, I was very much intrigued. It seemed unique and suspenseful, but not completely horror. I was afraid I would never see it in theaters, because it started as a limited release, but was very thankful when it went nationwide after a certain period of time. The movie definitely isn't for everyone. It's kinda artsy/avant garde, but not too out there like Under the Skin. You can understand and following it for the most, but there might be moments where you're just tilting your head at the screen in confusion or contemplation. It is quite the thriller with some sci-fi elements to it. The characters are interesting and fleshed out enough to keep you intrigued, yet still remain a bit mysterious. If you have the opportunity to check out this suspenseful, sci-fi thriller, then please give it a chance.

Tomorrowland (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

At first, I wasn't too interested in this movie; mostly because I had no idea what it was about just that it was a Disney movie and inspired by the attraction. Once I saw a couple previews for it, I became a little more interested. I joined my mom for this movie, since she really wanted to see it. I thought the movie was entertaining and fun. I liked the characters in the story as well, but at times, I just wanted a little more. I little more detail to these main characters, a little more of a threat on the world, and a little more exploration on how wondrous Tomorrowland is. The action was fun and there were some good comical moments. Some people might think that the end was "preachy", but I found it more inspiring and genuine to follow your dreams. I enjoyed the diversity as well at the end. Definitely a Disney ending.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Babadook

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Language: English
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93 minutes

Ever since I heard about this movie, I desperately wanted to see it. It had potential to be something great and offered something fresh and different than what's taking up space in theaters. I heard many good things about it as well and I was very happy that my job had a couple copies to check out.

On the way to the hospital to deliver their first child, Amelia and her husband get into a horrific car accident causing her husband to die. Fortunately, Amelia is able to give birth to their son Samuel who has a constant fear and violent reaction to monsters. Amelia struggles with her emotions of the lost of her husband and has difficulty controlling Samuel around other kids, especially at school. She tries to calm her son down and rid his fear of monsters by checking his room and reading him bedtime stories to help him sleep. One night, a mysterious book appears on Samuel's shelf called Mister Babadook and his mother begins to read it. It starts off somewhat normal, but gradually the story becomes disturbing and too close to reality which triggers Samuel's fears once again. After reading the book, their home begins to have some strange and unsettling occurrences.

Much like The Conjuring, Oculus, and Sinister, The Babadook gives me hope for the horror movie genre. It has a slow building story full of suspense that gets more and more intense as mysterious, unexplainable events occur in the house. I guess it's the same factor people see in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity that I don't see at all. I really enjoyed this story as simple and somewhat cliche as it is. I've seen this concept done before in horror, but Jennifer Kent adds something new to the concept that makes it intriguing and thoroughly entertaining for me. Mr. Babadook seems very ominous and yet threatening enough that you don't want him any where near our main characters or yourself. Some might lump him in the same category as other haunted house or possession movie plot devices, but there's a freshness to his motive and movement. I'm glad they didn't reveal him too soon or show too much, which is a mistake a lot of movies make, even the ones I like a lot. The way he slowly seeps into these people's lives is disturbing and unnerving. It's like a leech beneath the skin that you just can't get rid of. Our main characters Amelia and Samuel react very well to their situation as well as the set up to Amelia's neglected grief. I believe them and I feel sympathetic towards these characters, although I admit that there are moments where I found Samuel annoying or Amelia to be a bad parent, but I think that only makes them more human. They have near perfect development and I can easily understand Amelia's struggle with her emotions and her only son. You really want her to push forward and even more not fall into the temptations of Mr. Babadook.

I had some minor complaints with this movie...well, one minor and one major. For the minor complaint, which I've briefly mentioned, is my annoyance with Samuel. I know he's a child, but at times I couldn't stand him! He was always causing trouble for Amelia and his fear of monsters would kinda get a little old. Of course, I understand that this annoying acting was probably purposeful so we can understand Amelia's struggle and the other adults around him who tried to help him out. Nonetheless, he was still a believable actor and I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. For the major problem I had with the movie were the audio levels. I don't know if it was just me or the movie, but I had to turn up my TV pretty high to hear the dialogue. While the dialogue was soft, everything else was loud. So, occasionally, my mom would hear random screaming, growling, or whatever else outside my bedroom to either her room or the living room because it was so loud. But it couldn't be helped if I'm trying to hear the dialogue in between the intensity. I just wished the audio levels were more consistent.

If it isn't obvious, I really enjoyed The Babadook! It was a refreshing horror movie for me in the sea of mediocre, boring, or low budget horror I've subjected myself to. The story is intriguing and will keep you sutured to your seat the whole way through. If you enjoy good, slow building suspense with an ominous, intimidating creature literally lurking in the shadows, this will be a treat for you. I would like to recommend this to everyone, but since horror has shifted to more noisier, slightly faster pace, I don't think the newer generation would appreciate the suspense build up or gradual monster reveal in this movie. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic movie and I'm glad to have another sliver of hope for the genre's resurrection to its roots.

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Litchi☆Hikari Club

Title: Litchi☆Hikari Club (2005)
Author(s): Furuya Usamaru
Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance, Psychological
Volumes: 1

For the sooty industrial town's lads there's only one point of light: the Light Club, a secret brotherhood they've organized in an abandoned factory. They're on the verge of booting up their crowning achievement, a "thinking machine" fueled by lychee fruits. At the same time, the middle schoolers' cooties-fearing solidarity is devolving into a downright National Socialist muck of murderous paranoia, perverse aestheticism, and (not always) suppressed homosexuality. (Source: Vertical)

I believe I heard about this manga when PENICILLIN's Hakuei announced he was doing a side project for it with the same name. Later, former member of PENICILLIN GISHO joined the project. For the most part, I enjoyed what they put out and it was different from his other projects. After seeing the first couple fully released PVs, I became interested in the source material. At the time, I wasn't aware that the manga was based on a stage play, so the only thing I was interested in looking up was the manga. I read the first chapter as a scanlation, then decided to commit with buying a physical copy as I was impressed with the material so far. It was unexpected and gory and just different than what I was reading at the time. There are some gory, mature series that I do read and hopefully I will be reviewing a couple or so of those here eventually. I've had the book for a couple years and recently I ripped into the plastic and began reading.

The story is quite bizarre and definitely something I wouldn't recommend to everyone if they're not into that sort of material. Most of the questionable or inappropriate content is listed in the summary above. Supposedly this manga is a cross between Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein...or something. I honestly don't know since I've never read either, but it seems like Lord of the Flies is popping up an awful lot with some things I've seen or read. If it isn't obvious, I like twisted, dark, and weird things, so I knew I would really enjoy this manga. It's a shame that it's only one volume. The Light Club (Hikari Club) members is what makes the story entertaining. Each member has their own unique personality and role in the club. It's interesting seeing their connection and level of loyalty toward the club and its leader. The stand out members for me are Zera, Jaibo, Raizou, and Tamiya. There's nothing wrong with the other characters as I enjoyed them as well. Zera probably had the most obvious character development to the reader and I enjoyed seeing his downward spiral of delusion and power. Jaibo and Raizou I found visually unique compared to the others as they lean more toward beauty and cuteness while the other members I didn't name do have some specific physical traits that help them stand out; they don't care about appearance or beauty for themselves personally. Also, I think Jaibo is the only yandere character I like and enjoyed. On the polar opposite end of Zera is former leader Tamiya who isn't power hungry and is very much grounded into reality. He does have fun with the idea of their club, but he knows when to pull back on their rules and ideas. One last thing I want to say about the characters in detail is the relationship between Litchi and Kanon. It's unexpected in some ways and I was invested on what direction Litchi would choose for himself: his original design or true humanity.

After reading Litchi☆Hikari Club, I was really...sad. With each chapter, I became more and more invested in the story and attached to the characters that I was upset that the journey had to end in one volume. Since the series is so short, then the character development is cut short or sped up, which is unfortunate. I really enjoyed the characters a lot and I wanted so much more from them. I wish it was longer or had a full length show with the same tone. Some fans, at least on MyAnimeList, have advised to skip out on watching Litchi DE Hikari Club, but because I had that need for more, I watched it anyway. It's very...cute...and also has a guest appearance by Hakuei in one of the episodes. If you're curious about it, it's 8 episodes and each episode is 3 minutes long. So, it's easy to watch in one sitting, but you're not missing anything if you decide not to watch it as I said before it's a totally different tone than the manga. Maybe one day, someone will decide to make a serious anime series of it. Another downside is that Vertical didn't go through with publishing the prequel story, Bokura no☆Hikari Club. Unfortunately, I am reading scanlations of it currently.

Nonetheless, I found Litchi☆Hikari Club very entertaining and enjoyable. It has a lot of dark humor, the perfect amount of gore, and a nice splash of perversion and homoeroticism. What can I say? I enjoy boy love. I wouldn't recommend the series to everyone as it does contain a lot of mature content and some of it may be triggering with moments of sexual assault. For now, I'll be searching for an English subtitled version of the play and finishing up Bokura no☆Hikari Club.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quick Movie Review

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Someone put in a request for me to review this, but I was planning on watching and reviewing this movie anyway. Ohohoho~ Anyway, I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since its theater release, but unfortunately, it was a limited release. Like most limited releases, I waited for it to be released on DVD. This movie has received a lot of awards and, for the most, I understand the praise it has received. This movie is a bit high brow and I understand why it was limited release as most artsy, original things are hardly ever released for the wide public, which is quite unfortunate. I skimmed over some people's comments on IMDb and heard a few things around work and I understand that people think this movie is overrated or they just don't get it at all. This movie is pretty out there and there were some moments that I was confused, but overall I thought it was an entertaining and intriguing piece of art. The visuals are amazing and watching the characters' personalities unfold was quite fascinating, even if I disliked Edward Norton's character quite a lot. This isn't for everyone and some moments can be a bit raw or intense, but I really enjoyed this movie and I'm happy I was able to see it.

The Voices (2014, USA) | Rating: 3/5

We meet again Ryan Reynolds (or maybe I'm just mixing you up with Ryan Gosling for some strange reason). I picked this movie up on a slight whim. It kinda looked cheesy and potentially bad, but it was the wall. It has some comedic moments that are simply just playful and you don't think anything about it because...comedy. Then it gets pretty dark and serious when we get a look into Reynolds's character and, oh boy, I was not really ready for the family issues to start filtering and suffocating the light, comedy from earlier. Then it switches it back! This movie definitely caught me off guard with the dark parts and in a way I kinda liked that it was included, but I wished the transition between the light and the dark were handled a little better. I was all ready for a good time and suddenly felt this dark cloud over my head. Nonetheless, I found the movie enjoyable and it kept me on my toes as to what direction the story would take. I am amazed at all the voice acting Reynolds had to do for this movie as he does the voiceover work for his pets.

Enter the Dangerous Mind (2013, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

Another one of those movies that I just picked up on a whim and expecting it to be bad. While the concept sounded somewhat interesting, the execution could've been better. The movie seemed to have way too many ideas and didn't know exactly how to interpret them for the screen. The main character has some mental issues that he developed from a traumatic event, which has been done before and, for the most part, is easy to execute. The problem with this premise is the way his past is handled and how he interacts with certain people, especially a woman who shows interest in him. The psychology part of the movie was also kinda sloppy and it was a bit hard to follow, especially toward the end half of the film when they're looking for him. I don't know if I want to say this movie has potential as I think they would have to restart from the foundation and build something completely different. It also would help to make the main character more relatable or likable, but he's kinda bland, forgettable, and just odd.

The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I reviewed the first movie and I enjoyed it for the most part despite the criticism it received. As for the sequel, it seems like IMDb commenters enjoyed this one more than the first, which is surprising as I thought this one was terrible and extremely cliche. The whole movie felt like RZA has all this money he has no idea what to do with and decided to live out a childhood dream. The story is incredibly cliche and just sounded like they ran out of ideas because it all sounded like is "you disrespected my land" or "you brought dishonor on our cornfield" so revenge. Then insert RZA who is mostly useless. The fight scenes were boring and not well edited with special effects. Really, the only shining element was seeing Dustin Nguyen in it...and he's looking pretty good.

Maps to the Stars (2014, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

I saw the poster for the movie and read about it a little and it truly interested me. Unfortunately, it didn't stay in the theaters for long here, so I had to wait for the DVD release. I saw lots of complaints like this is one of David Cronenberg's worst movies. I really can't comment about that. I will say that this isn't a movie you can comfortably watch with a parent or anything. It does take an interesting look into celebrities and their delusional lives, but it just seems like there are parts missing to really drive home the message to its viewers. A lot of the time I was little confused on what the heck was going with these celebrities and some of the drama seemed...ineffective or forced. So, watch at your own risk. There are some taboo and sexual themes throughout this movie.

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, May 10, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Nadeshiko Sakura" by Wagakki Band
I heard about this band through a friend on Facebook and I'm surprised I hadn't found them sooner, since I enjoy bands that infuse traditional Japanese instruments into their sound. The PV has plenty of lovely visuals in costumes, set pieces, and camera technique. My favorite shot is the left and right panning with the members playing in their own individual lit screen. The music is very energetic and the sound is absolutely beautiful and powerful.

Keeping their punk, ska, and electronic rock sound, I was excited to hear another new song by these guys. I believe I wanted to post this before I posted "Fallen Idols", but for some reason, they blocked it in America. I don't know. It's just a fun little video with the guys performing in a club and the vocalist going a psychedelic trip after drinking. It's random, silly, and fun. Everything I imagine them to continue to be.

Trying something a little different by mixing rock and electronic elements, I was pleased to hear their sound evolving more and more. The video is very simple and mostly focuses on the band members either playing their instruments or being robotic. Not sure if robots/androids was the concept for this PV, but the girls look beautiful. I really like the direction they're going with their music. The song's beautiful and upbeat and Oni's voice continues to be gorgeous and passionate.

"Look Around" by BASTERD
Everyone wants to be so hip-hop and a lot of the time it's just too much. Too much cliche and stereotypes and appropriation, but this video isn't like that. Sure, it sounds like something you could hear in America, but this duo add their own flavor in the rap delivery and a bit in the beat. As for the visuals, they're super simple. Snippets of the city, some beautiful women, a clip of a live performance, and just the guys hanging out and cruising the streets. It's perfectly hip-hop without being obnoxiously hip-hop. I'm looking forward to listening to more music from the guys. For now, enjoy this fresh, possibly new talent.

"Beat" by 100%
VIXX aren't the only ones that can pull off sleek, dark concepts. I'm sure plenty of people compared it to VIXX, but that's not a bad thing. I admitted that I sometimes forget about this group, but it doesn't ruin my enjoyment for their music. This song has an intriguing composition that keeps the pace going and softening it at the right time. The choreography is very dramatic and fits the tone and concept of the song overall. I also really enjoy the visuals. It has just the right balance of simple and complex and the boys look really good, even if I think some of the armor pieces look uncomfortable.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Starring: Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 101 minutes

In my music video series, Miko's Music Connection, I focused on the life and career of R&B singer Aaliyah and briefly mentioned a little movie called Queen of the Damned. I mentioned some of my opinion on the movie, but mainly focused on the connection it had to Aaliyah, one of the stars of the movie. Now that I'm doing Throwback Thursday posts on Muddy Cult, I decided to revisit the movie and review it here for you guys.

Legendary vampire Lestat de Lioncourt has been in hibernation for several years. Once he decides to awaken, Lestat notices how much the world has changed and discovers rock music through a group of people practicing in a garage. Sharing his vocal talents with the members, he becomes part of their band and gains a massive following worldwide. While planning a huge concert in Death Valley, his music catches the attention of Queen Akasha who awakens and searches for Lestat in hopes of making him her king.

Being a fan of Aaliyah, I was looking forward to seeing another movie starring her, even though her part was quite minimal. I also was curious how they finished the movie after her unfortunate accident as well, but I was aware they used CGI for her appearance and later learned that her brother helped with the dubbing of voice (or something). Watching this movie again almost feels like the first time as I hadn't watched the movie from beginning to end since its release in theaters. I have seen bits of pieces here and there on TV, but the experience was interesting, especially knowing a few extra information about the movie.

After seeing the movie in theaters, I remember enjoying it and finding Stuart Townsend quite handsome as Lestat. I was unaware that this movie was supposed to based on an Anne Rice novel and that most of the complaints about the movie were due to it being a poor adaptation...also Anne Rice wasn't too fond of the interpretation either. I skimmed through some IMDb comments mentioning that as well and comparing Tom Cruise from Interview With a Vampire to Stuart Townsend. Unfortunately, I can't really join in such a discussion as I've never read an Anne Rice novel nor have I seen Interview With a Vampire completely. Perhaps I will watch the movie at some point. Watching Queen of the Damned now, I can recognize that Townsend was kinda like any other vampire and he did a good job bringing that sexual, intimidating aura that they possess. I still enjoyed the movie, but the story is a tad bit weak and I'm curious what the source material contained.

The main cast is pretty good and I enjoyed their characters, while the supporting characters seemed to range from good to tolerable. I enjoyed watching Lestat's transformation, interactions, and development throughout the film, despite it falling short in certain places. Jesse Reeves was a slightly unconventional love interesting and I thought she was interesting character for Lestat to encounter, but I wished she stood out more. As much as I love Aaliyah, her portrayal as Queen Akasha was a little awkward to watch in certain places, but I thought she did a good job with the material she was giving. The effects are a bit dated, but they're pretty good for that time. One thing a lot of audiences agreed on is that the soundtrack is pretty cool. It's unfortunate that during the performance scenes with Lestat, his singing voice is dubbed by Jonathan Davis of KoRn. I love KoRn, but the vocals are kinda distracting as they don't match Townsend whatsoever. I would've either used his own vocals or chose someone else to do his singing voice that would fit his speaking voice (and perhaps his appearance).

Back then and now, I never thought this was an amazing, award-winning movie or anything, but I enjoy it just as much as when I first saw it in theaters. Of course, it has its flaws, but nonetheless it is an entertaining movie. It's unique from some vampire movies and the characters are enjoyable enough to watch. The soundtrack is fantastic and matches the tone and theme of the film; it's also nice to listen to as just a compilation album. I suppose if you can forget the that this movie is supposed to be an adaptation of an Anne Rice novel, then this film can be quite enjoyable for the casual moviegoer.

Rating: 3/5

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