Monday, June 29, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Vũ Điệu Cồng Chiêng" by Tóc Tiên
A friend shared the dance version of this video, which is actually more interesting than the official music video. Since it is the dance version I'm sharing, there really isn't too many set changes. There's beauty shots, a scene with her on a cube in a different costume, and her dancing with the back-up dancers. It's a fun dance song that apparently seems pretty popular in least, that's what I'm assuming by the end credits and the official music video. She definitely gives me this strong, sexual vibe that Ga-in has in "Paradise Lost", but she shows that she's having fun with what she's doing.

"Tat Tat Tat" by Dan-A Hong feat. Swings
Actually, I have no idea how I ran into this video. Either way, I'm grateful that I've seen it. I love the unique visuals. Dan-A and her background is mostly in black and white while a select few things are in color, kinda like Sin City. The song features trumpets, drums, and piano and her voice has a slight feminine rasp to it. It's a unique sound and it's easy to listen to and tap your foot to.

"Delete" by Azin
I'm assuming I ran into this song the same time as the one above. It's different from your typical kpop songs and has this retro electro-pop sound to it. The visuals range from slightly obscure figures singing in the shadows and silhouettes of dancers behind a white screen. There is a little break up between the scenes with a girl dancing outside in the snow. The visuals are simple, but fit the easing softness of Azin's voice and the music makes it somewhat danceable, but overall intriguing.

"Life" by RubberSoul feat. Madclown
Need a blast from the past? Well, this is the perfect video to get a little taste of the 90s. This trio of ladies remind me of old TLC. From their style, presentation, and sound, it really gives that smooth, confident TLC vibe and I'm not mad at all. There's not many female hip-hop groups in Korea's music scene, so this is very refreshing. It's a chill, positive song that makes you want to dance along to the familiar beat. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these ladies.

"Mi Amor" by Jin Akanishi
Is it just me or has Jin and Miyavi switched places? Or maybe they've become the same person lately. Either way, this song sounds very Miyavi...not that that's a bad thing. It's a beautiful song and has a nice balance of pop and dance in the vocals and beat. The build up is effective and the visuals really match the tone of the song and the lyrics. It brings artsy and pop intimacy images together into a cohesive package. I enjoy the solo shots of Jin; whether it's his shadow, him with paint on half of his face, or interacting with the dancers as well as the actors and dancers that interact with each other. I'm definitely enjoying this new side and direction he's going with his music and perhaps image.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quick Anime Review

Durarara!! (2010) | Rating: 2.5/5

Years ago, I remember a friend recommending me this show and some time passed and another friend cosplayed Celty...more time passed and I finally watched the show (including the 2 extra episodes). Coincidentally, they announced and released a second season, Durarara!!x2 Shou, which I saw a bunch of my friends squealing and celebrating over. I know the show is pretty popular and I only noticed through cosplay observation. So, what did I think about this show? Well, I honestly couldn't join the hype. I did enjoy the show though, but at times, my attention tend to wane and my main interest lied with Celty's mysterious past and her looking for her head. Other than that, it kinda felt like a bit of chore to watch it came up in my anime rotation. In theory, I should've enjoyed this more as I had fun watching the various characters in Baccano!, but some sort of spark was missing for me. Anyway, glancing at MyAnimeList as I type this, I see that a third and fourth season are in the works to be release. So, I'm happy for the fans of the show, but I don't think I'll be pursuing this series any least not immediately.

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge♥ (2006) | Rating: 3/5

I originally heard about this series through a friend and I checked out the manga years ago. I'm still working on reading the rest of it and I noticed recently that the series ended in January (thank God!). So, I decided to watch the anime in the meantime as I was working on other manga series. It had been a while since I've been in The Wallflower universe, so it felt like I was being reintroduced to these characters while watching it. I tried to watch a bit of the dub in comparison, at least one episode, but I couldn't really get into it as the voices didn't quite suit what was pictured for me, mostly Yuki's. I thought the show was entertaining, but sometimes I kinda didn't feel like watching it as I enjoyed reading the manga so much more. The anime isn't terrible at all. It has the same spirit and humor as the manga, but it feels like it's missing something in the characters. Whenever I finish the manga, I'll try to make it a point to review it here, but the anime series isn't that bad.

Deadman Wonderland (2011) | Rating: 4/5

I originally saw the first episode of this series on Adult Swim, but I never kept up with it. Obviously, I picked it back up later when I finished watching Durarara!!, because I needed something a little darker in its place. It was definitely dark, but I wasn't expecting it to be so brutal. I didn't mind the violence though. It kinda reminded me of Tokyo Ghoul...or maybe I should say Tokyo Ghoul reminds me of this show. They share some similar elements, but for me, this show is more engaging and the characters are more likable. I wanted them to succeed with their goal and I was invested in learning more about their special powers as well as the prison/amusement park system. Although not necessary for viewing, I found the OVA to be entertaining as well. The way the series ended made it seem like a second season would be in the works, so hopefully, they'll pick it back up in the near future.

Junjou Romantica 2 (2008) | Rating: 3.5/5

Eons ago I reviewed the first season of this shounen ai series and now I've finally decided to watch the second season. What I vaguely remember about the first season and just re-read the brief review I written here made me feel about the same way with this second installment. The story and characters are still enjoyable and it was nice that they continued the storyline with each couple from the first season. Occasionally, I had to rack my brain to remember what happened with the side characters, but this season helped a little with refreshing my memory. Since I had the same positive feelings toward the first season, I had the same complaints as well, which mainly lies with the art style. Some of the characters tend to look alike, which can be problematic if you're not familiar or have a hard time remembering character names. Aside from that, it was amusing and it was nice seeing these characters again.

Assassination Classroom (2015) | Rating: 5/5

If you keep up with the anime I review here, majority of the series I watch are older series, but every now and then, I watch a new series that come out that year. This is something I mention from time to time as a reminder and as a fyi for new readers, I will happily watch new series you guys are curious about or even request me to review. Anyway, I've seen this manga occasionally on the shelves of bookstores, but never paid any attention to it. I don't completely remember what got my curiosity: either the title or seeing something about it on Tumblr. Nonetheless, I found this series thoroughly entertaining. The art style took a little adjusting to, but once I caught up to the newer episodes, I got a little impatient waiting for the next episode. I enjoyed every episode and the characters made it extra enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to the second season in 2016.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review: Aaliyah's "One In a Million" (1996)

Aaliyah - One In a Million (1996, USA)
Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: One In a Million, 4 Page Letter, If Your Girl Only Knew, Never Givin' Up

For the longest time, I always thought that One in a Million was Aaliyah's debut album, but there was another album before it. Unfortunately, I've never actually heard her first album, which probably makes me a bad Aaliyah fan or something. Nonetheless, I wanted to review an album that most Aaliyah fans recognized as well as my first introduction to her music that expanded her music video discography on TV. I remember first borrowing this album or listening to it from my cousin, who is a big Aaliyah fan. It definitely cemented my love and admiration for this young talented lady.

"Beats 4 Da Streets (Intro)" is a simple introduction featuring, at the time, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. It's a short track with a slight hip-hop beat and some deep, airy vocals from Aaliyah. It gives just enough of a sample of what this album would deliver to its listeners.

"Hot Like Fire" continues a similar beat from the introduction with Missy as the hype woman in the song. The beat is pretty laid back with a bit of bass in the background to hit those back row speakers of your car. Aaliyah's vocals remain a bit deep, but light to float out at the end of lines and during the bridge. The music video features a remix version provided by one of the most popular producers at that time Timbaland. It still maintains that laid back tone, but bumps the beat up to make it more of a club track. It features some simple choreography with a block party atmosphere on a music set.

As mentioned in my first entry of Miko's Music Connection, "One in a Million" was my introduction to Aaliyah's world and probably for a lot of people who watched BET. It's a slightly slower song than "Hot Like Fire" and presents more of a sensual tone. The song reaches out to a lover that Aaliyah is smitten with. The lyrics are very simple to understand and really touches on many points in a relationship. The music video features R&B singer Ginufine Ginuwine as Aaliyah's love interest. There's some great intimate choreography as well that mixes it up between beauty shots of her on a car and interacting with Ginuwine. "Girl Like You" is the essence of 90s R&B and hip-hop. The song starts off with guest rapper from Naughty by Nature, Treach. It's not a track I listened to that often, not because it's bad or anything, but I guess Treach's style of rapping sounded like he was yelling from across the hallway or something. At first, the song seems a bit unbalanced with Treach's voice almost taking over the song and Aaliyah's soft vocals. But it is an enjoyable track.

"If Your Girl Only Knew" brought back the sound that I think fits Aaliyah's vocal talent best. It goes back to a simple R&B sound. The vocals feature a few layers of either back-up singers or echos. I remember jamming out to this song and felt that strong attitude in Aaliyah's voice throughout this song. I could see her telling this guy off to his face, maybe a little side eye, and a cocky smile while she walked away. I don't think I've ever seen the music video until now, but it seems like one of the most risque music videos I've seen by a good way. It's sexual, but not too sexual. Aaliyah's style mixes tomboy and sex appeal. She and the other actresses deliver attitude and dominance over these cheating men in simple scenarios such as a private room and an elevator. Of course, it features some artist cameos like "Hot Like Fire" such as R&B trio 702 and rapper Lil' Kim. "Choosey Lover (Old School/New School)" is part cover, part remix. I remember listening to this track with my dad in the car and he had a flashback of the original by The Isley Brothers. I was happy he approved of this meeting of old school and new school when we listened to this track. Aaliyah's voice is absolutely flawless and the first half keeps that mood of "quiet storm soul". By the end of the cover portion, a strong hip-hop bass beat fuses in while Aaliyah's vocals smoothly transition to the change in beats.

"Got to Give It Up" is another cover track originally sung by the legendary Marvin Gaye. According to Wikipedia, it samples Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and features rapper Slick Rick. It's an upbeat track that Aaliayh does well. With her light voice, it doesn't quite pack the same punch as the original, but gives a personal flair to the cover that still conveys the same essence of Marvin Gaye's original. Slick Rick's contribution isn't as overpowering as Treach's and simply elevates the mood of the track toward the end.

"4 Page Letter" is by far one of my favorite Aaliyah songs and my favorite track on this album. Not only did this song really cement my admiration for her, but it's just a very good track. It reverts back to being a love song like "One in a Million" and takes it up several notches in quality. The beat is less overpowering and really lets Aaliyah's voice shine, whether she's doing runs or delivering a verse. Every layer of this song is perfection; it really makes you want to turn it up like the beginning requested. Also, the bridge really solidifies this as a great love song. It displays a bit of shyness, but determination in tone. Lastly, I think this is one of her best music videos on this album as well. I'm not going to say too much about it and just let the video speak for itself. "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" is another track I didn't listen to that much...well, not many of the songs after "4 Page Letter" I listened to when I was younger...and kinda now. None of these songs are bad in the least, just less played. This track brings back the upbeat hip-hop elements incorporated in Aaliyah's sound. It's a fun little track that exudes tons of confidence in content and delivery. It really makes me feel that everything will be alright. "Giving You More" scales back some of that hip-hop sound, but doesn't completely disappear. It simply balances out with Aaliyah's R&B roots, although the beat almost takes over her beautiful delivery in the bass section. "I Gotaha' Back" stays consistent in the balance of sound, but gives her vocals a little more opportunity to break through and reach the listener's ears. "Never Givin' Up" is a track that features Tavarius Polk with some very strong vocals and took me until high school to truly appreciate. I'm very picky with ballads, but R&B has a higher chance of me enjoying, although a lot of them around this time period sounded similar. Nonetheless, it's a really, really solid track that I could see on rainy day scenarios in movies when a character's lover goes away or a wedding song. Definitely check this song out for a real throwback sound. Listening to it now, I still think that Boyz II Men were part of this song and occasionally Tavarius' voice sounds a bit nasally in places, but it's still a beautiful song. "Heartbroken" shares a similar sound to "Hot Like Fire", but toned down and mixed a little more interestingly. It's a song with some vulnerabilities in the vocals, but a subtle strength beneath it. "Never Comin' Back" continues the narrative of heartbreak, but encourages moving on and not dwelling on the past. Things were good, but there are better things coming in the future as well without you. It kinda has a bit of a R&B lounge sound with Timbaland's flair on minimalistic sound. "Ladies In Da House" features Timbaland and Missy and an upbeat R&B sound with a hint of hip-hop. Whether you see it as an independent track or a continuation of the narrative from the last 2-3 tracks, it works as a confidence track for all the ladies. I can see this song being featured in the club, back in the day, and all the ladies enjoying themselves on the floor without any men involved. "Just me and the girls~"

"The One I Gave My Heart To" is a power ballad that ends all the full length tracks on the album. With the cohesion of heartbreak above, I probably would've moved this track up and let "Ladies In Da House" close off the album. Nonetheless, this song features some really strong and powerful vocals by Aaliyah as well as some genuine vulnerability. According to Wikipedia, Aaliyah ad-libbed the last verse of the song, which is quite impressive. The music video features her alone with no cameos or special guests to accompany or comfort her. It really fits the tone of the song and shows Aaliyah in the classic "singing in the rain" shot that a lot of pop and R&B male artists used. "Came to Give Love (Outro)" closes out the album with some feature vocals by producer Timbaland. It's a simple hip-hop/R&B beat that I actually like a lot more than the intro. It probably would've been a cool full track too.

One In a Million was definitely a step up from "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number" (the song, not the album). Aaliyah's voice is a gentle power that eases new listeners in and comforts those familiar to 90s R&B. Timbaland and Missy's beats deliver a great balance of hip-hop and R&B and lets that balance shift in all the right tracks. While there are a couple tracks where the beats overpower Aaliyah's soft vocals, majority of them let her voice float effortlessly through the listener's ears and sometimes resonant with vulnerability and genuine passion. One In a Million is a solid sophomore album that displays growth in Aaliyah's vocal talents and versatility as well as what great producers can do with a great talent.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"I'm Not Yours" by Jolin Tsai feat. Namie Amuro
I believe Asian Junkie joked about this collaboration. As Jolin Tsai is flawless and I guess Namie Amuro is struggling. I could be wrong as I don't follow her too much. Either way, I thought this collaboration of cultures brought something interesting to the table. It's mostly a Jolin Tsai song and definitely fits her dance pop style and aesthetic. It's high production and polished. The song is catchy and Namie's contribution is...okay.

"Parade" by DEV
I'm so happy to see more new videos from DEV. I was really into her when she released The Night the Sun Came Up and her collaborations with The Cataracs. It definitely keeps her sound consist from her previous work, but also brings something a little something new to her style. She still exudes confidence and a subtle alternative sexy in her style. The video is very simple featuring a trio of girls with some fierce choreography, some slow motion moments with a sparkler, and just having a small parade with the squad in the desert.

"Forever (Pt. II)" by Snakehips feat. Kaleem Taylor
I want to say I was introduced to the fabulous, fierce dance duo Aya and Bambi through Tumblr and I've been mesmerized ever since. Not just because of their hypnotizing synchronization, but their amazing fashion sense. I decided to check out this music video and it felt like watching Naughty Boy's collaboration with rising artist Sam Smith. It's a smooth dance/electronic song that mixes R&B elements in its beat and vocal arrangement. The visuals are sleek and fit the mood of the song. There's a definite love connection with these two women and the choreography works very well too.

"Sick Like Me" by In This Moment
I was a little late learning that new material was put out by this band, but I was more than happy to catch up and indulge a little in this female fronted metal band. It might be pandering, but it's stylish pandering that matches the concept of their new album, Black Widow. Maria looks absolutely beautiful. She captures the right balance of seductress and tortured soul. I enjoy the choreography and predatory, aggression that she brings to the camera as well as the other members of the band as they play. The song also brings that sexuality and desperation as well.

"FLOWER" by Xiah Junsu feat. TABLO
Y'know, Junsu either puts out music videos or cinematic masterpieces. This definitely falls in the cinematic masterpiece category. As much as I try to separate myself from DBSK, I still end up liking something from their post-separation catalogue. The music video may be overly artistic and pretentious, but damn it's absolutely gorgeous. It does fit the grand orchestral music and the gentle power in Junsu's voice. I'm not sure what all the visuals mean, but I'm guessing it has to deal with the evolution of man, power, and love...or something. Whatever it is, Junsu continues to stand out from other kpop solo acts and Tablo's contribution adds a bit of off kelter rap commentary to the song.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 125 minutes

Once upon a time, there was a controversial book that appeared in bookstores and libraries nationwide...and later internationally. It was a book that awakened lonely housewives' libidos and brought spice to vanilla couples' bedrooms. This book caused great confusion among the masses. Some called it stimulating and exciting, while others with common sense believed it was poorly written and misrepresented the BDSM community. Granted this book was based off a Twilight fanfiction, there's really no surprise that the contents would be mediocre at best. If you have no idea what I'm talking about...and you clearly didn't see the title of this review, I'm talking about E.L. James' claim to fame, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anastasia Steele is a literature student who volunteers to help her journalist roommate interview a wealthy businessman by the name of Christian Grey. After their interview, Christian gives Ana an opportunity to attend a photoshoot and she soon finds the man intriguing and quite good looking. In turn, Christian grows interest in the innocent, naive graduate and proposes a personal get together with her to discuss an "unusual" contract. Ana, being thoroughly interested in him, meets up with him and learns that Christian is interested in one particular thing.

So...I've never read any of the books and I don't plan on it either. The most I've read is a couple paragraphs and then hearing excerpts of it read by Gilbert Gottfried and George Takei, which is hilarious. In short, don't expect any book comparisons to this movie in the near or distant future. Since the book series was a huge phenomenon (for some reason), it wasn't too surprising that it would receive a movie. I mentally debated whether I should give this movie adaptation the time of day or not as the series' success bothered me a lot, but I definitely wasn't going to be spending any money on it to see it in the theater. As it appeared in the catalogue, I placed a hold for it and once I received it, I questioned myself on whether I was going to go through with it. I brought it home, glanced at the case from time to time, and continued to contemplate, "do I really want to see this dumb movie?". Beforehand, I did read a review stating that they went into the theater expecting to laugh through it, but instead felt uncomfortable. Once I pushed the disc into my PS2 and let it play, I hoped that the review was wrong or missed the humor and I could get some laughs out of this silly adaptation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: How to Get Away with Murder Season 1

Title: How to Get Away with Murder Season 1
Starring: Viola Davis, Billy Brown, Alfred Enoch
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Crime, Mystery
Episodes: 15

I've heard many people sing praises about Shonda Rhimes, who is best known for Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Of course, Scandal is the hottest show in my friends circle and naturally I was late to the party of watching it. Perhaps I'll do a review on what I've seen so far of it. Hopefully, I'll be starting the third season soon. Anyway, I figured I'd give Ms. Rhimes a chance with her new creation, How to Get Away with Murder...then eventually, venture into Scandal.

Annalise Keating is a law professor and criminal defense attorney at Middleton University. Through the course of the semester, she decides on five students to help her assist with real legal cases, along with her associate lawyers Frank Delfino and Bonnie Winterbottom. Throughout the first season, the viewer gets a sneak peek of two murders in action through flashbacks that gradually began to piece together to a bigger and clearer picture.

Coming into this series, I didn't know what to expect, but what I saw made me want more. The first episode does its job of hooking you into the story and the characters. You become familiar with Annalise and you know you're going to witness majority of the student insight from Wes Gibbins' point of view. The flashbacks scattered in between scenes of the first episode also keep you intrigued to find out what the heck is going on. From episode to episode, you see more of these flashbacks and you try to piece them together with the case these characters are working on. This element, for me, made me feel more connected with them and the story all the more involved. I haven't seen that many crime, mystery TV shows, but I really enjoyed the journey. There may have been a couple moments where I wasn't completely sure where things were going and my feelings toward it started to wane a little. Fortunately, by the next episode, I was ready to go and looking forward to how Annalise, her colleagues, and her students would get out of the sticky situations they've involved themselves in.

Without giving too much away about the show, I do want to commend the diversity of the show. Not just racially, but sexual orientation wise as well. Annalise's interracial relationship may not be new to viewers who are fans of Scandal, but I found it quite interesting, especially when her affair involved a black man. Stereotypically, it's the other way around. There's also some forbidden relationships involving the students, which is just a hint of how "steamy" the romantic side of things are. Since I mentioned it earlier, it was nice to see a homosexual male who isn't obnoxiously flamboyant. To the common eye, he appears like any other "straight" man and the person he's interested in is also an uncommon choice, an Asian. I think that's one step forward in a positive direction for gay male representation. On a side note, I think he's rather handsome. In passing, I did hear some complaints about a couple scenes this character is in because it was "inappropriate" or whatever. But come on! There's so much heterosexual sex out there that it can be unbearable for even straight viewers, imagine how non-heterosexual people feel when they see it. Besides, I thought the scenes were very tasteful and didn't linger on or shoved in for count like some HBO or Showtime shows.

Well, I'm not sure if I said too much about this show to convince others to see it or my enjoyment was simply too vague in the description department. How to Get Away with Murder is a fresh show with some alternative choices of character. There's plenty of diversity, drama, and development and there's everything I could ask for in a good crime, mystery show. There are times where things could be a little confusing or just ridiculous, but overall, it comes together in an interesting nearly conclusive package. ABC has announced early on that the show has been renewed for a second season and will return in September 2015. I'm looking forward to seeing it and watching what direction these characters go after their first major case.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 15, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Shake That Brass" by Amber feat. Taeyeon (SNSD)
I know a lot of Amber fans were very excited and probably surprised that SM Entertainment gave her a solo. I know I was. I didn't know what to expect, other than probably something fun. Well, it's definitely fun and plays into her silly personality. It looked like a ton of fun to film. It's a very colorful video that doesn't just stick to dancing in a box and beauty shots. It bridges the style of f(x) with Amber's own tomboyish, "I don't care" attitude. There's plenty of cameos to look for throughout the video as well. Oh yeah, Taeyeon exists.

"Ubermensch" by Kayon
I believe I saw this video on Seoul Beats for some unknown female rappers. Most of you know that I like checking out new Korean rappers, especially female ones. The video is predominantly in black and white with some color in the graphics and animations added on top of the video. It's a very laid back song with a cool beat that reminds me of late 90s/early 2000s sound. Since the song is very laid back, the video's pace goes a bit slow motion, taking its time as Kayon flows along to the beat. I'm looking forward to listening to more of her music.

"Medusa" by Jolin Tsai
The queen is here and is bringing all the visuals and usual. Queen Tsai looks flawless as always and moves like she owns the world, not letting her back-up dancers out shine her, but they move just as fiercely. The song is seductive and almost predatory like a black widow...or should I say as hypnotizing as Medusa. The visuals mix artistic and simplicity together. While some shots seem odd and perhaps out of place and others feature Tsai's beauty or her interacting with her dancers. Nonetheless, it's nothing too crazy that you haven't seen from Lady Gaga.

"Shut Up and Kiss Me" by Elva Hsiao
Occasionally, I will look at her videos, but I don't keep up with her like I do Jolin Tsai or G.E.M. The visuals are pretty basic, showing some impressive and sexy choreography with dancers and beauty shots of Hsiao. It also features some excerpts of couples kissing and a small alien plot that I honestly couldn't explain to an outsider if they were watching it with me. It's a fun little video with some polished visuals and a danceable sound.

"The One" by ZHU
From time to time, a cool dance music video pops up on EgoTV and this is one of them. It features a very impressive saxophone intro and black, white, and red color pallette. The vocals do take some adjusting to as it starts off low and distorted, but later sound more feminine and normal. What's presented to us in the video is dramatic, intriguing, sensual, and a bit suspenseful. It's like a movie where you're constantly trying to figure out what the heck is going on in it. Are they a couple? Is it some sort of kidnapping? No matter what's going on, listening to the few lyrics in the song and comparing it to what we see concludes to something that shouldn't be happening...and I love every moment of it; I just wish it was a tiny bit longer.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review: The Blacklist Season 1

Title: The Blacklist Season 1
Starring: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Episodes: 22

Along with doing manga reviews, you guys voted and the results supported doing more television show reviews. I know, I know...I should also contribute to the Asian drama tag some and I'm still trying to figure out how to squeeze in drama time. Eventually, I shall figure it out, especially since I want to see the conclusion to Last Cinderella. And I also should try catching up on music reviews as well. hahahaha ha ha haha Sorry.

Elizabeth Keen is a new profiler for the FBI from Quantico. Raymond "Red" Reddington is highly articulate and intelligent mastermind who's on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted List". As soon as Liz begins her new career, Red turns himself in to the FBI with an interesting proposal. Red presents them with a blacklist of criminals the FBI doesn't know about that should be taken care of in exchange of removal from the list and cooperation with Liz to apprehend these criminals.

It doesn't show much here since integrating television shows (non-Asian dramas) is a new addition to Muddy Cult, but I've been watching a lot of crime, mystery, and some sort of government type series. Hopefully, I'll get to share some of those thoughts about them here. Anyway, I heard this series is pretty good, even though I barely knew anything about it. Of course, I went into it with an open mind. From the first episode, I was instantly intrigued by our main characters Liz and Red. They were similar yet different enough to have conflict with each other. They both bring out the best in each other throughout the series, which contributes to their growth. Of course, their relationship hits plenty of bumps from the start, considering one is a very wanted mastermind and the other works for the FBI. Each episode presents a different criminal that utilizes different tactics to achieve their goal, whether it's viral warfare, the use of international citizens, or pure terrorism. They all present a new challenge for our characters and also share a relationship with Red. What makes the show entertaining is the relationship between Red and Liz. They both take different routes to meet their goal and sometimes have to compromise on what the proper solution should be to handle these highly dangerous criminals. Not all of these targets are blatant bad guys that just want to ruin the world (or America), some of them do have a purpose to their crazy schemes.

The Blacklist doesn't just focus on capturing or eliminating dangerous targets, but there's other obstacles our characters must face at the same time. A couple of the important subplots that occur throughout the show deal with Liz's relationship with her husband and finding out who the traitor/mole is in the group. Some of these subplots seem more prominent than others for me; one of them being Liz's marriage and trust with her husband and Red, which go hand in hand. I think this addition makes Liz and Red even more dimensional characters than just FBI agent and criminal. It makes them more human and relatable, so you feel the need to sympathize with their downs and triumphant for their ups. It's a great bond that you don't want to see damaged. You really want these opposing sides to work out as long as possible.

The way the first season ended was definitely a good cliffhanger and I'm looking forward to the unfolding of Red and Liz's backstories, which I'm hoping is featured in the second season. I will admit that I had a couple moments of uncertainty or were distracted, but overall, I enjoyed tracking these clever criminals and learning along with Liz about her husband, Red, and herself. Recently, the second season has ended in May and the third season will begin in Fall 2015 on NBC. I'm looking forward to watching more in the near future on DVD or Netflix.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review: Crazy Town's "The Gift of Game" (1999)

Crazy Town - The Gift of Game (1999, USA)
Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Darkside, Butterfly, Hollywood Babylon, Lollypop Porn

I wasn't always super into rock music like I am now. It took years of cultivation and indulging for me to get to this point. I believe somewhere around 7th or 8th grade, I became more interested in the rock genre. Sure, I casually liked a few rock songs from various rock bands, but I want to give credit to Linkin Park for keeping me there. I'll probably bring this up again (more than once) in better detail, but the reason I'm bringing this up is because Crazy Town came into the scene around this time with a well known single by the name of "Butterfly". Most people just know them for that one song and nothing else, so I want to give them some spotlight in this Throwback Thursday post and review their debut album, The Gift of Game.

"Intro" is an odd introduction to the album with some people talking in a studio, but it's a fairly short track. "Toxic" is an interesting choice of a first track to start the album, but it's not a bad song at all. It's kind of a dark sounding song with some warped guitar playing that sounds like it's coming from an underwater tunnel. The chorus is very loud, aggressive, and full of energy which balances out the verses that are a little calmer and have a more conversive delivery. The extra vocals are a little distracting, but I like the back and forth of singing and rapping between Epic and Shifty Shellshock. "Think Fast" starts off pretty hard with some in your face guitar playing. The lyrical delivery kinda goes along with the title of the song, going by quickly along with the drums. It's a song that I either casually listen to or skip completely. "Darkside" mixes rock and electronics in all the right places. It's like a more aggressive rock version of Orgy from high school. It has a cocky delivery in the verses, then lets loose in the chorus, yelling out against whoever the song is for and has a fun more synth sound to it. I like the slightly opposing sounds between the verse and chorus and the transitions of vocal styles in each section. "Black Cloud" slows things down and gives the listener a break from the aggressive sounds of the previous tracks. I really like hearing this vulnerability and diversity in the band, especially Epic and Shifty's vocals. I really like listening to the lyrics of the song as they're pretty clever, especially when they mention various types of superstitions.

Now for the song that everyone knows about, "Butterfly"! Released in 2001, it was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and for a very good reason. Of course, around that time, there were many rock bands fusing hip-hop and rock, but some of them seemed a little off and met with very little success. Sure, you could probably lump this band as one of those little success stories, but I think there was more to them than a lot of the bands back then. The video was pretty cheap looking, mostly in the wardrobe department, but the visuals were a fantastical drug induced dream that fit perfectly for Crazy Town. It was simple and the song had a good sound with a guitar melody that sticks with you forever. It had a good balance of rap, but stuck more to a modest flirtation of rock. It was a good introduction to what the band was about, giving a little taste of their overall sound and lyrical content if listeners delved into their album. "Only When I'm Drunk" continues this lighter rock sound, having fun with a basic rock sound that everyone is familiar with. The lyrics are humorous and even makes a reference to an older song. Maybe you'll catch it. It's a silly song, but what do you expect from a song about getting drunk. "Hollywood Babylon" is a song I remember jamming to quite often on my portable CD player. It returns to that harder rock sound that you could lightly headbang to or just nod along. It just sounds like a fun audience participation type song that just gets you hyped along with them. "Face the Music" almost has the same melody as "Hollywood Babylon", but the lyrical delivery is a little lacking...even the content is meh. Sure, it has that same high energy, but misses that punch that the previous track has. "Lollypop Porn" was another song I remember listening to a few times as well. It breaks up the monotony of the last two tracks. It has a similar vibe to it, but mixes the mood of "Butterfly" and "Darkside". Bringing in light electronic and hip-hop sounds with rock while contemplating sex, partying, and just the whole good and evil game. It's a reoccuring theme in this album of demons and angels, but it's not heavy handed. It's a pretty smooth song and it's hard to resist not nodding along with this track.

I honestly don't remember ever seeing the video to "Revolving Door" until now. It's not as appealing as "Butterfly", but I suppose it goes along with the whole revolving door of women. It's a cheesy song and concept and tries to imitate similar effects from "Butterfly", like Shifty's tattoos flying out the window. Visually, I would've left this to a "real" rapper to deliver, then fade off like many rappers of that time. Listening to it was never a song I listened to that much. Honestly, I skipped this track. The lyrical content and music isn't bad in the least, like the video. It's actually a nice change to have such a chill melody for bragging about how many women these guys get. It's almost bittersweet in places, but not everything is bad. "Players (Only Love You When They're Playing)" continues that revolving door concept. Y'know...getting all the ladies, but in this track, it really does brag about sexing all the ladies. I do like this song a little more. It has more of hip-hop vibe than a rock one, which is interesting. I like the fun vibe of the music and the cockiness definitely runs through and through in the vocal delivery. Surprisingly, I'm not bothered by the female vocals in the song...except for the additional moans toward the end of the chorus. I get sex sex, but ugh! It's awkward to listen to out loud and in your headphones. Nonetheless, it's a decent song. "B-Boy 2000" announces that this is the last track...which it is. As I write this review and listen to the track, I honestly don't even remember this song at all. Strange. It's a very rock song. It's not all that aggressive like the beginning of the album or anything. It's more like 2000s rock sound I's hard to explain. The track features the legendary KRS-ONE, which is pretty cool. It's a fun track and a great one to end the album on, for sure. If you don't listening to any other track on this album, including "Butterfly" because everyone loves that one, you should definitely give this one a listen. There is a strange "Outro" track to close off the album. It's more electronic sounds more than anything else. Also, if you skip to track 32, there's a hidden track in there, but it's really nothing worth taking the time to listen to.

The Gift of Game was a pretty good album for its time. It showed off the aggressive, the cocky, and the vulnerable sides of Crazy Town. Although there were other bands out there around that time that used the rap/rock "gimmick" like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and I'm sure others, they still had their own style that made them stand out from the lower pack (those bands I can't remember the names of). Back then, I really played the hell out of this CD and when I found out they released a second album, Darkhorse, I started to lean more towards their rock sound. This album is still enjoyable to this day and the tracks that I liked back then, I still like now. They definitely evolved in their second album and I'm not sure if I'll be reviewing it in another Throwback Thursday post, but it is worth checking out, if you're curious what happened to the "Butterfly Boys". According to Wikipedia, the band has reunited and is working on releasing a third album in August 2015. I'm looking forward to what they might put out in this current day and age, since rock (or just music in general) has changed so much since 1999/2000.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quick Movie Review

Mortdecai (2015, USA) | Rating: 2/5

I think everyone's aware that Johnny Depp has been in quite a slump lately with the movies he's been starring in: The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, and Dark Shadows. The only project that has gained any sort of success was Into the Woods, which he only had a minor role in...but a very well acted minor role! I heard this movie received poor reviews, but...I still wanted to watch it. As negative as the comments were, I didn't think the movie was that bad. Of course, it wasn't the best of Depp's career, but it wasn't boring and unfunny like Dark Shadows. There are a couple movies that this reminds me of: Get Smart, but a little less funny and Master of Disguise, but less cheesy. Depp is no John Cleese, but the movie is decent. If you skip out on it, you're not really missing anything. It's not terrible, but it's not that amazing either.

Everly (2014, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I've vaguely heard about this movie, but I didn't know too much about it other than it's most likely an action movie, judging the by the cover, and Salma Hayek is in it. Other than that...nothing. I asked a co-worker what she thought and she said it was watchable, but not great and I would have to agree. This movie definitely delivers a high body count, plenty of action, and a little eye candy. It's weaknesses are the story and a little bit of the pacing. The movie immediately starts off with the bad guys ending up on the floor, then suddenly random people bust through the apartment set to kill Everly. It's kinda too much to start with. I think the most interesting thing about this movie is that it brings in two different cultures together (or opposed), Spanish and Japanese, which I enjoyed. For the most part, this movie can be summed up as a decent, mindless action movie and sometimes you kinda need something like that in your life.

Come Back to Me (2014, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

A co-worker recommended this movie to me as she knows that I enjoy horror movies and lately most of the horror movies I've been watching have been mediocre to average, excluding The Babadook. I went to this movie with an open mind, since I had no idea what it was about it and...I didn't it like as much as my co-worker did, but it had potential. It wasn't terrible or anything, but there could've been more. The movie is based on a book called The Resurrectionist, which the movie has made me interested in checking out, and the concept is kinda unique. A disturbed/traumatize young boy who has the gift to bring back the dead, but has the need to take life from a living being. There was no real surprise that the neighbor seemed suspicious and his intentions were kinda obvious too, although at times I was unsure what his goal was with these women. The characters are pretty basic. There's nothing about them that makes me care what happens to them and the antagonist is more annoying than intimidating. The best part of the movie is the conclusion. It was kind of a bold move.

Jinn (2014, UK) | Rating: 1.5/5

I checked this out, out of curiosity. I thought it was a Asian movie or something and it ended up being a film based on Middle Eastern religion or something. Nothing wrong with that or anything as the background sounded interesting. Unfortunately, the film couldn't hold my attention for too long and I had a hard time watching it. The dialogue was bland, the characters were rushed and interesting, and the plot seemed a bit convoluted and underdeveloped. I'm sure they wanted a cool fantasy, action film, but they got an awkward looking snoozefest instead.

Song of the Sea (2014, Belgium) | Rating: 4.5/5

I heard about this movie from Nostalgia Critic and seeing the animation and hearing his brief commentary on it made me very interested. I was happy to learn that it was available at my workplace, so I scooped it up and watched it. One of my co-workers said that it was a really good movie and I would have to agree. The visuals are absolutely beautiful and I just love the style of the characters and the vivid backgrounds they inhabit. It was simply refreshing to watch a traditionally animated film. The story is based on Celtic mythology and, for the most, is easy to understand whether you have a small or vast knowable about selkies (not to be confused with selfies). The characters are well fleshed out and definitely form a relationship with the audience as I found myself a little upset with the grandmother and the son Ben. Of course, my feelings changed over the course of the movie and I understood more and more why they felt and acted the way they did toward Conor and Saoirse. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend as it is a cute little film that doesn't talk down to children so families can enjoy it together.

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 7, 2015

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)" by JongHyun feat. IRON
After Taemin's solo, I guess SM Entertainment decided that Jonghyun needed one too. I'm not complaining or anything. There were some possibilities of how this first video would go. It is darkly beautiful and I'm happy they didn't do the standard dancing in a box or just choreography video. It has some theatrics, interesting visuals, and Jonghyun looks and sounds amazing in this video. I never really paid too much attention to SHINee's individual skills, so this makes me like him even more than I have before. I'll admit that this isn't what I expected from him, but I was pleased enough that I was kinda excited about hearing his mini-album. Also, IRON...yes~ Unnecessary, but...yes~

"Star Warz" by Outsider vs. Twista
I know Twista hasn't been relevant to mainstream audiences since the 2000s, but I'm still mesmerized by his speed and skill. I was excited to see that Outsider was doing a collaboration and I was very impressed. It was everything a fan could want. The visuals are a perfect symbol of two different opponents battling each other through boxers. The song mixes both artists' styles with a hip-hop, rock, and classical sound. I'm looking forward to hearing new Outsider for sure!

"Crazy" by 4Minute
Despite my feelings toward HyunA, I've liked this group before her solo career became a career, so I was excited to see a new video from them. If I remember correctly, I wasn't too impressed with their last effort. Although the video mostly focuses on beauty shots and choreography, it's shot well and in an interesting way. Despite the styling not being perfect, for the most part I like this new look for them, especially the green hair. I do think the choreography is awkward in places, but I really enjoy this almost Middle Eastern hip-hop, electro-pop sound for them.

"Rebellion" by DIAWOLF
Along with the revival of Alice Nine (or A9 now) after leaving PS Company, Shou and Tora put together DIAWOLF and released a video around the same time. I didn't know what to expect, but what we got was absolutely awesome. It was a booming and liberating fusion of rock and electronic music. Shou's Engrish is pretty decent, but more importantly his delivery along with Tora's guitar were very powerful and conveyed a great sense of rebellion. I hope this isn't a one off and they do more with this name, because this was pretty cool.

"Quints" by NIGHTMARE
NIGHTMARE is a band whose music is very consistent. They've kept their signature sound throughout time while still evolving and growing with every release. Although I might not post too much about them here, I still find their music very enjoyable. This video is proof that this band is still amazing and their chemistry with each other still exists. The song might not stand out too much and kinda sounds similar to other things they've released, but there's still hints of growth and experimentation in it by letting all the members sing the chorus along with Yomi, having a more prominent bassline, and adding some synthesizer sounds to parts of the song. The video is very simple visually, having the members perform in front of a concrete wall and vines as the camera revolves from member to member and another scene with all five members in front of a screen with various Japanese and English words surrounding them.