Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fair Shake Review: i don't belong here - Pryde

i don't belong here - Pryde
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/R&B)

Pryde, formerly D-Pryde, is a Canadian rapper who had a early career start on YouTube. His popularity rose quickly due to his witty style while being in only his early teens as D-Pryde, but I still saw him very much in his formative process as he emulated popular acts of the time such as Lil' Wayne (along with the Young Money crew) & bits of Eminem. Even though he delivered clever punchlines and told stories of young teen trying to fit in and blow up, he still felt much like carbon copy of whatever was popular. It was until his road to the album, Plan A, and eventual slight moniker change within the past year and a half that I felt he finally carved out his own identity. Following Plan A's story of growth and determination after his hiatus, came the fun summer album, Richvale Summer, full of party tunes that further rebuilt his fan base. Finally, we come to what he dubs "the album before the album", i don't belong here, that proceeds the long awaited Russell project.

Pryde still maintains a very current sound reminiscent of Drake & Childish Gambino by mixing catchy melodies with wordplay over very mood driven beats. Therefore, he has a very accessible sound to those into mainstream rap nowadays and wins over girls with his decent singing ability. The songs range from his intimate stories about the loss of his mother and division from his older brother to punchline-laden turn up tunes. In between those, you can receive songs dealing with his struggles with breaking into the music industry independently and how that affects his relationships with those in his city. Also, there are songs that display Pryde's unstable balance between loving being the "friend with benefits" and longing to be the actual love interest. These songs all tend to transition pretty smoothly between them with some similar song topics being grouped together.

I'm going to actually get my personal favorites out the way now. When it comes to the hype tracks, I really get out of tracks like "Aggressive" & "U2". Plus, the single "Nuff Said" is one energetic songs that flow wise just makes me giddy, especially with the Missy Elliott and Ludacris references. The moments of his innermost thoughts delivered in "Roses Intro", dedicated to his mother, and "I Don't Belong" are both interesting and head nodding material. On the love related tracks, hearing the Plan A song "Girl Back Home" re-purposed for the "Lost and Found Interlude" was a clever continuation of the girl's story. Then, "Feeliam Shakespeare" featuring Sara B was a very sweeping duet-like tale of taking a chance on love after both being hurt in the past. The only song the tracklist I cannot get into that I've seen people on YouTube rave on is "Healer". Something about how it's presented bothers me, and the theme of it is so misguided and as pretentious as the "Magic Mike XL" sample at the end that inspired this song.

In today's music climate, I can only see this project adding to Pryde's rise. It's my type of guilty pleasure music, because he brings a sound that I could easily get from a Drake or Bryson Tiller; who I view as average artists. Yet, being able to relate to some of his story and following it for so long (about 7 or 8 years) keeps me engaged. Pryde is the type of artist who can put on and enjoy the vibe he brings and occasionally tune in for actually clever lyrics & interesting experiences. Anybody who can dig that kind of sound shouldn't hesitate to give this project a listen, since I believe that you can find at least a good handful of songs that you enjoy! I'm not afraid to take Pryde in that recommendation.

My Abridged Guide to Pryde (I honestly could add more):
MC Showcase 2011 (Punchline track from the D-Pryde era)
Moment 4 Life Cover/Remix (Storytelling track from the D-Pryde era)
Cameron Diaz (During the Road to Plan A a.k.a. my favorite Pryde song)
Low Key (First Plan A single)
West End East End (A Richvale Summer video)
Nuff Said (i don't belong here single)
Group Chat Interview/Podcast (Long interview chronicling Pryde's career)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Legend

Starring: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry
Director: Ridley Scott
Rating: PG
Language: English
Run time: 1 hour 29 minutes
Genre: Fantasy

This was a film that was plagued with issues from the start. Ridley Scott first had the idea for the film while working on another project. He was certain that it wouldn't be widely received and went on to work on Alien. This pushed the fairy tale even further behind on his schedule.  He teamed up
with scriptwriter, William Hjortsberg, and went through multiple script revisions before deciding on the final version. Scott's dedication to the project also led to building the forest sets on a sound stage. Even with trees built 60 feet tall, Scott wasn't satisfied with how the set looked.

Principal photography seemed to be going well until the entire set burned down during a break from filming. No one was injured at the time, but the production lost several days while part of the forest was rebuilt on another sound stage. The issues didn't stop there. Once in post production, the first cut ran 125 minutes long. Ridley Scott then cut the film down to 113 minutes, then 95 minutes...and finally 89 minutes. All of these changes cut out plot points and scenes that Scott felt could be shorter.

The next problem came when they decided to delay the North American release in order to replace the score by Jerry Goldsmith with one by Tangerine Dream. It was felt by Scott and the studio that United States audiences would be more receptive to a pop score. In 2002, Scott eventually rereleased Legend with Goldsmith's soundtrack restored along with the 113 minute version as a Director's Cut. This is the version that I'll be reviewing.

'A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.' [Source: IMDB]

The story begins with Princess Lili coming to visit Jack in the forest. Their relationship is fairly playful with Lili attempting to charm Jack into showing her the ways of the forest. She wants to learn to speak like the animals the way that he does. It's much different from her life in the palace. She's quite spoiled and used to getting her way. This shouldn't be too surprising considering that she's a princess.

Jack is quite simple in comparison. He lives alone in the forest with his animal companions. This leaves him quite innocent and susceptible to Lili's charms. He attempts to make Lili happy by taking her to see something he'd been promising to show her. There are innocent, beautiful creatures living in the forest. Jack has been trusted with the knowledge of where these creatures roam. For Lili, he's willing to take the chance of exposing them. What's a Princess to do when she's faced with a beautiful unicorn? Try to touch it, of course!

The pair don't realize that they've been followed by a group of goblins led by Blix. The goblins were in search of the unicorns in order to harvest the horn for their master. Blix and company fail to get both unicorns, but succeed in plunging the world into an icy winter. Their master commands them to kidnap the remaining unicorn and bring it to his lair.  Lili has fled in fear after the forest freezes over, but overhears the goblins' plan.

The elves and fae of the forest have gathered around Jack to find answers for what has happened. No human should have ever touched a unicorn. Jack must step up and be the reluctant hero as Lili attempts to follow the goblins back to the lair. This is where the most charismatic character comes in. Darkness, the lord of the goblins and night, is a charming and seductive evil presence. He's played to perfection by Tim Curry in an impressive display of makeup effects. 

'What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all. You can never defeat me. We are brothers eternal!'

Once within Darkness' lair, Lili begins to be seduced by the things she sees around her. There are beautiful jewels, a dancing dress and Darkness himself. What will happen to her if she remains within his grasp? Will Jack be able to save her and the unicorn? I could answer these questions for you, but I won't. This is a film that needs to be seen in order to be appreciated. It's rather light on plot when it could be much more in depth. However, that's due to the immense edits that Ridley Scott did.

The true charm lies within the visuals and Tim Curry's breathtaking performance. From head to toe, Tim Curry was covered in makeup effects. He stood 13 foot tall once he had his horns and stilts on. I've rarely seen makeup done to this scale on a single character so flawlessly. Tim Curry wasn't the only actor covered in prosthetics. The goblins were each transformed, but one other character stood out to the same extent that Darkness did. Meg Mucklebones, the guardian of the swamp around Darkness's lair was another character entirely in prosthetics. 

Ridley Scott's team didn't only put attention in the makeup effects. The massive sets aren't merely empty spaces. Every corner of the forest we see is filled with flora and fauna. Keep in mind that this wasn't simply a forest they filmed in. Each tree was crafted by hand. Each tuft of grass or bit of moss was brought and placed by hand. The scenes in Darkness' lair were filled with banquet tables and decorations. All those details help craft a living, organic film environment. These things can't be replaced with cgi to achieve the same feel.

Nostalgia isn't the only thing that keeps me coming back to Legend. I'll keep coming back for the beauty of the sets and makeup effects. I wish Ridley Scott could have left the original story in tact. It might have led to an entirely different plot and feel. However, the story we're left with has a soft spot in my heart.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quick Anime Review

Dance With Devils (2015) | Rating: 3.5/5

A very good friend of mine brought this series to my attention when it was hot and fresh in 2015. I want to say last year was the beginning of me trying to keep up with a handful of new series on the side of my usual anime rotation. The way she described this series sounded absolutely amusing and a bit silly and once I watched the first couple episodes, those descriptions were quite accurate. This isn't your typical reverse harem of pretty boys. The thing that makes it different from other reverse harems is that the main character Ritsuka isn't wrapped up in these pretty boys fighting for her affection. Her main focus is getting her mother back from vampires! Even though I don't watch too many reverse harems, comparing this series with say Amnesia was quite refreshing to have a female lead defend herself and try to handle the situation alone. Another unique element presented in this series is that majority of the fights between the demons and vampires are through musical numbers. That's pretty much the amusing and silly part of the show. Silly being a good thing for once. These musical numbers also come up when the demons are trying to seduce Ritsuka as well. I know not everyone is a fan of musicals and can get easily annoyed by them, so if you enjoy reverse harems, but don't care for musicals, you'll be very agitated. But if you like pretty boys, chanting pomeranians, and the supernatural, then you'll enjoy this!

Dogs: Bullets and Carnage (2009) | Rating: 3.5/5

When I started reading the manga, I instantly got into the storyline and the entertaining characters. At that time, I was ecstatic to find an OVA for the series...well, more realistically, just happy. It is just an OVA, not a full series. Anyway, I believe it was in 2012 when I first started watching it and...I didn't care for it too much for some reason. I tried and tried to remember what those reasons were, but all I have are a bunch of guesses. Maybe it was the voice acting, the art style, or just seeing something I haven't read adapted into animation? I seriously don't remember. Picking up where I left off with the manga, specifically volume 4, I got hyped again the more I read, especially with my pending Badou Nails cosplay for the year. I stared at MyAnimeList's dropped entry of the OVA and decided to give it another try. Obviously, I made it through all 4 episodes and enjoyed it a lot more than I did initially. Owning the prequel manga (volume 0) helps a lot with understanding the contents of this OVA. It is a prequel adaptation and each episode dedicates itself in telling the backstory (to some extent) of our main cast: Badou Nails, Haine Rammsteiner, Naoto Fuyumine, and Mihai Mihaeroff. It was great seeing the prequel in action and it desperately made me wish there was a full length series for the manga. Someone should really get on that, especially with the success of Gangsta!

Hacka Doll The Animation (2015) | Rating: 4/5

Similar to Miss Monochrome and Aiura, this title popped up in the new upload feed as I watched new series last year. It's also a short series that you could easily watch in one sitting as each episode is about 7 minutes long, if you watch the opening and endings. It was a very interesting series that reminded me a little of a small gem from my past called DiGi Charat. The show follows a trio part of an app that helps improve or upgrade its users. Despite each episode being 5-7 minutes, it feels like a full fledged 20+ minute episode. The characters are fun and interesting to watch from episode to episode; they even return to one or two of the customers to see if their life has gotten better since their first visit. The final episode does take a slight turn and parodies shot for shot of Dragon Ball (Z). [totally not well verse in the difference between regular Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, sorry] If you want something fun and short with some fast paced comedy and a sprinkle of cuteness, this is a good series to easily breeze through. Side note: #3 is my favorite. You'll see why in the glitch episode.

Robotics;Notes (2012) | Rating: 3/5

Starting with the sci-fi action packed Chaos;Head and the time traveling, emotional rollercoaster of Steins;Gate, it was finally time to get to the series that Zwei's Ayumu did music for. Similar to Chaos;Head, it did take me some time to really invest in the story and characters. Something didn't instantly connect with me, but the previous two alternate universes both took me some time to become immersed in the atmosphere. While I did enjoy watching these kids work together to create a functional robot the size of a mecha essentially, I didn't feel that anticipation consistently to watch the next episode like I did with Steins;Gate, but there were a few episodes where my jaw dropped or I was shocked at what happened in front of my eyes. I did enjoy the characters quite a bit, at least enough that certain events did make me feel something emotionally. It wasn't as devastating as Steins;Gate, but I definitely felt a lot more of the characters' struggles compared to Chaos;Head. I want to say that this series is one you really have to pay attention to like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex as there is some intricate details that can easily be missed with all the subtle science and sci-fi elements and dialogue presented in the show. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to watching sequels and another alternate universe from the creator.

Tsuritama (2012) | Rating: 3.5/5

As I continue my sports anime journey, I quickly realized how this series isn't quite a sports anime. The show is more of a comical slice of life with fishing and supernatural elements laced through it, which isn't a bad thing. It took me a while to fully immerse myself in this colorful world with the art style and the story, but eventually, I couldn't help but smile every time I saw these characters come together to learn about fishing or taking down an alien invader with a simple little tune. It's a very strange show, but it is quite entertaining and has some charming comedic characters. In all honesty, it reminds me a lot of another odd, comedic slice of life, series by the name of Azumanga Daioh, especially with its slightly childish soundtrack. I'm not sure if it's a show I can confidently recommend as even I had difficulty slipping into this world with its vivid and quirky art style and almost off the wall story presentation, but if you're looking for something to make you happy and want to take an out of this world adventure with your friends, then this show will make you feel warm and fuzzy.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: Crimson Peak

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Language: English
Rating: R
Run time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic Romance

It's no secret that I'm a fan of gothic romances and Guillermo del Toro. The idea of having the two things in one film was certainly a plus for me. The trailers were enough to give me the intense desire to see this one. You can read Miko's quick review of the film here. I knew that the marketing was likely skewed. This isn't a horror movie in the sense of the hack and slash, jump scare horror that Hollywood likes to spew out. Guillermo del Toro is a storyteller who shows us that the true horrors lie in our own humanity rather than what goes bump in the night.

'In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds - and remembers.' [Source: IMDB]

'Ghosts are real, that much I know. I've seen them all my life...'

We start Crimson Peak with the knowledge that Edith can see spirits. However, this isn't a ghost story. It's a story with ghosts in it. As I mentioned before, marketing this film as horror tears away some of it's emotional pull that could have been built from the trailer onward. People expecting jump scares are going to be sorely disappointed. More importantly, the ghosts serve as an important plot device for Edith's past and present. I won't go into too much detail simply because I don't want to provide spoilers.

What would a Gothic romance be like without suitors? Edith meets her childhood friend, Alan, as well as Thomas, the mysterious man rumored to be in town to court Alan's sister. Alan shares the same interests that Edith does including the interest in ghosts. No matter how perfect he seems, the young doctor is no comparison to Thomas. He's dark and brooding where Alan is light and open. What's a girl to do with herself when she has such choices before her? Thomas has an interest in her manuscript after all...

'A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things... keeping them alive when they shouldn't be. Some of them are good; some of them bad... Some should never be spoken about again.'

The story begins in Buffalo, New York and advances to the rural English countryside. As Edith falls deeper in love with Thomas, we're introduced to the real star of this film. Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe siblings' ancestral home, was built entirely for the film. It's a lavish, beautiful creation that lives and breathes. Everything from the wallpaper to the crumbling tapestries makes this a set that comes alive with every take. Guillermo del Toro has an eye for the beautifully monstrous. Allerdale Hall is no exception with its red clay seeping through the floorboards or snow falling from the hole in the roof.

Each corner of the set is filled to the brim with details that give insight into the lives of these characters. From the elaborate painting of Lady Beatrice Sharpe that looms over the piano to the hand-painted mural in what was once the siblings' playroom, these larger touches never seem out of place. There are smaller details that caught my attention as well. Lucille's collection of pinned moths and butterflies, for example. Does she feel that she's one of those dark moths, regulated to darkness and decay?

That feeling is echoed in the coloring used for the two female characters. Lucille is brilliant reds, dark blues and blacks while Edith is florals, creams and bright golds. These are two women who've lived very different lives, but still tragic in their own ways. Love is the central theme. The lengths that these women will go to for love, whether the love and loss of a father or the love of a sibling, ultimately shape who they are. Lucille is right when she says that love makes monsters of us all.

The ghosts in this film are practical effects layered with cgi to make them more ethereal. Guillermo del Toro rarely shies away from building real world effects. He uses Doug Jones, a frequent collaborator from the Hellboy series and Pan's Labyrinth, for two of the ghosts. Javier Botet wears the prosthetics for the other spirits. It might have been easier to film the spirits entirely in cgi, but the end result is much better. These aren't waifish ghosts lofting in the corners. They're full of rich color and presence even as they appear or disappear from frame.

Don't get me wrong. The film's charms don't lie entirely in Guillermo's ability to create beautiful scenery. The strengths of the actors provides an additional layer of depth to the story. My favorite to watch is Jessica Chastain. This is perhaps her most intricate performance. She's a delight to watch as she moves through Allerdale Hall with all its secrets. Tom Hiddleston is inherently charming as always.  It's quite easy to see why he's such an in demand actor. Mia is as lovely as one of the butterflies her character is colored after. However, I do worry that she may become typecast into period pieces as the ever lovely heroine. It's difficult for some people to get past the plot's taboo and traditionally Gothic themes. However, if those things unsettle you, perhaps Guillermo del Toro has succeeded in exposing another of your fears with his brand of horror.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, March 21, 2016

Quick Movie Reviews: Nicholas Sparks Edition

A Walk to Remember (2002, USA) | Rating: 3/5
Mandy Moore transformed her cute poptart status into being a saccharine actress. She embodies Jaime with an endearing strength and charm. Shane West does a fine job as the bad boy with a heart of gold. There were some differences from the source material to the film version. Most prominent was the change in time period, updating the original 1950s setting to the 1990s. Filmmakers kept the Christian values from the book without shoving them down the viewers throat. 

The Longest Ride (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5
Sophia is an art student going to a university in rural North Carolina. While there, she meets a bull rider named Luke. Romance seems unlikely since she'll be going to New York for an internship. Luke's charm is too hard to resist and the pair decide to give it a try. Like The Notebook, The Longest Ride follows dual plotlines through a character telling a story. It's through Sophia reading elderly Ira's letters to his wife that we see our past story unfolding. The story of Ira and his wife, Ruth, was much more interesting to me than Sophia and Luke. I would have liked to see their story more fleshed out.

The Notebook (2004, UK) | Rating: 3.5/5
This story begins with an elderly man named Duke reading a fading notebook to a female patient in a nursing home. He's telling her the story of two teenagers named Noah and Allie. The teenagers are completely different as they often are in this stories. Noah is a blue collar boy while Allie is a pampered heiress. These two weren't likely to meet, but, in a small town, these things happen. Allie and Noah make choices based in emotion which lead them to several passionate exchanges. Their story unfolds between the present and the flashbacks of the past. It's a sad and often infuriating story.

The Best of Me (2014, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5
This is probably one of the worst Nicholas Sparks adaptations. Rather than stick with the usual romance tropes, this time he adds murder and a prison sentence. Dawson and Amanda are high school sweethearts. He's the abused son of a local criminal. Regardless, this seems like the usual Sparks setup until Dawson is convicted of accidentally murdering a friend. The pair part ways and come back together as adults through a different death. Once again, the story is told through flashbacks. The ending compounds the depressing nature of this film leaving little to look forward to. It's quite clear that Sparks would rather have his characters suffer than grow through their flawed relationships.

The Last Song (2010, USA) | Rating: 1/5
This one is the hands down worst of the bunch. Whoever thought that Miley Cyrus was the right actress for this part was sorely mistaken. Even Kristen Stewart would give a better performance than Ms Cyrus did. Liam Helmsworth has certainly grown since the Last Song if his performance in the Hunger Games is any measure of talent. The plot itself revolves around a teenager (Cyrus) so rebellious over her parents' divorce that she puts her own future on the line to continue being a brat. Her mother sends Veronica and her younger brother to spend the summer with their estranged father. Veronica, a former child prodigy with a chance at Juilliard that she refused, spends the time being more of a brat and meeting a boy. The majority of the plot rotates between the romance and trying to mend her relationship with her father. Sadly, nothing really works due to the unconvincing portrayal of the characters.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fair Shake Review: The Perfect Match

The Perfect Match (2016, USA)
Recommendation: Rent or Date Night

To be 100% honest, the main reason I know about this movie was through Timothy DeLaGhetto. I knew about his cameo and then got informed about the rest of the cast and thought it might be an enjoyable watch. I figured that Terrance J would do a decent job, since his role in the "Think Like a Man" movies were well done. It's been awhile since I saw Lauren London and Cassie in a film and adding Paula Patton to the eye candy sealed the deal. The story itself seemed tried and true from previews, therefore I didn't see it being terrible.

The (usual) plot line follows a young, successful bachelor, Charlie, who doesn't believe in love, but always gets any girl he pleases. As his friends and sister try to change his stance, Charlie accepts his friends' challenge to try and date one girl until his friends' upcoming wedding day. He proceeds to date the "dime" he ran into at work, Eva, who confesses that she's never been in a short-term relationship. Hence, the story lends itself to see how their relationship will develop despite its purpose to be strictly "having fun". Along the way, hilarity ensues with Charlie's coworkers and his friends' own love lives.

My experience was close to my expectations with a movie like this. Enjoyable with a few predictable moments and a couple choices to throw you off. The humor in this movie was well delivered by the entire cast, yet the ones of note would have to be Donald Faison (who I didn't know was involved) and Beau Casper Smart. The sex related jokes, to me, would be the only reason behind the movies "R" rating, since the actual sex scenes are tame compared to today's standards. So, this film shouldn't be too awkward to watch with friends on a group date. Otherwise, I'd again suggest a rental or video on demand option with your significant other. In conclusion, this movie wasn't bad at all, but not great. It's simply another choice in your gamut of black romantic comedies. Who knows though, your taste could very well called this "The Perfect Match" for your needs.

Just some random links that are somewhat related:
Trailer (Though I'd say the trailer shows too much)
Me & U - Cassie (My introduction to Cassie)
Idlewild trailer (My introduction to Paula Patton)
TimothyDLG's interview (Who I wanted to support in this movie)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Backstreet Boys' "Millennium" (1999)

Backstreet Boys - Millennium (1999, USA)
Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: I Want It Way, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, It's Gotta Be You, Don't Want You Back

1999 was a year for millennium themed conspiracies and releases. It was an easy enough concept to put together to lessen the paranoia of Y2K and end of the world babble. Of course, Backstreet Boys clearly took advantage of this year to release their second (or third, depending on the country) album. It was also a time for the group to reclaim their rightful place in teenagers' hearts as the number one pop boy group, since the American debut of rivals N'SYNC. Of course, there was a divide in the market and musical skills that both groups possessed over their competition, but this post isn't about their's a review! As a BSB fan, I could easily throwback to the resurgence of boy bands in America and review their American debut album, Backstreet's Back, but I chose to do their sophomore release for the definitive period of 1999 and the solidification of the group's career. So, let's get right on it!

As I said in my introduction, 1999 was the year of the end of the world conspiracies and futuristic concepts for pop culture. The second single and first track of the album, "Larger Than Life" pretty much reflected that image we had of the year 2000. The video featured robots, space, and plenty of 2000 CGI that Eiffel 65 would be envious of. The song was a great opener to this American sophomore album with its high energy and recognition of the group's quick rising fame. It also showcased a mature look in each member, most notably the youngest Nick Carter as well as their overall style. It was still playful and a bit dark with its Star Wars-esque space fights and leather apparel. Will never forget AJ's ridiculously shrunken shirt.

The first single release and second track of the album, "I Want It That Way", was the real introduction to the Backstreet Men. That shift from "hey, girl, let's hold hands by the lake" to "baby, I want a commitment". It might've been a strange choice to release a slow tempo song as a precursor to a new album, but it ended up being one of BSB's biggest hits from the album. It was also parodied by Blink 182, which is proof of how big it was. The song wasn't a complete ballad either, so it was natural for me to enjoy it. "I Want It That Way" properly showed off the group's vocal chemistry, harmonies, and gave some other members the spotlight like Kevin and Howie. The video was also sleek, mature, and looked very polished with its monochromatic color scheme. Also, including the fans at the end was endearing. Definitely a song that still warms the fangirl's heart with its charming lyrics and sweet melodies.

The third single and track "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" was a track I didn't quite appreciate and enjoy fully until I was a teenager. It was their necessary ballad to tie the two previous tracks together, both audibly and visually. Similar to the previous track, it featured acoustic guitar, line distribution for everyone, and, of course, beautiful vocal chemistry during the chorus. It was a successfully melancholy and heartwrenching song to listen to and experience through music video. Even now as an adult, I can tell I appreciate this song way more than I did when this album was released. The video also gives an effective gloomy and dreary color scheme that matches the tone of the song. Each member is dealing with their own separation issues whether romantic relationships, family, or life in general. It's well acted and has some beautiful imagery, despite some of the weird computer elements used in places. In short, if "I Want It That Way" didn't sell you on how amazing BSB's voices are, this will definitely drive it home in your mind.

"It's Gotta Be You" is all the cheese and fun of pop in this era. It's an energetic song with a catchy chorus, but I can't help but laugh every time Nick does the bridge leading to that catchy chorus. It just sounds so silly and strangely delivered and produced. I think they could've thought of something else, but it's not a terrible song in the least. "I Need You Tonight" is a piano ballad song sung by Nick. It's a song I remember my best friend loving, because Nick was her favorite and a song I always skipped, because it's a boring ballad and I don't care for Nick's voice that much, at least in this song. The song is quite cheesy and to be expected by a boy band, but yeah...there you go. "Don't Want You Back" was a hard hitting break up song that brought me back on board with this album. I really liked AJ's first verse in the song and how it ties back to "Everybody (Backstreet's Boy)". Listening to it now, I wonder if Nick went to the Britney Spears School of Singing. I swear I'm not a Nick hater, but sometimes his vocal choices weren't the best. Anyway, the song is mostly him and AJ with a sprinkle of the other members for the chorus, bridge, and ad-libs. It was a slightly different sound for the pop scene and I enjoy the contrast of the melodic vocals with this hard beat. "Don't Wanna Lose You Now" is another track I remember skipping. The beginning sounds like something N'SYNC would've done. It's another ballad to sandwich between the hard hitting sounds. I want to say that Nick is singing the first verse, which sounds fine. I don't know why he doesn't sound like that all the time. Anyway, it's your typical ballad to make the fangirls cry and say, "I'd never leave you [insert bias' name here]". Young or old, I still don't care for this song too much.

"The One" was their fourth single for the album. Watching this pseudo-music video might be the reason why I dislike live compilation music videos as official music videos. I mean it's nice to see snippets of live shows and backstage shenanigans, but it's not as exciting or a good representation of said song. As for the song, it's pretty standard and has a few sweet lines laced in this semi-catchy beat. This also reminds me of N'SYNC a little...the beat. Anyway, it's an alright song that wakes you up some, if you're not a ballad lover like myself.

Honestly, I'm going to breeze through these last few songs as I vaguely remember not giving them much attention back in the day. "Back to Your Heart" is another ballad with some nice little keyboard work. The chorus is soothing and sweet and I can instantly see all those fangirls crying in the audience as they perform this song on stage. Everyone sounds nice and the lyrics are pretty standard. All the right things to make your heart flutter with some good harmonies. "Spanish Eyes" is a surprising song that showcases Howie's vocals a little more than usual. Deny it all you want, but Brian, Nick, and AJ did the bulk of Backstreet's Back, so (in general) I was happy to hear more Howie and Kevin throughout the album. It's a sweet little song with acoustic guitar and romantic vocal harmonies. "No One Else Comes Close" is another ballad that sounds like some late 80s/early 90s R&B cover, which isn't terrible. I guess it does branch out their vocal abilities a little to show that they can handle R&B elements mixed with a sprinkle of pop. "The Perfect Fan" is like the Spice Girls' "Mama". It's a tear jerking song dedicated to the mothers. It's sweet and hits all the emotional points that need to be hit. The vocal execution is on point and has great potential to take it home with some choral vocals. I know this was definitely one of my mom's favorite tracks. Yes, my mom loved BSB about as much as I do.

Millennium was a mature and perfect progression from their American debut album, Backstreet's Back. It displayed growth and improvements in the group's vocal arrangements as well as some more variations in their music. The album successfully separated the men from the boys and made them stand out from their competition, both minor and major. It was also pretty enjoyable if the world was actually going to end or technology malfunctioned in 2000. For the most part, I was pleased to hear more of Kevin and Howie's vocals throughout the album and letting them show off their abilities in their own verses, not just a line here or there, back up, or group choruses. Listening to it in 2016, it probably sounds dated by the musical arrangement, but it doesn't sound too jarring as boy bands really haven't been a majorly huge thing since then. Yes, I am aware of One Direction, but there was barely any competition for them, even though I do like The Wanted way more. Also, it was nice to flashback to those days of boy band hysteria.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Quick Movie Review

The Chaser (2008, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll notice that I've had some hits and misses when it comes to Korean action films. This movie was one I was looking forward to watching, so...what category did it end up in after I watched it? In short, it was a hit. This movie gave me plenty of action and some good detective elements. It shares some similar action mystery elements as the Vengeance trilogy, which is always a good thing. It did drag in places with the cat and mouse chase, but overall, the ride was pretty enjoyable and it met my expectations.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, USA) | Rating: 4/5

After seeing Pawdugan's Music Movie review, I had a strong urge to see this movie musical. It's no secret that I don't shy away from movies or anything LGBT+ related, especially if it's something positively influential. For years, I've had bad luck trying to find places to watch this and I was ecstatic to see it featured on Logo's Cocktails & Classics. It was definitely an entertaining experience and an eye opening perspective on trans people with some good music. I did have to push aside my Michael Pitt trauma I've developed from Funny Games U.S., but the acting was quite good and I felt for Hedwig's struggle with identity, love, and musical expression.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Kingsman: The Secret Service brought life to the James Bonds action genre on the big screen in an exciting, refreshing, and subtle satirical way. So, I expected another exciting, action packed movie similar to it. Much like Dark Shadows, I've never watched the source material (and not planning on it), but I am aware that there was a TV show of the same name years ago. I want to say that I've heard some good things about this movie, but I wasn't exactly hyped about seeing it. After watching it, I felt a bit underwhelmed. The actors were fine and the action was okay, but the story and chemistry lacked the fire that Kingsman had. If they're making a sequel, I hope it's more exciting than this one.

Return to Sender (2015, USA) | Rating: 2/5

I might be repeating myself, but it's no secret that I've been watching low quality horror movies and I considered this one as a potential candidate. It's not completely horror, but more suspense and drama. Rosamund Pike reprises her role as 'Amazing Amy' in this suspense drama as she's taken advantage on a blind date and faces her rapists through jail. /sarcasm Yeah, this movie is very much "Gone Girl 2" or something, but not as good. Certain relationships really don't make sense and the conclusion just doesn't feel that satisfying because of her shell of a character. I'm sure someone enjoyed it, but a lot of commenters on IMDb have deemed this movie the sequel to Gone Girl. Perhaps Pike is now typecasted after her role as Amy. Either way, you're not missing too much in this movie. It's not terrible, but there's no likable characters to be found here.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I believe I heard about this movie from a little channel called Pretty Much It on YouTube and I finally came across it this year. It's a movie that I don't think everyone would enjoy, but it's definitely a movie you would see at a film festival, which is where this guy saw it. It's a slow, quiet burn of a movie that takes some thinking as things unfold. It goes back and forth from Martha's past cult history to her present life with her sister and brother-in-law. It offers a bit of an insight of what it's like to adjust to real life after being part of a cult. Some moments can be a little frustrating to watch, but the movie does present good reasons for being on either side of understanding and annoyance. I wouldn't recommend this movie to everyone as I can see certain people getting frustrated or bored with the slow pace, but it's worth the journey of getting inside the main character's head as she tries to figure out what to do with herself.

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, March 13, 2016

Review: Scream Queens Season 1

Title: Scream Queens Season 1
Starring: Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Episodes: 16

Around the same time MTV released Scream TV Series, Ryan Murphy put out his latest project in Scream Queens. I was open minded to the project, but I couldn't help but think of the VH1 reality show of the same name looking for actresses to star in the upcoming Saw movies at the time. I'm pretty sure not that many people remember that at all.

Wallace University is rocked by a string of murders. Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority for pledges, is ruled with an iron fist (in a pink glove) by its Queen Bitch, Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts). But when anti-Kappa Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) decrees that sorority pledging must be open to all students, and not just the school's silver-spooned elite, all hell is about to break loose, as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc, claiming one victim, one episode at a time. Part black comedy, part slasher flick, SCREAM QUEENS is a modern take on the classic whodunit, in which every character has a motive for murder... Or could easily be the next blood-soaked casualty. [Source: IMDb]

Going into this show, I didn't have any high expectations because 1) it's Ryan Murphy, 2) Emma Roberts is still trying to be the bitchy, diva character, and 3) Ryan Murphy. As much as I have conflict with the man, mostly through the span of the American Horror Story franchise, I can't help but be curious on how badly he'll screw up a great idea. Of course, I have to stick to my usual formula when it comes to reviews and talk about the positives of the show. It's hard to admit, but I actually did enjoy a handful of characters. Granted the bad ones tend to overshadow the good ones a lot of the time and it made it hard to watch portions of the show, but the ones I did like, I enjoyed seeing them interact and figure certain situations on screen. Skyler Samuels as Grace, the main character, brought some intelligence to this whodunit mystery. Even though her character flip flopped on a few tiny issues, I just assume it was for plot convenience or whatever stupid thing the plot needed. She was a fun character with a good head on her shoulders and I wish there was more of her than Emma Roberts. Keke Palmer as Zayday brought a lot of meta humor and bluntness to the show. I liked her bond and friendship with Grace and she nailed every joke that came out of her mouth. Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill also brought some great, over the top comedy to her character that reminded me a little of Scream's Officer Dewey. While I admit she can be loud and obnoxious [I blame typecasting], she had me laughing and shaking my head in a good way with her attitude and fun spirit. Of course, Jamie Lee Curtis knocked it out of the park with her character Dean Munsch. She had great comedic timing and delivered a strong female front. Pretty much, she could've taken anyone down with her ninja skills, hidden strength, and high tolerance for pain, cold, and anything else you can throw at her. Lastly, I did enjoy some of the smaller characters as well such as Pete, Chanel #5, Chanel #3, and Sam. Also, Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas weren't that bad either, although I preferred Grande's performance more than Jonas's.

Other things I enjoyed about the show was the whodunit aspect, which was more interesting in this show than Scream TV Series. Pretty much, Scream Queens did a better job doing Scream than MTV's bland attempt. The show seemed to reflect the meta aspects more, but also poked fun of them, giving some mostly comedic moments. Not every gag and gimmick landed, but generally it usually was a hit for me, but I give credit to the actors for the good time and effective delivery. It was also fun to see the characters figure out the killer and for once, I didn't feel obligated to play this guessing game. Probably because it wasn't a serious horror show or...I don't know Scream TV Series.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: The Boy

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell
Directed by: William Brent Bell
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr 37 min

January is usually reserved for the worst of the worst of horror movies in theaters. They usually have silly visuals and a predictable storyline that doesn't contribute to the genre at all. It's full of the usual thrills (read as jumpscares) that the younger generation looks forward to and I normally skip out on it. The Boy became the exception.

Greta is a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village, only to discover that the family's 8-year-old is a life-sized doll that the parents care for just like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their actual son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta's worst nightmare to life, leading her to believe that the doll is actually alive. [Source: IMDb]

Knowing what I know about January horror movies, why did I bother seeing this one? Two reasons: Lauren Cohan and the story actually seemed interesting. Yes, we already had a doll movie in the past year and we can't forget about the iconic villain of the Child's Play franchise. So, what makes this movie different from those two. Well, both Annabelle and Chucky were possessed. Sure, in different ways, but in short, possessed. The Boy is something different. Something unexplainable until the final act. Don't worry, I won't give anything away. Now, the premise of this movie isn't something unbelievable at all, which may be a tiny bit scary. Some might have heard of real dolls from shows like Wife Swap or My Strange Addiction (or some sort of spin-off show to that). The owners of these real dolls are usually older couples (usually the wife) that have children who are currently adults and want a "child" to take care of. Knowing real life information like that and seeing these elderly people taking their doll son so seriously made me want to invest in this hour and a half experience. I must admit Brahms definitely was creepy. Similar to Annabelle (sometimes), the creepyness of Brahms was the fact that he didn't do anything but just be a doll. Something about him seemed off, before Greta thought the doll could move and whatnot. I'll admit that I made some jokes about Brahms' expression during certain situations, but in the end, he was a creepy little boy. Speaking of Greta, Lauren Cohan did an amazing job pulling the audience into this isolated, dark mansion. She was very convincing in making us care for her situation and rooting for her to get to safety as quickly as possible. She reacted to every situation believably and she definitely used her Maggie skills to troubleshoot and fight through this unusual situation. The elderly couple were also very committed to this story with their porcelain son and my heart went out to them through their tragic past and even more as the story progressed forward. Lastly, the atmosphere and setting were spot on keeping me engaged in the story and on the edge of my seat as the tension built between Greta and Brahms. The movie stays in the couple's home for majority of the movie and you get a real feel of how spacious the home is while Greta explores or simply lounges around in boredom.

The most important thing when it comes to movies like The Boy is how well it builds up suspense and it successfully delivers in that department. With Brahms' fierce side-eye stoic and uneasy stare combined with the silence and seclusion of the large home, you really want to cling onto Greta as she explores various areas of the house and investigate the mysterious history behind the doll. In short, the suspense and tense atmosphere really keeps you going along with this story, but...there are some flaws. There is a subplot dealing with Greta's past in America with an ex-partner. I admit, when it was first introduced, I immediately hated it and felt it unnecessary. I quickly predicted what might happen with this subplot and really I believe that if they omitted it or even minimized it further then the movie would be a little better. It doesn't completely hurt the main plot, but major elements of the subplot just fall into cliches that made me roll my eyes. Plus, it felt like the conversations about this stalker ex was forced into the script. It just didn't flow with what was going on with Greta, Brahms, and even the grocery boy Malcolm's relationship. I kinda understand what they were going for by adding extra conflict or obstacles for our main character, but it just doesn't work for this thriller and the conclusion is quite comical. As for the movie's main conclusion, well, it might be predictable for some, but I still enjoyed it. It reminded me of another movie [well, more of the remake than the original], but better...and less disgusting. The way the final act pans out was satisfying and paced very well.

The Boy, in my opinion [I mean, really, all of this is my opinion anyway XP], is a successful horror movie to start the year off. It might not be the best film of the horror genre in the past 5 years, but it's less problematic than The Forest. The atmosphere and acting is truly suspenseful and entertaining. Of course, the movie has its comical moments and flaws, but I thoroughly enjoyed this doll flick with the company of my friends. It might not be a hit for some with its predictability and unnecessary subplot, but horror movies are a very subjective genre for filmgoers.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Four Mini Music Reviews

Demigod - VI Seconds
(Genre: Hip Hop/Trap Rap)

VI Seconds is someone that I've been watching on YouTube for a while. I've always enjoyed his incredible wordplay to awesome boom bap and new school beats. Being a New Yorker, I always could expect clever punchlines that take a second to catch and many turns of phrases. The thing is, much of the songs he released in anticipation to this new project (that I enjoyed heavily) were not on the album. Instead, I got the same feeling I received from his previous mixtape: disappointment. The usual choice of production gets replaced by loud or uninspired trap beats that don't match his signature lyricism. There's still great punchlines and a few good choruses, but it gets too drowned out by the instrumentals in my opinion. The few songs I can recommend are "3:30am", "Addict", & "The Season". The rest mainly is according to your own taste.

IAJAN - Mike, The Emcee
 (Genre: Hip Hop/Rap)

Mike, The Emcee is a rapper on the rise in Florida that I became privy to almost a year ago at a local showcase. This was another project that I was eagerly awaiting, once it was announced. This is his EP he presented in view of Black History Month. It's short and to the point with quick anecdotes on cultural appropriation, growing up in a troubled household, striving for equality, & black pride. The new school production and poignant lyrics combine to make a pleasant listen. Then, the outro has an irresistible bounce to it as the mantra to "Stay Woke" and "Stay Black" repeats until small message of hope enters before it fades. I can greatly advise giving this one an ear as you'll be pining for more. Basically, my only gripe is that it is so short.

 Shame The Devil - Stik Figa x Arkutec
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap)

This collaboration is a long time coming in the Kansas scene. Stik Figa is a local legend (in my hometown) who has been known for his witty writing and down-to-earth themes he pens to any beat that comes his way. Arkutec, another big name in KS (when comes to production), is also known for his diverse, yet unique sound in the area. This EP carries a boom bap/new school soundscape and thematically based around trying to live in this world while maintaining your own sense of morals and ethics. There are a few moments where braggadocio slips in, but it never detracts from the experience. If you dig varied flows and social commentary in your hip hop, I highly recommend this masterfully done project. It's really hard for me to choose favorites here, but lyrically "Prey" and sonically "Testify". 

Untitled Unmastered - Kendrick Lamar
(Genre: Hip Hop/Jazz Rap/Trap Rap)

Finally, we come to the unexpected delight of the review! If you are familiar with K. Dot then you may know that ever since To Pimp A Butterfly was close to its release, his live performances tend to include untitled and unreleased verses or entire songs. Many people, after almost a year since TPAB's release, gave up on ever having studio versions of these compositions. Lo and behold, we all were surprised by a tweet informing us of this project. Every song is still untitled save the (recording) date associated to each track. Most of what has been performed live on television have different production than previously present except his Colbert Report & Jimmy Fallon performances being the closest to our initial encounters. This is surprising and actually kind of interesting to hear in a different motif. That being said, the production of this release will be as polarizing as TPAB was as it will go from hood trap bangers to soulful jazz/funky then near experimental rap. Yet, all the lyrics are typical Kendrick bars that carefully teeter between poetic social & internal observations and the hood mentality that's the product of his Compton environment. If you can enjoy the musical diversity of the album, this B-Side-esque project should satisfy your taste! I like them all but if forced to pick top tracks, I'd say "3", "5", "6", & "7".

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"The Hills" by The Weeknd
2015 was a very good year for this little known artist and he was one of the best things that came out of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. It took me a while to hop on The Weeknd bandwagon, but I'm here and I might review his most known album of that year at some point. For now, I want to talk about one of my favorite tracks from the album. Visually, the video reminds me of one of my all time favorite Kanye West videos, "Flashing Lights"--darkness with a little bit of sexy. Even the tone of the song has that haunting, seriousness that really lures me in. Sure, it doesn't show off his vocals that well compared to other songs, but it solidifies his mature, dark style with just enough emotion of despair and pain.

"Ridin Round" by Kali Uchis
I was introduced to this artist recently by a friend and I'm excited to check out more of her material, especially after seeing this video. Very good first impression. It really reminded me of early Rihanna meets M.I.A. (with maybe a hint of Amy Winehouse) and in my book, that's a pretty awesome combination. The video and song mixes Latin culture with indie pop sounds. I really feel like I'm part of the Colombian hustle life. There's so much confidence and sensuality exuding from this woman and it doesn't feel forced either. She feels like a real person you could run into and she'd be open to showing you around the neighborhood while also showing all the nightly hot spots. It's a very chill and fun song and will put a smile on your face easily.

"I'm About to Break You" by New Years Day
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to talking about another amazing female fronted rock band I came across on YouTube here. I don't know how that happened, but I do have a concert report queued up featuring them. Anyway, this is one of their latest music videos for their most recent album, Malevolence. One thing I've noticed when listening to this song is that they have definitely polished their signature sound even more. It's sexy, aggressive, and subtly playful. The vocals are just rough and raw enough, but still maintain control that it doesn't make your ears bleed. The visuals are very Mad Max: Fury Road inspired and certain elements remind me of In This Moment, but doesn't feel like a complete copycat. This definitely gets me pumped to listen to the new album!

"愛にいくよ" by AISHA
I believe I saw this video on my Facebook feed and it was quite refreshing to hear such talent. I've never been exposed to AISHA's music, but she gives me amazing vibes like BENI, JASMINE, and EMI EMARIE...oh, and lecca, which makes me happy. The video is very simplistic by only focusing on certain parts of her face or body as she sings, her running through the city, in a sparkly gown; and her in a bathtub with gold eyeshadow, but the simplicity works for this powerful R&B track. There's enough emotion exuding from the atmosphere and subtle gestures and acting given by AISHA. Perhaps, I should check out more of her music.

I'm going to try really hard not to mention a certain band while I type about this music video. So far, every PV release I love these ladies more and more. They're very confident and comfortable with their rock style, both musically and visually. The visuals are just enough for this powerful rock tune. I love seeing Oni wandering around the warehouse dirty and determined. When the whole band is on the screen, or just watching their single shots, is simply satisfying. You can't help but smile as you see this amazing chemistry and spirit thrive through them all like it's a live show!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Quick Music Reviews

Taylor Swift - 1989 (2014, USA) | Rating: 5/5
Favorite Tracks: Blank Space; Style; All You Had to Do Was Stay; Out of the Woods; Clean; Wildest Dreams; This Love; Bad Blood

Taylor Swift's music has often been a guilty pleasure for me. Red was the favourite album until the release of 1989. There have been times when this album has been the soundtrack to my drive home. This is one of those albums where I enjoyed every song from start to finish. Miss Swift knows how to craft catchy songs that really sink into your memory. I'm pretty sure there are people who have Shake it Off or Bad Blood stuck in their heads even if they don't like her music. Her lyrics are well crafted and memorable. Some might try to take credit for her success, but it rests firmly on Miss Swift's considerable charms. She's the girl next door singing about the relationships that come and go throughout her life.

Highly Suspect - Mister Asylum (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Mister Asylum; Bath Salts; Bloodfeather; Lydia

This was a band that I was made aware of through listening to a local modern rock station. The song that I heard first was Lydia. I keep going back to it over and over. Every time it's on the radio, I crank the volume up and sing along at the top of my lungs. Bloodfeather had the same effect on me. The comparison to bands like Queens of the Stone Age are fairly accurate as far as the gritty style the band has. Johnny Stevens, vocalist and guitarist, has a memorable voice that blends well with their slightly chaotic sound. It's an ambitious first album. I'm looking forward to seeing how they follow it up.

X Ambassadors - VHS (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Renegades; Unsteady; Gorgeous

This is another debut album that has been quite successful as far as the singles go. What makes the songs so catchy though is the lyrics. Unsteady is quite poignant with lyrics about a potentially broken family. There's one sad thing that has stuck with me throughout listening to the album. The songs would be so much better stripped down to the way that Renegades, Unsteady and Gorgeous were for the Upstate Sessions that the band posted to their youtube/vevo channel. I find myself going back to those versions over again.

Raglaia - Creation (2015, Japan) | Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: Remember; Break Down

Raglaia is the band that brings us the return to music for the former vocalist of Aldious. Rami has paired with K-A-Z (SADS), Ery (KillKills) and YOUTH-K!!! to form a band a bit similar to the one she left. One of the strengths of Raglaia is having K-A-Z on guitars. He's a skilled guitarist who has spent years working with a visual kei legend (Kiyoharu). My issue with this band lies entirely with Rami's vocals. There are times when it feels like she's stretching herself beyond her limits to hit notes that she shouldn't attempt. I'll stick with them a bit longer as I'm a fan of K-A-Z's guitar playing.

L'Arc~en~ciel - Wings Flap (2015, Japan) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 

When L'Arc~en~ciel releases a single, it's easy to have expectations on what the song will sound like. Wings Flap fits in quite well with what I'd expect from Hyde and co. However, that's also where the downfall comes in. It's a decent song with all the usual flare from Hyde's vocals. Yet, it's not memorable for those reasons. Honey ~L'Acoustic version~ falls into that same feel. I don't know if I would seek these out on my ipod, but I wouldn't skip them if they played.