Sunday, July 31, 2016

Quick Anime Review

High School of the Dead (2010) | Rating: 3.5/5

After completing both Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate, it was time to replace it with another horror type anime in my rotation. I've heard of this show before and have seen the popular "matrix boobs" gif of it on Tumblr, so I knew what I was getting myself into. The show doesn't hold back on its zombie epidemic and gets right into the action. I enjoyed the variety of characters we're given, even though it's practically a harem kinda vibe going on for our two male leads. The story has some good pacing and even splits up our group of characters temporarily. They face many trials that seem unwinnable, but they manage to get out like badasses. As much as I enjoyed this series, I do have a couple complaints. While I was aware of the fanservice existing in this series, it seemed to increase over time with gratuitous upskirts, unrealistic boob physics, and...pretty much any kind of shameless eye candy for the fanboys (or girls). This fanservice can be distracting to the awesome female cast that actually have some redeemable qualities that make me want to be part of their gang. [See BlipMasta5's rant] Fortunately, it does calm down a little toward the end. Also, I wish there was a more human threat to our cast of high schoolers, like they build up one of the teachers Koichi Shidou as this creepy teacher that would throw off anything and when they run into him toward the climax of the show, nothing big really happens between him and the group. It's just a bit of a let down in that area. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this thrill ride of zombies and destruction, despite the gratuitous fanservice. Hopefully, that second season actually happens in the near future.

Super Lovers (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

I am no stranger to shounen ai (boy love) and yaoi and I believe I've mentioned that here. If you're just finding out and you're surprised, then now you know. Going into this show, it sounded like it would be cute, but I was kinda surprised by the shounen ai least how it's presented. It shouldn't come to any shock to me that this was a brother x brother kind of story. It's not as "traumatizing" as shotacon Boku no Pico, but more like Papa to Kiss in the Dark. Yes, I've watched both of these. Don't judge me! In other words, it's fluff and really they do play with the brother aspects as far as trying to domesticate and culturally teach Ren in Japan. He learns how to trust people as well as the meaning of love and family, even if it's unconventional. Getting into this story, I thought it was cute. This little boy is adopted into a new family and most of his time is spent with their pet wolves. He believes he is one of them, until his new older brother comes to visit in the summer and tames his wildlife ways, then he makes a promise to show him around Japan where he lives. When Ren surprises Haru by moving in, that's when I became confused and somewhat surprised by their more than brotherly love. It took me some time to accept that that's where the story was going and now...I'm looking forward to the second season. Obviously, this series isn't for everyone, but this pseudo-incest didn't cross too much of a taboo line for me.

Anne Happy♪ (2016) | Rating: 4/5

Lately, I've been going through MAL's convenient list of seasonal series, which also include specials, OVAs, and movies, and adding series that sound interesting. Upon watching the first episode of this series, I had no idea why I added it to the list as it was extremely cutesy and girly, but...I did not regret it. In fact, I got Ophelia into this fun little series of friends dealing with their bad luck. It's a slice of life comedy that puts these girls into the Happiness Class to turn their luck around. They are ranked by who has the worst luck too, which at first I thought was silly, but it happens to bring them together and cause a stronger bond. Our cast of characters use their strengths and weaknesses to overcome each task in their own way, whether they actually pass or fail the test. I can understand if some people thought the show was silly and that our main character Hibari doesn't quite fit in with her misfit friends, but I enjoyed it and it made me excited and happy to watch each episode every week, especially when Ophelia got into it. It also kinda reminded me of Aiura. Sidenote: I would love to have my own Timothy.

Bungou Stray Dogs (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

This is another new series from the Spring 2016 season and the premise sounded pretty interesting. When I first jumped into the show, I felt a little uncertain whether I would enjoy this or not, because the plot seemed a bit unclear in places. From the first episode, I figured we would be following Atsushi as he figures out his powers and runs away from whatever is chasing him, but by the second episode it shifted slightly to something else. Yes, we do get to watch Atsushi discover himself and find his place in the ranks of Osamu Dazai, his partner Doppo Kunikida, and the rest of the supernatural detectives in their special agency, but it isn't your typical crime of the week kind of mystery series. Sure, they solve a few cases, but it's more of a supernatural action series more than anything with an interesting brand of comedy, which is supposedly apparent in the manga. I was unaware that these characters were based on Japanese novelist if it wasn't for TheAnimeMan, which would explain Dazai's comical suicide fascination, but if you were just as unaware as I was, you will still find it humorous due to well thought out execution and timing. While the plot seems kinda loose and tends to wander off, I still managed to find myself very entertained by our super powered detectives and figuring out the somewhat overarching mystery of the port mafia. Despite the flaws in the story, I really think it was the characters that kept me hooked and their interactions with each other. Fortunately, I get to rejoin them again in the second season and hope that the story gets a tighter grasp on its goal.

Kagewani: Shou (2016) | Rating: 4.5/5

The action and thrills continue in this second season. Much like the first season, the show continued to be addicting and very much fulfilling in each 8 minute episode. Banba becomes the hunted this time around and his journey becomes increasingly more difficult compared to the first season. Now that he has a kagewani inside of him, he must constantly keep a balance on his newfound powers and humanity. In this season, he not only has to continue to fight and understand the origins of kagewani, but he has deal with more human threats and possibly being arrested for something he didn't do. I continued to have a lot of fun with Banba and company and the final couple episodes did not disappoint. I'm hoping that this series will receive a third season as I really don't want this journey to end just yet.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fair Shake Review: 5 Miles from the Spotlight - Eric D'Alessandro

5 Miles from the Spotlight - Eric D'Alessandro
(Genre: Mockumentary/Documentary & Hip Hop/Rap)

Eric D'Alessandro came to my attention back in 2012 when his viral video "What Happened to Rap?" came out and I immediately had to investigate his YouTube channel. I learned soon that he's been doing music and comedy for quite a while and fell in love with his series, "The Eric Show", that showcased everything he's about. Then after 2013, he rarely uploaded until he eventually stopped altogether and I would wonder what he's been up to here and there. I missed his humor and talent as an emcee and decent singing. Suddenly, I caught a tweet in my timeline with a trailer from Eric's account and I got filled to the brim with excitement to see what was in store.

The trailer teased the soon coming movie and album that were to answer what the followers of Eric wondered about for so long. To start off the experience, we go into the movie available on his YouTube channel. It's a mockumentary of sorts that reenacts Eric's life away from his online stardom. Though some parts are embellished a bit for laughs, it still chronicles Eric's tough time coming to terms with him needing to chase success with his creativity. He also uses the film to express his feelings about his love/hate relationship with his hometown, Staten Island. He explores the stereotypes and mentality of the city and how it affects him as person who wants to be a breakout star without cutting ties by moving away.

He clearly portrays his ambitions, never aligning with the typical 9 to 5 lifestyle expected from the environment he was raised in. Still he explains how he never wanted to be pigeon-holed as strictly a YouTuber either as he's been a creator before the platform existed and mainly one means to showcase his creations. This puts stress upon many of his relationships from family, friends, & his girlfriend and is seen throughout the film as well. Eventually, though he comes to realize that he must leave the city he loves to actually reach his dreams as he plans to represent his hometown along the way.

During his upswing in the film, he begins to make music again and what's attached to the movie is this album. Among the tracklist are songs about Staten Island, his goals as an entertainer, and showcasing those skills through wordplay, vocals, & introspection. The production ranges from current hip hop to early 2000's rap with his rhyme style similar to Jay-Z, Logic, and Eminem. He can go hard and hype with anthems like "Everything Alright" & "This is Staten Island", then a straight punchline heavy emcee with "Keep Going (Go Part 2)" & "I Just Don't Give a F*ck (Remix)". His word painting comes naturally with "The Guys from Here" & "The Girls from Here". This album clearly demonstrates his music versatility.

Overall, I must say this pairing of media was very well done. I can certainly see the music having the most accessibility, but the movie most likely can be enjoyed by people who are new to Eric also. I loved getting a glimpse into his life through both formats, yet I must say that if there's one thing I would recommend checking out first as a newcomer would be the track "Insight". It is almost like a soliloquy that embodies everything that Eric is about over some brilliant instrumentation than rather cinematic. If you're into a charismatic, goofball with loads of talent, then I must suggest you get Mr. D'Alessandro less than 5 miles from the spotlight by giving it a listen!

"Make it Through" these related links:
What Happened To Rap? (My introduction)
The Eric Show Ep. 12 (I Hate Radio DJ's)
The Eric Show Ep. 22 (Family Takeover)
F*cking Problem Remix (First non Parody I heard)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Quick Movie Review

Robot & Frank (2012, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Around the time this movie came out, for some reason I thought the story was about this elderly man living with a robot assistant because he had Alzhemier's or something, but that isn't the case at all. After reading Ophelia's review, I figured I needed to check it out since our tastes are very similar. I popped into the player and found myself slowly enjoying myself. Frank's personality somewhat fits the usual grumpy old man against technology, but there's more to this grumpy old man. He has a not so innocent past of being an infamous burglar and not having the best of relationship with his adult children. The film focuses on his relationship with his new live in robotic assistant and the spark of inspiration to take on one last thief. The acting is great and I loved watching these characters interact and react to this unusual situation. It presents a good balance of drama and comedy and the ending brought me as much joy as it did for Frank. I highly recommend this one!

Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

After 12 years (not counting the spin-off Beauty Shop), they decided to make another installment to the franchise. Was it necessary? No. But was it bad? No. This movie and the following have both already been quickly reviewed by BlipMasta5 and, once again, I'm just behind on reviewing. I think I saw this before it left the theater as it was just me, my friend, and four other people there for the show. I enjoyed the previous installments, so I expected more of the same. For the most part, it still fits into the franchise's framework, despite not having all of its cast back. I thought I would have my review up for Chi-raq to compare this too, but you'll just have to take my word for it until I get around to it. The news of police brutality and the rise of fallen African Americans is nothing new or unfamiliar to the movie's demographic or American citizens, so the storyline took advantage its platform and star power to promote the message of community support and honestly, I think it did a great job with its message. While at times it does have its father knows best moments with Ice Cube and Common's characters and plot conveniences, it's effective and entertaining. In general, it doesn't hold back with its social commentary just like the first Barbershop and that's what makes this movie so honest and true to reality, especially black culture. A short comment on Nicki Minaj's acting and character: I admit I'm not particularly fond of her as an artist, I think she should stick to music. Her speaking voice is a little annoying and she didn't quite add too much to the story, other than the usual infidelity catalyst for Common and Eve. Oh, and to be blatant eye candy for anyone who came to see the movie for her.

The Jungle Book (2016, USA) | Rating: 4/5

So, Disney is doing this thing where they're going back and making their classics into live action films for some reason. Also, Warner Bros. was planning on releasing their own adaptation of this story next year, but pushed it back another year probably due to the massive success of this film. I hadn't seen the animated version in a really long time, but I still remember enough to compare that version to this recent one and it definitely deserved its success and praise. The story was extremely immersive with its highly realistic settings and enjoyable characters. I'm still in disbelief that that was in a film studio. The touch of musical elements from the animated version worked mostly well into the narrative and the pacing was good. My mom and I really enjoyed this experience together and Shere Khan was quite the impressive threat. I was a little frightened by him. Small bits of criticism was that there were moments where the animals didn't look real and I think they could've utilized Scarlett Johansson more. She had such a small part; it felt like a waste of an interesting character. Andy Serkis has some big competition in 2018.

Sisters (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a match made in heaven. They've always shared an astounding chemistry together no matter what they do and this film is no exception. I didn't doubt their dynamics at all, but the premise remained too silly for me to shelve out any money. Even though it was silly, it was still a fun movie, but it focused more on the party element and put the actual story on the back burner. I guess this movie is geared more towards college students and adults trying to hold onto their youth or whatever. While party movies can be somewhat fun to watch, we've had a bulk of them years ago with Spring Breakers, Project X, etc. Honestly, Trainwreck did a better job balancing adult humor and fun than this movie. Sometimes some of the jokes tried too hard to be edgy and cool and it just felt awkward. It's like if your mom tried to hang out with your friends and threw some borderline offensive or sexual jokes. It's uncomfortable. Nonetheless, the movie isn't terrible in the least, there's simply not a lot of content and consistent adult humor.

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

Sometimes you need a little campy holiday horror to brighten up your day. This cheese fest has been compared to the iconic Gremlins and I can see the similarities. Its humor and holiday spirit are on the right track and I can see this being the almost Gremlins of this generation. For me, it won't be as memorable as Gizmo and company, but I did manage to have fun with these characters dealing with their dysfunctional problems while trying to survive Krampus' reign of terror. There's plenty of late 80s/early 90s influence throughout this film and I think that's what makes it enjoyable. Realistically, I don't see myself returning to this movie, even though I would like to fully wrap my head around the conclusion; I do believe this would be a great holiday watch for horror fans.

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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Movie Review: Hail Caesar!

Directed By: Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy
Runtime: 106 minutes

When going into Hail Caesar!, it's best to keep in mind that the Coens are best known for being quirkly filmmakers. They're responsible for a variety of films such as O Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. It wasn't surprising to see that they'd gathered an all-star cast in a homage to 1950s cinema. Hail, Caesar! is set in 1951. This was an era rich in drama and full of potential ideas for a film. Some of the greatest actors were made famous during this time.

This was a time when the film industry was in flux. The Supreme court had ordered that movie studios would no longer be allowed to own their own theatres. This ruling would change the way movies were produced, distributed and shown. Television was in the budding stages and threatened to steal audiences away from theatres. Why go out to see a picture when you could stay home? The other big problem came from the Cold War and the Red Scare which were both well underway at the time. Hollywood fought back against these problems by creating films meant to be an escape from the world as it was. Westerns, choreographed dance and aquatic films, musicals and yes, Roman epics. 

Hail Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix. - [IMDB]

Eddie is a fixer for Capitol Pictures. He solves the problems that are hindering the production or promotion of the studio's films. It's his responsibility to make things run smoothly even when his actors go missing or find themselves involved in a scandal. It wouldn't be so bad to watch Eddie run around trying to solve things. There were likely people employed by the studios to take care of these little problems before they blew up. Scandals back then could be anything from having an affair with and getting pregnant by a married man (which nearly ruined Ingrid Bergman's career back in 1949) to having sex with someone important to get a role.

If the movie had focused only on Eddie trying to fix these scandals, it might have been much more streamlined. Among those scandals is one involving DeeAnna Moran, Scarlett Johansson's character, and her pregnancy. She's unmarried and unsure of who the father is. The aquatic film has synchronized swimming and a mermaid costume. It's quite the pretty set with Johansson making a lovely mermaid. 

It's the side plot involving George Clooney's character, Baird Whitlock, that really drags the speed of the film down. Whitlock is quite the famous face, so much so that the epic Roman spectacle they're producing depends on him. When he's kidnapped, the studio has no other choice except to try to find him. A scandal involving the actor could lead to the picture failing later on. I thought it was these scenes that seemed the most boring or slow moving for me.

The character that really stole every scene he was in was Hobie Doyle, a singing cowboy. Alden Ehrenreich is absolutely adorable. Hobie is usually only in Westerns, riding horses, singing and spending time roping things. When there's a shortage of available leading men, Hobie is moved to a period drama helmed by a stuffy director named Laurence Laurentz. Laurence, played by Ralph Fiennes, has trouble with Hobie as the cowboy isn't used to posh dialogue. I ended up wishing there was more of Hobie's scenes especially when he's set up with a Carmen Miranda type actress named Carlotta Valdez.

He does have some involvement in wrapping up the plot with Eddie and Baird's kidnapping. However, I felt like if the whole film had been about Eddie, Hobie and perhaps even DeeAnna, it would have been much more interesting. Channing Tatum's scenes as a musical dancer could have been left as just those few scenes. Instead, the Magic Mike star is given a bigger role in the overall plot. Channing might be a fan favorite, but I don't think he's a strong actor outside of frat boy comedies and dancing his firm butt off.

Ultimately, I wonder whether I'm the only one who found this a bit boring. It's clearly a hit with the critics. Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of classical Hollywood. I've watched countless movies from that era, some much better than others. Yet, there was something lacking in this. The magic of 1950s Hollywood isn't quite captured nor did the Coens really try to. I will look forward to seeing what Alden Ehrenreich can do though.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fair Shake Review: Bobby Tarantino - Logic

Bobby Tarantino - Logic
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/Trap Rap)

I was introduced to Logic through one of my favorite review YouTube channels almost 5 years ago. Ever since then, I looked forward to his yearly release schedule as it ranges from boom bap to trap rap. As a student of the game, his growth has been evident as you can hear his influences from the 90's greats and his contemporaries blend into the incredible emcee he is today. Therefore, I've been an avid fan of his versatility and knew he was working on two projects through his social media. He mentioned that one would be to turn up to, while the other would be more classic hip hop and conceptual. To much people's surprise though, he released the party-oriented mixtape after premiering 3 singles in a three week period.

This mixtape, Bobby Tarantino, definitely captures exactly what he intended to do. Logic's producer, 6ix, created a spectacular soundscape to fit the house party vibe of the radio today. This set the stage for Logic to write tracks to make you want to bounce and even catch some witty lines in between. He also manages to fit in some meaningful lyrics on tracks like "Slave I" and "Slave II" and be introspective on "44 Bars" & "Deeper Than Money".  It breaks it up with some comedy and set pieces with an "unintentional" preview of the concept album. Also the comedic return of his mixtape character, "Marty Randolph", makes for a funny break from the tracks that you want to dance on "A Word from Our Sponsor".

I really enjoyed this entire project, save for "Wrist" featuring Pusha T. This track is a conceptual turn up track where both Logic and Push take the roles of drug dealers (though that's not a stretch for Push). That's mainly my small gripe with the song as it has Logic describing this character, even if he's not necessarily glorifying the lifestyle. It just felt slightly out of place, like when Drake tries to play the tough guy. Other than that, the mostly trap rap production throughout the project was enjoyable. But I was extremely pleased with the A Tribe Called Quest-esque ending with "Deeper Than Money".

I'd like to say that Logic is a very accessible hip hop artist and this project doesn't hurt my thoughts on that. Though this mixtape, more than others, leans more to listeners who prefer more hype hip hop akin to Travis Scott, current Kanye, & Childish Gambino. Yet, he certainly brings lyrics in a palette closer to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar on their less conscious material. Also if any of you got a kick out my Pryde recommendation from before, give this project a listen and I'm sure you won't be disappointed by Logic's "Flexicution"!

Links to the man behind "The Jam":
Flexicution (The first single)
The Making of Flexicution (Ooh...the process)
Logic on Bobby Tarantino (Interview with HardKnockTV)
DEHH's Young Sinatra Review (My introduction to Logic)
Eff with him on SnapChat (Lol. @youngsinatra301)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 151 minutes

With the release of the DVD coming soon, I decided to jump ahead on my neverending list of movie review catch-ups to cover one of the most anticipated flicks of the year. I'm sure plenty of you Cult followers already have heard the many reviews of this movie upon its release in theaters; I know I have before seeing it about a week after opening weekend. After watching it in theaters, I knew I would have an absolutely fun time reviewing it for you.

While Superman battles with General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne steps onto the scene to help his company's workers through the destruction and witnesses the chaos surrounding him. Feeling infuriated with Superman's reckless actions, Bruce Wayne and the citizens of Metropolis decide whether Superman is a hero or a menace. Of course, Bruce Wayne takes matters into his own hands as Batman. Meanwhile, Clark Kent and Lois Lane deal with the controversy from Superman's fight eighteen months ago and LexCorp mogul Lex Luthor tries to harness Superman and General Zod's powers for his own benefit.

After the dark and lengthy Man of Steel, I once again was not excited for this movie, but I held a tiny bit of hope that Zack Snyder would learn from his mistakes. Upon seeing the previews for this movie, it seemed like more of the same with additional problems. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been very successful over the years and Warner Bros. attempted to play catch up in this sequel/prequel to Man of Steel and the upcoming "Justice League" movie, which is obviously a terrible mistake. Of course, I will go into this a little later. In short, this film did not prove to be promising and the reviews reflected that. Even my mom, who saw it before me, was not impressed by this addition to the franchise. So, were there any positives to this movie?

Yes, actually. While some people were skeptical of Ben Affleck's Batman due to his history in Daredevil, I totally forgot about that movie and had some faith he would be a great Bruce Wayne. I wasn't so sure about Batman, but he did a pretty good job. I quite enjoyed Batfleck and I look forward to more of him. Even in Man of Steel, I really had no problems with Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman. I think he does exceptionally well with what he's given and I enjoyed watching him and Ben Affleck interact with each other, whether the costumes were on or off. Hopefully, their chemistry continues to build positively in any upcoming DC movies. Despite initial criticism of Gal Gadot's casting as Wonder Woman, she did pretty well in my book. She was both beautiful and strong and definitely held her own throughout this movie. I think the three of them make a decent team so far and hopefully the chemistry will get better with time (and maybe a better script). Man of Steel presented some hard to watch fighting scenes and this movie does improve with the lighting and slowing things down enough to process the action. The fight scenes between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel were very exciting, tense, and kept the adrenaline high. Aside from bringing the brightness up a few notches, the visuals remain appealing, although I still think the dark, grittiness you would see in Nolan's trilogy doesn't quite suit this movie. With some adjustments, I enjoyed Jeremy Irons' portrayal of Bruce's loyal butler Alfred. He really made the character his own and different than Michael Caine's performance. And...that's about it. Now for the fun part!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Quick Movie Reviews

Devour (2005, USA) | Rating: 2/5

This direct to video B-horror has a premise that could have been quite interesting. Jake Gray and his friends become involved in an online live action roleplay game called The Pathway which spirals out of control in a deadly way. However, the premise falls apart when the writer decided to add a Satanic cult into the mix. The only upside is that Jensen Ackles, known for his role as Dean Winchester in Supernatural, does a decent job as confused college student.  The overall product could have been much better if they'd streamlined the plot from the beginning and focused simply on the game's consequences.

Unfriended (2014, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

This movie was previously reviewed by Miko here. I agree with her opinion on the movie. When I went into this movie, I was ready to hate it or be disappointed. It was surprising how decent it was. Generally, I multitask while watching things. It's simply the way my life works. There's rarely a moment to focus on simply one thing. With Unfriended, I found myself putting down the laptop in order to pay closer attention to what these kids were doing. Our society is so dependent on messengers, Skype, Facebook, etc, that it's easy to imagine this sort of thing happening to you. What would keep a former friend or enemy from popping up on your feed to torment you? The supernatural elements were surprisingly good. I won't go into detail, but this certainly wasn't a Paranormal Activity type of film. There was doubt about who billie227 was. Did Laura come back or is it a friend using her account?

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

Miko has already reviewed this one too. Once again, I agree with her. Miranda, the character Rosamund Pike plays seems like the same person she played in Gone Girl. However, the downfall here comes with the characters not being fleshed out properly. Amy, Pike's character in Gone Girl, was a full person with thoughts and motivations. Miranda's only motivation is that she was raped before a blind date. This could easily be enough motivation to go after her attacker. However, the writers decided to throw in a twist about her late in the film that simply made no sense with what we'd already seen. There's no way to feel anything for Miranda with the way she was written even though Pike is a good actress.

Wind Chill (2007, USA/UK) | Rating: 2/5

The film starts with the girl, Emily Blunt's unnamed character, looking for a ride back to her hometown for the Christmas holiday. She's told by a friend to look on a ride share board. Sure enough, there's someone offering a ride to where she needs to go. The guy, also unnamed, has his car loaded with all his possessions. She's told he's been evicted from his apartment and is going home as well. However, as the ride progresses, it becomes clear that he knows far too much about her to be a complete stranger. The first hour of the film continues this way and would have been a fairly effective stranger danger/stalker flick. The filmmakers decide to give you supernatural elements for the last half of the film that are at odds with what they've previously set up. These last bits are simply too much at odds with everything else. It's not a bad B-horror overall. It would have been better served with sticking to the beginning premise.

The Girl in the Photographs (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

A bored young woman in a sleepy town begins to find gruesome photographs of murdered women placed where she can find them. Are they real or staged? Is there a serial killer or simply a creep lurking? The trailers for this one seemed interesting. I ended up having to rewatch this one because I fell asleep part of the way through. There's nothing wrong with the cinematography. The problem ends up being all in the plot. The overall idea is sound, but poorly executed. Some of the characters are interesting, but others are outright annoying or boring. Katherine Isabelle, a horror movie darling, has her talents wasted. If she'd played the main character, it might have been much more interesting.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Quick Television Review

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (10 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 3.5/5

So, this is that other Ryan Murphy project on my list to watch and potentially review. Fortunately, it doesn't seem like he had too much of his hands in this series compared to the American Horror Story franchise and Scream Queens. I was but a wee kid when the O.J. Simpson trial aired on TV. I was aware of the crime in question and could easily pull bits and pieces of information from my past as well as references from pop culture related shows. Upon the airing of the show, I had the opportunity to watch the real trial in action, but I honestly didn't have the time or huge interest in investigating the accuracy of the show compared to reality. Plus, the timing wasn't the best and it's a really lengthy court case. As I write this review, there is currently a series on ESPN covering the case and I believe the background of O.J. Simpson. Anyway, it took me some time to get into the show as I was really distracted by not being able to separate the actors and the characters from each other. Sometimes it was hard not to see Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta, Nathan Lane, or David Schwimmer when they were on screen. It's not like they were bad actors or the make-up crew failed, but having such big or at least recognizable names and faces, it's hard from me to fully realize they are these real life characters. It took me a few episodes though to really fully realize this isn't Cuba this is O.J. On top of getting into the characters, the story took me some time to immerse myself in and once it got to the jury conflicts, I finally got hooked. I wasn't too invested in the case or the character conflicts, but it did keep my interest throughout the trial. Whether it was an accurate adaptation of the book it was inspired by or portrayal of the real case, I cannot say, but it made me think of current events in the black community, how law works, and the process of the O.J. trial. According to Wikipedia, the next installment of this anthology will be the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

States of Undress (6 episodes) | Status: Completed?
Rating: 4.5/5

Much like Gaycation, this show was another interesting premiere on VICELAND. I'm not that into following fashion trends or anything on TV aside from watching Project Runway every season, so this might be something of a surprise to some people that I was excited about seeing. There was a webseries on VICE's YouTube channel that covered Fashion Week around the world while discussing cultural situations. This show does pretty much the same thing with a different host and a slightly different format. Model Hailey Gates is our host for this show and much like Ellen Page in Gaycation, she does a great job voicing what us westerners (read as: Americans) would say or think and breaking down the cultural views for us. I like how she tries to be as respectful as possible, whether it's changing to more appropriate clothing or learning proper mannerisms for a woman in front of a man. There's a lot of insight and care that goes into each episode and the show finds a way to incorporate fashion and culture or tradition. Sometimes the politics and current events do tend to take over, but, in the end, it all comes back to fashion. Hopefully, this isn't the last I see of this show as it's just as enjoyable, entertaining, and informative as Gaycation. I have not found any information on a second season, but I'm really hoping there will be some news soon.

Make It Pop Seasons 1-2 + Special [40 episodes (41 with Special)] | Status: Unknown
Rating: 3.5/5

I first heard about this show on a little Asian pop culture site called Asian Junkie and they, among other online outlets I've heard blurbs from, were very...concerned. This was marketed as a kpop show produced by All That alumni and host of such shows as America's Got Talent and Wild N Out Nick Cannon. From what I can tell leading up to the first season, I didn't see much kpop. Maybe some influences, but other than that, didn't seem like a "threat" to the genre as a lot of fans viewed it as. I currently don't watch Nickelodeon or Disney Channel as often as I used to as a child or even a teen, but I am aware that there are quite a few musical based shows out there and this is one of them. I've seen glimpses of these types of show and it pretty much falls in that category, perfectly aimed towards that demographic. It's cheesy, cutesy, and meant for tweens, so I can't see kpop fans really getting into it. For me, obviously, I was entertained by it, despite those cheesy and cutesy parts. The show has some dorky, high energy characters and they deal with tween situations. I think the only reason I made it through both seasons (and I think I saw the winter special) are the characters and music. Sun Hi, played by kpop hopeful Megan Lee, was probably the most annoying out of the main cast, but even then I found her hyperactive personality kind of charming and by season 2, she did calm down a little. A brief commentary on the musical numbers presented to us: I thought they were mostly enjoyable. Like most music, I didn't like all of it, but these actors definitely have vocal talent and great charisma. The second season did hint at a third season to come, but I couldn't find anything (mostly Wikipedia) to confirm anything, hence the "unknown" status. I'm hoping that it does get a renewal on Nickelodeon as I did enjoy it and I can see tweens enjoying these characters and their daily shenanigans.

Peaky Blinders Season 1 (6 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 3.5/5

Ophelia pointed this show out to me on Netflix and I finally got around to checking out the first season of it through my work...because something about seeing a physical DVD in my face that isn't mine makes me want to watch stuff a little quicker. Honestly, I would've passed this show up because of its historical and international setting. I'm just really picky about period pieces and what have you. I have nothing against it, just takes a lot of adjusting if it's something I want to watch and the genre just never really interested me. So, I can shamelessly admit that I watched this show for the handsome and charming Cillian Murphy. *swoons* Aside from good looks, he is a terrific actor as well. I'm not that shallow. XP Similar to Penny Dreadful, I had two barriers to cross to really immerse myself in this universe of gang wars and crooked cops: the historical elements and the language. I know BBC shows have been extremely popular in America with Downton Abbey and Sherlock, but I never could fully jump on that British train. With some time, I did manage to get into this world and somewhat attach myself to the characters. Unfortunately, I don't think I could confidently explain what I watched to someone, if we had some sort of discussion, but I could try my best. I am looking forward to going further with this series as it is very action packed, entertaining, and has some great characters. Hopefully, I'll feel a little more confident and comfortable in 1919 Birmingham, England.

Empire Season 2 (18 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4.5/5

You might be surprised that I'm not doing a full length review for the second season like I did for the first, but there's so many things you can say when a great show continues to be...great! Much like the second season of How to Get Away With Murder, the twists, turns, and drama does not stop. In fact, there's so much more of it. I can honestly say that my jaw dropped a few times on these reveals. The music quality stays pretty consistent, which is a very good thing, although I'm not sure if there might be maybe...less of it? I could be perceiving or remembering it incorrectly, but the soundtrack is still worth getting your hands on. In this season, we learn more about Lucious' past and how it links to the raising of his sons. Obviously, our characters have to deal with this revelation among some other unexpected situations that include, but are not limited to, Jamal's complicated love life, the future of Andre and Rhonda's family, Hakeem learning to take responsibility for his actions in and out of business, and, of course, Cookie keeping the family together no matter what the crisis and pushing them forward. Some bigger events occur in this season and the story proves that they are not holding back any punches. I'm really looking forward to the third season, especially to find out the results of the cliffhanger finale. The Lyon family will be returning on September 21, 2016 on Fox.

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, July 3, 2016

Top 10 Recommended Music Videos

"Just Right" by GOT7
I love this group so much and this music video made me love their charm even more! This is definitely one of my favorite songs and videos from this group from last year. It has a great message and amazing choreography. Honestly, I think they can only go up from here. This catchy, sweet song proves that GOT7 is just going to keep growing in the right direction. I love the colorful concept and the interaction with the little girl. If you've seen this from the Fine Bros. channel, it would be best to turn those captions on and I promise you that this is a lot less creepy than it seems. Also, if you're having a cloudy day, this'll definitely lift your spirits and make you feel all warm, fuzzy, and special inside.

"Champagne" by Yunho (DBSK)
I believe this was released before his and Changmin's military time. I'm still not super into this duo, but I do enjoy their music from time to time and Yunho is my bias, so I had to check out this song when it was released. I wasn't expecting such a vibrant, fun, charming, and catchy song. It has so many set changes and variations in style with the visuals, costumes, and sound. It's different from the DBSK duo material, but still has a tiny hint of it in the music/dance break. I'm looking forward to listening to more Yunho solo material when I get around to it.

"You & Me" by Kisum feat. Jooyoung
Thanks to Unpretty Rapstar, which I'll review and rant about at some point, I was interested in this lovely and talented young lady. I'm glad the show gave her a launch pad to showcase her talent to the world. This video and song really shows off her cute, playful, and sweet side that you don't see in a lot of Korean female rappers that doesn't infantize them. Jooyoung's vocals work very well with Kisum's rap verses. They have good chemistry together and everything about this music video gives me the warm fuzzies.

"XOX" by Z.HERA feat. Eun Ha (Dal Shabat)
Anytime I see new music from Z.HERA or ANDA, I instantly get excited and keep hoping that more people discover their fresh, shining talent like I have. In this colorful and animated video, Z.HERA channels another part of herself and lets loose of the more serious work she's done. I love the colors, fun choreography, and the upbeat tone of the music. It really looks like she's having fun. While I don't think Eun Ha was all that necessary to the song, her contribution with Z.HERA worked well. I kinda wished they interacted a little more, but they look and sound good together.

"Don't Be Shy" by PRIMARY feat. ChoA (AOA) & IRON
Even though I'm far from a fan of AOA, I do like ChoA. Something about her makes me happy and I enjoy watching her in AOA music videos. Seeing her in a PRIMARY video with Show Me the Money 3's personal heartthrob IRON made me excited. PRIMARY's music and videos are always unpredictable and that's something I love about his work. This music video is no exception. It combines dark and artistic elements and uses a believable vintage aesthetic, then fuses them with modern color tones and imagery that current kpop fans are used to, even though it is a strange, supernatural narrative with a romantic, laid back musical tone. I love ChoA's vocals on this reggae inspired sound and of course that's IRON's element of expertise, so I wasn't worried about his contribution.

"Married to the Music" by SHINee
This group has really grown on me since "Lucifer". Perhaps I've even become...a fan. *gasps* Anyway, I must admit that I enjoyed "View" as a song more than this one, but the video doesn't have as many visuals that'll stick in your mind as this Halloween appropriate house of hilarious horror. It gives that playful, upbeat haunted house vibe that I remember getting from Backstreet Boys' "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)". I'm really happy that SM Entertainment gives this group so many creative and fun concepts and visuals compared to some of their groups. The guys look like they're having a lot of fun and the video really shows off their chemistry with their goofy acting, choreography, and vocal harmony. I'm honestly impressed with the production. Good job, everyone!

"My Number" by Cheetah
After Unpretty Rapstar and seeing the teasers for Cheetah's first solo rap video, not only was I excited, but many fans were too. Some were disappointed in the lack of hardness and mainstream sound choice, but I think we're alright with it. I understand the disappointment as this was nothing I thought it would be, but I'm not shunning this effort obviously. I still managed to enjoy this neon colored, genderbending, street inspired imagery. The lyrics and delivery still reflect Cheetah's fierce and dominating personality and that's what's really important. I'm looking forward to more from her like Kisum.

"RESPECT" by Loco feat. GRAY & DJ Pumkin
This is a song that I listen to off and on, but I have found more appreciation for it after hearing it live. The video combines your usual basic studio produced hip-hop visuals as LOCO performs, snippets of story with his friends and working on music, and social media graphics simulating a narrative of his life or something close to reality. LOCO brings a lot of charisma and charm as he delivers his lyrics to this b-boy like beat. It has a feel good, catchy chorus provided by labelmate GRAY. It's definitely a positive feeling type a song that's easy to enjoy by yourself or with friends.

"Beautiful Liar" by VIXX LR
I was surprised to hear that VIXX was making a sub-unit with Leo and Ravi and I was very curious how that combination was going to work. I didn't doubt that it wouldn't be great as I claimed the Starlight name and I love both of these talented individuals. This music video definitely played to all of their strengths. Leo's beautiful, passionate vocals give a great sense of vulnerability, while Ravi's rough, powerful rap delivery expresses pain and conflict that completes the overall atmosphere of this song. The visuals are dark, theatrical, and artsy. Visuals that VIXX are very good at. It really completes the story for our characters and their emotional struggle. I'm looking forward to hearing more from this sub-unit in the future as they work very well together.

"Wet" by Jooyoung feat. Superbee
Honestly, my mind went straight to the gutter with this title and I'm sure some other people's mind went that direction too, but it's not that kind of song. I promise. This is a very emotional and beautiful song that'll have you body rolling and crying simultaneously. I thought this was the first time I've heard Jooyoung's lovely vocals, but this is just the first time he's really stood out for me. The trap-R&B beat and the sorrowful lyrics bring out the strengths in his vocal expression and charisma. Definitely an automatic jam for many, many months for me. I recommend turning on those subtitles, because the lyrics are really beautiful. The visuals are dark, minimal, and perfectly sensual like the tone of the song and beat. It really focuses on Jooyoung's internal struggle and chemistry with the girls in the video and audience.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fair Shake Review: My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia (2016)
Genre: Shonen

I got interested in this one strictly from the advertisements I received from Funimation. I was intrigued by the art style as it reminded me much of western comic books. With the popularity of comic book movies, it makes sense that there would be some anime influenced by it to ride the wave. This seemed rather promising as its premise had heart, and I was not disappointed.

Boku no Hero Academia provides a world full of quirks (or superpowers) and the journey of a boy who wants nothing but to be a hero. This boy, Izuku Midoriya, grows up idolizing everything about the hero lifestyle and is heartbroken when he discovers he is quirkless. Everyone around him either pity him or pick on him, including his childhood "friend", Katsuki Bakugou who has one of the most impressive quirks. Despite even Katsuki calling Izuku "Deku" (or "worthless"), Midoriya has the mindset of a hero which led him to actions that eventually get him the attention of his greatest idol, All Might. This opens up the opportunity no one would expect, a chance to become the hero he always wanted to be as the new "Symbol of Peace".

I really enjoyed the world they built with this series, as the quirk filled environment bred a new way of life with heroism being treated as a job that pays through popularity and success of fending off those who misuse their quirks. These powers affected the world so much that most schools even prepare their students to become heroes as a profession like the trades of our day. Also the way they set up the prestigious UA High the students we follow attend shows how much they are willing to invest in those interested in becoming productive members of their society.

What I liked the most, though, would be the characters from their various quirks (some of which are extremely quirky) to their own personalities. Izuku's determination to get a handle on his powers and live up to the expectations of All Might is endearing. That relationship alone had me coming back to watch it foster. Yet, the side characters' own struggles, like Bakugou's pride and others pushing to be the top of the class, is fun to witness each week it premiered. It's a fun show and that's why I'm trying to be vague for you to experience it firsthand without spoilers.

If you enjoy the superhero movies or your typical fun shonen show, I advise you give this a shot. I'm writing this as the subtitled broadcast has ended, but I'm also enjoying the broadcast dub as it is finishing up. The acting on both versions is well done and I can recommend that either one will be an acceptable watch. This is your classic demonstration of how you can do anything you put your mind to, which should be to see this show!

What "All Might" Be Related Links:
My Hero Academia's Opening
Glass Reflection's First Reaction
AkiDearest's First Impression
Fighting For Nippon's Sub vs Dub
You Say Run (From the Original Soundtrack)