Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Crows Zero (2007) & Crows Zero 2 (2009)

Crows Zero (2007)

Suzuran All Boys High School is known as the high school for thugs who try to conquer the school by beating each other in fist fights. During his last year in high school, Takiya Genji (Oguri Shun) transfers to Suzuran with the simple goal of being the king of the school, wanting to surpass his father who's already a mafia boss. 

The movie basically revolves around Genji trying to ally with different gang leaders in the school, and he does it with the help of Ken (Yabo Kyosuke), a gangster who's also an alumnus of Suzuran. While Genji has the skills, Ken has the knowledge on how to lead. The main advesary is Serizawa (Yamada Takayuki), the senior who has the strongest hold on the school. He leads his pack with three others and no one has beaten him yet. Genji plans to change that.

Maybe it's the Oguri Shun bias in me. Maybe it's just that I love my fictional high school bad boys. But I enjoy this movie way too much even though the premise is quite shallow, I think. But it's not the type of movie that you'd watch for depth anyway. And it it's fist fight and a lot of brooding from angsty teens that you want, then Crows Zero is perfect for you!

What I like about this movie is how our protagonist is so feisty when it comes to fighting but when it comes to dealing with people, he simply has no clue. Unlike the other gang leaders, he doesn't really know what to say and how to say things with bravado. He just fights and sometimes, he needs someone to do the talking for him. But through gaining comrades and allies, he learns to socialize and by the end of the movie, it's not just about conquering the school by himself and for himself.

Crows Zero ii
CROWS ZERO 2 (2009)

After defeating Serizawa, Takiya Genji is the reigning king of Suzuran. But this doesn't mean there's no more trouble waiting for him. The peace between Suzuran and its rival school, Housen, is broken when an old Suzuran student who killed a Housen student is released from prison. To add more trouble, a punch thrown by Genji to one of the rival school's student started the heat between the two schools. Troubles start to arise for our protagonists when Housen starts attacking them when they're vulnerable, putting one gang leader after another to the hospital. This doesn't sit well with Genji as some of his closest friends are beaten by Housen students. This may sound like a simplistic synopsis of everything that happened in the movie but I kind of feel like there are some things that are quite irrelevant to the story. I still enjoyed this movie though!

If in the first installment we see a growth in Genji, in Crows Zero 2 we fully see how much he has changed and grow into a leader. He's no longer just a thug out to prove something. Without Ken by his side this time, Genji needs to lead by himself, without anyone telling him what he should do next. And it's a nice change as he learn to takes command and to think before acting on instinct.

If there's something this movie is better at than the first, it has better fight scenes! There are definitely more one-on-one fist fights as the last few scenes show. We had a couple of good mano y mano and not just between Genji and the leader of Housen. 


Obviously, I have not much to say about both movies. I watched them both for the hotties and for some brutality, and I got both! It's definitely a fun movie to watch if you won't try to dig deep. It's a high school movie about thugs, what more could you expect?

Well, it turns out there are more to expect from it. There are genuine moments and such youthful vibrance that I guess we could attribute to the directing. Speaking of directing, these two are actually my first Takashi Miike films! And from what I have heard, they're two of the milder ones (in terms of gore and brutality) he has  to offer. I am frankly excited to see more.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Life (2007)

Life is different from all the Jdramas I have watched, but that may not mean anything since I have watched only a few. Then I guess I should just say it's different from many Asian dramas I have watched, and I watched quite a lot.

Essentially, Life tackles the story of Shiiba Ayumu (Kitano Kii) and how she deals with finding new friends, adjusting in high school, and most importantly, bullying. She goes through a lot of difficulties even before high school, but she faces one of the harshest challenges when she experienced being pushed over and played with by the entire class, lead by her supposed friend, Manami Anzai (Saki Fukuda).

This dramas, first and foremost, is about school bullying, and I must say that it deals with the issue in a straight-forward manner, something that mainstream television usually just brushes over. Here, we see how friends turn their backs on you and become the monsters that make your school life a living hell. Here, we see how bullying could not only hurt you physically, but can also damage your emotionally. Bullying affects many aspects of a student's life, which we all see in this drama. It tarnishes friendships, it imbibes doubts and insecurities in the heart of the victim, it discourages the victim to perform well in school, and completely gives the victim many reasons to stop attending. What's worst about bullying is sometimes, the victim are made to feel as if it's their fault that they're being bullied. It's commendable how this drama tackles the many layers of this issue.

Kitano Kii is amazing as Shiiba Ayumu. It can be the acting or or maybe she has that aura perfect for an underdog. Because besides bullying, this is a story of an underdog who triumphs over her detractors. And I love the transition of her story. It doesn't simply happen over night. It wasn't a miracle story. People don't simply have a 360% makeover and sides with her. It was a step-by-step process for her. She needs help and courage to overcome the antagonists of her story. But when she got fed up, she shows how it should be done. But what's amazing is that she fights without being evil herself. She fights without having to take vengeance. She isn't a complete goody-two shoes, though, since she perfectly states that she doesn't forgive the one who bullied her. After all, the bully doesn't show any sign of regret.

Kitano Kii as Shiiba Ayumu
It's also important to note that the plight of the bullying victims isn't the only own shown light in Life. In no way does it justify why bullies become bullies. In no way is it justifiable, anyway. But it's good to take a look at how people become bullies. Some are just really manipulative. They are people who dominate others who try to take the spotlight away from them. Some just want to please others and to do that, they end up putting down people they feel are beneath them. Then there's the other kind of bullies who just watches and do not do anything. They are passive when it comes to bullying the victims, but the fact that they don't do anything and merely let the bullying happen is an act of bullying itself. But they don't say anything because they're scared. They don't say anything because they're afraid that if they step up to the bullies, they'd end up being bullied, too. It's a sad reality for many. Another thing I like about this is that it addresses the glaring irresponsibility of some teachers. They'd rather cover up the mistakes of their students and side with the powerful just to save their assess. Toda-sensei, I am looking at you and your disturbingly messy hair!

But what I really like about Life is how it sheds light to how other people try to lay justice on the bullies. Some may argue that bullies need to be punished, and I believe that, too. But some people do it the wrong way: by being bullies themselves. In this drama, they punish Manami Anzai by doing to her what she did to the people she bullied. The students seem to think that it's just right that she goes through the same ordeal. They hurt her, ruin her possessions, publicly shame her, and pretty much did to her what she did to her victims. And I thank the people behind Life for giving emphasis on this issue.

(A/N: This is coming from someone who lives in a country who seems to think online bullying is justifiable if the victim is someone despicable. See: Amalayer case. Spoiler: IT'S NOT OKAY. Bullying, online or not, is not okay.) 

However, Life is not a series without flaws. This series lacks suspense. In fact, it doesn't hide anything and shows everything. I am not a fan of how it suddenly zooms in on the faces of the antagonists and shows their hidden smirks.  Sometimes, I feel like it dumbs down the audience since it claims we can't discern who's evil and who's not. It really doesn't need to do it at every freakin' scene! Everything is revealed way too early, leaving no room for anticipation. I really think this drama could be tons better if they employed suspense to keep the audience at edge.

Saki Fukuda as Anzai Manami is pretty good. She's a good antagonist in that she knows how to be cunning. She knows when to be pretty for the camera to gain the affection of her classmates and when to perfectly show her evil smile. But still, I sometimes feel like the camera technique is way too in-your-face. If you know what I mean. Yoshihiki Hosoda who plays Katsumi Saki is another actor who seemed to have given his everything in his role. In all of his scenes, he made my blood curl. He's disturbingly good in looking freakishly psychotic. But there are times when I feel like it's overdone. But still, these two are one of the most hateful villains in the history of Japanese dramas. (And again, I haven't watched that many!)

Overall, it's an enjoyable series that actually has depth! It's been a while since I last marathoned a drama and I can say that it's a good drama to start my 2013. Would I recommend Life? Definitely.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I know the picture's dated 2008, but I cannot find a recent photo of F4. Their tour in Japan is known as their last concert together, but seems like it's not the last performance because they just confirmed to perform on stage together for Jiangsu TV's Spring Festival Gala! Who's excited? I know I am.

If you don't believe me, then check out the following articles:
F4 doesn't even need an introduction because they're four of the most celebrated acts in Asia. Jerry Yan, Vic Zhou (my Zaizai hee :D), Vaness Wu and Ken Chu were the ones who started the Asianovela treand in my country. And I don't think any Japanese or Korean act has achieved their popularity here. Not Super Junior, not Lee MinHo, not even Big Bang has reached the level of poularity in the Philippines the way these four did. I'm not even sure what charm these four hold that their presence seems to be immortal. I mean, Meteor Garden was released on 2001 and more than a decade later, they're still quite popular. And when we say F4, we don't think of Hana Yori Dango or Boys Over Flowers.  We think of this F4.

They ruled my world when I was 13 years old, but I have moved on. That doesn't mean that I no longer care about them! I consider them my first Asian love since they introduced me to East Asian pop culture! (It was actually ZaiZai who was the guest VJ of J/K Non-Stop on MTV China when they first played the Hug MV of TVXQ! Talk about fandom clash coincidence!)

Anyway, let's travel back in time by looking at old photos that will make you swoon and cringe at the same time. Sometimes, I still ask myself why I ended up obsessing over them. Haha.

More photos under the cut because I don't want to scare you. Haha.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sosy Problems (2012)

Hours after seeing the movie, I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around what it's about. I think it tries to be too many things at once when it's just really a parody about a group of rich girls who has nothing to do but talk about clothes and ~the spa~ and being rich.

Sosy Problems focus on the lives of four rich girls: Lizzie (Rhian Ramos), Danielle (Bianca King), Claudia (Heart Evangelista) and Margaux (Solen Heussaff). One thing they have in common is that they're all rich and as the narrator describes at the start of the movie, they are rich in a way that they can buy anything and everything they want. And that's my definition of being rich, too. The movie tries to probe into the lives of the sosy, and it even starts with the premise of having a documentary filmed about them. But in the middle of the movie, the story seems to stray someplace else and the documentary is forgotten.

And they should just probably stick with that storyline.

Instead, each girl is presented with a problem that will challenge their friendship and character, which is supposed to be good, but the delivery just fails. The movie's strong when they put the girls in silly situations and just show how the rich could possibly react to the situation at hand. But the direction the movie went seems to desperately give depth to the rather shallow story. It's good when the movie knows it's just truly a parody about being sosy, but it just doesn't cut it when it tries to be dramatic.

And I'm not sure if I'm making any sense?

Anyway, the point is, I enjoyed the movie for what it is. And the only reason I enjoyed it is because I didn't have high expectations and didn't try to find sense in the rubble. It's a comedy--a parody--and the fact that I laughed a couple of times is enough for me to enjoy it. I don't think my money was wasted, though I have to say that I cringed and raised eyebrows a couple of times during the duration of the movie.

And because I'm sleepy (wrote this last night!), I'll just just down my other thoughts on the movie:

  • Probinsyanas are horribly depicted in the film. I AM OFFENDED HAHA. For your information, not all probinsyanas dress like Becca, played by Barbie Forteza. Also, I close my eyes everytime she appears on screen. No, just no. Her character is annoying, annoying, annoying. I mean, you criticize your cousin for being maarte and high-maintenance when you cry over your savings that you'd use to buy ballots for you to win a pageant? WHAT. WHAT. ....WHAT? Isn't buying your own ballots cheating or something?
  • The movie opens with a narratio by Ruffa Guttierez, who plays some media executive or TV producer or something. And for some weird reason, the movie is concluded with a voice over of a random character who happens to work for the Polo Club that's so highly important for the girls. It just feels so disjointed.
  • Bianca King should probably step up her game because Rhian, Heart and Solen pulled off their characters quite well!
  • Also, I find Danielle's storyline to be the most problematic. I don't knoooow. It's too shallow for me, really. I mean, his father is sent to jail and instead of worrying about his father and family, she worries about being poor and how her friends would accept her and how that rich guy can't save her from her troubles. I mean, what. Also, can't Santi, Danielle's love interest, see that she's a gold-digger?
  • I love Heart in this movie, because it reminds me of her role in the old teen sitcom, G-mik! She's a conyo in that sitcom, and I don't know, it just reminded me of the old Heart.
  • Also, I have never appreciated Rhian till this movie. LEGS LEGS LEGS.
  • I love their clothes. OMG. I want to dress like them but being a commuter and a middle class citizen, it's just impossible to dress like them.
It's not perfect, but Sosy Problems is an okay movie to pass the time. Definitely not the best entry for this year's MMFF. Hopefully I'd ge to watch other film entries.

P.S. This is the first time in a long time that I've watched a movie produced by GMA Films. I think the last time I watched Muro Ami, and we all know that's more than a decade ago.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Seven Something (2012)

Seven Something is the GTH's anniversary offering, a movie to commemorate their seventh year in the business. An anthology of sorts, the movie depicts three separate stories of love and friendship. The film opens with a little narration explaining how every 7 years, an important milestone or change happens in a persons life, and each story tries to illustrate this.

And that, I think, is where the movie fails. I'm not sure if I'm just slow in the uptake, or maybe it's a culture thing that I missed, but the title isn't fully incorporated in the story and the narration that's supposed to link each story doesn't really do it. It may be wrong to start this little review with a criticism, but I just need to get it out of the way. Because if you take it aside and try not to look too deep into the title, it's a pretty good movie.

We are first introduced to Milk (Sutatta Udomsilp) and Puan (Jirayu La-Ongmanee), two teens whose love story is proudly publicized online. But it's all thanks to Puan who enjoys basking in the online limelight, which pretty much annoys Milk. This story is probably targeted for the younger audience, though it seems shallow at first, it perfectly captures a phenomenon that's prevalent among the youth. Many kids these days are obsessed with getting as many Facebook likes as possible, as many Youtube views, Twitter followers. This is the generation where the youth gives value on online popularity way too much. And unsurprisingly, it's often the cause of many failed relationships and petty miscommunication.

The second story is of two ex-lovers, Mam (Cris Horwang) and Jon (Sunny Suwanmethanont), who met in a film set but sadly, their breakup isn't very pretty. It's actually very messy breakup that leaves tears and pain (literally) in its trail. Seven years later, Mam tries to convince Jon to do the sequel of the movie that made them famous, but Jon has long turned his back from acting. It's about the career of an actress who tries to hold on to what little popularity she has left. And it's about a man who gives little value in fame but lured in  just because one girl. But most of all, it's a story of a relationship that's ruined by pride and hurtful words. It's a relationship that's battered and completely stripped off beauty, but once the couple set aside their pride and inhibitions, they're left with enough care for each other to get back together.

The conclusion of the movie tells the story of two people who cannot be more different from each other. Both characters are unnamed which leaves more charm to their story. They met when the guy which we should simply call Finisher 1988 (Nichkhun) bumps into the girl, who happens to be an anchorwoman, during one of his runs. After a couple of persuasion, he manages to persuade the anchorwoman (Suquan Bulakul) to join a marathon. He runs just to prove that his asthma isn't a limitation but a challenge, while she runs to start over and try to triumph over the sadness of her past. But the conflict arises when she realizes that people may not exactly approve of whatever relationship they have at the present. She's a woman old enough to be her mother and her past may forever haunt her. And he's a young man who has his whole life ahead of him. But as they ponder over this dilemma, they also go through the devils of running a marathon.

Each story has its flaws but each one also has its own perks. Surprisingly, I am most invested in the last story, when most of the time, I usually avoid older woman-younger man plotline. There's a coherence in the story in which I think the 3rd person narration helps create. The flashbacks help, too, and I think that of the three stories, it has the most depth. Their relationship is given time to develop, so the conflict wasn't rushed. I guess it also helps that it's the longest in the three-part movie. But maybe it's in the fact that it's the only one that gives a strong end to its story.

I cannot find the article where it's stated that there's a different director for each story, but despite it, the movie still has a coherence to it that I can only attribute to the editing. The movie is beautifully shot and well-edited, too. Each shot seems to be given ample creative input. From the first story alone, they made using technology seem so exciting! I mean, Puan's just editing videos and filming, how exciting can it get, right? So kudos to the team behind the movie. In the second story, we are presented with such visual delight for every underwater shot in the aquarium. It's really a sight to behold.

Rounding up actors and actresses that have already appeared in previous GTH films, Seven Something is enjoyable to watch. Even for someone like me who has only watched a handful of movies from them, the movie still feels a bit like a trip down memory lane. Because aside from telling fresh stories, the movie also pays tribute to the movies that took company to where it is right now. So many cameos in the movie and it's like a game for a foreign viewer like me to spot the actors and actresses who appeared in other GTH films.

Seven Something is a good movie, but not GTH's best. But I understand why they chose such format to celebrate their anniversary. Each part is short but it challenges the directors to come up with ways to effectively tell a compelling story within a limited time. Thus, there's no time for irrelevance or petty angles. We are only given what's essential to ke. And t

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 Movies

When I think back on 2012, I felt as if I didn't watch that many movies. Because seriously, I'd go home and immediately fall asleep from exhaustion. Sometimes, I only had time for dinner and barely had the chance to watch anything. Then I counted all the Asian movies I watched and I was shocked. Haha!

And because I'm the laziest blogger ever, I only got to write about 25 movies when I actually got to watch 57 Asian flicks! I swear I try to write right after watching but laziness and fatigue and sleep got the better of me. So I guess for 2013, one of my New Year's resolutions is to not slack off when it comes to writing commentaries on movies. But 2012 was so amazing because I attended Cinemalaya for the first time, watched Filipino, Thai, Korean and Japanese movies in the theater, too

To make up for a lazy year of writing about movies, here's the list of movies I watched last year and with corresponding ratings, too!

Disclaimer: I am biased and I have no distinct criteria when rating. Heehee.

* Re-watch
** Watched in the theater

Arranged in alphabetical order because I have no life. :)

  1. 200 Pounds of Beauty (8/10)
  2. 24/7 In Love ** (9/10)
  3. 71 Into the Fire (9/10)
  4. Acoustic (6/10)
  5. All About My Wife (10/10)
  6. Always (8/10)
  7. Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon (10/10)
  8. ATM: Er Rak Error ** (7/10)
  9. Babae sa Breakwater ** (8/10)
  10. Barefoot Dream ** (10/10)
  11. Battle Royale * (8/10)
  12. Beck (9/10)
  13. Blind (8/10)
  14. Blue Gate Crossing (9/10)
  15. Bokura ga ita Zenpen (9/10)
  16. Chilling Romance (10/10)
  17. Confessions (10/10)
  18. Dear Galileo (8/10)
  19. Every Breath U Take ** (7/10)
  20. Fan Chan (10/10)
  21. Fish Story (9/10)
  22. From Up on Poppy Hill (8/10)
  23. Gantz (7/10)
  24. Gantz: Perfect Answer (8/10)
  25. Hana and Alice (9/10)
  26. Hataw Na (8/10)
  27. Hear Me * (10/10)
  28. Heavenly Forest (8/10)
  29. Hello Ghost (8/10)
  30. Hormones (8/10)
  31. I Give My First Love to You (8/10)
  32. Infernal Affairs (9/10)
  33. Intoy Syokoy ** (7/10)
  34. Introduction to Architecture (9/10)
  35. Kiki's Delivery Service * (10/10)
  36. Ligo na U Lapit na Me (7/10)
  37. Namess Gangster: Rules of Time (8/10)
  38. Nana (9/10)
  39. Penny Pinchers (8/10)
  40. Petty Romance (9/10)
  41. Punch (9/10)
  42. Quick (7/10)
  43. Romantic Island (9/10)
  44. Rurouni Kenshin ** (10/10)
  45. Seven Something (9/10)
  46. Spirited Away * (9/10)
  47. SuckSeed * (9/10)
  48. Suicide Circle (8/10)
  49. Summer Time Machine Blues (8/10)
  50. Sunny (10/10)
  51. Taare Zameen Par (9/10)
  52. The Classic * (9/10)
  53. The Mistress ** (9/10)
  54. This Guy's in Love With You Mare! ** (8/10)
  55. Top Secret (8/10)
  56. Unofficially Yours ** (8/10)
  57. You are the Apple of My Eye (9/10)
So that's my 2012 movies, I think I got confused in the middle of rating everything. Also, just because I didn't give it a 10/10 doesn't mean it's not my favorite! Take SuckSeed for example, I seriously think it has tons of flaws but I love it anyway. Also, two of my favorites are Petty Romance and You are the Apple of My Eye but I don't feel confident giving them a 10/10!

I think I'll make a proper post of my favorites among the ones I watched last year, because they at least deserve a proper post! Hee.

Happy New Year, dear readers. I hope you had a more productive day than I did! I also hope we'd get to see more of each other this year! Thank you for putting up with my crap and thank you for reading my rants! It means more to me than you'll ever know. Haha.

And to end this post, here's a stupid picture of myself wishing you all a happy new year! :)

P.S. I do hope I'm kawaii enough for you. Also, please don't hate me. Haha.
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