Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire


Starring:
Dev Patel: (Older) Jamal Malik
Anil Kapoor: Prem Kumar
Madhur Mittal: (Older) Salim

Freida Pinto: (Older) Latika

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar: Young Jamal

Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail: Young Salim
And a longer list of great cast members.




I had the pleasure of seeing Slumdog Millionaire in the movie theater the other night. It is most unusual because the movie theaters here where I live rarely show independent or artsy films, so I ran to see it before they took it out of the theater.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a young man who goes on the Indian version of Who Want's to be a Millionaire? and makes it to the second to last question all in one night. After the show wraps he is whisked away by Indian authorities under suspicion for cheating., how could a young man from the streets of Mumbai know all the questions so easily? Through Jamal's answers to the detectives' questions we learn of his hard life and his connection to the woman of his dreams - Latika, a fellow "slumdog" whom he has lost in the chaos of the Mumbai underground. The main question of the movie is can Jamal convince everone that he isn't cheating and reunite himself with his lost love?

I loved this movie. I laughed and cried and probably annoyed people by my silly giggles at times that I noticed things they probably didn't because of my new-found familiarity to some of Indian pop-culture. The scene in which young Jamal runs to get Amitab Bachchan's autograph had me rolling in a fit of giggles. The story brings to light the darker side of Mumbai, the side that most Bollywood movies ignore. I am glad that they decided to use such a great ensemble cast and as Dev said on the Today show a few weeks ago "they couldn't get a Bollywood actor that looked as Geeky as me" (I'm para-phrasing beause I don't remember the exact words.) I tried to imagine this movie with Salman Khan, Shahrukh or anyone else, even John Abraham, would have seemed to not really fit this role. Dev Patel was wonderful, I feel that he deserves all the fan-fare and awards that he has been getting already. I hope that they do well at the Golden Globes - the movie is nominated for four of them. I know this isn't a Bollywood movie, but it is about India and i tseems to tell the story of real India, instead of the fanciful one portrayed so much more often. It's like our movies here, they usually show the bright side of things, and it takes quiet, independent films to show the real parts of our society that everyday citizens face. It's a great movie, and if you get a chance to see it I recommend going to see it in theaters.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

India Movie Review: Koi...Mil Gaya (I Found Someone)


Starring:
Hrithik Roshan: Rohit Mehra

Preity Zinta: Nisha

Rekha: Sonia Mehra


The basic story of Koi...Mil Gaya is the tale of Rohit Mehra, a young man who was born with a mind that would never progress past the age of a young boy. While in the process of trying to grow and overcome his disability he meets Nisha, who sees his naiive mischivetey as bad manners and ill-natured jokes. After correcting the mis-understanding Nisha and Rohit become friends and she agrees to teach him how to use a computer. Rohit digs out an old computer belonging to his late father and un-knowingly contacts extra-terrestrials. They land in the small town, but leave a one of their own behind. Eventually Rohit finds and befriends this strange creature and names him "Jadoo." Along with his 6 friends and Nisha, Rohit changes with the magic of Jadoo and becomes an adult, but can the magic last?

I originally rented this movie in order to see Preity Zinta in it. And thr
ough my viewing of it became enamored with Hrithik Roshan. He is a delightful actor and when he smiles, it's a genuine smile that makes me happier for simply having seen it. Don't even get me started about his eyes! They are stunning! Back to my impression of the movie. :) I thought at first that it was going to be awkward to watch someone act as a developmnetally disabled person and then switch to a "normal" person and then fall in love. I also was concerned with how well it would be handled in a Bollywood movie. I obviously have nothing against them, I just think that they are traditionally melodramatic and that this particular role is a hard one to act. (On a side note the best role of a mentally disabled person was played by Kang Hye-Jeong in Herb - her acting was superb and emotionally touching.) I was worrying over nothing though, Hrithik was believable and charming as Rohit, either way that he played him as an adult-minded or under-developed version. Preity was also lovely, and it was believable that her love for him was genuine as a friend and then again as a lover later on in the film. It was fresh change for a Bollywood film too, since it had a science fiction feel to it versus the simple love, love lost, love found combination that most of them tend to have. (I love them either way!) Sadly, during three of the picturizations the disc I rented was scratched so I missed out on a lot of the songs. (I had shoes just like Preity that were black back in my high school days!)
That's all right though, since I will probably buy this one as it is a full five star rating. It's one of the movies that right after I see it I'm not sure how much I liked it, then after a few days or even weeks I find myself thinking about it more and more. The longer I think about a movie, the more I enjoy it. In all, a lovely movie and I will gladly watch it again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adventures of a Bollywood Newbie.


I'm going to take some time and pay tribute to my new and current obsession: Bollywood film. I've been inhaling them as quickly as possible, even increasing my Netflix to three a month again because I finally have enough to fill it. So, I've been barreling through as much as I can. I've seen some ho-hum ones and some that have pushed their way into the top 10 of my all-time favorite movies (Om Shanti Om) (regardless of genre or country of origin.) In the last few months I managed to watch over 30 Bollywood films. (A select few are not made in Mumbai, and are actually British or American films, but they are related to the genre.) Here's the full list of my initial foray into Bollywood: (with my star rating, out of five) Asoka (4), Baabul (4), Bombay to Bangkok (4), Chak De! India (5), Chalte Chalte (4), Chori Chori (3), Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke (4), Dhoom (3.5), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (4), Jab We Met (3), Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (5), Jodhaa Akbar (4), Kal Ho Naa Ho (4.5), Koi...Mil Gaya(4.5), Krrish (4), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (4.5), Lakshya (4.5), Lucky: No Time for Love (4), Maine Hoon Na (5), Maine Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (4.5), Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (4), Maine Pyar Kiya (3.5), Monsoon Wedding (3), Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (4), Om Shanti Om (5), Paheli (4), Phir Milenge (4), Provoked (3.5), Rangeela (4), Salaam-E-Ishq (4), Swades (4), The Hero (3), Veer-Zaara (4.5), Baadshah (2.5), Ladies Taylor (2), Boothnath (4), Namastey London (4), The Namesake (4). I want to eventually review and type synopses for many of these, but at the moment I don't have the time! I've watched some in the presence of my mom, who tries to watch, but gets a headache from watching the sub-titles. I love that she has already started referring to Shahrukh as "our guy." So, it's spreading. Not that I really needed another language and culture to overtake my life. I already have my head stuffed full of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish and obviously English. Now I'm squishing little bits of hindi in there. Matlab? Hehe.

Here is one to start:
Lucky: No Time for Love. I wasn't sure what to think about this movie and tried to keep an open mind while watching it. I know that a lot of people took issue with the age difference between Salman Khan and Sneha Ullal. It was a little strange for the main love interests to have a 22 year age difference (in real life), but I was able to move past it. She was charming, if a little over-dramatic (even for Bollywood) at times. I think she did well for her first movie. Salman Khan is starting to grow on me; I wasn't instantly drawn to him like Shahrukh. He was actually heart warming in certain scenes of this movie. I know that the style of Bollywood is to ...hm over-act or be over-dramatic is wrong, but they tend to play their roles with excess emotion a lot of the time, or heightened emotion I suppose is a better way of saying it, so I keep that in mind when judging the acting.
There will be lots more to come, but I'm out of time for the moment. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just in Time!


One of my favorite Japanese artists just released a Christmas mini-album. Bonnie Pink is a Japanese singer who has made a name for herself by being original and having a jazz influenced sound to her music. She also writes her own music; which is pretty rare for mainstream Japanese musicians. I am a sucker for Christmas music and am the leader in a few forum threads for Asian Christmas music. So, I have already reviewed this album despite it being released on the 26th. The title track, Chain, is a lovely song and easily the strongest song on the album. The rest of the tracks are traditional Christmas song with the typical Bonnie jazz/pop twist to them. Check this little gem out if you have a chance. At least her English pronunciation doesn't drive me up the wall like others!

Track Listing:
1: Chain
2: Wonderful Christmastime
3: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause
4: Let It Snow
5: CHAIN 乣The Birth Cry乣
6: The Christmas Song

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

...



I couldn't think of a title for this entry. I am very saddened and humbled by the news of the attacks on Mumbai today. A group of militants have attacked locations all through out the major city of India, for unknown reasons (at this time.) They have specifically targeted places around Mumbai that are tourist favorites and purposefully gathered foreigners using their passports as identification. The group attacked a train station, two high-end hotels and a restaurant that is a well known tourist destination. They rounded up Americans and Britains and held them hostage in different areas of the city. News is still breaking about the situation so I don't know all the details. The number of people wounded and killed are still rising so I don't know what to say there, it's in the hundreds already. I find it disheartening that this is still going on, but I realize the nature of society and that this is a part of life. It is unfortunate, and sad, but there can only be peace if everyone in the world is willing, and that is a hard concept to get everyone to agree on. I am going to keep myself informed on the situation, and I will keep the people of India, and the visitors involved in my thoughts. I know they will never read this, but I would like to say that I respect the police officers and officials of Mumbai for dealing with this as best that they could. I hope that in the future they will have the ability to stop things like this from happening in the first place. For more up-to-the-minute coverage do what I do and check out msnbc.com.

A welcome change.

The Korean Fair Trade Commission just issued an ultimatum to several Korean entertainment companies: change or be changed. The so-called "slavery contracts" that many Korean entertainers are bound to. I've always felt that the companies have too much control over the people that they are in charge of. I think they forget they aren't just money makers and are living, breathing beings who have feelings, lives, families and ideas that are different than that of the company. Among the companies involved are SME, JYPE, and M.net. A large portion of the biggest acts are under these labels. I hope that these new rules reduce the invasion of privacy that the entertainers are subjected to. I also hope it allows them to have a little freedom, and even a little less stress. I give big kudos to the Korean Fair Trade Commission for this.

Another one bites the dust...


I have a feeling I will hate this one. Gore Verbinski is going to produce the remake of The Host. It is actually in my top...40? 30? I've seen SO many movies, but it's really one of my favorite Korean movies and I try to show it to people when I can. My friend Sheri thought it was sad, but I felt the acting was superb and the story line was very believable and fairly reasonable for a horror movie. It will be pretty low on my check list.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BoA is coming! BoA is coming!

BoA is a powerhouse of Korean entertainment. I saw her CD; ID; Peace B forever ago at a small Korean Hello Kitty store in Minnesota and bought it out of curiosity and I have been a fan of hers ever since. I've backed off the intensity for awhile, but I've always gotten her albums and listen to her when I'm feeling stressed or particularly nostalgic. She is in the middle of her American release. Her single has done well on the digital music charts and is in the process of adding a cd single release with re-mixes and a guest appearance by Flo Rida. The full-length album is slated for release in early 2009 with the name Look Who's Talking. I wish her the best, and I will do what I can to support her efforts. Just like I do with any artist who tries to come over to the other side. Haha. I hear that Utada is trying again after her flop a couple years ago. If they both stay true to their current style and fan base, I feel they can be very successful.



Watch BoA - Eat You Up (Korea Version) in Music Videos | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Re-Make Update:




The Korean movie "Addicted" has been renamed Possession and is staring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Lee Pace (star of Pushing Daisies.) The American re-make is slated for a January 23rd release. The actors are pretty decent, so the movie might not be too bad. I'll have to wait and see. I know that the version of My Sassy Girl has been released on DVD - I saw it at Blockbuster awhile back and ran the other direction. I don't like re-makes, they lose the original flavor of the movie. I might see it sometime though. And, the re-make of my favorite Korean horror movie A Tale of Two Sisters has had a name change as well, it's now being called "The Uninvited." Which, coincidentally is the name of another Korean horror movie. I doubt it can hold up to my favorite that has Moon Geun-Young. I love her and she just has a great innocence about her and her acting is superb. I also wrote about Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but there is no other news on it at all. If you know of a re-make that I missed, comment and let me know. I'll keep updated as I learn about more.

On a similar note, I have plans to watch God Tussi Great Ho, a Bollywood re-envisioning/re-make of Bruce Almighty. I say re-envisioning because it has some differences and they also have traditional Bollywood musical numbers in it too. But, in the end, it's just a re-make. I'm curious to see it though. I'm pretty sure that Morgan Freeman does a better job at playing God than Amitabh Bachchan, but I will report on that later in a review.

Gackt's New Single!

I was very excited to find that Gackt had a new single coming out. The title of it is "Jesus" and it is basically a man praying for help from Jesus to overcome his challenge. I love the return to rock, he has been leaning towards his acoustic side lately. I've uploaded it to Veoh, hopefully the link will work. If I get permission from the person's lyrics I read to use them, I will add them here. Otherwise, enjoy some fun Gackt action.


Watch Gackt - Jesus in Music Videos | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Here are the lyrics: (I didn't translate them, Keesaiox from YouTube did.. Thanks to her!)

傷ついた抜け殻をただ抱きしめていた
降り注ぐ雨は静かな 君の涙

Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
この夢から
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
教えてくれMaria!!!

「殺して」と微笑みながら頬に触れた
見えない目に涙を溜めて消えて行く
Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
この夢から
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
答えてくれ JESUS!!!

God said when you die,
Your life will pass before your own eyes.
If you want to feel it right now,
Just do it, do it, do it!

Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
この夢から
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
教えてくれ

Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
この夢から
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
答えてくれ JESUS!!!


==================================


kizutsuita nukegara wo tada dakishimeteita
furisosogu ame wa shizuka na kimi no namida
Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
kono yume kara
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Oshietekure Maria!!!!


「koroshite...」 to hohoemi nagara hoho ni fureta
mienai me ni namida wo tamete kieteyuku
Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
kono yume kara
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Kotaetekure JESUS!!!

God said when you die,
Your life will pass before your own eyes.
If you want to feel it right now,
Just do it, do it, do it!

Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
kono yume kara
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Oshietekure

Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
kono yume kara
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Kotaetekure JESUS!!!



===========================

Please note my Japanese is poor and this is MY interpretation of the song. It may be right, it may be wrong. Depends on how you want to read into the lyrics I guess ;_;


Tightly embracing only the empty broken shell
The pouring rain is your silent tears
Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
from this dream
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Please tell me, Maria!!!!


Smiling, I touched your cheeks and said "kill me..."
Tears gathered in my blinded eyes, and then disappeared
Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
from this dream
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Answer me, JESUS!!!

God said when you die,
Your life will pass before your own eyes.
If you want to feel it right now,
Just do it, do it, do it!

Wake me up
Wake me up
Wake me up
from this dream
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Please tell me

Take me Out
Take me Out
Take me Out
from this dream
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Real or dream?
Answer me, JESUS!!!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Return of an old favorite. Anime Review: Niea_Seven


I just finished re-watching an old anime that I loved the first time. Niea_7 is a quiet anime that has sad and kind of lame humor, but that was the point. I like the shows that are unassuming and don’t expect to be a hit. They tend to be more open to putting them selves on the line and making a fool out of themselves. Niea_7 is realistic in most ways, except the existence of aliens being part of everyday life on Earth. There is a down to earth feeling about it, as if it’s a study of real life put into anime.

The story is based around Mayuko Chigasaki, a poor cram school student living in a small suburb of Tokyo trying to support herself on three part time jobs with a freeloading alien named Niea to feed as well. The majority of the anime is about their relationship and the choice they both make to learn more about themselves. But, with a “perverted” mini-mart alien making a constant appearance, “mysterious” bathhouses to be inspected and the mother ship looming in the distance, this is no ordinary anime. I’m glad that I decided to watch it again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CD Review: Rain - Vol. 5: Rainism


After a two year absence from the recording studio Rain is back again with a new album and a brand new sound. Free from the control of JYP he has written his own material and changed the general flavor of his songs. From the catchy beats of Rainism he changes to slow ballads like the first single released off the album "Love Story." According to Rain it's a true story about his love life. I wasn't sure at first if I liked the new sound. After giving it a few listens, I'm addicted and I love his more mature sound. I hope that you will give his new album a try, because it's a little different from the cookie-cutter hip-pop that JYP creates, but I hope that his solo work proves that he deserves his place in the entertainment top circle. My current favorite song: Fresh Woman. :D

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Asia Fest 2008


I was in Nirvana yesterday. My community put together a celebration of Asian culture yesterday. I was surrounded by people of Chinese, Korean, Indian and Japanese decent. They had food from local Asian restaurants and also little booths with henna tattoos, Japanese candy art, and lovely Asian tchotchke's. I was there volunteering with my friend Yixuan since she is a part of the Chinese Association. The program involved Korean fan & drum dancing, Taiko drums as well as a few Indian dances too. My favorite one was an Indian dance by the Indian Association of Fort Myers. I was also excited to have two (I splurged!) pineapple bubble smoothies. I missed them so much, they used to be available to me when I was living on campus in Minneapolis I could just walk down to the cafe that served them. They were yummy, apparently not up to par with one's served in China, Yixuan said they were better there (she used to get one everyday for like 1 yuan.) I also ate some yummy pork skewers mmm. I didn't buy anything, I'm carefully watching my budget, but it was a fun day of entertainment. I loved watching the Korean drum dance. If you live in Southwest Florida, plan on checking this event out when they have it again next year. It's inexpensive culturally diverse fun for the whole family.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie Review: Om Shanti Om


Shahrukh Kan as Om Prakash/Om Kapoor

Deepika Padukone as Shantipriya/Sandhya

Shreyas Talpade as Pappu

Arjun Rampal as Mukesh Mehra

Some people say that India is In the Middle-East. And some argue that it is part of Asia. Either way you look at it, the culture of India is expressive and exciting. I have made a few ventures into Bollywood film, and just found a movie that shoved it’s way into my top 10 favorite movies. Om Shanti Om. It’s a movie about love, reincarnation and following your dreams until they come true. The best thing is; that it’s all toped off with song and dance, true Bollywood style. Despite controversy about some of the tongue-in-cheek jokes and claims that the movie was plagiarized from various people, the movie was a great success in India and all over the world, bringing in over 39 million dollars world wide.

The movie starts out with Om Prakash, a second-rate extra in the 1970’s Bollywood film industry. He aims to become a top-star and adores the most popular female actress – Shantiprya. He dreams of meeting her and falling in love, believing that only if he is a “Hero” will he meet her. One day, while filming he happens to be the only person brave enough to jump into a burning fire to save Shanti, and because of this encounter they become friends. Om begins to fall in love with her, but Shanti remains distant. He eventually stumbles across the truth that Shanti is married, and decides to leave her alone to her happiness. But her happiness is short lived, when her husband decides to kill her. Om happens to witness this and tries to save her, but dies in the process.

Cut to 30 years later. Om Kapoor is a spoiled, rich, and arrogant top Indian movie star, son of the famous Rajesh Kapoor, whom Om Prakash looked up to. Om Kapoor uses his fathers’ celebrity to advance his career, instead of actually depending on himself and his own abilities. We watch as he enjoys his life, but there is a secret he has yet to discover. While getting ready to film a new movie his is taken to a dilapidated studio where he has flashes of memories that don’t belong to him. Om Kapoor soon realizes that he is the reincarnation of Om Prakash. Intent on getting revenge for the death of his beloved Shanti and his own life, he plots to get the murderer to confess his crimes.

I LOVE this movie. I have very little knowledge of all the dozens of big stars in this movie. But I could feel the electricity in this movie and that there was something special about it from the very beginning. The music, and the people and the story were all supurb. The movie was pretty long, but in order to tell the entire story it was necessary. If you are ready for a lovely story that will make you laugh and that will raise your spirits. Head out and find yourself a copy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ORESKAINVASION

ORESKABAND ((Literally translated as "We're a Ska Band")) is planning a US release for next year. They are a fun band that play ska music and have a strong following. They are lucky enough to be touring in the Van's Warped Tour this year. It's nice to find a band that features strong females who create their own music and aren't over-produced into something fake. I'm very happy that more and more bands, singers, and actors are making attempts to come here to the United States. If I was fluent in any language, and had my Asian Studies degree, I would be working for a company that would help them. Or being fighting to start one that could. For now, I am settling for being a fan, and supporting them as best I can.


Do The Return!

My favorite band of all time has decided to re-unite. Do As Infinity has announced their reunion into the live performance circuit. They have intentions to create and maybe released new material in the spring of next year. Good news for fans that can't fly to Japan to see them live. I'm very excited.
(Cheer up guys, you're getting back together!)

Speed to DVD!


Speed Racer is coming to DVD this month. :) The release date is September 16 here in the states (September 11th in Korea) We all know I loved the movie in theaters - so I will try my best to be able to afford the dvd and give a review of the features and everything. :) How exciting!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wo Ai Beijing!!!


I watched the closing ceremonies with sadness and excitement. I was happy to see Wang Leehom singing Wo Ai Beijing. (A really fun song, that I enjoyed.) Then, to my girly, giddy surprise - I saw Rain!!! I was very happy to see him. The last 16 days have been emotional for me, as I am very emotionally connected to Asian culture. I cheered on USA, China, Japan, South Korea and lots of others. I cried watching the Olympics a lot. I am not entirely sure why, I think because I am so excited for them and I feel like I belong over there and am stuck here. I loved watching scenes of Beijing, and learning bits of Chinese culture during commercial breaks. I understood the background cheers "Zhongguo Jaiyou!!" and was having fun noticing bits of culture I understood that many others might not have even noticed. (The Chinese divers always put on slippers after getting out of the pool unlike the rest of the countries) One of my favorite moments had nothing really to do with any of the competitions. One of the American volleyball players lost her wedding ring and all of the volunteers assigned to that area combed the sand for it. Finally, after a lot of searching, a cute Chinese man found the ring. While on camera she thanked him and gave him a traditional volleyball love pat on the rear-end. He looked confused and a little embarrassed, then noticed the US camera on him, smiled and gave the ever-present V (Peace) sign into the camera! How cute! I love the unity and peace that the Olympic games create, and enjoy the atmosphere they create. Thanks for reading my blog on something that gave me so much to be happy about. :)

I really LOVE the new haircut too!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A little something.

Rain's hard work on Ninja Assassin is now over, and he is "getting fat" again back in Korea. He is supposedely working on his album that is due out in October. Here is a quick look at his time filming in Berlin. (The movie is due out mid-January, just in time for my birthday!)

"Styrodome" housing future of Japan?



Apparently there is a large market for odd little houses made out of Styrofoam in Japan. Strange as it sounds, they are remarkably resilient, resisting fire, typhoons & earthquakes while not being vulnerable to termites, wood-rot or rust. They are easily assembled, and are growing in popularity. Here is a link to their website. Learned about from: Pink Tentacle

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drama Review: Nodame Cantabile


Starring:
Juri Ueno as "Nodame" Noda Megumi
Hiroshi Tamaki as Chiaki Shinichi
Eita as Ryutaro Mine


I am not a classical music lover, but I am slightly addicted to it at the moment because of this Japanese tv show. (I'm currently listening to Sonata for 2 Pianos in D Major 1st Movement) The series itself aired in 2006 and a two-night two hour a piece special aired early this year. I just breezed through the show, because after I watched the first episode I was completely enchanted.


Nodame (Noda Megumi) is a spacey, outgoing, emotional woman who is a very talented pianist that plays according to her moods more than following the exact music at it is written. She meets her sempai at a well-respected music college and he is disgusted by her personal habits, but intrigued by her playing. Chiaki Shinichi (Chiaki-sempai!) is a pianist by major, but aspires to become a conductor. He is regarded as the most talented student in school and is very strict, and well manured. Together, they embark on a new journey to learn from one another. Nodame learns to play consistently and with more accuracy, while Chiaki learns to feel the music and enjoy it with his soul. There is a great ensemble cast for the rest of the characters including Eita as Ryutaro Mine, Keisuke Koide as Masumi Okuyama, and Naoto Takenaka
as the wacky conductor Franz "Milche" Von Streseman.

I have rarely enjoyed a series as much as I have this one. The 11 episodes of the original series are wonderfully fun. I found the two special episodes to be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. I explored the manga after watching the series, and what I have read so far seems to be accurately portrayed in the live-action series. I am currently waiting to start watching the anime that aired in 2007. There is another anime coming out this October in Japan, but I am unsure if it is a continuation, or a re-vision of the entire story. I'll let you know when I find out. But for now, whether or not you enjoy classical music, you should check out this series, it's a fun show about finding your dreams, and following them, friendship, and eventually, love. I'd give it my top rating. 5 out of 5 stars~!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Actor Spotlight: Michelle Yeoh


Quite possibly, the most powerful Asian actress I have seen. Like many others, I believe my first introduction to her was as a "Bond Girl" in Tomorrow Never Dies. She was very well spoken and a lot stronger than any of the other women in Bonds' life. The next time I saw her was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where she proved herself to be a kick-ass woman worthy of being the only woman that Jackie Chan allows to do her own stunts! She's been in another of my favorite movies too, Memoirs of a Geisha. Despite the controversy surrounding Memoirs of a Geisha it was a very stunning film. I loved the visuals, and colors they used and Michelle played a wonderful Mameha.
This summer, Michelle has been very fortunate to have two movies coming out here in the United States. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Babylon A.D. I have been excited for the threequel of The Mummy for a long time, since my favorite American actor, Brendan Fraser stars in all of them. But, when I learned that they were setting it in China with Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh (pronounced "yo") and Isabella Leung, I was even more excited. I have seen some of the previews, and am glad to say that it looks like they kept a lot of the same feel of the other movies. Babylon A.D. looks like it will be an interesting movie, and she stars alongside Vin Diesel. The credits show her playing "Sister Rebecca," which I am very curious about. I have a feeling she will be a very strong character despite this.
It is rumored that Michelle is the highest paid Asian actress, and it is for no other reason than that she is a wonderful actress. I have seen some of her less-known movies, but I still enjoy them because she lights up the screen when she is on it. I bill see both of these movies this summer, so stay tuned for reviews.

Military Duty for Rain

(Photo courtesy of Rain-Jihoon.com) (I love it because it connects me and Rain since I live in Florida)

I have often been curious about whether or not Rain will be serving his required term in the military in South Korea. It wasn't that I thought he would shirk his duty, more of a curiousity about the policy. I know that he is a very big influence on the Korean people as well as someone that is helping Korean slowly get attention from the rest of the world because of him. I was just wondering before, if his mother passing away and him being the only son, if he actually would have serve (I can't find much information on all of the exemptions that exist for the military conscription.) But, after a few articles have popped up regarding Hallyu stars possibly getting new exempt status, Rain and J.Tunes have come forward to declare his intentions. After three years, Rain will join the army. He intends to wrap up his filming, and music projects by then, to ensure that he has enough time to fulfill his duty to his country.
To be honest, I'm on the fence on this one. One one hand, I admire him for sticking to his determination and being loyal to his country. On the other, he has a earned the country a lot of attention it would not have gotten any other way, and probably has inspired many people to visit the country, learn the language or many other number of things. I hope he works everything out and that we will still see him once he gets back out. (My main fear is that after his time in the military he will disappear from the entertainment world and settle down, never to be seen again.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Is a trend starting?

After these last few months, I have noticed a dramatic increase in Asian stars entering the US scene. It has started with The Forbidden Kingdom, where a large group of amazing Chinese actors worked to bring a traditional story to new people. I'm referring to the tale of the Monkey King, of course here. Next came Rain in Speed Racer, breaking into Hollywood for the first time along side veteran actor Hiroyuki Sanada (who also acted in Rush Hour 3). Now, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is getting ready to come out in August featuring another great Asian cast consisting of Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong, and Jet Li. I just posted about Bunraku, in which J-rocker Gackt gets a chance to showcase himself to the English speaking world as well. I'm hoping this is a trend that spreads and increases enough that it is not just a passing fad. Maybe with more dual country actors and actresses, they will see fit to cast them in roles that don't necessarily require they be Asian and eventually we might see some of the great Asian movies released here with sub-titles instead of re-making them. The more exposure these great Asian artists get, the better. (Even if they publish articles about them with the wrong picture...)

Bunraku!!!!!!!!!!!!


I have been a fan of Gackt-sama for over 5 years now. I randomly found his music online and bought all of his albums. I love his voice, how unconventional he is, and I think he is very handsome. So, imagine my excitement when I found out that he will be staring in a Hollywood movie! It is called Bunraku and he will be staring alongside Josh Hartnet. I will anxiously await this movie despite that fact. Josh is from Minnesota - like me- but has a bad reputation. I know people who know him and from what I heard he just isn't someone I can respect. I do not care for any of the roles he has played over the years either. I don't know if Gackt is speaking Japanese or English in this movie, but I will be curious either way. When he said a few lines in Moon Child in English I had to re-wind the movie and listen again because it was so heavily accented that I thought he was still speaking in Japanese. Maybe he, like Rain, has been practicing and will sound great! How exciting!

Beyond Excited.


I have always had a very strong interest in other cultures. Before my vast interest in Asian cultures, I had a passion for Egypt. And therefore, when my favorite American actor stared in The Mummy, I was in heaven. I the entire script memorized (yes the Arabic too.) I saw The Mummy Returns about 5-6 times in the movie theaters, and skipped school with my big-brother to see the first showing in my town. So, imagine my excitement when considering the fact that these to passions are going to collide this August? Brendan Fraser AND Jet Li? In one movie? It gets even better when I consider that Michelle Yeoh (an amazing actress who has made a good name for herself here in the states on top of in Asian films) and Isabella Leong are going to be in it too. I can't wait for this movie to come out. I will be biased, obviously, but I doubt there is too much that can happen in it that would make me not like it. I know that since Jet Li is in it, they will keep to tradition and truth at least a believable amount. I hate when shows play to stereotypes of Asia and make movies cheap and sad. I bet with Jet in this movie they have to watch their toes. He gives off the impression that he demands the best, and is proud of his country and wouldn't let them get away with too much crap. So, this August plan to head to the theaters for a fun action-adventure, you can be sure I'll see it opening day!

By the way - the only thing that will upset me in this movie, is Rachel's refusal to reprise her roll as Evie. I will really miss her, as I don't care for the actress that is actually playing her.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This:


is why I love Jackie Chan. As soon as he heard the news about the horrifying earthquake in central China he rallied and got an amazing donation ready. He had been working on an anti-piracy campaign in Beijing and dropped everything to get money to the people in the hardest hit areas of China. Together with Albert Yeung he donated 10 million yuan! (approximately a million and half dollars) I love that he is so giving and caring despite being the biggest star in China. And whenever there is bad press about him, he does his best to fix the problem and make sure that his side of the story is heard. I hope he never changes that about himself. (He COULD change his glasses - those are worse that Rain's!)

Note: This picture is from his official site, and if you want to help the Chinese and donate to the relief fund you can do so right here on his site. Be sure to select China Earthquake Fund from the drop down menu!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spoiler Alert: Speed Racer

Ok, so I'm just getting home after being one of the only dorks at the movie theater for the first showing of Speed Racer. Rain was awesome. If you don't want any spoilers DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER than this. ((or if you don't want a fan-girls opinion))


"Justice - that's a commodity I don't waste my money on." Totally my favorite line from the flick. At least as far as Rain is concerned. I was totally devastated by his first scene - all bloodied and sad looking! I'm pretty sure I was the ONLY person in the theater who even knew who Rain was. I had a few major girlie fan moments where I giggled (Rain? in a dress?) or even squealed/gasped at what happened. As far as his acting goes, I will say he did very well. Not his best though - that remains with his role as Il-Soon in "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK." He was very real and sincere in that role and I loved it. As Taejo Togokahn he was good. His English has gotten better since the filming of Speed Racer, and some of his lines are pretty heavily accented. His fight choreography was perfect though. We got to see some of his less "intense" faces towards the end of the movie, where his fun side showed through. All in all - a good performance. And, I was slightly surprised that when the credits rolled, they ended up using Rain as his name. There was lots of speculation on whether he would be credited as Ji-hoon Jung or Rain. Guess he stuck with his stage name. Either way, he was good, and I loved the movie. I admit, that in scenes with him in them, I searched for him, even when the camera was following the action somewhere else. Emile did a great job as Speed Racer, and I was thoroughly entertained by the movie as a whole. I was pretty into the action and was never really sure where the races would end up. Even if you aren't a big Rain fan, you should check it out. My ONLY beef with the film really is, that it to tell what country Taejo was REALLY from. I know that Rain had a hand in making the character/car/racing suit seem Korean but Togokahn SOUNDS Japanese and the sister and father didn't appear to be Korean or have Korean names. And they designed a lot of the background sets and music to seem Chinese during his scenes "at home." So, it's hard to pin down what nationality Taejo Togokahn actually is. Perhaps that was intentional, but I know that Korean fans are already upset that Rain was called Japanese by a journalist, and I hope that they don't get upset by the indecisive nationality of the character. I still loved the movie, and might actually see it more than once in theaters. (I very rarely do that with a movie - last time was The Mummy Returns and I think I saw that a crazy 3-5 times.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Opening and Closing

One country is ready to open it's doors, while another fights to get them closed. Japan is passing a new law that will make it easier to get a long-term visa for certain professionals and people that have a high level of Japanese language proficiency. The hope is that they will be able to increase the number of foreigners that come into the country based on current economic and cultural trends. (ie: the lack of births happening recently in Japan.)

South Korea, on the other hand, is fighting against their own government to close the door in the face of the United States. Not all of it, however. The South Korean government has made moves to re-open trade of United States beef, after it banned the importation of it in 2003 after mad-cow disease struck the US. The general public of S. Korea is protesting against this change, over irrational fear that this will cause unnecessary grief and illness to the people of South Korea. The U.S. government is starting to get involved and are releasing statements on the strict health codes that beef must go through internationally. While the S. Korean government is trying to get the people on their side. The entire incident threatens to create anti-American feelings in much of the country.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let's drive.


A company in South Korea just came out with something incredibly useful: a digital map of S. Korea. It's used in navigation systems (GPS driving systems) in cars and is marketed towards foreigners living in or visiting Korea. The names of almost 4,000 different places, streets and buildings have been romanized for people who can't or haven't yet learned how to read Hangul. I hope they have to make a bunch! That means there are lots of folks interested in S. Korea. I know I can't wait to get over there for the first time.

Go Go!

I am continuously getting more and more excited for Speed Racer to come out. I watched Stephen Colbert the other day when Rain-oppa came on and challenged him. It was kind of funny to watch him speak English. I have a bad habit of laughing when they do that. In lots of the tv shows and movies I watch the actors and actresses suddenly switch to English and it makes me giggle. I hope Rain displays wonderful diction while delivering his lines in Speed Racer. He's still learning now, and filming wrapped up forever ago. The premeire was this last weekend and there are a few fan-vids floating around on Youtube. It would have been great to be there and see Rain so close up. I really do use him as an inspiration. I can't wait! Only another 9 days. :)

Remember: Aja! Aja! Hwaiting!

Book Review: Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee

I was shuffling through my step-mom's copy of People back in February and found a little blurb on this book and it piqued my interest. So, I immediately requested it from the library and a little less than two weeks ago it finally became available. New books take bee longer to get, you see. Well, I just finished it. I have mainly been trying to find a job these last couple weeks but I really wanted to read it, so I made time. Now, what does this have to do with THIS site you say? Everything and nothing. The author, a American woman, was adopted as a toddler from South Korea. I have read a few books about adoption - from the parents point of view and from the child's point of view and I suppose they have a pretty common theme and story, but this one was quite different. It was, for lack of a better word, sensual. The story oozed romance, even when she was just talking about food. It wasn't a romance novel at all, but a rich story about a woman who is desperately searching for her way in the world and trying everything she can to feel whole or "at home." I can understand some of her feelings, because I myself feel torn at times. It is no real news to those who know me, but I am very much Asian, even if I am white. Ha ha. My friends all call me their "little Asian" and my best friend (Yixuan, who is Chinese) just recently told me that I know pretty close to as much about China as she does. She swears I was born Chinese inside. So, in the way that she was born Korean, but lives in America kind of rings a bell for me. The book also contains some yummy looking recipes that follow along with the story. If you are a cook you should give them a try. The book is also being released in Korean soon, so tell your Korean friends too! If you are looking for a story that is moving and inspirational, I would recommend reading Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home.



p.s. - you can check out her site and her own blog here. I find it interesting that she is going on the South Korean tv show "I Miss You." It makes me think of Daniel Henney in his role in My Father. I somehow have been connecting with adoption stories lately.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I am worried.


I was reading a Chinese news web-site that said there was a really bad accident involving two trains, one leaving Beijing and the other leaving Yantai. My best friend lives in Yantai and they said that it is the train that leads to Jinan, her home town. I don't think she was going home this week, but I am worried and have not yet heard from her. More information here.

Edit: By a very lucky chance, my friend was in Meifang instead of Yantai - she actually might have been on that train otherwise. She was taking a test - yay TOEFL!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kirei!


I saw these on a Korean news site and had to post about them. As long as I can remember, my grandmother has been collection Swarovski crystal figurines. If I had a nice big pile of money, I would buy a pair of these sets for her and for me. The panda's are a part of a few year set to raise awareness for endangered species. They are a bit expensive though, so hopefully they do something worth while with the proceeds!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rice-ess Crises.


I was watching the local news and found it odd that local super-stores were limiting the amount of rice people can buy. I found it odd, but not too surprising in our crappy economic situation. I also found out that it's become an issue in other countries too. It's so hard to believe that we are so close to recession and depression in the world. I have a lot of things in my life that are indicative of this. I really hope that we can get away from this trend. Let's hope that things get better soon for everyone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

China Goes Green

Well, sort-of. It's a nice start for them anyway. They are starting a government subsidy that is creating light bulbs. Not just any light bulbs - energy efficient light bulbs. And because they are through subsidies, the common consumer pays fifty percent less than the MSRP and businesses pay thirty percent less. Since China makes the majority of the worlds light bulbs, hopefully their mass production will trickle into other countries. :) Nice little Earth Day message I think.



Sorry about not posting, there has been more drama in my life.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

CD Reveiw: Koda Kumi - Kingdom


Despite the controversy swirling around her at this time, I’m going to go ahead and review this album. Personally, I liked Black Cherry better than this album, but it’s still a great album. She starts out a little to Mariah Carrey for me on the intro, so that turns me off right away because I don’t enjoy her music at all. She included past singles on her new album, which is unlike Koda, usually she puts only new content on her albums, and sticks to single collections to round up any stray singles out there. Track number two is Last Angel featuring Tohoshinki. I love that on their interview on Utaban they called her “Sempai.” Last Angel is a fun song, and I enjoy listening to it, even if it gets a little repetitive. Amai Wana is reminiscent of Shake It, in that it has a bit of a middle-east flavor to the music. Himitsu, is a slower track but still pretty up-beat with a little R&B feal to it. Ai no Uta is one of the previously released singles to appear on the album, a very slow song of decidedly sad nature. Freaky, and But are on this album as well, both very fast, fun songs. My favorite song on the album is Koi no Maho (The Magic of Love) it takes me back to Birthday Eve, and the fun, happy feeling you get from that song. In all, it’s a very diverse and well, established album. I have a feeling though, that the controversy and consequent banishment of Koda from the spotlight is not helping the album sales. I think Black Cherry is still her best selling album, maybe after awhile they will get over what she said and bring her back up to the top notch of Japanese society. Good luck Koda! I’m rooting for you.

1. Introduction For Kingdom
2.
Last Angel feat. Tohoshinki (東方神起)
3. Amai Wana (甘い罠; Sweet Trap)
4. Himitsu (秘密; Secret)
5.
Ai no Uta (愛の歌; Love Song)
6.
Anytime
7. Under
8. But
9. Koi no Mahō (恋の魔法; The Magic of Love)
10.
Aishō (愛証; The Proof of Love)
11. Anata ga Shite Kureta Koto (あなたがしてくれたこと; What You Did for Me)
12. Wonderland
13. Freaky
14. More
15. Black Cherry (Bonus Track)

Re-makes a-plenty!



Here comes another slew of great Asian movie re-makes. First on the chopping block is one of my favorite horror/thriller movies: A Tale of Two Sisters. The original was suspenseful and intriguing, and stared one of my favorite Korean actresses: Moon Geun-young. She just LOOKS innocent and you want to curl her up in a ball and put her in your pocket to keep her safe. Now, why they don’t just leave these movies well enough alone, I’ll never understand. The second one is Addicted (2002) being renamed as “Possession” slated for a 2008 release as well. My Sassy Girl is being remade (another one where they aren’t even bothering to change the name) with some small-bit actors that I’ve never really heard of (I think I recognize the main guy, but he’s never really been in anything noteworthy.) The final one is Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Apparently Charlize Theron is directing and acting in the remake of this amazingly popular Korean movie. Those of us enlightened enough to watch these movies in their original form are happy that they were successful, but mostly want the US to leave them the way they are. No news yet on the remake of Love Undercover, but I’ll let you know if I find something else out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

CD Review: Wish - Yuna Ito




What's that? You miss my reviews? Ok, here's a good one for you:

Wish by Yuna Ito. The powerhouse is back and just as good as before. If you've never listened to Yuna Ito's music before, you're missing out a lot. Her music is a great pop blend that you can listen to whenever you want. I have found that, even though I really love a certain group or singer, I can only listen to them if I am in the right mood. Not so with Yuna. She has a an uplifting tone to her voice. It's clear as a bell and when she belts something out it sounds effortless. Case in point: the title song. Wish is a track that is just beautiful and she sings it with grace and such power. The track Anata ga iru kagiri - A World to Believe In is a very moving song in which Celine Dion and Yuna harmonize beautifully. Tokyo Days is a fun song, upbeat and happy. If you want something that will raise your spirits and sooth you after a long day - pick up this album.






1: Power of Love


2: Alone Again


3: Anata ga iru Kagiri ~ A World to Believe In (feat. Celine Dion)


4. Urban Mermaid


5: Heartbeat


6: Colorful


7: Unite as One


8: Mahaloha (feat. Micro)


9: A Long Walk


10: Moon Rabbit


11: I'm Here


12: Wish


13: Tokyo Days


14: Bonus Track: My Heart Will Go On (which I like better than the original, because, personally, I do like Celine, but can only take her in small doses because I have SUPER sensitive ears and when she sings her high notes it's too much for me. Yuna's is a little quieter, a little calmer, but still powerful.)

Another Strapya Post. :)


I found something even cooler! Stylus' (styli?) that are actually COOL. I have found that my DS Lite lacks anything special in the stylus department mostly because no one is manufacturing anything that is different. Someone just squeezed into the niche marketing for DS owners with a line of metal stylus' that are unique and interesting. There are hearts and butterflies for the girls, as well as wings and swords men would like. Check them out! I want the winged one (I'm not too girly.)

Shiny DS Decorations



In the same vein as the sparkly gem covered ketai are the sparkly gem-covered Nintendo DS Lites. I've seen pictures of decked out DS's before, but never a product I could put my greedy little fingers onto before. Thanks to Strapya I can get one and so can you! They have a new line of the same sticker-type gems that you can attatch to your DS Lite and make it as girly as you want. How exciting!


I want this one: