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SMAP confirms that they are breaking up

August 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Earlier in the year, when news hit that SMAP were on the verge of breaking up, many fans were relieved that they weren’t.

But Johnny’s Agency has now confirmed that the group will be breaking up with their final day on New Year’s Eve. According to the statement from their agency, “Some members have expressed their wish to disband, rather than to suspend activities as SMAP.  It was a very difficult decision, but we have judged it would be difficult for (SMAP) to continue their activities as a group, although it was not a unanimous choice by the members.”

There are no details if there will be a farewell concert or farewell “SMAP x SMAP” episode.  But judging by the comments by each of the members, the group are not on the same page and have no choice but to break up.

Kimura Takuya has released the statement, “In regards to us breaking up, I honestly have nothing but regret. But a 25th anniversary live and group activities just can’t happen if all of us are not on the same page, so I have no choice but to accept this situation. Despite all of the support from all of our fans and staff, we’ve come to a pathetic resolution like ‘disbanding’. I can’t really find the right words to say right now.”

Nakai Masahiro released the following statement, “Dear fans and everyone involved with SMAP, I am informing you that SMAP will be disbanding. We’ve caused a lot of trouble, we’ve made you all worry, and you’ve supported us for so long. Please forgive us for ending up with this result. We are truly… Very sorry.”

Inagaki Goro released the following statement, “To all of our fans and all of our staff, I apologize for making you all worry. We thought it would be hard for the five of us to continue together in this situation, so we’ve come to the very painful decision to disband. We ask you to please understand our decision. Thank you very much for the last 28 years.”

Kusanagi Tsuyoshi released the following statement, “SMAP has chosen the path to disband. To all of the fans who cheered us on and all of the staff who have supported us the last 28 years, thank you. We’re still going to diligently continue on, so if you could continue to kindly look over us, it would make me very happy.”

Katori Shingo released the following statement, “To all of our fans and all of our staff, we, SMAP, are going to disband. I thank all of those who have supported us from the bottom of my heart. And I am deeply sorry for the very sudden announcement.”

Translation by Michelle Tymon, J!-ENT

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Aki Con 2013 Report – Article and Photos by Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Aki Con 2013 was held at the Seatac Airport Double Tree Hotel in Seatac, WA from October 25-27th.

Although it’s not big like Sakura Con that’s held in Seattle every year, attendees definitely had a great time cosplaying, attending panels, interacting with and getting autographs from the guests, and sharing the love they have for anime, manga, video games with fellow fans.

I’ve been attending Sakura-Con here in Seattle every year since 2004, but this year was the first time I attended a smaller local anime con, Aki-Con. Though it’s a much smaller con than Sakura-Con, the attendees seemed to really enjoy themselves.

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The con last year had gotten a lot of negative reviews because of what happened with Artist Alley and the dealers’ hall, but it was very apparent that they were doing their best to make this year’s con the best they could, and I think they did a good job… and I think the attendees noticed as well.

Like most other days in the fall, the weather was rather wet here in the Seattle area during the con, but driving up to the hotel, you could see attendees all around, proudly wearing their cosplay as they headed to the nearby Taco Bell, Subway or Dennys for food.  The venue, the Seatac Airport Double Tree hotel, was a great choice for a smaller con, as it wasn’t a huge venue, but was just big enough to hold a con of this size… though there were a few times it started getting overcrowded in the hallways.  Overall, everyone seemed to have an excellent time.

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The guests at Aki Con this year definitely brought in a huge number of the attendees.  Guests of Honor for Aki Con this year were voice actors Johnny Yong Bosch, Monica Rial, Lisle Wilkerson, David Vincent, and Josh Goring.  Other guests included reality TV personality, Molly McIssac, cosplay groups such as the Living Dead Girls, and the featured band was Johnny Yong Bosch’s own Eyeshine.  (Click here for the complete guest list)

Attendees had plenty of activities they could enjoy throughout the weekend.  They had huge cardboard cutouts of characters from various video games and anime throughout the hotel, and even had a room with various scenes set up where cosplayers could take photos using those as backgrounds.  The venue itself had tons of parking, so that didn’t seem to be a problem.  The hotel was pretty scenic and also provided various areas for photographers and cosplayers to hold photoshoots.  The dealers’ hall was about the size of two panel rooms, but attendees were able to find plenty of stuff to buy.

“Attack on Titan” was definitely a huge highlight for cosplayers and the dealers’ room had no shortage of “Attack on Titan” goods.  Artist Alley was held in a few rooms upstairs, and it seemed that the artists this year were much better accommodated than last year and each time I passed by, the rooms were full with attendees.  There were a couple rooms dedicated to gaming of all kinds (old school arcade, console, etc) and there was even a room where they had a Hetalia Cafe.  Anime viewing rooms were showing current anime that could be found on Crunchyroll.com and there was also a manga library.  And of course, there were panel rooms and main ballroom for events with the guests such as panels, concerts, masquerades, and more.

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The voice actor guests had a few panels together where they answered questions and fulfilled requests from the various fans that came to see them.  They also had multiple signings, where each of the guests took their time and interacted with their very eager fans.  One of the biggest events of this con that everyone was excited for was the Eyeshine concert Saturday night.  The band performed a full set and stayed around to sign merchandise and take pics with their fans after the show.  Possibly one of the biggest highlight for many of the attendees was the fact that because this was a smaller convention, the guests’ schedules weren’t as tight and they had a lot more time to interact with all of the fans.  All of the guests took time to give autographs and take pictures with fans that randomly came up to them outside of their panels if time had allowed.

For individual panels, Johnny Yong Bosch answered various questions about his career, the voice acting business and told a few funny stories that had happened to him on his way to work.  David Vincent held a panel where he not only gave tips and answered questions on how to get into voice acting, but he had people come up on stage with him and had them do various voice acting exercises and gave them personal tips and praise.  After the panel, he even stayed around for quite a while and took pictures with fans, signed autographs, and continued to answer any questions fans didn’t get to ask during his panel.  Monica Rial did a similar panel where she just opened the floor to the fans and she answered various questions about the industry and even called a friend of an attendee to surprise them.  At each of these panels, all of the guests were extremely approachable, friendly, and down to earth, which I’m sure the fans all appreciated and it was apparent they all had a lot of fun.

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Despite all of the things that may have gone wrong at last year’s con, it really was apparent that the con staff was working extremely hard to do a much better job at this con.  The venue they got was great, the con staff was friendly, they booked guests that the attendees loved, and they did their best to make sure everyone had a great time.  I think they did a great job, but I do have a few minor complaints…  The lighting in the main ballroom where they held the opening ceremonies, the concert, and other big panels could have probably used better lighting.

During the opening ceremonies, the cosplay contest, and the concert, they turned off the house lights and had very odd red spot lights only on stage.  It may have been for artistic effect, but it was incredibly hard to see anyone unless you were up close to the stage.  Also, I thought that the registration was set up in a very awkward spot.  It was located in one of the hallways and so when lines had formed, the whole hallway would be blocked.  They did have it roped off, but at times it really was hard to get around.  Also, there was slight overcrowding, especially on Saturday, but overall that is a good thing since that means they got that much of an attendance and I don’t think it ever got too bad that it wasn’t bearable.

 

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Though it’s not the biggest anime con in the Pacific Northwest, Aki Con was a great con to go to for people who want a smaller convention, or want another event other than Sakura Con to go to since that’s only once a year.  It’s also a great con for those who want to be able to interact with the guests more and not have to be around 10,000+ people like you would at Sakura Con.  A smaller convention doesn’t mean that it’s not as great and fun.  Both big and small conventions have their pros and cons and I thought that this year’s Aki Con was a great convention to visit for people who wanted another con to go to.  If they are able to book the same venue again or a similar sized venue (if not a bigger one), I highly recommend fans in the area to check it out next year.

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Wake in Fright (a J!-ENT Movie Review by Michelle Tymon)

October 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Alongside Mad Max and Walkabout, WAKE IN FRIGHT is widely acknowledged as one of the seminal films in the development of modern Australian cinema. Directed by Ted Kotcheff (Rambo: First Blood) and starring Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay and Jack Thompson, the film tells the story of a British schoolteacher’s descent into personal demoralization at the hands of drunken, deranged derelicts while stranded in a small town in outback Australia. Virtually unseen in the United States and renowned in its home country after years of neglect, WAKE IN FRIGHT is ripe for rediscovery and returns to cinemas, including this Nuart engagement.
 
WAKE IN FRIGHT originally made its debut at Cannes in 1971, where it earned a Palme D’Or nomination. The film made its return to the festival in 2009 courtesy of guest-curator Martin Scorsese, following the completion of a comprehensive restoration. It was there where WAKE IN FRIGHT held the honor of being one of two films to have been shown twice in the history of the festival. The film is lauded for its stark and uncompromising vision by champions such as Roger Ebert who said WAKE IN FRIGHT is “powerful, genuinely shocking and rather amazing,” and celebrated musician/songwriter/screenwriter Nick Cave, who said the film is “the best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.”
 
Believed to be lost for many years, WAKE IN FRIGHT was restored after an exhaustive decade-long search for original film elements. Fortuitously, the negative was unearthed in Pittsburgh, PA, in canisters marked for destruction just one week away from its impending incineration. The materials were then restored frame-by-frame at Sydney’s At Lab Deluxe with the aid of the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia.

The Australian Landmark Thriller by Ted Kotcheff

WAKE IN FRIGHT

Lost 1971 Australian thriller now fully restored

Theatrical Release Date: New York, October 5, 2012 at Film Forum;
Los Angeles, October 19, 2012 Landmark NuArt Theatre; Nationally Oct/Nov 2012
Running time: 116 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Language: English

Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Written by Kenneth Cook (Novel), Evan Jones

Produced by George Willoughby

Executive Producers: Howard G. Barnes, Bill Harmon

Music by John Scott

Cinematography by Brian West

Edited by Anthony Buckley

Production Design by Dennis Gentle

Costume Design by Ron Williams

Starring:

Donald Pleasence as ‘Doc’ Tydon

Gary Bond as John Grant

Chips Rafferty as Jock Crawford

Sylvia Kay as Janette

Jack Thompson as Dick

Peter Whittle as Joe

Al Thomas as Tim Hynes

“Have a drink, mate?”

“Wake in Fright” is a horror film, but probably not like any you’ve seen before.  There are no monsters or serial killers out to get you.  No, just some very friendly people who insist you have a drink with them.  Doesn’t sound too scary, right?  John Grant (Gary Bond) probably thought that too.  But somehow, by the end of the movie, he has a rifle pointed at his head with a single round left and is trying to figure out what he wants to do with it.  Most horror movies are scary because there is usually at least one physically scary thing to be scared of.  Deranged killers, sudden loud noises, elements of the paranormal, etc.  However, we can dismiss these things in our brain as not being real if we wanted to.  “Wake in Fright” has none of these elements, yet is probably more frightening than any recent horror movie.  Why?  Because the five-day downward spiral you see Grant go through is something that you can actually see happening in real-life.

John Grant (Gary Bond) is a bonded school teacher in a tiny town in Australia.  At the beginning of summer vacation, he plans to head to Sydney to see his girlfriend, but stops in a place called Bundunyabba, or “the Yabba”, first.  He plans to just stay one night and fly off to Sydney in the morning.  He decides to check out the nightlife and goes to a local bar, where he meets a policeman named Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), who offers to buy him some drinks.  After they both consume a ridiculous amount of drinks, Crawford introduces Grant to the gambling game called “two-up”.  Once he understands the game, Grant participates in a few rounds and wins big.  He goes back to his hotel, but decides he’ll try his luck again and goes back.  Sadly, this time he loses it all.  Now depressed, broke and stuck in the area, he’s offered more drinks and some food.

He eventually meets Doc (Donald Pleasence) that night, another man who was not from the Yabba but had stayed.  The next morning, Grant misses his flight and is still broke.  He then runs into Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) and is once again, offered some drinks.  Tim takes him back to his house to stay and well, they drink more.  Grant also encounters Tim’s daughter, Janette (Sylvia Kay) and his friends, Dick (Jack Thompson) and Joe (Peter Whittle) while he’s at the house.  He is also reunited with Doc there and what do they do? Drink. A lot!

The one day that Grant  was supposed to spend in the Yabba, has now become five.  During those five days, Grant goes through various disturbing encounters and events and by the end of it, is pointing a rifle at his head.

This movie is quite brilliant.  There are no demons, no ghosts, no crazy people (well, other than the fact that the people of the Yabba love to drink their alcohol) but this movie is eerie.  The viewer is left uncomfortable watching the movie the whole time (at least I was…).  Nothing disturbing is happening, but at the same time you feel disturbed.  Another reason it’s creepy, is it feels like it can happen to almost anyone (unless you don’t drink alcohol, but that would offend the people of the Yabba and then who knows what might happen).

Nothing too overly violent (however there is a disturbing hunting scene) and no excessive nudity (although there is some), but it’s creepier than most horror movies loaded with either of those things.  Pretty much, this movie comes down to a guy who drinks entirely too much and everything goes wrong.  Terribly wrong.  But it’s believable.  You are left creeped out more than a slasher flick would leave you.  This is indeed a psychological thriller and one of the best of its kind that I’ve seen.  Ted Kotcheff (who also directed “First Blood” and “Weekend at Bernies”) did a great job with using practical light to make certain scenes even creepier.

Usually, when people drink a lot of alcohol in movies, there are usually funny and sometimes unfortunate consequences that follow.  John Grant apparently has horrible luck and one terrible thing happens one thing after another in his five days in the Yabba.  None of the things that happen are meant for humor.  Everything that goes wrong for John Grant are all examples of some dark aspect of human nature.

So this film doesn’t have excessive blood or violence, and no vengeful spirits or demons.  But I would classify it as a horror movie and a very effective one.  It may not scare you, but it is disturbing and creepy to watch and I still feel a bit creeped out by it.  Sometimes simplicity really is best, and this movie is proof.

If you like horror movies or thrillers and are looking for something a little different than the usual slasher film or vengeful demon film, check this movie out!  (4 STARS)

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Marvel’s The Avengers (A J!-Ent Blu-Ray Disc Review)

October 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is the biggest movie of 2012 and it doesn’t disappoint.  With an all-star cast and an amazing director, this non-stop thrill-ride lives up to the expectations of a summer blockbuster and provides so much more.  The film is filled with action, comedy, amazing special effects and redefines the term, “comic book movie”.  This film is not only for fans of the comics, but has something for everyone and you can now relive the excitement in the theater at home with this Blu-ray release.  This Blu-ray release is absolutely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Marvel Entertainment, LLC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

TITLE: Marvel’s The Avengers

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 143 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Widescreen Presentation, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, and Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action Throughout, and a Mild Drug Reference)

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Directed by Joss Whedon

Written by Joss Whedon, Zak Penn

Produced by Kevin Feige

Executive Producers: Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher

Series Producer: Alex Ward

Music by Alan Silvestri

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek

Casting by Sarah Finn, Randi Hiller

Production Design by James Chinlund

Art Direction by Benjamin Edelberg, Jann K. Engel, Gregory S. Hooper, William O’ Hunter, Randy Moore

Supervising Art Director: Richard L. Johnson

Set Decoration by Victor J. Zolfo

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne

Starring:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson

Cobie Smoulders as Agent Maria Hill

Stellan Skarsgård as Selvig

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Marvel Studios presents “Marvel’s The Avengers”—the team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston, with Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series The Avengers, first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented by Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures. The film was produced by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige and executive produced by Alan Fine, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Louis D’Esposito, Patricia Whitcher, Victoria Alonso and Jeremy Latcham. The story was by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon and the screenplay was by Joss Whedon.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film smashed the industry record for the biggest domestic opening of all time with $207.4M, crossed the $1 billion global box office threshold in 19 days, and currently stands as the #3 global and domestic release of all time.

So, remember in May, 2008 and “Iron Man” came out in theaters?  It totally changed what a “comic book movie” should be.  “Iron Man” was not only the best comic book film to date at the time, but audiences of all ages, who had no idea about the comics, enjoyed the movie.  Soon after, “The Incredible Hulk” followed and it as a big summer hit.  At the very end of “Iron Man”, we see the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and he brings up “The Avengers Initiative”.  Now, anyone who knows anything about the “Avengers Initiative”, had something to possibly look forward to, and probably never thought would come true.  In “The Incredible Hulk”, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), or Iron Man, makes a cameo and once again mentions the “Avengers Initiative”.  What the “Avengers Initiative” possibly entailed in the terms of future movies, was not just another “Iron Man” sequel, but a series of movies with various Marvel superheroes and eventually, hopefully an epic movie with all of those superheroes in one movie.

Two years later, “Iron Man 2” came out and was another smash hit.  At the end of that movie, there was another tie-in with the next movie, “Thor”, which came out in 2011.  Finally, a few months later, “Captain America: The First Avenger” came out in theaters.  Not only were these all very successful comic book films, but they all became huge summer blockbusters that anyone could enjoy, and the success of these films actually was going to make “The Avengers” come true.  This would mean that they were bringing all of these characters, who all had their own movies, together into one giant movie.  Each movie had headlining characters, which also meant that they all had very big actors.  To bring all of these people into one movie just sounds like too much could go wrong.  However, if they were able to pull it off, it could be one of the most amazing movies of all time.

Thankfully, Marvel Studios, Joss Whedon, and the amazing all-star cast made the impossible happen.  “Marvel’s The Avengers” not only became the biggest movie of 2012, but one of the biggest movies of all time.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s half brother, comes to Earth with plans to take it over and make it his own.  Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D, quickly acts and starts taking the necessary steps to stop this from happening.  He has his agents, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to retrieve Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).  Nick Fury himself summons Steve Rogers/Captain America (Steve Rogers), who is still trying to deal with the fact that he has been asleep for 70 years and has woken up in a world he doesn’t know anymore.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth), joins the group, uninvited, because he wants put a stop to his brother.  What all this does is not create the most unstoppable superhero team of all time, but instead the most dysfunctional team ever.  Before they can even stop Loki, they need get over conflicting egos, anger, distrust, and other issues with each other.  If they can’t, Loki and his army will take over the Earth.  With Joss Whedon writing and directing this all-star cast, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish.

VIDEO:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented in 1080 p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  This film is beautiful: both due to the cinematography and the special effects.  Seamus McGarvey did a phenomenal job as the cinematographer.  Every shot in the movie, with or without special effects, were beautiful to look at and fit with the current emotions being felt in every part of the movie.  The first half of the movie is dark, but the details are still all there.  The second half of the movie is pretty bright and filled with tons of explosions and once again, no details lost.

The special effects in this movie are flawless.  Even in HD, everything looks ridiculously real.  Some of the most memorable parts are when the helicarrier first appears and then disappears into the sky and of course, the very long battle scene at the end of the movie.  Joss Whedon mentions this as well in his commentary, but it is almost scary what can be done with special effects nowadays.  This movie was absolutely gorgeous in the theaters and the Blu-ray release for home doesn’t disappoint!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with other options including English 2.0 Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  This movie is filled with non-stop action well as non-stop dialogue.  And you can hear all of it perfectly in the Blu-ray.  Lossless audio is absolutely immersive and amazing use of all channels.

Despite all of the fighting and explosions throughout the movie, you could still hear all of the dialogue and the original music by Alan Silvestri brought out the atmosphere throughout the film.  Nothing ever seemed too loud or too soft: it was just right (I appreciate when I don’t have to adjust the volume from my TV because the dialogue was so quiet and then all of the sudden there’s a ridiculously loud explosion and I have to turn the TV down).  This film sounded epic on the big screen and I’m very satisfied with the experience I get watching it at home as well.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Marvel’s The Avengers” comes with the following special features:

  • The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience – (2:22:54) Access the S.H.I.E.L.D. data base to immerse yourself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dive into the Avengers Comic Book History, and much, much more in this exclusive experience for your iPad, iPhone, or laptop.
  • Commentary by Director Joss Whedon – (2:22:54) Audio commentary with Director Joss Whedon.
  • Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 – (11:20) Original short film about something that happened after the events of “The Avengers”.
  • Gag Reel – (04:05) Marvel’s first ever gag reel.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (14:59) See deleted and extended scenes from the movie including an alternate opening and ending to the movie with Maria Hill.
  • A Visual Journey (Featurette) – (6:28) Discover amazing sets, groundbreaking visual effects, and stunning cinematography of this phenomenal film.
  • Assembling the Ultimate Team – (8:08) The all-star cast shares the excitement of teaming up to bring these characters to life, and Director Joss Whedon discusses what each of them brought to their role.
  • “Live to Rise” Soundgarden Music Video – (4:49) Music video for the Soundgarden song, “Live to Rise”.
  • Sneak Peeks – (7:21) Sneak peeks at other Marvel Studios, Disney, and ABC releases.

EXTRAS:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” comes with various extras, depending on which version you purchase.  The 5-Feature Action Pack comes with a 3D slip cover, a 3D Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray of the feature film, the DVD of the feature film, a digital copy of the feature film, and a digital album copy of AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is a film that lived up to all the hype and all of the expectations this past summer.  If successful, it was not only going to be the biggest comic book movie of all time, bringing together characters from five other movies, but one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.  This film did everything that it was set to accomplish and probably did more than anyone could have imagined.

I’m sure that many people have already seen this movie, and they already know that they should probably buy this Blu-ray or DVD release, but to the ones who actually haven’t seen it yet: this movie is phenomenal.  It’s not just for comic book fans and nerds (or whatever else you may call us).  Just like “Iron Man” had done four years ago, this movie is enjoyable by audiences of all ages and comic book knowledge is not required whatsoever.  If you want to watch a fun movie filled with action, quick comedic dialogue, and absolutely stunning special effects, this movie has it all.

This movie is really an impossible dream come true in a way.  I don’t think most people would have ever thought that they’d be able to see this movie happen successfully because so much could have gone wrong.  This was indeed a first of its kind.  This was the first time that any studio had brought together so many huge characters from separate successful franchises into one epic movie.  With so many main characters in one movie, this movie could have easily gotten messy.  Too many things could have happened at once with so many characters or the characters’ screen times could have been terribly unbalanced.  “The Avengers” in the comics has a huge cast of superheroes on the team.  The movie itself has Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, along with Nick Fury, Agent Coulson and Maria Hill.  Just seeing that many main characters could make one’s head spin.  But somehow, Joss Whedon made it work.  He balanced out everyone’s roles quite equally and produced a great story that brought out the best in each of the characters.

This movie follows five Marvel Studios films and is a collaboration of the characters from those movies, so it should be watched after seeing those five.  This is like the big, completed puzzle of all the other movies.  However, Whedon managed to make this movie enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the previous films.  You don’t have to, but you’ll get more out of this film if you see the previous films.  This film really does have a bit of everything.  It’s beautiful to look at visually (the cinematography as well as the flawless special effects), fast, witty dialogue, non-stop action, comedy, and a movie that both comic book fans and the general public could fully enjoy.  The movie is almost 2 ½ hours long, but it never seemed too long or dragged out.  So much is going on, but it never seemed too chaotic, unless it was supposed to.  It’s so much fun and so much happens that it can easily be enjoyed for multiple viewings.

The cast is filled with brilliant actors, but two of the most fantastic performances came from Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Robert Downey Jr. is a major reason this movie even happened.  If he didn’t bring Tony Stark to life in “Iron Man” and help make it such a successful film along with director, Jon Favreau, I honestly don’t think this movie would have ever happened.  Robert Downey Jr. probably has the most number of memorable lines in the movie.  Almost anytime he spoke, a memorable quote from the movie came out.  Of course, this also has to do with Joss Whedon’s writing style, but combined with Robert Downey Jr.’s skills, what came out was pure genius (I am slightly curious to know how much was actually adlibbing as well).  If you’ve seen any of Joss Whedon’s previous works, you know that he goes from being serious to funny very quickly, which was perfect for Tony Stark’s personality in general.  Whedon and Robert Downey Jr. made a wonderful pair and helped make this movie brilliant.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki was also amazing.  Loki in general is a wreck of emotions, and Hiddleston brought all those emotions out.  Just like Robert Downey Jr., Hiddleston brought a little extra to any of the witty lines Whedon had given him.  There is a part in the movie that Tony Stark and Loki share a scene together, and it made for one of the best parts of the whole film.

Of course, everyone else in the movie did an amazing job as well.  There was one notable change in the cast for this film from the previous films.  In “The Incredible Hulk”, Bruce Banner/The Hulk was played by Edward Norton and in “The Avengers” is played by Mark Ruffalo.  The Hulk has been adapted a handful of times, and I think that Mark Ruffalo played the best Hulk to date.  He was the only cast replacement in the movie, but you forget the fact that even happened because he does such a great job as Bruce Banner.  In “Captain America: The First Avenger”, Chris Evans plays the Captain America that was the super soldier and brilliant leader that helped fight against Hydra.  In “The Avengers”, we get to see another aspect of his character: the man who wakes up 70 years into the future and has no idea what’s going on anymore.  Steve Rogers is an endearing person and his personality shines through in this movie.  His scenes of with Tony Stark both provide humor and conflict within the team.  As Joss Whedon says himself, Chris Hemsworth is Thor.  He brings the Asgardian to life and it suits him well.  Despite being such a powerful character, Thor was used for some comic relief as well and Hemsworth handled both aspects of the character very well.

While this film is filled with fantastical characters that have super powers, you also have two main characters that don’t have any (or very little) super powers.  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) hold their own along with the super-powered heroes just by being very conditioned and having very high skill sets.  Black Widow is one of the world’s greatest spies and Hawkeye is the world’s greatest marksman armed with a bow and arrow.  Also because they don’t have super powers, they did a lot of hand-to-hand combat as well as many of their own stunts.  Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow definitely held her own as the only female on the team.  I appreciate the fact that Whedon was able to figure out how to incorporate Hawkeye into the movie, considering he does not have his own movie, but is a big part of The Avengers and Jeremy Renner did a great job playing the role.

The supporting characters feature Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smoulders as Agent Maria Hill, and the fan favorite, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.  Nick Fury shows up as a cameo in some of the other films, but he finally gets to shine in this film and Jackson definitely doesn’t disappoint.  Cobie Smoulders does a great job as the very serious Maria Hill.  In the deleted scenes, there is an alternate opening and ending with Maria Hill that I recommend watching because it adds so much to her character that ended up being taken out in the final cut.  Finally, there’s Agent Coulson.  Agent Coulson had become one of the favorite characters that showed up in the previous films.  His cool, calm demeanor and nonchalant lines of witty humor made him a very memorable character and that continues in this movie.

With so many characters and so much happening from beginning to end and not making it feel like one big mess, takes a lot of skill.  Joss Whedon was the perfect person to write and direct this film.  He knows the characters, he writes fantastic dialogue, and he made this all work.  This movie probably doesn’t have the most in-depth plot in the world but that’s okay because it didn’t need it.  Because this film was fun, from start to finish.  The plot that was in this movie was more than enough and it was executed well.  Joss Whedon provides commentary on the film on the Blu-ray and it’s definitely worth listening to.  Whedon is funny and very insightful, which makes for a great and entertaining commentary.

The special features included in this release were fun as well, but if there was one thing I may have been disappointed with in the Blu-ray release itself (and not the movie), was the amount of bonus features.  Not including the commentary, there are about 50 minutes of bonus features.  With a movie this big, I would have liked to see more featurettes than what was included.  There are two making-of featurettes, a handful of deleted and extended scenes, a five minute gag reel (which is pure gold), and a Marvel one-shot film.  I’m slightly disappointed in the amount of features, but the features that are on the disc are fantastic.  The featurettes are short, but insightful and fun, and the gag reel is awesome.  I don’t usually care too much for deleted/extended scenes because you can usually see why they were deleted to begin with, but the ones from this movie I found to be worth watching.  I found some scenes could have stayed in the movie perfectly fine if it weren’t for time constraints.  Like some other Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, this release also came with a “Marvel One-Shot” short film.  This one takes place after the events of the film.

For those looking for more special features, there are a couple of options.  Target is selling exclusive versions of the Blu-ray/DVD combo packs (both the 2 and 4 disc versions) with a bonus Blu-ray that has a 90+ minute documentary on the making of all six of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films so far.  Not all of the footage is new, but it was still fun to watch and very well put together.

Another option for some extra bonus materials, is a free app available for the iPhone/iPad called “Marvel’s The Avengers Second Screen Experience”.  In the months leading up to the Blu-ray release, you could download the app and see a couple of the S.H.I.E.L.D. files on the characters(though sadly most were locked until the release of the Blu-ray).  Once everything on the app worked, you could sync with the Blu-ray as it was playing and trivia, production art, cast bios, videos, and many other things would pop up on your phone while the movie played.  You have the choice of either network syncing, audio syncing, or you can explore all the content on your own with the movie playing or not.  It’s a free and entertaining app so I highly recommend it.

So, to wrap things up, if you enjoyed the movie in theaters, this is a must-buy.  The film on Blu-ray is absolutely gorgeous and the gag reel and Joss Whedon’s commentary add even more to the viewing experience.  To those who haven’t seen it yet, if you enjoy fun movies, you’ll love this movie.  This film has so much to offer for so many different audiences and I don’t think it’ll disappoint.  I absolutely recommend this release for anyone’s movie collection.

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The Cabin in the Woods (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Cabin in the Woods” is easily one of the best movies I have seen all year, and is one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Be prepared for and awesome thrill ride full of horror, comedy, wit, and well… some gore.  This Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Emperor Motion Picture Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Cabin in the Woods

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40: 1 Widescreen Presentation, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, SUBTITLES: English and Spanish Subtitles, English SDH

COMPANY: Lionsgate Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Horror Violence and Gore, Language, Drug Use and Some Sexuality Nudity)

Release Date: September 18, 2012

Directed by Drew Goddard

Written by Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Produced by Joss Whedon

Executive Producer: Jason Clark

Consulting Producer: Lucas D. Hill

Music by David Julyan

Cinematography by Peter Deming

Edited by Lisa Lassek

Casting by Heike Brandstatter, Anya Colloff, Coreen Mayrs, Army Mcintyre Britt

Production Design by Martin Whist

Art Direction by Michael Diner, Kendelle Elliott, Tom Reta

Set Decoration by Hamish Purdy

Costume Design by Shawna Trpcic

Starring:

Kristen Connolly as Dana

Chris Hemsworth as Curt

Anna Hutchison as Jules

Fran Kranz as Marty

Jesse Williams as Holden

Richard Jenkins as Sitterson

Bradley Whitford as Hadley

A rambunctious group of five college friends steal away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures in a night of endless terror and bloodshed.  Sound familiar?  Just wait. As the teens begin to exhibit standard horror movie behavior, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling, every move the terrified kids make.  With their efforts continually thwarted by the all-powerful eye in the sky, do they have any chance of escape?

Five college friends (The jock, the pretty girl, the brain, the stoner, and the nice girl) decide to go up to a cabin in the woods for a couple of days.  On their way there, they stop at some shady looking gas station trying to get some gas.  There, they are greeted by a creepy old man that owns the place, but decide to ask for directions to the cabin.  Instead, the creepy old man tells them they are doomed if they go there… but they decide to head up there anyways.  Once they get to the cabin, they find out it’s as creepy as the old man but they decide to stay there anyways.  Of course, once they’re there, all sorts of strange things start to happen.  Not using their better judgment, they go down into the obviously haunted cellar and make one bad choice after another, causing them to have their lives threatened by the hands of supernatural forces.

Does this all sound familiar?  It should.  But at the same time, it’s nothing like what you think it’s going to be…

“The Cabin in the Woods” takes on the appearance of just another gory slasher flick, but in the end is much, much more.

VIDEO:

“The Cabin in the Woods” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The picture quality was great.  Though much of the movie is quite dark and murky, it’s only to add to the scary atmosphere in this movie.  From beautiful, detailed shots in the dark forest, to the fine details in the textures of wood and stone, the video is crisp.  The contrast of light and dark in this movie is also very important and the Blu-Ray shows this beautifully.  Cinematographer Peter Deming did a beautiful job with the lighting, color contrast, and every shot enhanced the emotions that were present at each point in the movie.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Cabin in the Woods” is presented in English 7.1 DTS HD-Master Audio.  Since this is a horror movie, the sudden boost in volume should be present, and it is.  The dialogue audio is very clear throughout, even later on when there is chaos and everything else is extremely loud so the mixing is great.  The loud sound effects add to the scene and doesn’t get in the way of dialogue.  Original music by David Julyan masterfully added to the feel of the whole movie.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Cabin in the Woods” comes with the following special features:

  • It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods Bonus View Mode – (1:35:02) Watch the movie again with pop-up behind the scenes footage and interviews that are completely different from the other features listed below.
  • Audio Commentary – (1:35:02) Featuring audio commentary by Writer/Director Drew Goddard and Writer/Producer Joss Whedon.
  • We are Not Who We Are: Making “The Cabin in the Woods” – (28:33) A behind the scenes look at the making of “The Cabin in the Woods”.
  • The Secret Secret Stash: “Marty’s Stash”, “Hi, My Name is Joss and I’ll Be Your Guide” – (13:07) Marty (Fran Kranz) shows you the various… well, unique props he uses in the film and Joss gives you a tour of the cabin.
  • An Army of Nightmares: Makeup & Animatronic Effects – (12:10) This feature talks about all of the creature designing aspects of the film and the wide use of makeup, prosthetics, and animatronic effects used in this film.
  • Primal Terror:  Visual Effects – (12:07) This feature talks about the CG and other visual effects used in the film.
  • Wondercon Q&A – (27:30) Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon sit down after a screening of the film to answer questions about the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:27) Theatrical Trailer.
  • Also From LIONSGATE – (10:10) Other movies from LIONSGATE.

EXTRAS:

“The Cabin in the Woods” comes with a lenticular slipcover case.  Included is a digital copy and also UltraViolet, which allows you to watch the film on a TV, computer, tablet or smartphone.

You think you know what’s going on, but you actually have no idea what’s about to happen.  And that is exactly how you should view this film.  Go into it thinking it’s just another stereotypical horror movie, but with some twist because Joss Whedon is involved with it.  That’s exactly what it is; only so much more.  You may think you have it figured out, but in truth, you probably don’t.  “The Cabin in the Woods” is easily one of the best movies I have seen all year, and is one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Be prepared for and awesome thrill ride full of horror, comedy, wit, and well… some gore.

Once the movie starts, some may wonder if they are watching the right movie, because the first two characters who appear in the movie don’t seem to have anything to do with a horror movie at all.  The biggest problem with reviewing this movie, as much as I enjoyed it, is how much I can’t really say about this movie.  I watched this movie only knowing that it was a horror movie produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, and that I shouldn’t look into it anymore before I watched it.  I took that advice and enjoyed the movie thoroughly when I actually saw it.  Even the trailer to the movie gives you an idea that this isn’t a normal horror movie, but not much else.  So, without giving away too much, the following is what I can say about this wonderful film.

Joss Whedon is having an extremely successful year with the release of “The Avengers” as well as “The Cabin in the Woods”.   Whedon co-wrote this masterpiece with first-time director, Drew Goddard.  They had worked together previously on two of Whedon’s prior series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, which is where they decided that they would like to write a movie together one day.

This film has an amazing crew and cast.  Drew Goddard as a first-time director did an absolutely fantastic job.  After watching this film, there was really no indication that this was the work of a first-time director.  As I mentioned, Joss Whedon is the co-writer and producer of this film.  He really doesn’t need much of an introduction, being the creator of various popular shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly”, and most recently, the director of “The Avengers”.  Drew Goddard has worked as a writer for such hit shows and movies like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Alias”, “Cloverfield”, and “Lost”.  In the making of feature, they talk about how they came up with the story and their enthusiasm for this project was wonderful to see.  A signature found in many Joss Whedon projects is all the fast, witty dialogue and this movie once again doesn’t disappoint.

The cast was phenomenal as well.  Each character was perfectly cast.  Before I talk about the five college students, two of the best actors in the whole movie would have to be Richard Jenkins, who played Sitterson and Bradley Whitford, who played Hadley.  They play the mysterious technicians that are toying with the lives of the kids.  Along with the five college students, they are the main characters of this film.  The banter between the two is another highlight of the film and they both did an amazing job of playing these roles.  The five college students are Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Williams).  Each one of these actors did a phenomenal job playing their parts and they worked great together.  They each had to cut back and forth from silly scenes to very serious scenes quite often and they did a fantastic job.

Out of the five students though, my favorite, hands down, was Marty (Fran Kranz).  Chris Hemsworth is my favorite actor in this movie, but Fran Kranz as Marty stole the show.  Marty is the stoner character of the movie, and they’re usually not my favorite, but Marty is brilliant.  I believe he is another reason this movie is so fantastic.  He also has the best prop in the whole movie.  Joss Whedon is known for using actors that have been in his past projects in other projects and this movie was no different.  Fran Kranz (Marty) was in “Dollhouse” and Amy Acker (Wendy) was in “Angel”.  Chris Hemsworth (Curt) ended up being in “The Avengers”, but that apparently was a happy coincidence because he got the role of Thor for the movie “Thor” while they were shooting “The Cabin in the Woods”.

This movie is for horror movie fans and for those that don’t enjoy horror movies.  The movie has the stereotypical slasher film feel but then also a clever twist that both horror movie fans as well as those who are not fans will enjoy.  I’d say that the gore and violence is about the standard as any other horror movie.  I think many people will also enjoy all of the creatures that eventually make an appearance in the movie in one way or another.  They cover a lot of creature mythology from various sources and countries so it was fun to see them come to life.  In an industry that relies quite a bit on CG nowadays, it’s nice to know this film actually used lots of makeup, prosthetics, and animatronics where they could instead of relying mostly on CG.

The amount of special features on this Blu-Ray release is absolutely fantastic!  There is a commentary with Goddard and Whedon, three featurettes covering the making of the film (one standard behind the scenes, and two dealing with make-up and special effects), a Q&A with Goddard and Whedon from WONDER CON and much more.  This is very important: do not watch the special features on this disc until you have seen the movie.  Each special feature on this disc is full of spoilers.  They are all very fun to watch, but they should be enjoyed after seeing the movie.  Seeing how a movie was made is always one of my favorite parts of watching any movie, so the fact that there were so many things to watch made me very happy.

I personally don’t really have anything negative to say about this movie.  I thought it was clever, funny, and overall an awesome surprise of a movie.  However, if you are not a fan of Whedon’s prior works, you may not like this film either.  If you want to watch a straight up horror movie without any comedy, this may not be your pick either.  If you are disturbed by horror movies, vulgar language, violence, blood and gore in general, then sadly you may not be able to watch this movie.  I personally don’t have an issue with any of those.  Even if the whole idea of a horror movie makes this less appealing, I would encourage viewers to give this movie a chance.  I believe they may be pleasantly surprised.

If you are a fan of horror movies, witty comedies, or movies with a clever twist (or a combination of the above), please check this movie out.  Thank you, Mr. Goddard and Mr. Whedon, for finally making a horror movie I actually enjoyed, and giving me another movie to add to my top ten favorite films of all time.

 

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Steve Nile’s Remains (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a zombie film fan and can’t get enough of mindless, violence-filled zombie flicks, Steve Nile’s “Remains” delivers!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Synthetic International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Steve Nile’s Remains

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio

COMPANY: SHOUT! FACTORY

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: August 7, 2012

Directed by Colin Theys

Screenplay by John Doolan

Based on the Graphic Novel and Original Story by Steve Niles

Produced by Andrew Gernhard, Zack O’Brien

Executive Producer as Ted Adams, Bonnie Farley-Lucas, Richard J. Lucas, Steve Niles, Shane O’Brien, Justin Smith, Thomas P. Vitale

Music by Matthew Llewellyn, Sara Schachner

Cinematography by Adrian Correia

Production Design by Melanie Gunn

Starring:

Miko Hughes as Jensen

Lance Reddick as Ramsey

Grant Bowler as Tom

Tawny Cypress as Cindy

Anthony Marks as Victor

Evalena Marie as Tori

Greg Nutcher as Paul

David Gere as Vitale

Bobby Rice as O’Brien

Jessica Alexandra Green as Blake

Terence Schappert as Sheehan

Kevin Shea as Faherty

Cristina Santiago as Ruby

Based on the highly acclaimed IDW Publishing graphic novel written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Steve Niles’ REMAINS is set in a chilling postapocalyptic Reno, Nevada, and follows the survivors of a bizarre accident that reduced most of the world’s population to zombies. The group takes refuge in a vacant casino and fights a losing battle against the undead, who grow steadily stronger, smarter and more aggressive by the minute. The movie stars Grant Bowler (Killer Elite, True Blood), Lance Reddick (Fringe, Lost, The Wire), Miko Hughes (Pet Sematary), Evalena Marie (Are We There Yet?), Tawny Cypress (Rescue Me, Heroes) and Anthony Marks.

“Steve Niles’ Remains” is based off the graphic novel of the same name.  A failed nuclear experiment occurs on the ironically named “Peace Day”, and leaves the residents of Reno, and probably everywhere else, dead or zombified.  The few that haven’t turned, are left scrambling for their lives and leaves us with our primary cast.  Our main cast consists of an unconventional group of people forced to try to tolerate each other long enough to try and survive the zombie apocalypse.

You first meet Tom and Tori.  Tom (Grant Bowler), is a blackjack dealer and Tori is a waitress at a casino.  The reason they were able to escape the blast when it happened was because they had snuck down to the basement to get to know each other a little better.  They are trapped down there for a while because the power goes out and they have no idea what happened to the world outside.  Eventually, they are able to get out and are greeted by a zombie in the casino.  They’re able to take care of it relatively quickly and then run into Jensen, who shows them what’s going on outside through security cameras.  Jensen (Miko Hughes) also works at the casino in the unpopular magic show.  They are somewhat safe inside the casino, as most of the zombies seem to be outside.  Lastly, they help a man named Victor (Anthony Marks), who was trapped in the madness outside and somehow survived.  This would round up our main group of survivors.  They spend the next few days trying to survive against impending doom.

At one point of the movie, another group of survivors, Ramsey (Lance Reddick) and his men come in and save Tom and Tori from some zombies.  He and his group of men have been traveling through the country killing off zombies wherever they go.  It’s relatively unclear if they are actually friends or enemies, and tensions grow as everyone is divided on who can be trusted or not.  But in the end, they all have the same goal in mind: survive the zombies and get out of Reno.

VIDEO:

“Steve Nile’s Remains” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  For the most part, I thought the video looked great.  The colors were usually quite clean and vibrant and the details were clear so you could see all of the gory details throughout the movie.  Even tiny details such as the stubbles on Tom’s face was plainly visible.   The colors seemed accurate throughout the film; no one ended up with weird or faded facial colors and the details of the zombies such as their bright, white eyes were visible in great detail.  There were no major problems that I could see.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts throughout the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Steve Nile’s Remains” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The good news is that the film is lossless, the bad news is that it is a lossless front channel track.  For a film with this much action, you would hope to hear a 5.1 lossless soundtrack but the front channels are still good.  For the most part, the dialogue audio and the background music audio seemed pretty balanced.  Like most other horror films, they use the sudden boost in sound at the right moments to scare the audience.

Subtitles are not included.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The special features are minimal, consisting of various 60 second spots, and then a short 3-part prequel, “Road to Reno”, so if you’re like me who loves getting a lot of behind the scenes featurettes, you may be disappointed.  However, the prequel and bloopers were a nice addition.  The prequel gives the viewers another view as to the catastrophe that hit that day, causing the zombie apocalypse.

“Steve Nile’s Remains” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Producer Andrew Gernhard, Director Colin Theys, Screenwriter John Doolan, and Makeup Supervisor Ben Chester.  This feature can be found under “Audio Setup” on the menu.
  • Behind the Scenes TV Spots – Featuring interviews with the cast and crew of “Remains”.  TV Spots included are: 60 Second Spot (1:02), Characters 30 Second Spot (0:32) and Zombies 30 Second Spot (0:32).
  • Blooper Reel – (4:04) Featuring outtakes from “Remains”.
  • Chiller TV Spots – Featuring the following TV spots: Comic Book 30 Second Spot (0:32), Premiere 30 Second Spots (1:03) and Teaser 30 Second Spots (1:02).
  • Comicon Teaser – (1:03)
  • Prequel Short – Road to Reno – Feature three mini episode prequels to “Remains” (each are around four minutes in duration).

EXTRAS:

“Steve Nile’s Remains” comes with a slipcover case.

If you’re looking for an amazing, character driven movie with an amazing plot, you probably won’t find it here.  However, if you’re looking for a mindless, violent, gorefest with an unconventional group of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, then you’ll find what you’re looking for in this film.  Though this movie doesn’t really offer anything different or new in the zombie movie genre (Oh, there was one thing I don’t think I’ve seen in other zombie movies before that was in this movie: apparently zombies sleep) , it’s definitely not bad.  It’s also not the best.  This movie is a made for TV movie and probably should be expected as such.  The gore and special effects aren’t the best (there’s a scene where a truck flips over that was rather comical), but it’s what you can expect from a lower budget film.  If you watch the film with that in mind, it’s somewhat enjoyable.  Pretty much, it has everything a zombie movie needs: zombies, killing, guns, blood, and a lot of running away.  It doesn’t exactly go to a B movie, but at its best, I’d have to say the film was about average, even for its genre.

Besides the plot being thin, the characters may be the weakest part of the whole movie.  It’s hard to feel any connection with any of the characters, especially enough for you to hope they survive until the end of the movie.  With some characters, it was probably more satisfying if they didn’t make it through the movie.  There’s a lot of yelling between Tom and Tori and honestly, the acting probably wasn’t the best.  Actually, overall, there’s a lot of yelling in this movie, to the point that I found it rather comical.  In a way, I guess the situation may have been realistic.  You get stuck trying to survive a zombie apocalypse with a whole bunch of people you don’t know and annoy you.  You probably will try to fend for yourself rather than try to help each other.  They do help each other in the beginning, but as the film goes on, their annoyance for one another grow and is probably as dangerous as the zombies outside.

One thing that did interest me about the cast was the fact that Miko Hughes was in the movie, since I hadn’t seen him in anything since he was a child.  It was interesting to see him all grown up.  In my opinion, he also played one of the only somewhat likeable characters in the whole movie.  Another somewhat likeable character in the movie was Cindy (Tawny Cypress), who plays Ramsey’s daughter and she plays the only other female character of any importance, which causes somewhat of a rivalry between her and Tori.  Cindy, who means well and is genuinely trying to help people and Tori, who doesn’t have many redeeming qualities but seems to be trying to help in her own way.  Their contrasting relationships with Tom may be the closest thing of interest dealing with character interaction (other than yelling at each other) and development in the movie.

Definitely not a blockbuster hit that anyone will enjoy, but if you’re a fan of zombie survival movies, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.  It’s not high budget and as I said, not much new is offered in regards to the zombie movie genre.  If you have no interest in zombie movies, though, you may want to skip this film.  There’s very little plot and no character development, really.  If you’re looking for a very scary movie, you probably won’t find this to be the one you’re looking for either.  Despite the usual turn-up-the-sound-effects-to-make-the-audience-jump moments, I didn’t find myself scared or startled, but I usually don’t find zombie movies scary so that may just be me.  The movie is quite violent though.  People killing zombies, zombies killing people, people killing people and even zombies killing zombies.  So if you just want another mindless, violence-filled zombie flick, “Remains” will deliver.

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Sakura-Con 2012 by Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

June 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Sakura-Con 2012

 

Sakura-Con 2012 proved yet again that it is still the biggest anime convention in the Pacific Northwest as well as one of the biggest in the country.  April 6-8, 2012 brought anime, manga, video game, J-Rock, and gothic lolita fans from all over the world to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington.  Cosplayers could be seen all throughout the Seattle area that weekend.

Sakura-Con 2012: Freeway Park

 

The convention once again brought huge names from the anime industry as well as a big concentration of gothic lolita industry guests too.  Some of the Japanese anime industry guests include Masakazu Morita, Michihiko Suwa, Yutaka Minowa, Tateo Retsu, and Kawajiri Yoshiaki.  American anime industry guests this year included: Steve Blum, Todd Haberkorn, Leah Clark, Chris Sabat, and Clarine Harp.  The gothic lolita industry guests this year included: h. NAOTO, Yuko Ashizawa, and Fumiko Kawamura.  Last but not least, the musical guests this year at Sakura-Con were STEREOPONY, Kanon Wakeshima, and Moi dix Mois.  For a list of all of the guests this year, please go to: http://www.sakuracon.org/programming/guests.php

 

 

Steve Blum & Todd Haberkorn

 

Events each year include guest panels (Q&A, and industry panels), concerts from the musical guests, karaoke contests and open mic, 24 hour gaming (arcade, retro and console), fan panels, cosplay contests, cosplay chess, cosplay photo shoots, artist alley, and an enormous exhibition hall where fans can buy almost anything they can dream of when it comes to anime, manga, jpop/jrock, and video games.  This year, there were also gothic lolita fashion shows and a gothic lolita tea party.  There’s always something for everyone at this convention, for first time attendees and those who have been coming for years.

 

Crowd at the Exhibition Hall

 

This year, Sakura-Con also welcomed GoFA (Gallery of Fantastic Art) and they had an amazing exhibit of original art by various artists from the anime, manga and Japanese science fiction genre.  Featured artists included Kosuke Fujishima (Ah! My Goddess), Izumi Matsumoto (Kimagure Orange Road), and Shigeru Mizuki (Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro). I almost got away without buying anything myself this year, but then I saw a limited edition trading card set with art done by Shigeru Mizuki.  The set they had displayed included the full set of cards in a collector’s book and a certificate of authenticity so I was sold.  It’s definitely an amazing find.  Mizuki-san is quite famous in Japan because of his various series involving the paranormal like Akuma Kun and Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro.  His wife wrote a autobiography about her life with him, called Ge Ge Ge no Nyobo, which became a best-seller in Japan and a movie and NHK morning drama serial of the same name followed and was also a huge hit.  The trading cards are his rendition of the famous Tokaido 53 Tsugi (The 53 Stations of the Tokaido) ukiyo-e series done by Hiroshige.  Hiroshige’s work of is well known (if you’ve seen any historical Japanese art at all, you have probably seen his work) and this series of ukiyo-e shows scenes from the 53 stations of Tokaido Road.  Mizuki-san put his own twist on the original art work and instead of humans walking around the 53 stations, there are youkai visiting the various locations.

 

Shigeru Mizuki limited edition trading card collection

 

One of the biggest guests featured this year was definitely Steve Blum, as all of his events had huge lines of fans waiting to get in.  Steve Blum is one of the most well known American anime dub actors and also does voice work for various video games and American cartoons as well.  His roles include Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop, Leeron from Guren Lagann, Mugen from Samurai Champloo, Wolverine from various X-Men TV series, and Leandros from Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  On Friday, he and Todd Haberkorn had a panel, demonstrating exactly how anime dubs are done.  Todd Haberkorn worked on the technical side and Steve Blum did some live dubbing for the crowd.  Some members of the audience also got to try some live dubbing themselves and got to hear what they sound like voicing characters from D. Gray-man.  Steve Blum had a Q&A panel on Saturday that had people waiting in a huge line for hours and on Sunday he had a dubbing for video games panel that also had quite the line.

 

Steve Blum performing live

 

 

Here are some of the guests that I personally had the opportunity to cover this year:

Masakazu Morita

Masakazu Morita

 

Masakazu Morita definitely didn’t get his start in the seiyuu world like most other seiyuu.  Morita-san was born in Tokyo on October 21, 1972.  He was hired as the motion capture actor for Tidus in Final Fantasy X and eventually ended up becoming the voice actor for Tidus as well, which opened the door to the seiyuu business for him.  His most well known roles include (but are not limited to): Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach, Tidus from Final Fantasy X, the second Pegasus Seiya in the later series of Saint SeiyaSaint Seiya Hades Chapter: Inferno, Keiji Maeda from Sengoku Basara, and Barnaby Brooks Jr. in Tiger and Bunny.

 

Masakazu Morita signing a sword for a fan

He is easily one of the busiest seiyuu in the business right now.  So busy, that he was only able to be at Sakura-Con Friday and Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from being super energetic and kind to each and every fan that came to see him at his events.  His events at Sakura-Con included a Q&A panel and autograph signing on Friday, and then a live seiyuu dubbing event and another autograph signing on Saturday.  Both of his signings were full of eager fans and he made sure to greet each one and shake their hands as he signed things for them.  At his Q&A panel, he took an extra fifteen minutes just to make sure everyone who had lined up to ask him a question got to.  He performed a lot of interesting fan requests like saying “I love you, Rukia” as Ichigo and at his live seiyuu event, he even did the “Kamehameha” as Ichigo.  He shared with his fans how he got into the business and how all of his roles seemed to require him to scream quite often.

He was asked at the Q&A if there was anyone who he looked up to in the seiyuu business and he mentioned that one of his heroes was the legendary seiyuu, Tohru Furuya.  Furuya-san has been voice acting since he was a child, and his first major role was Hyuuma Hoshi from Kyojin no Hoshi.  Furuya-san’s credits are extensive, but one that sticks out for me and apparently Morita-san as well is his role as Pegasus Seiya in Saint Seiya.  During the later Saint Seiya OVAs, it was announced that the original seiyuu would be replaced with new ones.  Morita-san got the call to be the new Seiya and he talked about that whole experience and how much it meant to him.

The whole time, he was always full of energy and knew exactly how to entertain the crowd.  At one point, he was asked to do a super hero pose, so he borrowed the sunglasses and jacket that a Barnaby Brooks Jr. cosplayer was wearing, jumped onto his chair and performed a line as Barnaby Brooks Jr.  His manager got video of that and that can be seen here: http://twitvideo.jp/07QPf

He also took a picture with everyone who attended his Q&A session which can be found here: http://twitvideo.jp/07Q81

Morita-san doing a live dub

 

On Saturday, Morita-san had his seiyuu panel where he demonstrated live voice acting.  He performed lines from Bleach, Sengoku Basara, and Final Fantasy X as the crowd watched the footage on screen and we heard his voice live.  During the scene he performed from “Final Fantasy X”, whimpers and other sounds of sadness could be heard from the crowd as he performed the saddest scene from the whole game.

He then took some time to talk about his experiences shooting the motion capture for Final Fantasy X as well as voice acting in general.  Morita-san not only did the motion capture for Tidus, but had to do some of the action scene motion captures for Yuna and Rikku as well.  He finished up with another short Q&A and then had one last autograph signing about an hour later.  That finished up Morita-san’s events at Sakura-Con.  Even though he was here for a short time, they definitely enjoyed him being here.

 

 

 

Michihiko Suwa

Suwa-san

 

This year’s Sakura-Con was extremely lucky in getting the famous anime producer, Michihiko Suwa, as one of the guests.  Being a producer, people may not recognize his name, but will definitely recognize the series he has produced.  His production credits include: City HunterInuyashaYAWARA!, Magic Knight Rayearth, Meitantei Conan, and most recently, Rinne no Lagrange.  Suwa-san was born on April 14, 1959 in Toyota City, Japan.  He joined YTV (Yomiuri Television) in 1983 and directed the variety show, 11 PM and then started producing anime series in 1986, starting with Robotan.

At Sakura-Con, he had a Q&A, a panel on producing anime, casting seiyuu, and an autograph signing.  I was able to make it to his panel regarding casting seiyuu and it was one of the most interesting panels I had been to.  He talked about the seiyuu industry, explaining how many people are actually in the industry, how many people audition every year and how many are actually successful in the business.  He also explained how many seiyuu schools are in Tokyo alone because of the research he had to do for one of his projects called Kami VoiceKami Voice was a live action movie about the road to becoming a seiyuu, and actually starred quite a few famous seiyuu.  The cast includes: Yuuki Kaji, Wataru Hatano, Romi Park, Shoutaro Morikubo, Mayumi Tanaka, and Koichi Yamadera.

Suwa-san & a fan at his signing

 

One of the most entertaining parts of the panel was when he brought out his personal alarm clock, a very original alarm clock because there’s only one in the world.  It played personalized alarms addressed to Suwa-san, all voiced by the seiyuu legend, Akira Kamiya.  The alarms featured the characters: Kogoro Mori from Meitantei Conan, Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, Kinniku-man from Kinniku-man, and Ryo Saeba from City Hunter.

At the end of the panel, he brought out a Meitantei Conan calender and a poster of Rinne no Lagrange and had everyone at the panel participate in a paper, rock, scissors tournament.  The winner got to choose between either of the items and he would sign it on the spot.  The winner chose the calender.  He then gave the poster to Janitha Robinson, who had asked a question a little earlier in the panel in Japanese.  Suwa-san was so impressed with her Japanese, that he wanted to give the signed poster to her.
Almost the same exact crowd that was at the panel showed up to his autograph signing shortly after.  Because the line wasn’t too long, the fans were able to get multiple autographs and pictures with Suwa-san.  Suwa-san took his time with each autograph and at the end of the signing, he had  few who had come to the signing pose with him in a picture doing the “Shinjitsu wa itsumo hitotsu!” pose with him from Meitantei Conan.

 

Janitha Robinson and Michihiko Suwa at his signing

 

It was an incredible honor to meet him.  The one thing that I was disappointed about was the small turnout for the Suwa-san events that I went to.  He is known throughout the industry in Japan and this was an amazing opportunity to meet him.  On the other hand, the loyal 20+ people who showed up got to have a much more personal experience with Suwa-san.

 

 

STEREOPONY

STEREOPONY at their Q&A

 

The all-girl rock band, STEREOPONY rocked the main stage to a packed house on Friday night.  STEREOPONY consists of members Aimi (vocals/lead guitar), Noahana (bass) and Shiho (drums) and the members are all from Okinawa.  Fans were excited and enjoyed the high-energy show and the girls put on an excellent performance.  In November of 2008, they released their first major single, “Hitohira no Hanabira”, which was the 17th ending theme for the anime series, Bleach.  Since then, they have done songs for various anime including Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Yatterman, and Eureka Seven: AO.

Their events at Sakura-Con included a concert, autograph signings, a Q&A panel, pictures with fans, and a raffle.  Their first autograph signing followed their concert and the lines were packed.  Fans that bought a shirt at their merchandise booth had a chance to get a picture with them on Sunday at their booth.  On Saturday, they had a Q&A session where fans got to ask them various questions and they had a little quiz at the end.  Questions asked included if they liked the anime  their songs were used on (in which they replied, “yes”), who their musical influences were and where they would like to tour in the future.  A fan even proposed to Nohana at the event, which she even commented about on her twitter.

 

STEREOPONY at their autograph signing

 

After the Q&A, they had another autograph signing where many enthusiastic fans showed up once again.  The girls were energetic and polite to each one of their fans at both signings.  On Sunday, fans gathered at their booth to get their pictures with them and to see if they won the raffle for a signed poster from the band.

 

 

 

Cherry blossoms

 

Sakura-Con continues to grow each year bringing more fans as well as even more guests from Japan and the US.  This year, the convention decided to only offer the 3-day membership rather than offering the 3-day membership and 1-day passes.  Despite the change in their membership rules, the crowd seemed to be as big as ever.

As the convention grows every year, so does the number of staff they need to run this enormous event.  I would personally like to thank all of the hardworking staff members who put in so much time and work to keep bringing us this amazing event every year.  Even though conflict and confusion happen at huge events like this, the staff works extremely hard each year to keep things running smoothly and address problems that may have occurred at prior events.  Two of their biggest challenges in the past have been the autograph signing lines and the lines at registration.  I believe they did an excellent job handling both of those issues this year.

 

Cosplayer at Sakura-Con

 

For most of the autograph signing sessions this year, they created a system where people could get a priority line ticket for autographs if they attended the guest’s Q&A panel.  I think that this worked extremely well.  That way, the guests would actually have fans at their panels, there wasn’t an issue with people lining up too early, and more people were able to get autographs without too much trouble.  In the past years, they would have to turn away some people towards the end of the allotted time if there were too many people who showed up, but that didn’t seem to be an issue at all this year.  They had two lines for each autograph signing session, had more than one session for most guests, and would hold more than one session at a time.  All these factors made  it possible for a huge number of people to get the autographs they wanted without issue.  At each of the autograph signing sessions I went to, all the fans that showed up were able to get their autographs.

As for registration, it was held in multiple places so it seemed to go much smoother than previous years.  At the end of each convention, con-goers can express their concerns to the staff at a panel and I believe the improvements I’ve seen over the years proves that the staff takes the concerns seriously and do whatever they can to keep improving the con.

 

French Toast

 

Another great addition to the con experience this year was the use of the smartphone app “Guidebook”.  This application allows the user to get the most up-to-date information on convention events and they can set reminders for the various events they want to go to.  There tends to be some changes made to the schedule because of various factors such as guests schedules changing so whenever there was an update to the convention schedule, it showed up immediately on this app.  You could also view events by guests as well so you could make sure you didn’t miss any of the events with your favorite guests.

Great guests, amazing cosplayers, endless amounts of merchandise, and a team of hard-working staff made this year’s Sakura-Con another fantastic success.  Sakura-Con 2013 is scheduled for March 29-31 and I’m very excited to see what they will be bringing us next year.

 

 

Mini Gallery

Cosplayers

 

Hatsune Miku cosplayer

 

Ryuk from Death Note

 

One Piece Group Cosplay

 

Steve Blum

 

Fate Zero Cosplayers

 

Briareos from Appleseed

 

Mario Kart

 

For all of the pictures I took at Sakura-Con 2012, check out my Flickr album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28410146@N06/sets/72157629966634123/

For my Facebook photos for Sakura-Con 2012, go here: Michelle’s Sakura-Con 2012 Facebook Gallery

 

Links

Sakura-Con

Sakura-Con 2012: www.sakuracon.org
Sakura-Con 2012 Guests: http://www.sakuracon.org/programming/guests.php
Sakura-Con History: http://www.sakuracon.org/aboutus/history.php
GoFA: http://www.gofa.co.jp/

Michihiko Suwa

Michihiko Suwa’s Blog: http://www.ytv.co.jp/anime/suwa/suwa_main.html
Michihiko Suwa’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/suwacchi
Meitantei Conan Homepage: http://www.ytv.co.jp/conan/
Rinne no Raguranje Homepage: http://lag-rin.com/
Kami Voice Homepage: http://kamivoice.com/

Masakazu Morita

Aoni Production Profile: http://www.aoni.co.jp/actor/ma/morita-masakazu.html
Masakazu Morita’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/edokko_dey

STEREOPONY

Homepage: www.stereopony.com/
US Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/STEREOPONY_US
SHIHO Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Stereo_SHIHO
Nohana Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/stepo_nohana
STEREOPONY’s blog: http://ameblo.jp/official-stereopony/

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Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2 (A J!-Ent Anime DVD Review)

September 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“”Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2″ is the second to last volume of the series and the most exciting yet. The many secrets that filled the series are finally revealed in this volume. A must see!”

Image courtesy of © Matsuri Hino, Hakusensha/Vampire Knight Project, Studio Deen, VIZ, All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2

DURATION: 100 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 WIDESCREEN, JAPANESE & ENGLISH STEREO

COMPANY: VIZ

RATED: 16+

Release Date: May 17 2011

Original Manga by Matsuri Hino

Directed by Kiyoko Sayama

Music by Hozumi Goda

Art Direction by Kazuhiro Ito

Character Designs by Asako Nishida

Produced by VAMPIRE KNIGHT PROJECT

 

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Horie/Mela Lee as Yuki Cross

Mamoru Miyano/Vic Mignogna as Zero Kiryu/Ichiru Kiryu

Daisuke Kishio/Ethan Murray as Kaname Kuran

Hozumi Goda/Christopher Corey as Kaien Cross

Junichi Suwabe/Troy Baker as Akatsuki Kain

Jun Fukuyama/Bryce Papenbrook as Hanabusa Aido

Junko Minagawa/Dorothy Elias-Fahn as Ruka Souen

Susumu Chiba/Spike Spencer as Takuma Ichijo

Souichiro Hoshi/Steve Staley as Senri Shiki

Eri Kitamura/Carrie Savage as Rima Touya

Hiroki Yasumoto/Travis Willingham as Toga Yagari

Risa Mizuno/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Seiren

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh as Sayori Wakaba

Mariko Kouda/Michelle Ruff as Juri Kuran

Hirofumi Nojima/Tony Oliver as Haruka Kuran

Tarusuke Shingaki/Patrick Seitz as Rido Kuran

Fumiko Orikasa/Wendee Lee as Shizuka Hio

Continually haunted by visions of blood, Yuki is determined to discover the secrets of her past, but Kaname repeatedly evades her questions. Zero confronts Kaname at the Moon Dormitory, and the two end up fighting. Then Kaname advances his relationship with Yuki to an entirely new level, which has the members of the Night Class in a bit of a tizzy. But Yuki’s dreams only intensify – will her past be forced into the light at last?

“Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2” contains episodes 5-8 of the second season of the popular anime series by Matsuri Hino. Many secrets surround the students of both the Day and Night Classes of Cross Academy, and many of them get revealed in this volume. Yuki is haunted by nightmares where she and her surroundings are covered in blood. Soon she starts seeing these visions when she’s not asleep.  Meanwhile Ichiru Kiryu enrolls into Cross Academy, with full intention of killing those who he believes is responsible for Shizuka Hio’s death, even his own twin brother, Zero.  The school gets one more visitor, Rido Kuran, Kaname’s uncle who seems to be after something Kaname has been protecting from him for years…

 

“Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2” focuses on the following main characters:

Yuki Cross – Yuki Cross is one of the main characters of the series. She is a member of the Day Class and is one of the members of the Disciplinary Committee in charge of keeping the Day and Night Classes separate. She is cute and clumsy despite being a member of the Disciplinary Committee. Yuki is the headmaster’s daughter and one of the only ones that knows the identity of the Night Class. Her earliest memory is of her about to be attacked by a vampire but being saved by Kaname Kuran. She has very strong feelings for Kaname Kuran but she also deeply cares about Zero, but more as a best friend. In this volume, she is constantly haunted by terrifying nightmares where everything around her is covered in blood. She gets much closer to Kaname in this volume and is finally able to unlock her mysterious past… but what is revealed may destroy her relationship with Zero.

Zero Kiryu – Zero is a member of the Day Class. He is also a member of the Disciplinary Committee with Yuki. The headmaster brought him in four years ago after his parents were killed by a vicious vampire. Because of that fact, he hates vampires and clashes with the members of the Night Class quite a bit. He is rather cool and sarcastic, but can manage to drop a few jokes with Yuki, who he’s rather close to. Despite being a hunter who hates vampires, ironically because he was bitten as a child, he is a vampire himself.  Over the course of the series, Yuki and Zero have gotten closer… but something that happens in this volume may change their relationship once and for all.

Kaname Kuran – Kaname is a member of the Night Class. He is the leader and the most powerful out of the Night Class. He saved Yuki from a vampire when she was a child and is even still very protective towards her. He has very strong feelings for Yuki even though she’s rather oblivious to that fact. For the most part, he keeps the other vampires out of trouble and is the one who helped establish this school with Kaien Cross. There is a lot revealed about Kaname’s past in this volume and what happened to his parents. His relationship with Yuki and her past is also revealed and exactly how much he really cares for her.

Kaien Cross – Kaien is Yuki’s father as well as Zero’s adoptive father. He is the headmaster of Cross Academy and a former vampire hunter. He opened Cross Academy in hopes to bring peace between humans and vampires. His personality for the most part is rather eccentric. In this volume, it becomes a bit more apparent why he gave up hunting in this volume.

Akatsuki Kain – Akatsuki is a member of the Night Class. He is a pretty calm and loyal vampire who seems to always get in trouble only because he’s around his cousin, Hanabusa who causes trouble. He never loses his temper and seems to have insight on all of his friends and their feelings.

Hanabusa Aido – Hanabusa is a member of the Night Class. He is considered an idol (which is also a pun off of his name) by the girls of the Day Class. He is cute like a child but can be very jealous and throws tantrums just like a child would as well. He is very protective of Kaname and gets jealous of anyone that gets too close to him. He is Akatsuki’s cousin.

Ruka Souen – Ruka is a member of the Night Class. She is sophisticated and beautiful and she is the idol of males of the Day Class. She has very strong feelings for Kaname.

Takuma Ichijo – Takuma is a member of the Night Class. He is from an aristocratic family and is one of Kaname’s closest friends. He is rather cheerful and friendly unlike most other vampires.

Senri Shiki – Senri is a member of the Night Class. He rarely speaks and when he does, it’s usually a single sentence. He works as a model with Rima. In this volume, we get to see a bit more out of Senri and we find out a lot more about his family.

Rima Touya – Rima is a member of the Night Class. She is petite and pixie-like and works as a model with Senri. Also like Senri, she doesn’t speak very much and is not very energetic.

Toga Yagari – Yagari is a renowned vampire hunter and is sent to Cross Academy by the Hunter Association to see if everything is running as it should be. He is also Zero’s mentor as a vampire hunter from when he was younger. He saved Zero from a Level E vampire (humans that were bitten by vampires who turned into violent monsters that thirst for blood) which resulted in him losing his right eye. Despite being ruthless in killing vampires and knowing about Zero’s situation, he still seems to have hope in him.

Seiren – Seiren is another member of the Night Class and Kaname’s unofficial bodyguard.

Sayori Wakaba – Sayori is a member of the Day Class as well as Yuki’s best friend and dorm-mate. She is kind and always worries about her best friend.

Ichiru Kiryu – Ichiru is the younger twin brother to Zero. Years ago when Shizuka killed their parents, she turned Zero into a vampire and took Ichiru. Since then, he had been serving her until her death. Even before he was taken by Shizuka, he had always held a strong grudge against Zero. Ichiru was a sickly child and even though Zero and his parents loved him very much, he always felt inferior and slowly that overwhelming love just made him resent them even more. Despite being with Shizuka, he is still human which is another reason he hates Zero. Despite being reunited with his brother, the only thing on his mind is to avenge Shizuka’s death and kill anyone who he thinks is involved, including Zero.

Juri Kuran – Juri Kuran is a pure blood vampire, Kaname’s mother, Haruka’s wife and sister, and the sister of Rido. She was also very close to Kaien and was the reason he stopped hunting. She died when Kaname was younger along with her husband.

Haruka Kuran – Haruka Kuran is a pure blood vampire, Kaname’s father, Juri’s husband and brother, and the brother of Rido. He died when Kaname was younger along with Juri.

Rido Kuran – Rido is a pure blood vampire, the brother of Juri and Haruka Kuran, Uncle to Kaname Kuran and the father of Senri Shiki. He appears at Cross Academy looking for something he wasn’t able to obtain from Juri and Haruka Kuran at the time of their death, something that is very precious to Kaname.

Shizuka Hio – Shizuka is the pure blood vampire that killed Zero and Ichiru’s parents and turned Zero into a vampire.

“Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2” features a total of 4 episodes on one DVD. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

Volume 2:

  • Episode 5- The Subordinate’s Trap – Cross Academy gets a new student: Zero’s twin brother, Ichiru.
  • Episode 6- Fake Lovers – Yuki and Kaname are supposedly a couple now, but they seem to have completely different ideas about their relationship…
  • Episode 7- Kiss of Thorns – Senri comes back to Cross Academy, but seems like a totally different person…
  • Episode 8- Spiraling Recollections – Yuki’s true past is finally revealed.

VIDEO & AUDIO

“Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2” is presented in 16:9 and audio options include both Japanese and English. Just like the rest of the series, the art in this volume is pretty but the character designs are indeed Shojo so that may attract or detract viewers. But overall, the art is great and the animation is smooth and backgrounds look great. Everyone is very pretty in this series.

Throughout the series, the Japanese cast as well as the American cast both do a wonderful job.  All of the voices seem fitting and don’t seem out of place. The Japanese cast includes big names like Yui Horie, Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Kishio, Jun Fukuyama, and many others. The American cast is also full of big name voice actors including Mela Lee, Ethan Murray, Vic Mignogna, Troy Baker, Stephanie Sheh, and others.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The only special features available on the discs are Viz Trailers and DVD Credits.

Drama, angst, revenge, and questionable relationships sum up this volume of “Vampire Knight Guilty”.  If you love soap operas, then you’ll love this series and particularly this volume.  Secret pasts revealed, plot twists, revenge, love triangles… (Maybe even love squares): all happen.

The main event that happens in this volume is Yuki’s mysterious past is finally revealed and that throws her relationships with Kaname and Zero into a tailspin… This is the exciting volume where everything changes.

I won’t reveal the big secret in my review, but if you’re watching this volume before any other volume: stop.  Nothing will make sense and too much has happened in the story. “Vampire Knight Guilty” is the second season and prior to the four episodes in this season, there are thirteen episodes in season one.  This volume starts off seventeen episodes into the whole series.  This series is very story driven and for the most part the story is linear, so it’s not a series you can pick up a random volume to start watching.  Not to mention there are a lot of main characters to keep track of and this particular volume reveals one of the biggest secrets of the series.  If you have been watching the series, this is the volume you want to watch.

The “Vampire Knight” series pretty much has non-stop drama.  The whole story is rather dramatic and serious, so I am very happy that they have the breaks with the funny little moments, which I probably enjoy the most out this series.  There are a lot of great characters as well and they vary in types so most viewers can find at least one character they like and or can relate to.  I personally like the banter between Yuki and Aidou as well as the moments where Zero, who is usually rather serious, can have a silly moment.

The target audience for this series will probably be mostly girls, considering it’s full of drama, angst, romance, and pretty vampire boys… (of course guys can like that too) the series does have some action in it, but this particular volume is full of drama.

This was also a very big character development volume.  Yuki’s past is revealed, bringing much more depth to her character.  Kaname’s past is revealed a bit more and we get to see more of exactly who he is and what exactly Yuki means to him.  Zero’s self-loathing continues in this volume, but seems better when he is with Yuki… until her secret is revealed.  Ichiru… still hates his brother (as well as pretty much everyone else), and is still annoying.  On the other hand, one thing I enjoyed a lot was the fact that we got to see a little more of the background characters like Senri and Rima, instead of them just being in the background all of the time.  They are two of my favorite characters so it was nice to see them get a little more spotlight.

As I’ve mentioned, this volume is exciting story wise, but brings to light some very, very questionable relationships among the pure blood vampire folk… I know that there are some Shojo manga series fans that LOVE this kind of stuff… but it might be a little too much for me.  With that being said, if you are looking for a series full of pretty vampire men, messy love triangles, angst, revenge, drama… congratulations!  You have found the perfect series for you.  If you’re not looking for any of the above, this series does offer some action and quite a bit of comedy too, and the funny parts are truly funny, but the other themes are still much stronger and may be too much for some.

This volume is the final step before the conclusion of the anime series, so most of the secrets throughout the series get answered in this volume so if you have been watching the series up until this point, it’s very exciting. If you have not seen the rest of the series up to this point or know nothing about the series, I emphasize again that this volume will be confusing and full of spoilers so I definitely recommend watching the rest of the series first.

Team Kaname or Team Zero: one of them definitely takes the lead in this volume and you’ll have to watch to see which one it is.  All of your questions will be answered in this volume.  Be sure to pick up this climactic volume leading up to the exciting conclusion!


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Kekkaishi DVD Set 1 (a J!-Ent Anime DVD Review)

September 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kekkaishi Set 1″ is the first DVD collection from a fun, supernatural action series for all ages.”

Image courtesy of © Yellow Tanabe/Shogakukan, Yomiuri TV, Sunrise, VIZ, All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Kekkaishi Set 1

DURATION: 325 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 WIDESCREEN, JAPANESE & ENGLISH STEREO

COMPANY: VIZ

RATED: 13+

Release Date: June 21, 2011

Original Manga by Yellow Tanabe

Directed by Kenji Kodama

Music by Taku Iwasaki

Art Direction Shigemi Ikeda

Character Design by Hirotoshi Takaya

Produced by Koji Nagai/Naohiro Ogata

 

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Vic Mignogna as Yoshimori Sumimura

Rie Saito/Laura Bailey as Tokine Yukimura

Takeharu Oonishi/Troy Baker as Madarao

Masanori Ishii/Wally Wingert as Hakubi

Yohei Tadano/David Lodge as Shigemori Sumimura

Mayumi Tanaka/Barbara Goodson as Tokiko Yukimura

Saya Kazuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Yurina Kanda

Houko Kuwashima/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Yomi Kasuga

Kouichi Touchika/Tom Fahn as Patissier

Masako Nozawa/Mona Marshall as Mother-san

Atsushi Miyauchi/Patrick Seitz as Masamori Sumimura

Yoshimori Sumimura is a 14-year-old student at Karasumori School. Following a tradition come down through generations, he is the 22nd Kekkaishi of the Sumimura clan. But he’s also constantly fighting with his rival, Tokine Yukimura – a Kekkaishi herself and his childhood friend – about who is the rightful heir to the magical barrier arts. Protecting people from danger and growing stronger, Yoshimori will battle the forces of evil and protect the school grounds again tonight!

“Kekkaishi” follows the adventures of Yoshimori Sumimura and Tokine Yukimura, two young Kekkaishi who are normal junior high and high school students by day, and guardians against the supernatural by night. Their families have been Kekkaishi for generations and they are the latest in both families.  Kekkaishi have magical powers to form barriers (kekkai) around ghosts and demons (ayakashi) and can trap them and vanquish them if needed.

Their school happens to be in Karasumori, where various supernatural beings show up at night so it is their duty to keep the area safe. Because of this, Yoshimori can be found asleep in class most of the time. The Sumimuras and Yukimuras are somewhat rival clans, but Yoshimori and Tokine grew up together both as friends and rivals. Tokine is the older of the two and much more skilled and serious. Yoshimori is quicker to act than think which usually gets him in trouble. He is less technical, buy possesses the power and potential to become stronger. They share a brother/sister type of relationship, but Yoshimori’s feelings for Tokine may be stronger than she may realize…

 

“Kekkaishi Set 1” focuses on the following main characters:

Yoshimori Sumimura – Yoshimori is a young Kekkaishi and the main character of the series. He is currently a junior high school student at Karasumori Academy. He is slightly clumsy and in general likes to act before he thinks. Tokine is his childhood friend and fellow Kekkaishi. They both go to school and live normal lives during the day and then protect Karasumori at night from any ghosts or ayakashi, resulting in him to sleep in class all the time. When they were younger, he was saved by Tokine when they were fighting an ayakashi resulting in her getting hurt. Since then, he swore that he would protect Tokine no matter what and to make sure no one got hurt in Karasumori again. His hobby is making sweets and his dream is to one day make the perfect candy castle for Tokine.

Tokine Yukimura – Tokine is another Kekkaishi and childhood friend of Yoshimori. She is slightly older than Yoshimori and the more serious of the two. She somewhat sees Yoshimori as a younger brother as well as a pest, asking him to keep his distance from her while they’re at school. When she was younger, she lost her father and at times, that still affects her. Just like Yoshimori, she spends her days attending Karasumori Academy and spends her nights as a Kekkaishi guarding Karasumori from evil. Despite feeling like Yoshimori is a pest at times, she still cares for him and sees his potential to become stronger and hopes that he sees it himself one day.

Madarao – Madarao is the ayakashi dog companion that serves Yoshimori.

Hakubi – Hakubi is the ayakashi dog companion that serves Tokine.

Shigemori Sumimura – Shigemori is Yoshimori’s grandfather and the head of the Sumimura household. He is quite loud and obnoxious, but takes his job as a Kekkaishi seriously.

Tokiko Yukimura – Tokiko is the head of the Yukimura household and Tokine’s grandmother. She is a colleague of Shigemori, however she seems to have some scorn towards the Sumimura family because of things that happened in the past.

Yurina Kanda – Yurina for the most part is just a normal girl that is in Yoshimori’s class; what makes her different is the fact that she can see ghosts. She relies on Yoshimori whenever she sees ghosts since she can’t do anything herself and she’s not able to tell the difference between a human and a ghost.

Yomi Kasuga – Yomi is a demon tamer from The Shadow Organization that is taken into the Yukimura household for a short while. She seems to have worked with Tokine’s father in the past and seems to be hiding something…

Patissier – The Patissier is a friendly ghost that had no idea that he was dead until Yoshimori befriends him.

Yumeko Hananokouji/Mother-san – Mother-san is a kind woman that acts as a counselor to spirits that haven’t passed on yet. Yoshimori always refers ghosts to her to get advice.

Masamori Sumimura – Masamori is Yoshimori’s older brother who is affiliated with the Shadow Organization.

“Kekkaishi Set One” features a total of 13 episodes on three DVDs. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • Episode 1- Scars – Yoshimori gets a harsh wake-up call concerning his duties at a young age.
  • Episode 2- Yoshimori & Tokine – Yoshimori and Tokine have to balance being students by day and Kekkaishi by night.
  • Episode 3- The Beautiful Demon Tamer – The Yukimura house gets a visitor named Yomi, but she seems to have some secret.
  • Episode 4- Her Treasure – Yomi may lose the one thing she treasures because of decisions she made.

DISC 2:

  • Episode 5- The Sweet Ghost – Yoshimori runs into a friendly Patissier ghost who has no idea he died.
  • Episode 6- Night Blooms of Karasumori – Yoshimori’s classmates try to sneak into the Karasumori Academy grounds at night, not knowing the dangers.
  • Episode 7- The Best Cake in the World – Yoshimori tries to help the Patissier to move onto the next world.
  • Episode 8- A Day in the Life of Yoshimori – Yoshimori tries to become a better Kekkaishi.

DISC 3:

  • Episode 9- A Dangerous Teacher – A dangerous teacher lurks in Karasumori Academy.
  • Episode 10- Shikigami Chocolate Battle – Yoshimori uses shikigami to try to get the legendary chocolate cake…
  • Episode 11- Koya & Madarao – Something from Madarao’s past comes back to visit.
  • Episode 12- Sealing the Demon Dog – Madarao and Koya settle things.
  • Episode 13- Masamori Sumimura Chief of the Night Troops – Masamori, Yoshimori’s older brother, appears.

VIDEO & AUDIO

“Kekkaishi Set 1” is presented in 16:9 and audio options include both Japanese and English.  “Kekkaishi” is still a fairly new anime so all the animation looks great. There’s a bit of CG included with all of the kekkai being used in the series. The animation looks like what you would expect to see in a recent anime and it looks nice, but I don’t think anything makes it stand out from other recent anime.

The Japanese and English voice acting is both great and both casts are full of notable voice actors. The Japanese cast includes Hiroyuki Yoshino, Rie Kugimiya, Mayumi Tanaka, and Masako Nozawa. The English cast includes Vic Mignogna, Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Barbara Goodson, and Colleen O’Shaughnessey.  Jpop fans will probably enjoy the ending theme that is sung by Koshi Inaba from B’z as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Special features included in this DVD set are: Production Art, Episode 11 & 12 Storyboard Art, Clean Opening, Clean Ending, Japanese Cast Credits, Kekkaishi Trailer and other VIZ trailers.

“Kekkaishi” is a fun action-packed series dealing with the supernatural. The anime is a total of 52 episodes and this set contains the first 13 episodes of the series.

The target audience would be teenage boys or guys in general, but I think that this series is one that a broad audience can enjoy. The rating is 13+, but I think younger kids could enjoy this too. There is some blood and violence, but nothing too extreme so far. The humor as well as the relationship between Yoshimori and Tokine could appeal to a female audience as well.

Like many other action series to come from Shonen manga, they do well with mixing action and humor together.  I think so far the strongest element in this series for me is the comedy aspect of the series.  The interaction between Yoshimori and Tokine is fun to watch but so far my favorite characters in the series are actually their companion ayakashi, Madarao and Hakubi.  The comments that come out of their mouths are some of the best that I’ve seen so far.

Kekkaishi is a fun series, but at this point in the show, I don’t see anything particularly unique to set it apart from other shonen action/comedy series. That’s not exactly a bad thing; people who enjoy Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday series will probably enjoy this as well. I definitely did. I think people who enjoy “Inuyasha” and or “Bleach” will particularly enjoy this show.

I do enjoy the series so far, but because I have seen so many Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday series, I would like to see a little more development as the series goes along. I am aware that it’s still very early in the series so there’s plenty of opportunity for more plot development and so far the series is interesting enough to keep the audience wanting to know what happens next. Another minor con I found in this series is a bit more personal: I’m not the biggest fan of the character designs. The character designs aren’t the worst I’ve seen, it’s just not my favorite.

Supernatural, funny, and full of action: “Kekkaishi” is bound to entertain a huge audience. If you enjoy shows like “Inuyasha” or “Bleach”, anything supernatural or other Shonen series, definitely check this series out.


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NKOTBSB by Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

July 27, 2011 by · Comments Off on NKOTBSB by Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles) 

Article and concert photos by: Michelle Tymon

Screams of women in their twenties and thirties (as well as some teenagers) can be heard all across North America right now as NKOTBSB hits 48 cities in 53 dates on their huge North American tour across the US and Canada.  The tour started on May 25th 2011 in Rosemont, IL and is scheduled to wrap up on August 7th 2011 in London, Ontario, Canada.  I personally went to the sold out show on July 8th 2011 in Tacoma, WA and NKOTB and BSB fans alike were able to relive their precious memories from ten and even twenty years ago.

For those who may not know what NKOTBSB is, it is the boy band supergroup combining the biggest boy band from the ’80s, the New Kids on the Block (NKOTB), and one of the biggest boy bands of the 90’s and early 2000’s, the Backstreet Boys (BSB).  Both groups experienced quite a bit of success back in the day and were able to relive it through this tour.  Even though the Backstreet Boys never broke up, the New Kids on the Block broke up in 1994 and members pursued their own careers for a while.

The New Kids on the Block were the biggest thing in the US in the late ’80’s and early ’90s.  They were not the first boy band around however they were pretty much the first ones to be formed with the “boy band formula” in mind (In which you have the cute one, the quiet one, the rebellious one and at least two of them related if possible).

In the mid 90’s, their popularity started to fade and Jonathan Knight left the group due to panic attacks and anxiety issues, resulting in the rest of the group to disband as well.  Around 1999 and 2000, both Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre had best selling singles due to boy bands and pop music making a huge come back around that time.  Donnie Wahlberg, like his younger brother Mark Wahlberg, had made a name for himself as an accomplished actor since the 90’s, acting in movies like “Ransom”, “The Sixth Sense”, three of the “Saw” movies (Saw II-IV), and TV series like “Boomtown” and most recently as the lead role in the CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods”.

Over the years, there were numerous attempts at getting the group back together but finally in 2008, the boy band reunited and released a new album called “The Block” and had the popular singles, “Summertime”, as well as “Single”, which was written and featured R&B singer Ne-Yo.  The album itself had many huge collaborators including Ne-Yo, Akon, The Pussycat Dolls, New Edition, and Lady Gaga who also opened for them on that tour.  Since then, each member continues their own careers while also working with the group.

 

 

The Backstreet Boys hit it big in Europe before they were big in their home, the US.  They finally started getting recognized at home in the late 90’s with singles like “As Long as You Love Me” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, but they blew up with their single “I Want it That Way” from their biggest selling album, “Millennium”.  A very big and successful tour went with that album and soon after they followed up with their next album, “Black and Blue”, which did very well and they led the pop revolution at the time with *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera.

The Backstreet Boys have each pursued personal endeavors while still being together as a group but did hit some hard times along the way.  In 2001, AJ McLean was admitted into rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, which caused rescheduling and cancellations of dates on their huge “Black and Blue” tour.  In 2002, Nick Carter released his first solo album, “Now or Never” and for the next three years, the Boys took a slight hiatus to do various things.  In 2005, they released their last studio album with all five members called “Never Gone”.

In 2006, Kevin Richardson left the group to pursue other endeavors but has come back on occasion to perform with the other four, last year on Oprah for one of their super fans and most recently, he made an appearance at the Staples Center NKOTBSB show in LA and performed “I Want it That Way” with the other four members.  Since Kevin’s departure, they released two albums “Unbreakable” and “This is Us”.  Brian Littrell released a solo album in 2006 called “Welcome Home”, AJ McLean released a solo album in Japan called “Have it All” in 2010, Nick Carter released a second solo album called “I’m Taking Off” which was released first in Japan and later in the US in 2011, and Howie D. is releasing his own solo album in 2011 as well.

 

 

In 2010, there were rumors that the two groups were possibly planning to work together, especially when the Backstreet Boys showed up at NKOTB’s last show of their 2010 tour while they performed “I Want it That Way”.  The rumors were confirmed shortly before the American Music Awards where they first performed together for the first time and performed a medley of hit songs from both groups. They next performed at the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and announced on the Ryan Seacrest show that they would be touring in 2011.  In April 2011, they released their first single together called “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” and did a few more TV performances together on “Dancing with the Stars” and the “Today Show”, performing that single.

Their tour kicked off in May 25, 2011 and since the tour started, they have had a handful of opening acts including Ashlyne Huff, Jordin Sparks, Midnight Red, Neverest, and even Matthew Morrison from the TV show “Glee”.  Tickets for the show definitely were not cheap ($100+ for most of the seats), but at the same time it wasn’t a bad price considering the set was very long and the crowd was technically seeing two different headliners.  After seeing the show personally, I definitely had no regrets with the ticket costs.

 

Set List:

Medley: “Single” / “The One”
“Summertime”
“The Call
“Dirty Dancing”
“Get Down (You’re the One for Me)”
“You Got It (The Right Stuff)”
“Larger Than Life”
“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
“Valentine Girl”
“If You Go Away”
“Please Don’t Go Girl”
“Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”
“10,000 Promises”
“I’ll Never Break Your Heart”
“Inconsolable”
“Drowning”
“Incomplete”
“Step By Step”
“Cover Girl”
“My Favorite Girl”
“Games”
“Click Click Click”
“Tonight”
“Shape of My Heart”
“As Long As You Love Me”
“All I Have to Give”
“If You Stay”
“Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”
“I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)”
“I Want It That Way”
“Don’t Turn Out the Lights”
Encore
“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”
“Hangin’ Tough”
Medley: “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” / “Hangin’ Tough” (Reprise)

Both groups seem to understand that the opening of the show can set how excited the crowd will be for the rest of the show.  The concert starts with huge images of the nine guys being projected onto a huge white curtain in the middle of the main stage.  The curtain drops and the nine are standing on an elevated part of the stage.  The stage slowly lowers and they open their show with a mash-up of their singles, “Single” and “The One” remixed together with elements from “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay.

 

One of my biggest surprises was how well they made use of the stage setup.  The stage was set up with a main stage, a catwalk, and then another stage at the end of the cat walk.  It’s not the first time I’ve been to a show that had a catwalk and or a second stage, but usually most of the performance tends to stay on the main stage up front.  From their first song, they started making their way down the catwalk and interacting with the fans, walking and dancing across constantly and performing on both stages and the catwalk equally.

After the first song, they separated into group performances alternating back and forth.  NKOTB started off with “Summertime” and BSB started off with “The Call”.  In the middle of the show as well as at the end of the show, they came back together to perform together as one big unit.  The balance of slow and fast songs for both groups seemed pretty equal and despite their ages (averaging from the mid thirties to early forties) both groups danced quite a bit.  The song selections for both groups revolved around all their biggest hits like “Please Don’t Go Girl” and “Hangin’ Tough” by NKOTB and BSB sang songs like “I Want it That Way” and “As Long as You Love Me”.

 

While NKOTB’s songs were mostly regularly performed songs, the BSB performed a couple of rare songs.  They performed “Get Down (You’re the One For Me)” from their first album and performed the dance on the circular second stage which was probably nostalgic and fun for fans who remember the music video.  Possibly the biggest surprise for BSB fans was the fact that they sang “10,000 Promises”, as it was a song released on their second international album, “Backstreet’s Back” and was never released in the US, but was still a huge fan favorite.  Though it is possible to see them perform this song live on a couple of their DVDs, this was the first time they performed it live on tour in the US and fans definitely enjoyed it.  NKOTB kept their song selection pretty mixed with old and new songs, while BSB concentrated much more on their older songs and didn’t perform any songs from their newest album from 2009.

Even though a lot of their dances can be considered rather dated now, the New Kids performed a lot of their original dance steps which fans still seemed to love and danced along.  Of course they did update some of their old dance moves as well as perform much more modern choreography for all of their new songs.  The Backstreet Boys did the same and kept much of their old choreography, but added a new twist to keep things a little new.

 

The Backstreet Boys haven’t changed too much other than the fact that they are now a quartet rather than a quintet.  I first saw them back in 1998 at Key Arena in Seattle and ever since then, I’ve been a fan.  I’ve gone to each tour that followed and watched the group grow, and even had to chance to meet all of the guys at least once.

As much as I really do appreciate their music, dancing and performances, I think the factor that solidified my adoration for them was the fact that every personal encounter I had with them was a positive one.  Both groups understand that the biggest reason they’re still performing to such big crowds is the fact that their fans from years ago still adore them and neither group seems to take that for granted.

Brian is always joking around, making silly faces and constantly waving to people in the crowd.  Howie is charming his fans with his smile and his Latin charm.  AJ McLean is forever the bad boy, gaining at least one more tattoo every single time I see him and is still my favorite.  Nick Carter still has that baby face and cuteness that gained him so many fans over ten years ago; he just looks a little older now and since he is the youngest out of the nine, he definitely had the most energy throughout the show.

I was never that big of a fan of New Kids (however that seems to be changing gradually after this show).  I was about eight when I first heard them and I really liked them for a short while, until I got into grunge and heavy metal music.  Shortly after that, they broke up.  It’s entertaining to hear the song “Please Don’t Go Girl” because there’s such a noticeable difference from the original song and it being sung now by Joey McIntyre because he’s very much an adult now and doesn’t have such a high pitched voice anymore.  Jonathan Knight didn’t talk at all during the show, but he performed all out.

Seeing him live in person, it would be hard to imagine that he has any anxiety issues.  Jordan still hasn’t lost his touch and could still sing all his falsetto parts.  Danny was very… muscular.  As he and Jonathan don’t sing that much, honestly the first thing that is most memorable about him for me was the fact that he is ridiculously fit.  Donnie kept the crowd hyped up constantly throughout the show, whether it was getting the crowd to sing along or providing fan service.

 

Fan service is a given at boy band shows… and NKOTB definitely had plenty of that, overall probably much more than BSB.   They performed suggestive songs,  performed suggestive moves, and Donnie Wahlberg tore off his shirt at one point in the show and walked around for a while shirtless (this was very effective in getting the crowd hyped up).  All of which of course was welcomed by happy screams throughout the venue.  Eye candy is definitely a big part of these shows, but thankfully it’s not the only factor.  Despite the negative views they may get, all of them are very talented vocalists who also know how to entertain a crowd.

One of the biggest things that was noticeable in their show is how big fan interaction was to both groups.  As I mentioned earlier, there was a main stage, a catwalk, and a second stage at the end of the catwalk.  Both stages also had the ability to rise up about 6-8 feet so the fans higher up could see them.  Jumbo tron screens were also at the shows so no matter where people were sitting, they could see what was going on. There was not a bad seat on the floor as they made sure to move back and forth constantly starting from the first song throughout the show.

 


Not wanting to leave out the fans who were in the risers, NKOTB went up into the crowds from the catwalk all the way up to the top of the risers.  Backstreet Boys did the opposite and made their way down from the risers back down to the catwalk and at our show, Brian Littrell got lost in the crowd for a while and was not able to return on time.  Both groups made sure to shake hands with fans, take photos, and give out hugs all the way through their way into the crowds (all this while still singing).  This takes a lot of guts; both groups threw themselves into a crowd of women who have been dying to get close to them, even now.

Yet they still did it and so far there seems to have been only a few injuries and mishaps.  Another part of the fan interaction was when the Backstreet Boys each selected an audience member to be serenaded to personally during the song “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” on the catwalk.

Not keeping the shows completely routine, they have been adding random surprises throughout various dates of the shows.  As  mentioned earlier, Kevin Richardson showed up at the Staples Center show on July 1st, Howie D’s baby made an appearance on stage at my show in Tacoma, and most recently and possibly the biggest surprise yet, Boyz II Men performed with NKOTBSB at Backstreet’s homecoming show in Orlando, July 22nd.

During the group member introductions, Backstreet members introduced their NKOTB counterparts and vice versa.  I think the fan interaction as well as the interaction between the two groups made a lot of BSB fans into NKOTB fans as well as NKOTB fans into BSB fans.  Of course there are people who are fans of both but there were definitely people there who were die-hard fans of one group over the other.  I was expecting there to be much more of a division in fans, but all throughout the show, no matter what group was performing, everyone was up out of their seats having fun.

 

The show leads into it’s finale as they perform the single, “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” together.  Both groups come back out one last time for their encore of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Hangin’ Tough” and then finally they end the show with a mash-up of those two songs.  By the end of the show, fans are left with feelings of excitement, happiness and probably wishing the show didn’t end.

Nostalgia and something new, fans get to enjoy the best of both worlds in this unforgettable concert.  It’s definitely a night fans will not forget and considering how well the tour is going, the two groups might want to consider further collaborations with each other.  Maybe a full length album and hopefully another tour?  Even though that might prove difficult because all nine of them have their own personal careers as well as group projects but it’s something I, as well as many, many other fans hope they will consider.

Another nice touch even after the show is over, is the fact that members of both groups are very active on Twitter and constantly posting tidbits from each show, as well as videos and photos.  Out of both group combined, the one that tweets the most is probably Donnie Wahlberg.  He not only tweets the most, but follows over 3,000 people and is constantly replying to his fans.  Interactions like this are greatly appreciated and also helps with gaining more fans.

 

So what were the cons of the show?  Honestly, I don’t have much to rant about.  The show was a bit pricey, but I thought it was well worth the price after seeing the show.  The cheesiness factor of the old boy band songs and cheesy choreography can be negative… but most of the people going to these shows are going to specifically see that and that makes them happy.

I believe that music can help with expressing various emotions.  The biggest reason fans go to concerts like this is to have fun, be entertained, and be happy.  I believe that most, if not everyone who went to the show, left feeling that.  I certainly did.

No matter what, there will always be some negativity surrounding “boy bands” and manufactured groups.  But each time I go to shows like this, I’m reminded that they are all very talented vocalists, dancers, and performers.

There was no lip synching involved; they all sang live (even made a couple of small mistakes), they had a live band, they danced, they interacted with fans throughout the show… and they had fun.  They know how to put on a great show and fans leave the show extremely happy.

Despite the negative stigma put on pop music and boy bands, I personally don’t see anything wrong with shows like this after seeing thousands of people having so much fun and being so happy to see groups they grew up with live again.

My expectations for the show were not exactly low, but this concert far exceeded my expectations.  I went in expecting only to have fun during BSB’s set, however I had fun throughout the show.  Seeing that fans of both groups could have fun throughout the show no matter who was performing, I thought really said a lot for both groups.

This show is easily one of the best shows I have ever been to (and I go to a number of shows in a year, genres ranging from pop to metal) and I highly regret only being able to go to one show.

This tour truly shows that both groups, even after being around for fifteen or more years, have what it takes to keep going.  I wish both groups the best and I can’t wait to see them again.

For more photos from the NKOTBSB show in Tacoma, WA 7/8/11, click here for my flickr set from the show.

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