Category Archives: Pop-Culture

coolest halloween costume ever

I think, this is the best halloween costume ever!

courtesy of TMZ.com

courtesy of TMZ.com

Can you guess who that is?

Yes.

That’s Heidi Klum. Isn’t she cool or what!

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I wish I live in New York

In The Heights, picture courtesy of wikipedia.

In the Heights, picture courtesy of wikipedia.

Now at times like these, I wish I live in freaking New York.

In the Heights is a musical by the uber talented Lin-Manuel Miranda. What makes me really really want to see this 2008 Tony Award winning Best Musical award is because the scores (and probably the choreography too) features hip hop, soul and hot hot latin music.

Check out the clip below:

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Let’s study Buffy at uni!

The Buffy Phenomenon

The Buffy Phenomenon

I recently just finished watching the whole seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I have to admit I am craving for more… which is a sign of a good TV show. The thing about Buffy that is very addictive for me is the lovable characters, witty Joss Whedonesque dialogue and the believable storyline in an un-believablish genre.

Joss Whedon also takes really great chances and risk…which succeed! The ‘Once more with feeling’ musical episode was brilliant and the ‘Body’ episode where Buffy’s mother died was incredibly artistic and touching.

And of course, the fact that there’s Angel a.k.a tall, dark and brooding vampire with a soul and Spike the dangerous vampire turned good because of love… is just so…sexy.

I think all that combine together makes an incredible platform for a full-fledged fandom. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer has surpassed fandom and stepped into academia. In Brunel University of West London you can study Buffy for your masters! It’s actually called Masters for Cult Film and TV. Quoted from their course aims:

Over the last 20 years there has been an explosion of interest around the patterns and traditions of cult film and television. Whether defined by horror, kung-fu or science fiction film, or fantasy television formats such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel, a critical interest in cult media has become a prominent source of interest for the academic and the cult film/TV fan alike

Cool huh?

And if you check out Slayage Online and Watcher Junior, you can see the very many Buffy related academic essays being showcased. The essays ranges in different topic. From “Walking the fine line between Angel and Angelus”, to discussing feminism in Buffy or even discussing the linguistic aspect of the show, known as the “Slayer Slang”.

So yeah, the TV show is over, but the legacy really lives on. Joss Whedon published Buffy Comic Books as a continuation of the series. There’s also other Buffy comic books that serves as the companion to the series, fanmade stories known as fanfiction, all those academic essays, fan forums and so on. There’s always a way if you want your Buffy ‘fix’ :p

You might think ‘geez, this girl just wrote about a bunch of ridiculous bollocks’, or like me you can join the bandwagon and start a petition for Joss Whedon to make the movie version of Buffy. HA.

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Danny Choo’s great otaku invasion!

I have been reading manga and watching anime since I was little. It’s a common thing in Indonesia. I remember my mother jokingly said that Japan has never really stopped invading our country since kids my age grew up surrounded by vast amount of Japanese entertainment.

But when we reached a certain age, namely puberty, some of us stopped reading and watching them. Some of us became the slaves of MTV, courtesy of another kind of invasion… cable TV.

As for me, I didn’t stop completely. You can even say that it grew a little bit. I watch a couple animes and follow some mangas, albeit not to the point where one might label me as an ‘otaku’ (people with an alarming addiction and obsession to anime and manga). I also love learning about new cultures and due to my anime and manga’s little fixation, it is just natural for me to be fascinated by Japanese culture.

So when I was searching for a website to present for my Online Journalism class, I was quite excited to discover the ultimate and exceptionally comprehensive site within this genre. As the ‘Most Influential Anime Blog‘ in the Anime Blog Awards, Danny Choo’s website is ‘the’ library, the shrine…no, ‘the’ Mecca for every living and breathing otaku in the planet.

According to his site, Danny Choo is a Chinese-Malaysian descent who was born and raised in London, England. He then moved to Japan where he eventually started this website. His website contains the latest, weirdest and funniest articles and news concerning anime, figurines, Japanese idol girls and life in Japan.

He gives the latest news, events and updates on gundam and figurines. He also gives reviews and articles on Japanese animation with almost all of the posts in his website receiving more than 100 comments!

So, you must be thinking, “If I’m not interested in any of those stuff, why should I bother visit this website?”

Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Because you must LOVE to travel ( I mean, who doesn’t?)

And if you love to travel, Japan is unmissable! I went to Japan twice and I almost hated myself for not discovering this website sooner. Danny Choo often writes articles about places to go in Japan, topped with really nice pictures. Eventhough it’s not as straightforward or as detailed as the Lonely Planet or other travel sites, the writing makes it more personal and it gives the reader, a sense of inspiration. For example, this makes me really want to go and see that Great Buddha and those cute little guardian statues, while this makes me want to go to Japan, just to take a hot bath… NOW!

2. Because you must LOVE to eat!

For me, looking at different pictures of food is a satisfaction by itself. It makes me wonder about its taste and its smell. But this or this or this (cue the drooling) is just… another level of satisfaction. Or maybe I’m being biased as I am fasting while writing this post. So you be the judge!

3. Because you must LOVE to read about interesting albeit wacky stuff!

Whether it’s learning about ice cream flavoured ramen or cute little strawberry train or even discovering a whole new world of school girl’s pantsu , japanese maids and… this!

Learning about new cultures is always interesting!

4. Because after you do all the above, you must have fallen in love with Japan and consider moving there!

Danny Choo gave really informative articles about living in Japan. Not only that it’s informative, readers will no doubt found it reliable since Danny himself had done all of those when he relocate to Japan from London. So why not take his word?

5. Because after a while you will become addicted to the site and wants to be a part of it!

What I think is also very very interesting about his website is that readers and viewers can register and log in into the site. As part of the ‘membership’, readers can participate in uploading the news, commenting on Danny’s or fellow readers’ articles, joining the poll and update their puchi blurbs (which is similar to twitter). This, I think, is what making his site very very popular. New guests and current members will keep checking his site for more news updates or if another member replies to their comments.

This website is a great example of a personal website which eventually turned into a succesfull online ‘forum’ with 20.1 million page views generated by 2.9 million visitors in May 2008. Its success has also been recognized by others, as proven by the numerous media publication on the website.

For me, his website gives me inspiration. I love writing about food, travel and culture and maybe one day people will be bookmarking and making a home page out of my Virania Munaf dot com!

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I’ve been crows zeroed!

I saw Crows Zero at the Sydney Film Festival 2008. I was quite excited because I’ve been wanting to see that movie for months! Not because the director of the movie is the Takashi Miike, famous for his controversial movie Ichii the Killer (haven’t seen the movie yet.. heard its way gory) or because I’m a big fan of the manga/comic “Crows” by Hiroshi Takahashi (to which the movie is based).

The real reason why I wanted to see the movie was rather shallow: cute (i mean HOT!) boy actor Oguri Shun. Honestly, I didn’t particularly care if the movie would be crap or unexpectedly brilliant. I saw the trailer on youtube and had no idea what the movie would be, except that there will be an incredible amount of fight scenes. So I paid my SFF2008 ticket and was determined that I would be happy enough to see Oguri Shun fighting in the big screen.

And what did I get in return?

A really really cool movie with bad-ass characters, incredible fight scenes, just enough humor packaged in a simple storyline.

The movie tells the story of Genji Takaya (Oguri Shun), the son of a Yakuza boss with an ambitious dream. Takaya’s dream is to be the first student ever to conquer and unify the notorious Suzuran High School, a high school filled with punks, rebels and crazy students.

To achieve his dream, Takaya must build his own army by defeating the leader of each gangs and classes to ultimately bring down the current strongest person in the school, Tamao Serizawa (Yamada Takayuki) and his gang.

The movie then follows Takaya, with the aid of Suzuran graduate and ‘B-level’ yakuza member, Ken Katagiri (Kyosuke Yabe), as he conquer the school class by class through small fights, brutal fights and even matchmaking favours. As his army and loyal followers started to grow, so does his reputation. Ultimately leading to a grand and final showdown between his and Serizawa’s army.

What I like most about this movie is how it is able to present so many different characters, without letting the audience forget about which one is which. This, I think, is the very essence and character in every Japanese fiction, be it a manga, anime, movies and tv series.

The main characters gave really exceptional performances. Oguri Shun, who started his career starring in a string of high school themed tv series, stepped it up a notch as the ambitious Genji Takaya. One of my favourite scenes in the movie was a scene featuring a badly beaten-up Genji Takaya trying to stand up and continue fighting. It was as if I could feel the pain of every aching muscles and broken bones in his body!

Yamada Takayuki also gave a surprising and great performance. I first saw him as the shy and dorky otaku (a manga, anime and figurines addict… and I mean ADDICT!) in Densha Otoko (The Train Man). His performance in Crows Zero is such a contrast! In Crows Zero he was strong, violent and daring, albeit slightly lunatic.

The movie also has cool sound and special effects that creates a perception of super-human abilities of the characters. This was shown in various scenes with Serizawa, nicknamed bakemono (monster) for his strength, when he created a massive dent on the side of a car by deliberately crashing his head on it or when he played ‘human-bowling’.

The cinematography is also brilliant, especially during the final showdown where the black wearing high school student set up such a wonderful contrast against the blue-sky background.

I also loved the songs and the original scores used throughout the movie, especially the song “Into the Battlefield” which was used during the beginning of the final showdown.

Despite all the praises that I gave, there were still some elements of the movie that I thought were simply useless. Notably the female character/almost-love interest, whose name I didn’t even bother to remember. The movie would be better off without her.

Overall, I’d give the movie 9 out of 10! And if you enjoy movies such as Kill Bill and Fight Club, you will definitely enjoy this movie. Personally, I think it’s better than Fight Club. Haha..

Move over Brad Pitt! It’s Oguri Shun time.

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Fresh, Green and WICKED!

I went to Melbourne on the weekend (when I wrote this, which was ages ago) and saw…

WICKED!!

Wicked is a musical based on the best selling novel of Gregory Maguire. It told the story behind “The Wizard of Oz”, the friendship between two girls and how they later became known as Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.

I didn’t put too much expectations on it mainly because:

  1. I dont know any of their songs, unlike watching the Phantom of the Opera where I tried my best NOT to sing along (I paid to hear them sing not hear myself ha:P)
  2. I didn’t know if there’s going to be anyone particularly famous in the cast
  3. I was almost more excited to see my best friend who just relocated herself from Sydney to Melbourne.

And it’s a good thing that I didn’t have any expectations because it turned out to be FREAKIN AWESOME. Right when we stepped in to the Regent Theatre, the whole place just screamed GREEN!–like the land of Oz. The first thing that caught my eyes were these green slurpee cocktail drink they served called “Ozmopolitan” on a green cocktail glass which flashes green.

The stage was awesome! They had a giant steel dragon framing the top the stage although it turned out to be quite useless and role-less… much to my dissapointment.

The cast, however, was a surprise. Being that I didn’t know if there would be anyone famous in the case (unlike Anthony Warlow as the phantom), I was excited to find out from the program that Rob Mills and Anthony Callea were in the cast! Not that I’m a big fan of them…I’m just really looking forward to see how they would perform in a musical.

Anthony Callea’s role didn’t have much singing part but Rob Mills’ was given a major character. And even though I tried not to laugh at his dancing or wished that his voice would be just a tad bit more powerful (his voice were overpowered by Amanda Harrison who briliantlly played Elphaba)… at the end of the day he was believable.. I believed that he was Fiyero.

Amanda Harrison was brilliant as Elphaba. Her voice was loud, clear and simply stunning. But my favourite was Lucy Durack who played Glinda the Good. She portrayed the blonde, pop-u-lar and ambitious Glinda very very well! Her high screeching voice was funny and comical…reminding me of Lina Lamont from Singin’ in the Rain.

It wasn’t like the Lion King, which forte is on their beautiful group ‘African’ dancing and their breathtaking props and decoration. It was also nothing like the Phantom of the Opera where it is so legendary classical, almost everyone knows their songs by heart. Wicked had this modern feel to it. With funny characters. dialogues you can relate to and an interesting plot as a tie-in to the “Wizard of Oz”. Wicked is new, fresh and green!

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Laskar Pelangi

I went to the premier of Laskar Pelangi or ‘The Rainbow Troops’ and I came out happy, curious, entertained and touched!

The movie is based on the best selling book by Indonesian author, Andrea Hirata. I haven’t read the book yet, but everyone has been telling me that the movie does absolute justice to the book with some people even saying that the movie is better than the book. I don’t know, I guess it’s a matter of personal opinion.

Anyway, back to the movie. The movie tells the story of a touching friendship of a group of poor kids living in Belitong island in the 1970s, stuggling and fighting to study and learn. It also tells the struggle of two teachers trying to keep the kids’ school open in order to give poor kids a chance to study, a rare thing in a place where poor kids just dont get an education and work straightaway as coolies at mining companies.

What i love most about this movie is how amazing all the kids’ characters are! Each has its own uniqueness and even though there are 10 kids being illustrated in the movie, you’re still able to tell which one is which.

My favourite character is definitely this little boy called Lintang. He lives in the coast where his father is a fisherman. As a result, Lintang has to ride 80 km far on his bicycle everyday to go to school, while passing by a crocodile crossing every single day. He is the smartest boy in his class with exceptional mathematical and physics skills for a boy his age.

The movie also has heartwarming and honest dialogues, set on an amazing location — the island itself, which provides a beautiful landscape scenery throughout the whole movie.

I also love the soundtrack, especially since my sister, Sherina wrote, composed and sang one of the song 🙂

The film is a huge success. After 10 days of screening in Indonesia, up to 1,1 million people has seen the movie. An impressive number for an Indonesian movie!

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