Monthly Archives: November 2015

Capsule film reviews: Four horror movies from 2015

‘It Follows’
Release Date: March 13, 2015
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist and Daniel Zovatto
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
Grade: C+

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Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC and Dimension Films.

“It Follows” has definitely been one of the most-hyped horror movies this year, but it unfortunately doesn’t live up to those expectations. In the grand tradition of sexually-transmitted monsters in horror films, “It Follows” is about a girl, Jay (Maika Monroe), who has sex with her boyfriend and then realizes that by doing so, he has passed a curse onto her. There will just be a creepy person that only she can see walking steadily toward her at all times. If it catches her, she dies, and the only way to distance herself from it is to pass it on to someone else. Bummer deal. The film is shot well, and some of the scenes of “it” following her are genuinely creepy and unsettling. The movie begins to fall apart at the end, though, as Jay and her friends attempt to defeat “it.” The movie doesn’t have a strong conclusion at all, which leaves the audience feeling dissatisfied after watching.

‘Spring’
Release Date: March 20, 2015
Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker and Francesco Carnelutti
Genre: Horror, Romance, Sci-fi
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

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Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films and FilmBuff.

I enjoy horror-romance almost as much as I enjoy horror-comedy, so I was excited to check out Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s “Spring” (they also directed 2013’s “Resolution,” which I enjoyed). “Spring” is quite good as well (with a few caveats). After his mother’s death, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) takes a spontaneous finding-himself trip to Italy, where he starts working on a small farm and meets a beautiful woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker) that he begins dating. Of course, there has to be a catch when beautiful, exotic women show an interest in down-on-their-luck American dudes, and Louise’s hidden secret is both creepy and intriguing. “Spring” is Lovecraftian in its horror, but it’s mostly romantic. Which is my main complaint: I just don’t buy the romance. There is no way Evan is the best person she’s ever met. No way! Louise is such a complex, interesting character, but his main redeeming quality is that he still really likes her even when he discovers her grotesque secret. Eh, she could do way better.

‘Creep’
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Director: Patrick Brice
Starring: Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice
Genre: Drama, Horror
Rating: R for brief violence and language.
Grade: A-

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Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

I actually got quite a kick out of “Creep.” It’s a simple, independent found-footage horror film featuring only two actors. Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass not only star in the film, they also wrote the story. Additionally, Brice directed and Duplass co-produced it alongside Jason Blum of Blumhouse fame. This creates a real personal touch to the movie and allows the audience to really get to know the strange two characters. Duplass is excellent in his role as Josef, a man who places an ad on Craigslist for a videographer to help him film a message for his unborn son. Brice is less impressive but still alright as Aaron, the unlucky artist who answers the ad and becomes involved in Josef’s life. There are some really tense quiet moments, but overall, the film is pretty amusing with sarcastic jump scares and the increasingly absurd connection between Josef and Aaron. The conclusion is absolutely perfect, and I definitely recommend this movie.

‘Cooties’
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2015
Director: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Starring: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill and Rainn Wilson
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Rating: R for horror violence and gore, language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Grade: B-

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere.

Elijah Wood has produced and starred in some great horror movies in the past few years — “Grand Piano,” “Maniac,” “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” “The Boy.” He also produced and stars in “Cooties,” a goofy horror-comedy in which infected chicken nuggets served as school lunch turn elementary school students into zombies across the nation, leaving a group of teachers to fight for their lives. Wood is pretty funny as Clint Hadson, a substitute teacher who would rather be working on his novel than working with children. The movie definitely has some failed attempts at humor — the same run-of-the-mill stuff you’d see on “Saturday Night Live.” But it’s overall pretty entertaining to watch the mismatched group of teachers fight their way through the monstrous children. “Cooties” is a satisfactory movie, but it’s not going to become one of my favorites.

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My picks: Best Korean skincare for pores

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One of my overflowing skincare shelves. SCREAMfmLondon

The first time I washed my car after moving to Los Angeles, I was really confused. Did I drive through something weird? Why was the water black? It took me a while to realize that’s just the dirt in the air. It was soon in my apartment, gathering on my windowsills. It continued to be black. I was horrified that this was also the air I was breathing and touching with my skin all the time…

And that is how I came to be really diligent with my skincare routine. Soap and water would no longer cut it — I needed to really deep clean my pores and do it regularly. I’ve since tested many dozens of products, gotten a pretty solid routine down, and found that no country creates better skincare products than South Korea.

So, here are my picks for the best Korean skincare products for cleansing, covering and caring for your pores:

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A’PIEU Moisture Pore Cover Balm. SCREAMfmLondon

A’PIEU Moisture Pore Cover Balm

I love this product so much. It is a transparent balm you apply to your skin before makeup to even it out, minimize pores and create a smooth surface. It smells powdery fresh, and it goes on so smoothly. It’s also just delightful to apply this — it feels like you’re gently massaging the most luxurious, velvety serum into your face. The effect is immediate: your skin will look soft and perfect. It’s also moisturizing (obviously, hence the name) and can help hide enlarged pores, fine lines, acne scars, etc. The balm even comes with a little spoon in the package to keep the product hygienic when you scoop some out. They thought of everything.

Etude House Zero Sebum White Sebum Clear. SCREAMfmLondon

Etude House Zero Sebum White Sebum Clear. SCREAMfmLondon

Etude House Zero Sebum White Sebum Clear

This product is amazing! Etude House actually has a small collection of Zero Sebum products, and now I plan to pick up every single one of them because this White Sebum Clear is so wonderful. It is a cream that you apply to afflicted areas (chin, nose, forehead, etc.), leave on for a few minutes and then wipe off. It is supposed to melt away the lumps of oily, waxy sebum that can build up on the face. The first time I used it, I didn’t notice that it did anything and thought it was a dud purchase. However, when I tried it again a while later, I noticed the difference immediately. I applied the cream at night and cleaned it off before bed. The next day, my skin was already noticeably smoother and my pores clearer. Now I use the product regularly, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Mamonde Pore Corset Blackhead Heating Oil

This cleansing oil is really interesting. When you pump it out of the bottle, you can feel it heating up in your hands. It gets even hotter as you apply it to your face. The warming effect helps clear away built-up dirt and makeup in your pores, and then you finish the process by rinsing your face with cold water to tighten the pores again. It’s supposed to cleanse, mildly exfoliate, and control sebum. I like this cleansing oil, and it leaves the skin feeling clean and soft. But, although it boasts Persian lilac as the main ingredient, it definitely feels more chemically. You don’t want to get it in your eyes or mouth because it burns horribly and tastes worse. Not that that’s happened to me, of course.

Caolion Premium Blackhead O2 Bubble Pore Pack. SCREAMfmLondon

Caolion Premium Blackhead O2 Bubble Pore Pack. SCREAMfmLondon

Caolion Premium Blackhead O2 Bubble Pore Pack

It’s very fun to have a reliable face mask to slip into your skincare routine every so often. I like this one from Caolion, which contains charcoal powder, ginkgo balboa leaf extract, oat flour and other ingredients that are supposed to help cleanse pores. You massage the mask into your dry face and, in a few minutes, it will begin to bubble up with tons of micro oxygen bubbles that are intended to deep-cleanse the pores, hydrate, eliminate excess sebum, and remove dead skin cells. I noticed an immediate difference in my skin the day after my first use of this pore pack. My face was clearer and brighter. Plus, it just feels kind of weird and relaxing to have the bubbles fizzing on your face. Definitely try this mask out. It’s an experience.

Food: Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya

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Fantastic ramen at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Ichiran is the perfect restaurant for someone like me who likes to travel alone and eat delicious food at all hours without having to interact with mankind. This 24-hour Japanese ramen chain is famous for its tasty dishes and private, one-person booths in the dining area.

You can spot Ichiran’s Shibuya location from down the block because of the long line that winds up the narrow staircase and spills out onto the street. It moves moderately quickly as you inch your way closer to the red cloth signs hanging over the door.

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The ominous entryway to Ichiran. SCREAMfmLondon

Once inside the foyer, you insert money into a vending machine and make your initial ramen selection. The machine dispenses change and prints out a ticket.

While you wait for a seat to open up, you will fill out a worksheet about all the exact specifications of your desired bowl of ramen. The worksheet is super detailed and even offers suggestions, which I mostly took: medium-strength flavor, medium richness (oil content), regular garlic, green onion, sliced pork, half a serving of Ichiran’s original red sauce, and medium firmness for the noodles.

When a seat is available, you’re lead into the dining area. This is the best part. I love this set-up. I feel like every restaurant should be like this.

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The private ramen-eating booth for one at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Each diner is seated in an individual cubicle with high wooden walls separating you from the diners beside you and a thick bamboo curtain separating you from the kitchen staff. It’s just you and the ramen. When you’re ready to order, you ring a bell and slide your order sheet under the curtain. When the food is ready, they slide it back under. You never even see the chef’s face. It’s wild, and I love it!

There’s a little spout in the cubicle from which you can pour your own ice water, and you can even order extra noodles if you still have broth left after you finish.

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It’s so beautiful. SCREAMfmLondon

Have I mentioned that I love this restaurant? Because I love this. The ramen was delicious. The medium richness was perfectly spot-on, and the noodles and pork were tasty and flavorful. I wish I had gone a little stronger on flavor and definitely on the red sauce, which was not noticeably spicy. I would make some alterations to my ramen requests and add a soft-boiled egg next time, but Ichiran is certainly customizable enough. And all for about 800 JPY.

So private. So atmospheric. And nobody was there to see when I somehow dipped my hair in the broth. It was perfect.

SMTown: Getting a 3D print with a k-pop star

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The future is now: my 3D print with Key from SHINee (featuring a photobomb from cardboard Infinite). SCREAMfmLondon

This is absolutely one of the coolest souvenirs imaginable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: k-pop is truly on the next level. The k-pop fan’s experience is unparalleled. With hologram concerts of the biggest stars and 3D-printed statuettes of fans standing with their favorite idols, it does not get any better than this.

SMTown Theatre: 3D Printing

SMTown at COEX Artium’s sixth floor houses the 3D printing theater, where fans can buy tiny, keychain-sized likenesses of SM artists or go all out with a sizable print of themselves posing proudly beside their idol of choice.

The full-size, unique figurine with an SM artist costs 625,000 KRW (that’s about $550 USD). The price is pretty fair — most places that sell 3D prints will charge around $300 for one person. It’s definitely well worth the cost to have such an incredible memento of this moment in your life while you’re still young, cute and really into boybands.

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3D prints of the artists on SMTown at COEX Artium’s sixth floor. SCREAMfmLondon

First, you select your favorite k-pop star and the appropriate pose. I picked Key from SHINee — a controversial choice, apparently, as the staff gave me incredulous looks, repeating, “Key? Are you sure? …Key?” throughout the process.

But I think he was the perfect choice. Of all the SM artists, I feel like Key and I are an excellent match and could totally be friends. Like, we’d really get along well and could probably watch RuPaul’s Drag Race together. Beauty fades, but that kind of spiritual connection is forever.

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Best friends forever. SCREAMfmLondon

I wanted a pose where we were interacting somehow, but I couldn’t imagine us standing in a romantic embrace with his arms around me. Plus, they had to digitally alter him so he was tall enough (“I think you are… bigger than him,” a staff member said, very delicately. “Do you want us to make him taller? Or the same size?”). We finally decided to loop one of my arms through his as he stood casually with one hand in his jeans pocket.

Next, I was led to a green screen studio where I had to hold my pose, arm crooked awkwardly in the air, while they scanned my entire body with a kind of radar and snapped several close-up photos of the details like my face and hair.

As I was scanned, the three-dimensional image materialized on a computer screen at the front of the room. This part actually turned out to be a huge hassle because the print on my dress did not scan well on the first try. I had to change my (meticulously-selected for the occasion!!) outfit to something with bright, solid colors and come back to be scanned a second time.

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Before the big reveal. SCREAMfmLondon

After the scanning, it takes about two weeks for the product to be printed, painted and finished. It was carefully packaged and presented with a weird little Polaroid of Ki-bum and myself outside on the patio that I now have framed on my desk because what else do you do with that?

The finished product is amazing. It’s one of the best things I own. It’s so strange to be able to hold myself in action figure form and inspect it from every angle. It’s surreal, and I love it. I will treasure it for the rest of my life. It will be passed down for generations, until the kids are asking, “Who’s that random cute guy standing with grandma?” It will be my legacy.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s Studio and professional k-pop dance class here.

SMTown: Studio and dance class

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The studio on the fourth floor of SMTown at COEX Artium, guarded by Jonghyun. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown Studio: Music Video, Photo, Recording, Hair & Makeup, Vocal, Dance, Dress

As you ascend to the top floors of SMTown at COEX Artium, the services become more deluxe. While you can purchase k-pop merchandise on the second floor, you can actually star in a k-pop music video on the third!

At the SMTown Studio, fans can be professionally styled with SM-approved costumes, hair and makeup; trained to create an audio recording of their favorite song; taught the corresponding dance moves; photographed and photoshopped to their hearts’ content; and filmed in a duplicate of their favorite music video. It honestly all looks like a ton of fun — especially if you have slight delusions of grandeur and a lot of money to blow.

The SMTown Studio packages range in price from about $30 (for a simple tour of the space and a commemorative photo) to $500 (for a two-hour video recording session). Most packages hover around the $100-200 range. A one-hour, one-on-one dance class costs about $100 (while a group class is around $80). A one-hour vocal training and recording session is $150, and it costs $200 (and, apparently, one and a half hours) to have your hair and makeup done.

I took a tour of the studio space that culminated in a one-hour dance class.

The tour begins at the makeup station, where marble tables are piled high with rows upon rows of blush, eye shadow, brushes and more. The walls are all covered with mirrors and “the best selfie lighting ever” (their words — not mine). I do not doubt, though, that SM Entertainment’s makeup artists could work some serious magic on us all with their superior beauty knowledge. It’s a tempting package, for sure.

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SMTown photo studio. SCREAMfmLondon

Behind the makeup station is the photo studio. It’s a pretty cavernous room decorated with yet-unreleased photos of SM artists for the guests to ogle. If you’re a fan of photoshoots, I’m sure this is a good one. I am not a fan of photoshoots, but they took a few photos of me anyway — and specified which way I should stand to make it easiest to photoshop.

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Some of TVXQ!’s costumes on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite stop on the tour is the wardrobe area. It’s a beautiful room full of costumes SM artists have worn onstage or at special events, all grouped by band and labeled with the individual members’ names. It was amazing to see these outfits up close and to examine all the details: every epaulette on SHINee’s jackets, every rhinestone on TVXQ!’s sleeves. Everything is so pristine, except for the scuff marks on the fabulous shoes. I loved it so much.

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The hard-working shoes of a k-pop star. SCREAMfmLondon

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SHINee’s outfits on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

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So much beautiful crushed velvet. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, we visited the vocal recording rooms. Allegedly, the rooms are really, really used by actual SM artists. This was emphasized many, many times during the tour. There are a number of different recording booths equipped with what is supposed to be the best, most advanced audio recording technology out there. I would not know the difference, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

From there, we journeyed through the hallways to the music video studio. The room is divided in two halves: EXO’s “Growl” on one side and Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” on the other.

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Music video set for EXO’s “Growl.” SCREAMfmLondon

This room was a little awkward for a few reasons. First, there were quite a few people sitting right in the middle of it doing some work on their computers while we’re just traipsing around, taking pictures of stuff.

Also, I happened to be there not long after Tao officially announced his departure from EXO and his subsequent lawsuit against SM Entertainment. It was a little too obvious that his name had been hastily painted over on a few of the walls while it still appeared on others. Awkward.

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Tao’s name hastily painted over at bottom right. SCREAMfmLondon

Once we departed from there, it was time for our dance lesson led by a professional SM choreographer. We stashed our belongings in fire engine red lockers that read “DREAMS COME TRUE” across the front and took our places to learn the dance for EXO’s song “Call Me Baby.”

The pace of the dance was very quick, but the instructor was patient and helpful. One hour was not enough time for any of us to master any of that, but we worked hard, and it was a blast. It seemed to go by very quickly, especially since a lot of time was taken when cameramen came in to record our practice and interview a few of us (including me, for some horrifying reason) about our interest in k-pop.

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Inside the SMTown dance studio. SCREAMfmLondon

It was a great class, though, and I was sad to leave. I could definitely imagine spending hours every day trying to perfect those dance moves, if I only could afford it.

The SMTown Studio experience was an interesting one. To be honest, the studio tour is a little boring and doesn’t offer much beyond selfie ops (and not very spectacular ones at that). I would recommend heading straight for your area of interest (singing, dancing, fashion) to maximize your enjoyment of the studio.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.

SMTown: SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Cafe

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K-pop cafe: EXO cupcake and SHINee “Dream Girl” green apple drink in SMTown at COEX Artium’s LIVErary Cafe. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown at COEX Artium is a sprawling, six-story k-pop hub. Located beside the gigantic COEX Mall in Gangnam (a shopping center so big it houses an entire aquarium and a huge movie theater inside as well), SMTown offers everything a k-pop fan could want: a hologram theater, branded merchandise, vocal lessons, a photo studio, a cafe, etc. And I’ve done (pretty much) all of it.

Here is my rundown of the two most accessible floors of the SMTown complex:

SUM: Celebrity Shop, Artist Goods, Artist Picks, Gifts
SMTown LIVErary: Cafe, Music, Media, Books, Special Goods

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SM Entertainment decorations lining the SMTown walls. SCREAMfmLondon

The building is tall and glittery from a distance, decorated with the names of SM Entertainment’s most popular artists: SHINee, Super Junior, EXO, Girls’ Generation (SNSD), f(x). The first floor’s Welcome Stage features a tall tower of flatscreens playing SM artists’ most recent music videos.

The second floor houses the SUM shop. This deluxe merchandise store features branded merch of all the bands and general Korean souvenirs, as well as “artist picks,” which are extremely expensive designer items worn by some of the band members. Some of the merch is cool, but the coolest stuff (tote bags with song lyrics printed on them, t-shirts, posters and pillows) are sold out or not yet for sale, despite the fact that the shop has been open since January.

Unless you’re looking to buy a pair of $400 sunglasses a member of SNSD was photographed wearing, you can find better k-pop merch in any given subway station. But they do sell a (pricey) replica of the treble clef necklace Chanyeol wears in the iconic classic “EXO Lives Next Door.”

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EXO staring at you from every direction. SCREAMfmLondon

On the building’s fourth floor is the SMTown LIVErary Cafe. This is an awkward way to say that it’s an SM-themed cafe. Some additional merchandise is sold on this floor (mostly CDs and DVDs), but the main attraction is the dessert case. Macarons and cupcakes printed with band logos are available for a (high) price, as are some tasty band-themed drinks.

The different bands all come in different colors and flavors. I ordered an EXO cupcake and a SHINee green apple-ade. The EXO “capcake” (har har) is chocolate cake topped with cream cheese frosting and a tiny EXO snapback. Someone informed me ahead of time that the caps are actually not edible, which was good to know because I definitely would have attempted to eat it. They’re about 8,000 KRW per cupcake, which is quite a lot, but they’re actually pretty tasty, and you get to keep the little hat as a souvenir.

SHINee’s green apple ade was also exceptionally delicious, and comes served in a cool, collectible “#DREAM GIRL” bottle. The drinks are super syrupy sweet and slightly carbonated, which I greatly enjoyed.

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Band logos printed on macarons at the SMTown LIVErary Cafe. SCREAMfmLondon

In the cafe, most of the tables and chairs have been signed by various SM artists. The walls are decorated with albums, plaques and a timeline of SM Entertainment’s biggest milestones. While enjoying your expensive snacks, you can try to grab a table at a listening station, where you can play SM artists’ music. It’s a cool setup, and it’s even moderately cozy, so big SM fans can end up spending a lot of time hanging out.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s Studio and professional k-pop dance class here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.