Monday, May 23, 2016

The Road to Running Man's 300th

Like most people, I was drawn into Running Man during the height of its popularity. Everyone was going on about that Korean variety show that could make even the most stone-faced person crack a smile. My first episode of Running Man was the first ever Park Ji-sung special in episode 95-97. At the time, I was watching it mostly because of the football element and less for the group of (what I thought) noisy, chatterboxes of a cast.

3 and a half hours of belly aching laughter and tears streaming down my face later, I was desperately calling all my friends to copy over all the episodes of Running Man. I was hit by the Running Man Fever, a very real phenomenon back in the day. In just 3 episodes, I was drawn into the ragtag group of seven members, their group dynamics and all their inside jokes, that made no sense to me at the time, but was infectious enough to make me laugh along. I found myself wanting to watch more episodes to try to at least figure out what was going on in the show. 299 episodes later, I still find myself laughing at their amazing chemistry and the Running Man brand of humor which seems to get me every time.

After 6 long years of running, it's Running Man's landmark 300th episode. 300 episodes of the cast members; Yoo Jae-suk, Kim Jong-kook, HaHa, Gary, Ji Suk-jin, Song Ji-hyo and Lee Kwang-soo, and for a couple of the earlier episodes Lizzy and Song Joong-ki, making us laugh with their antics, their quick wit, their humor, their chemistry, their friendship.

Their moves.

They brought their A-game to every episode, created the most memorable in-show characters like the Commander, the Race Starter and the Betrayer, and even formed meaningful bonds with each other on and off the show.

300 episodes isn't an easy feat to achieve in view of the shortened attention span of viewers today. The fans are as fickle as fickle can be, often complaining about the direction of the show, the boring games, the fact that their oppas are not invited on the show, the invite to other rival oppas, the lack of nametag ripping games, the over-reliance on nametag ripping's an absolute hoot. For the producers, this is a head-scratcher because the show can't please everyone. So they go the only way they can; to make people laugh.

And make people laugh they do. Running Man's aim is to entertain people and make everyone happy. The members themselves are willing to do all and everything to get a laugh from the audience. Sure, it may seem brutal when you see them coating themselves in mud, or tearing off each other's nametags, but you can always sense that Running Man knows its boundaries, and the members know how to respect each other and the show's guests as well.

Still, this doesn't mean that they go easy on the guests. Look at Han Hyo-joo, voted one of Running Man's best female guests as an example of how brutal Running Man can be to even an actress of her standing. She's been made fun of, wrestled to the ground, and angered more times than can be counted.

Big Bang's G-Dragon, one of the most stylish K-pop idols in the world, played around in a muddy field and caked his blond hair muddy brown.

It's incredulous for the guests, and even to the members themselves, but in that silliness, there is so, so much comedy to be found. And that is what Running Man has been doing all these years.

Running Man is just good plain fun. Sure, among the 300 episodes there are a few that can be listed as boring. But the show tries its best to innovate itself through the years. The games have evolved to fit the changing direction of the show, and some of the special episodes (see Yoomes Bond, Superpowers everything, Zombie specials etc) have been absolutely amazing, with secret rules set into place, as well as the brilliant plot twists which make for some memorable episodes.

Of course, all good games must have an element of cheating, which the members often take major advantage of. Cheating is mostly allowed by the producers because it makes for terrific entertainment, and based on the popularity of Lee Kwang-soo, possibly the most frequent cheater, the fans tend to agree as well.

In 300 episodes, essentially, Running Man has shown us all about how competent the members are and how well they can blend in with each other. They complement each other so well, bickering good-naturedly with each other and playing more and more ridiculous games, engaging in even more betrayals and cheating and being themselves in front of the cameras. It's a difficult thing to find a cast that has run together for more than the Running Man members have with each other, and it's undoubtedly so that their relationship forms the backbone of Running Man as a top variety show.

I've written just a few Running Mondays ago about how Running Man may end one day. But today, on the week of their 300th episode, that reality can be safely pushed to the back of everyone's minds as Running Man celebrates an important milestone that marks their rise into the hall of variety greats.

A toast to Running Man's 300th episode. And another toast to their ever lasting friendship and bonding of the seven members.

Credit to RMDoodles for this amazing image.

Running Man fighting!


Friday, May 20, 2016

5 Stages of Grief (When Getting Fat)

It starts without warning. It isn't about laziness. It isn't about a lack of discipline. It isn't about you. Everything changes slowly, steadily. Clothes get tighter, breathing gets labored, plates get cleaner. And that's how it starts. The hunger, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns skinny men...fat.

If you have experienced any of the above, you might just be me. Over the past few months or so, I began a transformation that many people had doubted was even possible. I began to put on the pounds. My slim figure was punctuated by rolling slabs of flesh. My sharp, chiseled jawline of which I was so proud of, was slowly rounding out. My Adam's apple, often the most prominent feature I have, was beginning to get swallowed up by the layers.

It wasn't pretty.

But here's the thing about getting fat. You don't know you're getting fat until you're already fat. Sure, a few passing remarks by the people who see you often; "Wow looking rounder these days", "Someone's been having a very itchy mouth lately", "Holy smackerel! you're fat now!", but these are comments that a person who doesn't know what it's like to gain weight will never understand.

You know, just like me.

I've never believed in karma. Now, it's difficult to not believe in the concept. I've made fun of my friends plenty in the past; making fun of their weight, their fear of eating too much, their worry about getting "fat". I've laughed the hardest at people who had the most pained expressions when faced with a moist chocolate cake. I've stuffed my mouth full in front of friends who opted for the salad over the juicy piece of steak. I've asked people, with an almost haughty tone of voice, "What is fats?"


I'll be perfectly honest. It's not my fault. It isn't me being lazy. It isn't me having any lack of discipline. Besides, I didn't just pop on 100 pounds overnight. Sure, I eat a lot, but that's because I still hit the gym very often. It balances all out at the end. Really. It does. It's always been like that. I eat a lot, I don't get fat. It's normal for a growing boy like me. So, I'll just eat. I don't care. So what if I get fatter? Everything will balance out. It always does in the end. Right?

I mean okay. I've put on some weight over the past few months. But what if it doesn't stop. What if it never stops? What if I'm destined to live this life as Gluttinous Maximus? I've tried tightening the belt. Literally. I have. But my latest effort in putting a belt around my waist ended with the belt buckle snapping off, and the buckle disappearing somewhere, presumably to file a complaint for unwarranted abuse. Oh my fats, what kind of monster have I become?!

I'm fat. I won't even try to sugar coat it because I'll probably want to eat that too.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse w. Ubermen

After being in a relationship, I learned a few basic things about planning for a date. The standard date for every couple should include dinner, shopping and a movie.  That was exactly what I got when I went on a "date" with Ubermen as part of a collaboration effort between Ubermen and X-Men Apocalypse. I've always been the one to initiate and plan for dates, so I was pleasantly surprised when the tables were turned in my favor.

You can read more about what went down during the Ubermen and X-Men Apocalypse event here:

So X-Men Apocalypse. 

With massive superhero casts fighting each other and taking over box offices all over the world, it's not surprising that the X-Men would willingly join in the fray. What is surprising is that for a movie of this scale (it promised an Apocalypse), this latest installment in the franchise fails to ignite the sort of excitement it promised. 

Ten years have passed in the world of mutants. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) have taken on more students and teaching duties under the Xavier School for the Gifted Youngsters. Magneto (Michael Fassbender), last seen on the lawn of the White House after his assassination attempt, has begun a new life with his wife and daughter. Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) actively protects and saves mutants from being cruelly exploited. But the mutants' idyllic life and peace is shattered when the ancient Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakens from his slumber and begins his mission to cleanse the world by destroying it. He does so by recruiting Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to help him.

The story may seem simple; at least a lot simpler than the complex time travelling plot shown in the excellent X-Men Days of Future Past. If you haven't watched the Days of Future Past, or any of the X-Men films in the past, this movie may be a little bit too much to digest. Nothing is explained in a great detail; viewers are expected to remember the names of the characters from the movies or in the comics. And in addition to that, it is overly peppered with a massive roster of characters, multiple plot lines running concurrently, some cameos thrown in, and gigantic CGI battle zones that may leave the casual viewer even more confused with what exactly is going on.

The first half of the movie pans out slowly, reintroducing the "new", younger characters like Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) while also including the Four Horsemen as well as giving the backstory on En Sabah Nur. It's not a bad decision to flesh out these new characters for the audience, but by the time the film is done introducing all the characters and setting up the climatic finale, the movie is almost close to the end. 

X-Men Apocalypse goes for the massive set-pieces but it bears very little impact on an emotional level. At times, it seems like the film is trying to fit in a disaster movie under the pretense of an X-Men movie; and much of the CGI-infused scenes of destruction prove it. There is death by the millions but because of how large the movie sets itself up to be, those millions of deaths aren't even relevant, or even considered. 

For some fans, seeing their favorite mutants fighting on screen may be a joy. But that joy is shortlived in X-Men Apocalypse because of how little the actual characters are fleshed out. The older members like Beast, Mystique and Havok seem to be placed there in order to get the plot moving from point A to point B. Despite having such a badass name, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Archangel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Magneto can probably be interchanged with other mutants without much of an impact to the story or the plot. Magneto, in all his excellent baddie-ing in the past movies, is reduced to nothing more than a hired metal muscle. 

If you're a casual viewer, you may be forgiven for not knowing the names of some of the characters appearing on screen. Or if you can even remember the characters appearing at all.

In a scene which fans of the movie may relate to very well, Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Jubilee and Nightcrawler come out from watching Star Wars Return of the Jedi, while arguing about the films. They come to a conclusion that the third film in a trilogy is almost always terrible. The scene is played for laughs, and is obviously a light hearted jab at the universally panned X-Men: The Last Stand. But it fails to note that X-Men Apocalypse is also the third film in the "rebooted" X-Men series, and its own jokes comes back to bite it in the rear because it is notably the weakest one in the three. 

Overall, X-Men Apocalypse tries to better on Days of Future Past by going bigger and louder. The movie throws almost everything it has to offer at the wall to see what sticks. What remains is a movie that can be entertaining, but feels way too bloated to be fully enjoyed. Sometimes, more isn't better. 

I give this movie 3/5 for characters that try their best to perform in light of how little they get developed, but are overshadowed or edged out by the huge roster, and for a few entertainingly, watchable battles. X-Men Apocalypse is a mostly forgettable affair that you're still bound to watch at least once. 

Special thanks to Ubermen once again for the very romantic "date". Check out what went down during the Ubermen X-Men Apocalypse screening here: