Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) is the fourth film in the Adventures of Indiana Jones movie series. It is the year 1957, and twenty years later after The Last Crusade. The movie begins at a secret United States military base called "Hangar 51" in the southwestern United States desert. The Soviet Union military has captured Indiana Jones (alias: Dr. Henry Jones) and his friend Mac. The Soviet troops disguised themselves as American soldiers to infiltrate the military base warehouse (which also holds the Ark of the Covenant from the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark) to retrieve an object of extraordinary mystical and psychic power that could lead to global domination by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet troop leader, the villainous Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko, and her troops follow Indiana Jones inside where they discover a skeleton of extraterrestrial origins (from the 1947 Roswell UFO crash) hidden inside one of the crates. The Soviets seize the skeleton, but Indiana Jones takes one of the soldiers hostage and a fight erupts inside the warehouse. He escapes on a rocket sled into the desert and nearly survives an atomic explosion in a nuclear weapons test community. Upon his return to Marshall College as a college professor of archeology, Jones is under FBI investigation because his British friend, Mac, is a Soviet agent (think McCarthy era and the hysteria of some Americans sympathizing with Communism). He is also offered a leave of absence (resignation) by Dean Stanforth from his job to avoid a termination because of the ongoing investigation.

Indiana Jones learns from greaser Mutt Williams that his mother, Marion Ravenwood, and his colleague, Harold Oxley, have disappeared. The Soviets are looking for the legendary crystal skull of Akator supposedly taken from El Dorado, the hidden city of gold in South America. When they both arrive in the jungles of Peru, they learned that Oxley was locked in an insane asylum until the Soviets kidnapped him. In Oxley's former cell, they discover clues to the grave of Francisco de Orellano, a 16th-century Spanish conquistador who went missing while searching for Akator. Jones finds the crystal skull that Oxley hid in Orellana's grave. The Soviets capture them and take them to the camp where they are holding Oxley and Marion, who later reveals that Mutt Williams is Jones' biological son, Henry Jones III.

Mutt, Marion, Mac, Oxley and Jones escape from the Soviet camp leading to a lengthy and spectacular vehicle chase through the jungles involving monkeys, sword fights and several Soviet soldiers killed by giant army ants. They ride an amphibious vehicle over a cliff and down three waterfalls where they eventually find the Temple of Akator. The group encounter traps they must pass and survive to enter the extraterrestrial chamber tomb. They discover artifacts from ancient global civilizations inside the temple. There are thirteen crystal extraterrestrial skeletons seated on thrones. One has a missing skull. Irina Spalko meets the group in the tomb and places the skull onto the skeleton. The aliens (communicating in an ancient Mayan dialect) want to give them a great gift. Spalko demands to know everything, and the skeletons begin firing knowledge into her eyes. Meanwhile, a supernatural dimensional portal opens in the ceiling to reveal a spaceship (UFO). While Jones and the group escape the tomb, this knowledge overwhelms Spalko and her body disintegrates. The portal pulls and kills Mac as he tries to retrieve treasure. The temple crumbles, and the spaceship vanishes without a trace. When the group returns home, Jones becomes an associate dean at his former college and marries Marion Ravenwood.

I really enjoyed this film. While there were some parts of the film that I thought were bizarre, such as Mutt Williams swinging in the trees with the monkeys, I thought the directors could have added more dramatic temple traps scenes because I thought this part of the film was very incomplete. It has been almost twenty years since the film (The Last Crusade), so this film was definitely long overdue. I was also glad that the producers (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) agreed to keep the same stunt work for consistency with the previous films. I thought Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Irina Spalko was incredibly good. It also feels complete with the marriage of Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, whom met each other in the first film. I do believe a fifth movie is possible. After Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is definitely my second favorite Jones film in the series.

I really liked the idea of the extraterrestrial-ancient civilization plot. This is a fantasy movie based upon Spielberg and Lucas' favorite childhood characters. While some people may think the UFO story is too far-fetched and unrealistic, there are true studies that extraterrestrials descended upon earth in UFOs and educated ancient civilizations such as the Mayans, Egyptians, Babylonians and Chinese with their knowledge. Their existence is also well-documented in the Bible. While this may sound like X-Files, Lucas and Spielberg touched on a topic that was popular in the 1950s (U.S. government's secrecy of the Roswell UFO crash) and the belief there are other beings out there in space. Recently, there has been an increase in paranormal activity, especially the sightings of UFOs in places such as Texas and California.

In sum, I thought the movie could have elaborated more on the history of Akator and the extraterrestrials but I understand that not much was known in the 1950s. I definitely recommend this movie in your action/adventure/science fiction collection.

Click here to learn more about the legend of El Dorado.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Review: Death Masque (Jonathan Barret #3)

With the Revolutionary War itself felt in his Long Island home, Jonathan Barret and his sister Elizabeth seek refuge on the distant shore of England. However, Jonathan has yet another reason to make the voyage: he is still searching for Nora, his lost love and the woman responsible for his recently discovered taste for blood.

That search takes Jonathan back to the home of his mother's sister, where he discover a plot against his family that puts him in danger from the most unlikely of suspects. But his new enemies will soon realize that is is very difficult to kill a Barrett -- particularly one that is already dead...


Death Masque, by P.N. Elrod, is the third book in the Jonathan Barrett Gentleman Vampire series. His family lives on Long Island during the American Revolutionary War (late 18th century). While the war has subsided, there is a lot of uneasiness and uncertainty about the future of the colonies. The Barrett family are loyal Tory supporters.

It is the year 1777. Jonathan has not heard from his beloved Nora Jones ever since he completed his legal education at Cambridge and returned to America. His desire to see her increases as the months progress. He decides to travel to London to meet his cousin, Oliver, and to search for her whereabouts. His sister, Elizabeth, and his servant, Jericho, also accompany him on the voyage. Unfortunately, his vampire change cannot endure sailing over water, and he remains comatose on the entire voyage! (You can imagine how much this scared Elizabeth and Jericho who had no idea if he would ever return to consciousness.)

Once they arrived in England, Jonathan awakes to their relief. Oliver, Jonathan and Elizabeth attend a masquerade ball at the Fonteyn House where they meet their wicked aunt, who is also the will-holder of the family. Jonathan becomes so disenchanted by her awful presence and insane criticism that he uses his powers to hypnotize and silence her.

At the estate, he also meets Lady Clarinda and her husband Edmond Fonteyn. She carries a mystifying and sexual aura that excites and scares him. Before he can continue his search for the woman who made him a vampire, a group of brawny men intimidate him to accept a duel with swords. They don't realize that Barrett has supernatural strength and abilities.

He survives the duel, but later finds out someone has murdered his Aunt Fonteyn. He did not like her, but she did not deserve death in such a cruel manner. Worse, someone in his bizarre family still wants him dead! Who can it be, and for what reason? Despite the betrayal and danger ahead, it is very hard to kill a Barrett when he is already dead.

P.N. Elrod is one of my favorite vampire-mystery writers. I continue to read the Vampire Files series and the Jonathan Barrett series. Her humor, suspense and strong detail for historical accuracy (both series take place in the 1930s and 1770s, respectively) continue to amaze me. Nora is a vampire who turned Jonathan into a creature of the night. He travels to London to gather more information about her whereabouts. He finds the last place she lived in an abandoned home with her home earth. This made him somewhat optimistic.

Unfortunately, he does not find her in this novel. Instead, he faces threats and escapes his own death from his family! The ending has a major surprise that even shocks Barrett. The next novel will explore this new responsibility bestowed upon him as he continues his search for Nora with Elizabeth, Oliver and Jericho.

At 285 pages, this novel does not take long to read. The plot really surprised me when Barrett discovers who wants him dead. Readers also discover why his stern mother and aunt act the way they do. It may take a new reader a longer time to understand the historical English the author uses to make the setting and character development more accurate. I highly recommend this series.

Stay tuned for the final novel in the Jonathan Barrett Gentleman Vampire series, Dance of Death.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven

It is a full moon tonight, and I am listening to classical music. This is the popular Moonlight Sonata (1801) by Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest 18th and 19th century German composers in history. He wrote emotional and masterful symphonies. He was a genius pianist. However, later in life, he became paranoid, troubled and detached. Doctors said he died from cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy. What really happened to him? (Click on the link below)


Here are some quotes I found on the Internet:

"That day was tragic. There were heavy clouds in the sky… around 4 or 5 in the afternoon the murky clouds cast darkness in the entire room. Suddenly a terrible storm started, with blizzard and snow… thunder made the room shudder, illuminating it with the cursed reflection of lightning on snow. Beethoven opened his eyes and with a threatening gesture raised his right arm towards the sky with his fist clenched. The expression of his face was horrifying. His hand fell to the ground. His eyes closed. Beethoven was no more."


and...

"On Tuesday morning, Walsh stood at a lectern at Argonne National Laboratory, near Darien, and verified what some had suspected about the great composer who was plagued for three decades by digestion problems, chronic abdominal pain, irritability and depression: He had died from lead poisoning.

So confounded and distressed by his plight, which also included extremely foul body odor and halitosis, Beethoven left written requests that a physician examine his body after his death to determine the cause of his demise in hope of saving others from the same fate.

Using advanced X-ray technology at Argonne, scientists helped confirm that Beethoven, who died in 1827 at age 56, had 60 times more lead in his system than what is considered average today."


Legend has it that he sold his soul to demons to become famous and fantastic. His fame and talent cost him his life -- the final payment.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: Dead to the World (Southern Vampire #4)

“Sookie’s investigation into why leads straight into a dangerous battle among witches, vampires, and werewolves. But there could be a greater danger to Sookie’s heart—because the kinder, gentler Eric is very difficult to resist…”

Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris, is the fourth novel of the Southern Vampire series. The setting is a contemporary winter season in the rural town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. This novel resumes from the previous novel, Club Dead, where Sookie Stackhouse bids farewell to her vampire ex-boyfriend, Bill. He must depart to Peru for his genealogy project, and he will return in two weeks. Sookie, now 26 years old, has made a New Year’s resolution: she will not be beaten up or get herself injured. Whether her wish comes true, we will soon find out.

As a cocktail waitress at Merlotte’s Bar, Sookie has a secret gift: she can read people’s minds. (She’s telepathic). When she is driving home from work one night, she discovers a frantic Eric, Bill’s boss and vampire sheriff of Shreveport, running and looking clueless. She stops to assist him, and realizes he has amnesia: he has no recollection of who is he and why he was in Bon Temps. When she returns home, she meets Pam and Chow, Eric’s vampire subordinates, who tell her that witches have caused Eric’s amnesia because he refused to deal. Not only are these witches dangerous, they are also werewolves and drink vampire blood for strength! Not liking the circumstances of everything, Sookie must protect Eric from the witches.

Unfortunately, Sookie cannot resist the kinder side of Eric as he soothes and cares for her. The real Eric is aggressive and conniving. Just as Sookie thought her New Year’s resolution might crumble before her very own eyes, her brother, Jason, has been kidnapped from his home by a wild animal. Reuniting with the vampires and werewolves (Weres), Sookie Stackhouse will engage in a war that she never wanted to join. But if it means saving her brother and returning Eric back to his original self, she must do whatever she can…even if blood and death prevails in the end.

This book was a very quick read for me. I had high expectations for this novel, but it came up very short. The ending saved this book from drowning in disappointment as old foes are gone and new subplots, like Sookie’s brother (Jason), emerge. They will become more important later in the series. Sookie begins depressed and is still unhappy at the end despite finding her brother again. The war among the werewolves, vampires and witches was overexaggerated. The kind Eric irritated me because of his naivete and tight attachment to Sookie. Bill has a very minor role in the entire story. Alcide was nowhere to be found. I believe Harris rushed the storyline and nothing new was developed. In sum, this story is a continuation of the previous novel.

Stay tuned for the next book in the Southern Vampire series, Dead as a Doornail.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Still Doll" by Kanon

This is one of my favorite songs now. "Wakeshima ~Still Doll" by Kanon is the ending song for the currently airring Japanese anime series, Vampire Knight. The video looks very good, and the music has that lovely gothic classical tune. It shows an image of a girl who is locked and chained inside a creepy room. An old man looks through a peephole to spy on her while she plays the cello. Mana, former performer of Malice Mizer, composed and produced this song. It definitely sounds like his type of work. It is nice to hear about him and his accomplishments again. I plan to have a review about the show after it ends later this year. Click on the link below to read the English translated lyrics:




Hi Miss Alice
With your glass eyes
What kind of dream
Can you see?
Are you fascinated with?

Stilll
My heart tears
And drifts
Stuck in the patched crevices
Are memories

Hi Miss Alice
With that fruitful lips
To whom does love
Is cast away?
Is lamented?

Already
I spin my words
Feverish tongue
Has turned cold
The song to love
Can't be sung either

still you do not answer


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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Review: Blood Ties (2007)

Blood Ties is based in contemporary Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Vicki Nelson, a former Toronto police officer, starts her own private paranormal investigation firm after she began losing her eyesight. It was either a desk job in the police department or leaving the force altogether. She accidentally teams up with 450-year-old vampire Henry Fitzroy, illegimate son of King Henry VIII of England, to solve supernatural cases.

This partnership becomes more complicated when Vicki's ex-partner and former lover, Detective-Sargeant Mike Celluci, learns about the relationship. He does not believe in the supernatural and believes she is losing her mind. He is concerned about her and wishes she does not risk her life in dangerous cases. Vicki discovers and hires Coreen, who has background knowledge in the occult, as her assistant and to keep her quiet about Henry. As the series progresses, an interesting love triangle emerges among Vicki, Henry, and Mike. Henry develops an attraction to Vicki's valor and exuberance for life. Mike becomes jealous and finds their friendship troublesome. Each espisode explores a different supernatural case. All four major characters put aside their differences and work together to save the city from evil.

UPDATE: I highly recommend this show. I am a major fan of Tanya Huff's Blood Series, and have read all five books. I am currently reading the third book in the Tony Foster's Smoke series. I highly anticipated this show because it takes place in Toronto and I wanted to see the characters I have read so much on the TV screen! Unfortunately, I heard Lifetime will not renew their contract to broadcast Blood Ties. Petition Scifi Channel or the FX Channel to resume this series. There are a lot of loyal and anxious fans out there who want to see more Vicki and Henry!! =)

Main Cast

  • Christina Cox as Victoria "Vicki" Nelson

  • Kyle Schmid as Henry Fitzroy

  • Dylan Neal as Mike Celluci

  • Gina Holden as Coreen Fennel






Blood Ties Promo


Save Blood Times on Lifetime TV!

As of April 2008, there has been no update on whether there will be a second season of Blood Ties. It makes me feel anxious too. I hope there is no cancellation. There are several campaigns and petitions online to save the show. Visit them and show your support!



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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Review: Art in the Blood (Vampire Files #4)

...when the career of a talented young artist is fatally cut short, I know I won't sleep easy in my coffin until I find the killer... ...dead artists can live forever. An undead detective may not be so lucky.

Art in the Blood, the fourth book in the Vampire File series, begins with journalist-turned -vampire detective, Jack Fleming, in the Chicago Stockyards feeding on his usual meal – cow’s blood. It is the year 1937, and gang lords run half the city. He cruises by the clubhouse, The Nightcrawler Club, where his man, Gordy, operates the joint. He is a tall and muscular figure, which gives him an advantage if he experiences any confrontation. Jack then tells Gordy what bothers him that night.

This story continues from the previous novel, Bloodcircle. Jack Fleming killed the woman who was behind the deaths of Maureen Dumont, Emily Francher, John Henry Banks and Jonathan Barrett. He is depressed because he murdered the person. He later stops home at Charles Escott, his British private agent friend, where he sometimes astonishingly vanishes and reappears like a ghost. That is enough to scare or choke Escott while he is eating his food!

Nevertheless, to keep his mind on the positive side, he attends an art gallery show with his showgirl lady, Bobbi Smythe. Marza Cheveraux and her friend, Madison Pruitt, are also there to support her. Pruitt is known for talking political matters. (Elrod introduces slang and historical tidbits such as communism, Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and Hitler’s invasions in Europe, to introduce readers to the 1930s.) The art gallery mansion on the north shore of Chicago belongs to the artist, Leighton Brett, and his fiancee, Reva Stokes.

As Fleming walks around outside, he notices a group of men are playing some crap games. One of the men, Evan Robley, used loaded dice and was later exposed of his cheating. Jack saves the young man just in time from being a dead fish in the fountain. He finds out that Evan is a painter. At the party, Jack meets Evan’s sister, Sandra, and another famous painter, Alex Adrian. He has not commissioned any paintings for quite some time, which disturbs the other painters because his wife committed suicide several months ago. Suddenly, Jack must rescue Evan from another brawl and carries him home. But some gang lord’s goons were already at Evan’s flat to give him a physical lesson. Since Jack is a vampire, his strength is twice as strong and easily kicks them out.

Evan Robley and his sister move in with Adrian for safety reasons. Obviously, Evan owes a man a major debt and his life is at stake. Adrian agrees to commission Fleming a portrait of his lady, Bobbi, at his place. It has been several months since Adrian has done a painting for a magazine or individual customer. His wife, Celia, is said to have committed suicide by leaving the motor running in the garage door closed while she sat with the windows open. Some rumors however state that Adrian’s wife suffered a homicidal death. Jack Fleming hunts for clues through various sources like the popular newspaper journalist, Barb Steler, to determine what really happened to Adrian’s wife.

Suddenly, Evan’s sister, Sandra, is found murdered in a pool of blood. Evan, in serious distress, cannot aid Fleming or Adrian. The police chief, Lieutenant Blair, arrives a the scene. Escott and Fleming decide to check out the southside of Chicago. Escott wears his bullet-proof vest because it’s about to get wild. They find Alex Adrian tied up in a noose in an unconscious state, and meets the ganglord that has harassed Evan. Fleming rescues Adrian from near death, but the search for who killed Sandra Robley still remains a mystery.

This book is one of P.N. Elrod’s most complex and chilling books in the Vampire Files series. There are many twisting storylines and developments on numerous characters – new and old. I had so much information to comprehend! I highly recommend readers to consider the previous three novels Bloodcircle, Lifeblood, and Bloodcircle because this novel involves a lot of flashbacks. It is not as fast-paced as her other books, which can be good or bad. This book only has 195 pages but the chapters are long and full of suspense. This is a true crime scene investigation novel: police, reporters, witnesses and alibis.

Stay tuned to the next book in the Vampire Files series, Fire in the Blood
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Monday, May 5, 2008

"Vampire Secrets" (History Channel)

The History Channel filmed and broadcasted a special documentary called Vampire Secrets. To learn more about this 2006 production, please check out the Wiki page by clicking here. The documentary features the history of vampires from Indian, Greek, and Chinese origins, and mentions references to the Bible and ancient Mesopotamia. It is a very good show.

What is the origins of vampires? All vampires descend from Cain and Lilith. If you are not familiar with the biblical story, this link narrates it very well below:

Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain, a tiller of the ground, and Abel, a shepherd. Both brought offerings to God, Cain brought the fruits of the ground, and Abel, brought one of his flock as an offering. God approved of Abel’s offering, but not that of Cain’s. Cain became very angry at this. As he and Abel where in the field on day, Cain rose up and struck his brother repeatedly until he was dead. God asked Cain “Where is your brother?” and Cain answered “Am I my brothers keeper?”. God asked Cain what he had done, that his brothers blood cried to him from the earth. For his punishment in slaying his brother, Cain was cursed, the ground would not produce anything for him any longer, a fugitive and vagabond he would be. Cain told God his punishment was more than he could bear, to always be hidden from the face of God and driven out from the face of the earth. Cain also told God his concern of being killed, but God set a mark upon Cain that if any should harm him, they would suffer punishment sevenfold. Cain then left into the land of Nod.

In myth, it is said that the curse that God had set upon Cain was to be cast into a world of darkness with a continuous craving for blood, and this curse has been passed from generation to generation, all the way up to the vampires of today. It is said that when Cain went into the world of darkness, that he became acquainted with Lilith, the first wife of Adam. She had given some of her blood to Cain, which awakened him to his ability. After wandering for years in the wild, he returned to being amongst the mortals where he built a city called Enoch. There, Cain created the second generation of vampires by turning three mortals, they in turn created a third generation of vampires in vast numbers, and Cain finally forbade the creation of vampires from thence on.

After some time, the city Cain had built was destroyed by a flood. Cain ended up abandoning the city and leaving all the generations of vampires behind to do what ever they wanted, but before he left, he reminded them of his command to not create any more vampires. The vampires completely rebelled against Cain’s command and made a 4th generation of vampires, who rose up against the elder vampires of the third generation, killing all but a very few.



This documentary is available for purchase on Amazon.com.




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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Review: Claymore (2007)


Claymore (2007) is a dark Japanese anime fantasy series. In this medieval world, humans co-exist with demonic creatures (Yoma) who feed off human organs. As shapeshifters, they are capable of changing into human form and living in disguise amongst humans. A nameless and highly confidential organization has created superhuman female warriors, called Claymores, who can battle and destroy these Yoma with their giant swords. Villages seek out and pay Claymores to kill the Yoma. As half human, the warriors can retain their sense of humanity and duty. As half Yoma, they have supernatural strength and abilities. However, once they reach the powerful Awakening Being stage, they become something more terrifying and must be hunted down.

This series follows the adventures of Clare as she fights Yoma and struggles with the death of her Claymore guardian, Teresa, in her childhood. After Teresa's death, Clare decides to become a Claymore using Teresa's flesh. She is determined to take revenge on the Awakened Being that killed Teresa. on her journey, she acquires a human friend and travel companion, Raki, who also witnessed a Yoma kill his family. As the series progresses, Clare improves her skills and increases her power. She becomes a better fighter and gradually earns the respect of other Claymores.

I really loved this series. I sympathized with Clare because carries a heavy burden within her soul. She lost someone so precious to her. Clare becomes more open and considerate as the show progresses. Each adventure improves her self-worth and determines her fate. Other Claymores also start to question the mission of the organization. I hope there will be a second season of Claymore (It may take 1-2 more years before it even becomes a consideration.) The music was also fantastic. Riyu Kosaka's "Danzai no Hana ~ Guilty Sky ~" definitely captures the soul and ongoing determination of Clare. I highly recommend the show.

This series is available to buy and rent on DVD.


  • TV Episodes: 26
  • OP Song: "Raison D'etre" by Nightmare

  • ED Song: "Danzai no Hana ~Guilty Sky~" by Riyu Kosaka






Raison D'etre by Nightmare





Danzai no Hana ~Guilty Sky~ by Riyu Kosaka
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