Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Knowing (2009)

Knowing (2009) is an apocalyptic science fiction film in theaters now. It is 1959, Lexington, Massachusetts. A new local elementary celebrates its grand opening by burying a time capsule containing the students' drawings. The time capsule idea came from Lucinda Embry, a quiet and mentally disturbed girl who claims to hear strange whispering voices in her mind. In her drawing, she frantically writes down a list of random numbers. When she could not finish writing down the remaining numbers on the paper, her teacher finds her in the school basement scratching on the walls with her hands bloodied and bruised.

Fast forward fifty years later. The same elementary school opens the time capsule and hands out the drawings to the new generation of students. Caleb, the son of a MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor and astrophysicist John Koestler, receives Lucinda's image. When Caleb takes the picture home, John initially dismisses it as random numbers. However, he accidentally discovers that the numbers represents dates and number of deaths of epic disasters in the past fifty years.

After discovering the legitimacy of the numbers when a commercial plane crashed near Lexington, John believes his son was chosen to get Lucinda's prophecies as well as race against time to save people who are fated to die in these predictions. He searches for Lucinda's daughter, Diana, and her daughter, Abby. During their investigation, they discovered her mother's mobile home which contained news clippings of events and images from the Bible. Outside, the group encounter strange silent men dressed in coats who vanish in a flash of light. Together, they must figure out if they will survive the final epic disaster prediction.

Oh my goodness. Where do I even begin with this movie? The ending left me clueless and dissatisfied. I had high anticipation for Knowing because I generally liked Nicolas Cage's previous mystery-adventure films, National Treasure. Since Cage wants to the the next Indiana Jones mega-blockbuster actor, I was hoping he could explore the science fiction genre with a more decent, genius plot. Warning: This review contains many spoilers.

The film begins as a science fiction mystery case and ends obscurely with biblical connotations. Apocalypse meets E.T! The speechless dressed-in-black aliens are now the good guys? As Earth is being destroyed, these chosen children are running happily to the Tree of Life (??) on another unknown planet? I thought this film had a decent plot but the ending completely destroys it. If the viewer does not watch the entire movie, they would be left confused and helpless.

The main characters are dead, and the chosen children live. What's the point of the disasters in the past 50 years? Was this mankind's punishment for believing in false religion? I was rooting for Nicolas Cage to prevent disasters and saves lives. But he realized he could not stop the apocalpyse (the second half of the film contains many biblical references of Genesis and Revelations). As a scientist, he returns home to reunite with his parents (pastor, mind you!) so that he can become a good, faithful son again. Do you see how the plot is all over the place now?

Don't get me wrong, I am into fantasy and the paranormal. That's the entire purpose of my blog. However, good works must have good, flowing plots. I just learned that some critics believe the film contains Scientology beliefs, a controversial nondenominational religion which states humans have lost touch with their inner selves and must become rehabilitated through spiritual means. If you're not familiar with why this religion is popular in Hollywood, look up famous members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta). One common aspect is the belief that humans are reincarnated on other planets before coming to Earth.

Overall, I would give Knowing one out of four stars. It was so bad that the second half completes distorts everything. Don't watch this film unless you're a Scientology believer or a major fan of ambiguous, senseless films. (Note: I am a firm believer when something becomes too complex, I believe you will lose the audience and lose the basic theme of a movie.) It ends on a flat note.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Music Video: 1000 Words (Final Fantasy X-2)

As some of you already know, I am a huge Japanese animation fan. It is one of the few media industries that frequently explores paranormal, mythological, and fantasy stories. The North American media is catching up with some popular shows and movies in the past few years. For now, I tune to anime to educate and entertain my imagination. I would have never learned about the legends of Hell Girl (Jigoku Shoujo) or Blood+ if it wasn't for anime!

I also like anime music. "1000 Words" (1000 no Kotoba in Japanese) is one of my favorite songs from the Final Fantasy series. Jade Villalon of Sweetbox sings the English version, and Kumi Koda sings the original Japanese version. This song is so enchanting and beautiful that the whole audience listens with awe. The Japanese version is even better (Koda adds more jazz to the melody)! I highly recommend the Final Fantasy movies and games.

You can find this song on the Final Fantasy X-2 OST (2004).

1000 Words (English)

1000 Words (Japanese)

Click on the link below to view the song lyrics (English only).

Here are lyrics below:

I know that you're hiding things
using gentle words to shelter me
your words were like a dream
but dreams could never fool me...
Not that easily

I acted so distant then
didn't say good-bye before you left
but I was listening
you fight your battles far from me......
Far too easily

'Save your tears 'Cause I'll come back'
I could hear that you whispered
as you walked through that door
but still I swore to hide that pain
when I turn back the pages
Shouting might've been the answer then
what if I cried my eyes out and begged you not to depart
but now I'm not afraid to say what's in my heart....

'Cause One Thousand words
Called out Through the Ages
They'll Fly to you
Even Though I can see
I Know That Reaching you
Suspended on Silver Wings

Oh One Thousand Words
One Thousand Embraces
Will Cradle You
Making all of Your Weary Days Seem Far Away
They'll Hold you Forever........

(Instrumental Break)

Oh One Thousand Words {One Thousand Words}
Have Never been spoken {Oh Yeah}
They'll fly to you
they'll carry you home {carry you home}
Come back into my arms
Suspended on Silver Wings {On Silver Wings}

And One thousand words {oohh}
Called out through the ages {called through the ages}
They'll cradle you {oh yeah}
Making all of your lonely years to only days {only days}
They'll hold you forever.........


One Thousand Words...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: From Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire #8)

The supernatural community in Bon Temps, Louisiana, is reeling from two hard blows -- the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the man-made horror of the explosion at the vampire summit the month before in the up-north city of Rhodes. Sookie Stackhouse is safe but dazed, yearning for things to get back to normal. But that's just not happening. Too many vampires -- some friends, some not, -- were killed or injured, and her weretiger boyfriend, Quinn, is among the missing.

It's clear that things are changing, whether the Weres and vamps of her corner of Louisiana like it or not. And Sookie -- friend of the pack and blood-bonded to Eric Northman, the leader of the local vampire community -- is caught up in the changes.

In the ensuing battles, Sookie faces danger, death...and, one more, betrayal by someone she loves. And when the fur has finished flying and the cold blood flowing, her world will be forever altered....

From Dead to Worse, by Charlaine Harris, is the eighth novel in the Southern Vampire series. Sookie Stackhouse, 26-year-old telepath and cocktail waitress, is recovering from the terrorist attack against vampires at the Pyramid of Gizeh in the city of Rhodes. Before she can get her life back together, a group of out-of-state powerful vampires are gradually seizing control of Louisiana from disgranced Queen Sophie-Anne and the Were leaders begin a fight to the death. Meanwhile, she meets a handsome, charming man named Niall, who announces he is the prince of the Fey (fairies) and her great-grandfather.

In addition, Sookie will discover painfully the one person she loves betrays her, and she must come to self-realization about her own desires in life. Amelia, a witch-in-training from New Orleans, Her human and supernatural friends come to assist her as she tries to resolve enemies' grudges away from her family. Later, Sookie discovers good news that her cousin, Hadley, gave birth to a baby boy four years ago. When she finally meets him, she realizes they share a supernatural trait. A new twist has emerged in her life, and you can only find out by picking up this novel today!

While I was very enthusiastic to read this book, From Dead to Worse did not offer a lot of action like the previous novel, All Together Dead originally delivered. There were around five plots in this book alone! Some readers may complain there was no further development in Sookie and Eric's relationship because she does not want to get hurt again. In the end, she becomes a more mature and cautious person. The state of Louisiana has entered a transition of power, and she has become a single woman again. It's the reasons why she reaches this point in her life that are sad, yet intriguing. There are a lot of colorful twists and neighborhood moments that even surprised me, which is why Charlaine Harris is one of my favorite novelists.

This novel also felt very climatic to me. The storyline definitely felt like this is a new chapter, a new beginning for Sookie. She has realized her own desires and limitations in relationships and associations. I call it a self-realization moment for her because she has been chasing after love, peace and friendship only to find more betrayal, danger and enemies. She has reached the point where she will focus more on her family and herself (The next book seems to point in this direction). She has been pulled deeply into the supernatural community (Weres, vampires, shapeshifters, fairies, and witches) and has learned not to fear those around her.

With so many plots in this book, some readers may feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of new characters and mysteries. I would definitely read all the previous novels before I touch this one to gain a better understanding about the people in Sookie's circle -- human and supernatural.

Stay tuned for the next review in the Southern Vampire novels, Dead and Gone


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Witch Fury (4th Elemental Witches Novel) Available June 2009

Witch Fury, the fourth novel of the Elemental Witches series will be available for purchase on June 2, 2009. Her previous three novels are Witch Fire, Witch Blood, and Witch Heart.

If you like reading about witchcraft, demons, and romance, I highly recommend the Elemental Witches series. Stay tuned for a book review this summer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Review: Fushigi Yuugi ~Mysterious Play~ (1995-1998, 2001)

Fushigi Yuugi ~Mysterious Play~ (1995-1998, 2001) is a historical romance mythological Japanese anime drama series that was very popular in Japan during the 1990s. It chronicles the journey of two teenaged girls and best friends (Miaka Yuuki and Yui Hongo) who find a strange book that transports them from their local library into an ancient Chinese novel titled "The Universe of the Four Gods." They both land in an ancient country, Konan, in what is now China. These two girls will face many courageous trials and burdens as they attempt to return to contemporary Japan. The TV series contains 52 episodes.

Miaka learns she must become the priestess and summon one of the four gods, Suzaku. As the priestess, it is her destiny to gather the seven celestial warriors ("seishi") of Suzaku, who are to be her protectors (each warrior has a unique tattoo that symbolizes their strongest trait). Once they are gathered together, the priestess will summon the god Suzaku in a ceremonial ritual and bring peace between the warring nations, Konan and Kutou. In the end, the priestess can obtain three wishes.

Unfortunately, Miaka's journey is harder than it seems. Yui enters the novels and becomes her rival, the priestess of Seiryu in the land of Kutou. One of the celestial warriors of Seriyuu easily manipulates her into believing she was raped. As a result, Yui feels betrayed and wants Miaka to suffer miserably for the loss and pain she supposedly endured. Meanwhile, Miaka develops romantic feelings for one of her warriors, Tamahome. Their love becomes so powerful that destiny stands in their way: Tamahome is a fictional character in the ancient universe whereas Miaka must return back to her era once she completes her quest. Miaka's wish to enter the high school of her dreams gradually shifts toward finding a way to be with Tamahome. Although Miaka is sympathetic to Konan's issues, she must rescue her friend and race to the finish line if she wants to prevent genocide and ultimately return home.

After the end of the TV series, three more OAVs were produced to further explain why it was difficult for Tamahome to become a real person in Miaka's world. Although Tamahome became an actual person in Japan (his new name: Taka), the difference between the memories of the real Taka and Tamahome made it impossible for him to stay with her unless the memories of Taka were restored and merged with Tamahome. The last OAV (Eikoden, 2001) centers around a new priestess who enters the Universe of the Four Gods and seeks to destroy everything Miaka and Taka/Tamahome had done to make their relationship successful.

I LOVED THIS SERIES! Miaka and Taka/Tamahome are one of the best anime couples. It took me only two weeks to watch this entire show. While the character development and storyline were excellent, I agree with some critics that the artwork in the TV series was not of high quality. The music was good, emotional and appealing. Fortunately, he character design gradually improves in the three OAVs (especially Eikoden).

Yuu Watase, the mangaka of Fushigi Yuugi, came up with the Seven Celestial Warriors concept from studying ancient Chinese astrology. Fushigi Yuugi was so popular in Japan that Watase is continuing the legend through a prequel manga, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden. I hope it becomes adapted for animation. If you are a fan of Sailor Moon and other bishoujo anime, you will definitely enjoy this series.

Teenage and young adult populations would love this series. Although Fushigi Yuugi aired on television over ten years ago, the storyline transcends time. Miaka and Tamahome's relationship [Updated January 2019: I replaced the original link with this Pinterest image gallery.] proves that love is the strongest element in the universe. Overall, I highly recommend this series!!

Opening Theme: Itooshii Hito no Tame ni ~For The Sake Of My Beloved~ by Akemi Satou

Ending Theme: Tokimeki no Doukasen ~Fuse of Excitement~ by Yukari Konno

Fushigi Yugi Eikoden (OVA 3) Opening Theme: "Chijou no Seiza" by Yoko Ueno

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Friday the 13th: A Good or Cursed Day?

Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th. It is quite rare to have two Friday the 13th days in consecutive months (February and March). This post is not about the movies (Jason!), but rather the origins behind this unique day.

Some people say this is a day of bad luck. Over the generations, people would cautiously stay home on this day.

Some interesting facts about Friday the 13th:

  • The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia.
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  • The year 2009 has three Friday the 13th days in the months of February, March, and November. This sequence will repeat again in the years 2015 and 2016.

  • During leap years, Friday the 13th occurs three times in the months of January, April, and July.

There is also an explanation from Norse mythology:
The actual origin of the superstition, though, appears also to be a tale in Norse mythology. Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil - a gathering of thirteen - and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath."

Do you believe this day brings good or bad luck?

Check out the Snopes,, and Infoplease for more information regarding Friday the 13th.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) Available August 2009 Promise, the fourth novel of the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, will be available for purchase in hardcover edition on August 25, 2009. It will span about 480 pages.

I cannot wait to read about Rose's journey outside the walls of St. Vladimir's Academy. If you have not read the third novel (Shadow Kiss), I highly recommend it! I have already written a book review on the last novel. Richelle Mead is a newcomer to the paranormal fantasy genre, and her novels are simply fantastic. You would not want to put them down!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Review: The Dark Sleep (Vampire Files #8)

“…Someone’s after Jack. But who? Jack is willing to risk his life to find the truth—after all, he’s already dead.

Only this time, it’s not his life he’s risking…”

The Dark Sleep, the eighth book of the Vampire Files series, begins with main characters, Jack Fleming, vampire detective, and his English friend and private agent, Charles Escott. It is April 1937, post-prohibition Chicago. Two months have passed (for fans who have read the previous novels) since the rivalry between the Chicago and New York gangs. Charles has a new case from a woman named Mary Sommerfeld to retrieve important love letters that could ruin her relationship with her future husband. The man who has them, her ex-boyfriend Jason McCallen, is too stubborn and upset about this affair. Everything goes wrong during undercover mode that Escott and Fleming are left bruised together on the floor. They were almost killed!

Without arguing any further with Charles upon their return to the office, Jack visits the Nightcrawler Club to see his girlfriend, Bobbi Smythe, debuting her act on stage. The owner of the club, Gordy Weems, is one of Jack’s few closet friends (Jack did save his life a couple of times). As a regular at the club, he has the best seats in the house. Bobbi, the star of the show, is a sensation as the audience congratulates her performance. Meanwhile, Jack meets a few national celebrities. One man, Ike LaCelle, believes he could lead Bobbi to the right people for larger stardom. We meet three other important individuals: actress Adelle Taylor, businessman Gil Dalhauser, and Chicago’s own radio show host, Archy Grant. Archy is quite an impressive gentleman to any woman with his handsome face and perfect smile.

Jack has been contemplating about starting his own nightclub. In the previous novel, A Chill in the Blood, he is a rich man by lucky chance. With business as usual, Escott needs Fleming’s assistance again to solve the Sommerfeld case. They stop by Mr. McCallen’s home on the Southside of Chicago to retrieve the letters. Fleming in his supernatural form of invisibility finds the letters and rushes back to the car. They drive to Sommerfeld’s home on the Westside where she is very happy to see her letters again. That same evening, Jack pays a visit to Chicago’s Bronze Belt, the predominately black neighborhood, to see Trudence Coldfield. Instead, he meets Shoe Coldfield, longtime friend of Charles Escott and kingpin of the local black gangs. Shoe reminds Jack to watch and protect Charles carefully.

A night that should have gone excellent with Jack and Bobbi proved disastrous as McCallen terrorized the Sommerfeld home for the letters. While Jack searches for McCallen, he meets Jim Waters, a soulful bar singer, whom he found fantastic and possibly necessary for his future club. Unfortunately, Jack must monitor the clever and womanizing Andy Grant, who wants something more than just a talented singer on his radio show: Grant wants Bobbi all for himself.

When Jack resumes his search for McCallen to find information for Escott, he instead discovers a new guy, Paterno, who wants the letters just as badly. Who is he and what does he have to do with this case? Are they truly love letters? Jack needs to find the answers soon because his mortal partner, Charles, is in some unexpected and serious danger. As Jack tries to rescue his friend, he ascertains information about Charles’s hidden and disturbing past that would help him solve this mystery case—even if it smells like dangerous territory for a vampire.

The Dark Sleep starts fresh with a new investigation, new people and more trouble for our hero, Jack Fleming. He briefly chronicles all seven books (it has been six months since his transformation as a vampire) in several pages of important characters, events and symbolic memories. Bullets exit his body like he is paper; however, sunlight and wood have serious and painful effects on him. For Charles Escott fans, this IS the book that reveals information about his past! He becomes terrified and furious when someone from his past tries to murder him. While I have not always appreciate Escott’s role in this series, I reconsidered my opinions about him: he is a CRUCIAL character. This book is dedicated to Charles’ internal struggles and quest for justice to those close to him.

I also learned more about the career goals of Bobbi Smythe. She has the musical talent and beauty to aspire big for Hollywood, but she would rather build her local and regional connections. She is now 25 years old (Fleming is, pressumely, still 36 in human years.). We also learn that he is the youngest child from his parents, not that it is very important but it explains how he fits in his Ohio farm family. I don’t remember but his parents raised seven children, and Fleming is the only one unmarried and without children.

When Jack gives Ms. Sommerfeld the letters in her home, he notices an Evan Robley painting. Why is this special? Evan Robley was a main character in the fourth book, Art in the Blood, where he witnessed his dead sister on the floor of his own home. There is also another reference to Bloodlist when Jack notices Escott’s crossbow on the kitchen table. It would later become an important symbol in this book. Elrod reflects certain events from her previous novels of the Vampire Files series to provide a fairly continuous narrative which pleases longtime fans.

Jack also frequently recollects his past during the First World War, often known as the “Great War” when he served in the army. He compares and contrasts his experiences in the war to the Chicago gang-related gunfires. Elrod always include pop culture icons and vernacular dialogue that was very prevalent and significant in the 1920s and 1930s. She always describes important Chicago-related events and places like the Chicago Tribune (the city’s most famous newspaper), Chicago’s Bronze Belt (African-American community), Cicero (a famous neighborhood in Chicago), and Hyde Park (home of the prestigious University of Chicago). The setting of this story is before the brink of World War Two.

Stay tuned for my next review for the ninth installment in the Vampire File Series, Lady Crymsyn.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Metropolis (2002)

Metropolis (2002)is a Japanese animation film adapted from the 1949 manga (Japanese comic book) of the legendary anime artist, Osamu Tezuka, and director, Rin Tao, about the apocalyptic collapse of the futuristic city of Metropolis. Machines and humans live in very segregated worlds. Revolution is imminent in the city as tensions continue to worsen. This movie is also based on the original 1927 German screenplay by Fritz Lang with the same title.

Private detective, Shunsaku Ban, and his nephew, Kenichi, enter the city to find the missing doctor, Dr. Laughton. With the assistance of a detective android, they cover different zones within the city (Metropolis is built on different zones, in which certain zones are unavailable to the public and certain androids). The doctor was commissioned under the ruler of Metropolis to construct a superhuman android that will control all androids and machines from the Ziggurat. When they find Dr. Laughton, his hidden lab was also destroyed in a mysterious fire. Who would have murdered the doctor?

The ruler of Metropolis, Duke Red, initially asked Dr. Laughton to create the android as heir to the throne in the Ziggurat. Duke Red treats this android (whose name is Tima) like his own long-lost daughter. His foster son, Rock, despises and ridicules androids. Kenichi discovers Tima, and they flee the Rock’s rage through underground tunnels, sewage waste, and towering skyscrapers. On their journey, the two meet many friends who assist them in their escape. Unfortunately, Kenichi falls in love with Tima, who seems so innocent despite being the ultimate super-machine.

What happens to the blossoming friendship between Kenichi and Tima? Is it her destiny to become more human-like or inherit the most powerful throne the world has ever seen? Can humans and androids co-exist together peacefully? Only you can find out by watching this movie. The ending will surprise - and delight - any viewer.

This was an amazing and beautiful film. After renting this video, I immediately bought it on DVD (109 minutes). The two-disc DVD collection is very worthwhile primarily for teenagers and adults. The music, combined with classical and New Orleans-style jazz, makes the Tezuka’s 1940s-Disney-like characters function well with the futuristic background. I saw this film in ‘Japanese with English subtitles’ and ‘English dubbed’ version. Although the Japanese version was longer with an introduction, both versions did very well in story execution. I preferred the English dubbed simply because the voices seemed more accurate with the characters’ personalities.

Even people who have limited knowledge of Japanese animation will love this movie because of its Western-style narration and fantastic (2-D and 3-D CGI) artwork. I stared in awe at the magnificence and beauty of the artwork throughout the movie. It would make Fritz Lang very proud because this version marked the 75th anniversary of the German silent film. At its premiere, this blockbuster was groundbreaking in which it explored the darker side of humanity where there was a growing social crisis between workers and owners in a futuristic, capitalist society. It influenced a new genre of science fiction cinema such as cyberpunk. Critics during this period worried that industrialization was eroding social, artistic and cultural traditions in the pursuit of power and greed. Human lives were expendable in a mass production society.

The audience may recognize the Christian biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The Ziggurat represents the Tower of Babel and how mankind tries to reach heaven by building the tallest structure into the sky. God demolished the tower with His wrath and created language confusion among the people. This story influences the idea of the Ziggurat structure: mankind tries to play God in the world with androids as the supreme rulers. This film captures humans’ fears and anxieties when Tezuka created this manga: people thought that (with two global wars and millions of deaths) it was almost the end of the world during the 1930s and 1940s.

The two theme songs, Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and the jazzy and talented Japanese singer, Minako “Mooki” Obata’s “There'll Never Be Goodbye” (sung in English), are excellent and memorable. I provided the lyrics to the ending theme below. I highly recommend this film (including the 1927 original version).

This film is available to rent and buy on DVD.

"I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles

"There'll Never Be Good-Bye" by Minako "mooki" Obata

Lyrics to There'll Never Be Good-bye by Minako "mooki" Obata

Burning orange light slowly melt into the sky
Sparkles in your eyes aglow
Cold and heartless walls and never ending sighs
When you held me close, were gone

I'd have never known if you had never shown
Someday I'd have wings to fly
But who'd ever dream these arms were meant to break
So I must go
Before you see me fall

I recall sweet and enchanted days
Your smile chased the clouds away
All fragments of our memory survive
Shining in the moonless night

Life time is a match
A momentary flash
Yet this forever remains
You are in my heart
Until my heart's not mine
So remember
This never is Good-bye

I recall sweet and enchanted days
Your smile chased the clouds away
All fragments of our memory survive
Shining in the moonless night

Stay close to my soul
Like you're close to my hands
Darling if I fade away
You are in my heart
Until my heart's not mine
But I must go
Before you see me fall

So remember
This never is Good-bye

Please remember
There'll never be Good-bye