Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)

Werewolves can be dangerous if you get in their way, but they'll leave you alone if you are careful. They are very good at hiding their natures from the human population, but I'm not human. I know them when I meet them, and they know me, too.

Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs, is the first novel in the Mercy Thompson werewolf series. Based in the contemporary Pacific Northwest, Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson happens to be an auto mechanic with a thing for German cars. She isn't normal herself -- she is a shape-shifter who can turn into a coyote. In addition, a vampire friend owns her auto shop, which used to belong to a fae under previous ownership. Her next-door neighbor is the Alpha leader of the Columbian Basin werewolf clan. As a child, she was orphaned and raised by werewolves. She ran away to start a new life in the Tri-Cities. Mercy is a laid-back, self-confident, and tough girl who values loyal friendships and speaks her mind freely. She shifts at her own will and has enhanced senses and speed, even in her human form.

Meanwhile, a strange teenage boy stops by her shop looking for a job. She knew he wasn't a local resident, but he proved himself handy as her assistant. She also learns that he is a forcibly-turned werewolf with no ties to a clan. Suddenly, mercenaries and werewolves come looking for the boy, the local Alpha leader has been attacked in his own home, and a dead body is left on Mercy's front porch as a warning to stay away. The local witches and vampires also take an interest in the case. The national leader of the werewolves eventually becomes involved in the case because he plans to inevitably announce their existence to the public. Mercy seeks refuge with her werewolf companions for answers and protection. Mercy quickly uses her analytical mind and quick speed to investigate who is behind the killings in her area.

I finally have a new review! I have been so busy these past month that I am glad that I finished this novel. The weather is getting warmer, and that means more time to explore other books this summer.

This is my first novel in which the protagonist is not a witch, vampire, or telepath. I was initially skeptical about starting a werewolf series. I must say that Patricia Briggs definitely hit the bull's eye with this new series. I liked the flow of the storyline, character development, and extra attention to details. The supernatural originally came from Europe, and have hierarchies within their groups. Only the shape-shifters are native to North America.

This is not a romance novel. Although there are mentions of Mercy's previous relationships, this is primarily a mystery/action story. There were no physical sex references (read Lynsay Sands' or Anya Bast's novels). Readers learn more about her personality and surrounding area. She is cool, intelligent, and courageous. I definitely want to read Mercy's future adventures in the rest of this series.

Stay tuned to the next novel in the Mercy Thompson series, Blood Bound.
Click here to read the rest of this post...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Update: True Blood 2nd Season Premieres June 2009

The moment we have all been waiting for is less than two months away. The second season of popular supernatural drama, True Blood, will premiere on June 14, 2009 on the HBO Channel. You can find a preview clip of the second season on Entertainment Weekly. We will finally learn what has happened to Sookie, Bill, and Tara! If you do not have HBO on your television stations, you can always watch the show online on sites such as ovguide.com and sidereel.com.

We all know about the fate of Lafayette in the last season. There will be four new regular characters in the second season. This should be very interesting. Below is also a promotional video of the second season.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Click here to read the rest of this post...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Video: Butterflies (Dance Dance Revolution)

This is the popular dance hit, Butterflies, which can be found on the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) soundtrack. If you have never heard of DDR, it is a video arcade game originally released in Japan where players must follow the steps in the game correctly to achieve a high score. The music is generally techno and electronica, and the stepping pad lights up to the music. It has become so globally popular that some schools are using the game as a physical fitness exemption for students! DDR has definitely made some achievements in the world of gaming, dance, and sports.

I thought this was a very nice animated video. The images are dark and gothic in character. Click on the link below to view the lyrics. Enjoy!

Ay, iyaiyai,
Ay, iyaiyai,
A-a-a iyaiyai
Where's my samurai

Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the sky
Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the sky

Where's my samurai
Where's my samurai

I've been searching for a man
All across Japan
Just to find, to find my samurai
Someone who is strong
But still a little shy
Yes i need, I need my samurai

Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the sky
Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the sky

Where's my samurai
Where's my samurai

I've been searching in the woods
And high upon the hills
Just to find, to find my samurai
Someone who won't regret
To keep me in his net
Yes I need, I need my samurai

Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the sky
Ay, Ay, Ay, I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue, make the colours in the
Click here to read the rest of this post...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'Supernatural' May Only Last 5 TV Seasons

Recent news from Entertainment Weekly have reported that the popular CWTV series, Supernatural, may only last one more season:

All those new Supernatural acolytes, however, may find themselves wishing they'd showed up sooner: The cast and crew's ''godfather,'' executive producer and director Kim Manners (The X-Files), passed away in January; Padalecki, 26, and Ackles, 31, are exhausted; and Kripke has long maintained that he wants the series to last only five seasons — that's one more, then they're done. As Kripke told his writers at the beginning of this season, ''Let's be bold. Let's delve into the stories headlong. Let's not tap-dance around them because we're scared, or because we have to save something for tomorrow. Because we don't know if there will be a tomorrow.''

This means that the entire TV series may only have a total of five seasons. The popularity of the show already rivals CSI and Grey's Anatomy, averaging over 3 million viewers weekly. There has been no official announcement of a sixth season. The main actors (Ackles and Padalecki) have also stated that they are ready to move on to other projects and move closer to family and friends after season five.

With the weight of their workload and Manners' death casting a pall on the set, Ackles and Padalecki are also eager to move on, even as they affirm their love for the show. ''We don't live at home. We don't sleep in our own beds. Our families aren't here. Our friends aren't here. Our girlfriends aren't here,'' says Ackles. ''To do it for another five years, or whatever, I don't know if I could handle it.'' Padalecki concurs: ''I enjoy working, but what's the point? Do I want to just keep on doing photo shoots and work so I can get more famous so I can do even more photo shoots and work and fly to more places to do more press?... I get sick of talking about myself.''

Meanwhile, the next episode (April 23) will introduce a third Winchester brother (Abel). He looks younger and could add more drama and assistance in their fight against rogue angels and powerful demons. This is very exciting news for fans.

If there will be an extension to the Supernatural series, I will definitely update you!

Click here to read the rest of this post...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: The Galaxy Railways (2003-2004, 2006-2007)

The Galaxy Railways (2003-2004, 2006-2007) is a science fiction Japanese anime TV show series set in the future. Humans have explored and settled on other planets in the cosmos. They travel the galaxy using technologically advanced trains. In order to protect innocent space travelers, an elite forcem the Space Defense Force (SDF), monitors the extensive galactic railway system and fights against terrorists, meteor storms, and other malicious alien life. Both seasons contains 26 episodes. (The series is also known as Ginga Tetsudō Monogatari in Japanese.)

First Season

This series revolves around the protagonist, Manabu Yuki, who has always dreamt of joining the Space Defense Force. He wants to follow in the same footsteps as his deceased father and older brother, who both died while serving in the SDF. His mother, unable to lose her only son, does whatever she can to dissaude Manabu. Despite her efforts, Manabu rides the train to Destiny Station, which is considered the center of the Universe, where he enlists in the SDF.

On planet Destiny, Layla Destiny Shura is a mysterious woman who guards the galactic railways system. She possesses the power to see the destiny of planets and living beings. Despite her important role, she cannot foretell human passengers what hidden dangers lie ahead on their journeys. This is where the SDF and other platoons play a major role: protecting the safety of the Galaxy Railways.

Meanwhile, Manabu becomes a member of the Sirius Platoon within the SDF. Together, he and his crew-mates ride the steam locomotive, Big One, and face fugitive criminals, natural disasters, hostile aliens, rescue operations, mysterious ghosts, space pirates, and black holes (time holes) throughout their galactic adventures.

How will Manabu face his destiny on the Galaxy Railways?

Second Season (Eternal Divergence ~Eien eno Bunkiten~)

An unknown amount of time has passed after the first season. Manubu is vacationing on his home planet. Meanwhile, the Sirius Platoon has an intern, Killian, observing and learning the ropes of Big One and SPF procedures. When Big One encounters trouble near Manabu's planet, he steals a locomotive to resuce his crew-mates. He returns to Planet Destiny to resume his SDF duty, thus ending his vacation. Manabu takes Killian under his wing and trains him on how to become a a better SDF officer.

The Sirius Platoon meets the new Cepheus Platoon, whose leader is Guy Lawrence, who served with Captain Buldge of the Sirius Platoon under Captain Yuki, Manabu's father and former captain of Big One. Meanwhile, the main story picks up when the Sirius Platoon pulls a stranded train from a wormhole during a rescue mission. A small pod escapes, and Big One recovers it. There is a young girl (whose name is Frell) inside who claims she comes from another universe and her home planet needs urgent help. In addition, she has heard of Manabu's father. With this surprising information, the Sirius Platoon takes a huge risk and charges through the wormhole into another universe outside the galactic railway system.

After enduring missions and making peace with various inhabited planets, they become sucked into a gravity pit where they find other galactic railways trains that have disappeared over the years. This place has become a "train graveyard" because there are no tracks to follow. Eventually, Big One leads Frell to her home planet. Manabu and the Sirius Platoon learn the truth about his father from the local elders that has shocking implications. How will Manabu face this new challenge?

Will this mission forever change his role as an SDF officer?

There is also a four-part OVA series called The Galaxy Railways: A Letter from the Abandoned Planet that took place in-between the first and second seasons. The Sirius Platoon rushes to the planet Herise to rescue the Galaxy Express 999. This is where the main character, Killian, was first introduced. It also uses the same name as the late-1970s Japanese cult classic, Galaxy Express 999.

The Galaxy Railways is a continuation of manga artist Leiji Matsumoto's avid fascination with trains and space that spans over three decades. If you have seen any of his other works (Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, Queen Millenia, Queen Esmeraldas, Space Symphony Maetel, just to name a few), then you understand what I mean. I believe it takes a certain fan to really appreciate his work (He is one of the most popular manga artists in Japan). His artistic style has remained consistent over the past half-century: tall, slender-looking heroines with powers or strong wills; the use of trains, particularly steam locomotives, as modern spacecraft; and the 1970s/1980s-era hairstyles on the main characters. The artwork may seem dated initially, but you gradually become accustomed to it. It's his signature style.

I first discovered his work on the Sci-Fi Channel many years ago, and his work intrigued me very much. Trains that can transport people from different planets in the universe? It seemed unbelievable, but I liked the concept. Matsumoto makes you feel sympathetic for the main characters because they undergo so many struggles and trials on their missions. Traveling in space can be very lonely and scary at the same time. There is a large unknown aspect in what lies ahead in the universe, and it has a huge impact on the development of the main characters.

I definitely enjoyed the first season of The Galaxy Railways, and couldn't wait to see the second season. I won't spoil the second season, but it has a very surprising ending. The music is also fantastic with lovely melodies and baritone action. I highly recommend this series and other Matsumoto's works.

Opening: "Gin Ga Tet Sudo wa Harukanari" by Sasaki Isao

Ending: "Gin Ga no Hikari" by Sasaki Isao

Click here to read the rest of this post...

Friday, April 3, 2009

'Legend of the Seeker' Gets Second Season

The popular Disney-produced fantasy-action drama, Legend of the Seeker, has been approved for a second season. The first season currently contains 22 episodes.

This is great news! I have been following the series every week, and the story continues to exceed my expectations. You should watch the adventures of Richard, Kahlen, and the wizard, Zedd, on your local television station today on the official web site!

UPDATE (April 10, 2009): The first season is currently taking a break. It will resume with the next episode, 1.18 Mirror, on April 25, 2009.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Click here to read the rest of this post...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Review: Twilight (2008)

Twilight (2008) is a teen vampire romance drama that takes place primarily in the Pacific Northwest United States. Isabella (Bella) Swan moves to Forks, a small town along the Washington state coast, to live with her father, Charlie, after her mother remarries and moves to Florida. On her first day of school, she quickly makes friends by the local high school. Who intrigues her the most is the Cullen family, particularly Edward Cullen. The siblings usually sit alone together in the cafeteria and have mysterious color-changing eyes. Bella sits next to Edward in her biology class, who appears disgusted by her and immediately leaves his seat once class ends. She feels confused and anxious to see him again.

A few days later, Bella is almost struck by a van in the school parking. Edward quickly shields her and stops the spinning van with his hand. Startled and curious, she continues to seek the truth about his abilities. Edward refuses to answer and reminds Bella that no one will believe her. He also warns her against befriending him. Still not convinced, Bella conducts her own research to discover his true identity. She eventually discovers that Edward is a vampire, but she does not fear him. The two fall in love and cannot leave each other apart. He introduces her to his vampire parents and siblings. They arrive at a field to play baseball together.

Meanwhile, three nomadic vampires, who hunt humans for food, have been responsible for unexplained deaths that has shaken the Forks community. When the leader of the vampires discovers Edward's protectiveness over a human, he hunts Bella for sport. Edward and his family risk their lives to protect Bella, but the leader is incredibly smart to fool. Can Edward save the girl he loves before it's too late?

I will admit that I originally did not see this film because I believe the novels by author, Stephenie Meyer, are terribly written. (Most teen novels average around 300 pages.) I finally decided to watch it, and I was simply blown away. Fans are usually skeptical of film adaptations of their favorite novels. I don't blame them. However, I believe after watching the film several times, you begin to appreciate the romance between Bella and Edward.

I definitely liked the character development. I instantly fell for Edward's handsome and mysterious persona. He may look dark and aloof, but he's really a good and honorable guy. Although I thought Bella was too bland and stubborn, I gradually liked her tenacity and determination to stay by Edward's side. I also liked the lighting because it fit the mood and instantly reminded me of the Pacific Northwest region (rainy and cloudy). I also liked the humor and diversity of the characters (The Asian characters played their roles well.) I thought the human characters could have looked somewhat less pale (Bella at times definitely looked sick-looking for someone arriving from Arizona).

How could I write a positive rating for this film? I understand that directors cannot always add every single detail from the novels into one film. At 120 minutes in length, the producers had to make some tough decisions, especially if there will be future sequels in the making. Furthermore, this film did not bore me. The action was fantastic; you quickly discover the great strength and speed of vampires. It puts a different spin on the portrayal of vampires: there are some good ones in society who want to mainstream and protect humans! The ending definitely foreshadows the next film, New Moon, with more enemies and explanation about specific characters, such as the rivalry between vampires and werewolves.

I do not plan to read the novels. I browse them in the bookstore, and the length is too long for my taste and time (500+ pages each). The series also have editing problems (something fans have repeatedly criticized in their reviews). I thought Twilight was a very well-made teen film, and I look forward to its sequel. I give it three out of four stars simply because the directors actually wanted to make this film strong and successful. Some scenes did look cheap and silly, and had some significant plot holes and sub-par acting (particularly Kristen Stewart). But this isn't an Oscar-worthy masterpiece. Its target audience is teens and young adults. I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for further updates about the next sequel in the Twilight film series, New Moon.

Twilight Film Trailer

This film is available to buy and rent on DVD.

UPDATE #3 (May 14, 2009): New information has been leaked about the third movie, Eclipse. It will premiere a little over seven months after New Moon.

UPDATE #2 (April 3, 2009): The Twilight series sequel, New Moon, is set for a November 2009 cinema release.

UPDATE (April 2, 2009): The Los Angeles Times recently posted an interview with Kristen Stewart (actress of Isabella Swan) stating the sequel, New Moon, would be more tragic than Twilight. Bella loses Edward! Stay tuned for more updates.

Click here to read the rest of this post...