Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Film: Blood, the Last Vampire (2009)

Wow, I can't believe I missed this update. Last month, Sony Pictures posted the trailer of the live-action adaptation, Blood: The Last Vampire, based upon the original 2000 Japanese anime. Its U.S. theatrical release date is July 10, 2009.

I am definitely looking forward to this version. I haven't been this hyped about an Asian action film since the Kill Bill movies. In the meantime, I am watching Eden of the East. It is growing on me, and the storyline is very intriguing. I plan to add a review next month when I finish the show. Enjoy!

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Review: Lady Crymsyn (Vampire Files #9)

“…Jack may have become a creature of the night, but he’s still a man with a strong sense of justice. And he won’t rest until he finds out who killed the lady in red—even if it means resurrecting secrets the mob would kill to keep buried…”

Lady Crymsyn, the ninth book in the Vampire Files series, has Jack Fleming, vampire detective, opening up his new club. It is June 1937, post-prohibition Chicago. Two months have passed (for fans who have read the previous novel, The Dark Sleep) since his troubling encounter with some enemies who tried to murder his best friend, Charles Escott, English-born private detective. Life is just not easy in the city of gangs. Jack already knows this fact since he’s already dead.

The name of the upcoming club is Lady Crymsyn. Previously just an idea, now it’s under construction. The place will definitely be the one of the city's hot spots, as Jack endlessly describes the details and legal taxation procedures with Uncle Sam (the IRS). The building, once a speakeasy (a place for the illegal sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks during the Prohibition era in the United States), rumors have it the place is haunted from its previous owner, Welsh Lennet, who died a tragic fate. But that’s not what’s bothering Jack and Charles. As the crewmen for the club work in the basement, they uncover a dead body—a lady in red tied together suffering a horrible death alive—behind a conserved brick wall. Soon, the police and newspaper reporters rush to the scene. Jack does not like this situation at all.

Lieutenant Blair, of the Chicago Police (who hasn’t been a main character since the Fire in the Blood) appears at the scene and really despises Jack. Before things get too rough to handle, Fleming makes sure to hear the updates on the dead woman and tells the police lieutenant to leave. Jack asks Gordy at the Nightcrawler Club if he knows anything about the corpse. Gordy is the man who seems to know everything about the city. Feeling extremely weak, Jack drives to the Union Stockyards for a fresh meal (blood) before he has to pick-up his lovely and talented girlfriend, Rpberta "Bobbi" Smythe. Like Fleming, she is not a Chicago native but a Midwesterner trying to pursue larger dreams as a stage actress in New York or Hollywood. Jack Fleming wants her to be happy (although he has asked her for marriage several times!).

With Bobbi's help, Jack discovers the identity of the dead skeletal woman. Joe James, a fashion designer for women’s clothing, identifies the woman as Lena Ashley, the hip, daring but not-so-smart gal who explored the wild side of life in Chicago. All evidence until now points to Booth Nevis, who owns the property of Fleming’s club and archenemy of the late Welsh Lennet. Jack meets Rita Robillard, Lena’s best friend, at the Flying Ace, Nevis’s club in the Loop. She is shocked to learn that her best friend was the dead girl walled up in Lady Crymsyn. While he tried to gain any other useful information about Lena, she immediately leaves him for protection around Shivvey Coker and Tony Upshaw, Nevis’s righthand men, telling them what Fleming said to her. As he is about to leave, the bartender, Malone, and some other goons engage in a brawl. Fleming quickly rescues and carries him back to his home. Why was he suddenly the object of brutal attacks? What kind of past does Malone have?

As Jack ventures from club to club with new faces and new trouble, he realizes that his time is running short. Will he ever seek vengeance for poor Lena Ashley? The club's grand opening deadline is tightly near and things still need some polishing to do. Jack never asked for this, but as a man of honesty, he wants justice.

Lady Crymsyn has an unusual storyline. Leon Kell, Jack’s daytime manager for the club (Fleming is a vampire, so he needs someone whom he can trust to run things while he’s sleeping during the day), tells them the bad news about the skeletal female body. Fleming just stumbled across an investigation he never expected but was willing to resolve the matter quickly before his club’s grand opening. He exquisitely describes the interior of the club that will just marvel any reader. How did Jack come up with this money and designs? Just pure luck from a previous novel, )A Chill in the Bood) and a lucky friendship with Gordy Weems, a main character in the Vampire Files series. This book also discusses more about Al Capone, who in this era would still be alive, which I found intriguing.

Elrod interestingly explains the importance of the Union Stockyards in the Chicago Southside. While I have always known this was the feeding place for Jack, I never realized that it was also a national depot center. You learn many historical facts in all of her books, although I don’t quite understand why she waited until the ninth book to explain the significance of this place. She always refers back to previous novels describing other characters and events, like Slick Morelli (Bobbi’s dead ex-boyfriend in Bloodlist), the Long Island mystery (Bloodcircle) and Alex Adrian (Art in the Blood).

Jack and Bobbi touch on a subject that both trouble them for a good chapter. The first novel of the series, Bloodlist, recollects in their minds, as he does not want to think about how he died and turned into a vampire. The idea of Bobbi turning into a vampire also scares her as she always questions Jack if the transformation is painful. This book has many flashbacks to events and characters in previous books of the Vampire File series. Elrod is big on this to keep a continuous narrative and please longtime fans with deeper character development and reference. Jack even admits to the readers that he will rather be a vampire than be a mortal human again. Given his supernatural abilities and charismatic charm on women (and strong hypnosis on men), why give up such qualities to be another average Joe?

Elrod also adds more supernatural themes, such as ghosts, that terribly irks Jack. However, I felt that this book dragged endlessly between chapters. As I learned more about the characters, the suspense proved even greater as this murderer has not been found yet! The climax is quite bloody, and Jack’s rage can be taken as hilarious or downright scary. This book took me a while to finish, but in the end I was very pleased. While Charles Escott is not a very important character in this novel, Escott fans will be pleased to hear about new lady luck. (He is a lady’s man??!) This is one of Elrod’s BEST works since A Chill in the Blood. If you haven’t read that book, I suggest you do so right now!

Stay tuned for the tenth novel in the Vampire File Series, Cold Streets.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Video: Michael Jackson Is Dead

This is a very sad day. Who would have thought Michael Jackson would die so soon?

These past few years haven't been good for him. No matter what people said about him, I never thought he was a criminal. He didn't deserve the negative jokes and labels.

He was the King of Pop. He influenced American culture and how we listen to popular music for over three decades. His album, Thriller, is still the top-selling album of all time. I think all of us at some point did the Moonwalk dance! 2009 is also Motown's 50th anniversary. This world will miss him tremendously.

May he rest in peace. I know he's not suffering anymore. You will always be a legend.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Hellsing (2001-2002, 2006)

Hellsing (2001-2002, 2006) is a dark supernatural vampire thriller Japanese anime that was made into a TV series (13 episodes total, different screenplay) and OAV (which closely follows the original manga storyline).

The storyline is graphic and takes place after the end of the second World War. The anti-heroic vampire king, Alucard, and his former police officer-turned-vampire apprentice, Saras Victoria, both serve a secret and mysterious British vampire-extermination group, the Hellsing Organization. In essence, Alucard and Saras Victoria are vampire hunters who combat ghouls, vampires, and other supernatural creatures that threaten England.

The Hellsing Organization was founded by Abraham van Hellsing. Its mission is to protect the Queen of England and her citizens from the undead and other evil supernatural forces. Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing inherited the leadership role after witnessing the death of her father at a very young age. Her bodyguard is the faithful and formidable Hellsing butler, Walter C. Dornez, and Alucard, an ancient and powerful vampire who was captured and imprisoned by the Hellsing family hundreds of years ago.

When a new breed of vampires terrorizes the streets of England, Alucard must step in to stop this madness before another World War erupts in Europe.

I really enjoyed watching both versions of Hellsing, which have high-quality animation and excellent vocal cast (in English and Japanese). The OAV is much shorter than the TV series but each screenplay has its own twists and humor. Alucard is a funny and scary vampire, and knows how to terrorize his enemies. He finally meets a foe almost equal to him and the battle rages on. There is some Christian element in this series because the Hellsings are Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church sends Iscariot Organization, Section XIII, a gigantic and muscular priest-soldier, to destroy Alucard. Iscariot is more scary and crazy when you think about it. Alucard's voice is also deep, sinister, and sexy. The actor did a tremendous job.

If you like dark, mature vampire series such as Blade and Vampire Hunter D, you will enjoy Hellsing. I highly recommend this vampire series. In fact, it has raised the bar to what a cool, powerful vampire hunter should be.

Warning: This is not a show for kids under 13 years of age. Blood, nudity, and graphic violence are common images. Please watch the trailer below.

Trivia: If you didn't notice, Alucard's name is the backwards spelling of "Dracula."

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

New TV Series: Impact (ABC, June 21)

There will be a new end-of-the-world, four-hour TV mini-series called Impact. A meteor strikes the moon, and it's on a collision course with Earth. How will the people save the planet? (I am not a physics expert, so I have no idea how a falling moon would impact earth's gravitational pull.) The producers behind this series are from Germany.

It will debut Sundays June 21 and June 28 at 9:00pm EST. It looks very interesting. Here is the promotional video below:

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Update: True Blood 2nd Season Debuts June 14

This is a reminder that the second season of True Blood premieres this Sunday, June 14, 2009 on the HBO Channel at 9:00pm Eastern Time. If you are still looking for promotional clips, this link provides excellent preview footage of the storyline and new cast members.

Don't forget to view my latest review of the ninth Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead and Gone. I have also posted the official promotional trailer of the upcoming Twilight sequel, New Moon. Fans should rejoice this summer!

I will be very busy this summer because I will begin the transition from work to school. I will be a graduate student in the fall! My activities (traveling, moving expenses) will not disrupt this blog. I hope to finish my review of the first season of Legend of the Seeker in a few days. Stay tuned to another Japanese anime review.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

New TV Series: The Vampire Diaries (CWTV)

There is a new vampire series debuting this fall. "The Vampire Diaries" will premiere on the CWTV Channel at 8:00pm EST every Thursday. (UPDATE: The show premieres September 10 at 8:00pm Easter Time.)

"Vampire Diaries," based on the early '90s young-adult novels by L.J. Smith, is the story of Elena (Nina Dobrev) who is torn between a pair of vampire brothers, the tortured and well-meaning Stefan (Paul Wesley) and the devilish Damon (Somerhalder).

The popularity of "Twilight" and "True Blood" has impressed loyal fans and newcomers to the supernatural romance-mystery genre. This would be a good show for teen and young adult viewers. You may watch the 5-minute promotional video below:

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

French Plane Vanishes over Atlantic Ocean

I am posting this news story because it's so weird that not even the experts have the answers. This classifies as a strange phenomenon.

An Air France plane carrying 228 people from Brazil to France has vanished over the Atlantic after flying into turbulence, airline officials say.

The Airbus sent an automatic message at 0214 GMT, four hours after leaving Rio de Janeiro, reporting a short circuit. It may have been damaged by lightning.

It was well over the ocean when it was lost, making Brazilian and French search planes' task more difficult.

France's president said the chances of finding survivors were "very small".

A French plane bound for France disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean! No traces of the plane can be found. Why is this weird? Because if this plane had crashed, the rescue crews would have found plane debris and bodies floating across the water. It just vanished without a trace! No radar can pick up the plane's signal.

Do you think the crew and the passengers will be found? Or something more mysterious (perhaps supernatural?) has taken place here?

[UPDATE #1: June 3, 2009]: Wreckage from the missing Air France plane has been finally found. Efforts to retrieve the black box and debris will prove exceedingly challenging because the ocean floor is nearly 3-4 miles deep. This is a very tragic ending for the people on board that flight. No one will clearly know what happened.

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