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Review: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had me within the first scene. Not many shows can hook a viewer within seconds. However with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the humor and heart of the story comes forth in those first few seconds.

Mariam Maisel has it all. She has two children, a apartment with an elevator man, loving parents, a husband whom she adores and a sharp wit. She also has a tiny waist and can make an amazing brisket. Nothing could ever go wrong to someone so blessed. Something does go wrong though and it sets off a chain of events of things going wrong.

It is only when everything falls apart is Mariam able to find out something important about herself. That wit might be able to be molded into something more. She is able to mold herself into something different. By falling apart Mariam sees new ways to try to fit the pieces back together. In the process the audience gets to meet her very relatable, yet hilarious, family. The audience journeys with Mariam armed with humor and a can do attitude as her world grows.   

The sets for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are, well, marvelous. The elaborate apartments, the dark clubs and everything in between set the tone for each scene. The costumes tell the viewer so much. The outfits of each character let you know their social background. They also help the viewer become immersed in the story and the time period. Each character’s look and design is so unique. 

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The soundtrack of the show is also wonderful. The music frames very scene perfectly. The soundtrack is also comprised of fun and danceable music. While The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a treat to watch. It is also wonderful to listen to.   

I really enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It is a funny show that is also full of heart. The characters in the cast move the story along with more than just humor. Their highs and lows are a roller coaster ride that the viewer never wants to get off of. The storyline is full of twists and fun. It is empowering to watch these characters find themselves.

I would highly recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel if only for the laughs alone.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Review: Escaflowne

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Escaflowne is one of the most gorgeous animes I have had the pleasure of watching. The series also has an interesting story and cast of characters. This is probably why fans enjoy Escaflowne so immensely.

The Vision of Escaflowne, it’s original title, first aired in both Japan and America in 1996. The series has had Mandy different directors for various episodes. The series was originally released by Sunrise.  Escaflowne was then licensed by Bandai Entertainment for release in other regions. Currently Escaflowne is licensed by Funimation.

Hitomi is an ordinary high school student. She runs track, has friends and other interests. Though, in reality, Hitomi isn’t quite as ordinary as it would seem. She has psychic abilities. After having a vision of a battle she is transported to a magical land called Gaea. There is a war raging and Hitomi maybe able to help.

The soundtrack of Escaflowne is lovely. It helps set the mood for the story being told throughout the series. It also gives the viewer clues about different characters and situations. The soundtrack is also fantastic to listen to on its own.

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The setting and character designs are really fantastic. The industrial, pastoral and modern settings are well animated as well as diverse. Each character has a different design. The costumes are a real treat to view throughout the length of the story. The battle scenes are also just really fantastic. Escaflowne treads the line between what most animes looked like in the mid-nineties and having a very distinct difference in animation. It really is a great anime to watch.

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It is safe to say that I really enjoy Escaflowne. The series is a total package for any anime fans. Great soundtrack. Interesting story. Fascinating characters with a little bit of romance. It was an anime that I would rush to watch on television. It was also a favorite in my group of friends, the series has clearly inspired our styles of art and storytelling through the years.

I would really encourage giving Escaflowne a try if you haven’t seen it yet. There is also an interesting, and slightly more grim, movie version that came out in 2000. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

 

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I like weird movies. I like magic, dragons, faeries, and mysteries. I also enjoy period pieces and anything that can suck me in and not let go. You will find much of this in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on Netflix. I was just searching for anything random to watch and stumbled upon this image of a man in old clothing and a white wig. Well, let’s see what kind of period piece is this? A magical one! 

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Strange and does a superb job portraying a young man who wants nothing more in life than to love his wife, Arabella, and read and practice magic. He has such a love for it that he will do anything to keep learning more, until he realizes that may lose him what he holds most dear. Charlotte Riley is Arabella and she does a wonderful job trying to keep her husband with her and on the path she feels is right. All the while, Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) is in the background silently messing everything up. 

Eddie is amazing at being this introverted magician who wants all the knowledge to himself while simultaneously wanting magic in England. He hoards books full of spells and stories of how magic was once there and is vehemently afraid of what would happen if he doesn’t have his books. He does everything in his power to make sure the books are safe with him and that magic is only what he thinks it should be. Gloriously ignoring what it used to be and what it could be again. That is, of course, til the end. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We foray through history into war scenes and zombies raised from the dead. We go to lavish parties and political meetings and all the while I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be great if magic was real and we got to use it like this? It’s more a practical approach to magic here. No flying on broomsticks or presenting kings with riches. It’s helping the military stay alive, healing the sick, and eventually trying to stay alive.  It’s entirely about magic coming back to England and making it better. 

My favorite part of this show is Lady Pole, The Gentleman and his world of Lost Hope. The Gentleman is played rather majestically by Marc Warren and Lady Pole by Alice Englert. I absolutely loved Alice in Beautiful Creatures and could not figure out why I loved her so much in this show until I read her IMDB profile. She is just an actress that can really get into character. Thanks to Mr. Norrell, Lady Pole lives half in real life and half in Lost Hope with The Gentleman and she really begins to lose her mind, but who could blame her. 

Lost Hope is through the King’s Roads on the other side of the mirror, or the rain. It is a fantastically dreary place where the ball never ends and everyone is at the mercy of The Gentleman. The Gentleman himself is a mysterious faerie who is only out to help himself. In the end, the only thing that can break him is the Nameless Slave, for not even The Raven King cares to get rid of him. 

Another person to watch for in this show is Vinculus, played by Paul Kaye. He may seem to be just a crazy homeless man, but really listen to the things he says and it all can become clear. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t, the end of the season will be sure to clue you in. This show was based on a book of the same name by Susanna Clarke in 2006. Seeing as it only took until 2015 for it to have a series air, one would have hoped she would have written a sequel by now. Alas, no such luck and therefore no season 2 to this marvelous show. No matter, I still recommend you watch this when you have some free time as it will draw you into a magical world of love, war, and friendship. 

Review: Breach

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Publisher/Developer: QC Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 2019

I was extremely excited to be invited into the Technical Alpha testing for Breach, a game that is expected to be released in early access just next month. Breach is a third person co-op action RPG that has strong hints of Over-salt… I mean, Overwatch.

What’s it about?

Breach takes place in our world, but the veil between the “real” world and the world of mythology has been broken. You can either play as a Hero – with various class choices – or as a Veil Demon.

As a Hero, you can be any number of classes. You don’t have to stick to the standard balanced party of tank, healer and DPS, though it helps. As a Veil Demon, you create breaches, which summons monsters, and try to defeat the Heroes.

Breach has solo, co-op and versus modes. You can also do a custom mode with just your friends.

What did I think?

Gameplay reminded me strongly of Overwatch, but it was still extremely unique. There are various types of objectives for each area. I am unsure if they’re chosen by the game or by the Veil Demon. You may have to capture a point, defeat all enemies, deliver artifacts to a drone, or collect and deliver monster souls to a drone. At the end of each match is a boss. Either the Heroes can win an objective or the Veil Demon can win an objective.

I started out in solo play to get the hang of it. Even in Novice, this is difficult. You spawn in with 3 bots and you’re up against a Veil Demon bot. The Hero bots will only help you kill monsters, they won’t help you with any of the other objectives. This makes sense, of course, but timed capture objectives are nearly impossible when you’re the only one capturing the points.

I moved on to co-op mode. Four players are up against a Veil Demon bot. These are pretty cookie cutter so far. Each location has a set pattern of objectives.

Finally, I tried versus and we were annihilated. It’s 4 Heroes versus 3 Veil Demons, all played by people of varying degrees of experience. We didn’t even get to the end before we were all downed. Unfortunately, the Veil Demon of that section face camped me, so I couldn’t be revived. Needless to say, I was salty.

I did the Veil Demon tutorial, but I didn’t play a match as one.

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The game was laggy when in areas with other people, but that was to be expected. The server was only up for 3 hours and everyone who was invited to the closed Alpha was logged in. I had no lag in the solo matches. This being the Technical Alpha, I expect that that will be addressed before release.

The graphics are amazing and the gamplay itself was pretty intuitive. The tutorial is short and sweet, basically just showing you the basics before letting you into actual matches.

I like the fact that you can play by yourself with AI on both sides. It seems there’s a bit of a campaign with the solo mode, so you can unlock new areas by finishing the previous area and follow a story. I also like that you can have custom matches with up to five people.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I really do. As someone who loves these types of games (a la Dead by DaylightFriday the 13th, and Overwatch), I definitely see a lot of potential in Breach. On Steam, it’s labeled as Free to Play, so what’s the harm in taking it for a spin when it’s released? You may also be able to still sign up to be a tester here.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ghost of Thornton Hall

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Fire so red, night so black. Dear sweet Charlotte, please come back…

If you like point-and-click adventure games and/or enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew books growing up, you owe it to yourself to check out Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series. All of the games are playable on Windows, and everything from Trail of the Twister onwards can be played on Macs as well. There are even step-by-step guides on Her Interactive’s website about how to play the older games on updated Windows systems and how to play them on your Mac with the Wineskin emulator- a nice gesture on their part.

Each game follows more or less the same route: Nancy arrives at a new location, gets the initial scoop on the mystery, and starts questioning the suspects (usually 3-5 people). Sometimes everything starts out calm, and then after completing a task or two, the theft/murder/kidnapping/whatever takes place. After that, you follow the trail of clues, continue questioning suspects, and solve lots and lots of puzzles to crack the case.

The game that I recently finished, Ghost of Thornton Hall, begins with Nancy receiving a phone call from a paranormal investigator in the middle of the night. A woman named Jessalyn Thornton disappeared during her bachelorette party. It appears to be a kidnapping, but some believe that the culprit is a family ghost, Charlotte.

Charlotte died in a fire under mysterious circumstances, so Nancy finds herself solving two cases: who kidnapped Jessalyn, and what’s the story behind Charlotte? Was her death truly an accident? Is her ghost really haunting the family mansion? And what does this past tragedy have to do with Jessalyn?

Growing up, I loved playing the Nancy Drew series, but as I got older, I began to lose interest. I’m not sure if there was an actual drop in quality or a change in tastes, but Ghost of Thornton Hall felt like a return to form. In fact, it was even better than some of the classics that I’d loved to play.

Other games in the series would have a great premise, but then wouldn’t completely follow through with it. For example, as much as I loved Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you only encounter the ghost dogs once at the beginning of the game. When you venture out into the woods at night and hear the howling, it’s terrifying- at first. But after a while, you realize that the ghost dogs aren’t going to pop up, and that takes out a chunk of the tension.

In Thornton Hall, Charlotte’s ghost does pop up throughout the game, and you never know when she’ll show herself. Other times, you’ll hear eerie singing, or something will scuttle across the floor, or a statue will turn its head. The whole game takes place at night and the music is beautiful, but grim. Combine all of these elements, and you get a genuinely creepy game.

The suspects all have intriguing backstories and memorable personalities. I was constantly guessing who might be the culprit. Sometimes it felt like all of them could have done it, and other times it didn’t feel like any of them could have done it. I found the reveal satisfying. And while the culprit is always the same, this Nancy Drew is unique in that it has three possible endings.

It’s hard to gauge the fun and difficulty of the puzzles, as that’s going to depend on the person playing. The longer I game, the more I’ve come to realize that everyone’s brain works differently, and what seems so easy for one person is next to impossible to solve for another. I did find the final puzzle very frustrating, due to the fact that it was just a more challenging version of one that I’d already completed. But if you need help figuring out what to do, you can consult the Task List that Nancy keeps with her. In Amateur Detective mode, you can also select hints that tell you how to complete the puzzles.

I’m so glad that I played Ghost of Thornton Hall. It had the same magic as the classic Nancy Drew titles and then some. Now I want to check out some of the other recent titles that I missed!

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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I have a confession to make. I devour a good love story. However, I’m not talking about a love story the way you think I am. Sure The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ends in a love story and that makes you think the whole point of the movie was for Juliet to fall in love, but that isn’t it at all. This is a love story of an island, of a community, of family and books. This is the type of feel good movie that you want to share with people and I’m here to share it with you. 

Juliet is played by Lily James, who I am a big fan of, and she does a fantastic job portraying a young writer trying to find herself after World War 2. She’s lost parts of herself and is trying to live a life she thought she should. Find the handsome husband, write stories about love and women, and live a comfortable life. Then she receives a letter from Dawsey, played by Michiel Huisman, that throws everything out of whack. She decides to visit him and his society. In fact, she just doesn’t seem to be able to keep herself from leaving as quick as possible.  

This leads to a plot full of intrigue, books, and a family made on the island. She meets remarkable people on Guernsey. Some turn out to become family, others show how war can make someone hard and unreasonable. She chooses to see the bright side of things and do everything she can to help these new friends. I really don’t like giving away everything in a review because I want you to experience it for yourself, so let’s just say that, through flashbacks of the war, she learns a lot about these people and how they came to be who they are.  

Through this learning of how the war affected this island and its inhabitants, she starts to see how she wants her life to be. She realizes what is important in life and what she was just doing because she didn’t know what else to do. In the end, it is the love of books and the love of people that brings them all together and helps her to figure out what she ultimately wants out of her life. I like period pieces and I find this one to be very good. I would recommend it to anyone that loves a good story. That has a notion to read a different sort of love story and to want to share it with someone they love afterwards.  

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Review

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Many of us grew up with the beloved television series called Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. This year a new version was released. Based on the comics of the same name a darker, one could say a more chilling, show called The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was an early Halloween gift for us all.

Created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and staring Kiernan Shipka The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aired on Netflix on October 26, 2018. Sabrina Spellman has a big secret. She is only half-mortal. Sabrina is also half-witch. Her whole life up to this point her family has been preparing her to make a choice that will change her life forever.

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On her sixteenth birthday Sabrina can choose either side but she must choose. She can continue to go to her mortal school and live as a mortal teenager. There are her best friends. Her boyfriend. The movies and the books that she loves. Or she can choose the path that her family has been grooming her for. She can go to an elite school for witches and live as a witch.

Sabrina is torn between both. She loves being a witch. Sabrina has grown up casting spells and being surrounded by magic in her home. She is also very protective of her mortal friends and is unsure if she can leave her life with them. Sabrina is being pulled between these two worlds that she loves. With her birthday drawing closer the pressure is mounting for Sabrina to make her choice.

The assorted cast of characters in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are fantastically written. Witch or mortal these characters bring the viewers into the world that Sabrina dwells in. The characters fleshed out creation help us to believe that we are really their with Sabrina as she fights for the life she wants. The costuming is also an important tool for the show. Every costume tells us about the town and the people who populate it.

Speaking of the town the sets are wonderfully constructed. The Spellman house is actually magical to look at. Every room helps tell a story. Sabrina’s high school serves as neutral ground for Sabrina and her friends. The soundtrack is also well picked to further the story. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into creating the world of Sabrina Spellman.

I would highly recommend watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It is a fantastic show full of well written characters and plenty of twists.  

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!