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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: 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!

 

Cowboy Bebop: An Anime Review

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From 1998 to 1999 Cowboy Bebop aired in Japan. Cowboy Bebop is a beautiful and funny anime with a great soundtrack. It would debut in America in 2001 and would become one of the most popular animes to come from the Bandai Visual Company. 

3…2…1 let’s go. In the future Earth has basically become uninhabitable. In such a future humans have spread to the furthest parts of the galaxy. Because of this, crime is on the rise. With people so spread out there are too few faces of the law. Therefore special bounty hunters called “cowboys” help fill the void.

One such bounty hunter is Spike Spiegel. Spike is funny relatable character with some awesome martial arts skills. He travels around taking different jobs with his crew, just trying to get by. His mostly easy going demeanor is probably one of his best traits as he meets countless obstacles along the way. His crew is a lovely group of misfits that become a family to the viewers of the show. They have a lot of personality and spirit to help them through different jobs that the crew take on.

Cowboy Bebop is a really lovely anime to watch. The space sequences are really interesting. It is also fascinating to watch the fight sequences. Spike is a character who is really fun to watch in a fight. The character designs are an integral tool for telling the story. These designs really aid in transporting the audience into the world that is Cowboy Bebop. Overall, the show is aesthetically pleasing.

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The real star of this anime, however, is the soundtrack. The main song has a great jazz feel to it which is interesting for a futuristic cowboy space anime. To be honest the first thing that I think of when I hear Cowboy Bebop is the the theme song. It successfully sets elevates the energy of the anime right from the start.

Cowboy Bebop is a favorite of many anime fans for a reason, or maybe four reasons…and a cute dog. The characters have interesting backstories. They are fleshed out as the plot moves forward. The viewers really care about these characters. We care about their motives. We want them to succeed.

This is an anime that I would very much recommend. Cowboy Bebop has something for everyone. It is a great place to start for new anime fans and always enjoyable for those who have been watching for a while.

I hope that if you haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop then you will give it a shot! If you have seen it then it is probably time for a rewatch.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Review: MapleStory 2

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Developer: NSquare
Publisher: Nexon
Platform: PC

What’s it About?
MapleStory 2 is a free to play MMORPG. It was released in 2015 in Korea, but world wide on October 10th of this year. Anime-style characters can quest through and explore a 3D block world filled with monsters and adventure.

What did I think?
This game is adorable and addictive. I never played the original MapleStory, but I’m not sure if I even need to. The exposition is given to you in detail in the beginning. Two sisters – one good and one evil – keep balance in the universe. The Good sister created a world, however, that was filled with nothing but goodness. The Evil sister feared that the universe would become unbalanced, so she fought her sister. Both sisters died and both good and evil now reside in the world.

Everything about this game is adorable. From the chibi anime characters to the cute little monsters and the 3D block-like world. The colors are bright and happy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a kick-ass dark assassin.

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The game mechanics are interesting. It has controller support, but you can’t just use a controller. For example, in any menu, you have to use your mouse. You can use your gamepad to move around, fight and talk to people, but the second you open a menu, you have to switch to your mouse. I’m not a fan of this aspect of it. Either have it be controller all the way or no controller at all.

I can’t speak too much about the story, as I’m not too terribly far into it yet. I’m also not sure if the story is slightly different depending on which class you choose. I decided to start with the Runeblade class, which is kind of like magical melee. I rather enjoy the combat in it. It’s fluid and my special attacks are very powerful and easy to use with low cooldown times.

There’s also a skill point and attribute system that a lot of open world RPGs tend to have now-a-days. This allows you to customize your toon to be just how you want them to be. Do you want a high strength melee fighter, you can do that, just focus your attribute points in strength. Nothing is pre-set, which I love.

Finally, there are also super fun mini-games! These I haven’t yet had the chance to play myself, but I’ve seen some gameplay of them. I’m excited to play some and I’ll be sure to update as I do!

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Do I recommend it?
Yes, definitely. It’s a free to play MMORPG with a compelling story and super adorable graphics. What’s not to love? Go download it and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ring of Elysium

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Developer: Tancent Games
Publisher: Tancent Games
Platform: PC

What’s it about?
Ring of Elysium is a multiplayer battle royale game. With graphics closer to PUBG than Fortnite, this action packed battle royale certainly keeps you on your toes. Sixty people are trapped on a mountain and must avoid the massive snowstorm, Ymir. The objective is to get to the rescue flight, which can save up to 4 people.

What did I think?
The game itself runs very smoothly. There was no lag, no glitches that I came across. I would have liked the chance to learn what my controls were before being thrown into a match. I know that other battle royales do the same thing, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing and are killed within seconds.

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Like PUBG, you can drive a car or a boat to get to your destination faster. These are loud, however, and can be heard from very far away. I did have an opportunity to snipe someone driving in a car, but I didn’t know the controls and they passed by without me so much as firing a shot.

The customization was pretty cool, though extremely limited. You can go in and change your facial features, but mostly everything is preset. My biggest issue was the lack of diversity. You can only be an Asian man or Asian woman. This being an Asian game in early access, I understand why that’s the case, but I hope that they add more to this as they get closer to a full release.

The ambiance is rather jarring to me. The game itself is very quiet. The only sounds around are natural sounds, like wind blowing and leaves rustling. You can hear people walking if you’re in the same building as them, which is pretty cool. I actually got a kill because of this (which is more than I can say for any of the other battle royales I’ve played). The gunshots are loud, though. So loud that they gave me anxiety. I’m sure I can mess with the sound options, but my chest is still a little tight.

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Do I recommend it?
If you’re into battle royales, definitely check this game out. It’s free to play on steam, and it is currently only available in North America and Asia. If your anxiety is triggered by loud noises or gunshots, I highly recommend you let this one pass or tweak the sound settings to make it not so jarring.