All posts by raistlin0903

Girls und Panzer, Anime tv series (2012)

Have you ever found yourself wanting to write a post, but you just don’t quite know where to start? This is one of them. I always like to start my reviews with an introduction that in some way relates to whatever I am reviewing, but this one……I really am at a loss for words. I have promised to do a review for Girls und Panzer for a very long time, and now that the moment is finally there, I am stalling and buying time. And, not quite succeeding at that either, am I? So why is this so hard? Well….unless I am mistaking I don’t think there currently is a place in the world where the sport of Tankery is being held. What’s that: Raistlin writing a post on a sports anime? What kind of black sorcery is this?  As most of you might know: I absolutely hate sports, of any kind. I don’t practice sports, I don’t watch sports, and Ugh….I am rambling again. Anyways, if I could participate in a game of Tankery though: you can count me in. Phew. Well, I am finally past the starting point. Time to start the review in earnest….now, where do I start? Oh yeah, you would like to know what this show is about right?

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Yes, there really is a pink tank in this picture.

Girls und Panzer takes us to a world where World War II tanks are maintained to be used in the sporting event known as Tankery. In this brutal, but at the same time relatively safe competition, girls from different highschools fight each other on battlefields in order to reach the finals and claim victory. Miho Nishizumi is a girl that comes from a very prestigious family that has been practicing Tankery for many years. But in a previous competition something happened to Miho, that causes her to become traumatised and not wanting to continue practicing the sport. Having transferred to a new Academy school ship that she believes doesn’t have Tankery on their list of activities, Miho tries to pick up her life. On her first day at the new school she has already made some new friends, and really begins to believe that life is good again. But, little does she know that the school has added the sport she fears so much back on the roster. Eventually Miho, as the only one who has had any previous experience with Tankery, is pressured into helping the other school girls. Together with her new friends, Nishiszumi enters the competition where she will face a lot of new challenges. The biggest one being, coming to terms with the life she thought she had left behind….

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Sometimes it can be really hard to find a good parking space. 

There are times when you put on a show and literally after seeing the very first scene it just clicks for you. This is one of those shows. Girls und Panzer is a series that is just pure and simple fun. One of the things I love most about anime is the sometimes completely unique concepts it can come up with. I mean really, think about this for a second. How on Earth do you come up with a plot like this: cute highschool girls driving World War II tanks. But not only does it work, it is one of those animes that you can’t help but smile at. It’s really…well cute. And that’s weird for a series that has brutal tank battles in it. But let me just get that out of the way first. Girls und Panzer is a comedy series. In no way is all of this to be taken seriously. There is no blood, and nor are the girls ever in a real life or death battle. Ofcourse no sporting event comes without it’s risk of injury, and Tankery is no different. And yes people, you read that right, not only am I reviewing a sports anime, but it’s a comedy as well. Really, I must have been hit on the head or something.

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Let’s all join in dancing here! Because really that’s what you do in a battle!

Honestly though this is not a slapstick comedy. There are some really funny scenes, but it’s not the kind of humor that is cringeworthy. And that said, the highlight of this series is most certainly the sport of Tankery itself. The tank battles are seriously awesome to watch. Using computertechniques to bring them to life, they are the absolute highlight of this anime. You would think that at some point battles like that will become very tedious, but let me assure that is not the case. Every event is unique, and just like watching an exciting football match featuring your favorite team, you will really hold your breath each time Miho enters a new battle with her friends. You really want them to win, and when they do you will find yourself raising your fist in the air and shouting at the top of your lungs along with the fictional crowd. Erm, or maybe that is just me. Storywise, there really isn’t much more to it than the girls trying to reach the finals. There are a few subplots here and there, but overall the focus is on Tankery. In other animes that might get quite boring, but this anime never has that problem.

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Yes, military uniforms have certainly come a long way since the war. 

There is something that is a bit of a problem and that is the huge cast this series has. I am not kidding here, but this anime has over 50 different characters. While the focus is definitely on Miho and her friends, all the others make appearances in several episodes as well. It will probably not come as a very huge surprise to you that character development isn’t very high on the agenda. But to it’s credit, despite that fact, each character does have it’s own distinguishing marks. I, however did have some trouble in keeping some of the cast members apart from each other. With a cast this huge everyone will probably have a favorite, and for me that was Mako Reizei. It felt like she was continually sleeping through everything (well, she always had trouble getting up early in the morning), and her voice never gets excited even in the face of danger. This causes some very funny scenes, where for example the rest of the girls are going completely nuts, and she just keeps talking with her monotone voice.

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Some people take the order to fire a bit too literally. 

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. The background music at times sounds like the ones you had in old World War II movies, and it fits this anime perfectly. Together with the world that is created in this series, it manages to create a very unique experience. Girls und Panzer is an anime you need to watch when you want to take a break from all the heavy stuff. It is simply put a very charming show, that I pretty much dare you not to be entertained by. What it might lack in terms of storyline and character development, it more than makes up for in the excitement and fun factor. Unless you are a very cynical person that is completely devoid of any emotion, you will be put under it’s spell right from the beginning. Girls und Panzer has been a joy to watch, even though this is certainly a series that is miles away from the shows that I usually see. Panzer vor!

I give Girls und Panzer a 8 out of 10 score.

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Solomon’s Perjury, Korean Drama Series (2016)

We live in an age where social media plays a very important part in people’s lives. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and whatever else is out there, nearly everyone seems to have at least one of these, and more often than not, even more than one. It never fails to surprise me how easily some of the younger generation give highly personal glimpses in their day to day routines. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to play a judge here, as I always believe everyone has the right to decide what they wish to share on their own. But it’s the dangers that go along with it, that sometimes really scare me. What if something that you share falls into the wrong hands? Or even worse is used against you in a horrible way? And how about how easily some people’s opinions might be influenced by the power of a certain statement. I don’t think this social behaviour is any more apparent then in high school. Nearly every kid wants to be accepted by the popular ones, and as such belong to the group they hang out with. And usually they pretty much determine what happens in class. These underlying themes form the basics of the Korean dramaseries, Solomon’s Perjury.

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Nothing to see here, we are just hanging out.

On a cold winter morning in December, the lifeless body of highschool student Lee So-woo is found by one of his fellow classmates in front of school. The school and the police are convinced that he took his own life. But then a student comes forward claiming to have been a witness to his murder. The school is in an uproar and wants nothing to do with it, quickly dismissing the claim. Especially seeing as the suspect for the murder, the school bully Choi Woo-hyuk, is the son of a man that has always been very supportive of the school. But not everyone is so easily swayed. Go Seo-yon, the class president, wants to find out exactly what has happened to Lee So-woo and devises an ingenious plan to get to the bottom of things: a schooltrial. She takes on the role of prosecutor and together with a couple of other students she will stop at nothing to make sure justice will be served. But then a young man called Han Ji-hoon, who attends another school, steps up to act as the defense attorney for Choi. Just who is he? And why does he want to defend someone who has been causing so much pain to others? The answers to these questions, and many others, are about to be revealed……

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What are you looking at me for? 

I’m going to be honest: this one hit close to home. In a big way. It brought back some pretty unpleasant memories from my own days as a highschool student. Having been on the receiving end of bullying for a lot of years, I know what it can do to someone’s state of mind. And how much you at certain points would love to take revenge on the people that caused you pain. I am not a hateful person, and always try at least to see the good in people. But there have certainly been points during my schooldays where I wished some very unpleasant things would happen to my tormentors. And that’s what I really liked about this show, as it not only looked at bullying, but also what might drive someone to become a bully. And is it really fair to blame everything on that person? As such this is not an easy series to watch, as it not only deals with that, but also with the equally tough subject of suicide. But why did I continue watching it then? Because it never becomes too heavy and it really is an incredibly good series with some stunning performances.

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Yep, that is a broken window. Looking at their faces it’s almost as if they have never seen one before. 

The storyline for this is quite unique. The idea of a schooltrial is something I have never seen before and you would think that this might just be very laughable. It’s not. It’s every bit as compelling as a real courtroom drama, and the story has some very nice twists and turns. It soon becomes much more than just finding out whether or not Lee So-woo has committed suicide or not. There is a lot more to the story, but of course I’m not going to head into spoiler territory so I will just leave it at that. The acting in this drama is quite impressive, and besides a few moments of overacting by some of the supporting cast, really is one of the other reasons that this series works so well. Kim Hyun-soo plays the role of Go Seo-yon and really is the driving force of this show. She is both charming and very serious at the same time, and is utterly convincing as the prosecutor. She is one of those characters that is determined to find out the truth, and will never give up no matter what.

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Yep that is a door. Wow, these people really haven’t seen anything have they?

But equally impressive is Jang Dong-yoon who plays Han Ji-hoon. As an audience you know more about him than the other characters in the series, but at the same time you don’t quite know exactly what drives him. And it was really interesting to see when the reveal came to see what his real motives were at the end. Overall this show impressed the hell out of me. The overall themes and the way they were executed made this a very compelling watch. Let me be clear that this is not an action series. It really is a legal drama, and while there are certainly some tense moments, this series is more of slow burner. It is driven by the incredible verbal exchanges by the two main leads, and there are moments in the show that you don’t exactly know who to root for. As you want both of them to win. Be aware that the themes in the show can be tough to watch, especially if like me, you might have had similar experiences. But in the end it’s presented in such a great way that I am truly glad that I have watched it. This concludes my review for the third drama for my Korean Dramas theme month. If you want to watch this show you can watch it for free on the legal streaming website Viki.

I give Solomon’s Perjury a 9 out of 10 score.

Blogger Appreciation Award!

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I am at times truly humbled by the amount of appreciation and kind words that I have recieved over the past months, ever since I started blogging. I have always said that the best thing about blogging is being a part of an amazing community where I have met all kinds of wonderful people, and some that have really become very good friends. Take Didi Oviatt for instance. I discovered her blog last year and I am very glad that I did. Not only is she is a truly sweet and very kind person who writes wonderful reviews about books, but she also publishes great and often very inspirational posts. It doesn’t stop there though. She is also an author of some very succesful novels. Even though I have yet to read a full novel by her (I know Didi, I’m ashamed I haven’t yet, but I promise to do that this year), I did read a few excerpts from her novels. And suffice it to say, what I read there has left me thirsting for more. Two weeks ago I got nominated by her for an award that I had never heard of before: The Blogger Appreciation Award. Thank you so much for this great honor Didi, and please all of you who haven’t done so already, go and follow her blog. You won’t regret that.

The Rules of the Award:

The rules are simple.

(1) Thank the blogger who nominated you, link back to their site.

(2) Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself.

(3) Nominate and notify as many bloggers as you wish.

(4) Use the award image.

Something Positive About Myself

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Now…this is really the hardest part of this award, writing something positive about myself. I always dish out a lot of compliments to other people, but when it comes to receiving compliments or being positive about me, I really become very shy or don’t really know what to say. But I guess I don’t really have a choice here for this award, as it’s part of the rules! So erm…here goes. I think that I always try to be helpful and supportive to other people as much as I can. Even at the cost of myself at times. But that’s pretty much a part of me that I really never want to lose. I just really become happy when I can offer my help to people, and in turn manage to put a smile on their faces when that support really helps them out. So I guess that is the most positive thing I can think about right now. Phew! That was really hard. Now onwards to a more fun part: my nominations!

My Nominees:

Well as unique as this award is, it is also unique in the fact that there is no limit on the number of people that I can nominate apparently. But that said, I think I will stick to 25 people that I have come to appreciate a lot over the past few months and that I have interacted with the most since I started blogging. Some are veterans, some have just started out with blogging. But all of them deserve it for being incredibly amazing, each and every one in their own ways. So without further ado the nominees are in no particular order (drumroll please:)

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Touchmyspinebookreviews

By Hook Or By Book

Vinnieh

Theorangutanlibrarian

Theotakujudge

MangatoritsukareruKoto

Blameitonchocolate

Thethingsiveseen

Jonspencerreviews

Idrinkandwatchanime

100wordanime

Kdramakisses

Tinyuglyanimal

TheLilyGarden

Indiescifi451

WeekendOtaku

Soneawrites

Confessionsofamoderndracula

Bookidote

CainSLatrani

Talesofbelle

Brendarochelle’sNeverland

Matt-in-the-Hatt

Wildfiremovies

Mattdoylemedia

As always, there is absolutely no obligation to write a post for this. I know how precious your time is, and lord knows I am running behind on these awards and tags  a lot myself (I promise to catch up this year though). But it really is my way of showing appreciation to you. As always thanks for reading, and see you on the next post!

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February’s Theme Reveal: Science Fiction & Horror movies

Helly everyone! As we are about halfway through the month of January, it’s time to reveal the upcoming theme for next month. As mentioned in my plans for this year, every month my blog will be focussing on a different theme, that will get just a little bit more attention than all the other stuff. And as you can see above in the big black capital letters that are kind of hard to miss, next month the theme will be Science Fiction and Horrormovies. So why reveal this now, and not wait until the end of the month? Well, because this time I’m going to ask you for a bit of help. No it’s nothing serious, you don’t need to do any heavy lifting or homework. So what am I asking exactly?

The help question and the rules.

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There are rules for this? Are you kidding me here?

Next month I want to do at least four reviews for movies that are suggested by you the readers. Yes you! So how exactly does this work?

  • Leave a comment down below in this post for one or two movies that you would like me to watch and do a review for
  • It has to be a science fiction and/or horrormovie
  • It can be either an animated or live action movie, as long as it is in one of the categories that I mentioned
  • You can leave a comment with your suggestions until the 25th of January
  • I will then use a random number generator to pick four movies, two for each category
  • The movies that are going to be reviewed will be revealed on the first post for February
  • The bloggers whose choices got picked will get an honorable mention on my blog

Pretty simple and straightforward huh? I hope you will provide me with a few good suggestions, and of course thank you for the help. Looking forward to seeing what everyone is going to come up with!

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Black, Korean Dramaseries (2017)

There is a question that many people wonder about. What happens when we die? Will we simply cease to exist? Will we somehow be reborn, enter Heaven or maybe even Hell? No matter what you believe in, I don’t think it’s a question that we will ever get an answer to until the moment arrives. Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one am pretty happy to postpone that moment for as long as I can. It’s not that I fear death, but I am pretty happy with living right now thank you very much. But we all check out at some point, that’s pretty much the only certainty we have in life. (Oh yeah, and taxes but I always tend to forget that one for some reason). Well, I can hear you thinking right now: “This is a very cheerful subject:NOT! I’m going to move on and check out something else”. Well, if you do you are going to miss out on a review for the best Korean drama series that I have seen so far in my life. So please bare with me just a little bit longer okay?

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My name is Black…..erm, no that’s it, just Black. 

 

In Black we meet up with Kang Ha-ram a young woman who has always had a very special ability ever since she was a child. When she looks at people she sometimes sees dark shadows forming behind them. These shadows are always the signs that the death of that person is very near. Ha-ram hasn’t been happy with this power at all, and the only way she can avoid it, is by wearing sunglasses. One day she crosses paths with police officer Han Moo-gang who she is stunned to recognise as a boy from her childhood, one was always very kind to her. She has not seen him in almost 20 years, but it appears that he has really changed. He doesn’t seem at all like the kindhearted young boy who she remembers, but instead has turned into a very coldhearted insensitive man. And she would be right, as Moo-gang has not only changed but is now possessed by a Grim Reaper. But this is not the only problem that Ha-rang is going to face. When a body is found, certain events are set in motion that will uncover a very dark secret and conspiracy that has been buried for a very long time. And certain people will stop at nothing to prevent that secret from rising to the surface…..even it means killing everyone in their path.

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Some people just hate missing the bus. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear, and this is very, very important. Do not, I repeat not drop this show after watching the first two episodes. I almost did this, and am eternally grateful that I did not. When this series starts you will be very confused. What exactly is this series trying to be? Is it a police drama, a supernatural mystery, or, and this is what I feared the most, a slapstick comedy? The first two episodes were a mess and the “comedy” was so cringeworthy that I very nearly gave up. But man, am I glad that I did not. Black is a show that by the time you start with episode 3 is almost impossible to turn off. The story it tells is tense, gripping, emotional and will have you in tears, on the edge of your seat, as well as laughing all at the same time. It’s a rollercoaster ride that will never let up. The best element in this series is how it draws you the viewer into the storyline trying to figure out how all the puzzlepieces fit together. And just when you think you have figured it all out, it throws another twist at you, and you have to start from scratch again.

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Sometimes you just want to sit down on the sidewalk. I always do that every day. 

There is a huge cast of actors, and as such it’s impossible to cover them all. I will instead focus on the two leads, but suffice it to say that every single actor involved in this series is great. No matter how small their parts were. And no, that is not me just saying so, just to get this over and done with in a quick way. Actor Song Seung-heon plays the part of the Grim Reaper possessed cop Moo-gang. His acting is superb and I love the way how his character evolved throughout the series. He can tackle basically everything, from actionscenes, to anger, to comedy to drama, everything he does is believable. His precense just lights up the screen everywhere he appears. But his chemistry with lead actress Go Ara, who plays the role of Ha-ram is also a huge part of what makes this series work so well. And speaking of her, you will completely fall in love with the character she portrays. Ha-ram is a feisty woman, who always has some very snappy comebacks, but is also very caring and emotional at the same time. This series is really her story, and that’s why it is important to have an actress who can carry that part. Go Ara really gets the job done, and then some.

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The new generation of Pokemon balls had also found it’s way into the afterlife. 

Black is a series that blends many elements together and that’s why it can be enjoyed by a pretty large number of people. Even though the show has supernatural elements, it never let’s these elements take the upper hand. Above all this is a solid and very cleverly written murder mystery, with a touch of action and suspense and the occasional humor thrown into the mix. And of course there is also some romance, but this only adds to the strength of the series instead of diminishing it. So in case you haven’t yet noticed, I absolutely loved this show. The only reason I haven’t given it the perfect 10/10 score is that the first two episodes just felt out of place. And seriously, I was very close to dropping it, something I almost never do. But the rest of this Korean drama series is so fantastic, that I have all but forgotten about that. If you have yet to watch your first K-drama series, this might be the one to start with. I guarantee that you will not regret this. So, this concludes my review for the second series for the Korean Drama theme month. What’s up next you ask? I haven’t yet quite decided, but rest assured there is one more series review to come. Thank you for reading!

I give Black a 9 out of 10 score.

Xenoshyft Dreadmire, a boardgame for 1-5 players by Cool Mini or Not (2016)

In the time where I still played computergames, there was a certain type of mission that I always truly hated. I can tell you that many a controller almost died, when I let out my anger on that helpless piece of machinery. The type of missions that I am talking about, is the ones where you had to defend a base from a couple of waves of enemies. Usually there was a timer, and you saw that one advancing in agonizing slowness, while the health of your base dropped faster than you could even blink. Aagh, I get frustrated by even thinking about it. But we all know that anger can lead to the Dark Side (yes Master Yoda), so I’m pretty glad I don’t play computergames anymore. No, these days I am back to oldschool gaming. You know, those games that don’t use computers or controllers, otherwise also known as boardgames. Last year I purchased the excellent card/boardgame Xenoshyft Dreadmire. In this game for 1-5 players you have to defend your base from being overrun by alien enemies. Wait, what? Erm….that can’t be right? Can it?

Components

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Yup…it’s a pretty big box. 

This being a cardgame it is probably not going to come as a really big surprise that this game contains cards. And a lot of them as well. You will find close to 400 cards in this box, that feature the different types of enemies, troops, weapons and other stuff that you are going to be dealing with in this game. But these aren’t just any normal types of cards. No, you will find that the illustrations on these are serious works of art. The vile enemies that you will face in this game are absolutely disgusting and horrid creatures. And the illustrations that depict them are truly the stuff of nightmares. Also included are a couple of cardboard boards, on which you will place the cards as well as the troops to defend your base (more on that below). Rounding out the game are a couple of plastic tokens that you use to keep track of health and powers, and a rules booklet. (Well, duh …you do want to learn this game don’t you?). The rulebook is written very clearly and gives enough examples to learn you the game in basically no time at all. And if you have trouble remembering a rule, you can find it quite easily during gameplay. Besides the rather dull boards, the components are top notch, and awesome to look at.

Game overview

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Hey, I already said the artwork for this was amazing right?

This game is being described as a strategic base defense deck builder. That is quite a mouthful isn’t it? But it is not as hard as it sounds. This game takes place in a science fiction universe where the Nortec Corporation is trying to recover the very precious resource called Xenosathem. This being the ultimate energy source that powers weapons and basically provides unlimited power, it is a highly coveted commodity. But it also has a nasty side effect: it turns the indigenous lifeforms into horrifying monsters. Of course this doesn’t stop a greedy corporation from wasting precious human lives in order to recover this stuff. And that’s where you, the players come in. This game simulates one of those mining operations, where you have to defend the Nortec base from being overrun in a series of nine game rounds.

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Just a couple of the friendly neighbourhood creatures you will encounter.

Everyone starts of with a set of basic lowlevel cards. Some of these cards can be used to buy new troops and weapons in order to make your deck of cards more powerful. And that’s where the word deckbuilder comes into play. When everybody has bought their cards the “fun” begins. The troops and weapons you have purchased are placed on a player’s lane, and will be your first and only line of defense against the horrible creatures that are trying to destroy your base. Of course there is a limit to the number of troops and weapons you can place, and as such players have to think strategically what they are going to be using. When everything is placed, the enemies enter an opposing lane. There are three waves of enemies that players need to survive, and each wave consists of three rounds. So in other words players need to overcome nine rounds in order to win the game.

Each wave you can buy more powerful stuff, but the enemies also become stronger. After the enemies are placed combat begins. Enemies deal their damage to troops first, but when there are no troops left, the base gets damaged instead. The base has a certain amount of damage it can take, and when it’s down to zero, it’s game over. So that in a nutshell is how this game gets played. Pretty simple huh?

Difficulty

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Definitely not something you see every day…..

This game is quite easy to learn. Especially if somebody is around that has played the game before and can teach it to other players. But even if you play the game by yourself, it’s relatively easy to get the hang of it. It’s the winning part though, that is an entirely different matter. This game is brutal. I have played it solo for about 7 or 8 times now, and I have not won the game even once. The closest I got was to round 8. Even when I played the game together with other players, that was the highest result that I have so far managed to achieve. There is a luck factor in this game as well (some combinations of enemies are just so powerful that no matter how well you prepare, you can’t really do anything about it), but it also comes down to thinking a lot. And that’s what I really like about it. Figuring out certain combinations of cards that really work well and manage to achieve great results is just one of the fun things this game has in store for you.

The Verdict

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It goes without saying that it takes a while to put sleeves on these cards. 

Well, what can I say this game is awesome. Even though it is incredibly tough, and victory has still eluded me so far, I have had a truly fun time playing this game. The cards look amazing, and the mechanics of this deckbuilder work really well. Not only that, it provides a good challenge, and because of the sheer amount of cards included no two games are ever the same. This is a game for people who love science fiction, and also enjoy to use their brains in order to beat a game, and not just luck.

I give Xenoshyft Dreadmire a 9 out of 10 score.

The official making of Big Trouble in Little China, a book written by Tara Bennet & Paul Terry (2016)

Director John Carpenter will always be one of my favorite alltime horror movie directors. Best known for movies such as The Thing and Halloween he has made an impact on this genre that is felt even today. One of his lesser known, but no less fun movies is Big Trouble in Little China. While this one technically can not really be called a horror movie, it’s one of those films that has gathered a real cult status amongst fans, myself included. Two years ago, the movie celebrated it’s 30th anniversary, and as often happens during events like that some cool products were released to help celebrate it. One of the things I always enjoy reading is books that detail how a certain film was made, especially if they contain some cool facts and nice artwork. To my delight, finally John Carpenter’s classic got a book like that as well. And as Kurt Russel’s character Jack Burton from the movie would say: “Great, a six demon bag. What’s in it?”

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“Son of a bitch must pay!!” 

Within the pages of this 176 page book you will find a lot of awesome never before seen photographs, that could definitely be called the highlight of this book. Included are promotional photographs, behind the scenes pictures, stills from the movie itself, and a lot of detailed artwork. All of these are printed in very high quality resolution, and every photograph no matter how small, get’s a description of what it shows. The latter might seem very obvious, but trust me when I say that there have also been making of books that did not include this information. That always annoys me to no end, because there have truly been some occasions where I would have loved to have found out what a certain picture depicted. The entire layout of the book, breathes the atmosphere of this great film, and the designers of this did a great job on that department. The book pretty much follows along with the story of the film, and so you will find yourself taking a trip down memory lane when you flip through the book.

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The good old Pork-Chop Express.

But besides the photographs there is of course also a lot of information about what went on during the making of the movie itself. It is written in a clear and concise way, that includes insights from the cast and crew itself. Some of the text was a bit dry, especially when they went into details about which type of cameras were being used, and stuff like that. But that luckily doesn’t happen very often. There were two things I really enjoyed finding out about and had never known before, prior to reading this book. The first was that the actress that played the character of Margo Litzenberg, Kate Burton, was the daughter of the legendary actor Richard Burton. The other is the fact that this movie was really helpful in the promotion and use of Asian American actors. As we all know, there has been a lot of controversy over the “whitewashing” affairs of the American movie industry. This movie was way ahead of it’s time in the fact that it used almost primarily Asian American actors/actresses for it’s leading roles. A fact that the cast was very thankful of and that really becomes kind of a focal point throughout this book.

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Some people just don’t look their best when they just woke up. 

The book is presented in pretty thick glossy pages that really give it the look of a high quality product. To round out the book we get a foreword written by the legendary director himself, and an afterword penned by it’s leading man Kurt Russell. This is a book that is written for the fans, there’s no question about that. If you have never seen the film, there is little to no point in picking this up. Unless you really like reading books about all the details and hard work that is put into making a film like this. However if you have been a fan of this cult classic as much as I have been, this one is well worth it to add to your collection. Overall it was a very enjoyable read, that contains a wealth of good background information, great interviews with cast and crew, and of course the visual aspects of it were a delight. You can almost hear the Pork-Chop Express driving up to your home with old Jack Burton on the CB saying: “It’s all in the reflexes”.

I give the Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China a 8 out of 10 score.

The Sky Crawlers, Japanese (animated) movie (2008)

In a little over two months I’m going to turn 42. Even though I don’t consider myself old in any way, it has been quite a while since I left my childhood behind me (although I still feel like a kid pretty much every day). While being an adult certainly has had it’s ups and downs, I could also say the same about when I was a kid. But I honestly have no real complaints about my childhood. In fact it was a time where I really had much less to worry about, then I sometimes do right now. But would I have wanted to stay a kid forever? Hell to the no. While the prospect of eternal life might sound appealing, in no way would I want to spent it as a teenager. So why am I talking about all this? Last year I bought a movie I have been wanting to see for quite a long time. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed director of the original Ghost in the Shell movie, The Sky Crawlers is a film that deals with the subject of kids. But kids that never age…

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Hmm…..drinking and smoking isn’t very good for your health, you know that right?

Exactly in which time frame The Sky Crawlers takes place is very hard to describe. Suffice it to say that it’s an alternate timeline where the world seems to be at peace, but as usual the human race can’t live completely without war. In order to release these tensions, private companies enlist fighter pilots that take to the skies and fight each other in real aerial combat engagements. The Rostock Corporation is one of these companies and has just lost three of their pilots at the hands of the ace pilot “The Teacher” that works for rival company Lautern. Shortly thereafter Yuichi Kannami arrives at the Rostock base having just been assigned there. Yuichi is a Kildren, a genetically engineered humanoid that will never grow beyond adolescence. The only thing he lives for is going up in his plane and fighting in these wars. It’s also just about the only thing that can get him killed. The base commander, Suito Kusanagi, herself also a Kildren, is shrouded in mystery. There are rumors flying around the base that she shot Yuichi’s predecessor. But no one knows what happened for sure. Yuichi’s own relationship with Suito is beginning to grow however. But the shadow of war, and the uncertainties of his own existence are beginning to take it’s toll on the mind of young Yuichi…

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I wish I owned a plane like that. It would beat walking to work.

The Sky Crawlers is a movie that is pretty hard to review. A challenge has never stopped me before though, so I am not about to do so now. This movie is a completely different movie than I expected it to be. If you think this is a full on action film, where the focus lies on aerial combat, you had better look someplace else. This two hour long movie has about 15 minutes of scenes like that, but that’s just about it. But it really has to be said, these scenes are breathtaking to look at. Brought in crystal clear 3D the dogfights between the incredibly beautifully designed fighter-planes are amazing to behold. They are tense, dangerous and the sounds that accompany them put you pretty much right in the middle of them, as if you were there yourself. But this being a Mamoru Oshii film, the story has many more layers to it than you might expect the first time that you see it. It’s one of those stories that really gets you to think about stuff, and those usually are the best kinds of tales.

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I think it might be a good idea to take cover. Just an idea, mind you.

This is, I’m not going to lie, a pretty bleak and depressing film. We are dealing with kids here that never grow old, and whose only purpose in life seems to be fighting wars. The time in between fights is spent in bars, or visiting prostitutes, but in no way do their lives ever seem to have a small spark of happyness. The two main characters, Yuichi and Suito are therefore very hard to grow attached to. Even though they seem to develop feelings for each other, that relationship is only causing grief, which is depicted in sometimes very sad scenes. I have always said that it’s hard to like a film, when you don’t care for what happens to the main characters. But here, it seems to really support the story and the vibe that the director is going for. This is also a very slow film. Most of the time is spent on the ground and trying to really bring the deeper underlying storylines to the front, but I can also understand that this might try the patience of some viewers.

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I did say the planes were very cool did I not?

A big reason for me to buy this movie, besides it being directed by Oshii, is that the music for it was composed by Kenji Kawaii. I wrote a post about this man’s brilliance last year (if you have missed that one you can find it right here), and he again manages to compose an absolutely breathtaking score. The main theme for the film is especially beautiful and I have included it below for your listening pleasure. So what did I think of this movie? As I mentioned in the beginning this is a very hard film to review. While I respect and also understand what Oshii is trying to do here, some moments in the movie felt pretty longwinded. It will also not make you a really happy camper so to speak. But I really can’t help but saying, this is still a very beautiful film. The story will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled (and do keep watching, because there is a very important after credits scene), and both the animation and music are absolutely amazing. If you don’t mind slow films, and are able to handle movies that feature a quite depressing atmosphere, this one is worth checking out.

I give The Sky Crawlers a 8 out of 10 score.

Underworld: Blood Wars, American movie (2016)

Some movie franchises just seem to go on and on without ever having an end in sight. No matter how bad some of the sequels to the original movie have become, they just keep pumping out new films. This seems to be especially true for horrormovies. There is a certain market for B-movie type films, that fans just can’t seem to get enough of. The Underworld franchise started way back in 2003. Underworld told the story of a great war between the Vampires and Lycans (Werewolves) that has raged for thousands of years. It was a very classy film, with some seriously cool fight sequences, lot’s of leather, and a great lead actress in the form of Kate Beckinsale that played the 1000 year old Death Dealer Vampire Selene. And just like that, fourteen years later we now have a fifth installment, that even leaves the door open for yet another sequel. Have these movies been entertaining though? Well, quite frankly, yes. Sure, the first film was definitely the best, but these follow up films all still had some nice things in them, that made them worthwhile watches. Especially if you like these kind of movies. So, what about this one? Is it any good, or do we just need to put it into the sunlight and let it burn up?

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I think you have got something stuck between your teeth. Here, let me help you. 

Underworld Blood Wars continues the storyline from the fourth film. The Vampires are on the verge of losing the war against their enemies the Lycans. Only the Eastern Coven still stands strong and one of their members, the beautiful Semira believes their salvation may lie with the Death Dealer Selene. But Selene has been outcast for years, and most of the other Vampires want to see her dead. She convinces Thomas, one of the Vampire elders, to go the council in order to try to persuade them to grant Selene clemency. In this way she hopes Selene can return to train a new generation of Death Dealers. Meanwhile the Lycans, now under the command of the powerful Marius, are also searching for Selene. They want to use her to find her daughter Eve, whose blood may contain the secrets of building an army of Lycan/Vampire hybrids. With all the players setting up their pieces on the board, Selene finds herself right in the middle of a very deadly game. With betrayal seeming to run rampant on both sides, Selene has to find a way to survive. But this is easier said than done, especially when she is set up for a crime which she did not commit…

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Enough with those Vampire puns already, come on!

Well, let’s put a stake through the heart of this review and get down to the most important aspect of it. This was Underworld’s weakest installment to date, and one really has to wonder if this franchise has not run out of steam. The story is basically non-existent. All we get is a long chase movie that moves from fight sequence to fight sequence, with little to no surprises. One of the things I did like is the fact that the story introduced a new coven of Vampires that live in the icy northern wastes. Without giving away spoilers, suffice it to say that they are entirely different from the Vampires we have come to known in Underworld. The action scenes in this movie were also not as good as in the previous films. But that said there is a seriously cool fight between Marius and Selene on the ice, that really is well worth seeing and one of the highlights of the film. Other than that the rest of the fights just lack that special wow factor which is a bit of a shame.

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If you mention that I played in Divergent, I will kill you. 

But the saving grace of this film is definitely actress Kate Beckinsale. Now playing the role of Selene for the fourth time, she is still every bit as strongwilled and fearsome as when she first started playing the character. And without sounding like a sexist pig, Kate is just incredibly sexy and feminine in the leather outfits she has always worn throughout these films. Selene’s character has really grown over the years and at the end of this movie, you will find yourself surprised in what she has become. (One of the few surprises this film has on offer). Something that you might not expect in a movie such as this is the high level of acting. Kate does a terrific job, but so does veteran actor Charles Dance reprising his role as Thomas. You can just see the fun he is having in playing this role. Semira is a deliciously wicked character that is brought to life in a splendid way by actress Lara Pulver. One of the more unpredictable characters of the film, I really enjoyed seeing her playing out her part, and I would have loved to have seen more of her.

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Sometimes no words are necessary, this picture pretty much speaks for itself. 

Underworld Blood Wars is a movie that ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I would not call the film a total disaster, there are obviously worse films out there. But having enjoyed all the other movies in this franchise, this one was really a bit of a letdown. As mentioned in the beginning, there is still room for a sequel to this one, and I would not be surprised if that is going to happen. But they would have to come up with a real good script to end Selene’s journey in a satisfactory way. If you are not a fan of Underworld, this movie is not going to change your mind. But if you are, despite it’s many flaws, I still think you should watch it. If only to see the lovely Kate in action for what might just be her final appearance as Selene. Just don’t set your expectation levels to the highest settings though.

I give Underworld Blood Wars a 6 out of 10 score.

Stranger, Korean Drama series (2017)

Okay, I’m going to start this review with a small confession. No worries, it really isn’t anything as shocking along the lines of ” I am really a serial killer”. But, here it comes nonetheless: I can be a really emotional guy. When there is injustice I can become really annoyed, and sometimes even very angry. But on the other side of the spectrum I can also cry at things that happen in a movie, or even at certain very personal blog posts. But really don’t hold that against me, okay? Emotions, or lack thereof, can tell a lot about a person. It pretty much defines what makes a person tick, at least that is what I think in my humble opinion. I have always wondered what would happen if I would possess no kind of emotion whatsoever. Let’s just take a few seconds and try to grasp what that means. You would not know when to laugh at a joke. When someone close to you dies, you would shed no tears. Even though there are certain moments in your life you maybe would have loved to lose a few emotions, I for one would never want to lose any of them. Because it would completely change my personality. And that, in a roundabout way brings me to this Korean drama.

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Get used to it: that expression on the face of the guy is pretty much the only one he knows. 

Prosecutor Hwang Shi-Mok underwent a brain surgery as a child. This surgery has now caused him to lack any kind of emotion. He is a cold, calculated and very rational guy, that is very good at his job. His lack of empathy and social skills however, make it extremely hard for him to sometimes interact with other people. One day while investigating a new case, he finds the person he is looking into dead in his house. When the police arrives at the scene Shi-Mok doesn’t communicate with any of them, but instead focusses on finding the killer. This suspicious behaviour at first makes him a suspect. Police inspector Han Yeo-Jin is the one who is assigned the task of solving the case, and soon finds out that Hwang is innocent of the crime. Eventually the two of them team up to find the real killer. But when they find the alleged murderer, it soon becomes very clear that there is more to the case then both of them realise. A cesspool of corruption has been opened, one that is so deep that it goes to the highest levels of the justice department. Dark and dirty secrets are about to be revealed, and some people will stop at nothing to keep them buried….

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Run Forrest, run…..

Having just finished this Korean drama I have to say it has left me behind with mixed feelings. I certainly would not call this series bad, but there are certain things that I also didn’t like and that at the end kept me from really enjoying this to the fullest. As far as the story goes I have to say that it is incredibly complex containing many layers, and one could argue that it contains too many layers. Part murder mystery, part legal drama, with elements of corporate espionage, corruption and even soap opera thrown into the mix, Stranger has at times trouble in deciding what it wants to be. There were some truly intense and incredibly powerful moments in the show that really put a smile on my face. Some twists and turns where certainly unexpected, and added to the fun of watching this series. But then there were also episodes that were, for lack of a better word, rather dull, and just seemed to drag on and on. The story as mentioned is incredibly complex and because of it’s complexity there were moments where I lost track of things.

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Look at my fist: I have got your emotions right here! 

This last fact was only made even worse because of the huge number of characters that this drama contains. I usually don’t like shows or novels that contain such a huge cast of names that it becomes hard to remember who a certain person was. But despite that fact it’s the acting in this series that really is one of it’s strongest points. Hwang Shi-Mok, played by Cho Seung-Woo is a character that is hard to grow attached to. Because of his lack of emotions he walks around the series with pretty much the same expression on his face at every scene. At first this becomes very tedious, but then I started to realise what a brilliant job the actor is really doing. It is incredibly hard to just not respond emotionally to people that are laughing or crying. I came to really enjoy Shi-Mok’s awkwardness, especially around police detective Han Yeo-Jin. She was played by actress Bae Doo-Na and became my favorite character of the series. The complete opposite of Shi-Mok, she is a feisty and tenacious woman, who tries her best to solve the case but at the same time shows empathy when she needs to. And she is also in for a joke or two, often at the expense of her partner.

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Please don’t look at me that way: I won’t laugh anyway. 

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the music that supports this drama. It certainly ranks as the best background music I have heard in any Korean drama series to date, and helps bring the atmosphere of this series to life. In the end I can say that I do recommend the show. Even though there are certainly moments in it’s 16 episode run that really are pretty boring, there also enough things in it that balance the score in the end. The difficult and complex script, does eventually pay off, and the acting in the series alone is certainly worth watching it for. While there are definitely better dramas out there, it’s a good series if you are just willing to invest some time and patience in it. If you have become interested in the show after reading this, you can watch the series on Netflix. This concludes the first post for my theme month of Korean dramas. Thanks as always for reading and see you at the next post!

I give Stranger a 7 out of 10 score.