TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Gavin Leatherwood, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Miranda Otto, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Lachlan Watson, Sam Corlett, Richard Coyle, Alessandro Juliani, Luke Cook, Jonathan Whitesell

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Picking from the events from Part 2, Greendale has completely switched around. Sabrina’s boyfriend Nick has sacrificed himself and taken to Hell with Lilith who now rules there. Much like Aunt Zelda who now has taken over the Academy of Unseen Arts to hopefully rebuild it. While Ambrose and Prudence have gone off to travel around the world trying to track down Father Blackwood and get rid of him before he can exact anymore hazardous plans upon his probable return. However, Sabrina soon gets dragged into a much more serious role in exchange for saving Nick as she takes on the role of Queen of Hell and is challenged by Caliban, the Prince of Hell who also wants to win the throne through a series of quests to find the Unholy Regalia.

Part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes an interesting turn of events. The relationships are now pretty much set as much as the alliances. The shift in power as well as the new outline of who is running things starts having a bigger toll especially as a lot of the secrets were revealed by the end of the last season. This season, its about making up for those things with some rather dire consequences, notably the main one being Sabrina given the power of the Queen of Hell and having an inner tug of war between what she needs to do, what she should do and what is more important to her. This all comes crashing together in the big finale when there is a whole time manipulation sequence where things get warped and she has to find a way to fix it.

For Part 1 & 2 reviews, I haven’t really taken a lot of time to look at the other characters other than the character development of Sabrina. Part 3 seems like a good time since most of the main cast is now rather set and developed at this point. For the most part, the show does revolve primarily around Sabrina and her development and it ends up putting the others a little bit more in the background with little scenes that come and go which is mostly revolving around Ambrose and Prudence, the Aunts Zelda and Hilda, her mortal friends Harvey, Roz and Theo and her love interest at the moment. In this case, the season is mostly surrounding Nick and eventually also the possible interest in Caliban. In reality, the characters in Sabrina probably have a lot more space to develop and for the most part, they feel rather one dimensional despite some of their abilities being more fleshed out as the show moves forward, it could be one of the reasons that it feels a little less engaging.

The main engaging and fun element are mostly the events that they pop up that flips the situation. The gives the show a nice course of dilemmas and situations throughout that eventually lead to a big finale. In this case, it goes to a mysterious circus that comes to town and the escaped Father Blackwood messing things up in the background who all come into play as he now aligns with anyone who can exact the revenge he wants. The threat here being pretty much more engaging since this new crew of characters (the Pagans) pose their own threats. If the circus itself didn’t bring its own oddities, the people they bring also have their own influences to different characters and brings in yet another branch of belief and another force that wants to take over the realm. If the Hell issues weren’t enough, this definitely kept the plot points very busy.

Overall, Part 3 was a pretty decent one. It did step up a little from the second part. This time’s threats and dilemmas between the characters helped give it a lot of constant motion, propelling it forward so fast that it was actually rather fascinating. The twist at the end was a huge highlight especially since it gave it something of an adventure like Harrry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but the different realms giving some variation to the plot from its first 2 ways. The power struggle expands and pushes Sabrina to make some tough decisions, constantly developing her character further.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Director: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Being yet again wildly behind on most Netflix series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina finally made its start as I work through the Netflix back catalogue. Being fans of Archie comics and originally meant as a spinoff of the show but no longer exactly the case, despite the mention of Riverdale in some occasions of the show in dialogue, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina starts off in its Part 1 setting up the stage from the get-go as Sabrina enters into her 16th birthday and has to decide whether she will be following her witch side or mortal side. Of course, she chooses neither, making her life split in half as she fulfills both sides of her obligations. With threats popping up from various locations and her human emotional side taking over her to protect her friends as some unknown manipulating forces also affect her situation as a whole, the show revolves around various topics in this world set in Greendale which has both the witch/warlock network but also the mortal network coming into play as Sabrina tries to strike a balance and starts to realize that maybe its not quite so easy to do that.

The first part lays out its foundation for everything and usually for these sort of teen shows are aimed to build up the scenario, the world and the characters. For the most part, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a decent job. From start to the finish, all 11 episodes do contribute to crafting this dark world of Sabrina both on the mortal and magical side. Sabrina’s life takes a turn as it gets affected from her family to friends to love, making clear those divisions but also the things that makes her unique as a “half breed”. On a storyline level, it manages to keep it rather good but of course, with its fair share of teenage angst added into the mix as it brings up themes of bullying and gender much like the darker side has its own set of issues from the patriarchy and more older beliefs of the darker world at hand. There are some odd frustrating moments here and there especially since Sabrina’s character, as she shifts between the worlds, becomes rather annoying at parts but its all part of the character building as her character does solidify, much like the other ones, by the end of Part 1.

Perhaps one of the more head-scratching elements of the show is the visuals that the production or perhaps post-production decides to take as the show in almost the entirety has this blurry hue that soaks in the background. Its uncertain whether its meant to give the show the visual uniqueness or to create the separation of the two worlds, however as much as for some scenes, it does it some favors, in others, it is quite a nuisance to be present all the time and maybe even taking away the effectiveness it could have it wasn’t present most (if not all) of the the time. The revamped style of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to this version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (much like Archie versus Riverdale) is already a darker and more graphic version so it almost feels unnecessary to try to push more of it onto its viewers. Sure, it is quite noticeable and gives it that unique feeling but when its the whole show that uses this, it eventually fades into the background and loses its meaning or purpose (if it had any in the first place other than just as a visual aesthetic).

Overall, Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a pretty fun ride. As a teen show, it still keeps a lot of the expected elements of teenage angst in the mortal world but still mirrors itself well into the magical world as she enters into The Academy of Unseen Arts. There are still the little cliques and the contrast of the values from each side, much like the contrast of the two worlds where the mortal emphasized the light/good element and is what the normal person would use in terms of lingo but the other side, the witch/warlock side is all about embodying the darkness which swaps things around turning things around. Its a pretty interesting world to dive into by the end even if there are some rather frustrating parts here and there but the show does keep things pretty constant with its conflicts and dilemma that surrounds Sabrina constantly.

TV Binge: Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining

While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.

  1. Bad Travelling
  2. Swarm
  3. Night of the Mini Dead
  4. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
  5. Jibaro
  6. Mason’s Rats
  7. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
  8. Kill Team Kill
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine

Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.

The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.

Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.

Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.

As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.

Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
By Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fairy Tale Retelling

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles.

She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.

When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.  – Goodreads

The sequel of Cinder (review) and the second book of The Lunar Chronicles picks up right the events of the first. As Cinder is imprisoned and she tries to make her escape, the story shifts simultaneously to Scarlet, a fairytelling retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in this world when her grandmother, an ex-military pilot, goes missing and she ends up meeting a fighter called Wolf who joins her in her search as they trace down the leads. Much like an escaped Cinder who finds companion with Thorne in search of Scarlet’s grandmother as well. More characters and an expanded storyline fills up Scarlet as these two join paths with some help.

Cinder built up a wonderful foundation and world building in the first book, setting up the politics of the story, the feud between Lunar and Eastern Commonwealth, Queen Levana’s plot against Emperor Kaito and Cinder’s basic character and backstory. The strong foundation sets up a great platform for Scarlet to jump off from as its main story is adding more depth to Cinder as she is the key focus of the entire plot that’s being constructed but still having room to discover more with Scarlet’s side especially since her story doesn’t unfold until they do find her grandmother and know what secrets she hides that links to Princess Selene. The whole progression of events is well-paced and pretty adventurous as the dangers pick up one after the next for both Cinder and Scarlet. Scarlet’s story is pretty good since it uses this world to give a decent twist to Wolf who plays into a genetically modified soldier giving them wolf instincts.

To be fair, these stories are fairly straight forward. On one hand, its good because the world takes precedence and its a very easy read to pick up and get into the story quickly. Even if this is the sequel, its not hard to follow where it picks up from the first book and catch up a little on the context fairly easily. If there was something to criticize, Scarlet’s story does have its moments which feels a little bit like the typical love dramas especially in dialogue when things start to take a more romantic take on her and Wolf. The whole thing gets a little soapy and cringe-y at times. However, the story never does forget that the end game is to set up Scarlet and Cinder’s meeting as they join forces to set up their next step to fight against Queen Levana.

Despite its slight shortcomings, Scarlet is overall a fun read. It sets up a decent platform for the next book as well. As an ending thought, I’m definitely enjoying the world the most as they take these fairy tale retellings and puts them into a sci-fi future. Hopefully, I will be taking a look at Book 3 sooner rather than later.

TV Binge: Hellbound (Season 1, 2021)

Hellbound (Season 1, 2021)

Creators: Sang-ho Yeon & Gyu-seok Choi

Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Hyun-joo Kim, Jeong-min Park, Jin-a Won, Ik-june Yang, Do-yoon Kim, Shin-rock Kim, Kyung-soo Ryu, Re Lee

People hear predictions on when they will die. When that time comes, a death angel appears in front of them and kills them. – IMDB

Running at a swift 6 episodes, Hellbound presents a story circling society, belief, religion, cult and human nature. This South Korean series breaks its story down into two parts. The first sets itself at the start of these events as a society gradually is exposed to these predictions of death which soon is believed to be the consequences of sins by that individual. The first part focuses on the police follow the trail of these mysterious deaths from these hellbound gigantors that come and go in their predicted time, they soon lead to a priest of a small religious organization, played by Ah In-Yoo, previously known for his main lead in Netflix zombie film #Alive (review). With the final moments of the first half, the second half heads into a few years after this and how the country has dealt with this situation and the huge growth of this religious society that has spread to many people turning to religion for their salvation however this happens to lead to an unexpected prediction that groups up a bunch of people who hasn’t fallen for this religious cult as they try to reveal to the world the truth behind them.

Hellbound has an interesting premise to be sure and it runs at only six episodes which is one of the main reasons for its bingeworthiness. Its easy to consume and makes it pretty well-paced. However, the series does have some deceiving moments especially with these hellbound creatures that pop up which never truly get a resolution as to what this death angel and creatures truly represent in the end game. However, it takes the story and moves it away from this more supernatural element and turns into a human nature, society and belief angle which shows a lot of the ugliness of a cult taking advantage of their followers. It turns into more of a crime investigation in the second half that takes a different turn in events. It takes a more sentimental turn of events as well with the last hellbound prediction especially with how the previous predictions met their end in a violent manner.

Looking at the characters, its a pretty decent cast whether you look at the first or the second part which has some overlapping characters but takes a bigger switch in who is involved in this whole scheme of things. The characters themselves have some complexity as it wraps up in their back story and their stance on the whole situation regarding this organization and afterwards, the cult. There are a few twists added in. With strong topics about belief in society and the extent that some people will go to fight for those beliefs, it does end up having some very extreme moments as it looks at this grey area where belief can lead to good with good intentions and also the complete opposite of using it to manipulate the population to their benefit. This creates the extremities in also how characters are viewed and the desperation of others who have put their trust and faith in the wrong people, adding both drama and tension.

Overall, Hellbound explores some pretty serious topics in this fantasy crime drama series. Its swift pacing and the clear cut execution of its story is definitely some of the pros of this series. The first 3 episodes does feel a lot slower in comparison to its last 3 episodes but it has to do with different characters and a different purpose to set up the situation. Hellbound might not be quite what anyone expected and it might take some time to get pulled into its series but give it some time and it does get better as the plot thickens.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1)
By: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy

This is the story of Offred, one of the”Handmaids” whose purpose is to breed. In the new social order in which women are told they are being controlled for their own good, Offred lives in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is sent out once a day to the food market, chaperoned; she is is not permitted to read; and she is hoping the commander makes her pregnant, because if not she’ll be sent to a toxic work camp, or end up as a sex slave in Jezebel’s. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, and a husband and a child. But all of that is gone now… everything has changed. – Goodreads

There’s no doubt that I once bought this novel at the TV series height and wanted to read what it was about in anticipation for when I would get the chance to watch it. Until this very day, I haven’t watched the series yet but here we are, the first book of this series done as well as the first Margaret Atwood book done and dusted. While I want to say that I had in incredibly great time with it, it definitely was not the case. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of Atwood’s most known and popular titles (according to the blurb in Goodreads) and its no surprise that it was adapted into a TV series considering its premise and characters. It is quite suitable content to make for some engaging and compelling TV series. However, as the book itself, there are certain things that aren’t quite to my own preference.

Before we start with the cons, let’s start with some of the good stuff. The Handmaid’s Tale creates a wonderful dystopia future. This future is harsh and takes away the basic rights of women decreasing fertile women to simply being emotionless and obedient birthing machines as their life from what they eat to their lifestyle to their purpose being derived solely from being impregnated by the Commander of their household. What does make it more messed up is that they are doing all this in the presence of the Commander’s wife just like a substitute body. The dystopia world has its underground guilty pleasures and as Offred, the main character starts to be asked to do things against the norm from the Commander and his wife separately, she starts seeing these hidden elements of this dystopian world. That part of the story is where most of the fun is as Offred’s experiences from past and present do shed light on how the situation came to be, how she got to where she is and her observations from the things happening around her.

The issue with the writing itself is that it is very descriptive, at times a little bit overly descriptive that makes the pacing feel a little dragged out in parts. At the same time, the writing also tends to jump around between the past and present a lot. While the story itself doesn’t have an issue, there are times that it takes a while to know exactly which is in the past without warning. Especially in the beginning when learning about all these characters around Offred and their connection and purpose, etc. Perhaps its that I prefer a little more obvious structure in the writing structure and style which makes this element something that doesn’t appeal to myself as much. Its also that as I get older, the amount of structure and description also makes for a great deal of the read experience itself. Over the course of the novel, it does slowly become easier to catch on the past and present since the characters are more familiar. Just for a simple example, there was one part that bothered me was this whole meeting that was supposed to happen and then it goes on this whole detour of a few chapters before it actually happens.

With all that said, The Handmaid’s Tale is an okay reading experience. Overall, it has a really good world building and the dystopia concept is pretty well-executed especially since it is the first book of two and does build a good foundation, seeing as the story does end on a cliffhanger of sorts. The writing structure and style isn’t exactly something that I’m a big fan of but if you don’t mind those elements I mentioned above, then this might be up your alley!

Goodreads score: 3/5

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Director: Yusuke Hirota

English voice cast: Tony Hale, Antonio Raul Corbo, Stephen Root, Misty Leek Hasan Minhaj, Greg Chun, Ray Chase, James Mathis III

A factory town is covered by chimney smoke, and as the townspeople haven’t see the sky in centuries, they no longer believe that stars exist. A chimney sweep and a friendly monster named Poupelle decide to prove that stars are real. – IMDB

Mostly known for his role as computer graphics animator, director Yusuke Hirota has his directorial debut with this colorful adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s children picture book of the same name, Poupelle of Chimney Town, who also writes the screenplay. Poupelle of Chimney Town is a family fantasy animated film set on an island which is covered in chimney smoke with no knowledge of anything outside of their world. Carrying his disappeared father’s story in his mind, Lubicchi works as a chimney sweep to be closer to the sky in hopes of seeing the elusive stars that his father constantly talked about until he meets a monster that everyone called Garbage Man and he names Poupelle (nice play on the French world poubelle for garbage). As their friendship flourishes and he tries to hide Poupelle with a little help, they soon realize that Poupelle might not be just a monster while the constant doubt of the outside world and even the resistance of these ideas.

Poupelle of Chimney Town is pretty family friendly. In fact, it does play like a children’s book. The screenplay being written by the author of the source material definitely does fill in some of those boxes (although I have never read the source material itself). However, the story does flow relatively well. There are some parts that feel a little disjointed or the English dub dialogue might feel like it jumps into the next scene a little awkwardly. However, the concept of the whole story is there. As an animated film, the world itself being covered in chimney smoke doesn’t stop the actual film to be very colorful in appearance which brings the entire Chimney Town setting to life. The film also uses different angles for various sequences which almost plays out like a movie but at times like a video game scene and even a few musical scenes. It may feel a little odd, mostly fun but does add a little uniqueness to the whole execution.

The story is the main focus as the characters are pretty simple and easy to understand. There are some rather witty characters that pop in and out, much like any children’s book someone who poses as resistance and others that are bullies. Whether we look at Poupelle or Lubicchi who are primarily the main focus of the whole story, their goal is still pretty simple. The story talks about friendship, family, and most importantly, belief. The whole end game is to see whether there are stars in the sky and prove that Lubicchi’s dad wasn’t lying about this and being shamed for it. As the government gets in the way posing as the main resistance and others trying to stop life from the norm, the whole story unfolds both in adventure and drama, sometimes the tone does also jump around a little abruptly. It does all come to a rather satisfying and slightly emotional revelation. It seems a little far-fetched but if you do get immersed into the story about those living in this Chimney Town, the whole idea of seeing the miraculous sky is pretty cool.

Overall, Poupelle of Chimney Town is a decent family friendly animated film. There are a few darker moments and a tad bit of violence but the story itself is pretty straight forward and does feel rather magical and colorful, making it also visually appealing. It looks like a story book that comes to life for the most part in its art style. There are some fun characters and some cool adventures. Sure, the story feels like it has a little disjointedness whether in tone or story progression at times but the main message and story does carry forward well enough.

*Poupelle of Chimney Town opened in theatres across North America on January 7, 2022*

*Screener provided by Prise Media Group*

Book Tour: The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice by Fred Yu

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice
(The Red Crest Series #1)

Expected Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Genre: Asian Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

He was born of prophecy. If he can’t embrace his destiny in time, his country is doomed.

Ancient China. Spoiled and overconfident, eighteen-year-old Mu Feng relishes life as the son of an honored general. But when his sister is abducted and his friends slaughtered, he flees home. He soon discovers the mystical birthmark on his body has attracted an enormous price on his head.

Pursued across the Middle Kingdom, Feng finds allies in two fierce warriors and a beautiful assassin. When he learns his ultimate enemy plans an incursion with advanced weaponry, he must call on his friends and his own budding military genius to defend his country. His plan is desperate, and the enemy outnumbers him twenty-five to one…

Can Feng fulfill a duty he didn’t know he had and unite the empire against a terrifying force?

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REVIEW

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is an Asian epic fantasy novel set in Ancient China. Being Chinese, its actually the first English novel of this type that I’ve read. However, for those unfamiliar to the genre, its a great way to be introduced to a Chinese epic fantasy. It has a lot of elements and themes commonly seen in a lot of other Asian epic fantasies like the concept of sworn brothers or the war and politics or the world itself with its martial arts and the different techniques that might rule over the different sects. Its an expansive world and being the first novel, it does set up the characters and the world building pretty well. The story itself has a little bit of everything you’d imagine to see in sort of novel from fight sequences, secrets, betrayal and plotting and some romance as well.

Looking at the array of characters, much in the spirit of epics, there are a lot of characters that gets introduced. The core characters all having their fundamental part in the whole story as their characters get developed through the different conversations and their actions. If there was something to criticize here lightly would be that the main focus is on the main character Mu Feng who ends up having the most exposure as a character in this journey and also the most development. There is a well-constructed idea of the boy to man as he goes through his ordeals unlike the other characters which have more of a snippet of their backgrounds but feel a little more one dimensional. This isn’t a huge issue as the main character is the key element here as it is his journey. Hopefully in future novels, the other characters will have more detail added.

There’s a lot to like about The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice. For one, it did have its own view of the genre. It still feels fairly well-constructed and at this point, there are lots of classics who have thread this territory and a mountain of TV dramas that have also been released so to create this world is hard to be create something completely unique. Yet, it is still an engaging read throughout as Mu Feng is an interesting sort of character. What does stand out the most is the use of descriptions to make the action sequences and different ordeals that happen very vivid. Overall, as the starting point, this is a great take on an Asian epic fantasy.

Available on October 5th on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a lifelong student of martial arts, and growing up watching martial arts flicks in the 80s and 90s, Yu decided early on that he would write in this genre. Inspired by George RR Martin’s work, he decided he would write a series in English in this centuries-old Asian genre. Yu has written three previous novels, The Legend of Snow Wolf, Haute Tea Cuisine and Yin Yang Blades. Yu has a BFA Film and Television from NYU Tisch School of Arts. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but presently lives in New York City.

GIVEAWAY

International Giveaway: Paperback copy of the book
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BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

October 4th
Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
@swimming.in.books (Review)
@ofmoviesandbooks (Review)
MacroMicroCosm (Review)
Bunny’s Reviews (Review)

October 5th
@tiny.bibliophile (Review)
@jypsylynn (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
B is for Book Review (Spotlight)

October 6th
@NerdyFoxReads (Review) 
Rambling Mads (Review)
PoptheButterfly (Spotlight)
Auto.Erraticism (Spotlight)

October 7th
Balancing Books & Beauties (Review)
@happily_undignified (Review) 
Lecari’s Live Journal (Review)
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Bri’s Book Nook (Review)
Behind the Pages (Review) 
Tranquil Dreams (Review)

October 8th
@hoardingbooks.herdingcats (Review)
@acourtof_plants_and_books (Review)
@loveleighreading (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review) 
Stine Writing (Spotlight)
MacroMicroCosm (Podcast Interview)

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Hello! Tapir (2020)

Hello! Tapir (2020)

Director (and writer): Kethsvin Chee

Cast: Run-Yin Bai, Lee-zen Lee, Hsueh Feng Lu, Charlie Yeung

8-year-old Ah Keat sets off in search of the mythical nightmare-eating creature in the forest, hoping it will bring his father back to life. – IMDB

Hello! Tapir is a 2020 Taiwanese fantasy drama that also happens to be Taiwan’s first live action animated film. Films that tackle young children tackling family trauma or grief and loss with their imagination is a wonderful premise. It reminded of another Taiwanese film adaptation called Starry Starry Night but if above anything, this film actually draws a lot of parallels to My Neighbor Totoro both in premise and even some of the shots are set up. Tapirs are actual animals that exist however, the fact that they use this in a story that spans from a father’s childhood encounter with the magical tapir living deep in their town’s forest that extends to a promise between a child and their father as the little boy Ah Keat waits for his father to come home while the adults, mostly his mother and his grandmother also have their own side of dealing with this family loss while trying to keep it a secret from Ah Keat without realizing that he actually is dealing with it in his own way.

The execution of the film overall is really great as the structure of the film is presented as a fragmented storyline or perhaps more as a parallel. The present is shown moving forward in time starting from the day that the father was lost at sea and the night before in his last few conversations with his family. The whole structure builds up the father’s character and his relationship with those around him but most importantly, also builds up Ah Keat’s character and why he insists on finding the Tapir. With that said, the cast does a great job. Ah Keat is played by Run-Yin Bai who captures the childhood innocence for a little boy really well but also giving those dramatic parts very good as well, carrying through the loss and confusion that he is feeling as well towards the situation. Playing his mother who comes to help from Taipei after the situation is Charlie Yeung, a rather famous Hong Kong actress who captures her role as she deals with this whole thing while trying to draw a little closer to her son, much like the distance between her and her ex-mother-in-law is very obvious as well while still hiding the loss of her ex-husband and has hit her hard as well as she stays strong for the family. The grandmother and father role, played respectively by Hsueh Feng Lu and Lee-zen Lee also are great performances. A part of it is that they are a great cast but also that these characters are scripted really well. All their dialogue contributes in the every detail to make them draw closer together or build them up.

This magical Tapir is also well-designed as its exterior is fantasy-like in itself as it has the body of a pig, ears of a horse, the trunk of an elephant and feet like rhinoceros. Anywhere with the Tapir, there is no danger and it wanders the streets of the town after everyone has fallen asleep to eat their nightmares. Its essentially a protector of the town. One that protects people from their bad thoughts. The interaction with the Tapir and Ah Keat is truly cute and heartwarming. The childhood innocence in Ah Keat and the motions of this magical world with illuminated bubbles floating around filled with all sorts of nightmares which also link to the characters in the film like Ah Keat’s best friends who follow his suit to think up silly ways to create enough glowing light to attract the tapir together. Plus, there’s a big Tapir and a baby Tapir which is almost a little reflection of the parent and child relationship focused in this story.

There’s honestly a lot to love about Hello! Tapir. The script is fantastic and builds such wonderful characters to a beautifully crafted magical beast. The whole idea feels almost healing to watch. Despite its heartstrings tugging moments where certain details get unveiled as the story unfolds whether its promises seemingly unfulfilled between father and son or the family structure or even facing this grief and loss together and learning to let it go and live with it, there is a lot of positivity that the concept of a magical creature like the Tapir brings. It brings forth the many worries in the world from the news headlines that are narrated as the dream bubbles float right down to the little adventures and simple hope that kids believe in. Not to mention the little fantasy-like score/song that plays when the Tapir shows up that makes it all the more magical. Sure, the story is about family, grief and loss but it also balances the fantasy and adventure plus childhood innocence so well that the ending makes it all the more heartwarming.

Being a fan of live-action animation films and stories like My Neighbor Totoro, this film was like a homage but at the same time also created a beautiful little fantasy tale also that was both emotional and heartwarming. Everything was done with such detail in its script to how the beautiful shots are framed to the very fun little conversations that all call back to each other from the past to the present in context that its really hard to not praise the cinematography, the script and the overall direction of Hello! Tapir!

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: All The Moons (2021)

All The Moons (Todas Las Lunas, 2021)

Director (and co-writer): Igor Legarreta

Cast: Haizea Carneros, Josean Bengoetxea, Itziar Ituno

All The Moons is a 2021 Spanish fantasy drama that tells the story of a little orphan girl who gets saved during the 3rd Carlist War in 1876 by a woman that see believes is an angel. The woman takes her in and tells her that she cannot be in daylight and at night, they must follow the orange light in the distance. Shortly after, when they get attacked and are separated, the little girl has to learn to survive with all of the unknowns in her life.

All The Moons is a vampire film unlike others as it hooks onto the fantasy and drama elements and not a horror element. In fact, it never even uses the term of a vampire at any time, perhaps because its set in an ancient time before anyone has coined the term as what she is seems foreign to those that she crosses path with when they notice her differences to them. However, the journey is more of a character-driven one as the girl remains nameless for the a good part of the film going through many moons on her own. While moons usually refer to werewolves, this one is about the nights as vampires are nocturnal until she actually learns to live with sunlight, the process probably one of the most memorable scenes in the film.

All The Moons is pretty much held up with a fantastic performance by young actress Haizea Carneros who truly delivers. Paired with an outstanding script, the journey of her life is all about fear and loneliness at the start. A fear of not having lived long enough to slowly realize that life is more than walking the earth but also in the process of feeling pain and death. The immortality element that makes her life “lifeless”, a term she uses at the end. While surrounded by a few other characters, father figure, church and society, a friend, her journey is pretty subtle overall but the injustices or the bitterness builds up over time to make the final act very impactful.

Set in a beautiful backdrop with rolling hills and beautiful landscape, All The Moons also has a charming soundtrack. All the Moon is a drama so a little more slow in terms of pacing but it is very much about the meaningful script and the message behind what the girl learns through this unexpected and unknown she gets given as a gift which turns out to be more like a curse. The journey that she goes through is very thought provoking as it navigates through strong themes of life and death, loneliness and love carried by a fantastic performance going through something like 60 years in the past Spain as it overlaps two wars. All The Moons is a lot more than more than the common vampire films and is a hidden gem in this festival.