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RWBY Recap: Volume 6, Episode 3 – Irreconcilable Differences

This episode has a delightfully one-track plot. No more half-truths or silly jokes. No  diversions to Cinder, Adam, or Roman’s hat’s perspectives. We dive right into the origin stories of Salem, the lonely girl in the tower (who is totally analogous to Rapunzel), and her rescuer, the valiant warrior Ozma.

You read that right.  Ozma. Continue reading RWBY Recap: Volume 6, Episode 3 – Irreconcilable Differences

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RWBY Recap: Volume 6, Episode 2 – Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Cane

Maz Katara has a name now: Maria Calavera. She’s apparently the first Hispanic woman in the World of Remnant, which is further emphasized by her Day of the Dead-styled skull cane. Yay, diversity. So yeah, we’re calling her Maria Calavera now. Sounds similar enough to the old moniker, doesn’t it?

For a sixteen minute episode, this one is packed with plenty of shocking and noteworthy moments.  For starters:


Cinder is Back. 

Yup, she’s not dead. Just resting after a lengthy battle with the Spring Maiden.  The shadowy figure with the claw hand on the Volume 6 promotional art was an indication of this, but I was hoping she’d stay dead.

Her fall (haha) last volume was a startling, unexpected end for the character, deliberately ambiguous with an air of much-deserved finality.  Bringing her back seems like a lazy way to renege on this very powerful decision.  Understandably, Cinder (and her voice actor, the stunning cosplayer/model Jessica Nigri,) are fan-favorites; but since when do the CRWBY bow to demands for fan service outside of the Chibi world?

Time and again, my eye keeps drifting back to the red-banded bowler hat that flutters past the hooded woman we know to be Cinder in the opening montage.  Look, if Cinder can be resurrected by the powers of fan service after falling from a great height, there is clearly hope for a man quite thoroughly digested by a giant Nevermore….


Little Miss Muffet

One minor thing that I find noteworthy is the introduction of a side character, a spider-obsessed Kelly Clarkson doppelganger named Little Miss Malachite. I’m curious to know if she’s related to the twin partygoers from Yang’s Gold Trailer, circa Volume One.


Flashbacks are Weird

In terms of pacing, this episode was somewhat disjointed. In addition to Cinder’s return scene, we got a flashback to when QROWBYNGR was still in Mistral. They discuss the relic and its abilities, though Ozcar neglects to reveal how attracted the Grimm are to it.  Because of how difficult it is to tell what’s a flashback and what isn’t, I now have questions about the passage of time in the previous episode.

Like, did the scene with Adam killing the White Fang mutineers occur on the same day that QROWBYNGR left for Argus?  Because if that was Adam we saw on the train, there’s no way he could’ve killed the rebels, cleaned up, gone clothes shopping, and followed them to the train that quickly.


Give Aaron Dismuke an Oscar!

At this moment, the distinction between Oz and ‘Car is further strengthened and defined.  Oscar is learning to wrest control from Ozpin over his body, and once again, Ozpin’s nefarious side is brought out.  In portraying this dynamic, I am really impressed by how well Aaron Dismuke transitions into Shannon McCormick’s Ozpin speech pattern for scenes where Oz is talking through Oscar.


The Inappropriate Genie

The second biggest revelation of this episode is that the relic is actually a magic lantern containing … a naked genie.  (Could this be why the episode was titled “Uncovered”?)  But that’s not the shocking aspect of this point that I wanted to talk about.

Unlike most genies who grant wishes, this genie provides answers to three questions per century — and there are still two questions remaining.  Ruby and company clearly intend to capitalize on this, much to the fear and chagrin of Professor Ozpin’s spirit, because their first question is, “What is Ozpin hiding from us?” And Oz doesn’t take it very well.

Just as he lunges to stop Ruby (a major red flag that I believe all Rosecar shippers should be wary of), the four girls are transported to that familiar, all-white realm of sci-fis past.  It is the as-of-yet final resting place of Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine, and the place where Morpheus showed Neo the reality surrounding the Matrix.


Sympathy for the Villain

In this realm, RWBY and Qrow are individually shown a presentation about a lonely girl living in a lonely tower. You may recognize her as the girl looking up at an Ozpin statue in the opening montage. Her name is….


…Okay, how about Rapunzel?  Nearly everyone in RWBY has a fairytale analogue.

Oh, no, now that would be too easy.

It’s Salem.

Yup, get this: Salem was once an ordinary human. Like you. Until she took a metaphorical arrow to the knee.

I was pretty shocked at this revelation the first time I watched this. On the one hand, I’m excited to see the narrative continued in the next installment; we’re getting some background on the series’ main antagonist. But after my second viewing, I’m feeling a wee bit cynical.

What I think is most likely going to happen is the writers will attempt to give Salem a tragic, sympathy-garnering backstory. After all, bullies become bullies because they were once bullied themselves (so we must sympathize with, and even befriend our abusers). This backstory reveal would definitely give her character dimension, but I really don’t want to sympathize or, worse, empathize with Salem.

Perhaps by learning how she came to be the evil sorceress of the past, we’ll be able to find a weakness, her Pyrrha’s heel….  (I’m so not sorry!)

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RWBY Recap: Volume 6 Episode 1 – I Like Train Battles!

First off, let me just say that this episode exceeds my expectations in so many ways.

For starters, the animation quality is phenomenal this time around. It is far more coordinated than it’s been in the previous two volumes, and really shines in the first act of the episode. Viewers are taken right into the heart of a battle sequence on the train that highlights Team RWBY’s excellent teamwork. But how did they get there in the first place? Just watch on….

As I predicted, it seems that at this point, the production team isn’t shying away from death. There is a lot of it in this episode, even if it’s only minor characters so far. There were two characters who I could tell right away would either die horribly or end up very hurt before the day was over.

Then, there’s the slaughter of any White Fang members who planned to rise up against Adam Taurus for his cowardly betrayal in the last volume…. Let us just say that Adam has some serious anger issues he needs to deal with.

The next act of the episode shows us the hours leading up to the Grimm battle on the train. QROWBYNJR are gearing up to leave Mistral for Atlas by way of Argus.  Can you guess what mode of transportation they’ll be using? 😛  Even though Mistral will soon be left in the dust, we’re still treated to a few parting shots of the kingdom’s charming, Asiatic architecture in the train station.

I, for one, am relieved that they’re not attempting this leg of the journey on foot; otherwise, we’d be stuck in Mistral for another three volumes at this rate.  Perhaps, now that they have one of the four Relics, Qrow and Ozpin have made the decision to move quickly.  The Grimm, after all, are revealed to be attracted to the Relic.  What a handy plot device — now we can watch them fight Grimm every week!

These early scenes are generally lighthearted in tone, but this doesn’t detract from the overall episode plot. In the last couple of volumes, I’ve felt that Ruby’s childish nature didn’t jibe well with the otherwise darker setting of this arc, but it looks like things are finally balancing out. Plus, did anyone else notice Ruby’s voice has deepened ever so slightly?

Once they board the train, the tone transitions to a more somber, back-to-business vibe. We get our first official look at the mysterious elderly lady I’ve dubbed “Maz Katara,” before focusing on Team RWBY’s dynamic as they’re adjusting to being together once again. Blake and Yang still have some unresolved issues, but Yang assures Blake that things will be fine. (Blake’s ears are SO expressive, by the way. I’m happy at how much this little detail has evolved throughout the years.)

Following a brief “team-building exercise,” which was a tad more serious than Ruby had initially planned, we’re shown how the battle with the Grimm started. Once again, the fight sequence animations are stupendously well-done. Everyone has a way to contribute to the fight, and there’s even a little throwback to one of Qrow’s early fighting moves with the scythe, only now he’s teamed up with Ruby.

Blake and Yang’s teamup moment against the new Grimm, which is apparently called a Sphinx, had me thinking of Spiderman’s quip in Captain America: Civil War.  “Do you remember this really old movie called The Empire Strikes Back?” 😀

In terms of character development versus accurate character performances, Oscar Pine is getting his fair share.  When the episode starts, Oscar seems more resistant to letting Professor Ozpin’s spirit take over.  Only in a time of necessity, when lives need saving, does Oscar give his consent to “the other guy.”

The opening title sequence seems to hint at exploring the Wizard’s backstory, specifically in terms of the Wizard’s past hosts.  I’m looking forward to understanding this aspect of Ozpin better, though I wonder why the Wizard’s voice remains sounding like Ozpin when we hear him.  Is it the convenience of retaining Shannon McCormick as a voice actor, or is it perhaps the Wizard attempting to present himself in a way that’s most familiar to those he’s working with?  It could be both. 🙂

The episode winds down with Team RWBY + Qrow parting ways with the remnants of Team JNPR.  RWBY will disconnect the storage cars, fend off the Grimm, and JNR will get the passengers to safety.  (Oh well, I guess some of them will be going on foot after all….)  One traveler, however, opts to stay behind with RWBY.  And another unidentified figure (who bears a slight resemblance to Adam Taurus) remains with the train….

Who are these new people?  Only time (and the next several installments of RWBY: Volume 6) will tell.

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Winter is Coming…. Allison’s RWBY Volume 6 Trailer Analysis

Winter is coming, in every sense of the word, and the new trailer for RWBY Volume 6 — presumably the final volume in this second arc of Monty Oum’s visionary anime-inspired webseries — makes sure everyone who cares is well-aware of this … and well-hyped too. Continue reading Winter is Coming…. Allison’s RWBY Volume 6 Trailer Analysis

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Doctor Who Series 11 First Impressions

Last year, the BBC announced two new additions to the cast and crew of their internationally popular sci-fi program, Doctor Who.  First off, showrunner Steven Moffat was to be replaced with master storyteller Chris Chibnall (of Broadchurch fame).  The second change was a little more earth-shattering: the Doctor’s thirteenth (well, fourteenth, technically) incarnation would be female, and played by Jodie Whittaker (also of Broadchurch fame – noticing a trend here). Continue reading Doctor Who Series 11 First Impressions

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Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The erudite detective Sherlock Holmes was first brought to life on film as a tall, serene, and hawkishly-featured British gentleman by actor Basil Rathbone in the 1940s.  His original onscreen adventure series was set in the late 1800s, culminating in a timeskip to the 1940s, when Holmes valiantly combated the Axis Powers during World War II.  As difficult as that is to imagine, Rathbone portrayed the character convincingly throughout all the eras – in my opinion, he was the spitting image of Sidney Paget’s illustrations in The Strand that accompanied the original Conan Doyle serialized stories.

original-sidney-pagetIf you go into Guy Ritchie’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie expecting a Rathbone-esque performance, you’re going to be disappointed.  I can’t tell you to lower your expectations; simply alter them.  Just as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation got to step inside the shoes (and cloak) of the famous detective, it is time for Tony Stark to do the same.

You heard me right.  Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes in this version, as a scruffy inventor and action hero who’s made up of both brawn and brain.  In all seriousness, it’s as if Tony Stark walked the earth during the Victorian era, and had deductive reasoning instead of a supersuit.

The story is slow to start.  The first forty-five minutes are disjointed attempts at exposition, perhaps trying to prove how Holmes is distinctly different and yet the still same old Holmes readers have known and loved.  He plays his violin, he has a lab where he conducts occasionally catastrophic experiments, and he has an affinity for boxing.  Perhaps it is the highlighting of these seemingly minute aspects of the character, and the way they are presented, that sets this iteration of Holmes apart from others. All these elements were always there, but they present themselves abrasively in an impish way.

By his side (reluctantly, it seems,) is Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law. (Remember the days when Jude Law was in everything?)  His Watson is refreshingly serious, and in my opinion, very respectful of his on-page counterpart.  Watson’s more than a puppylike sidekick and he’s certainly not solely there to be comic relief. (Holmes does that by himself.)

It takes a lot for Watson to lose patience with Holmes, but in this film, he finally does.  His participation in Holmes’ adventures is grudging, and he learns to be both blunt with and accepting of his flatmate as his character moves on in life.  He’s certainly the most traditional Holmesian character in this film; I have no complaints about this take on Watson.

Irene Adler’s also here; she’s the Pepper Potts of this film, honestly.  Can’t have a movie without a romantic subplot of some kind, I suppose.  Things are dysfunctional as ever between Holmes and the American con-woman, but at least they’re relatively PG-rated compared to Moffat and Gatiss’s interpretation of the character.  Again, this is an aspect of authentic Holmesian lore that was always there, but they’re being far less subtle about it.

Finally, the foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the exposition starts coming together.  We meet our main antagonist, Blackwood, who looks far more Rathbonian than our Sherlock … and is practically a vampire. Or a zombie.  Or (in the possession of) a very good alchemist.  You’re left guessing until the very end, though I’ll admit I was on the side of science the whole time. 😀

Much like the original Tomb Raider films, the antagonist of this film appears to be part of an Illuminati-like cult. Adding to the ooh, scary factor is their penchant for decorating their artifacts with Hebrew letters that spell out total gibberish. (I don’t know if I should feel amused, offended, or really anything at all about this.)

Once the action picks up, the movie plays out quite a bit like a puzzle game, where you are left to watch Holmes work through it at whichever speed the director desires.  There’s plenty that they try to show you to keep you distracted from the game afoot, but honestly, I’d figured out the resolution a long time before; it was a matter of confirming the direction this already controversial take on Sherlock Holmes was going.

The most satisfying part of the resolution, for me, is the hero’s monologue. (See, the villain couldn’t deliver it himself, he was … indisposed. That’s all I’ll say.)  It’s always satisfying to read about Holmes do that; seeing it was even better.

The very note upon which the film ends is a satisfying one, despite an “Oh wait, there’s more,” moment alluding to a future antagonist’s identity.  But for such a disorganized beginning, the story ties itself up nicely.

I’m not mad about the film from a Sherlockian perspective.  It tries to mess with you by being different, but I found these differences refreshing.  From a storytelling perspective, however, the plot’s flow is quite aggravating.  Nevertheless, I cannot deny that to me, it’s a unique but ultimately faithful telling of a Sherlock Holmes adventure.

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First Impressions: RWBY Volume 6: Adam Character Short


Meesa back!

With RWBY Volume 6 on the horizon, Rooster Teeth Animations just dropped the Adam Taurus character short.  Perhaps one of the more underutilized characters of the post-Beacon arc, I was especially excited to see where this video would take us in terms of his origin story, character development, and where things stand as of Volume 5’s end.

But first, a word from Kerry Shawcross and another gentleman I don’t recognize, who want you to know that there’s a new webseries called Nomad of Nowhere.  (Well, to anyone who’s seen it, is it any good?  On a scale of RWBY to Camp-Camp, how does it score in terms of family-friendliness?)

The ensuing character short seems to take us through several different timeframes, though the transitions become increasingly ambiguous as events progress.  Some of the highlights of this video, in my opinion, are Adam’s apparent aesthetic evolution and the prominent appearances of Sienna Khan, chieftain of the White Fang (after Ghira, then deposed most unceremoniously by Adam in Volume 5).

The combat situations highlight Sienna’s and Adam’s fighting styles splendidly.  (Adam’s Moonslice semblance move still gives me painful flashbacks from Volume 3!)  Ilia’s contributions to the offense, however, reflect the Volume 5 animators’ seemingly bad habit of letting characters who aren’t currently in the spotlight just stand there, frozen, like sitting duck-faunuses (see 4:29 in the YouTube video).

Towards the end of the video, the footage shown starts to feel like recycled footage or deleted scenes from Volume 5.  Some of it adds context, such as Sienna Khan’s promise to Adam that if he keeps fighting the good fight, he’ll get to stand beside her throne.  Clearly, she knew that despite Adam’s protestations and declarations of fealty to the Faunus cause, he is motivated most by his lust for power.  Her mistake was thinking being second to her was enough for Adam….

One very, very obvious point that the animators hint at, at the beginning and end of the short, is the fact that we have never actually seen Adam’s face.  Heck, I’m so used to seeing Adam masked that it’s practically part of his face!  As the short closes, we see a defeated Adam (defeated by the mere sight of Blake angrily waving her hands around, I guess) stumbling away, his mask discarded on the ground behind him.

…Which oh, so subtly behooves us to ask: what’s the deal with Adam’s face?  What’s he been hiding behind that mask?  My guess is a perfectly normal pair of SILVER eyes and, oh, maybe a nose.

Or this. (Image source: “Calwings” – Know Your Meme)


As painfully unsubtle as they are when it comes to this sort of thing, Rooster Teeth are still the unsung conductors of the Hype Train.  (They could also teach Rian Johnson of The Last Jedi infamy a thing or two about subverting expectations.)  So whether or not it actually happens (*cough* Jaune’s semblance *cough*), I can conclude that they really want us to expect to see Adam’s full face in the upcoming volume.

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Film Review: Tomb Raider (2018) starring Alicia Vikander

Full disclosure, I’ve never played a Tomb Raider game in my life.  But I remember when the original movies came out; and I’ve been told numerous times that its protagonist, Lara Croft, is practically Lady Indiana Jones.  This film has piqued my curiosity ever since I started getting ads for it on Instagram. 😀

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft

Recently, I tried watching the original 2001 Tomb Raider film with Angelina Jolie.  I found the first 20 minutes of it to be thoroughly unpleasant.  I ended up skipping over several uncomfortable minutes of straight-up objectification of Lara Croft’s unnervingly Barbie-like physique before I gave up entirely.  (She can look like whatever she pleases; what I take issue with is the objectification.)  This aspect of Lara’s presentation seemed to overshadow the archeological quest premise they were leading into — which sounded incredibly silly. The Illuminati, really?  Perhaps kitsch and camp are elements retained from the videogames; I wouldn’t know, but as a new viewer with a background in Indiana Jones movies, I wasn’t buying it.


The 2018 version made me feel a lot better. Tall, gangling Alicia Vikander strikes me as a much more respectable and respectful Lara.  By that, I mean she is portrayed in a way that respects women, and she is also a character who grows throughout the film to command respect.

The film introduces Lara as a young woman earning minimum wage as a bicycle courier in London; her father, Lord Richard Croft, been missing for the past seven years, but Lara refuses to presume him dead as the rest of the world has, thus depriving herself of a tremendous inheritance.  A series of unfortunate events convinces her to sign the papers acknowledging her father’s death and finally accepting her inheritance: the first item from it being an ancient puzzle box from her father.

This puzzle box unlocks a sequence of clues pointing to the circumstances of Lord Richard’s disappearance: his lifelong quest for the mythical tomb of the Japanese Queen Himiko, legendary for her ability to kill whole armies with the touch of her hand!  Lara travels the world to find her father’s last known location, find that tomb, and (of course) raid it.

The character lives on the wild side, but her initial, introductory exploits and conflicts seem more real-worldly.  Everything is so grounded.  This is clearly a serious adventure film, dare I say a grittier, genderbent Indiana Jones film — a delightful contrast to the pulpy content viewers accepted in 2001.

While Jolie’s Croft was apparently well on in her tomb-raiding years, Vikander’s Croft is young, naive, and vulnerable.  This is her origin story on a personal level just as much as it’s an introduction to this iteration of her character, so as a viewer I found her much easier to connect with.  In this Lara Croft’s character development arc, there are moments where I expected cinematic drama, but instead, events played out with a lot less pizzazz; with real-world emotional responses like subtle, numb shock when she is made to confront her father’s alleged killer.  Unlike the typical problematic “strong female characters” of the modern age, Lara is neither overemotional to the point of weakness, nor an overcompensating half-Vulcan.

Lara, with an iconic weapon: a bow and arrows

There are, however, plenty of other moments that played out like a videogame might, where liberties are thrillingly taken with the laws of physics.  Lara’s athleticism is explained away by an active lifestyle back home, working as a bicycle courier during the day and boxing recreationally.   But falling into a river from the height she did halfway through the film would probably kill someone!

Like a 3D model in a videogame, Lara only sustains so many superficial injuries as is aesthetically pleasing; and yet, there are moments where it’s clear she’s trudging on despite the obvious pain she’s in.  As this movie is based on a computer game, I’m not complaining too much.  Unrealistic physics is far better “fan service” to the gamer demographic than what the 2001 movie had to offer.

The movie ends on a very satisfying note, yet it leaves just enough room for continuation without sounding desperate.  What sets this Lara’s story apart from that of her male counterpart, Indiana Jones, is how her quest resolves itself in (pseudo)science, while Indy is shown that in his world, supernatural “hocus pocus” is real.  That was a plus for me, as I don’t enjoy supernatural, spiritual content in films.

Overall, I enjoyed this relatively wholesome film adaptation of a videogame franchise I’ve never played.  Alicia Vikander, to me, is Lara Croft as she should be for the new generation of gamers, geeks, and little girls who could use a more relatable globe-trotting hero to go alongside Indiana Jones.

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Back to the Future, Re-Imagined for Young Readers

I received a free copy of this book from Beyond the Marquee, as part of a giveaway they ran in collaboration with Quirk Books.

Back to the Future is one of my favorite sci-fi / time travel movie franchises of all time.  (Sorry, Doctor Who, but you’d best stick to television.)  The three-part film series follows the intertemporal exploits of eighties-born teenager Marty McFly and his mad scientist mentor “Doc” Emmet Brown in their time-traveling DeLorean — because if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?  (I happen to think phone boxes are fairly non-heinous myself, but nobody asked me…)

There are a few reasons why the original film (and then its sequel) might not be ideal for viewing by the youngest members of a family.  It’s rated PG-13 for good reason, and its sequels venture into even darker territory.  But great Scott! Worry not, because the first installment of the Back to the Future film trilogy is now available in storybook form, re-imagined for an audience of children (or collectors who are children at heart).

Art credit: Kim Smith

Back to the Future, written and illustrated by Kim Smith, is just one volume in the POP Classics storybook series from Quirk Books.  Other titles include Home Alone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The X-Files, sources that range from family-friendly to made the kids hide behind the couch in terms of mature or disturbing content.  At first glance, Kim Smith’s charmingly whimsical illustrations and the easy-to-read blocks of text stand out as incredibly kid-friendly.  The story is condensed in all the right places for optimum G-rated-ness (the scene where Biff attacks Lorraine during prom night is handled particularly effectively), and then some to improve the flow.

Art credit: Kim Smith

At my age, with no one to read it to, I enjoyed occasionally chuckling at what and how the book abridged, and marveling over the resplendent little details Smith included in the pictures.  Just because they aren’t talked about doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  I’m also very impressed that someone had the great idea of making these very mature fandoms palatable to a young audience. (Do I like the potential consequence that now these kids will be more inclined to consume the original, less kid-friendly media in the future?  Not as much.)

Art credit: Kim Smith

Adults can’t be expected to immerse themselves fulltime in the Teletubby fandom alongside the toddlers in their lives.  Sometimes they’re going to turn on the TV and watch something more grownup-appropriate, coincidentally in front of their children.  And kids are perceptive and inquisitive, so you may find yourself having to explain the premise of a show that’s waaaay over their heads.  In that respect, I feel it’s especially good for younger kids who clearly have some exposure to “grownup” fandoms they don’t fully understand.

I think POP Classic storybooks like Back to the Future are a great way parents or older siblings can bond with the young, aspiring geeks in their lives.  The story is told in a cute, quirky, kid-friendly way, but due to its novelty factor, the book can surely be appreciated at any age.


What movie or television series would you like to see adapted into a children’s book?  Let us know in a comment down below!

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The Charmed Ones are Back

Like a witch in a room full of warlocks, no popular franchise is safe in the golden age of reboots.

Alyssa Milano (Phoebe), Shannen Doherty (Prue), and Holly Marie Combs (Piper)

The original Charmed ran from 1998 to 2006, depicting the ever-changing lives of three magical sisters (at a time) and showed that witches, just like everyone else, are human and need to be loved.

Twenty years after the original premiered, the CW channel has announced that they are producing a reboot, featuring an all-new cast for the new generation.

The new series trailer, released on May 17th, really piqued my interest.  It prompts classic fans to ask questions like “Why are there only two sisters in the beginning?” and answers them in due time.  It also does a great job at reminding old fans of key points in the sisters’ origin story and showing us how they’ve been rearranged for this new iteration.  The trailer also flows like a condensed pilot episode, but still leaves enough to be revealed in a full episode.

Instead of Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), and eventually Paige (played by Rose McGowan) Halliwell, this series revolves the three Vera sisters Macy, Mel, and Maggie: Continue reading The Charmed Ones are Back