Rise of the Catalyst

Rise of the Catalyst

Leading a team specialized in putting magical objects — often cursed, always troublesome — back where they belong, Arwen Arnoult is tasked with taking back a particularly troublesome mask from a vaguely defined ancient civilization in Rise of the Catalyst.

This may sound like a dime-in-a-dozen adventure story, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Victorianesque world Honor Raconteur’s characters inhabit might not be well defined, but it is full of magical and mystical wonders and a wide cast of characters you get to know better as the book progresses.

It’s the kind of adventure you want to keep reading. You can’t help but wonder what mishap lays around the next bend, and you can’t help but root for the team as they travel through all sorts of terrains and encounters to accomplish their goal. I especially liked how the powers of the mages weren’t completely revealed from the get-go, but that you discover bit by bit just what they can do.

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Midcentury Marvel in Disneyland Paris

Almost a year ago, Disneyland Paris reopened their Hotel New York after a long period of refurbishment. You might won’t why this is even worth mentioning, so let’s just dive right into it. Out of all their on-site resort hotels, the New York was the only one with a dieselpunk theme.

I didn’t take a tour of the hotel on previous visits to Disney, nor did I stay there prior to refurbishment. I did previously visit the main entrance hall and often walked past the hotel to admire its midcentury architecture.

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Brussels Manga

Now that conventions are slowly making a return, we also have a returning (to the convention scene and this blog) staple with Brussels Manga, previously known as Japan Con. As far as Japan-centered conventions in Belgium go, this is one of the smallest. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for with its location and atmosphere.

The beautiful, industrial Tour et Taxis building offers a lot of space and natural light, as well as excellent spots for diesel- and steampunk photos. Although the event is not ‘punk-specific, it is definitely a space where you can wear the style and blend in. You can even find some steampunk wares among the merchandise on offer.

On top of that, if you enjoy Japanese culture, what is better than having both?

If you love seeing cosplay, this is also a great event, and due to its small size you can actually properly stop and admire people’s costumes, many of which had distinctive ‘punk influences.

Onto the pictures!

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Interview with Victoria Yeates

If you have seen Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (review here), you know just how indispensible (we like to say indomitable) Bunty Broadacre is.

We sat down with actress Victoria Yeates, who portrays Bunty in The Crimes of Grindelwald (review here) and The Secrets of Dumbledore, when she visited Les 4 Maisons in Liège and talked about her portrayal of the character, fashion and costume design, and hopes for the future of the franchise.

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Fantastic Beasts 3: The Secrets of Dumbledore

The Secrets of Dumbledore

The Fantastic Beasts series has been slow to pick up the pace. After a lackluster debut with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, which was an enjoyable movie but nothing groundbreaking, followed by The Crimes of Grindelwald (review here), which was thoroughly enjoyable but flawed in many ways, we now have an absolute winner in the form of the third installment, The Secrets of Dumbledore. It’s only just been released, and not yet released in some countries, so expect no spoilers in this review.

A couple of years after the events in Paris that took place in The Crimes of Grindelwald, we find an intrepid team of — in many cases slightly traumatized — heroes, trying to put a final stop to the rise and warmongering plans of Gellert Grindelwald. The role has switched from Johnny Depp to Mads Mikkelsen, just one of the many controversies surrounding this release. That said, while I personally felt that Depp made an excellent Grindelwald, Mikkelsen’s much more serious take on the role makes Grindelwald all that more menacing and threatening a villain.

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The House of Lost Horizons

The House of Lost Horizons

The House of Lost Horizons introduces (or reacquaints) Mike Mignola’s Sarah Jewell and Marie-Thérèse LaFleur. In this new story, the intrepid female detectives investigate murders in a house on an island. There is a storm, there is a vault filled with occult items ready to be bargained off. It’s not an original tale, but it has been masterfully presented.

Introduced in Rise of the Black Flame, this is one of the first times the lady detectives star in their own story, and it hits the mark straight out of the gate. You don’t need to have read their debut (which is for the best, considering the prices paper copies seem to go for these days), as there is just a passing allusion to The Black Flame Cult that will hit home with those who have.

No, all you need to do is pick up and enjoy this story, and live though the storm, just like the characters, to discover what the blazes is going on.

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

I know I’m rather late to the part with a review of this most excellent diesel-steam movie, but it has only just appeared on Netflix (in Belgium); a fine time to remind the world that this fine film is indeed out there.

First of all, I have not yet read the book, so I couldn’t say how well it has translated to screen. But I will say that regardless of its written word origins, this film is everything I expect from a genre film. It’s adventurous, fun, there’s magic and mischief and monsters coupled with a setting that is both dieselpunk and steampunk. Set in the 1950s, it has that splendid midcentury feel with fashions of the era, oldtimer cars and diners.

Aside from that, it also has a magical house, a sentient chair, warlocks and witches and bad guys. It is wholesome, the kind of movie that makes you smile — and we could all do with more of that these days.

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The Witch-Crafting Handbook

The Witch-Crafting Handbook

Helena Garcia, known for her extraordinary creations on that fabled British baking show (almost) everybody watches, has published a new book. The Witch-Crafting Handbook is a compilation of beautiful illustrations, crafts and recipes. The latter are rather varied, as they range from skincare to haircare to beverages (most alcoholic) to baking.

Not only is this book varied; it has a distinctive witchy supernatural vintage flair to it, a little like we have come to know from Christine McConnell, for reference.

Although I will admit that I’m not much of a baker, I do feel that, reading through the recipes, most are not for novices in the kitchen. Indeed, many are quite material- or ingredient-heavy. If all goes well, you will get something fabulous out of it, but don’t expect anything quick and easy.

Even if you don’t end up baking anything, it is still a wonderful coffee-table book, or a fine inspirational addition to your personal library, if you’re into this kind of thing.

See for yourself if it’s your proverbial jam. We have a whole flip-through for you, so you can easily figure out if you want to spend money on a copy.

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Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

Animated classics are usually best left alone. Live-action versions seldom live up to the original.

In rare cases, though, one does manage to reach that same level of brilliance. One of these is the Netflix live-action adaptation of that classic animated multi-genre space Western, Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop only loosely follows the anime. Many characters are similar and some plot lines are repeated, but overall it can and does stand on its own. I have watched the anime (several times) and can assure you that you can go into this not having a clue as to what it’s about.

The series does not, as the name might suggest, revolve around a cowboy named Bebop. It refers to the fact that interstellar bounty hunters are nicknamed cowboys and the ship of this particular crew is called the Bebop. The initial two-man crew — Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Spike Spiegel (John Cho) — are as cliché as it sounds: men on the run from their past and making a living apprehending bad guys for the fare. With limited succes. Add in Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), a con-girl with a spotty past and a corgi, and you get a bunch of misfits that roam human-inhabited planets fighting evil, trying to find love and often literally themselves.

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Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

What do you get when you mix a classic Disney theme-park ride with Indiana Jones and throw in some elements of The Mummy for good measure?

Right: Jungle Cruise.

If you missed it when it was playing in the cinemas, now you have another chance: Disney+ has lifted the movie’s paywall.

The creators took the best of the aforementioned films (and some of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), stuck them in a blender, glued on the basic concept of the ride and went with it.

And it works.

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