Jane de Leon the new cinematic Darna

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Jane de Leon and Darna. (note: picture of the actress sourced from IMDB.com)

Remember when Israeli actress Gal Gadot revealed that she auditioned for a role at Warner Bros. not knowing that she would eventually get hired to play Wonder Woman?

Such a development like that happened here in the Philippines as ABS-CBN formally announced on July 17 that they hired 20-year-old actress Jane de Leon as the new cinematic Darna (finally replacing Lisa Soberano) and this puts the much delayed Darna live-action movie back on track.

In an interview with Preview.ph, de Leon revealed that she went through a process that involved a public audition, a special audition for artists, the final call, the panel meeting and the big meeting with the bosses at ABS-CBN. Along the way, she remembered auditioning for a villain role and the audition involved the participation of around three hundred candidates (according to ABS-CBN’s official announcement).

In the network’s official announcement, there was the final deliberation in which the network management asked the actress how committed she is in getting the role. De Leon replied that she would “everything and anything” for it and added that she believes “in what Darna stands for.”

Olivia Lamasan, who is the ABS-CBN Films managing director, asked De Leon (translated from Tagalog): “Are you ready? Are you ready to hold the stone? Are you ready to be Darna? This is because we are giving you (the role of) Darna.”

Unsurprisingly, De Leon got shocked with getting the role. Darna, after all, is a Philippine superhero icon that started way back in the 1950s and multiple comic books, movies and TV episodes were made featuring the character. The late Mars Ravelo created Darna.

Lamasan stated to ABS-CBN News that the Darna movie is a “genesis story” (origin) with a coming-of-age theme. She added that having someone “young and with an air of innocence” as well as “strength of character.”

Personally, I am not surprised that an origin story is the concept of the still unmade movie. This is, after all, the newest version of Darna under ABS-CBN and the new actress has to not only play the icon but also make her relevant with today’s moviegoers, including the many Filipinos born just before or just after the year 2000.

Behind the scenes, experienced filmmakers were involved in the selection process and they carefully made their choices. Darna movie director Jerrold Tarog said that De Leon was their unanimous choice.

Very notably, after the announcement, former Darna actress Liza Soberano congratulated De Leon on winning the role.

Beyond the casting for the icon, it remains to be seen what kind of quality moviegoers will get once the Darna film project finally gets made. We moviegoers have to ask: how much spectacle will the film have? Will the script have childish humor? Will the Darna costume for Jane de Leon still be the traditional 2-piece swimsuit with boots, helmet and that front loincloth? Will the movie serve as a platform for the possible launch of single, shared cinematic universe of Mars Ravelo’s superheroes?

From this point on, the producers and filmmakers should be able to move forward at last with making the Darna movie while Jane de Leon prepares herself.

Details of De Leon

A native of Laguna province, Jane de Leon stands 5’3 and is talented with acting, singing, dancing and playing drums and guitar. She also took part in modeling. With regards to movies and television, her credits include The Debutantes (2017 movie), Ipaglaban Mo (TV series), Maalaala mo kaya (TV series), and Halik (TV series).

Regarding her talent, check this out.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

After five long years, we finally got ourselves another big budget Godzilla movie from Warner Bros. and Legendary – Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

I can declare it out loud that this new giant monsters movie, even though it has some notable flaws, is indeed a more enjoyable cinematic experience than the 2014 Godzilla movie (directed by Gareth Edwards). What I like about it is that the movie studio and the filmmakers responded to people’s complaints about the 2014 movie.

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Godzilla and King Ghidora!

I will start with the strong points of the film with comparisons to the previous film. In the 2014 movie, people I talked with complained that there was not enough of Godzilla and the grand final battle was barely enough to make up for the monster’s lack of presence. This movie solves that with a lot more of Godzilla on screen and the final battle is grander! As sentimentalism was thrown out, the film also concludes a lot stronger as well!

Some people complained of the lack of giant monsters action in the 2014 film which had lots of slow scenes, a reliance on in-story news media coverage of disasters and an over-emphasis on building up suspense. Godzilla: King of the Monsters solves all of that by ramping up the giant monsters action (lots of monster battles with more than enough action to satisfy moviegoers), established a faster pace on storytelling (as a result, the movie never dragged and did not feel like a 131-minute movie at all), and noticeably reduced the news media focus as well as the suspense build-up.

In the 2014, Monarch’s purpose on monitoring the global presence of giant monsters was established and this sequel raised the stakes further pushing the organization on doing what it was established to do. Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa has noticeably less screen time due to “competition” for spotlight with the many other characters but the filmmakers managed to make the most out of him.

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I can’t help but think that the filmmakers tried to outdo what Steven Spielberg did in Jurassic Park.

Speaking of giant monsters, this movie heavily outclassed its predecessor! Apart from Godzilla are other notable kaijus from the long-running Japanese Godzilla film franchise like the 3-headed dragon King Ghidorah, the deadly Rodan and the grand looking Mothra!

It is clear that director Michael Dougherty and the team made sure that each of those iconic monsters from Japanese cinema not only got sufficient screen time but also honored them with spectacular scenes! King Ghidorah really looks terrifying and even horrific. Rodan alone made the high-speed flying sequence in the film memorable while Mothra was a giant monster that very few people would wish to destroy.

Apart from the giant monsters action, the film’s action sequences are a big improvement over its predecessor even though there were some common action cinema elements recycled (note: tough guys with guns). There the definitely are a lot more thrills now that the suspense build-up has been reduced. Godzilla: King of the Monsters was clearly made to entertain and prevent moviegoers from getting bored.

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The daughter and her mother played by Millie Bobby Brown and Vera Farmiga. Don’t let their smiles fool you because the cast in this film is the weakest element.

The movie obviously is not perfect. I never expected it to be perfect at all and as I suspected, the film’s biggest weakness is, again, its human characters. Like the 2014 film, this one has a cast of many people who were created to make moviegoers care for them as the story moves on. Clearly the filmmakers and the actors failed to deliver the goods but in fairness, the cast is more interesting compared with that of the 2014 movie.

In the 2014 Godzilla, the cast was weak, the characters were mostly not worth caring for and there were so many scenes with them. There were times back then I wished the character “development” scenes were cut to speed up the pace. In this sequel, the cast was nowhere as boring as their 2014 counterparts but their dialogue was either weak or had too much exposition (I felt like the characters explaining this and that were talking to the moviegoers).

Speaking of the script, the film failed to justify its concept of the Russell family which first appeared in a short scene (that took place during the 2014 film’s story). The family focus started decently with Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Russell (with her daughter living with her) working with a device that could help humanity gain some control over the giant monsters. As the story went on, the spotlight had to be divided by the large cast of characters and the monsters which ultimately made the Russell family less relevant. Kyle Chandler’s entry into the film as Mr. Russell did not save the family aspect of the story even though he proved to be the “instant resourceful and knowledgeable” character of them all.

While the cast had mostly one-dimensional characters, at least Charles Dance’s performance as the human villain proved to be interesting. Apart from being the leader of a team of armed personnel and having a history of being disillusioned with humanity which led him to becoming an anarchist eco-terrorist, there is still this element of mystery about him. Although he leads a group, could he be working discreetly for some sort of secret society or a group of elite people with sinister intentions for reforming the world? We won’t find out until the next movie.

Charles Dance casting in this film seems inspired. I remember how good he was in playing the villain in 1993’s Last Action Hero. His role is not very loud but still his presence in this movie is the best thing of the weak cast.

Other problems? As great as the giant monsters spectacle were, there were these camera framing problems. There were many monster action strikes that were “filmed” too close to the camera. I felt that the filmmakers tried too hard to deliver moviegoers the “in your face” action with the monsters and ultimately those efforts ended up being an annoying experience. With regards to storytelling, the plot is serviceable at best but, then again, we cannot expect a very engaging story with Godzilla so this is not a surprise. At the very least, this sequel’s plot works better than that of its predecessor. The plot here does not drag mainly because the filmmakers put heavy emphasis on spectacle and speed.

If there is an advantage the 2014 movie has over the sequel, it’s the sense of scale. The giant monsters are indeed gigantic but they moved rather fast for their size and this breaks the sense of scale for moviegoers. They looked gigantic but they don’t feel gigantic when in motion.

As for Milly Bobby Brown’s character, the scenes in which she escaped from the secret facility going into Boston and then entering the baseball stadium’s operation room without even being detected or prevented by security measures were just unbelievable. And I thought the concept of poor security in Terminator Salvation was bad. Oh yes, Bradley Whitford’s attempts on providing humor ended in failure. He was more annoying and never funny.

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One of the three heads of King Ghidorah! Up-close, they look terrifying!

Overall, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is indeed highly entertaining and anyone who loves on-screen battles between giant monsters will surely enjoy it a lot. Its cast is weak (although nowhere as weak as the 2014 film), its storytelling is flawed and there were some parts that made the 2014 look better but still the good stuff outweighed the bad stuff. As far as Hollywood-made giant monster movies go, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is indeed the best!

Oh yes! One last thing! The playing of threads from the theme music from the 1954 Godzilla movie was a very nice touch and will resonate with any moviegoer who enjoyed the Japanese Godzilla films. Clearly the MonsterVerse continues to deliver the fun and greatness!

Bring on Godzilla vs. Kong!!!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back At Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

My Observations: X-Men: Dark Phoenix Final Movie Trailer

20th Century Fox just released what is supposed to be the final movie trailer promoting Dark Phoenix (or X-Men: Dark Phoenix in other countries) to the best they could leading to the June 2019 global opening in cinemas.

Watch the trailer here now.

To describe quickly, it is a rehash about how the story will turn out. Somewhat based on the classic comic book storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the trailer shows the X-Men going to space and then something cosmic happens that affects Jean Grey.

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For the first time in cinema, the X-Men go to outer space.

Of course there are clips again of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) approached by a mysterious lady (Jessica Chastain) which clearly connects to further footage showing the former with cosmic powers as Dark Phoenix.

If there is anything new shown, it is the short but very sweet moment of Professor X/Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) communicating with people using Cerebro. That is a very common aspect from the X-Men comic books that remains heavily underutilized in the movies!

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James McAvoy as Charles Xavier using Cerebro for communication.

There is also added footage of Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) showing great concern for Jean Grey which resonates with me as I read the comic books. It looks like Tye Sheridan has the talent, and perhaps enough good material from the script, to bring Cyclops to life on the big screen.

The way 20th Century Fox marketed this movie gave moviegoers and fans what seems to be the core elements of the story. I am just hoping that behind the scenes, the filmmakers have prepared a big surprise or some sort of major twist kept secret from the marketing. I also hope that Simon Kinberg outdid himself as a first-time director with this movie given the fact that most directorial debuts end up as cinematic disappointments.

Dark Phoenix will open in cinemas worldwide this June. We will find out soon enough if there are enough fans and moviegoers who will care about it more than a month after the anticipated giant opening of Avengers: Endgame.

 

A Look Back At Halloween (1978)

A lot of people call the 1978 low-budget horror film Halloween from director John Carpenter an all-time classic that is also one of the scariest movies ever made. As a commercial product, it made around $70 million in ticket sales worldwide on a production budget of less than $400,000. When it was first released, it received a mixed reception from movie critics but two notable critics – Roger Ebert and Tom Allen – praised it and arguably propelled the film. Halloween also sparked a wave of slasher horror films that got produced most notably the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films. The slasher horror sub-genre also became a business-friendly model for movie studios that wanted to profit without spending too much on production costs.

Apart from the continued praise and accolades it received, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry (NFR) by the Library of Congress which found it to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The film was selected by Empire Magazine as an entry in its “The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time” feature.

I learned about all those winning achievements before even getting to watch John Carpenter’s Halloween for the first time ever many years ago.

How was my 90 minutes of watching it the first time? Halloween did not do well for me and it’s not as great as I thought it was.

Let’s start with the plot. On the evening of October 31, 1963, a 6-year-old Michael Myers (wearing a clown costume) killed his teenage sister and was discovered by their parents outside their home (in Haddonfield, Illinois) still holding the knife. Fifteen years later, Michael was to be escorted from a sanitarium to a court by Dr. Sam Loomis and Marion Chambers but he took advantage of a situation to steal the car (of Loomis) and drive all the way to Haddonfield. Along the way he killed a mechanic (to wear a boiler suit) and stole key items (knives, rope and the distinctive mask) from a store.

Shortly enough Myers stalks Laurie Strode while Dr. Loomis reaches Haddonfield anticipating great danger from the Myers. Wanna know what happens? Watch the movie if you can.

Strong points

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Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter on the set of Halloween.

Halloween is not a mere low-budget horror movie that got very successful commercially. Rather it is a labor of love and collaboration. Many times during the filming, the cast members participated in the arrangement of the equipment and along the way they bonded closely with John Carpenter, Debra Hill and the other film crew members. In some ways, the bonding added to the serviceable quality of the actors’ performances on-screen as well as the clever techniques used by the filmmakers. Donald Pleasance is the true start of the film and clearly did his best on making Dr. Loomis a very believable concerned professional that viewers can relate with. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode is memorable and will always be remembered as the archetype “final girl” of the horror genre.

Carpenter did not only write and direct the film but also provided the music which alone added to the scare factor and overall mood of the film. Definitely without the music, the movie would have been ineffective in scaring viewers. Even until now, having a movie director who is also talented and capable of providing the music is rare.

Considering the low budget, the filmmakers did a good job making the movie visually creepy. The way they had Michael Myers mix in with the shadows in the dark interiors of the houses remains great to watch. Also who could forget Michael’s emerging from the darkness in the background as Laurie Strode (in the brighter foreground) remained unaware of his presence late in the film? That sequence is true horror classic.

The cinematography by Dean Cundley is excellent to the eyes. The film looks bigger than its budget shows and there were lots of shots showing a wide, open “world” within.

As for the horror icon Michael Myers, having him as a mysterious figure was the right move pulled of here. He stalks people and takes his time killing the victims which easily freaked out moviegoers back in 1978. His mask with a very expressionless face further added to his creepy look. Back to his being mysterious, Michael Myers is truly effective as a violent horror figure as moviegoers are left up to imagine on their own why is he such a killer, why is he so cold, what could have made him like that, etc.

Weak spots

While the movie had its strong points, they are not enough to keep Halloween the acclaimed, all-time, very scary movie many claimed to be. In my honest view, I don’t find Halloween scary at all even with the combined visuals, action and music.

As it preceded the 1980s wave of slasher horror movies, John Carpenter’s movie lacked the violence and the goriness of those other films which ultimately made it look tame by comparison. It is no wonder why when the filmmakers produced Halloween II (1981), moves were made to make that sequel more violent and gory to keep up with the competition. That being said, Halloween just can’t keep up with those other slasher horror films when it comes to scare factor and violence. Really, Halloween is ultimately not scary to me.

While Michael Myers is iconic as a horror figure, he really is not that intimidating as a villain in the movie. Sure he stands from outside the place staring at Laurie Strode like an obsessed stalker but I personally don’t find that effective. In fact, I just end up saying, “Oh, he’s just posing to catch Laurie’s attention and then vanishes without a trace…like an attention grabber with some cowardice within.”

On the way things happened in the story, unrealistic or unbelievable scenarios made me lose focus on the narrative. Let’s be honest with ourselves as we try to relate to what happened and who took part in the story. Who would walk into another house alone in the dark (read: not bothering to turn the lights on) alone? Who would go to the yard alone in the dark to check on the noise or disturbance felt? The lack of lighting sure adds to the creepy factor but ultimately these are cheap tactics by filmmakers to build up suspense and jump scares.

And then there was that scene in which Dr. Loomis spent too much time standing at one particular spot only to realize that his stolen car was just parked nearby. Was he absent-minded all the time to even notice his car?

Another weakness in the film is its slow pacing which made me feel sleepy at times. The film’s dialogue lacked punch and there was a lack of interesting developments before the killings set in. As for the serviceable acting, there were a few actors playing the victims of Michael Myers who registered sub-par reactions which detracted from the targeted scare and shock values of the killings. Perhaps a few more takes and compelling the actors to perform better would have helped.

Conclusion

I know I will be bashed here by the fans of Halloween and John Carpenter but I must say that 1978’s Halloween is simply not a great film, not scary at all and it did not age well. I question not only the acclaim it received but also its status as a preserved film in the National Film Registry. Had I not seen all the other slasher horror films and limited myself to Halloween, then this John Carpenter movie would have been more engaging and scarier. Sadly that’s not the case with reality right now and I can clearly say that Halloween is over-rated. Sorry John Carpenter.


Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.