Review: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The phrase “page-turner” is easily banded about these days, but Evan Winter’s debut fantasy novel earns the accolade.

Set in a mystical fantasy world, filled with Dragons, giant lizards, magic and an endless war The Rage of Dragons manages to deliver one of the most human and relatable fantasy epics in recent memory.

Rather relying on characters that are larger than life and wholly unattainable, Evan Winter creates a world populated with emotionally driven characters who, like all of us, have their own unique flaws and motivation.

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Review: Ready Player One

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn

Whilst Ready Player One might not be the Steven Spielberg masterpiece that a lot of us hoped it would be, it’s still a fun and memorable cinematic experience that you don’t want to miss out on.

Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline the movie follows the adventures of a group of people hunting down the golden Easter egg within a virtual world called the Oasis, with the premise being that should you find this Easter egg you will gain control of the Oasis itself. And in terms of adaptations the film falls somewhere in the Lord of the Rings category of accuracy; the core story is the same and there are a number of scenes and moments which are lifted straight out of the book, but the journey the characters take to get to their end goal has a number of differences both little and large. Some of these differences were done so with the film’s length in mind, others with having to adapt some of the challenges to an on-screen medium that perhaps requires more adrenaline pumping action than a book would otherwise need. But overall if you’re a fan of the book then you’ll definitely be at the very least appeased with the way this adaptation turned out, and that’s unsurprising given Ernest Cline’s involvement with the screenplay.

As for how the film holds up on its own, there are both good and bad points to be made, but fortunately it’s mostly the former. There’s no real attention grabbing performances in the film, and that’s partly down to the limited time that we actually spend with the in-person versions of these characters. Tye Sheridan is fine as the film’s main character, but he offers little more than a standard, by the numbers performance. The same can be said for Ben Mendelsohn who portrays a typical comic-book villain with little backstory or motivation other than money and greed. But the film is fortunate in that the real stars aren’t the real life characters, but their avatar counterparts in the Oasis. Art3mis, Parzival, Daito and Aech all outshine their real life players and that’s where the films strength lies, in the Oasis.

Whilst the film’s portrayal of the Oasis isn’t exactly what I had imagined when reading the book, that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Spielberg (And likely Ernest Cline) did a great job of modernising the original vision of what the Oasis was (Something built around 80’s references that would be lost on many of the younger audience who will go to see this film) so that it fit in today’s culture. There are so many Easter eggs littered throughout the film, both subtle and exceedingly obtuse that it’s going to take someone a scary amount of time in order to list them all. But because of that I almost feel like this film will leave you wanting to go back and start all over again, wanting to find just one more reference, one more character that you didn’t notice the first time around, I know I sure want to right now.

It’s hard to say right now whether this film will have any impact on the future of VR in the real world, but it’s certainly not going to hurt the technology now that a far wider audience has been introduced to the sheer magnitude and beauty of the world that Cline envisioned.

If you have the chance go and see this movie in the cinema, it’s a big screen cinematic experience if ever there was one and the stunning visuals and amazing soundtrack are something that you have to experience for the first time in a theatre. This film is going to have everybody talking and for all the right reasons. Should it be getting 10/10 reviews? No. But that doesn’t make this any less of an impactful film and one that will no doubt still be talked about in many years to come.

Final Score: 7/10 Porgs.

Retrospective Review: Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Michael Crichton and David Koepp
Starring: Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1993 blockbuster (And my second favourite movie of all time) we’ll be taking a look back at one Steven Spielberg’s best in our second ever Retrospective Review.

It’s hard to imagine how one director produced both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in the same year, but Spielberg managed it, staking his claim as one of the best directors of all time in the process.

Earning five-star reviews right out of the gate Jurassic Park wasn’t one of those sleeper hits which took time for people to appreciate, with the likes of Empire referring to the film as “quite simply one of the greatest blockbusters of all time”. Its revolutionary use of CGI and practical effects, as well as its appeal to audiences of all ages made this an instant classic and in doing so effectively changed the landscape of the film industry forever.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who has seen the film but doesn’t remember the first time they saw a dinosaur on screen. The now iconic “brachiosaur scene” has become synonymous with classic Hollywood moments, and it’s safe to say that when Spielberg said that he wanted the audience to truly believe they were watching a real dinosaur on screen, that he achieved his goal.

To this day there are certain scenes in the film which could go toe-to-toe with the latest and greatest uses of CGI. The scene which my mind instantly wanders back to is when the T-Rex escapes its paddock and attack the vehicles on the road. For my money that scene still looks better than most CGI monsters today, even those seen in the Jurassic franchise itself.

But the film’s legacy lies far beyond its mastery of CGI. The characters are to this day loved and adored, with Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm making a return to the same franchise 25 years after his original appearance. The characters of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) will to this day still pop up at comic-cons as popular cosplay options, whilst the T-Rex has transitioned into pop-culture main stream and will this year be making a cameo in Spielberg’s next venture Ready Player One.

I lost count of how many times I’ve seen this film a number of years ago whilst the figure was somewhere in the sixties, and yet I can continually go back to it with the same joy and excitement that I had the first couple of times. Nothing about this film has aged badly, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Spielberg pulled off something that is very rare in the film industry, a timeless classic, and the fact that we’re actively celebrating its 25th anniversary is a testament to that.

“When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth” may have been one of the ending images the film portrays, but it is perhaps ironic that since the release of this film it is in fact Dinosaurs that have ruled the Earth as one of the best and most beloved films of all time.

Final Score: 10/10 Porgs

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Retrospective Review: The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando and Al Pacino

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In a new series of articles we’ll be looking back over movies of the past and offering our thoughts in retrospect. And why not start off with a masterpiece?

Let’s not beat around the bush here, not just The Godfather, but the entire trilogy is a work of art when it comes to film making. I’m in the very small minority when it comes to my ordering of the series, in that I believe that the third is better than number two and that the original is the best. But that does not take away my belief that the series as a whole is one of the best trilogy’s ever made.

I had the pleasure of first watching The Godfather when I was about 12 years old with my mum, and I can distinctly remember completely forgetting that the people I was watching on screen weren’t real. That’s a serious testament to not just the performances of every single actor on screen, but also to Francis Ford Coppola’s fantastic directing. The narrative is beautifully woven to create an “epic” feel to the movie, as though we are watching a real family dynasty unfold before our eyes. Something that would not be possible without the highest quality directing, acting, composing and writing. As such it would be unfair to single any one aspect of this film and label it as the most important cog in well designed machine.

This was Al Pacino’s breakout role and my God what a film to be known for. His performance in this film is near perfect, his story arc is both believable but without sacrificing the edge of your seat nature that is so often captured perfectly by well fleshed out characters that you feel invested in. And for me it is that point which takes The Godfather beyond being a great film to a near perfect one. Every character is well thought out, they could very well be real people (As younger me believed) and you invest in their flaws and stories. Beyond that though, like only the best performances can, Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Vito Corleone has managed become film legend. If you haven’t imitated the line “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” then have you really been paying attention?

For a movie released in 1972 to still hold up to today’s standard of film making is a real achievement that shouldn’t be understated. You will still to this day struggle to find a more compelling tale of family, loss and struggle. Sure, some blood effects could be better by today’s standards, but as time moves on that’s something that has to be accepted as inevitable in an industry such as this.

I can’t say enough positive things about this movie. If you’re a film fan, then you need to see this film. If you’re studying film at University, then you need to see this film. If you have even a passing interest in Italian/American mafia, then you need to see this film.

Final Score:

10/10 Porgs.

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