Review: Kingshold by Dave Woolliscroft

Kingshold is a solid debut in the fantasy genre that is often flawed but sprinkled with the occasional gold dust.

This was a requested review from Mr. Woolliscroft.

For a debut entry into the fantasy genre Kingshold shows a lot of promise. The story follows the events within the city of Kingshold following the murder of the King and Queen, and the transition into a pseudo-democracy.

Kingshold itself is the centerpiece of the story and whilst the city itself is well built, and the transition into a democracy offers a unique plot which I personally have not seen attempted before, the isolation within the single city does create its own problems.

I often found that having all the viewpoints take place solely (for the most part) within Kingshold not only limited the story, but it made everything feel too clustered and unclear. The characters themselves were hit and miss, with there being more than a few stereotypes from the fantasy genre, in particular the inclusion of an ancient wizard. But with that being said, the characters who did hit, hit strong. The aforementioned wizard, Jyuth, was well developed and offered some strong comedic value to the story. Hoskin, the weary-eyed politician who just wants to retire is also another highly enjoyable character. But beyond that, I felt that the characters were solid at best, and in the case of some of the tertiary characters, forgettable.

One of Woolliscroft’s obvious strengths in his writing is his understanding of the world he has built. He has managed to craft a very detailed realm of fantasy, that offers a lot of intrigue and mystery. But there in lies the issue. Due to the narrow focus of this first novel in what I presume will be a series, Kingshold suffers from not exploring more of that world. I found that some of the best writing and most exciting aspects of the novel were the discussions of far off continents, warring kingdoms and entirely other realms of existence. Unfortunately all that is only touched on in brief, albeit with great effect when it is. Hopefully this means that any future novel has been set up brilliantly, as I would certainly purchase a sequel which had a broader focus, as I have no doubt that that is where the skills of the author would really shine.

As I have seen it mentioned in other reviews I would echo that this novel is certainly one that takes a while to get going. In fact the first half of the story is threadbare at times as the author takes the time to introduce us to characters and the world at large (Which later pays off in the second half and hopefully in sequels). That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of fun to be had with Kingshold, because there is.  What little action there is in the novel is well written, the characters who you are drawn to will provide you with the motivation to keep turning the pages to see how their story plays out and the overall unfurling of the election to crown a new democratic executive is well drawn out.

The actual quality of the writing is very high. I only picked on one very minor mistake, so if there are more mistakes out there among the text then they weren’t significant enough to be distracting from what I was reading. What surprised me most about the novel was the amount of humour that was entwined into the writing. It wasn’t something I expected to find among a fantasy novel covering the transition from monarchy to democracy, but it never felt out of place and often really helped to establish and further develop some of the better characters.

Overall I would suggest that this is certainly one to read if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, however perhaps one to come back to later if you’re only just getting into that branch of writing. The promise of a strong sequel is there, and if you take this as the platform for a grander series to be built on then I would say that it does its job very effectively. If it turns out that this is the only entry into this world, for whatever reason that may be, then I may look back on it and bemoan the lost potential. For that is truly what this novel is, strong potential that perhaps isn’t executed perfectly at times.

Thank you for providing this novel for review Mr. Woolliscroft, I hope that it brings you success and motivation enough to put pen to paper on Book number 2.

Final Score: 7/10 Porgs
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Review: A Quiet Place

Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe

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A Quiet Place is an Oscar-worthy film.

John Krasinski has hit a masterstroke with his feature film directorial debut. Starring, writing and directing a film which he considered something of a personal passion will have helped this film no-end, and having his real life wife Emily Blunt along for the ride to add experience and chemistry only helped to raise this film up from good to great.

Featuring a small cast of 4 people (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe playing the children of the aforementioned Blunt and Krasinski), set on a farm in the rural landscape of Duchess County, I doubt anyone involved with the production of the film would realise what a hit they had on their hands.

Debuting at the box-office with numbers similar to that of Ready Player One, a film which cost roughly $150m more to make, the debut film for Krasinski has already more than tripled its meager budget of $17m.

It’s hard to decide where to start with the positives of this film. Every member of the cast do an outstanding job and it’s hard to tell you exactly who the lead of the film is because all 4 characters are central to the story and family connection that the film is built around. Many people are quick to criticise child actors, but Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are absolute stars here. Selling their fear to absolute perfection, they at no point feel out of place or outshone. Krasinski does a wonderful job in the caretaker role, playing the protective and loving father to perfection. But it’s Emily Blunt who steals the show with her performance, including one scene in particular that should call for her to be nominated in the Best Actress category come 2019.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the use of sound throughout the film, the entire premise of what this cinema experience is built on. The film makes quick work of establishing the rules of the world within which it is set; what constitutes too much noise, what noises can be heard by what camera shots, and by extension what can be heard by the lurking monsters. Hopefully you get lucky and see this film with either an empty audience or a well behaved one. Having someone talking during this movie is likely to ruin the experience, which is entirely built around there being no sound in the movie and thus in the audience either, otherwise you run the risk of detracting from the tension and story that is being told on screen.

There is very little dialogue in this movie, nearly all communication is done through sign language and facial expressions, which only serves to heighten the performance of the actors involved. But what sound is used, is done so masterfully. I imagine that this film is a sound team’s wet dream, as they were able to focus on the minutia of what the audience should be hearing, and when the time came for loud noises and action, they were able to pull it off without losing any of the tension felt during quiet moments. Again, I would be incredibly surprised not to see this film get the nod for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing throughout the next award season.

All in all a near perfect movie, the action pieces were well directed, the pacing went at a frenetic pace but didn’t sacrifice character development to achieve it and the cinematography was really good, although I would have liked more landscape shots of the farmland, just to add a little further context to their surroundings outside the farm itself.

I tip my hat to John Krasinksi and everyone else involved in the creation of this film, because it’s not only the best horror film to come out in years, but it’s generally just one of the best films period over the past handful of years. Here’s hoping that this wasn’t just beginner’s luck for Krasinki and that he can go on to be one of the next great directors.

Final Score: 9/10 Porgs

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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.

Review: Love, Simon

Director: Greg Berlanti
Writers: Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker
Starring: Nick Robinson

I am a straight white dude and this film still managed to leave me emotionally compromised.

Thanks to the magical world of Cineworld Unlimited membership last night I got the chance to see Love, Simon nearly a whole month before its release in UK cinemas. If I’m being brutally honest I was at first disappointed. With big blockbuster releases such as Ready Player One and Pacific Rim: Uprising right around the corner I went into the secret screening with the hope that it’d be one of them. But in hindsight I’m glad that this was the film we got to watch, not just because I enjoyed it, but because I may otherwise not have gone to see the film and I would have been missing out.

Love, Simon was pitched to me as a romantic comedy that deals with a young man struggling with the concept of coming out as gay. But it was so much more than that. At times the film often strays into the territory of “teen drama”, but these are moments that it almost certainly earns over the course of its 1hour 49 minute runtime and it never feels cheesy or cliche when doing so. The film packs a real emotional weight and significance that most other rom-coms do not, and the credit for that goes down to a dream team of director, writers and actors. Nick Robinson (Simon) wasn’t blowing anyone out of the water with his performance in the 2015 box office juggernaut Jurassic World, but he certainly pulls it off here. His journey that the film takes you on invests you so much that it had the audience weeping and literally cheering, a feat that is certainly not easy to achieve.

But what makes it so easy for this film to reel in its audience is because it is so relatable and believable. All the characters came across as real people, and really strong performances from Jennifer Garner (Emily), Josh Duhamel (Jack), Katherine Langford (Leah) and Alexandra Shipp (Abby) all help to not only prop up Nick Robinson’s performance, but enhance it. Together they create a cast of characters that feel like they are all related or best friends in real life and that is something that so many films fail at.

There is also the obvious larger connotations that this film comes with which need to be addressed. The LGBT community is drastically under-represented in Hollywood, and whilst things are improving, on the whole it’s still not great. So it was not only refreshing, to see a movie centred around the struggles of a young gay man, but it was important for us a society. This film, without treading into hyperbole, could be an inspiration for thousands of people who are going through the very same struggles that Simon did, and whilst many people in the real world aren’t fortunate enough to have the support system in place that Simon did, this is at least a great leap in the right direction.

That isn’t to say that the film is perfect though. There are some aspects of the story direction that I didn’t agree with, but I will refrain from going into detail so as to avoid spoilers, and some of the side characters could have done with a tad more development. But these aren’t groundbreaking issues by any stretch of the imagination.

If you get the chance you should definitely go and see this film, it is well worth your time and following on from Black Panther it is likely to have similar connotations for our society and that is something you should want to be a part of.

Final score: 8/10 Porgs.