The Wheel of Time is a book series spanning 14 novels, 15 if you include the prequel by Robert Jordan. The books calculate to have over 4.4 million words which throughout the series takes place over the span of two years in a very expansive world. It really intrigued me when I heard that a show was in development and then in September 2019 went into production.
Amazon Studios have truly crafted a phenomenal adaptation, In fact having a life-long fan at the helm of the series makes The Wheel of Time a worthy one indeed as Rafe Lee Judkins sprinkles every speck of detail as having now watched episodes 1-6 he manages to create an impressive start with a richly detailed world, high-fantasy magic, phenomenal visual effects on the Trolloc’s and Dark One. It also tells a gripping fantastical adventure as a group of friends from a secluded village discover their roles in an upcoming battle where existence itself is at risk.
Set in a sprawling, epic world where magic exists and only certain women are allowed to access it, the story follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the incredibly powerful all-female organisation called the Aes Sedai, as she arrives in the small town of Two Rivers. There, she embarks on a dangerous, world-spanning journey with five young men and women, one of whom is prophesied to be the Dragon Reborn, who will either save or destroy humanity.
With a reported $10 million budget per-episode, The Wheel of Time spares no expense to create Jordan’s fantasy world that drew heavily from Tolkien, cultures and religions. The world Amazon Studios have created is truly expansive and everything was high quality with immersive locations hosting these detailed sets, especially the Two Rivers. The breathtaking landscapes also play a magnificent part in this epic fantasy as the bulk of the series was shot in Prague, Czech Republic, and its surrounding areas. The city which was eastern European was perfect for the ancient and mystic aesthetic which the show needed. But also the surrounding forests and mountains helped portray and showcase the long heroes journey the characters go on.
The Visual and practical Effects are also created magnificently, we see spells, creatures and magic throughout the series and beginning with an onslaught from the Trolloc army. Trolloc’s are a type of shadowspawn, they comprise the bulk of the Dark One’s army. They’re huge with the body of a man, and the head and feet of an animal such as a bear, bird, wolf or goat. Practical up-close then enhanced with VFX CGI doubles when in a swarm of them.
With Lightning and practical effects and visuals the Ae Sedai cast, they ward off these gigantic creatures. the smoke effects also create an alluring environment.
Casting for any large series like this is daunting as you need to find actors who fit the part and most will have to be in seasons for the long haul. Every actor in The wheel of Time gives their best in the series and each inhabit their character remarkably well.
Rosamund Pike is stellar in the role of Moiraine, she’s often stoic as the Aes Sedai are known for. but its the emotion in her performance that truly captures the essence of her character. Moiraine is a powerful Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah and is on a quest to find the dragon reborn. In the first three episodes she’s following a prophecy about this reincarnated figure and wants to find him or her before the Dark One can. She is reserved and overflowing with quiet wisdom but she can truly fight against a whole army of Trolloc’s by herself as she possesses the strong talent of the One Power.
Alongside Pike is Daniel Henney who plays Lan Mandragoran. He is a warder to Moiraine, but is so much more than meets the eye. stoic and often serious. Lan is magically bonded to Moiraine who protects her and fights by her side, his sword skills are phenomenal . He shows loyalty to his traveling companions but it’s the bond between these two actors that I have plenty of praise for. Both embody their characters and have a relationship that is far greater than friendship. Henney is brilliant in the role.
Supporting these two on their journey are the core group of characters from Emond’s Field. Madeleine Madden plays Egwene. She is strong-willed and determined. she’s the innkeepers daughter too but she wants more from running her fathers inn and marry her childhood sweetheart, a sheepherder. during the episodes she’s more ok with having to suddenly leave home with Moiraine, as she wants to see more of the world.
Barney Harris plays Mat Cauthon, a rogue and a gambler with a cheeky sense of humour. He has a devil-may-care attitude as he’s always ready to throw a dice or pull a prank on some unexpected person. He also gets himself into trouble all the time, he’s curious and not at all worried about consequences. Harris is good in the role throughout season one so far and balances Mat’s humour and the darkness that grows within him.
Marcus Rutherford plays Perrin Aybara, the local blacksmith. He’s kind and gentle and constantly moving and thinking deliberately. Taller and burlier than his friends, Perrin is slow to anger but rage overtakes him in these episodes I was given.
And finally there’s Josha Stradowski playing Rand Al’Thor, who’s is the sheepherder and Egwene’s childhood sweetheart. he adores the simple life and his father Tam. He looks forward to a future where he can marry Egwene and raise a family of his own in Two Rivers. His character always strives to do the right thing even when what’s ahead is completely unexpected. Stradowski truly excels in the role and fully embraces the character with these complex layers.
Every character in The Wheel of Time is deeply connected. This group of friends have been together their entire lives and you can truly see that in every exchange. They work really well as an ensemble and the chemistry among all the actors is excellent.
The score for the show was truly outstanding and one of my favourite aspects of each episode, Lorne Balfe has truly delivered a grand epic score.
Overall, The Wheel of Time is an excellent translation from page to screen. It honours the source material and elevates the story with powerful cast and an EPIC engaging story which is gripping and fully immersed in FANTASY.
House of the Dragon renewed for a second season
Following the successful launch of episode 1, it has been confirmed that HOUSE OF THE DRAGON will be returning for a second season. The series available exclusively on Sky and NOW in the UK has received strong critical acclaim and multiple 5* reviews, being dubbed ‘Bigger, bolder and bloodier than Game of Thrones’ (The Independent) and ‘visually sumptuous’ (The Times). Based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood,” the series, set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.
Zai Bennett, MD of Content at Sky said: “House of the Dragon is already proving to be a ratings hit, and we predict it will go from strength to strength due to the captivating storytelling and incredible production values. We look forward to sharing a second series with our customers on Sky and NOW.”
House of The Dragon Season 1 stars: Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno, and Rhys Ifans. Additional cast includes Milly Alcock, Bethany Antonia, Phoebe Campbell, Emily Carey, Harry Collett, Ryan Corr, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jefferson Hall, David Horovitch, Wil Johnson, John Macmillan, Graham McTavish, Ewan Mitchell, Theo Nate, Matthew Needham, Bill Paterson, Phia Saban, Gavin Spokes, Savannah Steyn.
Season 1 credits: Co-Creator/Executive Producer, George R.R. Martin; Co-Creator/Co-Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer, Ryan Condal; Co-Showrunner/Executive Producer/Director, Miguel Sapochnik; Executive Producers Sara Hess, Jocelyn Diaz, Vince Gerardis, Ron Schmidt. Based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood.”
Game of Thrones: House Of The Dragon Review | A Thrilling Return to Westeros
The reign of House Targaryen begins. House of the Dragon, the prequel to Game of Thrones, is coming to Sky and NOW in the United Kingdom and on HBO and HBO Max In the States on August 21. Based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood,” the series, which is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.
HBO is expanding the world of Game of Thrones. The all-new series is co-created and executive produced by Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal who’ve been tasked with breathing new life into the franchise three years after the original series came to an end. Throughout the eight seasons of GOT, we didn’t get to see much of House Targaryen after all, there was Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) the mother of Dragons and her older brother Viserys III played by Harry Lloyd. Both siblings were the final remnants of a fallen dynasty.
However, in House of the Dragon, we witness the Targaryen dynasty at the absolute apex of its power, with more than 15 dragons under their yoke. The first season of the prequel sets in motion the famous event in Westeros history known as the Dance of the Dragons. This is a brutal conflict that takes place between rival factions within House Targaryen. It’s a time of greater decadence and influence and showcases the family during their golden age at a time when Dragons ruled the Seven Kingdoms and showcases Westeros as peaceful and full of prosperity during that time Kings Landing grew enormously.
The first episode of House Of The Dragon introduces the essential story development and also the new lead cast of characters along with their relationships with one another. It’s epic in scope and scale whilst telling a more personal and intimate story about one family, showcasing both their love and disruption, we also witness the biblical propositions about the pursuit of power.
The Targaryens have reigned as rulers of Westeros for five generations, this prequel centres on Paddy Considine’s King Viserys Targaryen who was chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the old king, Jaehaerys Targaryen. Viserys is a warm, kind, and decent man who only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But as we’ve learned from Game of Thrones, good men do not necessarily make for great kings.
His reign however is troubled and sparked by the lack of succession. His nearest heir is his younger brother Prince Daemon Targaryen played by Matt Smith, a dangerous and unpredictable rogue. He’s a peerless warrior and a dragon rider, Daemon possessed the true blood of the dragon. He rides a Dragon called Caraxes, and wields a sword called Dark Sister.
The sole challenger to her unstable uncle’s claim to the Iron Throne is King Viserys’ first-born daughter. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen played by Milly Alcock (younger) and Emma D’Arcy (Older). She is of pure Valyrian blood and is also a dragon rider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything… but she was not born a man, she rides the dragon Syrax.
Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) is the hand of the king, he’s a high-flying political creature educated in statecraft. He’s a pragmatist and a manipulator. He’s pitted against his king’s younger brother. His house is one of the biggest players in the Dance of The Dragons civil war, the Hightowers are the oldest and have been residing in Westeros for thousands of years. Their seat of power is Old Town, one of the biggest cities in Westeros.
As Otto Hightower’s daughter, Alicent Hightower played by Emily Carey (Young) and Olivia Cooke(old) is extremely present in court and King’s Landing, she is the most comely woman in the Seven kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle. She possesses grace and political acumen.
She has an extremely close relationship with Princess Rhaenyra – though the pair often differ in their approach to matters regarding the Throne.
Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) is Head of House Velaryon, a bloodline as old as House Targaryen. Also known by the moniker ‘The Sea Snake” the most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros, Lord Corlys built his house into a powerful seat that is even richer than the Lannisters and that claims the largest navy in the world. The Velaryons were also a house from the freehold of Valyria, the mightiest empire in the west. since Aegon’s conquest House Velaryon has been sitting in the councils of House Targaryen.
Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) is a dragon rider and wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon, “The Queen Who Never Was” was passed over as heir to the throne at the Great Council because the realm favoured her cousin, Viserys, simply for being male. something she clearly still holds a grudge about. ides the dragon Meleys.
These three houses start the show together under the same roof because it is the story of one family. viewers are likely to already know their way around Westeros after eight seasons of Game of Thrones, however, the majority of the action is confined to King’s Landing. The world-building is phenomenal and it’s nice to return to a familiar yet new world. And even though the characters are different we witness the same story narrative which is that the Iron Throne is the most dangerous seat in the realm. Throughout the ten episodes, you’ll get to see the brutality of medieval life and the challenges of patriarchal society. The writers are able to freely fresh out the characters and get support from the text.
The source material has the best fiction and showcases drama through its characters. House Of The Dragon is about these flawed human beings who are capable of doing good things, capable of doing monstrous things, capable of courage, and capable of cowardice. Both factions of the family do have valid points but also do terrible things to achieve their views with a black and grey morality.
We see this new world through the perspective of the two lead female characters as House Of The Dragon focuses on the patriarchy’s perception of women, and that the council which are all male would rather destroy themselves than see a woman sit on the Iron Throne. This makes the show feel more contemporary.
Hundreds of years before Daenerys Targaryen hatched Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, a dynasty of Dragons dominated the skies of Westeros. The first season promises to show at least 17 dragons and from what I’ve seen you shall not be disappointed. There is a very symbiotic connection between the Targaryen dragon rider and the dragon itself a skill you’ve got to master from an early age.
Each new dragon has its own personality and character traits. Caraxes the Blood Wyrm is ridden by Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen, he’s described as a formidable huge blood-red dragon who is fearsome and battle savvy. Syrax is a she-dragon ridden solely by Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy/Milly Alcock). She has yellow scales and is huge and formidable but not as fearsome or experienced in battle as Caraxes.
Vhager is one of the three legendary dragons who first conquered Westeros, alongside Balerion and Maraxes. Sunfyre the golden is the most magnificent dragon to ever fly in Westeros He has these golden scales which shine in the sunlight.
The DNA of Game of Thrones is being kept alive through its score by Ramin Djawadi. You will hear themes that you’ll remember from the original show but the music is a foundation of House Targaryen with new themes for new characters. The clothes of that era are also very grand as they begin to mix metals and silvers whilst keeping the colours of each house.
House of the Dragon has all the elements we most love from Game of Thrones such as an expansive cast of interesting and complex characters and woven throughout are these intricate and twisted storylines, nuclear, bloody, and explosive action, whilst offering plenty of surprises. The Red Keep is bustling under the reign of the Dragons and King’s Landing feels so vibrant and alive. As all the Dragons roar as one, Fire will Reign.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore | Breathtaking Visuals, Ensemble Cast and a Masterful Score
Warner Bros. Pictures Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the newest and third instalment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise that truly recaptures the magic of a globetrotting adventure throughout the Wizarding World.
This magical adventure sends a team of unlikely heroes, led by Newt Scamander, on a mission that could spell their only chance to save both the wizarding and non-magical worlds. Each has a role to play in the covert operation devised by the ultimate wizarding mastermind, Professor Albus Dumbledore.
Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows that powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts in Newt (Eddie Redmayne) to lead this intrepid group of wizards, witches, and one brave muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines?.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore focuses on Albus’s past and answers questions we didn’t know during the Harry Potter films such as about himself and his family. Dumbledore has been one of the most major figures and a beloved character in the wizarding world for over twenty years. In the Potter books and films, Albus is charming, knowledgeable, mischievous, and all-knowing. These films showcase Dumbledore in a formative period, a period that will ultimately define the person he will eventually become.
Jude Law reprises the role of the wizard destined to be Headmaster at Hogwarts. He portrays the young professor perfectly and embodies the character and his flaws. With a glint in his eyes, there were a few nods to Harris and Gambon, especially the fatherly mischief each actor brought to the role. With Law, we’re able to unveil more of Dumbledore’s past and delve into his connection with Grindelwald as a young man and at the point where their relationship started to shift. Dumbledore is someone who encourages people to excel in their potential and abilities, but within him, he lives with dark secrets.
Many of the themes throughout the film focus on loyalty and misplaced loyalty, and also the ability to correct the errors one has done in the past and move on.
Grindelwald however is a wanted man due to his radical beliefs and violent tactics. In Secrets of Dumbledore, the powerful dark wizard has emerged from the shadows and is ready to implement his plot to gain control of the entire wizarding world and ultimately wage an all-out war on the Muggles. However this time he is not operating outside the law but within the system while twisting it to his own advantage, which makes him all the more dangerous.
Mikkelsen brings different elements to the table but is able to slip into the role quite naturally. He portrays Grindelwald with suave, charming charisma which certainly would convince viewers that anyone would be seduced by this alluring wizard.
Dumbledore is the one wizard with the power to thwart Grindelwald’s ambitions, however, there remains a physical manifestation of their previous relationship that stops him. The Blood oath is the embodiment of the bond between Gellert and Albus, an oath made through youthful passion and shared beliefs. Both wizards are each having to use others as means to opposite ends. Grindelwald cannot make a move against Dumbledore, but Albus is in the way of Gellert gaining absolute power.
Dumbledore formulates a plan that involves his friend and former student Newt Scamander, reprising the role of the Magizoologist Eddie Redmayne. We get to see Newt where he’s at his best and happiest- out in the wild, tracking beasts. Eddie is such a transformative actor and conveys Newt’s social awkwardness in contrast to his dexterity when he’s in the field.
Newt is joined by some familiar faces, including his older brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), Newt’s long-suffering assistant, Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) and Muggle Baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). A new witch to the group is Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, a charming charms professor at the American wizarding school Ilvermorny, played by Jessica Williams. It is Lally who must convince the reluctant Jacob to venture back into the wizarding world. Willams’s charismatic performance as Lally is why her character steals every scene. She is forthright and moral but also funny and honest and really just brilliant, would definitely love to see more of her character.
These five disparate wizards, witches, and Muggle seem no math for Grindelwald and his entourage, which sadly now includes the love of Jacob’s life, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and the young man known as Credence whose real name was revealed in Crimes of Grindelwald to be Aurelius Dumbledore.
The ensemble also includes Richard Coyle as Albus’s brother, Aberforth Dumbledore; Poppy Corby-Tuech as Grindelwald’s loyal acolyte Rosier; Fiona Glascott as Minerva McGonagall; Oliver Masucci as Anton Vogel, the outgoing President of the International Confederation of Wizards; Maria Fernanda Cândido as Vicência Santos, running to replace him; Aleksandr Kuznetsov as Helmut, the head of the German Auror office; and Katherine Waterston, who briefly appears as Tina Goldstein.
The Secrets of Dumbledore also features a variety of magical creatures, both new and familiar such as the all-seeing Qilin, a mythological creature that is deer and Elk inspired. The Manticore is another beast that explores the fine line between comedy and horror. It resembles a cross between a crab, lobster, and a scorpion.
Newt is once again joined on the Adventure by Pickett, his brave and resourceful Bowtruckle, and the incorrigible Niffler, called Teddy is always the scene-stealer.
Fantastic Beasts continue the series’ tradition with the action taking place throughout new continents in the wizarding world. This globetrotting chase takes Newt and the rest of Dumbledore’s army from Great Britain to China, from New York to Germany, and from the Austrian Alps to Bhutan. We also return to the beloved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and to the nearby village of Hogsmeade.
My favourite sequence is set aboard a luxury train car with a large interior of a first-class carriage.
The final screenplay was also written by Steve Kloves, who has a long tenure in the Wizarding World, having also written the screenplays for seven of the Harry Potter films. He’s a welcome addition to Fantastic Beasts as he course-corrects this franchise back to its original magical roots. Composer James Newton Howard has once again created a phenomenal soundtrack that underscores each of the characters’ adventures.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was a FANTASTIC! globetrotting adventure through the Wizarding World. With breathtaking visuals, ensemble cast, & masterful score. Full of heart, humour, & plenty of magnificent creatures all deliver a Magical experience.
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