Episode 26 – Matilda

Matilda movie posterMatilda (1996)

Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable. (IMDB)

“It’s Carrie for kids.” — an anonymous Reddit poster I wish I could remember.

In this episode, we bring in special guest William Ray, author of the acclaimed debut novel GEDLUND and its follow-up, THE GREAT RESTORATION. William, or Bill, as we know him, joins us to talk about Matilda, a 1996 movie starting Mara Wilson as the title character. Matilda is just about the only sane person in her world, and the cast of characters around her create a story worthy of the pen of the late great Roald Dahl. Which, ah, is fitting, since it’s based on a book he wrote.

So join us as we delve into this classic children’s fantasy film and find out the answer to the question: what do we think of this movie?

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Episode 25 – The Beastmaster

Beastmaster Movie Poster

The Beastmaster(1982)

A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man’s search for revenge. Armed with supernatural powers, the handsome hero and his animal allies wage war against marauding forces. (IMDB)

Once upon a time, there was a movie called The Beastmaster, and just about everyone who was into gaming and fantasy went to see it, or rented/bought the videotape. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie kept Blockbuster afloat in their early years.

Unfortunately for this movie, time also happened. Here we are, 35 years after it was released, and we’re giving it another look.

Join Pete, Sharon, and Chris as we delve into the things we loved about it and things we learn about it today.

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Episode 24 – The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter movie posterThe Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history. (IMDB)

This episode, we dive into what’s good and what’s bad about this movie, which tanked at the box office in 2015. We find some things to admire about what was created here, and talk about how it could have been better and what we’d like out of a franchise like this. I think you’ll be surprised at what we discovered.

Listen and enjoy!


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Episode 23 – Willy Wonka/Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Charlie receives a golden ticket to a factory, his sweet tooth wants going into the lushing candy, it turns out there’s an adventure in everything. (IMDB)


A young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world’s most unusual candy maker. (IMDB)


Welcome to our first two-fer. Sharon chose Willy Wonka and we thought we’d be remiss in not mentioning and comparing the latest adaptation of the original Roald Dahl book from 1964, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Listen in for a rollicking discussion with the dreamers of dreams!

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Episode 22 – Ladyhawke

Ladyhawke movie posterLadyhawke (1985)

A petty thief played my Matthew Broderick is thrust in the middle of a plot involving a man, a woman, two animals, and the church. It’s pretty confusing, but a classic nonetheless. It’s so hard to summarize the movie that IMDB doesn’t even have an official summary, only user-written blurbs spanning several paragraphs.

We had a pretty good discussion on this one, and really enjoyed diving deep into what was hailed as a flawless classic in the geek community in the 80s, and examined what’s held up and what hasn’t.

Join us as we dissect and devour the next in our fabulous series of fantasy movie reviews and discussions.

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Episode 21 – The Flight of Dragons

The Flight of Dragons movie posterThe Flight of Dragons (1982)

A young Boston writer goes back in time into an era where wizards and dragon reign and science is just barely known. (IMDB)

This is an old one that was suggested by a listener. Thanks for the suggestion, Joe! This one is for you, buddy! This one was also a sentimental favorite of ours. We are happy to return from a long hiatus with a new episode, and hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we did making it.

This is not the greatest highlight in the Rankin/Bass catalogue, but it was definitely worth watching.



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Episode 20 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

FanFantastic Beasts Movie Postertastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

We’re going to try doing more current movies, but we want to give people a chance to see it before we let loose with all the spoilers. So be warned, we get spoilery on this one. We encourage our listeners to go see the movie and see what they think, then come listen to us and see what we said about it. Or you can listen to us and decide if it’s something you want to see, but we’re giving away some plot twists and surprises.

That said, we really hope you enjoy this episode. We had a lot of fun making it.

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Episode 19 – Labyrinth

Labyrinth movie poster 1986Labyrinth (1986)
A 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King. (IMDB)


We had a HUGE technical issue with the recording of this one. I tried to iron out as many kinks as I could but I’m afraid there are still some pops, as well as some dramatic volume changes. I apologize in advance and beg you for your patience to listen to the entire show. The problems disappear entirely around the half hour mark, so if you get that far, you’re golden. And please, stick with it, because this was a GREAT conversation.

Wow, the 80s really is a golden age for fantasy movies. This time we go to 1986 and the slightly confusing presence of David Bowie in one of the highlights of the decade, fantastically speaking. This movie has David Bowie, Muppets, and a very early appearance of Jennifer Connolly.

James Introcasso and Bonnie MacDonald join us in Pete’s place (he wasn’t feeling well enough to record, but he’ll be back for Fantastic Beasts).

Join us again as we tackle the tough questions: Is this really happening? What does it all mean? What’s the deal with that bulge, anyway? Be with us for the next thrilling episode of DRAGONREEL!

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Episode 18 – Legend

Legend Movie PosterLegend (1985)

A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves. (IMDB)

Once upon a time, no one had even heard of Tom Cruise. So Hollywood wasn’t sure what kind of a niche he could fill in their machine. Somehow he ended up in Legend, and cemented himself in fantasy movie history. Join Pete, Sharon, and Chris as we talk about the ins and outs of this nostalgic piece of cinema from our teen years.

This was Pete’s choice, and the discussion surrounding the movie tells us why. Watch the movie and then join us, and see if you thought some of the same things we did.

If you enjoy the show, please go to iTunes and give us a good rating. It helps other people find us on iTunes. And share with your friends who enjoy podcasts. We would really love to hear from our listeners. email the show at dragonreelpodcast@gmail.com, or follow us on:



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Episode 17 – Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful movie posterOz the Great and Powerful (2013)

A small-time magician is swept away to an enchanted land and is forced into a power struggle between three witches. (IMDB)

Since Sharon chose The Wizard of Oz, Chris chose to follow it up with a prequel of sorts. Oz the Great and Powerful takes places years before the events of The Wizard of Oz, and tells the story of how the land came to be ruled by such a humbug of a wizard in the first place. Learn about Oz the wizard, and Oz the land, along with us.


Check out all the observations we had about this new twist on a familiar tale.

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Episode 16 – The Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz posterThe Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home. (IMDB)

Strange choice for Sharon to make, but she decided that we’d be off to see the Wizard for this episode. So we’re going back in time over 75 years to this undisputed classic.

Come see what the DragonReel regulars make of this gem from our childhood. We really had a lot to say about the movie itself, the cast, and what you DIDN’T get to see on the screen, in the form of behind-the-scenes stories and Hollywood mystique. This one movie made a lot of our favorite movies possible, and we give it its due while also adding a critical eye unclouded by the rose-tint of nostalgia. Hope you enjoy our talk about it.

Don’t forget to go to dragonreel.com and rate it yourself! And email us at dragonreelpodcast@gmail.com to let us know what you think.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 15 – Kull the Conquerer

Kull the Conquerer (1997)Kull the Conquerer movie poster

An [sic] barbarian warrior becomes a king when he defeats a king in armed combat and the king’s heir conspire to overthrow him and reclaim the throne by resurrecting an evil sorceress. (IMDB)

Kevin Sorbo and Tia Carrere star in this sword and sandal throwback from the late 90s. Pete suggested we do this one, so he brought his (and our) friend Ron into the conversation to start us off talking about it. Looks like we had a variety of things to say about it. Some good, some bad. You’ll have to listen to the episode to find out!

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Episode 14 – Excalibur

Excalibur movie posterExcalibur (1981)

Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the round table of Camelot even as forces conspire to tear it apart (IMDB)

John Boorman’s alleged classic gets torn out of the stone we found it in. The long-awaited deep examination of the legend of King Arthur made cinema fare, Excalibur!

This movie stands pretty significantly in fantasy movie history, but does it stand the test of time? Will it be a unanimous success? Will we EVER find a movie to do from the 90s? These questions and more get answered in the next episode of DRAGONREEL!

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Book Review: Eye of the World

Eye of the World Book CoverThis novel, the first in the Wheel of Time series, begins an ambitious undertaking in the epic fantasy genre. We are introduced to the heroes, a collection of backwater friends barely old enough to be called adults, and the two strangers who come into their village and change everything they know about their world and themselves.

The story begins with Rand al’Thor, a shepherd and farmer, who feels himself being watched on the road into town. This ill omen is echoed with his two friends, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara. This visitation is the precursor to an attack on the village by creatures long thought to be a legend. The two strangers, the mysterious woman Moiraine (whom we learn is an Aes Sedai, a woman able to tap into a supernatural “One Power” to weave magical effects) and her guardian (called a Warder), Lan, tell them that there is something special about the three young men, and urge them to leave the village with them. Egwene al’Vere, a young woman of their village, joins them as they begin their quest, and they are joined later on by Nynaeve al’Meara, the village “Wisdom” or healing woman. On their way to their destination, they are forced to grow up fast if they hope to survive. They are confronted with adversaries of many forms, human and monster, and learn that the Dark One, an evil power confined millennia ago in a mystic prison, is rising in power and threatens the world once more. And in their travels, they also meet a few people who will become friends, and who make recurring appearances throughout the series.

As quest fantasy goes, it’s pretty good. The idea of twelve or more books in the series makes it sound like the pacing would drag, but this is quite vigorous in its pacing. All the groundwork for the rest of the series is being laid down here, in describing the cultures and cosmology of the Wheel of Time universe, but never at the expense of the story. Many have called it a Tolkien rip-off, and in some ways, that’s so, but then Tolkien wasn’t writing in a vacuum, either. I don’t really see how that’s necessarily a bad thing. If I like Lord of the Rings, so it stands to reason I would like something similar to it. The well-known fantasy archetypes are used well in the story, and are supported by a defined magic system and world history. Of course you’ll find a few fantasy clichés in here, too. They’re hard to avoid when writing in this motif. Though it falls into the category of epic quest fantasy, Jordan departs from the Tolkien model far enough that this is as original a series as can be expected in the genre.

Jordan also uses the concept of the Wheel of Time itself to insinuate that our own world is yet another turning of the Wheel. As the book says, “Ages come and pass… Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” To this end, he alludes to characters and legends analogous to those that you and I in the real world already know of. The names of the Forsaken (an elite group of servants to the Dark One) are taken from various myths and religions. Certain legendary figures in the world history have names strangely similar to those in the real world, such as Artur Pendraeg and Birgitte.

There were a couple of problems I had with the book, that after the six books I’ve read still are not satisfactorily explained. The setting of the story is a massive continent that seems to be about the size of Europe, or perhaps a mirror image of China. In this entire continent, there are only two languages, and one of them is dead. The “Old Tongue” which has no name other than that, does not seem to be related at all to the modern language, yet at some point in the past, people simply stopped speaking the Old Tongue, and started speaking the new one, seemingly overnight.

Another problem I had was with the personalities of some characters. Most of the women are weakly defined, primarily differentiated only by the degree of their temper, and they all have a temper, and they live and breathe scathing generalizations about men. The character of Mat is also hard to sympathize with, as he spends the beginning of the book being a bratty little kid, and most of the rest of the book being surly and aggressive, as his mind is slowly dominated by an evil relic.

A minor nit to pick is the phrase the Aes Sedai keep kicking around. “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.” It’s a cute little phrase but it sounds like a mixed metaphor to me. Wheels don’t weave. Wheels spin or wheels turn. Looms weave. A minor annoyance at best, but it did stick out in my mind as unnecessary repetition.

Getting past all that, I did enjoy the book, and have enjoyed most of the books that have come after it in the series. Rand and Perrin are interesting characters, and the narration from their points of view are enjoyable. Perrin is my favorite character in the series so far, but for the first couple books, Rand is likeable as well. The story moves along, as a lot of the book involves the characters being chased by one set of bad guys or another. This serves to drive the story with a sense of urgency, and the end of the book leaves you with a healthy wonder of what will happen next. I found it enjoyable, and as of book 6, it strikes me as one of the better fantasy series I’ve read.

Chris’s Rating: 4 Gold Pieces
(This review originally appeared on Amazon.com here, as I wrote it on December 2, 2002)
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Episode 13 – Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars the Force Awakens movie posterStar Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance. (IMDB)

Mike Shea of SlyFlourish.com joins us to talk about our freshest movie ever. We waited 30 years for this baby to come out, we couldn’t wait another day to talk about it!

We talk about how this movie fits into the canon of Star Wars, what we expected,  how we were pleased or disappointed, and what we expect from the next few installments in the franchise. We tear into this to find the best and worst of the great science-fantasy universe that we grew up with.

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How AMC Stole Christmas

This is a posting from Sharon. Our listeners may know already that Sharon is totally blind. This is about an experience that happened to us today, Christmas morning, 2015.

I’ve been in tears over this several times today. My husband and I are fans of science fiction and fantasy, and for years, we’ve shared this hobby together. I was a kid when Star Wars came out for the first time, and I’ve always loved the movies.

For a Christmas surprise, he got us tickets to see the new Star Wars movie at a time when they offered audio description. There were only two such shows during the day, and the morning showing on Christmas day seemed to be the best chance that we could avoid overcrowded theaters and make sure we got the right headset for audio description.

The introduction of audio description in movie theaters was such a wonderful advancement, and made me so happy when our local theaters added it to their list of services. I have had terrible anxiety about going to movie theaters ever since I went to see the LAST Star Wars movie: Revenge of the Sith. My daughter was quietly describing the action on the screen, and the woman next to her kept tapping her and shushing her. Then my husband, sitting on my other side, took over describing, and the woman glared at us, even though it was impossible for her to hear him describing. After the movie, she yelled at us, and at me in particular, and called me a bitch for ruining her movie experience, even after we explained that I was totally blind. She said that if I needed someone to talk to me during the movie, I should just stay home. That experience has stayed with me for a decade and colored my expectations of going out to the movies.

When we got to AMC, we went straight to a manager, who flagged down a girl working there to give us the headset. We specifically asked if it was audio description, as opposed to enhanced audio for the hearing impaired. She assured us it was, but that it wouldn’t start working until the movie started. So we got into the theater and waited.

I don’t think I need to describe the anticipation we felt, but when the long-awaited words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” came onto the screen, the headphones were silent. And with the opening crawl of words, there was no reading from the headphones. When my husband started to describe things on the screen, I heard sound in the headphones, but it was only amplified sounds of the events on the screen. No description. No narration.

We left the theater and angrily complained to management. Yes, we got our money back after it took 20 minutes to explain the situation and for them to realize what they’d done and get the right headset, and then they offered to let us back in with the right equipment. What good is that? We’ve missed the whole first part of the movie! There was no other showing with audio description for 7 more hours. We weren’t going to come back at 6pm when our daughter is coming over for dinner with our 2-month old grandson!

This was not the first time this has happened to us. The many many times we’ve tried to go out to a movie, there has not been one single instance where they gave us the right equipment the first time. And I can only think of two times where we caught their mistake in time to enjoy the movie. I have complained to management each and every time, in at least 3 different theaters in our community. Every time, they have promised to train their employees better in the future. And every time, we get the same ignorance of disability accommodations.

I wonder if anyone else with disabilities has experienced such difficulties at AMC theaters in particular, or movie theaters in general. What do you do and how do you explain to them what you need BEFORE it’s too late to enjoy the movie? This was such a nice surprise from my husband, and it turned into such a heartbreak on Christmas. We’re going to try again in a couple days, but how does everyone else get past this barrier?

Sharon Dudley, NBCT

Episode 12 – The Year Without a Santa Claus

The Year Without a Santa Claus

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

When a weary and discouraged Santa Claus considers skipping his Christmas Eve run one year, Mrs. Claus and his Elves set out to change his mind. (IMDB)
We know, we know! We promised Excalibur next, but we had an opportunity to do a quick talk about a TV movie from our childhood, and we couldn’t pass it up. We promise we’ll do Excalibur for Lucky 13!
In the mean time, come on in and listen to the talk about this holiday classic. See what we thought held up, what we thought didn’t. What modern audiences (of children) are saying about it.
No special guest this time, just the three of us talking about Santa and all these talented stars of a bygone age.

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Episode 11 – Willow

Willow Movie Poster

Willow (1988)

A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen. (IMDB)

Joining us from the Slice of SciFi podcast (and many many more), we have Summer Brooks on to talk about Willow. Funny thing about Willow. I dug around the internet to find a DVD copy to watch so we could do this one. For some reason, there’s a DVD and a Blu-Ray that are both ludicrously expensive.

This episode delves into what went right and what went wrong with Willow. We all had a lot to say on this one. We ran a little long, but this conversation is worth hearing. Summer gave us quite a bit to think about on this one.

Check out Summer’s regular podcast: Slice of SciFi!

Comment here, email us at dragonreelpodcast@gmail.com, or follow us on Facebook/Twitter. Don’t forget to go to iTunes and give us a review!


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Book Review: Tigana

Tigana CoverTigana is a rarity in modern fantasy, not only for the fact that it is an entire story contained in one volume. There are several other fantasy molds it dares to break, and as a result, it provides a refreshing change of pace from the standard quest fantasy that pervades the science-fiction/fantasy shelves in the bookstores today. But with these innovations, one has to accept a few failings of the story as well.

One of the best things about the book is that finally, at long last, we are given a villain that is not a cardboard cutout evil sorcerer. In fact, we are presented with two villains of the piece, and each is unique in his vileness. On the one side, the sorcerer Alberico is a sick, twisted individual whose evil rests on the motivation of his ambition to the throne of his native land. Alberico is contemptible, but at the same time pitiable in the way circumstances seem so far beyond his control and his ambition. Brandin, the sorcerer from the other kingdom, and Alberico’s rival, is a sympathetic villain, powerful and controlling, yet not wholly evil. We see a great deal of his human side and in the end, respect him even as we hope for his downfall. This dual opposition keeps the reader rapt in the story, devouring the book to see just where it goes.

And if the villains are complex, the heroes are doubly so. Each character finds his or her own story arc, and the right and wrong of their goals are constantly questioned. That good and evil are not so clear cut is unusual for a fantasy novel, and Mr. Kay earns my respect for the boldness that it takes to write such a story. The main characters even question their own motivations for pursuing their goal, something we usually take for granted in such a tale.

Though this was a unique fantasy experience, I did find some drawbacks that detracted somewhat from the pleasure I derived. These points are relatively minor, and I can’t even describe them fully without giving away too much of the book. But one thing that I did find somewhat irritating was that the Heir of the lost province seemed too much of a superhero. He had too many exceptional abilities. In any other fantasy novel this probably wouldn’t seem exceptional, but the rest of Tigana gave me such high hopes that the “do-anything” characteristics of the heir made it difficult for me to accept. Other character problems were the inclusion of seemingly major characters that eventually came to so little that you have to wonder why Kay made them seem so important. There was also the inclusion of relatively major supporting characters that weren’t even introduced until fairly late in the book.

Also, there were too many shifts in the point-of-view. This is a flaw in the writing style, not the story, and many people wouldn’t really care, but I found it hard to follow when I didn’t know whose eyes I was seeing events through. Kay mostly managed to keep the shifts limited to separate sections, but in one place, he starts a section in one character’s point of view, then two paragraphs later makes an awkward shift to another.

All in all, the relatively minor flaws are worth working through in order to enjoy a book like Tigana. It was the best fantasy novel I’d read in ages, and has me eager to read more from the author, and more fantasy in general.

Chris’s Rating: 5 Gold Pieces

(This review originally appeared on Amazon.com here, where I actually gave it only 4 stars, but reconsideration and contemplation has raised its quality in my eyes.)

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Episode 10 – Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice Movie PosterBeetlejuice (1988)

A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a “bio-exorcist” in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house. (IMDB)

Our special Halloween episode skirts a borderline horror/fantasy comedy that I’m sure we all know pretty well. We had our friend Calvin on to talk about one of his greatest loves, this movie.

In the course of the discussion, we all shared entirely new perspectives on this classic, so I think we all came away with ways to view it. Maybe you will, too.

Comment here, email us at dragonreelpodcast@gmail.com, or follow us on Facebook/Twitter. Don’t forget to go to iTunes and give us a review!

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