Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top Ten Films of 2016

For some reason, this year felt underwhelming, so much so that I thought that maybe this was a bad year for cinema with the amount of disappointments I've seen. However, we should not focus so much on the bad, as I found out when making my top ten list for 2016 there have been some great gems this year, more so than I thought, and that's without seeing some of the most critically acclaimed films like Arrival, La la Land and The Handmaiden (trust me, I really wanted to find time to watch them all). So read on and find out what I thought were the best 10 films I've seen this year.

10. Captain America: Civil War

After a shaky year in 2015, it's nice to see the two latest Marvel films break my top ten again. For me Civil War was the sequel to The Avengers we should have had. At times it felt a little bloated with the amount of characters on screen but it was none the less an excellent time at the cinema with a more thought provoking storyline than most other blockbusters this year. You can check out my full review here.

9. 13th

This was one of the last films I saw in 2016 but easily the best documentary I have seen all year and the one that left the biggest impression on me. This is a documentary that showcases a history that I knew little to nothing about and I have a feeling that a lot of people may be in the same boat. This film is so shocking and important that it needs to be seen by everyone. Read my full review here.

8. Zootopia

A lot of the fears we have about what the world is coming to after this year were played out in family friendly and relatable ways in Zootopia. A lot of animation panders to both the kids and adults of its audience but never have I seen one walk the line as well as this, whilst also delivering a very smart and timely story. If we can bring these kind of moralistic messages to all family films then the world would be a lot better place. Check out my full review here.

7. Sing Street

When music and film come together beautiful things can happen, this is one of the best examples. My family is big into 80's music, I was practically raised on it, therefore I have a lot of love for the era. Mix that with a love of filmmaking (obviously) and coming of age stories then this film is an absolute treat. I highly recommend to anyone (it's my Dad's number 1 film of the year!). Check out my full review here.

6. Doctor Strange

Out of the two Marvel films we got this year I did not expect this one to be my favourite. I also did not expect this one to be the most fun I had in the cinema all year. I had an absolute blast, it felt so unique and I loved how at every familiar trope was a twist ready to take you by surprise. It felt like its own thing and really did encapsulate the screenwriters saying; 'the same but different'. Credit to both director, writers and everyone involved for creating a brilliantly crafted story with lots of exciting spectacle. Read my full review here.

5. The Girl With All the Gifts

I haven't seen this film in any top tens this year and I'm not really sure why? Just as I thought I was done with the zombie genre, this film comes along and reaffirms my faith that new, different and unique stories can be told within the familiar apocalypse structure, plus it's an excellent and faithful adaptation of the equally good book. This film has a lot of style and elegance in the way it tells its story whilst also being accompanied by the best score of the year. One of the most original zombie films ever made. Read my full review here.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane

I feel like this was one of the most perfectly executed films of the year. So many small elements are brought together and are paid off to create a really smart, original and interesting storyline. It's great to see Dan Trachtenberg, from YouTube video fame, now being hailed as one of the most exciting up and coming filmmakers. After this excellent debut feature film, I really can't wait to see what he does next. Read my full review here.

3. Morris From America

This film came out of nowhere and hit me in a very personal way. Maybe I'm biased to this film because I also grew up in Germany but I also think there is a lot going on here that makes this one of the best coming of age stories I have ever seen. Even if you haven't grown up somewhere alien to you then there are still a lot of similar themes you can relate to, as well as being able to watch two of the best performances of the year from Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson. This probably didn't register on everybody's radar in 2016 so I urge you to go out and watch this one. Read my full review here.

2. Swiss Army Man

It's become apparent with this film, that any premise, no matter how wild, crazy or stupid, if treated with enough love and care can be made into one of the most heartfelt, truly human stories of the year. Okay some audiences may not get the absurdity, but if you give it the time of day then I dare you not to moved by this film. An absolute win for creative filmmaking, one of a kind performances and the human spirit. Read my full review here.

1. Everybody Wants Some!!

Yes, Richard Linklater tops my list yet again. He truly is the most interesting director working right now. This film, marketed as the 'spiritual sequel' to Dazed and Confused, may not feature the most relatable characters ever but it really does capture a feeling, an atmosphere and the emotions of moving away from home. It's been a year since I graduated from University and this one really did hit me hard, the experiences depicted may not be universal but the overall journey of the film feels familiar. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to hug Richard Linklater for just getting it so right, and yet again making my favourite film of the year. Read my full review here.

So there you go folks, my favourite films of the year. I should probably give shout outs to films that were very close to making this list such as The Nice Guys, The Green Room, The Fits and The Witch. There was some good to 2016, I am however very excited to see what the new year brings.

Let me know what were your favourite films of the year in the comments below.

Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Top Ten TV Shows 2016

It's that time of year again when everybody likes to put everything into lists! And while I'm desperately catching up on as many 2016 films that working in a toy store in December will let me, for now here is my top ten favourite TV shows of 2016. Read on and enjoy.

10. Black Mirror (Season 3)
After a long wait Black Mirror is back and now on one of the best content creators out there; Netflix. The show got a bit more American-ised this year but that didn't stop it from doing what it does best; telling great creepy stories about the dangers and ethics of technology. Every episode is worth the watch.

9. Transparent (Season 3)
This show has been at the top of my list for the last couple years but having it at number nine does not mean this show took a bad turn, but instead highlights the quality of shows we got this year. Now yes, this wasn't my favourite season but it was still able to keep me hooked on the emotional journeys of its well developed characters, and of course brought a few tears to my eyes along the way.

8. Preacher (Season 1) 
I fell in love with the weird and wonderful nature of this show. I'd never read the comic so I didn't really know what to expect from this show. It was really creative with it's approach, darkly funny and featured some of my favourite moments and lines of the year. I can't wait to see what they do next in this world they've created.

7. Togetherness (Season 2)
It was a sad year for Togetherness as the show was cancelled on HBO. Why didn't you watch this one people!? It was brilliant, a great drama with great relationships and some exceptional performances from its leads. Its send off was bitter sweet but didn't leave any threads hanging, it was almost as if the Duplass brothers knew this was the end. Catch up with it if you can.

6. Orange is the New Black (Season 4)
After last season left a lot to be desired, this year it really felt like Orange is the New Black was back. This was possibly even it's best season yet, with many interesting story lines and lots of emotional heartbreak along the way. More of this please. 

5. Game of Thrones (Season 6)
Every year I fear that Game of Thrones might have run its course and have bad season. This year they proved me wrong yet again with one of their best yet. They really know how to make quality shows over at HBO and considering this is very much taking a detour from the books now, its good to see it standing on its own two feet and presenting some of the best TV of the year.

4. Westworld (Season 1)
What's HBO without Game of Thrones I hear you ask? Well HBO is now also this. One of the only shows to increase its audiences every week. That takes some doing. Westworld is one of the best new TV shows of the year and man oh man is it good. So good that it feels like a part of TV pop culture history all ready. By the end of episode one it was the watercooler show of the year with anybody and everybody giving their two cents about what on earth was going on. This is seriously good TV people, if you haven't seen it you're a fool.

3. House of Cards (Season 4)
This was Beau Willimon's final season as showrunner and what a send off it was. For me this show has gotten better and better every season and this did not halt that feeling. There are so many great moments and scenes woven into an exciting and intriguing story that it really felt like a bit of a conclusion this time round. If this was the end I wouldn't be sad but I still can't wait to see what happens to the Underwood's next, even if they now kind of pale in crazy to the current president elect.

2. Stranger Things (Season 1)
I did not see this one coming. Everybody started raving about this one and I knew I had to watch it. Believe the hype, this one is good, really good. I may not have grown up in the 80's but I have a lot of love for films from that era, I grew up on a lot of them, so my nostalgia was pretty high still when watching this. It's not all nostalgia though, a creative and intriguing story is the heart of this show, it's so good that I don't want them to make a second season in fear that they tarnish the first. Fingers crossed they carry on the top notch quality storytelling.

1. Halt and Catch Fire (Season 3)
I think I may have mentioned this in a previous blog but, who thought the history of computing would make a good TV show drama? Halt and Catch Fire has only gotten better each season and boy oh boy was it good this year, so good in fact that I think it was the best show on TV. They've really developed these characters into interesting and layered people, I tuned in every week just to watch them interact with each other. I can really not fault this show, every episode was outstanding and it ended so strong that it could have been the final episode ever and I would have been more than satisfied. Thankfully though, we've still got more of this great TV show to come. Every actor on this show should be working more. I didn't expect this one at the start of the year to top my list but it really was that good! Start watching it now!

What were your favourite shows of the year? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Finally, I’ve had some time to sit down and write this Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review! In a way I have been a little nervous about this review, I liked the film but I didn’t fall as head over heels for it as other moviegoers seem to have. Read on to find out why. As per usual this review is SPOILER FREE.

Rogue One follows the band of rebel spies who attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star, who we first heard about in the opening crawl for A New Hope. The film stars a whole host of characters, most we haven’t seen before, played by a talented ensemble cast including; Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen. Now it should be noted that even though we have a female character in a central role, this film is still very dude heavy. It’s a diverse cast in terms of race but its lack of diversity in terms of gender still leaves a lot to be desired in this new age of Star Wars films. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the cast is great, some a little underused, but I really hope Disney push diversity in their Star Wars films further as we go on.

Now onto the film itself. For the most part I really enjoyed it. There are some really great moments and some really badass moments that will make any Star Wars fan squeal with delight. The final act of the film is just pure enjoyment at its finest. However, I do feel like my enjoyment could have been heightened if I was more invested in these characters. Some of them get more time than others to shine but I never really felt for any of them that much, their backstories were summed up as they had all had bad things happen to them because of the Empire. Cool. Is that it? The main character Jyn gets a little more time devoted to her story so there is more of a connection with her, but considering this is very much an ensemble film it would have been nice do dive deeper into some of the other characters.

The story itself though is something that the prequels should have inspired to be. This film adds to A New Hope and makes the story richer because of it. If this is what we’re going to get from these ‘spin off’ films then I am totally in for more. If I had had the time I would have re-watched A New Hope right after this because I feel like my experience might be different because of this film. This is a really good thing.

Another thing I loved was the special effects, apart from the odd CGI character (they’re not awful but you’ll know when you see it), the effects in this film are pretty much flawless. Like The Force Awakens this film finds a fine line between practical and computer enhancement making this one of the best looking Star Wars films yet. Seriously, the Death Star has never looked better.

Now I know I keeping going back to negatives but this is my final gripe with the film; the score. Now I realise this was probably one of the most difficult decisions to make, do you go with a completely new score to differentiate from the episodic films or do you keep using John Williams’s iconic compositions. In the end they decided on going for something that was a bit of both, which for me just didn’t work. The music riffs off of the classic William’s music but changes little elements of it, so just as your humming along it takes a left turn, I couldn’t help but find this really noticeable and annoying, like a fan film trying to use the same music but can’t because of copyright issues, it kept taking me out of the film. I really wish they had just gone for something completely different.

Overall this film is a great time at the cinema, a good edition to the Star Wars lore that will make a lot of fans happy. For me it suffered with some of its character development and gender diversity but I was still won over by its special effects and some of its truly incredible sequences. If the spin offs can only improve from here, then we are in for some really great Star Wars stories in the future. I am giving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a rating of 3.5/5. I preferred The Force Awakens but we still have a bright and hopeful future ahead for Star Wars films.

What did you think? Best Star Wars film yet or worse than the prequels? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Screenwriting: ARK

Writing is weird. You have to keep doing it in order to get better at it but sometimes it feels as if things aren't going your way. This is something I have had a bit of a problem with recently, I'm getting all these ideas but none of them are looking good on the page. It's easy to give up but you have to keep at it. I've been meaning to post this for a while and now that I've finally come round to it my writing routine has gotten better and a spark of inspiration has set a new script in motion. Over the summer however, I started writing the one I'm going to show you today, under the temporary title of 'ARK'. It's easy to let this blog turn into one that churns out review after review but being a screenwriter I wanted to share some more of my work with you guys, mainly to show you what I'm up to and also to gain some feedback as to how this work connects with audiences. Now, I've done a bit of this in the past and wanted to carry it on (hopefully) a bit more frequently by sharing the first five pages of one of my scripts. As I mentioned, today's one is from yet another sci-fi film I've half written; 'ARK'. Let's get into it, here's the working logline:

'A young farmer’s son must make it to Earth’s ‘life boat’, the Ark, in order to be with the love of his life, as the planet is to be engulfed by its exploding sun.'

This is a script I have actually written a lot of but have struggled with how to end it. It's a bit of an action love story set in space that is very fast paced and pushes it's main two characters to new depths in order for them to survive together. I really wanted to get the story moving and have a nice fight to start the film off, in order to give audiences a taste of what is to come in terms of pace and action. That fight is mostly shown in the opening five pages. Now, I would love some feedback, what do you think of this opening, does it work? Does this sound like something you would like to see? Did the writing grab your attention and make you want to read on? Let me know in the comments below or contact me over Twitter or email. Read the first five pages below and then get back to me and let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Doctor Strange

Marvel's latest is finally here! I was always a little apprehensive about this one due to my disliking of Marvel films going too 'fantastical', my little knowledge on the character and Benedict Cumberbatch's American accent which sounded a little ropy in the trailers. I was however silly not to be excited because Marvel have come out with yet another hit and it might just be one of their best films yet. Find out why in my SPOILER FREE review.

Doctor Strange follows a former neurosurgeon as he embarks on a journey of healing only to be then drawn into the world of the mystic arts. The film has a very impressive cast with Benedict Cumberbatch finally getting to take centre stage in a big blockbuster film, supported by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams. All do very well in their roles and put everything into bringing some of the comic-book characters to life. Though it is unfortunate that Rachel McAdams is not given much to do in the film apart from being the 'will they, won't they' love interest, one of its biggest flaws. It is forgivable though, this film could have been all over the place, introducing new characters, introducing magic and mysticism while still having an easy enough plot for audiences to follow is a hard task. The director, Scott Derrickson, thankfully pulls it off though and even brought the film in at just under two hours in length. The plot is tight, the pacing is fast and there is not one boring moment I can think of. 

The biggest criticism I have seen of this film so far has been it's 'paint by numbers' origin story. Now yes, there are certain elements that have been seen before but then there are also certain elements that are in every film, such as the character having and arc and overcoming their flaws. This is not something to criticise of this film, if anything it takes the tropes of the origin stories and plays with them, it feels fresh and exciting, there are elements which would be too spoilery to mention that made me so happy about how they went about settling things. Every action scene felt unique and creative, I was blown away by just how good the action was, it felt like something we had never seen before even if the comparisons to Inception are definitely going to be and have been made. Each action sequence was so character driven, each time Strange learnt something about himself and it moved him forward as a character. And yes the same might not be said about the villain, but Mads Mikkelsen still manages to make his presence felt, he might not be the most memorable villain but he definitely isn't the worst. This films is one of the most unique films I have seen Marvel pull off and only second to Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s a lot to get your head around here and they pull it off in great fashion, it’s not their funniest of films but the humour is injected in order for this film not to take itself too seriously and it does, and doesn’t take anything else away by doing so.

Now let’s talk about the visuals, one of the main elements of the film that most people agree with, this film looks stunning. The effects are amazing, they never felt out of place, they're trippy and magical and the people behind them must have had so much fun being able to play outside the box and do whatever they wanted with them. We're living in a day and age where these sort of effects can now be used so eloquently and so masterfully to make comic-book films look even more like their source material. And talking of comic book accuracy, bravo to the costume designers of this film, I might have read maybe one or two Doctor Strange comics in my lifetime but even I got chills when you first see Benedict Cumberbatch in full costume for the first time.

I was really surprised by how much I liked this one, I went in hoping for something better than Ant-Man and came out watching one of the best Marvel origin stories since the first Iron Man film. Seriously this film is brilliant, I even liked it more than Captain America: Civil War. I think in a world where superhero films are now being mass produced it's nice to have something that feels different, this is why people took to Deadpool so well and its why they're also going to take well to this one. More of this Marvel, more of this. I'm giving Doctor Strange a rating of  4.5/5.  Best superhero movie of the year. 

What did you think of Doctor Strange? One of Marvel's best or just another superhero film? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Girl with All the Gifts

The zombie genre has been on a weird ride over the last five or so years and it seemed that, like the vampire genre, it was running out of steam, it definitely was taking its toll on me! That was until the other day though and I saw the brilliant new zombie film The Girl with All the Gifts.

The Girl with All the Gifts is an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by M.R Carey. I had read the book a couple years ago and had been pleasantly surprised at how well a zombie story had been presented on the page rather than on the screen. Now it’s on the big screen and there is something about it that feels so fresh, it’s a story like one we haven’t seen before, not even the The Last of Us which many people have compared the trailer to. The film follows a scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future as they embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.

The author of the book also wrote the screenplay for this film, which shows because it sticks very close to the source material and does not hold out on its pretty crazy ending which I thought may have been tampered with. Credit should also go to the casting director though who brought together the brilliant cast made up of Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close and newcomer Sennia Nanua who, as child actors go, is pretty darn good and thankfully so, since her performance carries the film. The characters in this film felt like they had been ripped from the pages of the book, they looked and sounded just like I had imagined them to.

The zombies themselves are slightly different, they run, which isn’t original but it’s never been something I’ve always liked, in this film though it really worked, it made the zombies very scary and the situations that the characters were in almost nail-biting tense as you knew they could never just stab their way out of it. This mixed with some excellent sound design and some of the best and most terrifying zombie transformations I’ve seen made for a very tense and scary film at times. Setting a zombie film in England is something we’ve seen before but it’s been a while. It was great seeing dystopian style city high streets equipped with all shops we’re used to and helped put me in the shoes of the characters.

The many twists and turns this film takes and the introduction of new elements to the zombie genre really solidifies this as one of the best films out there. Like many great films, it takes a look at our own society and reflects and criticises how in this day and age we would probably handle the unknown. This film felt so refreshing and so original and even though I had already read the source material, I still was taken back by just how invested and tense I was becoming during certain scenes. The music in the film was unlike anything I had ever heard before in the genre and was able to hit me emotionally as well as unnerving me at the same time.

Now it’s not for everyone, for one if you don’t like zombies or gore this probably won’t be for you. It’s not perfect, there’s the odd strange decision made by characters and the ending comes so quickly after a slow build up that I’m sure it won’t sit well with everyone. I really enjoyed this one though and was so happy to see just how true the filmmakers had been to the book and also how much they had invested into making this something different and allowing it to stand out in an ocean worth of zombie films. I'm giving The Girl with All the Gifts a rating of 4.5/5.

Have you seen the film? If not then stop what you're doing and go to the cinema! And if so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Quick Reviews #15

Quite a few short reviews in this post here but I've seen quite a lot of new films recently so I thought you guys would like to read my thoughts. Enjoy!

Kubo and the Two Strings
A really beautiful stop motion fable that oozes creativeness and originality. Very refreshing to see in a year full of sequels, adaptations and reboots. I do worry that a younger audience may not fall in love with the strange mythology, or at times quite slow pace, but for now I’m just happy that it’s here. It also makes me feel very bad for not seeing any of the company’s previous work, time to change that…


Not as bad or as confusing as everyone has been banging on about. I quite enjoyed this one, it’s far from perfect but I had a good time in this world. I’ve never played the game, everything I know has been from the trailers and although I’m still not 100% clued up on everything that happened, I think I got the general gist of things pretty easily. I mean it’s messy in parts, drags near the end and could’ve been streamlined to maybe two or three main characters but overall I had fun and for the most part the effects were pretty darn impressive. If they make more, then I look forward to seeing where the story goes next.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

I really enjoyed the first film, it was stupid yet a lot of fun, this one however, not so much. I didn’t really get that hooked with the story, barely any of the jokes landed and the action sequences just blurred into one by the end. The turtles themselves still look great and I like the fact that they went deeper into the source material, making thus truly feel like a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life, only not as well done as the previous film.

The Neon Demon

Okay, I think it’s time to say that Nicolas Winding Refn has gotten too big for his boots. Every times he makes a new film I hope that we get another Drive or Bronson, two of his films that I adore, but we’re not getting that, we’re getting just weirder and less coherent films that are only designed to shock the audience and it’s just getting tacky. It’s not that I didn’t get this film either, I got it, it pretty much hits you over the head with its ‘themes’ and ‘metaphors’. I feel like this film has a very narrow minded and stereotypical view of the modelling industry, like Refn wrote it without doing any research but went in with the same pre-conceptions that most of the public have about the industry, it says absolutely nothing new. Cinematography wise, yeah it still looks great, you can’t fault that, but I guess I was just hoping for more. The worst thing is that I will keep getting sucked into watching his films in the hope that any one of them may be his next Drive. People may laugh at me for rating this lower than some of the other films on this list but there’s nothing worse than a bad film which you had high expectations for…

Finding Dory

Not a scrap on the original but still fun. It really doubled down on the disability metaphor which meant for some interesting new characters. This was a nice sequel but there is no need for a threequel.

The Shallows

Simple yet sweet, a brilliant self-contained shark thriller that looks great and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. I really wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. Also the Shark CG looks great!


I laughed a lot at this. I feel like it’s been a while since I saw a really good comedy and this just felt refreshing. Key and Peele are hilarious, it’s not a joke a minute but it’s so stupidly funny when they do land, I had a blast.

Sing Street

I love films that have music intertwined so romantically with them, this is one of those films. It’s charming, it’s funny, it’s the right amount of happy and sad and most of all, it’s inspiring. There are some aspects that I feel could have been more fleshed out but I don’t care that much because overall it was brilliant. One of the best films of the year so far.

Well I hope you enjoyed that slightly longer version of 'Quick Reviews'. Work has been pretty busy recently so I haven't had much time for film viewing, however I did just go to see The Girl with All the Gifts, so I hope to be able to review that one for you guys soon because it was great!

You can read even more reviews from me and check out some of my watching habits over on Letterboxd.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

My Game of Thrones Tour

Last month my girlfriend Emma and I took a city break to Belfast. As well as wanting to look around the sights of the city, one of our biggest reasons for going was so we could do a tour of  some of the filming locations for one of our favourite TV shows, Game of Thrones. We booked our tour with Game of Throne Tours, specifically the 'Belfast Winterfell Locations Trek' and come the morning of the tour we were ready to see the sights of Westeros.

Monday morning, 8:45, we arrived at Belfast Top Shop after a quick sausage and egg Mcmuffin to find our tour bus. We waited in a queue along with about thirty other fans before getting our names checked off the register and onto the extremely comfy bus. We're talking soft leather cushioned seats and I was worried I would fall asleep but after we met our tour guide Brian, I knew that wouldn't be the case.

The obligatory 'Start of the Tour Selfie'.
Brian, our tour guide, was/is a glorified Game of Thrones extra, and I say glorified in a good way, not only has he worked on four seasons of the show but he also knows how to use a sword and has been part of some of the stunts and fight choreography as well which leads to him constantly being called back by the casting department. His work on the show meant that he had some brilliant insight into the behind the scenes and his own hilarious anecdotes to keep us entertained as we travelled throughout the tour. Most of all though, you could tell he was one of us, a fan, and like a few of us on the bus, a reader of the books as well. As we were driving through the beautiful Irish countryside I was almost disappointed when Brian took a break to show us some Behind The Scene's videos, I could listen to him talk about Game of Thrones for hours and by the end of the tour I had! It's a credit to his ability has a guide to make this all seem new and fresh even though he had given the same tour loads of times.

Our first stop was non-Game of Thrones related but a chance to pause and take a look at our amazing surroundings. We were to cross the sea (which is also used for The Trident River in the show) by 
ferry from Portaferry to Strangford, from where we would make our way to Winterfell.

One of our views whilst waiting for the ferry.
Back on the bus we took a short trip to Winterfell, also known in real life as the Castle Ward, a great big estate that a lot of the filming for the first season took place.

Castle Ward aka Wintefell.
Now I'm not going to lie, it is hard being there and feeling like you're at Winterfell because it looks so different. The courtyard we're standing in is where they filmed a lot of the introductions to characters like Ned, Jon, Bran, Cat and Arya but it was very covered up by sets to hide some of the more modern architecture. They don't call it movie magic for nothing! The tower that you see in the photo is used many times digitally in the makeup for Winterfell, especially the side facing the courtyard as the opposite had a big clock face on it! Maybe it would have helped if it wasn't so sunny! Throughout the tour Brian had large snapshot images of the show to show us the small details that revealed we weren't having our legs pulled, this was in fact where Game of Thrones was filmed!

The obligatory 'Winterfell Selfie'.
We then began our first 'trek' of the day. Don't be put off by the word trek, it's barely a couple of miles, anyone could do it! Half a mile away we found the basis for the Frey towers, a small tower positioned high above the water, ready for the show's post production magic to enlarge it slightly and copy and paste it onto the other side of the water.

One Frey Tower.
Where the other one should be.
So it ends up looking like this:

Screenshot from the show. Look, same sexy tree!
It was starting to feel more and more real as we went along. Just around the corner from this was another filming location! The seafront where Brienne escorted Jamie in Season 2 and then encountered three women hung on a tree by Stark men.

This is said tree.
Things started to feel a lot more real when Brian showed us the same clip from the show right where it was filmed. This was such a cool aspect and it really brought the surrounding to life. For anybody wondering which scene, go to Season 2 Episode 10, the awesome one where Brienne shoves her sword into a soldiers crotch.

After this we took a closer look at the Frey tower before returning to the bus. We then travelled to a nearby pub called The Cuan which gave us our lovely lunch for the day. As well as supplying us with lovely meals, The Cuan was also one of the places used during season 1 to host many of the cast members and most notably, Sean Bean. They are also famous for hosting one of 12 Game of Thrones doors, a selection of doors made by fallen tree's of the Dark Hedges that have been carved into these amazing pieces of art inspired by the show.

A very cool door.
After lunch Brian had arranged for us to see some very special guests. These special guests were Odin and Thor, two of the dogs used in episode one of Game of Thrones that became the Direwolves, Summer and Grey Wind.
Couldn't tell you which one this was but... I stroked a Direwolf!
The owners of the dogs were also there and were telling us how their lives had been changed by Game of Thrones and how they had all been involved in the show now, appearing as extras and even getting their  boat used by Jon Snow as his escape from Hardhome in season 5! We were fortunate enough to get a picture with one of the guys who was seen as a Dothraki Slavemaster in the show.

When we were finally pulled away from the Direwolves, we made our way to Inch Abbey a castle ruin used in Game of Thrones to camp Robb Stark and be the stage for the iconic scene where he was declared King of the North. 

Inch Abbey
Again, we were able to watch the scene right where it was filmed and it felt even more real this time, because now we were dressed up...
A couple of loons...
That's right, the tour provided everybody with a cloak and a handful of replica swords were available for us to use and act like idiots with. This was great fun and everybody got involved, it really did feel like you were part of the Game of Thrones world, the weather wasn't as sunny now so that helped as well! I even got to attempt a Jon Snow impression...

I know nothing.
After spending our time at Inch Abbey we took another drive to Tollymore, a massive garden estate that homed quite a few scenes from season 1 of the show. The first location we went to was the campsite that Jon and Tyrion set up on their way to the wall. Jon took a seat on a tree stump, and once the tour began to move on, I knew this was my chance to touch Jon's wood!

'What do I know?' I wondered...
Once fully satisfied with Jon's wood, we made our way to the next location, which is thought to be a pit created by a meteor and also a the setting for some White Walker Wildling art. You may remember it from the very first opening scene of the show's run.

The show.

Real life.
Brian also let us know how most of the first episodes budget was blown on fake snow in order to give the scene it's chilly opening feel. It's crazy how far the producers will go to make the show feel authentic!

Next we came to our final two locations of the tour, the bridge where the Stark's found a dead stag, only to find that underneath the bridge was a dead Direwolf and its newly born pups. The crazy thing was, was that this was only 100 metres away from the last location, the show really makes the most of the space it finds and the production values truly make it look like these are two completely different forests on different sides of the wall. 

Where the dead stag was found.
Where the Direwolf pups were found.
This was the final stop in out tour and from here we were taken back to Belfast city centre, on the way we were treated to a sing-a-long of the show's theme tune followed by a screening of the pilot episode, which allowed us all to point at the screen and say 'been there'.

I really enjoyed this trip, as a fan it was great to see some of the amazing places the show decided to film, as a tourist it was brilliant to go out and see some of the Irish countryside, which was truly beautiful and I now know why they call it 'the emerald isle'. At £40 a ticket I thought that we really got our moneys worth and more, it was a great day out and I think the whole group had a great laugh, thanks to our brilliant tour guide Brian and our driver Dennis.

I highly recommend this experience to any Game of Thrones fan, and if you're not one then at least you can enjoy the countryside!

Thanks for reading!

Group shot!