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JourneyQuest
Tonight's Webseries Presentation

JOURNEYQUEST

Starring: Christian Doyle, Anne Kennedy, Kevin Pitman, Emilie Rommel Shimkus, Brian Lewis

Written & Directed By: Matt Vancil

Production Website: http://journey-quest.com

See It Here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB600313D4723E21F&feature=plcp


What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEDDAR.

But not just any… it must be from the land of Cheddar itself!  To sample this cheese, you must undertake an epic journey to Cheddar, England… unless you happen to live in England, in which case, the journey would no longer be epic.  So if you’re from England or somewhere reasonably close to it, you’ll have to make an epic journey to Wisconsin instead.


Pairs Well With...

PINOT GRIGIO.

It’s what I was drinking while I watched Season One, and I found that it paired very well indeed.  Epic!


“So, uh… ‘Temple of All Dooms.’  Really?  All of them?”

“Not likely, but ‘The Temple of Some Dooms’ didn’t have quite the same punch.”


Gather ‘round, ye squires and lasses!  ‘Tis time to take an epic journey away from the television and its many police procedural clones and alleged ‘reality’ shows about creepy people who run pawn shops.  Our travels will take us to the magical land called “Internet” – try not to notice that you’re already there, will you? – where we shall embark upon a quest to find a fantasy webseries that does not suck.  ‘Tis a journey, and a quest!  One might call it a JourneyQuest!

Hey, wait a minute… that’s almost too easy!

Only it’s not, and there’s the secret that so many don’t get: though the fantasy genre is often attempted, and with gusto (there are few gatherings as enthusiastic as those consisting of two or more cosplayers and a video camera), the fact is that it’s also the easiest to screw up at any budget.  Inevitably, someone’s inner geek takes over, and things end up spinning out of control.  The more geeks involved, the more likely it is to occur.  Sometimes, though, one finds a group that knows how to walk the fine line of “having a lot of fun” and “keeping it together,” and when that happens, you get a production like JourneyQuest.

And when you get a production like JourneyQuest, you remember why they call it “magic.”

First, I’ll talk to the geeks in the audience.

JourneyQuest plays by the rules.  As in the D&D rules, among others.  The character classes are represented appropriately.  Their attributes are give and take.  (Got great Strength?  Guess there ain’t much room left for Intellect, buddy!)  Someone actually bothered to include dialogue in reasonable sounding Orcish.  When the Bard wants to understand Orcish, she takes a potion for it.  The conflict points play like Dungeon challenges.  So yeah, this group gets it.

They also get the atmospherics right.  The wonderful music by Steve Wolbrecht is reminiscent of an earlier generation of fantasy video games, only with cleaner sound.  The costumes all meet or surpass any Ren Faire standard, with extra kudos for the great make-up jobs on the green-skinned Orcs.  (Combined costume and actor shout out for Kevin Pitman, whose Glorion looks like he stepped right of out “Dragon’s Lair,” especially when Pitman wears a determined facial expression.)  The style in which the dialogue is delivered – which is not the same thing as the words on the printed page – fits, and that is never a given with these things.  And despite playing out in five to six minute snippets, the journey actually feels like a quest.  So again, this group gets it.

So rejoice, ye lords and ladies who fly your geek banners proudly; JourneyQuest champions your cause worthily.

Now, for the people out there who normally wouldn’t touch cosplay or a Ren Faire with a ten foot lance. 

JourneyQuest has something for you, too; indeed, this is where the production steps into rarefied territory.  Amidst all of the obvious effort and attention to detail given to hitting all of the right geek notes, the cast and the rest of the creative team have not forgotten that they’re also out to tell a story, and the story they tell is accessible to all.  You don’t have to start out understanding what a “Bard” is to find the opening conversation of the first episode incredibly funny… or any of the conversations that follow, for that matter.  Most of the comedy is universal, the plot is straightforward (at least it becomes so after a few episodes, which is fair given the short runtimes), and whatever “geek” concepts are absolutely required to make things work are given enough context so that even newbies can play along.  The writing is excellent on every level.  It is, as they say, fun-fun for everyone!

And hey, “Lactomancer” is just such an awesome word.

Another exercise in credible restraint is accomplished in the realm of visual effects, a place where many a fantasy production has given too much ground to the inner geek and lost.  JourneyQuest uses exactly the right amount of post prod VFX to tell the story properly (and to maintain its fantasy cred), and no more.  Rather, the team concentrates on making the few shots they do employ look good, which in turn allows even the genre newcomers in the audience to stay immersed in the story when the fireballs come into play.

Rounding things out, the cast does a great job.  To call the portrayal of Wren (our resident Bard) by Emilie Rommel Shimkus “magnetically charming” just doesn’t cover it; I swear she rolled a +3 bonus to Charisma.  Christian Doyle is outstanding as the hapless wizard, Superfluous, as is Anne Kennedy, whose adventurously matter-of-fact approach to the character of Nara makes it easy to understand why Superfluous is so hapless for her.  And even though his archetype is by far my least favorite, I can’t help but enjoy Kevin Pitman’s blustering take on the hero, Glorion, which can only be called spot-on.  Very nearly stealing the show, however, is the guy you never see: Jeremy Spray’s vocals for the Sword of Fighting are a scream.  And everyone else?  No complaints from me, thanks.

As if you hadn’t guessed by now, I’m encouraging you to have a look at JourneyQuest.  If you’re an old school Dungeon Master or any other stripe of established fantasy fan, you can rest assured that the cast and crew here do it right, and if old school Dungeon Masters and Ren Faire cosplayers usually scare you, you can rest assured that the people involved have come up with a fun story that is accessible by and enjoyable for all.  Go on; give it a shot.  You know you want to indulge in a little internet fantasy…



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Season One | Seven Episodes, 6.5-10 minutes each


Some advice before we start:  Always stay past the credits; don’t just skip to the next episode when they start to roll.  There are outtakes to enjoy.

Episode 1: “Onward” – Wherein we meet the characters, but only get to pick up on some of the story, which is perfectly fine, because this is entertaining, which means the first and most important hurdle is cleared.  The first things that the geeks (a term I use with true affection) in the crowd will notice are the minutiae: the rightness of the music, the fact that the costumes pass Ren Faire muster, the detail of the potion use by the Bard so she can understand Orcish, the reasonable adherence to old school D&D style.  The first thing that anyone else is going to notice is that this is freakin’ funny.  Listening to the Orcs try to BS the Bard is laugh-out-loud hilarious (“Take me now, you green skinned love stallion!”, etc.).  The cowardly wizard – appropriately dressed in a yellow robe and wonderfully named Superfluous – is a perpetual grin.  And most impressive of all, even though we have but a fragment or two at the moment, it’s plain to see that an actual story is being told.  Looks like fun.  I’m in.

Episode 2: “Sod the Quest” – Wherein our characters become fleshed out a little more, even if you’re still only sure of the wizard’s name.  Highlight #1: The title, for which the creative team gets an automatic +2 to Charisma.  (Pass that bonus along to yourself, too, if you understand what I just said.)  Highlight #2: the retirement community. Highlight #3: twelve of them.  Highlight #4: the riddle pillar.  Highlight#5: “Oh, yeah, I see them!”

Episode 3: “A Rather Unfortunate Turn of Events” – Wherein our heroes face a horde of Orcs and attempt to enter the Temple.  Highlight #1: “Any form of ‘to be’ takes the nominative.”  (Creative team gets +2 Intellect bonus for that one.)  Highlight #2: “That’s anatomically impossible!”  (Cooldown on bonuses, otherwise that’d be worth another one.  Hot damn, that’s funny.)  Highlight#3: “Oh, right, Heal.  That is a spell.”  Highlight #4: “I can’t believe you stabbed me!”  Highlight#5: I can’t tell you; it’d be a spoiler (yeah, even this early), but it’s well played.  So fine, you get one more.  Highlight#6: “Do you moisturize?  Is that lavender I smell?”

Episode 4: “Deadly, Ancient Magicks” – Wherein once again, Orcs are faced, and we discover that the Temple is a smartass.  Highlight#1: “Then take it! I don’t want it!”  Highlight #2: “Wow.  You sound like a woman in two languages.”  Highlight#3: MOO!  Highlight#4: “You’ll just die in the next room!  Ass!”  Highlight#5:  “Never dull, though.  You never make things dull.”

Episode 5: “Not a Zombie” – Wherein our heroes are far more clever than we thought they were, and… dude!  Put that back on!  Highlight #1: “That counts! That still counts!” Highlight #2: “You see, there are two basic types of undead.”  Highlight #3: A fabulous twist on the old “one tells the truth, one lies” conundrum.  Highlight #4: “Itches.”  Highlight #5: “Hello there.”

Episode 6: “Bardic Immunity” – Wherein we get a little background on the Bard and where she’s fit in to what we’ve seen thus far.  Highlight #1: “This may very well be the least heroic party ever chronicled!” Highlight #2: Oh, brilliantly done perspective switch. The creative team gets a +2 bonus to Wisdom.  Highlight #3: “Who are you working for?” “Uh… history?”  Highlight#4:  “General sexual tension, character arc…”  Highlight #5: “I’m so making her fat!”

Episode 7: “Duplicitous Bastards” – Wherein Season One comes to an end, some things come full circle, others are ready to begin, and I take a Charisma hit for major spoilers, so that ain’t gonna happen.  “As much as I enjoy watching you kick him in the face…” No, I can’t spoil anything.  Even if this pyramid is full of nougat.  You’re just going to have to enjoy it all for yourself.  And enjoy it you will, because this is a lot of fun.

I can’t wait to see what they do for a second season.

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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