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Posts Tagged ‘brendan gleeson

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

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Lately I’ve had a lot of Harry Potter conversations.  I’d say the general consensus on favorite HP book is probably between 3 and 4 (#3 being my favorite… probably) and 5, 6, and 2 as being the least celebrated.  I didn’t realize so many people hated #5 until recently – it’s actually one of almost-favorite calibre IMO.  Most say that it’s all cuz of that Umbridge lady.  They say she’s annoying.  I say she’s well-written. To each his (her) own.

Order of the Phoenix picks up in the summer after Harry witnessed Voldemort’s return and Cedric Diggory’s death (sorry, did that ruin it for you? oh.)  The catch?  Nobody believes him.  Well, no one except for his usual buds and a group of boss rebel adults who call themselves the Order of the Phoenix.  Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic has greater influence than this tiny army, so Harry and Dumbledore get a lot of crap thrown at them.  Including the BIGGEST B in a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that Hogwarts has ever seen.  Harry ain’t pleased with the way things are goin’ especially with everyone ignoring the killer of an elephant in the room so he takes matters into his own hands…. again… and forms a rebel group of his own.

Hats off to Mrs. Imelda Staunton, first of all.  Holy mother, she captures that evil cat-woman’s essence with a pink sweater and a Cruciatus Curse in pocket.  Perfect choice, mr. casting person, sir.  No one can say that the Harry Potter franchise didn’t try for English acting talent cuz golly they’ve got the best of the best.  Professor Dolores Umbridge rivals Gilderoy Lockhart as the smarmiest, so awful that you’ve gotta love kinda character to have appeared from Rowling’s creation.  She sweeps in, essentially takes over the school with her government reign, and tortures little twelve-year-olds as a disciplinary measure.  I mean, who writes that kinda stuff?  Another great new addition is Evanna Lynch as Loony Luna Lovegood.  She’s definitely a strange character, but Lynch portrays her as more endearing than off-her-rocker.  Helena Bonham Carter too jumps on the ride as lady-Death Eater Belatrix Lestrange, another crazy character that was well played.  Lastly, though he’s nothing new, I must throw in some Gary Oldman love.  Yates does a good job of re-creating a Lupin/Harry relationship like in Cuarón did in Azkaban.  Sirius is one of the greatest characters and Oldman fills that role with dignity.

JK Rowling has been asked who her favorite character was before.  Her response is, of course, Harry.  He’s her baby, if you will.  With that in mind, I re-read the boks and soon realized that Harry was also my own favorite character.  Harry has a bit of all of us in him, everyone can relate to him at some point in his crazy life.  I feel like Harry does a LOT of growing up in this particular novel (and movie).  This is where he realizes that, yeah, his life ain’t fair and yeah, it’s tough being Harry Potter, but who freaking cares.  You gotta step it up, pal, or Voldemort’s gonna win.  He becomes the leader he was meant to be.  And who ISN’T an annoying, whiny teenager at some point?  I feel like, though they kinda skip over a lot of his angst (probably okay for the movie, that might have been too much to handle) we see Harry turn a new leaf.  He’s gone from accidental hero to leader of the pack.  And that’s cool stuff to watch.

With that in mind, OotP has that heart and emotion and we really do get to know Harry better.  After such a sad disappointment in 4, I was pleased as punch to see that David Yates could respectably salvage this series and push it forwards to the magical opus it had the potential to be.  Each director will be remembered (though I can’t say much for Newell) but Yates will be the one that Harry Potter fans will always whole-heartedly applaud for carrying it to a satisfying and mature end.  His mark on Order of the Phoenix pushes things back towards character development and heart, not crazy dragon chases and action-packed duels.  Though there’s plenty of that too.  The Dumbledore’s Army scenes are pretty dang fantastic to gawk over (almost, though not quite, an homage to the little-kid wonder and awe with the magic stuff), and that Dumbledore/Voldemort duel at the end is filled with some sick special effects.  But those DA scenes would be nothing without Hermione stupefying Ron, Neville triumphantly disarming something, and Harry sharing his hard-learned wisdom with eager youngsters, wanting to do their part for the greater good.  Gone are the wide-eyed little kids.  Here are the ready to fight teenagers with something to prove.  They stand up for what they believe in and they’re in it to make a difference.  They’re unified, and their relationships with one another are emotionally grounded.  Like I said, there’s heart and stuff.

Watson, Grint, and Radcliffe have finally reached a level where I, as a fan, am fully satisfied with their role as the fearsome threesome.  I have no complaints for those three.  Michael Gambon is still not Richard Harris, but he’s definitely getting there.  Alan Rickman is still boss, and Yates also did well with some back-story stuff too.  There’s all the other thousand of adult actors who masterfully play even the smallest of roles (Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Brendan Gleeson, and Emma Thompson even!)  I’m also pleased with the way the other kids are growin’ up – Matthew Lewis in particular.  I love Neville.  And, of course, there’s Ray Fiennes as the Big V – and words really can’t say what that evil dude does for the movie.

I feel like I always talk about the acting in these Potter reviews.  You can’t blame me, the acting is definitely one of the most appealing elements with all those big names – and the characters are what make the books amazing.  But there is a wonderful mystique and awe that goes beyond all that.  The spells are getting more complicated, and the world of witchcraft and wizardry is expanding.  The special effects, music, lighting, coloring, all that good crap contributes in their own ways to the finished product and I guess that’s worth mentioning.  So, there.

I wish there was more Order of the Phoenix stuff – more Lupin especially – but I don’t regret their editing decisions.  That’s a TON of material to cover, let’s get real.  And, even though things are getting darker in wizard-town, there’s still that humor and wit that makes this series great.  Fred and George stand alone as lovable comic relief with explosive escapes and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.  The writing is humorous and Hermione’s getting more and more rebellious by the day.  All in all, this has everything that I love about Harry Potter in here.  I cheered, I cried, I applauded.  Expecto Patronum.  8/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

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I should probably just start watching this BEFORE I watch Prisoner of Azkaban.  Then I’ll like that one every time.

Things are shakin’ up in the Potter-verse.  Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his usual groupies (Ron – Rupert Grint, and Hermione – Emma Watson) are partyin’ it up with the rest of the wizard population at the Quidditch World Cup.  Kinda like the normal World Cup, but things get a LOT crazier when magic folk get drunk.  But the partyin’ gets a little too rowdy when Death Eater Voldy-supporters start torturing Muggles and You-Know-Who’s weird snake insignia is cast into the sky by a shady unknown character.

At Hogwarts things aren’t any more normal (are they ever?)  This year Hogwarts will congregate with all two other Wizard High Schools to compete in a (friendly) inter-school tournament.  And by friendly, I mean that contestants could die.  There will be one victor to represent each school.  Three guesses on who the Hogwarts champion is?  Despite Harry’s young age (you must be 17 or older to compete), he is wildly chosen as a SECOND rep for the Hogs – along with hunk Cedric Edward Cullen Diggory (Robert Pattinson).  Harry didn’t put his name in, so who did?  Ron’s pissed that Harry, who didn’t want any of this, gets all the glory and stuff… like usual, so they’re not speaking.  Harry’s got bigger things to worry about than dragons, like asking girls out and figuring out his strange dreams.  And word on the street is the Voldemort might reappear sooner than later…

Okay. Hands down my least favorite Potter film.  It isn’t a bad movie, there are definitely things I like.  But Mike Newell tried too hard to single it out from the others.  The Goblet of Fire is another piece in the big picture, and I feel like it’s trying to be its own movie too much.  The big reveal is hardly a big reveal because of all the stupid hints.  Granted, this is a 734 page book.  But Order of the Phoenix is 896 pages and David Yates does a much better job of condensing.  I don’t care that SPEW was left out (although it would have been nice to give Dobby an additional movie…) I don’t care that Ludo Bagman was nixed, I don’t mind THAT much that Rita Skeeter’s main plot was left out.  But did we really need to make the DRAGON challenge fifteen minutes too long?  I mean seriously, Harry was supposed to have WON that task.  They did not need to go traipsing about Hogwarts in a stupid game of cat and mouse.  That energy and time would have been better spent on the end.  Or anywhere else for that matter.

A few other gripes: The third challenge was kind of a joke.  Harry fought a freaking basilisk when he was twelve.  A maze where the walls close in on you is hardly intimidating compared to what that kid’s been through.  Second, do we ALWAYS need to skip over the explanation scenes?  Granted we didn’t need to hear all of the back story, but we kinda skipped over the part where a WAR WAS STARTING.  There was a reason that Fudge didn’t believe Harry in OotP.  Third, I’m not hating on Rob Pattinson at all, but I didn’t like the interpretation of Cedric Diggory.  I thought he looked good and performed well for the most part but he wasn’t… nice enough.  Cedric was a symbol of goodness.  Everyone loved him, everyone admired him.  They didn’t quite… capture that.  Lastly, …where was Sirius (Gary Oldman)?!  His head in some coals does NOT count.  Again, you gotta start looking at the book picture, Newell.

Sorry, I’ll try to stop acting like an immature fan girl.  It’s just so hard…

New additions to the cast… again… most notably is Brendan Gleeson as Professor Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody, the new (you guessed it) Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher.  Despite his weird machine eye and a few script issues he was pretty dang excellent as this crazy character.  The scene with the unforgivable curses was well played, even though Emma Watson was freaking out a little too much.  I also enjoyed him turning Malfoy into a dancing ferret…  Miranda Richardson plays Rita Skeeter, the sly reporter, interested in nothing but the dirty deets on Harry.  Great book character, wish we had more of her story but alas.  Two hours is very short.  Last but not least, the excellent Ralph Fiennes joins us, albeit nose-less, as none other than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.  Lord Voldemort.  His sinister whisper is so icy, his piercing eyes so menacing.  He’s definitely secured himself as one of the greatest movie villains.  I couldn’t have asked for more. Good on yeh, Ralph.

Goblet of Fire reminded me of high school more than anything else, and that’s the good part.  I mean sure, Ron’s freaking annoying with his angsty whine, but don’t we know ten people just like him?  In fact, your best friend probably shunned you once for something similar.  Or maybe you shunned your best friend.  Just sayin’, it happens.  But seriously, all of the gossip, all the crying, all the name-calling.  It’s freshman year at wizard high.  And I did enjoy that part.  I love the awkward teen romances, I especially laughed at the scene introducing the Yule Ball.  “Mr. Weasley, put your hand on my waist.” “Where?”  And oh Ron’s dress robes… I also feel like every young actor is growing into their roles.  Neville (Matthew Lewis) got to  shine a little bit here.  Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) provided great laughs as the school clowns.  Unfortunately Malfoy (Tom Felton) is still painted as a bit of a fool, but whatever.

The adult cast is exemplary as usual [unfortunatelackofSeverusSnapeAlanRickmanthough].  Michael Gambon hasn’t quite reached his stride (forcefully pushing a student?  Not Dumbledore). The kids are definitely growing into their roles, though this is probably Emma Watson’s worst of the 8.  She freaks out too much, she’s sooo over dramatic and shouts and cries a lot.  Not Hermione.  I also admit that the Voldemort scene was fantastic.  Eerie, and filled with fiery emotions.  The music is also stunning, however much we might miss the J. Williams.  The special effects and cinematography are also commendable.

Alas, I cannot ever be fully satisfied.  Harry Potter is far too dear to my heart.  And this book is so fantastic.  It is what it is, though and it’s still got Harry’s name on it.  So that’s gotta be worth something, right?  6/10

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

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Spoilers. Just sayin’.

I remember so well when this movie was released.  I was 10-years-old, and i wanted sooo badly to see it – but due to its PG-13 rating my mom wouldn’t let me.  I got over it.  I’m glad, now, that I didn’t see it then because when I finally was able to, I could appreciate it.  At 10-years I already loved movies and knew all about Steven Spielberg; E.T., Close Encounters, Jaws, & Jurrasic Park were favorites from my childhood.  I did not, however, know who Stanley Kubrick was (pretty sure that name came along when I was 12 or 13).  This began as Kubrick’s project and you can see his prints all over it.

Sometime in the future, where the world is starting to freeze over and couples must obtain a license to have children, technology has advanced so much that man can create life.  Artificial intelligence (robots) are hardly distinguishable from human beings.  Scientist Allan Hobby (William Hurt) wants to take it a step further: What if we could create a Robot that could love.  Not physical lust but love like a child would care for his mother.

And so David was created (Haley Joel Osment).  Monica (Frances O’Connor) and Henry (Sam Robards) Swintons – whose child is being held in cryostasis until a cure is found for his disease – decide to test out this new product. (Yeah, I totally stole that from IMDb.  But I didn’t really know what the kid’s problem was.  So sue me).  Henry brings him home and Monica is initially furious.  No “mecha” could replace her own physical child.  Trial period ensues.  Should they choose to keep David, they must perform an irreversable imprint ritual.  Monica spends time with David and they begin to bond.  She decides to do the imprint thing (sadly, this now makes me think of Breaking Dawn…) and David is now in for good.  The transformation is instant – Monica is now Mommy and David wants nothing but to make her happy.

Problems arrive when their “real” son, Martin (Jake Thomas) recovers and comes home.  Suddenly David’s got competition.  Suddenly “Daddy” has changed his mind about the entire ordeal.  Suddenly David is getting in trouble and doesn’t know how to get mommy’s love anymore.  David cuts a lock off Monica’s hair to gain her love but is falsely accused of sinister motives.  Things get worse when he’s found holding Martin at the bottom of a pool… but only because he was frightened seconds earlier and wanted protection.  Monica (sob sob sob) can’t take it anymore, David’s gotta go.

So what does she do?  She drops him in the middle of the woods with nothing but a smart Teddy, some money, and a dismal parting message: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world.”  WTF?  He may be artificial, but he’s still a kid.  All he can figure is that his mother must not love him because he isn’t real like Martin.  He decides to search for the Blue Fairy so that he can become a real boy like Pinnochio.

Part two, the story takes a turn and we are introduced to (though we don’t thoroughly explore) this “world.”  Mecha exist everywhere, but humans resent their presence.  “Flesh Fairs” are held to destroy and publicly ridicule mecha, led by Lord Johnson-Johnson (Brendan Gleeson).  Human nature hasn’t degraded far enough for them to ridicule an 8-year-old boy, however, when David is under display.

David still searches for the Blue Fairy, still accompanied by Teddy and newly accompanied by Gigolo Joe – Hey Joe what do you know? (Jude Law).  He is led (guided by Dr. Know (Robin Williams)) to an underwater Manhattan.

The end to this film is an end for discussion, and I must admit I have a few issues with it myself.

David is reunited with Dr. Hobby, creator.  We learn that David is the new frontier.  Soon he will be available to anyone who wants a child that can love.  Suddeny, though, David leaves.  Hey Joe what do you know is taken by the police.  David finds the remains of a Pinnochio exhibit on an underwater Coney Island.  David and Teddy stay in the helicopter thing for, wait for it, two thousand years praying to the Blue Fairy.  After those two thousand years – the Mecha of the future and some sort of real Blue Fairy (Meryl Streep) find David and are able to reunite him with his mother for a day only.  The film ends after a perfect day spent with Monica.

I’m not in the habit of writing an entire synopsis for a simple review, that’s not my thing.  But I’ve been thinking about this movie so much that it helps me to sort it all out.  I’m even having difficulty throwing in sarcastic comments, made-up words and dumb jokes I’m thinking about this so hard.  Allow me to interject now with a big WTfreakingF???  Like, seriously.  I don’t even know what to think.  But now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, thanks for listening to that really boring summary instead of our usual review format.  I feel much better now, folks.  Anyway, there are the little things that bug me… for example though I liked Jude Law’s character I found the sexual innuendos unnecessary.  It gave an interesting perspective to David’s unique ability to truly love, but in the end it contributed nothing.  I also wonder what the point is of owning a perpetual 8-year-old.  But those are small things.

Many complain about the end.  Many are convinced that Spielberg took this film a completely different direction than was the intention of Kubrick.  (Spielberg has been quoted to say that this is false, Kubrick’s intentions were met in the finished product.  Apparently).  Granted, I had a WTF moment myself and it took two viewings to really place it but seeing as mecha cannot become human, this is sci-fi not fantasy, I found the ending appropriate.  David found closure.  His wish essentially came true.  He was able to spend a perfect day with his mother and do the things he wanted to.  Who knows what his future holds – he is one of a kind, now.

My issue concerns the almost-end.  Apparently he was led to Manhattan as part of a plan.  Apparently he was special.  Apparently the fellow scientists (including Miles from Lost!)  were dying to meet him.  He was made in the image of Doctor Hobby’s son for crying out loud!  Yet…. nothing else happens?  David… gets left?  Did they search for him?  What would have happened next?  Now do their Davids and Darlenes get shipped to the world?  We are led to this moment and nothing happens.  That threw me.  And really bothers me.

My admiration for this film outweighs my contempt for its faults, and although I was thrown by the ending it adds to my appreciation.  Though I love Spielberg and Sci-Fi always – the selling point is Haley Joel Osment.  He may be the very best child actor to have passed through cinema, and yeah I’m being serious.  It’s not easy for an adult to correctly display artificial emotions, yet he does it without a single misstep.  His eyes tell the story.  His performance could not be duplicated.  If anything, the film is worth it for him.

It is unique.  It is fascinating.  I was invested every second.  As with all works of art, it’s now left to interpretation, so do what you will with the ending.  I, however, highly recommend the film.  It must have been worth it if I’m already eager to watch it again. 🙂 8/10

On a side note – I want a Teddy.  That’s my kind of companion!