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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

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I swear, if you say this one is boring – this conversation is going NO FURTHER.

Also, sorry for the big gap in my reviews. I know you’re at the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen to Harry.

If you thought shiz was going down in the last movie – just imagine the wizarding world without Dumbledore.  No more Hogwarts feasts.  No more Quidditch matches.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s life at the wizarding school is a thing of the past, a fond memory to keep them going through the wilderness.  They’re big kids now, in a big world.  One can only hope that they learned enough to survive.

There’s a full-on war, here.  Even the Ministry of Magic is taken over by Death Eaters early in the film.  It’s up to Harry (and his pals) to off Voldemort… but it’s a little more difficult than just marching up to his front door and Avada-Kedavraing him (not that that’s even easy).  Turns out Voldemort has taken every measure possible to ensure his immortality by splitting his soul seven times.  These bits of his soul are stored in Horcruxes, little dark-magic objects that can only be destroyed with toys like goblin swords, or basilisk fangs.  Annnd they have to destroy these before they can even THINK about killing the big V with no idea where they are or what they are.  Dumbledore’s left behind a few clues for the teens to start on their quest… but that’s hardly enough to get ’em rolling.  So they spend a lot of time wandering around in forests and on cliff-sides pondering their options.  Don’t worry, they only understand a little bit more than the audience does.  Meanwhile, Harry catches wind that Voldy is searching for the Deathly Hallows, objects of power that date back to an old legend turned kids story.  This is well explained in the film with an excellent, artistic animated scene.

I went and saw this at midnight when it was first released a year ago.  Due to some slight confusion about assigned seating, I abandoned my post in the very front row to watch it on the stairs towards the top.  Paying no heed to the parents’ disapproving looks to the fire hazard I had made myself, it was worth the stiff back.  I saw it with three other friends, two of whom were hardly fond of the slower-paced take on the epic series.  Like, I get it… but I don’t get it.  Maybe it’s just because it follows the book so well.  And, granted, the first half of the book isn’t as exciting as the second half either.  So maybe that’s the only reason I liked it so much (it’s true, you don’t even want to try and watch this if you don’t know your HP trivia).  But even with the “boring” bits, I feel like it’s hardly fair to say it’s a bad movie for that.  I know the book back to front, and this captured the, well, boredom and claustrophobia – and I think that’s awesome!  It’s moody, gritty, and emotional.  So no, I don’t want to have the “boring” argument with you.

Whether it was luck or pure intuition, how fortunate was the Harry Potter series to have three kid actors grow into competent and attractive adults?  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and especially Emma Watson could not be better as the fearsome threesome.  It’s too bad that Bonnie Wright as Ginny couldn’t amount to as much.  Their emotional maturity is especially noticeable during the restless, unsuccessful hunts in the wilderness.  With only one Horcrux found and no way to destroy it, their spirits are low and their tempers are high.  Ron Weasley, a character that is never as fully developed in the books as Harry and Hermione are, has his moments of frustration, but more moments of growth.  This, coupled with Half Blood Prince, is Grint’s best performance.

Watson got her character ages ago, and Radcliffe’s been there for a couple movies too.

The endless journey is important bonding time for the kid-heroes.  Harry and Hermione, obviously, grow closer (and I, for one, adored the dancing scene).  Their relationship is so tender, only tapping into romanticism.  Through the thick and thin of Ron’s jealousy issues, they grow to be so united.  With every other actor giving nothing more than cameo appearances, it was important to get that element right.

David Yates, who has had charge of the last two HP films, has the feel of these books down.  You can tell that he actually read them.  There stand Harry and Hermione at the foot of his parent’s graves on Christmas Day.  The snow is falling in time to the tears that trickle down Harry’s face.  The tender moment doesn’t last long though, before Hermione notices the creepy, cloaked woman spying on them.  The following scene at Godric’s Hollow is so eery, and so deliciously spooky.  Few words are spoken, the music speaks for itself.  Once things started getting down and dirty and snakes were jumping out of cloaks, I think I literally bit my tongue through.  Just like I did when I read that passage in the book.  That’s what I call a good adaptation.

Also, the scenery is consistently breathtaking.  Apparating is kinda like insta-hiking.  You get to the best part first.  It’s unfortunate that the kids can hardly appreciate the beauty surrounding them, their thoughts are with their loved ones who could, like, die.  Understandable.

When things pick up, they pick up.  The beginning chase and the concluding escape from Malfoy Manor are both exhilarating and visually stunning.  These wizard duels are getting faster paced and much more swordsman-like.  As for other characters… that Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) is still a mean B, huh?  Dobby (Toby Jones – sadly absent from every other movie except Chamber of Secrets) gets to be hero one last time with some seriously hard-nosed toughness, as well as heart-wrenching loyalty and goodness.  Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) two seconds are forgettable.  Alan Rickman had regrettably little to do, but that will be amended in the last installment.  Ray Fiennes was excellent as always, he too with limited screen time.

I could have used a bit more Dumbledore-history, but that’s expendable information (though interesting).  What matters to me is the feel of the film, and that perfectly imitated JK Rowling’s creation. 7/10

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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

Quiz Show (1994)

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It’s the late ’50s and geeky Herb Stempel (John Turturro) is on a winning streak with popular quiz show Twenty One.  Quick rundown of the show:  There are two contestants, one returning champ and one unlucky opponent.  They meet briefly with host Jack Barry (Christopher McDonald) at the start of the show before being separated and sent to their own hot ‘n’ sweaty isolation booths.  During play neither contestant can hear the opposition nor see their total points.  Barry presents the category for the round and each player takes turns answering questions from that category.  They may choose any point value from 1-11 and the first to twenty-one wins.  It should also be noted that the questions, when not in play, are kept in a secure bank vault.

But when ol’ Herbie stops bringing in the ratings, producers Dan Enright (David Paymer) and Albert Freedman (Hank Azaria) search for a new champ.  New contestant: earnest lookin’ college professor Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) son of Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield) a renowned poet.  To ensure the smooth departure of Herbert and the big arrival of Charles, they ask Herbert to take a dive.  Not just take a dive, but fail miserably and embarrassingly.  Q: Academy Award winner for Best Picture 1955? A: On the Waterfront, Herb must reply – even though Marty is one of his favorite movies.  Why would asking Herbert to lose of his own accord even be applicable?  Oh wait, turns out those questions aren’t quite so sacred as the public thought and turns out that Stempel has been fed the answers all along.  He reluctantly agrees to bow out, but only if Enright will extend further television opportunities outside of the quiz show.

They try to offer the same gig to Charles… but this too-good-to-be-true hero has a conscience, darn it.  However, regardless to Charles’ initial aversion to cheating, they plant a question that Charles already knew the answer to.  And he knew that they knew that he knew the answer.  It’s a lot harder to exercise integrity on National TV, eh?  He answers correctly.  The new champ has been named and Charlie reaches stardom in the blink of an eye.  The public adore this squeaky clean, ideal, all-American man.  Herb disappears into the void of obscurity.  Somewhere between wishing for a new car, wanting to getting his teeth capped (he probably should have taken care of that one), and hoping that Enright would hold tight on his end of the deal he should have realized it wasn’t the greatest idea to bet his money away.  Complaining to your former boss will only get you so far.  No one cares about Herb Stempel anyway, he’s old news.

Then Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow), a young but talented lawyer, comes along.  After hearing rumors of rigged game shows, he opens an investigation of Twenty One.  He meets with Stempel, he meets with NBC producers, he develops a friendship with Van Doren.  Turns out he’s stumbled on dynamite.

I totally dig this kind of stuff.  I feel about this the same way that I feel about Shattered Glass. It doesn’t just document an interesting scandal, it captures a time in history.  “It’s television.”  The controversy was certainly enough to keep our attention but director Robert Redford took it a step further and showed us a life.  It delves into Van Doren’s relationship with his father (ahh, Paul Scofield!) as well as interesting points on Jew/Gentile winners and losers.

Quiz Show was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  Here are what make it the bee’s knees: The acting is spectacular.  Hank Azaria and David Paymer are my two particular favorite performances but the selling ticket is Paul Scofield, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Ralph Fiennes should also be credited who managed to embody this character with style, likeability, and emotional depth.  Also, have you ever seen so many cameos?  Martin Scorcese?  Barry Levinson?  Douglas McGrath?  Even if the acting wasn’t solid, this sharp script could make Megan Fox seem almost credible.  Lastly, you can almost feel Robert Redford walking through the set.  He leaves his mark in the most positive light.  It’s a film that wouldn’t be the same without his magical touch.  The only negative thing I have to say is perhaps geared towards its long running time.

It’s thought provoking and intelligent – a must see. 9/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm