Category Archives: harry potter
I just watched most of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. I had to turn away. NBC, in the form of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, destroyed any enjoyment I may have gotten from the show.
The opening ceremonies were amazing, and fun, and a spectacle to behold. I amused myself thinking that this is what we would get if the UK ever got off its butt and actually won Eurovision for a change. Yeah, it was that kind of spectacle.
There was a battle between Voldemort and Mary Poppins, a jab at America and our lousy healthcare system, appearances by Mr. Bean, JK Rowling, Daniel Craig and The Queen, tributes to the world wide web and children’s literature, and a touching love story told through the history of British pop music. We even had a three second audio cameo of the TARDIS sound during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like I said, amazing.
The problem was NBC had Viera and Lauer over-explaining everything to the audience at home. This isn’t the freaking Rose Bowl Parade, and we are not dull children. We have brains, and failing that, Google, we don’t need you to explain it all. I don’t know what shocked me more – the things they did not know or what they thought we did not know. I know I will never watch any program with them involved again. Even with thousands of Twitter folks telling them to shut up live, they continued their idiotic banter.
A note to the folks at NBC who put this together… Do you ever wonder why the rest of the world hates the United States? Tonight, it’s because of you.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~ As a kid growing up in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes was very important to me, and probably to most kids of my generation. I remember asking to stay up to watch the movies on CBS, and their creaky continuity. I remember the lame TV show. I remember the girl across the street who got the Mego PotA treehouse for a gift. It’s instilled in my childhood, like the “Brady Bunch,” Marathon bars, and the “Six Million Dollar Man,” PotA was the 1970s.
All that said, you can imagine my disappointment with the Tim Burton remake, and especially that effed up ending swiped from a bad Kevin Smith comic book. When I heard they were making a prequel to it, my heart sank. A prequel to a bad movie is never a good idea, and besides, let’s get real, the original prequels to PotA weren’t that great either.
In truth, prequels rarely work, especially when we already know the story. Viewers might just give a pass to a prequel because it’s not going to tell them anything they didn’t already know. I already know the origins of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, you don’t need to tell me again. In most cases they aren’t even needed, and sometimes even hurt the property. Case in point – Star Wars.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised me though. It hooked me first with an intriguing trailer before throwing the title at me. I wanted to see it before I even knew it was PotA. Finally, I’ve got hold of it on DVD. Let’s see if my instincts were right.
From the start, there are homages , both verbal and visual, to the original series of movies. Much like the preview, the movie itself grabbed me right away. James Franco, in less than annoying mode, is a geneticist searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s, testing on apes, and inadvertently succeeds with a chimp named Caesar that he raises himself. John Lithgow gives a wonderful performance as Franco’s afflicted father as well. Andy Serkis does his usual as does Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton, so much for typecasting.
If you know the mythos, you can connect the dots, but there is still a strong emotional story here, not just a this-is-how-we-got-here vibe. The CGI effects make for the needed realism of the tale. While the ape masks and make-up of the original PotA were state of the art for the time, sadly now, they are just, well, ape masks and make-up. These apes look real and emote real, it’s very stunning. In fact it’s a tribute to the power of CGI done well that the scenes of Caesar and other apes are so hypnotic.
I really dug this flick. When all hell really breaks loose, and the apes begin their ‘rise,’ I was ten years old again. Yeah, it’s that good.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ~ One of the things I like most about this movie is that it gets right down to it. There is no wasting time with introductions and what-has-gone-befores, it just jumps right in where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 left off, and let’s get real – isn’t that what any movie with the words ‘part 2’ in its title should do?
This flick has already, before the weekend is over, broken box office records, so I think it’s safe to say most of the viewing public knows the score and is there to see how it all ends up. It’s a pet peeve of mine. All that’s needed is a good story, we don’t need every character’s entire background. And don’t even get me started on superhero origin stories. We don’t need to know it every time.
Our hero and his two sidekicks, looking every bit of late late teens and eight movies, move the search for horcruxes and the battle with Voldemort to Hogwarts. There’s a lot of bloodshed and lost friends but we knew that, at least those of us who read the book. And that’s another thing, not that I mind it – there’s not a lot here I remember from the book. It could be my age, and my memory, but then again, for me, when the movies have gone into non-book territory it has always worked well.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the way white afterlife scenes. They kinda reminded me of The Matrix and PBS’ The Lathe of Heaven, and not in a good way. The Harry Potter-is-dead scenes went on a bit too long for my tastes, and while subtle in the books, I thought the Harry-as-Christ analogy was hammered a bit too hard here.
All that said, I liked the movie a lot. It was everything it should have been and more. I loved Neville Longbottom in every scene he appeared in, and wished he and Luna had been in the epilogue. It’s a shame it’s over, for now. Highly recommended.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ~ I’m really not sure how folks with no background in the books, or these characters can walk into this film and understand everything. It just feels to me like the books are needed as a primer, especially here and with the last film as well. Props to the franchise that so many folks are familiar enough with the Harry Potter mythos to make this flick successful. I can only imagine the need for Cliff’s Notes will only get stronger with Part 2 of this installment come summer.
Now what I liked about the last film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, that the filmmakers veered from the book and showed us new scenes and added bonuses not seen in the source material, is actually what I didn’t like about this one. I always like when the ‘real’ Muggle world is brought more into Harry’s wizarding world. Scenes of Harry, Ron and Hermione in London and listening to Muggle music and pop culture are always welcome. The other things are unwelcome for me.
I am thinking specifically of the dance between Harry and Hermione to Nick Cave’s “O Children” as most disturbing. Despite her spurning ‘the chosen one’ for Ron, the dance is quite intimate, and the further mention that the two spent weeks alone together – anyone who hasn’t read the books might surmise that Harry and Hermione did get together at some point – especially when seeing what the horcrux tries to make Ron believe later. It’s a muddy road for Potter neophytes, and I have to wonder if the filmmakers were playing with that very notion.
The movie continues the story well, and unfortunately ends on a down note, almost similar to the end of The Empire Strikes Back, both a defeat and a cliffhanger. Whether I was invested or not, I would want to see the final installment. The actors continue to hone and improve their characters and performances. And the animated sequence depicting the tale of the Deathly Hallows is unique and intriguing. Must see for Potterphiles, but maybe not for those unfamiliar.
Clash of the Titans ~ Okay, I was all ready. I had watched (and reviewed) the original Clash of the Titans earlier this week, dinner plans were made and tickets purchased ahead of time – I was psyched to be knocked out by state of the art 3-D effects and mythic storytelling. Man, did I have the wrong number. At least dinner was good.
The concepts of remake and source material seemed to have been thrown out right away as this new version bore only a vague resemblance to either the 1981 film and even less so to actual mythology. I always thought that the tale of Perseus and Andromeda was one of the great romances of Greek mythology, but apparently somebody forgot.
That said, it was quite a spectacle, had the filmmakers actually allowed us to see any of it. There is a lot of fast motion camerawork and superfast quick cutting so little of the special effects are actually seen. They did however make sure that every time Sam Worthington as Perseus struck a fighting pose or jumping in the air, we saw it in slow motion. For a special effects movie, they sure didn’t want us to see those effects.
The Kraken, which it should be noted is not a creature of Greek mythology at all, was one of the big reasons I wanted to see this film. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows I’m a sucker for giant monsters, and the Kraken as shown in the previews had great potential. However, the cold hard fact is that that monster really only appears in the film for a few minutes. Quite honestly, if you’ve seen the preview, you’ve seen pretty much all the Kraken you’re going to see. Shame, it could’ve made the difference in a bad film and a bad film with great special effects.
Sam Worthington is adequate as the reluctant (here at least) Perseus. Liam Neeson makes a better Zeus than Sir Laurence Olivier, but not much better. I do like the blinding shining armor though, even its gleam fades as the film goes on. Whether this is on purpose or not, it’s disappointing. This new version gives us a new villain in Ralph Fiennes’ Hades. I almost didn’t recognize him after so many turns as Voldermort, this different make-up again made him into another person almost. Shame his special effects (these we got to see) overshadowed his acting.
Polly Walker, notoriously Atia of the Julii in HBO’s “Rome,” is wasted in what should be the rich role of Cassiopia. She gets barely a few moments screen time, and she could have not only been brilliant but saved the film. Similarly cast aside is Alexa Davalos as Andromeda. But someone behind the scenes decided to ignore one of mythology’s greatest stories and do something else. Instead we get Io as the romantic pairing to Perseus, whose background is rewritten drastically for the film. She is played by the beautiful and charismatic Gemma Arterton, one of the highlights of the film.
The cast was filled out by character actors playing the traditional sidekick template roles, seemingly from the old Sinbad films. There was the fat guy, the comic relief and the mysterious stranger – likable all, but again, like the special effects, we never got to see enough of them.
All in all, I thought it was much better than the original, but that’s not saying much considering how much I was disappointed by the 1981 film. It felt there was conscious effort throughout to be different from the original, just for the sake of being different – Pegasus is black not white, pretty Medusa not ugly, etc. And there’s also a fun cameo by Bubo the mechanical owl that did make me smile more than anything the blasted thing did in the original film.
The musical score by Ramon Djawadi is powerful and another highlight of the movie, so good I’m thinking of buying the soundtrack. I did wonder why this film was in 3-D however as there wasn’t much that needed 3-D, except to hike the already elevated ticket price. Worth seeing, but wait for DVD or OnDemand.
The Academy Award nominations for this year were announced this morning. You can view them here.
A couple weeks back, I posted some of my guesses about what would be nominated at my Twitter. I was right on with a few and dead wrong with a few – and of course there are some outright exclusions and some WTFs that made it.
I’ll post my thoughts later. For the moment, though, enjoy the nominations…
The sixth film in the Harry Potter series, unlike the previous ones, is only loosely based on the book “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, just a departure from previous entries. I think perhaps it is a wise choice seeing how the last two films have noticeably suffered by leaving elements from the books out. Half-Blood Prince services its source material well, telling the integral story and also keeping the crucial character elements. Anything that was jettisoned is forgivable here.
Daniel Radcliffe shows off his acting chops well, except for being a bit goofy (although it works) while under the influence of liquid luck, and is amazing to watch. All of the teen leads, especially Rupert Gint and Emma Watson (the latter sadly having little to really do this time out), also show their improvement over the years. I’ve never been a fan of Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, and Jim Broadbent also disappoints but the rest of the regular cast turns in great performances no matter how small or large their parts are in this one. I like Tom Felton a lot but his Draco Malfoy feels flat to me except for when he actually physically confronts Harry. Their chemistry is hot, when they’re apart – not so much.
Speaking of hot, most of the film is thriving and thrumming with sexual energy and tension along with a good portion of teen angst. The character interplay in Half-Blood Prince is a fun game of who likes who and who should be with who. Throw in a charm potion or two and hilarity ensues. There were lots of little winks at the audience who have already read the books and knows who ends up with whom. It makes the film fun, especially good when the world it happens in is so dark and on the brink.
The fun doesn’t last forever as the final two acts take a turn into sudden horror and then melodrama. The same voices in that packed midnight theatre audience that were giggling over the young romance games are also the ones sobbing toward the end. It’s a powerful emotional rollercoaster. I enjoyed the film a lot, and didn’t mind one bit the deviation from the print version. And I’m looking forward to the final two installments, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will be split into two segments, to be released some time in the next two years.