JT Film Review

The Troll Hunter (2010)

The Troll Hunter (Trolljergen) Review
Review # 151

4.5/5 stars

Director – André Øvredal

Cast – Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Otto Jespersen, Urmila Berg-Domaas, Hans Morten Hansen, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg

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“Found footage” movies are an interesting little sub-genre, in my opinion, and one that has birthed several notable films lately. Of course there was The Blair Witch Project, but more recently the Paranormal Activity series, [REC], Chronicle, and Cloverfield. This shaky, “documentary” technique give the viewer a great sense of immersion in a world. The world becomes one that we seem to live in, rather than one we are just presented with. You feel it more. It immerses you, and I like that. The Troll Hunter is not as shaky in its camea work as Cloverfield, and I like that too.

Is it just me, or do most “found footage” movies follow a similar basic premise? They all feature a monster or alien being, the effects of which a young person/group of young people have to deal with. [REC] had zombies, Cloverfield had that big alien crab/spider thing. There’s the Blair Witch, of course.

The Troll Hunter has trolls. Big old trolls, the design of which is inspired by old Norwegian and European fairy tale illustrations. The story is not new… An small student film crew are investigating a man suspected of illegally killing bears, but once the talk to him they realize the truth is more sinister. It’s fun too; even the students have a bit of wonder on their faces (mixed in with the fear, to be sure), when they stumble upon a skinny troll as tall as a tree, and looking like a woodcut brought to life. Though the kids are more stumbled upon than stumbling; those trolls are huge. And as they stumble around northern Norway, there are more to be seen. Are there ever… The striking poster image(see above) comes from the final sequence of the movie, and it’s just beautiful.

The trolls themselves are the highlight of the movie, I think. They are of ingenius design, purposefully made to look a bit unreal. They would look out of place in Middle-Earth, for example, with bulbous noses and shocking hair. They look a cross between the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are and the dwarves from Snow White. The special effects work is mostly seamless, though there may be a strange bit of physics work at play from time to time. With a small budget though, what else can you expect?

I do not mean to just compare this movie to others, that would do the film a disservice because it is quite unique in many ways. It is scary when it needs to be, but quite fun in general. It plays with our expectations, and goes farther some times than perhaps it should, but it is all in good fun. See the scene where the students talk to a man in charge of power lines in the north of Norway; power lines that in the film’s universe also act as fences to control trolls. “Doesn’t it surprise you that the power lines just go in circle?”, a student deadpans. “No, not really…” The student nods to the camera, and we gues the line must have been improvised, and we grin.

OVERALL

The Troll Hunter is a fun and spooky little movie, that takes itself just the perfect amount of seriously. I plan on rewatching this movie very soon, it’s one of the best movies I have seen in a while. A real diamond in the rough, it will please found footage fans and the average viewer just as much. Highly recommended.

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TRAILER

“The Troll Hunter” on other websites:

IMDB —– Roten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 13, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

122 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 2

4.5/5 stars

Director – David Yates

Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Cirian Hinds, John Hurt, Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton

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– follows Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

– followed by fan dejection

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Let’s take a moment to review the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the concluding chapter to the series, and as such we can not help but take into account what has come before.

The Potter series was launched in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending which side of the pond you are on.) It continued throughout the decade, attracting more amazing actors (the call sheet reads like a role call of important British actors of the last two decades), and increasing critical acclaim. There are precious few other franchises that can boast such great respect, such box office numbers, such a great cast, and such a large fan base. There are no others that can do that with EIGHT movies. There is certainly a case to be made that Harry Potter is the greatest film franchise of its sort. The characters have becoming pop icons, and, more importantly, have grown significantly throughout the series. After a decade of films, with which many of us have grown up, the final movie is upon us…

…which brings us back to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which of course is the grand finale. It is a very good movie, and one that certainly ends the series on a good note. (It is also the best reviewed movie of the series so far according to Rotten Tomatoes.) In fact it might be my favorite of the series as well, although I do enjoy the underplayed and muted quality of the fifth one, The Order of the Phoenix.

Story-wise, Harry Potter and friends have collected and destroyed half of the “Horcruxes”, items into which ultimate bad guy Voldermort has deposited parts of his soul. They narrow their search to Hogwarts Castle, during which Voldermort essentially lays siege to it. While the walls are crumbling down the Order of the Phoenix, the school’s staff, and students try desperately to mount an adequate defense.

People die here, completing the 180 degree turn the series has made since the first, ever-so-innocent Chris Columbus films. Actually, to do it justice I should say people  drop left, right, and centre. One of the movie’s biggest successes is how it deals with these deaths. We are not shown most of them dying, but only realize they have fallen when we see a lineup of bodies in a makeshift morgue. This under-dramatizes it all wonderfully, and it packs a greater punch because of that. When we are shown a death it surprises us, coming utterly out of the blue (at least to those of us who haven’t read all of the books.) Again, this packs a great punch.

One thing which I will criticize the movie for (and really any of David Yate’s Potter movies) is its random lack of attention to detail in some places. Seemingly important plot points are sometimes rushed over, and it feels like we are being pushed at top speed through the pre-Hogwarts scenes so that we can see the big battle and big revelations that come from it. In fact the first third of the movie feels like that. One sequence in particular, where our heroes break into the vaults of Gringott’s Bank, feels tacked on, rushed, and absolutely inconsequential. It might fit in better if we view Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 as one move, but still, more needed to be explained. They end up stealing a dragon from the bank (as you do) and riding it to Hogwarts, only to randomly abandon it and jump into a lake. Why they do this is never really explained, though it felt like it was because to arrive at Hogwarts with a dragon would present story problems. (Though who among us wouldn’t want to see a Vodlemort vs. Dragon fight, eh?)

The previous films have taken such good care of the characters that I was surprised that the ending felt so rushed as well. The example that is often quoted is that they didn’t want an ending like Return of the King, which is often criticized by other for having “too many endings”. Personally, I would have wanted more resolution. Instead of the movie ending a couple minutes after the big climax, I wanted to see what happens after in the characters lives (and I don’t mean a short “19 years later” epilogue”.) Maybe we could have been shown a glimpse of Hogwarts School being rebuilt? Of the mourning the characters surely must have to go through, what with so many deaths of important characters? It was all over much too quickly.

However most of the movie hits the nail right on the head, especially when the battle starts (which takes up most of the final two thirds of the movie). In Deathly Hallows Part 1 the action was cut much too quickly and was over too quickly to understand what happened half of the time. Here though it is carried out well, not cut too fast, but not too slowly either. (In fact we even see in a few of the dialogue scenes that director David Yates has figured out how to move his camera for good effect, something which he annoyingly seemed to resist in the last two Potter movies.)

When it comes to standout scenes I of course have to mention the “Snape flashback” scene, which fully explains many secrets about our favorite love-to-hate-him character, and does it to great effect. He really becomes, in hindsight, one of the great tragic figures of the series. Another scene I would mention is the “Resurection Stone” scene, in which Potter asks the ghostly figures of his parents and dead friends to stay with him as he goes off to what is surely certain death. It is probably one of the best scenes in the whole series; it is played with real delicacy and a deft touch.

So, Harry Potter has run its course. It has all ended, as the posters have been teasing us. That seems such a strange thing to write. It must feel for most of us who grew up with Harry and his story that a favorite TV show has been cancelled.  I know that’s how it is for me.

And now… we wait for the DVD…

OVERALL

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a great ending to one of the great movie franchises. It is emotionally rich, has very involving action set pieces, and by the end is very satisfying. The cast and crew who have stuck with this series is to be commended; they have created a series that is good in an artisitic sense and in a crowd-pleasing sense. Definitely highly recommended.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 16, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

115 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – David Yates

Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Helen Bonham Carter

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– follows Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

– followed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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Harry Potter continues the fight in the 7th movie of this iconic franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (as the title says) is an adaptation of the first part of the final Harry Potter book. Here we find Harry attempting to track down and destroy 5 “Horcruxes”, which are ordinary objects into which big baddie Voldemort had placed pieces of his soul.

There are three classes of Harry Potter movie, I feel. The first two movies (Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) are well-intentioned, a bit draggy, and dangerously child like. The second category is occupied by the next three movies (Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix). These are lively, energetic, and get suitably dark while still having a touch of magic about them. Which brings us to the final category, that of the brooding, meandering, and character driven Half Blood Prince and  Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

Director David Yates, who made his name on British TV shows such as The Bill and State of Play, has directed all the Potter movies since Order of the Phoenix, and has demonstrated his capable directorial control throughout them. However I think this movie (and Half Blood Prince to some degree as well) comes dangerously close to dragging badly.

At fault is his remarkable insistence on maintaining the same tone throughout the whole movie. Scenes tend not to stand out from one another, but to flow into one another without a change in momentum. All the scenes are good, but they’re generally all the same. This is dangerous here, and would have crippled the movie if not for the wonderfully moody cinematography and the strong characterization by the actors.

Yates also does not pay near enough attention to the action scenes that are  scattered throughout the movie. During his drama scenes we are treated to long, melancholy, slow shots and very deliberate pacing. Unfortunately the action scenes are cut with an almost Bourne-like ferocity. We aren’t ever given a real chance to feel the danger the characters are in.

(As a private rant, WHY THE HELL aren’t we allowed to see what is happening? Sure you get a sensation of speed and danger, but YOU CAN’T SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING! Anyway….)

I realize I am veering close to making this seem like a negative review, and I do not mean it to be so. The cast is all excellent. I would like to echo David Yates statement that the man trio (Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson) were a lucky find. They are mature, reasonably talented, and they bring a clear sense of identity to their roles. An example is the beautiful scene where Hermione and Harry have a lonely  dance in their tent while running from Death Eaters. We know that this is not something Potter would be prone to do, but we see in Radcliffe’s body language what Potter is thinking, and it fits. This was probably my favorite scene in the movie, a great dialogue free little character bit. There are many such great little sequences here, but unfortunately they then slide into another one of the countless long-shot- filled, melancholy little melodramatic scenes that the movie is filled to the brim with. Don’t get me wrong, I love scenes such as that, but not when you build your whole movie out of them. Its just that they are used to excess here.

Alan Rickman is enjoyable as ever with his juicy role as Snape, and Ralph Fiennes was perfectly (maybe too-perfectly?) cast as Voldermort. David O’Hara, Steffan Rhodri, and Sophie Thompson have a great sequence where the main trio disguise themselves as them, and Toby Jones makes a triumphant return to the role of Dobby (who now looks much more convincing than his appearance in Chamber of Secrets.) The whole cast do well in their scenes, many of which actually add to their characterization, where many of their scenes in the preceding movies show them token support.

OVERALL

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a wonderful little film buried in a slightly too drawn out film. Most or even all of the scenes are wonderful, but they tend to have a similar tone all throughout. The character work is great, and the special effects are as good as always. A bit more variety would have helped, but this movie remains a solid entry into a great series. I think that it will flow better when seen from the perspective of the second movie. All in all I recommend this, but don’t expect a film as good as Prisoner of Azkaban or Yates’ ownOrder of the Phoenix.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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November 28, 2010 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

98 – Twilight: Eclipse (2010)

Twilight: Eclipse REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – David Slade

Cast – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli

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– follows Twilight: New Moon

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The Twilight franchise has of course inundated our culture in a way not seen since the Harry Potter series. Team Jacob or Team Edward have become catchphrases, signifying which of the two male leads you think the lead female, Bella, should end up with. Now I have never seen the first two movies, nor have I read the books, so this review is from a Twilight outsider. Now, to get right to it.

The first two “acts” of the movie are slow and a bit unfocused. Each and every scene and line is treated as if it is the most important part of the movie. Vampires stoicly recite, and werewolves passionately overact, with poor old Bella in between them. Bella is played by Kristen Stewart, who does her best with the material (and even elevates it considerably), but she can not in the end save it from its navel gazing. Robert Pattinson as Edward the vampire reminds me somewhat of Orlando Bloom as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Both have matinee great looks, both are very wooden actors, but both of them are still oddly suited to their characters.

Director David Slade (previous credits including 30 Days of Night) does deliver in the final act however. There are even a couple quite good scenes. One has Edward and Jacob trying to talk over their differences (and similarities), and is edited, acted, and even written well. The battle at the end is good as well, and the concluding scene is touching and not without a quiet sense of humour. The CGI is adequate, but not astounding.

All this is good but Eclipse can’t really get over its opening acts. If they had been written or performed at different levels (so to speak) it may have gotten by. Instead we are given the same emotional pitch all throughout. The actors (with the exception of Kristen Stewart) don’t seem to know how to read beneath their lines. They instead read each line straight, right off of the page. Subtext be darned.

OVERALL

Twilight: Eclipse has a decent lead in Stewart, but she fights an uphill battle with the rest of the cast, who deliver their lines dryly or with over the top sincerity. The tone is too constant, but the third act of the movie does start to deliver some decent material (at least decent compared to the first two acts). I was wavering between a 2.5 and a 3 out of 5 rating, but in the end went with the lower score, mainly because of the unfocused and fairly dull first two-thirds. I think Twilight fans (who have more invested in the characters) will get a bit more out of it than I did.

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TRAILER

“Twilight: Eclipse” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 14, 2010 Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

97 – The Last Airbender (2010)

The Last Airbender REVIEW

1.5/5 stars

Director – M. Night Shyamalan

Cast – Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel

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The Last Airbender is adapted from an animated show with heavy Asian influences which aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon. Director M. Night Shyamalan wrote, produced, and directed the movie.

Shyamalan has professed to be a fan of the series. Frankly, I can’t see how anyone with even a passing interest in any TV show could create a movie which treats its material in such a dull and lifeless manner. The dialogue is awfully wooden, painfully expositional, and repetitive. The actors do the best they can, but I don’t think Laurence Olivier himself could have spiced this up or made it feel natural. Even the music, composed by James Newton Howard, is derivative and lifeless.

Despite what others say, I think the CGI was well implemented here. It was not extraordinary, but it blended well with the natural environment. The ships of the villains, the Fire Nation, were gorgeous to look at. I found myself waiting for their next appearance, hoping for one of those spinning shots, as done from a helicopter.

That, of course, is a sign that the movie is incredibly dull. The ironic thing is that the potentially most interesting parts were skipped over, replaced with dull narration. If I had to hear one more example of “…and they became great friends.” or “He then trained in the art of blablabla, becoming well versed…” I was going to leave the theatre.

The actors, though doing their best, are generally miscast, and not because of their ethnicities. Cliff Curtis, who is rapidly becoming the go-to guy for random ethnic parts, is dull as the head honcho of the Fire Nation, and Noah Ringer comes across as a chubby, whiny little brat rather than the supposed saviour of the world. The only actor I can say I enjoyed was Aasif Mandvi. He appears regularly on The Daily Show, and is mainly known as a comedian. Here he plays a general of the evil Fire Nation, and we get from him the sense of a more rounded character. Everyone else seems relegated to “Glowering Villain”, “Youthful Hero” or “Conflicted Bad Guy”. With a few more natural and rounded performances such as his we might have gotten a better movie. As long as the script was better. And the pacing. And the music. And the direction…

OVERALL

The Last Airbender is a dull, derivative, and badly paced. The acting is lazy and the fight scenes are barely adequate. The biggest sin is the screenplay however, which reeks of wooden dialogue and painful exposition. Where has the Shyamalan of The Sixth Sense and Signs gone? Will he ever return?

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TRAILER

“The Last Airbender” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 8, 2010 Posted by | 1.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

76 – Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Tim Burton

Cast Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Tim Pigott-Smith, Paul Whitehouse

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Alice in Wonderland is adapted from one of the best loved children’s books of all time of the same name, by Lewis Carroll. It is the latest of many adaptations, and as such its director, Tim Burton, recognized that a new approach needed to be taken to the classic tale. There is no point, he rightly thought, in merely repeating the work of others.

Burton decided to set the story some years after the books, and now Alice is in her late teens and her family is trying to marry her off to a horrid, snobby, snot of a boy. She is swept off by the White Rabbit again, who has been trying for years to get her back to Wonderland, where she must fight the legendary Jabberwocky and the evil Red Queen.

The cast performs admirably for the most part, especially for a movie shot almost entirely against green screen. The one problem in the cast is surprisingly Johnny Depp, whose Mad Hatter is all over the place, and not in the right way. First of all his accent changes dramatically from whiny and effeminate to butch and Scottish from time to time, and that is never explained. I got the sense that Depp is running out of weird characterizations, and decided to go with a mish-mash of Sweeney Todd and Willy Wonka.

The bright spots, acting-wise, are probably Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, as the White Queen and Red Queen respectively. Anne is wonderfully dotty and “ditsy” with her over-the-top and purposefully on-the-nose portrayal of the do-gooder sister of Helena’s evil Red Queen, whose enlarged head dominates any scene she is in.

But despite the consistent work by a cast of Burton regulars, the story is the real let down of the movie. Despite a fabulous array of characters (most of which go horribly under-used) the story is the old well worn tale of a girl forced to find her true self by going on a journey to defeat an evil monarch in a fantasy land. It all leads up to a battle, where all the old clichés are trotted out on full display. Alice is told she alone can fight the Jabberwocky, and with no help (Why? Especially when it turns out to be SO easy to kill…), she finds the strength to turn down her snobby wannabe-fiance, etc etc. This makes the whole thing SO dull, SO boring. We have heard the sage words of advice, we have seen the plot SO MANY TIMES before. It is a pity Burton’s wonderful visual creativity doesn’t also extend to his story telling.

It is an old familiar complaint, to be sure, but a trend that is becoming more and more obvious. We can cry out for inventive story telling all we want, but nothing happens. Why? Because to be honest, the average moviegoer hasn’t seen as many movies as most reviewers, and thus a) doesn’t recognize old and overused stories, or b) are just looking for a little relaxation, and don’t want quality art. They want entertainment. All we can do (as people who have the audacity to think we know anything about movies) is write reviews for each other, and then go watch the movies we actually like. For as long, at least, as they keep making them.

OVERALL

Tim Burton is wonderfully inventive with his visual design, but the lackluster story is told with such boredom and with such a lack of energy that it hurts the movie irreparably, in my opinion. The cast is good, but none really excel. We still need our definitive Alice adaptation. Maybe sometime, someone will get it right.

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TRAILER

“Alice in Wonderland” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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March 10, 2010 Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

58 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – Chris Columbus

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, John Cleese, Sean Biggerstaff

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– follows Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

– followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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harry_potter_and_the_chamber_of_secretsHarry Potter returns in the second adaptation of J. K. Rowling popular childrens books. The first movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was extremely succesful box office-wise, and was more or less successful as a movie.

This sequel is almost as good as the original. There are some great sequences, and a couple of new characters. The most notable new character is Gilderoy Lockhart, a poncy, pompus prat played admirably by Kennth Branagh. He carries any scene he is in, and thankfully is given much to do. We are also introduced to Lucius Malfoy, the father of Hogwarts bully Draco Malfoy. He will have much to do in the later movies, which again is good as he makes a great villian.

This is Richard Harris’ last movie in the role of Dumbeldore. He died a month after the movie was released. Afterwards he was replaced by Michael Gambon, for the better I believe.

Lack of energy is what almost does this movie in in the long run (and it is a VERY long run, or seems so). In the first movie we were exposed to the wonder of Hogwarts and the world of magic, but in the second movie all that is over with and Chris Columbus seems to be thinking “Allright, lets just tell the story and get this darn thing over with.” But we don’t want that, we want a well done story that tells us more about these characters, or goes new directions with tone, etc. The later movies do this. This does not.

However as I said, there are some good sequences, and the Hogwarts world is thrilling. The plot leaves a bit to be desired, but it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the film in the moment; most of the nit picky details are thought of in hindsight.

OVERALL

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a passable movie, and it should be seen if you are a Potter completist. It could have been better, but it still worth a watch, but mainly for what it is a part of, not on its own merits.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 26, 2009 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

57 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – Chris Columbus

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, Ian Hart, Warwick Davis, John Hurt, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, John Cleese

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– followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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harrypotterandthesorcerersstoneIt was really only a matter of time before the best-selling Harry Potter books were turned into a film series. The series was shopped around for a while, with names such as Terry Gilliam (Monty Python alumni and director of Brazil, among others), Steven Speilberg (Schindler’s List, Indiana Jones, etc.), and even Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Mosquito Coast, Witness) thrown about. Speilberg even wanted an animated movie with Haley Joel Osment as Harry Potter’s voice. Eventually Chris Columbus was decided on. He has directed Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, and wrote The Gremlins.

Now I’ll admit to not being the biggest Columbus fan, but this movie actually took me by surprise. I had always heard that the first two films of the Harry Potter series were the weakest, that they were the most child-like and, well, they were just bad. However while I still think the first two are definitely the worst of the 6 (soon to be 7 AND 8! Woot!), I was pleasantly surprised. The world presented in the movie is unique, yet grounded; and the characters are, for the most part, interesting without leaning towards cliche.

There are exceptions of course; Richard Harris’ Dumbledore is quite dissapointing. Richard Harris was great as frail old mentor types (see Gladiator for evidence of this), but Albus Dumbledore is a character of wit, charm, and power. Due to Harris’ unfortunate passing, he was replaced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Michael Gambon, who played the role with much greater sucess.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, along with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Hermione and Ron, are great in their roles, and we see them getting better and better with each harrypotter1passing movie. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape was an inspired choice for the role. He is one of the best things about the movie, all in all.

The ending of the movie is the biggest problem. It is formulaic, illogical, and opens up too many plot holes. The series also treats the dangerous elements of the story too frivolously, which does not mesh with the later movies at all. However, that could be said to be a problem with the books as well, so I shouldn’t quibble too much. The series was meant to get more adult-like as its readers grew older, so this represents a younger readership.

OVERALL

The Harry Potter franchise is certainly off to a good start here. While some aspects leave a bit to be desired, the good definitely outweighs the bad. The cast is top notch, and the effects are as well. This is a good start to a great series.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 26, 2009 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

54- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Alfonso Cuarón

Cast – Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Griffiths, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Julie Christie, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Tom Felton

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– follows Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

– followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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prisonerofazkaban

Christopher Columbus (director of the previous Harry Potter movies, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) hands over the reigns to acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron. He directed movies such as Y tu mamá también and after Harry Potter he turned out the definitive (in my opinion) dystopian sci-fi movie, Children of Men. It just so happens he has turned out arguably the best Harry Potter movie to date as well.

While the first two Potter films tended to follow the books to a tee, this one takes a few liberties. This gives the movie a sense of speed that is certainly different than the pace of the first two, whose tone was more of a gradual building up to the climax. And while I appreciated that aspect of the first two, this movie certainly makes it own approach work. This film is more lively and more dark, and there is a sense that real harm could happen to the kids here, rather than the more over the top and child-friendly attitude Chris Columbus took.

This is not to say that the movie is all doom and gloom. In fact there is quite a bit of humour throughout. A scene in the beginning in particular, where Harry is picked up by a wizard’s-only double decker bus, has more wit, charm, and thrills than other blockbusters we could mention. The plot has a few twists to it, which keeps us on our toes as to what will happen next.

This is the first time in the series where I truly felt for Harry Potter. His loneliness is brought out well here (both at his relatives home and at Hogwarts, where he is seen as an outsider, and where he must deal with troubles far beyond his maturity level).

harry_potter_and_prisoner_of_azkaban_004The younger actors really come into their own in this installment; Radcliffe is a strangely empathic actor, and Emma Watson starts to feel a bit more natural. However I’ve always found Rupert Grint to be the best actor of the main three, and here I see nothing to change that. This is also the first movie where Michael Gambon replaces Richard Harris as Professor Dumbldore, due to Harris’ death. In my opinion, Michael Gambon is a much better Dumbledore. Harris played it too stiffly, and due to his illness he always seemed that if he had to conjure up anything serious he’d croak. Gambon on the other hand is energetic, serious, and down to earth.

The only real problem I have with the movie is really a fault with the book; and that is the ending. It involves the trickiest and some would say lamest of plot devices, time travel. What always gets me when such a device is used, is… if they can travel through time, why not go back to when the villain was born and kill him? There are just so many ways that time travel could be used in later or earlier books; it raises too many questions. It’s as if Rowling used it here and then forgot it. All-in-all, time travel just opens too many plot holes.

OVERALL

Alfonso Cuaron brings us a sharp, witty, dark, and emotionally involving movie here. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is arguably the best adaptation of any of the Harry Potter books so far. The three main actors do their best work so far here. The effects work is amazing, but doesn’t overwhelm the story. This was the first Potter movie I ever saw, and I doubt if it’s greatness will be beaten. Highly recommended.

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TRAILER

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 7, 2009 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy | , , , , | 1 Comment

50 – Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Joe Dante

Cast – Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold

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— followed by Gremlins 2

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gremlins001-150-6191Steven Spielberg produces and Joe Dante directs Gremlins, a strange movie about little savage lizard/gnome/gremlin creatures who essentially destroy a town one winter holiday. The story focuses on a teenage boy, Billy, whose inventor father purchases a furry gremlin for him for Christmas. The boy tries to take care of them, but somehow each of the Three Rules for Gremlin Care are broken, to disastrous results.

The main problem with this movie is that it isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. It seems marketed as a family friendly Christmas flick, yet contains numerous frightening scenes and gory moments. The tone of the movie is just never decided on. The script, by Christopher Colombus, is also quite vague when it comes to certain characters, almost as if they aren’t fleshed out enough. One character in particular, Billy’s dad, is set up to be a main character of the movie but then vanishes essentially for the whole second half of the movie, only to reappear at the end.

The movie is a mess, yes, but it does have a few good moments. A very few. One scene has a girl talking about her fathers death, it is tragic and yet not without a certain dark humor. If the rest of the movie had stuck to that tone we would have had quite a different film, perhaps a good one. As it is though… meh.

OVERALL

This movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. The writer Chris Columbus (often criticized for his tendency to be tepid and “by-the-numbers”)) does nothing to give this film any splash. The plot may be slightly original, but the tone is pure Hollywood sap.

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TRAILER

“Gremlins” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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September 27, 2009 Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 1980-1989 | , , , , | Leave a comment