Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beautiful and Poignant

It's been a bit of a crazy week so far and I realized I had yet to give any real closure to the Harry Potter series I started a while back. Over the course of the past few days I have seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince three times, and I plan to see it a fourth, and my thoughts on the film are utter amazement.

The latest Potter film is definitely the best film I've seen thus far this year, but not only that I think it might just be one of the finer Potter films to date. Prepare for an emotional thrill ride from start to finish.

This latest installment feels completely different than any of the others that have come before it, while still noticeably taking place in the same world. The story is more mature this time around, dark, but also charming.

The film downplays the epic scope of the wizarding world and takes a deeper look at the characters rather than relying on big flashy effects, and that is where the film finds its strength. David Yates, who has improved greatly since the fifth Potter, has done exactly what Alfonso Cuaron did in the third film, he made you feel for the characters and connect with them almost as well as you do when you're reading the books. Yates and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel give the film a distinctive visual style that is so beautiful but haunting at the same time; every image looks like a wondrous painting or some other beautiful piece of art. Nicholas Hooper has improved big time this go around in regards to the musical score, bringing back a sense of fantasticalness that the music in the previous two films lacked. Course the acting in this film is probably the finest from this ensemble yet. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, and Jim Broadbent all in particular stand out upon first inspection, but nearly every single actor within the film turns in a fine, nuanced performance.

This particular Potter film plays up the comedy, but is also probably the most dramatic yet, making shifts from comedy to drama in just a blink of an eye, but thanks to Yates skillfull direction the film flows beautifully. As I said the comedy is played up this time about, nearly all in the cast get to ham it up at one point or another, in particular Rupert Grint under the influence of Love Potion and Daniel Radcliffe when Harry takes the Felix Felicis. The film also is highly romantic. The film deals with teenage love delicately. It is at times humorous, heartbreaking, and sweet. The way the romance is portrayed in this film is very honest and true, and is very idealistic and beautiful.

Course this is still a Harry Potter film and it would be nothing if it didn't have a few big action set pieces, which it does. Quidditch is back this time about and is faster and far more brutal than before. Quidditch genuinely feels like an authentic contact sport this time about rather than just a fantastical game made up by wizards. This sequence is truly electrifying and fun to watch. The attack on the Burrow is another electrifying scene, as well as the exquisitely realized bathroom blow out, but it's the cave scene at the end that winds up being the most memorable sequence of the film. The cave scene is handled extremely well, it is tense, frightening, and extremely beautiful.

I highly enjoyed this film. It is easily one of the finer Harry Potter films released thus far. While I am still not sure where the film stands in the overall series, I will say that I enjoy it more than the fourth and fifth installments already after just three viewings. Go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince might just be one of the better Harry Potter films released thus far. Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves took the novel and translated the spirit and integrity of the story into moving images. Like the book it is more of a character piece than an adventure film, but the greater emphasis on character makes the emotional climax have a greater deal of resonance.

I see no real need in simply rehashing the story because my words couldn't do it justice. David Yates has improved a great deal since the previous film. He draws the focus on the characters so perfectly that you often forget all that is going on in the world. Yates has scaled the story down to its very essence. Probably any other director would try and make the film feel as epic as they can, but Yates takes a more subtle approach that serves the story beautifully.  On top of that, the acting is possibly be the best work from the Potter ensemble yet.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have all grown as actors since the last film and are truly transforming into very fine actors with promising careers ahead of them. As well, Michael Gambon turns in a performance that could rival Richard Harris's Dumbledore, being a deeply affecting performance that genuinely comes through in the cave scene. Plus, Jim Broadbent is superb as the new Potions Professor Horace Slughorn, playing the character with the right amounts of wit, charm, and tragedy. Though the actor that surprised me the most was Tom Felton as
Draco Malfoy. Tom hasn't had much to do in the previous Potter films, so we've never really been able to tell if he could pull off more than just the bully role, but he manages to achieve success and he plays his conflicted part here very well.  Of course, acting aside, I think it is safe to say that this is probably the prettiest Harry Potter film to date.

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel does a superb job giving back a sense of fantasy to this world. The film looks very much like a painting and every image within is a genuine work of art. As well the special effects are taken up a notch this time around. ILM has done a wonderful job with the effects work, but it's how Yates utilizes the effects to service the story that truly makes them pop. Never does Yates do an in your face effects shot, to where you clearly know that you aren't looking at a real thing. Yates weaves the effects seamlessly within this world and you never truly think about them while watching, and that's the magic of cinema.  Though the biggest props on the film should go to Steve Kloves.

After sitting out the fifth film, Kloves returns to pen this installment of the franchise and what a welcome return it is. He has come back with a new energy that genuinely comes through in the script. He has trimmed much material from the 600 page book, but has left all of the major points to the story in tact, weaving them together and connecting the dots into a film that flows very fluidly from scene to scene. However Kloves' greatest accomplishment is how he brings out the humanity of J.K. Rowling's characters in his writing.  Half-Blood Prince is arguably the most human installment of Harry Potter to date. Some casual moviegoers may be disappointed to learn that this is not an action film, but rather a character piece that just happens to have a few thrilling sequences within, but those few sequences are electrifying. The Quidditch match is brutal and exciting, the attack on the Burrow is a fast-paced chase scene, the bathroom blow out is exquisitely realized, and the cave sequence is tense and frightening.  Plus, there are many moments of simple awe and wonder within this film, such as the scene where Dumbledore creates the ring of fire to fend off the inferi, or some of the sweeping shots of Hogwarts. Of course it's the emotional scenes that steal the show, such as the one between Harry and Hermione on the stairs, or the scene in Hagrid's Hut near the end. There are just too many great moments to mention them all.

When all is said and done, Half-Blood Prince is one of the more
satisfying filmgoing experiences I've had in a while. It's a beautiful
film that is actually quite funny, but is also quite moving at the same time.
It's definitely on my list of favorite films of the year. I can't
wait for Deathly Hallows. I'm extremely glad the duo of Yates and
Kloves are returning to finish out the series.

I give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince an excellent 9 out of

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Finally Here!

It's July 14th, that means tonight at midnight we will finally be able to see the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I'm not going to lie. When I first learned of Warner Bros. decision to delay the film for eight months last summer I was quite angry, especially when I learned that the reason for the delay was not because of the movie it was because Warners was lacking a big blockbuster this summer so they moved Harry Potter so they could have a financially more successful year. But now the frustration of the delay has become a distant memory and finally after two years of waiting Half-Blood Prince is about to be unleashed upon the legions of fans around the world. Today I'd like to take a look at some of my expectations for the new Potter film as well as what I know has been cut or changed from the book to film.

As most of you'll already know I wasn't too terribly fond of the last two Harry Potter films. While they both had their moments and were in the end entertaining, there was something missing. The films were not entirely faithful to their source material. While I am by no means a zealot of the books I do want to see them be at least faithful to the characters and the tone of the stories, and the past two Potter films were kinda mixed in this particular department.

Now I have always felt since this book first came out that the book was so cinematic that if done right it could end up being possibly the best of the entire series. The only other book that I thought was this cinematic was book seven, but I think the reason I feel these last two installments were so cinematic is just simply J.K. Rowling's writing had grown and become a lot more visual in style, but back to this particular installment. My expectations for this film are very high, so what do I expect from this latest Potter installment that'll make it better to me than the last two installments?

What I truly want from this latest Potter film is a film that is first and foremost a great film that genuinely feels magical. The next thing is I want to see the characters be the characters that we all know and love from the books. Some of the previous movies have been hit or miss in this department, so I'm hoping here it'll be a touch better. Then the last thing is I'd like to see majority of the major plot elements included in the film and realized as brilliantly as they were on the page, cause as I said earlier I felt the book lended itself so perfectly to a cinematic adaptation that so many of the plot strands could be a visual feast if done right. My expectations have compelled me to try and learn all that has been cut or altered.

Beginning a few months ago I was doing extensive research trying to learn everything that has been cut or changed from this particular installment and for the most part the film seems to be fairly faithful to the story. Majority of the major plot points seem to be in tact, which makes me very happy. Quidditch is back this time about and looks better than ever. The teenage romance from the books seems to be in full force within the film, which is definitely something that pleases me since that was my favorite aspect of the book.

Now while they have cut certain things, like Dumbledore's Funeral and the big battle at the end of the film, the film didn't necessarily need these two things in order to tell the story so I can accept the reasoning as to why these were omitted, plus there are rumors that the filmmakers are saving Dumbledore's Funeral for the beginning of film seven. Some of the biggest news about the latest installment is that the filmmakers have added a new action sequence in the middle of the film where the Death Eaters attack the Burrow. They got J.K. Rowling's permission to add the sequence and I'm fairly excited to see it, it looks really cool and could potentially add some great drama in the middle of the film.

Overall I am highly excited for this latest Harry Potter film. I'm trying not to get too excited because I've had my fair share of disappointments in the past, but I have been fairly impressed with all that I have seen thus far from this film so here's hoping the film lives up to its potential. I really think that it can. We'll know for sure tonight.

I'll be back tomorrow to give my full review on the latest Harry Potter film.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Same Old Charm with some Changes on the Horizon

Entourage returned to television last night kicking off its sixth season. After a very strong season five that sported some very rich character development for all of the major characters, it was going to be interesting to see how the show would move on. Would the show continue to evolve or would it simply revert back to its pre-season five days of frivolity? Both yes and no. Any worries I had were cast aside last night when Entourage came back with a genuine force.

The episode began a few months after the end of season five. Vince is prepping for the release of Marty Scorsese's The Great Gatsby. Vince's new film is getting a ton of buzz and has skyrocketed him back to superstardom. E's management company has grown and he has now very much become his own man, even contemplating renting his own house. Turtle and Jamie are still an item, madly in love. Lloyd is riding Ari on giving him a promotion, and well Drama didn't really have much going on in this episode other than a few good one liners here and there. Overall I'd say the episode was a very solid start to what is shaping up to be a very promising season.

The charm of Entourage returned with this episode. Last season was at times quite dramatic so it was kinda fun to see the guys actually enjoying life once more, but that isn't to say that all the drama they went through last season hasn't made a difference. All of the characters seem to have matured and become a touch wiser, even Vince. While the characters are still the same guys we all know and love, they all seem to be embracing their adulthood a lot better than they used to.

Turtle continues to come into his own. The show gave us some hints at the end of last season that Turtle was genuinely dissatisfied with the fact that he was nearly thirty and had no job other than being Vince's driver. Turtle continues to ponder upon this with the help of his girlfriend Jamie, who is pushing to Turtle to come out of his shell and be his own man, which I think has only strengthened a character that was generally only used for laughs in previous seasons. Course if anyone has become his own man since last season it's been E.

As mentioned earlier, E's company has become big, and with it becoming a genuine force in the entertainment industry E has gained some prestige around Hollywood. Not only that but E has morphed into a ladies man due to his new popularity, even rivaling Vince a bit for girls. Course E is still a hopeless romantic, and things get complicated for him once more when his ex-girlfriend Sloan comes back into the picture. Sloan tries to sublet her best friend's house to E. E thinks it's her way of trying to hook back up with him, but Sloan resists saying they're just friends, even though she invited him inside for a drink at the end of the episode and agreed to attend the premiere of The Great Gatsby with E. We pretty much all know they're gonna get back together again, but it's entertaining to watch it unfold.

Lloyd has returned this season with new fire, getting on Ari's case about a potential promotion. This upsets Ari, but by the end of the episode he caves and says he's going to give Lloyd one hundred days to prove he's agent material, and if Lloyd does it, he gets the promotion. These moments between Ari and Lloyd were some of the more brilliant from the episode and this potential plot thread has planted the seeds for quite possibly the most intriguing part of the season. Will Lloyd rise to the challenge and get the promotion? Time will tell.

Vince is prepping for his new movie about the life of the racecar driver and founder of Farrari, Enzo Farrari. Vince is getting ready for the role by taking driving lessons from Turtle and trying to get his driver's liscense. It's safe to say Vince is a horrible driver, and his scenes driving are some of the funniest of the episode. The look on Turtle's face when he gets out of the car after Vince parallel parks is priceless. When Vince takes his driver's test he takes out countless cones, but succeeds in getting his liscense by bribing the instructor with a free pass to the upcoming Great Gatsby premiere, which I just thought was brilliant and was classic Vince. Later in the episode Vince goes on Jay Leno to promote his new film and jokes about his driver's test with Jay. Then by the end Vince experiences the true freedom that driving brings him when he gets a date in another funny scene.

Though the biggest plot in the episode was whether or not E was going to move out of the house or not. After a talk with Vince, Vince convinced E to take the house claiming it didn't bother him, but then at the end of the episode Vince returns to his empty home for the first time ever and sits alone in the darkness. It was a very touching moment, showing us that Vince truly doesn't like being alone and is literally dependent on all those around him.

While the episode was not as big in scale in terms of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as past season premieres it was still a well constructed episode that was funny and engaging. While certain characters like Drama kinda felt a little left out of the procceedings, it was a very strong start to what looks to be another great season. I really hope the seeds planted within this episode are allowed to continue to grow and the characters will continue to develop and evolve, cause this episode showed some genuine promise for some very rich character development this upcoming season.

Next week the boys attend the premiere of The Great Gatsby. It looks to be an episode bigger in scale and looks to have the glamour that this premiere lacked. I can't wait. Hopefully Scorsese will pop in.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Queen's Boulevard Strikes Back

The boys from Queens return for a new season filled with excitement this evening. Vince, E, Turtle, Ari, Drama, Lloyd, they're all back! Entourage season 6 starts today!

I'll simply start off by saying that anyone who personally knows me knows how odd it is that I enjoy this show. Entourage is one of my favorite television programs of all-time. I find it genuinely funny and encapsulating. If I have a guilty pleasure this is undoubtedly it.

Last season the guys went through some literal drama. Vince couldn't get a job after the trainwreck that was Medellin, E was struggling to get his management company off the ground, Drama, well Drama remained the same. Turtle actually got himself a girlfriend in the form of Jamie Lynn Siegler from Sopranos fame. And Ari, well he had some tough choices to make too, such as whether or not he should take the Warner Bros. studio head job so he could put Vince in a Werner Herzog film that would get him back on top. Course Ari didn't take it, remaining Vince's agent, and Vince eventually got the film he wanted to do, but after just two days into production the film shut down when Werner fired Vince off the film.

The season all culminated when a defeated Vince returned to his hometown of Queens, New York. Vince was ready to throw in the towel, but E wasn't, going out of his way to get Vince a Gus Van Sant movie. E failed and Vince lost his cool for the first time in the show's history, firing E. Course E's hard work payed off when Vince got a call from Marty Scorsese who offered Vince the lead role in a remake of The Great Gatsby, and it was all thanks to E's doing. Of course Vince and E patched things up and are now best friends once more.

Last season was a genuine roller coaster ride, actually advancing the characters and developing them far further than they ever have gone before. I genuinely felt that last season was the strongest season of the show thus far, so this new season has got some pretty big shoes to fill, and from what I understand there are some big changes in store for the show this season.

First off Turtle and Jamie are still madly in love. Drama is being given a love interest on the NBC show Five Towns. E is contemplating moving out of the house and on his own. Lloyd is wanting a promotion. And Vince is taking driving lessons so he can get his driver's liscense. Nearly every major character has something big going on this season and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

I am most interested in seeing how The Great Gatsby pans out for Vince, whether or not it gets him back on top of the heap and possibly even an Oscar, or whether it flops and Vince will go back to flipping burgers in Queens. Then there's the reintroduction of E's old flame Sloan being thrown back into the mix which could help strengthen the show even more. Though what I most want to see is more potential guest appearances from Marty Scorsese. That blew my mind last season when Scorsese showed up in the finale, and I'm genuinely hoping he at least returns for season six's premiere. As well Gary Cole is coming onto the show as a series regular this season, after turning in some very likable guest spots last season as Ari's old time friend and new partner at the agency.

There are some genuine changes in store, and it'll be interesting to see if Entourage can pull them all off and keep up the same momentum it's had for five years. We'll know tonight. Watch it on HBO at 9:30 central time. I will be.

Batman meets Alien meets Predator

I found this really cool fan film on youtube recently. It's a classic amongst geeks, it's called Batman Dead End. It's very well made and is actually quite entertaining with fairly good performances for the most part. It was clearly made by fans, cause I mean no other film would ever have Batman doing battle with both Alien and Predator. But live out your geekish fantasies with this film.

The Passing of a Legend

The most shocking news reached my ears today. I learned that Mr. Wayne Hanson has passed away.

Mr. Hanson was a literal folk legend. I grew up in Clay, Alabama, and out there Mr. Hanson was a celebrity. He was so synonymous with Clay that he was nicknamed the Mayor. While I never knew him personally, I always felt as if I genuinely had some connection with the man.

He lived in this tiny old house on the corner of Old Springville Road. The house was small, but had a certain charm and mystique about it. I used to always wonder what was inside that house, what did Mr. Hanson own that he did for entertainment. I even once, when I was young, thought he had a Batcave or something beneath the house. Though not only was Mr. Hanson a genuine legend, he was also a gifted artist. He would very often paint murals and signs and place them on the side of the road by his house.

It saddens me to think that he is gone. Never again will I ever see him mowing his yard, nor walking to the Piggly Wiggly, nor will I ever see a new painting. He was one man that I mean this most sincerely that will be genuinely missed by all who live in Clay. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anger and Frustration

Trying to generate ideas is both frustrating and annoying. I'm currently working on a script I'm writing. It's a fantasy adventure film, somewhere in the vein of Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet set in a Victorian type steam-powered setting (as envisioned by Jules Verne). Yeah it sounds crazy but I genuinely love the core concept of the film.

While I've already written an entire draft of the script already, I was fairly dissatisfied with certain elements of the plot, so I've decided to change them. One thing I've decided to do is simplify the film, make it more in keeping with my original concept for writing the thing in the first place.

One of the tiny things I'm trying to do right now before I can plunge into a new draft is to not only develop a new outline, but one of the things I'm trying to come up with is the perfect name for a magical race that lives in the sky. While in the first draft I simply called them the Sky Dwellers, I found that a bit impersonal and I really want the race of beings to have a snazzy name, cause one of the two leads hails from this race and its crucial to the story. Right now I've hit a road block, and for the current moment I'm tentatively calling these guys Nymphs, like the ancient characters from mythology, even though this race has nothing to do with those kind of Nymphs. Still I do not want to continue calling them Nymphs, I want an original name.

I'm sure I will eventually come up with something but it is frustrating. Writing a feature is far more tedious than writing a short, I never really knew till now. While I had always attempted to write other feature length scripts before, I never got really far, always quitting about halfway through the first draft. This time I've gotten far father than I ever have. I feel I have so much invested in this project I simply can't let it go, but at the same time there are just so many factors I need to figure out in order to restructure my film and commence the first rewrite. It kinda makes ya wanna pull you're hair out, but I'm a far way away from resorting to such drastic measures. Anyways, I'll go back to writing now.

Neither Can Live While the Other Survives

(This is the fifth and final segment of a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

My parents had bought me the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the day upon its release. I was ecstatic, of course I didn't get much of a chance to immediately crack open the spine. That night my older brother Jonathan called, he had busted open his chin while playing ice hockey. It was a pretty terrible night for all involved, and it's one I'll never forget.

The following day I began reading the book, and I kept on trucking along simply for my love for Harry Potter, but the jovial tone of the previous novels was missing for the most part from this particular adventure. While the book ultimately lived up to expectations, upon finishing it, I couldn't help but feel that it was the weakest entry in the series. Nearly four years later the movie of the film was released.

I was 17 years old when Order of the Phoenix hit theaters. I was just about to go into my senior year of high school, and my world was infinitely far more complicated than it was back when I first discovered the boy wizard. I was highly anticipating the film, even though it was based off my least favorite novel in the series (it doesn't hurt that the film came out only mere weeks before the release of the final book in the series, thus making my anticipation two-fold). I saw the film at midnight, and what followed was utter disappointment.

While Order of the Phoenix was and is my least favorite Harry Potter book, it still had a few genuine moments of levity and an overall richness to the story, but none of that really found its way to the screen. Over the past two years I have given Order of the Phoenix many chances, but ultimately my thoughts have remained the same, that this film is in fact the weakest of the series thus far, just like its book counterpart.

Order of the Phoenix is the sparsest of all the films released thus far. It is the first time with a Harry Potter film that I feel they may have cut too much material. The filmmakers pretty much obliterated all of the subplots and left in only the major plot points, and in so doing they turned in the shortest Harry Potter film to date based off of the longest book in the series. So much was cut it left the film feeling a tad incomplete, as if the total experience didn't get a chance to come around full circle. As well, by their eliminating many of the subplots the film loses not only some of the richness of the book, but it also looses any traces of energy and fun that the book had. Quidditch is noticeably absent, and that is very disappointing, especially since it could've added some much needed comedy and energy to the proceedings.

When it was all said and done, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the most somber Potter adventure to date. The film was such a downer that there was this odd sense of disconnect with the audience. Of course my biggest gripe with the film was simply that many of the major moments in the story were vastly underplayed.

There are many thrilling sequences in the book, but majority of them failed to live up in the film. While certain scenes like the Dumbledore-Voldemort battle live up to the hype, others like the Dementor attack and the centaur sequences fall flat and feel far less threatening than they could. By underplaying so many key scenes, the film lost this sense of wonder that the Harry Potter books and films have come to be known for. Even still, there were a few scenes that did manage to surprise. The sequences at the Ministry in both the beginning and the end of the film are wonderful, and the brief flying sequence with the Order was handled expertly, if only the rest of the film had the same care. Now while I had some problems with the narrative of the story and how it all cinematically played out, I felt that the film did correct some of my problems from the previous installment.

Director David Yates reinvigorated the characters, making them closer to their book counterparts than the fourth film really ever did, thus giving the film back a humanity that comes through in the wonderfully staged possession scene. As well the cinematography, while not on the same level as the first three, managed to bring back a slightly more fantastical look and feel to the proceedings that the fourth film lacked. And the score by Nicholas Hooper was far more whimsical this time about, which was very welcome. Of course what makes the film one worth seeing and not a pass is the acting, all of the actors turning in fine performances this time around, including the newcomer Imelda Staunton, who delivered a fine performance as the warped Dolores Umbridge, and who can forget Gary Oldman's heartfilled performance as Sirius Black.

Overall Order of the Phoenix is a film that is actually quite good and better than most films released by Hollywood these days, it just seemed to lack the same punch that the first four Potter films had. I felt disconnected from the world and its characters this time about, and with so much depressive angst it's just hard to watch this film again and again like the others. While it is still extremely well made, with a lot of attention being put into the special effects and production design once more, it almost felt as if this film was a filler. Only the last twenty minutes really gives you any new information that you need to move on to the next part of the franchise, and the journey to get there is just so depressing. But if you can make it through all of the depressing moments, there are some genuine jewels hidden within, like the big duel at the end and Harry's trial at the Ministry.

Every long running film franchise has that one that is the weakest of the lot, and I guess that was inevitably going to happen to Harry Potter eventually, which it did with this particular film. It saddens me, but you just gotta keep moving forward and looking towards the future of this franchise, which still has three more films to go. Here's hoping Yates and his company pull it off. They had moments that showed some promise, with a little more honing of their skills they can return the Harry Potter series to where it once was.

(This concludes the series of Harry Potter retrospectives, check back in the following days where I will post my pre-movie thoughts on the latest Harry Potter adventure, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.)

Is There Any Justice Left?

Taking a moment away from my series of Harry Potter retrospectives, I have to share some very disturbing news I discovered this morning. The role of the Green Lantern has been cast in the first ever live action Green Lantern film. For those who don't know, Green Lantern is a DC Comics superhero, and is one of my personal favorites from my childhood. Well Warner Bros. is making a movie based off the comic, being directed by Martin Campbell, the man behind Casino Royale. Doesn't sound too bad right there, but it gets worse, Ryan Reynolds was cast in the role of the intergalactic policeman.

Why? Has Warner Bros. and Campbell lost their minds. Reynolds is so far away from the true essence of who Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is. Reynolds is a fairly charismatic actor, good when given the right material, but he has never played a role that needs the poignancy and overall confidence of Hal. He's too cocky in all the things I've ever seen him in, Hal is more of an intergalactic boy scout who fights for justice and doesn't boast about it. I'm afraid that the film will wind up with a smart elic as Green Lantern, and that isn't the character. Green Lantern is a character more along the lines of Superman and less along the lines of someone like Iron Man, which based off this casting it seems like that's what they're going for and this just leaves me in an utter state of confusion. Of course it could have been worse, one of the people reportedly up for the part just a few days ago was Justin Timberlake, which I would personally take Reynolds over him any day of the week, but the other guy being considered was Bradley Cooper from the Hangover, which is an actor that I think represents the essence of the character far better than Reynolds. Still, what can I do.

As of now all I can do is sit and wait. Perhaps Reynolds will surprise me. I'll try to go in with an open mind, but right now I'm wrapped in fear that one of my favorite childhood heroes is being destroyed and morphed into a cheesy laughing stock. Only time will tell.

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Williams meets Disney

Taking a slight break from all the Harry Potter mania, I feel compelled to share with you all a video that I found on the internet the other day. I found the video to be quite hilarious and I think others will as well.

Its a video using excerpts from the Disney animated classic The Lion King to music composed by the great John Williams from the equally as classic Jurassic Park. While this may sound like a horrid disaster in the making, it actually works quite well and fits. It's a video that is funny and oddly beautiful at the same time. It's well edited for the most part and I think for simple nostalgia reasons it deserves a nice little shout out to the rest of the world, take a look:

Perhaps Disney should employ Mr. Williams more often to do their movie scores? Just a suggestion but it's a nice what if, isn't it?

Into the Pensieve

(This is the fourth in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

I was pumped for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when it first came out. After my disappointment with the previous installment my anticipation for this film was extremely high, but a little uneasy, though some very good trailers made me a little more calm. Very often though your own anticipation for a film gets you. That was the case with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Upon my initial viewing of this film, I was met with disappointment. While the film was still just as well made as any of the other Potter films, and in the end it was quite entertaining, it just felt like something was missing from the proceedings. Ever since the film's release when I was 15 years old I've tried to answer the riddle to the question as to why this film felt as if it had something missing. I rewatched it multiple times over the years, hoping that it was just merely a case of the film catching me on the wrong night, but still the end result was the same. Now nearly four years since the film's release, I think I have finally placed my finger upon exactly what was wrong with Goblet of Fire.

Goblet of Fire of course was my favorite book in the series, and it still is, so that is one particular factor as to my disappointment with the film, seeing as how in my eyes no film based on my favorite book of all-time can be just as rich and engaging as the book itself, but that is not the main reason. I've found the two reasons as to why Goblet of Fire just feels so out of place to me, is its style and its lack of humanity.

Goblet of Fire was done in a far different style than all the other Potter films, and this goes for both the visual and audio side of things. The cinematography was more grounded in reality and less fantastical than any of the other Potter adventures. While it has times where it looks similar, the overall representation falls flat. As well the score by Patrick Doyle, while good, is a very different sound than what we are accustomed to seeing with Harry Potter. It is far more epic and less whimsical, leaning more towards Lord of the Rings and less towards Harry Potter. Which leads to the simple fact that I think the tone of this movie was far more epic and ominous then it should have been. There are moments of genuine levity in the book, but they just didn't come through on film.

Though my biggest gripe with Goblet of Fire is simply that the filmmakers lost the characters in all of the epic battles taking place in the film. Any traces of the wit and humanity of the characters from the other films and books is for the most part absent. While the characters do have their moments where they shine and you feel their inner thoughts, there is just plain and simple not enough of it. This reason in conjuction with the one above makes it feel as if you're watching a different film franchise other than Harry Potter, just with similar actors. Though none of this is truly anyone's fault.

The book had a lot of key plot elements that had to be included in the film, more so than any of the other books thus far. The filmmakers could have split the book into two films, but there ultimately is not enough material to do so, so they had to do their best at cramming it all into one film, and in so doing the humanity of the story was lost in the epic scope of the main plot elements. Of course even though I do have my quibbles with this film, it does have its moments.

Goblet of Fire is the only Harry Potter film thus far that can genuinely call itself a blockbuster. It is action packed with pulse pounding action sequence after another. As well the film features some truly spellbinding special effects, certain things such as the dragon and the sequence in the Black Lake are marvels to see onscreen. As well the Yule Ball sequence is quite magical, being one of the few things in the film that lived up to its book counterpart.

When it's all said and done Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an entertaining film, probably the most crowd pleasing of the bunch, with solid acting from the staple of stars, but as a diehard Harry Potter fan it left more to be desired. While casual moviegoers will undoubtedly love this installment, fans may feel a little left out.

(Stay tuned in the coming days as I will be posting the fifth and final installment of my Harry Potter retrospectives as I take a look back at Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Three Times Should Do It

(This the third in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

Back upon its release, I was not the biggest fan of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I remember the day I saw it. It was a warm summer's day, I was only 14. My mother took me to see the earliest possible matinee showing. I was extremely excited for the film, so excited that I could barely contain myself, and what followed was initial disappointment.

Back then, I still had the innocence of a child, yet to grow out of my childlike shell and begin the journey towards young adulthood. For starters Prisoner of Azkaban was a far darker installment than the previous two films. At that age I preferred the far warmer look of the first two, as opposed to the cold world in this particular adventure. As well my taste in films had still yet to truly mature, so at the time I was still a zealot of the books, and when this film came out I was quite upset at all that was cut from the final version. Up to then, Prisoner of Azkaban was the sparsest film in the series, which quite angered me for the longest time.

For the next couple of years after its release, I always felt sadness whenever I saw this film. I felt as if it had not lived up to its amazing potential, I even went through a slight snap where I almost ignored this film completely. More time passed, and sometime around when I turned 17 I decided to revisit the film once more. I had not seen the film in nearly a year at that point and figured I'd give it another go, thinking my thoughts on the film would still be the same, and boy was I in for a surprise.

Over that year since I had last seen the film, what I didn't know is that my taste in films had slowly, but surely matured. As naturely comes with age, I had started to begin my metamorphosis into young adulthood. I had developed a greater appreciation for things in which I did not care much for when I was younger, and what I discovered with this particular film is the opposite of what often happens with films from your childhood. As I mentioned earlier, that films of your childhood very often do not hold up once you have fully grown, and the opposite can apply to films in which you did not like as a child but now have a newfound appreciation for them as a grown human being.

When I rewatched the film, I was overcome with a sense of rediscovery. I fell in love with the film, its complexity, its depth. Pure magic overcame my body. I sat there wondering why I haven't always loved this film. For that I may never truly know the correct answer, but what I do know now is that I am madly in love with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and strongly believe that it is the best of the series thus far.

Prisoner of Azkaban is by and large a far darker adventure than the previous two Harry Potter films. When I was younger I didn't fully understand why, I wanted the more carefree feel of the first two, but what I came to realize was that the story in Prisoner of Azkaban reflects its cold visuals. Prisoner of Azkaban is a far darker story than the first two films, and while the look and tone of the first two films was great, this particular film would feel awkward and out of place if done in the same style. As I've gotten older I've begun to appreciate this facet of the story a lot more and its been a major factor as to why I've now become a champion of the film. Of course what makes Prisoner of Azkaban my newfound favorite is its emphasis on character and its individuality.

Prisoner of Azkaban got a new director in Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron decided to rid the story of all subplots that had nothing to do with Harry, which as a fan is still slightly sad because you know what's missing, but it overall made the film far better. While the narrative is a tad more scarce than the other films in the series, it brought us deeper inside the mind of Harry than any of the other films have done. Cuaron gave the audience the same rich experience that you get when you read the books, bringing us to Harry's core, making us feel his emotions and read his thoughts. By bringing us inside Harry's mind, Cuaron gave the film an all encompassing sense of foreboding, perfectly layering the film with its very resonant themes of battling your inner demons and discovering your inner strength. For this reason alone is why I've become such a big fan of this film, but it's not the only reason.

Cuaron imprinted the film with an individuality that no other director has done with the series thus far. He took the world Chris Columbus created in the first two films and made it entirely his own while still letting us know that it noticeably takes place in the same universe. That is a remarkable feat for any director to do and I applaud Cuaron for it.

I could seriously go on all day about this film. The visuals are amazing, this film featuring some of the finest cinematograhpy I have ever seen in my life. The special effects and makeup work is superb. Production design is top notch. The acting is in my opinion the best of the series. Cuaron coaxed the very essence of the three main characters better than any of the other directors have done thus far. Daniel Radcliffe delivers a performance for the ages here. Not to mention the film is just genuinely funny, but it also has some truly spectacular sequences. The Aunt Marge scene is hilarious and brimming with invention, the Knight Bus sequence is enthralling and funny, Buckbeak's flight is pure fantasy at its finest, and not to mention the frightening Dementor sequences, or the beautifully staged Patronus scenes.

Cuaron gave the film a birthright. He made a film that is the closest that you could get to reading the Potter books other than actually cracking open the spine for yourself. It's deep, funny, highly emotional, and in the end has a ton of resonance.

Looking back now I can see why I wasn't such a big fan at one time, but I can also see why I became a big fan. The film is far more grown up, it deals with the darkness inside yourself and having to overcome it and discover your inner strength. As a 14 year old I had yet to experience anything in life that needed that kind of poignancy, and while I'm still young I feel that I've had far more battles with similar things recently than ever before. So on that note, it's not a children's fantasy, but rather an adult's fantasy.

Prisoner of Azkaban is a powerful film, beautiful in its own right. While it is very dark, it is a film that in the end has an uplifting message for anyone who has ever struggled with anything in life. It is so much more than just an adaptation, it actually bests the book upon which it is based and simply becomes a sublime film. This is a true classic through and through.

(Stay tuned for part 4 of my Harry Potter retrospectives where I take a look back at Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Millions to Billions

Today I'm going to take another slight break from my Harry Potter retrospectives and take a look at two things in which genuinely caught my eye.

Bloomberg decided to do the painstaking research and came back with a list of the top 25 highest grossing films of all-time when adjusted for ticket price inflation. While this may sound a tad stupid, and many wont even care, I think it speaks levels to a film's popularity. Ticket prices have sky rocketed in recent years, and if you put a film like Transformers up against Gone With the Wind with unadjusted results, then the cgi-behemoth wins, but when adjusting for the monetary amounts of current times it is a different story. Take a look at the top 3 adjusted, then top 3 unadjusted:

Top 3 Adjusted
1. Gone with the Wind - $1,450.7 billion
2. Star Wars - $1,278.9 billion
3. The Sound of Music - $1,022.5 billion

Top 3 Unadjusted
1. Titanic - $600.8 million
2. The Dark Knight - $533.3 million
3. Star Wars - $461.0 million

Quite a different top 3 for the most part. I find it simply astounding, and many conclusions can be drawn from these findings. Perhaps it's just plain and simple that people don't go to see movies as much as they used to, or perhaps the answer lies in other areas.

What one must remember is that 20 0f the 25 films on the adjusted list came out before the advent of the home video market. Back in those days if you wanted to see a good film again you had to return to the theater to see it, thus successful movies tended to have longer runs than they do today. As well, before home video, studios would very often re-release highly popular films every now and then to pad their box office numbers. Ever since VHS and DVDs came onto the marketplace, studios no longer do this cause they find the home video market to be far more profitable than anything else.

Even still, findings such as this make me wonder what it would be like to have experienced a phenomenon quite as big as Gone With the Wind or the original Star Wars. The numbers do not lie. I mean, the closest thing to that type of phenomana in my lifetime was back in the '90s with Titanic, and that's only number 6 on the adjusted list. I for one hope that another movie someday comes along that is so widely successful once more (and I'm sure the studios hope for it as well). I genuinely believe that the future of cinema is bright, so who knows, as for now though other things must tide us over.

On that note I'd like to end this post today by sharing a video I found on the internet the other day. It is a music video for the theme song to the newest Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo. The film already came out last year in Japan and was a wide critical and box office success. The film comes out here in the states in August, and I can't wait, until then enjoy the music of Mr. Joe Hisaishi, a genuine master when it comes to film composition. Keep in mind the video is very cutesy, and is a tad quirky, but that's what makes it so loveable.

Come back tomorrow as I will post part 3 of my Harry Potter retrospectives taking a look back at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Follow the Spiders

(This is the second in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

I was 12 years old when the second Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, graced the silver screen. Any frustrations I had with not being able to audition for the role of Harry were a distant memory. Having been a diehard fan of both the films and books for nearly a year up to this point, I was anticipating the release of this film more so than any other that year, and I must say, it didn't disappoint.

When I finally saw the film I fell in love with it, thinking it bested the first one in every way possible. When I was twelve I was a zealot, a purist of the books, someone who was angered if the filmmakers cut or changed even the most minute detail, so I was extremely pleased at how slavishly the filmmakers translated this book to the screen.

I touted this film as the best in the series for many years after its release, even after the releases of the third and fourth Potter outings (which were both a touch less faithful to the books). As I grew a tad older I began to learn more about film and how it was made, and my tastes in movies began to mature. I eventually decided to return to Chamber of Secrets to see if I was still in love with it, and what I discovered surprised me.

While I still love Chamber of Secrets, I've found that most of my admiration for it comes from my memories and not the actual film itself. While the film is still just as funny as any other Potter adventure, and features some truly spectacular and thrilling moments, it is not my favorite Potter film any more.

As I've discovered as I've grown older and become more versed in the language of film, that while a story may be wonderful on the page, much must be amended in order for it to work onscreen. While the film works, it is a tad long, and the pacing is fairly slow throughout the film's long 161 minute runtime. That is not to say that I still do not enjoy this film though.

The over the top performance by Kenneth Brannagh as Gilderoy Lockhart is one for the ages, and inspires true hilarity. Certain lines like, "Celebrity is as celebrity does," cracks me up every single time. Dobby is immensely more likable in the film than he is in the books, partly because the film makes you pity him rather than see him as an equal. As well the sequence in the forest against the spiders is truly thrilling and frightening, not to mention later in the film when Harry arrives in the Chamber of Secrets and does battle with the cgi-laden basilisk. And who doesn't get a tad misty-eyed when they watch that final scene in the Great Hall?

While I still love Chamber of Secrets, I have come to realize that it has its flaws, though if you look hard enough nearly any film has a flaw or two. While the film may have a slow, almost tedious pace, the suspense of watching the mystery of the Heir of Slytherin unfold is so encapsulating that it still keeps me intrigued even though I know the answer. While this particular film may not reach the soaring heights of its predecessor, it is still a worthy successor and is a genuine classic, just like the first.

(Stay tuned for part 3 of the Harry Potter retrospectives where I take a look back at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

News Tidbits from July 6th

Today I'm going to take a break from my Harry Potter retrospectives and take a look at some interesting things I've found on the internet today. Whether you're pumped about the T.J. Hooker movie in development, or you love Nazi fighting archaeologists, this post is for you (course I couldn't forget our favorite boy wizard in the midst of all this Pottermania sweeping the net).

Upon first surfing the web this morning I uncovered some news that in development was a movie-version of the '80s T.V. Show T.J. Hooker starring William Shatner. Whether or not there is anything for Mr. Shatner in this latest adaptation has yet to be seen, but I just can't help to wonder if there was really any demand for such a film? Seriously, I mean I've never seen T.J. Hooker, but then again I've never had any desire to anyways, so why would I pay ten dollars to go see a film version of something that I could watch at home? Go figure, but there will most likely be many nostalgia-filled adults who will surely flock to the cinemas to see it come release. Only time will tell.

Moving on, it seems that the rumors of a potential fifth film in the Indiana Jones franchise is coming closer to reality, with The Insider claiming that it could be out in theaters as soon as 2011. If anyone remembers a few weeks back Shia Labeouf let slip in an interview that Spielberg had a story he was interested in telling for a fifth Indy adventure. Then a few days later Spielberg's producer, Frank Marshall confirmed this sentiment, though putting it in check by letting everyone know that the story was still in the early stages, no script has been commisioned just yet.

Well now, as of this morning, The Insider is claiming that Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford, is officially on board for another outing. While I for one would love to see a brand new Indiana Jones adventure, I must sit here and ask why George and Steven, why? You barely got by with the fourth film, which I thought was good but nowhere near the level of the previous three, why do you'll want to go and destroy the good name of the original three Indy adventures? I doubt both Spielberg or Lucas are hurting for money, so what is it? Course there is really no need to get too upset, cause The Insider is by no means a reliable outlet, and as Frank Marshall said, if there is any story for Indy 5 currently in development it's most likely in the early stages and isn't hitting cinemas anytime soon; I mean seriously, it took them 20 years to make the last one, so no need to get angry with George and Steven just yet.

In other news the first trailer for the film version of Gatchaman has appeared online this morning. For those not in the know, Gatchaman was a Japanese anime from the 1970s about five superheroes in the future who fight invading aliens. It's a lot of fun, and is a classic in animation circles. Well a film version has been made by the guys at Imagi Studios, who were responsible for the entertaining Ninja Turtles film TMNT, a few years back; as a matter of fact this film has the same director, Kevin Munroe. It's a cgi-film and is entirely being made in English, so any hopes that it will be done in authentic Japanese are sadly quelled, still regardless the trailer is worth seeing. (Note it is only a bootleg copy, but it gets by just fine.) Take a look:

Course right now I'm too wrapped up in Harry Potter-mania to truly care about anything else, and I have a few things for the fans of the wizard out there. As the release of the new film looms closer, more and more word of mouth begins to get generated, and so far it's been extremely positive. Early reviews have given high marks to the cinematography, the score, and direction by David Yates, stating that he seems to be more confident this time around.

Continuing on, I'd like to say that I've bought the game for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wii, and it's amazing; if you're a fan of Harry Potter you are doing yourself a great disservice by not even renting this game. Very often when I buy games I feel I don't get my full fifty dollars worth, but that's not the case with this one, it features the best controls and the finest representation of Hogwarts thus far in the series of games.

Of course there is more. It has been confirmed by actor Bill Nighy himself that he'll be playing the role of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (hope I splet that right) in the final two Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2, which I think is pitch perfect casting. Now finally I'm going to leave you'll today with a brand new interview I've run across from an Australian media outlet with Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter series. It's hilarious and is well worth your time. Check it out:

Be sure to check back tomorrow as I will be continuing my series of Harry Potter retrospectives with my sentimental look back at the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Through the Mirror of Erised

(This is the first in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

I was eleven years old when the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, graced theaters. At that time I was already a big fan of the books, which had been published two years prior, but I still would not have considered myself a diehard fanatic just yet.

I remember the day I first heard about this film. I read an online article about how the director, Chris Columbus, was beginning a worldwide search for a child to play Harry Potter. All you had to do to audition was to send in a videotape describing why you think you'd be a terrific Potter. Of course one thing lead to another and my mom wouldn't let me audition. I was very mad. When the first trailers for the film were released I was so frustrated that I couldn't enjoy myself cause I kept on thinking of how much of a better Harry Potter I would have been than Daniel Radcliffe.

The day finally came for the film's release, I'll never forget it. Even though I was still quite agitated about not getting to audition, I loved the world of Harry Potter and was not going to miss this film for anything in the world. When I came home from school I bugged my mom for nearly an hour, asking her to take me to see it. She refused, but she managed to convince my older brother Jonathan to take me to see the film. He reluctantly agreed. We went to the very last matinee showing, it was probably about five o'clock, and what followed was one of the most magical movie-going experiences of my life.

Up till that point I could not remember a movie that swept me away in its world quite like this one did. As much as I hated to admit it, Daniel Radcliffe was a superb Harry, far better than I could have ever done. When I left the theater that cool winter's night, I had officially become what you would consider a die-hard Harry Potter fan (an obsession in which is still as strong this very day).

Since then nearly a decade has passed, the series of Harry Potter books have concluded, and five films have preceded this first one. Like with many films of your childhood, they very often do not hold up as you grow older, but that is not the case with this particular film. I feel that I have grown fonder of this film as I've aged and my taste in movies has become more sophisticated.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
is a genuine masterpiece, in the same vein as children fantasies like The Wizard of Oz and E.T. This film still manages to capture my imagination nearly ten years later. The direction by Chris Columbus is impeccable. The casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson for Harry, Ron, and Hermione (respectively) was spot on. Everything was done right with this particular film, which is an oddity in film this day and age. I cannot stress enough how much I still love this film. It has moments that are tense and frightening, moments of simple awe and wonder, and some genuine moments that make you feel all warm inside. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a fantasy adventure that manipulates your emotions better than just about any other film in existence. It's a genuine classic, one that should live on forever.

(Stay tuned for part 2 featuring a retrospective of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ten is the New Five

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made news last week with their announcement that they were widening the Best Picture race from five to ten nominees. Wide uproar spread across the internet from countless cinephiles. While I do think the new rule is simply a gimmick and I'm not entirely sold on how much of a difference it truly is going to make, I noticed that no one is looking at the positives of such a change, they're simply looking at the negatives.

Last year many fans and critics alike were outraged when the Academy opted for films such as The Reader and Doubt rather than critical and commercial hits like Wall-E and The Dark Knight (two far better films in my own opinion). Was this the reason as to why they instituted this new rule? Part of me thinks this is, and while it's a shame that those films didn't get nominated, this new rule will most likely ensure that this will never happen again. This rule makes entirely possible for big films like Star Trek, Up, Where the Wild Things Are, Avatar, and possibly even Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I hope), to potentially break into the Oscar race and wind up with a Best Picture nom. Hey, with ten nominees they have to fill it with something and why not give a shout out to something like Harry Potter, it could happen.

As well this new rule will most likely spice up an event that has been getting fairly stagnant the past few years. By widening the race it may make it harder for little indie films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Juno to fight their way into the competition, making more of a testament of their storytelling if they manage to come up with a nomination rather than just giving them a nom for the sake of it.

I am entirely behind this new move, I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. While it does have its drawbacks, people need to simply look at its positives to see all of the exciting potential that this move can have.

P.S. Stay tuned in the coming days cause I will soon be starting a series of retrospectives looking back a the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise in celebration for the July 15th release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, culminating in my pre and then post-movie thoughts on the latest Potter adventure.