Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

 

It’s hard to review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 without getting a little nostalgic. How can you reflect on the ten years we’ve spent with the character without feeling just a little sentimental? When we first met Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, they were just little kids entering a world of magic and adventure with wide eyes full of wonderment. There were always dangerous situations from time to time but for the most part it was still all good fun and appropriate for the whole family. As the movies went on the dangers heightened and the movies became more serious and mature. We watched the trio grow from kids, to sexually frusterated teenagers, to adults with something to prove. We watched Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson evolve from very talented child actors into iconic figures that are sure to end up being just as respected and well-known as their elder co-stars. Radcliffe, whether he knew it or not at the time, had an extremely heavy burden playing one of the most popular fictional characters of all time and he grew into the role amazingly well. He comes full circle in this final instalment, as does the character, and he gives it his all. There are emotions and fears in Deathly Hallows Part 2 Radcliffe conveys that we’ve never seen before. He sends off this character with his wand full blast.

And the supporting cast, my God, how wonderful they are. In both the young talent and the acting legends. This film and the series as a whole plays out as a veritable “who’s who” of accomplished English actors, including but not limited to Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Brenden Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, and a noseless Ralph Fiennes. Over these movies we’ve met some great characters that all add to the overall charm of what makes this series so fantastic and what will keep audiences coming back to it for years to come. Some of these characters are kindhearted and good, some are just pure evil, and there is a large amount finding themselves somewhere in-between.

I think my favourite supporting character would have to be Dumbledore. An interesting, flawed, wise, brave, tragic character. Maybe the biggest tragedy of Dumbledore is that we had to mourn his death twice: in the story of the novel and film and in real life as well, as Richard Harris unfortunately passed away after making Chamber of Secrets. Michael Gambon took over and was a fine replacement but I would say I sort of prefer Harris’ portrayal just a little better. His Dumbledore came off as a more wise and tender elder figure and his contribution to the first two films was essential in introducing the character. But as the story progressed the danger became more crucial and Dumbledore needed to have a little more edge and determination and Gambon brought all that into effect wonderfully and to be honest I don’t know if Harris could have pulled it off quite as well. It’s like the actors were two sides to a coin playing him. I’m sure Dumbledore’s death made a lot of fans sad but maybe not moreso than J.K. Rowling herself, who apparently was in tears when the time came to write his murder scene. I suspect no one could feel closer to that character than the writer herself, she had details worked out about him that even the biggest fan couldn’t conclude after studying every last sentence. I wonder what it must be like to have all these fully realized characters living inside your head, like parts of your soul scattered about in Horcroxes hidden in secret rooms.

Dumbledore makes one final appearence in Deathly Hallows Part 2 near the end when Harry is killed and awakens inside a sort of purgatory. It’s strange and hard to describe but I felt like in that last scene we had the Harris version of Dumbledore back. I felt the wisdom and tendernous I admired so much alive again, as if Gambon was channeling the incarnation we met all those 10 years ago. It was an oddly transcendent scene, and I suppose for more reasons than one.

I saw the movie in IMAX 3D. I usually go out of my way to see the 2D version of any movie, but for this case my decision was based purely on time convenience. The 3D screening was at 6:45 and the 2D was at 8:00. I wanted to be home by a sensible time, so 3D won. And I figured why not? I can buy the movie when it comes to video and watch it in 2D as often as I like but there will be only one shot to see it in IMAX and in 3D. I have to say, the 3D was pretty damn good. It didn’t knock me out of my seat completely but when it really worked, it really worked. This is of course the only entry in the saga to have a 3D release and naturally it felt like the most suited for it. There are plenty of intense battle scenes that go on for practically the last half of the movie, which, if we’re going to get technical, would actually be the last quarter. That is a fair amount. There’s ghastly creatures attacking, there’s characters having their stand-out moments of glory, and there’s characters meeting their deaths in battle. It’s as good as this stuff gets.

By the time it’s all over it’s almost exhausting. And when Voldemort is finally defeated by Harry it’s almost like a relief and a necessity to the story. It’s not entirely satisfying. But then again neither was seeing the Eye of Sauran crumble to pieces or Darth Vader sans mask take his final breaths. When these characters die it hits you that the story is over and with all that build up with movies like these I don’t think there’s anything that could be done that would be completely 100% satisfying. It’s like the journey is more important than the destination. By that same merit, our heroes can have the happiest of endings, the sweetest of bookends, absolutely every loose end could be tied up, but the fact that it’s all over is kind of…disagreeable.

Having said all that they did a great job with this final instalment. And as a whole, this is a classic series for the ages. I would give Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 a 10/10, not that ratings really mean all that much in the long run. Hell, I would give every single Harry Potter movie a 10/10 rating. They all have some flaws and some I found more interesting than others but they’re all stitchings in a rich tapestry of an incredible movie series that has brought us many years of excitment and magic, so why shouldn’t I? Who am I trying to impress?

 

 

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Thoughts on the “Final Destination” movies

 

The Final Destination movies are fucking terrible. I just thought you all should know that. But just because they’re bad doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable. If you view death as entertainment-and if you’re a horror fan, I’m sure you do-then these are entertaining flicks. But hardly horror classics. Basically what we have in this series is the statement that we all want to see stupid kids die and we don’t really care how.

They’re just like any other slasher series except that they cut out the middle man. I guess creating some memorable horror icon is too hard these days. So let’s just blame it on Death itself. OoooOoOoOoOoOoh!

So you have the cool deaths and that’s about it. And that’s at least effective. The group of movies as a whole plays into our fears of absolute worst case scenarios: What if the plane crashes? What if you get trapped in a tanning bed? What if one of those suction things at the bottom of the pool sucks your intestines out through your butthole? Etc. etc. The 5th movie is out and the possibilities for the series are endless, especially without having that pesky killer character to work around.

The movies only exist for the deaths and between them you have to suffer mind-numbing stupidity, but of course you could argue the same for any Friday The 13th or Halloween flick, though at least those movies had an interesting killer. And an interesting story, for that matter. With each movie they added to the mythology which was interesting and warranted more movies. It was part of their charm and part of their ultimate undoing as well. They kept adding to the story until they imploded into themselves. Freddy Krueger turns out to have a long lost daughter and he got his power from dream demons. The drive behind Michael Myers’ evil is the Thorn cult. Jason Voorhees is some super ultimate demon that can posess people. I haven’t seen all the Saw movies but I’m sure there’s some stupid explanation behind all things Jigsaw.

The problem with the Final Destinations is that it is the same bullshit over and over and over.

1. Main character has a premonition of a terrible accident then saves a small group of people.

2. They find out that they messed with Death’s grand plan and death will be coming back for them one by one.

3. They try to find a way to escape the plan.

4. They think they have avoided death by the end.

5. They all die anyway.

6. *spoilers*

And that is every single fucking Final Destination movie.

My question is, why does the main character have a premonition anyway? What’s the deal there? It is never explained. Could it be that Death feels it’s out of practice and is just fucking with them, giving a select few a shot a life by letting them in on the initial plan, just to kill them in over-elaborate ways later? Death is just a dark shadow in these movies, I don’t know if it has a personality. Maybe if we had a Grim Reaper-looking villain off in the background cracking his knuckles and spouting off some one-liners the movies would have more of a distinct personality. EG, Final Destination 2: “SEE YA LADDER!”

And the motherfucking coroner. Talk about some fucking lazy writing. What is up with that guy? I love Tony Todd as much as the next guy but his presence is ridiculous. Some people have theorized that the coroner is actually death Himself and if you want to buy into that I guess that’s fine, but let’s face it, his real purpose is pure exposition. If it weren’t for his character in the first film no one would be there to explain Death’s grand scheme, laugh creepily, and leave the doomed kids to their business.

The sad thing is that the first Final Destination could have been a very good movie. There’s something interesting and insightful to be found in a movie like this where youth is tragically cut short, and death is unavoidable and unfair. Sure, they touch upon it a little bit here and there in the movies. For example in part 3 one kid causes a scene at a funeral, questioning why the hell someone like Osama Bin Laden could still be alive yet two innocent girls not even of 18 had to die. Okay, it’s a little dated but you get the sentiment. I’m not saying the movies need to be super deep or anything but they’re all just content with the concept and formula that they’ve set up with part one and do it over and over. The only thing that changes are the victims and the cool deaths.

Part 2 is probably the worst one. I know I complained how they don’t attempt to add to the story, but this one actually tried to connect the stories, and did so in a pathetically bad way. They bring a character back and it’s all pointless. Whoopty fucking doo.

By the time they hit the third movie it’s almost like they stopped giving a shit, which, as the series has established itself, is a good thing. The cheesier and stupider the better. The faster they rush through the exposition and get to the kills, the better. And hey, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Reow.

The fourth one, titled Final Destination 4 (oops I mean THE Final Destination) is the cheesiest, which is why I kind of like it the best. It has a lot more humour, it’s light on the exposition, and the group of survivors pretty much treat looming death as a minor inconvenience. It’s so stupid and dumbed down that it ultimately works to its advantage. For example, you know that racist guy? Check the credits. He’s listed as “Racist guy.” Not even kidding. That just shows how much they don’t care, they can’t even give the characters names. There are also standout performances by brunette girl, douchey guy, and everyone’s favourite, black dude.

The Final Destination movies are stupid, but have some good deaths and are fun. At one point long ago, it could have had potential to be something more. But they made their decisions with how to take the concept and it is what it is. Cheap, dead teenager entertainment. Not particularly a bad thing but when it comes to the genre it is the bottom of the barrel. Either way you bet your ass I’ll be in line to see part 5.

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

 

The makeup effects in the original PLANET OF THE APES film were revolutionary in 1968. The Tim Burton-helmed remake, now a decade old, pushed the art as far as it could go under the masterful control of Rick Baker. Now the newest “Apes” movie, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has taken things a step further with visual effects from WETA. The apes look just like apes, act just like apes, but are digital creations that can do things that you probably couldn’t train an ape to do on film in a million years. Besides, training apes seems kind of cruel.

The appeal of these makeup effects in the original as well as the sequels is that the performances of great actors could burst through those ape faces. Many people would associate PLANET OF THE APES immediately with Charlton Heston, but those who have affection for sequels such as “ESCAPE,” “CONQUEST,” and “BATTLE” would unflinchingly tell you the franchise truly belongs to Roddy McDowell, who played Cornelius and Ceaser to great effect. The guy was a fantastic and skilled actor but he could also really ape it up. It was a winning combination and it made the series stand out. But the days of makeup and McDowell are over, and now for the most recent “Apes” film we have CGI and Andy Serkis (no stranger to playing simians), which isn’t a bad trade-off at all.

 

 

It’s sort of a prequel to the 1968 film. But the timeline became so messed up and so full of paradoxes that this could precede that film, it could stand on its own as a complete fresh start, or, Hell, you could probably place it somewhere in-between in an alternate universe. With all the time-and-space-bending presented you could probably even fit in Burton’s film into the continuity somehow. But if you want to say, “hey, this is what happens that led to what we see in the first movie,” then that’s agreeable, and there are some hints scattered about that would fit that frame of mind in place.

The movie begins innocently enough, with scientists experimenting on animals to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease but things don’t go exactly as planned (which is exactly the same plot of DEEP BLUE SEA by the way). The formula doesn’t work too ideally on humans but it takes to apes very nicely, causing advanced intelligence. Enter Caesar.

We have James Franco in the movie, we have Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Draco Malfoy, but make no mistake: Andy Serkis is the star. Caesar is the main character, the story is about his struggle, and it is a deeply facsinating study of a primate endowed with extraordiary intelligence; who is blessed and cursed with cognition and self-examination of a man, wondering how and why he is, recogonizing he’s an anomoly, and feeling some entitlement to be a little higher on the food chain.

 

 

It’s not as sci-fi heavy as some of the other movies in this series but it gets the drama right and treats the material seriously and cautiously, avoiding anything too silly. I wouldn’t say there’s much racial or social allegory going on here but it tells the story of the ape uprising very well. You could argue that maybe the intentions of the little revolution shown here aren’t incredibly justified, like, why would the apes turn and mistrust all of mankind just because a few assholes at an animal shelter gave them a hard time? Well, I don’t think that’s entirely the point. Sometimes movies like this just consider what it would be like if our time staying as the most dominant beings on the planet were through. Could be aliens, could be apes. But it’s fascinating since apes are so similar to us, seeming just a little removed from the evolutionary line, so why couldn’t there be an alternate universe where they were in charge and we were the ones in cages? If apes are as similar to us as we think they are then we’d know they wouldn’t want to share the rule of the world.

 

 

A good story was told with modern effects that were very convincing and the drama was very well played out. Andy Serkis was incredible and pulls off a wonderful performance as Ceaser. The references to the original films are fun and not too overbearing, and it pays a much better service to the franchise’s fans than the remake did. It has the same kind of spirit as those movies but it is a fresh take on the general story so whether you’ve seen every single one and know the overall plot detail by detail or whether this is your first venture into the series it successfully satisifies in just about every area. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t the best one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d love to see more.

Beast from “X-Men: First Class” looks suspiciously like Chopper Dave from “Sealab 2021”

The trailer for X-Men: First Class hit the web today. It’s a prequel or something. It should have mutants and extremely, extremely subtle social commentary. But anyway something that caught my attention was one shot of Beast, since it looks so much like our beloved Chopper Dave character from the Adult Swim cartoon “Sealab 2021,” but you can judge for yourself:

uh-oh!

Movie Review: The Expendables (2010)

THE EXPENDABLES is an action masterpiece. It’s up there with the big boys. It’s an instant classic. Really. It has all the ingredients for such a film, including the macho moralities of camaraderie, loyalty, betrayal, and unflinching badassness in the face of danger. I was expecting to have fun with the movie, but it thoroughly impressed me a lot more than I thought it would. It features its well-known cast of action stars, but it’s not content simply with that. This is a movie with something to prove. This is a movie that doesn’t take the audience for saps. It’s wise enough to know that the novelty of having such a cast could only get it so far, and the characters are well fleshed out. At least, as well fleshed out as a film of this kind can allow. There’s a sense that these characters have a real history and truly occupy the world of this film. This isn’t some weekend fun pet project for these actors. This is serious business.

I really appreciated how The Expendables wasn’t some silly 80’s throwback. It’s very much a modern action film, but it’s on Stallone’s own terms. There’s the shaky cam and snappy editing, but you won’t find an overabundance of CGI, or slow motion, or bullet-time, or any crap like that. The action scenes are fairly practical, aside from some digital blood splatter and green screen, and you can actually believe that the action really is taking place, with real stunts and real explosions. It’s not wall-to-wall scenes with underwhelming visual effects. It’s refreshingly coherent action, and it really is awesome. The plot is fairly simple as well. It doesn’t throw an overly complicated story at you, with ridiculous twist and ridiculous twist; most of the time when you see a movie like that, it’s really just covering up for the fact that it’s shit. The Expendables has enough confidence in its story and its characters to not pull the rug from underneath you with any contrived gimmicks. What you see is what you get. You might just say that this movie is the answer to everything that’s wrong with action these days. Stallone is a fun action actor, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t have a certain understated gifted eye for filmmaking to boot.

The cast is great and everyone has their own little moments, but the two actors who occupy the screen most are Stallone and Jason Statham. They make for a pretty great team. They have the kind of buddy stuff that you’d expect like the clever banter back and forth, and some good-natured rivalry. Eric Roberts plays the villain, and he is deliciously slimy in the role. And, yes, they were even able to fit in one of those little “we’re not so different” speeches. There’s also some fun, not-kept-so-secret-seeing-as-how-they’re-in-every-fucking-advertisement-for-the-movie cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. That was great to see, and provided the biggest laughs of the movie.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Mickey Rourke is in it, as well. He really makes the most out of a small role, and nearly steals the show halfway through the movie when he delivers a surprisingly moving monologue about being haunted by a young woman’s suicide. It was one of the stand-out moments of the film. Now, just stop and think to yourself: how many action movies would bother to completely stop dead in its tracks amidst the action to provide a scene like that, with a genuine, sincere purpose, too?

Trailer analysis: Yogi Bear, and Thor

If you need further proof that Hollywood has become a parody of itself, then by all means check out the teaser trailer for Yogi Bear. Be sure to feast your eyes on the trailers for the Smurfs movie and the Jack Black version of Gulliver’s Travels while you’re at it.

The special sneak preview of the the upcoming live action Yogi Bear movie hit the net last night. Needless to say, it looks fairly by-the-numbers. Let’s see:

  • Live action blended with horrendous CGI? Check!
  • Genuinely talented actor taking a paycheck by voicing the titular character? Check!
  • B-Grade talent in the human roles? Check!
  • Animals dancing and shaking their butts to pop music? Check!
  • Tedious slapstick humour? Check!
  • In FUCKING 3-D?? Check and mate!!

I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the Yogi Bear cartoon, but I’m pretty sure taking your kids to see this should equate to child abuse. It looks like absolute garbage, and will probably kill your kids’ brain cells. You may as well toss them a bottle of Jack Daniels and tell them to have at it.

Do kids really like seeing these shitty-looking CGI animals dance to pop music so much? Like, really? Teach your kid to read, participate in team sports, plant a fucking tree for God’s sake, or at the very least just stay at home and watch the original cartoon! How can they possibly fill an entire movie with picnic basket stealing gags? It’s filler, fodder, junk food for the brain. Any kid going into this movie is going to walk out of it a little dumber.

The trailer may as well contain a voice over saying: We think kids today are stupid. We’re going to take a beloved cartoon character and shit out a lousy movie with him, fill it with pretty colours, lots of dancing, and lame jokes, because today’s kids just love that stuff!

Kids aren’t that stupid, are they? Take them to see the Pixar stuff, take them to Harry Potter, they can handle that. But this movie looks like it will be shit. Stop taking kids to see this worthless trash and they’ll stop making it!

Ugh. Whatever. It’s a stupid kids movie. Not the first. Not the last. But I’d never take my (theoretical) kid to see something like Yogi Bear. I’d have too much love and respect for my offspring.

It breaks my heart to see Anna Faris in this movie. I do think she has talent, and she’s really hot, too. It’s  also disappointing to see Dan Aykroyd sell out with voicing Yogi the bear, and not doing all too great of a job of it, either.  He’s a gifted actor, writer, and comedian. He’s one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, a true comedic pioneer, he’s an Oscar nominated dramatic actor, he’s a Ghostbuster for God’s sake, and hey, his wine brand is pretty good, too. So it’s really come to this, huh?

In addition to the exciting Yogi Bear news, some leaked footage of a 5-minute Thor trailer has been popping up as well. Good luck finding it, though. It gets pulled as soon as it gets uploaded. I can’t say I’m a big Thor fan or anything, my familiarity with the character really only extends to the “BY THE HAMMER OF THOR” line repeated so hilariously in various TV shows and films, namely Anchorman. Ha, ha. Personally I can’t really see the appeal of a space viking that has a big hammer as a weapon, but whatever.

Some thoughts on the trailer:

  • It’s never occurred to me until right now how much Anthony Hopkins sounds like Marlon Brando, and his role gives off a Superman/Krypton opening kind of vibe.
  • I have no idea who the actor playing Thor is. He must be new. I’d swear he was an ex-wrestler or something if it weren’t for the fact that he’s British and can apparently act without grinning into the camera.
  • “For a crazy homeless man, he’s….pretty cut.” Tee hee, funny line.
  • Natalie Portman alone should get my ass in the seat.
  • The best thing about the trailer was the Iron Man reference.  Oh boy, I can’t wait for Iron Man 3. When’s that coming out??
  • The costume design is impressive, but not too surprising considering the film is helmed by Kenneth Branagh, director of Shakespearean adaptations such as Henry V, Hamlet, and As You Like It. I’d say Branagh’s involvement in the project would be an encouraging factor, but then again, this is the same guy who voluntarily acted in Wild Wild West.

So I’m sure the verdict isn’t quite in yet. Some folks are hella excited for this movie and died of nerdgasms upon viewing the trailer, but I think a lot of people are still waiting to make up their minds. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Thor is any good or not.

Movie Review: Splice (2010)

Splice is one of the few big movies out this summer that isn’t a sequel, spin-off, remake, re-imagining, or anything like that. However, I’d hardly say it’s original. We all know that the whole “scientist screwing with the laws of nature” concept has been done to death- going back as early as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Fortunately, the movie is well aware of this, and offers some fresh ideas. I was quite pleased at how quickly it breezes through the obligatory “They’re shutting our research down, let’s work on our project in secret” bullshit and goes straight to the creating of abominations of God. It goes through a very interesting process. Splice aims to fascinate rather than repulse, so don’t expect to be too grossed out. This is the kind of movie that Alien design creator H.R. Giger would be proud of. It’s the absurd, psycho-sexual theatre of oddities that something like Alien: Resurrection could only dream of being like (note the possible tip of the hat: the incubation machine is named the “BETI” and sports a similar pin-up to the ship in A:R ).

The strength of the movie, I feel, is in its creature effects. If you don’t have a convincing creature, you don’t have a movie, and I thought they pulled off this creature, “Dren,” very well. Not only did it blend CGI and makeup effects seamlessly, but the performance by Delphine Chanéac should be given a lot of credit for adding dimension to the creature. I didn’t see a special effect: I saw living being that thought and felt, and even schemed. I should hail the performances of Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as well, they added some credibility to the project and their characters are reasonably developed and well-rounded.

It delves a little deeper than the average creature feature. When the characters inevitably express their regret with toying with mother nature, I truly believed it this time around, but it’s certainly not limited to a preachy “Thou Shalt Not Disrupt The Natural Order”-type message. What the message is, I can’t really say for sure. If anything, it’s almost a twisted Adam and Eve kind of story, where the Godless characters abandon all that is good simply because- I suppose- they can’t get off on normal procreation anymore. They suffer the consequences.

The bad news is that while it does take a few steps above the norm (there are some truly bizarre moments that I can’t even begin to describe), it suffers from going by-the-numbers at times, particularly by the end. So it doesn’t exactly reach the heights it wants to, and at the same time, it doesn’t serve up nearly enough thrills for people looking for a mainstream scarefest, so I’m wondering if there’s even really an audience for this movie. Without giving anything away, I’ll tell you that one of the last lines in the film is the classic, fate-tempting question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” The answer: Splice 2, straight to video.

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