Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Woman In Black

The Woman in Black is a horror-thriller directed by James Watkins and written by Jane Goldman.  It’s based on Susan Hill’s novel, which is something I definitely need to get my hands on.  The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, and Liz White, who are all mainly British actors, some obviously more famous than others.  As a fun little fact (and nod to all the Potter fans out there), Ciarán Hinds starred in the last two Potter films as Aberforth Dumbledore.

This was a film that I’ve been highly anticipating for quite some time.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HARDCORE Potter fan.  (This obviously means I love Daniel Radcliffe)  This is Radcliffe’s first major studio film since the Potter series concluded this past summer.  I am so happy for the world to see that he is a force to be reckoned with, and will not be known solely as “the boy who lived”.  I just recently saw him on Broadway as the starring role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was not only AWESOME but really sold me on his rare talent. It’s your turn to see his talent now!

The thing I loved about this film was that it was old-school British horror.  It is bringing the genre back to what it should be, providing genuine scares, not just the blood and guts showing of the current American horror film.  While this was enjoyable, I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is a horror masterpiece.  A lot of the scares were reliant on loud noise and camera angles, but at the same time there were a lot of great scenes that kept me immersed in this original story.

Speaking of the story, it revolves around a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who is struggling in many aspects of life after having lost his wife four years back during childbirth.  He has been left to raise his son and pay for a nanny, and finds it difficult to find time for his son while he tries to provide for them at work.  In the midst of money troubles and not wanting to lose his job, he accepts a case to settle the legal affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow while leaving his son behind in London.  When he arrives to the “Eel Marsh” estate, it is obvious by its inhabitants that he is not welcome and they want him to return home to London.  Of course he does nothing of the sort, and begins to discover that there have been numerous unforeseen accidents/suicides taking the lives of the children in the town.  This leads the parents of the village to barricade their children indoors.  Arthur continues to go to the estate all alone to continue his work.  He starts to hear screams, sees “the children”, and finally discovers “The Woman in Black.”  According to local legend, whenever someone lays eyes on “The Woman in Black” another child dies.  It is her way to extract vengeance since her beloved son Nathaniel was taken from her many years ago in a carriage accident.  Without giving any more away, let’s just say Arthur’s son is coming to visit him at the end of the week.

As I stated earlier I love Daniel’s performance in this film, and it really shows he is here to stay!  My only problem with the casting is that I feel he is a little too young to be believed as someone who is a widow with a four-year-old son.  As he is the major draw for the film though, it seems to work well enough.  The other great performance is given by Ciarán Hinds, who plays a character that Arthur befriends on the way to the estate, and who assists him in getting to the bottom of everything.  He has been in some of my favorite films of all time including Road to Perdition, Munich, and There Will Be Blood, just to name a few.  He is also in one of my most anticipated movies of this year, John Carter, which will be hitting theaters in March. (He was even in a film version of one of Kim’s favorite novels, Jane Eyre, back on A&E in 1997, so he is kind of a big deal).

With all that being said, I highly suggest you check this film out if you are a “true” horror fan. It even offers up some good scares for you non-horror fans, and it is a film that can appeal to the masses in the genre.  I loved the legend of “The Woman in Black” within the story too.  I thought it was very original, and even though I feel that they could have played off of this plot point a little more, I was satisfied with the final product.  The cinematography was awesome, and it made me really want to go back to the Edwardian era especially because of the awesome clothes they wore back then.  I will leave you with this: the ending is one of the best parts of the film.  I had heard it was crazy before going into the film, so that had my mind racing leading up to the end to try and figure out what was up.  When the film finally ended, I am not going to say I saw it coming completely (I had additional different ideas in my mind), but what actually happened was something that I had considered.  So, when you all go see this movie be sure to leave comments as I would like to know what your thoughts are!

4 out of 5 Stars

The Woman in Black (2011)
Hammer Film Productions
PG-13, 95 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two

(Parts of this review first appeared in Charlie’s original review of the film here on The Dog and Pony Show blog)

THE BOY WHO LIVED, COMES TO DIE!!!  One of my all-time favorite series came to a close this summer, the Harry Potter series.  Fortunately, it’s time to re-live it at home on Blu-Ray!  The ending was a very bittersweet moment for me, but was something I had been waiting for for quite some time.  I eagerly waited in line for the midnight showing and dressed up with all the other Muggles wishing they were pure-bloods to see this EPIC conclusion.  The time for an epic ending had finally come and sadly has now passed.  Nothing I write in this article can do it justice, but I’ll try my best.  Go grab yourself a butterbeer while I tell you about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

November 16, 2001 was the day I decided I was in love with Emma Watson.  She was almost 12, and I had just recently turned 14, so it was all good.  Anyone who knows me knows just how I feel about her.  Ever since then, I have become a HARDcore Potterphile.  J.K. Rowling gave us a true masterpiece, which will easily pass the test of time and go down in eternal glory.  So as a true Potter fan (aka a reader of the books not just the films), I have to say that I was very satisfied with the conclusion of the series, and loved that they divided it into two parts to truly give it the awesomeness it deserved.  Not to sound cliché but it really has been a part of my childhood, and watching the cast grow up on-screen as I did was amazing.

I want to be as spoiler free as possible because I know not everyone has read the books (like this guy has).  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, in my opinion, is by far the best film in this legendary series.  It picks up exactly where we left off in Part 1 with Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave.  The basics of the final chapter are that the story follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione (YUM) as they continue their quest of finding and destroying Voldemort’s  three remaining horcruxes (the magical items responsible for his immortality that are actually pieces of his soul).  As the mystical Deathly Hallows are uncovered and Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as the trio know it will never be the same again.

We are treated to non-stop action from the very beginning to the bitter end.  Part 2 really is a war film, and we get to experience many casualties along the way to reach our final outcome.  The performances by the actors in this film are brought to a new level, especially by our big three.  The scene between Harry and Hermione when Harry realizes what he must do to put an end  to Voldemort once and for all truly is a remarkable scene that will hit everyone hard, and in my opinion it is the most emotional scene for Dan and Emma in the entire series.  Anyways, Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) kicks some serious ass in this movie, and is probably tapping it as well, as he has almost become unrecognizable to the eye transforming entirely from his early years at Hogwarts.  However, the one actor who steals the show and just so happens to portray my favorite character in the Potter universe is Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.  In my eyes he truly is the most badass and important character of the series. There is a pivotal scene that plays out in the film with Rickman and it might just be what causes him to be nominated for an Oscar.  (This of course would be the first time an actor in a Harry Potter movie gets recognized by the Academy)

As a HARDCORE Potter Fan, we are treated to a truly satisfying and faithful conclusion on-screen that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride (yes, grown men may cry).  David Yates’ vision for these final four movies has been great, and even though I may have done a few things differently, he was the perfect man for the job and has a bright future ahead of him.  As for the rest of the cast, I can’t wait to see what Dan, Rupert, and the love of my life, Emma, have in store for us because they really have transformed into fine young actors.  With all of that being said, it really is sad that this series has come to an end, although it lives on in all of us.  In the words of J.K. Rowling herself, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

PS – Keep an eye out for my upcoming post on Pottermore.  It will serve as a permanent online home for the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  I’ve been lucky enough to be playing around with it as a beta tester and want to share my experiences with all of you

5 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
Warner Brothers
PG-13, 130 Minutes
 
For those interested in purchasing the Blu-ray version, a word of advice:

The Blu-Ray is jam-packed with special features, and there is a copy that is appropriate for everyone.  I recommend getting your copy from Target, as it comes with a special Harry Potter documentary as well!!!  The Harry Potter DVD/Blu-ray will be going into a vault (Warner Bros is copying Disney) after the Holiday Season, so be sure to grab a copy.  They will obviously be releasing them again soon with the ULTIMATE SERIES COLLECTION, so they can continue to have this series live on and make money. I of course will be buying all of these, as I’m a huge sucker. (Ha-Ha)

Special Features:
Includes Instant Streaming with UltraViolet Digital Copy

Disc 1: Theatrical Movie on Blu-ray

Disc 2: Special Features on Blu-ray:
Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and other cast members
A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe
The Goblins of Gringott’s
The Women of Harry Potter
Warner Bros. Studio Tour (London)
Additional Scenes

Disc 3: Theatrical Movie on DVD

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 15: Zach’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Guest blogging for us today is friend of the blog Zach Naiman.  Thanks for the great post Zach!

Maybe my expectations for the Harry Potter series have been too high.  Maybe I got too hung up on how far from the books they’ve come and how many story lines were abandoned along the way.  From The Sorcerer’s Stone, where they somehow managed to forget Snape’s riddle guarding the Stone, to changing wizard dueling into Cirque du Soleil sword fighting, to forgetting the massive battle scene at the end of Half-Blood Prince, I’ve been quite disappointed with most of the movies.

It took them six movies to change my mind.  Even though the ending was not as I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed The Half-Blood Prince, so I was ready for another touching movie full of triumph and despair.  The previews tickled my imagination, stirring the feelings I had when I first read the books.

And then I saw the movie.  And it was boring, slow, and drawn out, just like the book!

Wait! You just said the movie was boring?!

Exactly.

The Deathly Hallows is one of my favorite books, in fact I consider it J.K. Rowling’s best written novel.  The despair in the pages is palpable; the tension seems to permeate the room as you read.  The movie captures the awkward slow death, utter confusion, and doubt that infects Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they travel throughout Great Britain anxiously trying to decode Dumbledore’s vague instructions.  Whether it is the wide stunning shots of the desolate areas the three travel through or the tension filled scenes running from the Snatchers, you feel what the characters are feeling: raw hopelessness and frantic terror.  Unlike the other movies, director David Yates seems to thrive when he has less of a set description of the scenes.  The cinematography and sound track illustrate the inevitable journey leading to their capture and imprisonment in the Malfoy’s Manor.

As usual, Daniel Radcliffe is a passable Harry.  His strengths seem to rise when he has little to say during the quiet moments of the film.  Rupert Grint and Emma Watson shine in increasingly crucial roles.  Typically the films have shined by selecting incredible actors to play the smaller roles.  This one is no different.  Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, David Thewlis, and Maggie Smith flawlessly portray their parts, not only looking exactly as I imagined but perfectly emanating their mannerisms and characteristics.  Rickman especially seems born to the part.  His slimy, oily-ness seems to leak right out of the screen.  One of my favorite scenes is the animated story of the Deathly Hallows, which is an incredible visually stunning sequence that takes the audience by surprise.  Taken by itself that scene deserved to win awards and is a true testament to the artistic vision of Yates.

The biggest issues I had with the film deal with two points of contention.  The first is the introduction of the fifth Weasley brother, unseen until this point, and conveniently slid into this film without rhyme or reason.  If they wanted to film the wedding scene then why not introduce him in the last film so that we see him attacked by Fenrir Greyback, and have some emotional tie to his character.  The other problem I had was the absence of any feeling when Dobby died.  I wanted to feel something, I truly did.  He is one of my most beloved characters, but the CGI image does not instill any warm and fuzzies.  Perhaps like George Lucas, they should have stuck with the puppets.

Despite its shortcomings, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the best film yet.  The amazing shots of the countryside combined with the above average performances by Grint and Watson raises the level to new heights.  It was an honest tribute to the novels that have captured our hearts.

4 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
Warner Brothers
PG-13, 146 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 13: Adam S’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Joining us today is good friend Adam Spunberg.  Adam has done tons of things that I need to mention.  He is the editorial producer at MLBAM, a writer for MLB, associate editor at Picktainment,  co-creator of the Jane Austen Twitter Project, founder of The Potter Games, producer/co-host of the Hunger Games Fireside Chat, and much more! Thanks for the guest post Adam, and welcome to the Reflections family!

When Kim asked me if I would like to write a guest blog on Harry Potter, I was thrilled to help out, but I was even more excited when she told me I could choose which film I wanted to write about.  I’m actually a pretty big fan of all the movies (even Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban has grown on me over the years), but there’s a reason the David Yates-directed Half-Blood Prince was, and has remained my favorite in this wonderful franchise.

The biggest challenge in directing a Harry Potter film is finding some way to effectively keep to the source material and also appeal to the common populace at the same time.  Still, there is plenty of room for artistic liberty: Rowling might describe a wand fight, for instance, but the filmmakers can decide who’s in the fight, what camera angles to use, lighting, positioning, how much time to invest on the scene, etc.  Of all the Potter directors, Yates seems to have the best grasp on finding that balance, and then – once he establishes how loyal he wants to be to the written word – putting a whimsical stamp on the things he can control.

Every scene is deliberated over with such care, whether it be a spectacular two-minute sequence at Fred and George’s joke shop or the waves crashing against the shore when Harry and Dumbledore track down a horcrux.  We also have plenty of the gooey stuff (which I admit, I liked!), with teenage love floating through Hogwarts like pixie dust in the air – as Ron learns, sometimes to his detriment.  Catapulted by a wondrous score from Nicholas Hooper and a plethora of memorable scenes, Half-Blood Prince is simply a delight to watch, even as the conclusion leaves you in shambles.

I also should point out what an exceptional addition Jim Broadbent is to the tale, stepping in as the fame-obsessed, slightly unscrupulous Horace Slughorn.  The child leads also seem to have really come of age here, and the rest of the supporting cast – many of them A-List stars – pull their weight with considerable charm.  I’ll be curious to see if Deathly Hallows, Part II can supplant Half-Blood Prince as my favorite Potter movie, but unless those recollections in my pensieve go rotten, it will be a Hagrid-size tall order.  Still, I’m hopeful!

5 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Warner Brothers
PG, 153 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 10: Adam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix + GIVEAWAY

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was praised by the critics as the best of the series and I have to agree with them.  The film shows a different, more complex side to the world of wizardry that gave viewers a new refreshing look at the film franchise. 

The film starts off in the muggle world, with Harry and his cousin Dudley in a pedestrian tunnel near a playground when they are attacked by Dementors, the soul-sucking guards of Azkaban.  Harry uses his magic to dispatch them, and is subsequently expelled from Hogwarts for using magic in front of a muggle.  While at the Ministry of Magic for his hearing, Harry learns that the Ministry is trying to deny that Lord Voldemort is back, and that it was in fact Harry Potter who killed Cedric Diggory!  Fortunately, Harry is cleared of all charges and he gets to go back to Hogwarts, where students start treating him differently due to the divide of whether Voldemort is back or not.  The ministry hires Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, but the real reason she’s hired is to keep an eye on the students and Dumbledore for the Ministry.  Harry, with the help of his faithful friends Hermione and Ron, form “Dumbledore’s Army”, a group of students who want to learn how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts.  Together, this underground army must convince everyone that Voldemort is back or else the world of wizardry will be forever changed for the worse.

This film was perfection. It was perfectly paced and combined great special effects with a great story.  It made Rowling’s story come to life, and really made the world of wizardry come to life as well.  In this film you definitely get to see some of the turmoil and the under-workings of this magical world.  The characters were excellently developed and definitely seemed like people whom you could meet on the street.  I can’t really put into words why this film felt more special than the others, but it definitely had a different feel. The pacing was perfect, and the interludes with the newspaper headlines really helped move the story along.  A lot of times book to film adaptations cut huge amounts out due to time constraints.  The newspaper headlines were a way to keep those pieces of the book in, while keeping the total film time at a manageable amount.  The headlines reminded me of old films where the flipping newspapers introduced scenes.

Just when I thought a character couldn’t get any cooler and more badass than Lord Voldemort, the introduction of Bellatrix Lestrange happened.  Lestrange, one of the female Death Eaters, was played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter: adding another level of evil to the Death Eater persona.  Once again, I pictured a perfectly nice actor doing terrible things in order to get into the mindset to play a character like this.  Helena Bonham Carter is a brilliant character actress, especially in this role.  You really feel her evil-ness coming through the screen.  (It almost making the viewer want to root for the bad guys so that they could be on-screen more)   However, her acting is triumphed by Ralph Fiennes, who returns as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I kept pestering Kim as to when he would return to the screen, and when he finally did, I was at the edge of my seat.  He is pure genius in this role, and really defines this evil being that is part devil, part wizard.  I really can’t wait to see what happens in the next three films with Voldemort and look forward to many more scenes with Ralph Fiennes.

All and all this was by far my favorite film so far.  The story moved at a really good pace, and it contained details that were both visually stunning and important to the series. The special effects were amazing and the acting was really strong.  I look forward to seeing what happens in the next chapter of the film and see how the story ends.  Like always, I leave you with a question: do you ever root for the bad guys?  Deep down is there ever a time where a bad character is written or portrayed so well that you can’t keep yourself from rooting for them?

Until next time, happy viewing.

6 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Warner Brothers
PG-13, 138 Minutes
 
Giveaway
 
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on DVD.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 8: Adam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Welcome back to the Harry Potter Blogsplosion! Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth (and Kim’s favorite) adventure in the series.  It once again stars Daniel Radcliffe, as the title character, and Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint as his trusty sidekicks.  Harry is in his fourth year at Hogwarts and finally comes face to face with a human form of Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes.

The movie starts off with Harry Potter having a nightmare consisting of Peter Pettigrew, Lord Voldemort (who is unseen), and an unknown man.  Harry watches as Voldemort kills an elderly man who was standing near them watching them.  It is as Voldemort yells “Avada Kedavra” that Harry suddenly wakes up.  Harry awakens to find Ron and Hermione watching him to make sure he’s ok.  Assuring them that he’s fine he goes back to sleep, only to wake up a few hours later for the Quidditch World Cup finals.  While everyone is sleeping post-match, the Death Eaters, who are the faithful servants to Lord Voldemort, terrorize the campsites to announce to everyone that Voldemort’s return is imminent.  After narrowly escaping the Death Eaters, Harry and his friends return to school to learn that Hogwarts will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament.  Three different schools of wizardry send representatives from their respective schools to compete in a series of events that push their magical skills and endurance to the limit.  The winner of the tournament wins the Triwizard Cup, a small fortune, and bragging rights for their school. Controversy arises when Harry Potter, 3 years younger than the 17-year-old cut off age, is the fourth candidate to be chosen to compete.  With Harry as an extra champion, four candidates will now vie for the title instead of the usual three, including Viktor Krum from the Durmstang institute, Fleur Delacour from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and finally Cedric Diggory (played by a pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson).  The three tasks they face are: steal a golden egg from a dragon, save a loved one trapped in the lake, and find the Triwizard Cup in the heart of a giant hedge maze filled with obstacles. While in this last challenge, Potter is transported to a place where for the first time, he comes face to face with a human form of Lord Voldemort.

After the dark take of the third Harry Potter film, this one has a bit of a lighter look.  There seemed to be more of the magic that makes Hogwarts so appealing and makes it a place you’d really want to visit.  Mike Newell the director, had a way of making every shot count. The shots were beautiful and really made Hogwarts this magical yet accessible place.  I don’t feel that this was done in the first three films.  One of my favorite shots of the film was when Harry was crossing the long bridge on Hogwarts’ grounds.  Before they zoomed in on him, they held off just long enough to make you notice what an amazing shot it was. The most beautiful shots in my opinion were of the Yule Ball.  The use of cinematography in the film just makes each shot magical.  The music went perfectly with these scenes and really played off of the characters emotions, just like a good score should.

Ralph Fiennes is the PERFECT villain. He just embodies what Lord Voldemort should be.  Not having read the books, I didn’t have any idea of what Voldemort should be like.  He is the perfect combination of creepiness and pure evil, just what a villain should be.  I imagined him not having a heart and kicking puppies in order to get into the mindset of the role.  He was definitely the highlight of the movie.  I was eagerly waiting for him to finally appear and when he did, I was so excited.  My eyes were drawn to him and I listened to every word he spoke.  I can’t wait to see him play this role more in later films; I’m excited to see how he develops Voldemort’s character. It was also interesting to see Harry and Ron as just regular teenage boys.  They are so powerful with their wizard powers that I think the viewers often forget that they’re teenagers, and it was interesting to see them being nervous around girls and awkward with their first love.  

All and all, I think this was the best of the Harry Potter films I’ve seen thus far.  The story was the most unique, and I liked the addition of new characters and finally getting to see Lord Voldemort.

5 out 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Warner Brothers
PG-13, 157 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 6: Sam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Please join me in welcoming back Sam Cushion for today’s film review.  Sam is an amazing musician who creates musical scores inspired by books!  He has most recently created an unofficial score for The Hunger Games.  To find out more about Sam, check out his website here

Prisoner of Azkaban is the first of the Potter films to have a new director, Alfonso Cuarón. Chris Columbus did however stay on as a producer.  With Cuarón in the directors seat, Prisoner of Azkaban breaks out of the “child’s film” mold that the first two films seemed to fit into.  Gone are the flashy special effects, and in their place are the amazing sets and scenery that leave the viewer in awe.  The cinematography also adds a more mature and art-film like quality to the film as well.  There is also an increased emphasis on the characters of the film. Cuarón manages to effectively capture the teens’ inner turmoil and isn’t afraid to dwell on the darker side of the third book.  This also helps add to the maturity level of the film.

The film is also more appealing to a larger audience because it’s considerably shorter, just under 2 hours and 10 minutes.  It does not bog down or bore the audience with an attempt to capture EVERY element of the book, like the first two films did.  Unfortunately, no film will ever match the quality of the book it is based on, but Cuarón’s selection on what parts of the book to include are very well-selected.  Cuarón managed to bring life back into what some thought was a dying franchise at the time.  He also was able to make it more enjoyable for an older audience by making it darker, scarier, and more mature.

The soundtrack for Prisoner of Azkaban is also nothing short of amazing!  The Potter films have seen several different composers over the years, but none as good as Williams.  You cannot deny the very high bar that was set by him in the first three films.  Composers who have followed luckily haven’t missed that bar, nor have they exceeded it.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is nothing but a brilliant film!  Perhaps that is due to the fact that it was the last film with John Williams as composer or the direction of the new director.  Nevertheless, Prisoner of Azkaban has been one of my favorites of the Harry Potter, books and the film doesn’t disappoint.  I really do wish I could be more critical of this film, but in all honesty I can’t think of anything that disappointed me.  All in all this remains one of my favorite in the Potter films since it was released in 2004.

4 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Warner Brothers
PG, 141 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 4: Savanna’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Please join me in welcoming back gust reviewer Savanna New! Savanna is the co-producer of The Hunger Games Fireside Chat and is also an associate editor at Picktainment.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets just can’t seem to catch a break! As I mentioned yesterday in my review of the book, when forced to choose, most fans usually describe Chamber of Secretsas being their least favorite book in the Harry Potter series (at least, that’s been my experience).  It’s an astonishing work of literary genius, to be sure, but just doesn’t stand out as much among its brethren.  The movie adaptation, which I will be looking at today, constantly receives a lot of flak as well.  Last year, one of my co-associate editors at Picktainment, Adam Spunberg, surveyed hardcore fans, along with a few Picktainment staff members, and asked us all to rank the first seven Harry Potter films.  How did Chamber of Secrets fare?  Adam wrote, “Sporting just 2% of the first-place votes and 69% of the bottom half, Secrets ought to just take some gillyweed and sulk among the Merpeople.”  Ouch!

So, what is it about the film that draws such a muddy reception?  You would think the things that make the book less attractive to readers – a slightly formulaic plot structure that’s “too” similar to Sorcerer’s Stone and a lack of the powerful and intricately woven storylines that characterize Rowling’s subsequent works would fade away behind the veneer of movie magic.  And they do, to an extent.  The movie has its own set of problems, which I’ll lay out below; fortunately, though, there are also a lot of really wonderful aspects to this film, which should definitely not go unrecognized.

Magical Moments:

  • Richard Harris is absolutely moving in his final turn as Dumbledore, delivering his lines with the sort of wise gentleness and winking spirit that make the headmaster such a lovable character in the books.  My opinion may be an unpopular one, but I’ll probably always prefer Harris’s Dumbledore to Michael Gambon’s. I like my Dumbledore with a twinkle in his eye, not a harsh snarl on their lips.

  • Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy?  Yes, please!
  • The design and voicing of Dobby could have gone very, very wrong.  Thankfully for all of us, it didn’t.

  • Chamber of Secrets, the movie, follows the book almost too closely, if such a thing is possible (and I hate to say that it is, considering how much I disliked the “liberties” that Alfonso Cuarón took when directing Prisoner of Azkaban).   A lot of unnecessary shots and scenes are present, but as a fan it’s truly incredible to see things like the Burrow, floo powder, Howlers, the flying Ford Anglia, Polyjuice Potion, and mandrakes brought to life.  And I relish the Quidditch scenes, given that those subplots basically disappear from the later films.
  • Two words: Kenneth Branagh.  This movie is worth re-watching just for his hilarious performance as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and wizarding world celebrity, Gilderoy Lockhart.

Squib Stuff:

  • When in doubt, blame the director.  I think that Chris Columbus – who also directed Sorcerer’s Stone – is the main reason why many fans don’t seem to care for Chamber of Secrets as much as the other Harry Potter films.  His style is just to cutesy, clean, and sparkly for some.   Both Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets have always felt a bit like children’s holiday movies to me, and the tone that they evoke is not representative of the series at all.
  • Many of the scary scenes just aren’t scary enough.  The moments featuring Harry alone in the dark corridors of Hogwarts are really well-done – and appropriately creepy – but whenever Ron and Hermione are around, the mood tends to lighten unnecessarily.  Add a dose of ill-placed, jaunty music, and it’s the Scooby-Doo Gang resurrected.
  • I love Shirley Henderson, but I will never understand why they cast a woman in her late 30s to play Moaning Myrtle, who died while she was a student at Hogwarts.  Ghosts don’t age, last time I checked.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting to already get a bit weepy at the thought of “it all ending” on July 15, but as I watched The Chamber of Secrets for the umpteenth time in preparation for this review, I found myself treasuring and savoring each moment with a fondness and nostalgia that I’ve never really felt before.  Chamber of Secrets will never be my favorite Harry Potter film (or book), yes, and it certainly has its flaws, but it’s one-eighth of the unforgettable journey that we’ve been a part of for the last ten years and will always have a firmly rooted place in my heart.

4 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Warner Brothers
G, 161 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 2: Adam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This is the first movie blog post for Kim’s Harry Potter Blogsplosion, so where better to start than with the first movie. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an excellent movie, and it got viewers excited for the series of movies that would be made after this one. Starring (at the time unknowns) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint as the trio of heroes Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, this movie of wizards and witchcraft tells a story that people of all ages will love.

At age 11 , Harry Potter doesn’t really know about his past. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin who all treat him like a piece of dirt. They force him to do all of the errands around the house, on top of making him live in a little cupboard underneath the stairs. On his cousin’s birthday and a trip to the zoo, Harry begins to realize that he has the powers to make things happen just by thinking about them.  There is no explanation for how this occurs; only that Harry can somehow cause physical changes in his environment by merely thinking about them hard enough. At the zoo he helps a python escape, while trapping his cousin in the snake’s cage.  After this event it is revealed that Harry is in fact a wizard, and is then invited to attend the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Initially his aunt and uncle balk at the suggestion, but after some convincing by Hagrid, the groundskeeper of the school, they agree to let him go.  Hagrid takes Harry under his wing and informs Harry about some of his past and who his parents were. While on the train he meets two other new students, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and the trio become fast friends. They then meet Draco Malfoy, who is less than pleasant to them. While at the school Harry and his friends learn more about Harry’s parents and learn more about the powers they hold and how truly powerful they can be. They learn of a break-in at a nearby wizarding bank, and they begin to try to solve the mystery themselves. Can they make any progress under the threat of expulsion after less than one year at school?

The movie itself is highly entertaining. The plot is highly imaginative and in my opinion really makes the book (written by J. K. Rowling) come to life. As I was watching the movie, I truly believed in magic and truly believed that there is a school in England where students learn witchcraft. The way the movie was filmed was very magical and very out of this world. The director, Christopher Columbus, shot the movie in a very interesting style. He made the real world of England very dark and dreary by including a lot of gray and dark tones. In contrast to that, Hogwarts was always shot in a very colorful and vibrant light, making it seem more magical. The colors really popped out and really reflected Harry’s attitude: clearly he wasn’t happy being treated the way he was in his ordinary “muggle” life, but really became his own person and more true to himself at Hogwarts.

The acting was top-notch, especially given that the majority of the cast was so young. I’m not saying that young actors aren’t good, but they were all relatively unknown before the movie was shot, and they were all able to carry this big movie with many high expectations beautifully. One performance in particular that impressed me was Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. She played the brainy side-kick to Ron and Harry very well, and really stole the scenes she was in. Also Alan Rickman as Professor Snape was a standout as well, as he adds the quality of a good mysterious character to the movie and really adds to the sense of the unknown and foreboding in the movie.

All and all, the movie was a highly entertaining piece of work. I was as entertained watching the movie as a 25-year-old as I was when I first saw it at 15. I really enjoyed the acting, the direction, and the amazing world of wizarding that came to life. Like always, I leave you with a question: do you believe in magic?

4 out of 5 stars

Until next time, happy viewing.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Warner Brothers
G, 152 Minutes