Movie 366 – March

March 9, 2012

Way behind on this, but can still catch up. This is a work in progress and entries will be expanded/amended as time goes on. Format will be adjusted. In short, this is all in a state of flux and the only reason I am not posting this as draft articles is people may be interested to watch it in progress. Or likely not. Whatever, I’m having fun.

Lost dates on a few entries as I put place marker entries… A MONTH will be listed now. No more days.

March

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Series is SO much better than expected. This was the best so far. Really set up a tremendous climax to the series. It’s easy to dismiss Harry Potter as merely for kids, and from what I understand of the books the quality of the writing isn’t the greatest. However the stories make for tremendous films. The wizard battles in particular have been outstanding. It would have been very easy to make them extremely goofy or plain silly, but the fights are so well choreographed it just works. You can see how Rowling matured as a storyteller over the course of the series. She was also clever in as much as maturing the content over the course of the books, growing with the target audience.

5/5

Trading Places – Classic film. Ending always made me want to be a stockbroker. Murphy’s best performance outside Beverly Hills Cop. Of course unlike the previous times I saw it, I now understand short selling so the ending makes sense now. Though to be a complete party pooper, there are rules in place now to prevent the very thing Winthorp does to take down the Duke’s. Ironically the law is named after Eddie Murphy’s character explicitly because of this film.

5/5

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol – WOW! I love a good spy movie. Cool technology, excitement… This movie delivered in spades, then drove a truck up to my front door and delivered even more. I am not a Tom Cruise fan, but he’s terrific as Ethan Hunt. Add Simon Pegg in, and I’m sold. This movie also introduces Jeremy Renner to ultimately replace Cruise when he hangs up his Ethan hat. The bad guy is played by Michael Nyquist, who was the male lead in the Dragon Tattoo trilogy I’ve previously watched. It was very cool to see him play this vastly different character. The giant set pieces of the film are superbly shot and directed. Brad Bird directs, his first live action movie, and the man knows his stuff. I think coming from Pixar probably gives him a unique perspective on film making, and there are some superb shot choices. The Dubai segment uses the spectacular desert backdrop to great effect, and as someone with a fear of heights, seeing Ethan crawl up the side of a building was downright terrifying. Movie is over two hours in length and flew past. Of special note… The aforementioned Simon Pegg. I remember seeing Pegg’s first ever television work back in the UK when it aired. Having seen him progress through perennial geek favourite Spaced, to Shaun of the Dead (already watched for this little project), to Hot Fuzz… Now he’s in two blockbuster franchises with this and Star Trek. Geek boy made good. As a geek myself, he feels like one of us, and it’s terrific to see him up on screen working with a star of the caliber of Tom Cruise. Thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and it’s the best action movie I’ve seen in a very long time.

5/5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 – So we reach the end of the series. The first two movies were lackluster, Chamber of Secrets being a truly terrible movie. (Chris Columbus should be charged with crimes against cinema. We’re talking George Lucas levels of punishment.) It was tempting to abandon the series then, but my wife along with a friend convinced me to carry on. Very glad I did as the series really picked up with the third film and I have no complaints. Now we reach the end of the story. As the movies have progressed things have got darker and darker. Even the Warner Brothers logo joined in!

It’s hard to mention plot specifics without spoiling it, and given I went far out of my way to avoid spoilers before watching the series I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t yet entered the world of Potter. (From the very first release I decided I was going to wait until the series was finished before viewing them. I didn’t realise it would take 10+ years to get to that point back then.) Suffice it to say things are very dark by this point in the story. Voldemort is cranky, most likely because he has no nose and can’t stop and smell the flowers.

The big problem with this movie is the first half of the story was never meant to be an isolated story on its own. It’s neither a beginning, nor an end. Therefore it suffers as a narrative by not having a resolution at the end. Don’t get me wrong, it does have an ending, and a fairly compelling one, but it feels half finished, simply because it is. An original narrative that was hacked down the middle. As a consequence, while it’s a good movie, it’s not a COMPLETE movie, which means it doesn’t sit next to the other films, especially the tremendous Half Blood Prince, on equal terms. It’s merely a two hour buildup to the final story. In fairness though, there is so much in here that to compress it to one movie would have meant sacrificing a lot of content. Ultimately the story benefits from being allowed to breathe and run to almost five hours in length, it’s just, if I’m quite honest, I’d rather have sat down and watched a giant five hour long cut of the story.

3/5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – And now the end is near… First some comments on the film.

Holy cow! Tremendous film. Wonderful. Satisfying. All sorts of other superlatives. We go into this movie with a lot at stake, and it delivers massively. Again I will avoid spoilers. There are some really good twists in the plot. The direction is terrific. The effects are amazing. It’s really hard to know what to write as there was just so much going on. Easily the darkest of the movies. There will be blood…

The final battle is just superb. Helms Deep sprang to mind. The effects are stellar. Was genuinely on the edge of my seat, and that’s not something many movies manage. Just a terrific end to what has been, barring a couple of missteps, a fantastic series of films. Great cast. Mostly great writing. Mostly great directing. Great effects all around. Tremendous makeup too. The fact that this lost out to The Iron Lady for makeup at the Oscars is utterly ridiculous and proof, once more, that the Oscars are, by and large, a joke.

Now to cover the series as a whole.

It’s fascinating to watch the child actors grow over time. Really grow into their roles. It’s not just the main characters, but second tier characters, like Neville, Dudley etc… You watch these kids grow up, both as actors and characters, and as the series matures so do the leads. They feel like family. Of course the series was chock full of a who’s who of British acting talent.

Firstly, the best adult in the series is, of course, Alan Rickman. Severus Snape is a fascinating character who evolves over the course of the movies, and Rickman lends considerable weight to the character. Dare I use the word gravitas? I am a massive fan of Rickman. This movie only served to heighten my mancrush.

Michael Gambon had huge shoes to fill when Richard Harris passed away, and if I’m completely honest the role was better for Gambon’s presence. He added a warmth to the character that I felt just wasn’t there with Harris’ portrayal. Of course it probably doesn’t help that he got to be Dumbledore in the two weakest movies of the series. Regardless, Gambon’s portrayal elevated the character beyond simple “Honestly I’m not Gandalf”.

Dame Maggie Smith… What can you say about her? She’s lovely. An absolute legend. While her role isn’t huge in the movies, I grinned every time she appeared as… Well, she’s Dame Maggie Smith! The fact she did her work on one movie while undergoing radiotherapy for cancer… Hardcore. I love her.

Ralph Fiennes as Voldermort… I’ve seen him play villains before, in the superb In Bruges which I’m long overdue another viewing of (which incidentally has one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard, right after Fiennes smashes a phone), and his performance in these movies was superb. Dripping with evil, especially in the later films when he becomes more… Substantial shall we say. Superb.

Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley was always going to be under the shadow of Radcliffe, but he owned the role and by the end had become his own man rather than just comic foil, and his performance as an actor evolved with the character. I’ve seen one other thing Grint has done, the very enjoyable Wild Target with Bill Nighy (who was in Deathly Hallows, and who I also adore), and Grint has a huge future ahead of him, especially in comedy as the kid had comedy down from an early age!

Emma Watson was brilliant. As the story went on I became more convinced it should have been called Hermione Granger and the… Oh sure, Harry is the chosen one, blah blah, parents offed by Voldemort etc… But Hermione is the one who, more often than not, saves the day! There is a long rant about gender portrayals in film and in narrative fiction in general, and the marketability of such, that I’ll save for another time, but it’s frustrating to see Hermione be essentially the hero (usage chosen deliberately) of the piece on many occasions and yet the series is about Harry. Emma Watson grew up before our eyes and went from cute young girl to extremely attractive woman by the end. I remember at the time there was a website counting down to when she turned 18, which was more than a little creepy. I really enjoyed her portrayal of Hermione. Sadly I’ve yet to see her in anything else, though I’m certain she has a long career ahead of her should she so choose it.

Finally, Daniel Radcliffe. From kid who looked a lot like me at that age (poor guy) to a sex symbol (sadly I did not follow that path…) Hell of a responsibility to place on the shoulders of such a young actor, playing such a beloved character. He carried it off with aplomb. By the end of the series Radcliffe was slamming it out of the park as Harry. He’d been Harry for half his life and his performance was wonderful.

It must have been very hard casting the three main roles way back at the start, knowing that they would go from being kids to adulthood in the time it would take to make the films, and all the potential pitfalls along the way. The success of the series hung on those casting choices, and they nailed it. All three grew up before our eyes, as did their characters, and made you care about them. Fortunately, for Radcliffe especially, they’ve avoided being typecast.

Finally, I want to mention Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the series. He’s a minor character really, but I really enjoyed his performance as Neville. In fact Neville was my favourite of the second tier characters.

All in all a great cast in a great series of films that would have been so very easy to screw up, and holy cow Chris Columbus very nearly did. Best move they made was not having him direct beyondChamber of Secrets.

Movies watched40 of 366

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