Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Image is property of Warner Bros studios and Heyday Films

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Film Review

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell

Director: David Yates

Synopsis:  Magical Zoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne) travels to New York to continue his work of caring for magical creatures, but runs into trouble when one of his creatures is let loose in New York City.

Review: When the last adventure to feature our favourite boy wizard graced the big screen in 2011, fans of the Harry Potter universe must have wondered, if this truly was the last time all the magic and mystery of this incredible world that came from the pen of one J.K. Rowling would ever return to the big screen? The answer to that is well yes, and no, because for now Harry Potter’s story has been told. What hasn’t been told however, is the adventures of Newt Scamander, a magical zookeeper with a great interest in magical animals unsurprisingly. However, with his adventures occurring in 20th century America, this is a very different direction for this magical franchise to go in, and don’t expect to see Harry and his friends here!

As you might expect, almost everything in this new chapter is, well new. New characters (for the most part), new location but that magic that ensured anyone who fell in love with the Potter franchise very much remains. Fresh off the boat from across the pond, Scamander arrives in the quest for more knowledge on magical creatures in the USA when Jacob Kowalksi, (Fogler) an unfortunate No-Maj or muggle as they’re more commonly known, encounters one of Scamander’s magical creatures, and we soon find ourselves delving deep into a mystery that is plaguing the wizarding community in America.

Director David Yates, who helmed the Potter franchise to its grand conclusion is back behind the camera, with Rowling herself on screenplay duties, marking her first foray in screenplay writing. Of course with this being a brand new entry in the franchise, there is much that needs to be set up and introduced to us, resulting in some very exposition heavy dialogue, which while can be, and is interesting to observe, can drag the movie down in places. Unfortunately that does occur, as the screenplay is a bit uneven in terms of pacing. However, seeing all these incredible magical creatures is fascinating to watch, even if you do struggle to remember all of the creatures names. Yates showed he could bring tremendous visuals to the world of Harry Potter, and here he does so again in fine magical style too, with some excellent action scenes being brought to the fore.

Scamander as our hero is a very different sort of hero when compared to Harry Potter, but Redmayne does a tremendous job. He might seem a bit irksome, but Redmayne works hard to make sure that you end up on his side. Katherine Waterston is also on fine form as Porpentina Goldstein, there is great chemistry between these two characters but there is too much focus placed on the relationship between Fogler’s No Maj and Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) which does detract from the story that you signed up to see. Ezra Miller is haunting as a young man with a disturbed past while Colin Farrell completes the core cast, all of who deliver solid performances.

After five years, it is undoubtedly great to be back in this magical world that everyone first fell in love with all those years ago. However, for all its wonder and all the magical creatures, the screenplay could have been just that bit sharper and more focused. Nevertheless, the interest in this franchise, not that it ever went away really, has been truly reignited and with a further four films expected, fans of this universe will undoubtedly be grabbing their wands with excitement and keen to delve deeper into this new aspect of this magical franchise.

It’s undeniably brilliant to be back in this magical world, and Rowling does her best to bring it from page to screen in an enthralling way, but one would hope for a much more focused story next time around.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Mulan (1998)

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Mulan Film Review

Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, June Foray, Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Watanabe, James Hong, George Takei, Pat Morita

Director: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook

Synopsis: After her elderly father is called up to serve in China’s army, his young daughter Mulan disguises her self as a man to serve in his place, to help defeat the invading Huns.

Review: For Walt Disney Animation Studios, the period between 1989 and 1999 is known as the Disney Renaissance. Having had something of a difficult time prior to this, the studio came back with a bang, making and releasing ten films during this booming period in animated films, many of which can be considered some of the most successful films the studio has made. The penultimate film of said era, released in 1998, is certainly a fine example of the brilliance and wonder that the studio brought to the big screen.

Set in Ancient China, with war having just been declared after the villainous Hun army invades, the Emperor responds by ordering that one man from every family must serve in the Chinese army. When her elderly father, having served previously is called up yet again, Mulan decides to take action. She will not fulfil the traditional female roles that is of expected of her, instead, she takes her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man, and goes off to join the army in order to protect him. Disney certainly does princess stories perhaps like no other, and here they pull of yet another incredible story. With strong themes of honour, duty and family surging throughout, the film also offers a great example of a strong independent female character who doesn’t bow what was expected, maybe even demanded of a woman at that time, and offers a great role model for all young females to aspire to.

Despite the war that is raging at its heart, Mulan also offers plenty of great humour, this is mostly down to the brilliant work of Eddie Murphy as Mulan’s pint sized sidekick Mushu the dragon, before he was Donkey in the Shrek franchise. The veteran comedian and actor is on superb form here as he attempts to guide Mulan on how to be and act like a man. His lucky accomplice Crickey also does his best to add the humour but the bulk of it comes from Mushu, with more than a few references that will fly over the heads of younger viewers, but will provide adults with a good laugh.

There are more than a few very memorable characters besides Mulan and Mushu of course, some of her recruits in the army are also extremely funny and a lot of fun to watch. The story is very well executed and the animation is of course splendid, with Disney you wouldn’t expect anything less. With superb supporting music by Jerry Goldsmith and Matthew Wilder, along with some really well written and performed songs, Mulan is the perfect blend of exciting and beautiful story telling that the whole family can sit down and enjoy immensely.

With a strong female protagonist at its core, fused with majestic animation and solid story telling and great music, Mulan was a further example of a studio at the very top of their game in the late 90s.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Avatar (2009)

avatar
Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners

Avatar Film Review

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribsi, Joel David Moore, C. C. H. Pounder, Laz Alonso

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: A paraplegic former marine is recruited as part of a mission on the alien world of Pandora, to drive a hybrid body known as an Avatar, and soon finds himself with conflicting thoughts as to where his loyalty truly lies.

Review: If ever you were to talk about certain directors and their passion projects, then for the mastermind behind Aliens and the first two exceptional Terminator films, James Cameron, Avatar is most certainly his passion project. Back in 1994, the director wrote an 80 page vision for the film, yet his vision could not be realised due to the limited technology that was available to him at the time. As such, the project was put on the back burner, but years later after going through much effort to create a rich and immersive world, and finally that vision was truly realised, and it certainly was worth it.

The world of Pandora is immediately visually absolutely stunning and breath taking to look at, it looks and feels as though Pandora could be a place somewhere out there in the universe. The terrain and the wildlife are all so rich in detail, it is incredible to watch, and the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na’vi are also equally beautifully realised, again they feel as though they could be a species that actually inhabits a planet somewhere out there in the reaches of the universe. Cameron went to great effort to create their language and his endeavour absolutely pays off. It is so authentic and so beautiful, if it was a real place, admit it, you would want to go there. The visual effects are truly magnificent and the film absolutely deservedly bagged an Oscar for its astounding visual effects, it was a game changer when released back in 2009 and remains the absolute pinnacle of what a film can acheive in terms of visual effects.

Of course, a film with pretty visuals looks great but, being all style and no substance wouldn’t be any good to anybody. Fortunately, that isn’t the case as the screenplay, penned by Cameron does have substance to it. At the heart of the story is Jake Sully (Worthington) who after a death in the family is recruited to the Avatar programme, an arm of the human operation on Pandora which is seeking possession of an extremely rare mineral. With use of said avatars, Jake becomes a part of the Na’vi clan and soon falls head over heels for the fierce and strong willed Neytiri (Saldana). Yet the love story is only one facet of the story, with many themes running through it, some of them could be perceived as being very political, but it drives home the message in an emphatic manner, carrying plenty of emotion and suspense with it, and James Horner’s score, is equally brilliant.

As a leading man, Worthington is functional, but he could have been a lot more compelling and less monotone would have been helpful. Saldana though shines as Neytiri, she’s very well developed and a very capable warrior who certainly can hold her own against anyone. The chemistry between the two leads is for the most part, solid, but it is a bit iffy in other parts. Signourney Weaver is also excellent as Grace Augstine, the head honcho of the Avatar programme. The humans here though are the main baddies with Parker Selfridge (Ribsi) and Miles Quaritch (Lang) the principal antagonists, with Lang being the standout as a gruff colonel who won’t take any bullshit from anybody. Cameron is one masterful director and here he helms the action to an impeccable quality. It is a rare feat to make the audience want to see members of its own species fail, but everyone watching should definitely be on Team Na’vi when the shit starts to go down.

Avatar certainly was responsible for the resurgence in 3D, and that certainly helped boost its numbers at the box office, as it smashed records here, there and everywhere taking just seventeen days to make one billion dollars, before eventually ending up with a total of nearly THREE billion, or 2.788 billion to be exact, to earn the title of the highest grossing film of all time, a title it has retained to this day, and it will take an almighty force (Star Wars?) to take that title away. Or maybe given Cameron is planning on return to Pandora at some point down the line, that title will remain with this franchise, whenever that sequel will eventually arrive in cinemas.  One thing is for sure though, is when that sequel does arrive, there will be no shortage of people out there, keen to make a return to the vast and incredible world of Pandora.

An absolute visual masterpiece, rich with gorgeous and vivid detail, with some great characters and a for the most part compelling story with some powerful themes, Avatar remains a wonderful, breath-taking cinematic achievement.a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

deathly-hallows-2
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, David Thewlis,  Michael Gambon, Julie Walters,

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: As Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest to destroy the Horcruxes, Lord Voldemort and his followers bring the battle between good and evil to Hogwarts, for one final showdown.

Review: For everyone who read these beloved series of books and went on this epic journey with Harry, Ron and Hermione on the big screen, this is where everything ends (or so we thought at the time!) After going on said journey, spanning eight films and ten years, it was important to ensure that the franchise went out in style, and go out in style, they certainly did.

The first part to this concluding story to the Harry Potter universe, while having its few moments of enjoyment was ultimately all set up for this conclusion. We pick up immediately with the events of the first film, with Dobby having bravely given his life for our key trio to help them escape the clutches of Lord Voldemort. For Harry, Ron and Hermione there is no time to dwell, and their search for those elusive Horcruxes continues. The pacing of the first part was a bit slow, as the relationships of our three leads was put under severe pressure. However, now the trio are united in their quest, and right from the off, this film is a pulsating, emotional ride that never lets up and delivers the satisfying conclusion that the legions of Potter fans around the world will have hoped for.

The franchise has certainly boasted some remarkable action sequences, but this time around we certainly have the biggest one, and maybe even the best of the lot. Yates once again directs these scenes with wonderful execution, from the Battle at Hogwarts to a brilliant mini skirmish at Gringotts. With Harry having returned to Hogwarts in search of a Horcrux, The Dark Lord moves in to attack, and the Battle of Hogwarts commences. It’s a visual spectacle and Yates once again helms it in magnificent fashion. Writer Steve Kloves also deserves credit for once again adding some brilliant lines of humourous dialogue. The best of these falls undoubtedly to Julie Walters’s Molly Weasley, with a superb line of dialogue lifted straight from Rowling’s novel, it’s wonderful to watch and Walters delivers the line in great style.

RALPH FIENNES as Lord Voldemort in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Image is property of Warner Bros.

Yet in spite of the wondrous visuals, this franchise has been built on the characters and there are some truly heart breaking moments where certain characters true natures are revealed. Alan Rickman did a wonderful job bringing Severus Snape to life, but the revelations that are disclosed here show him in a completely new light, and viewers may find themselves reaching for the tissues as Rickman’s performance is so powerful and emotionally heart-breaking, it is undoubtedly his best work in this franchise and reinforces what a wonderful and brilliant actor he truly was. Through all of this magical mayhem and carnage, this franchise has been built on excellent, well developed characters and Snape is one of the many perfect examples of this, with Harry, Ron and Hermione being among many others. Truth be told, every character was brought to life brilliantly by their respective actors, and full credit to each and every one of them for their sterling work.

It was quite a journey that we all went on over the course of a decade, watching these brilliant pieces of literature be brought to the big screen. Four directors, eight films and nearly eight billion dollars grossed at the worldwide box office, this is a franchise that captured the hearts and minds of film goers across the world, and although our journey with the Boy Who Lived might be done, there is still much to explore, With a further expansion of the wizarding world having arrived in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and with four further films to come, the magic of Harry Potter and this incredible world we have all come to know and love, isn’t going anywhere any time soon, even more so when The Cursed Child is inevitably adapted for the big screen.

Sterling performances from just about everyone, some incredible action and breath-taking visuals, the franchise certainly signed off in beautiful and magical style. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

deathly-hallows
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Harry, Ron and Hermione, now armed with the knowledge of the Horcruxes, set off on a mission to destroy these evil objects to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all.

Review: This is what the previous six movies of the Potter franchise has all been building towards, the final battle between good vs evil, between Harry Potter and the Dark Lord, except not quite in this film. Although the Deathly Hallows marks the final instalment in Rowling’s series of novels, the film-makers made the decision to split this final chapter into two movies. Although one can certainly make the argument that this was a decision done purely to make more money for the studio, the decision to do so does have its merits, but it does have its problems too, namely that this film is a little bit slow.

The dark tone that has been an ever present since almost Azkaban certainly does not diminish here. With Dumbledore now dead, Harry is armed with knowledge of the Horcruxes, the means that Voldemort uses to ensure immortality, but he knows very little about what they are or where to find them. As such, writer Steve Kloves goes into a bit more detail with certain elements. These are certainly interesting to watch, particularly the opening battle between our heroes and the bad guys, and the scene exploring the origin of the titular Deathly Hallows. Yet ultimately it is all just build up to the big climatic battle that we know is coming in part 2. That being said, writer Kloves is given the opportunity to spend more time on certain things. The origin of the Deathly Hallows is very interesting to watch, and is told in a very interesting manner. Yet, there are some bizarre additions that really don’t make a great deal of sense, namely a random dance scene between Harry and Hermione, it just feels all out of place and does not make much sense.

While there is interest in their quest, there is a severe lack of action, but the action that is given to us is enjoyable to watch. The initial battle of the Seven Potters is very well executed and very suspenseful, with that great bit of humour added in there once more. Yates once again ensures that the directing is of a very high calibre, whilst the film visually remains excellent once more. The explanation of the origin of the Hallows is done in a very interesting and visual way.

The key trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the centre pieces of this franchise are front and centre once again. Yet here, the friendship is severely tested as the magical objects they are seeking begin to stir up emotions, very much of the wrong sort. The performances of all three have for the most part been on point, but Radcliffe and Watson do give the more well rounded performances. The veteran actors such as Fiennes, Bonham Carter, Rickman and John Hurt merely have small cameos, but in spite of little screen time, they continue to excel.

With an exciting conclusion that sets the stage for what is to come, ultimately, this is merely the calm before the storm that is to come in part 2. Could this have been one big three and a half hour film? Yes it definitely could. While this does have its slow and tedious parts, there is plenty for Potterheads to appreciate and enjoy, but these are quite often very small moments. Yet there are a few really head-scratching moments. However, after seven films, the franchise was poised to close in a very exciting and epic manner.

The moments of magic are limited, and the pacing is slow, but with a thrilling conclusion that delivers an emotional pay off. The stage is set for the exciting conclusion.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Arrival (2016)

arrival
Image is property of FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, 21 Laps Entertainment and Paramount Pictures

Arrival – Film Review

Cast:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When 12 alien ships mysteriously appear in places around the world, a team of experts are gathered to assess the extra terrestrial visitors, and to determine: just why are they here?

Review: Alien invasion, a classic trope of the science fiction genre, One that so often delivers films where you sit back and just watch a load of mayhem and destruction with cities getting blown to smithereeens and the aliens must be stopped at all costs. While these can be fun and very enjoyable, science fiction is a genre that has the potential to go really deep and provide the audience with a thought provoking piece of story telling that gets the brain working and leaves its audience in awe and spectacle, and this latest film from director Denis Villeneuve ticks that box, and then some.

Adapted from the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, we focus on Dr Louise Banks (Adams) a brilliant linguistics professor who is called in by the US military to help deal with the mysterious alien invaders and to understand just who are they, what do they want, and above all are they a threat to humanity? Aiding her in her quest is physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) and together these intelligent academics must decipher what these extra terrestrial beings are up to. Heisserer’s screenplay is excellent, exploring some really interesting themes that we have seen before in science fiction. Yet these are told in such a brilliant and engaging way that it keeps your eyes firmly transfixed on the screen. The mystery is maintained throughout the film’s running time as for a while, the craft of the visitors is not revealed, and it brilliantly keeps the viewer engaged. It is smart and very thought provoking story-telling that keeps you hooked from the very first shot, all the way to the last shot.

The centrepiece of this story is of course Adams’s Dr Banks, a wounded soul who has suffered some terrible tragedies in her lifetime, and yet, she remains strong willed, determined to do all she can to understand what the alien visitors are after, and not to bow to the will of her military superiors, most notably Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber. Adams has had a very distinguished career, earning five Oscar nods, and another one could very well be coming her way next year. She carries the film on her shoulders, and reinforces her reputation as a very stellar actress. Renner also gives a very grounded and superb performance, who does his best to sprinkle a bit of humour here and there into the story, but the limelight belongs to Adams and she absolutely bosses it.

arrival-movie

The directing from Villeneuve is masterful in its execution, aided by flawless cinematography from Bradford Young. The wide shots of the alien craft as they appear in the sky are truly something to behold. The flawless cinematography is aided by outstanding visuals and magnificent visual effects. The aliens themselves feel so real and authentic, you don’t see it as a computer generated image. Similarly with the alien crafts, though they do resemble pieces of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, are beautifully designed and like their inhabitants feel very real and authentic. Re-teaming with Villeneuve after Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is mesmerising to the ears, as Villeneuve’s visual brilliance is appealing to the eyes.

Language and science are two subjects that rarely go hand in hand, but here they most certainly do and the results are a joy to behold. The mystery will hook you in and will not let go. With the Blade Runner sequel being Villeneuve’s next film, fans of Ridley Scott’s classic can rest assured knowing that project is in very safe and capable hands.

A beautifully refreshing take on what is a very common sci-fi trope, with thought provoking themes and ideas, anchored by a powerful performance from Adams.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

Image is property of Warner Bros,Dreamworks and Heyday Films
Image is property of Warner Bros,Dreamworks and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Evanna Lynch

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Now into his sixth year at Hogwarts, and after a turbulent fifth year, Harry comes across a mysterious book belonging to someone known as the Half-Blood Prince and begins to delve deeper into Lord Voldemort’s past.

There will be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, turn back now you silly Muggle!

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Review:  The world of Hogwarts may have started off as a delightful adventure for the whole family to enjoy. Yet as the series has gone on, each film has gradually got darker, with some rather bleak events taking place for all who attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in particular for one Harry James Potter. After a traumatic fifth year which culminated in the death of his uncle Sirius, Harry is now one detached individual. Yet, the work must continue to bring down Voldemort, and in this chapter, we learn quite a little bit more about the Dark Lord’s past and how he can be defeated.

After boasting some incredible action sequences in the fourth and fifth films, this is significantly reduced here, to allow for significant character development, and not just for Harry but for many others including Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape. The screenplay by Steve Kloves once again is not perfect, there are some puzzling additions, such as the scene one scene The Burrows which was not present in Rowling’s novel, which just feels a bit out of place. Yet there is some great character development, although some characters are much better fleshed out than others. As with the previous films, there is humour to ensure the gloominess doesn’t become too overbearing.

The high standard of visuals is maintained here, and Yates steers the ship excellently through these dark waters. Although the action has given way for some crucial character development, the acting isn’t as good as it could be. The three leads have certainly grown into their roles but this is not applicable for everyone. What’s more, their is something of a lack of chemistry between Harry and new love interest Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), as such you do not just buy their romance, which does detract from the story a little. It’s not cringe inducing but it could be so much better. By contrast, the romance between Ron and Hermione is where a bulk of the humour lies, as it’s a bit off and on between them with a new love interest entering the picture, namely Lavender Brown, but it never feels like a comedy, as the audience knows, it is dark times for all of those who inhabit the wizarding world.

Each film boasts a new arrival to the cast, and this time the key new introduction is Jim Broadbent’s Horace Slughorn. A man who has some crucial information connected to Voldemort’s past that must be obtained in order to defeat him. Broadbent is a welcome addition and reinforces the stellar standard of acting that the more experienced actors, such as Gambon and Rickman provide. Speaking of which, Gambon gives perhaps his best performance yet as Dumbledore, the scenes between him and Harry are extremely well executed and both actors really deliver. Of course this results in the crucial scene which results in Dumbledore’s death at the hands of Snape. Everything about this scene is just masterful in its execution and the resulting aftermath is heartbreaking, but incredibly well realised by Kloves and Yates, and the score by Nicolas Hooper in this sombre scene is just outstanding.

Every film has got darker than its predecessor, but with this heartbreaking twist, Hogwarts will never be the same again, and for Harry, there is no to mourn for the loss of Dumbledore, there is work to be done to ensure that Voldemort is defeated. It is the climax that all of these films have been building towards, the battle between good and evil is coming.

Darker perhaps than ever before, but with brilliant visuals, and franchise best performances from Radcliffe and Gambon, this is another fine addition to the Potter filmography.

Rating: A-

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

order-of-the-phoenix
Image is the property of Warner Bros Studios and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Evanna Lynch

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: With Voldemort now back in power, The Ministry of Magic is making every effort to dispel rumours of Lord Voldemort’s return, all the while Hogwarts finds itself under intense scrutinisation from the Ministry.

Review: The latter years of a person’s time at school certainly have their fair share of difficult situations such as puberty and undergoing the stress of exams, all of which can take a very heavy toll on an individual. Yet for one Harry Potter, these are somewhat minor when at the end of the last film, he had a bruising dual with the newly risen Voldemort and he must now contend with the fact that the wizard who killed his parents is back and out to get him once more.

With every year that goes past for Harry, the mood in and around Hogwarts keeps getting darker, and Harry is becoming a bit detached from those closest to him. And after a bruising hearing before his fifth year has begun, it isn’t long before things at Hogwarts are going a bit wrong, which doesn’t exactly help matters after his brush with death. The Ministry refuses to believe Harry’s claims that the Dark Lord has returned, and this is also applicable to some at Hogwarts. In addition to their refusal to believe Voldemort is back, the newly appointed Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge is taking matters at Hogwarts into her own hands, and indeed that of the Ministry’s as well.

Incoming new director David Yates, along with new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg manage to compress what is the longest of Rowling’s novels into a solid and compelling film, that despite the ever darkening tones and mood surrounding Hogwarts do their best to weave humour into the script whilst also keeping the focus on the core story. By this point you are completely invested in all things Hogwarts and that interest is maintained with more great action sequences. We got a glimpse of an exciting duel between Harry and Voldemort in the previous chapter and there are plenty more brilliant wizarding duels to witness and Yates helms these exciting battle sequences in this chapter with great style as his predecessors such as Newell and Cuaron did.

As ever with a new Potter film, there are a number of new additions to the cast, and yet again, the casting is excellent. Of the new arrivals the stand out by far is Imelda Staunton’s Umbridge, a woman of some rather twisted principles who is out to do the Ministry’s bidding. You thought you disliked Voldemort, but you WILL HATE Umbridge. She has such a loathsome on screen presence that it may want you to hurl something at the screen whilst shouting a lot of expletives. It is full credit to Staunton, as she gives the franchise a really memorable antagonist besides Voldemort of course. Also a new arrival for the Dark Lord is Helena Bonham Carter’s crazy (in every sense of the word) Bellatrix Lestrange, a witch and close associate of Voldemort. These ladies are in many ways the stand out performers of a cast of which each and every one delivers a sterling performance.

With some dramatic turn of events taking place, the suspense and excitement is maintained throughout through a solid script and excellent directing from Yates. The stakes are getting ever darker in the Wizarding world, and it is certainly gripping to watch these characters that you know and love go through tough times. By this point the Potter machine was casting its all powerful spell on its audience and as the franchise was reaching its climax, the audience were holding on to their metaphorical broomsticks, because as we will find out, things are about to get very interesting at Hogwarts.

It’s almost a cliche to say that with each film the Potter franchise gets darker, but there is effective use of humour, all the while ensuring this magical universe gets another compelling adventure.

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