Posted in 2010-2019

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Image is property of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Film Review

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci,

Director: Bill Condon

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the story of a young woman who becomes the prisoner of a terrifying beast in a frightening castle, who’s running out of time to lift a terrible curse placed upon him…

Review:  When as a studio you have made an extremely successful bunch of animated films, many of which truly are timeless classics, where do you go from there? The answer is simple really, bring said classics back to the big screen by retelling them via the magic of live action movie making. For Disney Studios, that certainly is the plan and they’re certainly going full steam ahead. First came Maleficent,  then CinderellaThe Jungle Book, and now the tale as old as time has received the live action treatment. Disney’s 1991 animated classic is beloved by just about everyone with a pulse (probably) so the challenge facing the filmmakers cannot have been an easy one, but it is one that they rose to in magnifique style!

Given how beloved the animated version is, there’s much here that they have wisely decided not to alter with things too much. The story is essentially the same as the beautiful Belle, who’s not much liked by the other people in her sleepy little French village, except for Gaston (Evans) of course,  who lusts after her. However Belle’s feelings for Gaston are not mutual, understandable given he’s an extremely pompous idiot. But when Belle’s father ends up imprisoned by the Beast, she offers to take his place, and of course they fall in love in true Disney fashion. The script written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos does follow its predecessor for the most part, but does make the brave but inspired choice to add some new material, which adds just that little bit more depth to the story.

Watson really fits the role of Belle perfectly, she’s sweet, beautiful and certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she has to. Dan Stevens also puts in a really solid performance as the eponymous Beast. His beastly appearance is achieved via motion capture and though is a little jarring to look at first, it is overall very well done, and when he needs to be scary, he certainly is scary, which may frighten some of the younger viewers. The leading duo certainly have the chemistry that is needed to ensure that this remake didn’t end up being a monstrosity of hideous proportions. The rest of the supporting cast is impeccably cast, Evans is tremendous as Gaston, with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, and Ewan McGregor as the scene stealing Lumiere, and the CG for these guys is for the most part, really well done. The controversy surrounding Josh Gad’s LeFou has certainly generated a lot of attention, and though his character is obviously that way inclined, its not in-your-face in the slightest.

It wouldn’t be a Disney film without the music, and though there are a few new additions in terms of musical numbers, the standout (again) is Lumiere’s rendition of Be Our Guest. Watson too is able to hold her own on the musical side of things and though her versions of songs like Something There don’t quite match up to the versions performed in the animated predecessor, indeed all of the songs from said version are much better, but the tunes are more than pleasant to listen to. What is recaptured tremendously well is the magical nature of the story, which is no small part down to the gorgeous production design and set decoration by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. Jacqueline Durran’s costumes too are just beautifully recreated and extremely award worthy. Sales of yellow dresses are likely to go through the roof!

Whatever inspired Disney and their mission to recreate their animated masterpieces into live action we may never know, but what we do know is they’re pulling it out of the bag time after time. The key job of a remake is to take a story that audiences are familiar with and breathe new life into said story, and while the animated feature is and will always be an animated masterpiece, this re-imagining of the tale as old as time, is certainly worth your time.

A charming and beautifully made retelling of a true animated classic that recaptures that magical fairytale feel to it, whilst breathing new life into these characters.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Monster Calls (2016)

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Image is property of Focus Features, River Road Entertainment and Participant Media

A Monster Calls – Film Review

Cast:  Lewis MacDougallFelicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: A young boy, battling with bullies and his mother’s terminal illness, finds an unlikely companion in a gigantic living tree, who teaches the boy tales about life.

Review: Growing up, no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, is tough. Of course some may have it easier than others, but all of us as we leave our early years behind us enter a tricky phase in our lives, a period that is not exactly simple to negotiate. Now imagine if you’re in a situation where you’re frequently getting picked on at school, and your life at home is well difficult too, which again is something it is possible many out there have gone through. Yet what if, during these tricky and testing times, you were visited by a giant talking tree monster who came to you when you needed someone to talk to? That’s something certainly no one has ever had to experience, unless you’re the main character in this interesting delve into the fantasy genre, spliced with heartbreaking family drama.

Conor (MacDougall) is the boy in question battling all of these difficult situations in his life. Picked on by bullies, and with his mother (Jones) terminally ill due to cancer, his only solace is the titular “monster” a walking talking tree voiced and mo-capped by Liam Neeson, who in the dead of night, comes to Conor to tell him stories, all the while seeking to make the boy’s life happier. From a screenplay by Patrick Ness who also wrote the novel on which this is based, director J.A. Bayona steers this mesh of fantasy and real life drama and tragedy, into an extremely imaginative tale, that’s visually quite tremendous to watch, and gets some beautiful and emotional performances from its cast.

In what is only his second film role, MacDougall has much of the film riding on his shoulders, and for a young actor he rises to the challenge and does a tremendous job. He really conveys the unimaginable pain that someone in his position would be going through superbly well. Though his performance does wobble in parts, his emotion and rage against his circumstances ensure you feel for his character. Felicity Jones, on the back of Rogue One, gives also a very wounded and powerful performance as Conor’s mother. Though she is battling a terrible illness, she does her best to be positive and upbeat for her son’s benefit, and Jones could just potentially be a dark horse in this awards season race for best supporting actress. Signourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell do shine as Conor’s stern Grandmother and somewhat absentee Father respectively, but its Jones and MacDougall who are the leading lights, and they take home the acting plaudits.

There’s also the not so small matter of Neeson’s Tree Monster, a sort of Groot XL who can say a lot more than “I am Groot.” Through his booming voice and motion capture work, he brings the character to life brilliantly. Neeson has shown in the past he has quite the deep, powerful voice that has lent itself to the deity like figures of Zeus and Aslan, and as a tree like being, his voice and its deep tone is quite effective. It gives the tales that the Monster tells Conor really weight and ensures that they have the impact on the audience that undoubtedly the film makers wanted it to have. The tales themselves are told in a very intriguing manner, and doubt that it is extremely effective, at tugging at the audience heartstrings, and Bayona adapts the story beautifully, so much so that you might find it hard to fight back the tears once the credits begin to roll.

Visually breath-taking, combined with an emotional story that is not afraid to go in some dark and troubling places, that will hit home for anyone who has had a family member battling cancer, or experienced some rough years at school.

a

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.

b

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. 

a

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.

b

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.

a

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire-movie-poster
Image is property of Warner Bros Studios and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Brendan Gleeson

Director: Mike Newell

Synopsis: Now in his fourth year at Hogwarts, the school is playing host to the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and Harry is somewhat unexpectedly selected to take part in this deadly contest.

Review: By the time a franchise reaches its fourth instalment, there is a risk that things could start to get a bit formulaic and a bit repetitive, and viewers may soon start to lose interest. Yet in the case of Harry Potter, after coming on the back of the quite brilliant Prisoner of Azkaban, the interest remained sky high, and to counter the argument that things may start becoming repetitive, this franchise has an answer to that: The Goblet of Fire.

After the dramatic end to the last instalment which went all sci-fi on the audience with the time turner adventure, the excitement picks up almost immediately with our key trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione along with members of the Weasley clan off to the Quidditch World Cup. Visually brilliant, it’s all smiles and joyful with everyone having a good time, until it all goes a bit dark and violent as hints of Voldemort are getting louder and louder. This sets everyone off in quite a melancholic mood as they board their train to start their fourth year at Hogwarts, all the while with Harry having some very dark and sinister nightmares.

With this new year, Hogwarts is the stage for something special, the aforementioned Tri Wizard Tournament in which three champions compete in deadly magical tasks, with one champion from the schools of Hogwarts, with the ladies of the Beauxbatons Academy and the fellas of the Durmstrang Institute, all chosen by the mysterious Goblet of Fire. However, this one champion per school situation is made a bit complicated when Harry is also chosen alongside the other champions. Faced with no other choice, Harry must compete in this competition.

After Alfonso Cuaron brought tremendous visuals to the preceding chapter, new director Mike Newell continues this trend, and also bringing perhaps some of the most gripping sequences of the franchise to date. The Tri-Wizard tasks are very well put together and edited supremely well, with excellent CGI to boot. Despite all the magic and danger involved in this chapter, Newell manages to bring something everyone has experienced at some points in their lives, growing up and falling in love. The hormones are raging throughout the story, as our lead characters in particular are having a tricky time displaying their feelings for one another.  The film’s screenplay is far from perfect, but Kloves does his best to squeeze the key elements from Rowling’s novel in just over 2 and a half hours.

As the actors age, their performances improve quite significantly, particularly the core trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione. The bickering between Ron and Hermione is at times funny but also at times sad, because you want them to get together, but with all those teenage angsty feelings they have going on it does make things difficult. The cast for all the movies to this point was perfect, and it remained so with the addition of some colourful new characters to the mix. The best of the bunch being Brendan Gleeson’s Mad Eye Moody. With him, the clue is in the name, he’s a colourful character, but also just a bit mental. Robert Pattinson also does a sterling job as the Hogwarts champion Cedric Diggory.

Yet the most important new piece in this puzzle was Lord Voldemort, who finally makes a full appearance and is played fantastically by Ralph Fiennes. Much like the core trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the casting of the Dark Lord had to be just right, and in Fiennes, they had just the actor to bring this fearsome dark wizard to the big screen. With a brilliant closing battle to close this chapter of the Potter saga, it sends a chilling reminder to its audience, the dark times are returning and no wizard that dwells in the world of magic is safe.

Blending the perils of growing up with great humour and adding in really dark terrifying stuff tremendously well, The Goblet of Fire demonstrated that this franchise may have started off as child’s play, but not any more. 

a

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Studios and Heydey Films

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter is facing a new threat, in the form of the dastardly Sirius Black who escapes from Azkaban Prison and is believed to be after Harry.

Review:  The Harry Potter fandom are certainly a passionate bunch, and although there are those out there who may not have enjoyed what he brought to the franchise, every Potter fan ought to raise their wands to Chris Columbus. The director behind the first two films brought a steady hand to both movies and ensured the solid foundations of the franchise were laid. For the third outing to Hogwarts however, Columbus chose not to direct. Instead the director’s wand was passed to Mr Alfonso Cuarón, and what an inspired choice that turned out to be.

After his brave battles in taking down You-Know-Who on the back of a man’s head and You-Know-Who again in his younger self, Harry has plucked up the courage and decided enough is enough with his ridiculously evil muggle family, and escapes into more familiar and friendly terrain, in the company of his best friends Ron and Hermione. Yet before he goes, there is a hilarious incident with another member of his nasty muggle relatives. He soon finds himself back on that train to Hogwarts for the commencement of his third year, and it’s on that train when the viewer realises, that this year at Hogwarts, things are going to get darker and creepier than ever before, not least with the sinister Dementors that are lurking around Hogwarts.

Cuaron is certainly an outstanding visual director, and with this film he shows off his considerable talent in more than a few brilliant sequences. The film’s visual qualities have certainly taken a big leap forward when compared to the first two movies, and the film takes on a considerably more darker tone which is epitomised by the presence of these Dementors who are at Hogwarts because of the man who has escaped from Azkaban and is said to be coming to kill Harry, this would be one Sirius Black, played excellently by Gary Oldman. Kloves is again penning the screenplay, and he understandably does have to axe some material to streamline the script, yet the translation from  page to screen remains at a consistently solid level. Additionally, the action is much more intense in this instalment and incorporates some very exciting elements such as time travel into the story.

The acting from the main trio remains at a steady pace, they’re certainly not Oscar worthy, but their performances are assured and it’s clear that they are growing in confidence. The performances of the veterans if you will such as Rickman and Oldman certainly help bring the acting standard up a couple of good pegs. This is further aided by the tremendous work of David Thewlis playing new Professor Lupin, and the introduction of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, having taken over the role from the late Richard Harris, proved to be another excellent casting choice. The film’s effects are also for the most part, considerably improved, except in the case of the werewolf, well the less said about that the better, it could and should have been so much better.

Nevertheless, Azkaban marks a noticeable improvement in quality from Philospher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. The shift to a much darker, more ominous tone is immediately noticeable, and it helps to deliver a really engaging and gripping story that helps set the wheels in motion for the franchise. This is because as we all know, a certain dark wizard, thought to be long since dead, is stirring…

Darker in tone from the word go, but with plenty of humour too, Cuaron delivers terrific visuals and a really gripping story that can delight, and maybe intimidate, viewers of all ages in equal measure.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Studios and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, John Cleese

Director: Chris Columbus

Synopsis: Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for his 2nd year, but a terrifying entity is attacking the students, causing chaos for the school and its teachers.

Review:  Given the immense popularity of these books before these movies were made, it was almost something of an inevitability that Warner Bros made quite a healthy profit on their investment to acquire the rights to these movies. The Philosopher’s Stone raked in close to a billion dollars against a budget of  125 million dollars, and set the scene for the next chapter in this franchise, and the magical world that the first film set up so beautifully is gratefully kept going in this instalment.

With Steve Kloves again penning the script with Chris Columbus again taking on directing duties, it doesn’t take long before things at Hogwarts begin to go a bit awry. Dark, creepy sinister voices, writing on the wall in blood, students being petrified, giant terrifying looking spiders. This may have been a children’s book, but there are themes present in this movie that are certainly much more adult, and it isn’t afraid to go in dark places. There is a considerable shift in tone, an ominous presence is lurking in the shadows at Hogwarts, something the plucky trio of Harry Ron, and Hermione must put all of their skills and their plucky second year wit to the test to solve.

Columbus once again delivers his great vision for this magical world and it is once again beautiful to watch Hogwarts brought to life. There are considerably more effects involved here, including the quite brilliant flying car vs the Hogwarts train sequence. The Quidditch is also a lot much more enjoyable to watch here. Having spent the first movie setting up this world and the characters, the main focus is on the story and the ensuing crisis that Hogwarts finds itself in in this particular school year. There are some slower moments in this chapter, but having introduced this world and all of its magical qualities, there is time to build and develop these, particularly the relationships between the central trio of Harry Ron and Hermione, who all remain excellent in their roles. In addition, Tom Felton who was perfect as the sneering bully Malfoy, somehow manages to make himself even more unlikable than in the first movie.

Likewise, everyone who was present is also on stellar form, and a number of new additions who also made their mark on the franchise, namely the sinister father of Draco Malfoy, Lucius played by Jason Isaacs. Like his son, he’s a cold and unlikable presence, like father, like son. Replacing the late Quirrell in the Defence Against the Dark Arts Post is Gilderoy Lockhart, a bumbling idiot and a man who seems to be more interested in his fame and appeal to the ladies than his job as a teacher at Hogwarts. Last but by no means least is Dobby, a house elf who while at first seems incredibly grating and annoying, is ultimately a strong willed elf who wants to aid Harry in his quest, any way he can, even if some of his methods are somewhat perplexing.

Chamber of Secrets doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it is still an entertaining ride in this brilliant magical world. Columbus deserves enormous credit for bringing together this remarkable universe to the big screen for its first two films, and for casting just about the perfect actors for every role. The film does lose some of the magic that the first film had in in abundance, but it remains a solid presence in the Harry Potter universe and ensures the spell of the franchise remains .

Despite boasting some cool moments and visuals with a darker tone than the first movie, Chamber of Secrets is not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, with some slow moments bogging it down.

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