7.30.2009

TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season Six.

The new season starts out with a bang--literally. Upset at the newest turn of events, Trunks blasts off a bit of energy. Pissed that he gained so much power but was unable to use it to defeat Cell, his anger is quite justified. But now Cell has officially announced the Cell Games, the reinstallation of the World Martial Arts Tournament, to be held in 9 days (after the announcement to the world, anyway).

Vegeta, of course, believes he's better than everybody else, and will take as much time as he can in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber to get the strength needed to defeat Cell all on his own. But Goku, who has just left the chamber with Gohan, seems to know better. He shares that Cell is still much stronger than him, but he's not worried for some unexplained-at-this-point reason (though we all know what it is). Instead, he would prefer to just relax... because living with friends and family is the most important thing in these dark days.

Unfortunately, this opens the beginning of the season up to more filler. While there is a fun inclusion of an old Dragonball villain (like, from the original series), it's mostly a wasted cameo in a wasted episode (he does come back for one more, but again... not important on the whole). There are little bits here and there that clue in to what's to come, but mostly, the filler is... well... filler--out of place and unnecessary.

Luckily, the unimportant filler only lasts a few episodes before trading off for what I can only describe as "important filler." In other words, the occurrences in these episodes are important, but you still feel like they're wasting time in getting to the point. Dende returns to the series as the new guardian of Earth and creates new dragonballs, and then Goku goes off to hunt them down. While it's essential to know he found them all, the actual journey shown is mostly pointless. There's also an introduction of a new character, Mr. (Hercule) Satan. He's almost purely comic relief, being the martial arts champion of Earth, which really doesn't mean anything. He's cocky and ignorant, leaving those who actually understand what's going on to blink mutely and call him an idiot (which they do... over and over and over again). And it's honestly funny the first few times they do it. But then they keep doing it. And he just keeps talking. And you finally get to a point where you want to punch the guy so we can move on with the story. It does this even after the Cell Games have already started.

But once Goku steps into the ring--aside from the Hercule/Mr. Satan, well, asides--the action picks up considerably (in comparison, anyway). It's a bummer that the first 1/3 of the season is mainly a waste of time, but the last 2/3 really make up for it.

Goku's fight with Cell is beyond epic, and ends in such an awesome move, you'd think it'd be the end of it. But alas, I knew better. Goku's had a plan all along, and it never included him being the one to defeat Cell. Also, the actual "tournament" portion of the Cell Games only lasts a couple episodes once Goku's fight begins, which is sad, but I suppose understandable (what evil super-being is going to restrain itself to the rules of a martial arts tournament and fighting ring?).

But this season was never about Goku. His time to shine has passed. Now it's all down to Gohan, who has matured greatly over the seasons, and is no longer the scared little boy from the beginning. He's an incredibly powerful warrior... who just has to tap into his hidden power and unleash it on Cell.

And once he does... we begin the greatest episodes of the entire series. Gohan never says much
after this point, but he doesn't need to. He lets his actions and demeanor speak for him. Everything about him has changed, and you can tell from the look on his face and the way he holds his body. And how else do they show his power? By changing up the style of fighting. Through the seasons, if somebody gets more powerful, they'll show it in a punch or kick that doubles the target over. It's one strong, focused hit. But Gohan's power is different. It's very minute, but you can see it if you pay attention. Instead of these "stationary" hits, Gohan will hit/kick hard, but also fast. His moves don't stick, if that makes sense. It's hard to explain in words, but you'd know it if you saw it.

Even Hercule/Mr. Satan gets a bit of development around this point and does something useful, and the news crew also gets on him about basically being an idiot. On a similar note, Chi-Chi's father also finally yells at his daughter for her whining and complaining about how Gohan and Goku are just mindless brutes and how "saving the world" won't get Gohan into college, etc. Though it doesn't mean much, as Chi-Chi stays her annoyingly stubborn self. But at least he did it. Somebody needed to.

But anyway, everything gets thrown on the table now. No more holding back. Cell shows his full potential, even to the point of showing off his "acquired" special moves one after the other. And then Gohan gets his first Kamehameha of the series. I personally would have saved it until a little bit later where it would have meant more, but oh well.

But it all culminates in what has to be the single best episode of the entire series, "Save the World." Everybody helps out for once, and both Gohan and Vegeta have the final character developments both characters have been leading up to the entire series. And in one move, we have my favorite moment on the show, as it mixes a change in Vegeta, Gohan proving himself as the ultimate fighter, great animation, and some of the best music on the show... all rolled into about a minute or so.

There are only a few more episodes after this (strangely enough, they split up the episodes onto two discs, putting only 3 on each, which is a total waste). Personally, I feel this would have been the best place to end the series. Vegeta's had his redemption, every fighter has shown his worth, character development for everyone has reached its peak, and Gohan has taken Goku's spot as Earth's hero. It even gives an ending to Future Trunks' story and original purpose. Everything is perfectly smoothed out and given a peaceable ending. There couldn't possibly be anywhere else to take the show... right?

Wrong. With not one, not two, but three seasons left, Akira Toriyama apparently saw a lot of places to take the story (and with it, only about half its audience). By the time these final sagas aired, the majority of the show's original audience had grown up and out of it--another reason they should have just ended with Cell. And for whatever reason, maybe to try and find another core audience--who knows?--the show changes drastically in feel. This season ends with a tease about "Otherworld," but besides that, there's no real inclination of where the show would be going. I know a little bit, of course, but not everything. Let's just say that of the following sagas, I've seen very little. I know of only a few things and how they turn out (some big, some not so much), so the bulk of the following three seasons is going to be mostly a surprise to me.

So with that said, until next time...

7.28.2009

Short Review: The Protector.

Premise: After an elephant is stolen, a fighter/protector must travel to Australia to retrieve it and fight anybody who gets in his way (including a very Cruella Deville-type villain).

Starring: Tony Jaa.

My Reaction: This movie is beyond ridiculous. Looking at that premise, you have to think "Is this a parody/comedy?" But it isn't. It takes itself very seriously. The worst part about the movie was its awful editing. It would jump from one thing to the next without any transition. And then even within scenes, it bounced around. It was so distracting and terrible. I've never seen a worse editing job in a movie. And then you have the weird subbing/dubbing issue. A third of the time, characters are speaking their natural language and the movie is subtitled. Fine. Another third of the time, you have white characters speaking English as per usual. Also fine. But then the other third of the time, you have the Thai characters speaking English, but their voices have been dubbed over. And not that they were speaking English and they just got a different voice. But you can clearly tell they were speaking their native tongue and somebody dubbed over in English. It's so freaking weird, mostly because the movie already relies on subtitles and also already has English-speaking actors, so to dub over others is mind boggling. Now, I've also seen Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak, which I felt was also disappointing, but not to this degree. Though it had a lot of technical issues as well. But the two share one thing in common: they both have some pretty great action. And that's the only thing that helps it. Does it save it? No. The editing is too awful for even the action to save it. If it weren't for the editing, I could have looked at it like a really crappy B-action movie with a ridiculous story and bad dubbing/subbing issues. But I can't. I fell asleep about halfway through and didn't care enough to finish it this morning before sending it back to Netflix. And I should have figured as much when the credits start and I see "Quentin Tarantino Presents..." Outside of maybe Jet Li's Hero, any movie he "presents" is awful. If you were gonna watch this movie for anything, it would be the action. Otherwise, just... skip it.

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The Zed Word

7.23.2009

Book Review: "Cell" by Stephen King.

I haven't done a book review in a while, and I felt this one would be a good one to review, seeing as I have quite a few feelings on it.

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Cell is my first Stephen King novel (second attempted... I tried reading the first book of his Dark Tower series and was so bored to tears that I eventually just gave up). I've heard different opinions of this book. Some call it superb and anybody, King fan or not, will love it. Some call it a hack job and just a mishmash of previous works (particularly The Stand). As I've said, I've never read a previous King work (I've seen movie versions), but even I could tell this was piecemeal.

Let's start with the story. Clay Riddell is in Boston selling his first graphic novel, Dark Wanderer. But suddenly, everybody on their cellphones, or even people listening in on cell conversations, just start going crazy. They become somewhat reminiscent of 28 Days/Weeks Later's Infected. They're fast. They're dangerous. They're angry. They're insane. They'll do anything to cause destruction. During the madness, Clay meets Tom, who didn't have his cell because his cat had accidentally knocked it off the counter and broken it that morning. And not long after, they meet a teen girl named Alice, whose mother just attacked her after turning into one of the "phone-crazies." Eventually, the group heads off to Maine, where Clay is from, to find his son and ex-wife (but moreso his son). They meet others along the way, and they all realize that things might not be that easy (...or is it?), as the phone-crazies begin to evolve.

First, let's start with the most important aspect of the story: the "phone-crazies," "phoners," whatever you wanna call them. Just don't call them zombies, because they aren't. How can people call this a zombie story? Hell, in comparison, I'd be more likely to call 28 Days Later... a zombie story faster than I'd call this one, and if you know me, that's saying a lot. First, they aren't dead, undead, or anywhere close to not being alive. Second, they're not cannibals. They don't yearn for human flesh or any other part of the human body. They eat twinkies and vegetables and who knows what other common foods. Third, they attack anything (human or animal) and anybody (including their own kind, which zombies really don't do... but I can let this one slide a bit). And not to mention their psionic tendencies (telepathy, telekinesis, etc.). Yeah, you heard me right.

The story starts off great. It's suspenseful. The characters have, well, character and personality. But once they leave Boston, and once the phoners begin to evolve, the story begins to devolve. The characters are hardly ever in any danger, and they do more watching than anything else. And once they realize when and how to travel, the danger zone all but disappears, as the threat basically becomes nonexistent. In other words, outside the first quarter or so of the book, there is almost no "horror" or "suspense" in this "horror/suspense" novel.

And then we have the characters. After the Boston scenes, Tom loses all personality and he and Clay are damn near interchangeable. And outside of being (sometimes irrationally) focused on getting to his son, he's a boring lead character. He doesn't really do anything. Alice starts off as an interesting character, and then she gets that little sneaker. It wouldn't be annoying if the book didn't go out of its way to explain how annoyed your POV character gets at her obsession with it. And then she, too, starts devolving from a teenage girl into just another cutout of the rest of the characters. She doesn't act or speak (which I'll get to momentarily) like any normal teenage girl, or much like she did at the beginning of the book (which is what happened with Tom, too). And then we have other characters, like Jordan, Ray, Dan, and Denise, the latter 3 feeling so random and out of place and so underdeveloped, it was crazy. Jordan  (a 12-year-old boy computer whiz) wasn't really developed, either, but he did have grown men (gay and straight) fawning over him and wanting to cover him in kisses... which is just awkward. In other words, everybody just acted strange, like Stephen King forgot how people act around each other.

And then we have the dialogue, which even in the Boston scenes feels awkward and poor. None of the dialogue felt realistic for any character, and by the end, everybody sounded exactly the same--trying to see who could drop the f-bomb more (from the once-meek Tom to the 12-year-old Jordan). I have absolutely zero problem with language, but some of it in this book was just plain gratuitous and out of place with the rest of the scene or whatnot. Or there will be times when somebody will make a (really bad) joke (sometimes I wasn't even aware it was supposed to be a joke), and all the present characters will start laughing so hard they have tears coming out of their eyes. Not to mention some of the dialogue is just weird or doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

I wouldn't necessarily say the book is off-the-charts boring as some reviews I've read have proclaimed, but there is a whole lot of nothing going on. And almost nothing is explained. What caused the "Pulse" in the first place? Who was behind it? Why was "this" or "that" mentioned (sometimes repetitively) though never brought back up again in any significant way, if at all? Why are the main characters labeled as "insane"? What's with the whole "virtual stage" thing? And then you have more logic-driven questions: Are the phoners actually evil, or are all these characters just idiots? If there's even a glimmer of hope that the phoners could be cured, why isn't it brought up sooner and why do the characters keep going out of their way to attack them and make them angry? Why bring up the main characters' importance to everybody if what you want is to not bring any unwanted attention their way? Why do their actions in the climax not make any rational sense, especially compared to their reasonings earlier on in the book? And, most importantly, why the hell did the book end the way it did? The entire last section of the book was completely unnecessary and an incredibly boring waste of time.

Seriously, I don't usually mind open endings, but this one is just ridiculous. On top of unanswered questions, logic problems, bad dialogue, little suspense, and flat characters, you won't even give resolution? Lame. There were many obvious segments in the book that were clearly put in because King had some writer's block and didn't know how to get the characters where he wanted them to go (for instance, the "shoes on the porch" thing felt like an excuse to keep them walking until they reached Gaiten Academy, especially since it was never bothered with after that moment).

Another random issue that I found was... how is it that every "normie" calls the phoners by the exact same thing? I find it a bit farfetched that complete strangers will meet up and both call these attackers "phone-crazies" or that the groups of them are "flocks." It's way too coincidental.

Overall, the book has a good premise. But it's marketed as a horror/suspense/zombie novel, and it really has none of these things. It's full of holes, logic problems, unnecessary descriptions, awful dialogue, unrealistic actions, undeveloped and unrealistic characters, unanswered questions, and almost no suspense. Though it's in the process of being made into a TV mini-series, and I'll probably give that a watch, assuming at least half of these issues are changed in the process of transferring it from page to screen.

Otherwise, I probably won't read it again. Was it the worst book I've ever read? Not even close. I did finish it, after all. But it was mainly a good premise that wasn't handled well after the beginning. After they leave Boston, it goes from good to decent and stays that way for about half the book (with a few dips here and there, usually involving character). And then it just starts to go downhill fast. Maybe if you're a hardcore King fan, you might enjoy it. But let's just say it didn't win me over to King.

7.22.2009

TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season Five.

As usual at the start of any major battle on this show, Goku is out of it for some reason. This time, he's still under the effects of the fatal heart disease. But different than other seasons, this show starts off full-out and doesn't look back.
The season starts off brilliantly. The first few episodes play out like some horror movie mystery. Something has come back in time in Trunks' time capsule, even though he has the only time capsule in existence with him. And not long after that discovery, something is going on in a nearby town, where all the people have mysteriously disappeared, leaving only their clothes behind. It's all very intriguing and suspenseful (even though I know what's going on from seeing it already).

To counter this new threat, Piccolo finally merges back with Kami, being a Super Namek--apparently even more powerful than a Super Saiyan. And I must say, the animation around this point is pretty cool. And I'm thankful that his reaction to his new power wasn't as silly as it was when he merged with Nail a few seasons ago.

But even when everyone start sensing this strange creature, the questions continue. Why does it feel like Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo, among others--including even Frieza and his father--are all together... fighting Piccolo (You heard me right)? Turns out, Dr. Gero wasn't all about creating Androids 17 and 18. 

He wanted to create the ultimate weapon, a being so powerful that it is actually made up of the cells of the greatest fighters Earth has ever witnessed. This creature's name? Appropriately, Cell. And Cell is on a mission, to absorb the powers of Androids 17 and 18, as doing so will make him complete--perfect. And he'll also absorb the powers of anybody who gets in his way. But this is not the Cell from their current time, rather the Cell from an alternate future, having come back in time to absorb the Androids, as Trunks had already found a way to defeat them in his own timeline.

So now the fighters must decide whether they must go after Cell, who is much more dangerous than the Androids, or go after the Androids and destroy them before Cell can absorb them and become nearly impossible to defeat. And the Androids themselves are no easy task. But meanwhile, the Androids--16, 17, and 18--are still on their search for Goku, who is still incapacitated from his heart virus, and destroy him as Dr. Gero programmed them (or at least Android 16) to do. But Vegeta, the next most powerful after Piccolo and Goku (as far as we know at this point, anyway), refuses to do anything until he can train enough to transcend the power of a Super Saiyan. And (Future) Trunks must find a way to talk Vegeta into letting him train along side him. Not to mention Gohan, who is stuck at Master Roshi's with everybody else (including his mother), has to train in private, as Chi-Chi refuses to let him do anything but study his academics. Still following?

And then comes the episode where Goku wakes up. It's not the greatest episode in the world (there's some horribly cheesy voice-overs and a really pointless flashback sequence from Trunks). And it takes a bit to get rolling again from that point. Goku realizes they'll all need more training if they want to beat Cell, so he gathers up Gohan, Vegeta, and Trunks to take them to the Hyperbolic Time Chamber at the lookout tower. The chamber allows for anybody inside to experience an entire year in only a day... so everyone can get in a year's worth of training in no time at all. Unfortunately, only two can go in at a time, and Vegeta (of course) demands first entrance with Trunks tagging along. So we have an excuse for Goku (and Gohan) to basically sit around doing nothing.

Meanwhile, Cell is still terrorizing the world, and there's not much anyone can do to stop him. There's trying, of course, including a cool fight sequence at an empty airport and on an airplane (as I've said before, it's always refreshing to see fighting in places other than large expanses of nothing).

Piccolo eventually fights with some Androids while Cell finally catches up to them. Piccolo is thus forced to fight alongside the Androids. I particularly like this bit because it's like a merging of two completely separate yet parallel storylines for the first time. Though the fighting does return to the 'large expanses of nothing' at this point. I can't comment much on this, as I watched it during some pretty rough personal-life issues that were going on, so my head wasn't fully in the show. However, I can say that if you've enjoyed the action of the show thus far, there's nothing to disappoint here.

Two things that never disappoints no matter what, though? First, any time the show likes to experiment with its animation style. Every now and then, the animation will do something totally different than it usually does (usually in action scenes), and it looks really awesome. I can't really explain it, but you'll recognize what I mean if you've watched the show. Second, any time Vegeta fights... his music is awesome. There's just something about any of Vegeta's music that I love. And once he starts fighting here, he gets some new music (along with the classic stuff) that's really fun to listen to.

One thing that's getting a bit on the annoying side, though, is scene changing from episode to episode. It's happened in the past from time to time, but now it's nearly every episode. What I mean is that an episode will end one way, but then the next episode begins with the ending of the previous episode... and it changes it almost completely. The dialogue is different, and even reactions to things are different. I complained about this once before at the end of Season 3 with Vegeta starting crap and then flying away at the end of one episode, but then being perfectly fine and with the others the next. One particularly jarring (and recent) case I can give an example for would be after Gohan and Goku enter the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. At the end of that episode, Gohan sees the expanse of nothingness and gets excited, and Goku plays along. But at the beginning of the next episode, everything is super serious and Goku tells Gohan to go check out the nothingness for the first time (which didn't happen before... Gohan called Goku over before). And this time when Gohan sees it, he freaks out. In other words, I wish it would just go one direction and stick with it, instead of continually doing things twice and with opposite actions.


But to counter that, you have incredibly awesome things like Ascended Trunks (well, at least he's awesome in looks). Though Trunks, while cool, comes with his annoyances. For instance, almost any time he talks, he has to reference what happened in the future. We get it. The Androids destroyed it. You're vengeful. You don't have to tell the story over and over and over again. But then there's the Hyperbolic Time Chamber training with Goku and Gohan, which is always fun.

On a more physical level (I suppose), the DVDs themselves do something... strange. About halfway into the season, the discs go from having about 6 episodes per disc to 3. And that's a total waste. The reason they did this is so they could give the Cell Games (probably the best thing in DBZ) it's own season... at least, that's what I'm assuming. We'll see when I watch Season 6, which starts with the Cell Games stuff.

Overall, despite its faults, I'd say this is the best season yet, probably only to be overtaken by next season, because the Cell Games (from what I remember) are awesome. Unfortunately, the Dragonball universe is like one super-long story, so you can't just pick up here and expect to understand everything. Basically every season requires that you have the knowledge of at least the season before it. And many things in DBZ recommend knowledge of the original series, Dragonball. Though at least with that, there are plenty of flashbacks and explanations so that if you don't have pre-existing knowledge of the original show, it fills in the blanks for you. So what I'm getting at is, although this is a really good season, you really can't start here and expect to understand the characters or what is going on (at least to the capacity that you should).

So I guess I'll leave it at that. Until the next season!

7.20.2009

Short Review: Nothing.

Premise: Two friends whose lives are falling apart very quickly suddenly wish it would all go away. And then it does. Literally. 

Starring: David Hewlett and Andrew Miller. 

My Reaction: As a huge fan of Vincenzo Natali's Cube, I had to see this. Directed yet again by Natali and starring two of the actors from Cube, I figured I was in for something special. Well... I suppose you could call it special. This is probably the exact opposite of Cube in every way imaginable. Whereas Cube was claustrophobic and dark, Nothing is very spacious and light (because, well, it's a comedy). And I do mean spacious. The two guys end up in just a blank white space of nothingness with just their house and pet turtle. Getting straight to it, I felt the movie had so much potential that mostly went down the drain. It had some fun moments here and there, especially once they figure out what caused things to disappear (at about the halfway point of the film). But how do you end a movie like this? There's no plot. It's basically a character study of how these two guys would react to such a situation. I feel the way they did go about ending it was just too... weird. It turns from strange comedy into a cartoonish farce in the blink of an eye, much so that this could have easily become an entry in "WTF Did I Just Watch?" The movie isn't bad by any means... it just falls short of my expectations and isn't really outstanding based on the amazing premise.

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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

7.18.2009

Manic Movie Madness Spectacular Bam Wow!

Because I waited too long after seeing most of these movies to write a review, I really can't remember many details about them (or I just don't have much to say about them in the first place). Therefore, I'm gonna get them all out of the way all together as... Manic Movie Madness Spectacular Bam Wow!


The Title: Paprika

The Skinny: After so much hype, I was expecting something mind-blowing. Instead, it's just relatively weird, confusing, sometimes pretty, but mostly strange.

The Score:
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Feed Me, Seymour!


The Title: Kamikaze Girls

The Skinny: Think what would happen if you mixed Amelie with Ghost World (with a tone closer to the former). It's humorous, though not laugh-out-loud funny. There are some good visuals, though nothing mind-blowing. The movie is more character-driven than plot-driven. It lost my attention around the 2/3s mark, but got it back soon thereafter. Overall, a pretty good movie. 

The Score:
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I Am McLovin!



The Title: RocknRolla

The Skinny: It's Guy Ritchie... what do you expect? It's fast-paced and sometimes difficult to follow. Though sometimes it felt like Burn After Reading with the pointlessness of it all. Or maybe I just wasn't grabbing the plot very well, which is likely (I had some difficulties following Ritchie's Snatch, as well). 

The Score:
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I Am McLovin!



The Title: Heathers

The Skinny: Incredibly dated, but still a really good movie. The acting between Winona Ryder and Christian Slater (especially Slater) is fantastic, though Slater does drift into Jack Nicholson territory from time to time. Though the movie has one of the coolest (albeit a bit unrealistic) endings ever. My only major gripe is that the editing of the film felt choppy and rushed at times, and half the time I expected something to be a dream sequence, but it wasn't (which, to me, isn't a good thing). But still a really fun movie. 

The Score:
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A Keanu 'Whoa'



The Title: Mind Hunters

The Skinny: I've been wanting to see this film for a few years now, though now I'm not sure why. The idea is a good one, but it just doesn't pull itself off in my opinion. There are a couple fun scenes, but the others are negated by the fact that the characters are supposed to be these smart profilers, yet act like some horror movie idiots. Not to mention the ending makes no sense whatsoever. They try to pull a double-twist that totally backfires because it's completely illogical in its execution. 

The Score:
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Feed Me, Seymour!



The Title: The Onion Movie

The Skinny: Some funny moments, some 'okay then...' moments. The movie is basically long string of skits, about half of which involve running gags throughout. And then that half culminates together for a pretty fun ending. Otherwise, it's just a pretty decent comedy movie (if you can really call it a movie). 

The Score:
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I Am McLovin!


The Title: Midnight Movie

The Skinny: Besides the fact that this movie had a useless appearance by the actress who played Daphne on Heroes, the movie was pretty much a waste of time. Most horror movies, even ones with 'unkillable killers' (Jason, Freddy), have rules to follow where the good guys can still win or get an upper hand. This one keeps making rules, changing them, and refusing to make up its mind on how the killer works. And in the end, they really do make an 'unkillable killer', which is pretty lame when it comes to horror movies. Oh, and of course, you don't really care about any of the characters... and it's likely that the one you want to die because of annoyances is the one who actually lives. 

The Score:
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The Zed Word


The Title: Beowulf

The Skinny: In a movie with monsters, dragons, and a naked Angelina Jolie, you wouldn't expect to be so bored. The first half of the movie was drug out unnecessarily. And the random use of Old English was just weird. I like Crispin Glover, but I hated this movie's portrayal of Grendel. Totally unmenacing, and even marginally annoying. Grendel's mother was better, though, thankfully. And the dragon bit was really cool, though the way Beowulf takes it down doesn't make any sense (Spoiler: If he couldn't reach the heart with the extended reach of a sword, how the hell does he reach it with his bare hand?). Brendan Gleeson's Wiglaf was the best performance in the film, I thought. And his animation seemed to be the best. While on the subject, sometimes the animation was really good, and sometimes it just looked like crap. Oh, and "I. Am. BEOWULF." is equally as stupid in the context of the movie as it was in the trailers. 

The Score:
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Feed Me, Seymour!


The Title: Knowing

The Skinny: Not Nic Cage's best film, but certainly not his worst. It had some good suspenseful moments and some decent CGI (some better than others, though). The 3 minute long shot is pretty cool, too. Though the son's need of a hearing aide was pointless, as he could still hear and speak just as well without it as he did with it. I'm not sure if I liked the ending, though. I went into the movie expecting a supernatural thriller, and only in the final act do you realize it's an apocalypse film... which totally changes the mood of the whole thing. It just kinda leaves you with a "well... that was pointless" feeling at the end. Still, the majority of it is entertaining enough. 

The Score:
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I Am McLovin!



The Title: Fanboys

The Skinny: Mildly entertaining, though never really laugh-out-loud funny. Kristen Bell is hot, though, even as a brunette. Some fun Star Wars parallels. Decent acting all around. Though the film relies a bit too much on dramatic irony (where the audience knows something the characters don't), specifically that Episode 1 is bad. 

The Score:
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I Am McLovin!

7.15.2009

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.

Half-Blood Prince is my favorite of the 7 books. I've been looking forward to this film for so long, and after everything I've heard recently, my expectations were super high. So I finally saw Half-Blood Prince at midnight last night. I went straight to bed after I got home (as I had to be at work in the morning), so I've had plenty of time to let things sink in. But you know what? My feelings are exactly the same as last night: This movie is brilliant and blows all the others out of the water.

The movie picks up pretty much where the last one left off, and Harry (Dan Radcliffe) is about to begin his 6th year at Hogwarts. But Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) shows up and takes him on a bit of a side-journey to have a talk with an old professor of Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to try and get him to come back. Later, Harry and friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) notice Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) up to something strange, beginning a bit of an obsession from Harry toward Draco. And then there's Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) who makes an Unbreakable Vow with Draco's mother, Narcissa (Helen McCrory) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) to help Draco out in his mission that Voldemort has set him. And this is all before they even get to Hogwarts. Once back at school, emotions run high as everybody is feeling romance in the air, including Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who has an enormous crush on Ron, and Hermione, who is starting to realize her feelings toward Ron, as well. And then there's Harry's growing crush on Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But not all is light within the school. As Draco continues his secret mission, Dumbledore puts Harry up to the task to get buddy-buddy with Slughorn for a very important reason.

I am a fan of the books and the films, so I'm going to try and make this as fair of a review as possible. I will try to review it both as a film and as an adaptation. Let's start with the actors.

Jim Broadbent's Slughorn, while looking nothing as described in the books, plays him perfectly. His acting, shifting between whimsical and serious, is spot on. Of course, we also have some of the more background players moving to the foreground, such as Draco, Ginny, and Snape (not a background player in the books, per se, but definitely has been given a smaller role in the films as of late). Tom Felton, though with few words, shows us Draco's internal struggle to do the task he has been given, and it's brilliantly played when push comes to shove and the moment finally comes. Ginny, as well, while having almost no lines in the previous films, really shows us that she can play Ginny just fine when asked.

But then we have Snape. Oh, Alan Rickman, how great you are. You've been the perfect casting choice of the entire series, and you still claim that throne. Although Snape appears to come to the foreground even in the book, he's honestly not in it as much as you probably think he is. In fact, I had a discussion just today that the person felt Snape wasn't in it as much as the book, but as huge of a role he plays in the book, he's actually not in it as much as it seems. It's kind of a "Jaws" effect. He's always around, and most things seem to center around him, but he's not always there. Is that to say he's not in the movie a lot? Absolutely not. He has a large role in the film, as well, and plays it to perfection as usual.

Then there's the Trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. This movie is downright hilarious, and most of it is thanks to these three (and Lavender, who was obsessively brilliant). But for the first time in a long time, I felt Emma Watson really captured Hermione again. When her hand shot up excitedly in the air to answer a question, I grinned wide. And there's even a fun bit where her hair gets all frizzy and bushy, which had to be a nudge to the fans. I also loved "drunk" Hermione (too much Butterbeer!). Then you have Rupert Grint who also, finally, found a great balance between comedy and loyalty. And then you have Dan Radcliffe, who had some exceptional moments, particularly the Cave scene and the Felix Felicis scene (which is just hilarious).

But the top bill... and I can't believe I'm actually saying this... has to go to Michael Gambon, who--for the first time--acted Dumbledore perfectly. Like Slughorn, there was a perfect mix of whimsy and serious. But the kicker? I think for the first time, I actually saw Michael Gambon smile. And boy, does that make all the difference.

Of course, there are other, smaller characters that did well, too, like Luna (who is great as always). And funnily enough, after my Flitwick complaint recently, he was actually given some dialogue in this film (although one of those dialogue moments was to mention choir practice... oh well). And McGonagall actually gets some decent screen time for once, as well.

Overall, on all the actors' parts, the movie was a great film of expressions. I mean, a lot of the parts (seriousness, heartbreak, fear, comedy) were expressed purely through facial expression, and expressed well, which really says something.

As an adaptation, besides the characters being acted perfectly, the movie does very well. Total purists might not like it for things cut out, but I felt what was cut out wasn't purely necessary to begin with (as long as they're able to include the missing information somehow in the final film, as some was important). For instance, there were three important aspects from the book that were declared cut that had some fans up in arms. These scenes were half the memories, the 'Battle', and the funeral. Let's take these one at a time.

In the book, there are about 6 or so memories into Voldemort's past. In the film, there are 3 (one being a completed version of another). These memories are important in figuring out what Harry has to go after in the final story to help defeat Voldemort. With the memories cut from the film, Harry doesn't exactly know specifics on what to go after... but it works fine. Harry knows what he's supposed to be doing, and in the final book, there really wasn't too much of a need for Harry to know specifics. And if we're lucky, the Trio will just figure it out themselves, making them look much smarter and more important in this mission (because, as we know from the book, that didn't happen too often).

And then we have the cut 'Battle', removed because David Yates felt it might become repetitious due to the battle in the final film. And I agree. There didn't need to be a battle in this one, and the way they did it was just fine. There's still destruction (and one Auror does actually get blasted), but the stealth mode worked, and it will make the final battle that much more epic. As for the funeral, again, unnecessary. In the book, Harry pretty much pays little attention to it anyway, and it's over before you know it. And there's still a nicely done gesture anyway. The movie ends pretty much exactly the same as the book... the Trio talking about what to do next. Actually, I think this is the first time in the movies that the movie has actually ended exactly how the book did. And if the movie seems to just stop, that's because the book did the exact same thing. The movie, like the book, is basically just a setup to the final installment(s).

And speaking of setup, I loved the little nudges the film gave for those who had read the final book (especially the Harry snake-head thing when he touches the ring). And I'm also glad they didn't muck things up (Luna didn't actually see Harry with her SpectreSpecs... and expelliarmus is cast at the end of the movie (which I started getting worried about when it didn't happen immediately)). And there were also some fun in-jokes for those who are knowledgeable of the earlier books/films (Like when Slughorn asks if Aragog had a family, and the tone in Harry's voice when he goes "Oh yeah" is just great).

If I had any complaint about this film, it would be the downplay of the Half-Blood Prince subplot. The potions book really is downplayed in the film, but it was never really that important in the grand scheme of things even in the book, so it's not like it really mattered. It did what it was meant to do (and by God, the Sectumsempra scene was even better than I could have hoped). Draco's mission also became much more obvious in the film than in the book (though I'm not really sure I could say that since I had the book spoiled for me before I read it). But it was still incredibly obvious what he was trying to do. Though in the realm of cinema versus books, I'm not sure that's a bad thing, really.

Some might complain about all the romance, but the book was the same way... and I thought it worked particularly well (in fact, some of it I thought was better than the book, mostly because the book couldn't do the brilliant facial expressions like the film could, not to mention some brilliant lines not in the book). The romance is rarely at the forefront of any scene, but it's a part of a many of them. I even liked how they got around one of my only annoyances of the book, Tonks' moping about mysteriously, later for us to discover is about Lupin. The film? Just puts them right together and gets it over with. Smart move, I say. But if you complain about the love and relationships in Harry Potter, you're missing the point of the series completely. As is said at the end of the Half-Blood Prince book (paraphrasing), one should be proud to see a little more love in the world... because remember, in Harry Potter, love is the most powerful magic. And what better episode to center around love than the one where Dumbledore comes to the forefront? Plus... they're teenagers.

I know this is an incredibly long review, but how could I not talk about the music and cinematography? Nicholas Hooper's score is just beautiful. I gave it a listen before the film came out, and it's just as great in the film as it is out. And the cinematography by Bruno Belbonnel (Amelie and Across the Universe) made an outstandingly gorgeous film. Every shot was so beautiful, it really set this film apart from all the others in visuals, including Prisoner of Azkaban. I really can't stress enough how gorgeous the film is.

Overall, the film was near perfect for a Harry Potter film (Deathly Hallows might trump it simply because it has 2 films to tell its story). It was gorgeous. The music was beautiful. The acting was completely, by everyone, spot on. The movie was hilarious (much funnier than anticipated). There was a perfect balance of dark and light (and when it was dark, it was pretty dark, so I'm really surprised this movie got a PG rated... I'm still not sure how). As an adaptation, there were things cut out and some things added in, and a few things changed, but everything seemed to work. What most adaptations try to do is either be like the first two films and try to put every detail in or be like Goblet of Fire and try to be true, but make it really choppy due to things cut out. For the first time, I've really felt that a Harry Potter movie took the essence of the book and made it into its own creature--staying true to the story and the book, but doing other things of its own volition that separated the book and film and letting it work on a cinematic level. I could go on endlessly about this film, but I'll spare you. Let's just say I can't wait to see it again and again.

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Royale With Cheese

(P.S. Did anybody else's heart skip a beat and/or breath get caught in their throat at that final "...Please." right before the occurrence?)

7.13.2009

Top 10 Worst Things About Harry Potter Films 1-5.

With the latest Harry Potter film coming out this week, I felt I should start off with a post about my thoughts on the series. I've already given some short, quick thoughts on each previous movie here, but I felt something more in-depth was necessary. However, as I could go on praising Harry Potter day and night, I felt doing something a bit different with this. As such, I felt like putting together what I felt are the top 10 worst things about the first 5 films. These things can be related to full scenes, directors, cast (doubtful, with one major exception), adaptation quality, etc., as long as it is in relation to the first 5 films. And what Potter fan doesn't like to whine about certain aspects of the films?

Before I get started, however, let me first begin by saying that while I am an avid HP book fan, I am by no means an absolute purist. I don't care that Harry's eyes aren't green or Hermione's dress to the Yule Ball ended up being pink. I only care about when important things are messed with--important things that had no purpose in being changed, cut, what have you. I also understand that they are two different mediums, and they don't have to be 6 hours long (as nice as that'd be) to include every little detail (as long as said details aren't vital). That being said, let us begin!

Warning: If you live in a cave and/or have never read or seen Harry Potter--why are you reading this?--there are spoilers ahoy.


10. Charming Little Fellow

Filius Flitwick, the tiny Charms professor, has been in all 5 movies. But you probably haven't noticed, have you? In the first two films, as directed by Chris Columbus, he had a crazy white beard and hair. But starting in Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban, Flitwick changes complete (though played by the same actor), and he keeps that look for the following films.

Granted, J.K. Rowling herself freaked out about his look in the first two films, being nothing like she imaged, and moreso approved of his look in
the latter films. However, it's not really the jarring change in appearance that gets to me. It's his change in job.
Again, beginning with Cuaron's film, he goes from Charms professor to band/choir director. You see him directing the choir at the beginning of Prisoner, conducting the band in Goblet, and again in Order as Umbridge measures his height. And, of course, you see him in various locations, such as the Great Hall eating, or at the Yule Ball being forced into a body surf.

What happened to Charms? The characters didn't end their learning of Charms with Wingardium Leviosa. Maybe the student body just thought Flitwick disappeared because of his total makeover and stopped going to his classes. Who knows?


9. Anybody Peeved?

Peeves the Poltergeist barely missed out on being in the first film, and what a difference it could have made. Yes, believe it or not, there are entire major characters that are cut from the films that are in the books. For instance, Ludo Bagman in Goblet of Fire; Sir Cadogan in Prisoner of Azkaban (though if you know what you're looking for, you can still see him); or the History of Magic ghost teacher, Professor Binns. Or there are characters who are around for a while in the books, but aren't introduced in the films until necessary (like Bellatrix Lestrange, Cedric Diggory, Cho Chang, Narcissa Malfoy, or Lavender Brown--all of which were physically introduced in earlier books, but not until later movies).

Peeves is different. As a poltergeist that haunts the halls of Hogwarts, he can't exactly be introduced halfway into the series. So not being introduced in the first film really put a damper on his appearance at all. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Well... not much, honestly. But outside the random comedy he would offer, there are a few good scenes he would 
have really helped. His most missed scene, however, would be Fred and George's grand escape in Order of the Phoenix. Peeves doesn't listen to anybody, and just goes around causing mayhem. But when Fred and George give their grand farewell to Hogwarts and Umbridge, they 
tell him "Give her hell from us, Peeves," and the poltergeist actually salutes them and proceeds to... well...  give Umbridge hell. A classic scene from the book.

He actually had a scene filmed for the first film, and was to be portrayed by Rik "Drop Dead Fred" Mayall, but the scene was put on the cutting room floor--not even to be shown in deleted scenes or ABC extended television versions. Though Rik Mayall would have been quite the good Peeves... and I'd love to have seen him in the films, at least once.


8. Thank You Ron... I Mean, Hermione

When you think Ron Weasley, what character traits come to mind? Brave? Loyal? Funny? If you just said the last one, then you know Ron Weasley: The Movie Version. Sure, he's funny in the books, but the films portray Ron as almost purely comic relief, with only a few exceptions. For instance, the first film portrays him close to the books, particularly in the chess game. He's also more than a comedian in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, putting the biggest offenders as Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.

But this isn't to the fault of Rupert Grint, who is brilliant in the role. So who gets the fault? Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, who has an apparent crush on Hermione. Let me explain: Hermione often gets other characters' lines, including Harry and Ron (mostly Ron). This makes him (and sometimes Harry) look like an idiot in comparison to the books. Ron is a funny character, and Rupert Grint portrays it well, but there's more to Ron than comedy. Thankfully, though, he's been getting better as the films go on. 


7. Normally I Love A Sexy Nerd

Similarly, the portrayal of Hermione Granger after the first two films has drastically changed from the books. Hermione is a dorky little nerd in the books (redundancy be damned!), with huge, bushy hair and--until Goblet of Fire--buck teeth. Hermione was best portrayed in the first two films. But then Cuaron came along and... things changed. They decided to start sexing her up. They straightened her hair, put makeup on her, and gave her
 form-fitting clothes. They also all but dropped the nerd aspect, rarely having her even hold a book.

And along with dropping the looks, Emma Watson's acting began to dwindle for a couple films until David Yates came along in Order of the Phoenix and made every character, major and minor, act better than they had ever acted before. I suppose I could only suspect that, once she started dressing out of the part, she had more trouble acting the part. Also, because of the drastic change in looks, her "epic transformation" come the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire lost all of its impact. In the book, Ron doesn't even recognize her at first because of how different she looks. But in the films, she basically just pulls up her hair and puts on a dress (Pink!... just kidding).


6. Master Gave Dobby A Sock... And The Boot!

You remember Dobby, right? The little house elf in Chamber of Secrets that tried to save Harry's life by trying to keep him away from Hogwarts? As you should know, at the end of that film, Harry tricks Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby. But what you might not know if you only follow the films... is that Dobby returns to the series in Goblet of Fire.

Dumbledore hires a willing Dobby to work in the kitchens. He also ends up helping Harry by stealing Gillyweed from Snape's stores for the second Triwizard task. Of course, in the film, this role was given to Neville instead, which begins a list of things that Neville gets credit for that are actually Dobby's doing. In Order of the Phoenix, it's actually Dobby that finds the Room of Requirement and tells Harry about. And in the upcoming Half-Blood Prince, Dobby makes another important appearance, though I doubt Neville will get this one, as it's pretty much something only the house elf could do (at least easily).

In fact, Dobby's removal also, in part, is responsible for Winky's removal... an important character (Barty Crouch's house elf) cut from Goblet of Fire. You can't exactly have Winky and not Dobby... there would be no sense in that. And they almost cut Kreacher from Order of the Phoenix, had J.K. Rowling not warned them otherwise, due to his importance in the as-of-then unreleased final book.

So why was Dobby cut from these films, time restraints aside? Alfonso Cuaron. I know what you're asking yourself: Cuaron just directed Prisoner of Azkaban, right? Yes, that's right. However, the producers were planning to do the intelligent thing and make Goblet of Fire into two films--which would have made it so much better, giving it the necessary time to get through everything (a lot of important stuff happens in that book). But Cuaron, having just finished movie 3, gave them advice: cut out everything that isn't important to Harry himself. This began a trend that, starting with Cuaron's own film, cut out plenty of important details that would really screw over the later films. 

Most would argue that Hermione's S.P.E.W. organization isn't important. I would tend to agree... except that it reintroduces Dobby, and also leads to an important, relationship-confirming moment that fans waited 7 books for. But now I digress. So I've gone on and on about Dobby being cut from the films, but what does that even matter, you ask? For those who haven't read Deathly Hallows, you have no idea. But Dobby plays a crucial role in the final book, and the producers (and Steve Kloves) are pretty much kicking themselves in the ass for following Cuaron's advice, which basically led to Dobby's removal. I know they have Dobby in the film (they can't not), as it's been confirmed... so I'll be interested to see how they work him back in. I particularly liked something Dan Radcliffe (Harry Potter) said in an interview not too long ago: "I wonder how they'll reintroduce him. 'Oh, Dobby! Wow, I haven't seen you since 2003!'" Indeed.


5. Where'd He Go? Sirius-ly?

You know, when you introduce a major character in the prior film that becomes hugely important in the lead character's life... it might be smart to, you know, keep him around. Again, because of Cuaron's advice to keep Goblet as one film by cutting out anything not involving Harry and the main plot, Sirius Black all but disappeared. Sure, he has a letter or two, and one horrible appearance in the "fire" (which, thank God, was done correctly in Order of the Phoenix). But that's it. This is the book where Harry gets close to his godfather, where he bonds with him and forms a relationship with him. And all of that is all but removed completely.

In the books, Sirius shows up around Hogsmeade near the school, and they go to visit him and bring him food, etc., as he's still on the run from the Ministry. Not to mention there are plenty of letters and other correspondence.

But because of Sirius' horrible lack of inclusion in Goblet, David Yates really had to amp it up in Order because, well... obviously. And many-a-fan has complained that the emotional impact wasn't nearly as strong in the film as it was in the books. To me, it was about the same, because I wasn't really affected by Sirius one way or the other. But I can see where they're coming from. Now, Dumbledore, on the other hand... but we're not there yet.


4. Snape's Worst Memory (Minus The Worst Part)

It's a whole chapter in the book version of Order of the Phoenix, but a mere 30 seconds in the film. Now, Order of the Phoenix is my current favorite of the films (hopefully soon to be replaced). It did what many fans aren't comprehending: it took an 800+ page book with basically no plot and nearly all Quidditch, and turned it into a 2 hour, coherent film. How? They cut out Quidditch and focused on the important aspects of the plot. If Cuaron's advice was going to work for any of the films, it would be this one. The reason is that, as I've already said, almost nothing of any vital importance happens throughout the bulk of this bulky book.

Unfortunately, when something important does happen, the film also glosses over that, as well, where it could have spent a little more time (I'll be getting into that a little more later, as well). One of these occurrences was with the "Snape's Worst Memory" scene. In the book, you'll know this scene as Harry doing Occlumency lessons with Snape... then Snape runs off to help a student who had gone missing and just turned up (important for Half-Blood Prince), leaving Harry with Dumbledore's Pensieve, which he's let Snape borrow to remove certain memories... just in case. Harry dives into the Pensieve to see Snape back in his school days... only to be followed and bullied by none other than James Potter and Sirius Black (while Lupin and Peter Pettigrew stand back). Of course, Lily Evans (later Lily Potter) comes to the rescue, only to be called a Mudblood by Snape and attacked further by James.

In the film, Harry does a shield charm on Snape's Ligilimens, which rebounds and has Harry go into Snape's mind instead. On paper, it's a brilliant method to save time away from going into the whole Pensieve dilemma. And it would have worked out well. The problem? They cut out the most important part. Because the final book hadn't yet been released, I suppose they didn't realize that it wasn't being bullied that was Snape's Worst Memory. I won't go into details or explanations for those who don't follow the books, though, to avoid spoiling anything. Yes, learning that James, who Harry idolized, was a bully was important, but it wasn't the most important part of the memory. And from what I read before the film came out, they actually filmed the whole memory scene, but trimmed it down to what they had in the film.

And I think that was a mistake. Sure, it wouldn't be important information until the final movie, but they should have at least put the full thing in there for continuity purposes. The movie was already the shortest of the bunch. I don't see how adding another minute tops would have hurt anything.


3. DumbleRAR

Yes, yes, another Michael Gambon complaint. I'm sure you've heard them all over the internet (assuming you're a dork with no life like me and have the time to do those kinds of searches). When Richard Harris died, they of course had to replace the man who embodied the calm power that is Dumbledore. Unfortunately, Alfonso Cuaron had to hire Michael Gambon as that replacement. I'm in the group that would have liked to see Sir Ian McKellen in the role, but he refused to play Dumbledore for personal reasons.

Thus, we're left with Mr. Gambon. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike him in the role all the time. He did get some of the whimsy side of the Headmaster in Prisoner of Azkaban, though he was a bit too philosophical at times (moreso a scripting complaint, I suppose). But then comes Goblet of Fire, where most Gambon hatred stems. He becomes angry and even violent. Dumbledore doesn't even become remotely upset or irritated until Half-Blood Prince, though he still never even comes close to the crazy he shows in Goblet of Fire.

It could have been due to the director, but Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore is mind boggling. To seemingly throttling Harry and screaming out his name in Goblet to the horribly unnecessary "Don't you have studying to do?" line in Order, Gambon's Dumbledore has some anger issues. And even outside of performance, he's chosen to stray away from Dumbledore visuals. He wears grey robes instead of bright ones; he ties his beard; and he refuses to wear the signature half-moon spectacles. But he's not all bad, as I said. He has his moments, usually in the final scenes with Harry in the dorms or office. And from what I've seen and heard about Half-Blood Prince thus far, I have some high hopes.

But that still doesn't let me forgive him for Goblet.


2. Explain That Again?

This section could probably be a post all to itself. In fact, a lot of my complaints stemmed from this section, and I realized they all fit under one category: Endings and Explanations. Most Potter fans can tell you that the endings to Potter films always find a way to do something wrong. Some of these are well known. Some of these are my personal observations. But for the most part, the ending of each Potter film has changed something or left something out that has really rather aggravated me on one level or another. Let's go through them, shall we?

a) Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone

I actually like the ending to this one the best. It's perfect for the film, really. I mean, there's cheesy lines galore, but it's the first film, which is by far the most kid-friendly. Though rewind a bit to Quirrel's death, which is different than the book... and importantly so. In the book, Harry doesn't see Quirrel die. The man's attack on Harry is so overwhelmingly painful (and I would say so, with Voldemort on the back of his head) to both of them, though especially Harry via his scar, that Harry passes out before Quirrel kicks the bucket. In the film, Harry doesn't pass out until after. The issue? Thestrals. Having seen somebody die, Harry should be able to see Thestrals starting his second year, when in fact, he shouldn't really see or comprehend any major death until Goblet of Fire--which is why Thestrals aren't introduced until Order of the Phoenix. Plot hole, anyone?


b) Chamber of Secrets

There are two for this one. One is of my own personal observations, and the other is more widely known. The first deals with Ginny Weasley's crush on Harry. It's toyed with in the film, mostly through actions instead of words. However, this causes a major plot hole come the climax of the film. In the book, Tom Riddle (diary version) learns of Harry and his past because of Ginny's obsessive crush on him, always writing about Harry in the diary. This intrigues Tom, and he asks for more information about Harry. However, come the climax, none of this is explained, and Tom just happens to know all of this about Harry from the start. How? Tom, as a 16-year-old 'memory', can't know of his future or of Harry without somebody telling him. Of course, being the longest film, Chamber had to cut something, right? It just seemed odd to cut out the one thing that tied the plot together.

The second is the ending itself. Widely heralded as the worst ending of the movies, Chamber of Secrets ends with a highly cheesy and utterly ridiculous note. Hagrid comes back from Azkaban and enters the end-of-term feast late. Cue "There's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid," and every single student and faculty member standing up to clap and cheer. And then it ends. Excuse me, what? Even Slytherins were standing up cheering. At this point, the majority of the students don't even know Hagrid well (if at all), much less like him very much. I can see Harry, Ron, and Hermione being happy for his return, but the entire school? No. That's a bit of a stretch, methinks.


c) Prisoner of Azkaban

Where to begin? There are a few major purposes for the story told in Prisoner of Azkaban, all of which are pretty much cut from the film. Let's start with the Marauder's Map explanation. Again, something that was filmed but later cut, though for some reason not even included in the deleted scenes on the DVD. And there's more than one opportune time to explain, but particularly one major one: at the end office scene, where Lupin is packing up, and he gives the map back to Harry. This would have been perfect for him to explain, for instance, how he knew how the map worked in the first place. He could have explained that James, Sirius, himself, and Peter Pettigrew were all friends in school, and they gave themselves the nicknames Moony (Lupin), Wormtail (Peter), Padfoot (Sirius), and Prongs (James). They were trouble makers, and they made the Marauder's Map to help them scurry about Hogwarts in secret. This would have also helped make sense out of the later uses of the nicknames in Goblet and Order, as well as the stag shape of Harry's Patronus (they were all animagi, Harry's father being able to turn into a stag... hence the patronus and the nickname Prongs). And they were all animagi to help keep Lupin, a werewolf, company during transformations.

I could also talk about the lack of explanation of why, exactly, Snape hated James and co. so much. There were multiple reasons, of course, but a major one being that Sirius tried to play a fatal prank on Snape, sending him after Lupin's werewolf form. But James saved his life. As Snape already loathed James at this point, being saved by him made it that much worse. And that's a big reason Snape acts the way he does toward Harry (again, not the only reason, but a big one). And toward Sirius and Lupin. But none of this is even close to explained in the film.

I could also discuss the lack of explanation on the Fidelius charm with the secret keepers. What is that, you ask? The whole reason everybody thought Sirius had led to the deaths of Lily and James Potter, the whole reason he ended up in Azkaban, framed. The whole plot. You see, the Fidelius charm can be placed on a location so that only one person (the secret keeper) can know of or find that location unless he/she decides to divulge it. When James and Lily go into hiding after finding out Voldemort is hunting them down, they're given refuge in a village called Godric's Hollow. The house they're staying in is kept hidden by the Fidelius charm. Originally, James had asked Sirius to be the secret keeper, and everybody close to them thought he was. But at the last minute, Sirius backed out and let Peter Pettigrew be the secret keeper. Peter then takes the information to Voldemort (drawn in by his power and out of fear) and tells them exactly how to find the Potters. Then Peter goes on the run. Sirius goes after him, knowing the truth, but Peter blows up a city block and cuts off his finger and escapes, thus framing Sirius for both the backstabbing against Lily and James and conspiracy with Voldemort, as well as the attack on a muggle population. But the Fidelius charm issues don't end there. Because it wasn't introduced in this film, the introduction of Grimmauld Place in Order had to be changed, much to the chagrin of the fans.

There's also no explanation of how Sirius escapes or even how he knew that Peter was at Hogwarts. You know that picture near the beginning that shows the Weasley family in Egypt? It's never really divulged in the film or explained further, but that's how. They won some money and took a trip. That photo was put in the paper, which Sirius saw in Azkaban, recognizing Peter's animagus form. So he bid his time, transformed into a dog (which the dementors couldn't sense), and escaped. And once free, he communicated with Hermione's cat Crookshanks to have him try and capture Peter (Ron's rat Scabbers), which is why Crookshanks is after Scabbers through the entire film.

And, finally, the actual ending of the film... not getting the Firebolt until the end of the film instead of the middle, I suppose I can handle (even though it's supposed to be a bit of a clue about Sirius' true nature). But ending it with that God-awful blurred freeze frame... lame.


d) Goblet of Fire

Whew, thought I'd never get through that last one. One major thing not touched on is what the heck happens to Barty Crouch Jr.  In the book, he's given the Dementor's Kiss. In the film... he's just... well... I guess he goes back to Azkaban (so why isn't he in the recent films as an escaped Death Eater)?

Otherwise, Gambon does a nice, calm Dumbledore during the closing bits... but still fails to explain one thing: Priori Incantatem. He mentions it, yes... but then rambles off and never explains it. And that's a shame, because it's hugely important to the overall plot of the series. Priori Incantatem was the moment when Harry and Voldemort's wand beams connected and the "images" of those who had died by Voldemort's wand came out in reverse order (though in the film, stopping with Frank Bryce, the old caretaker at the beginning of the film).

It's not discussed at all in the film, which, to me, is going to make other things really confusing later on (I'm not sure how they're going to get around it much, really). The reason the wands connected was because both wands shared an ingredient. Both contained the tail feather from Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes. So in essence, they are brother wands. And brother wands cannot attack one another. In other words, Harry and Voldemort wouldn't be able to fight each other with their current wands. This leads to a major event that technically happens in Half-Blood Prince, but really comes into the plot in Deathly Hallows.

And strangely, there seemed to be a Priori Incantatem during the Dumbledore/Voldemort fight in Order of the Phoenix, which doesn't make sense, because they don't have brother wands. But oh well... the fight still looked cool, and the bit doesn't last long, so I mostly ignore it.


e) Order of the Phoenix

The prophecy. What's more to say, really? As I've said before, I loved Order of the Phoenix, but it isn't without its flaws. Its biggest flaw, to me, is the final "office" scene at the end between Harry and Dumbledore. Any fan of the book knows how different it is. In the book, Harry is pissed and throwing things around, breaking Dumbledore's stuff, while Dumbledore sits around patiently waiting to explain himself.

Then Dumbledore goes into it all, including an explanation of the prophecy. In fact, rewinding a little bit in the movie, they cut out some crucial lines of the prophecy itself (which, again, doesn't make sense... the movie is the shortest of the bunch, they could have added another 15 seconds). They cut out the lines that would have led Voldemort to knowing it was Harry he was after. This part of the prophecy also connects to Neville, which I loved in the books, though I guess I can see reason for cutting it out of the movie. Still, the whole prophecy is necessary for Voldemort to even know who to go after. And then Dumbledore hardly explains anything. The whole office scene is roughly 3 minutes long, all of which it takes for him to basically say "I cared for you too much." I liked the subdued Harry in the scene, but the lack of any vital explanations was very missed, including the bit where Dumbledore tells him Voldemort found out in the first place because somebody had listened in and heard part of the prophecy (which eventually led to the hunt for the Potters), as well as it being Trelawney that made the prediction (though I suppose you can tell if you listen close enough to the prophecy at the Ministry scene). Though with Trelawney confirmed as not in the next film (or any more, for that matter), it is apparent that they'll probably never release the crucial information on the one who heard the first half of the prophecy to begin with. Oh well.


1. The Man Who Nearly Killed Harry Potter

No, not Lord Voldemort. I'm speaking, of course, of Alfonso Cuaron. Now before you click away in anger, before you roll your eyes, and before you throw something at me... just hear me out. Take into consideration everything I've said thus far about some of the worst things about the Harry Potter films. Have you noticed that, not all of them, but a good chunk of them, are tied directly to Alfonso Cuaron?

I am not arguing with the fact that he created a visually stunning film. There's no doubt about that. But while he made a good looking film, he utterly and entirely missed the whole point of it. He was too focused on the theme of time that he added giant clock set pieces and Whomping Willow-through-the-seasons sequences... and didn't focus on the actual purpose of the story. As I've detailed, he cut out every single reason that the story of Prisoner even had to be told in the first place. He made a visually stunning, more adult, though completely pointless film. And I cannot understand how people can say it's the best of the films. Yes, it moves the Potter films in a more adult and visually pleasing direction, but besides those two things... nothing. Maybe it's just in the eyes of a book fan, but there are so many plot holes created by Cuaron's lack of explanations, it's ridiculous.

And he cut out Oliver Wood and the Quidditch Cup subplot... though that's understandable, I suppose.

And then to extend on things like the time turner sequence... I always say this, but it's like going "okay, now I'm going to show you the last 30 minutes all over again, but from a different perspective," which it really isn't like in the book. Normally I like that kinda thing (as any follower of my blog could point out), but I've actually fallen asleep during the time turner sequence... and for me to fall asleep not only during POV play but during Harry Potter... that says something.

And then there's his involvement in destroying the following film(s). Even if you ask the producers now (as shown in interviews), they still hark back to Cuaron's advice by mentioning showing stuff only in relation to Harry and the main plot. This advice destroyed Goblet of Fire, which would have been a much better film split into two. They're already feeling some repercussions in doing the final films because of this advice, as well. There are plenty of things that were cut based on that advice, more than I've listed here, and most people like to complain about David Yates and things he did in Order of the Phoenix. But I give him props. He only had what he was given to work with... a mess created, directly or indirectly, by Alfonso Cuaron. And on top of that, a book with little plot and a lot of filler. So people who complain about Order and wish for Cuaron back need to take a step back and think about that for a minute.

Just thank God they're splitting the final book into two.

This post did not intentionally begin as a 'bash Alfonso Cuaron' post, either, and I hope that's not what you all see this as now. It's just a fun post about the negative side of the films, as I'm more predisposed to rave about them. So I hope you've enjoyed this little venture!

Random: One that almost made the list but didn't: The St. Mungo's scene in Order of the Phoenix. I didn't include it because, for all intents and purposes, the scene occurred anyway. The purpose was to show Neville's relationship with his parents, which does get across in the film... just in a different way. Though I still would have liked the fun cameo by Gilderoy Lockhart.