Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince

Who's in It: All the Harry Potter regulars plus Jim Broadbent

What It's About: Surprisingly, this is actually the one film in the series that ISN'T about someone trying to kill Harry.

What I Was Expecting: Let's see. It's the SIXTH film in the series, so basically, I was expecting to see how ugly the once cute kids have gotten over the last two years.

What I Got: To be honest, I'm torn. As Harry matures, so do the films. Much less focus on the action, which might explain the attack on the Weasley house, which I don't recall being in the book. Nothing had gone BOOM in a while, so.... For me, the film is paced brilliantly. The scenes that aren't all that important are short and usually montage-like. The scenes that do matter are fleshed out and take their time. Quite the opposite of, say, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" which feels like a 150 minute montage on repeat viewings. The students in this film are allowed to play to their strengths. Daniel Radcliffe, who keeps getting better, carries the film nicely. Emma Watson, who seems to get worse with each film, seems to just get a scene here and there. The kid playing Ron might as well have sat this one out. He wasn't very good, but he wasn't given much to work with anyway.

Grade: A-

Oscar Potential: With the new rules, Oscar potential is huge. If it's a weak year, it will not be shocking to actually see a Best Picture nod. It won't be a contender since there won't be any nods for directing, acting or writing. Editing, Cinematography and Sound are possibilities. Oddly, there's very few special effects.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. It was really nice to see Alan Rickman being used more often in this one, although there is not one single scene showing Snape teach Defense of the Dark Arts. Harry's inability to silently cast spells was interesting to me and I was a little disappointed to see it left out.
  2. I hope they are shooting Maggie Smith's scenes first for the last two films. She looks like can't be with us much longer. For those not in the know, Deathly Hallows will be split into two .
  3. How has screenwriter Steve Kloves not lost his mind yet? It's one thing for J.K. Rowling to have written the seven books. It's another thing to basically spend 10 years rewriting someone else's work. I can't help but wonder how many times he must have called Rowling to scream "If I'd known that would matter, I would've written it in 4 movies ago!"
  4. By the end of the series, David Yates will have directed half of them. Will he have any career after the series is over? Both his films feel like Rowling is on the set saying "This is how it should look" and Yates just runs around the set with a camera. It's not directed badly, just not very creatively. Of course, the same could be said about the first two films.
  5. Why did John Williams walk away from the series? Yes, I know he left after the third film. Just curious why.

Trailer Park:

2012 – Another mega disaster film (figuratively and literally) from Irwin Allen Roland Emmerich, who brought us Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow (Irwin Allen is responsible for 70s disaster classics like The Towering Inferno, Airport and The Poseidon Advernture). Who the hell knows what the actual plot will be of this one other than that ancient civilizations were right and the world is ending? Looks horribly stupid and I will be seeing it opening night, since my one true guilty pleasure in film is crappy disaster film. I can't get enough of them.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - Can I just say I look forward to the day when there is once again economy in film titles? Anyway, this was little more than a teaser that presumes the viewer has even heard of these books. Apparently, it's like a Harry Potter meets Greek mythology in modern day New York. Okay. I'm game. Right until the words "Directed by Chris Columbus." Sorry. Not gonna see it.

Despicable Me - It's a little daring to preview a movie starring Steve Carrell and not include any of his scenes. If the trailer is any indication, too much set up for too weak of a punchline. Although the Keith Olberman bit is cute.

Sherlock Holmes - Why do I feel like I've written about this one 100 times? Come to think of it....where are all my other reviews? Hmmmm..... I think Guy Ritche is capable, if not consistent. Curious to see how it's handled. My one major concern is the girl floating with the pentagram in the background. I hope the plot involves occult and not the supernatural.

Shorts - Well, the kids in the audience thought this was cute and got quite a few giggles. Just not any from me.

Where the Wild Things Are - It's been 30 years since I've read the book and I can't remember a single detail about it. Possibly because I grew up in a Norman Rockwell home. My friends whose parents split when they were young or had traumatic childhoods remember every bit of it. It looks fascinating to me. It's certainly been a long time coming.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Whole Blog Posting, Shot to Hell

The day after the Oscars, I posted my annual Oscar bliss blog and made my predix for the following year. Obviously, since then, the movie industry decided to capatalize on the free advertising of a nomination Academy decided to expand the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10. Something I lovingly call "The Dark Knight Rule." My previous picks were as follows:

1. Nine
2. The Informant
3. The Lovely Bones
4. Untitled Clint Eastwood (now titled "Invictus")
5. The Boat That Rocked

with the alternates of:
1. Inglourious Basterds
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
3. The Road
4. Stutter Island
5. Away We Go

We're just over halfway into the movie year, most of those movies have yet to be released and already, there's obvious changes to be made. Unfortunately, not because great movies have been released. Starting at the bottom, "Away We Go" got some great reviews, but has been soon forgotten. The trailer for "Stutter Island" makes the film look mediocre at best. The buzz is still strong for "The Road." "Kavalier & Clay" still hasn't started production. And, unless QT makes a major save, "Inglourious Basterds" will not leave much of a mark.

Moving on to my gut instinct picks, "The Boat That Rocked" has already been released in most other countries and has gotten decent reviews, but whether that translates to U.S. appeal remains to be seen. "Invictus" is a question mark, just like "Million Dollar Baby" was a few years back. I'm still liking "Lovely Bones" chances, along with "Nine", even if it does look like "Chicago Part II". "The Informant" looks like a terrific film, sort of like a "Thank You for Smoking" about corn.

This may not sound like a lot of changes, especially since I still consider four of my five picks to still be serious contenders. But it's the OTHER six nominees that are going to throw people for a loop. If there aren't 10 "serious" films to consider, where are the other nominations going to go. THAT'S where things get interesting. What you are likely to begin to see are movies that people "loved", as opposed to "respected". Pixar's "Up" is likely to benefit from the new rules and that was everyone's first comment. But there are other non-Best Picture type films that could slip in. There's even talk about a movie like "The Hangover" slipping in if it's a particularly weak year. Something people really enjoyed. There's some buzz that J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" is a strong possibility, particularly since the DVD should be out around Christmas and hitting F5 on the voters' memory. Even the early buzz on the latest "Harry Potter" has people wondering if it could sneak in. But let's SERIOUSLY look at that for a moment.

It January 2010. The day of the nominations. And the nominees for Best Picture are...(Do me a favor and read this OUT LOUD)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
The Informant
Lovely Bones
The Road
Sherlock Holmes
Star Trek

If THAT were the list, any takers that a 10 nomination list would be a one year and out deal?

The big problem is that this was simply the wrong year to try it out. While there are a few Oscar winning directors putting out films this year (Scorsese, Coppola, Eastwood, Jackson, Cameron, Howard, the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, Mendes, Zemeckis), for the most part, outside of Eastwood and Jackson, they aren't doing Oscar type films.

Wow. I keep re-reading that list of directing firepower and can't BELIEVE only two of them are doing films worth considering for an Oscar list. Okay, Mendes did "Away We Go", probably to cheer up from the uber-depressing "Revolutionary Road" and Zemeckis' take on "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman does sound intriguing. But Scorsese is doing strange thriller. Coppola is doing whatever the hell he wants and who cares if anyone else cares. Cameron is probably either going to kill his career forever or establish himself as a total visionary. Howard did "Angels and Demons". 'nuff said. The Coen brothers seem to be remaking "You, Me & Dupree". Ang Lee is getting awful notices for his Woodstock film. All we need is Spielberg and Polanski and it's every Best Director winner of the last 15 years. This year should have been better. But it's not. And trying to come up with an additional 5 Best Picture nominees will be a stretch.

What they should have done is changed Best Picture to be more like the new rules for Best Song. In order for a song to be nominated, it must received at least 8.5 percent of the vote. Make it 20 percent for picture and I'm there. Remember, they pick 5 on their ballots, so 20 percent is not too hard. But it will make it a LOT more interesting. There could theoretically be as many as 25 Best Picture nominees, if each received the exact same number of votes. Let's see the Oscar prognosticators try and guess who would win there.

Right now, I'm just hoping "Avatar" bombs and Kathryn Bigelow's rides the huge wave of buzz for "The Hurt Locker" and sweeps so she can give Cameron the finger from the podium and apologize for making "Point Break".