Film Review: The ‘Harry Potter’ Film Series, Part I (2001-2005)

Release Date: November 4th, 2001 (Sorcerer’s Stone), November 3rd, 2002 (Chamber of Secrets), May 23rd, 2004 (Prisoner of Azkaban), November 6th, 2005 (Goblet of Fire)
Directed by: Chris Columbus (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets), Alfonso Cuaron (Prisoner of Azkaban), Mike Newell (Goblet of Fire)
Written by: Steve Kloves
Based on: the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
Music by: John Williams (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban), Patrick Doyle (Goblet of Fire)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, John Cleese, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Julie Walters, Tom Felton, Harry Melling, David Bradley, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Issacs, Gary Oldman, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Robert Pattinson, Brendan Gleeson, David Tennant

1492 Pictures, Heyday Films, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes (Sorcerer’s Stone), 161 Minutes (Chamber of Secrets), 142 Minutes (Prisoner of Azkaban), 157 Minutes (Goblet of Fire) 

Review:

It’s the twentieth anniversary of this film franchise, so I figured I should show it the respect it deserves for being the cultural phenomenon that it was.

Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of this franchise like everyone else seems to be. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate what it’s done since the first J.K. Rowling book was published. The fact that it inspired a generation of kids to enthusiastically read is a tremendous feat. Fast-forward just a quarter of a century later and people don’t have the reading comprehension to understand something the size of a tweet but I digress.

My initial issue with this film series is that I thought it was waaay too kiddie. I saw the first one when it came out on DVD and a friend rented it. However, with this film series coming out at the same time as Peter Jackson’s original The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it didn’t do this movie any favors, at least with filmgoers who were too old to have grown up with the Harry Potter novels.

Even though I’ve seen all of these movies except for the last one, and I know that they mature in tone, as the children in the story do, I still have a hard time getting through both The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. In fact, I really had to force myself to get through them and stick with this in an effort to review this series, which is probably the last major franchise that I haven’t reviewed yet, other than the Fast & Furious movies.

A lot of people seem to love the hell out of The Prisoner of Azkaban. While the series does shift into darker themes and a more mature story, it still doesn’t quite do it for me. Granted, I loved Gary Oldman in it and it helped move things forward in a more serious way.

For me, it was The Goblet of Fire where the series really started to make me care about it on a deeper level. However, it doesn’t really kick in until the tournament starts and a still very young Harry finds himself in a competition where he could actually die.

The fact that the stakes were very high and his own mortality was on the line lets you know that everything moving forward now was going to be more serious. Where everything before this was mostly full of over-the-top wholesomeness and irritating whimsy, you now knew that these kids were going to be forced to grow up before they should have to.

Additionally, at the end of The Goblet of Fire, Voldemort, in his true form, finally appears. With that, a teen a few years older than Harry and now a friend of his, is killed by the franchise’s big villain. Harry barely escapes with the body of his friend and when he does, the entire school of young wizards are punched in the gut over what just happened and what kind of danger this poses to the world. It’s a terribly sad and gut-wrenching end to this picture.

Sadly, it takes the final act of the fourth film to actually make me want to watch the rest of them. While I love fantasy stories and magic, this just isn’t something that was made for me or my generation. However, I think that they’re all pretty good movies for the audience they were intended for. Had I been born a decade later, it’s possible that Harry Potter could be my favorite franchise like it is for so many people.

I am going into the second half of this film series with a lot of enthusiasm, though. I definitely think it’ll resonate with me more and I like that I don’t remember much about them, as I never saw the conclusion and haven’t seen the other three for probably a decade.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Rating: 6.5/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rating: 6.75/10

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rating: 7.5/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Rating: 8.75/10

Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Also known as: Bond 22 (working title), B22 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: October 29th, 2008 (London Film Festival)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Alfonso Cuaron (cameo), Guillermo del Toro (voice)

Eon Productions, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 106 Minutes

Review:

“They say you’re judged by the strength of your enemies.” – James Bond

Quantum of Solace is a weird James Bond movie that seemed like it was trying to reinvent the franchise, tonally, after it already went through a major stylistic overhaul in the superb, previous film, Casino Royale.

I think that the director, Marc Forster, took a lot of creative license and the film suffers for that. Something that is part of a franchise, should have certain standards that keep the film cohesive and consistent with the other chapters in the larger, decades long, body of work.

I don’t necessarily blame Forster, as the studio may have been really keen on altering the Bond franchise following the immense success of Casino Royale. Plus, Forster wasn’t a guy known for action movies, he is known more for his dramatic, artsy films like The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, Stay, Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball. And if I’m being honest, his other major action film, World War Z, really missed the mark too. But, personally, I really like most of Forster’s dramatic work and he is typically a great visual storyteller. I think that is probably why he was given a shot with this film, as Eon Productions possibly wanted an actual visionary to come in and freshen things up even further.

However, the problem with his action direction is almost immediately apparent in this film, as the opening scene features what should be a really fantastic sequence but it’s destroyed by quick, choppy edits that make it pretty hard to follow. It’s like a rapid paced mess of wasted, expensive shots, all of which deserved more than a split second of screen time knowing the level of craftsmanship and work that went into setting up those shots.

This issue carries over into all the other action scenes though and this is a hard movie to watch and absorb during these moments, which are aplenty.

Apart from that, the film also feels incomplete. It feels like two-thirds of a Bond movie were slapped together as best as the studio could salvage and then released with the hope that it would just be a hit, capitalizing off of the great movie before it.

For those who might not know, this film was made during the time of a big writers strike in Hollywood. When the strike happened, for better or worse (definitely worse), all writers stopped working. So it’s possible that the script was unfinished and for fear of losing money and being delayed, the studio just shoved this into the filming stage. It’s hard to really place blame on anyone due to the situation but the end result was a really lackluster Bond film and the worst one of the Daniel Craig era. Granted, there is still one more Craig-led film, which is slated to come out whenever this COVID-19 crap passes.

Quantum of Solace isn’t terrible; it’s just okay. Frankly, it’s almost forgettable other than the plot threads that tie it to the reemergence of the villainous SPECTRE organization.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other James Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.

Film Review: Gravity (2013)

Release Date: August 28th, 2013 (Venice premiere)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films, Warner Bros., 91 Minutes

gravityReview:

*Written in 2014 with many vulgarities.

After watching Interstellar last night, I figured it was time to check out last year’s big science fiction hit Gravity.

Be forewarned, this is about to get pretty harsh.

I remember when this film was coming out, people were like, “Ermahgerd! This is the new Alfonso Cuarón film!” I was like, “Who the fuck is Alfonso Cuarón?!” And keep in mind that I am a pretty savvy film buff.

It turns out, he is the guy that directed Children of Men, which I thought was a waste of time, despite my peers loving it. I mean, it had an amazing long take single shot but that is all the film was riding on, really. If you haven’t seen JCVD, my homeboy Jean-Claude Van Damme topped that shit with his long take kicking serious ass in the intro to that film.

I’m inebriated and getting really sidetracked here. This is a review about Gravity and not JCVD being a friggin’ god.

Anyway, Cuarón also directed a Harry Potter film. Yeah, so did a lot of people.

So what did I think about Gravity?

Short answer: it was pretentious crap.

Long answer: it was a film shot specifically to be presented in IMAX and in 3D. On a 2D television, it looks like a fucking mess. It’s like watching Friday the 13th, Part III, the 3D one, except Jason Voorhees is nowhere to be found and the 3D effects in this film are even more overused and annoying. Cuarón made a visual jack off fest that doesn’t translate well when watching it anywhere else but a 3D IMAX theater. Essentially, the film was a one trick pony made to woo bitches in the theater and that was it. It isn’t art, it isn’t well conceived and ultimately, it is a huge waste of time because as far as plot goes, it is annoying and uninteresting.

Lets talk about the plot more in-depth, however.

This film is about Sandra Bullock, who isn’t a good actress, flopping around in outer space like a fish out of water. She rolls around making noises like she is having awkward sex or pooping and it isn’t sexy or engaging. George Clooney is there, but then he isn’t, but then he is, but then again, he isn’t. The Cloon was wasted and if you are going to send the worst Batman into space, at least have him bone some green Martian chick.

Bullock carefully traverses through this film and if something can go wrong, it does. She is like the forty-something female Larry David. Everything she touches in this film turns to crap and nothing goes her way. Somehow, she makes it back to Earth but even then, she’s just stuck in the middle of nowhere without fresh water and a bag of jerky to help her survive the harsh wild.

The thing is, this was like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that tried to present itself as a serious space drama. I couldn’t stop laughing at Sandra Bullock’s comical misfortune, even though it wasn’t intended to be comical.

I don’t understand why everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, loves this damn film? All I have heard for over a year is how awesome this movie is. It is horrible. The acting is awful, the visual style is useless outside of a state of the art theater and the CGI and effects were clunky and unimpressive. Hell, there were serious flaws in the CGI, as I could see repeated patterns in the Earth’s landscape on the planet surface, as well as poorly placed reflections and light in some scenes.

Alfonso Cuarón is a one trick motherfucker. In Children of Men, all he had was the long tracking shot at the end, which took entirely too long to get to. In this film, he had crazy CGI and really gimmicky 3D scenes. I have no interest in this director and I would rather stare at a sick raccoon spraying diarrhea for two hours than ever watch another Cuarón film.

Rating: 4/10