LISTFUL THINKING: 10 British Actors Who Would Have CRUSHED Harry Potter

12 05 2015

With Eddie Redmayne now in official talks for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a spinoff of the “Harry Potter” series, I figured now was as good a time as ever to turn a long-gestating list into a published post.  (This has been a note in my iPhone for almost four years now!)

It is easy to forget that the “Harry Potter” series, among its many accomplishments, offered fine roles to a number of talented British thespians.  Pooled together, the cast has amassed 31 Oscar nominations – a number that seems mightly low when you consider the names who graced the eight films.  Kenneth Branagh.  Julie Christie.  Gary Oldman.  Ralph Fiennes.  Maggie Smith.  Emma Thompson.  (Alan Rickman is not included because he has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar.)

Recently, a number of stars have expressed remorse that they were not a part of the series.  Martin Freeman got sad about it with Jimmy Fallon…

…while Eddie Redmayne briefly lamented it before launching into a hilarious story about bombing his audition for “The Hobbit” films.

Redmayne on HP

But just because it did not happen for Redmayne does not mean I cannot imagine a few recastings that incorporates some more talented British actors.  Maybe some roles will have to make cameos in the new trilogy, after all!  And, heaven forbid, Warner Bros. might actually reboot the original books one day.

So, as the title of the list suggests, here are 10 British actors overlooked by the “Harry Potter” casting directors and the roles they could have played brilliantly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend Update – July 17, 2011

17 07 2011

An Introduction

“Writing should be useful. If it can’t instruct people a little bit more about the responsibilities of consciousness there’s no point in doing it.”

– Edward Albee

So what is this “Weekend Update” thing that Marshall wants me to read now?  Is it some rip-off of the “SNL” feature that seriously needs to get another good-looking girl on it (sorry, Seth, but we need a Tina/Amy) and just roasts American politicians and other assorted morons?

Well, to answer the questions that I posed for you to hypothetically ask me, it’s a new feature on “Marshall and the Movies” that conveniently borrows the non-trademarked name of a popular, long-running “Saturday Night Live” segment.  It seeks to provide a lot of the same things for its audience as that segment – humor, commentary, and all sorts of fun characters.  Ultimately, it’s something dependable that is always here on the weekends no matter what else I’m writing about, just like no matter how poor the “SNL” writing is nowadays, you can always get a giggle from “Weekend Update” sandwiched in the middle.

Now, as to the epigraph of this post, it mainly refers to my random factoid series, which, as you may have noticed, has gone the way of the VHS tape.  It was, simply put, a pain in the butt to come up with some new nugget of commentary every single day.  I would get ridiculously behind on posting them, and writing became a chore rather than a passion.  So with “Weekend Update,” I’ll get the chance to provide you some of that clever witicism I like to think I’ve been providing through the “Random Factoid” series – just on a more manageable timetable.  Who knows, maybe I’ll still surprise everyone with a factoid every now and then when I get REALLY worked up about something.

So without further ado…

In case you missed it…

It was a very Potter week at Marshall and the Movies, in case you couldn’t tell by my changed header (which previously adorned the 2010 Oscar favorites from October).  I got the chance to see the movie early on Monday, which was totally AWESOME.  To show you how true of a fan I am, just 12 hours before the screening, I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed.  When the Warner Bros. logo flew at me in 3D, I could still feel some of the anesthesia lingering in my bottom lip.

Read my review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.”

And then, because I couldn’t miss the opening night festivities, I had to go on Thursday night as well.  I got all dressed up, wearing my Gryffindor Quidditch robe from Halloween … in third grade!  I also had my Deathly Hallows T-shirt and Platform 9 3/4 cap (won at Monday’s screening) along with a wand borrowed from a friend.  Oh, and I rocked the Harry Potter 3D style glasses that I got at the Monday screening as well.  No one had them at the 7 P.M. screening I went to, so they were quite the rage.

The first time was a charm for this movie, but that didn’t stop me from seeing it for the third time on Saturday.  I was babysitting, and the decision was easy between this, “Green Lantern,” and the torture better known as “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”  I got to see it in the lovely RPX, a nice way for Regal to charge slightly more money for a slightly better experience.  Still, the 3D is totally awesome on this movie, something I’ve been longing to say about a movie since … well, “Avatar.”

But the week wasn’t without its sad moments too, as the joy of this momentous occasion also brought the sorrow of knowing that there will be no more “Harry Potter” movies to bring us all together in a night of magic and fun.  With that in mind, I ranked all eight of the films on Thursday – you’ll have to read it to figure out which prevailed.

See how I ranked the “Harry Potter” films.

And there was also a Friday DVD release (can you say random?), so I posted my review since I saw the film back in its theatrical run.

Read my review of “Rango.”

Recommended Reading

Here are some of the best posts that I’ve read in the past week from other bloggers.  For future reference, I’ll probably post things here that are either ridiculously intelligent or ridiculously funny.

And in case you thought I was the only one talking about Harry Potter, think again:

Hard to Say Goodbye

“Harry Potter” truly went out with a bang this weekend, scoring countless monetary records.  The biggest midnight opening ($43.5 million).  The biggest single and opening day ever ($92.1 million).  The biggest opening weekend and three day stretch ever ($168.6 million).  The biggest worldwide opening ever ($475.6 million).  In case there was any doubt that J.K. Rowling’s series is a truly exceptional phenomenon, the record books can speak to its magic.

But this opening speaks to something more than just a movie.  While “The Dark Knight” is definitely an all-time favorite and a far superior movie, I’m not as sad as I thought I would be to see its 3 year run at the top end.  That was a movie that gained prestige over the weekend; there wasn’t such a rush to see it (I, for example, waited until Sunday).  It also had the Heath Ledger factor that contributed to its massive opening, bringing crowds that normally wouldn’t see a comic book movie but had to see the character that brought about his demise.  They came back through the floodgates in record numbers because beneath that performance, Christopher Nolan had actually made a fantastic movie that totally transcended a genre.

“Harry Potter,” on the other hand, is a phenomenon unlike any other in this generation.  It’s an event picture, one that brings together people around the medium of cinema in a way that renews interest and passion in moviegoing.  No matter if you were an avid reader of Rowling’s novels, just saw the movies, or have no interest in Hogwarts, if you love movies, you had to be happy on Thursday night.

The “Harry Potter” movies renewed my faith in an experience that many people are convinced is dying: the communal movie theater experience.  Over the course of cinematic history, we’ve gone from watching movies at a theater to television screens to computer screens to iPod screens to cell phone screens.  Just in the past decade with the series, our availability options have increased dramatically.  When “Sorcerer’s Stone” enchanted us in 2001, we had to go to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video to get our DVDs (and VHS tapes).  Now, we can rent and buy movies on our computers, phones, televisions, video game consoles, and disc players.  Needless to say, times have changed.

So, taking all that into account, seeing everyone gathered in the lobby of my local theater on Thursday night was an incredibly magical experience.  We were all gathered around a common experience: a movie, a character, some enchantment, and the end of an era.  The Christian Science Monitor called it correctly when they called that night the bookend of a generation.  I find this especially apt for people in my grade; as we head off to college, we tie the bow on a part of our youth with the completion of the “Harry Potter” series that we grew up with.  When we were nine, the first movie was released, and their progression roughly matched our aging through puberty, middle school, high school, and finally off towards the rest of our lives.

And as the Monitor article also points out, the books and movies have also endowed a shared moral compass to our generation.  While life won’t always be as simple as an all-encompassing evil like Voldemort, we can learn to be brave and triumph over our shortcomings like Harry, facing whatever life throws at us with courage.  It’s a rare movie series that can do that in addition to bringing the masses to the theater.

On an NPR segment I listened to a few months ago, an expert said that a result of our fragmented culture is our dearth of moments that connect a generation to each other.  Nowadays, it’s almost strictly limited to tragedies.  We will all remember where we were when 9/11 happened, just like we will all remember where we were when Michael Jackson died.  But the “Harry Potter” series defies the times and has produced several moments that have brought together not only this generation, but others as well.  Between midnight book releases and movie premieres, this series has forged positive bonds and provided many experiences that people will remember for a lifetime.  It is only fitting that the last one (at least for now) be the biggest one of them all and, more than that, the biggest movie opening ever.

As J.K. Rowling said at the London premiere, “Whether you come back by film or by page, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”  So although I, along with a world full of grateful readers and moviegoers, am saying goodbye to hellos for the series now, I do so knowing that the magic will always be there in the movies and books.  It has brought magic to the screen for a decade, and this week, it brought the magic back into the theater.  At least for this generation, it will linger there for the rest of our lives, a comforting thought even if at times it feels out of reach.

So thanks, J.K.  Thanks, Harry.  You may have just saved movies.

LISTFUL THINKING: Ranking Harry Potter

14 07 2011

For millions of fans across the world today, it all ends.  The Harry Potter series is officially coming to a close.  To commemorate, I thought it would be appropriate to rank all the films in order of quality.  Perhaps with the exception of my last ranked pick, they are all exemplary films that highlight Rowling’s incredible knack for storytelling with nuanced acting and clever cinematic tricks.  But when it comes down to putting them in order, some inevitably rise to the top … and others don’t.

So here’s an installment of “Listful Thinking” that, for my money, is how the “Harry Potter” films stack up to each other.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
2007, dir. David Yates

The only major misstep of the series, which I can attribute to the absence of one presence: screenwriter Steve Kloves.  Although Yates’ first outing with Potter did some nice things stylistically and visually, nothing could compensate for the fact that this was a mess in terms of storytelling that would not have been coherent to fans who hadn’t read the book.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
2002, dir. Chris Columbus

While we all love Harry Potter, we don’t need this much of it at once.  At a whopping 165 minutes, Chris Columbus’ second time around with Potter felt more like a marathon than a fun time at the movies with our friend from Rowling’s novel.  It’s a solid movie but could have used a lot more time on the cutting room floor.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”
2010, dir. David Yates

Once I’m able to watch this one directly before part 2, it might rise.  But for now, it is as I saw it in November – just the first half of a grander storyline that tries to have its own pseudo-plot complete with a climax that just really doesn’t feel as grand as any other Harry Potter movie.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
2009, dir. David Yates

Yates, combined with scribe Steve Kloves, gets into the groove of the Harry Potter series with his second entry in the series.  It’s a great movie not just about the wizarding world but also about our world; that is to say, it could easily double as a great high school movie.  This is a lot of fun, but I thought this and “Order of the Phoenix” were among the bottom of Rowling’s books, so I’m not surprised that it doesn’t rank higher.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
2005, dir. Mike Newell

Here’s where it starts getting REALLY difficult.  The top 4 Harry Potter films are all spectacular, standing head and shoulders over the others.  But to say that there’s no discrepancy is to do the better of the series a disservice.  Mike Newell’s only time in the director’s chair for the series takes one of my favorite books and makes it an equally entertaining movie.  It’s got great action, stunning visuals, and really delivers on emotion.  I’ll drop anything and watch this movie when I see it on TV.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
2011, dir. David Yates

Goodbyes are tough to do, and the final Harry Potter film of them all pulls off its swan song with grace and poise.  It reminds us of everything that the series has done so right – mixing high-flying visuals with potent storytelling and a soaring humanity – while never indulging itself in low-grade tears or emotion.  Yates’ finest hour is an excellent way to send off a series that has entertained us so well for a decade.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
2001, dir. Chris Columbus

Goodbyes may be hard to do, but hellos might be harder.  Chris Columbus built this incredible series from scratch, and going back and watching the first film in the series makes you realize how incredibly well he introduced a generation to the world of Harry Potter.  The book has its fans, sure, but for those who needed to be brought up to speed, Columbus gives them everything they need to know without making it feel like a trudge through exposition.  It introduces the magic of cinema into J.K. Rowling’s series, and the sensation of first seeing Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Quidditch can truly never be paralleled.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”
2004, dir. Alfonso Cuarón

However, nothing for me tops Alfonso Cuarón’s only entry into the “Harry Potter” canon.  While Columbus did a fantastic job of getting the series set up, Cuarón made the series grow up a little.  He made the films more mature and dark, introducing some fantastic art into the commerce, and changing the series for better and for always.  “Prisoner of Azkaban” will always be the greatest triumph of the series for me, both on paper and on screen.  It’s the most compelling story, easily Rowling’s most ingenious (save the stunning conclusion).  And Cuarón’s fantastic vision of the series, whimsical when necessary but dark buy default, still excites me more than any other film in the series.

How do you rank the films in the “Harry Potter” series?  Where does the conclusion rank for you?

Random Factoid #470

10 11 2010

My life is complete for two reasons today.  First, I just found out that the Houston Cinematic Arts Festival will be giving me the chance to see “BLACK SWAN” on Sunday, nearly a month before the general viewing public!  Needless to say, I’m pretty pumped!!!

But on a different level, one that you will probably appreciate and enjoy much more, a childhood fantasy may be coming true.  About a week away from the release of the first installment of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the invisibility cloak that a very young Harry Potter sports way back in the first film may become a reality.

Here’s the story according to Cinematical:

“AOL News reports that researchers at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews have come up with a fabric called ‘Metaflex,’ which is a step towards ‘smart fabrics’ that can ‘manipulate light waves to make objects, like clothing, invisible.’ At first, their studies only produced light-bending atoms on hard surfaces, but after continued research, they were able to develop the flexible Metaflex membrane, which should lead to smarter, wearable fabrics.”

I remember hearing about invisibility cloak technology being created a few years ago with cameras used to capture what was going on around the wearer.  But this is totally legitimate, and I can’t wait to put on my invisibility cloak and feel like Harry roaming through the halls of Hogwarts.  These scientists and researchers need to make one that dementors can’t see through, though.

However, this will mean that the powers of many a hero will become irrelevant.  Sorry, Violet Parr from “The Incredibles.”

Random Factoid #138

13 12 2009

In my room, I keep all of my pens, pencils, and other utensils in an enormous “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” cup.  It holds a sentimental value to me because I bought (er, my parents bought) it on the first day that the movie came out.  I remember it being an event so huge that parents were taking their kids out of school early to go see it.

A few years ago, the bottom of the cup gained a large crack.  My mom insisted that I throw it away and find something else to hold my utensils, but I refused to use anything else.  To this day it sits on my desk, a reminder of that unforgettable day.

Random Factoid #114

19 11 2009

Today’s factoid will again be building off the revelation of my former days of cutting the movie ads out of the newspaper and plastering them across my wall.

If a studio indulged me with several full-page color ads, I often devoted an entire door to a certain movie.  I remember having “Shrek 2” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” doors in the summer of 2004.  The “Shrek” door was even complete with a themed 12-month calendar that was thrown in the Houston Chronicle on New Year’s Day.

Random Factoid #82

18 10 2009

In the now rare occasion that I read a book that isn’t about to be released as a movie, I can’t help but cast the movie in my head.  Not only that, but I also imagine how the cinematography would look and how the score behind it would sound.  For example, when I read “Fahrenheit 451,” I cast Edward Norton as Guy Montag.

In this case, I also imagined the books that would be burned.  I’d throw in some of the banned books like “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Harry Potter,” but of course, I’d have to cut to a few of my least favorite books.  I’d burn every copy of “The Lovely Bones.”

Random Factoid #20 / An Experiment

17 08 2009

A major plus about the WordPress platform is the ability to see how people got to your blog.  I am often amused by the searches that send people my way, and I check it multiple times each day.  For instance, someone searched “Pee in Sink” and ended up here last week.  So, to see what people really search for on blogs, I am going to be tagging this post with some very random things that have nothing to do with what I am saying.

My inspiration for this is Judd Apatow for writing Leo Koenig in “Funny People.”  Leo records a YouTube video with him playing with cats because anything with “Cute Cuddly Kittens” in the title gets millions of views.  He attaches it to his account, and he postulates that people will click on his profile and check out his comedy clips.  It was one of the funniest parts of the movie, and thankfully they posted it on YouTube.

I’ll post the results of what got me the most searches in a week or so.  What’s your vote for the tag that will get me the most hits?  Comment, please!

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

6 08 2009

I don’t even know why I’m bothering to write a review for the latest installment in the “Harry Potter” franchise this late in the game.  The movie opened 4 weeks ago, and by this point, you have either seen it or you haven’t.  If you love the books like me, you rush out and see it the first day or even at midnight.  If you don’t dig the books or the movies, you aren’t going to see it because the movies don’t allow time to stragglers to catch up.  What I will say about “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is that it is one of the best in the series.  The key element to its recovery from the horrifying previous film is an expertly crafted script.  Director David Yates returns and seems to find his stride this time.  His “Potter” is darker than we have ever seen it, and it works remarkably well.

Usually I give a plot summary in the second paragraph, but I think only a brief one is called for here.   The villainous Lord Voldemort is back, and tensions are high in the wizarding world.  But the tension is  higher with Harry and his pals are finding the pain and beauty of teenage crushes.

I love the books, but I am not one of those purists that is furious when they omit subplots.  I think that this is one of the best adaptations from book to movie.  However, I was intrigued by the shift in focus.  Rowling’s brilliant novel focuses more on Harry and Dumbledore trying to discover the dark secrets of how Tom Riddle came to be Voldemort by collecting memories from people who knew Tom.  The movie plays up the teen angst angle of the story, and I had no problem with that.  It gives a light, humorous side to balance out the bleak darkness of the rest of the story. Read the rest of this entry »