REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

12 07 2011

I was only nine years old when the “Harry Potter” films first cast their spell on me.  While I was old enough to realize that the series was, unfortunately, fictional, I wasn’t blind to the magic of J.K. Rowling’s series.  Only a fool couldn’t see that every aspect around Harry Potter and the universe of wizarding he inhabits doesn’t possess some fantastic sorcery.  How else can you explain the millions of children (and adults alike) who have rediscovered the power of reading thanks to the books?  How else can you explain the millions who come out in droves at midnight … to celebrate the release of a novel?

It’s only appropriate that the final film adaptation, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” should capture that magic with such perfect grace, making us at once entranced by the action on the screen, heartbroken that we no longer have another movie to look forward to in the series, and filled with joy that the series has, for the past 10 years, taught us all to believe in the magic of cinema.  The “Harry Potter” series has been such an integral part of my childhood and adolescence, and as it concludes as I head off for college, I can’t be more thankful to have such a fantastic film mark the end of a big chapter of my life.  I’m so grateful that my generation, along with countless other fans, has rallied eight times to celebrate the power that writing and filmmaking can possess when done so incredibly right.

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REVIEW: Clash of the Titans

3 04 2010

It’s a pretty rare feeling for me to walk out of a theater feeling scammed.  But as I pitched my 3D glasses in the eco-friendly disposal boxes outside my theater, that’s exactly how I felt.

After seeing the success of “Avatar” early this year, Warner Bros. decided to add an extra dimension to the release of “Clash of the Titans.”  Usually, 3D adds to the wow factor of a movie and enhances the experience.  This, as moviegoers are now beginning to learn, also enhances the ticket prices – and the more we go, the higher they climb.

But the only thing that 3D enhanced in my viewing of “Clash of the Titans” was my disappointment and indignation.  I like the technology, and I know that great filmmakers will utilize to create some truly incredible cinema.  But here, we see 3D at its worst.  When it is just arbitrarily added to any movie, then it truly becomes a boondoggle and a meaningless accessory.

It is now the responsibility of the American moviegoer to stop 3D from becoming an arbitrary embellishment, and it has to start here.  If studios and theater goers think that we are so smitten by 3D, then they will continue to take advantage of us.  Think a movie like “Clash of the Titans” being retooled for 3D is bad?  At this rate, we will have “Precious 2” playing in 3D in the coming years.  That idea doesn’t sound all that crazy to a studio executive with you $4 premium ticket price lining his pocket.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 6, 2009)

6 11 2009

This week’s “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) is one that I fully believe has the power to change the world.  “The Constant Gardener” is so emotionally compelling that it can force you to question every opinion you have about helping those in poverty.  I have seen firsthand the poorest people in our hemisphere during a mission trip to Nicaragua this summer, but this movie hit me at nearly the same level.  Director Fernando Mierelles (“City of God“) doesn’t treat their indigence as some sort of spectacle.  He treats them with humanity, willing to feature them as real people with hearts and feelings just like the diplomat played by Ralph Fiennes.  Mierelles almost does for the poor in movies what Dickens did for the poor with literature.

“The Constant Gardener” gained some prestige from Rachel Weisz’s Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress, an award that she unquestionably deserved.  But don’t be fooled by the word “supporting.”  She may not have a great deal of screen time, but the character Tessa, who she plays with brilliance and compassion, is the dominant focus of the movie.  Tessa is a crusader for justice investigating a pharmaceutical company using the destitute in Africa as guinea pigs but possibly treating them like flies, unafraid to alter results of their tests for the betterment of their company.  Her inquiry into the potentially corrupt dealings of the corporations leads her into dangerous territory, unwittingly drawing her husband, Justin (Fiennes), into the fray.  What ensues is a startling portrayal of the consequences of one man trying to do the right thing for the people who don’t have aren’t given a voice.

While “The Constant Gardener” may not exhibit Mierelles’ directorial prowess quite like “City of God,” it is still a breathtaking achievement.  It is unlike most political thrillers, which are usually entangled in plot twists, and conveys a simple story with huge moral implications.  The movie will make you cry for its content, but on a grander level, it will make you weep for the people that Justin and Tessa try to defend.  How much is one life worth?  How far would you go to save a life?  Should help be given to the individual or the group?  “The Constant Gardener” grapples with those questions, but ultimately leaves you to ponder how you feel about the issues.