NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Sunday 13 April 2014 || My Rating good
I must confess I’ve never been much of a fan of Darren Aronofsky, though as it happens I’ve seen a good number of his feature films starting with his debut Pi (1998). If I think, then, that this latest — a biblical epic about the eponymous ark-building character — is his best work, then that probably shouldn’t be taken as a rave review, but still it has enough going for it that it might just scrape through to being a film that I can genuinely recommend at some level, rather than being a masochistic exercise in cinematic punishment (hi, Requiem for a Dream).
FILM REVIEW || Director David Yates | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Eduardo Serra | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman | Length 130 minutes | Seen at Peckhamplex, London, Tuesday 26 July 2011 (and at home on Blu-ray, Tuesday 7 January 2014) || My Rating good
“It all ends.” By this point, the eighth and final film in this massively popular franchise, this was all the posters needed to say — indeed, I scrolled through many pages of images trying to find any with the movie’s title on it. And I suppose you might say, glancing at my slightly lower rating, that I was disappointed by this finale, but in truth it has everything I imagine the audience wants in this kind of thing. I can hardly, in fact, suggest that anything else would have been suitable. It’s just that, having invested so much time over so many films in these characters and the actors who play them, the kind of frenetically-paced action setpieces and big emotion-laden sentimentality that HP7b delivers feels just a mite generic. Still, aside from a humorous possibility held out by the very final scene of a ‘Harry Potter: The Next Generation’, it does at least deliver on the poster’s promise. It all ends.*
FILM REVIEW || Director David Yates | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Eduardo Serra | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy | Length 153 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Wednesday 1 January 2014 || My Rating very good
It seems nowadays like almost a cliché of the tentpole blockbuster adapted from a popular source text, that the final book will be split into more than one film — as if it’s just so sensible a commercial manoeuvre that why would we question it? It happened with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (2011/12), and is set to happen with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (2014/15) — and then there’s The Hobbit (2012/13/14), which has been split into three — so it’s worth recalling that before Deathly Hallows there hadn’t been much of a precedent for this kind of thing (Kill Bill? Though that wasn’t from a novel). Wanting to be faithful to the text and make the inbuilt fans of the franchise happy, and wanting to create a good cohesive piece of narrative cinema, can often pull filmmakers in two directions, so splitting a text can also be a means to ensuring there’s enough time to do justice to the author’s intentions (see also: making a miniseries). And it’s true that previous instalments have had so much plot in them, that just trying to keep up with what’s going on is quite an exercise. So going into the denouement to this wizarding saga, the producers have decided two films are necessary, and who am I to argue?
FILM REVIEW || Director David Yates | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Jim Broadbent, Tom Felton | Length 153 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Wednesday 1 January 2014 || My Rating very good
I suppose as a reviewer you get to the point with a long-running series where you run out of useful things to really say about it, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been writing these things every other day for the past few weeks. This sixth instalment of J.K. Rowling’s teenage wizarding series is every bit as well-crafted as the previous film, and follows in much the same vein. If anything it encompasses some even darker textures, though these are counterbalanced by some of the deftest touches of humour so far in the series, and while it draws back somewhat from the previous film’s political worldview, there’s enough here that’s enchanting.
FILM REVIEW || Director David Yates | Writer Michael Goldenberg (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Sławomir Idziak | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Imelda Staunton, Gary Oldman | Length 138 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Monday 30 December 2013 || My Rating very good
I am unfamiliar enough with the Harry Potter saga that I miss plenty of references. For example, the pseudonym “Padfoot” is used a few times in this film to refer to Gary Oldman’s character Sirius Black, and harks back to the names on the magical map seen in the third film, but none of this is explained and I had to ask my wife to fill me in (for others in my position, the names refer to the four friends who created the map — “Padfoot” being Black, “Moony” being David Thewlis’s Lupin, “Wormtail” Timothy Spall’s Peter, and “Prongs” Harry’s now-dead father, the first two of whom return here as the core of a sort of wizarding resistance movement). Likewise, I wonder if this film is remembered for being the one in which Harry gets his first kiss (an incident very quickly brushed past), or maybe for its strong undertones of teenage ennui and moodiness? However, if it’s remembered for anything, it’s surely for the way it links in the developing story of Lord Voldemort’s return with the wider universe within which Potter resides. As such, it’s also the film where author J.K. Rowling’s political allegorising starts becoming particularly evident.
FILM REVIEW || Director Mike Newell | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Roger Pratt | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes | Length 157 minutes | Seen at home (DVD), London, Saturday 28 December 2013 || My Rating good
As the series has progressed, there’s been a definite move towards darker textures and emotions. The possibility was always hinted at by the looming gothic architecture of the main locations, but now that the leads are in the midst of adolescence, one gets the sense that the filmmakers feel safer venturing into rather more disturbing territory. Hence the presence here of the “Death Eaters”, a cult-like fraternity dedicated to the resurrection of the spectacularly creepy Lord Voldemort (played appropriately by Ralph Fiennes), as well as far more terror and peril than the previous instalments allowed — even the otherwise more assured Prisoner of Azkaban — reflected in its higher classification (a 12 certificate rather than PG for the previous films).
FILM REVIEW || Director Alfonso Cuarón | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Michael Seresin | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon | Length 136 minutes | Seen at home (DVD), London, Sunday 22 December 2013 || My Rating very good
I’d been told in advance that the third film is where the series gets good, and indeed the attachment of director Alfonso Cuarón should surely have been a good hint of this — even if I still at heart feel that this year’s Gravity was overpraised, it’s undoubtedly a visual tour de force, though even of his contemporary work, I recall enjoying his Great Expectations (1998) a great deal upon its cinematic release, primarily for its stylish visuals (if not its Gwyneth Paltrow turn). Something of the same trick has been conjured up here. In just about every respect, this is a far stronger film than the previous two, and it’s the first I can even imagine wanting to revisit.
FILM REVIEW || Director Chris Columbus | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer Roger Pratt | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Harris | Length 160 minutes | Seen at home (DVD), London, Saturday 21 December 2013 || My Rating likeable
I was a bit underwhelmed I suppose by the first film in this series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and though I can hardly say the second part has assuaged my concerns and brought me fully into Harry Potter fandom, I can at least report back that it is no worse than the first part. In fact, it generally extends it down into the lower depths of Hogwarts school, where some scary creatures (thus bigger challenges) are lurking. If the shadowy (and non-corporeal) Lord Voldemort was alluded to a number of times in the first film, this is his first appearance as the actual antagonist, which makes it generally a stronger outing.
It’s coming up to the Christmas season, so it seems like as fitting a time as any to kick off watching this series of fantasy kids’ films (even if the choice wasn’t entirely under my control).
FILM REVIEW || Director Chris Columbus | Writer Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling) | Cinematographer John Seale | Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman | Length 146 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Tuesday 17 December 2013 || My Rating likeable
Is this really the first instalment of a much-beloved modern classic? To be fair, I could have asked the same thing after watching The Fast and the Furious, made the same year, but I came to have an affection for that series, so I may yet come to feel similarly about this one. After all, the whole thing had largely passed me by (I was 24 when this movie came out), though living in London I can watch for many uninterrupted minutes the enthusiastic people who still, even now, queue up to get their photos taken by the really rather naff half-trolley in a random brick wall labelled Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station. Until now, the only film I had seen of the series was the very last one (half of one, really, wasn’t it?) when my wife took me along a few years back. Well, now she’s making me watch the whole thing, and on the basis of the first instalment, I wouldn’t have picked it as a world-beating crowd-pleaser.
FILM REVIEW || Director Simon Curtis | Writer Adrian Hodges (based on the diaries The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and the memoir My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark) | Cinematographer Ben Smithard | Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson, Judi Dench | Length 95 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Friday 22 November 2013 || My Rating likeable
There’s not a great deal to be said about this likeable piece of cinematic fluff, so I’ll keep this review short. It deals with events around the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) as seen through the eyes of its Third Assistant Director, Colin Clark, who released two books on this (undoubtedly to him) memorable period of his life. It hardly answers any questions the viewer may have about Marilyn Monroe’s life (she is an evanescent presence at the heart of the film), but affords Michelle Williams plenty of opportunity to craft a fine cinematic performance, as well as showcasing a wonderfully barking egotistical turn by Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, a man surely close to his own actor-directorial heart.