[Harry Potter Day] Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters

Screenplay: Steve Kloves

161 mins. Rated PG.

 

In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, I present to you tonight my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second film in the Wizarding World franchise.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, Swiss Army Man, Jungle) is not having a very good summer. He hasn’t received letters from any of his new Hogwarts friends like Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, Moonwalkers, TV’s Snatch) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Beauty and the Beast). When he comes across a house-elf named Dobby in his bedroom with a warning, things get a whole lot worse. It seems that Harry Potter is in grave danger as he returns to Hogwarts for a second year. Stories of a Chamber of Secrets and an Heir to Slytherin returning to kill wizards with non-magical parents flitter through the school, and the addition of new Professor Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn, Dunkirk), a wizard with an elaborate background of adventures and near-death, Harry finds that he will need his friends more than ever.

Director Chris Columbus (Pixels, Percy Jackson& The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) returns to helm this sequel, and it’s without question the most bloated film in the franchise. Columbus keeps things a bit too light and fluffy even with his decision to aim for a darker tone this time around. There’s the sense that Warner Bros. does not have a clear and concise direction as only part of the book series had been published up until this point. To have the shortest novel in the series be the lengthiest film is quite a feat, and the film slogs a bit throughout.

Kenneth Branagh plays Gilderoy Lockhart perfect, just as I had envisioned him while reading the books. Other new additions in the film include Jason Isaacs (The Patriot, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery) as Lucius Malfoy, father to Harry’s rival Draco, and Toby Jones as Dobby. Both performances are spot-on with the tone of the series and make for two characters that I wanted to see return as quickly as possible. Isaacs plays Malfoy with a clean-cut sliminess and Jones rides the line between annoying and goofy with Dobby, never straying too far to either side (there’s a rumor that Russian President Vladamir Putin disliked Dobby as he thought it was a caricature of him).

Overall, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets furthers the mythos with an ending that is incredible, exhilarating, and worth the wait. It is likely the least impressive film in the entire Wizarding World franchise, though, and it could’ve been better with a more-skilled director at the helm. Columbus is better suited to a storyteller and writer than he is behind a camera. The film should entertain fans and steers more to younger audiences than the sequels do, but it’s not technically a bad film. Just a little bit much.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of David Yates’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Home Alone, click here.

 

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[Harry Potter Day] [Oscar Madness Monday] Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

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Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters

Screenplay: Steve Kloves

152 mins. Rated PG for some scary moments and mild language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Happy Harry Potter Day, everyone! Why is today Harry Potter Day? Well, for diehard fans of the series, today coincides with a major battle that took place that, for spoilery reasons, I will not completely jump out and discuss. I imagine some of you have yet to read or see all of the story, and that may be why you are reading, so I will let you get there in good time. No matter…

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Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, Trainwreck, Victor Frankenstein) doesn’t have a great life. His parents are dead. He lives with his dreadful Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw, The English Teacher, The Tree of Life) and Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths, Hugo, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) in the closet beneath the staircase of their home. All that gets turned upside down when an onslaught of letters arrive at the home for Harry and a towering behemoth named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane, Brave, Arthur Christmas) arrives to tell him that he is a wizard, just like his parents before him. Harry’s world quickly changes around him as he discovers that he is a wizard of legend, is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, gains new friends in Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, CBGB, Charlie Countryman) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, Regression, Noah), and learns of a new enemy in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, a dark wizard with a terrifying connection to Harry.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had a hell of a task to accomplish. A film and series with this much scope had not been attempted in some time if ever. Director Chris Columbus (Pixels, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) had a lot on his plate. So when I tell you that this first film in the eight film saga ranks as the seventh best, don’t let me stray you from my appreciation of it.

Working with child actors isn’t easy, especially when you have so many. Columbus had been praised in the past for his ability to work with children and get the most from them. The three main stars were still pretty new to acting, and they don’t give bad work, but it is clear from later entries that they were to make leaps and strides as the series continued. Thankfully, they are aided by a top notch supporting cast like John Cleese (A Fish Called Wanda, Planes), Richard Harris (Gladiator, The Count of Monte Cristo) and John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Hercules) to help add strength and impact to their scenes.

The screenplay too had some difficulty in narrowing down exactly what was important. At the time of release, there were only four books published of the seven books planned. J.K. Rowling was very helpful in plotting out the series trajectory with Warner Bros., a fact that saved several plot holes through the filmmaking journey. Sadly, though, the film feels bloated at times and Columbus doesn’t direct it but merely meanders through it, spending too much time on trivial moments that slow the movie down.

Columbus also looks back on the visual effects, which are rushed but not to the point of ruining the movie. He learned a lot about handling such a big budget and vowed to hone his visual effects for the follow-up (a fact that I laughed at when noting some of the other issues that the director seemed to have missed).

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Still, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is looked on more critically because of how great the series would become by its end, and the film itself is a triumph in many ways, showing fans and newcomers alike that movies can still leave one with a sense of awe. I absolutely love watching this series and harbor no ill will towards its more humble beginnings, because it is still an enjoyable experience by all.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Short Film Sunday] Frozen Fever (2015)

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Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad

Screenplay: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc Smith

8 mins. Rated G.

 

Frozen Fever is perhaps the best title for this week’s short film. It happens to embody the main plot of the piece and also the ongoing love for this small but mighty franchise. Everyone is apeshit for Frozen (and I mean that in the best possible way, I also really enjoyed the film).

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In this short film continuation of the original movie, released as an opener for last year’s Cinderella, we see that some major changes have to come to Arendelle since the finale of Frozen. Today is the 19th birthday for Anna (Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zootopia), and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel, Enchanted, Rent) wants to throw a massive party to make up for the last several years of isolated birthdays. The problem: Elsa has a fever, and she can’t stop sneezing little snowmen into existence. As Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, TV’s Looking, The Normal Heart) and Olaf (Josh Gad, Love & Other Drugs, Pixels) struggles to maintain the little critters, Anna desperately tries to convince her sister to cancel the whole thing.

Frozen Fever is a cute little one-off slice of life. I liked the addition of the Snowgies, as they are termed, as they provide a little chorus for fan-favorite Olaf. I also really enjoyed the closer examination of Elsa’s powers, as it doesn’t detract from the magic of the original film. Sadly, the short doesn’t carry much weight and is, apart from the above wins, largely forgettable. “Making Today a Perfect Day,” the new song, isn’t all that entertaining or catchy upon first glance, and the short feels like more of an afterthought of unused ideas for a Frozen sequel.

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All in all, I like my franchise shorts to feel like something special for the fans, an addition to the larger mythos of the regular series that adds and progresses the story in some way. To that note, Frozen Fever both meets and misses the mark. I enjoyed it mildly and can see why any other fan would too (mostly the younglings), but it isn’t the near-perfect display that its predecessor is.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

July 2015 Preview

 

Wow. Jurassic World, nice job in June. But July is flat-out huge. There are so many major releases and highly anticipated films on the way to a theater near you. So let’s jump in and see what there is to all this mess of movies.

Obligatory Note: Again, I haven’t seen these films at the time of this post. This is merely a discussion based on my abilities to read these films from the outside, and I’m good at it, too, so take it with a grain of salt, and if you see something different, let me know!

 

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Faith of Our Fathers

I’m not really going to get into this film very much. These “Christian” film releases in recent years have all been just terrible. I’m not saying anything about the religion, so don’t put me in that bucket. I’m a religious person by trade, but these films are terribly made. They aren’t well-written. They aren’t well-acted. They aren’t well-directed. They just aren’t good. This one will likely not change that.

 

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Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike was a critical success due to Steven Soderbergh. It was a financial success due to Channing Tatum and his merry men of male dancers. Soderbergh isn’t returning to direct this sequel, but he is editing and providing cinematography duties to director Gregory Jacobs. I don’t think Magic Mike XXL will deliver on the same critical aspects that the original had, but I happen to think that Channing Tatum’s abilities to carry a film as well as provide high-level pelvic thrusting should bring the sequel to moderate financial success.

 

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Terminator Genisys

Now for the people that won’t be seeing Faith of Our Fathers or Magic Mike XXL. Finally, after hopping around several studios, the Terminator franchise has arrived once again with Terminator Genisys. This film reboots the franchise in a similar way to last month’s Jurassic World, while not retconning the previous films but really focusing on staying true to the original. I love the idea of revisiting the original film in a way similar to the Star Trek franchise, and I think it stays organic to the rhythm of where the series has been heading. Really, it’s the only logical step to take the franchise. Do I think it looks good? Not sure. I think it looks interesting, but this film’s visual effects were not ready when the first trailer released, and I’m not sure if they ever did get finished. I want to like it. I want to. I just can’t say I know it is going to be great.

 

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Amy

The Amy Winehouse documentary doesn’t seem interesting to me. I never found her life to be all that exciting to learn about. I didn’t care for her music, and I can’t say I was surprised when her addiction caught up to her. Skip.

 

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The Gallows

The Gallows is a new found-footage (damn) horror film about a school play titled The Gallows that accidentally resulted in the death of a student during its initial run 22 years back. Now, the school wants to get the play up and going, and several students realize that some stories are best kept from being told. I like this idea but I’m already playing out all the horrible ways that this film will be represented. There are ways to make this film the right way, but I don’t see it happening the right way.

 

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Minions

Minions is the newest property in the Despicable Me franchise. It is presented as a prequel focused on Gru’s minions years before he meets them. Looking at the trailer, I actually really like this film for more than the cute factor. It has a truly morbid sense of style that I think it embraces this morbidity quite well for a film like this. I see definite potential here.

 

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Self/Less

Self/Less is a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Seconds and is directed by Tarsem Singh. In it, Ben Kingsley plays a man dying of cancer who has his consciousness transferred into the body of a younger healthier man played by Ryan Reynolds. I like the idea, but I’m concerned about the possible connections I was making with Limitless and Transcendence. Elements of this idea have cropped up before to mixed results.

 

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Ant-Man

Well, if you thought selling Guardians of the Galaxy was tough, try selling Ant-Man, the newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hoping to build on the success of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, Ant-Man has an interesting style to it, focusing on creating a fun superhero film to take the franchise back from the seriousness that has been building in the recent films. It looks like a lot of film, but many are aware of the film’s troubles past with previous director Edgar Wright and especially off of Joss Whedon’s personal implosion following the release of the second Avengers film, people will be wary of this one, but I hope it brings people in to at least give it a try.

 

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Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellan is perfectly cast as the 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in 1947. It isn’t related to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series or the CBS series Elementary. It also appears to be a much more calculated piece, very much like the original series of stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Holmes will be a critical hit, I know it was much loved when it screened at BIFF back in February.

 

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Trainwreck

I like Judd Apatow. I do not like Amy Schumer. He directed. She starred and wrote. I’m not going to waste my time.

 

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Paper Towns

I didn’t see A Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure it was fine. I don’t like when an author’s adaptation is successful, every other property is picked up immediately and thrown at the screen. The same thing happened with Gillian Flynn after Gone Girl. I think Paper Towns actually sounds pretty interesting and I will be seeing it.

 

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Southpaw

Man, Jake Gyllenhaal really wants an Oscar! In Southpaw, Gyllenhaal’s transformation into boxer Billy Hope who is unable to get out of the world of boxing to spend more time with his family. When tragedy strikes, Hope discovers that boxing is all he knows. From an outside perspective, these types of movies become great character pieces but not exactly great films. I foresee Gyllenhaal’s nomination but not much else.

 

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Pixels

I know you want to like Pixels. I want to like Pixels. I know I’m not going to like Pixels. I get the feeling you won’t like Pixels. Damn Pixels.

 

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Vacation

I have a lot of hope that the reboot to Vacation will reinvigorate this franchise. The idea of Vacation is eternal, especially when you keep the family line of the Griswolds with the ever-evolving dynamic with the children. It looks hilarious, too.

 

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth Mission: Impossible follows in the franchise of three other great action pics and also Mission: Impossible 2. In Rogue Nation, we get the whole team together for another romping globe-trotting pic that sets Ethan Hunt and his team against the Syndicate. This film adds a level of vengeance and finality to the film even though I know that Tom Cruise isn’t finished with this series. I hope Christopher McQuarrie can handle this series and keep it alive because I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

 

So there you have it, here is your final tally.

Best Bets: Minions, Ant-Man, Mr. Holmes, Vacation, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

On the Bubble: Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Self/Less, Paper Towns, Southpaw

Likely Misses: Faith of Our Fathers, Amy, Trainwreck, Pixels

 

So what do you think? What are you most excited to see this month and why? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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