[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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The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

123 mins. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.

 

Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak) is a director known for his visual flair and attention to detail, but he has yet to cross the barrier into household name. His newest film, The Shape of Water, is his most deeply personal and intimate. The film is garnering some critical and festival praise right now, but is that warranted? This writer has been excited for the film since early this year, and I was overjoyed to catch a screening of it earlier this week.

The film stars Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Godzilla) as Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works overnights as a janitor for the Occam Aerospace Research Center. She is perhaps too curious to discover that a strange new asset has been delivered to the facility one night, a dangerous new creature discovered in South America. As the creature is unable to communicate with sound, he quickly takes to Elisa’s use of sign language as well as the gifts of boiled eggs she brings him. When Elisa learns what the creature’s handler, Strickland (Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), plans to do with him, she hatches a plan to save the amphibious being and, along the way, discovers that her affection for the creature has grown exponentially.

I’m going to say it right now: The Shape of Water is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The plot is familiar enough in its simplest terms, but del Toro proves yet again that isn’t the story you tell but rather how you tell it that makes a masterpiece, and this one might be the director’s best work to date. The story he tells is one of love, attraction, repression, and loneliness using the central relationship between Elisa and the amphibious creature, played brilliantly by del Toro favorite Doug Jones (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery).

While Elisa and the Creature are the central relationship of the film, the secondary relationships give a nice contrast, showing Elisa’s friendship with chatty co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, The Divergent Series: Allegiant) and the tenderness of her friendship with neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor, LBJ). The web is stretched further to show the way that Zelda behaves toward her husband and also how Giles, a closeted homosexual, pursues an attraction in an era where repression has made him self-conscious and very lonely. Then, there’s the polarized opposition of Strickland’s family dynamic and the way he treats his colleagues, specifically Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man, Arrival). The film’s near-constant unraveling of every relationship is fascinating and introspective in all the right ways.

The Shape of Water might be the best film I’ve seen this year. There’s a lot to unpack, and it feels like I need to see it again to fully connect to it, but the film, while a bit lengthy in its second act, is an exemplary look at love and attraction presented in its most unique fashion. This movie will challenge audiences and I hope you leave with as many questions as I did. That is, after all, the beauty in it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen The Shape of Water? What did you think? What’s your favorite relationship in the film? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

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[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 29 – Absentia (2011)

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon, James Flanagan, Scott Graham, Doug Jones

Screenplay: Mike Flanagan

87 mins. Rated R for language and some disturbing images.

 

I actually attended the premiere of Absentia back in 2011. It was the first premiere I’d been to and it was quite fun. I had a chance to meet director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Gerald’s Game) and actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery). I was very aware of Jones but it’s been very interesting to follow Flanagan’s career since then. The director has made some high-profile horror films and he continues to climb.

Absentia is about sisters Callie (Katie Parker, The Binding, The Last Alleycat) and Tricia (Courtney Bell, Before I Wake, The Puzzle). It’s been seven years since Tricia’s husband went missing, and now she’s ready to declare him dead in absentia. Callie, a recovering addict, has come to live with her and help her through the process. Tricia is having dreams and hallucinations of Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown, Contracted: Phase 2, Trip House) and where he might be if he were alive. Callie herself is seeing strange occurrences during her morning runs when, in a nearby tunnel, she sees a man calling himself Walter (Doug Jones) and asking for her son. Walter soon also disappears, and it’s clear that the tunnel holds a few secrets for both women.

Absentia has an interesting concept. Not many know about the emotional toll that declaring a missing person to be dead has on someone, and tying that to a horror film works very well. Flanagan’s film is light on actual scares, but his use of mood and interesting fleshed-out characters works well enough that the lack of scares don’t really matter in the through line of the narrative.

Flanagan’s lead actresses have an emotional core to them that ties the narrative together nicely, and the mysteries of the film don’t feel too easy except in hindsight. Absentia has time to breathe and focus on its characters and thankfully Parker and Bell hold the frame with their performances. Supporting actors Dave Levine (Namour, Chasing Happiness) and Justin Gordon (Gehenna: Where Death Lives, Fun Size Horror: Volume 2) do come across as slightly cliché and formulaic as the detectives working on the case, but this isn’t their story.

Absentia is proof that Kickstarter can do great things. The film is dark, ominous, foreboding, and accessible. I would have liked to have felt more dread as I understand it to be what the film was really wanting but missing. At least it is enjoyable enough as a horror film that relies on character action and doesn’t fall back on jump scares. It is an engaging and original early work for an up-and-coming director.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, click here.

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, click here.

 

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Star Trek: Discovery Ready to Take Off With Captain Jason Isaacs!

After on-again, off-again news from the production of Star Trek: Discovery, the newest development is an intriguing one. Jason Isaacs, known to many fans as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise, is set to join the cast as Captain Lorca. Isaacs will join Sonequa Martin-Green in a starring role on the show which will debut later this year.

This is exciting news for me, as I’ve been  closely watching this strange and interesting incarnation of the popular franchise for some time. Isaacs is talent, and talent is a great thing. This show seems like its finally coming together.

Another interesting detail that I wasn’t aware of until I read it in Deadline is the decision to air the series on Netflix. I was under the impression that the show’s home would be CBS All Access. I’ll look into it further, but for now, even more good news.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Star Trek: Discovery? Is Jason Isaacs the right Captain for the job? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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