[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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[Early Review] Okja (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-Ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Byun Hee-Bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yun Je-Mun, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-Shik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal

Screenplay: Bong Joon-Ho, Jon Ronson

118 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, have I got a movie for you today!

Okja is the story of a young girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn, The Housemaid, Monster) who lives on a farm in South Korea with her grandfather and a unique animal, a superpig named Okja. For ten years, Mija and her grandfather have been raising Okja to win a competition against other superpig farmers around the country. Mija is overjoyed when the judge, TV personality and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Life) selects Okja as the winner. But when she learns of what will happen to Okja upon returning to the United States and to its true owner, Mirando Corporation, she sets out to free him and, along the way, gains help from Jay (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, Swiss Army Man) and his ALF (Animal Liberation Front) team. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, War Machine), the CEO of Mirando, will stop at nothing to use Okja for her own greedy plans in this strange and unique new film from Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Mother).

Now, I get it. Reading that synopsis wouldn’t exactly hype me for a film, and in lesser hands, I’d believe this film to be destined for failure. But with this director, I became more and more excited to see it.

And Okja has a lot going for it. With Bong Joon-Ho’s direction  and powerful writing, the cardinal message shines clear but with enough layers to make the discussion following an important one. The use of the CG superpig allows enough separation from reality for the film to make thought-provoking statements and ask serious questions behind the guise of a science-fiction adventure.

The performances here aid in crafting the unique vision presented, specifically Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando, a villain with motivations and an understandable approach but one that doesn’t always have the right methods to solve her problems. Then, there’s the standout work from Jake Gyllenhaal, who steals every scene as the over-the-top Wilcox, an unhinged failing TV personality who lost his fanbase years ago. Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito (The Usual Suspects, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) also turn in great work, the latter portraying Frank Dawson, Lucy’s right-hand man, but the work from Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija rises up to match her fellow performers. The young actress’s ability to play to a CG superpig and hold her own in scenes with much more accomplished actors is strong in its own right.

It frustrates me that a film like Okja was booed at Cannes for having the Netflix banner in front of its opening titles. The streaming giant has more than proved itself in recent years, and Okja stands among the best of their original films. I’ll say it simple: it’s the best film I’ve seen this year so far. This is a film that balances humor with deep political satire and genuinely heartbreaking moments. I don’t care if this film changes your mind on its subject matter. It didn’t completely change mine, but I’m happy for the interesting viewpoint it offers. This is one that will stick with you. It will make you believe in a superpig.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2016

 

Hey folks, sorry this is coming in a bit late but I’ve not been feeling well and it’s given me the opportunity to catch some of the films I’d missed in 2016 and I wanted to see as much as I could before delivering this list to you.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. Not all of them are Oscar-y in nature because I still haven’t gotten the chance to see a lot of the late releases of the year. On that note…
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2016. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and I’ll get to it.
  • This is a tentative listing of the films. I tend to do a final ranking after the Academy Awards every year, but enjoy what I have so far.
  • Lastly, this isn’t a ranking of my best reviewed films of the year. These are the films that, to me, were exactly what they were supposed to be. SO here we go…

I present to you, my Top Ten Films of 2016.

 

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  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

-When the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped just weeks before it’s theatrical release, it blew me away. How was this film connected to Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield? What’s John Goodman doing in this? Why isn’t it found-footage? After seeing the film, I still don’t really have answers, but one thing I do know is that 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of the most tense and shocking thrillers in recent memory. Carried by strong performances from its leads and the standout chilling work from Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane does a lot with a little, adding to this unique franchise and making me look forward to God Particle, the next film in the Clover-verse coming later this year.

 

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  1. Captain America: Civil War

-This is the kind of film that shouldn’t work. A big budget superhero blockbuster based around themes that are so important today. With the cast of somewhere 124 leads comes a showdown between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark over the damage that superheroes do just to save lives. It is full of rich fully-realized character development and action scenes so insanely busy but perfectly captured that it seems an impossible feat and yet, the Russo brothers made one of the best superhero movies of all time with the odds so dangerously stacked against them.

 

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  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

-When Disney purchased the Lucasfilm brand and immediately started work on a new Star Wars film, I was hesitant, but here we are with the second film released since the acquisition, and it is even more impressive than The Force Awakens. How director Gareth Edwards wrote a love letter to the Star Wars saga and turned it into one of the best films in the entire series is beyond me. Rogue One seamlessly blends with A New Hope and creates such an amazing story out of one paragraph of the opening crawl from the original movie. Great work from Ben Mendelsohn, Felicity Jones, and Alan Tudyk carry this incredible story that is really for the fans who have been there since the very beginning, Rogue One is much more than just a Thank You.

 

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  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

-I actually came across this film because it was a 99 cent rental on Amazon, and I’m so thankful I did. Hunt for the Wilderpeople didn’t really get me with its trailers, I probably would’ve passed it by, but since I have now seen it, all I can say is, why haven’t you? This was a gorgeously shot and humorously-injected coming-of-age story with the two most unlikely heroes this year. The story of Ricky Baker, a foul-mouthed troublemaker, and his “Uncle” Hector as they get lost and get wild in the Bush of New Zealand is fun and heartwarming. The two are hunted by authorities after Hector is seen as possibly unfit to raise Ricky. The movie is equal parts fun and touching. See it.

 

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  1. Green Room

-I was blessed to be able to see Green Room before its initial release and I was blown away by the visceral survival thriller featuring the late Anton Yelchin. My skin crawled and I leapt out of my chair more than once in the painfully captivating tale of a rock band attempting to escape a Neo-Nazi bar after witnessing a murder. Green Room isn’t a film for anyone (and I don’t say that often, but this is often very difficult to watch) but it’s also one of the most fun experiences I had in a theater all year.

 

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  1. The Conjuring 2

-Another shockingly great movie from 2016 was the hotly-anticipated sequel to the classified horror classic from 2013, The Conjuring. Director James Wan returned to helm the sequel which hopped across the pond to Enfield to see Ed and Lorraine Warren face their most difficult case to date. This movie is a rare horror film with as much heart as horrors, and I was absolutely floored by both the creepy and inventive techniques behind the camera and also the emotionally-charged beats in front of it. For me, this is the rare horror sequel that actually surpasses the original.

 

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  1. Kubo and the Two Strings

-Why? Why haven’t you seen this film? Kubo and the Two Strings, the newest film from Laika, virtually disappeared from theaters after kind of dudding upon release. It’s tragic, as the film is their best stop-motion film to date. An animated film that is just as much for adults as for children, Kubo and the Two Strings takes on strikingly adult subject matter in this beautifully crafted journey of a boy’s journey to defeat the terrifying Moon King using his magical shamisen. Influences from classic Kurosawa and spaghetti westerns infused with intelligent characters are what makes Kubo and the Two Strings an instant classic.

 

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  1. Don’t Breathe

-Wow, I did not see this coming. Don’t Breathe, from director Fede Alvarez, is another exemplary horror film from a terrific year for the genre.  In it, three thieves break into a blind war vet’s home to claim his fortune for themselves when they discover their victim has skills and secrets that none of them expected, and they may not survive the heist. Don’t Breathe played a surrealist approach to the escape room subgenre in a different way that Green Room did earlier in the year. Instead, it made us fear for our antiheroes and dread the terrifying Blind Man, played excellently by Stephen Lang. Don’t Breathe is visually stunning as well relentlessly disturbing, and it’s a must-see for fans of the genre.

 

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  1. Arrival

Arrival is just proof that Denis Villeneuve can do whatever he damn well pleases. You want a sequel to Blade Runner? Sure, whatever you want! After Prisoners and Sicario and Enemy, to hit it out of the park yet again with Arrival is almost unprecedented. Villeneuve is quickly becoming a household name, even if most Americans butcher the pronunciation. Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, accomplishes the rare task of being a genre film that isn’t really about aliens. Sure, that’s been said a lot, and if you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean. But in all fairness, it’s just really nice to see a complex and interesting story that isn’t dumbed down to suit audiences.

 

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  1. The Nice Guys

-Another sad bomb from this past year, I saw The Nice Guys while waiting to board my plane leaving Hawaii. I had just gotten engaged, so you might play off my enjoyment with the film to that, but I revisited the film a few times since then, and I love it more and more each time. A sendup to 70s cinema and hard-boiled detective stories as well the classic buddy-cop subgenre that director Shane Black continues to wring perfection from (I’m talking to you Lethal Weapon), The Nice Guys is just a perfect damn movie that excites and entertains and makes the unlovable people the most fun to spend time with.

 

Honorable Mentions: Swiss Army Man, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Deadpool.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m excited for #2017oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off, but overall, 2016 was a great year for movies, just not a great year for most anything else. Well see you in 2017 (which is kind of now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Daniel Radcliffe Goes Skinhead in First Trailer for Imperium

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I’ve been really digging on Daniel Radcliffe’s career since he finished his work on the Harry Potter franchise (I was a fan of that series as well, of course).  He’s done blockbuster work with Now You See Me 2, he’s been on the horror side of things with The Woman in Black and Horns, and he’s embraced his strange with Swiss Army Man. Now, the first trailer for Radcliffe’s newest film, Imperium, has dropped, and it’s a realy doozy.

In the trailer, we get to see Radcliffe’s Nate Foster as he goes undercover with a group of Neo-Nazis in an effort to thwart a terror attack. I’ll leave the trailer below, so check it out!

Personally, I embrace the choices Radcliffe has been making. With films like Swiss Army Man and Horns, he’s proven that he is no longer a child, and Imperium seems like another step in that direction. I’m really excited to see where this story takes me. A few colleagues have complained that the trailer shows too much, but I actually disagree on this one.

In any case, take a look at the trailer and let me know your thoughts. Are you excited to see Imperium? Which of Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter roles has been your favorite? Let me know!

Imperium hits theaters August 19.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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