[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.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

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[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 2 – Leprechaun 3 (1995)

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Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Cast: Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Lee Armstrong, Caroline Williams, Marcelo Tubert, John DeMita, Michael Callan, Tom Dugan

Screenplay: David DuBos

90 mins. Rated R for some strong horror violence and gore, and a scene of sexuality.

 

I wanted to ensure that I got the time this season to review the best in horror. I wanted to review the highest-selling direct-to-video release of 1995. I wanted to talk about Warwick Davis’ favorite Leprechaun film. Though not the best in horror, Leprechaun 3 does lay claim to the rest of these accolades. But I wouldn’t call it good. I imagine that Lee Armstrong would agree with me, as she retired with only 3 acting credits to her name after completing this film. Let’s take a look.

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Leprechaun 3 follow another greedy little Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) who is awakened in Las Vegas. He comes across college student Scott McCoy (John Gatins, Real Steel, Need for Speed) and magician’s assistant Tammy Larsen (Lee Armstrong, Magic Island). Now, with the Leprechaun’s wish-granting gold spread out among the casino, all bets are off. Scott and Tammy must track down a rare medallion capable to defeating the Leprechaun before Scott succumbs to a terrible curse.

This is bad, real bad. And, to be fair, it’s one of the best of the bad. But still bad. Real bad. The Leprechaun’s powers are never really outlined, and it seems like he should be unstoppable, but yet he is constantly kept at bay. Then, there’s the question of his mystical coins, which again, have never been seen to grant wishes, though I suppose this is a different Leprechaun than the ones seen in previous installments. And what about the weird sequence of events that begins when the Leprechaun bleeds green oozy blood all over Scott, causing him to slowly turn into the most hillbilliest of Leprechaun creatures. Where the hell did this come from? I can settle for the weird amulet that turns him back to stone, but the rest of this just comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere.

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It’s bad. Real bad. But its fun. Just not real fun. Leprechaun 3 is the kind of film you would expect from this series. Not really getting great, but at least it isn’t worse. For now.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mark Jones’ Leprechaun, click here.

For my review of Rodman Flender’s Leprechaun 2, click here.

[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

[St. Patrick’s Day] Leprechaun 2 (1994)

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Director: Rodman Flender

Cast: Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath, Shevonne Durkin, Adam Biesk, Arturo Gil, Linda Hopkins, James Lancaster, Sandy Baron

Screenplay: Turi Meyer, Al Septien

85 mins. Rated R for violence, and for nudity.

 

You’re damn right I picked Leprechaun 2 to watch today, and I hope I don’t regret it terribly. Spoiler Alert: I will.

LEPRECHAUN 2, Warwick Davis, Shevonne Durkin, 1994, (c)Trimark Pictures

Leprechaun 2 follows the same Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) as the first film (at least I think so, the last time he kicked the bucket in a fairly gruesome way and this time, he’s born out of a tree) as he searches for true love. A thousand years ago, he had fallen for a beautiful young woman, and according to some bullshit about turning 1000, he can claim her as his bride, provided that she sneeze three times and nobody say “God Bless You” (seriously, I can’t even make this up). The problem is that the young woman is the daughter of his slave, William O’Day (James Lancaster, The Prestige, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), who mucks it up to save her. One thousand years later, in present day 1994, the Leprechaun is back to attempt to claim her back when he discovers Bridget (Shevonne Durkin, Ghost in the Machine, Spermicide), a young woman who resembles the girl he fell for so long ago. Bridget’s boyfriend, Cody (Charlie Heath, The Beverly Hillbillies, Friends Til the End), and his boss/friend/guy Morty (Sandy Baron, Sid & Nancy, Vamp) must unite to trick the evil little Leprechaun and destroy him before he gets her to sneeze. Wow, I had trouble explaining all that.

Leprechaun 2 is pure shit. As I said before, I’m still not sure if this is supposed to be the same Leprechaun as before or if we are to think that they all look alike (that might put me in hot water). Warwick Davis is clearly the only one having fun here, playing off the uninterested cast as best he can. Director Rodman Flender (Idle Hands, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop) cannot handle the poorly written screenplay from Turi Meyer and Al Septien (Chairman of the Board, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End).

Oh my God, I couldn’t defend this film if I tried. It’s a wonder even this one made it to theaters.

So, let’s just cover what is good. Warwick Davis can’t be faulted. Sandy Baron is probably the most skilled performer here and, again, does his best. There is a great scene involving  a lawnmower. The Leprechaun drives what amounts to a miniature Formula 1 death machine at one point. The credits were nice at the end.

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If you have already imbibed the green beer on this St. Patrick’s Day, then maybe you can stomach Leprechaun 2. If not, then I’m glad I gave you fair warning.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Mark Jones’ Leprechaun, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 14 – Leprechaun (1993)

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Director: Mark Jones

Cast: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman

Screenplay: Mark Jones

92 mins. Rated R for horror violence and language.

 

It’s tough to place a film like Leprechaun. In one way, it’s far too childish to be scary. On another, there’s too much gore and horror for it to be a kid’s movie. So what exactly is it?

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Well, Leprechaun is a bit of an enigma. It’s the story of an evil little leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Jack the Giant Slayer) who has his gold taken away from him and is willing to stop at nothing until he gets every piece of it back. The leprechaun is eventually trapped in a crate for several years until Tory Reding (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, We’re the Millers) and her father move in. Once he is free, he goes on a murderous rampage to get his gold back.

This film is stupid. Really stupid. It suffers from genre confusion. The original idea was for a scary kid’s movie which eventually evolved, thanks to studio heads, into a comedic yet more adult horror film, though it still doesn’t fit into either category. I find it tough to blame writer/director Mark Jones (Scorned, Rumpelstiltskin) as I’m sure he had little measure of success once his film was tampered with, but even so, the acting is horrid. Jennifer Aniston has never been an actress of particular depth, and I’ve never been truly impressed by her worth, and her first starring role is no exception. She is given a band of merry men who turn in wretched work and the entire film falls to Warwick Davis’ portrayal of the evil leprechaun. Now, Davis does fine work with this ultimately not scary role, but he just isn’t scary at all.

That’s what boggle me about this movie and, in fact, the entire series. Not one of them is scary. So why do we classify them as horror. Likely due to the gore factor, and the films do have that.

But, if there is a silver lining to this movie, and I think there is, it is that it is kind of fun to watch. This is usually my go-to for St. Paddy’s Day movies alongside The Boondock Saints and The Departed. It has a relatively odd premise played out to its lengths.

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And there is that line of bad movies. Some of the Leprechaun films (I’m looking at you Leprechaun 4: In Space) are so horrid that it is tough to sit through them. On the other hand, some are just goofy enough to be fun. On that line, Leprechaun does end up on the so-bad-it’s-good side more so than the take-me-out-to-the-pasture-and-shoot-me side. So for that, I give the film its rating.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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