HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent and Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: David Yates
What it’s about: Harry Potter enters his sixth year at Hogwarts, and he’s facing new and old challenges. Old challenges include the mysteries behind Voldemort and the constant peril that this puts the school in. New challenges include the fact that Voldemort and the Death Eaters are starting to cause problems in the muggle world as well as that of wizards. Oh, and the raging hormones are new as well, throwing the relationship among Harry, Ron and Hermione out of whack. Dumbledore invites Harry to help him discover secrets about Voldemort’s past while the kids are left to their own scrogging devices with their hormone issues.
What I liked: Having seen all the films and read the first two and the last two books, I have had an up-and-down relationship with the entire Harry Potter series. While I love the concept of the series, I have felt the individual installments to be hit or miss. Well, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a definite hit.
The last movie served to set up this film and the next two, and where The Order of the Phoenix seemed to mark time for more than half of the movie, The Half-Blood Prince really takes off with the drama and action, yet it holds back enough to ensure that the two installments of The Deathly Hallows will be even more awesome.
All aspects of this film seem to come together. The acting, which can be a little canned at times and knock-out-of-the-park awesome at others, is always appropriate. More play is given to the sometimes absent character of Voldemort, which is what I have found to be the most interesting part of the series. New characters (particularly Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn) are given fair play, while other characters recently introduced (particularly Luna Lovegood) add depth and texture to the cast.
This new Harry Potter film is dark and dramatic, with a powerful conclusion that makes it the Empire Strikes Back of the series. I can’t wait for movies seven and eight.
What I didn’t: Because the Harry Potter films are an ongoing series and not just a string of sequels like the Police Academy flicks, this movie hits the ground running with story and character. It doesn’t waste any time recapping the last installment for its viewers, which can be a bit confusing if the last time you thought about Hogwarts was two years ago when The Order of the Phoenix came out. I’d suggest giving the Wikipedia entry to the series a quick read, or just check out FSR’s own cheat sheet.
Of course, the avid fans of the books will pick this film apart, saying they’ve left things out and changed other things. And they’d be absolutely right. However, when you adapt a 650-page book into a film, you need to do that, or you’d end up with an 18-hour film. There are changes, and many plot points (including the title MacGuffin) are simmered down to merely a mention or two, but that doesn’t stop the movie from being enjoyable and well-fit into the existing universe.
Who is gonna like this movie: Harry Potter fans and pretty much the entire mainstream audience.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Rated: PG-13 for sexual material and language.
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Clark Gregg, Minka Kelly and Matthew Gray Gubler
Directed by: Marc Webb
What it’s about: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been in love with Summer (Zooey Deschanel) ever since he met her. After she tells him she’s not looking for love, Tom continues to pursue her and ends up striking up a curious relationship with her. After knowing her for a year and a half, he faces a break-up and flashes back to their 500 days of their life together in hopes of winning her back.
What I liked: There are some really charming aspects to (500) Days of Summer. It really captures the pain and angst of young love, and it does juggle some greater issues of true love and soul mates. I can’t say this film isn’t realistic because I have known (and continue to know) people who are exact replicas of the characters in this film.
The real spark of (500) Days of Summer is its ability to present a relatively standard story from a very fresh angle. There’s a surrealism in the scenes that make the film pop (even though one of the most clever moments does seem to be a bit of a rip-off of Disney’s Enchanted). This is a tired, old story that has been given a facelift in presentation.
Finally, I have a soft spot for Zooey Deschanel, and although she’s not the drop-dead gorgeous model type that you might expect for the pretty girl, she brings a quirky warmth to the role, which is what helped make her such a darling of the independent scene.
What I didn’t: No matter how fresh the presentation of (500) Days of Summer is, I cannot get past the fact that I wanted to punch the characters in the face. Tom is an utter tool who lives in a fantasy world. He falls in love with a girl before he knows her and dips into an unhealthy depression when they break up. Sure, there are good friends of mine who are like this (I’m talking about you, Chris), but I got really tired of the character moping around.
Similarly, as adorable as Zooey Deschanel is, the character of Summer was an emotional cripple. She was cute, but hardly fall-in-love material. This character is damaged goods that would be disastrous in a real relationship.
Finally, what’s the deal with filmmakers’ obsession with architecture? Is it some sort of repressed love for Mike Brady? I just don’t get it.
Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who is likely to not get out of bed for days after they break up with someone.