Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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I have to preface this blog by saying the following: I live with a Potterite. The Harry Potter series of books and films are to my fiancee what Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Marvel are to me. Also, I have never read the books and before this past weekend, had only ever seen two Harry Potter films: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part Two’, both of which I have seen with my fiancee, but with no back story at all.

That being said, for the fourth time in the almost five years that we have been living together, I made a promise to watch a film or, in this case, a series of films, that hold a special place for my fiancee. Admittedly, the previous three films: ‘Titanic’, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’, really didn’t do anything for me at all, so going into this promise, I was more than a little worried.

Off the bat, I need to mention the thing I noticed the most, and that is that at two and half hours, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (Sorcerer’s Stone for our American fans) clocks a little bit long, but I am assured that this is because it remained for the most part faithful to the book. That being said, I did notice that our 9-year-old and 7-year-old did not seemed to be fazed by the length and that they thoroughly enjoyed the film.

For myself personally, I am going to reserve judgment on the entire series until I have watched all eight films, but I will say that ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ did a good job of laying the foundation blocks for the greater world at large for the ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise.

Introductions to all of the major players of the series, the wizarding world and how they do their best to remove themselves from the “muggle” world dominated the first half of the film. Some of the scenes seemed a little forced at times, particularly the first meeting of the main group of friends: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

Other characters almost seem glossed over at times, but I accept that with full knowledge that these characters will get properly developed over the series and that some of these restrictions might just be tied to a plot, which is also a good idea.

Because of the length, at times I felt that the story dragged or seemed very dry, as if it was trying to capture the book too accurately, and it was at these times that I started to almost lose interest. While not a major stumbling block for myself, for someone is in my position, it could cause some issues.

In the end, the final act carried through on little threads introduced earlier and allowed the film to complete its final twist, the first present unveiling of the proverbial “big bad” for the entire series. This was done with an interesting payoff that I for one was not expecting, and I definitely appreciated that.

Up next, obviously, is ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, year two as Hogwarts for our titular character and his friends.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and also take a look into my previous reviews here on the site. Cheers.

Ant-Man

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The twelfth film from Marvel Studios, and the final film to their “Phase 2”, ‘Ant-Man’ really acts as something akin to a palette-cleanser at a taste-testing, albeit one that does more than enough to warrant coming back to on its own.

The reason that I mention palette-cleansing is the fact that we haven’t had a true origin film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, which was fully four years ago now. While that may not seem all that long ago, it was seven films ago, which is more than half of this shared universe away now.

That being said, and despite all the hand wringing online from fans and critics alike at the departure of original director Edgar Wright over creative differences with Marvel, replacement director Peyton Reed really delivered what is a well crafted story about learning how to use power and technology.

Paul Rudd pulls out all of his charasmatic charm in creating an ex-convict in Scott Lang, a character that struggles through the opening act to try and reconnect with his daughter. After failing to find gainful employment and a less than happy reunion with his ex-wife, Rudd’s character is forced back to bad habits, and here is where the story really picks up.

The middle act, of Lang coming to terms to being essentially hired for a big heist and learning how to use the Ant-Man suit and also communicating with ants, is a great mix of humour, action and also drama. It is during this part of the film that we finally learn why Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym retired from being the original Ant-Man, and also why he is so dead set against his daughter, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne, taking over his mantle.

While the final act heads into typical Marvel action first territory, it does so while still managing to keep its, for lack of a better term, small scale family elements, and all while tying in some loose thread plot points from earlier in the film, while also creating some others that we may never see payoff for.

All in all, ‘Ant-Man’ is another great standalone genre film from Marvel Studios, creating a heist film the likes of which we have never seen before, all while giving the spotlight to some characters that will help grow their “Phase 3” slate that starts next May. Paul Rudd is fantastic, the MCU cameos to both open the film and also provide the best action sequence of the film are stellar, and the family backed elements do well to ground the film.

‘Ant-Man’ is a must see for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but does not need to be restricted solely to those people.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and also take some time to peruse my previous fare. Cheers.

Minions

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When ‘Despicable Me’ was released in 2010 it essentially came out of nowhere and introduced another player in Illumination Entertainment to the animated film field. What it also did was introduce some yellow pill-shaped characters to the general populace in general and children in particular.

Fast forward five years and we have a spin-off prequel to ‘Despicable Me’ in ‘Minions’. Clocking in at a brisk 91 minutes, ‘Minions’ takes the titular yellow pill-shaped inelligible characters that have become a favourite of Facebook posters, and sets them in an origin film.

In the past week I have discovered just how polarizing the Minion characters have become. Many a person I have talked to despise how the Minions have been corrupted on Facebook, and others have compared them to the Penguins from ‘Madagascar’ fame, as supporting characters that work just perfectly in that role, as support, but not main characters.

Having watched ‘Minions’, I would have to agree one hundred percent with that take on the characters. What worked amazing as a silly break from the original ‘Despicable Me’, and even to a slightly lesser degree in ‘Despicable Me 2’, at times overwhelmed the film this time around.

Now, there are definitely some laughs, but for the most part ‘Minions’ is fully aimed at younger children, and I personally found that it lacked the extra dimension of also having some jokes aimed at parents. This is a hallmark of a truly successful film and as a result this film is severely lacking at times.

I do have to say that ‘Minions’ does prove yet another win this year for Universal Studios, who may be having their best year ever at the theater. Also, for Illumination Entertainment, it continues their good start to delivering animated fare as I will admit that the film does look good.

In the end, Stilt-Bob was not enough for me to fully fall in love with ‘Minions’. The film does its job of selling merchandise and toys to kids, while also giving us a throwaway bone at the end. I won’t mention what happens at the ending, but the ending at least gives us hope that there won’t be a sequel, albeit a small hope.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and also take some time to read older reviews of other films. Cheers.

Oliver &Company

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One of my main goals as a person who watches films is to own all of the “canonical” Disney animated films. Well, this past week we came across ‘Oliver & Company’ on Blu-ray for ten dollars which meant that it was an immediate purchase for our upcoming Saturday night family movie time.

I need to lead with this, ‘Oliver & Company’ falls into the trap of many Disney animated films from the early-to-mid 1980’s, which is universally known as one of the two “lesser” points in their animation history. As a result of this, it is entirely geared towards children, and never has that been more evident than when we watched the film last Saturday.

Our two oldest boys were laughing and tapping their feet to the music, while myself and my fiancee were both very resigned to the fact that the film was not for us. The music is not up to par with future efforts from Disney during their “renaissance” era that would shortly follow ‘Oliver & Company’, and the jokes were not two-tiered, for both children and adults, which has become a staple of animated features from all companies in this day and age.

While presenting what one would have hoped was an interesting take on the Charles Dickens “Oliver Twist” story, ‘Oliver & Company’ was just another failed effort from the old Disney Feature Animation department during the 1980’s.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Paddington

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I grew up on Paddington Bear stories. As a child of the 1980’s, this is perfectly normal, although I never quite realized why I love that bear so much. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realize I had a natural inclination to things British. I guess you could say that I identify as having been British in a former life.

It is with this in mind that I recently watched ‘Paddington’. Be it the title characters love of marmalade, his silly hat or his soon to be acquired jacket, this really felt like the realization of the Paddington that I grew up with.

From the very opening, ‘Paddington’ felt exactly as it should. Even with the slight alterations to the main character’s back story, this film solidly nailed the pure essence of the stories that have been told about not just Paddington Bear himself, but his adopted family of the Brown’s as well.

The overall tone of ‘Paddington’ was very British in all of its glory and as a result will go into our Saturday Evening Family Film night rotation, and that tells you just how much I enjoyed this film.

As always, for this and much, much more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.