Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One

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The final Harry Potter book, “The Deathly Hallows”, ended up being broken up into two films, and after seeing both films for a second time, this definitely has ended up seeming to be a cash grab by Warner Bros., one that they have become quite familiar with over the years.

I need to be honest here, as ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One’ was the first Harry Potter film that I ever saw. I know that this seems weird, and it probably is, but I saw this film in theaters as a way to get a free ride home from a visit at a friend’s place over an hour away from my home. The fact that I saw this with the woman that would become my girlfriend just a couple of weeks later has never been lost on me, and I know it carries a special place in her heart five years later.

That being said, upon an in timeline viewing of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ is the most bloated, over-blown film of the series since ‘Chamber of Secrets’ was filmed as a book-to-screen literal translation. The weakest of the four films directed by David Yates, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ suffers as a result of far too much exposition, too many scenes of sitting around and waiting, and an overall dullness that does a disservice to the start of the film.

Opening up with a scene which shows the great lengths that the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix will go to keep Harry alive, we see an interesting battle between Harry and Voldemort, a prelude to the series finale we will see in the final film. After this, we get to see a wedding, an attempt to return to the normalcy of life, one that does not end well and finally puts our main three characters, Harry, Hermione and Ron, on the run from Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and the Ministry of Magic.

As the film progress, it slows down to a snail’s pace, in what can only be considered a full on attempt to justify splitting the final book into two films. Eventually, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ finds its footing again as it builds to its “climax”, the splitting of the story, in a pair of scenes that will not reveal their full truths until the bitter end.

In between, we see the effects of the recently acquired Horcrux on all the main characters, but mainly on Ron, where he sets of on his own from Harry and Hermione, and in the end, with his destruction of this Horcrux, literally comes face-to-face with his worst fear and overcomes it.

With the destruction of a third Horcrux, Voldemort feels he is becoming ever more vulnerable and heads off to find the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence and one of the fabled Deathly Hallows. This is how ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ ends, with Voldemort in possession of the one wand that he believes will allow him to kill Harry Potter and live forever.

The beginning and end of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ are strong, essentially rivaling any other film of the series, but the middle part, which drags like only the first two films do, hurts the overall caliber of the film. I wonder what a full single ‘Deathly Hallows’ would have looked like and if the splitting of the story was truly needed.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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The Harry Potter series continues with the sixth instalment, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ deals with the realization that Lord Voldemort has dealt with horcruxes in a bid to cheat death and reign supreme over the wizarding world.

Along with this plot thread, we also start to see how Dumbledore is willing to use Harry and his “celebrity status” as the possible Chosen One to further his investigation into what he sees as artifacts of Voldemort’s youth.

‘Half-Blood Prince’ also gives us a final decision on the see-saw nature of Severus Snape’s allegiances, as he undertakes the Unbreakable Vow with Draco Malfoy’s mother, in order to complete Draco’s killing of Albus Dumbledore should he fail to do so himself. While very in line with his “double agent” role in the series, his story ultimately leads to the films defining moment, when Snape follows through with this on a weakened Dumbledore.

The rest of the film deals with the final realization that a young Tom Riddle used former, and now present again, Potions teacher Horace Slughorn to learn how to create Horcruxes, and how Dumbledore and Harry will need to eliminate those items in order to defeat Lord Voldemort in the end.

The second film from David Yates, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ succeeds due to the continuation of having a consistent vision from the same director as the previous film, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’. As a result of this, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is a stronger film than the story may have originally allowed. Essentially, this film is told to just further the story, and at times feels that is in place to just get us to the last story, which is split into two films.

Character development is a shining star in ‘Half-Blood Prince’, as Ron Weasley gets, and loses, his first girlfriend, which as a result finally forces Hermione Granger to come to terms with her feelings for Ron, something that fully plays out during the next film. We also see Dumbledore come to terms with his mortality, the way that Snape is seemingly torn by his role as a Death Eater, and that Harry is growing more and more into is role as the most important wizard of his age as he takes on more responsibility throughout the film.

In the grand scheme of things, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ suffers overall from its place in the series, but is saved by the continued vision of David Yates who directs the last four films in the series, and also from strong character development.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and if you are so inclined, check out older reviews on films you may be interested in. Cheers.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Year Five at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sees Harry, Hermione and Ron deal with the fallout from ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, mainly the full return of Lord Voldemort. Dealing mostly with the debut of the titular Oder, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ brings to light more of Voldemort’s connection with Harry while also dealing with the Ministry of Magic’s outright refusal to admit that the Dark Lord has indeed returned.

Once again featuring a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, one Dolores Umbridge who has been appointed by the Ministry itself, ‘Order of the Phoenix’ is really a story of how the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, does everything in his power to discredit both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. Fudge does not believe that Voldemort has returned and that Dumbledore is using these steps as a way to take over Fudge’s job.

Going in a darker direction from the previous ‘Goblet of Fire’, ‘Order of the Phoenix’ sees Harry teaching a fellow group of students spells and measures to protect themselves against the Dark Arts. This transpires as Harry deals with visions of attacks on members of the Order deep in the Ministry.

This film shows us the Ministry of Magic for the first time, and also gives us our first real look at a magic battle at the end of the film, as Voldemort’s Death Eaters try to secure a prophecy from the Ministry and face off with the Order of the Phoenix, resulting in death and our first look at Dumbledore’s prowess as a wizard as he goes toe-to-toe with Voldemort.

‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ really takes a giant leap forward from the previous film in actually giving us life and death situations that match all the stories that the films are telling us. While not a perfect film, it does give us enough to work with, and even more information on the pasts of key characters, such as Harry using the Occlumency spell on Severus Snape to see how Harry’s father and friends had bullied Snape.

With more information brought forward on the main characters, a full on final battle, and character defining deaths, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ becomes the strongest of the films to date and a great build to the final three films of the series. The series finally seemed to have found its voice with new director David Yates, and the fact that he also directs the final three films is a great sign.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and check out the site for other films you might be interested to read about. Cheers.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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We reach the halfway point of the Harry Potter series with ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. Year four for Harry, Hermione and Ron sees the first outright appearance of the Death Eaters, the introduction of two other wizard in schools, and finally, a brief look at what the whole series is about.

‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ is based around a school year round Triwizard Tournament, which is designed to feature a selected champion from three different schools in a series of tasks to determine a champion. Added into the mix is Harry Potter himself as a fourth competitor, because how else could you have this actually happen?

As the film progresses, we get to see more and more of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (yes, the fourth in four years), one Alistar “Mad Eye” Moody, who appears to have taken a very particular interest in Harry throughout the film. Asked personally by Albus Dumbledore to take over the position, Moody acts as Harry’s family figure as the tournament progresses.

There were times during ‘Goblet of Fire’ that the film seemed to almost stand still though as we were waiting for the next task in the Triwizard Tournament to take place, and when those tasks actually take place, the film is actually quite good, but the inbetween parts reminded me very much of the first two films in being dragged out too much. Essentially, the good parts were good, the lesser parts nowhere near as much.

The climax of the film is what ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ is all about and what the entire film builds towards. After becoming co-winner of the tournament, Harry is transported via a portkey to the Riddle family graveyard, where one Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew is waiting with a recently reformed Lord Voldemort.

Pettigrew completes his full and utter betrayal of the Potter family by using Harry to complete a spell in which Voldemort is finally able to return to full life, at which point and time we finally get our first glimpse into the battle that will happen between Harry and Voldemort. While not a full, drawn out battle, it is nonetheless a great step forward for each character.

At the end, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ is an, at times, uneven film,but one that does exactly what it sets out to do in giving is a return in full of Lord Voldemort and a huge step forward for Harry as a character.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and please do take a look at older reviews and articles here on the site as you may just discover other films you might want to see. Cheers.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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The third film in the ‘Harry Potter’ series saw a new director, a slightly different take in transferring from book to film, and a more action oriented slant. ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ is where we start to get more information about the events that set the entire series in motion.

Returning for their third year at Hogwart’s School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, Harry, Ron and Hermione see yet another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, one Remus Lupin, who is hiding multiple secrets from the group and school in an attempt to right a horrible wrong.

As the film progresses, we get more and more information about the events that transpire before the start of the series, mainly the way that Harry’s parents were betrayed by one of their closest friends, In fact, it was their one friend that they had named to be Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, the titular prisoner of Azkaban.

More and more we learn that not everything is as it seems in the wizarding world, including the fact that the accepted story of the betrayal of Harry’s parents was distorted into what it is and the fact that Sirius Black was sent to Azkaban without trial.

As a change from the first two films of the series, ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ sees a better flow throughout the film as it is not a direct transfer of the entire book to screen. What we also get is some stronger character development, from Harry’s brief outbursts of anger to outward signs of Ron and Hermione’s burgeoning feelings for each other, even to Hagrid’s taking on of teaching classes at the school as well. All of these are welcome to anyone who enjoys rich, deep characters.

A note as well, is Michael Gambon taking over the role of Albus Dumbledore from the late Richard Harris. In what was a benefit for the series, Gambon’s Dumbledore seems a better fit for the darker direction the series continues to take in ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’.

As the film comes to its conclusion, the truth of the betrayal of the Potter’s comes to full light, the truth about Lupin is revealed as well, and in the end, we get our first real sign of just how powerful a wizard Harry actually will be as he is able to fully harness his Patronus charm to save Sirius Black, who he now embraces as sole remaining family.

The strongest entry into the series to date, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ sets in motion everything you would expect from a series like this and begins to chart a course away from the dragged out, bloated first entries.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and if you have the time, see if there are other film reviews here on the site that may interest you. Cheers.

Delivery Man

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Every so often, it is nice to sit down to watch what is more of an adult oriented comedy, and that is exactly what ‘Delivery Man’ was. Not a gross out comedy, not a toilet humour either, nor a romantic comedy, just a comedy with a story geared towards adults looking for some laughs.

‘Delivery Man’ is a US remake of a French-Canadian film by the title of ‘Starbuck’. Directed by the same director who did the original, Ken Scott, ‘Delivery Man’ has its ups and downs, mainly with focusing on Vince Vaughn as the lead. Telling a story of a man who, without his knowledge, had his donated sperm used to father 533, and as a result, is involved in legal proceedings when 142 of those children try to find out who their biological father is.

At his best, Vaughn has some great comedic timing, and that definitely showed throughout ‘Delivery Man’. The other side of that coin though is at times Vaughn does not carry the dramatic side necessary for the lead role in this film, which in the middle part of the film actually leads to a serious downturn in connectivity with the audience.

On the flip side, ‘Delivery Man’ features a fantastic, at-that-time, supporting turn from Chris Pratt. Released in 2013, this film struck before Pratt became a household name with roles in ‘The LEGO Movie’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Jurassic World’. Pratt is, as mentioned above, simply fantastic in this film and really shows off his comedic talents. The one downside is, as the film went on, there were times when I was hoping he would show up again, and it is unfortunate this film could not take more advantage of his talents.

At the end of the day, ‘Delivery Man’ is a slightly above average comedy that won me over via its main supporting character but lost points for a middle act that showed flaws in the choice of main actor.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and stop on by here for reviews of other films that you may be interested in. Cheers.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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My journey through the visualization of J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry and witchcraft continues with the second film in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. Year two for Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger sees the trio of friends return to Hogwarts along with a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and new horrors.

The way that ‘Chamber of Secrets’ was filmed was nearly identical to ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, attributed to director Christopher Columbus returning and doing a near complete book-to-film transfer for the second time. While it is great for details, it causes for a bloated run time, which causes ‘Chamber of Secrets’ to be too dry at times.

While leaving the villain absent until the end was a nice touch, the film did suffer a bit for that, as it is difficult to imagine what is happening in those moments. The side story of the deception behind the first opening of the Chamber some 50 years earlier was a nice touch to bring more backstory to the character of Hagrid, who is a personal favourite of one member of our family, and continues his trait of showing admiration for strange creatures.

I personally enjoyed the development, unveiling and eventual proverbial tossing aside of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. As a con-artist, Lockhart is shown to have charm and smiles but as a teacher to be completely out of his depth, which he shows towards the end of the film. Kenneth Branagh pulls this role off with all of his Shakespearean talents and it is a little sad it was a one off role in the end.

At the end of the film, we finally get our first showing of the “villain’ of ‘Chamber of Secrets’ in the manifestation of the diary of the series’ main antagonist, Lord Voldemort. Also a great way to delve into the back story of Voldemort, the scenes in the chamber are the best of the film. Using the basilisk, the final parting gift from one of Hogwarts’ original founders, as the physical representation for the final scenes was also an interesting way to continue to tie in the fact that snakes and serpents play a large role in the entire series.

‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ is at times uneven due to the length of the overall film, but does a great job of furthering the entirety of the main story and does just enough to stand on its own as well.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and take some time to read other reviews here on the site for films that you may be interested in. Cheers.