The last Harry Potter movie (the Half-Blood Prince) was the first one to leave me genuinely cold when it was over. The first part of the film seemed to fritter about with various pieces of business until finally getting down to brass tacks in the last 30 minutes or so. I had to wonder if the connective tissue between these scenes was more apparent in the printed word and just didn’t translate readily to the screen.
A truly excellent movie always manages to boil its story down to the essentials. It’s the mediocre ones that fumble around trying to figure out what they’re about. I won’t say what the bad ones do, but it often involves some hand lotion and a back issue of National Geographic.
The bloom of whimsy is off the Hogwarts rose as things get all dark and serious. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has several problems to contend with. Dementors are chasing him. The Ministry of Wizards wants him expelled. Hogwarts has been taken over by Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a perky Torquemada in lavender. Hermione (Emma Watson) is now taller than him and Lord Valdemort is raising an army again.
Probably by design, this Potter movie lacks some of the charm of the previous films, as its themes and situation are considerably darker and more threatening. Harry seems to spend most of the story out of step with the rest of the cast and Radcliffe is up to the task of making us feel his vulnerability and isolation.
This chapter hasn’t been as well reviewed by others as the previous ones, although it is definitely superior to the first two. I think the lukewarm reception comes from those unfamiliar with the Potter mythos and not expecting the darker turns in the story, as well as those who have memorized the books and take umbrage with the filmmakers daring to condense the story down to a manageable cinematic length. Given the number of balls that author J. K. Rowling has given director David Yates to keep in the air, he’s done about as good a job as anyone could have in bringing the story to the screen.
After the recent glut of CGI animated films, it’s rather refreshing that none of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature are computer generated. Two of them, in fact, use the relatively ancient technology of stop motion while the third is a traditional animated film from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. I don’t know if there’s any cosmic significance to the fact that both of the stop motion nominees feature the vocal talents of Helena Bonham Carter, but let’s pretend that there is.
Wallace and Gromit‘s first feature length film is probably the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar, which would make it the animated duo’s third Oscar, having previously taken two for Best Animated Short. Director Nick Park‘s uniquely British and whimsical sense of humor filled the increased length easily.
The visual imagination of Tim Burton is probably unequalled among today’s filmmakers and when he brings it to bear on a project suited to his particular talents, the results are almost always unique and special. Corpse Bride, like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, is an example of Burton playing on his home turf and swinging for the fences.
I dimly remember reading Roald Dahl‘s book as a child but, for the life of me, I can’t recall if I ever saw the 1971 adapatation with Gene Wilder. I almost rented it to watch a few weeks ago but the only copy I could get from Netflix was the original pan-and-scan “full” screen edition. I’m sorry, but if there is one thing that this writer does not abide, it’s the butchering of a film’s original image to fit the confines of a TV screen. Thus the Wilder version will go unreviewed here until I can track down a widescreen copy.