A-Z challenge – update 2


Well I’ve reached letter L, so that means six more movies under my belt. As you’ll be aware for F I went with Alfred Hitchcock forgotten classic ‘Frenzy’, and then for G I gave the original Swedish version of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ another watch. Damn, that’s a great story with a stand out performance from Noomi Rapace, and yes I must watch that new Dragon Tattoo movie that came out recently with Claire Foy in the lead role. Next up was H where I went with a Harry Potter movie as previously reviewed, which was er… ok. Following this for I was the brilliantly mind boggling ‘Interstellar’ from Christopher Nolan, an intricate sci-fi movie that remains a real tear-jerker for me (that scene with Matthew McConaughey watching the video messages!). Then we came to J which was the blockbuster classic and still a favourite, ‘Jurassic Park’. That music! That T-Rex attack! Still so effective.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

I’ve just now for K finished watching ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ a movie from writer/director Shane Black starring Robert Downey Jr that’s very much like Black’s other murder/mystery action comedy The Nice Guys, and whilst it’s not the easiest movie to follow plot-wise … the dialogue, likeable characters (including a super-sexy Michelle Monaghan) still made for a great time.

I have a working list I’m picking from and some titles on that list are getting swapped in and out, and yes that June 30 end date is nearing ever closer so I really need to get moving. I’ll of course, report back again soon.

Craig.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Viewed – 16 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

I had put the Harry Potter franchise on hold for a while now but having reached ‘H’ in my A-Z challenge I thought it was a good idea to pick up where I left off. This fifth entry in the celebrated saga has Harry returning to Hogwarts and facing a backlash following his involvement in Voldemort’s apparent return and the death of Cedric. With suspicion surrounding him and school headmaster Dumbledore, a new professor is brought on who proves a bit of a tyrant. However a secret society turns to Harry to investigate Voldemort’s plans and hopefully prevent a war.

The world of Harry Potter is again enchanting and imaginative. This entry reunites us with many likeable characters including Ron Weasley, Hermione and Hagrid. Imelda Staunton is also fun as villainous professor Delores Umbridge … however, the plot spends far too much time with this character wrecking havoc at the school and less on the Voldemort plot, leading to a deja-vu showdown against the dark lord that we’ve pretty much had in various guises for five movies now. Despite the stakes raising each time, it’s on a whole a concept that feels stretched out and repetitive. With that said, production values, atmosphere and effects work are all still great, and that showdown familiar as it is, is pretty bad-ass.

Radcliffe is on a whole, likeable but far from a gifted actor (even at this stage), his line-delivery particularly lacking emotional weight. Co-stars fair better, especially Emma Watson and Michael Gambon. However like most of the movies thus far in this franchise, there’s little that propels the story forward and is bogged down in unnecessary world building and throw-away side plots. I like this world and these characters quite a bit, but whilst this entry was indeed fun in places it was also quite underwhelming.

Verdict: Good

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


Viewed – 25 February 2017  Blu-ray

As we come to this fourth entry in the popular saga, we’re pretty familiar and comfortable with the cast as we watch them grow up before our eyes.  This time around a Quidditch World Championship introduces proceedings and it’s here we see the world that J K Rowling has created open up as we’re introduced to several rival schools and a few new characters.  Add to this a prestigious Triwizard tournament that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) gets unwittingly thrown into and we have a rather eventful entry.

Goblet of Fire

Along the way there’s some rather luke-warm melodrama, with a spat between Harry and best friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) feeling forced and some romantic stuff with Hermoine (Emma Watson) that moves away from what seemed to be a blossoming romance with Ron previously.  However the several trials of the Triwizard tournament are exciting, with a brilliant dragon encounter as well as a tense underwater sequence.  Yet once we realise there’s a return of an old enemy on the cards, it becomes clear this is more of an in-between movie readying up for bigger things (hopefully).  Performances across the board vary in quality, with Radcliffe not really developing much more Brendan Gleesonpersonality as these movies progress.  Rupert Grint’s Ron is also a bit more mopey and less fun than previous.  Robbie Coltrane is disappointingly side-lined this time but this is made up for by an enjoyable Brendan Gleeson and snarling David Tennant.  Less said about Robert (Twilight) Pattinson’s appearance the better though.

This was all still entertaining, and that final act is wonderfully tense and surprisingly scary.  Production values throughout are also impressive.  However a rather stretched out, unfocused story lets the side down and isn’t helped by poor character moments that fail to be all that compelling.  I have a feeling though from here on out it’s going to get pretty dramatic.

Verdict:  3 /5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Viewed – 06 January 2016  Blu-ray

I was a little apprehensive going into this third instalment after not really liking The Chamber of Secrets.  However this time around we’re presented with a more fully realised narrative that thankfully isn’t borrowing too much from earlier movies and has it’s own thing going on.  Harry continues to be mistreated by his uncle and aunt and chooses to run away from home one night until an enchanted (triple) decker bus arrives to whisk him back to Hogwarts.  Harry soon learns that a dangerous former wizard and convicted killer has escaped from the prison of Azkaban and is rumoured to be heading to the wizarding school.

harry-potter-hermione-prisoner-of-azkaban

Like the first movie, there’s a clear atmosphere of magic and wonder at play and here the world feels like it’s really opening up and developing it’s ideas.  Add a great cast now including David Thewlis as a newly appointed professor and again great turns from Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith and I was quickly put at ease.  The backdrop of the escaped prisoner as well as some spectral demons called in to help protect the school created a welcome sense of dread.  Daniel Radcliffe this time around seemed strangely laid back for the first half of the movie, not reacting all that convincingly to a series of you’d think scary and alarming encounters … but he comes out of his shell eventually.   A nicer surprise was a stronger focus on Emma Watson’s Hermione who is now more confident, less arrogant, and Rupert Grint’s Ron continues to be great fun.  Yet I’m still not that interested in pantomime bully Draco Malfoy despite Tom Felton growing more into his role.

Aesthetically gorgeous throughout with much more stylish cinematography and a greater emphasis on actual learning to be a wizard, lessons etc. and some fun ideas including a magical map and a griffin bird creature … made this entertaining from beginning to end.  The final act is also superb with some inventive twists.  Gary Oldman’s Sirious Black is decent and despite being recast, Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore may possibly be even better than the late Richard Harris.  On this evidence, what comes next is going to have it’s work cut out to top this one. 

Verdict:  4 /5

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Viewed – 27 December 2016  Blu-ray

Young student-wizard Harry Potter finds his imminent second term at Hogwarts overshadowed by the news that a horrible scheme is afoot, when an Elf tries to prevent him attending school.  However despite the continued reluctance of his mean aunt and uncle, Harry is quickly rescued by best friend Ron Weasley.  Yet upon arrival at Hogwarts a series of strange goings on revolving around a mysterious ‘chamber of secrets’ has everyone on edge and fearing an old evil has returned.

Harry Ron and Hermione

This second outing of the fantasy franchise finds Daniel Radcliffe and co settling into their roles with what appears to be a bit more confidence to their performances (with an improved Emma Watson).  The who-dunnit plot is at first intriguing but plods along rather slowly, making unnecessary room for various disposable sequences.  The plot here seems somewhat padded out, like the movie was struggling for material and tries to over-complicate a simple storyline just to extend the running time.  Also compared to the sheer magical ‘wonder’ and energy of The Philosopher’s Stone, the budget here felt rolled back with some god-awful green-screen (Qwiditch) and considerably less flair to the cinematography.  Also unlike the last movie this world is now established, so I was hoping for a gripping narrative, which despite best efforts, the movie failed to deliver, even ushering in some blatant deja-vu in the final act.

With that said we get a fun appearance from Kenneth Branagh and performances across the board are all decent (with a stand-out Rupert Grint as Ron).  The opening flying car sequence, a brief wizard-off and a chase involving an army of spiders were good fun too.  I like these characters and the world they inhabit, but for me this second instalment felt like a concept running out of ideas when it has only just begun.  Here’s hoping what follows is an improvement or I may not make it all the way to the end!

Verdict:  2.5 /5