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 guesses 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.
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.
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 personality 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.
Yep, another big movie I didn’t get around to last year. And I call myself a Bond fan. Well here we are then with this latest outing for Daniel Craig as everyone’s favourite British spy. I have certainly liked Craig as Bond for the most part even if the series has not quite lived up to the ‘Bond for a new generation’ hope gained from Casino Royale. Subsequent movies seem for me to have instead slipped back into the more tongue-in-cheek traditions of classic Bond. This is no different, but now you could say I’m getting used to it.
Sam Mendes in perhaps a Bond first returns to the helm directing this after the somewhat downbeat Skyfall, and we’re immediately introduced to Bond on a mission in Mexico following a lead to what may uncover a secret criminal organization. I won’t spoil the details but he’s soon defying MI6 (headed by new ‘M’ Ralph Feinnes after ‘spolier’ Judy Dench’s demise in the last movie) and bedding the women whilst roping in Moneypenny and Q for help. This time it’s all about the mystery man behind the curtain, a villain who may well be Bond’s greatest adversary. It’s no secret that current hot property Christophe Waltz is here as a new take of classic character of Blofeld, and to say he knocks it out of the park is an understatement. Waltz is on brilliantly charismatic / evil form and even though his screen time is limited he elevates this from just another Bond movie into something a bit more special. Mendes’ direction for the most part is attractive and classy, but his more artistic leanings don’t always suit a more action-heavy movie this time around (could that possibly be the least exciting car chase ever committed to screen?). Yet thankfully the plot, which moves fast from one exotic location to the next (Africa, Tangiers, Austria…) leads to a thrilling final act that is up there with the best we’ve seen from this franchise. Daniel Craig again is decent if somewhat chilled and overly serious (perhaps his only real failing) but still looking the part and with a great down-and-dirty train carriage fist fight, he still more than handles himself as 007.
It still has a few too many nods to yesteryear, much of the humour falls flat, and sometimes it gets a bit silly (smart blood?) … but regardless, 007 hasn’t been this good for a while. Nice to have you back on form James.
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