Archive for Harry Potter

So long, Harry!

Posted in Action, Drama, Interesting..., Upcoming Releases with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by judsonw

Like many others of my generation, Harry Potter represents something so much more than a young adult book series or movie franchise. It represents growing up, out of childhood into adulthood and all the pains and joys that go along with it. I read the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when I was 10 years old. I remember where and when I bought it (some old dusty book store right before closing) and how fast I read it (all through Sunday school the next day). I read the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. Now, the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” is being released when I’m 22 years old and fresh out of college! This story has been with me throughout the most important years of my life and I’m going to be a sad mope when the story concludes on July 15th.

While the books are definitely more complete and satisfying than the movies, the films themselves are actually all pretty solid. I’m able to separate both mediums…the books are the books and the films are the films. That being said, the movies are special. What other movie franchise has lasted this long (10 years) with pretty much the same cast throughout? What other movie franchise has captured its three main stars growing up and maturing both as characters and actors before our eyes? None, I tell you! Harry Potter recently passed James Bond as the most financially successful movie franchise of all time and it’s well deserved. The movies are pure cinema and the climatic battle in the final film will be a sight to see.

In preparation for the FINAL representation of the Harry Potter narrative on screen, here are some of my favorite things from the film series.

Best movie

There are things I like about each film and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. The third movie, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” however, is the most well made and marks the series’ turn from a children’s flick into a serious and dark form of artistic filmmaking. Director Alfonso Cuaron completely changed the tone of the series and got the best performances out of the trio. The final 30 minutes or so consists of one of best time travel sequences of all time and is incredibly emotionally resonant.

Best performance

This is a tricky one. Emma Watson is definitely the most talented of the trio but definitely not the strongest of all the actors. I would have to give that honor to none other than Dolores Umbridge herself, Imelda Staunton. Though she appeared in pretty much only one film, “Order of the Phoneix,” Staunton was able to create a character as evil as Voldemort and made you absolutely loathe her. Really though, it seems as if every single great British actor has appeared in these movies.

Best action sequence

Voldemort vs. Dumbledore. Fire dragons and water spheres. Bad ass wizards. Harry trapped physically and emotionally after the death of his godfather. A batshit insane Bellatrix Lestrange. Some incredible CGI. ‘Nuff said.

Most tear inducing scene

It’s pretty amazing that the filmmakers were able to take a character who was pretty much a joke for one film and turn him into the most tragic hero of the series in about 5 minutes of screen time. Dobby’s death on the beach in Harry’s arms is so touching that it had to have made millions of grown men cry. Just thinking of his final words “Dobby is with friends” makes the water works start running.

Best magical creature

Thestrals. Sure, I could chosen the enormous dragon or the loveable hippogriff. But there’s just something so mysterious about these flying skeletal horses that can only be seen by those who’ve seen death.

Best moment

There’s so many to pick from…Harry’s first Patronus, Sirius’s death, Dobby’s triumph, Voldemort’s return. But the most emotionally affected I’ve been during one of these movies occurred during Harry’s first flight on Buckbeak the hippogriff in “Prisoner of Azkaban.” The scene is relatively short but in those few moments, Cuaron managed to recapture my attention to a lukewarm franchise and ignite a fire in my heart. Like ET flying Elliot across the full moon, it’s pure magic.

Even though the story is finally ending on the screen, the story will be sure to live on through every generation of children, teenagers, and adults alike in the future. Here’s hoping for a satisfying conclusion!


The “next” Harry Potter? A look at The Hunger Games as a movie franchise

Posted in Action, Film Industry, Interesting..., Upcoming Releases with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by judsonw

On July 15, the final piece of the Harry Potter saga will unleash itself upon the world. After “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” arguably the most popular and loved series of books will officially end as a narrative (there will of course still be theme parks, online experiences, etc). So what new book series will take its place? The Twlight series may come close to Harry Potter’s rabid fan base, but that movie franchise is also coming to an end next year. And is there really a legitimate comparison between the two anyway?

The “next” Harry Potter franchise that everyone keeps talking about is The Hunger Games. Written by Suzanne Collins, the trilogy of young adult novels is about a post-apocolyptic America that is now called Panem. Panem is separated into 12 “Districts” that all serve the ruling “Capitol.” Each District has its own speciality. For example, District 12 is the coal mining district while District 4 is all about water. Long ago, the Districts held an uprising against the totalitarian Capitol, but eventually failed in their attempted fight for freedom. As punishment for this attempt, the Capitol now requires two “tributes,” one male and one female aged 12-17, to be sacrificed from each District. The tributes are then thrust into something called The Hunger Games, a reality television program where the kids are forced to fight to the death for all of Panem’s viewing pleasure. The Games continue until one tribute remains.

The protagonist of this story is Katniss Everdeen, a tough-as-nails 16 year old girl from District 12. Skilled with a bow and arrow, Katniss spends her days hunting for food so she can keep her mother and younger sister, Prim, alive. Katniss’s nightmare comes true when 12 year old Prim is selected for The Hunger Games. Katniss takes her place, immediately changing the lives of herself and everyone she knows.

The first novel, “The Hunger Games,” is an insanely addictive read. Ultimately a tale of survival, it features strong characters, great world building, and enrapturing action. It is currently being filmed for a March 2012 release. Here are five reasons it should succeed as a movie franchise and five reasons it may fail.

5 reasons it should work:

The cast

If you’ve ever seen “Winter’s Bone,” then you know Jennifer Lawrence can completely transform into a character. Katniss Everdeen is almost the exact same character as the character Lawrence played in that film, minus the bow and arrow. The casting for the main character couldnt have been more perfect. Josh Hutcherson (“The Kids are All Right”) shows some of the most promise of any young actor working today. He will be taking on the role of Peeta, Katniss’s fellow tribute from District 12 and sometime love interest. Woody Harrelson will play Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor for the Games and a former winner. I couldn’t imagine a better person to play a belligerent drunk with a heart of gold (and that’s a compliment!) Rounding off the pitch perfect casting is Elizabeth Banks as the spunky Effie, Lenny Kravitz as Katniss’s stylist Cinna, Stanley Tucci as the Games flamboyant host, and Donald Sutherland as the Capitol’s evil President Snow. If this movie fails, it won’t be because of the lack of talent on board.

The director

The best way to predict if a movie is going to suck or not is to look back at the director’s previous work. Gary Ross has “Pleasantville” and “Sea Biscuit” on his resume. I’m sold.

The fan base

While The Hunger Games’ fans aren’t as widespread or rabid as Harry Potter’s, there’s still a fairly large following out there. Lawrence already made the cover of Entertainment Weekly in her Katniss garb, and more and more people are picking up the book every day. Come March, The Hunger Games may have as many fans as any other young adult book.

It appeals to both sexes

The Hunger Games is in the fortunate situation of doubling as a war and romance story. Katniss is a kick-ass, independent female hero that will be sure to draw in girls of all ages. There’s also a love triangle that is constantly building up underneath the surface between Katniss, Peeta and Katniss’s best friend, Gale. All of this is wrapped up in a testostorone-filled war zone with violent killings and explosions so you better bet that the marketing behind the film will push that to attract the male demographic as well.

No more Harry Potter

After this summer, the Harry Potter book and movie franchise will officially be over. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but there’s always another great story around the corner.

5 reasons it may fail:

The Twilight effect

For some reason The Hunger Games keeps getting compared to that vampire love story adored mostly by tween girls. The two series, however, couldn’t be any less alike. For one, the female main protagonist in The Hunger Games is actually a realisitic human being, not dependent on a man and not annoying as fuck. Katniss is what every young girl should strive to be…Bella is what every young girl should avoid becoming. While there is a romance angle to The Hunger Games, it isn’t as centrally focused as in Twilight. However, the Twilight franchise is currently bringing in the bucks, so sadly the people behind The Hunger Games films might play up the love triangle angle, resulting in an inferior product.

It’s too bleak and violent

At least on the page, The Hunger Games is gruesome, brutal, and sometimes hard to read. Collins is very descriptive in the tributes’ deaths, ranging from an arrow through the neck to beheadings to flying limbs. Mainstream America may just not be ready to accept a blockbuster about kids brutally murdering each other. The film is reportedly going to be rated PG-13, further proving the fact that the MPAA has no problem with kids-on-kids violence, but shudder at the sight of a nipple. Let’s hope for a hard PG-13 similar to “The Dark Knight,” and not a watered down version of the source material.

There’s not really an ending

Each book in The Hunger Games trilogy literally leads right into one another. There is no span of time between each book. If it’s faithful to the novel, the movie will end on a semi-cliffhanger, most likely upsetting many audiences who want more. A similar problem occured with “The Golden Compass,” which pretty much solely acted as set-up for a franchise that never happened.

The Games themselves

The largest, and most exciting, portion of the first book is the actual televised death match that Katniss tries to survive. During these Games, however, Katniss is mostly by herself, alone with her thoughts. Translating that to the screen will be difficult as her inner conflict over killing innocent people and trying to decide whether to trust Peeta make the book so hard to put down.

No more Harry Potter

As much as I love The Hunger Games, it doesn’t come close to the epicness of the story of the boy who lived. The final installment of the Harry Potter screen version may (hopefully) be so satisfying that audiences wont want another potential book adaptation movie franchise thrown in their face. Everything may just pale in comparison.

We’ll see what happens come March.