17 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry P & the O of the P

So, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book to date to be made into a movie, and yet the shortest movie to be made to date. Does that not sound weird? Well, the fifth book was kind of slow and boring, but it was a solid book, and better than four in my opinion. But when it comes to the movies, Goblet of Fire is far superior to Order of the Phoenix. The main reason being, Order does not focus on school. There is no Quidditch. There are hardly any classes. The OWL tests make a cameo. Luna Lovegood is played down to almost not existing at all. The only thing focused on was the DA and Voldemort’s return. The one thing I do give this series kudos for is that they get the cast back for each film. None of the main characters have changed, except for the obvious replacement of Richard Harris with Michael Gambon following his death.

The movie opens with Harry sitting on a playset and Dudley coming over to give him crap. Well, Dementors intervene and Harry is forced to save himself and Dudley by use of magic. This puts the Ministry of Magic on Harry’s case for underage use of magic. Dumbledore comes to his rescue and he goes free. It is important to note that at this time, the Ministry does not believe that Voldemort has returned.

Harry is then taken to 12 Grimuld Place, the home base for the Order of the Phoenix and the home of his Godfather Sirius Black. The Order was formed to fight the Dark Lord when he was in power the first time. His parents and Nevell’s parents were some of the early casualties the Order suffered. In the house, we get out first look at Kreacher the House Elf.

So, on to Hogwart’s we go. Harry first sees the XXXX pulling the carriages and is told that you cannot see them until you see death. Then, Dumbledore introduces Professor Umbrige, then new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She is played by series newcomer Imelda Staunton. After this, first time director Yates and company start chopping the story up. Ginny and Ron do not have their moment on the Quidditch pitch. Cho and Harry have little to do with each other. The whole movie focuses on Dumbledore’s Army which is formed when Umbrige decides, with the backing of the Ministry, to not teach the students defense, but rather theory.

The climax scene in the movie takes place in the Ministry of Magic as Harry and the members of the DA are trying to find the prophecy that tells of him and Voldemort’s connection. This scene is done very well visually. It follows the book better than any other scene in the movie, but is sadly not as emotional. From here, the Order shows up to help fight the Death Eaters that have come to find the same prophecy. The first major death of the series takes place at this point. Finally, Voldemort makes his appearance and the whole wizarding world now know that he has returned.

Bottom line, it was not the best adaptation at all. It cuts the fat and only goes with what is important to the rest of the series. I find this odd because I like the books because they have all the little nuances going on in the background. SPEW never makes an appearance in the movies at all. And poor Dobby has not returned since being freed in the second film. Last thought, whose idea was it to release the book after the movie? This greatly killed the legs of this film. It would have easily made over $300 million if the entire audience was not at home shut in reading the final book. The repeat attendance had to be down. Stupid idea. Anyway, the movie is worth seeing in theaters if you are a fan of the franchise. If you are not, I do not know what you would be doing seeing this movie. Just beware purists, that it is not a faithful adaptation.

09 July 2007

Transformers

Transforms My Opinion of Michael Bay

When Michael Bay was announced as the director of the big screen adaptation of the toy line Transformers, my first reaction was, well, the action will be good. I was not wrong. Where I was wrong, however, was on the story. It was very impressive. I was worried that the story would be soft, weak, sub-par and insulting to my intelligence and my love for the toys when I was a child, or now, I mean……

The movie opens with Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, the leader of the Auto-Bots, telling the story of the Transformers home planet. Telling of how they were greedy and destroyed their own home planet. They then lost the source of power to create a new world, a cube. Megatron, leader of Decepticons, followed the cube to a new planet, but was not heard from again. Any guesses to what planet that was? That’s right, Earth.

Well, Shia LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, the main human star of this epic action film. He ends up being the grandson of the one person who has seen Megatron. It just so happens that his antique glasses are the key for finding the cube and stopping the destruction that is sure to come. Now, poor Sam is selling his grandfather’s antiques to make money to purchase his first car. When he finally has enough, he and his father go purchase a car that mysteriously chooses him. It is an old Camero, that turns out to be Auto-Bot Bumblebee. Some humor for those of us old enough to know the original cartoon, Bumblebee was a yellow VW Bug and in the scene, the car salesman, Bernie Mac, tries to sell the Witwicky’s a yellow VW Bug next to the Camero. So, Sam leaves with his Camero.

On the side of the globe, US forces are attacked by a couple of Decepticons. The Decipticons also hack into the government mainframe in search of Project: Iceman. This leads the US Government to believe that some flagged hackers can help solve who is behind this.

Back in the US, Sam tries to pick up Mikaela Banes, played by Megan Fox, by impressing her with his car. It sort of works out for him. That night, Sam discovers the secret of his car, and this happens to also be the first time we see a Transformer battle. Bumblebee then transforms into the new Camero after being made fun of for his beat-up appearance. From this point on, there is more action than you can shake a stick at. The visuals are beyond words and mind-blowing. In the end, it all goes down in the dessert outside of Hoover Dam.

The cameos and small roles list is long. They include Jon Voight, Anthony Anderson, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, and more. They even have a few recognizable names voicing the robots. I am not a big fan of Michael Bay films. Though, my favorite movie, The Rock, was directed by him. I hope that does not hurt my credibility too much. I was very impressed with the overall movie. So much in fact, that I am hoping that they make a sequel. See this in theaters if you want to see this movie. The rumors are that it will be re-released in IMAX. I’ll be there.

03 July 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Keep on Dying Hard

This past weekend, I was able to talk The Wife into watching Live Free or Die Hard. It was a similar circumstance as Rocky Balboa. She is a huge Bruce Willis fan, but she has never seen any of the Die Hard movies. This was mind blowing to me. How can you be a fan and not see the movie that made him a star?!?! Anyway, we watched the first and then went for the fourth. Of course, I have seen all three at least 5 times each.

I had to be as skeptical as the next guy going to see this movie. I had “higher” hopes for this film. I wanted to see this movie in the worst way. I have not seen a really good action movie in a long time. Needless to say, I was not let down.

We get our first glimpse of our “hero” stalking his daughter’s dorm where her boyfriend is. This creates a great controversy for McClane, since his daughter, series newcomer Mary Elizabeth Winstead, uses Genero as her last name. After this conflict, McClane gets a call to go pick up computer hacker Matthew Farrell, played by Justin Long. Matt survives an attack on his life, which other hackers do not after helping a mysterious lady break into the government agency websites.

When McClane gets Matt to his destination, the Capitol is under attack, but not with explosions and guns, but through their computer systems. Matt recognizes the attacks as a “Fire Sale” in which the power, water, and other major utilities are shut down, putting the nation in panic.

After some deduction and help, they identify the mastermind as Thomas Gabriel. Timothy Olyphant joins an elite group of actors as Die Hard villains. He portrays an evil like no other. He is a techno-evil.

The rest of the movie follows John McClane and Matthew as they track down and try to put a stop to Gabriel’s plan. This involves many explosions and action sequences that are both mind-blowing and mind-numbing. They only one I could not make myself stomach involved a Harrier-type jet and the interstate. Look for Kevin Smith to make a hilarious appearance as “Warlock,” and Cyril Raphealli as a henchman from hell. He is a little known actor from Kiss of the Dragon and District B-13.

In the end, I did not feel the PG-13 rating until McClane utters his “Yipp-Ki-Yi-Ya” line without the final syllables. However, during this line of dialog, Det. McClane redefines the meaning of the word “badass.” Verdict: Worth the money all the way. If they can maintain this caliber of action and story, I would not mind seeing another one.