By Chris Campo
I have finally arrived at Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth movie in the Harry Potter franchise. This means I only have two more films left until I have officially lost my Harry Potter virginity, until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them of course, which is due out later this very month. It's no secret that I have enjoyed myself watching Harry and co. grow up and go to school, and to be quite honest, I'm sad that I'm almost done. I even took a few weeks in between this movie and the last, just because I genuinely didn't want to have no more Harry Potter to watch. But like Harry (and because Fantastic Beasts is SO close), I faced my problems head on and watched the penultimate Harry Potter film. Penultimate, if you count the last two films as one, of course, but without further to do, on with the review.
In this film, a far more adult and mature Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is brought upon my Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to recruit Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to teach at Hogwarts. It just so happens that Professor Horace has key information on Voldemort's past, and Dumbledore uses Harry to get this information, as he believes the secrets Horace is hiding can be the key to defeating Voldemort. Additionally, Harry, Ron & Hermione (Rupert Grint & Emma Watson) face they're own troubles at Hogwarts, such as love triangles, school dances, jealousy and a mysterious book with the words "Property of the Half-Blood Prince" written in it.
The best way I can describe this movie may come off as painfully obvious, but let me say it anyways: This is another Harry Potter film. I say that because, for a long stretch of this film, it does little to differentiate itself from the other five films that came before it. I don't mean this in an overly negative way, though. This film is like a pizza. Sure, it's good, but you've had pizza before. Nothing is all that new, but nothing is really bad either. This doesn't prove to be true for the entirety of the film, especially the wonderful third act, but after watching six films without much time between them, you start to notice the film going through the motions.
I have praised this series for it's dynamic and well realized characters, and that praise is once again applicable here. What we have come to know and love about these characters is still very present, but the film dives deeper into the motivations of characters and the relationships that have been forming this whole time. When you're six films into a series and are still seeing characters grow, you've done your job. I like that this film puts action and big set pieces in the passenger seat and let this film's narrative unfold with the characters at the wheel. The film really constructs a rather sweet dynamic between Harry and Dumbledore, causing for emotional moments towards the third act, moments that left my heart properly broken. Another relationship we see grow is the quirky one of Ron and Hermione. We've been left a bread trail of clues that they have a thing for one another and here it's no secret. It's a cute secondary plot that delighted me with how surprisingly relatable and real it was.
Even though this film is one of the more mature stories being told in this saga, the film knocks it out of the park with comedy. This, by far, has some of the most laugh out loud moments in it. I had to pause the film because I was laughing when Harry gave his best spider impersonation. As per usual, Ron is on the receiving end of some of the funniest gags as well, like an extended sequence where he has unknowingly ingested a strong love potion. The writing in general is just so damn witty. and if this film were nothing but characters sitting in a room talking, I'm sure I would be just as engaged due to the humor and charm injected into the dialogue.
Like I've mentioned, the third act of this film is great. There's no other way of putting it. A pattern I have caught onto is that the finale of these films are, for the most part, my favorite parts of them. Here, we get an ending that's emotional (to say the least), revealing, intense as all hell, acted to perfection and oddly warm, particularly in the film's closing minutes. Unfortunately, I have had some big moments spoiled for me, but with internet culture these days, it's my fault for not watching these films when they came out. Even with having the knowledge of certain events that were to come, I was still on the edge of my seat and my heart was still racing. Hats off to the director, David Yates, for creating such an intense and harrowing scene.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is another Harry Potter film. As the other films are a joy to watch, more of the same may not come off as a bad thing, but it's hard not to notice. After getting passed that, this is still a fun, emotional, and, for lack of a better word, magical film. Words cant describe how exited and at the same time reluctant I am to wrap this film series up and cross it off my film bucket list. Please, stay tuned for my review of the Deathly Hallow films, because they will, obviously, be my last reviews in the Wizarding World.
3 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I am now officially over half-way through my first viewing of the Harry Potter saga. I love this series already. They're the type of films that, if I saw them at a younger age, I feel as though they would've stuck with me, and meant a lot, however I am still sad that I only have three more films to watch. I mean, I'm happy that there's still nearly six hours left in the Wizarding World, but hopefully you get my point. It's because of these films that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out this November, is now one of my most anticipated films for the rest of the year. I hope you have been following along as I review these films after watching them for the very first time, because here are my thoughts on the fifth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Upon returning to Hogwarts for his fifth year, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is met with backlash from friends, faculty and other members of the Wizarding World, who don't believe him when he says The Dark Lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. The Order of the Phoenix appoints professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, to keep the kids of Hogwarts, especially Harry, in check and to keep him from spreading the rumor of Voldemort. Eager to stand up and let the truth be known, Harry forms a rebellion alongside Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), not only to stand against the new school rules put in place by Umbridge, but to fight off Voldemort's army, who Harry believes is coming.
I may have not liked this film as much as the previous two, but there's nothing noticeably flawed with it. It's a good film that had the daunting task of following two amazing films, although it is better than Chamber of Secrets, my least favorite Potter film so far, and I didn't even really dislike that one. I enjoyed my time with this film, but it's not the best of the series. This is also the first Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, who is the final director to join the series, directing the next three films and the upcoming prequel. Yates has a fitting visual style here that feels like an updated approach to Chris Columbus' style with the first two films. It's very distinctive, trying to do a lot of new things for the franchise, and I'm excited to see Yates perfect his craft over the next three films.
The film faults the most for me in two aspects, pacing and length. Now, this is the second shortest Harry Potter film, so I'm not here to complain that it's too long. Surprisingly enough, I wish this film had an extra fifteen minutes or so. A lot of plot points are either brushed over in a montage or come to what feels like a full stop, only to be picked back up later. The film's plot doesn't come together as seamlessly as it did in previous films, which is funny, because so far, this is probably the most straight forward of the Harry Potter films. This also leads to pacing issues, the first and second act being far too slow. The film opens with a short action set piece, and there's not a single action scene I remember until the finale. I'm not saying all movies need action in order for them to be enjoyable, I'm just saying the lack of excitement was more noticeable due to the pacing issues.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about my favorite aspect of the film - Voldemort. He's not a scene stealing antagonist here, he's actually barley in the film, but the film does a great job at making you stay aware of his presence throughout. Voldemort is so damn interesting, and we learn a lot about him here. There's also some pretty spooky imagery with him, especially when Harry has his nightmares about him. This film isn't the first time we meet Ralph Fiennes' Voldemort, but this is when I truly understood his motives and his relationship with Harry. I was right in my review for Goblet of Fire when I mentioned the ending was a turning point in the saga's overall story, and I am giddy to witness Voldemort in full effect in remaining films.
Unlike the other films, The Order of the Phoenix has a much more consistent tone. It's mostly a serious, dark film with little humour but it's a welcome change, allowing us to see these characters at their darkest moments. Dumbledore is a much more rounded and realised character here, and we get to see him be a badass for the first time, and it's very satisfying and definitely a highlight of the film. Harry is seen here like never before. He feels like he's grown up at a lightning fast rate, with students looking up to him as a teacher in his own rights. Harry discovers new secrets about himself in this film, some alarming and some genuinely heartwarming. I got emotional twice by short monologues Harry had, he is easily becoming one of my favorite movie heroes.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an ever so slight step down in quality from the previous films. Pacing issues aside, it's a fun, if not darker film that has a kick ass villain and a hero you see grow as a person before your very eyes. I continue to be charmed by this series. I hope you guys are enjoying these reviews as much as I am, and if you are, please join me soon for my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
3 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
And we have made our way to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth Harry Potter film in my series of reviews leading up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which hits cinemas in just a few weeks. I have had a blast so far experiencing these films for the first time. Sure, the second one may have not wowed me, but the third one sure as hell did. I didn't know what to expect going into The Goblet of Fire, especially now that there's a new director, Mike Newell, and the third film is something pretty hard to top. But I still pressed play on the Blu-Ray very hopeful... and I was very surprised...
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for a change, doesn't begin with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) at his Aunt and Uncle's house before leaving for Hogwarts. Instead, we open with a dream of Harry's, featuring an unspeakable evil one cannot imagine will ever be of any relevance to the plot (but, maybe it is), but once Harry does get to Hogwarts, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) announces that Hogwarts will be the home of Triwizard Tournament, and that three champions will be selected to participate using the goblet of fire. Through a series of mysterious events, Harry Potter is selected to compete, despite being underage, and while this is all going on, Harry and his two best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must also face the extremely daunting task of asking out someone for the approaching Yule Ball.
This film is currently tied with Prisoner of Azkaban as my favourite in the series. It plays out very differently from the last movies, taking on a new structure that's oddly similarly to a young adult novel such as the Hunger Games, only better. New comer Mike Newell may not bring as much captivating style as Alfonso Cuaron did, but he juggles shifts in tone and story just as well. I'm not trying to say that this film has no style, it certainly does and it pops off the screen, it's just not as stylistic. Goblet of Fire also features the tightest screenplay in the franchise thus far. The story is fun, challenging, and paced very well, and I was welling up with tears towards the final act, which is the first time so far in this franchise.
The scene that made me tear up was something that I feel was being worked towards over the past films, and it earns it. For the first time, the saga has reached a significant turning point. It is in the final act, so I won't spoil it, but it was easily the most satisfying moment this series has seen yet. It's not the only thing in the film that works, though. I also found myself very intrigued by both the Triwizard and the Yule ball plots. The Triwizard Tournament offered some absolutely thrilling action sequences, and the Yule Ball offered some of the funniest sequences. I was a little worried both these aspects would be too young adult-esque, but they both fit in with the story and offer a lot to the film.
The performances here are still excellent, the main three are as loveable as ever and are oozing with charm. They are truly the perfect cast for these movies. Side characters also get more to do, which was nice to see, but some were sidelined, and for the better. This is the first time where Draco Malfoy doesn't have a whole lot to do, yet it was a nice change of pace. Newcomers also shine with an unexpected appearance from Twilight's Robert Pattinson as Cedrick Diggory. He offered a lot, even though he doesn't shine as bright as someone like, say, Daniel Radcliffe. We're introduced to yet another new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor in Alastor Moody, and I found my elf, for the most part, enjoying this character, and especially his design.
As for flaws, there's only really two, so this should be quick. Early on in the film it is established that Ron has some sort of grudge against Harry for being picked in the Triwizard Tournament. It's very abrupt and isn't really expanded upon, with Ron suddenly becoming all pissy, and I didn't quite buy it. Plus, the issue is resolved very shortly after, so it feels pointless. Another flaw is late into the finale of the film, where there's a last minute reveal or plot twist. That itself is not a flaw, but I feel it was way too similar of a twist to the previous movies, and it shouldn't surprise anyone. Halfway through the film I guessed what it was. That disappointed me a little.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire just may be the best Harry Potter so far, but I'm not confident enough to go that far just yet. It has laughs, tears and incredible action scenes, and like always, I'm looking forward to the next film. I'm halfway done with the series so I'm expecting nothing but the best from here on out, and please keep a lookout here on Directors Cut Movies so you don't miss our review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
4 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
So I have been very surprised by the Harry Potter saga thus far. The first one legitimately blew me away, and even though I thought The Chamber of Secrets was a lesser sequel, I was still hopeful for the future of the franchise. This film is not directed by Chris Columbus, the director of the of the first two films. New blood has been brought to this franchise in the form of Alfonso Cuaron, who you may know as the man who brought us 2013's Gravity. Can a new director step up to the plate? Or will Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban be a disappointment? No spell is going to make me tell you, so you might as well continue reading.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban begins similar to the last two. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is living with his Aunt (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle (Richard Griffiths), however this time they're being visited by his Uncle's nasty sister, Marge (Pam Ferris). Harry, however, is done putting up with them, and for the first time in his life he fights fire with fire, right before leaving for Hogwarts for the year. Upon leaving, he, of course, meets up with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), and while on the express, Harry is informed about a murderer on the loose named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who just may be responsible for his parent's deaths. The man recently escaped from Azkaban Prison, one of the hardest prisons to escape from, and is on the hunt for Harry, who vows to do whatever it takes, including fend off the horrifying Dementors surrounding Hogwarts, to defeat Sirius Black.
This is, without a doubt, the best of the series thus far. This is where I feel the series realized it's more than just a fun film series, and put some real effort and talent into it. Alfonso Cuaron blew me away with his work. From literally the opening shot I knew this was going to be different than the previous two. It's a more mature look into the Wizarding World, but never once loses the sense of awe and fun of the series. Every aspect of the filmmaking blew me away, and every shot could be a painting. I am sad that this is Cuaron's only Harry Potter film, but I am excited to see how future films will compare to this on a filmmaking aspect. I am scratching my head, wondering if there will be a better looking film in this series.
In terms of tone, The Prisoner of Azkaban nails it. It's by far the darkest of the first three. and yet it's also the funniest. This film gets scary. No, seriously. The first time we meet the dementors was a chilling, highly suspenseful sequence. Every time those damn things are on screen I was rather unsettled. This film isn't The Conjuring, so it won't cause nightmares, but it is nice that they cheapen the film with non-threatening monsters. I laughed more in this one than in the other two films combined. It's just funny, there's nothing else to really say, especially Ron, who stood out here far more than in the other films. The style on display is so fine tuned and it really sets itself apart from the earlier movies. It also changes the structure up, making it something other than just the same film over and over, much like Chamber of Secrets (and it's 20 minutes shorter).
The story here feels personal, Harry growing as a character, and so does everyone else. This is the first time I was wow'd by Alan Rickman's Professor Snape, and warmed by Dumbledore, who's been replaced by Michael Gambon. Every character seems to serve a purpose, and that's something I really appreciate. I especially liked how our heroes stood up to their bullies, like in a few cheer worthy moments where Draco gets humiliated. The main story with the titular Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black, worked as well. Gary Oldman not only gave a wonderful performance as Black, but he was also a great character with a lot of layers. There is something introduced in the third act that felt like it came out of left field, but it sets up the final set piece, which was a wonderful sequence and ended the film on a high note. That one aspect that I wont spoil still felt a bit forced, though.
Speaking of that final sequence, the action in general is very well filmed. From the scene on the Bus early on to the very exciting Quidditch sequence, the action looks phenomenal and is just a ton of fun. And there's a lot of it, so the run time goes by in the blink of an eye. The special effects, as well, continue to improve. They're not perfect, but there are times where they look like they're from a modern day movie. But that Quidditch scene I mentioned looks leaps and bounds better than in the previous two. This film is just a joy to look at, and I may sound like a broken record, but I don't care. It's cinematic eye candy, and I loved it. There's a sequence in a hallway that just consists of two people talking, but it's shot in such a cool way, gripping me as thought it was an action scene or something just as big and grand.
Overall, this is my favorite Harry Potter film so far. It changed the structure and style of the previous films and stands out as not only a great sequel, but a great film in general. It looks amazing and the story is the most personal and fun yet. I am so excited to see where the series takes me next, although I'm slightly disheartened that Alfonso Cuaron won't return to the director's chair. I can't wait to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
4 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second Harry Potter film, and to continue our series of Harry Potter reviews leading up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them later this year, I watched it for the first time. I was incredibly excited about seeing this film, as I loved my first experience with Harry Potter in the last film. I put in the Blu-ray with a big goofy smile on my face, eagerly awaiting my return to Hogwarts. And how was my time at the Wizarding World? Well, continue reading to find out, but I will say that I am even more excited to watch the next film than ever before.
The second Harry Potter film picks up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) back with his awful Aunt and Uncle, counting down the days until he returns to Hogwarts, or until he hears from his dear friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). While held up in his room being neglected by his muggle family, he is visited by a small, eccentric house elf named Dobby (Toby Jones), who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts. Harry, ignoring the warnings, returns to the Wizarding World only to discover that there are many threats he must face, as well as an ominous voice in Harry's head. It's now up to Harry and his two friends to protect the people of Hogwarts they love (and some they don't) from the danger's that lie in the so-called Chamber of Secrets.
Let me break the news suddenly... I was disappointed by this film. It just has a lot of problems, and while it is in no way considered a bad movie in my book, something just felt off while watching it. I am, however, still absolutely incredibly excited for the third film, which I'll be watching soon, mostly because director Chris Columbus doesn't return to the directors chair. Now, Columbus is not a bad director, he's a rather good one, but I am excited for fresh blood in this franchise. Speaking of blood, this film is rather dark compared to the first, and that was a welcome change, but the problem with this film is that in terms of structure, it's far too similar to the first film.
I was quite uninterested for the majority of the first act. The first hour or so is almost beat for beat the first film. Harry get's rescued from his Aunt and Uncle's house, Harry goes to Diagon Alley, Harry goes to Hogwarts, and there's even a very similar, If not much better looking, match of Quidditch. Now, don't get me wrong, there was plenty of cute and memorable moments sprinkled throughout, but the similar structure took away some of the wonder I experienced during the first film. Even though I think the third act is by far the best part of this film, that too feels pretty similar to the finale of the first. One benefit of the film's structure is that the plot can be explored much earlier on, there's not as much setup as the first film. The Chamber of Secrets is mentioned very early on and that makes for a very mysterious threat over the course of the film's running time.
And what a running time that is. Clocking in at over 2 hours and 40 minutes, this is the longest Harry Potter film of the bunch, and my god was it noticeable. The film's pacing is off. While familiar, the first act moves pretty fast, and the third act also moves at a fun, comfortable pace, but the film's full of stretched out scenes that didn't do a great job at keeping my attention, causing it to get boring. Not overall, but just in certain scenes. I can't confirm, as I have not read the books, but I have read the cause of this issue is due to the fact that this film is overly loyal to the source material, including most of the content that is in the books. That may excite Harry Potter purists, although for someone like myself who is watching these for the first time as films, it can often feel like a chore.
Okay, I have been way too negative, so lets change that. This film still has amazing, and I mean AMAZING characters. From the main trio to the wonderful supporting characters, every character here feels even more real than in previous films. I want to mention a few characters in particular, starting off with Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). He was a little brat in the first film, and that certainly doesn't change here, but I found him much more interesting in the sequel. He's just a kid so he's not too much of a threat yet, but with what they seem to be setting up with him, and his family, I can't wait. Another character that surprised me was Dobby. When you first meet him, he's a bit annoying (JACK NOTE: how dare you, Chirs), but he absolutely grows on you. There's a scene with him in the closing minutes that is probably my favorite scene in this whole film.
Another thing I want to mention, and this will be quick, is the special effects. While the sets and the makeup work are still astonishing, the filmmakers truly pulled no punches with improving the film's CGI work. The action scenes in this film are much better than in its predecessor, and that's because of the new and improved special effects. In the third act of the film, there's an enthralling battle with a serpent and it looks way ahead of it's time. Also ahead of it's time is Dobby. Dobby is a fully CGI character and he works. It's not to far off from more modern films that feature full CGI characters. Needless to say that the film was visually a treat.
Overall, this second Harry Potter film didn't wow me like the first film, but because I know that the franchise is heading in a new direction with a new director, I still am craving the future films. This film is by no means awful, it just has a few kinks a little time in the editing room would have sorted out. This world is still magical and amazing. I continue to be mad at myself over the fact that I had not seen these films sooner. With that all said, I can now look forward to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and you can look forward to our review next weekend.
By Chris Campo
There are few things more globally iconic than the Harry Potter franchise. I hear about Harry Potter often in my everyday life, even when the franchise isn't particularly relevant at that point in time. You would think someone like myself would have seen these films or read the books, right? Wrong. But with the prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out this November, I figured there's no better time for me to visit Hogwarts for the very first time. Yes, there will be a review for all eight films, but obviously we must begin with the first, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. (Or the Sorcerer's Stone for us in America).
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tells the magical tale of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) who, after eleven years of living with his neglectful Aunt and Uncle, is invited to Hogwarts after learning that he is a wizard. There, Potter not only quickly makes friends with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), but learns he has a famous past and is a celebrity among Hogwarts as The Boy Who Lived. Harry and company soon discover dark secrets hidden behind every corner of Hogwarts, and it's up to the three young wizards to put a stop to the lurking evil that's after the Philosophers Stone, all while dealing with bullies, school and other charming obstacles.
So I finally found out what I have been missing all my life and... I loved this film. Oh so very much. It's just so damn charming and much easier to follow than I anticipated. It's a delightful watch and I am mad at myself that I waited until my late teens to watch this film, seven year old me would have loved it. Every character is unique and memorable, every action scene is fun, and Chris Columbus found a real sense of wonder in his direction. Very little of this film doesn't work. I had a grin on my face from scene to scene all the way up until the ending. I am now anticipating the seven sequels very much so, and like most kids I imagine, damn, I really want Hogwarts to be real.
What surprised me the most are the characters and the performers bringing them to life. Harry feels so real, and the discovery of his past and his powers feels very natural. He's just too damn likeable. I was worried, knowing how young the cast is here, but they all nail it. Sure, there's the awkward line here and there, but that is an easily forgivable fault. My favourite character, other than Harry, is easily Hagrid, portrayed by Robbie Coltrane. He's just so loveable, and the goofy father figure is a great contrast to the kids. You just want to give him a big hug. Characters are for sure a highlight of this movie and I can't wait to see them grow and be introduced to new ones down the line.
Another huge plus is the world building and lore. There's so many hints and mentions of what's to come and it just gets me all the more excited. Mentioning certain aspects left me in a state of wonder, wondering how the films will expand upon them. And like the best of franchises, the world here feels lived in. The creatures and animals and traditions all feel real. The only problem that comes from this is that there are quite a few scenes of nothing but exposition. Exposition is fine and all, but when there is so much of it, the running time is stretched and stretched. This film is very long and, for what's essentially a children's film, the run time is a bit of a distraction. The titular Philosophers Stone isn't even mentioned until over halfway through the film.
I do understand that the film was released in 2001, but I still want to mention the special effects. First though, wow, the practical effects/sets in this film are mind blowing. This only helps Hogwarts feel all the more real. But as for the CGI... The computer effects are very hit or miss. Some effects look way ahead of their time, like the snake in the beginning or the giant three headed dog, but other scenes, like the Quidditch match about half way through, look god awful, even for the time. Fully CGI bodies was an idea that was too ambitious, and I think that it caused the film to age like hell, at least for that portion of the film. And that is quite a shame, as the Quidditch scene is very fun otherwise.
Overall, the first Harry Potter film is very special, even after only seeing it for the first time fifteen years after its release. It's full of wonderful characters and a wonderful world. I look forward to the next films, both to continue the story and to see the effects improve. Please stay tuned for our review of the 2002 sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, coming at you real soon.
By Chris Campo
Very Mild Spoilers
Romantic comedies are not rare, as we get so many garbage romantic movies each year. What is rare are good romantic comedies, we get those once a year or so. But every now and again, we get a romantic comedy that just is special, above anything else in the genre. Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally... and (500) Days of Summer. (500) Days of Summer is a rare film that plays against type, deconstructs cliches, plays tricks on the audience and is brutally honest. It's a special film for the genre and for myself, and that is for sure a modern classic that will be remembered as one of the greats.
(500) Days of Summer follows Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hopeless romantic who, from adolescence, believed he would only be truly happy once he found love. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a beautiful woman who believes love should be taken with a grain of salt, and that life always gets in the way. We follow their relationship over the course of 500 days, as told from the perspective of Tom. We bounce through the days, through ups and downs to find out if these two can in fact find love. There's only really one thing you need to know about this story, however... It is a story about love, but it is NOT a love story.
(500) Days of Summer is a masterpiece. This movie plays so many cards and plays them all so well. Every watch I learn something new about these characters and the reason this story is told. The characters are deep and reflect the story being told, in some of the most clever writing I have ever seen. See, this movie is all about expectations. Expectations of love, and love stories. Tom has these expectations planted in his brain of what love should be, just as this movie plants the expectations in our head that this is just another romantic comedy. Tom's expectations give him tunnel vision, he ignores the fact that Summer isn't that interested, Just like we completely ignore the fact that the movie literally tells you how the movie ends and that it is not a love story.
This would not be achieved as seamless as it is without a talent like Marc Webb. He constructs so many meaningful themes and ideas, all while still making the movie as enjoyable as it could possibly be. He makes some incredible stylistic choices, like the famous expectations Vs reality scene, or the full on dance number acting as a celebration of sleeping with Summer. Webb's direction is a true star of this film, because without it, the film may have come across as a good idea squandered by lack of how to show them on screen. Also, props to the editing and choice of nonlinear storytelling, its uncommon we get nonlinear stories in something outside of a hard hitting drama or some Oscar bait. I also happen to rather enjoy the ending scene, which is a little bit more cutesy than the rest of the film, which some people have a problem with, but I get the biggest smile each time I watch the film, so I cant hold it against the film as a whole.
The film is honest, like brutally honest, but it's never dreary or depressing thanks to its absolutely hysterical sense of humor. The humor in this film just hits. This film is jam-packed with scenes and dialogue that just puts a smile on your face. I laugh each and every time Tom see's himself as Han Solo in his reflection right before that already mentioned dance number. The humor in this film is quirky and it just fits like a glove. All the supporting characters are all hysterical. From Matthew Gray Gubler and Geoffrey Arend's best friend characters, who both serve as humorous outcomes of love failing and succeeding, to Chloe Grace Moretz's overlooked role as the wise and mature 9 year old. Kick-ass may have put young Moretz on the map, but she is spectacular here. She's Tom's sense of realism in the story which is all the more hysterical because she is so young.
All the performances are damn perfection. Levitt and Deschanel both give wonderful performances. I think a lot of guys, myself included, can relate to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hopeless and somewhat selfish portrayal as a man who just wants love. Zooey Dechanel gives what is her best performance as a complex and complicated girl who thinks she knows what's best for her, she shines here. The chemistry between these two is something out of this world; I would love to see them in more projects together. The supporting cast is great as I mentioned, but I appreciate their limited screen time, letting us really invest in the two main leads. But hats off to Clark Gregg, who just may give the best line in the whole film with "Roses are red, violets are blue, fuck you whore."
Aesthetically, this movie is a knockout. The cinematography can bebreathtaking, especially the sequence on the train, with sun soaked closeups of Tom and Summer, I get emotional just thinking about it. This film also has some beautiful photography of architecture, which is a weird compliment to give a film, but it's something that sticks with me. It's not only beautiful in visuals, but also in sound. The soundtrack is timeless, beautiful and compliments the film so very well. Some of my all time favorite songs I discovered from this film. There are also a handful of moments where actions are synced up to music, which I love, and it feels as if the film is scratching an itch you didn't know you had, another small thing that just stuck with me about this film. It's rather nice to be impacted by small things in a film every once in a while.
(500) Days of Summer is a masterpiece. It's an example of when writing, direction, performances and aesthetics come together perfectly to craft a beautiful film with a deep message. It plays against expectations of it's audience and character is such a unique way that it is truly a staple of the genre. It's so good that you, like me, are likely to re-watch many times.
By Chris Campo
Spider-Man 3, to some, is the worst Spider-Man movie made, and I think I agree. Spider-Man 3, when I was a kid, was my favorite of the trilogy. I thought Sandman and Venom were badass and I laughed everytime Peter danced, but after rewatching this film after some time, I have to admit... I fucking hate this movie. Spider-Man 3 is a mess. A silly, sloppy mess. Are there some good aspects or moments? Yes. Is it worse than a Fantastic Four film or the Green Lantern one we're trying to forget? No. But this series means a lot to me and this is sort of a slap in the face.
Spider-Man 3 throws us back into the life of Peter Parker (Toby Maguire), where everything seems to be going great. He's doing well in school, he's a hero to his city and he's got the girl of his dreams, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Darkness soon shadows his life as Harry Osborn (James Franco) vows revenge on Peter, Flint Marco (Thomas Church) brings new truths to his life, and Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) sets to destroy Peter's life after Peter destroyed his, which takes place after a symbiotic creature migrates from Peter to Eddie. If it sounds overstuffed, that's because it is. It's a story that lacks so much focus that there's not a lot to really grasp. It's all just there, and stuff happens, and the movie ends.
As I've mentioned, and will continue to mention for as long as Spider-Man 3 comes up in conversations, this film is a unfocused mess. The trio of vilians is messy, Peter's so-called arc is messy, character motivations are messy and the script is almost laughable. Sure, there are some moments where I sit back, smirk and murmer to myself "that's the Spider-Man I love," but those moments are few and far between. The film feels as though it's desperate to satisfy you, which is funny when you consider the last two films effortlessly amazed us all.
I'm just going to go out and say it, Peter Parker is a shitty character in Spider-Man 3. Yeah, one of the most likeable and relatable characters in comics is reduced to a dude who wants to marry a girl and momentarily goes emo. Thats it. The development of his character from the first two films completely slams on the breaks and gives us a flat, static replacement, not to mention how his motivation is just confusing. So many choices he makes leave me confused and wondering what happened to his complexion? Why isn't Peter Parker likeable? Shitty writing, that's why.
The screenplay is a joke, throwing whatever it can to the walls and nearly nothing sticks. It's all rushed too. Everything is rushed. From Peter abandoning the black suit to Venom's whole arc, everything seems so desperate to fit in. They barley make room for Aunt May, who's nothing more than a lazy excuse to throw exposition at the audience or advice at Peter. So much stuff makes no sense, like I get why the symbiotic makes Peter more aggressive, but why does it make him dance on TWO occasions? Or why does it make him a douche? Oh, because it's funny? To a child, sure. It's when Peter buys a suit and air humps towards two pretty girls where you just wish you could die because of how much of a mess this film is.
The villains are often said to be the reason this film failed. I hear all the time that this film would have been better with one villain... maybe two, but honestly, that's not necessarily the problem. The problem is that all the vilians in this film suck, and suck hard. Harry, or "New Goblin" as it appears in the credits, is not only a carbon copy of Green Goblin, but has a lazy and over-before-you-know-it story arc in this film. The Sandman is an interesting idea, and the origin of his powers is a beautiful, stand out sequence, but the character himself is excruciatingly boring. I just don't care about him, his connection to Peter forced, and his transformation into that huge sand monster at the end is just awful. Now, I could write a whole article on how much I hate Venom in this movie. Everything from the awful casting of Topher Grace to the weird way his face is animated when speaking. Venom should have been a highlight, but instead he's a rushed after thought with maybe 7 or so full minutes of screen time.
Not even the action is that good, either. Unlike the first two films, there's not even one truly memorable set piece. There's the highway fight with Sandman, but that's forgettable. There's the fight in mid-air with New Goblin, but that's boring and stretched out. The final battle is just barley passable, but it's nowhere as near as memorable as the previous two films, Harry's death is satasfying and emotional in that final fight, but thats about it. The sewer fight, where Peter is first the black suited Spider-Man, is decent, and the collapsing building sequence is exciting, but there's nothing that truly stands out, or is as well done as, for example, the train sequence in Spider-Man 2.
As for Mary Jane Watson... what the fuck? She went from boring damsel in distress, to more tolerable damsel in distress, to annoying and boring damsel in distress in the course of three films. I hate Mary Jane in this film. Not only is the character just not exciting, but neither is her story. I don't care about her problems, they only slow the film down. The pacing gets all fucked up when we take time with her. I get it, Peter cares about her, which is great, but we dont. Move on, just not to Gwen Stacey, as Gwen in this film is a joke. A crammed in, no-purpose joke.
To be fair, this is not a 100%, completely awful film. The film does have its moments. It's certainly well shot, and Sam Raimi adds some signature flair to his direction. The score is great, superb even, and may just top the last two films. There's also a lot of those little moments that put a big, goofy smile on my face, like where Spider-Man is chilling after fighting the Sandman, pouring sound out of his shoe, or how Peter cant seem to get the door in his apartment fixed, and it's this general Spider-Maning that gets me all soft inside. I love him swinging around and cheering, it makes me feel like a happy child, and that's exactly what these films should do.
To sum up, Spider-Man 3 is a low point in the franchise, and it may be my least favorite Spider-Man film to date. It's a sloppy, unfocused and forgettable mess with little redeming qualities. It's a shame this film had to follow two amazing films, but hey, at least we got a reboot... right?
By Liam Alexander
It’s been 3 years. 3 whole years since Batman Begins (review here) left us with that major tease, the tease that continues to make me squeal every time I see it…the joker card. A promise of greatness to come. Batman Begins introduced us to this new, grounded in reality world, now Nolan, you have to follow that up. Following up a revolutionary shift in blockbuster cinema has got to be no easy task, but what comes after the revolution? The renaissance. A chaotic renaissance of clowns, crime, drama, psychological tests, hockey pads and disappearing pencils. The Dark Knight is not only the greatest comic book film of all time, it’s one of the greatest crime movies of all time…hell, it is, in my opinion, one of the best films of all time. Yeah, lets talk about it.
It’s been a year since our caped crusader stopped the toxin attack on Gotham, now Batman (Christian Bale), Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are cleaning up the streets of Gotham, and they’re doing a good job at it as well. Crime rates in Gotham are at an all time low, and criminals are afraid to do… criminal like things at night because of a little guy called Batman. That is until a certain clown prince of crime, The Joker (Heath Ledger) decides to take a stroll into Gotham.
The Dark Knight is the second act in a great 3 act story, the fall. Batman is constantly tested throughout the film, not physically, but psychologically. And that is what makes it so engaging. It’s all fine to see Batman go up against a brute, a villain who has some gadget, or an end of the world scenario - but it’s kind of boring to be honest. What about when he goes up against someone who knows his inner workings and plays on that, constantly pushing him towards breaking his moral code? A villain who is the polar opposite, yet still similar to our hero? A villain who’s just doing it for fun? That is just great drama. That is the Joker. Scarecrow used fear as his weapon, the Joker uses madness.
“Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little…push." The Joker
Bale is great in the film, even though he has that…voice, you know what it is. He does Bruce Wayne, Millionaire Bruce Wayne and Batman all brilliantly. But this is the Joker’s film. This is Heath Ledgers film. Ledger as the Joker is quite honestly my favourite performance in just about any film I’ve ever seen. Every scene he is in he just steals, he grabs it and runs away. You forget you’re watching a performance, you forget that he’s following a script; it’s just the Joker being himself on camera. There is no greater praise an actor can get, there is method acting…and then there’s Ledger as the Joker. It’s a league entirely on its own. What I love so much about Ledgers performance as the Joker are the little things, the slight lick of the tongue, the changes in his backstory, and his laugh, which is just menacing, psychotic and riveting. But by far, the most compelling aspect of the character is the intellect. He’s a villain, but everything he says makes sense, and that terrifies Batman. He’s not a psychopath; it’s all an act. He plays the audience as much as he plays Batman… it’s fucking brilliant. I could talk about this character and performance all day, but I’ll continue with the rest of the review.
Maggie Ghyllenhaal as Rachael is also fantastic, a casting change that actually worked very well. Her death scene came as a major shock and her relationship with Bruce is 100x more interesting in this film than in the last. You really feel that she is one of the only people (apart from Alfred, of course) who understood all 3 aspects of Bruce. Now, talk about someone who doesn’t get enough credit, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent AKA Two Face. It’s a fantastic performance for an amazingly written, yet also tragic hero. He’s a man who falls from a height of virtue and becomes the back up in the Jokers master plan. Holding Gordon’s kids hostage… yikes. Gary Oldman as Gordon is still one of the greatest castings in the history of EVER! He is so good throughout the film and especially in the final minutes. Everyone is just at the top of their games in this movie.
“You either die a hero…or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Harvey Dent
The Dark Knight has so many memorable scenes that it hurts, thanks again to Nolan’s superb understanding of the world he has created, his sublime direction and killer writing. He just nails the whole film. The opening bank robbery shot in IMAX (AKA best format ever), Joker’s pencil trick, the hospital explosion, cellphone in the belly, Jokers fall, Harvey’s death and on and on. But by far, my favourite scene in this entire movie, my favourite scene in the trilogy, one of my favourite (lots of favourites in this film) scenes ever put on celluloid: the Interrogation. The scene is so incredibly written, insanely directed and the performances from Ledger and Bale encapsulates the characters better in just 3 and a half minutes then most movies do in 2 and a half hours. Seriously, if you haven't seen The Dark Knight in a while, YouTube the scene and just salivate at how perfect it is. Film at its finest.
Once again, you couldn’t possibly think I’d talk about a Nolan Batman film without talking about Hans Zimmer’s eargasm enduring score. It’s better then the already fantastic Batman Begins score, the themes in this film are iconic at this point, and really do take the film to another level. ‘A Dark Knight’ and ‘Aggressive Expansion’ are my personal favourites, but all of the tracks are just stellar compositions. I’ll say this while I can now, another unsung hero of the film is cinematographer, Wally Phister. He captures the film with a certain grit and brings fluidity to the chaos, which is just marvelous to look at.
“I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” The Joker
The ending is cathartic and incredibly unexpected, genre defying, emotional, not happy? Batman taking the blame for Dent’s death and riding off into the night with the police chasing him behind, Gordon knows Batman is the hero Gotham deserves, just not the one they need right now, a silent guardian, watchful protector…a dark knight. BANG. END CREDITS. Liam wipes away the tears, hits the replay button and watches it again for the six thousand and forty seventh time.
The Dark Knight is not only one of the greatest films to come out of the 00’s, its one of my favourite films ever made. It’s deep, entertaining, emotional, dramatic, thrilling, it’s everything you could really want in a movie. Ledger gives the greatest performance I’ve ever seen and Nolan directs the hell out of it. The Dark Knight is a superior film to the already 5 star Batman Begins, so if I could give it a higher grade, you bet your hockey pads I would.
By Chris Campo
Continuing the Spider-Man reviews leading up to his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, here is the sequel to the smash hit Spider-Man, appropriately titled Spider-Man 2. To some, it's one of the best superhero movies of all time, and rightfully so. This movie is spectacular. Not only does it perfectly capture the fun comic book roots of its sorce material, but it also respects its characters to move past what comic book films are today, a whole decade before they were so huge. While my nostalgia puts the original Spider-Man in my all time personal favorite films, Spider-Man 2 is simply one of the very best comic book films we have, nostalgic or not. It may not be a perfect movie, but it is the perfect Spider-Man movie, and that's a damn good thing. This review will contain spoilers, so if you have not seen Spider-Man 2, please, for the love if god, treat yourself to it, then come back.
The film follows Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) and his constant battle of balancing being a superhero and a regular guy. Down on his luck with the love of his life Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and loosing the trust of his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter is faced with who he really is. Despite considering stopping, he still has to be our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientist and mentor of Peter, believes he has an invention to change the world, but when his experiment takes a turn for the worst, his four mechanical arms gain their own consciousness and assist Octavius, now Doctor Octopus, to finish his work, no matter who, or what, gets in the way.
The best thing about Spider-Man 2, other than everything, is its focus on its characters. The film finds Peter Parker losing his powers, his friends and his job, he's slipping in his classes, he's dirt-broke and the poor guy even forgets his own birthday. The script puts away a lot of time to build Peter and his relationships with the vast character list in this film. The emotional edge to this film isn't like most comic book movies where you get an emotional scene here and there (including most Spider-Man films), it's the whole thing that's emotional. Its almost a straight drama, and this choice was very wise. No other comic book movie will allow you to get this close to it's main character. Its a sequel that has the character go through an actual arc, not just another adventure.
The film isn't called Peter Parker 2 though, it's called Spider-Man 2, and the Spider-Man scenes, including everything from his flipping to his swinging, are breathtaking. Spider-Man is established almost instantly in the hilarious pizza delivery scene, and every action scene tops the next. The car chase, the bank heist and the train scene. That train scene is the best action scene in a Spider-Man film, and it's one of my favorite action scenes of all time. It's always moving (literally) and the variety of thrills keeps the legnthy scene fresh, all the way up unil the extremely tense and emotional finale.
As for the villain this time around, it's Doctor Octopus, and he may just top the Green Goblin. His motivation is clear and present, and his look is insanely cool. The character is even responsible for one of the most memorable scenes of the whole trilogy, the terrifying hospital scene. As well as that, he's given a believable relationship with Peter and his origin sets up Oscorp, doing it better in a subplot than the Amazing Spider-Man did in two films. He's damn near everything you want in a villain The final set peice is emotional as hell and the stakes are notably higher than in the first film, but it's still about the characters. It's a heart-stopping sequence and Octavius' death is extremely satisfying, resulting in a fantastic finale.
Speaking of the finale, that's where we finally get a payoff to Mary Jane's subplot. Here, she finds out Peter is Spider-Man. It's one of my favourite scenes in the whole film, although I do think a lot of the Mary Jane plot isnt all that great. The character is much more interesting this time around, but there's still a few aspects of her that I couldn't latch onto, especially the plots involving her marriage and job. It's all necessary for setting up the finale, and her inevitable relationship with Peter, but it drags down the film a tad. However, I would certainly take this over damsel in distress any day of the week.
Even Harry Osborn is given a lot more to of this time around. He has a grudge against both Spider-Man and Peter and while it's a fun subplot, it ultimately is responsible for the film's greatest sin: setting up Spider-Man 3. The arc should've ended when Osborn finds out that Parker is Spidey, and I guess the series should've ended at this film as well. I can't really hold a grudge though, setting up a bad sequel doesn't take away from how great this film is.
The humor is Spider-Man 2 is a highlight. It's subtle, with so many little moments making me laugh so hard, like when the only two things in his closet are a business suit and his Spider-Man suit. Also, the big comedic bits are great, the elevator scene being the funniest scene in the whole series. And goddamn, J. Jonah Jameson is even better here than he is in the first film. I always forget just how good his lines are. He says so many outlandish things, and every time he's on screen I get more excited than I probably should.
Another person that absolutely needs mentioning is Sam Raimi, as his style is all over this film, just like white on rice. His style and direction can really be felt here, even more so than the original. He feels so confident with everything, especially the tone, and almost every decision on his part works. He's brilliant behind the camera and his talents shine. This film wouldn't be what is is without him, and for that, I am forever thankful.
Overall, Spider-Man 2 is a juggernaut of a film. It's character driven, exciting, touching, funny, and directed brilliantly. It' s everything you want it to be and more. It's the quintessential Spider-Man film, for now. We'll just have to wait and see what Marvel has to offer next.