4K Review: Feel the Magic (The Harry Potter 8 Film Collection, 2018)

So, this one is going to be pretty short.  I have already explored the films themselves.  So here I am just going to look at the set itself.

Really quickly…this is my set-up:

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The Television:
Samsung – 49″ Class – LED – NU8000 Series – 2160p – Smart – 4K UHD TV with HDR

The Sound System:
Samsung – 3.1-Channel Soundbar System with 6-1/2″ Wireless Subwoofer and Digital Amplifier – Charcoal Black

4k Ultra High Def Blu-Ray Player:
Sony – UBP-X700 – Streaming 4K Ultra HD Hi-Res Audio Wi-Fi Built-In Blu-Ray Player – Black

The audio in the films includes DTS:X for the 4K discs. With my sound bar, the movies all sounded great. None of the audio was muddled, and I could hear the dialog without the old pain of turning up the volume, only to rush to turn it back down when the action started.

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And then there is the picture.  The films benefit greatly from the High Dynamic Range treatment. This is especially noticeable in the first five films.  This makes sense as they were all a bit more colorful. Honestly, the only film that just does not seem to get anything specialized from the 4k Treatment is Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Since the film’s colors are so dreary and desaturated. It is still a good and crisp picture…but it just cannot get the full benefits offered by the HDR. But still, the movies all look great.

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The set includes all eight films on 4K Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray with a code to redeem a digital copy.  There are no special features included on the discs, though the digital copies do appear to include the “Creating the World of Harry Potter” features included with previous blu-ray sets (at least mine do through Vudu).

I do think the video and audio make the set worth purchasing, but if you value special features, you won’t want to get rid of any earlier sets you might have.

 

The Family Line Part Two (Snow 2: Brain Freeze, 2008)

Snow_2_PosterNick and Sandy now live in their magic home together…she has big news, but everything keeps getting pushed aside, due to the stress of the impending holiday…after a fight, Nick decided to go somewhere to contemplate his feelings.

When he appears in a family’s shed and is startled, he is knocked unconscious. The end result is that Nick has lost his memory just days before Christmas. He ends up on the run with the help of a scheming little kid and the interference of Buck, who resents him to “stealing” Sandy.  Sandy is busy trying to reconnect with Nick and help restore his memory.

The film is kind of convoluted, it adds new elements like a magic book, with a keeper, an ancient order of believers who help keep Christmas alive in people’s hearts. Buck was an over the top villain in the first film, he is even more one dimensional here. There are a lot of plot points that seem to get lost, and the result is a less than engaging film.

I do like the leads, but the story just kind of leaves them even more lost than Nick’s memory.  I do not have much more to say than that…

Groundh-er-Christmas Day (the Christmas Do-Over, 2006)

Christmas_Do-Over_PosterKevin is in a miserable place. His rock star dreams never panned out. His marriage collapsed, his former in-laws hate him and his son does not yet see what a lousy dad he has. He barely plans for a Christmas gift for his son and on Christmas Eve, he does anything he can to avoid participating.  When his son makes the wish that everyday could be Christmas, Kevin pays the price…

Kevin finds himself restarting Christmas Eve over and Over.  The film follows a very specific (and familiar template). First Kevin is confused and each day goes very badly for him. Then he starts to put the things he witnesses to use. He tries to scheme his way through things. This actually is played largely for comedy…especially how he works hard to undermine his wife Jill’s new boyfriend Todd. Honestly, this goes on so long it almost had me concerned he might get rewarded…but the film actually addresses it when one of Kevin’s attempts to escape the loop result in him realizing Kevin is actually a good guy who makes Jill happy.

The film is actually largely entertaining. Jay Mohr always makes for a good ass. Daphne Zuniga plays Jill, and is quite sympathetic. And a lot of the scenes of Kevin trying to scam the system are funny. And there are even some genuinely sweet moments as Kevin starts to see how badly he screwed things up.

The film has a small but good cast. The frustrated in-laws are played byTim Thomerson and Adrienne Barbeau. Ruta Lee is amusing as the heavy drinking Granny (let us ignore that she is only about ten years older than either Barbeau or Thomerson)…the one family member outside of his son who still likes Kevin.

The biggest pill of the film to swallow is, funny enough, not the concept. Instead, it is the ending. The ending is wrapped up in seconds, tosses characters aside for an unearned “Hero Gets what they Want” end. Instead of working within the framework of the lesson he learns, meaning he simply needs to accept the consequences and be the better man he learned to be? It gives us a less than five minute “Everything is fixed” ending. Very disappointing for an otherwise light and entertaining holiday movie.

 

Shedding the Mortal Coil (Mortal Engines, 2018)

Mortal_Engines_PosterIn the future, there are predator cities and there are the cities trying to survive. What does this mean? Uhhhh…well, a gravelly voice informs us of the 60 minute war that left the world devastated. To survive, people built mobile cities that roamed the countryside. Smaller cities were more like miner towns of the old west, except the towns are mobile. They also face the threat of predator cities, which are dedicated to roaming the land and overtaking smaller cities for scraps.

Set amongst all this is the plans of Hester Shaw, a mysterious women hellbent on revenge against Thaddeus Valentine, who overseas the giant predator City of London. London is desperate and running on fumes, but Valentine believes he has found the answer in the ancient technology that destroyed the world. So, ambitious people.

The film actually opens with one of the dullest “car chases” I have ever sat through. I was bored during the majority of the large city on city stuff. Early in the film there is a fairly exciting on foot chase, which is the true inciting incident forcing a mismatched pair (a young Londoner unaware of Valentine’s deviousness until it is to late and the previously mentioned Hester Shaw, who spends a good chunk of the film annoyed with him). There are rebels, who live in a sky city, scavengers and slave traders…it is a miserable world, except for the mystical city that Valentine hopes to overrun with his powerful new weapon.

Honestly, the hard part of the film for me was…well, it begs far more questions than the movie has time to answer. How on earth did the roving cities come about? The film also references parts of that history that are interesting, but unable to be examined.  Why if this was a book… (it is)

See, suspension of disbelief is a really weird thing. First, it can vary from person to person. But some stories make it a little easier.  ”

Why can this guy shoot lasers from his eyes? Genetic mutation!”

“How are dinosaurs and giant apes on this island? The island has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, and evolution went it’s own way!”

But here? There is just so much that does not make sense. Why roving cities? Who came up with the notion? How was this done???

And sadly, the story is just not interesting enough to override the questions. I found myself bored repeatedly, and that made the moments of heart or interest more disappointing than anything.

It is visually nice, though if a bit dreary, but everything is functional. it lacks any real sense of wonder.  Mortal Engines just lacks the life needed to make it work.

Bless the Beasts and Wizards (Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald, 2018)

Fantastic_Beasts_2_Crimes_Grindelwald_PosterThe first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had Newt Scamander, witches Tina and Queenie and muggle Jacob trying to save a young but powerful man from being both destroyed by his power and that of being a pawn by a wicked wizard. In the end, it appeared the young man, Creedence, was dead and the villainous Grindelwald was revealed.

The sequel picks up with an action packed escape by Grindelwald before returning to Newt Scamander who is trying to get his right to leave the country reinstated. The Ministry of Magic reveals that Creedence is alive and well.  He is hiding in Paris trying to find out who he really is. He has fallen in love with a young woman. Tina and another Auror trying to catch Creedence (but with different goals).  Jacob has regained his memory and he and Queenie are an item, but after a fight, Queenie runs off to Paris to find Tina, but Grindelwald is in Paris looking for Creedence…confused yet?

I actually quite liked the first film. I enjoyed the introduction of a decent and prominent “muggle” character. I felt the four leads had a nice chemistry. I was sympathetic to Tina’s attempts do things all by the book, but also her sympathy for Creedence in the film.

And yet, this film has none of that. For one thing, there are about twenty separate storylines, separating almost all the characters for a large part of the movie. So, it is all really a mess. And by themselves, some of the characters start to become grating.

The film is full of scenes giving us back story and it becomes super clear from the earliest moments in the film that this is literally all a set up. The film  is more interested in its world building and fan service with origins to characters that never needed an origin. A lot of things feel like they will not pay off until a later film.

The last half hour or so just keeps hitting the audience with twists and reveals…and none of them feel consequential.

I mean, I basically liked Jude Law as a young Dumbledore. But can I say…the most controversial casting of the film was Johnny Depp. And I really do wish the filmmakers had listened to the outcry.  Because, honestly? This is one of the most uninspired and dreadfully dull Depp performances I have ever seen.  It is just lifeless.

This ends up being a lackluster sequel…and I am disappointed to say it did not keep me entertained.

Unfinished Business (TheProphecy 5: Forsaken, 2005)

Prophecy_5_ForsakenKari Wurher returns as American Allison, who is apparently a grad student, (Wurher is nearly fifty, so…progress?) is the protector of the Lexicon.  The Mysterious Stark has hired Dylan to kill Allison because heaven does not want the new information in the Lexicon to reach human eyes.

Dylan ends up helping Allison attempt to avoid death…and she also enlists the help of Satan again.

So…um, this film did not interest me much at all. There is suddenly a rule where Angels do not kill people. On the other hand, they revive the “Almost Dead Human forced to do an angel’s bidding” deal with the character of Dylan. Stark is nicely ominous, which is no surprise as he is played by Tony Todd.

But that is pretty much the only thing that stands out to me about this film. It faded from my memory pretty quickly and left about the same impression as it’s predecessor. Both films feel more like attempts to simply make a quick buck. Just as before, this lacks any of the deeper dialog of the first three films.

I had not seen the second two films until this year, and I cannot say they were necessary…granted, few films are “necessary”, but plenty are unnecessary but good or at least entertaining.  These last two sequels are neither.

Get You a Bible (the Prophecy 4: Uprising, 2005)

Prophecy_4_UprisingSo, the Prophecy series went dormant. And honestly? I would have been perfectly satisfied with it being a trilogy of films.  But 2005 brought the first of two sequels that were filmed back to back on the cheap.

Set in Bucharest, American Allison discovers the Lexicon, a religious manuscript that is still writing itself. It is writing a new chapter of Revelations, and demon Belial wants it. Satan wants to stop this and enlists a cop with a secret connection to Allison.

So, pretty much the only angels here are of the fallen kind.  Satan verses demons. The war in Heaven may be over, but hell is not doing so well. So, yeah, Satan is the good guy here by default.

This film feels nothing like the first three, and lacks the thoughtful dialog. This is a pretty boring film and I just could not get into it.

 

I took the name for this post from a Christian Rap group called Preachers In Disguise, or P.I.D. for short.  Which was not well thought out, since a search for “P.I.D.” brings up a ton of links about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

Teens vs Angels (The Prophecy 3, 2000)

Prophecy_3_The_Ascent_PosterPicking up several years after the second film, Danyael (the son of Jennifer Beal’s character) has grown up an angry young man who has refused to accept his place or that the world is part of something bigger. Life is cold…God is dead…there is no grand design.  He has a gathering of followers. However, angels still are seeking to destroy him.

Meanwhile, Gabriel has begun to have a change in his understanding. Having spent years as a human, he realizes he has some atoning to do. He works to protect Danyael and set him on a proper path. This includes taking on the angel who replaced Gabriel in the  opposition to God, Pyriel. Pyriel has an agent, Zophael, who is using Danyael’s girlfriend to track him down.

This film is a strong continuation of the themes from the first film. The finding of lost faith is there, but there is also a strong redemption arc, focused on people atoning.

I really liked the final film in a nice little religious fantasy films.

“It’s Not a Blind, Indifferent Universe, Danyael. It Never was.”

Loveless Fascination (Annihilation, 2018)

annihilation_posterLena is a professor who has been trying to come to terms with her husband Kane’s disappearance a year back.  He went on a mission for the Army and seemed to disappear completely.  As she tries to move on, one evening he just walks into the room. Kane is tight lipped, even absent minded.  Suddenly, he starts to vomit blood.  On the way to the hospital, the ambulance is accosted by government agents.

Lena learns where her husband has been, a strange part of an American swamp that is encircled by a strange barrier.  To try and get answers as to what is wrong with Kane, Lena volunteers to join four other scientists into what they call “The Shimmer”. They realize it may be one way, as other than Kane, no other group has returned.

What they find within the shimmer is evolution on overdrive.  Biological life is being melded into new lifeforms. The four scientists begin to question their sanity and even their physical forms.

Annihilation is a patient and quiet film.  It plays out and reveals itself in a deliberately calm fashion.  This is not a sci-fi spectacle.  Instead it is a world of frightening beauty. The film is full of haunted, eerie visuals.  At one point, they discover shrubbery that has grown to look like people. It is both creep and remarkably beautiful.

Much of the film rests on Natalie Portman’s shoulders, and luckily, she is in sync with the film’s tone. She has a quiet intensity throughout the film. Jennifer Jason Leigh offers us an uncertain leader.  Dr. Ventriss appears to have ulterior motives, but the audience gets no more real access than Lena.

Tessa Thompson plays scientist Josie in a role so uncommon for Thompson so far, that it took me awhile to realize it was Tessa Thompson.  Josie is quiet and mousey, but has a tremendous intellect. This allows her to start to understand the Shimmer in a way the other women cannot.  Gina Rodriguez is the well meaning conflict for the women within the film. Oscar Isaac’s role is small, but his performance as Kane is unnerving.

The film is visually stunning, every frame of the Shimmer full of horrific beauty. Alex Garland (director of Ex Machina) is proving himself a force to be reckoned with in thoughtful science fiction film.

Fantasy Nation (Bright, 2017)

Bright_PosterNetflix has been focusing hard on original material over the past few years, especially now as they face the future of no Disney films.  Bright is their first foray into high concept, high budget action fantasy.

They brought together notorious Internet personality Max Landis (Screenwriting son of John Landis) and David Ayers (director of End of Watch and Suicide Squad) to present us with Bright.  Bright is a genre mashup, best described as a combination of Ayer’s own End of Watch and the 1988 sci-fi film Alien Nation*. Except, instead of aliens, it involves fantasy creatures.

Set in a version of our world in which elves, orcs, fairies and so on all exist and interacted with humanity for thousands of years, Will Smith plays the human cop Daryl Ward. His partner is the first Orc police officer, Nick Jakoby. Due to an incident where Ward was shot and Nick appeared to have let the perp get away, there is tension.  Nick pays lip service to the equality of the races when talking to his daughter, but he seems to struggle with it himself.

When the two stumble upon a young Elven Bright (a user of magic), they find themselves on the wrong end of gangs (both human and orc), evil elves and corrupt cops.  It is a chase through the city as they try and determine who they can trust and how they can stop the impending threat to the world.

Bright is not a terrible idea.  The film works hard to establish an existing racial hierarchy with it appearing to be Elves and Humans at the top, while Orcs face a lot of discrimination.  The film hints that the Orcs once threw their lot in with a dark lord, and so people generally do not trust them.

But this is also where the film falters. While it is a decent concept, some of the execution just feels lazy.  Smith has a throw away line about an orc being a “Shrek-Looking” thing.  Would Shrek exist in a world like this?  Would pop culture develop in the same trajectory?  Orc music is literally just death metal. Orc culture is basically “L.A. Gang Culture” stereotypes.  Sure, one character refers to having been a bus driver before moving to L.A., but we see no real examples of Orcs in any other life than gangs.

And to make things more frustrating, we never observe what kind of life Jakoby lives outside of being on the police force.  Oh, sure, he talks about how he has wanted to be a police officer since he was a child, and how he files down his tusks to appear less threatening. But we are told this.  And we know nothing beyond what he tells Ward. We see Ward’s home life.  We even know he is trying to sell his home.  We meet his wife and daughter.  Nick is likable in his somewhat teenage-ish exuberance and well intentioned demeanor.  Yet we never experience his life as an audience.  And the film really needs that.  This is where that Alien Nation comparison leaves Bright wanting. Alien Nation creates a real feel of the Newcomers trying to assimilate into the world around them. There are rich businessmen, street punks, teachers, prostitutes and most any profession out there. We are given important information through both show and tell. And it feels organic.  In Bright, it is all given through dialog.  There is some attempts to give us visual queue, mostly in the beginning where Ward and Jakoby are driving to work. This is mostly done through graffiti and Smith getting upset when they cut through Elven territory.

The villains are either stock characters (the humans and the orcs) or severely undefined.  While the film references the Dark Lord, the evil magic using elves seem to have very vague notions other than service to this Dark Lord.

This is not to say it is all bad.  I mean, the visual effects are nice.  The Orcs are appropriately brutish looking and the elves are both creepy and ethereal. The action sequences are exciting to watch.  But as much as I wanted to like this film, it just does not live up to it’s potential, especially when similar territory has done it so much better.

*I cannot take credit for this, the first person I saw make the reference was the talented comic book artist Jamal Igle. But this is by far the most accurate comparison.

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