Oh Oh It’s Magic! PT7 um PT 1 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, 2010)

225278id1g_HP7_27x40_1Sheet.inddFinding the world becoming more and more dangerous, Harry and his friends leave behind the muggle world.  We see them saying their goodbyes, or in the case of Hermione, tragically causing her non-magical parents to forget she even exists. Several members of the Order of the Phoenix arrive at the now empty Dursley residence for Harry. To protect him, several of the members take the polyjuice potion to assume the likeness of Harry, creating multiple Harrys.

There is an attack by Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but with one exception, all arrive safely at the Weasleys.  There is a wedding for oldest Weasley Percy and Fleur.  The head of the Ministry of Magic arrives to deliver Dumbledore’s last will and testament.  He leaves a gift for Harry, one for Hermione and one for Ron. Harry receives the Golden Snitch he caught in the first film.  Ron receives Dumbledore’s De-lluminator (last seen in the first film)and Hermione is given a storybook.

At the wedding, there is an announcement from the Ministry that it has fallen into the hands of Voldemort.  Harry, Hermione, and Ron flee together. Rather than return to Hogwarts, the three dedicate themselves to tracking down and destroying the remaining Horacruxes. As the Half-Blood Prince explained, these are objects in which a wizard has put a portion of their soul. This involves murder, making it an especially heinous form of magic.  Only by destroying these objects can Voldemort be truly vulnerable.

The Deathly Hallows kicked off a trend in movies adapted from book series.  When it was announced that they were going to split the film into two parts, some felt it was merely a cash grab.  And while I won’t disagree that there was surely an element of that from the studio, I also feel it would have seriously hampered the series to try and force the story into a single film.

There are some notable moments, for instance, there is a terrific animated sequence that tells the story of the “Deathly Hallows”.  Radcliff and Watson are really quite good in this film.  And yet, Part one struggles a bit as an independent film.  It is rather slow at points, focusing on the bleak and hopeless tone.  It is, at times, incredibly oppressive. And while it ends with a somewhat exciting escape, it still is kind of hard to enjoy the film on its own.    But more on this in Part 2.

Oh Oh It’s Magic! PT 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2007)

Harry_Potter_005_PosterThe film opens with a rather heartbroken Harry Potter, haunted by the death of Cedric Diggory and the rise of Voldemort.  The Ministry of Magic has worked very hard to portray Harry and Dumbledore as crackpots. Confronted by cousin Dudley and his friends, Harry becomes angry with Dudley and pulls his wand on him.  This is a nicely acted scene, as the moment Dudley sees the wand, his expression goes from cocky to scared (while his friends all laugh, having no idea Harry is a wizard).

The skies go dark and Harry finds he and Dudley under an attack from Dementors. Harry fights off the Dementors, but this results in his being expelled from Hogwarts for being an underage wizard using spells off campus. Harry must face a brief hearing to address if he will be punished.  Dumbledore prevents this from being permanent.

Harry is also frustrated by the fact that nobody has been in contact with him.  He discovers that Dumbledore has brought together several people to form the Order of the Phoenix.  It includes Lupin, the Weasleys, Sirius Black, Mad-Eye Moody and shockingly to Harry, Professor Snape.

Once back at Hogwarts, the kids are introduced to the new professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Delores Umbridge is really there as an eye for the Ministry of Magic, which does not trust Dumbledore.  She does not teach the children spells. Instead, she focuses on books, arguing the children will never need to put such things into action.

Umbridge slowly takes over the school, enforcing ridiculous and endless rules.  She forces out Dumbledore, inspiring Harry to bring together like-minded students to prepare to fight Voldemort.

this is the heart of the film, as Harry and his friends strive to prepare for the coming battle.  But Harry also struggles with nightmarish visions, some of which turn out to be true. This causes him to believe Sirius is in great danger, causing Harry and a few members of his class to set out to save Sirius by breaking into the Ministry of Magic’s archives department.  This leads to an all-out battle royale.

Order of the Phoenix is notable as being the only Harry Potter Film without a Steve Kloves screenplay. And in some ways, this film feels the least connected.  It also suffers from issues like setups not being addressed.  It never explains the Dementor attack.

Certainly, we can assume it  was due to Voldemort or even the Ministry of Magic…but while the event is questioned, it is never answered.

Still, this is a generally good film within the franchise, even if we only get glimpses of characters like Sirius Black (blunting his overall impact). The introduction of Bellatrix LeStrange (played with gleeful delirium by Helena Bonham Carter) and Luna Lovegood (who, in some ways is a sweetly natured reflection of LeStrange) are welcome.  Imelda Staunton makes Delores Umbridge gloriously hateable.

The film also introduces one of my favorite characters from the books, Tonks.  She is kind of what I figure a young and modern witch or wizard would be like (for example, using magic change hair color and styles).

This film brings on David Yates as director and visionary for the rest of the series (under the watch of Rowling and Kloves). Primarily a television director, Yates acquits himself quite well in this big budget picture.

With Warning (Calvary, 2014)

To be honest, I expected Calvary to be a somewhat plodding movie.  I thought it would be “Gee, it was good, but kinda slow.”

Calvary_movieposterInstead, it begins with a bang.  Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is in the confessional, but instead of a confession, he is given an unrepentant threat to his life.  The “confessor” tells of having been molested for several years by a Priest.  Father James asks if he has sought therapy or made an accusation.  But this sick priest is dead, so the confessor feels there is no chance for justice there.  And really, what good would it do to take his life were he still alive?  No, the confessor believes a truly bolder statement would be to kill a good and trusted priest.  He gives Father James one week to get his affairs in order.

As the week proceeds, Father James does little to try and prevent this threat to occur, instead, he tries to go about his life, helping the community around him, trying to help a community that has given up hope heal.  You wonder who might be the person who made the threat…Father James seems to recognize the voice.  And even when they meet on that fateful day, Father James seeks to bring healing.  Knowing what he may be going towards, he still takes the time to connect with the people in his community.  He seeks to help the man who has made it his purpose to end Father James’ life.

There is a great exchange that occurs late in the film…Father James is speaking with his daughter and says, “There is too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.”  His daughter asks, “What would be your number one?” He responds, “I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.”

There is another bit about how dangerous people are who want to be hated and despised.  I think that is true.  There is a bizarre form of self righteousness that can occur in people who enjoy being hated.  They feel as if being hated justifies their belief.  People hate them because they are right.

Calvary is full of sly, dark humor and emotion.  It is easy to root for Gleeson, for he is a good priest.  This is not a story where we find out that he harbors all sorts of dark secrets.  No, he genuinely seems to care about his community.  He loves his daughter and feels regrets for retreating after her mother died.

It is a very well written film that is worth seeing.  If I had seen it last year?  It (like Locke) would have made my top ten of 2014 list.

I was asked what the title of the film means.  I believe my explanation is correct…but it is a huge spoiler to reveal it.  So read on only if you want to ruin the ending of the film. Continue reading “With Warning (Calvary, 2014)”

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