Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Film)

A Major Stumble for the Film Franchise

The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth in the franchise, follows the lead of the titular installment in the Potter book series by focusing not on Harry’s academic life but on his nonacademic pursuits yet fail to convey the importance of items and set the stage for franchise’s final installments as well as add and remove too much.

Though those in charge of production and direction claim “Half-Blood Prince” was boiled down to the essential plot and foreshadowing elements needed for future films likes its three predecessors it is untrue. Throughout the film, as well as in the books, there are two main subplots the revelations of the Voldemort’s Horcruxes and Draco Malfoy’s mission and while the latter was handled perfectly the former was botched with missing scenes that impact future installments. The addition of Jim Broadbent to the cast as Professor Horace Slughorn was a brilliant selection and the Slughorn secondary plot was handled properly in context to the overall Horcrux discovery. The climactic scene in the Astronomy Tower between Dumbledore, Draco, and Snape with Harry watching was brilliantly acted and portrayed making it one of the few highlights of the overall film.

Aside from the edition of Broadbent there were no other major cast additions, the younger cast members performed admirably with the material they were given which is not a slight on them but of the script. Of the older returning cast members of the cast both Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore and Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape were excellent given either their primary or major impactful roles in this particular film.

The sixth installment of the Harry Potter franchise is an uneven film, and in my opinion worse than “Goblet of Fire”. My assessment of this film for a non-book reader is that they would find the film incomprehensible as to everything going on, while book readers would question why important scenes were ignored in the Horcrux subplot that would be relevant in the “Deathly Hallows” along with the inclusion of new scenes that did nothing but try to be different from the book. In all honestly, I would rate this film 2 ½ stars instead of 3 if I had the option.

Back to the Future Part II

It’s Hard to Follow Up A Classic

It took four years before audiences were able to see “Back to the Future Part II”, however it took me almost 20 years to fully appreciate how Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis were able to return to the original film but seeing it in another angle while going to the future and an alternate universe all the result of time travel.

The clamor of fans, as well as a bottom-line driven film studio, brought about sequel to the 1985 classic that began just where its predecessor left off with Marty, Doc, and Jennifer in the flying DeLorean headed to 2015. In the future, Marty must save his kids from ruining their lives but in exploring Hill Valley of 2015 he gets the attention of old Biff who realizes that Doc invented a time machine. Marty and Doc rescue Jennifer from the future McFly home during which old Biff steals the DeLorean and changes history, which Marty and Doc realize when they return to a dystopian 1985 Hill Valley. The duo travel back to 1955 to undo the damage old Biff had done. The electrifying ending sets up the trilogy’s final installment to perfection.
When I first watched “Back to the Future Part II” in the early 90s, I only so-so liked it because unlike the original and the final films it was so dark. Even with the cool future predicted in the film with hoverboards and hover-converted cars, the dystopia 1985 and it’s shadow over the rest of the film was a downer for my middle school self. However now that I’ve grown up and have a better appreciation of narrative flow that Gale and Zemeckis created in this middle installment and reinforce the dangers of time travel.
If you were like and felt that Part II was always the weakest of the trilogy, look again and appreciate what was accomplished in this film.

Back to the Future

Just A Great Film

What is to be said that hasn’t already been said about “Back to the Future”, the 1985 time-travel classic that made Michael J. Fox a breakout film star, well not that much and so I’ll be brief with this review.

Marty McFly, a skateboarding underachieving guitar-playing high school student, helps Emmett “Doc” Brown with an experiment in which Doc’s DeLorean travels in time. Before Doc can travel into the future, he is killed and as Marty drives for his life he travels back to 1955 and stops his parents from falling in love. As the 1955 Doc repairs the time machine, Marty races to get his parents to fall in love and prevent his erasure from history.

Starting at the top with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, the casting is perfect and created perfect chemistry that make the film a classic. The setting of 1955 Hill Valley, CA was created perfectly and only added to making the film fantastic. The writing of Bob Gale and the direction of Robert Zemeckis were superb in seeing their dream film come to the screen.

Even though the film was released 30 years ago, it’s hasn’t aged and is still a great film to watch. I don’t know what more to say to make you watch it.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Film)

 Slight Missteps Don’t Harm This Very Good Adaptation

The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth in the franchise, brings darker themes to film that were prominent in the book to life both in and around Hogwarts as well as the wizarding world at large.
As with the last two films, “Order of the Phoenix” was boiled down to the essential plot and foreshadowing elements needed for future films. Unlike its immediate predecessor the film “Order of the Phoenix” was almost as well done as “Prisoner of Azkaban” with only minor transitions and plot tent poles either mishandled or poorly represented. The bureaucratic terror inflicted upon Hogwarts by Dolores Umbridge, brilliantly played by Imelda Staunton, is well handled as well as the subplot of Dumbledore’s Army along with its discovery. The climactic battle within the Ministry was a mixture of more good than bad, however there were elements that hurt the over presentation that hurt the overall product, namely how much weaker Dumbledore appeared during his duel with Voldemort.

Besides the brilliant work of Staunton, the rest of the main cast that has grown with the series did tremendous jobs though Emma Watson seemed to particularly stand out in every scene she was in. The older members of the cast, including those from previous films that returned in this film, did well as could be expected with the roles they were given in this particular film. Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore doesn’t look as impressive in action as the character is written in Rowling’s book, which I fault film’s writers and director instead of the actor. Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black hits all the right notes throughout the film so as to make his exit all the more impactful.

The fifth installment of the Harry Potter franchise is a pretty good film, although it stumbles here and there it is clearly a step above “Goblet of Fire”. The darker themes present in “Order of the Phoenix” herald the trouble ahead mirroring the book in a very good adaptation of the book making this film deserving of its 4-star rating.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Film)

Like the Book, a Good But Not Great Transitioning Film

The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the franchise, had both the unenviable task of following the “Prisoner of Azkaban” as well as bring to film how the series transitions from the lightheartedness of the earlier series to the darker themes to come.

Like it’s predecessor, “Goblet of Fire” was boiled down to the essential plot and foreshadowing elements needed for future films, however until like it’s predecessor it wasn’t as well done given the amount of things that occurred in the book that related to one another. The decision to focus on action given the events of the Triwizard Tournament is not the problem, it was the amount and quality that was and that took away from the narrative especially when it came to Voldemort’s supporter within Hogwarts and the surrounding details connected to him. The memories of the Pensieve are better executed in the film than in the book, though the clues they provide could be lost if you aren’t paying attention. The main cast of the film continued to grow as actors and the inclusion of Ralph Fiennes (Lord Vordemort) and Brendan Gleeson (‘Mad Eye’ Alastor Moody) provide perfect actors to portray their characters.

The fourth installment of the Harry Potter franchise is a good film, but there were missteps that stopped if from equally the quality of it’s predecessor “Prisoner of Azkaban”. Even with these unfortunate mistakes, “Goblet of Fire” does succeed in bring to the forefront that the franchise is in for some dark times ahead.




3.0 out of 5 stars Action First, Story Third Undermine Film’s Potential
The action-thriller film by director/screenwriter Luc Besson has over-the-top action and thrills with chills, however actors Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman were given poorly used characters and with a nonsensical story that wasn’t helped by how the main and subplot were interwoven together throughout the film.
The film revolves around the titular character, Lucy (Johansson), receiving psychokinetic abilities due to a nootropic drug getting absorbed into her bloodstream. In and of itself, the plot is intriguing and gave Besson a lot play with as he wrote the script. However he cut down the potential of the film by multiplying the locations and the need to show overindulgent action sequences that were in direct opposition to the information that Professor Samuel Norman (Freeman) had relayed through exposition delivered in the lecture he was introduced in or just took up too much time like the Parisian car chase.
The introduction of Lucy at the beginning of the film in retrospect was a tell-tell sign of the problems the film would have as she is forced by her boyfriend to deliver a suitcase for him after it’s handcuffed to her, the biggest problem was that instead of delivering it she could have easily bashed it upside his head and gotten the handcuff cut off. Next was her interaction with the Korean mob, which need not have taken place at all since it would have been easy to take off the handcuff and x-ray the suitcase since it was clearly too lightweight to be lead-lined. And the interruptions of lions stalking gazelles while Lucy was in the lobby was needless over-the-top foreshadowing. In fact initial setting of Taiwan wasn’t really necessary with the film ending in Paris given the events taking place, it could have all taken place in Paris or ended in Seoul (or Tokyo). Without an uncomplicated process of going to one location to another, the character played by Amr Waked could played a larger part in the film as Lucy’s connection to human emotion as she continues to transcend humanity with the increase of her intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. In fact, instead of using the “10% myth” Besson could have instead used the concept of brain efficiency along with internal genetic modification by the introduced drug to help explain Lucy’s changes.
Once the end credits begin, the biggest take away from Lucy is that the film could have been better given the great performances by Johansson and Freeman. But as I said at the beginning of this review, both characters were poorly used throughout a nonsensically plotted film. Instead of just a simple thriller, Besson could have created a high level psychological thriller with plenty of action but went action first and story third.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Film)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)

5.0 out of 5 stars My Personal Favorite of the Series

The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third in the franchise, is by and far the best of the entire series. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s sole work in the franchise brought a breathe of fresh air as Harry, Ron, and Hermione became teenagers contending against situations far darker and unconquerable than before.

Unlike the first two films, “Prisoner of Azkaban” was boiled down to the essential plot and foreshadowing elements needed for future films with barely anything added that wasn’t necessary. Even though the film took liberty with some of the timeline of events in the novel or various “reveal” scenes, the changes were critical in making the film version the best it could be (though in my humble opinion the Sirius as Godfather reveal is done better in the film than the book). The pace of the film is perfect and the used of the Walloping Willow to denote the passage of time was a brilliant use of an important element of the film for an entirely different purpose. With the principal actors having grown up and a few years in-between the filming of “Chamber of Secrets” and this film, the more mature elements in this film is handled very well helping the overall film in the process. The adult members of the cast with inclusions of Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore) and Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) continued to impress in this “kid movie”.

The third installment of the Harry Potter franchise got a breathe of fresh and a new set of eyes at a critical point that helped gave the series a significant jolt as the material it covered started to turn darker. Add to that the boiling down of the written material to the essential plot plus the break in-between this film and it’s predecessor, all the ingredients were in place to make this film shine and it did without question.