Archive for the ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ Category

334 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July 22, 2007

At a little over two hours long, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is tightly plotted, requiring at least an informal acquaintance with the first four movies. But it’s also very well imagined, and what dirctor David Yates did choose to show on the screen was more than sufficient to tell the story of Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts.

At the end of the fourth movie, Harry emerged from the Triwizard tournament with news that Voldemort had returned, and that Cedric Diggory had been killed by him moments earlier. Of course, this news was met with quite a bit of skepticism by the rest of the magic world, most prominently the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet, the two places to which ordinary wizards look for solid, substantiated information. Even some at Hogwarts are dubious about Harry’s claims, although not the school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

Because the Minister of Magic believes Dumbledore is out for his job and because he’s jealous of the relationship the great wizard has with Harry, Hogwarts soon is beleagured by a brand-new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, whose lesson plan seems to be to prevent students from learning how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts, an act of repression that stirs Harry to begin to teach his fellow students on his own, away from the watchful eye of Umbridge, whose unctuous demeanor and oleaginous personality get her appointed as Grand Inquisitor of Hogwarts, allowing her to enact decrees of such oppressive, hate-filled magnitude that the students are more determined than ever to fight back.

Meanwhile, poor Harry is having terrible visions and nightmares, as he shares some sort of psychic connection with the Dark Lord. Seems Voldemort desires something, something tangible in the Ministry of Magic – but what? Harry’s burning forehead scar tells him little, but what visions he does get aren’t merely prophetic – they’re of things happening right at that moment.

The denouement comes with a terrible, terrifying battle royale at the Ministry itself. Sadly, one of the Good Guys doesn’t survive.

I enjoyed a lot of things about this fifth movie: the performances of newcomers Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Imelda Staunton (Umbridge), Helena Bonham Carter (a delightfully unhinged Bellatrix Lestrange) as well as the veterans of the series – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, and Michael Gambon; the jaw-dropping special effects, especially those of the ghostly thestrals, which only Luna and Harry can see, among their friends; and the wonderful Room of Requirement and Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place (Sirius’ parents’ home).

Quite a bit of the book’s plot is missing from the movie, of course, including all of the Quidditch scenes and the many scenes in which the students practice for and take their O.W.L. exams; there’s also an important sequence in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit St. Mungo’s to see Mr. Weasley and see Neville visiting his comatose mother and father – up until that point, only Harry knew about the Longbottoms’ fate.

About an hour after watching this movie in the theater (a week after it was released), I read the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, making this a true Harry Potter weekend. Really, I’m about Pottered out entirely right now. Reading the book and then writing this review means I may have forgotten a few things from the movie that I wanted to mention; did I hear about such and such via the seventh book or via the fifth movie? Hmm.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is about what it should be – it’s compelling, wildly entertaining, and it keeps in the spirit of the books, if not the preceding movies; the tone continues to darken as we rocket to the the finale of Harry’s life at Hogwarts and as the bonds of friendship and loyalty tighten around our collective inquisitive minds.

***1/2

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Summer Movie Preview, Part II

May 21, 2007

Okay, are we all rested and ready for Part 2? The summer can go by fast, and before you know it these films will be out. And some of them will be gone just as quickly, judging from the previews and such…

Transformers (July 6): I never got into the changing robot craze of the 80s; it was a little after my time. But lots of kids have, and it’s easy to see why – the toys were very well marketed. You could take pretty much any kind of machine and have it transform into a robot of some sort. Who doesn’t love robots? Anyway, unlike myriad fanboys I wasn’t gleefully anticipating this particular Movie Event of the Summer, especially since it’s directed by Michael Bay, which means it’ll be loud, confusing, and chaotic. But then I saw the preview, prior to watching Shrek the Third, and it is So Good. I mean, it might well be loud and obnoxious, but it might still be very entertaining. The plot concerns two races of robots (races of robots??) that crash land on Earth and must fight over some power source. Apparently, if I understood the trailer correctly, they don’t speak Earth. (You know, English.) But somehow they explain their dilemma to a young man, played by Shia LeBeouf. I saw clips of robots turning into trucks and such, and it looked good, plus the iconic “transforming” sound effect is there.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13): Now this is more my cup of butterbeer, if you will, the fifth Harry Potter movie. As the movies (and books) have progressed, the tone has darkened quite a bit. People die in these things, and it’s not always the bad guy. This time, Harry’s discovered (at the end of the fourth movie) that the evil Voldemort is back, but naturally no one, save his headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and his friends Hermione and Ron, believes him; they even blame him for the death of a student. Now there’s a lot of speculation in the wizarding world about whether You Know Who is back, if Harry is balmy, if dementors are coming to kill everyone when they sleep, and so on; the atmosphere is quite a bit like that in the United States following September 11, 2001. Soon Hogwarts must do battle with a new sadistic teacher, played by Imelda Staunton, and Harry and his fellow students find they must rely more on each other than on adults than they have in the past. If you’ve not seen any of the first four films, you’ll be a bit lost. My suggestion: Read the books. No, seriously, right now. I’ll wait until you come back. Or watch the first four movies, which kick greater amounts of ass as they progress.

The Simpsons Movie (July 27): Finally, the yellow people (ahem, they ARE) get a movie. This probably would have made more sense ten years ago, but still – more Homer! Woohoo! The plot isn’t really know, but the trailer I saw with Shrek 3 looked very funny indeed. Everyone’s in it, of course, thus spotlighting a huge problem with big casts on TV shows. (Not enough face time for ’em all.) As with other franchise-type movies, I hope this one doesn’t suck. I mean, what’ll they do if it does? Oh, right, nothing, because the show will continue in perpetuity. Woohoo! Other than it not sucking, the one thing to hope for is some kind of envelope pushing; the movie’s not on TV (a-duh), so maybe there’s something we’ll see that’s too strong for TV but not strong enough for an R rating.

Underdog (August 3): I never watched the cartoon series. I probably won’t watch this one, either; it’s not even a cartoon, just a CGI movie. It looks awful. Underdog, voiced by Jason Lee, is a superhero who loves Polly Purebred (Amy Adams of Junebug) and must fight the evil Simon Barsinister. I can’t imagine this movie being any good – it’s a CGI movie based on a comic book that most haven’t read. Even if the special effects are wonderful, it still will lose a lot of money. Wake me when the Jabberjaw movie comes out.

Whew. Only three movies and I’m pooped. More to come.