Sunday, July 17, 2011




I didn’t read my first HARRY POTTER book until a few months before the first movie came out. I picked up THE SORCERER’S STONE to prepare for the movie and was immediately hooked. I devoured the first four books (which were all out in paperback at the time), and saw the first film on Friday, November 16th, 2001 at 10:30 p.m. at Loews Lincoln Square on the big Loews screen. Thus, the seeds of my Pottermania were sown. Later, I did such crazy things as devoting entire weekends to reading the new books (most notably, THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, which I bought at midnight at Barnes & Noble and pretty much read straight through for the next 20 hours or so). I attended every movie on their opening nights, including midnight screenings of THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE and DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1, and would have done the same for PART 2 if I hadn’t gotten sick; as it stands, I saw a mid-afternoon show on opening day, even though I was still reeling from an illness that has knocked me for a loop for the past week (apologies the guy sitting next to me). I’ve spent countless hours discussing, dissecting and debating the finer points of the books and films with other Pottermaniacs. I’ve probably hp72-posterwritten more Harry Potter-related blog posts than any other single topic, and this past week, I even re-watched the first seven films and live-tweeted the proceedings. And I’m not sure any other franchise has caused me to shed so many tears. Suffice to say, I love me some HARRY POTTER... and I can say without hyperbole that HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 was one of my most anticipated movies of all time, up there with STAR WARS: EPISODE I and LOTR: RETURN OF THE KING.

So, did it live up to the hype? I’d say that it did. It picks up exactly where Part 1 left off and proceeds at a relentless, breakneck pace. There’s always something happening and it is a thrilling ride. It taps into every possible emotion and had me exulting, cringing and outright bawling (complete with full-body heaves) multiple times. It features a solid mix of devotion to the source material (perhaps a bit TOO much, as we will discuss) and thinking outside the box, which has been the forte of the David Yates-helmed installments. It is visually amazing (note that I saw it in 2D and can’t really imagine a post-converted third dimension adding much to the experience; probably best to save a few bucks and see it the way it was filmed). The writing is very good (if at times a bit sloppy, which we will also discuss) and appropriately epic. Performances from every single actor and actress, no matter how important or incidental, are absolutely top-notch across the board. Alexandre Desplat’s score is fantastic, too, often harkening back to some of John Williams’ older themes so as to go full circle. All in all, it is hugely satisfying finale to a decade’s worth of extraordinary filmmaking, which collectively should go down as one of the great cinematic achievements of our time.

That’s the overview. Now I am going to do the same thing I did last year for Part 1, and take a look at some specific scenes & moments that I loved (and even some that I didn’t). Join me if you please....

gringottsGringotts Break-In -- Extremely well-done action sequence, mere minutes into the film. At first I scoffed at the rollercoaster-esque tracks down to the vaults that were probably thrown in specifically for 3D viewing, but then I remembered that we got a brief glimpse of that mine cart in SORCERER’S STONE, so why not take it to the next level. Everything else, though, is pitch-perfect, from Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as Hermione-as-Bellatrix, to the multiplying objects in the vault, and especially the dragon. Holy shit, that was a good-looking dragon -- a world better than the dragons in GOBLET OF FIRE. You can feel every bit of its pain, and its epic escape and flight are nothing short of majestic. Warwick Davis also kicks ass as Griphook.

Aberforth -- The HARRY POTTER series has featured a veritable who’s who of some of the greatest British actors of our generation, and in the finale, they found a role for one of my favorite actors of any nationality: CIARAN HINDS! He is awesome as Aberforth Dumbledore -- yet another triumph of casting, which has been this series’ forte. I don’t know what kind of recognition they give to casting directors, but the saga needs to get a special achievement award or something. I will, however, note that I would have liked them to delve a bit more into Albus Dumbledore’s history with Aberforth, his sister, Grindelwald, etc., as per the book. I thought they might start this movie with that backstory, a la RETURN OF THE KING which started with Gollum’s origin... but no. Granted, it’s not ESSENTIAL to the plot, but it would have been cool to see, especially since they briefly touched upon it.

mcgonagallMcGonagall Rules! -- Of all the supporting characters we’ve come to know and love, the one who really got a chance to shine in the finale is none other than Professor Minerva McGonagall, played to perfection by the great Maggie Smith. Her confrontation and duel with Snape in the Great Hall... her dispatching of Slytherin House... taking charge of the battle preparations... bringing to life the Hogwarts statue guards, and her hilarious, tension-breaking line, “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” Amazing moments for an amazing character.

The Battle of Hogwarts -- As awesome and epic and horrific as the Battle of Hogwarts is, my biggest problem with the movie is that the battle is just not epic ENOUGH. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Yates & Co. really dropped the ball with this aspect of the film. Now, I realize that the films (like the books) have consistently chosen to focus on Harry and his actions whenever possible. And usually, that makes sense. But I see no reason why they couldn’t have given us a RETURN OF THE JEDI-style finale, interspersing scenes of Harry, Ron & Hermione trying to track down the last Horcruxes with scenes of the battle in progress around them.  We’ve come a long way with a lot of hogwartsthese secondary characters, and it would have been cool to see them in action for more than a brief shot here and there. Or even worse, a stark shot of them lying dead on the ground. Granted, those shots pack great emotional punch -- Lavender Brown with her throat ripped out by Greyback, yikes -- but dammit, I want to see Fred, Lupin, Tonks, etc., go out in blazes of glory. This was Chris Columbus-level slavishness to the book, and I think it prevented the battle from being as epic as it could have been. That being said, when the battle does come front & center, it is awesome and devastating. The build-up is great, too, with the professors casting shield charms over the castle (only to be obliterated by the Death Eaters later). Love that they pretty much bring back EVERY secondary character from the previous films, ranging from Professors Trelawney and Slughorn and Flitwick (double-duty for Warwick Davis!) to Seamus and Dean and Colin and Cho Chang (who shares a couple of glances with Harry as if to say, “No hard feelings,” which is a nice touch). Even Filch gets a couple of fun moments (his attempt to clean the mess after the battle is fantastic). I also really like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN’s Kelly Macdonald as Helena Ravenclaw -- yet another casting coup.

snapeThe Prince’s Tale -- Oh. My. God. This was my favorite chapter in the book and holy shit, did they do it justice on the big screen. First of all, can we agree that Severus Snape, as performed by Alan Rickman, is one of the all-time great characters in film or literature? Perhaps the most perfect casting in a saga full of perfect casting. Equally perfect is the way the films have handled his character arc, culminating with this transcendent sequence in which Harry delves into Snape’s memories and finally learns whose side he has been on and why. Utterly tragic, beautiful, magical, emotional... I was seriously a blubbering wreck from the moment Voldemort strikes Snape down, and especially once Harry comes in and Snape says, “Look at me... you have your mother’s eyes.” Absolutely brilliant. I’d go as far as to say that this may be the single most brilliant sequence in the entire series. I love it so much.

The Kiss -- Not sure what is better: Ron & Hermione finally locking lips, or their little incredulous giggle afterward. Brilliant moment. Very nice touch actually showing their journey into the Chamber of Secrets, too. In fact, I think their film kiss actually works better than in the book. (Does anybody really miss the S.P.E.W. / house elf stuff, by the way? Best omission from any of the books, by far.)

Harry’s Death -- Another scene I was really looking forward to. As I re-watched all the movies this past week, I got verklempt literally every time Harry saw/communicated with his parents. So I knew that I was probably going to lose it when Harry is visited by the spirits of James, Lily, Sirius and Lupin just before he confronts Voldemort. And lose it, I did. “Stay with me?” “Always.” God, I’m getting choked up just thinking about it. The death scene itself was well done, too. I particularly like (and also got choked up by) the reveal of Hagrid, captured by the bad guys. Powerful scene. And incidentally, how awesome is Ralph Fiennes in this movie? Voldemort finally has a chance to come front & center and Fiennes eats it up -- a brilliant performance, except maybe for his strangely goofy laugh after announcing that “Harry Potter is dead,” not to mention the awkward hug with Draco... that was a little weird. But chalk that up to Fiennes portraying Voldy as a gleefully gloating sonofabitch. I also didn’t notice his NYYYEEEEAHHH’s as much -- I think there were fewer of them in the movie than there were in the trailer.

King’s Cross -- A weird scene in the book, and a weird scene in the movie, but packs an emotional punch nonetheless because it brings back Michael Gambon as Dumbledore for one last hurrah. “Is this real, or is it all in my head?” “Well of course it’s in your head... but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Good stuff. And Voldemort’s embryo soul is creepy as fuck.

nevilleNeville Kicks Ass -- After LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS, my rally cry for the next year was “SAM IS GOING TO KICK SO MUCH ASS IN RETURN OF THE KING!” And he did. Well, after HP7.1, which contained one brief scene in which Neville mouthed off to the Death Eaters on the Hogwarts Express, my rally cry became, “NEVILLE IS GOING TO KICK SO MUCH ASS IN PART 2!” And he most certainly does. From the moment he shows up to lead Harry, Ron & Hermione back into Hogwarts, with his bruised face and ready-to-fight attitude, you knew he is a changed man. I love when, in the heat of battle, he declares that he “has the hots” for Luna (don’t we all?). And of course, his climactic slaying of Nagini. (Side note: See, George Lucas, THIS is how you do the buffoon-turned-hero character arc! Could’ve had Jar-Jar do something heroic in EPISODE III and it would’ve made a world of difference!) Maaaaaybe could have done without his cheesy and overlong BRAVEHEART speech in front of Voldemort, but that is a minor quibble. I also kind of prefer the way Neville kills Nagini in the book: right in front of Voldemort’s face, in the blink of an eye, as opposed to the more drawn-out, horror-movie sequence in the movie. But it works well both ways.

Molly Weasley’s Moment -- So glad they kept this moment intact, because it was perfect in the book and equally perfect on screen. “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” Sigourney Weaver in ALIENS would be proud!

harryvoldyduelHarry vs. Voldemort Smackdown -- Not sure how I feel about what they did here. Obviously they expanded the action to have Harry & Voldy dueling and flying around and crashing through the Hogwarts grounds, with the two of them ultimately squaring off in a deserted courtyard, while the Battle of Hogwarts continues to rage elsewhere. In the book, they face off in front of everyone, which I think I like better. And I DEFINITELY like Voldemort’s book death better, when his body simply falls to the ground and the crowd cheers. This was meant to show that he is, after all, only human. In the movie, his body sort of disintegrates into black ticker tape, which completely loses sight of the message that Rowling was trying to convey. Still, the film version is suitably epic and visually awesome and exultant, so I can’t complain. (I was also later reminded that in the book, Harry uses the Elder Wand to repair his original wand, and then sends the Elder Wand into hiding, presumably forever. In the movie, he does not repair his original wand, which is an unfortunate oversight, and then breaks the Elder Wand and throws it away. The book wins this round for sure.)

Nineteen Years Later -- Wasn’t a huge fan of the epilogue in the book, and the movie version doesn’t do much to change that, though it is funny to see Ron with a big ol’ butterbeer gut. (Hehe, I also just reminded myself of when Harry, Ron & Hermione return to Hogwarts, and Ginny rushes to greet Harry and ignores her brother even though she hasn’t seen him in six months. Funny moment.)

A couple more nitpicks that are kind of significant and may annoy me more as time goes on, especially if there are no deleted scenes that correct them: Um, hello, what the fuck happened to Wormtail? In the book, he dies at Malfoy Manor, strangled by the silver hand given to him by Voldemort after he repays his life debt to Harry. This was not mentioned in HP7.1, and I’m pretty sure we only see Wormtail get knocked out when Harry & Ron escape. And he does not appear in HP7.2 at all... so either there is a critical deleted scene somewhere, or this is a pretty massive oversight!

Secondly... Lupin & Tonks had a son. We who read the books know this. In the films, there is a brief moment at the beginning of HP7.1 where Tonks is about to announce the news to the group, but Moody cuts her off. If you don’t already know what she’s about to say, you’d have no idea -- so when Harry mentions their son to the vision of Lupin before he faces Voldemort, it’d be like, “...say what?” And it’d definitely take away some of the emotional jolt from the sight of Lupin & Tonks’ dead bodies lying next to each other with their hands nearly touching. Severe case of sloppy writing here. (And once again, Tonks remains the most grievously-underused character in the series. Did we see her in action at all in the final battle? Can’t remember, but I’m guessing not.)

Fortunately, these and most other nitpicks came to me after the fact. While watching the movie, it was a tremendous, thrilling, hugely emotional and fulfilling experience. Is HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 the best Potter film? No... that title still belongs to ORDER OF THE PHOENIX on my list, closely followed by PRISONER OF AZKABAN. In fact, I’m not even sure I’d say that HP7.2 is better than HP7.1. But it is damn good and I loved it and can’t wait to see it again. (Though now that I think about it, perhaps if you watch Parts 1 & 2 as one massive 4 1/2 hour extravaganza, it suddenly becomes the best Potter film? We’ll find out in a few months when I can watch them back-to-back on Blu-Ray; for now, I digress.)

I’m sure that in the course of this rambling, gushing mess of a “review,” I’ve left out plenty of other details/moments/bits of awesomeness worth discussing, so by all means let’s discuss them below. Other than that, not sure there’s much else for me to say except...

Mischief managed!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Week’s Worth of HARRY POTTER Tweets


So, I re-watched HARRY POTTER 1 thru 7.1 this past week and live-tweeted the whole shebang. If for some silly reason you don’t follow me on Twitter (screen name: @benlikesmovies), here’s what I had to say:


Okay, time to re-watch all the #HarryPotter films in preparation for HP7.2! Tonight: SORCERER'S STONE and CHAMBER OF SECRETS!

Thoughts about where Williams' main #HarryPotter theme ranks among his most memorable? Pretty high, I'd say. STAR WARS, JAWS, INDY, POTTER?

"His name is V... V....." "Maybe if you wrote it down?" "Naw, I can't spell it." Hagrid rules. #SorcerersStone

Little Ginny wishing little Harry good luck as he attempts to cross over to platform 9 3/4... awwww. #SorcerersStone

Love #SorcerersStone because every first appearance of a character, location, event & item is appropriately awe-inspiring & geek-out-worthy.

"Once you get hold of your broom, I want you to mount it, grip it tight - don't want to slide off the end." The #Potter porno writes itself!

The #LOTR trolls would kick the #HarryPotter trolls' asses.

Remember when House Points were, like, a big deal? Life was so much simpler then.... #HarryPotter #SorcerersStone

Harry seeing his parents in the Mirror of Erised makes me think of a scene that better be in HP7.2 and oh man... verklempt. #SorcerersStone

"As long as Dumbledore is around, you can't be touched." That's some eerie foreshadowing. #SorcerersStone

If George Lucas had directed #SorcerersStone, he would have gone back and CGI'ed Ralph Fiennes' face on the back of Quirrell's head.

I'm a fan of Gambon's Dumbledore, but gotta wonder how it would have been if the great Richard Harris hadn't died after #2.... #HarryPotter


Heroic Dobby in HP7.1 > Annoying Dobby in #ChamberofSecrets > Jar-Jar Binks. #harrypotter #starwars

"Scared, Potter?" "You wish." Potter vs. Malfoy, round one... FIGHT! #ChamberofSecrets

Hilarious how Malfoy spits the word "Potter" with such disdain every time he says it. Felton plays a damn good scumbag in #ChamberofSecrets.

Man... first she's called a Mudblood, then turned into a cat, THEN petrified. Hermione can't catch a break in #ChamberofSecrets.

This whole business with the spiders is arguably the worst bit of the entire series. Yea/nay? #ChamberofSecrets #HarryPotter

#ChamberofSecrets remains the weakest installment, but it's much more interesting now that we know what we know about things & stuff....

Hehe, the end of #ChamberofSecrets is sooooo cheesy. "It's not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid." And then Dumbledore with the slow clap! Gawd!


From the whimsical opening shot of #PrisonerofAzkaban, you can tell it's gonna be a different breed of Potter film. Cuaron raised the bar!

John Williams' #PrisonerofAzkaban score is the best of the series. Dig Desplat's HP7.1, too, but wish Williams had come back for the finale.

Love the cutaway shot of the bird flying into the Whomping Willow. Little bits like that were missing from the first two. #PrisonerofAzkaban

Scarier black hooded enemy: Dementors or Ringwraiths? GO! #HarryPotter #LOTR

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." #PrisonerofAzkaban

The dramatic shot of Harry, Hermione & Ron hugging after Buckbeak is executed? The #Potter Porno crowd must love that.... #PrisonerofAzkaban

Why couldn't Lupin & Sirius just immediately tell Harry, Ron & Hermione the truth, rather than act so vague and ominous? #PrisonerofAzkaban

Most sniveling misguided henchman: Wormtail or Wormtongue? GO! #HarryPotter #LOTR

The whole Time-Turner thing is kind of a cheap plot device, but somehow it works. #PrisonerofAzkaban

Gambon def. captures Dumbledore's mischievous side more than Harris did. "I'd like a nice cup of tea, or a large brandy." #PrisonerofAzkaban

So Hermione was incapacitated at the end of #ChamberofSecrets, and in #PrisonerofAzkaban Ron is out of commission. I see what JK did there.


Hogwarts... Beauxbatons... Durmstrang... what, the American School of Witchcraft & Wizardry wasn't invited?? #GobletofFire

Moody showing the kids the Unforgivable curses..... so creepy. #GobletofFire

Cedric Diggory would kick Edward Cullen's sparkly ass. #GobletofFire #HarryPotter #Twilight

Years from now, long after JK and all of us are dead, someone will reboot Harry Potter, American-style. Then the world will end.

Harry & Ron's lovers' spats are so silly! #GobletofFire

Only problem with Hermione's appearance at the ball: She's ALWAYS been cute in the films. It's that SHE'S ALL THAT syndrome. #GobletofFire

I'm not sure how it would have worked, but Harry totally should've hooked up with Moaning Myrtle in the tub. She's a minx! #GobletofFire

That tongue-flicking thing that Barty Crouch Jr. does kinda freaks me out. #GobletofFire

OH MAN, THE GRAVEYARD SCENE. This is when shit gets real. #GobletofFire

"Kill the spare!" Harsh. #GobletofFire

Voldemort is the dark lord of monologuing. #GobletofFire

Anytime Harry sees his parents, I get verklempt. #GobletofFire


Fun fact: #OrderofthePhoenix is the Potter film I've seen the most times on the big screen (3).

#OrderofthePhoenix contains my favorite Potter opening scene, with Dudley being particularly cruel and the Dementor attack. Stark & eerie.

Most grossly underused character: Tonks. Not even a single "Wotcher, Harry!" She's like the Darth Maul of this series. #OrderofthePhoenix

Love me some Luna Lovegood! #OrderofthePhoenix

I must not tell lies: In many ways, Umbridge is scarier than Voldemort. Yikes. #OrderofthePhoenix

Harry's speech to the potential recruits for Dumbledore's Army may be Radcliffe's best acting moment in the series. #OrderofthePhoenix

Best training montage: Rocky, the Karate Kid or Dumbledore's Army in #OrderofthePhoenix? It's a tough call!

Quick/subtle Ginny reaction shots every time Harry pays attention to Cho Chang... good stuff. #OrderofthePhoenix

Bellatrix licking her Dark Mark is one the best/creepiest/most strangely arousing character introductions. #OrderofthePhoenix

"You seem be to laboring under the delusion that I am going to -- what was the phrase? -- come quietly." GO ALBUS. #OrderofthePhoenix

Minor quibble, but I could've done without the Grawp business. Pretty bad CGI, too. #OrderofthePhoenix

Harry invading Snape's mind reminds me that I can't wait for the Prince's tale in HP7.2. But I'm getting ahead of myself. #OrderofthePhoenix

W! #OrderofthePhoenix

Dumbledore's Army vs. Death Eaters! FIGHT! #OrderofthePhoenix

The part where all the prophecies fall and shatter was one of the better big screen 3D moments. #OrderofthePhoenix

"Get away from my Godson!" Order of the Phoenix vs. Death Eaters! FIGHT! #OrderofthePhoenix

:( ..... #OrderofthePhoenix


I'd totally watch #OrderofthePhoenix again right now. Could be my favorite depending upon my mood, time of day or alignment of stars.


My body picked a really bad time to get sick. No HP7.2 midnight show for me tomorrow. Devastating.

Still gonna watch HALF-BLOOD PRINCE tonight, though, starting............................ now.

Wonder what Harry's plan was with the chick from the cafe? Not like he could've brought her back to the Dursleys' house. #HalfBloodPrince

Ron on what Malfoy might have been doing in Borgin & Burkes: "It's a creepy shop... he's a creepy bloke." Hehe. #HalfBloodPrince

Ginny on Harry: "He's covered in blood again. Why is he always covered in blood?" #HalfBloodPrince is really rockin' the good one-liners.

Hooray to #HalfBloodPrince for bringing back the old joke of every potion/spell blowing up in Seamus' face!

A little Japanese horror influence when Katie is cursed and gets flung into the air. Creepy. #HalfBloodPrince

Man, that Potter vs. Malfoy practice duel in #ChamberofSecrets seems like a long time ago. Sectumsempra is no joke. #HalfBloodPrince

I get chills when Tom Riddle first mentions the word "horcrux." #HalfBloodPrince

Dumbledore wielding the whirlwind of fire against the Inferi is one of the great visual moments in the series. GO ALBUS! #HalfBloodPrince

"Severus... please." #HalfBloodPrince

People question why Harry would stand there watching & not help. It's obvious: Dumbledore said, "Trust me," and Harry did. #HalfBloodPrince

Many people don't like #HalfBloodPrince because they made some extreme/questionable narrative changes... but I think it works.


Even though I've sold/returned all my HP7.2 tix, it hasn't completely sunk in yet that I will not be seeing it at midnight tonight....

Wolf whistle at bare-backed Ginny Weasley! #DeathlyHallowsPt1

"The Ministry has fallen. The Minister of Magic is dead. They are coming... they are coming." DUDE. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

Neville mouthing off to the Death Eaters on the Hogwarts Express reminds me that HE IS GOING TO KICK SO MUCH ASS IN HP7.2 #DeathlyHallowsPt1

Ja wohl, mein Umbridge! So... fucking... evil. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

A magical trinket on a chain that has an adverse effect on the person wearing it... where have I seen this before?? #DeathlyHallowsPt1 #LOTR

Love Harry & Hermione's dance. Perfect example of how not being too slavish to the book can be very good if done right. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

The crazy scene where Ron destroys the locket adds more depth to his character than the previous six films combined. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

Anyone else wanna see a spinoff short film chronicling Ron's adventures after he ditched Harry & Hermione? That'd rule. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

Animated Tale of the 3 Brothers sequence is brilliant. If Columbus had directed #DeathlyHallowsPt1, he would've just shown Hermione reading.

"Dobby is here to rescue Harry Potter, of course. Dobby will always be there for Harry Potter!" Oh man. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

Man, how can a character that kinda sucked five movies ago be so fucking awesome now, at the end? Yes, I'm crying. Again. #DeathlyHallowsPt1

#DeathlyHallowsPt1 is so freaking good. Now I SHOULD be heading to the Ziegfeld theatre for HP7.2... but no. God, this sucks.

Wow, that kind of ended on a low note, huh? Well, yes, it is true -- I got sick and thus am not seeing HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 at midnight tonight even though I had scored sweet, perfectly-centered seats at the Ziegfeld Theatre. This fact is probably making me feel more sick than whatever is making me sick... but what can you do. I will probably end up seeing it sometime this weekend whether I feel better or not... no way I’ll be able to hold out for long. God, I love these movies, and watching them all together like this just makes them that much better -- it’s truly one of the great cinematic achievements of our time. So psyched for the grand finale!