Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Director:  Mike Newell
  • Date:  2005
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Robert Hardy, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Miranda Richardson, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Tennant
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Dark and difficult times lay ahead, soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.  But remember this – you have friends here, you’re not alone.”  — Professor Dumbledore

With Goblet of Fire, the Harry Potter series take a turn for the darker, and the new director, Mike Newell, doesn’t shoot the film and its environment the way his predecessors did.  Rather than giving us lovely, beautiful shots and placing the characters in them perfectly – Newell concentrates on showing us close-ups of the characters’ faces.  Not as interesting an approach to watch, but, on the other hand, it does add to the emotional feel of the film.

This is the first Harry Potter film to have a very episodic feel to it.  We see a brief, almost prologue, at the Quiddich World Cup, which is broken up by a show of force by the Death Eaters, the first and second Tri-Wizarding Tournament tasks, the Yule Ball, and the final task and Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort. Each episode is well realized and told, but of course details from the book are lost, as they have been for all of the Harry Potter films.

Still, it is a very good movie, and a good adaptation of the novel.  The Wizarding World is again expanded and Harry goes with Ron and his family to the Quiddich World Cup; then at Hogwarts, exchange students from Drumstrang and Madam Beaux Batons Academy come to Hogwarts for the Tri-Wizarding Tournament.  It’s interesting to note that apparently Drumstrang is a boys school and Beaux Batons a girls school.  Only Hogwarts, of the three Wizarding Schools, appears to be co-ed.  A champion is to be chosen from each school, but he or she must be seventeen or older. Yet, not only is Hogwarts represented by Cedric Diggory, but also by Harry.  This causes Harry some problems, as even Ron is jealous and angry.  However, Ron and Harry work out their differences after Ron sees the danger Harry is in during the first task of challenging a dragon.  During the second task, Harry comes in last as he’s determined to rescue all the kidnapped people (Ron, Hermione, Cho, and Fleur’s younger sister).  Cedric and Krum save their “treasures” and Harry rescues Ron and Fleur’s sister.  His bravery and determination, however, earn him extra points for moral fibre, and he ends up in second place behind Cedric.

The third task is a maze, with the Tri-Wizarding Cup hidden somewhere inside.  After spooky challenges, Harry and Cedric take the Cup at the same time.  But it’s a portkey, transporting them to the graveyard where Tom Riddle’s parents are buried.  Cedric is killed.  Wormtail performs an incantation which brings back Voldemort.  Harry and Voldemort duel, but their wands become locked.  Harry escapes, bringing Cedric back and sobbing.

In a sober end-of-year lecture, Dumbledore informs all the Hogwarts students that Cedric was killed by Voldemort, who’s back.

Recommendation:  See It
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Henry V

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Director:  Alfonso Cuaron
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Julie Christie, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Dawn French, Robert Hardy, Julie Walters
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • Format:  R1, NTSC

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of  times.” — Professor Dumbledore

Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book, and so far it still remains my favorite Harry Potter movie. The book opens up the Wizarding World even more by introducing the Wizard town of Hogsmeade just outside of  Hogwarts. The movie doesn’t spend as much time in Hogsmeade, I would have liked to see more, but it’s still an important part of the plot. The danger and sense of  evil is also much stronger in this film.

The director has changed, but the film is still beautifully shot, just gorgeous, especially the way quick-acting frost is used to visually signify the appearance of a Dementor.  This film also introduces a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (later revealed to be a werewolf), whom I really, really liked.  And we find out about Harry’s Godfather, Sirius Black, who’s accused of betraying Lily and James Potter to Voldemort and causing their deaths.

However (spoiler alert!), the core of the film is the discovery that Sirius wasn’t guilty of killing Peter Pettigrew, and it was Pettigrew who actually betrayed the Potters to Voldemort.  Still, Sirius has spent all that time in Azkaban, the Wizard prison, and only escapes at the beginning of this film.  Even at the end, he’s on the run for his life, because no one will believe Harry, Ron, and Hermione that he’s innocent.

Also, this film is the only one with time travel.  Hermione over-loads herself with a triple load of classes, and uses a time turner to attend classes held at the same time.  She and Harry are able to use the time turner to save Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, and Sirius.  Harry also conjures a Patronus for the first time, saving himself and Sirius from the Dementors.  (It’s cool – we see the scene from Harry I and Harry II’s perspective).

This film is also the last time the look and feel of the Harry Potter films is still innocent and young.  After this, the films get progressively darker (as do the novels they are based on).  Highly, highly recommended for children eight and up.  Later films are better for the over-thirteen crowd.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Harry Potter and the Goblet of  Fire

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Director:  Chris Columbus
  • Date:  2002
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Harris, Robert Hardy, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I fashioned a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would fear to speak when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world.”  — Tom Riddle
“Albus Dumbledore is the greatest sorcerer in the world.”  — Harry Potter
“Albus Dumbledore’s been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me.”  — Tom Riddle
“He’ll never be gone, not so long as those that remain are loyal to him.”  — Harry Potter

“It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are – it is our choices.”  — Professor Dumbledore

Chamber of Secrets” previously was my least favorite of the first four Harry Potter films, but upon re-watching it today, I actually enjoyed it very much.  Like, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, also directed by Chris Columbus, this film has a sense of whimsy, and is beautifully shot.  The film begins with Harry looking at the photo album containing pictures of his parents, given to him at the end of the previous film.  However, it also opens up the world that Harry is learning about, the “Wizarding World”, by bringing us to Ron’s home and to the frightening Knockturn Alley  (I love the wordplay in that almost as much as “Diagon Alley”).  However, besides a good mystery (e.g. What is the Chamber of Secrets?  Where is it?  What’s hiddened there and who opened it?) that is better than the one in the first film – there’s more of a sense of danger.  Students are being attacked, including Hermione.  Ron’s own sister is kidnapped – though the book goes into greater detail of how Riddle uses his diary to en-trance Ginny into doing his bidding.

Still, another successful, enjoyable, and fun movie appropriate for all ages.  The young actors playing the students are all quite brilliant; and the established British actors playing the teachers bring gravitas to the film.  Kenneth Branagh appears in this one as Gildroy (as in gilded) Lockheart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher — and a man who’s all talk and bluster with no skill at all.  I highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  5
Next Film:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Director:  Chris Columbus
  • Date:  2001
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, John Cleese, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Zoë Wanamaker
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This boy will be famous.  There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.” — Professor McConagall

“You’re the boy who lived.”  — Hagrid

“I can teach you how to bewitch the mind, and ensnare the senses.  I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”  — Professor Snape

Harry Potter is beautifully shot, with an excellent young and at the time of this film, largely unknown cast  — for the children.  But the film is also rounded out by a who’s who of talented British actors.  However, this first film also has a sense of whimsy that the later, darker films lack.  Not every detail or scene from JK Rowling’s novel is in the film, but the film still is a wonderful adaptation of the story.  And it’s just beautifully, beautifully shot.  Hogwart’s Express is wonderful, and looks just as it should.  The boat ride across the lake is beautiful.  And there’s a lovely scene of Harry walking by himself in the courtyard to fly Hedwig, his owl, in winter, surrounded by snow that, again, is just lovely.

The Sorceror’s Stone introduces the world of Harry Potter – Harry, his friends, the rules of magic, and the teachers at Hogwarts.  In this fantasy series, one must have a talent for magic – that is, witches and wizards are born, not made (and parents can be witches and wizards or non-witches, called muggles). But, just being born with the talent for witchcraft doesn’t mean young witches and wizards know what they are doing — thus they must be taught how to use their gifts wisely.  It also involves the noted alchemist, Nicholas Flamel, who developed the Sorceror’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone in the original British novel, though it was changed for the US novel as well) which grants immortality.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, discover how to be students at Hogwarts, have various adventures (a fight against a troll, exploring the Dark Forest, and a series of tests when they confront Lord Voldemort).  Most of the vignettes from the novel are in film, though some are shorter.

One thing I loved about the Harry Potter novels, especially the early ones, is they show Harry enjoying and being excited by school — and not simply because he’s suddenly discovered he’s a wizard.  For the first time in his life, this young orphan is happy and has real friends – something sorely missing from his life when he lives with his aunt, uncle, and spoiled, bullying cousin.  But Hermione, a natural student, also loves school.  The novels, actually, get more into her characterization — showing how her fears of being behind because she’s muggle-born cause her to almost over-compensate.  And Ron, from a large, loving, yet poor wizarding family, has his own issues.  All will be explored more in depth in later books/films in the series.  The school itself is drawn from the traditional English boarding school. However, to me, especially reading the books, it reminded me of college.  I had to keep reminding myself  just how young Harry is meant to be (He’s only 11 here).

Recommendation:  See it!  Especially good for children eight and up
Rating: 5
Next Film:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Galaxy Quest

  • Title:  Galaxy Quest
  • Director:  Dean Parisot
  • Date:  1999
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Comedy
  • Cast:  Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Robin Sachs
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“For the past one hundred years our society had fallen into disarray, our goals, our values had become scattered, but since the transmission we have modeled every aspect of our society from your example and it has saved us.  Your courage, and teamwork, and friendship through adversity.  In fact, all you see around you has been taken from the lessons garnered from the historical documents.”  — Mathezar

“Jason, we’re actors, not astronauts.” –Gwen

“Did you guys ever watch the show?” –Guy

“Ducts? Why is it always ducts?” –Gwen

Galaxy Quest is a great movie — it’s funny, it has an original plot, and the special effects and make-up still stand up twelve years later.  Galaxy Quest is the story of a group of actors from a science fiction television series who suddenly find themselves on a real spaceship created by a group of aliens after watching their tv series, or “historical documents”.  The film begins at a convention for the “Galaxy Quest” TV show which is filled with the cliches about costume-wearing fans.  The actors don’t really like each other but are there because they are desperate for work.  Jason Naismith (Allen) even over-hears a group of guys in the men’s room poking fun at him.  He goes home, gets drunk, and the next morning goes to what he thinks is a gig with the Thurmians.

Later he discovers he really was on an alien ship – and he and his crew end up on the ship too.  Before long they are involved in a war between the Thurmians and Sarris a bug-like alien who has been destroying their civilization because he can.  Jason attacks Sarris’s ship but it’s a disaster, and the Protector is damaged.  They go to an alien planet to get a replacement Beryllium sphere (engine part), and Jason fights a pig monster and a rock monster.  But soon Sarris has the upper hand again, capturing Mathezar, the Thurmian leader, and trying to kill everyone on the ship.  Jason explains about being actors, and Galaxy Quest being a tv show – then creates a distraction while the guards are taking them away.  Everyone splits up with different tasks to do to rescue the dying Thurmians and get Sarris’s crew off  the ship.

Finally, Jason has his third space battle with Sarris, and succeeds.  But is it too easy?

After something I’m not going to spoil, because I loved it so — the Protector returns to Earth, and our “actors” make a triumphant appearance at the Galaxy Quest convention.  Jason rescues the crowd from another of Sarris’ men – which the crowd assumes is a great special effect.

Jason also works with three of  the Galaxy Quest fans via a transmitter – when he needs help sneaking around the ship.

Galaxy Quest, in a way, is a complex movie.  Each of the actors, playing actors, had three roles to play – their characters in the 1982 TV show, themselves as typecast actors in the 1990s making ends meet by convention appearances and opening electronics stores, and the characters the Thurmians think they are – as all of the “actors” try to work things out in the science fiction plot of being on a space ship and fighting a war.  It’s a bit to wrap your head around — but the film works well because everything in it feels real and true to the story.  It’s not a nod-nod wink-wink breaking the fourth wall type of comedy at all – the story itself  is a good science fiction story with a lot of action and a lot of comedy.  There are also serious parts – such as the torturing of Mathezar, the death of Qualleg, and Jason’s growing realization that the entire mess is his fault – that are handled well.

The other question in this film is:  “Who are the real fans?”  And actually, the fans in the film aren’t the convention guests — but the Thurmians.  These are a people who, first, are very innocent, child-like, and naive.  Yet, at the same time, they had the vision and scientific skills to look at something on a TV show and actually build it and make it work.  They also more or less abandoned their own culture to adapt that they saw in the “historical documents” – sort of  anthropologists gone native to the extreme.

However, it is interesting that the fans at the convention are shown as stereotypical fans, buying tons of merchandise, wearing costumes, asking technical questions of the actors, or if “Commander Taggart and Lt. Madison had a thing.”  But when the movie returns to the convention at the end — the fans in the audience are for the most part wearing T-shirts and jeans, in other words, dressed “normally”, and waiting for Jason and his crew to appear and speak.  In the end, the film isn’t poking fun of  science fiction and media fans – it’s celebrating them.

Recommendation:  See it and own it!
Rating:  5 Stars
Next Film:  Gaslight (1944)