Saturday, 30 July 2011

'Arrietty' Review

'Arrietty' (dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2011), Cert: U

Thank the Lord for Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki - The studio that have stuck to their roots for so many years and continue to create effortlessly beautiful and heart-warming features. In a world engulfed by Kevin James 'comedies' and ghastly and unnecessary reboots ('The Smurfs 3D', REALLY?), we are honoured with 'Arrietty'; a heavenly and gentle tale inspired by Mary Norton's 'The Borrowers'. The film has been released in the UK alongside 'Captain America: The First Avenger' and 'Zookeeper' so it's unlikely that this film will gain the attention it deserves, but hopefully one can pursued enough of you to forget Marvel, forget James and immerse yourself in this stupendously brilliant picture...

 Arrietty is a 14 year-old girl who lives with her family underneath another a human family home. The group 'borrow' items they need to survive and love their beautiful and delicate home. However, when a young boy arrives called Shô comes to stay with the family above, Arrietty is accidently spotted by him. Due to fears of human beings seeing and capturing the 'borrowers', the family fear for her safety but Shô is not out to hunt Arrietty, he is fascinated by her and so a bond builds between the pair and breaks the boundaries between human and 'borrower'.

 The film has currently been released in two languages; Japanese and English, but there is also an American version too. The UK version has voice casting from Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong, whilst the US version stars Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. I saw the Japanese (and 'proper') version which features voices from Mirai Shida and Ryûnosuke Kamiki. If you do decide to take the family along to see 'Arreitty', I'm sure you're local multiplex will be screening the film in English/American. 

 What 'Arreitty' has that so many films lack nowadays is heart - it cares for it's viewer and expresses this with irrevocable beauty. All viewers, young and old will be unable to help being swept up in this animated treasure and taken aside by just how visually, narratively and emotionally stunning it is. 'Arrietty' is the cinematic equivalent of whatever one believes to be the definition of 'beautiful'.

 When watching this picture, the one thought that struck me is, "why on earth do we 'need' 3D when we have this?" Yonebayashi's animation, aided by the legendary Miyazaki swallows the screen in a sea of plush foliage, raindrops and climbing vines making the world in which our heroine is in seem terribly big, but visually dazzling. It amazes me that Ghibli is the only studio still devoted to 2D hand-drawn animation because when it looks THIS good, it's hard to imagine why any animation studio would use any other technique, and this is coming from a Pixar maniac...

Still from 'Arrietty' (dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2011)
 Every individual item is so intrinsically detailed; from a microscopic teapot, to a leaf swaying in the wind, the artistic nature of 'Arrietty' is a marvel of dedication and effort. To think things like 'My Bed' is called 'art' sends shivers down my spine when something so beautiful, so incredible and so extraordinary is right here for the world to see and embrace. As far as animation goes, this film is amongst the best I have ever seen, and it's certainly the best animated film of the year, no question.

 Furthermore, the film features rounded and wonderful characters, all of whom have an important role to play; narratively and emotionally. Arrietty is a great role model for children, particularly young girls. She cares and wants to support her family, she's strong, hard-working and determined, and above all else, she isn't prejudice. She understands Shô and learns to enjoy his company. Regardless of the reality in all of this, the film's heroine still provides plenty of positive energy and a great moral compass that I believe children will pick up on.

 The film sweeps along in a calm and gentle pace, and although there is limited threat and action, it oozes with charm and magic and is lifted by it's angelic score. An early sequence involving a 'borrow' hunt to attain supplies is incredibly exciting and involving so why would you need tons of mania? 'Arrietty' is a love-letter to childhood enchantment, to that feeling of awe and magic, and the belief in 'another', so bucket loads of action would be inappropriate and pretty pointless anyway. 

 It seems unfair that Ghibli's latest probably will not gain the cinematic release it so truly deserves, but for those who do make the effort to go and see it, you will not only be greatly rewarded, you will be blown away by it's sheer velocity of wonder, craftsmanship and gorgeous storytelling. This will certainly appear on my top 10 films of 2011 - if it doesn't, consider me mad.

It's fellow release-day pictures will still be screening at multiple times this time next week, but 'Arrietty' is unlikely too so grab your family and take them to see this utterly incredible animated feature film - I promise you will not regret it; I cannot recommend it enough.

Sumptuous and marvellous storytelling aided by eye-watering beauty - 'Arrietty' is simply sublime.

By Chris Haydon

Friday, 29 July 2011

Oh Lars!

Lars von Trier has always prided himself with getting under people's skin; from showcasing gratuitous nudity to utterly ridiculous statements about his mental health and phobias, it's fair to say von Trier just likes a laugh, and all the while people moan about it, he's going to continue playing tricks.

 For those who did not hear about his recent stunt at Cannes - during a press conference for 'Melancholia' he was asked about his family heritage in Germany. During this he claimed how he was by default a "Nazi" and felt a slight "sympathy" towards Adolf Hitler because he "understands him". Of course these remarks classified him as a 'persona non grata' and he was forced to leave the festival, even though his picture hadn't even screened yet. He also wasn't able to see Kirsten Dunst collect her Best Actress award for her role in the movie. You can watch the 'dodgy' press conference clip below:

 The stupidity of this whole event is that's it's so painstakingly obvious he is just trying to ruffle some feathers - he doesn't mean anything literally, so in a bizarre way, I actually admire his integrity. Lars has always wanted to keep the industry on it's toes, and fair play to the man. When he and the other Danish filmmakers formed the 'Dogme '95' act, in which films were made under a series of strict rules,they still exploited everything they could use and get away with. It's the same story with 'Antichrist' (2009), he wanted to get a reaction out of the audience during the gruesome and psycho-sexual scenes - the goal is to bother people, and I for one think that's pretty darn brilliant. Just look at this poster for the film; it contains no images, just text.

 I bet he was jumping with joy when this came out, and not because critics actually said they liked it. Oh and no, it's certainly not "The most shocking film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival" - what a stupid thing to say.

 But anyway, the point of all this is that Lars von Trier is a great asset to the industry and although he has made a few duds in his time, his relentless urge to make a scene and spark controversy is a unique and rather impressive way of getting your pictures promoted. Nazism has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with 'Melancholia' but I bet it's does better at the box-office because of it. So well done Cannes for doing him a favour.

Oh, and this is quite possibly the coolest poster I've seen for a while...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'Cars 2' Review

'Cars 2' (dir/s: John Lasseter/Brad Lewis, 2011), Cert: U

For those who do not know, I am a Pixar fanatic; the studio is by far my favourite in the film industry and I have adored and admired their works for years - I even wrote my university dissertation on Lasseter's 'Toy Story' (1995). Since the release of the first fully computer animated feature film, Pixar Animation Studios have enjoyed a string of successes with their films; critics adore them, adults are stunned by them and children are amazed by them, but 2006's 'Cars' was the first movie to split opinions. I think it's a very good film, but it's certainly the weakest Pixar entry. Well in 2011, we have been invited back into the driving seat for the sequel which again has divided the masses leaving many thinking one thought: has the studio actually produced that dreaded 'bad' picture?

After being challenged by Italian Formula 1 car Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), Piston Cup winner Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) teams up with 'Tow' Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and heads off to the World Grand Prix; the ultimate race that takes place in Japan, Italy and London. However, behind the scenes is a spy espionage headed by British secret agent Finn McMissile (voiced by Sir Michael Caine) and his new partner Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer). After some confusion, Mater is mistaken for a spy and now has to team up with McMissile to stop a deadly threat to the car world.

 I'll start by saying this - 'Cars 2' is not vintage Pixar; it lacks the intimacy of 'Up' (2009), the intrigue of 'Wall.E' (2008) and the nostaligic joy of the 'Toy Story' franchise (1995 - 2010). It is not a perfect film by any sense of the word, and joins it's predecessor in the weaker section of the studio's filmography. Having said that, 'Cars 2' is still thrilling and visually extravagant, and it "blows the bloody doors off" the majority of it's animated rivals. 

 The main problem with Pixar's sequel is it seems to slightly forget what the studio preaches oh so often - Lasseter is famous for believing the computer animation is only a tool to make these movies, characters and narrative drive the picture and that's what makes them successful, and this statement is clearly true of the studio; how many memorable characters have their pictures spawned? There's too many to name. But the characterisation in this movie is sadly below par - the majority of Radiator Springs' natives are completely forgotten, the spy storyline puts a barrier between the other vehicles involved, and bizarrely Mater has the majority of the screen time making him the lead and McQueen the supporting, and I can only handle a certain amount of Larry the Cable Guy before he starts to grate on me.

 But it's certainly not all bad, in fact I genuinely believe there are more positives than negatives with this feature; for starters there's the animation. I know the last few DreamWorks entries have gone toe-to-toe with the Luxo Lamps, but 'Cars 2' makes sure they lead the pack once again. The visuals are quite simply phenomenal particularly in the race sequences; the Tokyo footage is beautiful with it's glowing neons that soak the night's sky and the impressive reflections on the racer's bodywork.

Still from 'Cars 2' (dir/s: John Lasseter/Brad Lewis, 2011)
 Then there's the action which again is superb - the film's opening is quite literally explosive, the espionage storyline brings insanely cool gadgets that burst to life in all the mania and the chase sequences look and feel fast-paced. One chase through the tightly-wound Italian streets in certainly amongst the film's high points.

 I do agree with those who have commented on the film's narrative; it does feel a little fragmented and I'm not too sure if it knows what genre it is. I would argue it's more of an Action/Adventure animation rather than a Comedy - there are some laughs involved but not of the same level we're used to, but even though it's not a hilarious trip, it's still a very entertaining one, and indeed a journey I would happily take again.

 The voicing is universally very good, however as I've already mentioned, there's a little too much Mater/Larry for one to stomach. Wilson is great as McQueen and does exactly what he does in the first picture, he's just not as cocky. Caine is great as McMissile and is easily the best character in the film - his gadgets are cool, his action scenes are cool and he is undeniably cool. Mortimer is also a strong casting choice as Shiftwell as is Turturro as the cheesy and over-confident Francesco.

 If you are looking for a family film to see now the children have finished school, 'Cars 2' is a great choice and offers plenty for all to enjoy, but if you're expecting another 'Toy Story 3' or an inner-child exercise, you might be a little disappointed. If you do head to your local multiplex for this, make sure you arrive on time to see the wonderful and hilarious 'Toy Story' short before called 'Hawaiian Vacation' - it's main star is Ken; sheer bliss.

 Although 'Cars 2' doesn't offer the sheer wonder of other Pixar features, it's still a very solid, entertaining and visually impeccable feature that's well worth your time.

By Chris Haydon 

Friday, 22 July 2011

'Inception' - One Year On...

It doesn't seem possible that basically this time last year, I was taking my seat for the film I anticipated the most; the film that people truly doubted the gravity and weight of, the film that was sorely labelled as "similar to 'The Matrix'". In July 2010, Christopher Nolan introduced the world to 'Inception' and nothing has been the same ever since.

 'Inception' married psychology, narrative and art to make the most spectacular screen experience and not one single film has come close to it since it's release. Granted, there has been many a good film in 2011, but no picture has been as ambitious, as rewarding, as demanding as Nolan's epic. Now not every film needs to take this formula; Christ, I love Michael Bay so I know fully 'intellectual' mainstream cinema is still a long way away, but what Nolan has proved is that intelligent blockbusters are a possibility; that audiences want to be challenged and feel involved, and that their effort would be noticed and congratulated, and yet it seems that Nolan is never truly congratulated personally.

 After he was so brutally snubbed at the Academy Awards and not given a Best Director nomination (which is still the biggest travesty in cinema as of recent), it seems all his works are never really appreciated by the heads of the industry. The majority of film fans praise Nolan frequently but the same gratitude is missed out by the big boys of Hollywood. In fact, I think Hollywood fears the British in the film industry because we so frequently show them up. Take a look at what I believe to be amongst the best films of 2011:

  • 'Source Code' (dir: Duncan Jones) - Probably the best film of the year so far
  • 'Attack the Block' (dir: Joe Cornish)
  • 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (dir: David Yates)
  • 'X-Men: First Class' (dir: Matthew Vaughn)

And so on. It seems if the Americans really want to make a successful Sci-Fi Thriller, they need a Brit, and I'm not saying that's because we are stereotyped to be "more intelligent", I think it's actually because of the limitations in the UK film industry, it causes the imagination to run riot when confronted with American studio money. Do you really think Nolan would have been able to make 'Inception' if he hadn't of made Warner Bros. $1 billion with 'The Dark Knight'? or have made this film with funding from Film 4 and the UK Film Council? I highly doubt it.

 Nolan certainly deserves more praise and recognition from the Academies and the Executives; he's the most consistent British filmmaker working today and I honestly believe he is the Stanley Kubrick of our generation. He's a director whose not afraid to take risks, to try something new, to push the boundaries and break away from the norm. He, just like Kubrick, is a renegade of passion, determination and skill, and it's so clearly obvious he makes films because he loves cinema, not the lovely pay packet at the end of it all. 

 'Inception' was without a doubt the best film of 2010 and probably of the last 5 years. The last film to truly 'blow my mind' apart from 'Inception' was Michael Haneke's masterpiece 'Cache' ('Hidden') in 2005 which stands as my favourite film of all-time alongside Woody Allen's exquisite love-letter 'Manhattan' (1979). 

 I've seen 'Inception' six times now; four at the cinema and twice on Blu-Ray and I love it even more each time I watch it. Like 'Cache', 'Manhattan' and my other favourite films of all time; 'Juno' (2007), 'Toy Story' (1995) and 'Groundhog Day' (1993), I get a huge surge of satisfaction from repeat viewings, and one year on, I'm happy to report that 'Inception' is now amongst my favourite films of all-time.

 It is simply a masterpiece.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

'Horrible Bosses' Review

'Horrible Bosses' (dir: Seth Gordon, 2011), Cert: 15

Yeah, I'm reviewing a film that's not even technically released yet - I'm moving up in the world. Anyway, so far 2011 has been a pretty slow year for comedy movies; we've had the utterly appalling thanks to 'The Hangover Part 2', the utterly disgusting thanks to 'Just Go With It' and the utterly miserable thanks to 'Hall Pass'. The only universally well-received comedy of this year so far has been 'Bridesmaids' and I still haven't seen it. Don't fret though, I will.

Well now the world has been given 'Horrible Bosses'; the new film from Seth Gordon (the man behind the sensational 'The King of Kong' [2008] and the not-so-sensational 'Four Christmases' [2008]). Ironically, two of the stars in this picture have starred in some of the terrible movies listed above, but let's put the past behind us. After all, this film does star the wonderful Jason Bateman, the perfect Kevin Spacey and the loveable Jamie Foxx, so it's not all bad. However, due to the ghastly comedies as of recent, to say I approached 'Horrible Bosses' with caution is a fair prediction...

Three friends - Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) all have one problem in common; they hate their bosses. Their employers make their daily lives a living hell and cause them consistent torment and stress. Nick's boss, Dave Harken (Spacey) is a psychopathic monster who relishes in his power and hateful behaviour. Kurt's boss, Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) is a drug-addict who has major prejudice issues, and Dale's boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) is a nymphomaniac who is desperate to get him to sleep with her and threatens to destroy him if he doesn't. The three friends decide the only way to free themselves is to kill their bosses, but this is no simple task and mayhem ensues at every possible corner.

 Raunchy comedy is not a new thing; enter Judd Apatow, nor is a comedy-crime caper; enter the 'Ocean's' franchise, but what is new is these strange 'event' comedies where a new thing appears every moment to change the narrative direction. Like in 'The Hangover'; (the good one), where at every location, a different threat enters that's linked to a past event. i.e: The church scene and the attack on the car. Well it's a very similar story with 'Horrible Bosses' - rather than a typical linear comedy narrative, this film throws constant twists, turns and shocks, and I am so happy to report that this is a good thing.

 'Loveable Employers' is not a stupid gross-out comedy like 'The Hangover Part 2' or a vulgar entry like 'Just Go With It' and it's certainly not an annoying "guys who should know better" film like 'Hall Pass'. What this film does ever so successfully is to shape it's characters; make them dimensional, make them interesting and consequently, making every single character funny. 

 Gordon's hand at comedy direction is certainly skilled - from documentary to conventional Hollywood filmmaking, he is so aware that comedy only works through a valid script and the delivery from the cast. People screaming "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING AGAIN!!!" is not funny, nor interesting (and yes, I am still banging on about that completely rubbish film).

 This film, much like many comedies nowadays is uncontrollably crude, but the dirty humour is great because of it's context, and also because it really forces some of the performers out of their comfort zones. There are expletives at every turn, dark humour is smeared across every scenario and Foxx's character even has a swear word for a name. 'Superbad' (2007) is still the best potty-mouthed picture of recent, but this movie is certainly amongst the better 'naughty' comedies.

Still from 'Horrible Bosses' (dir: Seth Gordon, 2011)
 As I mentioned earlier, this film is littered with clever twists that surprise and excite the viewer; there is never a dull moment during the 98 minute running time making 'Pleasant Managers' a very enjoyable ride. I found myself laughing consistently and being generally struck by certain elements, particularly some of Aniston's dialogue. 

 Talking of Aniston, let's get onto the performances; if you didn't know already, I cannot stand Jennifer Aniston. She's been forever haunted by Rachel Green and can never seem to escape her - every time I see her, I can't help but hear canned laughter ringing in my ears. Thankfully, she's actually good in this film, in fact, she's one of the highlights. Her psycho-sexual behaviour is warped, demented and outrageous; it's lovely to see her let loose and become a bit of an animal. For those who, like me, expected her to be terrible, think again. I was genuinely impressed by her performance.

 Bateman is also great which I certainly did expect, and although he still hasn't been as good as he was in 'Juno' (2007, and still the best indie film in years) or 'Arrested Development' (2003-2006), he is still probably the most consistently funny, witty and charming mainstream comedic actor of recent. I can't wait for 'The Change-Up' and yes, I really did just write that. You might need to double-take.

 Sudeikis and Day are entertaining and do the typical maniac behaviour thing with ease. This film was an easy ride for the pair but they don't slack and give entertaining performances. Foxx is very funny too and has a few great gags which I will not spoil. Farrell is also very funny as Bobby but he has limited screen time compared to his fellow 'Nasty Superiors'

 However, the film's star as expected is Spacey. Film fans out there will see this movie and think to themselves "Hang on, I'm sure he did the same performance 17 years ago or so in that film 'Swimming with Sharks' right?", well yeah sort of. But Spacey's Hollywood producer in that film was an aggressive and vicious depiction from the cut-throat world of movie-making, but here, he is just generally 'horrible'. Spacey can do both endearing and loathing with ease and he provides the goods here. He steals every scene he is in and I can't help but be instantly thrilled when I see his name attached to a project. Well done Spaceman, well done indeed.

 In a way, 'Despicable Leaders' (I'm running out of ideas now...) is a comedic love-letter to Hitchcock's masterpiece 'Strangers on a Train' (1951) just with less suspense and menace, and although that may seem bizarre, it actually works perfectly. This is a dark and seedy feature that's brightened by memorable performances, quotable dialogue and crafty direction from a director worth praising; I whole-heartedly recommend it.

Currently the year's strongest and most surprising comedy movie thanks to an abundance of zany humour masked with dark undertones. Go see 'Horrible Bosses'. Now.

By Chris Haydon

P.S: 'The Hangover Part 2' sucks.

Friday, 15 July 2011

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' Review

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (dir: David Yates, 2011), Cert: 12A

After 10 years and the best part of 20 hours of cinema, J.K Rowling's 'Harry Potter' franchise is departing from our big screens. For many, myself included, this thought leaves one feeling rather cold and rather lost. Personally, I have grown up with the boy wizard so the novels and the features have had a profound effect on my life. Like so many, Rowling's books taught me to love reading - single-handedly, one author showed the world to cherish and appreciate literature once more. I would sacrifice the television or the computer and instead immerse myself in a rich and engrossing world about a young wizard and his quests.

 But in 2011, we have reached the cinematic finale in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2'; a film so highly anticipated yet feared because the truth of the matter is, it really does end here. Sticking with director David Yates for a fourth outing, has the second part of this epic adventure done justice to the masterful source material, and can it be anywhere near as good as it's eerie, heart-stopping and beautiful predecessor?

 Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has located the Elder Wand; one of the three components that make up the Deathly Hallows. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are aware that his discovery has granted him incomprehensible power so they must continue on their journey of locating his Horcruxes and finally destroy The Dark Lord once and for all. When Harry becomes aware that a Horcrux is located in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the trio must head back to the place where their adventure began and defeat the vicious wizard who so eagerly longs for Harry's blood to be spilt.

 Now I am happy to admit that I am bias towards the 'Harry Potter' franchise because I love it so dearly, but regardless of my personal feelings towards the series in general, that does not undermine the fact of just how exceptional this final instalment is. Saying one only likes this film because they like 'Harry Potter' devalues the gravity of this work - to put it in it's most basic form, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' is a masterpiece.

 When adapting a work so adored and so important, it's difficult to know how an audience will react to any changes in the narrative, or anything that may be missing, but realistically, these changes are made to better the cinematic experience, not to devalue the novel. What 'Part 2' does so well and so confidently is in finding the balance between the two. The film is incredibly faithful to the book and only has a very few slight alterations which work perfectly well within the world of the film. Many people have to remember that reading and cinema are different; yes they are linked in certain ways but ultimately, each person reads a book differently -they envision scenarios and characters as to how they personally believe they should be, whilst in film, one image defines the population so it's a grand achievement to have pulled this off with style, beauty and above all else, honesty.

Still from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (dir: David Yates, 2011)

 In regards to my earlier question, 'Part 2' is easily as good as it's predecessor - rather than having the burning tension and the calculated suspense of the first part, this picture bursts with action and energy right from the start. Both films are so different from each other but perfectly capture the spirit of Rowling's final book. This film is a marvellous spectacle; it's ferociously exciting and intoxicating with it's glorious battle sequences and incredible CGI efforts, but also through it's dazzling cinematography and set design. In one particular sequence after a large battle has ensued at the school, Hogwarts looks more like a demolition site rather than an institute of learning. A variety of different scenes and locations make the visuals in 'Part 2' utterly breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

 Yates' direction is sure-footed and sumptuously executed - he knows 'Harry Potter' so well and he directs the films with such passion and dedication which is clearly evident when watching the final cut. But this film doesn't just rely on it's action and spectacle to be brilliant because the real success story lies in the character drama and emotion. Although many believed splitting the book into two features was only financial, I think after seeing the second part, they may have a slight change of heart. The reason why so many love the 'Harry Potter' franchise is because of it's characters; they are like a network that are all so intrinsically linked to one another and this film exploits this massively.

 Without a doubt the film's finest moment is the rather lengthy montage of Professor Snape's (Alan Rickman) memories and how he has impacted on Harry's life; it's a beautifully sculpted and timed piece that really digs under the hard façade that is Severus Snape. But what the film also does fantastically is pull the viewer's emotional strings with the death and destruction of the characters involved with Mr. Potter. Every time the camera trickles past a corpse of a character, a sharp pain rushes through the viewer, regardless of how important they may be. We care because they are what makes up the world of 'Harry Potter'. For those who have read the book, you will know that 'the Deathly Hallows' has an awfully high body count and we see the effects of the horrific battle upon Hogwarts in distressing detail. Plus some of the other deaths are pretty brutal and prove just how adult this franchise is.

 In one particular scene, the camera follows Harry as he slowly walks through the Great Hall of Hogwarts and looks at all those who have dies or been injured because of 'his' battle. It's a profoundly moving and poignant scene. Unlike most million-dollar franchises, the characters and environments of 'Harry Potter' really do matter and do have an impact on the narrative progression, and I can't help but think it's because they are British creations, but maybe I'm just being bizarrely patriotic. 

 'Part 2' does share one major thing with 2010's first part however; tone. This film is dark in every sense of the word. It has a deeply unsettling and brooding nature that encases everything in black and fear. The film's lighting is dim and ambient, some rooms only have light from a flickering candle or the trio's wands aided with the 'Lumos' charm. Some have said that the film is visually too dark for 3D and that some things are difficult to see clearly; personally I had no such problem but I think seeing this feature in 2D will be just as immersive and affecting as it is with the added dimension.

 Clocking in at 130 minutes, this is the shortest entry in the franchise but the quick-fire pacing and no-quibbles momentum means the 2 hours and 10 minutes fly by in a flurry of chaos and gripping drama. If you haven't seen any of the 'Harry Potter' films, it's unlikely you will go to see this entry but if you are planning to view, please watch the other films before. Apart from a 30 second recap and the odd flashback, 'Part 2' does not provide any previous material; it expects and needs it's viewers to be fans and know what is happening in the Potter world. Characters from all the previous pictures/novels appear and you are expected to know who they are and what they represent - Newbies might struggle to understand why a strange little Goblin called Griphook is in an armchair wearing what seems to be pyjamas as the film opens. You have been warned world.

 To add to the success story that is this picture is the performances - as previously mentioned, I've grown up with Dan, Rupert and Emma. I too was 10/11 years old when 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' opened in 2001. Since then I have grown with them on-screen and like many others, have seen first-hand how much they have developed as actors. All three were fantastic in 'Part 1' of this epic tale and the all provide the goods in the second serving.

Still from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (dir: David Yates, 2011)

 Radcliffe is outstanding here, particularly with the emotional content. His portrayal of Harry is so beautifully defined and controlled, and the young man excels tremendously here. It's the same story with Grint and Watson too - both have high emotional sequences and indeed intimate as the pair's love for one another grows. Even in all of the doom and gloom, Ron still provides the audience with plenty of laughs and it's great to see his character can still be comedic even in the darkest of times. 

 Another performer who is also great here is Matthew Lewis. Rarely does Neville Longbottom get much screen-time (until this picture, his longest was probably in 'the Order of the Phoenix' [2007] as part of Dumbledore's Army), but here he swaps chubby loser for all-action hero and he plays it wonderfully. It's great to see other 'Potter' characters take some of the limelight and Lewis shines in every moment he gets.

 But as always, the finest performer is Rickman. Snape is such a brilliantly complex character; he is a tragic hero, a tragic villain and a hopeless romantic for a lost soul, and all of these elements are displayed in the final picture. From his painfully slow and deviant word delivery, to his daunting and chilling screen presence, Rickman shows the world just how excellent Severus Snape is through his master-class performance.

 So yes, if you haven't guessed by now, I utterly adored 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' and although I'm unbelievably sad the saga is all over now, it gives me the greatest pleasure to know the series has left us with the highest high. This is certainly one of the best films this year, it may even be the best but what really matters is that this picture is truly a triumphant work and further establishes that the 'Harry Potter' film franchise is amongst the best film collections of all time.

It's an astonishingly brilliant farewell to 'The Boy Who Lived', and although the departure is deeply saddening, 'the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' makes sure his exit is the one he deserved - an utterly unforgettable one.

By Chris Haydon

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Reminder...

As to Why this is One of the Best Film Franchises Ever...

Roll on 00:01am!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Quite Simply the Finest Billboard Ever...

London's Cromwell Road is famous for fantastic billboards but check out the production video for 'The Deathly Hallows: Part 2' billboard by clicking the image (and yes, I know the picture shows the billboard for 'Part 1'...)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Cinematic Escapades...

Seeing as our time with our favourite wizard is nearly up, I thought it would appropriate and indeed essential to document some of the franchise's finest moments into a neatly organised list. After reading this list, please feel free to post a comment or tweet your favourites if they were not included.
So here we go; the top 25 'Harry Potter' moments (so far) - Stupefy!

25. The Floo Powder - 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002)

Harry's first attempt at reaching Diagon Alley alone goes terribly wrong when he enters the Floo Network and shouts "DIAGONALLY!" by accident. He ends up on the wrong side of town where the streets are littered with dark wizards. Harry's awful pronunciation makes this scene consistently funny, no matter how many times one may view.

24. Occlumency Lessons - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

Snape OOP trailer.png

Snape's typically unorthodox teaching methods reach an new high in Harry's fifth outing. The Slytherin housemaster decided to teach Harry how to control his mind to stop The Dark Lord from accessing it and using his memories as a target for weakness. The lessons play out more like torture for the young wizard, but it's Alan Rickman's sensational performance that makes this scene so important and affecting.

23. Acceptance Letters - 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' (2001)

The iconic sequence from the first instalment that introduced the world to the wonder and magic. The numerous Hogwarts acceptance letters flooding the Dursley's home on Privet Drive is beautifully captured and fills hope for our poorly treated hero. This image will stay long in the memory of Potter fans.

22. Sirius' Entrance - 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004)

For the majority of the third (and best) film, the audience live in fear of Sirius Black; the 'murderer' who managed to escape from Azkaban Prison. When he reaches Hogwarts and bellows about his wait for 12 years to 'kill', a chill trickles down the spine. However, we soon learn that Black wants revenge on Peter Pettigrew/'Wormtail' rather than Harry. Phew.

21. Sectumsempra - 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (2009)

As the feud wages on between Harry and Draco Malfoy, the pair finally fall into a vicious battle in Hogwarts bathroom during the sixth feature. Spells are cast, pipes are broken and water fills the room as Harry casts 'Sectumsempra' upon Malfoy leaving his body motionless and soaked in blood. Snape dashes to Malfoy's rescue and Potter is escorted out. The scene really helps to paint the dark and brooding tone that the later features set out to achieve.

20. Grawp - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

Although Grawp is a giant, he's technically Hagrid's half-brother. Grawp is forced to live in the Forbidden Forest outside of Hogwarts for his own safety and protection. When our trio first meet him, they are startled but the giant seems to take a shine to Hermione. He picks her up and she wonderfully beckons "GRAWP! Put me down....Now!" He obeys and realises it was wrong to grab her in such a way. It's a greatly charming and rather unusual sequence.

19. The Rogue Bludger - 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002)

Easily the most exciting Quidditch match played at Hogwarts. A rogue Bludger ball causes havoc and pursues Harry destroying everything in it's path. The iron ball then continues to chase Harry and he and Draco battle to catch the Golden Snitch through the wooden structures of the stadium below-ground. This fast-paced and wonderfully executed sequence thrills me every time I watch the movie.

18. Aunt Marge - 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004)

'The Prisoner of Azkaban's opening sequence is utterly hilarious. After bullying Harry in person and in spirit by bad-mouthing his deceased parents, Aunt Marge Dursley begins to inflate and soon enough turns into a human balloon that floats away into the distance. It's an insanely funny departure for a horrid character, plus more comedy ensues as her shirt buttons smack Dudley twice in the face.

17. Dumbledore's Exit - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

--Albus Dumbledore-- using Fawkes to teleport away from --Cornelius Fudge-- and --Doleres Umbridge--.jpg

Nobody is cooler than Albus Dumbledore and his teleportation exit with the help of his phoenix, Fawkes is one of the most fantastical scenes in the fifth picture. Although it only short, the scene bursts with charisma and  it ends with a wonderful line from Kingsley Shacklebolt - "You may not like him Minister, but you can't deny...Dumbledore's got style!"

16. Attack on The Burrow - 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (2009)

Voldemort's Death Eaters reek havoc upon the Weasley home in a horrific and utterly cruel act of violence. Bellatrix LeStrange and Fenrir Greyback soak The Burrow in flames and start a vicious battle in the reeds surrounding the home. It's a chilling and powerful sequence that lifts the emotional drama and tension of the already incredible narrative.

15. Polyjuice Potters - 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)

The finale begins with the remaining members of The Order and Harry's buddies drinking Polyjuice Potion so they can disguise the 'real' Harry away from the attacking Death Eaters. This scene is not only very amusing, but it sets up what ends up being a ferocious battle across London where sadly, a life is lost.

14. Wizard Chess - 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' (2001)

The moment when the world realised that Ron Weasley is cool. The Wizard Chess scene is dangerous, exciting and tense as our young heroes risk their lives playing with chess pieces that generally kill their opponents. When Ron steps up to the mark and climbs aboard the Horse piece, the game really kicks off and the crushing action begins. It's a fantastic scene nearing the first film's climax.

13. Infiltrating the Ministry - 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)

Another bout of Polyjuice Potion in the seventh picture which sees Harry, Ron and Hermione morph into Ministry of Magic employees to discover the truth behind the new act taking place against 'half-blood' and 'pure-blood' wizards. The scene is energetic but brutally dark in tone; the formatting in the Ministry is definitely rooted in Nazi Germany agendas, but despite the grim nature that sweeps across the wizarding world, the trio's break-in to the Ministry is massively entertaining.

12. The Tri-Wizard First Task - 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' (2005)

Harry's first event in the Tri-Wizard Tournament is a brutal task in which the competitors must attain a Golden Egg from a Dragon. Potter's fire-breathing guardian is particularly violent and rowdy causing his experience to be life-threatening and unbelievably tense. The scene is captured with beautiful cinematography and sports some incredible CGI making this scene completely unforgettable

11. The Memory of Tom Riddle - 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (2009)

As Dumbledore places a memory into the Pensieve for Harry to see, the audience is flung back in time to when Albus first met a young Tom Riddle. Their exchange of conversation is chilling as Riddle announces that he can hurt people if he wants and can talk to snakes. The legendary wizard knew early on that Riddle would soon become a great threat and this scene utterly cements that fact.

10. "Your Parents are DEAD!" - 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)

Now although the world thinks the most emotional sequence in the 'Harry Potter' franchise is the terrible departure of Dumbledore, this scene shook me just as much. As Ron gets the wrong idea about Harry's relationship with Hermione and as the sinking fear of losing loved ones kicks in, our two best friends fall into a gripping argument in which Ron unfortunately shouts "Your parents are dead!" in Harry's face. It's an unbearably tense moment and easily the finest piece of acting from the pair in the entire film series.

9. Exam Fireworks - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

A scene that makes you want to fist-pump the air at an insane speed. Trust good old Fred and George Weasley too break Dolores Umbridge's reign of terror as they set off colourful and noisy fireworks in the middle of the students OWLs exams. The best firework is the one in the above image in which a flaming and fizzing mouth pursues her and bites down into a frenzy of explosions. It's a bright, cheerful and unforgettable scene.

8. Dementor on the Train - 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004)

Harry Potter becomes Hammer Horror in this terrifying sequence that introduces the world to the Dementors. As the Hogwarts Express turns into a frost-smothered cell stranded on the tracks, a Dementor searching for Sirius Black creeps through and gives Harry a dreaded 'Dementor's Kiss'; one of the most painful and devastating events to happen to a wizard. This scene steps up the series and proves Potter is NOT for kids.

7. 'I Must Not Tell Lies' - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

After Harry lands himself in detention with Umbridge, she makes 'The Boy Who Lived' write lines as punishment. She passes him a 'special' quill and asks him to write 'I must not tell lies' - however unbeknown to Harry, the sentence becomes embedded in his skin as he writes on the parchment. This scene is rather sickening and makes a wonderful contrast with Umbridge; her methods are sinister yet she wears bright pinks and has a ridiculous amount of cat plates on display in her office.

6. The Graveyard - 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' (2005)

The Dark Lord returns for an epic climatic battle with Harry in Little Hangleton Graveyard after he has completed the third task in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It is here where Voldemort murders Cedric Diggory in cold blood. This gruesome and moving scene not only reflects the seriousness of the picture and it's intensely bleak tone, but it proves just how far Daniel Radcliffe has come as an actor - he is sensational here.

5. Dumbledore's Army Invade The Ministry - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007) 


There is only one word to describe this scene - Epic. After months of training, Dumbledore's Army head for The Ministry of Magic to obtain the prophecy hidden in amongst the prophecy chamber. The group have to fight off numerous Death Eaters before members of The Order come to support them. Ginny Weasley proves she is the strongest newly-trained fighter here in this incredible action-packed and beautifully captured scene.

4. Death Eaters Attack London - 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (2009)


The Death Eaters begin their attack on the Muggle world by crashing through London to reach Borgin and Burkes in the back streets of Knockturn Alley. During their surprise visit, the Death Eaters destroy the Millennium Bridge in Central London. The scene is incredibly designed and looks utterly astonishing and this scene throws the audience straight into the action of the sixth picture.

3. Dudley Vs. Dementor - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)

The best opening sequence to any 'Harry Potter' feature. As the Dementors head for the Muggle world, Harry is forced into saving Dudley from it's brutal kiss. This act lands the wizard in great trouble for performing a Patronus charm in front of a Muggle. The Dementors have such a frightening screen presence and the audience feel every drop of terror in this opening 10 minutes of film. This scene is a sheer triumph.

2. The Tale of the Three Brothers - 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)

Arguably the most ambitious segment in a 'Harry Potter' picture to date - the telling of 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' is a beautifully morbid animation narrated by Hermione during the trio's visit to the Lovegood household. The story explains the origins of 'The Deathly Hallows'. The animation lasts around 10 minutes and shines with intelligence, rich emotion and staggering imagery. To place something as odd as this in a mainstream Blockbuster is a risky move but it's handled with such skill and care that it is an absolute success. Neil Gaimen would be proud.

1. Hermione Punches Malfoy - 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004)

For those of you who follow my site, you would already know this is my all-time favourite Potter moment. After consistently insulting Hermione and labelling her a 'mudblood', Ms. Granger draws the line when Draco's action cause the execution of the innocent Hippogriff, Buckbeak. She intends to cast a spell on Malfoy but Ron tells her not to. After shaking like a leaf at wand-point, Draco then decides to mock her once more. Hermione turns and punches him in the face before saying "That felt good!" in the most perfect manner. This scene is hilarious, excellently performed and really helps to define Hermione as a character.

*For some reason this video cuts out before Hermione speaks the line.

So there you have it! My top 25 'Harry Potter' moments until Thursday night when I'm sure 'The Deathly Hallows: Part 2' will have plenty to offer!

Exceptional New Teaser Poster for 'The Dark Knight Rises'


And thankfully Nolan being the genius that he is, is sticking with the film being in IMAX rather than 3D. Good shout Sir...

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Necessary Rant...

If you visit the site frequently; which I hope most of you do by now, you'll be aware that being rude and obnoxious is certainly not my style. People who spend their lives swearing and shouting across the internet seem more like morons than 'revolutionaries' to me (One critic in particular, that comment was directed at YOU). Anyway, today I'm going to make an exception to my own rule and get a little hot-headed about a subject that bothers me day-in, day-out; becoming a professional film critic.

 Now I'm sure the majority of you are aware but my dream is to become a recognised and respected professional film critic; a person who gets to travel the world to festivals and watch numerous pictures before describing them in detail to either a publication or on-air. That's what I want - it's all I've ever wanted, and yet some days, I feel my dream will never become a reality and that sadly is because of how many idiots there are out there that are so called 'critics'.

Take this man for example:


 Alex Zane makes me question the industry oh so often - how can he be the residential film critic for The Sun as well as a host for numerous other things and get on the red carpet for every premiere in the UK? It's because of his image and the fact that he was in the public eye as a DJ before he suddenly gained 'mass knowledge' of cinema and had to become a critic. It makes me sick to think there are people out there like me who are deseperate to get their break, have worked so hard to achieve what they already have and then are forced to watch this wanker prance around the World Premiere of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' looking like a Topshop mannequin. It makes me see red.

 There are plenty of other 'critics' who I cannot stand but I don't want to come off as jealous - it just seems daft that you have to be either dumb, rude or based in London to get a break. I've worked my socks off for the last 4 years; I've been through university and got a degree in Film, have written for local magazines and media and have been in contact with various magazines and websites but I'm yet to get the break that I know I deserve.

 I'm unfortunate to live in Kent where little to nothing regarding film happens plus I'm unlucky to not know anybody involved with anything that could help me but I'm getting fed up of asking people to help me out or give me a chance. I know it's rare for people to have a job they love, but when you've worked like a bitch to achieve it, it's kind of a kick in the teeth when nothing comes your way.

 This post is not a plea for you all to give me sympathetic comments, or to pat me on the back and tell me you like my work, I just want it to be a bit of a wake-up call to some. I'll never give up because this is what I want and I truly hope to achieve my dream job; I just hope I'm not waiting too much longer for the opportunity to prove myself.

There we go, rant over and now I'm calm...