Top Ten Memorable 3D Moments

Ever since James Cameron almost single-handedly changed cinema projection forever, by necessitating a world-wide overhaul of equipment and systems to facilitate his 3D extravaganza, Hollywood has seemed determined to cash-in on this most recent (though hardly new) dimension.

Unfortunately, audiences have proven far less enthusiastic about the additional charge for glasses, considerable light-loss and tacked-on gimmickry that seems to have come hand-in-hand with the 3D format. With the situation exacerbated by low quality, last minute conversions in post-production, cinemas have seen profits wane as customers favour the traditional 2D versions of the latest releases.

But while 3D might not be the future of cinema as was prematurely forecast, it can nevertheless add to the cinemagoing experience when done correctly. Films shot in the format, by a director who knows what he or she is doing, can produce some stunning results, create a more immersive environment and go a long way towards justifying the additional costs. Here are ten examples of 3D done right.

10. My Bloody Valentine – The Naked Mile

A throwback of sorts to the format’s gimmicky heyday, My Bloody Valentine is a schlocky slasher that throws just about everything it has in the prop department at the screen, and by extension the audience too. The most memorable scene from the movie features not material assets, however, but those of supporting actress Betsy Rue. Attempting to escape the film’s killer at an out-of-town motel, Rue inadvertently treats audiences to one of the longest, most gratuitous nude scenes to ever grace mainstream multiplexes.

9. The Amazing Spider-man – Two Fingers To Gravity

While Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-man was prematurely dismissed by many as a cynical and unneccessary reboot of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy (which was barely a decade old at the time), there is still plenty to admire in the wall-crawler’s most recent outing. One of the film’s biggest strengths, in addition to the warm chemistry generated between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, is Webb’s use of 3D. One scene in particular–involving a costume-free Peter Parker doing a handstand atop one of Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers, before diving off the end–would leave many a fanboy clambering for the rooftop if only they had Parker’s abilities and OsCorp’s industrial webbing.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II – Courtyard Apocalypse

Having run out of time to convert Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I into 3D ahead of its 2010 release, Warner Bros. were able to apply the extra dimension to the final instalment in the decade-spanning Harry Potter franchise. Although the battle of Hogwarts in its entirety makes solid use of the format, a single tracking shot of Harry, Ron and Hermione crossing one of the school’s many courtyards as wizards, giants, Acromantula and enchanted suits of armour do battle around them almost has you ducking and dodging with the three struggling heroes.

7. Coraline – Garden State

Split between the muted real world and a vibrant alternate reality, Henry Selick’s stop-motion sees Coraline seduced by her Other Mother. While this idealized version of her boring home-life eventually falls into decay and ruin, the early scenes are full of magic and wonder as Coraline is introduced to more attentive, sympathetic and exciting versions of her family and friends. On a tour through her Other Father’s manicured flower beds, she comes face-to-face with a giant praying mantis-esque contraption that will stay in your mind long after the garden has withered.

6. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – You’re Bantha Poodoo

Re-released on February 9th, 2012, The Phantom Menace was once again savaged by critics and fanboys who saw it as a cynical cash-in by George Lucas and yet another personal assault on the memory of his cherished original trilogy. While the dialogue is still terrible and the performances just as wooden, the film’s strengths have always been its franchise-best score and spectacular special effects. While John Williams’ work remains untouched by the 3D overhaul, the various set-pieces are enhanced as the numerous areal attacks spill out of the big screen. In particular, the much publicised pod race excites and impresses anew as the racers flit around the breathtaking backdrop of rocky Tattooine.

5. Step Up 4: Miami Heat – Pimp My Ride

While the previous instalment boasts some particularly impressive dance numbers and is undeniably the better movie, Step Up 4: Miami Heat wins hands-down as a great example of the format’s careful implementation. Capturing each and every performer as they dance through the film’s many set-pieces, the 3D brings the performances to life in a way that 2D never quite could. A mix of dancing and performance art, the bigger scale and more scenic Miami settings help to create a number of moments that are quite simply stunning. This is best exampled in an early flash mob that sees The MOB hold up a busy street as they dance across the hoods of suped-up cars.

4. Hugo – Safety Last!

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a celebration of cinema in all of its forms. Set in 1930s Paris, the film explores the early beginnings of cinema (through the works of Georges Méliès) using state of the art computer graphics and cutting edge 3D technologies to bring the sets–which include almost every square inch of the Gare Montparnasse–to life. Perhaps the most bewitching scene recreates Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor’s Safety Last!, as Hugo hangs precariously from the hands of the station clock in an attempt to hide from the ever-vigilant Station Inspector.

3. Piranha – Fellate-O-Fish

While 3D films can of course be Oscar-worthy and relatively highbrow (see also Ridley Scott’s artily breath-taking Prometheus), it’s rarely better than when languising in the shameless grasp of a master of horror. Alexandre Aja’s follow-up to the likes of Switchblade Romance and The Hills Have EyesPiranha puts you in the midst of a swarm of mutant fish as they terrorise the pretty and mostly naked residents of a small fishing community. Undoubtedly the most memorable sequence is that which sees a set of regurgitated genitals spat out into the audience.

2. How To Train Your Dragon – Battling The Green Death

I’m maybe a little biased here, but in a film that contains memorable, jaw-dropping spectacle from start to finish it’s difficult to single out a particular scene for special mention. One of the only digital animations to utilise an Oscar-nominated cinematographer (Roger Deakins collaborates frequently with the Coen brothers), every scene is structured to make full use of the 3D technology. It is well documented that 3D is at its most effective during aerial scenes and DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon exploits this to wonderful effect. While one such flight sequence–which shows out heroes soar high above Berk to the inspiring melody of John Powell’s Test Drive–comes immediately to mind, it is the finale which sees Hiccup and Toothless face off against the monstrous Green Death which arguably takes the most breath away.

1. Avatar – I See You

In development since 1994, it is little wonder that 2009’s game-changer Avatar should take the top spot here. The first film that I ever saw in Real D, it blew me away with its expansive world-building, astonishing bio-diversity and innovative use of what was once (and perhaps still is) considered the ultimate gimmick. Most scenes could be cited as the most spectacular moment in a film brimming with spectacle, but it is the aerial assault in the film’s final act which, as in How To Train Your Dragon, manages to steal the show. As great swarms of Banshee-mounted Na’vi and Scorpion Gunships swoop in and out from between the floating Hallelujah Mountains, you could be forgiven for thinking you had just experienced the eighth wonder of the modern worldIn eye-popping 3D.

So what’s your favourite 3D moment? Or are you waiting for the release of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi before you make up your mind?

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Listen, The Academy…We Need To Talk About Kevin.

As you may or may not have noticed, it’s awards season, and earlier today The Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence took to the internet to reveal the 84th Academy Awards’ prepared list of Oscar nominations.

While The Academy tip their hat to a number of the year’s finest pieces of filmmaking – with The Artist, War Horse and The Decendents walking way with several awards apiece – there were the usual array of glaring omissions and truly staggering misjudgements.

Let’s take the Best Film category, which forsakes its potential ten places in favour of the aforementioned three, along with Moneyball, The Tree of Life, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Having not yet seen Moneyball or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close it is impossible for me to pass judgement (even if the latter looks too saccharine for words), while nobody in their right mind could question the right of The Tree of Life or Hugo‘s place on a list of the greatest movies of last year. But The Help, really? Sure, it was enjoyable enough, and nobody’s claiming it doesn’t carry an important message, but it is one that is seriously undercut by a black and white script in addition to the gigglesome whimsy of the central performances. And then there’s Midnight in Paris, a perfectly charming slice of confectionery nostalgia, starring Owen Wilson as Owen Wilson. But film of the year?

Where’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lynn Ramsay’s devastating adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel that earnt a poster quote from the latter? Where’s Melancholia, the clue-is-in-the-title film of the year from walking headline Lars von Trier? What about Super 8, a film just as nostalgic as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but with the added bonus of great performances and an escaped alien? However much I adored the above, however, there is one film that stands out from the competition as the finest piece of cinema released last year: Margaret. Five years in the making, and boasting a career-best performance from Anna Paquin (that’s right, Best Actress category, I have a bone to pick with you, too), Margaret is a film which actually has something to say. You know, other than racism and flying planes into buildings are bad.

My next bone of contention are the nominees for Best Documentary. Having broken my own personal record for documentaries seen in a single year, I had high hopes for actually having seen the Oscar winning film. I – along with the rest of the sports-ignorant world – fell in love with motor-sports this year, having watched a slew of young men either die or injure themselves doing something that they love. Both Senna and TT3D: Closer to the Edge were outstanding pieces of filmmaking, both informative and evocative as they shone a spotlight on two worlds little known out of their own fanbases. Heck, even Never Say Never opened my eyes to the undeniable talent of Justin Bieber, even if it has by now been marketed it out of existence by his record label. And I haven’t even mentioned Jane’s Journey, Project Nim, The Green Wave or LIFE IN A FREAKIN’ DAY.

The omissions wouldn’t have even been so bad if it weren’t for the clunking atrocities that have become Academy Award nominees in their place. What business do Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, Rio, W.E., Puss in Boots and Anonymous have being shortlisted for Oscars, when the likes of Shame, Troll HunterThe Skin I Live In and Take Shelter haven’t been nominated for anything? I didn’t think much of Winnie the Pooh but I’d rather see it an award winning animated movie ahead of Kung Fu Panda 2. Does Zooey Deschanel’s work on the soundtrack not count as Music then, The Academy?

I bloody knew this would happen.

If 2011 Were A Movie…

In recent years we have seen Hollywood tap a variety of different resources in its ongoing search for new ideas. Stopping just short of sticking its hand down the side of the sofa and rummaging for loose inspiration, Tinseltown has instead chosen to adapt everything from the usual books, video games and television shows, to websites, theme park rides and – I still can’t quite believe it –  even board games. So, why not an entire year?

If 2011 were a movie, aside from reflecting such recent events as The Royal Wedding, the London riots, the Eurozone crisis and those pandas arriving at Edinburgh zoo, it would also have to reflect the trends and tendencies prevalent in the films it has seen released during its tenure. As such, it would most likely be a remake of a foreign language prequel, a motion-capture throwback and a steamy tale of friends with benefits, with no strings attached.

If 2011 were a movie it would star Michael Fassbender as a man haunted by an unsuppressable Irish accent, Ryan Gosling as someone who can wear clothes really well, and Natalie Portman in the midst of what must amount to the most productive pregnancy ever. Stellan Skarsgård would play a man with a hidden agenda, Felicity Jones’ character would ultimately win your heart and Justin Timberlake would appear as a surprisingly capable actor.

If 2011 were a movie it would be set in Rio de Janeiro, where endangered birds come to mate, the fast are as fun as they are furious, and vampires routinely honeymoon.  At least, that is, until Michael Bay crashes a Transformer into it, forcing our heroes to set sale, on stranger tides, in search of the secret of the unicorn. On a Zeppelin. It would see McLovin slay some vampires, James Bond team up with Indiana Jones, and Queen Amidala wooed by a bunch of carrots and a period mix.

If 2011 were a movie it would be called 2011: The Movie – Part II Of The Rise Of The Planet of The Apes Of The Moon 3D (in 4romascope). It would have more punctuation than characters, more dimensions than punctuation, and in all likelihood be prefixed with Green. It would be a kid’s film by Martin Scorsese, a superhero movie by Michael Gondry, a live action movie by Brad Bird and an animated movie by Steven Spielberg.

If 2011 were a movie it wouldn’t be as good as the book, the original or the trailer for Sucker Punch made it out to be. It would miscast Liam Neeson, boast too much Nicolas Cage, and at some point feature a fat character shaving his head and shitting into her dress. Worst of all, however, New Year’s Eve would kill the finale. And it would be inexplicably steampunk.

More importantly, however, if 2011 were a movie I would pay to see it. I would marvel at its melancholy, gasp at its production values and laugh unabashedly at its failure to kill Bono. It would be surprisingly heartfelt for a summer blockbuster, unexpectedly jaw-dropping for a low budget Norwegian flick, as funny as the TV show, and a fitting conclusion to a much loved franchise.

If 2011 were a movie, 2012 would have a lot to live up to.

November 2011 – There’s Always Time For A Bow

Remember, remember the month of November; sparkling vampires, cancer and Gods. I haven’t been to the cinema as much as I might have liked this month but it has nevertheless proved a very mixed sack in terms of cinematic output.

Contagion showed that Marion Cottilard could be out-acted by Gwyneth Paltrow’s scalpless corpse and a race-ravaging virus; Immortals was a visual treat, but a painful shit of an offence to every other sense; 50/50 single-handedly justified Seth Rogen’s existence while giving us a counter-intuitive reason to laugh at cancer; and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I was further proof, if it was needed, that Anna Kendrick is one of the finest actresses working today.

The month was stolen, however, by two films that couldn’t be any more different if they tried. We Need To Talk About Kevin gave everyone something to talk about, while Arthur Christmas showed that you could celebrate the festive season a month early without wanting to burn John Lewis and their creepy advert to the ground in a fit of “Bah Humbugs!” Throw in a seasonal airing of V for Vendetta and there is just about enough quality cinema to offset the crap it is generally forced to share multiplexes with.

This month’s viewings have been somewhat overshadowed by an anniversary, however, with it having been one full year since I interned at Best for Film towers in 2010. Since departing, the site has gone on to grow and develop into a truly astounding celebration and critique of the state of cinema today. With subsequent batches of interns bringing their own unique opinions and comic sensibilities to a site already brimming in wit and talent, it has been an absolute joy to watch BFF go from strength to strength, an opinion I hope I drunkenly confessed during my recent trip down to mark the occasion.

Other than that, it has been a month of misguided novel writing, pathetically accidental attempts at a moustache and my eagerly awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II on DVD. I have also written a blog on the seven film franchises you won’t believe are still going, proudly watched the traffic to this site double and caught up on my month’s Bondage. Just another month in the life of a popcorn addict, really.

Film of the month: We Need To Talk About Kevin

July 2011 – Well I’m not gonna kiss you!

Well isn’t this odd: civi-street, I mean. How do you guys manage it? Having parted ways with The Cinema That Must Not Be Named (Vue) after four long years of service, I have found myself suddenly cut off from the ongoing summer season. Sure, I no longer have to hawk overpriced merchandise, argue prices with a steady slew of Leith’s finest or pretend that drop box is actually called barrier, but I no longer get to watch anything and everything Hollywood sees fit to throw at me for the price of a brief escalator ride either. Seriously, what if there’s a Hannah Montana: The Movie 2??

As such, July has been rather light on films. Catching up on Larry Crowne before finally hanging up my Ben and Jerry’s apron to hopefully burn in Hell, I have since emptied my wallet in order to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II 2D, 3D and Captain America: The First Avenger. While it of course makes the most economical sense, I can’t quite bring myself to buy a Cineworld Unlimited Card. The screens are bare, the digital projectors seem to be run by only the dimmest Big Brother contestants and you have to queue for movies like you might for a second class stamp. Nevertheless, with Super 8, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Tintin fast approaching it may be a bullet worth biting.

In other news, I prepped my DVD player for a week of Harry Potter celebration (I know, every week is a week of Harry Potter celebration). Working my way through Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire (*breathes*), Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows: Part I, I watched the finale in constant awe, through haemorrhaged tear ducts and the crushing sense that the best part of my life was crashing to the ground around me. I know, melodramatic much?

For Best for Film I contributed a series of blogs identifying five trailers that are better than the movies they tease, the best Harry Potter scenes that were never filmed and six fads that are arguably stunting cinemas. This, along with Bill Bryson’s entire back catalogue and an unhealthy amount of Mocha Frappuccino (a near-effective cinema substitute) brought me to the end of the month, an hour spent hurriedly finishing July’s edition BlogalongaBond: There’s Something I’d Like You To Get Off Your Chest (1971).

What does the future hold? Well, it’s beginning to look like a near endless barrage of Unlimited Card advertisements intrusively spliced between trailers, a multitude of time spent among noisy cinemagoers I’m powerless to throw out of my life and a mind-numbingly repetitive Red Bull advert that makes the Orange gold spots feel like a blessed way of spending sixty endless seconds. I’m serious, how do you guys manage it?

Film of the month: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (2011)

Bloody Hell, as Ron Weasley might have said. Ten years, eight movies, four directors and a worldwide box-office gross of over six billion dollars and look where it’s taken us: full circle.

So, without further ado, now the conclusion…

With three Horcruxes down and just four to go, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must pick up where he left off if he is to defeat Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) once and for all. Bartering with the goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) – entry into Bellatrix Lestrange’s (Helena Bonham Carter) vault at Gringotts for the sword of Griffindor – Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must utilise all they have learnt in order to make it past the extensive security. Recognising Voldemort’s presence in the cup of Hufflepuff, the trio are betrayed and left to make their own way out of the wizarding bank – swordless. Cue: dragon.

Parting ways with the Ukrainian Ironbelly, Harry’s connection with Voldemort indicates that the next Horcrux lies within the walls of Hogwarts. Assisted by Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, Harry, Ron and Hermione are shown the way back into the castle, lead through the secret passageway by none other than Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). Identifying the remaining two Horcruxes as Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem and the Dark Lord’s pet snake Nagini as the remaining Horcruxes, the trio split up in search of both the diadem and a means to destroy it while the school’s staff, students and the Order of the Phoenix prepare Hogwarts for battle.

There will be some, the odd soul as yet uninitiated with J. K. Rowling’s celebrated source material, to whom the above might as well be conveyed in Parseltongue. All this talk of Horcruxes and Hogwarts, Hallows and Hufflepuff, must read like utter Gobbledegook. Should that be the case, and it is certainly no fault of mine or director David Yates’, I offer this series of retrospectives, links to the rentable film series and the novels before them. One decade on this is our world, just as you wouldn’t tune into the last episode of Lost and expect it to play like the first.

If you’ve stuck with the series, literary or cinematic, endured the duff notes on and off the big screen and embraced the wizarding world, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I did all the leg work, getting us just where we needed to be. My reservations regarding the previous film’s end-point proved ill-conceived, a quick session of plot 101 and we’re good to go, the momentum left to build until we’re veritably hurtling towards the finale. This is the shortest Potter movie of the lot and it certainly feels it, with little water left to tread we all too soon find ourselves back in Hogwarts, the end achingly nigh.

To say I cried at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II would be an understatement of towering proportions. The biggest compliment I can bestow on this final chapter is that it hit me like a bat-bogey hex. It is testament to not only the work of Yates and his team of filmmakers – Alexandre Desplat, I love you – but the underestimated talents of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint that a story so high on silly should deliver an emotional punch of such ruthless affect. Both in its epic grandiosity and its treatment of reconciliation and tragedy, the film positively brims with emotional resonance.

If you are devastated at the sight of death, touched by the respect of what came before – CORNISH PIXIES! – or humoured by the richness of character (Helena Bonham Carter was born to do Emma Watson impressions), it is unlikely you will enjoy a more fulfilling experience this year. Already likable presences, Harry, Ron and Hermione now have complete dominion over your affections, whether you have read the books are aware of their fates or have simply followed the actors this far, the bond of their friendship is one of the most moving fictional relationships imaginable. While some characters might not achieve the life – or death – that they deserve, the treatment of the central trio is nothing short of perfection.

This is ultimately Harry’s story, however, and while a certain kiss might warm the cockles of your heart it is Radcliffe’s journey that will set them on fire. The depth of character is simply astounding, Rowling’s creation brought to life by an actor who – once upon a time – could barely rub his scarred forehead with much conviction. That he even survives the appallingly misjudged prologue – every bit as cringeworthy as it is in the novel – with his dignity intact just goes to show what majesty Radcliffe has over his character.

That this much nuance and character development is achieved in the shadow of a bombastic pyrotechnic or rampaging giant just serves to illustrate the richness of texture. This is a war movie and it delivers incredible bang for its buck. As a camera tracks our heroes’ movements around the castle, in and out of crumbling corridors and over bloodied corpses, the background detail truly astonishes. The escape from Gringotts – already a impressive spectacle in its own right – pales in comparison to the battle of Hogwarts, so awash is it with familiar faces, breathtaking action and proclivity for surprise. While J. K. Rowling’s blueprints serve the story well, Yates’ eye for an arresting set piece works the material beautifully, finding a new – but forever faithful – alchemy of his own.

I honestly couldn’t have asked for more – well, I suppose I could have but that would just be ungrateful – Yates delivering a movie which honours the past, respects the books and finally gives Alan Rickman something to do other than spout elocution lessons.  As we leave Hogwarts for the last time – awash with rubble and barely recognisable – it is with the utmost closure on what really has been the motion picture event of a generation.

Hogwarts Revisited – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

On the fifteenth of July, 2011, the highest grossing film franchise ever will finally come to an end. Spanning ten years, eight movies, four directors and a worldwide box-office gross of over six billion dollars – the Harry Potter film franchise will draw to a close with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, as Harry faces off against He Who Must Not Be Named for the very last time.

So, without further ado, previously on Harry Potter…

Having watched just about every father figure he has ever had unceremoniously Avada Kedavra’d, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is eager to complete the rest of his imperative mission alone; to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (shards of He Who Must Not Be Named’s soul). With Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) resolute in their loyalty, however, the trio are soon wandering the streets of muggle London bereft of any safe place to hide. Securing a Horcrux from the Ministry of Magic, our heroes’ progress is stunted when it quickly proves immune to normal magic.

Injured in the escape from the Ministry and buckling under the influence of the locket Horcrux, Ron struggles to cope with trio’s lack of direction, fleeing the camp after having grown increasingly jealous of Harry and Hermione’s apparent closeness. In his absence, Harry and a distraught Hermione visit Harry’s birthplace in a desperate search for answers, hoping that the Sword of Gryffindor – a weapon capable of felling Horcruxes – might be hidden there.

Leaving Godric’s Hollow with another tidbit of information and eventually regrouping with a repentant Ron (who helps Harry retrieve the sword from an icy lake before destroying using it to destroy the locket), the three of them visit Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) regarding a strange symbol he was sporting at the wedding of Bill (Domhnall Gleeson) and Fleur (Clémence Poésy), one which has since cropped up in a book left to Hermione in Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) last will and testament, the headmaster’s old letters and the graveyard where Harry’s parents were burried. Introduced to the story of the Deathly Hallows, three items which give the bearer dominion over death, the trio are soon on the run again when it turns out Lovegood has been compromised. Certain that Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) is after one of the Hallows – the near-omnipotent Elder Wand – Harry realises that he is runnig out of time, a certainty that jars with their capture and imprisonment at the hand of the Malfoys’.

Having vowed at the end of the last movie not to return to Hogwarts for their final year, but to instead track down each of Voldermort’s remaining Horcruxes, it was clear that this would be no ordinary slice of Potter. Though we may begin – as is custom – with a stint at the Dursleys’, the usual hijinks are replaced with a sombre tone as the muggles are shipped off for their own protection. Intercut with scenes showing Hermione and Ron saying one last farewell to their home comforts, composer Alexandre Desplat intricately unites these pre-title sequences with an ominous score which foreshadows the trials ahead and the cumulative gravity of the trio’s plight.

And what a plight it is. Opening with a daring rescue from Privet Drive, one that costs two lives and a Weasley’s ear, the scene is barely set when Harry and Hagrid are thrust into the thick of it atop Sirius Black’s enchanted motorcycle – last seen in the very first movie, almost exactly a decade before (sniff). This is followed by an escape from a Burrow-set wedding and an escape from the Ministry of Magic, a series of accomplished set pieces which shock as much as they impress. Lying in the middle of an autumnal forest, soaked through with blood, it really is harrowing stuff watching Harry choke and Hermione calm a wounded Ron.

Split in two to accommodate the sizable plot of J. K. Rowling’s final tome, this first instalment of the finale doesn’t suffer to the same extent as its predecessors from the transition from page to screen. While it is undoubtedly a welcome change to view the whole story rather than just an abridged, time and money-sensitive interpretation, what’s more of a relief is David Yates’ quieter and less invasive innovation. Gone are the fan-baiting omissions and needless additions, replaced instead with a series of timely and well observed character beats which – if anything – improve on Rowling’s own take on the story.

Each of the central three characters get their own moment to shine, with Ron charmingly lost in a world of Shaftesbury Avenues and cappuccinos, Hermione delighted with her own brilliance (if less than impressed at her hair-dressing skills) and Harry stepping up to the plate to console his heartbroken friend in dance. These are small moments, but they conspire to flesh each character out in the face of the cacophony of loss and destruction awaiting them in Part II. That we don’t see Hogwarts once lends proceedings a freshness and freedom that sets it apart from its predecessors not least in terms of setting but in terms of palpable jeopardy and suffocating dread as well.

While the saga’s cinematography has drawn some attention before, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is without a doubt the best-shot instalment in the series (courtesy of Eduardo Serra), if not one of the best-shot films of last year. Whether framing massive action set pieces, establishing shots or fleeting character nuances, the film is an absolute wonder to behold. Panning across a room-full of Harrys at different stages of Polyjuice transformation and detouring into the horror genre for an inspired snake attack and Horcrux…thing, the diversity on show is simply astounding. This is never truer than in the animated sequence illustrating the story of the Three Brothers, a breathtaking excursion from the main narrative that radiates true artistry.

Making no allowances for Harry Potter laymanism, it really does feel as though the end is nigh. The story has reached a critical mass, bringing together plot and characters from each of the preceding instalments so that they might advise, inform or die in the name of narrative. Ollivander (John Hurt) is plucked from his wand shop in Philosopher’s Stone, Dobby (Toby Jones) returns for the first time (in the films, anyway) since Chamber of Secrets, Lupin (David Thewlis) crops up from Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire‘s Fleur Delacour is marrying Bill Weasley, Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton. Boo!! Hiss!!) apparently survived the Order of the Phoenix and our very own Half-Blood Prince (Alan Rickman) nearly steals the show with an expository cameo towards the beginning.

With Part II looming this cumulative character base will only grow, the prospect of the titanic Battle of Hogwarts promising to juxtapose the contemplative nature (amid explosions, obviously) of this opening chapter with the wall-to-wall action of the next. Having grown up exquisitely, the Harry Potter franchise has outgrown its standing as a mere adaptation, it is – without a doubt – a phenomenon in its own right, uniting national acting treasures with a standard of storytelling and post-production unmatched by the rest of the summer season. Spanning ten years, eight movies, four directors and a worldwide box-office gross of over six billion dollars, the Harry Potter franchise is unmatched in its ambition, like the Sword of Gryffindor only taking in that which makes it stronger.

This is it then, it all ends here. While Part I can only truly be judged in conjunction with Part II it nevertheless justifies the decision to split the final book into two films through its sheer magnificence, a near – heck, whole – masterpiece of family genre entertainment in its own right. Moving, engaging and utterly inspiring, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a high watermark and tough act to follow. With the trailers and TV spots for Part II promising dragons, giants and lashings of resolution, this really, genuinely promises to be the motion picture event of a generation. Not bad for a story about one boy and his lightening shaped scar.

April 2011 – Pickled for posterity.

I really struggled to pick a poster that aptly summarised my movie-going month. Should I pick Killing Bono or Thor? Both of which were movies that I enjoyed hugely at the cinema this month. In the end, however, it could only ever really be one, a film that I have been (im)patiently been waiting for for what seems like ever. Scre4m.

That said, it hasn’t seemed like a particularly busy month – a fact that quickly boggles the mind when you consider all that has happened this April. Celebrating April Fools’ Day with HeyUGuys, I screened the previous year’s news for storys I wished has been just that, a joke. For Best for Film I listed the current superhero movies in various stages of reimagining in a attempt to decide whether the current retcon culture has gotten out of hand. More recently, I used a backlog of cinematic marriages to postulate a Royal Wedding of some interest, in which there might be a little drama to offset the endless praying. For my own blog, I once again collaborated with alongcameaginge in a bid to settle the dispute of the Crystal Skull once and for all.

At the cinema I loved Killing Bono, found relief in Scream 4 and thoroughly enjoyed Thor in 3D. I was appalled by Sucker Punch, bemused (not in a good way) by Source Code and thoroughly bored by Winnie the Pooh. It was Fast Five and Tomorrow, When the War Began that proved the biggest surprises, one because of how much fun it proved to be and the other simply because I’d never heard of it before.

I continued to digress from movies for Oh Yeah Me Too, for whom I penned a guide to “manning up” and comprised a checklist of the people you will encounter on a sunny day. I was consistently brought back to the big screen by exciting movie news, however, as Cabin in the Woods edged ever closer to release, filming began on The Avengers and the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part: II was released in all its ZOMG glory.

Despite a day of work experience at The Courier offices in Dundee, however, I leave this month much as I started it: a poorly paid guest assistant. With Cannes now just around the corner, I can only hope that May is a month of bigger things.

I ended this month, then, the same way I have ended every other month this year. Now onto the fourth instalment in the James Bond franchise, blogalongabond is back with April’s edition: Thunderball.

Film of the month: Scre4m

FILM NEWS: Well, that explains where I misplaced my spectacular.

And to think, this morning I was thinking about porridge, payday and some marriage that is apparently happening to everyone. Everything has changed since then – well, the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II has hit the interweb (via HeyUGuys) – and that’s as close to everything as you’re ever going to get.

If, from now on, all I am to think about is this one trailer, it’s a good thing Warner Bros. have gone to such lengths to ensure that there is three months worth of rewatch value to keep me going. With just about every page from the last few chapters of J. K. Rowling’s book getting a few milliseconds or so to shine, there is a near infinite amount of decoding, deconstructing and drooling to do before 15 July lumbers into view.

From the slowed theme at the beginning to the shitstorm of everything at the end, Deathly Hallows: Part II has well and truly been teased. We see Lilly and Petunia, Lupin and Tonks, Molly Weasley and Bellatrix LeStrange, Voldermort and Nagini as well as Harry, Ron and Hermione looking more than a little rough around the edges. From dragons to fiendfyre, Godricks Hollow to Hogwarts and faithfulness to the book to intriguing innovation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II really does look the wizard’s knees!

Let’s go kill us some Horcruxes!

Ten 2011 movies that can’t come quickly enough

Let down by such movies as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Despicable Me and Eat Pray Love following a deceitfully promising array of trailers, I have somewhat of a knack for anticipating the wrong movies. While the flip-side of this usually leaves me unsuspectingly stunned by masterpieces I never saw coming,  it is nevertheless interesting – for me at least – to compare my warped expectations with the crushing reality. As such, what follows is a list of the most promising movies of 2011 (my opinion) to be later juxtaposed with reviews when I finally get around to seeing the listed movies for myself. Some are obvious, and some are the result of my own guilty tastes so, tune in, buckle up and on your marks – in whatever order you so wish.

1. 127 Hours

Not too long to wait for this one, with Danny Boyle looking set to start 2011 with a tale of survival so hard to believe, yet so excruciatingly realistic, it is making people faint faster than they can felicitate. James Franco stars as Aron Ralston, a climber who – no joke- was forced to amputate his own arm with a blunt pen knife after finding himself stuck between a rock and an entire canyon. Although claims that Boyle has over-directed his follow-up to last year’s Slumdog Millionaire might sway some, I have little problem with a little extra to admire – just so long as Franco doesn’t inconveniently find a snake in his trousers.

2. I Am Number 4

Scoff all you want but this latest children’s fantasy adaptation looks set to give Harry Potter a real run for his Horcruxes, with Alex Pettyfer leading proceedings as Number 4, and alien fugitive being hunted down by those that destroyed his homeworld. With the trailer promising brooding superheroics, that cheerleader from Glee going to town with a samurai sword and some impressive set pieces, I Am Number 4 could be the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief we have all been waiting for.

3. Paul

When Simon Pegg and Nick Frost announce another collaboration, Santa must panic about what he is meant to get everyone for Christmas. First delivering Spaced, followed by the rather flawless set of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the two look no closer to disappointing with Paul, a road movie with a difference. With two British comic-book geeks encountering an extra terrestrial outside Area 51, someone finally seems willing to put Seth Rogen to good use as the voice of the titular alien.

4. Sucker Punch

Having owl-ed out with this last year’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Zach Snyder is returning to reality with a movie set in another one altogether. Focussing on the scheduled-for-lobotomy Baby Doll, the trailer teases an action adventure where your mind is once again the scene of the crime. Showing Inception what a slice of cheese can really do to your dreamscape, Sucker Punch promises to be the kind of balls-to-the-walls action movie that the director – owls withstanding – is known for.

5. Scream 4

Having left us to the likes of Scary Movie, Scary Movie II, Scary Movie III and Scary Movie IV, Wes Craven has dispensed with the unsatisfactory apology and announced an all-sins-forgiven return to form with Scream 4. Reuniting Neve Campbell, Courney Cox and David Arquette – and introducing a whole host of culture-relevant Ghost Face fodder – Scream 4 promises to make light of a whole new generation of horror while never losing sight of its own inherent wit and scariness.

6. Thor

With superhero movies quickly becoming old-hat, Thor promises something different – even in a world of Dark Knights, Fantasticars and evil ex-boyfriends. Adapting a Marvel property which is in itself an adaptation of a Norse myth, any director would be in for a challenging but ultimatly exhilerating production. That the studio has trusted Shakespeare veteran Kenneth Branagh with one of their last remaining premiere league properties just goes to emphasise the creative priorities at play. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins, Thor should be a very different superhero movie indeed.

7. X-Men: First Class

Before Brett Ratner went for bust with X-Men: Last Stand, the house that Xavier built was looking pretty sturdy indeed. With a strong allegorical subtext, interesting characters and sterling effects work, the X-Men franchise posessed and continues to posess much potential. Taking things back to basics, and under the direction of Kick-Ass‘ Matthew Vaughn, First Class promises to put the X-Men back on a map they never should have left.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Seven movies down and only one to go, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II really will end an era. Marketed as one half of “the motion picture event of a generation”, this one film will conclude the Deathly Hallows and the saga as a whole. Already having been teased as part of the original trailer, audiences have been bombarded with dragons, Horcruxes and a crumbling Hogwarts. Topping seven films of unwavering care and quality – and letting a plethora of loyal actors off the hook – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II promises to be spectacular.

9. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

A massive fan of Herge’s Tintin adventures as a child, I have been waiting for a Tintin adaptation for years. With Steven Spieberg directing the first instalment and Peter Jackson supposedly directing the next, you couldn’t ask for a better set of hands, ushering this beloved series into production. With the images released so far teasing an immersive and visually arresting world, the numerous character nuances present thanks to motion caption technology, I cannot wait to see what this looks like on the big screen.

10. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Pretty much willing to give or take the Mission Impossible franchise through films one and two, J. J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III won me over whole-heartedly. Well paced, exciting and visceral, the third instalment introduced an Ethan Hunt that could believably stand up to the likes of John McCain and Jason Bourne. With Pixar’s Brad Bird set to direct, and Abrams again on board as producer, we really could be in for something special – the dodgy title notwithstanding.