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


Hogwarts Revisited – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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…

Voldermort is making his presence felt, not only in the wizarding world but with the violent destruction of London’s Millennium Bridge. Returning to Hogwarts, even Professor Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) ability to protect his students is drawn into question when a series of attempts on the headmaster’s life backfire on the school’s student body. Convinced that it is Malfoy (Tom Felton) who is behind the attacks, having seen him inspecting a vanishing cabinet at Borgin and Burkes, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has a hard time convincing his friends that Malfoy might be given such an important assignment by Voldermort. Dumbledore, meanwhile, is far more concerned with teaching Harry a proper subject for once: history.

Using a Pensieve to share a series of memories with Harry, Dumbledore is troubled by a memory sourced from the new Defence of the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Tasked with retrieving the unedited memory from Slughorn, Harry uses his fame to infiltrate his teacher’s self-important Slug Club. Discovering that Tom Riddle was looking to split his soul across seven items – and certain that he may have succeeded – Dumbledore takes Harry to the alleged site of one of these Horcuxes with the intention of destroying it like Harry destroyed the diary and he himself had destroyed the ring. Escaping with it to Hogwarts, Harry is shown to have been right as Malfoy ambushes Dumbledore with a series of Death Eaters, killing him.

David Yates, only the second director to return for another glass of Polyjuice Potion, picks up where he left off with the celebratory cries of Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) ringing through the opening sequence, having just murdered her cousin. Haunting and evocative, the echoes of Order of the Phoenix immediately invoke the oppressive atmosphere invoked by the end of the previous movie. From this point on, Yates does his best to balance the impending darkness with a cavalier portrayal of teenage life – namely through his focus on “sex, potions and rock and roll”. It is a winning duality, providing our best insight yet into the central trio’s core relationship.

The soap operatics work beautifully, as Grint and Watson are finally given more to do that mug and scowl respectively. Their growing jealousy of one another provides a nice escape from the impending sense of doom, each student allowed to mature into young adults in a way that feels remarkably organic and within character. Radcliffe is exceptional in a role that finally allows him to stretch his funny bone, the scene in which he mourns the death of Hagrid’s (Robbie Coltrane) pet acromantula while high on liquid luck really endears the character in a much more engaging way than previously attempted. It is the scenes set across The Tree Broomsticks and Slug Club gatherings that really impress, however, with the sexual politics and maturing inter-relationships fleshing out the friendship in a way that expertly ups the stakes for the coming war. You really start to fear for the characters.

It isn’t just Radcliffe, Watson and Grint that impress, however, with the franchise continuing to introduce interesting new characters even at this late stage in the game. Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) and Cormac McLaggen (Freddie Stroma) both provide winning comic relief as differentially successful love interests for Ron and Hermione respectively. Jim Broadbent, meanwhile, is marvelously mistrustful as the new potions master (Snape has finally claimed the Defence Against the Dark Arts position), Professor Slughorn. With the exception of a few early duff notes from Michael Gambon’s Albus Dumbledore (come on Professor, try!), it is quite amazing just how solid the performances have become.

David Yates’ relatively gung-ho approach to the script does begin to grate, however, with a number of key scenes dropped in favour of a needless, invented-just-for-the-movie scene in which The Burrow is inexplicably destroyed by Death Eaters. Citing a concern for repetitiveness, Yates even went so far as to remove the final battle – quite despite the fact that the decision to split the final film in two would end the next film on a different note entirely. Whether because of my general disregard of the sixth book (goodbye and good riddance to Harry’s belly-monster) or the wealth of consolation on offer, however, I’m more forgiving of Half-Blood Prince than I am of Order of the Phoenix. Subjective, yes, but this is a retrospective.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, then, is the perfect quasi-penultimate instalment. The calm before the storm, it really is an absolute pleasure to spend some quality time with Rowling’s extraordinary creations before they depart on their crusade against Voldermort’s scattershot soul. With Nicholas Hooper returning to score the film – his enchanting Dumbledore’s Army theme thankfully in tow – and boasting the awesome cinematography of one Bruno Delbonnel (the pensieve-set scenes are a work of art), this really is family entertainment at its best.