Monday, July 27, 2009

The Hurt Locker - 4 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like realistic war movies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Calm

Don't See This Movie If: People who want to see glammed up war movies or action movies

Although it is not my kind of movie, I was still able to recognize that The Hurt Locker was brilliant. After hearing amazing things about it from people I trust and reading stellar reviews, a buddy and I drove to Atlanta to see this movie since it wasn't playing in Athens. After glammed up war movies like The Kingdom or Valkyrie, this film mixes things up by relying on a raw, realistic script where the war itself is secondary to the individual days a soldier lives through.

The plot and acting are gripping and most scenes had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Although there were explosions since the main characters are bomb and explosive technicians, these are explosions like what you see on CNN and not the CGI kind seen in Transformers. Because of this realistic portrayal, I felt much more vested in the lives of the characters and their motivation for doing what they do. Yes, the actors executed the script well, but in my opinion the credit for such an outstanding film belongs mostly to two people, Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow.

Boal wrote the very compellingly script that unfolds the way an octagon rolls. You never quite know where it is going, but you know it is going somewhere so you keep watching. In the end, you see how each part makes sense in the whole and, through this, discover very believable motivations for the characters' past actions. I especially appreciate how you learn about both the situation and the characters by watching what the characters DO than by listening to what they say. This demonstrates both the artful writing of the screenplay and the successful delivery by the actors.

As progressive as I believe myself to be, I must admit I was blown away that such a raw, strong, realistic movie about the war in Iraq was directed by a woman. For some reason, films such as this reek masculinity to a society with divided gender standards. But as a European movie magazine wrote, "sometimes it takes a woman to make a man's movie." Perhaps my surprise at there being a woman at the helm is due to the fact that I do not think this film will appeal to many women. Certainly, it is not one that falls in my category of favorites, though I can certainly appreciate its superb storytelling. For me it is much easier to watch a glossed up Hollywood war flick with big explosions and teary moral endings than it is to watch one that honestly portrays how life is not fair and that some people have to deal with that fact more than others.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: For those of you with weak stomachs, it was difficult for me to watch the scene with the corpse.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The scene in the grocery store cereal aisle was nice cinematography and color, good plot and character development, and humorous all at once.

All in all, The Hurt Locker is for a minority of movie goers, but if you are in that group you will incredibly appreciate this impacting and honest film.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Mixed feelings about this...

Spirit seeks out King Kong story
Film unit picks up rights to 'King of Skull Island'


Spirit Pictures is looking to breathe new life into King Kong and a project initially developed by effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

Producers at the shingle have picked up the rights to the book "Kong: King of Skull Island," a prequel to the well-known tale of the big ape.

Penned by Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland, book focuses on the backstory of Skull Island and how the giant gorilla became king there. It introduces other giant gorillas and dinosaurs only hinted at in the previous films.

The book was published at the same time Peter Jackson was producing his remake of "King Kong."

Rights to make the movie were brokered with the Merian C. Cooper family, who own the Kong property. Cooper co-directed the original "Kong," released in 1933.

"We're very concerned with honoring Merian C. Cooper's legacy in Hollywood. We want to make sure that whatever we deliver will honor his memory," said Spirit's Steve Iles, who worked on videogames for the "Star Wars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises through his Pocket Studios game company.

The plan is to produce the film using motion-capture technology such as Robert Zemeckis used to make "The Polar Express," "Beowulf" and the upcoming "A Christmas Carol." Spirit's own facility would produce the CG work.

Spirit also is developing "War Eagles," a project Cooper and Harryhausen had developed together and were nearly set to produce before the outbreak of WWII. The period actioner is set in 1939 and revolves around an ace fighter-pilot who tests a new jet and winds up crash-landing in the arctic, where he encounters a lost civilization that's been thriving there for centuries.

"It's one of those films that a certain level of the industry is aware of," said Arnold Kunert, producer on both "Kong" and "Eagles." "It's a combination of all the things that have worked in adventure films for the last 70 or 80 years."

Andy Briggs is working on the scripts for both films, with Spirit also developing offshoots like graphic novels, videogames and toys.

Iles and Kunert will produce both pics through Spirit, which is still seeking production partners on the projects.

~ Taken from Variety online

If they're going to do it, they better do it well. King Kong is like Gone With The Wind. If you do it badly, you're going to ruin an amazing legacy.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Ugly Truth - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like movies that are truly half romance and half comedy

Best Mood to Walk In With: Light hearted

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like crude humor (this movie is not vulgar, but there are a few shocking references)

I was very impressed with The Ugly Truth, not because it was the best movie of all time, but because it was a romantic comedy that women will enjoy and most men will truly laugh at. I saw it twice this weekend, the first time with a guy who is not a fan of rom coms and the second time with some female friends. Although there was laughter at different parts of the movie, both groups of companions laughed and enjoyed themselves. Although I found the comedy exceeding my expectations, the romance part was predictable but not difficult to enjoy.

I think this movie is a crowd pleaser to both genders because of the amazing acting skills of Gerard Butler. After all, how could King Leonidas not take on a role that is guy-friendly? (Haha, that was sarcasm since he also was the Phantom in 2004's The Phantom of the Opera.) But seriously, Butler plays a character that many men can relate to, maybe not because Mike represents them particularly, but because he can probably represent at least one guy they know. Although a character like Mike who represents modern day "dude code" could be contrived and flat, Butler's acting lets you see more than just one or two sides of Mike's character and the strong script makes that delivery believable.

Although Katherine Heigl also does really well in this movie as an uptight, news producer seeking love, her artful comedic timing is only appreciated while the movie is on. I still find her incredibly taxing on the nerves in real life, and Newsweek agrees. Recently it published an article titled "Why is Katherine Heigl So Annoying?" Though I don't agree that her annoying real life antics make the movie bad, I do find the article true in other ways. To read more about it, click here.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The awkward make-out session between the two news anchors
Keep Your EARS Open For: Heigl's response to her date referencing his "wet crotch". HILARIOUS!

All in all, if you like romantic comedies The Ugly Truth is a healthy mix of the two elements. If you're looking for straight up romance, rent The Notebook.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Orphan - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like scary movies, particularly ones like The Good Son and Rosemary's Baby

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to scream! ;)

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like to be scared

If you enjoy creepy horror movies, you will love The Orphan. Although it is not a fine film by any means, it fulfills exactly what it intends to scare the crap out of you. Creepy children give me the willies anyway, but Esther one ups Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son, because she has a disturbing secret.

Overall, the script is so-so and the few jokes that are made are tasteless (there's one about a "snow orphan"). Additionally, the cinematography and editing are weird and you may notice several strange and unnecessary shots. However, you're not watching The Orphan for the humor or the camera work, you're seeing it for the anticipation and the fright, both of which are delivered beautifully. Specifically the playground scene was wonderfully executed. You know what is coming, but the movie teases you until you're more anxious than the little girl Esther is terrorizing.

It's truly the children actors that carry this movie. Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther is delightfully creepy and wicked, but I was most impressed by Aryana Engineer who plays the hearing impaired little sister Max. Her reactions to Esther are the most believable. Vera Farmiga plays the mother who is just completely over the top, but she is much more enjoyable to watch than Peter Sarsgaard's flat performance as the father. Additionally, I really hated how melodramatic the storyline was between the parents. The Orphan hits you over the head with the plot, then assumes you weren't paying attention and does it again. Subtlety and an unfolding story are forsaken for aggressive, immediate acknowledgment of the details.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Awkward sex scenes
Keep Your EARS Open For: The scene where the Mom tries to explain sex to Esther...the little girl's reaction is hilarious.

Overall, although The Orphan is not the most carefully executed movie, it delivers exactly what you want. In my opinion it is the best scary movie that has come out in the past 4 months at least.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Love You Beth Cooper - 1 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Guy who just want to gaze at Hayden Panettiere

Best Mood to Walk In With: Brain dead

Don't See This Movie If: You care about plot or dialogue

I'll be honest. I don't even want to waste time talking about this movie. It was not good and I don't know why anyone would spend money on it unless they (understandably) think Hayden Panettiere is pretty and want to stare at her. However, the movie is so bad that I cannot understand why you would not just rent Heroes on DVD if that was what you were interested in. Needless to say, I did not love Beth Cooper.

I Love You Beth Cooper tries to imitate the zany, adventure, coming of age movies like Superbad and (for those from my generation) Can't Hardly Wait. However, the script doesn't create awkwardly funny scenes like in many modern movies of this genre. Instead the awkwardness translates to uncomfortably strange scenes that make you squirm in your seat. Also, the "tender" parts of the movie are so trite and unbelievable, there is no moment where you truly sympathize with the characters.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The cow poop scene made me want to puke in my mouth.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: There was one part that made me laugh. It was the fireside impersonation. I'm not sure if it was just me though.

Overall, don't waste the money. If you're looking for something funny, go see The Hangover (again).

Movies Are Life. ~ K

G.I. Joe scene

Looks like G.I. Joe is trying to compete with Transformers. Thoughts?

Movies Are Life. ~ K

You've Got A Very Important Date! :)

Now that Harry Potter has made its appearance, this is my new obsession. (You could probably tell by previous posts though. :)) Check out the newly released trailer for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland:

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Did the Vatican's Newspaper Think of Harry Potter?

The Vatican's quasi-official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published an article in January of 2008 showing two points of view (both of them Catholic, of course) about Harry Potter. The article was titled (translated from Italian)"A Comparison of Opinions on the Most Famous Wizard in the World: The Double Face of Harry Potter" and made quite a splash in the media when it appeared. To read an English translation of the article, click here.

So after all that, what does L'Osservatore Romano think about the newest film? Although Pope Benedict XVI had once called Harry Potter spiritually dangerous, journalist Gaetano Vallini had many positive things to say about the film. He compared the magic in Harry Potter to the magic that is portrayed in Catholic-okay fairy tales and even said that the movie promoted good things like "friendship, altruism, loyalty and self-giving".

Guess Harry Potter is not the "wrong model for a hero" after all, huh? :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Fun Girl Movie News!

For a movie fan like me, Variety online is essential to hear about up and coming movie projects. For those of you who loved Bridget Jones's Diary, get excited! Variety reports the following:

"The untitled third "Bridget Jones" pic, which is still in its early stages and probably won't go into production until the end of next year, will see Zellweger reprise her role as a British publishing exec struggling to find love.

It will likely be based on the weekly columns author Helen Fielding wrote in 2005 for British newspaper the Independent in which Bridget, now in her 40s, attempts to have a baby before it's too late.

Working Title co-toppers Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan have yet to set a writer or director."

Personally, I can't wait to see the lovable and neurotic Bridget back on the big screen! :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Repost from Perez Hilton's website

"It hasn't even been 24 hours and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is already breaking records!

The latest installment of the Harry Potter series has won the title of "Best Midnight Gross" of all time!!!!

The Half-Blood Prince earned a massive $20 million in ticket sales at its 12:01 a.m. opening Tuesday night, topping the midnight sales of both The Dark Night ($18 mil) and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ($17 mil).

Even the midnight release of 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix can't hold a candle to last night's numbers - the last film in the HP series only grossed $12 million from 12 a.m. sales!

Who knows how high the figures will climb by the weekend's close!"

Now that Harry Potter is out, my next movie to be excited about is Funny People with Adam Sandler. It's scheduled for release July 31 and looks awesome! :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Now that it's been released...

What did everyone think of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? One person's status on gmail chat is "I thought I was going to see HP: Half Blood Prince, not HP: 90210". What's your opinion? Was it worth the wait?

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 3.75 out of 4.00 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who have good taste

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready for awesomeness

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like movies

I felt like the Chosen One last night when I was allowed an advanced screening of the movie I've been anticipating for almost 2 years. After all the build up, was I disappointed in the movie? Absolutely not. Was I surprised by some of the changes from the book. In a word, yes. But we can save that discourse for a bit later.

Like all the other reviews have hit upon, I must first rave about the incredible cinematography. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince weaves an incredible visual story, rich with colors, depth, and feeling. At times a scene vibrant in color switches to a scene in dismal greys without any jarring to the audience. Such large changes work because each shot matches the tone of the action perfectly. How viewers probably felt seeing the Wizard of Oz when it was released, surprised at the brilliance of experiencing Technicolor for the first time, is how I felt watching the newest installment of Harry Potter. Although there is no new technology accompanying the film, the cinematography is so great you see how little other movies have fulfilled their potential in this area.

While movie goers who are not readers of the book or are apathetic about exact translations will love the film, those of us who are a bit more literal in our expectations have a few surprises coming. Without giving anything away, be ready to see the final fight scene drastically different in its execution, becoming a much more personalized experience for Harry. Although plotwise, this change does not hurt the story, thematically it has a few major implications. Most obviously is that it portrays an implicit trust Harry has in Snape that he never had in the book, as well as it removes the sacrificial relationship between Dumbledore and Harry. Also, I was slightly disappointed with the scene in the cave. After being amazed by the different tasks in the book and the terrifying introduction of the inferiori, the pared down version didn't meet my high expectations.

However, overall, the movie does a great job at creating a disturbing aura around Hogwarts. In most scenes, you are left feeling just as the wizarding community is feeling with the Dementors breeding in the air around them (book reference, not in the movie). This is balanced by the teenage social awkwardness that is hilarious and heartrending in the book, but somehow even funnier and more tender in the movie.

As for the acting, the actors you have seen previously remain the same. Daniel Radcliffe is a great foil for everyone around him, Michael Gambon adds a loving stiffness to his characterization of Dumbledore, Emma Watson is by far the student you feel for the most emotionally, Rupert Grint continues to be the ham, Helena Bonham Carter is still over the top, Tom Felton as Draco scowls often per usual, Evanna Lynch is perfectly cast as Luna, Maggie Smith as McGonagall continues to channel the character amazingly, and last but certainly not least Alan Rickman embodies Snape with his arched eyebrow and exaggerated pronunciation of syllables. Two new comers enhance the cast greatly. First, Jessie Cave as Lavender is hilarious as she chases "Won-Won" around Hogwarts. And secondly, Jim Broadbent is incredible as Professor Slughorn. The Harry Potter movie franchise should give its casting director a bonus in what she's done for the faculty that weave in and out of the episodes. Just as Emma Thompson amazed us as Professor Trelawney and Imelda Staunton exceeded our wildest dreams about Umbridge, Broadbent fully brings the character of Slughorn to life.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The awkward Harry/Ginny moments, like when she kneels before him or when she tells him to close his eyes
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The hilarious scene where Harry takes the Felix Felicis

All in all, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be fun for anyone, but there will be added bonuses AND frustrations for those who love the book. Sometimes small things that appear in the movie but are not explained are exciting as you recognize the meaning of characters like Fawkes or seek for a glimpse of the diadem in the Room of Requirement. But it is also challenging when the Half-Blood Prince is revealed, but not explained. However, I enjoyed catching my non-book reading buddies up on these nuances and relishing in every detail of both the novel and the movie that way.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, July 13, 2009

Harry Potter: 3 Things


1 1/2. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get a sneak preview of the film tonight! Check back tomorrow to see if I got my heart's biggest wish. ;)

2. The above picture tickled me when I checked out postsecret today. It's amazing how much one person's imagination can affect other people's realities.

3. My friend EJ tweeted about Roger Ebert's review. In case you're wondering what yet another critic thought, check out his opinion below:

The climactic scene in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" takes place in one of those underground caverns with a lake and an ominous gondola as the means of transportation, popularized by "The Phantom of the Opera." At first I thought -- no gondola! But then, one appeared, dripping and hulking. In another movie I might have grinned, but you know what? By that point, I actually cared.

Yes, this sixth chapter is a darker, more ominous Harry Potter film, with a conclusion that suggests more alarmingly the deep dangers Harry and his friends have gotten themselves into. There was always a disconnect between Harry's enchanting school days at Hogwarts and the looming threat of Voldemort. Presumably it would take more than skills at Quidditch to defeat the dreaded Dark Lord.

In one of the opening scenes, we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) late at night in a cafe of the London Underground, reading a copy of the Daily Prophet which poses the question: Is Harry Potter the Chosen One? By the film's end, he acknowledges that he has, indeed, been chosen to face down Voldemort (whose name should properly rhyme with the French word for "death," mort; also, since their word vol can have meanings such as "thief" and "steal," Lord Voldemort is most ominously named).

Harry is distracted from his paper, however, by an instant flirtation with the young waitress, a saucy cutie who informs him, although he asked only with his eyes, that she gets off work at 11. She indeed waits for him on the platform, but the Chosen One must respond to his higher calling from Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who either materializes, gets off a train, or has a pied-a-terre right there in the Underground. I for one will be disappointed if that waitress (I think her name is Elarica Gallagher) doesn't turn up again in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," whose two parts will conclude the series in 2010 and 2011.

at will be none too soon if Harry doesn't want to steal up on the "Twilight" franchise, since he and his friends, especially poor Ron Weasley, have definitively entered adolescence. Even now he seems to be entertaining thoughts of snoggling with Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). Yes, Harry, so recently a round-eyed little lad, will soon be one of Hogwarts' Old Boys.

Director David Yates suggests the transition in subtle ways, one of them by making Hogwarts itself seem darker, emptier and more ominous than ever before. Its cheery corridors are now replaced by gloomy Gothic passages, and late in the film an unspeakable fate befalls the beloved Dining Hall at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), who seems to function principally as a destructive vixen, but no doubt has more ominous goals.

The mission for which Dumbledore summoned Harry at the outset was to visit the London home of Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), who has become reclusive since his Hogwarts days, but is now urgently needed along with his memories of the young student Tom Riddle, who grew up to become the man whose name should rhyme with Death. Dumbledore hopes they can discover a secret vulnerability of Voldemort's, and that is why they find themselves in the underground cavern. When this possible key is discovered, I promise you I'm not spoiling anything by observing that its basic message is "to be continued."

There are really two story strands here. One involves the close working relationship of Dumbledore and Harry on the trail of Voldemort. The other involves everything else: romance and flirtation, Quidditch, a roll call of familiar characters (Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall, Wormtail, Lupin, Filch, Flitwick and Malfoy, whose name could be French for "bad faith"). With names like that, how do they get through Commencement without snickering?

Some of these characters are reprised just as reminders. The giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), for example, turns up primarily to allow us to observe, look who's turned up! Snape, as played by Alan Rickman, is given much more dialogue, primarily I suspect because he invests it with such macabre pauses. Radcliffe's Potter is sturdy and boring, as always; it's not easy being the hero with a supporting cast like this. Michael Gambon steals the show as Dumbledore, who for a man his age certainly has some new tricks, so to speak, up his sleeve.

I admired this Harry Potter. It opens and closes well, and has wondrous art design and cinematography as always, only more so. "I'm just beginning to realize how beautiful this place is," Harry sighs from a high turret. The middle passages spin their wheels somewhat, hurrying about to establish events and places not absolutely essential. But those scenes may be especially valued by devoted students of the Potter saga. They may also be the only ones who fully understand them; ordinary viewers may be excused for feeling baffled some of the time.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Harry Potter was moved from the 17th to the 15th!!!!!!!!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is now coming to us in theaters 2 days earlier! Yay for this Wednesday!!!!!!! (I'm getting my tickets today!)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bruno - 2.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who don't mind crude, vulgar, or extremely sexual humor

Best Mood to Walk In With: Not easily offended

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like seeing swinging penises or facsimiles of penises or you feel uncomfortable concerning gay or S&M references

To put this simply, most of you probably already know if you're going to like Bruno or not. Although I haven't seen Borat (I know, I know), I have seen The Ali G Show. Basically, imagine the funny, yet censored show on crack and amp up the offensiveness to 1,000,000%. Basically if you get offended by almost anything, don't go see this movie.

Now before I talk about Sasha Baron Cohen, who carried this movie as the primary actor, writer, producer, and musician, I want to tell you why I guiltily enjoyed this movie. As highly inappropriate things would happen, I fell into the cycle of laughing, laughing harder, and then feeling shame for having laughed. The first burst of giggles was usually out of shock at seeing something like Bruno shoving a bottle of champagne up the butt of a pygmy man or making a joke about South Koreans and North Koreans coming together, because they're "both basically Chinese anyway." Then I would really start laughing as I saw how cleverly Cohen was portraying and making fun of ignorant people. However, in the end I felt guilty for laughing, because for every one person who understood the foundation of social satire, there are 10 more people who are laughing because they truly believe the stereotypes he is portraying.

Truly, whether or not you approve of Cohen's material, there is no denying his immense talent with comedic timing and improvisation. He is incredibly skilled at exploiting people's ignorance for laughs. At times, I felt bad for the oblivious folks he was obviously skewering with his wit. More than just writing the screenplay and producing the movie, I was impressed that Cohen also wrote the score for the movie. Specifically, the ending song proved much more than a musical feat, because somehow Cohen recruited Bono, Elton John, Slash, Snoop Dog, and Sting to perform with him. How he did that, I have no clue, but a "We Are The World" song was a strange way to end the crudest, most offensive movie I have ever seen.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The sex montage between Bruno and his Pygmy flight attendant boyfriend
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The wrestling scene is pretty funny

Overall, I will leave you with a comparison from someone who I trust and who saw both Bruno and Borat. This person said that Bruno was less clever and much more vulgar and offensive than Borat. If you can handle that, you will definitely enjoy this movie. But if you are a bit more socially conscious, you will probably want to skip out on Bruno and just wait til next Wednesday for Harry Potter. ;)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, July 6, 2009

Variety's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

This got me so excited! I can't wait to see HP&tH-BP!!! Here's hoping I will get a sneak peak at it next week, too! ;)

Kids’ stuff is a thing of the past in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Suddenly looking quite grown up, the students at Hogwarts are forced to grapple with heavy issues of mortality, memory and loss in this sixth installment in the series of bigscreen adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Potter tales. Dazzlingly well made and perhaps deliberately less fanciful than the previous entries, this one is played in a mode closer to palpable life-or-death drama than any of the others and is quite effective as such. Delayed by Warner Bros. from a late 2008 release date so as to spread the wealth after “The Dark Knight” scored so mightily last summer, this “Prince” is poised to follow its predecessors as one of the year’s two or three top-earning films.

After sitting out “The Order of the Phoenix,” screenwriter Steve Kloves happily returned to once again skillfully condense a massive book into manageable dramatic form; among many tough narrative decisions, he has cut back on the violent mayhem surrounding the murderous climax and put off the introduction of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour until the next episode.

Director David Yates, after a prosaic series debut on the prior film, displays noticeably increased confidence here, injecting more real-world grit into what began eight years ago as purest child’s fantasy; messenger owls and chattering house elves have been superseded by a frank Underground tea-room flirtation, school security checks and raging teenage hormones. The sets have been stripped down to reduce Hogwarts’ fairy-book aspects and emphasize its gray medieval character, and even the obligatory Quidditch match is staged with greater attention to spatial comprehensibility than ever before.

As the overarching story ramps up toward one major character’s death at the end of part six and the final confrontation between Harry and archfiend Voldemort in the climactic “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which is being shot as a two-part film, this increased seriousness is all to the good. It’s hard to imagine watching “Half-Blood Prince” as a “Potter” virgin without a clue as to what’s come before, but it’s a formidable entry with a heft and cinematic texture compromised only by a certain lack of dramatic modulation.

With the villainess of the last picture, Dolores Umbridge, out of the way but the unseen Lord Voldemort in the ascendant, neither London, subject to a startling opening-scene Death Eater attack, nor Hogwarts itself can be regarded as safe from the Dark Lord’s gathering storm. While Dumbledore takes Harry along to recruit former colleague Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts as new potions professor and, he hopes, to provide crucial revelations about Voldemort, Harry’s student nemesis, Draco Malfoy, prepares to commit a heinous crime designed to pave the way for Voldemort’s comeback.

While Harry remains mindful of his status as the “Chosen One,” he is not entirely exempt from the lusts, jealousies and intrigues that preoccupy his fellow teenagers as never before. While Harry’s growing fondness for Ron’s sister Ginny is slowly developing, Ron is a sitting duck for the attentions of the irrepressible Lavender Brown. But, as we know, the brilliant Hermione unaccountably loves the comparatively slow-witted Ron, and she has only Harry’s shoulder to cry on when he’s not squiring space cadet Luna Lovegood.

But assessing the romantic entanglements is not nearly as much fun as simply beholding the big physical changes in the young actors, whose onscreen maturation will have been documented across the span of a decade when all is said and done. The biggest change since “Phoenix” two years ago has been registered by Tom Felton, who plays Malfoy; he’s now a tall stringbean in the Jimmy Stewart mold, with a face that’s come to resemble that of Jonathan Pryce, and he towers over Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry, who looks to be the shortest person in the cast (not true when Imelda Staunton was around).

Rupert Grint, as Ron, has always looked a tad older than the others and continues to while showing more character. Emma Watson, perennially appealing as Hermione, has become a very attractive young woman, and Bonnie Wright’s Ginny intrigues as the sort of initial plain Jane who keeps growing on you.

Joining such returning stalwarts as Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and Warwick Davis among the Hogwarts staff is Jim Broadbent, who makes a terrific disguised entrance and is then simply grand as the eccentric old prof whom Harry presses for crucial insights into Voldemort; latter’s student incarnation as Tom Riddle is seen in two crucial memory sequences.

It’s this chapter in the Potter saga that obliges the always nasty but ambiguously motivated Severus Snape to show his true colors, and the indispensable Rickman delivers, as always, with line readings that are delicacies of the infinitely mordant kind. He is periodically egged on by the insidious Bellatrix Lestrange, a role Helena Bonham Carter plays with such mesmerizing abandon that one hopes the role fully pays off in the final chapter.

The particulars of Dumbledore’s final quest with Harry could prove a bit confusing to the uninitiated, although there are unlikely to be many of those in the audience at this stage. Otherwise, the film is clear-headed and clean-lined; now that he’s at home with the material, Yates has made a “Potter” picture that is less desperate to please than any of its predecessors, itself a sign of series maturity.

Among the always outstanding production values and top-drawer visual effects, special note should be made of series newcomer Bruno Delbonnel’s exceptionally atmospheric cinematography and Nicholas Hooper’s emotionally churning score, which contains only the slightest trace of John Williams’ original themes.

After two PG-13-rated entries, this one has won a PG, matching the first three. At 153 minutes, “Half-Blood Prince” is the third-longest feature in the series and seems just about right; “Order of the Phoenix,” at 138 minutes, actually felt too short.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3-D - 1.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Children under the age of 10, people who would like to see an animated film in the style of "Not Another Teen Movie"

Best Mood to Walk In With: Easily entertained

Don't See This Movie If: You are looking for a clever sequel in the tender and funny style of the first Ice Age

I'm sure you can tell I wasn't head over heels in love with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I think this movie would entertain my 6 and 4 year old Godsons easily, but I don't think it is one that their parents would overly enjoy or be a family classic that is watched ever Friday night. There are some cheap laughs, but most of the script is regurgitated lines from other more clever movies. Although the script is original, the majority of jokes are social parody-like a la the Scary Movie franchise. The best example of this is when Buck the weasel picks up a rock and starts to talk into it like it's a cell phone. It is normal animated movie reality that animals can talk, but it is incongruent that a talking animal from the Ice Age knows about cell phones. Like I said, cheap laughs.

Anyway, the animation and 3-D effects are average for a big animated feature. As with most of the 3-D movies I've seen lately, if you're trying to save money I don't think much would be lost if you saw Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 2-D.

Looking at the cast of voices featuring Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Seann William Scott, Bill Hader, and Simon Pegg, you would think it would be an impressive ensemble. Sadly, there is no richness of emotion or character in the voices that set it apart from any other film. In terms of the characters' voices, this is NOT a Toy Story where Tom Hanks's dulcet tones and Tim Allen's rough barks set the tone for the visuals. Leary sounds weary, Romano is dull, and Latifah sounds completely different from everyone else in the cast. Although Leguizamo always brings the laughs as lisping Sid, unfortunately his and Pegg's voices aren't enhanced by clever lines.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The scene where a "dead" bird is about to be fed to the baby dinosaurs surprised me in a flick for youngsters
Keep Your Eyes Open For: There's a cute scene where Manny shows Ellie the nursery he made for their unborn child

All in all, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is not bad at all for a film meant to entertain children, but Night at the Museum is a much more fun romp. It's equally silly, but it can also save you money by being at the dollar theater. After all, we ARE in a recession. ;-)

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

THIS IS NOT OK!!!!! :(

Below is an article I took off perez. I am so angry about this!! I had planned to drive to the Mall of Georgia to see the midnight showing in IMAX. Boo Revenge of the Fallen. It was a stupid movie and now I hate it even more.

If you were hoping to catch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in IMAX on its opening weekend, you better live in NY, LA, or Chicago. Otherwise, you're shit outta luck!

The smarty-pants over at the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen distribution office have worked a deal that has Transformers booked in IMAX theaters across the country for an entire month, effectively ruining any chance to release Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the big, big screen until July 29, 2 weeks following its initial release. (July 17)

However, there are three very specific locations that are exempt from this burnout of Potter, so if you are hell-bent on seeing the flick in IMAX, grab a pen.

The locations are: NYC’s AMC Loews Lincoln Square, LA’s Century City IMAX, and Chicago’s Henry Crown Space Center at the Museum of Science and Industry, which is also currently displaying a Harry Potter exhibit.

We don't really see the necessity to see Harry Potter on an IMAX screen, but for avid fans, we guess it is important.

Will U wait to see it in IMAX or tough it out and see Harry Potter on the regular size screen?

Obviously MY answer is that I will see it normally first and then in IMAX later, but really???? Lost out to TRANSFORMERS??? Lame!!!!

Luckily it did not dampen my excitement overall. In case you don't remember how many days we have left, I will remind you. :)

Movies Are Life. ~ K