Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Tagline: It All Ends
“Isn’t it beautiful,” are the first words to the final part of Harry Potter which, after eight movies, ends with Deathly Hallows Part 2. But you already knew that. What you may not be aware of is that these last couple of hours rank up there among the finest ever committed to the Potterverse. It literally picks up where the plodding Part I had paused as evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has stolen the legendary Elder Wand from the crypt of Hogwarts’ late Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). But back to that opening sentence and, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or rather the moviegoer). Are these incredibly significant films in the history of cinema, or should the bespectacled adventures of a young man on a broomstick not be the business of anyone or thing that aspires to great art? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
And what of our heroes, young Harry Potter himself (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)? They’re still on the hunt for Horcruxes, with each dismantling helping to bring about the end of, you know, the guy they never like to name. And so we’re witness to a simply thrilling bank heist in Gringotts Bank (ask yourself: was the franchise ever as much fun as Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix impersonating Watson’s Hermione impersonating her?), or the way in which Hogwarts becomes more a war zone than seat of learning. When Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) steps up against Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape, you can cut the tension with a wand.
Double act David Yates (director of the last four films) and Steve Kloves (screenplays for all bar the fifth film, Order of the Phoenix) have faithfully turned J.K. Rowling’s words into the fast-paced scenes which (thankfully) move along at a fair lick (and even the dreaded 3-D isn’t too distracting). And unlike, say, the last part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it never lapses into a farewell tour or lap of honor but, far braver, keeps its nerve right up until the final reel. The flashback sequence starring Snape is as significant as any scene you’ll watch at the movies this year. And memorable moments can still shine through alongside the grandeur of the set pieces: witness the wonderfully awkward embrace between Voldemort and Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy (note to non-British readers: that’s not so much pure evil welcoming his potential protégé back into the fold, but actually how two Brits could hug it out).
And our stars can act it out too: Radcliffe clearly has a post-Potter future (Broadway can currently testify to that), Grint gets to do far more than provide the comic foil and Watson is no mere mouthpiece for one “brilliant” after another (though they’re there). If she sticks with this profession, she’ll surely put bums on seats. By the time all’s said and done, you’re left to reflect that the franchise, thanks to its utter refusal to cast anyone but homegrown talent throughout, can comfortably sit alongside previous British triumphs such as A Matter of Life and Death (known as Stairway to Heaven in America and known to this writer as the finest British movie of all time) and Brief Encounter. Isn’t it beautiful?
Winnie the Pooh
You’d have to be mighty brave to even contemplate taking on the might of Harry Potter and his pals: who would even dare to come out in the same week? Only one name could possibly spring to mind though not in the mind of anyone sane for it is Winnie the Pooh.
But you know what? On reflection, it might be the smartest move Disney could have come up with, precisely because the reboot (can we even call it that without dissolving into laughter?) resolutely leaves out the CGI and (God forbid) 3D, rather rendering and animating in exactly the same style as the beloved 1960’s classics. That’s how you get from classic to classy in two letters and one step.
And so enjoy stepping back in time with the “bear of very little brain” as well as his friends Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo and Eeyore. The story centers on the Owl sending all concerned on a quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary culprit. It’s nothing you won’t have seen before but the brisk running time (take out the end credits and it’s bang on 60 minutes) and oh so pleasant voices of John Cleese, Jim Cummings and Zooey Deschanel will transport you back to a simpler era. And if ever there was a moment for British writing to be showcased, with both authors also known primarily by their initials, it had to be this week: take a bow J.K. Rowling and A.A. Milne.
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: You really were a wizard, Harry, and the final part almost has no equals, only arguably bettered by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
(PHOTOS: Animals That Can Think)