Asterix versus Caesar (1985)

Film: Asterix Versus Caesar
Release: 1985, Theatrical
Starring: Roger Carel, Pierre Tornade, Serge Sauvion
Directed by: Gaëtan BrizziPaul Brizzi
Previous in the series: The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Next in the series: Asterix in Britain
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When an overly ambitious recruit in the Roman Legion kidnaps the chief's niece and her fiancé, Asterix & Obelix are sent on an adventure to bring them back

Hans' thoughts:

In most of the Asterix movies, the roman empire is presented as sort of stock villains, being an all encompassing force that either controls or works with the main villain of the story. This is one of the stories where the Romans are actually the main event, being a constant source of peril throughout the story. 

Asterix Versus Caesar is actually an adaptation of two Asterix books, Asterix the Legionary and Asterix the Gladiator. The story takes most from Asterix the Legionary (though tweaking it), as the kidnapped ones in this case are Panacea and Tragicomix. In the original story, Tragicomix was actually drafted for the Roman army and sent to Africa, whereas the whole kidnapping part comes from Asterix The Gladiator, where the Romans kidnap the bard Cacofonix. Why they decided to mix these two particular stories together I don't know, other than the whole rescue mission angle the stories actually don't have all that much in common.

While this movie certainly doesn't do the source material any favors, rest assured that it's definitely a fun movie. The wít and charm of the comics are attempted here, with varying but mostly positive results. I also have to admit that this is the only Asterix movie I've seen where Caesar actually seems threatening. He's a threat in the other stories to be sure, but unlike most other stories he's not used that much for comedic effect. In this movie, the lack of presence during most of the movie, the idle threats followed by chuckles and the fact that he's got a pet panther running around just made him into such a sinister looming figure.

Overall though, this movie could have been so much better than it turned out to be considering the strong source material. A lot of the smiles of the comics are gone, as the movie has been given the "adult treatment" trying to make the audience take the movie more serious than they probably should. The best comparison I can come up with is the extreme change of tone between the two last Sam Raimi Spider-man Films. It's just too focused on a sense of drama that, in reality, doesn't have a place in this series. There are scenes where we follow the captives, and most of the time you will want the movie to go back to Asterix and Obelix instead of seeing Tragicomix being a stoic hero. There's a reason his name is what it is.

After this movie, Asterix would go back to have more focus on the comedic aspect of the series, the next in line being Asterix in Britain. As an experiment, this is a nice little movie but I have to admit that the fact that none of the other animated Asterix movies tried to focus on the "drama" that the series had a pinch of potential for makes me happy. It's hard to bash this movie, but I feel that most of that comes from the nostalgic value this has for me.

All in all this is one of the weaker Asterix movies, though still leagues ahead of some of the worst. If you don't really have a fondness for Asterix, you can give this a pass without missing out in much.


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (2013)

Film: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
Release: Video, 2013
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Mark Valley
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Previous in the series: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Gotham's protector has returned to duty, his actions having lead to a major gang being split up into a bunch of clusters, one of them following his example. Meanwhile, the man known as the Joker is planning his own sinister return..

Hans' thoughts:

The thing about adapting a piece of work is that everyone will have their own opinion on what is important from the original product. Therefore, some modern movie makers has gone the route of splitting their movies up in two in order to get as much from the original as possible (a trend I believe started with Harry Potter). 

So in this one we delve further into the theory of Batman being the cause of all his villains. On top of that as a bigger stake in the film we have Superman showing up in the picture, being the tool of the president of the united states. What I like about this movie is that even though it's been quite a while since I reviewed the last one, I was able to immediately get back into the action. Of course, this could be due to me having read the original graphic novel several times but I feel that, since the original story is made so you get it all in immediate succession , it's still a feat to be able to carry over the status quo and expand upon it, just like a good sequel should do. However, as with most of the DC direct to video animated movies, I have to stress that they're mostly made with the already established fanbase in mind. While this one may not be the worst case, taking some of the things at arms length never hurts. 

As for the voice work, I really liked Peter Weller's take on an older Bruce Wayne, giving him a deep voice, but not cartoonishly dark or gruff like, say, Christian Bale's take on the character. In all honesty, while Kevin Conroy may very well be considered the best Batman voice actor out there, Weller gives him a run for his money in this performance. It felt like he was channeling Adam West in his performance, an acotr who unfortunately does not get as much praise in this role as he rightly deserves. If you've forgotten what Adam West sounds like, you need not look further than the current animated satire show Family Guy, where he voices the mayor of the fictional city of Quahog. 

One thing that's always nice in elseworld stories like this one is seeing alternate takes on popular characters. In this case I'd like to highlight Jim Gordon, the commissioner of Gotham Police department (although recently retired in this case). While none are quicker to give Frank Miller flak than me these days, I have to commend him on his writing skills for this particular character. Almost every version of Gordon he's done has been right on the money, regardless of how he may have done in the case of a lot of other characters. Especially this story and "Batman: Year One" is where Millers ability to write Jim Gordon shines through. 

The animation style continues to be pretty good, keeping the basic look of the original comic while updating it for, I imagine, the purpose of broad appeal. Okay let me retrace my steps a bit. What I mean is that it looks like the original drawings to a point, but a lot more clean. A lot of the rough lines are cleaned up and the proportions for the body types are more anatomically correct. The coloring is also better, but that's to be expected when the original artist has his best work in the negative space department, his most beautiful work being that of the Sin City series.

All in all, this movie manages to update the story into a broader appeal and to a modern audience. Also toning down some of the more strong messages from the original work. While still managing to tell a good story and keeping alive the spirit of the story. To any fan of, especially the modern Batman movies, I strongly recommend checking both this and it's predecessor out, as a lot of the things that happen in the "Dark Knight Trilogy" are inspired by this story. I also recommend it to anyone who loves the Batman character and his extended cast - this take on him is a classic and this animated version manages to do it justice.


American Splendor (2003)

Film: American Splendor
Release: 2003, theatrical
Starring:  Paul GiamattiShari Springer BermanHarvey Pekar
Directed by: Shari Springer BermanRobert Pulcini
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Harvey is a world-weary, sarcastic man with a failing second marriage and a sore throat when everything comes crumbling down around him, wanting some sort of outlet for his day to day annoyances, he starts writing comic books.

Hans' thoughts:

American Splendor is fun movie. The main character, Harvey Pekar, oozes of sarcasm and world weariness in such a way that it actually adds to the movie's charm. We follow him from just before he starts making comics, till after his struggle with a serious illness. All the while the movie is occasionally interrupted and narrated by the actual Harvey Pekar. The first thing that pops out when you watch the movie is the style. The movie is made like a comic book, having tekst boxes and bubbles occur every now and then for comedic effect. The weird time skipping style of interrupting the movie with a short presentation by the actual person being presented also gives the movie a cozy feel, like you're actually hanging out with the people this movie is about, hearing their tale. It also cements how well represented the people in the movie actually are, giving others than Pekar himself a chance to say something directly to the audience. The movie is of course somewhat based on the comic book of the same name, American Splendor. It's an autobiographical comic book where the characters in the comic are people the writer actually met and interacted with on a daily basis. Making this movie also a fairly personal piece. 

What I like this movie most for, is the way it presents it's characters. It makes a point saying that just because you aren't a fictional character, it doesn't mean that you don't have something that makes you unique. Not in the sappy way, but more in the way that yes - good character writing actually comes from writers basing it on their own interactions with actual people. The movie is about how interesting normal life can actually be, and as the characters state countless times: In real life, everything doesn't end up hunky dory. There'll always be something worth complaining about, all you really have to do is learn how to deal with it. 

A bittersweet film yes, but a funny one as well. Taking a lot of things that people may take for granted and putting them in the spotlight. Granted, this form of comedy is not for everyone. The atmosphere may be too simple and quiet for people used to more over reactionary forms of storytelling. Thus, this movie doesn't have a major goal the characters have to achieve, some high tragedy they try to overcome or even really, all that much in the way of an ending. But that's what's so good about it, it's honesty. To a lot of people, life is nothing but a series of happy and sad events, that doesn't mean it's meaningless though. This is what this movie seems to convey, to me at least.


Pacific Rim (2013)

granted, this poster is not official.
It's really cool, though
Film: Pacific Rim
Release: 2013, Theatrical
Starring: Idris ElbaCharlie HunnamRinko Kikuchi
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In the near future, humanity is brought together when monsters codenamed Kaiju start crawling out of the Pacific, killing thousands. To defend themselves they create Jägers, giant military grade robots that's piloted by two at a time.

Hans' thoughts:

Kaiju, the japanese name for a genre that is very much japanese in nature. Giant monster movies, that is. Here in the west, the general audience hasn't had all that much exposure to this particular niche. There's Cloverfield, the 90's Godzilla adaptation, The Michael Bay Transformers movies and of course the Power Rangers series. I would count King Kong if it wasn't because the creature is actually very small compared to the Japanese Kaiju creatures, the most popular Godzilla being 167 feet tall (400 in the American dub). Though his height has been of some debate during various movies (267 feet in the 1980's Return of Godzilla), it's always been quite a big larger than King Kong who is only 18 feet tall (or 24, if you go by the scenes in New York later in the original movie). Therefore, seeing a western take on this sub-genre is quite the treat to any Kaiju fan. You could almost be snarky and call it Hollywoods apology letter for Godzilla, but I digress.

Okay, so as you can probably tell I love this kind of stuff. Giant mecha's fighting creatures of unfathomable origin while the surroundings are smashed into utter muck. This is very much like watching a monster mash, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack being a prime example (quite a mouthful!).

Of course, had this just been 131 minutes of utter action I probably would've complained quite a bit, and fortunately the movie does give the audience a breather every now and then. The actors chosen for the roles are actually doing a pretty cool job, just don't expect to see a lot of big names here. The only two I could recognize were Ron Perlman and Idris Elba. Both of whom also did great. While not spending a lot of time on character development, the screenwriter(s) have actually managed to create some very compelling characters, one of the other reasons being some very good costumes. My personal favorite being the costume of Ron Perlman's character, he is very otherworldly in this.

No, the movie delivers on exactly what paying audiences came to see: Giant robots fighting giant monsters. Also designing some very cool creatures and robots in the process, giving each a memorable name. This is a franchise in the making, and I shall expect toys, cartoons and videogames to be released shortly if that hasn't happened already. These characters are exactly the stuff I would love to buy for my nephew.

All in all, this is a very fun movie to watch. I felt like an 8 year old kid, mouthing the word "awesome" to myself constantly. If you were disappointed with the Transformers movies, this is for you. If you liked the Transformers movies, this is for you. If you like disaster movies, this is for you and even if you just like a good action flick without too much shakey-cam, this is definitely for you!


Spartacus (1960)

Film: Spartacus
Release: 1960, Theatrical
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin and Tony Curtis
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In 73 BC, the slave Spartacus is bought by the owner of a gladiator school. However, when a slave starts revolting during a battle in the ring, Spartacus becomes inspired to lead one of the most legendary uprisings in ancient history.

Hans' thoughts:

When Kirk Douglas was denied the role of Ben-Hur, he decided to spit in the faces of the team behind it with his own ancient era epic: Spartacus! Made in a time where Hollywood movies where not only long, one of their main selling points was sheer spectacle this colossus of a movie must've been one of the most expensive movies of it's day. No surprise then, that Douglas hired a young (at the time) unknown director to steer the movie. I'm of course talking about Stanley Kubrick: A man whose directing style would later become one of the most recognizable in the industry. In this movie however, he is kept very much on a leash and he later moved to have his name struck from the movie - though his efforts never bore fruit. Indeed, his name has title billing on my personal copy of it.

Spartacus is a beast of a movie, 3 hours and 17 minutes in length (including overture, intermission and entr'acte) it is quite the overtaking for modern audiences to actually decide to sit down and watch this thing. One might ask if it was entirely necessary to not make the aforementioned three things merely an option rather than the standard on the blu-ray release. But I digress. Actually, in spite of the movie's very long running time, it seems well spent. There's not a single scene that I would've removed.

Watching modern movies for the most part, it's astonishing how much care and detail was put into movies at the time. The sets are HUGE, and much care was put into details that most people probably didn't even see. Things such as making the sets actually look like they were made out of marble. A lot of credit also goes to the outdoor locations, as the beautiful settings combine with an incredible number of walk-ons in costumes makes you wonder about how much patience the director of photography and his crew must've had to pull this off. 

Speaking of photography, it is very refreshing to see the amount of color this movie has. Where as many movies today rely on filters and lighting to help actors convey the emotions to the audience, this movie leaves all the work to the actors signifying (perhaps not on purpose) that the world around doesn't turn dark and gray just because you happen to feel bad. Instead, we have a great bombastic score to help with the connotation on the visuals of the movie. 

Acting wise we have a lot of big names running about. Kirk Douglas as the stalwart Spartacus does a good job to show a man who has seen mostly darkness in his life but nevertheless is able to gather the strength to fight back. Honestly, the movie does a very good job of portraying the legend of Spartacus, bittersweet as it may be. Also, you should probably refrain from using this movie for history studying, as it is less than accurate. Indeed, while most of the names for the characters are taken from real people, they lived at different points in time. Marcus Licinius Crassus died in the 50's BC whereas Gracchus, his rival in the senate in the movie, had died much sooner in the 120's BC. Meaning the two men never met in reality. 

Speaking of Gracchus, I'd like to highlight Charles Laughton as MVP of the movie. Playing an awarely corrupt, yet reserved senator. He knows he has a lot of vices, but doesn't hide by the main villains claim of ultimate patriotism. Instead wanting to enjoy the pleasures in life, while doing his job unambiguously

The weakest actor in the movie, though still very talented in her own right was Jean Simmons as Varinia, the female lead. This is mostly due to her giving completely into the damsel in distress persona. Not trying to add a little fire to a character who was probably written that way in the screenplay. I know that you can't do much against a screenplay and a director, but certain deliveries of lines could've been tweaked in favor of the characters apparent independence. 

Overall I'll say that I was very impressed with this movie, However the long running time and the bittersweet tone of the movie combined with a slow build-up may bore modern audiences used to a more fast-paced version of entertainment. For the rest of us I say: Dedicate an afternoon to this movie, you will likely be entertained. Perhaps a bit richer for the experience.


Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)

Film: Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
Alternate title(s): Interstella 5555, Discovery, Interstella 4-5
Release: 2003, Video
Starring: Romanthony, Thomas Bangalter
Directed by: Kazuhisa Takenouchi
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: The vastly popular alien band of a far off world is kidnapped, brainwashed and used as star material on planet Earth by an evil producer.

Hans' thoughts:

The band Daft Punk is known by many. It's a french band that's made more than a few hits and are listened to even by people who wouldn't normally consider themselves fans of that particular genre. The genre being  "synthpop-inspired house", but that's according to Wikipedia. I don't know much about music honestly. In any case, the band is incredibly popular and in 2001 they released their perhaps most celebrated album: Discovery. It has mega hits such as "One More Time", "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "Aerodynamic" among others. The band was approached by japanese animation legend Leiji Matsumoto. A man with a very easily recognizable style who's created such hits as Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock. If you're not into japanese animation just trust me on this: He's a pretty big deal. So when he showed up and asked to make animated music videos for Daft Punks' hit album, how could they turn him down? What followed was some of the most colorful music videos I've seen. 

In 2003 (we're getting close to the point now) they then decided to cut together the music videos into one big animation epos of a movie: Interstella 5555!  Now, making a movie based on an album is nothing new, a well-known other example is Pink Floyd's The Wall. But whereas The Wall is a rock album, containing actual coherent dialogue does a lot of the job for the viewers. The meat of The Wall is the analysation of the lyrics but Daft Punk is far from rock and what little lyrics the music actually contains is normally non-contextual and more put in for the sake of making it sound good. It's not actively shoving a message on you but instead goes for sheer enjoyment factor. So how do you make a movie out of that?

Surprisingly, the movie not only works well as a 60 minute music video but manages to tell an easy to follow story. Remember: The entire soundtrack with the exception of 2 or 3 sound effects is a clean rip from the actual album Discovery. The animation, as I mentioned, is beautiful. It has to be really, since it has to convey a complete story without any sort of dialogue. It's also a lot more active than japanese animation made for TV, as this movie is based a lot on rythm. While the movie may have a few plotholes, it still has a high quality and it could probably have been a beautifully done movie in it's own right. The Daft Punk music is as great as one would expect, as I stated, Discovery is perhaps the bands most celebrated album and for good reason: Even people who've never heard of the band or the genre it comes from will probably recognize songs such as Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. The lack of heavy dialogue and simple storyline also makes the movie pretty much applicable to anyone who likes good music.

This movie is a witness account of just how strong a message the correct mixture of denotation can give the viewer. Sound and animation flows together so strong and you'll have to guess whether Matsumoto saw the entire events of the movie unfold in his mind as he listened to the album. Viewing the movie now, it's hard to believe that the album wasn't made with this movie in mind. But it is, and that just speaks for the power of the visual forces at work.

If you're a fan of animation, a fan of music, or a fan of none of the above, you might find enjoyment in this movie. While not setting a milestone for anything, I cannot argue that it just uses what it has in such a good way. Like a man baking a cake and getting the ingredients perfect. Others has used the same ingredients for fantastic results before, but this particular cake is one you mustn't miss.


Drive (2011)

Film: Drive
Release: 2011, Theatrical
Starring:  Ryan GoslingCarey MulliganBryan Cranston
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: A young man works as a stunt driver and a mechanic. On the side he makes extra money as a getaway driver for criminals.

Hans' thoughts:

This is one of those movies that I had to force myself to sit through, Not because it's bad but because this is a very slow movie. You get the atmosphere of driving home in the dark, the radio only playing low beat music and everyone in the car being way too tired to tired to strike a conversation. Or if you're on your way home alone from a night out with friends, sitting in a mostly empty bus. That kind of feeling. I really couldn't explain it better than that. 

Explanations are actually something this movie doesn't spend a lot of time on. If you don't pay attention, you might miss out on vital information. It takes the notion of show don't tell way too far in my opinion. It is indeed, not a movie for the masses. Relying heavily on it's soundtrack, on the lighting and the expressions on the characters. In that regard, this is actually a great movie. But alas, it is an art piece and not something I would recommend for the sake of mere entertainment. It would go well in a media classroom, or in front of someone who already has a vested interest in film.

There is something to be said for the plot though, it tries it best to go against conventions and be it's own thing. What at first seems like an artsy remake of Transporter turns out to have so much going for it. Again, if you're actually into movies as a vested interest instead of just idle entertainment. This I imagine, is a movie that's divided critics and the wide audience pretty clean cut. Of course, being more artsy than for general audiences isn't a failure. There a plenty of great movies that 'normal' people wouldn't give 5 minutes of their time. However, I feel that explaining away lack of entertainment value with "this is not for these certain types of people" would be me failing as a critic. Is it a good movie? Yes! It's great! Actually I would call it a modern masterpiece. But there is not much enjoyment to be found here, and that is a fault - intended audience be damned.

The Conspirator (2010)

Film: The Conspirator
Release: 2010, Theatrical
Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline
Directed by: Robert Redford
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In 1865, The young attorney Frederick Aiken is given his first case - defending one of the accused conspirators of the murder of Abraham Lincoln, and a plot to kill his vice-president and the secretary of state.

Hans' thoughts:

These last few years, the Civil War and every subject surrounding it has been a popular thing to put on the silver screen. Among others were three separate Lincoln biography movies (two of which were purely fantasy), a cowboy revenge movie about slavery, and this. This movie quickly sets a somber tone, the first ten minutes are the conspirators to kill the president being rounded up, and an reenactment of the death of John Wilkes Booth in a burning barn (yes, that actually happened). Our main characters are the young attorney Frederick Aiken, just returned from fighting in the civil war as a captain on the side of the Union and Mary Surratt, the only female accused.

In a way, this movie reminded me of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It had the same basic premise, a critical attorney is made to defend an accused that seems guilty by any stretch of their imagination but becomes more and more turned to believe the client is innocent while both parties learn something about themselves in the process. The movie even had Tom Wilkinson running around, making the connection even harder to abstain from. Actually, recalling every movie I've seen about attorneys, this was pretty formulaic.

The tone of the movie, as well as the injustices the characters face makes it hard not to make the connection between the events of the movie and the aftermath of 9/11, with a lot of civil liberties being set aside for the sake of revenge in war times and the atmosphere that was in the air in the time. Indeed, the kind of atmosphere that shows up after every massive tragic event. People make up their minds about the ones involved, demonizing everything without knowing the complete picture. A subject matter the Danish movie The Hunt also tackled recently albeit in a much darker and emotionally draining way. This is of course, free association. But the connection definitely feels accurate.

However, by the standards of these types of movies this was executed perfectly. It presented the historical events that was the movie's subject matter in a simple but compelling way, teaching about the reality of the case. If a bit preachy at certain points. The movie is just historically accurate enough to not suck out the entertainment value of the film. I'd wager a lot of people could get curious about the events after watching this movie - so in that regard, it does it's job. As I said though, the movie can get a bit preachy at points, making the other side of the case seem almost cartoonishly evil at points. This movie has a message to tell, and at times it can get a bit desperate to make sure we get the point.


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Release: 1956, Theatrical
Starring: James Stewart, Doris Day, Daniel Gélin
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: A small American family from Indianapolis is visiting Marrekesh, Morocco. By chance, they are thrown into international political intrigue, a kidnapping, and the knowledge to stop a murder.

Hans' thoughts:  

When you first watch this movie, it seems like a typical Hitchcock movie - A small unassuming family is vacationing in Morocco. Everything seems fairly simple - if a bit slow. However, do not get disheartened, because while the first part of the movie is slow - probably for the sake of character development, Everything suddenly picks up when our main character Doctor McKennan is relied the details of an international murder plot. Thus becoming, you guessed it, The Man Who Knew Too Much!  

This movie is actually quite suspenseful, although it knows when it needs to give the audience a break to catch their breaths. Littered with small humorous moments and red herrings to keep you guessing. On the road we learn more about our characters, as they at the same time might just learn a little about themselves. Our main character, played by James Stewart, starts out as an unassuming naive everyday man. He's on vacation, so he's more trustful than he would've been at home. Taking his wife's worries at a distance, reassuring her at every turn. At the same time, when the movie starts becoming more about the mystery he tries to deal with everything himself. Even keeping his wife out of the loop. Unfortunately, Stewart seems to be playing the same character he's played in other Hitchcock movies, which is becoming sort of Old Hat for me by now. He's good at what he's doing, but he seems very typecast. I miss energy in his performance. He was way too laid back, his eyes seeming empty in some scenes.

The wife is a famous singer, fittingly played by the real-life singer Doris Day. This incidentally is the movie where she sang the hit song: Que Sera, Sera (Whatever will be, will be) that won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1957. The song is introduced in the beginning of the movie and returns later as a nice little break from the drama. She's also surprisingly good at acting, carrying one or two scenes in stride.

I'd like to tell you that the movie follows fit with being just as good as the song. Unfortunately, that's not the case. We have a lot of really nice twists, some funny moments, good musical arrangement and a few imaginative shots. Unfortunately, it just seems like this movie wasn't made with as much care as others. Falling just short of being great. I'd say my feelings about this movie are lukewarm at best, though I do not hate it or dislike it, it just didn't do anything for me. I miss some information from the main plot, why did they want this man killed? Who were they? Information was sparse at best. The movies representation of law enforcement officials weren't exactly flattering either, making them seem like someone that just stands in the corner, gently nudging the bad guys to stop what they're doing and giving up at the first bump on the road.

So yeah, this is one of those movies that will entertain you while you're watching it, but when you start thinking about it you start finding a lot of problems with it. So is it good? Well, considering it drives your suspension of disbelief enough to make you oversee all the problems, I'd say it does it's job. Which is all anyone can ask for.


The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Film: The Trouble with Harry
Release: 1955, Theatrical
Starring: Edmund GwennJohn ForsytheMildred Natwick

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: A poacher finds a dead body he believes to have shot by accident, soon more and more people get involved in finding out what to do about it

Hans' thoughts:

Hitchcock once again delivers with yet another murder mystery, this time in a different manner. While the other movies certainly had their comedic movies, this seems to be the first one that completely delves into the realm of comedy. Harry Worpt is found dead, nobody is really sorry that he's dead but what do you do about a dead body? It goes once again to show one of Hitchcocks apparent pet projects: How do you commit the perfect murder? In Shadow of a Doubt, he even had two characters openly discuss it. 

One of the big draws of the movie is the visuals, it takes place in a small rural village in what seems to be autumn. It takes big advantage of the natural beauty of the area, scenic meadows and colored trees and a small village with old houses. The colouring of the movie is very warm and inviting, almost mocking of the fact that one of the characters are dead. Indeed, I don't think I've seen many other movies where a dead body is moved around quite as much aside from Weekend at Bernie's. 

As for the acting, some of the characters felt rather reserved. This could be because of the characters they were playing but it did leave me feeling I didn't get to know them quite as well as is usually case in Hitchcock movies. On that point I'd also point out that out of the Hitchcock movies I've seen thus far, this is in the lower half of the quality. Granted, this isn't saying much as Hitchcock was unbelievably talented and it's still better than some lesser directors better works.

While this movie certainly had it's creepy moments at times, I feel that it wasn't quite as ambitious as the others in the shot department. No, this is actually a straightforward movie with not all that much of interesting imagery as there were in his former works. I couldn't really point out a moment in this movie that stood out to me. Overall I'd say that it is definitely a passable movie, but maybe a bit too quiet for my tastes.


Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Film: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2
Release: 2011, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After narrowly escaping captivity, Harry begins the search for the final Horcrux so he can finally confront Voldemort.

Hans' thoughts:

Here we are, the end of one of biggest franchises in books. As well as one of the most ambitious movie projects ever. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 gives us all the final details, as well as the final fight scene between several of the characters. Harry fighting Voldemort, Neville cementing his status as a bad ass, Dumbledore finally explaining what the hell we've been looking at for the last 8 movies. So how is it? Does it do the absolutely awesome series roots justice?

Well, yes and no. While we certainly get all the action we could want, as well as a dearly needed statements of intent from some of the more ominous characters, this movie falls just flat of being great. Yes, Voldemort get's what he deserves, yes the special effects are absolutely gorgeous but honestly I feel kind of cheated out of something truly spectacular. Some of the characters that die are just sort of panned over, their deaths only mentioned in the passing (get it?). I also feel that as an adaptation, the movie could've fixed some of the problems of the source material. The most obvious being the pointless deaths of characters we barely know the names of. Tonks and Remus had a kid? When did that happen? Who's Tonks by the way? Of course, this is all something you would know better if you had read the books but this is also a flaw: These movies should be able to stand on their own, rather than simply cater to the readers. 

There's also the matter of the final scene of the movie. This is something everyone points out when talking about the movie so I'll make it brief: After the death of Voldemort, the movie jumps ahead 19 years to Harry as an adult taking his children to King's Cross to send them on their way to Hogwarts. This is a flaw grounded in the book, and I really feel it ruins most of the movie. Instead of getting a large celebration at the destruction of the dark lord, we're cheated out of the satisfaction.

While a satisfying end on the "villain gets what's been coming to him" part, one can't help but feel a bit disappointed after all these movies. 

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Film: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallow Part 1
Release: 2010, theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: All hell has broken loose in the wizarding world. Each day, more and more people, muggles and wizards alike winds up either dead or disappeared. In the midst of all this, Harry Potter is preparing to find all the Horcruxes so he can finally destroy Voldemort.

Hans' thoughts:

Here we are, the second to last movie. The final hurrah before the big blow-out in the final battle. The book of this movie is huge, which is why they decided to cut it in half for these last two movies. Making the number of movies eight rather than seven. Because of this, I decided to watch these two last movies back to back, and it confirmed for me that Part 1 actually works much better as a first and second act of one big movie. With all of Part 2 being the final act. 

The story of this movie is very much in the vein of hard work. It kinda says "Okay we know what to do, now we just have to go do it". None of it takes place on Hogwarts, as Harry instead decides to go on a treasure hunt for the "horcruxes" - pieces of Voldemort's soul that must be destroyed in order to finally off him. The movie also starts something that Part 2 would eventually finish up, that something being that Dumbledore might not be all what he's crammed up to be. Part 2 will eventually give us somewhat of an answer to that question but I have to stress that if you're really curious about not only Dumbledore's past, but Voldemorts motivations as well you really have to pick up the book instead. 

The movie instead decides to stay in the now, being very much an action-adventure story. Harry, Ron and Hermione go around to different places in the wizarding world, some of which we've seen before. It also has a very cool animated sequence narrated by Emma Watson. As a standalone movie, this would fail. It's a bit rushed at places and the characters personalities seem a bit vague. However, considering it's the 7th installment in a continuous story and only the first part of a two part movie it actually works pretty well. Everything is addressed and taken care of so that Part 2 can focus mainly on what we've waited for since the beginning.  The final battle between Harry and Voldemort is looming in the distance and rightfully in this part of the story, everything just seems to be falling apart before everything will be fixed. Just like a first and second act should be.

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Film: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Release: 2009, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Returning for his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry receives a hand-me-down book for potions class. In it is several notes that is written by a former student - so naturally Harry uses them. But who exactly is The Half-Blood Prince?

Hans' thoughts:

So we're back in the world of wizards, this time not bothering with the Dursley's at all. Let it be known though, it's been quite a while since I read the book of this one. Let's get to it.

After two, fairly weak movies things are finally starting to look up again. Gone is the desperate attempts to look like Prisoner of Azkaban and back are the ambitious beautiful shots of Sorcerer's Stone. Yes, overall this actually feels a lot more close to the original three movies. It's got the darker, somber tone of Prisoner, but the at the same time the good sense to try and filter out the teen drama of the series. Trust me when I say, Harry's love life was subject to much more drama in the book-series than the movies would have you believe. I'm also very fond of the lack of characters. Granted, a good adaptation should always strive to keep it as true to the source material as possible but around this era of the books, the story became very much crowded. Suddenly, you had to remember a lot of names of characters that in actuality wouldn't play that big of a part in the larger scheme.

Order of the Phoenix was the worst in that regard, with it's Dumbledore's Army subplot. If you've only bothered to watch the movies, you'll most likely be glad to hear that we finally get some insight to the motivations of Voldemort, who also otherwise not present in this movie. Instead, we're actually giving Draco Malfoy something to do after building him up as the Anti-Potter for five movies. He actually sets the framework for most of the good eerie imagery that the movie has to offer. I found myself going "WAIT, Go back to Malfoy! I wanna see what HE'S doing!" this time around. Which is more than I can say for the former movies where he was just sorta.. there.

As for the actors, I feel that a lot of the veterans has hit a bit of a slump. All three of the main personas seem to be just going through the motions in this movie, with the worst case being Daniel Radcliffe. Now, just to clarify, behind the scenes things weren't going so well at this point. Several of the involved actors had announced on several occasions that they wouldn't stay around for the remainder of the series. Only to be bought back in by Warner Bros. come shooting day. Increasing demands for payments, coupled with some of the stereotypical mandatory former child actor substance abuse must've made these last couple of movies a living hell for a lot of crew. But I digress. Just to say something positive about the acting, I'm sad to admit I've neglected to highlight the talent of actress Evanna Lynch who played Luna Lovegood. In all of her appearances she manages to steal the scene, portraying the character perfectly.

Overall, the presence of actual competence in this movie is a well-needed breath of fresh air for a series that had been going very much downhill. With only two movies left, it wasn't a minute too soon.


News Editorial: Doctor! Doctor!

As a new feature on the site, we're doing editorials of news from the entertainment industry from time to time when we feel we have something to say on the matter. Please note that this is the writer's personal opinion only, not facts. We encourage healthy discussion in the comments!

Doctor! Doctor!

editorial by Hans

Doctor Who, the long running monster of a series from BBC is once again getting a new face. This time, we're getting seasoned actor Peter Capaldi to play the friendly time-travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey. Now for those not in the know, Doctor Who is a science fiction series that has been running on and off since the 60's. One of the more brilliant ideas from the show creators is that of regeneration. Whenever the character of The Doctor dies, he regenerates into an entirely new body. Complete with a different face and often different quirky personality traits. This makes the team behind the series able to continue even if the star of the show should choose to leave for other career exploits. After the series died out in 1989, only surviving in the form of comic books and a failed attempt at a revival in the 90's the series returned in full force in 2005. Since then becoming the host of several spin-off series, and one of the most popular series currently running on TV.

Doctor Who is a fairly personal experience to each member of the audience, every fan has their first incarnation, favorite incarnation and favorite companion. Everyone has their own idea of "who" exactly The Doctor is. Lately, the character has been played by fairly young actors. Starting with David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, the character has been a very adventurous character and thus the series has been more action oriented than it's science fiction roots. Now we have Peter Capaldi, taking over for the youngest Doctor thus far - Matt Smith.

Capaldi has been connected to the series before, playing a part in the episode Pompejii during Tennants run and having a role in a four part story on the spin-off series Torchwood. Capaldi is 55, making him quite a bit older than his two predecessors. The announcement of this cast choice has been met with luke warm reactions from the fanbase. It seems that a lot of people have gotten used to the younger, more spry version of The Doctor. Some calling him "way too old" to play the part. This is of course ignoring the fact that the actor who originally portrayed the character was William Hartnell, who was well up in the years and silver haired by the time he took the role.

What I'm getting at is, Doctor Who has become very much an adventure show with a lot of romantic subplots. Not that Doctors before Tennant weren't romantically involved with any of their companions but I feel that with Tennant (being as young and spry as he was) came a lot more focus on romance. Smith's Doctor came closer to being an imaginary friend type character, yet he still had a romantic subplot almost shoehorned into his story. Well not shoehorned exactly, they did dedicate most of his run to his significant other's origin story but I digress.

After a few years of thinking "Will the next Doctor be someone even younger than Smith?" it's refreshing to me to see them go back to having a bit older actors cast in the role. Of course, The character himself can look like anything or anyone but it's still nice to see something else. My hopes is that the series will now focus more on writing better mysteries and dialogue rather than action sequences and the sonic screwdriver being used as a Deus Ex Machina magic wand. As fun as Tennant and Smith has been, they were more fantasy-like than science fiction.

The Facts:
  • Peter Capaldi has been cast as the twelth incarnation of the BBC character "The Doctor".
  • Doctor Who is celebrating it's 50th anniversary this November
  • Matt Smith, the 11th incarnation will take his leave of the series in the Christmas special this year
  • The supporting cast members will stay on the show; Jenny, Drax, Lady Vashtra and the current companion Clara


Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Film: Hot Tub Time Machine
Release: 2010, Theatrical
Starring: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry
Directed by: Steve Pink
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: three friends have not gone where they wanted to go in their lives and have lost touch with each other. When one of them gets seriously ill from car exhaust poisoning, they decide to go to their old party place to rekindle their friendship - one of them towing along his socially awkward nephew. After a night of drinking, they suddenly find themselves in 1986.

Hans' thoughts:

This movie consists of two things I have very opposite feelings about. First off, this is a time travel adventure. Time travel is just my favorite subject matter in fiction. There's just so many places you can go with that. On the other hand, this is a low brow party comedy movie. Which is very much not my style. What I suspected to see was a movie that just happened to have a time travel setup, but then focused the most on comedic exploitation. Movies like American Pie or Sex Drive. However, this movie fooled me. 

As you can probably tell, this movie has a basis very similar to Fanboys. One of the guys in a group of friends have a near-death experience and go on a trip to rekindle what was lost. This also has a lot of funny little nods to those who are aware of the flavor of the movie. Where Fanboys had a lot of in-jokes for Star Wars fans, this one is cramped with the best and worst of mid-eighties culture. The movie even has a lot of similarities in it's plot to other big time travel movies. However, it manages to balance it out. These characters aren't geeks, and a lot of the references are meant to simply be picked up on by the viewer rather than have a ton of meta jokes.

The acting is pretty okay, though nothing really stood out to me as good or bad. However, as a general complaint I would have liked some better timing in the physical comedy department. This movie actually kinda has, heart to it. Normally when I sit down and see one of these kinds of movies I feel that it was ramped up with drinking and T and A more than needed because "that's what the kids want". But this feels like it was a young buddy movie made for people in their late 20's rather than 17 year olds who would then turn out to get an unrealistic image of what being young is actually like. 

Is it good then? Hell no, it's sort of mediocre. But I found it entertaining.

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