Monthly Archives: July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Dragons, Dark Lords, and Some Hot Ron on Hermione Action.

Slogan's a little dramatic. I'm pretty sure there are a few things that are still going.

My childhood just came to an end, but at least it went out with a bang (which is, I suppose, the standard method for transitioning to adulthood). The midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie was nothing short of madness—hundreds upon hundreds of people (or witches or elves depending on the costume) willingly packed themselves together into absurdly mismanaged lines and, rather than try to improve their situation by listening to the lone employee with a megaphone, promptly began complaining with a fanatical zeal. These were my people, and since my Mad-Eye Moody costume was undeniably brilliant, I felt the need to wander amongst my flock, deigning to be in their photographs. Self-righteous good deeds accomplished, I finally surged into the theater, where, in my haste to get primo seats, I apparently breached some sort of official barrier. Suddenly this 350 lb security guard is shouting at the top of his lungs and everyone’s staring at me in horror. Hoping against hope that I wasn’t the target of such rage, I turned away, only to hear “Yeah you! The guy in the cape!”

My two “friends” quickly abandoned me (they are so not getting sorted into Gryffindor), and rushed to get seats, making me into nothing more than a convenient sacrifice and I soon found myself being threatened with a fate worse than death: removal from the theater. Luckily, I’m pretty sure the giant was intimidated by my crazy eye and fearsome good looks, so he left me alone. Or maybe it was all that degrading, sniveling, brown-nosing I did. Either way, I think things worked out alright. I mean, my friends got some killer seats, and I’d been referred to as “the guy in the cape.”

But no amount of antics could rival the experience I had watching what is, in my opinion, the best film of 2011. After having been underwhelmed year after year by subpar adaptations of the formative novels of my youth, finally have I received the cinematic experience I’ve long craved. At long last, we are given epic battles of half-giant proportions, momentous stakes that belie the series’ light-hearted origins, and characters whose superb performances tug at our dragon-heart strings. At long last, we have a film that is truly magical.

It's magical!

In this superb conclusion to the tale we’ve been following for over a decade, the intrepid Harry Potter finds that only by satisfying his hankering for Horcruxes can he hope to defeat the dark lord. Most of the film is spent following his search for these last few objects, and what could have been a tedious series of fetch quests is kept from falling into the realms of boredom by a sense of pacing so perfect the future film student in me started taking notes. Admittedly, my last movie experience was Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a “film” with such atrociously jarring momentum that I nearly disgorged my five dollar hot dog (but five dollars is five dollars, so I willed it down). Even though anything will seem well-paced by comparison, I haven’t been so blown away by such artful interweaving of action and calm, fear and love, and an ensemble cast, since, well, ever.

The most powerful example of this is when Harry ends up alone in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the giant showdown between good and evil. After seeing young students cut down by death eaters as they tried to hold their own in a war that was far beyond them, after witnessing stone statues come to life and make battle with club-wielding giants, after bridges burn, forcefields collapse, and spirits break, after dementors are driven off by those who refuse to relinquish their hope, we find ourselves in a clearing of silence.

It's a Trap! Oh wait, nvm. The shield's totally down.

Turning the resurrection stone in hand, Harry is suddenly accompanied by the ghosts of those he cares most deeply for: Sirius, Lupin, and his parents. Their undying love for him brought tears to my eyes, for it is a love that continued into the afterlife not thanks to some magic, but because all those who have left us live on in our hearts. The writing was beautiful, the acting sublime. The calm in the center of the storm, this one scene is a masterpiece of pacing.

The rest of the storm was nothing to shake a stick at either, not that shaking a stick at a storm is really that common of an activity. In fact, I’m not sure that it would accomplish much of anything, unless the stick is a wand and you have control over the weather. Then it would definitely help. Anyway, the point of all this is to say that, while the emotional punch packed by Deathly Hallows Part 2 is nothing to shake a wand at, the visuals are equally impressive.

Poor little guy. So helpless.

For instance, cast your imagination gaze on Gringotts. Its labyrinthine rollercoaster-tangle transportation system is a wild ride that puts every Six Flags everywhere to shame, especially since it ends with a dragon. Now, a lot of movies have done dragons (Harry Potter included), but this was potentially my favorite CGI beastie ever (don’t worry, Toothless. No one can replace you). The dragon was not a glorious mount of yore, but rather an emaciated, abject figure, trapped underground for his natural life, chains cutting into his majesty and leaving nothing but raw, bloody hopelessness. The creature instantly evokes overwhelming pity, something I’ve rarely witnessed from CGI.

Dragons are basically my favorite, but if there’s one thing I love more, it’s love itself. We all knew the Ron Hermione romance was going to come to a head. The only question was, after so many years of buildup, could the climax do it justice? I, for one, say that nothing has ever been more just. You know that moment in truth or dare when someone asks you your most seductive fantasy and you finally let spill the secret you’ve never told anyone? You launch into graphic detail, explaining that it’s all about thrusting your basilisk fang into a goblet-shaped Horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets while under attack from a giant watery snake that eventually comes crashes over you? We’ve all been there. Everybody gives you these weird looks, as if that’s somehow not the hottest thing ever. Ron and Hermione certainly thought it was, because they immediately launch into a passionate kiss that had the theater cheering up a storm.

Just look at that chemistry!

Perhaps the most beautiful scene is the one bathed all in white. Halfway between life and death, Harry finds himself in King’s Cross Station, his own personal limbo. There, the sage and mysterious Dumbledore delivers some of the most compelling wisdom in years of cinema. The English major in me rejoiced when such a beloved figure told us that words are the most powerful magic, able to do great harm but also to heal. I’m using words right now, and man do I feel mighty. And when Harry asked “Is this all just in my head or is it real?” and Dumbledore responded with “Of course it’s in your head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Gah! So sagacious!

But enough nonsensical gushing. As perfect as this movie was (and it was), there were still a few things that I would’ve done differently. The whole series is about the battle between Harry and Voldemort; this is a showdown ten years in the making, and I wanted it to be perfect. The buildup was there, but when the final blow was dealt, it felt understated. Voldemort simply drifts away into nothingness. If it were me, I’d have Harry explain the entire Deathly Hallows wand switching thing while the two of them struggled against each other, beams of energy locked in a pulsing impasse. Then, as soon as it became clear that Harry was going to win, he’d shout “Avada Kedavra!” and Voldemort would fucking EXPLODE. That’s how a dark lord goes out.

In fact, I could go for a lot more spell shouting in general. Aberforth Dumbledore should’ve bellowed “Expecto Patronum!” before taking care of all those dementors, and Molly Weasley definitely needed to scream some serious shit at Bellatrix before the end. And I know it would’ve gone against the books and fans everywhere would have gone on a David Yates manhunt, but I could’ve done without that 19 years later scene. I just don’t think it works in the film version. It should’ve ended on that last shot of the three main characters looking off into the distance. Perfection.

Perfection. Who knew Hermione would get so hot?

Even still, this film made a huge impact on me. I was plastered to that edge portion of my seat, I cared about the characters, the shots were gorgeous, and the pacing was sublime. I’m going to go see it again, and again, and if you don’t get to this while it’s in theaters, you’ll have made a grave mistake.

Score: 5/5 ¢

Alignment: Spectacular Gold

Also, let it be noted that Neville is a fucking champion.


Post Review Disclaimer: I cut over a quarter of this and it’s still my longest review. There’s just way too much to talk about. So if I missed some awesome part, feel free to complain in the comments.

Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon A.K.A. Sentinel Prime & Cybertron vs. Physics

He is Optimus Prime.

Let’s start the way the movie starts: a bunch of explosion-based exposition followed by some exploitation. Dark of the Moon was a brain-crushing, eye-melting, overwhelming, draining, exhausting, soul-sucking experience. To say it was action-packed would be an extreme understatement, and to use understatement would go against everything Transformers stands for. There was, in fact, so much action that I became entirely incapable of rational thought. Then, 40 minutes later, when there still hadn’t been a break in the fighting, even irrational thought was lost to me, and soon I was reduced to a twitching, drooling husk of a man. By the end I couldn’t tell if my overwhelming nausea was due to eating an entire bucket of popcorn, the uncomfortable 3D conversion, or just because that was Michael Bay’s intended effect.

Luckily for me, beautiful women are one of the things that make me feel better (the only time I’ve ever ended up in the ER, I was instantly cured by a busty blonde in a nurse outfit—and I’m pretty sure she was a nurse), so I was hopeful that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley would be able to help me out. If there’s one thing you can count on in a Michael Bay movie—well, besides explosions and over-the-top action, and I guess poorly crafted characters, and, ok, let me rephrase this. One of the things you can count on in a Michael Bay movie is a lot of sexy shots of sexy females, and yet, after the opening close-up of Huntington-Whiteley’s ass, we get nothing! And trust me when I say it’s not because Bay has suddenly gained some respect for women. On the contrary, this film treats the fairer sex with nothing but contempt, and when I notice that a movie is being chauvinistic, it must be truly reprehensible. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s character (Carly, whose name is almost never spoken) does absolutely nothing in the film except to, at one crucial point, sow dissent. Literally her only active role is to make another character jealous. Ugh. The only other female character in the entire film is a totally unreasonable bitch who constantly gets in the way. If you’re going to treat women poorly, at least have them take their clothes off. That’s all I’m saying. Or better yet, portray them with tact and still find a way to get them naked. I dunno. I’m sure it’s doable.

If this were an earlier Transformers film, I'd be able to find a way more revealing screenshot of the girl.

Also, normally I’m into blondes (Blake Lively, anyone?), but Huntington-Whitely just wasn’t that foxy (joke alert!). Even still, she was hot enough, which makes me wonder why she’d end up with Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky. I don’t remember him being particularly annoying or unbearable in the earlier movies, but here he’s nothing more than an entitled asshole. He spends most of his time whining about how unimportant he feels and how he can’t get a job. And when he’s not whining, he’s yelling at people for basically no reason. I mean, I can relate to the being unemployed thing, but I still find it in me to be a somewhat decent human being. It’s not that hard, Sam.

When LeBeouf finally does get a job, it’s a crappy one in the mail room of a company run by John Malkovich, a character whose role in the film is, uh, I don’t have any idea actually. The job serves almost no purpose, but it does allow for the villain to derisively spit “You’re just the messenger” and have it be technically accurate, though he’s referring to Sam’s relationship with the Autobots, a relationship to which the quote doesn’t apply at all. Oh, and it gives Sam the opportunity to have a totally kick-ass pre-mortem one-liner: “I’m just the messenger!!!!” Oh wait. That’s not even slightly cool.

Look at that smug face. Sickening.

You know what else isn’t cool? The way nobody accomplishes anything and nothing makes any sense! At one point early on, Bumblebee (the friendly Autobot!) is training soldiers to land on the backs of Decepticons and take them out that way. Then, during the epic, 2-hour climax (and who doesn’t want one of those?), there’s this great scene where some ground troops distract the bad guys while paratroopers prepare to swoop down from above and destroy them. Except the ground units are incredibly effective, killing the Decepticons with ease. Even still, I was excited to see the paratroopers jump out of the building and kick some ass. I watched them fly through the air, plummeting with purpose, pulling their chutes, and then landing on the ground? What? They didn’t do anything at all except become more ground troops. Yaaaay!

And though I couldn’t tell any of the transformers apart (except there was Optimus Prime, and I think a green one), even I knew that the Autobots were tragically outnumbered. The Decepticons’ plan allows them to teleport in hundreds of their brethren, and there’s like 8 Autobots. Since the human soldiers do jack shit, I don’t really understand how those 8 defeated the entire Decepticon army.

Oh wait. I remember. It’s because NO REASON. That’s right. Kind of like how the Decepticons’ plan is to teleport their entire planet next to earth and then use humans as a slave army to rebuild it. The thing is, I kept having this weird feeling that an advanced robotic species should know enough about gravity to realize that having a second, gargantuan planet closer to earth than the moon would cause the two celestial bodies to crash into each other and explode. I mean, Cybertron was well within the fuckin’ Roche limit.


Whether or not it made any sense, at least we got one good line. As Sentinel Prime, voiced by Leonard Nimoy, explains the physics-defying teleportation device in all sorts of technobabble, the bitchy director of the transformer program explains “It’s like some sort of teleportation device!” Thanks, Sigourney Weaver.

Don’t get me wrong, though. This movie was ok. The main problem was that it was stupid and the writing sucked and that I couldn’t handle the intensity of the action. But despite all that, it was sort of enjoyable. For one, the cinematography was notably impressive. There were a lot of very cool sweeping shots and other things I noticed but don’t remember because the rest of the film fried my brain. My brain was also able to determine that the stakes were high. At one point all the Autobots are dead, and the Decepticons are taking over the world and killing a crapload of people. All the heroes basically give up, and everything generally sucks. That was good.

But probably the best thing about this film was Patrick Dempsey a.k.a. McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. I never quite understood why he was such a heartthrob on that show. Sure, he’s attractive, but I always felt that something was just a bit off. That’s why he’s perfect for Transformers. McDreamy was born to play villains. Still as charming, but he uses it for evil rather than sex, or I suppose in addition to sex. I loved hating that slime ball.

Sex AND Villainy. Is there anything that guy doesn't have?

As this review draws to a close, I’m realizing that I didn’t explain what actually happens in this movie, and you know what? I think that’s pretty fitting. I mean, I just watched it, and I certainly don’t know what happened. I walked out of that theater significantly less intelligent than when I walked in, and I literally spent the next hour groaning because my brain hurt so much. I didn’t hate it, exactly. It was just plain bad. Therefore, I give Transformers: Dark of the Moon:

Score: 1.5/5 ¢

Alignment: Unbearable Crap

Alan Tudyk’s gayish butler/bodyguard/former super soldier is incredible. Is there anything that actor can’t do?

Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Review