Search This Blog

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wizards and Romances: Harry Potter and 500 Days of Summer

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

To preface my review, I should say that I am a Harry Potter fan, thoroughly enjoy the books, but am not, perhaps, a "super-fan". I have read all the books once, seen all the movies once, and may read the books again one day. By the time the movies come out, I have usually forgotten most aspects of the books so I am not unduly upset if something is changed or different than I imagine it. I was so-so on the first two movies (a little too kiddie and conventional for my taste), but enjoyed 3-5.

So, as the fan I am, I heartily enjoyed the new movie, perhaps the best of the series so far. The 2 1/2 hour movie mostly focuses on three things: the rise of the Death Eaters, Harry's attempts to get information from the new Defense of the Dark Arts Teacher Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), and, of course, adolescent romance involving all of the leads. The movie felt about the right length to tell the stories without getting overlong or overtruncated.

I loved the set design and cinematography of this movie. Everything is shot in blues and grays, and Hogwarts seems scarier than it ever has before. The last 20 minutes or so of the movie are truly scary, and show that Harry Potter has grown up. The adolescent romance also provides a nice antidote to the darkness. The young actors perform well, and I loved the addition of Jim Broadbent (Topsy-Turvy, Iris, Moulin Rogue). Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon also continue to be great in their key roles. The only reason that I don't grade Harry Potter higher is its limitations as a movie apart from the books. Without reading the books, I think the movies can only go so far as cinematic art. While I'm sure they are still enjoyable to follow as a film series, I think much of the emotional connection audiences bring to the films is from their devotion to the books (and, in this movie, knowledge of how the series will end).

Grade: B+

(500) Days of Summer

I was very excited to see this movie, since the buzz and reviews have been almost entirely positive. Here are my thoughts....

The good:
-First and foremost, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is absolutely wonderful in this movie, and I nominate him as the next John Cusack. This is good since the movie is told from his point of view. He gives the audience a good entrance into the story.
-The style. The movie adds in musical numbers, foreign film parodies, animation, and split-screens. More often than not, this adds to the enjoyment of the movie.
-The format. I (mostly) liked seeing a relationship between two people distilled into certain days, and it was nice to have the counter handy on screen for the audience.

The bad:
-Summer. I'm kind of iffy on Zooey Deschanel (cute yes, a great actress I don't think so), but her character in this movie is very hard to understand. She is charming, yes, but what makes Josh obsess over her? It's a problem since the main arc of this movie is how much Josh learned from his relationship with her.
-The forced quirk factor. The Ikea shopping, the cute wisecracking sister, the greeting cards. It was all a little forced and artificial. A lot of times this quirk got in the way of real insight or emotion.

-I'm glad I saw the movie, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a great future in the business, and there is definitely some talent behind the camera. On the other hand, many elements were too familiar and trite to be affecting in any way. Will I ever see this movie again? No. If I want to see a great movie about how a person grows through a relationship, I'll watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Annie Hall for the umpteenth time.

Grade: B-


  1. I appreciate your grades! These are the top two movies I want to see (right now)... once I do indeed see them, I'll get back to you. We can compare notes!

  2. While I think you're spot on with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role, I have to respectfully disagree with you on Zooey Deschanel. I, like Gordon-Levitt's character, fell for her as soon as she walked in the room, which proves the movie's point that love appears in different places for different people.

    Will I ever see this movie again? Yes, I already did actually since it was the only movie playing on my flight from Morocco to New York.

  3. Ah, yes. To each his own... if I had fallen in love with Zooey I probably would have liked this movies quite a lot. I guess Zooey (and especially "Summer") was not for me.

    So twice in a row on the flight? I'm impressed!

  4. On the other hand, I thought being iffy on Zooey was a little overly generous of you, Ben. For the amount of fuss over Summer, could they not have given her at least one intriguing quality beyond doe eyes and cute bangs?