Moriarty's Seen HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN!!
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
And I bet a hell of a lot of you have now, too, based on those box-office numbers. I would have loved to have seen a press screening of it, but evidently Warner Bros. is all twisted and pissy right now because this SUPERMAN story turned out to be completely accurate, and they not only refuse to allow me into any early screenings at this point, but they went all goofy and started randomly accusing people of leaking information to me, as well as accusing me of more than my normal level of shenanigans.
Besides, if I’d gone to an early screening, I might not have decided to put together a really fun evening out with my friends. See, I’m one of those freaks who believes that where and how you see a movie is just as important as what you see. The experience can really affect your overall reaction to a film, and I’ve had some really great films ruined for me on first viewing because of terrible theaters or rude moviegoers or projection issues. I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Alfonso Cuaron would do with this series since I’m a big fan of the work he did on A LITTLE PRINCESS, so I called my buddy Jack to see if the movie was going to be opening on a particular screen. He took me to this theater out past Pasadena last year to see THE BLAIR WITCH TEXAS CHAINSAW REMAKE MASSACRE PROJECT 2003, and as soon as I saw the place, I knew why he liked it. The Pacific Hastings 8 is this cinderblock anonymous stripmall building from the outside, but it’s got a secret. It’s a time machine. You step through the front doors, and suddenly it’s 1983 all over again. It looks like absolutely nothing has been touched since then. It smells like absolutely nothing has been touched since then. It’s in no way one of these anonymous modern stadium-seating clones that have been barfed up all over the country in the last decade.
This place has got character. It’s also got one of the biggest screens I’ve seen in the LA area that isn’t officially an IMAX screen. It’s a behemoth. Ginormous. The auditorium where AZKABAN is playing features these huuuuuuuge long rows of seats with no middle aisle, so if you’re in the middle, you’re in the middle for the whole film. This place can’t be called retro, because I don’t think anyone ever set out to design a theater that would so persuasively take you back 20 years that it still has a CENTIPEDE machine in the lobby, and that’s what makes it all so appealing. If you can read the description and honestly not think, “Yeah, that sounds like fun,” then go... enjoy the Arclight or the Grove... which are both very nice new modern theaters. But I get tired of wrestling with LA audiences for seats at the showcase venues, and there is something so enchanting about being able to see a movie in a theater that feels directly connected to the way I watched movies growing up. Like I said... Jack’s a big venue geek, the same way I am, and by the time he got done inviting friends and I got done inviting friends, we ended up with a list of 40 people that were going. Jack drove out, picked up 40 tickets, and then went next door to Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ And Grill, the sort of place where I merrily threw aside my diet for one evening. Jack set it up so that when everyone arrived at around 8:00, we took over an entire patio. Great food, lots of beer, and even a little karaoke from the bravest and drunkest among us (damn, that Dr. Skinner’s got pipes) kept us busy until just before 10:00, when we made our way over to the theater and headed inside.
I say all of this to preface just how great a mood I was in when HARRY POTTER began. It was one of those great nights out with friends where you’re already more than willing to meet a film halfway, and based on all the good buzz I’d been hearing about the film, I was confident that the mood would continue.
So why is my reaction so wildly split about PRISONER OF AZKABAN? Why don’t I love it with the same abandon that I hear from so many other people? I have my theories, and since the film’s already in theaters and playing, and since many of you have seen it now, I’m going to feel free to discuss spoilers in my efforts to explain.
From the film’s opening frames, it’s obvious that Alfonso Cuaron has brought another level of craftsmanship to these films. The way he plays with the WB shield as it gets closer and closer, light flickering through it from behind, is immediately arresting, and when we do move in on the now-familiar Dursley house, adults will laugh at the nerve of the subtle joke Cuaron is making, almost deliberately prodding all those who thought he would sex up the POTTER series due to his work on Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. The wicked notion of starting the film with Harry playing with his wand under the covers after everyone else has gone to sleep got a hearty laugh from our audience, and Harry’s wry smile as the main title comes up is the perfect punctuation mark to the moment.
The scenes that take place in the Dursley house when the loathsome Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris) comes to visit are shot hand-held, close, almost claustrophobic. The house has never felt smaller or more confining, and I like the way the Dursleys seem to have made peace with the fact that they live with this powerful and frightening figure, and as long as they can survive the three months he’s home, they’ll be okay. It’s like Harry’s become invisible. Aunt Marge doesn’t know enough to be afraid of him, though, and she unwisely provokes him into a display of magic that is both malicious and ugly. It’s played for laughs, but there’s no disputing the idea that pissing Harry off can be a dangerous proposition. When he leaves the house, refusing to be bullied by his Uncle Vernon (the ever-expanding Richard Griffiths), he’s not sure exactly where he’s going or how he’ll get there. Sitting by an empty playground, an ominous wind begins to glow, and a dark, disturbing dog slips out of the bushes across the street, snarling at Harry. Just before things get out of hand, the gigantic multi-decker Knight Bus shows up to give Harry “emergency transport” wherever he wants to go. There’s a matter of fact quality to all of this that really grounds the film in our world for the first time. Chris Columbus had the hardest job in the world for the first two films, giving life to something that had already been envisioned by millions of fans around the world, trying to be respectful but also having to invent all the details that fill out a visual universe. His films were beautifully designed, but they never felt “real.” There was no question that we were watching something created on soundstages at great expense and with great effort.
Cuaron, by comparison, has been able to step into that world, which by now feels familiar to viewers, and by simply tweaking things or by adding particular flourishes, he’s suddenly lifted the entire affair off of soundstages, making it feel real. By the time Harry joins his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) on the train to Hogwart’s, we’ve got a sense of how these kids fit into the larger world, and also a real sense of how they’ve aged and how their lives continue outside the events of the films. I also think it’s impressive the way Cuaron and screenwriter Steve Kloves introduce Sirius Black into the film without actually introducing him. The wanted poster that we’ve seen as the cornerstone of the ad campaign for months now is quite creepy, the way it’s layered into things, Gary Oldman’s silent scream appearing at the corner of frames or in the background of so many of these early moments. Everyone speaks of Sirius in the same hushed tones they reserve for discussion of you-know-who, which gives Black a real presence in the film even before he actually arrives.
But if you want to know the moment where Cuaron really takes this series and puts his indelible stamp on it, look no further than the first arrival of the Dementors, as wonderful a moment of dread and creeping horror as I’ve seen in a kid’s film. His version of these terrifying guards of Azkaban Prison skews closer to the Soul Collector from Peter Jackson’s THE FRIGHTENERS than it does to the Ringwraiths, but the way he’s used underwater puppeteering to create their otherworldly motions makes me think of the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and the Wrath of God. It’s great stuff. The scene also introduces Professor Lupin, played with enormous sympathy by David Thewlis, and does a good job of immediately making him into one of the most likeable adult characters in the entire series. His repeated urging for Harry to eat some chocolate, his patience during the classroom scenes, the selfless way he stands up to the Dementor that threatens Harry on the train... he finally seems to be the mentor these kids have been looking for, the direct antithesis to Alan Rickman’s still-sinister Professor Snape.
Unfortunately, it’s also here that I started to notice some of the narrative devices that ultimately wore on me by the end of the film. Y’see, Harry faints.
Harry faints a lot, actually. Anytime they’ve reached the end of a threatening scene and they need to end it without actually having an real resolution, Harry faints. It feels like there are five or six scenes at least that use him passing out as a transition to a scene that always begins with, “What happened?” “Well, Harry, someone else had to do something that took place off-camera in order to move the story along.” It’s an annoying, passive dramatic device that scuttles some of the best moments in the movie.
For example, the Quidditch match. Great stuff. It’s got a pulse and a palpable sense of danger that Quidditch has never had before, and I love the way Cuaron just drops us right into the middle of a game. The way the Golden Snitch keeps luring Harry higher, higher, until he’s so far above the stadium that it’s impossible to see. And that’s when the Dementors come out in force. It’s a wildly effective moment, and it’s just a shame that Harry is once again left to just passively faint his way into the next scene in the film, saved from his fall only by Dumbledore (the absolutely wondrous Michael Gambon). Yes, it leads into Professor Lupin teaching Harry ways that he might battle the Dementors should the moment ever arise again, but Harry spends so much time simply reacting that I found myself impatient with him.
At 141 minutes, this is the shortest of the POTTER films to date, but if anything, seeing how well-made this film is has finally brought me to the conclusion that Rowlings is just not a particularly good plotter. Her stories are overstuffed with incident, but very little of it really matters. That’s what I mean when I say that I’m having a very divided reaction to this movie. I love the texture of the world this time out. I loved looking at pretty much every frame of the film. The use of the Whomping Willow to mark the passage of seasons was a particularly clever touch, and I admire the artistry of the film. But considering how this is considered the book where things “really start heating up,” there’s very little story of consequence here. The first hour is basically just introducing ideas or characters, some of which pay off in this film, but many of which do not. Of course, after the film, I heard from an enraged POTTER fan about how too much got cut and how he would have sat through another two hours of movie.
Which, personally, I can’t imagine. And maybe what it boils down to here is that the shape of these movies is becoming too familiar now. Framing everything within the context of successive school years seems fairly ingenious at first, but it’s already begun to wear on me. A mystery will be set up and solved in exactly the amount of time it takes to complete classes for the year, robbing each of the individual stories of any real suspense. What you’re left with as a viewer is moment-to-moment distractions, things to occupy you as you wait for the story mechanics to play out.
That’s where Cuaron more than earns his way onto the A-list. I hope he’s met with a snowdrift of screenplays on Monday morning, offers to direct everything in town, because he certainly deserves it. He made some very canny choices, and chief among them was his use of Michael Seresin as cinematographer. There’s a wonderful quality to the image in this film, a combination of obvious digital grading in post and stylistic onset choices that Cuaron and Seresin had to make. Seresin’s been Alan Parker’s primary D.P. for most of his career, and his work on films like FAME, BIRDY, ANGEL HEART and (especially) SHOOT THE MOON has always been striking and emotional. He gives Cuaron a rich palette to play with here, and the choice to burnish the edges of the frame, like we’re watching a silent movie from the ‘20s, is both eccentric and somehow dead-on. It’s not a standard-issue summer movie as a result. There are numerous small choices that almost crept up on me as a viewer, like the way Hagrid (the always-reliable Robbie Coltrane) is finally portrayed as a giant instead of just a guy in a large padded costume. It’s subtle, but Hagrid looms over the scenes he’s in, enhanced in a way that never once looks like a special effect, thanks to Cinesite’s work. They also created the Marauder’s Map, which I thought was gorgeous. And speaking of effects, there are a ton in this movie, and various companies contributed certain specific things to the movie, making it hard to know who exactly to praise for what. I do know that Framestore CFC in London deserves to be singled out for their work in bringing Buckbeak the Hippogriff to life. Somewhere, Ray Harryhausen is no doubt sitting in a theater, jaw on the floor, amazed to see such a beautifully-realized magical animal, an obvious tribute to much of his work, and as wonderful a creation as anything from WETA’s bag of tricks during the LORD OF THE RINGS series.
The only stretch of the movie that I unreservedly enjoyed for both its narrative strength and the visual power is the final 45 minutes or so, the BACK TO THE FUTURE II segment of the film. From the moment Harry, Hermione, and Ron creep out to see Buckbeak before he’s executed to the end of the film, I think it’s pretty much flawless and exciting and effortless. The scene in the Shrieking Shack is one of the best acted moments in the entire series so far, thanks to the combined starpower of Timothy Spall, Oldman, Thewlis, Rickman, and the kids. Even more powerful is the moment where Thewlis gets caught in the moonlight and ends up transforming into that remarkable Wayne Barlowe-designed werewolf. I’ve heard Barlowe is returning for GOBLET OF FIRE, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store, because there’s an elegance to this work that will hopefully continue in the series as Mike Newell takes over. And I thought there was genuine power to the notion that Harry sees himself across the frozen lake during the final Dementor attack, only to mistake what he sees at first as a glimpse of his father. There’s something really potent in there about how we become our parents as we get older, and how much Harry has grown from the unsure boy we met in the first film.
As far as performances in the film go, I’d say Emma Watson is the best of the young performers. She and Tom Felton as the sneering Draco Malfoy are both becoming fairly accomplished, considering what they are actually given to do in the films. I’m not sold on Rupert Grint yet. He’s very broad in this film, and he seems to have a fairly limited bag of tricks to draw upon. Daniel Radcliffe still has the hardest role in any of the movies, being called upon to carry every scene in the movie as Harry, and he’s getting better as he goes. The wonderful moment in the film where he first rides Buckbeak could be a cheesefest if we didn’t believe his exhilaration, but the combination of the wonderful work on the creature and the way Radcliffe sells the idea combines to create one of he most affecting moments of onscreen flight for me since the heyday of Miyazaki, whose influence can definitely be felt in a number of scenes. I’m also quite taken with the work that Michael Gambon does here, stepping into the role of Dumbledore and somehow honoring the memory of Richard Harris while also turning it into something new and unique. All of the teachers this time feel more like people, like they have actual lives away from the school.
Overall, I’m starting to realize that I’m never going to be particularly blown away by the story of a HARRY POTTER film, but as long as future directors bring the same level of play to the series, I think the template has been struck here that will allow the next four films to all offer up diversions worth enjoying, particularly on the bigscreen. This is the first of the POTTER films that I actively look forward to seeing again, if only to study the way Cuaron packs his frame with information, and so that I can enjoy one of the liveliest John Williams scores in quite a while. These may seem like minor accomplishments, but considering the crushing weight of expectation placed on the POTTER series by its fans, they end up feeling like real magic.
And if you’re a theater geek in the LA area, let me encourage you again to pick a weekend and make the 45-minute trek out to the Pacific Hastings. It’s nostalgia incarnate, and after the film the other night, everyone who went was definitely glad that they’d had the expeience, no matter what they thought of the film. A great night, no doubt about it.
I’ll be back before the sun is up with my review of the biggest film this month, the biggest sequel of the summer, and one of the best films so far this year. Yeah... that’s right... get ready, web-heads. I’m working up a truly embarrassing rave, and I can’t wait to tell you why...
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June 6, 2004, 8:37 p.m. CST
by supreme nothing
Towelie looooved it!
June 6, 2004, 8:45 p.m. CST
by I Hate Movies
www.goats.com. They create quite a buzz in the theater line.
June 6, 2004, 8:48 p.m. CST
I'm told this was explained in the book. This movie absolutely needed to be 20 minutes longer (with another 20 minutes of stuff edited out) which would have lent 40 more minutes to explain all the gaping plot holes. The only people I've talked to whose heads didn't almost explode have read the book. By far the worst adaption so far.
June 6, 2004, 8:52 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric
...hurry up you glorious bastard, hurry up.
June 6, 2004, 8:56 p.m. CST
by I Dunno
Not everything that works in a goofy children's book works in a film that appears to at least try to be somewhat coherant and not juvinile. And what did the "sellout" comment mean?
June 6, 2004, 9:05 p.m. CST
Azkaban is my fave book of the series, and the movie I saw last night was nothing short of pure magic.Moriarty, from reading your review it seems you saw the same movie I did.That said, you really should take the time out of your busy schedule and read the series.It would be interesting to see how you'd view the remaining films to come having read the books.You won't be disappointed.
June 6, 2004, 9:15 p.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... I have read the books. And I think the episodic nature of the stories is less problematic on the page, where you can always set the book down and walk away, then come back to it. And to the talkbacker you called me a "sellout" because I didn't like Harry's constant passive fainting... I know it's in the books. It's a problem there, too. It's a cheap way out of a situation, and absolves her from having to actually deal with some of the situations she sets up. Overall, I don't think she's a bad writer... but I think the details of her world are more interesting than the stories she tells in that world.
June 6, 2004, 9:44 p.m. CST
Moriarty, you're a Buffy fan right? Well, you could make the same complaint about everything being wrapped up right at the end of the school year about every season of Buffy (which also almost always had one long story being told from September till the big conclusion in May), or any other tv series actually. That's just the form it takes. And hell, in the movie of Prisoner of Azkaban, while it's clearly spring when the movie ends, they never specifically say it's the very end of the school year as the story concludes. In fact, class seems to clearly still be in session. As for the fainting, that is not just a plot device, it's a plot point! The Dementors cause Harry to faint and he wants to know why and he wants to stop it. And you act like he then misses huge plot points that have to be explained to him as a result. Except for the destruction of his broom, what does he not see for himself in the movie that you are talking about? The fainting is an obstacle he's trying to overcome, and we see him struggle with this several times before finally achieving his goal. If the Dementors only made him faint once or twice and then he suddenly was able to stand up to him, they would be an empty threat.
June 6, 2004, 10:33 p.m. CST
Thanks for setting Mori straight, I was about to type the same thing. The only time I didn't like the iris-out, passive fainting thing was at the end of the Quidditch match, and it wasn't even that big of a deal. Again, the Dementor fainting thing could have been cleared up for the audience with a line from Lupin (like the Marauder's Map, and Prongs, etc. should have been), but that doesn't nick my positivity for the film much at all. It seems Mori will never truly love an HP film. He reads the books and finds the stories lacking. The movies won't ever veer far from the source material, so...Mori is destined to be unhappy with them. I do have a question for him, though -- which has a better story..."XXX" or "Azkaban"?
June 6, 2004, 10:33 p.m. CST
Not that I'm a huge potter fan or anything, but I think the movie did a disservice to the fainting. It doesn't work in the movie because we are never really presented with why he faints -- in the book when the dementors come along he starts heading his mother screaming right before his death, and so he is very vividly transported back to the moment they were killed, and hence, the faint. In the movie, we get a very slight scream in the background, not a big deal. In the book, it's as though he goes through his mother's death every time a dementor goes by. Anyway, the movie was good, much better than Colombus.
June 6, 2004, 10:41 p.m. CST
by I Dunno
I agree with you about Elfman but Williams? Last Crusade, Hook, Jurrassic Park, Nixon, Saving Private Ryan, the new Star Wars, all in the last 20 years and they're all better than most other composers. I'd like to hear your opinion on who's better. And if you say Howard Shore...
June 6, 2004, 10:43 p.m. CST
by PBJ Street Gang
The adults have piggishly hijacked the series. Not a fan of Columbus, mind you. Bit of a hack, really. But this rendition was far more cold, dark, and psychological than the book. The kids will turn their backs on this in droves. Not all kids. But the Potter kids will. You see, the Potter kids are not Cure fans with black eyeliner. You and you and YOU will disagree with me because YOU liked it. This is irrelevant. It's not YOUR character. You are to old. Fine enough that adults and kids love the HP books--but it must always be a kids story that adults enjoy, not the other way around.
June 6, 2004, 10:43 p.m. CST
There are an awful lot of people pissing me off with their rants the last few days. Its a MOVIE, why cant people accept that some stuff had to be edited out???? I dont think Lupin was suprised when he turned, he was suprised to see the full moon I think. I think its easier to understand if you read the book and I think that making the audience think was awesome. If you want everything spelled out for you, go fins Finding Nemo or Home on the Range or some Lindsey Lohan crap. Is it so bad that a kids movie have a brain? I dont think so. I loved this movie, far better than Shrek 2 or Van Helsing or Day After Tommorrow. Best summer flick so far. I loved everything about it, and since the cut stuff and it was fast paced....it was fun to watch. Chamber of Secrets was so slow moving, as it was a cliff notes of a movie. Sure it was like 90% from the book, but it moved like a slug on an uphill slant on ice. TO the people that want GOblet of Fire to be 2 movies........shut up! I thought we were fanboys here? You let Miramax rape you out of your money, not only with theatre but with the dvds too, and now you want Warner Bros to rape us? Dumb....Im not a huge Potter book fan, bigger Grisham fan, and Ive seen huge changes in Grisham movies. Firm's ending was all different, Pelican Brief added a suspense ending chase scene, Runaway Jury changed its plot case..........but that has to happen. A book is one thing, a movie another. As for the writers post on the fanting........I dont remember much of the book, but I do remember that being huge in it. It was like a huge storyline for Harry to stand up to his fear. WHy cut it from the movie? The fall from his broom needed to be there to show how evil the Dementors were.........they were told to stay away from people, but did anyways. Anywho........trailer alert, Hillary Duff's new flick got a huge response, while Wround World in 80 Days and Polar Express looked retarded. Finally saw Spidey 2 trailer and that is gonna rock!
June 6, 2004, 10:52 p.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... if xXx or any action film ran nearly 2 1/2 hours, I'd expect it to have a pretty darn good story, or at least enough story to fill that full 2 1/2 hours. And I love how POTTER fans seize on the negative comments, paying no attention to the fact that the review is largely positive. Like any subcult of fandom, you tolerate no criticism of any kind. It's possible to like something without loving it.
June 6, 2004, 10:58 p.m. CST
by Captain Katanga
you think that was cuaron making a masturbation joke? all in your head moriarty; youre reading something into the film that simply isnt there. reminds me of a film festival screening of punchdrunk love where Paul thomas anderson did a Q&A, and some film student asked "the scene where the camera followed adam sandler around his apartment felt TOTALLY INVASIVE, was that a deliberate device?" PTA: "er...no. we just wanted the camera to follow him round the room"
June 6, 2004, 11:07 p.m. CST
I thought Harry under the sheets was a bit of a reference too. Even if its not meant to read directly as "this is a masturbation joke" it definitely makes you chuckle a little bit, comes across as "Harry is being naughty." Re: the problem of everything wrapping up within one year at school... I don't think this is nearly as much of a problem with the books (especially books 3, 4, 5), because Rowling makes it increasingly clear starting with book 3 that there are far larger stories being unearhed as the kids go digging each year. The end of book 5 was tied to the end of the school year, but it felt like the events occuring before during and after the end of the year all ran together, and will continue to run into the beginning of book 6. It's the fault of the film for dropping the storyline of Harry's dad and his three friends that you don't get the "there's a bigger, lurking, A story with lots of backstory" feeling from the third movie - by removing that subplot they've dropped it back to the Scooby Doo level of books 1 and 2. Truly frustrating.
June 6, 2004, 11:08 p.m. CST
Yeah, but dude..."XXX" didn't have a good enough story to warrant a 90 minute running time. I never alluded that you hated "Azkaban," it's obvious that you found merit in the technical and performance aspects of it. My only gripe is that you say your reaction is "wildly split," and one of your main gripes turns out to be Harry fainting (and it's not even as garrish a distraction as in "Sleepy Hollow"). I tolerate criticism fine, man. I pretty much agree with your assesment of Rowling's spotty plotting. It just felt like your "Harry faints too much" argument was thrown into your review to add a negative.
June 7, 2004, midnight CST
The review actually begins on word 778. It's hard work.
June 7, 2004, 12:08 a.m. CST
You're wrong. Cuaron talked about the scene in Newsweek. Moriarty is dead on. Sorry. Love, HardcoreRocker
June 7, 2004, 12:17 a.m. CST
I hate to stand in the way of the flood thats heading your way pal.Good review otherwise.
June 7, 2004, 12:26 a.m. CST
by Johnny Anarchy
I find it funny how people can go to see a Harry Potter movie and then refer to the source material as a "goofy children's book". Why even go see a movie if you think its source is goofy? If you are lactose intolerant don't drink the fraggin' milk and then complain when it doesn't agree with your sphincter. I think the books are far from goofy and I sure as hell don't think Rowling has faulty plotting. The fainting is indeed in the book and books can pull of these things in spades. Primarily, in the scope of plot DEVICES such as cliffhangers leading into the next chapter and the like. Granted, the constant fainting doesn't really lend itself well to cinema since in books we automatically visualize what we read when we are TOLD what happens. In movies we need to be shown. Tolkien had his hobbits fainting left and right (Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit; Pippin at the battle at the Black Gate, etc.) but the filmmakers chose to actually SHOW us what occurred which I felt was a wise decision. While I can see the constant fainting as removing someone from some enjoyment of the film it did not affect me at all. Of course, I also had the benefit of READING the actual book itself so in that sense my opinion is a bit biased. In the end, my point is, don't blame JK Rowling for being a bad plotter based on the decisions made by people who essentially made a cliff notes version of a much larger, more intricate book. But, thats just my opinion.
June 7, 2004, 12:29 a.m. CST
If Moriarty's reaching with the masturbation joke, he's not the only one. I've heard a few reviews that mentioned that.
June 7, 2004, 12:29 a.m. CST
I think all the actors and the direction and FX in this one was top freakin notch. My problem with the flick is the same problem I had when I put the book down - nothing really happens of consequence in the book. Think about it, Book / films 1 & 2 were kind of self-contained. #3 is all setup for GOBLET. And #5 is, once again, all set up and no pay off. That makes books 3 and 5 the weakest of the series. Its really a testament on the director that he took one of the weakest books and made the best movie out of it. My fav is GOBLET and I wish they had given Curon that one to do instead. I dunno if "Four Weddings and a Funeral" guy will make it with the same pizzaz as this one did. Still yeah, for a somewhat muddled book, they got a really awesome flick out of it.
June 7, 2004, 12:35 a.m. CST
simple fact is how old were the characters on 90210 and Saved by the Bell who were still in High school? Or Tobey McGuire playing a high school senior when he's pushing the otherside of 25? Keep the kids, give them as much cash as they want. If they lost the cast, they'd lose something that's really making these movies so special.
June 7, 2004, 12:42 a.m. CST
June 7, 2004, 1:08 a.m. CST
I've seen every single big movie of the last 10 years there, including all the LotR films. And I've just realized: you've RUINED it! Now yahoos from all over LA will be making pilgrimages there, and I'll never get to see anything with only 35 people in the audience anymore. Rats. And as for Harry fainting all the time -- well, this is rather like the complaints that there were 3 endings in RotK. He faints because he faints all those times in the book, guy.
June 7, 2004, 1:23 a.m. CST
June 7, 2004, 1:31 a.m. CST
Harry fainting is discussed in the movie, in a scene Lupin tells Harry that dementors cause one's worse memories to surface. I only wished they had emphasized that this memory was the death of his parents. My main issue with the film was they took out a few scenes which in my opinion would have shown the danger of Voldemort. In the book the first introduction of Black is on a muggle newscast. The second scene is that during the telling of Black's reveal it is revealed that his killing of Pettigrew took place in a crowded alley and that several muggles were killed. These scenes in my opinion would have shown that Voldemort's danger goes beyond the wizarding world, especially with His follower's KKK treatment of muggles in book 4.
June 7, 2004, 1:43 a.m. CST
by Who Dini
I don't have as big of a problem with Harry's fainting as some other people have, because I think the book explains the reasoning perfectly well. This brings up a bigger issue though... A lot of "little" bits in the books that are being left out entirely in the movie seem to point to bigger things for future books. It seems like they're going to have trouble explaining certain events. (This also robs the movie(s) of some of it's (their) magic.. on the page, the world seems far larger and more complex than it does on the screen. Peter Jackson's efforts with THotR's had the same issues. (Brilliant as it was.) Still... I'm not sure I believe that J.K. Rowling has a handle on all the plot thread's she's introduced. I gave her the benefit of the doubt until the last book, which I think could have used some editing. I really liked it, but... I'm just not convinced that she's going to be able to tie everything together believably. (I would guess that her editor's are being allowed to change less and less as she becomes more and more in demand. For example, I also bet that the first book was originally MUCH longer, and that her editor's cut out extraneous crap, and are not now allowed to do this... resulting in (possibly) needlessly longer books.) Also, snape (in the book) had the marauders's map, and SHOULD have seen two sets of Harry's and hermione's on the map when they were watchting themselves enter the tree and snape saw them on the map. Also, what's with (in the fifth book) ignoring that Harry and Sirius could have spent the entire book conversing at leisure with the present Sirius gave harry? Why introduce this possibility and ignore it. Surely, Sirius would not have forgotten that he GAVE Harry a safe device for secret communication? J.K. seems to be slipping, and I'm hoping to be really wowed by the way she wraps up the story. (I also think her "cliffhanger" style of writing is somewhat frustrating. More and more I believe she's just not capable of presenting believable character's. A bully like Snape being allowed to teach? Malfoy (elder and son) getting away with the things they say and do? She writes a lot of unlikely situations. Unfortunately, I also read every word and enjoy the trip immensely. I just hope that I don't feel like it isn't wrapped up poorly. I'm rooting for success. I also think this is the best movie of the 3 so far, and really hope that they continue to get better. I fear that much of the small things that were left out are planned for a "special for the fans" dvd release. This is starting to be too obvious of a ploy to rip more money from our addicted hands.
June 7, 2004, 1:47 a.m. CST
by Who Dini
Hrm.. I just read my last post and.. I apologize. I'm pretty drunk.
June 7, 2004, 2:14 a.m. CST
by Johnny Anarchy
The irony is, this post has nothing to do about the fainting. I just wanted to agree with what a previous poster said about Azkaban being essentially a set-up for Goblet of Fire (which is my favorite out of them). In the terms of "nothing happening of consequence" though, thats a load of hooey kablooie (I hate not being able to cuss excessively...or can I?). For something to set another thing up, things HAVE to happen and what it all boils down to is that Azkaban is just Chapter 3 in what is supposed to be a 7 chapter tale. When you think about it, 3 is really the first book to actually have a continuity into the next two books whereas 1 and 2 are more self-contained and you only get a few weighty tidbits that one needs to know for later books. Azkaban IS a set-up book but then what book in a series isn't? They all set up the ending.
June 7, 2004, 2:50 a.m. CST
All in all, a pretty good movie. The intricate and imaginative set design and expansive views of Scotland were worth the price of admission alone, in my opinion. I expect a lot of people to lavish a lot of time on examining various rooms and environments on the DVD. I totally agree with Moriarity's enthusiasm about the work done on the hippogriff and the Marauder's Map, the latter concept making the end credits worth sitting through. And yes, the film was handicapped by having to cut out quite a bit of plot. It wouldn't have taken more than a couple of minutes to work in the source of the map and who the four mapmakers actually were, for example. Me and my kids agreed that this was the oddest werewolf we've ever seen. Now, if you wanted a were-mole rat, maybe.
June 7, 2004, 2:52 a.m. CST
This movie was awesome. From the altered WB logo to the last part of the credits. Loved it, gonna be seeing it again.
June 7, 2004, 2:53 a.m. CST
Please man, I think a sexual reference to Harry reading his book under his covers is reaching a bit far...the Dursley's didn't allow him to read his books, so he had to sneak it at night. The dude had to use his wand for light. "Playing with his wand" indeed. Sheesh.
June 7, 2004, 3:33 a.m. CST
is everyone talking about? This movie is awful. Chris Columbus' shit was better than this. Alfonso is a brilliant director and I like everyone else, love his work in A Little Princess and Y Tu Mama Tambien and no doubt his darker style and handheld camera movement were noticed and appreciated but that's where it ends. He doesn't bring anything NEW to these already crap-ass movies. I mean, is any fucking reviewer going to admit that Daniel Radcliffe can't act his way out of a paper bag? You want a for instance: the crying scene. It's one of those bad sitcom cries where the person whimpers but has no tears then looks up and says something incredibly stupid that supposed to be emotionally flooring. Unfortunately, Daniel can't pull off emotional. Anything that doesn't involve him giving a "what's coming next" looks appears to be far out of his range. I've read the books once and don't even own all of them, so I'm not a huge fan of the books but the problem lies in the fact that they are too fuckin long to be put into 3 hour movies. They cut the backstory behind the Maurder's Map (one of the most emotionally satisfying things about the book) for another movie because it was WB's decision to "wait". Yeah, Uh-huh. This movie never takes a damn break for the characters to interact or learn anything about each other. The only scene that I can remember that slowed down enough for us to care about a character is when Harry talks to Lupin on the bridge. Every scene is one phrophetic warning to another dramatic revelation and since there is so much story, the characters take a backseat. Why the hell are people raving about Michael Gambon? He's on screen for a total of 10-15 minutes, scattered throughout the film. Alfonso's biggest mistake, however, is convincing the Goblet's director to not split it up into two movies. Unlike some, I'd rather see two parts of a good movie than one shitty ass one that can't tell a damn story.
June 7, 2004, 4:57 a.m. CST
I'm glad I wasn't waiting to see the film when Mori and his 39 boozed-&-karaoke'd up pals trooped in to the theatre.
June 7, 2004, 7:40 a.m. CST
by Cpt Kirks 2pay
I know you can do it better by slingshotting round the Sun, but does anyone actually 100% understand that time travel bit? Spock - waddayou think? HOW! - can they first have travelled BACK! - in time - where in order to be at THAT! - point in the medical room, (Bones personally coulda done an ace job on Rupert Grints' leg) they would have to have their ORIGINAL! - reality changed by time travel already? ALSO! - if you have fears about the cast growing UP! - to quickly for their roles, why don't you just shoot the damn things back to back man, at LEAST! - from now on, have you lost your mind? I know what I'd do, another quick slingshot round the sun, that way we can also erase mistakes from earlier films and reshoot them too. While I'm AT IT! - redo the Farty Menace and kick my boldy replacement out of my chair, so the Star Trek enterprise can run and run MISTER! ALSO! - who wants to start a petition up to get that annoying 'friggin' sweet' Napolean Dynamite ad off this site? I don't CARE! - how much you keep it up there Harry, we ain't gonna click on it, let alone see it. Oh, and Harry? - Love the Server!
June 7, 2004, 9:42 a.m. CST
by Captain Katanga
I read that interview in Newsweek... Cuaron didnt talk about the scene, the interviewer did, and when he suggested this was a masturbation reference Cuaron just laughed. I doubt very much that was cuaron's, or steve kloves, intention. Ever since Cuaron was announced as director, various unimaginative people have been desperately trying to find evidence that the director of y tu mama tambien was sexing up the harry potter films... like i said the evidence isnt there, he is just a talented director capable of making different kinds of films. I'm not wrong, sorry, love Captain Katanga
June 7, 2004, 11:24 a.m. CST
by Captain Katanga
reading under the covers by torchlight when they are meant to be asleep is something children do, its been in many films. Harry, being a wizard, uses his wand. Its charming, and it really is that simple.
June 8, 2004, 3:26 a.m. CST
Little known fact: Then unknown rap group Creacha Feacha was comissioned to do a hip-hop song for the original Potter film that was later rejected by Warner Bros. It is up on their site as an MP3 - the song is called "Magic." http://www.creachafeacha.com
June 8, 2004, 8:56 a.m. CST
Yeah, that's an ass load of credentials...a bunch of notches in his directorial belt. Still... HE DOES NOT HAVE HALF THE EYE THAT CUARON DOES. Hell, he has less of an idea how to move his camera than Columbus. I mean, I don't want "Goblet" to suck (or Newell to fail), but if his past work is indicative of anything, we're in for a rigid "Potter" movie. There'll be some good performances, maybe, but little flair.
June 8, 2004, 12:52 p.m. CST
The little girl sitting next to me was curled up in a little ball, peaking over her knees the whole movie, AND YOU WANT TO SHOW HARRY'S MOTHER MURDERED IN FRONT OF MILLIONS OF CHILDREN?! Maybe Cuaron should have shown us the whole bloody mess, Krueger-style! WOULD THAT ENHANCE YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE, DREW?! I thought Cuaron handled Harry's fainting VERY responsibly, and I think he's crafted, hands-down, the finest Potter film to date. I don't have NEARLY as much faith in Mike ("In the words of David Cassidy, I think I love you.") Newell!
June 8, 2004, 2:52 p.m. CST
Mori, you hit the nail on the head. You have come to realize what I realized while I READ the Harry Potter books....the story structure is the weakest link. I tell anyone who hasn't read any of the books NOT to read them back to back. That is how I read the first three and by midway through the second, I had Rowlings writing and story patterns down pat. Now I know these books are for kids, but basically Rowling uses the same set up for each book, thus the movies are set up the same....Harry has trouble at the Dursleys' and flees to Hogwarts. Some big mystery arrises at school and is conveniently settled by the end of the year. It leaves very little room for suspense when you know that the term is ending, thus the mystery must be resolved. I think that is why GOBLET OF FIRE is so well liked. A large chunk of the story takes place away from the formula of the Dursleys' and Hogwarts by sending Harry to the Quiddich world cup and then having the students from the other schools at Hogwarts. AZKABAN is definitely the best crafted of the movies made from the books...not just because Cuaron strayed a bit from the storylines, but because he made it all feel real whereas Columbus played too much into the fantasy which made it all seem so fantastical. The cool thing about Harry Potter is that the magic world is as everyday to the witches and wizards living it as the modern world is to the Muggles. Cuaron gets that and made it alive on the screen, regardless of Rowling's weak plot structure.
June 8, 2004, 3:19 p.m. CST
I loved this darker tone. The opening sequence with Harry under the covers was written by Rowling. He had to do his homework in the dark because the Dursleys don't allow him to do anything connected to Hogwarts in their house. Also, he faints (like in the book) because he hears his parents' murders everytime a dementor is near. I guess it's a self-protection mechanism. I wish they had emphasized this a bit more. I also missed the Quidditch Cup Final and felt they needed to lengthen the Shrieking Shack scene to include information about the foursome: Lupin, Black, Pettigrew and Potter. This would've explained the Marauder's Map and Harry's Patronus charm taking the shape of the stag. Overall, I enjoyed it and will see again!
June 8, 2004, 3:39 p.m. CST
Has anyone seen the trailer for DreamWorks' CGI film, A Shark Tale yet? I bet this movie flops big time because, unlike Finding Nemo, in which the fish and other assorted animals have human voices, yet still essentially act like animals, the creatures in A Sharks Tale remind me of oddly drawn humans. I admit to having only seen the trailer (without sound, which was probably a blessing), but I find few things more than a little nausating (and a tad disturbing) as animals with characteristics so human (anthropomorphism) that they might as well be human. This doesn't apply to Bugs Bunny by the way, who was so subversive (as was often the case with the earlier Warner Brothers' cartoons) that it worked. I don't know how many millions it took to make (probably at least 50-70 million) but the characters seem to be lacking the expression of the Finding Nemo characters. I guess the moral of this story is: don't try to out-Pixar Pixar. Either find a niche where they will not kick your ass or create your own, something A Shark Tale does not seem to do.
June 9, 2004, 1:11 a.m. CST
by nolan bautista
"Harry Potter and the Mystery of Pubic Hair".."Harry Potter and the Moist River" (where he discovers the wetness between Hermoines legs)..more to come..
June 11, 2004, 1:15 a.m. CST
There are a couple of clues that Lupin, James, Sirius, etc., had a hand in the Marauder's Map. For one, Lupin knew what it was. Secondly, he knew how to make it go blank ("Mischief Managed"), impying that he had dealt with it before. Although how Fred and George figured out how to use it I'll never know...
June 11, 2004, 1:20 a.m. CST
Those are the words of Richard Curtis, not Mike Newell. Rebel yell! Nonconformity! Nyeh! Cuaron's a good director and all, but you don't need to give Newell the shrift. Any director in film school would shiv their mom for 1/2 the talent Newell has, but don't blame the director for the writer's work.
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