Problematic Solving: How To Make A White Iron Fist Adaptation Work

So Marvel’s newest Netflix series Iron Fist is on the horizon and advance reviews peg it as… not fantastic. In fact, it’s tracking to be pretty bad. Which is depressing because I like Iron Fist. But he is a troublesome character to work into a modern context. Troublesome but, as we’ll discuss not totally impossible.

Early on in the series’s casting, there was controversy over the decision to cast him as a white actor instead of an Asian one. Personally, I think casting an Asian actor would have been the right call and would fix numerous problems with the source material. However, It’s been said that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to write a white Iron Fist adaptation that isn’t inherently flawed. I disagree, But clearly the way they cast and wrote White Iron Fist failed to escape the “white savior” and “colonialist” undertones of the source material. So how do you do that? Is it possible to write a white Iron Fist adaptation that works? I got bored and decided to try and figure out a way as a writing exercise. And I think I got something workable.

Iron Fist is naturally a story about a rich white dude who goes to an Asian nation and becomes the best ever at martial arts. I don’t love the term “problematic”, but that is hell of problematic, dogg. Like, even if we ignore all the white savior tropes in film history, that’s still an icky colonialist idea. So let’s tackle this origin story and see what we can change.

Let’s look at the first part of the sentence “a rich white dude”. Can we make him not rich? Well, we can, but that doesn’t solve our problem. Can we make him not white? Well yeah, and that would immediately solve our problem but this entire thought experiment is predicated upon keeping this facet intact. How about not a dude? Again, better, but not tackling the core issue.

Ok, what about taking issue with the “Asian nation/ martial arts” stuff? Well, changing that also screws with the core idea and making it “a middle eastern nation” or “an African nation” just gives us the same problem so what have we left? “becomes the best ever at martial arts”. Oh hey, why don’t we look at that? What if we just make him… not the best?

So how do you make Iron Fist work? Simple: you make him Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. In Fraction’s Hawkeye run, the archer is portrayed as a charming but bumbling troublemaker who keeps getting in over his head and getting assisted by way more knowledgeable people who aren’t idiots. So why not do that with Iron Fist?

For Iron Fist to work, Danny has to be someone who’s strength comes from listening. He can’t just master the teachings of K’un Lun by the time he’s 24, he has to seriously struggle and accept advice from those smarter than he is. And he has to be kind of an idiot. There’s no way for this to work if Rand is a natural. He has to triumph through accepting that he CAN’T be the best.

So what would my Iron Fist series look like? Well, here’s the way I’d handle it. Danny Rand is a rich kid with a big inheritance who is wronged by a corporate takeover that strips him of his family’s company and his actual life is put at risk by hired guns. Rand decides to take his rich boy money and head to the mystical city of K’un Lun to train up, desiring revenge. However, his ideas of being instantly the best are stripped away when he constantly fails to attain even the most basic level of skill. Rand learns that he can’t just force of will himself into skill and finally agrees to listen to the much wiser masters around him, who train him to harness his chi as a warrior. HOWEVER, to attain this skill level, Danny would have to come to terms with the idea that he would never be as good as his mentors, and certainly not in a matter of months. And especially the idea that in order to be successful, you need to have an open ear and never assume you know more about someone else’s life and experiences than they do. (Yes I am suggesting an Iron Fist show based on the idea that Mansplaining/Whitesplaining is wrong, deal with it). I would have him attain an incredibly basic level of skill. Honestly, if you asked me to pitch an Iron Fist series, a central tenant would be the idea that Danny was incompetent at using his chi that he could ONLY use it in one fist, as opposed to everyone else, who could use it throughout their bodies. This would make Iron Fist not a title of honor, but a mocking one of his own limitations. So Danny takes what he learned  (both about kicking ass and about life) and returns to New York to beat the bad guys and save his company through punching and understanding. Essentially, Iron Fist works in a modern day context only if he’s making fun of the original idea of what Iron Fist is. Don’t make him a hipster with a man bun, make him a wannabe white savior who learns that white savior-ing doesn’t work in real life.

So yeah, that’s my pitch for a white Iron Fist adaptation that skewers the problematic racial motivations of the original story. Or you could just cast an Asian actor and you can ignore everything I just said.

Your call.

 

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Hogwarts and All Part 8: “Because Calling This ‘Part 7 Part 2’ Would’ve Just Been Stupid”

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.

This week, we’re capping this whole thing off with the grand finale and I look back on the series as a whole and reflect on my thoughts. Have I officially come around on the series or am I still not really a fan. Let’s find out together.

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Holy hell! 2 hours and 10 minutes! Aw babe, you shouldn’t have. What a nice going away present!

We open up with a nice little previously on thing that recaps the end of the last movie. Essentially, Voldemort has the big scary bad evil wand of ultimate murder power and he’s gonna kill e’rybody. And now we begin the next exciting installment of the magic boy chronicles.

But the movie actually starts for real on a shot of–

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BWA-HA-HA-HAHA-HA-HA-HA-AH-HA-HA-HA-HA.

Hee-hee.

I… I’m sorry. Look, I really got to like Dobby in the last movie and his death affected me, but you can’t open a movie on the words “Here Lies Dobby”and not expect me to piss my pants laughing. It’s just not going to happen and quite frankly it was unreasonable of you to expect otherwise.

Harry and co. (Yay, Ron) (Yay, Hermione) talk to Griphook the goblin, who informs them that Beatrix LeStrange may in fact have one of the Horcruxes hidden away in a vault in Gringotts Bank. Before they depart to look for it, they talk to wand-expert Ollivander, who tells him that Draco’s wand has switched allegiances from Draco to Harry because it is a cheap harlot. He also implies that wands have thoughts and feelings and are sentient beings, which makes something that happens at the end of the movie kinda horrifying.

So Griphook promises to take them into Gringotts to get the Horcrux in exchange for the Sword of Gryffindor which seems like a bad trade. They really shouldn’t be getting rid of the Horcrux destroying good luck charm that sword has been for them but whatever.

In Gringotts, the team get the Horcrux but are betrayed by Griphook and have to escape in the most metal way possible.

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Look, I wasn’t gonna say anything when they were just hook-nosed banking goblins, but now that they’re traitorous hook-nosed money goblins, my Jewish side feels vaguely offended. Like, cool it with the visual stereotyping, ok George Lucas?

So while Harry and company are ridin’ a dragon, I thought I’d ask about something that confuses me.

So there are three Deathly Hallows, right? The Elder Wand, the rock, and… the invisibility cloak.  So is the invisibility cloak Harry’s invisibility cloak? Because if so, why hasn’t everyone who’s seen Harry’s cloak totally flipped their shit that this teenager has one of the deathly fuckin’ hallows. And if Harry’s cloak ISN’T the Hallow, and there are other non-hallow invisibility cloaks, then why the fuck is the Hallow-cloak special? What makes it better than all the normal ones? Is it lemony fresh?

Anyhoozles, now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

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So Snape’s in charge of Hogwarts now and has come out expressly banning any students from helping Harry, should he show up. Harry and Professor McGoneGirl confront Snape, who flees and Hogwarts gears up for a full on wizard war. Aw hell yeah! Let’s do some motherfucking wizard fighting! I’m so psyched!

And this fight seems to be a fun one, set up with the students attempting to hold Hogwarts while enemies swarm and seep in from all sides. This shit is like a wizarding version of the end of Punisher Born and I am so friggin’ psyched for that I can’t believe it.

Harry and pals destroy some more Horcruxes and fight with Malfoy a bit before Voldemort finally begins his attack. Shit goes down hardcore, people die, much of the school is destroyed, it is legitimate warfare .

Harry has one of his Voldemort brain blasts and realizes that the final Horcrux is Voldemort’s snake, who I know has a name, but fuck you it’s a snake. I’m not going to call it by its dumb snake name.

Voldemort speaks to the entire assembled school and his army and tells everyone to stand down. He also speaks specifically to Harry, essentially giving him the evil villain version of “meet me by the tetherball court at 3:30 sharp!”

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Team Potter get back to the school where they witness Voldemort executing Snape in order to win the trust of the Elder Wand. Look, I know that we set up the whole, “the wand choses the wizard” thing a long time ago, but this sudden focus on wand trust and alliegence feels like forced bullshit to justify a plot point later in this movie. But Snape is killed by Voldey’s snakey-snake before Voldemort bails to go kill more child magicians.

Harry confronts Snape, who gives him a vial of memories so that Harry can see his reasoning for his actions. We also learn that several have been killed in the battle, including Fred, who was one of my favorites and Lupin, who is at least now reunited in heaven with his boyfriend Sirius Black I WILL HEAR NO OBJECTIONS TO THIS STATEMENT.

Viewing Snape’s memories, we learn that he grew up as a young Johnny Depp character before meeting the girl of his dreams, Lily whatever-her-last-name-was-before-it-got-changed-to-Potter.

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Snape loved Lily and was crushed when she fell for all-around douchenozzle (according to these movies, at least) James Potter. We also learn that Snape has actually been a double agent this whole time!!!

Yeah, apparently everything he did, including kill Dumbledore, was done under Dumbledore’s exact orders so that he could get closer to Voldemort to help save everyone when the time came. Y’know Dumbles, you COULD have come up with a plan that didn’t require you, the most powerful wizard in the world, to die, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.

Finally, Harry learns that the snake isn’t actually the final Horcrux. No, turns out Harry himself is a Horcrux, created accidentally when Voldey killed the Potters. And so, for Harry to kill Voldemort once and for all, he must himself die. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

Ah well, but now that we’re done with the info dump, it’s snake murderin’ time! Well, for the other characters. for Harry, it’s assisted suicide time. He talks to the ghosts of his loved ones about what it’s like to die and eventually surrenders himself to Voldemort. Voldemort, touched, kills the shit out of him. End of movie.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Naw, just fuckin’ with you. Harry wakes up in an etherial train station, where he meets an old friend.

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Instead of yelling “what the fuck, man? You couldn’t have let me in on the whole ‘I’m gonna die but its all part of the plan’ thing, you elderly fuckstick?” Harry instead talks to Dumbles about the nature of death. Dumbles then gestures under one of the ghost train benches where we see–

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GAH! FUCK!

Was not expecting to see a train station fetus baby in this movie, much less a scabby evil train station fetus baby.

So as it turns out, the Horcrux part of Harry has been destroyed leaving only the snake holding Voldemort in this mortal plane.

Back in the real world, Harry is dead and Hogwarts is fucked. Man, sure would be nice if those two other magical schools from Goblet of Fire could show up and lend a hand right about now huh? Guess they had something better to do.

Voldemort storms Hogwarts to, essentially, gloat. Unfortunately, Voldemort didn’t count on one thing. Neville motherfucking Longbottom, badass at large. Neville delivers the best rousing monologue ever that inspires the rest of the students to stand tall and kick some ass. But even more fortunately for them, Harry isn’t dead! We get a bigass fight scene where some shit goes down but guess who comes through when they all need it most?

Neville motherfucking Longbottom.

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Huh. How did that get there?

Weird.

Anyway. Neville murders that snake like he was a born snake murderer, cementing himself as the Wedge Antilles of the Harry Potter universe. Bellatrix is killed and Harry and Voldemort now duel for the final battle. In the end, Voldey’s curse rebounds and our old pal dies in one of the most horrifying way possible.

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God, that’s gotta be hazardous, right? Like, even if there wasn’t an evil magic component to this, that’s still human remains that are now airborne particulates, right? Like, Everyone at Hogwarts is now breathing that shit in.

At the VERY LEAST, it must taste like shit getting Voldemort bits in your mouth. Probably sticks to your clothes. And if it’s anything like glitter, you’re gonna be finding that crap on you for days. Just seems like a real nightmare.

And now for the wrap up. Neville and Luna look like they’re gonna get together which makes my heart so happy, Hogwarts is about to undergo repairs, and Harry has possession of the Elder Wand. Which he breaks.

FLASH FORWARD!

Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny are readying to send their first child off to Hogwarts for the first time. At the station, they run into Ron and Hermione and Malfoy who are all sending their kids off as well. I like how everyone apparently coordinated having children so their kids would all be exactly the same age but whatever.

Also, we learn that Harry’s son’s name is Albus Severus Potter which FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOOU HARRY.

Like, you don’t name a kid Albus, what the shit’s wrong with you? That’s so mean. He is gonna get his shit kicked in every day at lunch time. Motherfucker’s gonna wind up a Hufflepuff with a dumbs name like Albus. If you wanted to name him after a fallen friend, you know what you should have called him? Sirius Potter. That’s a fucking name.

Fuckin’ Albus.

But so anyway, Harry, Ron and Hermione watch as their kids go off to Hogwarts for the first time. Their journey is done, but a new one seems to be just beginning…

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

I really liked this one. It’s not my overall favorite but it serves as a really solid end to the series and its incredibly fun to watch. This one was fist-pumping as hell and serves as a fun fireworks show for everyone who’s been here for seven previous movies.

Ton of fun, feels more structurally sound than part one, a good watch.

But we’re not done here because now it’s time for…

FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS:

That’s right, I’m finally done with the Harry Potter series. So, what did I think?

Well…

I liked it.

A lot.

I’m not gonna say I’m a giant fan but I had a great time with these movies and am glad I watched them. I like being in on this major cultural touchstone finally. The series is definitely beloved for a number of really solid reasons and it serves as a wonderful long-spanning odyssey with a ton of memorable and fun characters and moments. There are totally things I didn’t like but overall, really fantastic film series.

My definitive ranking of the Harry Potter movies from best to worst and if you disagree then you are totes wrong:

Prisoner of Azkaban

Order of the Phoenix

Deathly Hallows Part 2

Philosopher’s Stone

Chamber of Secrets

Deathly Hallows Part 1

Goblet of Fire

Half-Blood Prince

And there you have it, my big ridiculous Harry Potter retrospective is finally over. I had fun, I hope you did too. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the thousands and thousands of words I’ve written about these movies, just click on that tag at the bottom that says “Hogwarts and All” and have fun reading.

But in closing I have to say that if you, like me, somehow have never seen these movies, I quite honestly ask you to check ’em out. They are, in a word, magical.

And that’s it for Hogwarts and All. I’m gonna take a month off of weekend reviews to recover from this undertaking but when I return, we’ll be looking at another long series of fantasy movies everyone loves that I’ve never seen.

When we come back, it’ll be time for me to grow Bored of the Rings…

 

 

Hogwarts and All Part 7: “There’s More Camping in This Movie Alone Than I’ve Ever Done in My Entire Life”

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.

This week, it’s the penultimate chapter where way less shit happens, but I still somehow wound up with more than two pages of notes so I dunno.

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First things first, this one is only about two and a half hours. A step in the right direction again, movie. Keep it up.

We start with Harry, Ron (yay, Ron) and Hermione (yay, Hermione) preparing for their journey to find and destroy the Horcruxes. Harry let’s the Dursleys leave, ensuring their safety, Ron hangs with his loving family and Hermione… um, Hermione erases her parents memories of her so they will be safe.

That’s… That’s fucking heartbreaking. And we don’t address it again in the rest of the movie, that shit is just silently weighing on her shoulders this whole time. Holy christ, I am ALREADY depressed. Good start.

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Meanwhile, Voldemort and his goddamn Legion of Doom are planning to find and kill Harry whenever he leaves his house. I gotta say, I kinda dig that Voldey is legit capital E Evil. Like, motherfucker’s saturday morning cartoon evil. Dude probably brunches with Skeletor and Megatron.

Oh and it turns out that Voldemort and Harry’s wands are twinsies, which means that neither one can kill each other. This somewhat explains why Voldey has been pathetically unable to murder a child for the last three movies. Somewhat.

Back at Harry’s house and– oh hey, Hedwig!

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Man, we haven’t seen Hedwig in like four movies. How nice to be reminded she exists.

Hedwig Death Countdown starts now.

So everybody shows up at Harry’s house so they can help get him out unharmed. One of the arrivals remarks that he had an encounter with a Death Eater werewolf by the name of Fenrir Greyback.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Remus Lupin was bad enough, but fucking Fenrir Greyback? Do werewolves pick their targets based on who has the most appropriate name? Someone should warn Professor Lycanthrope von Werewolf.

So everyone’s here and they begin to plan. Mad-Eye Moody mentions that Harry is in danger because the Ministry of Magic has something called “The Trace” which enables them to track anyone under the age of 18 or 16 I forget how old everyone is supposed to be in these movies. And can I just say FUCKIN’ CALLED IT! Called it back in Chamber of Secrets for fuck’s sake.

Wizard NSA confirmed.

Oh, but I call bullshit on them no longer tracking people after childhood. But anyhoozles, in order to cover Harry’s getaway more efficiently, (especially since Voldey has inside men in the Ministry) they use the Polyjuice potion to turn half the assembled crew into harry Potter’s.

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Oh and Fred and George are among them. Sweet, love Fred and George. They leave to take flight but are almost instantly intercepted by the Death Eaters. Hedwig sticks with the real Harry but is killed.

Oh wow, I am so surprised. Fun tip, if any series takes special pains to remind you about a character you haven’t seen in a while, it’s because something horrible is about to happen to them. But other than that, this scene is pretty friggin’ awesome. Totally down for magic urban skyfighting.

Oh but during the fight, Voldemort fails to kill Harry again and throws a temper tantrum in which he causes a massive blackout and holy shit, SO MANY people definitely just died. Here’s a fun way to ruin movies for you: every time you see one of those full scale movie blackouts, just think of all the hospitals and airports that just lost power. And the streetlights. and all the other super necessary bullshit that just went out all of a sudden.

So with thousands dead or in critical condition, Harry and crew regroup at Ron’s house. We learn that Mad-Eye Moody is apparently dead? was that offscreen? Because I don’t remember seeing it happen?

Huh. Well then, next we have the reading of Dumbledore’s will.

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So Hermione is given Dumbles’s copy of The Beetle and The Bard, Ron get’s a device called a Deluminator, and Harry is gifted the first Golden Snitch he ever caught.

So in essence, they got a children’s book, a flashlight, and a ball. What a world-saving loadout. Oh but Harry was also supposed to get the Sword of Gryffindor, but apparently it’s A: not actually Dumbledore’s to give and B: no one knows where it is. I presume they’ve already checked between the couch cushions.

But Oh hey, Luna’s around! Luna’s great! Everyone gathers to attend Bill Weasley’s wedding, but halfway through, they receive a message that the Ministry has been fully taken over by the Death Eaters and they are on the way. The Death Eaters arrive and everything goes straight to goddamn hell. Harry, Ron, and Hermione manage to escape into London, where they regroup in a diner. But two Death Eaters come in and oh hell yes, wizard gunfight!

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Look, if these movies were more about magic battles in urban locales mirroring action movie gunfights, I would love this series more than I currently do. This scene is rad.

Our trio wins and head to somewhere more safe, that being Sirius Black’s house. They arrive and find it seemingly empty. They do discover a note explaining that the mysterious RAB from the end of the last movie was actually Regulus Black, Sirius’s brother. Not that that matters though, because he’s also dead. But you know who isn’t dead? that weird ass house elf. his name is Kreacher, because he is an unholy monstrosity who also apparently has issues with spelling. Kreacher explains that a thief took the Horcrux, which Regulus wasn’t able to destroy.

Harry dispatches Kreacher to go get the thief, which he does. Unfortunately, he also brings back someone else.

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OH GOD NO NOT THAT BRING BACK THE FUCKING SPIDER BUT NOT THAT!!!!!!!!!

Fucking hate Dobby. But I do have one thing on my side this time. Remember that rule about long forgotten characters suddenly returning?

Ron and Dobby say hi to each other even though I don’t think they ever actually met in Chamber of Secrets. But more important is what we learn from the thief. Turns out he did steal the Horcrux, but the Ministry took it from him.

So it’s off to break into the Ministry of Magic! The trio use Polyjuice Potions to replace three employees and sneak in. You’d think the Ministry would have some sort of scan for that but guess not. They enter by flushing themselves down the toilet Trainspotting-style.

But for some reason they come out of fireplaces like they would for Floo travel? Not sure how that works. Also, not to ask the really obvious question, but if flushing the toilet transports WHATEVER IS INSIDE the toilet into the Ministry of Magic then… um… let’s just say that doesn’t seem like a great idea.

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The inside of the Ministry is terrifying. Muggles are being prosecuted and discrimination is high. When boarding the elevator, Ron bumps into the man he’s disguised as’s boss, who informs him that “his wife is being interrogated in the basement”.

Then we get a hi-larious comedic beat where Ron freaks out that “his wife” is in danger before Hermione reminds him that “you don’t have a wife.” Oh ha ha ha, so funn– THAT IS NOT THE POINT, HERMIONE. A HUMAN WOMEN IS IN DANGER. THIS IS NOT A JOKING TIME.

Ron heads off to do his job while Harry and Hermione bump into Umbridge, who is now in charge. I love Umbridge. Which is to say I fucking hate Umbridge. She’s such an excellent villain, it’s great.

She proceeds with them to the trial room, where she proceeds in the trial of “Ron”‘s wife. Harry finally has enough of her shit and blasts her while Hermione grabs the Horcrux.

So satisfying.

They are pursued by Dementors but the Dementors are stopped by the most powerful force known to man…

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…an elevator gate.

IM-FUCKING-PENETRABLE.

But whatever, they all bounce with the Horcrux and head out to the woods somewhere. And now we begin the 80% of this movie that takes place in woods of some kind. SO MUCH FUCKING WOODS, YOU GUYS.

In the woods, the gang tries to destroy the Horcrux but they are unable too no matter what. They figure out that the Sword will be able to destroy the Horcrux, unfortunately, they still don’t know where it is. Did… did you try checking in the fridge? People leave things in weird places.

Ron gets all angsty and bails on the other two. Then Harry and Hermione dance. But in, like, a sad way. Ok. Harry decides they should go back to the site where Voldemort killed his parents because sure, that sounds like fun. They arrive and look around the graveyard for James and Lily Potter’s tombstones before an old woman approaches them and leads them inside. She acts a bit weird and then explodes revealing a snake inside.

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                                                                     Because sure, why not?

Jesus, it’s like a fucked up Russian nesting doll.

But inside is a snake.

Harry and Hermione get the fuck out of the apartment, but Harry’s wand is shattered in the process. Back in the woods, Harry borrows Hermione’s. While she’s sleeping, Harry spots his Patronus (see, I know what Harry Potter terms mean now) which leads him to a frozen over pond. At the bottom of the pond, Harry finds the Sword.

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                                                        Ah, it’s always in the last place you look.

Also, Ron’s back. He found them. Harry opens the Horcrux and out pours a buncha Scarecrow gas which makes Ron see his worst fears. Those fears include spiders. I don’t like spiders. His other fear is that Hermione and Harry no longer need him. He overcomes these fears and destroys the Horcrux with the sword. Hermione asks how he found them and Ron explains. Apparently, the Deluminator began to emit the sound of Hermione saying Ron’s name and then produced a ball of light that led him to them.

Aw, Hermione is Ron’s light, that’s adorable. I’m rooting for them.

But forget that because the newly reassembled trio head to find Luna’s dad so he can explain what’s going on to them. He does, by pointing them to an old children’s story about three powerful items. Also, this sequence is really fucking pretty.

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                                                                Sooooooooo preeeeeeeeeeetty.

But as we learn, only one of the items, the Elder Wand, is actually important. And Dumbledore was buried with it. But it turns out Luna’s dad has actually led them into a trap, hoping to exchange the trio for his daughter’s freedom. They’re dragged off to the lair where the Malfoys and Beatrix LeStrange are hanging out. Ron and Harry are thrown in the basement dungeon while Hermione is kept upstairs to be interrogated by Beatrix.

And holy shit is she interrogated. By which I mean tortured. A lot. Although I kinda have to admit that Beatrix has impressive knife-penmanship. Knifemanship?

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And OH SHIT DOBBY POPS UP! Can’t give me a warning on that one? Dobby frees them and they head upstairs to help Hermione. But when Beatrix takes Hermione hostage at knifepoint, all seems lost. Until…

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Huh. Dobby maybe ain’t so bad after all. Oh and after trying to Phantom-of-the-Opera Beatrix, he responds that he “didn’t want to kill her” just “seriously maim”.

Ok, I like Dobby now. I am all onboard the Dobby train. Bobby and Harry’s crew teleport out of there, but not before Beatrix throws a knife at them.

On a beach somewhere, everyone’s happy and fine. Except…

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oh. oh no. oh no no no no no no.

I… I just started to like you Dobby. Don’t die now!

But he does. And while I’m actually broken up about this because it is well done and sad…

…I did call this.

Oh, and my notes at this point say “Fuck you movie for making me care about Dobby”. So yeah.

They go to bury Dobby’s body which, let’s be practical, should be easy. It’s not like you gotta move a lot of dirt to clear room. Just sayin’.

Oh and Voldemort breaks open Dumbledore’s grave and acquires the Elder Wand so yeah, everybody’s fucked and the world’s gonna end.

TO BE CONCLUDED.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

It’s good. It’s not great and it does wind up feeling like half a movie as opposed to a complete whole, but it’s really solid. Although yeah, this didn’t need to be its own movie. There are a bunch of good scenes but there is too much camping in this thing and, as pretty as it was, we really didn’t need the ENTIRE children’s book story for plot purposes.

But this movie made me care about Dobby for shit’s sake so that’s definitely a point in it’s favor. Also, the magic battles taking place in more urban locales is definitely a plus. I like that kinda thing a lot. Ministry of Magic bureaucracy too. I eat that shit up.

But it does feel like an incomplete film and it suffers because of it. A little bit meander-y and full of filler too. Like, I took more notes on this movie than any of the others but this review was markedly shorter then that would suggest. Because I cut so much down to knock out filler.

But yeah, decent movie, not the best one, too much woods.

Still better than the last one though.

Next week we bring it all home with the big finale. And I decide my overall opinion on the entire series. Plus, I give my own personal ranking of the films from best to worst. It’s gonna be a doozy.

Hogwarts and All Part 6: “Oh Good, More Bullshit Teenage Angst”

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.

This week, the series decides to respond to me finally calling myself a fan by dramatically worsening in quality.

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First of all, let’s start with the fact that this movie is 2 and a half hours long. I know I address the length every time but I do it for a reason. These movies, even the good ones, are full of filler. This one especially. There is SO MUCH unnecessary in this movie. You typically don’t realize it from these reviews because I tend to skip over needless filler because I like you guys and I don’t want to waste your time. But these movies DO NOT need to be this long.

On to the actual movie:

We open on a direct pickup from the previous film, watching Harry and Dumbledore walk out of the Ministry of Magic after the big fight from last time. I like this a lot. It really does emphasize the intensity of what Harry is now dealing with. At the same time, the Death Eaters have begun public attacks on Muggles.

Again, this is a thing I really like. The Death Eaters are portrayed as straight-up terrorists which makes them a different kind of threat. This should indicate a major escalation of force and scale in the following movie. We also find out that Lucius Malfoy has been arrested for his actions as a Death Eater. Fucking finally.

Harry shows up eating in a train diner.

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He hits on a waitress, and it looks like things are actually going pretty darn well for him, but then Dumbledore shows up to whisk him away on a magic mission.

Cockblock.

Harry goes with him and the duo appear in a suburban house that someone has been living in as a squatter. Dumbledore investigates a chair in the room and it turns out to be a man in a chair suit.

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Meet Professor Horace Slughorn. He has an awesome chair suit and a stupid, stupid name.

THE STUPID NAMES ARE STARTING TO GET TO ME, YOU GUYS.

Turns out Slughorn has been fielding recruitment offers from the Death Eaters which, as we’ve previously discussed, can’t be THAT appealing. Dumbledore offers Sluggy a chance to teach at Hogwarts again, which he turns down, but when Dumbles mentions that Sluggy could get a chance to teach Harry, the aging professor perks up and takes the position as the new potions teacher. Snape will become the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher so something bad’s gonna happen to him in this movie for sure.

Oh and afterwards, Dumbledore acknowledges that Harry was totally about to score with that waitress and that his appearance ruined that. Dick.

Dumbledore brings Harry to the Weasley house, where he meets Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Who… was already staying there.

Huh.

Good for Ron and Hermione (yay, Ron) (yay, Hermione). But now that the gang’s all together, it’s time to got to Diagon Alley to visit…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

FRED AND GEORGE!

I like Fred and George. It seems like after they fucked up the OWLs gloriously last movie, they’ve opened a joke shop in Diagon Alley. They remain some of my favoritist characters despite their short time in this movie.

While tooling around, Harry and crew discover Draco Malfoy hanging around with some sketchy characters. We also learn that Snape appears to be an official Death Eater. And it looks like his job is to ensure that Draco heads down the same path. Harry suspects something is up, but before he can do anything investigative, it’s off to Hogwarts via train.

On the train, Harry makes use of his invisibility cloak to get close to Draco. However, Draco spots him and paralyzes him, leaving the cloak over his body so the train will take him away from Hogwarts. But there’s still one more person on the train.

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LUNA!!!

Luna is another character I super duper love. Amazing how characters with unique and interesting personalities strike a chord with me over the stock standard ones, huh?

Luna and her magic 3D glasses spot Harry and she frees him. But Harry looks pretty beat up. Luna and Harry arrive on the Hogwarts campus, spotting Ron and Hermione. We get this exchange between the two of them:

“Why is he always covered in blood?”

“At least it’s his own this time.”

There are not words for how much I adore this clip of dialogue. It finally gives us something we’d been missing for a while: characters acknowledging how ridiculous the situation they’re in is! Stuff like this gives our group actual relatability and humanizes them a ton. Which we kinda need. People make jokes, especially when under stress. If your characters just stiff upper lip everything, they seem more like robots than people.

But now its off to Slughorn’s class!

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We get introduced to a hyper powerful Love Potion that is considered incredibly dangerous to be around. Hermione mentions that it smells different to each person, and to her it smells of “mowed grass, parchment, and spearmint toothpaste.” Wow, Hermione, list your friggin’ turn-ons, why don’t you? That seems like a thing you should have kept to yourself.

Also, “mowed grass”? The hell?

Harry finds a book locked in the back of a cupboard and notices it’s been inscribed to someone calling themselves “The Half-Blood Prince”.

Wait, hang on, I remember how this works. If I AM LORD VOLDEMORT was an anagram for TOM MARVELO RIDDLE, then I can also use anagrams to figure out who the half-blood prince is.

According to my work, the Half Blood Prince is secretly someone named…

Clipboard Elf Ho N.

Y’know what, I’m sticking by that.

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                                                           I’m onto you, Elf Ho!

The book contains a bunch of scribbles and notes that make the enclosed potions and spells way more effective than they would be otherwise. Using the book, Harry nails the potion Slughorn is teaching and wins a vial of Liquid Luck, a potion that makes you super duper lucky.

Dumbledore pulls Harry aside and tells him the truth: he believes Slughorn has vital information about Voldemort’s plans that he learned while teaching Tom Riddle. Dumbles wants Harry to get close to Sluggy and earn his trust. Dumbledore shows Harry one of his memories, specifically one of his recruitment of young Tom Riddle.

This scene is literally straight out of an X-Men movie. like, I know Harry Potter is the X-Men for Millennials, but this is just copying.

Hermione asks to check out the Half-Blood Prince’s book but Harry denies her like a dickbasket.

What the fuck, Harry, it’s just a book. Just let Hermione borrow Clipboard Elf Ho N’s book for godsake.

Harry later accuses Malfoy of being a Death Eater with literally no evidence. This is not how… pretty much anything works. You can’t do things like this Harry. Really being a prick this movie, aren’t we?

Next, Ron tries out for the Quidditch team and makes it. Yay, fucking quidditch.

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After the Quidditch match, Ron gets a girlfriend named… (checks wikipedia)… Lavender Brown. She seems fine I guess. I prefer her brother Encyclopedia but whatever.

Oh, but Hermione’s all upset because I guess she and Ron weren’t already together like I’d been assuming this whole time?

But you know, Hormones.

Harry and Luna hang out and we learn that Luna sleepwalks which somehow only manages to make me love her more. Harry has a conversation with Lupin (HEY LUPIN!) who is just being kind of a jerk. Yeah, I know his boyfriend just died but my sympathy only goes so far.

The Death Eaters appear and Harry cases them outside, only for them to disappear.

Back at school, Harry tries to find out about Slughorn’s connection to Voldemort by… point blank asking him about his connection to Voldemort. Real subtle, Harry

Ron gets poisoned with a love potion and acts like he’s super high for a while until Slughorn brews up a cure. He gives him some alcohol to balance him out but oops, the drink was poisoned and Ron falls into a seizure.

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Ron is hospitalized and Hermione rushes to his side. Lavender shows up, but when Ron sleep-babbles hermione’s name, Lavender gets pissed and dumps him.

HORMONES!

Harry confronts Malfoy in the bathroom and they have a magic duel. It goes as you’d expect until Harry hits Draco with a curse from the Half-Blood Prince’s book that seriously fucks him up. Snape stabilizes Malfoy, but Harry has done some damage.

Horrified, Harry and crew decide to hide Clipboard Elf Ho N’s book somewhere where it won’t be found. Ginny and Harry stick it in the room of requirement (hey, remember that?) and they share their first kiss.

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Harry decides to use the Liquid Luck potion to try to get information out of Slughorn. He downs it and instantly becomes a fun, enjoyable character to watch who isn’t consumed by broody hormones. He finds Slughorn with Hagrid, who is standing by… the body of that giant spider from Chamber of Secrets.

IT’S DEAD?

IT’S DEAD!

WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY, WHAT A WONDROUS OCCASION, THE GIANT SPIDER IS DEAD!!!!!

Seriously, fuck that thing.

Then we get a spider funeral.

A spider…

…funeral.

A SPIIIIIIIIIIIDEEEEEEEER

FUUUUUUUUUUUNERAAAAAAAAAAAAL.

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This is dumb.

The trio head back to Hagrid’s hut, where they engage in a drunken singalong that is in no way as good as the drunken singalong from Jaws. Slughorn finally agrees to show Harry his memory of talking to Tom Riddle. The memory shows Riddle planning on using a magical process called Horcrux creation. The process allows one to implant bits of their soul in physical items. This prevents the magic user from ever truly dying as long as the Horcruxes are still around. However, you have to kill someone in order to perform the process. Riddle asks if it would be possible to make seven.

Why seven, specifically, you ask? Well, it’s because… uh…

So Harry brings this information to Dumbledore who figures out that two horcruxes have already been found and destroyed. Those being Voldemort’s mom’s ring and Tom Riddle’s diary from Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore says that he’s found the site of another Horcrux, but he needs Harry’s help to deal with it.

So it’s off to a cave to do just that. A cave that is literally Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

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In the center of the room is a vat of potion. Dumbledore insists that the only way to get the Horcrux is to drink all of the potion.

What?

Why would you assume that?

If all you have to do is get rid of the potion, then just evaporate that shit. Or transmute it into some other liquid. Or whatever. You don’t gotta drink it.

But Dumbledore drinks it all like a big boy and Harry retrieves the Horcrux at the bottom of the basin. And then zombies attack.  I’m sure they have some sort of Harry Potter name, and aren’t actually called zombies, but I don’t actually care, they are zombies.

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                                                                             Pictured: zombies.

Harry gets overwhelmed, but Dumbledore uses some badass fire magic to wreck havoc and clear out the room. Horcrux in tow, he and Harry head back to Hogwarts.

But when they arrive, Harry has to hide as Draco shows up. Draco blasts away Dumbledore’s wand and reveals his brand new Dark Mark. Turns out his mission was to kill Dumbledore and arise to a new level of evil.

Draco fights through the personal struggle of…

Ok, I’m not pretending like I feel anything right now. You know how I giddily get excited whenever characters like Fred, George, Luna, and Lupin show up? Yeah, it’s because those are actual fleshed out characters who I care about. Draco Malfoy is not one of those. He’s barely appeared in any of the previous films and when he has, it’s only been in the capacity of stock bully character.

And yes, I totally get that in the books, Draco is probably a fully realized character. I am not reading the books. I am not reviewing the books. I am reviewing the movies. And the movies do not make Draco interesting or easy to care about.

So Draco can’t go through with killing Dumbledore, but Snape shows up and does it for him.

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A: this is some Obi-Wan “you can kill me but it’ll just show how evil you are” shit right? Like, Dumbledore is letting this happen? Because he just called down a hellfire rain to wipe out a zombie hoard, I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a way out of this one.

and B: … oh boy, this isn’t gonna be fun.

Hey, so, remember all that stuff I just said about Draco and how he wasn’t a realized enough character for me to give a shit about him. Yeah, I , uh, I kinda feel the same way about Dumbledore.

PleaseDontHateMeLetMeExplain!

Look, last movie featured Sirius Black’s death, which actually affected me in a way this didn’t. But that’s because of what Sirius was. Sirius was a character who I was always excited to see. He debuted in a movie that really knew how to endear you to its characters and all his following appearances were full of personality. I never really got anything out of Dumbledore other than “wise old professor”. No real humanity, or relatability, or even appeal. Dumbledore’s appearances never really got me to care about more than the plot being delivered by him. I miss Sirius’s appearances. I won’t really notice the lack of Dumbledore’s.

I will miss calling him Dumbles, though.

So Harry chases after Snape and the Death Eaters and tries to blast Snape with the curse from the Half-Blood Prince’s book. Snape deflects it and reveals that he already knew the curse because…

wait for it…

HE is the Half-Blood Prince!

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                                                              Damn you, Clipboard Elf Ho N!!!!!!

So Snape is the Half-Blood Prince, huh?

I know this is a text based medium, so you can’t see that I just shrugged, but I did. Because who cares? The HBP’s book was so unimportant to the plot that I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all in this review if the movie wasn’t fucking named after it. And the identity of the Prince is EVEN LESS IMPORTANT.

We are given so little info about him. What is he the prince of? I can guess at what Half-blood means, but it woulda been nice to be told. What does it MEAN to be the Half-Blood Prince?

WHY IS ANY OF THIS IMPORTANT?!

Snape leaves and Harry heads back to campus. He runs down into the courtyard to find Dumbledore’s body which– fucking bullshit, he fell like thirty stories, his corpse would not be that intact.

Man, Dumbledore’s dead. Wouldn’t it be great if one of our main cast had a device to TURN BACK TIME and stop this from happening? You know, some kind of TIME TURNER? Too bad one of those doesn’t seem to exist.

Harry gets the Horcrux off Dumbledore, but discovers it is a fake. Turns out the real one has been taken to be destroyed by someone with the initials R.A.B. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to head off immediately to go find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes so they can beat Voldemort once and for all.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Ugh.

Ok, so right after the movie that made me start calling myself a fan comes the first one of these movies I actively dislike. The climax falls absolutely flat, it’s full of filler, it tosses out most of the characters the last movie did such a great job of building up and it’s overall incredibly boring.

It covers some necessary plot stuff and has a couple really solid character moments but it feels like if you cut this movie down to just the actually important bits, it’d be fifteen minutes long. I’d been told that this one sucked because of all the angst and relationship drama, but that isn’t true. It sucks because it flails all over the place with no idea of what it wants to be.

The other movies all have their own distinct identities. Philosopher’s Stone is a kids movie, Chamber of Secrets is a mystery, Order of the Phoenix is a boarding school drama. This one is… I honestly don’t fucking know. It’s a mess, is what it is.

Fucking spider funeral.

Ok, we are about to enter the big two part finale and I really have high hopes but lowered expectations. I wanna like these movies. Hopefully they soon get back to being the kind of thing I like.

Fingers crossed.

Hogwarts and All Part 5: “First Rule of Magic Fight Club, Do Not Talk About Magic Fight Club”

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.

This week, the one I’ve been told is one of the worst so buckle up.

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So first a little peak behind the curtain of this whole thing. If you’ve been reading these since the beginning, you know that I’ve been playing up the whole “I don’t know anything about Harry Potter” thing and while that’s mostly true, I do have SOME experience with the franchise. This is the first time I’ve seen any of these movies but I did read the first four books when I was really young. So all the reviews so far, while I didn’t know what was going to happen in advance, I had some skeletal idea of where they were going.

At this point though, I’m fully off road.

That being said, the fifth book was the one that made me stop reading the series, so I’m nervous about this one.

At least it’s only 2 hours and 18 minutes. Respectable.

WE BEGIN with Harry bein’ all creepy on a playground.

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Like, he’s what? 16 now? You aren’t allowed to hang out on swings in children’s playgrounds at 16. Did the movie start too late for us to watch him go down the slide and swing on the monkey bars?

Dudley Dursley shows up looking like Eggsy from the beginning of Kingsman and starts bullying Harry. Harry has e-nough of his shit and pulls out his wand to fuck him up.

SWEET! Possibly Evil Harry is back! I missed you in the last movie, pal.

But no, because the sky goes dark and Harry and Dudley decide they need to go. On the way through an underpass tunnel, they run into some old pals.

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                                                                    Goddamn security ghosts.

I literally cannot understand why Dementors are a thing. Like, The only thing we’ve every seen them do is try and eat the souls of the innocent. I wonder if they’re AT LEAST good security guards?

But Harry manages to fight off the Dementors and save Dudley, but Duds remains pretty fucked in the head by the whole experience. Harry drags him back to the…

Wait, the Dursleys?

HE STILL LIVES WITH THE DURSLEYS?

After he killed that lady in part 3?

Really?

Papa Dursley assumes Harry was the one to eff up Dudley and yells that “this is the last straw!”

THIS is the last straw? THIS? T-H-I-S?!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not, oh, I dunno, him KILLING your SISTER???!!!!!!

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                                                                                   Never forget.

But whatever, Harry receives a letter expelling him from Hogwarts and summoning him to stand trial for using magic in front of a muggle. Harry panics, but is saved in the night by Mad-Eye Moody and company.

Sooooo, Harry and Mad-Eye keep acting like they personally know each other, but that can’t be the case, right? In the last movie, they didn’t find the real Mad-Eye until the final day of class and Harry spent the whole year getting to know David Tennant pretending to be Mad-Eye. They can’t know each other that well. At best, they’ve maybe met once.

Mad-Eye’s crew brings Harry to the location of the Order of the Phoenix (title drop) where some old friends are already hanging out (yay, Ron) (yay, Hermione). We learn that the Ministry of Magic is covering up all evidence of Voldemort’s return to avoid looking bad. And the head of the Ministry is… wait Cornelius Fudge? For fuckin’ serious? I only mentioned him in the last review because I thought his name was hilarious, I didn’t think he’d actually be, y’know, important.

So Harry eventually gets dragged into court for his hearing.

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The system is, of course, totes rigged against him, but through Dumbledore’s intervention, Harry’s name is cleared and they are forced to admit that maybe he was in the right to use magic to save himself from murder-wraiths.

Maybe.

On his way out Harry is pulled aside by a large dog who turns out to be… Sirius Black!

SWEET! I love Sirius Black. He’s the legit best. Sirius talks to Harry about how much he misses James Potter. Which, uh, given the types of jokes I tend to make about Sirius is a little uncomfortable. Like, does Sirius ever call Lupin “James” by accident? Aw dammit, I hope not, I want their relationship to be stronger than that.

Oh but forget about that, because we are off to Hogwarts! Harry and crew take a carriage to the train to Hogwarts, but Harry notices the carriage is being pulled by a skeleton horse. No one else sees the skele-horse except one new character…

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This is Luna Lovegood. She’s pretty great. And not just because she’s reading that magazine upside down. Although that’s a big part of it. Luna is portrayed as pretty batshit insane but in a cute way. A cute and kinda spooky way, but nonetheless. Her name though? Like, that one don’t leave much up to the imagination. Shockingly suggestive, in fact. What, was Luna Goodatsex just a step too far?

We arrive at Hogwarts and get another new character. This movie’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a Ministry of Magic rep named Dolores Umbridge.

If you want a job at the Ministry, is it a requirement that you have a dumb fucking name?

Umbridge is such a great villain. Especially for what this movie is, which is a classic boarding school drama in the purest sense. Umbridge is the ultimate uptight professor for our characters to get the better of. She’s so shitty, it’s the best.

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                                                                 Plus oh my god so much pink.

We also learn something that’s a lot more troubling. There are students at Hogwarts who don’t believe Voldemort is a present threat.

The FUCK?

I’m sorry, do you not remember four years ago, when he literally ATTACKED the school while in control of a professor? No, what about three years ago when a giant murder snake terrorized the halls under a contingency plan he enacted? Or two years ago when one of his minions attacked the school again and triggered a Dementor attack? Or last fucking year when a student died under mysterious circumstances and Voldemort’s own personal army came active again?

Can you at least accept the POSSIBILITY that he MIGHT be a thing you have to worry about.

No?

ok.

So through Umbridge we get introduced to the new big threat for this movie…

Standardized testing!

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                                                                                   GaaAAaaAaaH!

No but serious question time: what are these for? Is there wizard college to go to after college? Because if not, the OWLs can only be to gage the school’s performance, so the students shouldn’t be freaked out about them. Also, Hogwarts has no real competition, so who gives a crap how well they score?

Harry gets pissed when Umbridge implies that Voldemort isn’t really back and shouts that Voldemort killed Cedric as proof.

Um… no he didn’t?

Peter Pettigrew killed Cedric, Harry. You were there? You should remember this?

Whatever, so Umbridge calls Harry in for extra punishment after class. When he arrives in her office she remarks “You’re going to be doing some lines for me today, Mr. Potter.” I wish. Ohmygod, how incredible would coked up Harry Potter be? Answer: SO INCREDIBLE.

Harry begins writing with Umbridges special quit which CUTS THE MESSAGE INTO THE FLESH OF HIS HAND HOLY SHIT.

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Christ on a cross, that’s hardcore.

Writing down on my notes right now, “do not… fuck… with Umbridge.” There, got it.

Harry decides to do some sulking in the woods (like you do) and runs into Luna Fuckswell and the skele-horses. Luna reveals that only those who have seen death can see the horskeletons. Which all look like the Jersey Devil, by the way.

I don’t know about you but any creature whose appearance has witnessing a murder as a prerequisite isn’t one I’d feel safe spending time around. And haven’t ALL OF HOGWARTS seen at last one person die at this point? Like, Ron and Hermione haven’t watched at least one first-year take a thirty foot tumble off the moving staircases yet? Really?

Umbridge is assigned to a new position, the Head Inquisitor of Hogwarts. “Inquisitor” is never a GOOD word. No one’s ever like “oh hey, did you see the Inquisitor brought cupcakes? How great is he?”

Sirius talks to Harry through the fireplace in a much cheaper looking effect than last movie and warns him about upcoming danger. But Harry has a problem:

Umbridge isn’t actually teaching any of them how to apply magic directly and without combat training, they will all die in a serious conflict. So what are they to do?

MAGIC FIGHT CLUB!

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I’m am so down for magic fight club as a concept it ain’t even funny!

They hold their meetings in the Room of Requirement, which is a secret moving room that only appears to those who need it. We’ll come back to that in a sec.

So fight club begins in earnest with a bunch of wizard duels in training. Which, BT-dubs, maybe not the BEST idea for one of the combatants to be always standing in front of a lit fireplace while practicing knockback magic?

Umbridge suspects the group and sends Filch to hunt them down. So my question is the following: Why can’t he? If the Room of Requirement only appears to those who need it, and Filch needs to find it to perform his duties for his job, shouldn’t it automatically appear to him? Right?

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                                                 Guess he just didn’t want it bad enough.

Harry’s visions have been getting stronger as Voldemort invades his mind more and more. One night, he witnesses a vicious attack on Arthur Weasley. Arthur survives, but everyone is shaken up as people start to realize that Voldemort might be after something powerful he didn’t have during his last reign of terror.

Back at the Black house, Harry bumps into a house elf who speaks normally which confirms my suspicions about just how effed in the head Dobby was. Harry is having real difficulty fighting back against his darker impulses, which is a plotline that’s been building through the preceding movies in a way I really like.

Voldemort’s initiate a massive prison break of Azkaban which disproves the theory that Dementors are good at even one thing.

From one raid to another, Umbridge blows open the Room of Requirement and forcibly disbands magic fight club, although Dumbledore takes the blame for it before anyone can be expelled. Dumbledore then disappears by exploding into a phoenix which, I’ll concede, is pretty fucking metal.

--Albus_Dumbledore--_using_Fawkes_to_teleport_away_from_--Cornelius_Fudge--_and_--Doleres_Umbridge--

So now the evil professor is in charge of the whole school and her rules are bringing everybody down. Now is time for the required third-act crazy party that overthrows the establishment somehow and changes everything for the better.

But before that, we see a little flashback into Snape’s past, and get a hint that James Potter wasn’t the kind of perfect human we’ve been previously led to believe. Turns out he was kind of a piece of shit to Snape when they were both students. Sweet, character depth and complexity!

Unfortunately, it’s now time for the OWLs, but right as the exam begins, Fred and George Weasley burst in to shoot off fireworks and cause chaos because Fred and George realize what kind of movie this is.

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They are some genre-savy motherfuckers.

But before we can enjoy that too much, shit starts getting real again. Voldemort is going after the special secret artifact he needs, which is at the Ministry of Magic headquarters. And Sirius is being held hostage there. Harry and magic fight club break away from campus to go into battle, fleeing on horskeleton-back which raises some questions. If only Harry and Luna Laidalot can see the horskeletons, is everyone else just riding invisible flying creatures? Because that sounds goddamn terrifying.

They arrive at the ministry building and head straight for that room from the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark where they find they aren’t the first ones there.

A Death Eater appears and– WHAT THE FUCK LUCIUS WHY DID YOU TAKE OFF YOUR MASK? I know Harry already knows you’re a Death Eater but now half your son’s classmates do too.

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                                                                                    Dumbfuck.

I will concede the Death Eater outfits are better in this movie. Still not good.

But, like, better.

The battle starts in earnest and it is pretty fun to watch our newly assembled crew kick some ass. It was high time the supporting cast got in on a fight and it feels like a big deal now that it’s finally happening.

harry finds a room with a ghost door which seems important. Sirius finally joins the battle and he and Harry get to fight side by side. The moment when he slips up and accidentally calls Harry “James” hit me so hard emotionally I wasn’t ready for it.

After kicking Lucius Malfoy’s ass with Harry’s help, he’s blasted from behind  by Beatrix Lestrange (his evil cousin) and killed. And my heart might have broken a bit. And that’s when I realized something.

I care about these characters. This was always sort of an experiment designed to see if it could get me to care about Harry Potter, which I never had before. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible. But there I was, sitting there, feeling saddened. Experiencing triumph and loss not as a guy scanning every moment for comedic material to be used in a review, but as a fan of the movie having a real moment with it.

Huh.

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                                                                             “Tell Lupin I loved him.”

Harry goes full on dark wizard at this point and nails Beatrix with a Crucio curse. One of the things I like about this series is that it builds things up so that when they happen, it really means something. Harry casting Crucio really does come off as a Shit Got Real moment because of the setup it’s been given up to this point. Voldemort tries to convince Harry to execute Beatrix, which is gonna make for one awkward car ride home for the two of them later. Harry refuses just as Dumbledore shows up.

Voldey and Dumbles battle a bunch and I think I have realized one problem with these movies so far: Voldemort doesn’t feel all that powerful. Most of the murderin’ is done by his underlings and the only two battles we’ve seen him in at this point were against Harry and Dumbledore, both of whom beat him. As a whole, it doesn’t paint the most threatening of antagonists.

Dumbles rebuffs Voldemort, who makes one last attempt to take over Harry’s soul but Harry pushes him out by focusing on the love and friendships in his life and I know that sounds super corny when I write it out but it worked in the movie I swear you guys.

Fudge shows up just in time to see Voldemort disappear to which he responds: “He’s back?”

Yeah, I thought you knew that? Weren’t you covering up the fact he was back KNOWINGLY to make yourself look good? Because if that wasn’t what was going on, then you’re just a colossal fucking moron.

To quote a classic, Cornelius Fudge, “you’re either lying, or you’re stupid.”

We get a bunch of way-too-quick resolutions via newspaper headlines which is admittedly annoying, but afterwards, we watch magic fight club head toward the train ready to leave for the summer. And I actually can’t wait to see what happens next.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

So I know I’ve been told that this one was one of the worst by a number of people. But still…

…I really liked this movie.

Really REALLY liked.

It’s a smaller story but it majorly advances the plot, wraps up a FIVE MOVIE LONG character arc for Harry of rejecting his darker impulses, and actually gives us a larger supporting cast to love. Plus as an english boarding school drama, this is awesome. Hits all the notes pretty well.

I’m not gonna say my full ranked list of these movies (saving that for the final part) But right now, I’d honestly put this down as my second favorite, below part three. Part Three is still a better film, but I’d argue that this one holds together MUCH better as a cohesive whole that part four for instance.

I, um, I love this series. I am fully invested and I understand the appeal of this franchise.

Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna mock the shit out of the rest of these movies though.

Who do you think I am?

Hogwarts and All Part Four: “All of This Seems Remarkably Unsafe”

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, I’ll be magically changed into a fan of this series. And right now, that’s looking pretty likely.

This week, we hit the halfway point and shit gets real.

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Ok, we’re up to two hours and thirty seven minutes this time, which is a disappointment. The series fell off the friggin’ wagon, lengthwise.

But we start the actual movie in a creepy room in a creepy house. In the creepy room, It appears that Pettigrew and David Tennant are meeting with some sort of embodiment of Voldemort himself. Yes, I know David Tennant’s character has a name, but fuck you, that’s David Tennant and I’m gonna call him David Tennant. There’s also a big snake in the room. Because of course there is. Voldemort assigns Tennant to some sort of important mission, but before we can get any more information on that matter…

Harry wakes up from the nightmare/vision he was having in a bed at Ron’s house. Ron is also there (yay, Ron) as is Hermione (yay, Hermione). The dialogue implies Harry’s been staying there for a while, so does he live there now? Because I’d be shocked if Papa Dursley allowed him to live with him anymore after Harry murdered his sister last movie.

Suddenly, Ron’s dad comes in and tells the three to come with him and the rest of the family, because they’re leaving for a thing. On the way, we meet a new face, Cedric Diggory.

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He seems like a nice, likable, amiable young man, which means he’s 100% gonna die by the end of this movie. Come on, movie series don’t just introduce randos to be buddies with the main character halfway through unless they’re being set up as sympathy martyrs. And perfect, flawless Cedric Diggory is screaming his eventual fate so loud, I’m shocked the movie didn’t also explain that he’s one week away from retirement.

But enough about Captain Dead Meat, let’s get on with the plot. The group all arrive at a boot on a hill, which someone instructs them to grab. They do, and we learn that the boot is what’s called a portkey. A portkey is an object that, when grabbed, acts as a crude teleporter. This is like the twelfth method of wizard transport we’ve been introduced to so far. Was Floo Travel not feasible in this situation? Or the family flying car? Or the Knight Bus? Or the wizard train? Or…

Whatever, so our gang has arrived at the International World Cup of Quiddi– aw fuck. Fucking Quidditch? Again? Ok, whatever, fine. At least this scene taught me that there’s a dude named Cornelius Fudge, which is fucking sublime.

Also we get this holographic magic Leprechaun Mascot, which feels vaguely anti-irish?

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Ordinarily, I’d let shit like this pass, but this IS the series where the banks are literally run by hook-nosed money goblins, so I dunno.

We get a marginal amount of Quidditch, but before the cup can really get underway, A bunch of Voldemort supporters attack the event and begin blowing shit up and killing people. So, like, this scene is just portraying a terrorist attack on a major sporting event, right? I’m not saying that’s an especially good or bad thing, it’s just really interesting to me. But it does raise a question:

Everyone else at this event is ALSO magic, right? Because they sure aren’t doing a whole lot of fighting back. Mostly just running and screaming. But they are all wizards. With wands. Theoretically, attacking any group of wizards with magic should be like trying to hold an NRA meeting at gunpoint, right? Also, who the fuck is running away in fear from these motherfuckers?

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I’m sorry, that shit is ridiculous. Even if the pointy hats weren’t enough to make me giggle (which they definitely are) the dime-store skull masks would be. They look like if Skeletor joined the KKK. They look like traffic cones celebrating the Day of the Dead. They look like the Halloween costume a child throws together from the bits of old costumes left over from last year. Ok, ok, I think I’m done.

So in the chaos, Harry is–

They look like if you tried to build a haunted house in a teepee.

Sorry, I had one more.

In the chaos, Harry is knocked unconscious. He awakens to watch one of the magic-terrorists blast some sort of evil mark into the sky. It’s kinda creepy.

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Y’know, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think I might be ready to convert to the dark side. I mean, yeah I gotta wear an outfit that looks like a decaying Jack-In-The-Box mascot, but come on, that logo is metal as fuck. Like, that’s a snake coming out of a skull’s mouth. Fuckin’ rad, man.

After Wizard-ISIS are gone, Harry regroups with the others, where Ron’s dad explains that they are Minions of Voldemort, called “Death Eaters.” That’s… uh… that’s fucking dumb. How do you eat death? Who would want to if you could?

How does the application process go on one of these?

“Lord Voldemort, I would like to serve you as a Loyal Minion.”

“Fuckin’ sweet. Look, step one is you gotta wear this.”

“Um, do I have to? Because, I totally want to serve you, my dark lord, but I’d rather NOT look like the grim reaper of gnomes if that’s possible?”

“Nope, outfit’s part of the whole thing. No outfit, no deal.”

“Ok, fine, I guess I can live with the outfit.”

“Excellent. Now welcome to my Death Eater army!”

“I’m sorry, what? We’re called what now?”

“Death Eaters.”

“…”

“…Like, one who eats dea–”

“No, no, I got it.”

“Oh good, I wasn’t sure for a minute there. Also, you have to get a tattoo of a snake mouth-fucking a skull.”

“… I feel like you’re just fucking with me at this point.”

“Look, I’ve spent the last 14 years as either a ghost or a skeleton baby, I gotta keep myself amused somehow.”

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                                                                  “At least we get dental.”

Aaaaaand scene.

So back to the actual movie, Harry and pals head off to Hogwarts again, where they discover that something special is happening. This year is the Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which Hogwarts and two other wizard schools compete in a friendly little rivalry.

Cool to know there are other wizard schools, I bet after this movie we’ll never hear from them again. We also meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. His name is Mad-Eye Moody and his turn ons include being all creepy and shit. Oh, and we get to see the titular Goblet of Fire, which is a method of choosing participants for the tournament.

Any student over the age of 18 may put their name in the goblet and it will eventually spit out one name from each school to be entered into the competition. Harry’s too young to participate, so I guess tough shit on that front.

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Next, we are off to Defense Against the Dark Arts where Moody decides to demonstrate the so called forbidden curses in class, on a living thing (a spider) just so the students can “see what they do.” This seems insane. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the police academy doesn’t have a class entitled “shooting kittens with high powered rifles just so you can see what happens”.

After that, it’s finally time for the goblet to pick the tri-wizard champions. So we get our two champions from the other schools, namely Russian dude and french chick. Then Cedric Diggory becomes Hogwarts’ champ so he might as well be etching his epitaph into his tombstone right about now. But the Goblet picks a fourth champion: Harry Potter. Harry definitely didn’t put his name in the Goblet and no one’s sure why it picked a fourth champion. I’m just assuming the other schools are pissed that Hogwarts has just doubled its chances of winning, but that’s not the real issue here.

No the real issue is that this is definitely part of an evil plan. Harry knows it, the teachers know it, everyone seems to know it. So, this is an easy one to solve. Just disqualify Harry. He’s too young to participate, the rules clearly forbid it, and someone is obviously manipulating the events so Harry will be involved for some dark purpose. So they’re just gonna disqualify him, right? No? They’re gonna pretend like they can’t because reasons? Okey-dokey.

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After, Harry gets a message from– Sirius? Aw sweet! Fuckin’ love Sirius.

Sirius talks to him via fireplace and warns him that competing under these circumstances will be incredibly dangerous and to be extremely careful. But when Ron enters, Sirius is forced to disconnect the call. Aw, I wanted to get more Sirius. I hope he and Lupin are still together, I like those crazy kids.

Ron asks who Harry was talking to, but Harry denies talking to anyone. Ron says that he “must’ve been hearing voices” to which Harry responds “wouldn’t be the first time.” No Harry, last time YOU were the one hearing voices. And that voice turned out to belong to a giant fucking murder-snake that was sneaking around paralyzing people so maybe stop giving Ron shit, huh?

But Harry starts prepping for the first contest of the tournament. Which he’s going to lose on purpose, right? You know, because someone is clearly manipulating the tournament so that Harry will continue to participate? And if he can’t be officially disqualified for some stupid reason then taking a dive would be the smartest possible move?

Whatever. Time for the first challenge, which is to retrieve an egg from a dragon. Quick question: they originally prepped this for THREE contestants, right? So where’d they get a fourth dragon? Wouldn’t they have to scramble to re-set up all the events now to account for an extra person?

But yeah, Harry has to deal with a huge monster dragon.

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He does, and somehow avoids death. Plus, fun action sequence, so that’s cool. As a reward for beating the challenge, he gets a golden egg that will supposedly help him figure out what the next challenge will be. Unfortunately, the egg just seems to make a loud shrieking sound.

Eventually, while he’s not measuring himself for his own coffin, Cedric finds the time to give Harry a hint that he needs to submerge the egg in water to hear its message. Harry does so and discovers that the next challenge will involve spending an extended amount of time underwater.

But before we get to the next challenge, please enjoy this picture of Draco Malfoy just hanging out in a tree.

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So for the second challenge, the wizards dive into the water, Harry using some gilliweed to breathe. Don’t know why people are watching this event, when the whole thing takes place deep underwater where no one can see what’s going on, but whatever.

It also turns out that the organizers kidnapped one loved one or friend of each contestant and stuck them at the bottom of the bay which seems DRAMATICALLY OVER THE LINE. Like, risking the lives of the contestants, I get that, this is Hogwarts, but the lives of just random people? That shit’s cold. Harry comes in second due to a technicality.

Oh hey, David Tennant’s dad, AKA the dude who wouldn’t let the teachers disqualify Harry because “rules” is dead. Sweet, time to DQ Harry now right? To avoid playing into the hands of a buncha evil people? Nope? *Sigh* Ok.

ON TO THE FINAL CHALLENGE!

Which is a hedge maze. Seems… seems like a downgrade from the last two. I guess hedges are pretty spooky though.

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So Harry darts blindly into the hedge maze like a dumb fuckin’ dipshit, and gets buffered about by the hedges which… attack him? I guess? I’ll be honest, I was confused by this bit.

(By the way, if you’re ever actually in a hedge maze or a corn maze or a labyrinth, a good strategy is to pick a wall and continuously follow it. It might take a while, but it will prevent you from randomly backtracking and you’ll eventually reach the exit.)

Harry finds the other contestants, and winds up saving Cedric (only delaying the inevitable there, pal). They both reach the Tri-Wizard Cup at the same time, and Harry insists they grab it together, so they can both win. They do this, but… The cup is a portkey.

DUM DUM DUUUUUUUUUUUM!

So they both wind up in a super evil looking graveyard.

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Peter Pettigrew shows up and straight up murders Cedric (shocker) before trapping Harry. Turns out the whole tournament was rigged for evil purposes. Who could have seen that coming except for LITERALLY EVERYONE, INCLUDING ALL THE CHARACTERS IN THIS MOVIE.

Also, can we take just a second to break down Voldemort’s insane plan? Because it is shockingly convoluted.

First, he needs to send someone to infiltrate Hogwarts, which, yeah, doesn’t seem too hard. Next, instead of just kidnapping Harry from there, he needs to magically rig the Goblet of Fire to chose Harry’s name and then hope against hope that he isn’t instantly disqualified. Then he is counting on Harry winning or at least completing all the challenges ALIVE. This includes, by the way, surviving an incredibly dangerous fire-breathing dragon. Harry then needs to come in first in the hedge maze. Not just finish, but finish first. What was Voldemort gonna do if he’d gone through all this, only for the motherfucking Russian Guy to just show up in the middle of the graveyard clutching the cup?

But never mind that because the plan worked. Pettigrew slices Potter’s arm, and drips the blood into a cauldron. He also cuts off his own hand into the cauldron in one clean slice which I’m gonna call bullshit on. Finally he dumps weird skeleton baby Voldemort in. And then the reaction starts. And…

And…

Holy Shit.

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I’m not making fun of this, this scene is legitimately great. It’s all the payoff you’d want from four movies of buildup. Plus, I am super down for the weird Nosferatu influences in Voldemort’s design. Dude’s creepy as shit.

Also, best big bad we’ve had so far in this series. I mean, to be fair the last movies’ villains were, in order, a stuttery professor, a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ panel, and misunderstandings, so not the highest of bars, but still.

Ralph Finnes is hamming it up as a villain, but he’s doing so exactly as much as he needs to be. Voldemort mocks Harry a bunch before summoning his Death Eaters who… still look ridiculous. But importantly, among the Death Eaters is Lucius Malfoy. Voldey gives him shit for not helping Voldemort resurrect himself, to which Lucius replies that he looked for “any sign” of Voldemort’s return and “didn’t see any.”

Lucius, there were a lot of signs. Like, A LOT a lot. Every school year of your son’s education ends with a minion of the Dark Lord trying to murder that Potter kid, maybe pay a little more attention to your surroundings.

Anyway, Voldey gives Harry his wand and initiates a magic duel, intending to kill him one on one.

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The fight goes about how you’d expect, with Harry struggling to keep alive. Fortunately, we have some ADR’d dialogue to explain why all the Death Eaters are standing around with their thumbs up their asses not helping murder the fourteen year old their boss is fighting. In the middle of the duel, a bunch of ghosts burst out of Voldemort’s wand to help buy Harry some time to escape. He does, and manages to get back to Cedric’s body and the Portkey.

He teleports back into the tri-wizard arena to thunderous applause. Until, that is, people notice he’s crying over a dead dude’s body. At that point, everyone is shocked and horrified.

I’m sorry, what? Are they actually SURPRISED someone died? Fucking really? What was the first challenge again?

Oh right:

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But who would’ve thought someone could die during this, what a tragedy.

As people are aghast over Diggory’s demise, Mad-Eye Moody drags Harry off to his classroom to ask him about what he saw. Harry tells him and Moody starts flipping his shit. Dumbledore and Snape burst in and pin Moody down. He tries to escape but, having run out of polyjuice potion, he reverts back to his true self. That being… David Tennant! You know Tennant, I know that you didn’t expect Potter to return, but you coulda brought enough disguise potion to last longer than the minimum amount of time necessary. Like, if the tri-wizard tournament had a rain delay, you’d a been fucked.

It turns out that the real Moody had been trapped in trunk this whole time. Which is… how long exactly? Weeks? Months?  Has Tennant been feeding him?

After that, we get the funeral for Cedric Diggory. Man, it’s so terrible that a kid died and Voldemort came back to power. It’s too bad they don’t have some sort of time travel device to go back and prevent all this. You know, some sort of device for TURNING back TIME. Cough, Hermione, cough.

But we’re at the end of the school year and the other two wizard school students pack up and lea– Wait, how long was this?

Like, not how long was the movie, how long was this entire series of events? Did the tri-wizard tournament take a whole year? Did these other students study at Hogwarts for that year, or did they miss a year of school to spectate the twelfth annual magic-murder-olympics?

Well, goodbye other magic schools, I’m assuming we’ll never hear from you again.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Really strong entry to the series. Plus it feels like the main plot has finally picked up after two movies of keeping the plates spinning. This one had a series of great setpieces and the best climax so far, even if it did follow the unfortunate trend of tossing Ron and Hermione to the curb. We also get some good character stuff, hinting at Ron and Hermione’s eventual relationship. Buuuuuuuuut, if I’m weighing in, I think I liked part 3 more.

Just a bit, but still. And a lot of that comes from character stuff. First of all, this film totally abandons the background plot of Harry’s potential turn to evil. Yes, I knew he was never going to, but they’d been seeding it for a while and to drop it with no resolution is disappointing. Also, the conflict between Harry and Ron felt incredibly forced and unnecessary.

Still a strong movie and for sure my second favorite so far, but not enough to unseat the recent champion.

Next week– well, next week I’m moving so I’ll be taking the week off, but in two weeks, we’ll come back with the start of the second half of the series. Let’s see how it goes!

Hogwarts and All Part 3: Who Made the Murder-Wraiths Security Guards?

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. Hopefully, by the end of this eight part series, I will go from someone who couldn’t give less of a shit about the students of Hogwarts to someone who loves them as much as everyone else seems to.

Welcome to week three, where I’m starting to get on board. But like, just a little bit.

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Ok, so this one is supposedly great, and I’m likely to believe that because Alfonso Cuarón directed it. I never got around to Gravity but Children of Men is friggin’ awesome.

Two hours and twenty minutes is BETTER, movie, but lets get it down to an even two ten for next time.

The movie starts with Harry at the Dursley’s house, as is tradition. Harry’s been practicing magic at home, which is discouraged, but he’s keeping it a secret. As it turns out however, Papa Dursley’s sister is in town and has come to visit. Also turns out she’s a complete asshole like her brother. Who’da guessed?

So Auntie Dursley starts going off on how much Harry’s parents were just the worstest, which understandably pisses Harry off. All the lights start flickering as Harry starts to go full on The Omen which I would be totally down for. Seriously, these movies have so far been subtly building the idea of Harry being a potential big bad dark lord and while I know he doesn’t go that way, if that concept just gets dropped like a hot potato in future movies, I’m gonna be super pissed.

But instead of executing Auntie Dursely like he’s a blood covered girl on prom night, Harry goes a… different route with it.

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So first of all, that has to be EXTREMELY painful, right? Like, pass-out-from-the-experience painful? Feeling your skin stretch because of a pimple hurts, this must be unimaginable.

So she bobbles around the house before floating out the back door at up into the sky.

Where she dies.

I mean, eventually, right? Either she hits the upper atmosphere and freezes to death or she deflates and punches pavement. Not lookin’ too good for her either way.

In other words, we are now following the adventures of Harry Potter, murderer.

Papa Dursley asks Harry to bring her back, to which he responds “No, she deserved what she got.”

That being, you know, death. Ooooookay.

MOVING ON. Harry just sorta leaves the house with all his stuff and starts wandering the streets. Fortunately for him, a large triple decker bus pulls up. This is the Knight Bus.

The Knight Bus, dashing through London

It is one of like thirty different methods of Wizard transport we’ve seen so far. Also, the extremely bored conductor is this movie’s MVP. Not as good as Ron’s dipshit owl from Chamber but really close. The Knight Bus tears off through the city, taking Harry to his eventual destination. Also, it is driven by an elderly man and uses a shrunken head as a GPS. I LOVE THIS.

But I have a question. What is the Knight Bus’s business model? It doesn’t seem to take bus fare. And it doesn’t appear to be city funded public transportation. Do wizards pay special wizard taxes to fund shit like this? In addition to regular taxes? Because that would suck.

Harry eventually arrives at the Leaky Cauldron Inn and Pub, where Ron and Hermione are for reasons (yay Ron, yay Hermione). Harry gets all his school supplies, including a special book.

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This is the monster book of monsters. Now, I try really hard not to make jokes that I assume other people have made a bunch about these movies. And I assume that the statement I’m about to make has been made by hundreds of other people but please indulge me as I ask the following question:

WHAT FUCKING BENEFIT IS THERE TO A BOOK THAT TRIES TO MURDER YOU? HOW IS THAT IN ANY WAY BETTER THAN A NORMAL NON MURDERY BOOK?

And even more in depth, how did this book come to be? Is it a book-shaped creature that had a book forcibly printed on to it? Was it a normal book brought to life by magic? Is it a creature that naturally has a book inside of it? None of these are any more logical than the others.

Fuck it, next scene.

Ron’s parents show up and Mr. Weasley pulls Harry aside and informs him that his life is in danger and apologizes if this information is shocking to him. It isn’t. Nor should it be. At this point, Harry NOT being in mortal danger would be shocking. This time, the danger comes from a man named Sirius Black.

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                                                                              He seems sane.

Sirius was supposedly an ally of Lord Voldemort, and was responsible for betraying Harry’s parents, contributing to their death. He also annihilated Peter Petigrew another childhood friend which bull-shit, he’s not dead.

Let me tell you about a little rule we comic book fans have: If you don’t see the body, they ain’t dead. So Petigrew’s finger being the only thing left tells me he’s alive and kicking.

Harry and his chums get on the train, where they share a cabin with our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher Professor Lupin. While in transit, they are accosted by a Dementor. Dementors are, as the film explains, somewhere between prison guard and law enforcement for the wizard world. So of course this one opens the compartment and tries to eat Harry’s soul.

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                                                   I hope wizard taxes don’t also pay for them.

Upon reaching Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces that the Dementors will be posted around the school for safety until Sirius Black is caught. Y’know, if you’re trying to keep Harry safe from Sirius, you could do better than hire creatures who keep trying to eat his soul as campus security. Just sayin’.

Harry is then told that the Dementors don’t distinguish between targets. They seem like a terrible police force. But never mind that because Hagrid’s a teacher now. No degree required. No wonder Hogwarts has such shitty faculty. Hagrid teaches the monsters class, the book for which we talked about earlier. He explains that you can safely open the book by gently stroking the spine. Ooooooooooh, that makes sense. Not as much sense as PRINTING YOUR BOOK ON FUCKING NON MURDEROUS PAPER, but sense, nonetheless.

Also, meet Buckbeak.

Buckbeak

Buckbeak is a Hippogriff. He is very proud and made of rage murder. So of course Hagrid asks Harry to go pet him. Harry does safely and then Hagrid slaps him on the creature’s back and lets him fly off into the sky.

So, forgetting how insanely dangerous this is, does every student get to do the same? Because there’s like twenty kids, and I doubt this class is long enough for them all to get a turn. Oh, and that night there is a full moon. I’m sure that won’t came back in some huge way later on.

The next morning, Snape substitutes in for Lupin in his defense against the dark arts class and starts a new lesson on recognizing werewol–

Oh, Lupin’s a werewolf.

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I mean, like duh. It’s gotta be somebody, and that motherfucker’s name is LUPIN so I’m guessing it’s him.

Next we get more godamn Quidditch because of course we do. The game this time is being played in a thunderstorm which seems– y’know what, I’m not even going to acknowledge when things seem incredibly dangerous anymore. Because it is constantly.

So Harry flies too high and the Dementors come after him. Jesus fuckchrist, they really are terrible security guards. Who posted them there? Why are they a thing? So many questions. Also, by this point we’ve learned that Sirius is most likely inside the castle so why are they still guarding the exterior. They’re obviously really bad at it. Maybe if they didn’t spend all their time trying to eat that Potter kid’s soul, they’d have noticed a wanted criminal sneaking in. The next day during class, Buckbeak fucks Malfoy up.

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Unfortunately, this means Buckbeak has to be put down because Malfoy’s dad is, as we established last movie, a massive prick. Oh no, the violent animal that regularly attacks people when you don’t bow to it is going to be put down. How surprising.

A bit later Ron and Hermione and the other students get to go to Hogsmeade, while Harry doesn’t because his parents are dead and therefore can’t sign a permission slip. Sad, Harry runs into Fred and George Weasley who give him a strange new item: The Marauder’s Map.

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The map allows him to see where everyone is all the time.

A couple’a things: First, this 100% confirms my theory about the Wizard NSA from last movie. The wizarding government is full-on tracking all wizards and I want to know why. And second: if there is tracking technology on all wizards, even if it’s JUST wizards inside the Hogwarts campus HOW CAN THEY STILL NOT FIND SIRIUS BLACK?

Fine, whatever, so Harry uses the map and his invisibility cloak to sneak out of Hogwarts and find his friends. He winds up sneaking into a meeting Professor McGoneGirl is having with some ministry of magic members about Sirius Black. It turns out Sirius was James and Lily Potter’s best friend and is Harry’s godfather. Harry gets super pissed and runs off, having concluded that Sirius is the real bad guy here. You know, like Snape was trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone and Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets.

But never mind that jumped-to conclusion, because Buckbeak is about to be executed.

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Harry, Ron, and Hermione come down to see Hagrid to make sure he’s going to be okay, but after being hit by rocks thrown from somewhere and noticing the executioner’s arrival, they run out the back door. Hermione thinks she notices something, but ignores it as they go to leave. As they look back… the axe comes down.

Oh, and then Scabbers the rat bites Ron so he definitely has rabies now. Ron chases Scabbers with the others in pursuit before he runs into a large black dog that is definitely Sirius Black.

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C’mon, his name was “Sirius Black” this isn’t surprising, let’s keep it moving. The dog drags Ron and Scabbers down a deep hole and Harry and Hermione follow, after dealing with the murder tree.

They arrive in the Shrieking Shack, where they find Ron and the dog, who turns out to be… Sirius Black, shock and awe. At this point Lupin shows up, clearly working with Sirius.  They begin pointing their wands at Harry and company and talking about finally needing to kill “him”. They also hug, and Sirius calls Lupin by his first name, Remus.

REMUS? FUCKING REMUS LUPIN? AS IN REMUS THE MYTHOLOGICAL ROMAN CHILD RAISED BY WOLVES AND LUPIN AS IN LUPINE AS IN WOLFLIKE?

Honest question, was Professor Imma Wulfmin just TOO obvious?

Hermione calls Lupin on the fact that he’s secretly a werewolf, to which he responds “How long have you known?” Presumably since the first time she heard your first name and your last name in conjunction, Remus Lupin.

Also, like, Remus and Sirius are 100% totally a couple, right? Like, I’m not a shipper or whatever, but this isn’t even subtext, it’s just text.

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               The fact that this image was shockingly easy to find tells me the internet agrees.

At this point Snape bursts in and starts pointing his wand at Sirius and threatening him. Sirius and Lupin keep referring to “needing to kill him” which at this point is just needlessly vague in service of the plot. Harry senses that Sirius seems to be telling the truth and blasts Snape. Black obliges by grabbing Ron’s rat Scabbers who is actually…

Peter Pettigrew and I fuckin’ told you he wasn’t dead! Also, sidenote, I love Sirius Black so much, he is the best.

But um, can I just say poor Pettigrew? Like, the dude spent twelve years as a rat being passed from teenager to teenager. That must have been literally hell. Like, being slapped into Dementor custody does not sound that bad whatsoever in comparison. They drag Pettigrew out into the night, heading for Hogwarts when Sirius realizes it’s a full moon.

I blame this entirely on Lupin. Keep track of that shit, man. If I turned into a vicious wolf monster once a month I would have that day marked down on all my calendars. Sirius runs to Lupin and holds him tight while trying to help him reassert control. They’re a cute couple, I’m rooting for them.

But it fails and Lupin turns into a werewolf.

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Sirius turns into his dog form and tries to protect the others from Lupin but fails. Lupin is eventually distracted by a wolf howl in the distance and wanders off. Harry goes to find Sirius, who’s been seriously (heh) hurt. The Dementors arrive and are immediately drawn to Harry and Sirius like catnip. Before they can die, they’re saved by someone casting a patronus, the spell that can banish Dementors. It seems like maybe the magic police shouldn’t have a secret magic weakness that just anyone can learn, but whatever, that’s just me.

The next morning, Harry wakes up to discover that Sirius is awaiting execution via the Dementor’s kiss for escaping. He panics that there isn’t enough time to save them, but Dumbledore and Hermione suggest otherwise.

Hermione reveals the Time Turner, a device that allows the user to travel backwards in time. Hermione’s been using it to take extra classes which is a wonderful character moment. So let’s go back in time, folks. And also say bye to Ron, because he, like usual, has to sit out the climax.

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                                                                                Maybe next movie.

So over the next chunk of time, Harry and Hermione fill in all the weirdness from earlier in the film, throwing rocks at their past selves to get them out of Hagrid’s house, luring Lupin away, and Harry even casts the Patronus that saved him earlier. During that time though, they also save Buckbeak even though Buckbeak pretty clearly died in the pre-time travel universe and that is not how time travel works if we’re operating on Bill & Ted rules, wherein everything you do in the past was always destined to happen, which this movie seems to be.

Buckbeak winds up saving Harry and Hermione from Lupin, giving them a chance to save Sirius and past Harry. Late that night, Harry and Hermione free Sirius from prison and let him escape with Buckbeak. They free him by magic-ing the door open. Seems a prison for wizards should have magic proof locks, but these are the same people who commissioned the Dementors, so whatever.

Harry and Hermione head back to see Ron, just as their past selves disappear. Ron has absolutely no idea what’s going on, and his friends just laugh rather than tell him. You know, like assholes. The next day, Harry visits Lupin, who is leaving the school before he can be fired for being a werewolf. Because werewolf racism is apparently a thing. And also probably because his boyfriend just escaped prison again and they’ve gotta go make up for lost time. Harry is gifted a new broom from Sirius, he flies up into the clouds aaaaaaaand FREEZE FRAME!

Wait really? We end on a freeze frame? Well that’s weird.hp-poa19

                                                                   That, uh, that sure is something.

Also, if the time turner isn’t at least SUGGESTED as a solution to all future problems, I’m gonna be pissed.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The best one so far. Yes, Cuarón’s eye means that this is the most visually interesting film yet, but there’s far more to it than that. First off, while this is another movie without a ton of overall plot progression, it makes up for it with character development. Harry’s film-long arc of learning to overcome his deepest fears is typical, but feels like actual growth, and Hermione and Ron have their own mini-arc of learning to be better friends and stop sniping at each other all the time. Plus, this time Hermione gets to tag along for the big climax which is a great step up. Oh, and Harry blasting Snape so he can hear Sirius out is final payoff of his three movie streak of jumping to the wrong conclusions nonstop without considering alternatives.

But I also was surprised by how funny this one was. Yeah, the others had moments, but this film had a constant undercurrent of fun and humor that really strengthened it as a whole. It made all the characters feel more real and less like stock archetypes. Character development and charm really made this one feel necessary, and not like a wheel spinning movie, which it kind of is but I didn’t mind.

Well, that one was really fun, next week, we’ll talk about the OTHER one I’ve been told is totally the best Harry Potter movie.

Also LupinXSirius 4evr.

 

Hogwarts And All Part 2: The Chamber of–Don’t Call It THAT, Why Would You Call It That?!

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. Hopefully, by the end of this eight part series, I will go from someone who couldn’t give less of a shit about the students of Hogwarts to someone who loves them as much as everyone else seems to.

This week, welcome to part 2, where things get more mysterious and way more ridiculous.

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So we begin with– Two Hours and FORTY Minutes?!!!!! Fucking shitting me?

Ok, ok, fine. It’s long, but we will give it another chance. But I better not see this kind of behavior next time.

We actually begin with Harry at home with the Dursleys, living in the attic, which is a pretty good step up from the room under the stairs. Also, THAT WAS AN OPTION THE WHOLE TIME? He could’ve just been living in the attic and not underground like a CHUD? Why was– but if– never mind. Moving on. Harry is told not to disturb the Dursley’s party, but when he retreats to his room, he encounters a –OH HOLY FUCK!

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WHAT THE SWEET SHIT IS THAT?!

JE-sus, Christ, give a guy a warning next time. That thing is Dobby. He is a house elf. I do not like him.

Dobby tells Harry that he must not attend Hogwarts this year. When Harry says he still plans on it, Dobby pulls an Edward Norton in Fight Club and starts beating the ever loving shit out of himself.

Interlude: On his desk, Harry has a book entitled “Which Owl?” I love this.

So when the Dursley patriarch tells Harry that he won’t let him go back to Hogwarts if he doesn’t stop making noise, Dobby gets an idea. A terrible idea. A terrible, horrible, AWFUL idea.

Dobby wrecks havoc in the Dursley house because Dobby is a dick. the Dursley’s lock Harry in his room and bar the windows, buuuuuuuut that night, Ron shows up in a flying car (yay, Ron) and jailbreaks him. They head off to the Weasley house, where we meet my new favorite character.

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Ron’s mom is fantastic. Her rapid quick switching between screaming at Ron and casually talking to Harry is the best. Character find of the century. But before we can get too in depth into that, Ron’s owl flies smack into the window carrying mail. One of the letters is for Harry, which raises a troubling question.

How do they know where he is? Like, are all wizards being tracked? Is there some sort of NSA Project Oversight shit going on in the wizarding world? I’m legitimately curious about this.

But anyhoozles, the Weasley family and Harry are all given school supply lists, so it’s off to Diagon Alley. This time through Floo Powder. Floo Powder works as follows. first you step into the fireplace. Then you state your destination, throw the powder down down, burst into flames, and show up somewhere else.

Not only is that insane, it doesn’t make any sen– Oh wait, I get it. “Floo.” Like “Flue.” As in the type of Flue a chimney has. It’s a pun.

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But when Harry goes to teleport, he mispronounces his destination and because Floo travel works the same way as Siri (I’m sorry, did you mean–) he winds up in a much more dangerous and seedy part of Diagon Alley. It’s all good though, Hagrid finds him.

After shopping, Harry and Ron head to Platform 9 3/4 which hasn’t gotten LESS suspicious. Ron’s family gets through alright, but when Harry and Ron try, they bump into the wall and can’t get through.

A Railstation employee notices them and tells them to leave which– wait, YOU NOTICED THAT?????!!!!!!!!! THE TWELVE PRECEDING PEOPLE WHO DISA-FUCKING-PEARED, NO, NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST, BUT YOU NOTICE THESE TWO????????

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SHIT

A-hem, sorry. Harry and Ron steal the flying car and take that to Hogwarts. They get there and immediately crash into a murder-tree.

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                                                     Because OF COURSE Hogwarts has a murder-tree.

They get in marginal trouble, but immediately run into everyone else (yay, Hermione) and settling in to life at Hogwarts again. The next day, Ron’s owl shows up and just slams right into the table while carrying a letter.

Ok, I lied earlier, Ron’s dumbass owl is my new favorite character.

The letter just sorta screams at Ron a bunch, and then we move on. I’m not gonna lie, the only reason I mentioned this scene at all is so I could talk about Ron’s Owl.

 

Back to school we are, where we meet Professor Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

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Ok, so I’m not gonna make a joke about how Hogwarts keeps picking terrible Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, because A: Even I know that’s hacky but also B: I want to ask the question what the hell even IS Defense Against the Dark Arts? What happens in that class? Because from what I’ve seen so far, it mainly seems to be unleashing a bunch of horrifying shit on your students and telling them not to die during it.

I wonder why they have trouble finding a good teacher for such a wonderful class.

While in detention, Harry starts hearing a spooky voice talking about murdering and eating and all sortsa fun stuff. He follows the voice for a while but loses track of it at a horrifying sight.

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Someone has paralyzed a cat and hung it from a torch next to a message written in blood about something called the “Chamber of Secrets” being open. So we’ll get to “Chamber of Secrets” in a minute because first I want to ask a different question:

Whose blood is that? It’s sure as shit not the cat’s and the movie never explains where all this blood came from and that distresses me. That is a lot of blood. Like, A LOT of blood. Why does no one seem to care whose blood that is?

Oh also, there’s a trail of spiders leading away from the crime scene. Fuck, I hate spiders. I really hope this is the last time we’ll see spiders in this movie.

The next day, Hermione asks Professor McGoneGirl about what the Chamber of Secrets is, and she reveals it’s a mysterious and dangerous place that people should avoid at all costs. I would like to make the following point:

IF YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO GO LOOKING TO OPEN THE CHAMBER, DON’T CALL IT THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS!!!

What, was “the Chamber of Look At Me Look At Me There’s Totally Something Cool In Here” taken? Like, call it something different. Like “The Chamber of Tax Law” or “The Chamber of Professor Snape’s VHS Collection of ‘Friends’.” You know, something boring to prevent people from going looking for it.

Oh good, now we get more fucking Quidditch.

Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy on the Quidditch field in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

                                                                                       Joy.

During the game, the big scary murder ball (I think it’s called a Bludger or something?) comes straight after Harry and tries to murder him. It winds up breaking his arm, but don’t worry, he still catches the Golden Snitch and wins the game.

While he’s waiting in the hospital, healing up, Harry begins to hear the murderous voice again. But this time, it’s clearer he’s picking up the thoughts of some sort of murderous creature, a demonic, hideous beast that only lusts for death and destruction. When he looks around for the source of the thoughts, he runs right into…

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I FUCKIN’ KNEW IT!!!!

I knew that little fuck was up to somethi– Wait, those weren’t Dobby’s thoughts Harry was hearing?

Are you sure?

It would make perfect sense.

Fine, whatever, apparently, Dobby is just there to tell Harry to please go home and leave Hogwarts. Harry says no, Dobby fucks off.

Meanwhile, a student has been paralyzed by the beast haunting the school. Classes still proceed as normal though. Jesus, Hogwarts could use a Lockdown drill now and then. Hell, I don’t even think they have fire alarms.

Harry arrives at dueling class, where he and Draco Malfoy duel. Malfoy shoots out a snake, but Harry talks it down since he can speak snake. This scares the ever-loving fuck out of everyone else since only the truly evil are said to be able to do that.

Oh also, Hermione gets paralyzed by the creature.

In the flooded girls bathroom, Harry discovers Moaning Myrtle the ghost, who is pissed that someone threw a book at her. The book is a diary of an old Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle. Upon opening the diary, Harry is greeted with a magic flashback.

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In the flashback, we see Tom verbally accost a young Hagrid, blaming him for opening the Chamber of Secrets and sending some sort of creature he was keeping out into the woods.

Back in the present, Harry is immediately convinced that Hagrid is behind everything. Oh, you mean like how last movie it was totally Snape trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone? Jesus Harry, stop jumping to the first conclusion you stumble across.

So Harry decides to find Hagrid’s mysterious creature by… following the spiders.

I don’t like this.

Harry and Ron enter the darkest part of the forrest and stumble upon– OH FUCK!!Ara

SWEET JESUS FUCKING FUCK I HATE THIS SO MUCH.

Ok, ok, powering through this scene: The giant spider isn’t the Chamber of secrets monster and Harry and Ron run away pursued by SO MANY SPIDERS and this is legitimately my worst nightmare.

After visiting Hermione, they discover a clue she left them revealing that the monster in the Chamber of Secrets is in fact a Basilisk.

…a big fuckin’ snake.

Harry says this makes sense because spiders naturally flee from the Basilisk. Right, but why though? WHY are spiders afraid of this thing? No? We’re just gonna move on and pretend that makes sense? Ok.

But now that we know what was in the Chamber of Secrets, the name pisses me off EVEN MORE. Just call it “The Chamber of the Big Fucking Snake” no one’s gonna go around trying to sneak into that thing. “Hey, Brad, you wanna go sneak into the Chamber of the Big Fucking Snake?” “No thanks, Ted.” “Why not, Brad?” “Well, Ted, if we go sneak into that, dollars to donuts we’re gonna find a big fucking snake and that doesn’t seem like a fun plan for the rest of my evening.” “That’s a good point, Brad, why don’t we just go throw pebbles at ghosts instead.”

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                                               Pictured: the Chamber of the Big Fucking Snake

But uh-oh, because we discover that Ron’s sister has disappeared. My notes at this point just say “Oh No, not Whatshername!” so you can see I’m really broken up about this.

So it turns out that the door to the Chamber of Secrets is in the girls’ bathroom and holy shit, what the hell is up with Girls’ Bathrooms at Hogwarts. First there was a troll in one, then there was a ghost, now there’s a giant snake beast in one? Holy hell, if I was a lady at Hogwarts, I would have to seriously consider holding it for all nine months of school.

But Harry, Ron, and that charlatan Professor Lockhart head down into the Chamber to… I dunno kill the snake? That seems to be the plan. Lockhart tries to magically lobotomize Harry and Ron, but it misfires and causes a cave in. This separates Harry meaning he has to go this one alone. He enters the Chamber and discovers Tom Riddle, who is revealed to be behind everything.

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It turns out that Tom embedded his consciousness into his diary, hoping that if he was ever struck down, someone would find the diary and resurrect him. And someone DID strike him down because it turns out TOM MARVELO RIDDLE is an anagram for…

I AM LORD VOLDEMORT

#MindBlown

I mean, his full name is THOMAS MARVELO RIDDLE, but I guess “Lord Voldeshamort” isn’t as menacing of a name.

Riddle manipulated Ginny into opening the Chamber and leaving the blood message which STILL doesn’t answer the question of WHOSE BLOOD IS THAT?

So this is a weird contingency plan, right? What if someone found the diary before the real Voldemort had died? Would there just have been two Voldemorts running around, one of them sixteen years old? God can you imagine having to deal with yourself frozen at sixteen years old? That sounds like the literal WORST.

But anyway, Riddle calls out the Basilisk, and it looks like Harry is fucked.

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But all of a sudden, Dumbledore’s Phoenix breaks in and scratches the Basilisk’s eyes out. Well that was fortunate. Now the beast can only navigate by sound, even though smell is how real snakes find prey and no one ripped out the thing’s tongue.

Harry sneaks around a bunch trying to figure out what to do until he discovers that the Phoenix also brought him a sword. Ok, we are approaching Phoenix ex machina levels on this one.

Harry stabs the ever-loving fuck out of the basilisk, killing it. unfortunately, he also catches a fang in the arm. A fang that is apparently full of poison. If it has poison fangs, why even bother with the death stare? Whatever, fine.

Harry uses the fang to stab the shit out of Riddle’s diary and kill the embedded memory. Ginny recovers but it looks like Harry is about to die. But, I shit you not, the Phoenix cries in Harry’s wound and heals it fully. My notes at this point just say “Is there anything this fuckin’ bird CAN’T do?”

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So everything turns out ok! Except Dobby shows up again. Turns out he’s Lucius Malfoy’s house elf. Harry manipulates Lucius into accidentally releasing Dobby from service and Dobby leaves hopefully to be NEVER SEEN AGAIN.

He never comes back, right Harry Potter fans? Please tell me I’m right.

Everyone gathers in the dining hall and Dumbledore announces that all exams are cancelled. Wait, can he do that? Because I’m sure those exams were necessary to balance everyone’s grades. And what if a student was counting on the final exam to raise his/her grade in the class? Is this how every movie is going to end? With Dumbledore doing something that seems nice on the surface but is actually a massive dick move?

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I also enjoyed this movie and it was a fun second chapter, but I would say it was a dip in quality compared to the first. The first felt new and fresh, while this seemed like a placeholder chapter until more story stuff could be revealed later. Also, having the main villain turn out to be a trumped up version of a “break glass in case of emergency” panel didn’t help. The characters progressed and we got a little deeper into our villain’s main history but it felt overall unnecessary.

Again, fun movie, I would’ve liked some character arcs as opposed to just plot developments. It’s also possible that the things in this movie will be made majorly important in later movies, making my complaints irrelevant. We’ll see.

Next week, we get the one I’ve been told by some is “the best one” so I’m excited.

Hogwarts and All-Part One: Sorcerers and Philosophers Are Not The Same Thing

Everyone has that one big cultural touchstone they missed out on. I have friends who shrugged off Pokemon, or Star Wars, or the Marvel Movies. They just never got on the train with everybody else and now they feel weird and out of the loop whenever those things come up in conversation. My pop cultural blindspot is Harry Potter. But not for any longer. To celebrate the release of the next chapter in the Harry Potter canon, I have decided to go back and watch all the Harry Potter films, none of which I have seen before. Hopefully, by the end of this eight part series, I will go from someone who couldn’t give less of a shit about the students of Hogwarts to someone who loves them as much as everyone else seems to.

This week, I’m starting my journey with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (yeah, I watched the British edition, so sue me).

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So we start off the movie with me realizing that this thing is two and a half fucking hours long, Jesus Christ. No movie needs to be that long. But whatever, I’ll forgive it its first sin, let’s start up.

The actual film opens with Professors Dumbledore and McGoni-… Macgona… McGoneGirl arriving at a small suburban house in England. They meet Hagrid, who has brought a baby named Harry Potter who somehow survived his parents being murdered by the evil Lord Voldemort in an ultimate final battle that we as an audience arrived too late to see.

Dumbledore explains that they need to give the baby to his only surviving family, a group of literal child abusers named the Dursleys. Not sure why they couldn’t just leave the baby at an orphanage or a fire station and not, you know, with actual human monsters, but whatever. Maybe The Dursleys’s Morty-waves cancel out Harry’s special Rick-waves or something, there’s probably an explanation somewhere.

We flash forward somewhere around 11 years and Harry is a young boy living in a cupboard under the stairs that is definitely a safety hazard. The Dursley’s force him to cook them breakfast and constantly treat him as a slave.Dursley_family_(Promotional_photo).jpg

                       God, it’s like if Norman Rockwell decided to only paint douchebags.

But before this can turn into “Harry Potter and the Riddle of Child Protective Services” we get some plot developments. The family is going to the zoo to celebrate Dudley (the son)’s birthday. They bring Harry at least, so that’s nice. While there, Harry talks to a snake briefly, which was pretty good foreshadowing to the little I remember from the later books. He also frees the snake and traps Dudley in the snake enclosure, which pisses of his adopted father, who drags Harry home angrily. There, they find a letter for Harry from someplace called Hogwarts.

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Ok, so I know I know what Hogwarts is and I know YOU know what Hogwarts is but can we talk about that name for a second, devoid of all the pop culture knowledge we have attached to it?

Hogwarts. Hog…Warts.

Why would you name a school that? I know there’s probably an explanation somewhere, but you’d think you would pick a school name that wasn’t synonymous with a skin disease for pigs. Just seems a needlessly unpleasant association.

So Harry gets his letter from Pig Cysts University, but unfortunately before he can open it, The Dursleys snatch it from his hands and destroy it. More and more letters keep arriving until the amount of owls arriving to bring them reaches infestation levels. Like, national state of emergency amounts of owls.

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The Dursleys and Harry flee to a hidden cabin far from all other people, where they stay until Hagrid arrives to pick up Harry. He explains to the boy the nature of the wizarding school and talks about how wizards are usually young people who are feared or misunderstood who secretly have great power and– holy shit, I get the mass appeal of Harry Potter now. Guys, it’s the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, but with wizards instead of mutants.

Harry Potter is the X-Men for millennials. It’s a power/social fantasy for people who feel alone and misunderstood. As someone who fell hard for the X-Men, I totally get why people like this. I mean, it’s also well written and full of strong characters, but that central premise totally makes sense to me now.

So Hagrid takes Harry away from the Dursleys and it’s off to Pork Tumors School for the Arts, or whatever it’s called. But first, he needs school supplies. School supplies which apparently can include “an owl, a toad, or a cat”. Jesus, Hogwarts must be a literal mess with all those filthy animals running around.

Harry and Hagrid go to Gringots bank and deal with some vaguely anti-semetic looking Goblins before finally picking up a wand and an owl. Hagrid finally drops Harry off at the train station and tells him to look for Platform Nine and Three Quarters.

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He finds it via a bunch of people running full force into a wall and disappearing, which isn’t, you know, INCREDIBLY CONSPICUOUS or anything. Not like any Muggles would notice a thing like that by any chance.

On the train, we meet Ron (yay, Ron!) and get introduced to all the weird types of candy, including the chocolate frog. Why anyone would want their food to literally try and escape them, I will never know, but whatever. Also Hermione (yay, Hermione). And finally, almost a thousand words into this review (oops) we arrive at Hogwarts.Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone_(2001)_-_Trailer_1

Immediately, Dumbledore instructs the new students on where they are not allowed to go, cementing this school as an actual deathtrap. No wonder there are so many ghosts hanging around. It comes time to sort the new students and so out comes the sorting hat. When it gets to Harry, it has some trouble deciding and even tries to talk him into Slytherin which seems like a dick move.

Like, I’ll accept that this wizard school has a designated dorm for evil people, but isn’t placing people in that dorm like cursing them to a life of evil forever? Or are one fourth of all wizards just naturally evil? Because that’s… ok, no I actually would have assumed a higher percentage.

But the hat puts Harry in Gryffindor (all of you knew that, don’t know why I needed to type it) and he is sent off with Ron and Hermione to their dorm. Now we learn that the staircases all move without warning, sometimes recklessly. Jesus, this school is a deathtrap wallpapered in lawsuits.

Oh, right, I guess I have to talk about Quidditch now.

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Quidditch is a dumb bullshit sport.

Like, I came away actually liking this movie quite a bit and excited to watch the next one, but Quidditch is dumb. And I’m not even talking about real life collegiate Quidditch (although that is much, much stupider) I mean in-universe Quidditch. And why? Because of one single rule. The Seeker and the Golden Snitch.The idea that if one team finds the Golden Snitch and catches it, the entire game is over and said team immediately wins? That is some grade A unbalanced bullshit. So nothing else in the game matters? It could be Gryffindor 1, Slytherin 204 but if Harry catches that Snitch, game over, Gryffindor wins?

That’s like saying we’re gonna play basketball, but if the Center at any point in the game spots a shiny new dime on the court and picks it up, no matter the score, his team wins.

Quidditch needs a rebalancing update, that’s all I’m saying.

But never mind that because BATHROOM TROLL.

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In defeating the Troll, Harry, Ron and Hermione become friends at last and start to explore the campus. This is helped by Harry receiving a green screen–I’m sorry, “invisibility” cloak, which he uses to investigate the whereabouts of the Philosopher’s Stone. The trio discovers a room with a lock on it, but Hermione unlocks it with magic and WHY EVEN LOCK THINGS IF PEOPLE CAN DO THAT?

Honest question.

In the locked room is a three headed monster dog, which sure is one way to go in terms of security. Harry believes that Professor Snape is A: evil and B: after the Philosopher’s Stone, which is hidden at the end of a bunch of trials and tests.

Around this point we also get our first glimpse of Voldemort, who is drinking the blood of a unicorn he murdered which is, as far as villain entrances go, a pretty metal one.

Fearing Snape is close to stealing the Philosopher’s Stone and bringing back Voldemort for good, Harry decides it’s time to break into the tower containing the Stone and stop him. After paralyzing Nevile Longbottom, he, Ron and Hermione seek into the forbidden zone and enter.

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                                                                 Who’s a good puppy?!

After musically sedating the cerberus and solar blasting some vines, they reach a room full of flying keys and Harry uses his bullshit Quidditch skills to catch the right one. By the way, this room has a lock that can’t be magic-ed open. Would have been nice to put in of those on the FIRST FRIGGIN’ DOOR but I guess hindsight is 20/20.

In the next room is a giant chess board missing three pieces. So does this mean that this room can only be solved with three people present? Even though Professor Quirrell (Don’t act surprised, you ALL knew who it was) apparently got through it by himself.

Whatever, Ron gets the shit kicked out of him so that Harry can win the game and progress into the next room. Hermione just sorta hangs out with Ron. I mean, Harry can handle the fully trained Wizard Teacher and the almighty embodiment of evil by himself.

Harry enters and discovers… Professor Quirrell?! Shock! Awe! Surpri–we all knew this was coming, we can skip this part, right? So Quarrel takes off his turban to reveal he has a spooky spooky Voldemort face on the back of his head.

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It’s not…uh… not the SCARIEST thing in the world. The final Voldemort design they settled on is great and truly iconic, but this one feels like a bit of a work in progress. Maybe it’s the nose. Harry finds the stone due to a deus ex machina but when Voldey tries to take it, he disintegrates and dies screaming in pain. Harry passes out as Voldemort’s ghost form shoots off to plan for another day.

Later, Harry wakes up in the infirmary, where Dumbledore greets him and explains that he’s decided to destroy the Philosopher’s Stone so that Voldey can’t use it to reconstitute himself. He also explains that the reason Quirrell couldn’t touch Harry was because of Harry’s mother’s love. Quirrell was killed by the power of love. I guess it’s true what they say, it’s strong and it’s sudden and it can be cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life. Or y’know, leave you screeching in pain as your limbs crumble to dust. Either or.

After that, Harry joins his friends for the announcing of which house won the house cup and it turns out Slytherin did. But oh wait, Dumbledore still has to hand out some last minute points and it turns out Harry and his friends get credit for their achievements which pushes them from last place to first and Gryffindor wins!

Ok, so I know Slytherin is evil and we’re supposed to hate them (for valid reasons) but that is still a major dick move, Dumbledore. Hand out the extra points before announcing a winner, don’t tell the Slytherins that they won only to take it back last second. Without even an apology.

Also, “saved entire world from greatest threat of all time” is only worth ten more points than “played chess pretty well” so that’s good to know.

But everyone celebrates, there’s excitement in the air, Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal, end of movie.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

So this was actually a really fun movie and I can’t wait to keep going with this series. I went into this hoping to like Harry Potter and, while I’m still at “like” and not “love” I am on my way. Structuring the film as a classic english boarding school drama that just happens to have magic in it is a smart move, and one that gives it a familiar yet unique tone. I would still classify this as a kids film, but a good, recommendable, enjoyable for all ages kids film. It’s possible later installments will grow away from that assessment, but for now its one I feel comfortable making.

Next time, I will continue my journey with the next film in the series and hopefully I’ll be magically changed into a huge Harry Potter fan. We’ll see.

 

The Black Box: “Cop Rock Ep.7”

Television pilots are tough to make. It’s hard to introduce the concept and entire cast of characters of a show in one episode and still have that episode hold up on it’s own. But just because something’s hard doesn’t make it any more excusable when you fail spectacularly at doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Black Box, where we check out pilots that crashed and burned to see exactly what went wrong.

This week, for my one hundredth piece of content for this site, there was only one thing I could ever talk about.

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If you haven’t read my reviews of the first 6 episodes of this criminally underrated television series, you should catch up before you read this one so you know what’s happened so far. Click here to do that.

What they did wrong: You’d think after a three month break you’d know to stop asking by now.

What they did right: So we start off with a song and… uh…

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Yeah, we’re right back in the rhythm, ain’t we. So this episode’s winner is the opening song, “Let’s Be Careful Out There” a morning meeting song about listing off the tasks for the day and the shit on the docket.

And with that, I’m back in love with this show.

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                                           I’m sorry I was away so long, baby.

IT USES POLICE CODES AS LYRICS!!!!! If you don’t love the ever loving shit out of that, you can go the hell home. Also, halfway through the song, the officer in charge whips his desk around to reveal it’s actually a piano.

Cop Rock, you haven’t pulled the surprise piano trick since episode one! Nice little moment of nostalgia there.

After the song, we suddenly spot a new cop, who the camera tightly zooms in on. And he looks suspicious, mostly because he is holding a full pipe for no goddamn reason.

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                                                 Dum-dum-DUUUUUUUMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!

But that seems like it’ll be important later, so we’ll get back to him. For now, Ladycop has returned to active duty after being shot in the knee last episode and is right back at work busting perps and fucking her partner Affaircop. Her husband, the Medical Examiner is still suspicious about his wife’s possible infidelity.

In our biggest pollen, I have to name a character. This is Officer Loosecannon’s old partner:

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He’s been present since the beginning of the series but I’ve never had a real reason to name him until now. Last episode, he testified in court against Loosecannon, ensuring an indictment. Because of this just act, he has been christened Officer Whistleblower.

So Officer Whistleblower has been receiving racial slurs and death threats in the mail since he testified, so he goes to Captain Gravelvoice looking for police protection for his family. Gravelvoice grants it, but Whistleblower worries that the other officers won’t do their best since some view him as a traitor.

This fear is confirmed in the next song, where the officers of the LAPD sing passive aggressivly about how “no one can be loyal or trustworthy anymore”. Yep, it’s a song about police protectionism and the blue wall.

Why do people laugh when I say Cop Rock was way ahead of its time?

Next up, we get a scene with our good friend the mayor and her aide.

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                                                                                    This guy.

He is in her office to inform her of his intentions to resign. As he explains, a major magazine is preparing to out him as gay, so he wishes to quit so that his homosexuality doesn’t damage the mayor’s reputation.

The mayor tells him she has no intention to let him quit, and that she’ll help him out with this.

Back in our series-long plotline, Loosecannon is being prepped by his lawyer, a man who couldn’t look more like he was secretly the Devil if he was wearing horns and a tail.

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                                    “The name is mister Cypher. Mister L.U. Cypher” 

Loosecannon tells him the truth, that he shot an unarmed, restrained man. The Lawyer immediately gets to work planning for the trial.

Back with the mayor, she meets with the reporter threatening to out her aide. She reveals that the reporter is gay himself and that his boyfriend is an illegal immigrant. So she threatens to DEPORT him and out the reporter if said reporter doesn’t kill the story.

Jesus, mayor, I approve of the result, but your methods seem a wee bit harsh.

But speakin’ of racial tensions, Officer Whistleblower leaves his house at night to find a burning cross on his lawn. His wife sings to their children about the horrors of institutionalized racism.

In his office, Captain Gravelvoice questions the officers assigned to guard Whistleblower’s house, but conveniently, nobody saw anything. Gravelvoice informs them that, if something like this ever happens again, they will be held directly responsible and dismisses them.

While Whistleblower’s in the locker room, Loosecannon shows up, telling him that, if he needs help going after the people threatening him, to just give him a call. Whistleblower tells him to eff off, but seems to be at least considering the offer.

While, the Medical Examiner tails his wife and her partner on their route, we get back to my favorite character ever:

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                                                Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Oh Officer Singsong, how I have missed you.

So Singsong has been called in to meet with Loosecannon’s lawyer, since Singsong wants to help Loosecannon get off.

… Not the BEST way I could’ve put that.

Almost immediately, The Lawyer starts implying that Singsong failed to competently handcuff the suspect Loosecannon killed, which would make Singsong responsible for the shooting. Singsong angrily denies this claim and leaves the office in a huff. On his way out, he loses track of where he parked and sings a song about being kinda dumb as he looks for it.

Ugh, I wish I could hand out two awards this week. He gets to his car finally, only to realize he’s left his keys back in the lawyer’s office.

Back with the Medical Examiner, he tracks Ladycop and Affaircop to a motel, watches them slowly ascend the stairs and enter a room together. he builds up the courage to enter and then bursts in, gun drawn to find…

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                                                                    Ooooooooooooh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

Yeah, turns out they were responding to a call. So Ladycop yells at her husband, telling him that she is furious and can’t trust him anymore, which is mindbendingly shitty. Affaircop also takes a turn shouting at the ME, who leaves, still with his suspicions intact.

Back with Loosecannon, his lawyers explain that they want to fake a crime for Loosecannon to stop, engineering some positive publicity for him. Loosecannon, horrified, shoots that idea down. But he finally accepts to speak at a proto-tea party type group gathering later that night.

At the gathering, we first get a song from a band called, um actually, I’m not sure. It sounded like they called them “Brenda and the Bus Monsters” but that makes literally no sense, so that’s probably wrong. Let’s see what it actually was.Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 1.26.56 PM.png

                                                                   Well I’ll be damned.

So Brenda and the Bus Monsters sing a song about glorifying Loosecannon’s actions. Loosecannon takes the stage and admits that the man he killed posed now direct danger to him and that he was taking the law into his own hands. The crowd bursts into applause. Amid the applause, Loosecannon seems to realize that maybe his case isn’t as unwinable as he thought before.

And that’s the episode! Another solid one. And I feel like we got everything covered this time, no loose ends.

Wait a second…

WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH THIS GUY?!

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HE NEVER CAME UP AGAIN? WHAT WAS HE DOING IN THE OPENING? WHO IS HE? WHO AM I?

i’m so confused.

Well, here’s hoping that next month (and it will be next month, I promise) we find out.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading. I never thought I’d hit a hundred posted pieces of content here. It’s honestly a little insane.

That’s all for this week, next week, we’ll have some fun of a different nature.