Thursday, July 23, 2009

GUILTY PLEASURES...introduction

I've decided that I simply must have a section of this blog devoted to all the cheesy cinema that I decide to watch when I'm in the mood to be entertained. I don't really feel "guilty" about watching these films, being that they can or cannot be critically acclaimed, they are really just movies that I was in the mood to see. You certainly do not have to agree with my choices in "guilty pleasure" films, but there will be small reviews on why I enjoy the film so much and why you might want to revisit it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter is back...finally.

The greatest thing about seeing something you love is that it is reliable, familiar; nothing too out of the ordinary, but comfortable. The latest installment in the films about our favorite wizard, Harry Potter, is everything that you could expect. The sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, delivers with a sense of familiarity that is surprisingly refreshing and leaves you craving more.

It has been two years since the last film, and director David Yates is back on board for Prince. He also directed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and both parts I and II of the Deathly Hallows- scheduled to be released in 2010 and 2011. The true fans that watched closely, would have remembered that this film’s release date was pushed back to this July. It was originally scheduled for release in November of last year, but thought that it would generate more money as part of the summer blockbuster push—and did it ever! In one weekend, worldwide it has grossed over 300 million. This alone should attest that true fans everywhere were ready for the familiar; they were ready for more Harry Potter.

We return to the streets of London where Death eaters begin terrorizing the city. Both in the Muggle world and the Wizard world, things are in disarray—Voldemort is alive and we are not to forget it. This is a much scarier year for our favorite students at Hogwarts. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) all discuss their fear of returning to the halls before they even arrive.

Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) who for so long has protected and given guidance to Harry as the headmaster of Hogwarts, is no longer coy with the young scholar, arming him with information and allowing him to accompany him on special trips that he must take. In one of his visits to Dumbledore’s office, Harry is allowed to see the memories of Tom Riddle, (Voldemort, before he became Voldemort). It is a tampered memory that Dumbledore has asked Harry to fix—he needs to get into the mind of the newest Potions teacher to find out the truth. With it, they have priceless information about the dark lord.

The “Half Blood Prince” refers to the owner of the potions book that Harry has been given for class. In it, all the potions that they are taught have been reworked and perfected. Later in the film, the Half Blood Prince is revealed and it is someone that you would never expect.

The familiar friendships are still there, but they have recently developed into something different, perhaps even awkward. Not only have they gotten older but now they have feelings for one another. But not to worry, within the magic world even love is not simple—it is clouded by love potions and infatuation spells.

Yates brings a comfortable understanding to the films. It is classically shot, but he still brings in light and youthful feelings with the direction of the camera. It moves at a comfortable pace, although there is clearly a lack of development with certain characters and situations, but this comes with adapting books to film. Dark tones are emphasized throughout the movie, where the halls seem a little bit gloomier, even down to the costumes with more hints of black.

The Half Blood Prince is more about things not really being what they seem. In the magic world, the world of Harry Potter, this seems to be a common theme, but here the truth is so important—from fake love to revised potions, the truth becomes vital to their survival. Although the end of the film is without any form of resolution, it is the same for Harry and his peers. We are left in disarray, unsure of what is to become of our hero.

As Harry grows up, his challenges are more difficult, and as his audience we have forgiven him for the shortcomings and lovingly watched him transform--this is no different. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince kindly reminds us of how far Harry has come and leaves us ready and willing to sit through his final adventures.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The midnight screening

What is it about going to at 12:01am screening? Have you ever thought to ask yourself this question, ask yourself why you need to see a new film at midnight (or later)?

Has the marketing for films really worked to train us to think that you MUST see the first screening? There are always advance screenings, previews with cocktail parties, special advance tickets available. You can always see it after opening day. The 12:01am screening gets pushed to the 12:30am screening, to the 1am screening. Movie theaters have the film print ready- there really is no need. Or is this the greatest promotion for the blockbuster film?

For me, there is no place I would rather be. The movie theater is about the experience- and what better way to be shoved in line in between tweens dressed up as Hogwarts students and the middle-aged couple that is on the "perfect" date.

In movie theaters around the country we get to stand in line for two hours (at the minimum) before being let into a theater where we sit for another hour. Here is where the true fans get to show their devotion to the story or cast or comic book-because when else is it socially acceptable to dress-up as Spiderman and crawl around on the floor (except at Comic-Con, of course). This is an event- something that brings audiences together for one sharred experience.

An interesting thing to note, besides the mass number of people with wands that pretend to cast spells on one another, is that these screenings keep getting pushed earlier in the week. Think back to the days when Friday night was the opening night of the film. Then came the midnight screenings on Thursday night...which made sense when you think about it- it is "technically" Friday. And what a brilliant idea this is! The weekend box office is now open for an extra twelve hours. Only a few films get this kind of love-the blockbuster. It is as if the public demand has created these screening advances, but don't you worry, there is a lot of money being made because of it.

Now I'm in line on a Tuesday night at 9pm, getting out of a theater at 3am on Wednesday morning, with my wake-up time looming in the near future, having to get up to go to work. This isn't a complaint, simply an observation. "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" set a new record for the midnight box office, making $22.2 million in one night! The statistics for it's opening day have not been completely totaled, but you can bet that its weekend box office gross will be huge.

I guess this is just something to think about. What happens when we are waiting in theaters on Monday nights for a film opening on Tuesday or even Sunday nights for a Monday film? I don't think it could ever bend more into the weekend, but it does not seem very far fetched. It's thoughts like this that pass through my head while I sit in packed theaters at twelve thirty at night, cheering for Harry Potter. It really makes me realize how much I love film's ability to bring people together. This does not mean that we should overlook the repercussions of our own demands. If we didn't go to these screenings, they would cease to be booked- but then we might have to see Harry Potter clones in daylight and where is the magic in that?

*Review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince coming soon

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sitting in my glass house...

Easy to swallow preface:

Weekly posts on films I have seen.
(No particular order, no particular genre.
Some films will be old, some will be new).
Updates on film industry happenings.
Insights on working for a film festival.