Enter World 7-2: Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 Review

It’s not that often in a person’s lifetime that they’re able to witness the full run of a movie line that spans more than three films and (for the most part) bring a satisfying conclusion to everything. Sure, it was one full movie more than was expected, but regardless Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was able to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the franchise, weighed down only by the details that should have been covered in previous films.

Since this is an adaptation of a book series, I’m not gonna bother keeping things on the hush hush since honestly, people have had four years to get caught up with their readings. You’ve been warned!

As expected, the movie picks up exactly where Part 1 left off, with the trio having just escaped another near-death situation and have fled to the convenient beach house of one of Ron’s many brothers. Again, not exactly sure where to head next for his Horcrux hunt, Harry decides to hit up his best option at the moment—a Goblin—eventually leading them to the Gringotts Bank (and the only scene that appears to have been made for 3D audiences). Following this scene, the rest of the movie primarily takes place not in random forests (thankfully, for those that got tired of the constant shrubbery an hour into the last movie), but in the wizarding school of Hogwarts itself, all the pieces finally ready for the final fight.

With fellow students and professors being reunited with the main trio, it’s made clear that this is the battle to end all battles, with the dark lord himself making an “in your head” announcement a la DBZ’s Babidi to prepare for the worst. Nostalgic strings are pulled as secondary characters are given their own 15 seconds of fame, each one prepping for the battle in their own special way—McGonagal enchanting the stone figures for the first line of defense; Mrs. Weasley making protective enchantments around the school; Seamus planting wizarding equivalents of explosives (and all this time, I thought his non-canon interest in explosives wouldn’t pay off)… you know everything’s gonna end, but not without some serious shit going down first.

The following fight is… epicly satisfactory. In general, it seems like the movies have taken the route of treating wands similar to guns, which is fun up until a point. And the whole Harry grabbing Voldemort and jumping off the building… I mean how ‘80s action movie can you get? This is supposed to be the battle to end all things. Sure, there were some epic things like giants and death eaters swooshing around, but at the end of the day, I just think the concept of staging a war in which both sides possess magic was just too daunting. I remember listening in the commentary for The Incredibles how fight scenes were multi-person efforts, everyone bouncing ideas of “wouldn’t suchandsuch be cool” and building off from there. And with the number of liberties previous movies have already taken (Death Eaters flying in that smoke-y way; dementors able to grab people) I’d have considered the final fight the place to see some epic sequences that were notably absent from the book. Maybe having house elves apparate into Death Eaters’ brains to kill them instantly was a bit out of budget for the movie, but just something more to stylize their action.

The only other nitpick I had with Part 2 was the inevitable problem that all movie franchises have: it had to build off of previous movies from the franchise… good and bad. I already mentioned in my part 1 review my discontent with Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, but seeing this final movie just further proves my point. At its core, OotP was nothing more than one massive hint-dropper disguised as a story, leaving little bits about the Horcruxes, the two-way mirror, and some kind of explanation as to what the Order of the Phoenix even was, and yet they couldn’t even get that stuff down when the movie adaptation came around.

HBP had a similar problem with the heavily cut flashback scenes going into the depths of villains (and supposed villains) past, as well as making out Voldemort and his Death Eaters to come off as more like magical hooligans. With the epic fight scene in HP6 to whet fans’ appetites for what would come in HP7.2 being watered down to the wizarding equivalent of a drive-by on Dumbledore, I honestly was left with significantly lowered expectations before HP7.1 changed my mind. Regardless, the small-time thug mentality of the Death Eaters was still apparent in 7.2, with scenes like gangs of Death Eaters laughing at Voldie’s egging on of our heroes (and let’s not forget the awkward Draco/Voldemort hug that was to 7.2 as the Harry/Hermione dance scene was to 7.1… I dunno, British people, I guess). Seeing the bombardment of aspects in Deathly Hallows Part 2 back-referencing the older movies, only made it clearer just how sloppy HP5 and HP6 stand. Still… I will say that Chamber of Secrets did a bang-up job at covering what it was supposed to, me feeling very in the know when they suddenly talked about the Chamber in this latest installment.

But I’m pretty sure even CoS at its best couldn’t top the epicness that was the back-referencing of Sorcerer’s Stone. While I’m not 100% certain, the flashbacks in DH Part 2 look like they could have been extra footage filmed back during Sorcerer’s Stone. In the case that such is true, serious kudos. With chocolate drizzle and M&M bits inside, even.

And then (again, of course) there’s that dreaded Epilogue scene. I’m sorry, but Rowling chose then of all times to play the role of a fangirl to her own series and hand out happy endings like they were free lotion samples at a mall kiosk, so in the movie’s defense, it didn’t have much to work with. Just give the guys some slight fat-suits and the girls Hillary Clinton ‘dos and they’re instantly 19 years older? Yeah, sure, I guess. Still, I think that one opportunity was missed in the sequence. Probably unknown to most people that haven’t read the books, there’s actually a solid timeline in the series—years given and everything. Each book covers one school year, with the first starting in 1991 and the last ending in 1998, with a flash-forward to 2017. I think it would have been fascinating to show at least some muggle-tech to give viewers some idea of the era the muggle world is currently in… though I guess the kids with their Bieber-bowls was enough. :shivers:

So there you have it—the end of a movie franchise. Even taking into consideration all my gripes, I will admit that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was a worthy final note to go out on, with inevitable nitpicks here and there.

DVD Purchasing 101: April Decisions

On a personal level, I hold April 12th as one of those days in me-history that’s helped make me a better person. For the rest of you, it’ll be one of the more interesting DVD-Tuesdays we’ve had in a while.

While I’m sure a number of you can name a good handful of other releases to be looking out for in the coming days, three particular titles have caught my interest: The Incredibles, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and of course The King’s Speech.

But, of course, being a poor college student that still has the decency to buy nice things when he can just so he can say he supports official releases, you can see the problem here. No way in hell would I ever buy all three in one go, but being able to buy at least one of them on release day would be enough to satiate my fanboy needs. So, like all complex conundrums in the world, things would be better if they were split up into easier, more digestible, chunks.

Let’s start off with the easier to deal with of the three: The King’s Speech. As much as I loved the movie (read: “loved the movie before it won for best film”) I will say that as a general rule of thumb, live action movie dramas are one of the first DVD releases to put on hold. As a whole, the expected demographic that would be interested in purchasing such a movie (as demonstrated by the demographic that was in the theater I was watching it in) are older types that aren’t as aggro about the things they’re interested in. And as such, this is without a doubt bound to be one of the better movies that will be getting a price drop in less than a year’s time.

On the complete polar opposite of the spectrum is the release for Deathly Hallows Part 1. WB, especially WB with a franchise as big as the Harry Potter series, absolutely loves milking what they’re presented with. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure the preceding HP films have at least five different releases, from standard releases, to boxed sets, to combined special edition boxed sets… It’s a franchise with so many different types of releases to choose from that best takes advantage of those aforementioned aggro fanboys with their quick-draw purchases. Add to this the highly likely fact that they will be releasing some kind of Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 set in the near future and this is definitely one of those times when the waiting game will pay off in the (short) long run… though that snazzy $16 Blu-Ray listing on amazon is tempting.

Enter the release for The Incredibles. Pixar has not only made an excellent job with their movies, but have also had an equally excellent track record when it comes to releases for said movies. The Incredibles’ initial release on DVD in 2005 still stands out to me as a release with special features that are just as good as the movie itself—having a commentary that actually keeps me interested throughout the entire movie including the credits definitely says something.

But wouldn’t already having such a release automatically null out any possibility of me daring to double dip with the upcoming Blu-Ray? Not necessarily. For one, I had the misfortune of getting the DVD release in full screen, which would be another beast entirely if you don’t get what the difference in aspect ratio means to film. Furthermore, it’s because of having the older release that I’d even have enough money to pay for this new release in the first place. As much as I hate Disney releases just because of that whole concept of “The Vault” keeping the prices for previous DVD releases at an all-time high, I will say that they do have their bases covered when it comes to double dip buyers. Currently, Disney’s movie rewards site has been giving out $10 discounts for double dip purchases, as long as you’ve got the UPC code for your older purchase, thus finally taking down the List Price in this case from a ridiculous $45 to Best Buy’s alright $25 to a downright cool $15. Of course, this is all relying on the fact that Best Buy will be willing to accept the coupon and all its vague limitations. Generally speaking, Disney/Pixar is fully aware that their films are awesome in smexy true 1080p and have been incredibly stingy with the price tag on most if not all of their releases because of such. So when it comes to getting any kind of deal on those titles, you take it even if it means brown-bagging it and biking to school if you have to. Yes, it’s that important.

Collect the 7 Dragon Balls! er… “Horcruxes”: Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 Review

I’m sure some random internet fact-checker will get me on this, but as far as I’m aware of, the Harry Potter franchise is one of the longest-running movie franchises in existence, spanning for eight movies, the penultimate (yeah, $5 words are fun to use in their right context) of which came out last Friday.

The series started of simply enough, doing an excellent job of weaving a world full of witchcraft and wizardry in a nice, palatable form for the masses. While I won’t say author J.K. Rowling’s completely re-written the Halloween stereotypes of sorcery like certain other authors that apparently have no clue what werewolves and vampires are really like, there was a large enough of a reboot for modern audiences to enjoy without the feel of watching something that could only be watched in the month of October. Yes, there were goblins, and broomsticks and the like, but it was done all surrounding a school called Hogwarts. Ridiculous? Maybe, but in a pop culture where blue hedgehogs and turtle martial artists exist, it’s nothing far from the norm.

The first four movies themselves were excellent, keeping a good balance between what basically winds down to a mystery story while still seamlessly explaining the magical world that is the Potter universe. And with the fourth movie ending on the resurrection of our heard-but-never-seen villain, I must admit that I was psyched for the adaptations of the rest of the movies.

Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to experience the sheer movie-watching glee of another Potter movie for some time, since the fifth and sixth installments ended up being a total bust. Sure, there are super-fans out there that will say otherwise, but I just have to get it off my chest: I seriously hated Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. In general, the two movies themselves suffer from the same ailments, which makes sense, considering one immediately follows the other with literally no time passing between the two movies. Without going into too much detail (I’m already 337 words in and have yet to get to the real movie review at hand) I will say that long gone is all the wonder that made the first four movies, with all the characters for some reason being much too cool to follow the dress code while on campus. But it’s not just the wardrobe changes—it felt like the entire crew of the movies have gotten so accustomed to the world that they didn’t put in any extra effort to things, merely going through the oh so familiar motions that they thought could be simply yoinked from the previous movies. On top of that, attention to what should be te main focus of each story was horribly done. Think about it: After seeing the fifth and sixth movies, would you dare say that one was about the Order of the Phoenix and the other about finding who the Half-Blood Prince was? Story-telling in general seemed incredibly muddled with no clear direction, instead focusing on the major deaths in each movie which also turned out to be sloppily done. Conclusion: I was incredibly colored insecure for the final installment in the series, especially after finding out it would be split into two parts.

Going in to see Deathly Hallows: Part 1 just yesterday afternoon, I was incredibly skeptical about things. With the previous two movies being so forgettable, I wasn’t sure what to make of the latest installment. As the WB logo appeared on screen, I tried my hardest to remove my “snooty blogger reviewer” cap in favor of one more suitable for the occasion (perhaps the same cap I wore during the Transformers movie?). As each scene came and went, though, I could find nothing wrong to pitpick at and as a whole, I feel like this is what the other two movies should have been—a much darker mystery in connection to the movie title (the deathly hallows) all of which just happened to take place in the wizarding world rather than the human world, which the past two movies awkwardly inserted. Although it was the first part of the final arc, the movie still moves at a somewhat fast pace, starting things off with a chase scene resulting in not one, but two deaths, both of which were done so much better than either major death in the past two movies. The death scenes were done in a rather blunt fashion, unceremoniously killing off characters as if to say: “sh*t just got real”—something that should have been expressed in the last two movies already but wasn’t.

What followed were the camping scenes, something I was almost confident would get boring right away. Thankfully, these scenes were also played off well for the most part, perfectly portraying the protagonists’ feelings of helplessness as they’re trying to piece together clues to find out just exactly what they’re supposed to do next. If anything, I’m sure people fresh from watching would complain about the awkward dance scene (you’ll know it when you see it) coupled with Nick Cave’s “O Children,” to which I say that as awkward as it was, it sure as hell beat the awkward teen-themed jokes surrounding the previous films that tried to break the tension.

With there being little to no multi-part movies to compare it with (the last two Matrix movies, Kill Bill, and maybe Back to the Future) I wasn’t sure just how the movie would end. “To Be concluded” end cards seemed much too passé, and straight-up cliffhanger endings seemed awkward, too, leaving me curious. Thankfully, the movie did a good job of keeping enough things in the air while still touching ground on other plot points, leaving viewers left with some kind of sense of closure rather than being used and abused until the vicious cycle begins again come July when the second part rolls around. Consensus: Deathly Hallows: Part 1 alone makes up for the disappoint-fest that was the last two films and it’s good to know the series shows signs of going off on a high note.


On another note, I was wondering if anyone’s had any kind of experience growing up in the middle of a movie franchise and watching one of the latter movies in the series without any prior knowledge of its previous installments. From personal (well, to some degree) experience, my sister’s taught some kids that were completely hyped about Spider-Man 3, being completely oblivious to the past two movie (sadly). Thinking back, I couldn’t think of that many movies out around my own childhood that I could have been stuck in the middle of. Sure, there were the ‘80s/’90s Batman films but even then, I was smart enough to know that there existed (better) movies prior to Batman and Robin. I dunno, maybe I’m just weird like that.

The closest me an’ my sister could get to a movie example was The Neverending Story movies, but even then that seemed like something of a stretch. So, I raise my glass to you, Harry Potter movies—you’re the only movie franchise in the past 20 or so years I could think of where some kid born between movies would have had to do some backtrack marathoning.

On a third note, I’m sad about Emma Watson’s post-production short hair. That is all.

“I’m Harry Frikkin’ Potter!” A Very Potter Sequel Review

Don’t quote me when I say that any guy that admits to liking musicals is also more than likely the first person you’d ask if your outfit “works” or not; I just feel like in general, most musicals out there are aimed at one of three people: 1) old ladies that enjoy spending summer afternoons reading some Shakespeare and thoroughly enjoying their retirement, 2) teenage girls that don’t really fit in anywhere else and use it as an escape, 3) tween girls that don’t know that they’re watching Disney at one of its lowest points in its life—all of whom fall underneath the umbrella of having two X-chromosomes.

So explain to me why while watching A Very Potter Sequel, I didn’t feel any bit of my masculinity being drained like I did when my family dragged me to watch Cats oh so long ago.

When I was first introduced to A Very Potter Musical, the subject of today’s blog’s predecessor, I was intrigued that someone would go as far as to put on an entire musical to the seven book Harry Potter series, yet was turned off at the same time, knowing that the girl introducing the series to me has also been known for playing her ukulele into the wee hours of the night, to her roomie’s displeasure and my later amusement when I hear about the gripings. Also keeping in mind that the run time for the musical was pretty much on par with that of any other standard musical and yet you have to watch it in the ten minute time-chunks that is YouTube and you’ve got something that I’d much rather read a synopsis about and maybe a clip or two at most. Long story short, though, I spent a dull Friday afternoon marathoning through the thing and thought that as a whole, it had some alright songs blended together with some alright references and parody material.

So when I heard that the musical was to have a sequel, I wasn’t exactly the most ecstatic, but was still curious as to what else could be done, considering that the first musical worked well as a stand-alone, condensing the entire Harry Potter series into a manageable afternoon watch.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and any time not working is time best spent, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed this much more than the previous work.

The musical opens where the last one left off, right after Lord Voldemort’s defeat. His followers, the Death Eaters are anxious about what the future hold for them when Lucius Malfoy tells them that the past is what they should be more concerned with. Having somehow gotten his hands on a Time-Turner, the ragtag team of Death Eaters travels not to when Harry was a baby, but to Harry’s first year at Hogwarts in order to kill him off—a minor nitpick I’m more than willing to glaze over considering how the rest of the musical plays out.

What results is basically a play parodying the third and fifth entries of the series and having them take place in the first book’s timeline, similar to what the last musical did with the second, fourth, sixth and seventh books taking place in Harry’s second year. In a nutshell, the first and third books were like the black sheep of the series—the third with its use of time-travel and the fifth with it acting as one long filler—so it makes sense for these parts of the story to be skipped in the first musical.

To my enjoyment, the cast from the previous play (minus characters that haven’t shown up yet and plus characters that do) return in all their glory. And since this is the main cast’s first year at Hogwarts, it acts as an origin story of sorts, with the play giving its own humorous take on how the main trio and the rest of the cast came to be introduced to the series. The friendship formed between Harry and Ron, as inaccurate is it is at times, rings true on a different level that all inaccuracies can be glossed over. And the fact that Hermione serves only as the two’s tag-along friend when convenient is like a pie to the face to works out there similarly build around the trio of friends going through school life. In that sense, the friendships portrayed here are more real than those shown in other works because it pokes fun at the hardships as well as achievements the trio goes through. Parodies are fun that way.

Also following the apparent positive feedback from the first musical was that of the gender-bending. When I first saw that Malfoy was played by a woman, I was more entertained than disgusted, though, especially since practically every line s/he spoke was downright hilarious. The same holds here, as the spoiled female Draco is back with an even bigger role than I could have expected. Not only is the actress easy on the eyes (admittedly the one reason why I didn’t mind all the Draco/Hermione shipping moments) but the way she portrays Draco as a sort of to-be man-child, with her constant gripes about toilet training and insecurities with his father work completely for the character.

But when I first saw that book five’s baddie, Dolores Umbridge was portrayed by a man, I had some mixed feelings. In general, I can’t say I like the Order of the Phoenix in either book or movie form since it shoves Voldemort over to the backseat to the mini-boss that is Umbridge. And while she’s built up as a horrible person, that’s not the same as saying that she’s a force to be reckoned with, especially when we already know that the series’ main antagonist has already been resurrected and is making plans for evil whatevers in the future.

Thankfully, the liberties taken with her character, as well as shifting her in the timeline to before Voldemort’s resurrection boost up her evil-ness significantly. As for the gender-bending, Umbridge bears a striking backstory to Heavyweights Uncle Tony (as played by Ben Stiller) in that she directs all her anger on the students because she sees the failure that was her former self in every one of them, the insecure Hermione especially. And seriously, when you take a page from Heavyweights, that’s like an automatic grade-booster in my book.

Characters Lupin and Sirius also add to the mix, adding yet another bromance to deal with alongside Harry and Ron’s. Other character, however, Rita Skeeter’s especially just seem to be there, adding little to nothing to the table. Her old-time reporter shtick was entertaining for a full two seconds before I started to multi-task during her appearances.

The rest of the musical plays out swimmingly, with minor gripes I had with the first one taken care of and polished to perfection. The first time around, I’m sure having the musical put onto YouTube was a sort of post-production afterthought, since a majority of lines and the like were garbled out by music. This time, not only is the audio much clearer, but things like sound effects and varied camera angles are also used—minor things that you kinda miss when they’re taken away. The qualities of the songs themselves also seem to have been boosted up significantly. Perhaps it was the fact that I was watching the first musical during the school year, but half of the time whenever a character broke out into song, I found myself getting bored before the song was even finished. The sequel antes up (yeah, can you tell I’m running out of trite phrases?) making not only quality songs that fit each character perfectly, but also some alright choreography to accompany them—also a welcome addition to the only handful of dances in the first musical.

My only minor gripe with A Very Potter Sequel is its portrayal of (le gasp!) minorities. Yaxley and Dean Thomas, admittedly probably more than half of the black cast in the actual series, came off like how you’d expect any black person in a nineties sitcom—there to hive high fives, snide remarks, and swagger. Considering how they mocked series author J.K. Rowling’s depiction of Cho Chang (honestly, was that the best Asian name she could think up?) you’d think they’d come up with a similarly clever way to deal with Yaxley and Dean’s character. Second up are the homosexuals in the form of Dumbledore and quasi sidekick the Scarf of Sexual Preference. Coming from an all-boys’ high school, the casual use of sexuality jokes is nothing foreign to me, but it seemed like a good number of the time, the live audience watching during the musical’s filming just didn’t seem to get it. Diff’rent strokes all around, I guess.

As a whole, A Very Potter Sequel was something unexpectedly entertaining that definitely came during a time when abridged parodies, or at least good ones, were in dire need. The fact that everything was put to some jolly snarky music only made things that much better.

External Reference:
– StarKidPotter’s YouTube Channel (youtube.com)
– Very Potter Sequel Music List on StarKidPotter’s Live Journal (community.livejournal.com)

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