Now You See Me 2 (2016)

now_you_see_me_two_ver15_xxlg

One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their mind-bending spectacles, the Four Horsemen resurface only to find themselves face to face with a new enemy who enlists them to pull off their most dangerous heist yet. (Letterboxd)
Whyyyeye must there be a second twist at the end again? It’s not a good thing if it’s unfounded and ruins all the fun that came before and NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE EYE THING. The first twist with the plane also isn’t great cuz you know it’s coming and they explain it to death. Also, is it just me or does Mark Ruffalo’s character NOT look like a Dylan? Lots of specific complaints here cuz it’s just more of the same, though that goes for the good stuff too (that card-throwing heist was pretty cool).
6/10 (Mediocre)

Swiss Army Man (2016)

swa_86_online

A hopeless man stranded on a deserted island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home. (IMDb)
A surreal survival story, an odd-couple comedy, and an existential drama all in one: With exquisite cinematography (slow-motion shots of butts and waves are each equally stunning), superb visual effects, and an a cappella soundtrack often featuring the characters themselves, the spiritual themes of life and love are brilliantly and uniquely weaved together with the crudely bodily: masturbation, farts, etc. The final act falters but with all its weirdness you knew it was going to be hard to land.
8/10 (Great)

What If (2013)

what-if-poster

Wallace, who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry, who lives with her longtime boyfriend. Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life. (IMDb)
A charming cast with good chemistry, a script chock full of random witty banter (Driver’s crude best friend is a highlight), and the dulcet tones of Patrick Watson aren’t enough to completely distract from the utterly predictable romance plot (a “just kidding” airport scene near the end got my hopes up but it was not to be), but they at least make it a pleasant journey, and credit is deserved for how long they postponed the inevitable, though it seemed to make the ending that much more meh.
6.5/10 (Alright)

RANKED: Harry Potter films

Now that my official mini-reviews for each film in the Harry Potter series are up, I figured I’d post a summary of how I rank them, from worst to best, in the hopes of hearing from you how you would rank them! What’s your favourite of the series and why?
As a huge fan of the books as well, I tried reeeeally hard to watch and review them as stand-alone works, but it was easier said than done. Anyways, click on the title for my official mini-review, and without further adieu:

harry-in-the-graveyard-goblet-of-fire-2617018-2100-1399

8. Goblet of Fire

Don’t get me wrong, this was still an enjoyable flick, but it kind of felt like the awkward 14 year old of the series. There’s a whole lot more going on at school (Tri-wizard tournament, a school dance) and outside of it (the Quidditch Cup fiasco), to go along with a heap of new characters (Cedric, Moody, Karkaroff, Crouch, Krum, Fleur, etc.). Amidst it all, the film is trying to transition to darker, more epic scale material, no longer just dealing with shenanigans at school. It just felt like it couldn’t quite handle it all at once, breezing through plot points trying to fit it all in.

harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-the-chamber-of-secrets-6579066-2100-1416

7. Chamber of Secrets

A fun sequel to the magical first installment, to be sure. The flying car; the slugs, the spiders, the snake; loser Lockhart, creepy Myrtle, frustrating Dobby… and an engaging mystery plot, to boot. The whole duelling bit was painful though… it was more like just politely taking turns to wave their wands and knock the other person back than any form of mutual combat. The ending, too… painfully cheesy. How does the whole school (minus Malfoy) all of a sudden love Hagrid so much so as to give him a standing ovation when he returns. Nothing against Hagrid, I like him, but the sentiment felt a little forced.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

6. Half-Blood Prince

Certainly the funniest of the lot, with its teen romance hijinks (Ron’s escapades with Romilda and Lavender are certainly a highlight), but also the darkest, with Snape’s dark turn, Malfoy’s sinister plan and inner torture, Voldemort’s backstory, and the crushing blow at the end. I just felt like the teen romance should have been dialed back a bit to let the dark bits develop more.

philosopher-s-stone-harry-potter-22942307-2100-1369

5. Philosopher’s Stone

Everyone’s adorable, so that helps. Truly a magical beginning–the film does well in introducing the world and giving it that feeling of wonder–thanks largely to that iconic theme, the grand sets, the moody lighting, the mature camerawork.

ET.0627.Potter5.05

4. Order of the Phoenix

This was by far my least favourite when it first came out–but I think I was just disappointed by how it chalked up the shortest run-time for what was the longest book. And while I still cringed at Harry’s awkward hair and the awfully blue climactic scene in the Department of Mysteries, the third time around or so I could appreciate this film a lot more. I loved the development of Harry’s torturous connection with Voldemort and of course the irresistible rebellion plot. Dumbledore and Voldemort’s final duel was actually cool, too, unlike the painful examples from Chamber of Secrets.

deathly-hallows-part-2-movie-stills-harry-potter-26814349-1280-853

3. Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The most cinematically spectacular of the series, for sure: The chaotic action scenes at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione making their way through it all with the mournful music in the background were beautiful. Snape’s memory montage-epic, even though it raised some questions I couldn’t quite answer. I loved the way it tied in clips from the earlier movies, and so seamlessly edited its varying voiceovers and visuals. And of course, its aftermath–a punch to the gut. A finale that didn’t disappoint.

harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-ronald-weasley-17166152-1920-800

2. Prisoner of Azkaban

Such a striking turn from the second film; though its plot bore similarities in structure to the previous two, its direction was a lot better. The film looked gorgeous, finally departing from the cozy but stuffy golden-tinged indoors of the first two films and incorporating in some beautiful scenery. It also flowed much better; the Whomping Willow transitional scene bits were a nice touch, and the conversations flowed more naturally too–a testament also to the maturing main three. The time-travel in the final act was also awesome; loved the way the film incorporated the clips from the “past” in the movie into the next scenes–Back to the Future style. Smooth and mature, the second best of the series!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

1. Deathly Hallows: Part 1

THEY FINALLY SLOWED DOWN. I know that the books had a lot of content to incorporate, and it was tough to fit even just the necessary bits all in there without it feeling rushed, and that it obviously wouldn’t have worked to divide each book into two movie, but splitting the final book into two movies was the best thing that happened to the series. It allowed part 2 to really revel in cinematic glory, and it allowed part 1 to finally slow down the pace and let things simmer and build more gradually. There’s actual lingering character drama here, and slow-burning tension–nuanced feelings of frustration, hopelessness, jealousy. There are still exciting plot points (the Ministry break-in is great), and the setting is as beautiful and riveting as ever (the Voldemort takeover of the Ministry is chilling), but for once the story is allowed on occasion to take a backseat to the characters-making for the most mature, and best developed film of the series.

So tell me–how do you rank them?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Deathly_Hallows_1_poster

As Harry races against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, he uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows. (IMDb)
A finally tempered pace produces superb results: The middle act with the main three in the forest is by far the most mature of the series, with its slow-burning character tension and nuanced feelings of frustration and hopelessness in a gorgeous natural setting. Aside from even more fresh material (see the handheld-shot chase scene, fantastic animation sequence) is great action (see the Ministry break-in) and a more-compelling-than-ever wizarding world, with its chilling new Nazi-like regime.
8/10 (Great)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-555e48bd050ae

As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked as “the property of the Half-Blood Prince” and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past. (IMDb)
A pleasing palette of murky greens and browns brings a fittingly mature visual tone to a film with more delicious dashes of darkness than its predecessors. Unfortunately, the plot never allows them to develop sufficiently (Voldemort’s backstory is severely limited, the Half-Blood Prince reveal is only one line) thanks in part to a burst of (admittedly entertaining) burgeoning hormone side-stories. The climax is devastating though; it’s too bad little else was allowed to live up to its potential.
7/10 (Good)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

harry_potter_and_the_order_of_the_phoenix_by_hurricaneoffire-d5nn8zi

With their warning about Lord Voldemort’s return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts. (IMDb)
Harry’s intriguing inner demons that become a refreshing character-focused theme here instigate Radcliffe’s first standout turn of the series (“I just feel so angry, all the time”), as he leads the cast through a juicy rebellion-tinged plot (Staunton shines as the distasteful antagonist) marked by a couple well-crafted montages. On the down side, the final act is a bit lame (the spell-casting action still feels awkward), its climactic duel aside, and the prophecy bit is puzzlingly breezed over.
7/10 (Good)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire-movie-poster-2005-1020300367

Harry finds himself mysteriously selected as an under-aged competitor in a dangerous tournament between three schools of magic. (IMDb)
The script awkwardly attempts to juggle its new additions (foreign wizards, a school dance) with an already jam-packed line-up and drops the ball, hastily wrapping up or even discarding plot points (the final twist takes seconds and Crouch Sr. is left in the forest), whilst its secret antagonist is left mostly unexplained (Tennant’s overacting doesn’t make up for it). There are still lots of enjoyable bits here (see the thankfully well-paced graveyard scene) but the whole is a tad too messy.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

prisoner-of-azkaban-theatrical-poster-2

It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards’ Prison and is coming after Harry. (IMDb)
The script still has some of the same skimmed-over feel as its predecessors (the terrific time-travel final act aside), but its direction is decidedly better: The cinematography is pleasingly mature with a buttery tone and beautiful wide-angle nature shots; the editing is smooth, featuring charming Whomping Willow scene transitions; and the dialogue flows more naturally (keep an ear out for the background conversations). Also notable is the fresh vigor with which Gambon portrays his Dumbledore.
8/10 (Great)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

chamber-of-secrets-theatrical-poster

Harry ignores warnings not to return to Hogwarts, only to find the school plagued by a series of mysterious attacks and a strange voice haunting him. (IMDb)
The plot is much meatier this time around: Introduced immediately, it’s a tantalizing monster mystery with connections to the past that grows darker with each passing scene, although it could have been explained with a little more subtlety. New bits of magic and characters bring more humour (see the Polyjuice Potion escapade and the outrageous Lockhart) but also more awkwardness (nearly every spell seems to do the same thing). Another unearned too-happy ending caps it off on cheesy note.
7/10 (Good)