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WAND GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER
Ten years after the release of Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone (or The Sorcerors Stone if you’re American), we have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The first part was dull and overlong but with everything to wrap up, expectations were high that the second part would at least be entertaining and action-packed. And I have to say that Deathly Hallows Part 2 is probably the most satisfying of the Harry Potter movies, with the exception of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Potter comes face to face with the dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), discovers his true identity and his real parents and vanquishes Voldemort to create a new kind of status quo for the magical world that Potter and his friends inhabit. Everything that has been foreshadowed in the previous films is brought to a head here. Characterisation is still rather thin on the ground but at least the film never outstays its welcome and the payoff is worth the wait. The three main actors don’t have much in the way of range but that’s been pretty consistent throughout the entire series. The visual effects, done by pretty much all of Soho’s biggest effects houses, do look amazing although it is questionable whether releasing it in 3D was nothing more than an excuse to jump onto what has become a rather tiresome bandwagon. The 3D here looks a little muddy in places and it would be a better film without it. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a decent conclusion to a decade-long movie experience that has had an impact on the current generation of the fans of Rowling’s creation similar to that of fans of Star Wars in the 1980s. Potter fans will already have seen it by the time this review goes live and viewers who are either ambivalent or apathetic towards Potter won’t care anyway…

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FROM BOY WIZARD TO SUPERVILLAIN
I have been to see two films at press screenings over the past two weeks and, while they are two very different movies, I thought I would review them in the same blog post. First up is Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1. Now unfortunately with each Potter film that has been released, they make less and less of an impact on me as a viewer. Harry Potter is one of the few modern film franchises that seems totally impervious to critical response. As I write this, Deathly Hallows Part 1 racked up an opening weekend in the US of $125m and made over £18m just in the UK. So the audience for Potter is so huge around the world that it wouldn’t matter if every critic, every magazine and every newspaper slated it. So I am going to present my thoughts here knowing full well that it won’t make the blindest bit of difference. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1, directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, adapts the first half of the final Harry Potter novel. School Hogwarts plays no part in this story as villain Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has his firm grip on the magical world and so The Deathly Hallows deals with Harry, Hermione and Ron attempting to avoid his agents while working out a way of foiling the evil magician’s diabolical plans. There are several problems with this film and the most heinous crime it commits here is that there is no concession to anybody who hasn’t lived and breathed Harry Potter for the past decade. Alright, this is the seventh part of a film series but anyone who isn’t conversant with the canon or the characters would not understand or really care if they sat and watched this film. Additionally, the opening sequence, where Moody (Brendan Gleeson) alters the appearances of several of the other characters to look like Potter so that Voldemort’s agents are thrown off the scent, is a nifty idea but one that is thrown away after the first 15 minutes and replaced by what feels like hours of turgid dullness with Harry, Hermione and Ron wandering through the forests and fields of the country, while all of the grand battles and action seems to occur off-camera. Two-and-a-half hours is a long running time for this, especially when a large proportion of this feels like filler and time-wasting. There are a couple of nice scenes, namely the chase at the beginning and the animated sequence where we learn what the title means is visually very impressive. But perhaps the other scenes were more powerful on the printed page but it slows the pacing down significantly. If all of the key plot moments occur in the second half of The Deathly Hallows, then Part 1 cannot work as a film in its own right. If you are a Harry Potter obsessive, then you would have seen this film already and if you are not a fan or interested in the genre, then you won’t see it anyway. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a very frustrating film…
Megamind is the latest animated film from DreamWorks and stars the voice talents of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt. Megamind takes the Superman story (alien gets rocketed to Earth from a dying planet) and turns it a little bit on its head. Megamind is the lifelong nemesis of square-jawed Metro Man but when he gets his wish and wipes Metro Man out seemingly for good, his life becomes meaningless. So he sets about creating a new superhero adversary for himself but that’s when things start to go wrong. Ferrell as Megamind is extremely good and Pitt ( Metro Man) and Fey (as reporter Roxanne Ritchi) are very talented vocal foils for him. The animation here is fantastic, using 3-D to very impressive effect. The flying sequences are particularly effective but the whole film utilises the format very cannily. Its script is funny and sharp where it needs to be and its mild subversion of superhero and comicbook tropes make it a much cleverer film than you might expect. Its running time of 95 minutes means that it never outstays its welcome and holds your attention throughout. Dreamworks has been one of the only animation houses to truly challenge Pixar’s dominance of the modern market and Megamind is a worthy addition to that canon…

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DREAMING TYRES
On Friday, I went with Andy Colman and his friend Laurence, who is trained as a Blue Badge Guide to take visitors around the City of London, to Oxford and a little further West. He has just started operating as a guide with a vehicle so he can take people around places other than London and so this was a reccy to see how long it would take. I have been to Oxford countless times because it’s not very far from London but I admit that we did go to a few places I’d never seen before like the spectacular Christchurch College, which has an amazing quad, huge unlike the other colleges in the city and a pretty spectacular Cathedral and also apparently was used in Harry Potter. The weather was pretty perfect: not too hot but with a few fluffy clouds. So here are a few photos of Oxford including the Bodleian Library exterior, Radcliffe Camera, Christchurch College and the famous Bridge of Sighs…


POTTERING AROUND
There are a few films that are critic-proof, that have such a huge, loyal following that it doesn’t matter what anyone says about it, its fans will see it regardless. Harry Potter is just such a film series. So when I went to see Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, I expected something that would while away a couple of hours pleasantly enough and would then leave no impact on my brain after I watched it, just like the other Potter big-screen adaptations. But Half-Blood Prince was actually even less memorable than its predecessors. Clocking in at two and a half hours, the main problem with it is that tries to adapt a very long book and nothing really happens until the last twenty minutes when Potter and Dumbledore set off on a quest with a tragic conclusion in an attempt to thwart Voldemort for once and for all. It looks pretty as ever, it is competently directed by David Yates and the acting is decent enough, but it just doesn’t engage the viewer. But as I said, the fanbase for Rowling’s books is so huge that it doesn’t matter what I or anybody else say. So if you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, you’ll see this anyway and if you’re not, I’m sure you can find a better way to spend 150 minutes anyway…