‘The Deathly Hallows’ loom over the “100 Acre Forest”

NOTE:  I wanted to try something a little different for this set of reviews.  Below you’ll find what I’d like to call a Block Booked Review.  The premise is simple,  attach a foreign, independent or less expansively released film to a major studio, expansive release.  In theory, it becomes possible for you to learn about other releases from the weekend or even to learn about films you typically wouldn’t seek out.  In classic Hollywood, film studios used a method of booking called Block Booking, where theathers could only show an A-List movie if they booked “x” amount of B-List Movies.  This, to me, was a sort of innovative new way to compose reviews.  I wanted to offer you readers something that hasn’t been (or isn’t) the norm.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and as always, feedback is encouraged and appreciated, especially with an experimental venture such as this.  Let me know – did this or didn’t this work for you?  If you like the idea, would you like to see this more often or used sparingly for major releases?  Here we go:

Pooh is an Endearing “Silly Old Bear”

For Winnie the Pooh, Disney returned to a nostalgic and appreciated hand-drawn model of animation.  In their quest to transition away from fairy tale princesses and attact more boys to theaters, Disney’s first outing in the new direction was a success.  Nicely drawn and brightly colored, Pooh makes good use of its relatively short running time.

It’s the classic characters back for another adventure in the hundred acre forest.  After a mysterious note appears, Christopher Robin goes missing and the well-voiced cast of friends begins their search for the culprit they believe is responsible, the Backson.  The new “monster” is identified with a song all his own and it’s quite reminiscent of Disney’s classic “Pink Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo (1941).  But will Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo be able to find Christopher Robin amidst the other distractions?  First it’s Eeyore’s missing tail, then Pooh’s growing hunger for “huny,” and Owl’s autobiography…whew, so much to do.

The classic song, images, characters and animation style are there, but the single biggest detractor from this would-be instant classic is the voice behind many of the songs, Zooey Deschanel.  Her vocal style is boring and the rushed lyrics are the only “modernized” thing about this new story of Pooh.  Unfortunately, as if Deschanel wasn’t already irritating enough as an actress, now she’s a songstress and for Disney this doesn’t bode well because their films rely partly on the memorable nature of the music.  Fortunately, Deschanel doesn’t sing every song, but her mere presence on 1/3 of the soundtrack is enough to take away from the magic, even if it is just a little.

Kids will love it, families will enjoy it – it’s a great story full of diverse characters (albeit some are a bit too “old-fashioned” – I’m looking at you Kanga).  There are some of those magical Disney sparks audiences have come to expect and I love the simplicity of it all.  It shows that film can still be intriguing without being overly complex.  Furthermore, it demonstrates that not all animated features need to be overrun with adult humor.

Winnie the Pooh runs approximately 69 minutes and is rated G. 

Grade:  A-

‘The Deathly Hallows’ Bring Closure to a Spellbound Generation

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 brings a generation of witchcraft and wizardry to a close at Hogwarts in the most spectacular way possible, in 3D and IMAX.  The final installment is billed as the final confrontation between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), where “it all ends.”

Without a doubt Harry Potter is the most successful film franchise of all time and arguably one of the most celebrated and successful set of novels.  “The boy who lived,” captured the imaginations and hearts of generations.  These films became family affairs and every inner-wizard’s/witch’s dream came true.  So it should come as no surprise that Part Two of The Deathly Hallows is full of drama, comedy, action, adventure and magic – and like the characters and actors, the films themselves have matured and taken on more adolescent/early adult feels of their own.

Directed by David Yates (his fourth in the franchise), Part Two (like Part One) takes more of an artistic approach (despite the sometimes campy ghosts that will age the films significantly in the not too distant future) to telling the finale of Harry Potter, in that it’s quieter, cinematically beautiful and teeming with closeups.  Our protagonists Harry Potter, Hermoine (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) seek The Dark Lord’s remaining Horcruxes (the items responsible for Voldemort’s immortality) and return to Hogwarts with hopes of his demise.

Upon their arrival, they learn that Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is now Headmaster at Hogwarts and expose him as the man responsible for the death of Dumbledore – casting him into an extremely intriguing and long-awaited battle with the returning Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith). McGonagall and the other professors unite in one cause – to aide Harry Potter and save Hogwarts and each other.  The battle ensues between quiet, tender moments and revelations while bringing forth the unsung heroes Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis).

The Deathly Hallows contain footage from previous films and intricate details that change perceptions of certain characters.  And as it all begins to quickly unravel, one harkens back to the trailer’s teasing line by Voldemort, has Harry Potter, “the boy who lived…come to die.”?  It’s a beautiful film that if seen in 3D will have you moving back and forth from and to the edge of your seat and it’s full of moments where magical moments spring from the screen.  I cannot and will not divulge the deaths we see, but I will say, be prepared to be amazed because Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is beyond breathtaking in certain moments and the film’s overall art direction is stunning.

But more than the movie itself, this represents one final escape on a journey that began on Platform 9 3/4 over a decade ago.  The sentiment and emotional value of Part Two propels the film to heights not seen since The Goblet of Fire.  And as Potter continues to shatter records around the world, one thing is certain amidst the love, changes of heart, revelations and spellbinding allure, Harry Potter’s legacy and contribution to film history will never die.  It’s a perfect ending to a journey and may bring a tear or two to your eye and in the words of Snape, you should “take them,” because tears tell stories.  And for this author, this franchise’s conclusion is bittersweet for more than one reason.  Bravo, well done Mr. Potter, well done.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two runs approximately 130 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Grade:  A+



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