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It all ended July 15

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Tim Wilson
It all ended July 15
on Jul 17, 2011 at 1:33:50 am

I can't believe I'm going to have to start the Harry Potter 8 thread, but maybe I can. My wife and I, both in our fifties, bought lawn chairs so we could wait in line ALL DAY to get good seats for Harry Potter at the local IMAX.

Then business took us to LA on Thursday, leaving us perfectly positioned to watch the midnight screening at a theater with reserved seats. My wife and I drug along COW founders Ronald and Kathlyn Lindeboom, and cub reporter Debra Kaufman, and we had spectacular seats in the middle of the room.

This was harder to pull off than it sounds. Nearly a month in advance, all the screenings that were even vaguely in driving distance were already sold out. The closest IMAX with seats left was in Santa Barbara. It turned out that over 5000 screens were sold out by show time, and every one of the 3D screens.

It turns out that the screen we saw it on was the second added to that theater, a monsterplex in Century City, hence the great reserved seats "only" a month before showtime. We rolled up around 45 minutes early, figuring that the place would be pretty well jammed up. To say the joint was jumping is an understatement.

One reason my wife and I enjoyed the midnight showing of #7, aside from being Harry Potter nerds, is that quite a few people came in costume, and that watching it was like watching a sporting event.

In LA, there were easily 500 people in costume. EASILY. Certainly better than half the crowd. One was carrying a sign that summed things up for a lot of people into their 20s who've been along for the 14-year ride: "R.I.P.: My Childhood." It was absolute pandemonium.

It took us a while to realize that none of these people was actually in line. There was literally nobody in line at the ticket kiosks -- I guess because you already had your tickets by that point or you didn't -- and only one person in front of me in the concessions line. There were just THERE, and they were hyped and ready to go.

The roar of the crowd for the Warner Bros logo and the names of the cast -- and even the director and writer -- the howls of delight when Hermione and Ron kiss, the cheer for the surprise appearance and heroics of Neville Longbottom (a name that the bad guys openly mock, which I really enjoyed, actually), the loud support for Professor McGonnigal's heroics -- and pandemonium for Mrs. Weasley's -- and rapt, breathless silence for much of the rest - it was a combination of a sporting event and a symphony. Amazing.

Some notes about the actual movie:

--It was hardly the wall-to-wall action that some of the advance reviews made it out to be. There was action aplenty, but more of it was elegaic. The characters, the actors and the filmmakers all knew that the stakes were high, and it was played with gravity.

--My wife and I acknowledged that it was a fantastic bit of filmmaking, and couldn't really have been much better...but it still felt a little short of the pinnacle. She finally put her finger on it: "I was in mourning the whole time. It has hard to enjoy."

--Normal people should love it. :-) Our sadness aside, we still couldn't rate it any lower than A-. I suspect that we'll get back around to giving it an A on repeated viewings.

--Anybody who says that it's about the same in 2D and 3D is an idiot. An IDIOT.

While not as much jumped out of the screen as I'd have liked -- only twice that I can recall -- the depth is by far the deepest I've ever seen. Some of the most impressive shots are with only 1 or 2 people in the shot. It's that the shots are composed as deeply as anything in Citizen Kane, and rarely since.

--I read somebody saying before the movie opened that the 3D probably wouldn't be any good because it was added in post. I wanted to scream: THE MAGIC WANDS DIDN'T ACTUALLY SHOOT FLAMES. THERE ARE NO DRAGONS OR FLYING BROOMS. DOBBY THE ELF ISN'T REAL. THEY WERE ALL ADDED IN POST.

For that matter, Voldemort's "nose" is added in post.

That's my basic summary for everyone who complains about 3D being added in post. Either it's good 3D or bad 3D. Persuasive or not. Enjoyable or not. Period. Doesn't matter where it happens.

And yes, this is spectacular 3D. See it on the biggest screen you can find, and see it in 3D.

--Last thing about 3D: the complaint is often that it's too dark. I agree completely. I'm glad that the folks behind Transformers went to the extra to delivery ultra-bright prints, and hope that everyone does from now on...but that was a pretty bright movie anyway. I'm not sure that more than a scene or two in Harry Potter takes place in sunshine, and it still felt exactly the right brightness That's a hard line to toe even in 2D, but they really nailed it.

Unlike, say, the muddy mess of Pirates...which was shot in 3D, with virtually no depth, and really poor dynamic range. I rest my case.

--It really was a fitting end to an unprecedented franchise. The movies grew up as quickly and as much as the actors did (if not quite as much as the characters in the books). This one looked AMAZING, stretching the visual palette further than anything since Alfonso Cuaron turned the series from "kids movies that adults will enjoy" to "movies" with the third entry. Glorious sets, phenomenal staging, art design that truly achieved art - it wasn't just perfect. It was beyond perfect.

--I still find myself really sad that it's over. I don't know when I'll get over it. I've seen part 7 quite a few times, most recently on Blu-ray last week. (This and Inception are 2 movies that really, really show the difference between just seeing the movies in HD on cable, and on Blu-ray on the very same TV. Night and day.)

But it's going to take me a while to be emotionally ready to see this one again.

When I do, it will be in IMAX 3D.


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Scott Roberts
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 17, 2011 at 10:37:01 pm

As I've said before in previous threads, this is an opinion of someone who has never read a single word out of a Harry Potter book and has only experienced these characters through the films. And after what I probably considered to the worst of all the Potter movies in Deathly Hallows Part 1, there is a good amount of redemption here in Part 2. I wouldn’t say it’s the best Potter film of the series, as it’s a bit uneven, but it’s probably like the 3rd best.

I take it since basically everyone I know who read the books was saying that Deathly Hallows Part 1 was the greatest thing ever at the end of last year, that there is a huge divide between the book readers and the movie watchers. Unapologetically, the last 3 films of the series made very little effort to cater to people who didn’t read the books. Scenes that seemed unnecessary to the likes of me, were met with heaps of praise and excitement by the book folk. And to be honest, I’m happy they did that, it made for a better experience for the true fans of the series. I was able to follow along good enough, albeit for several sequences that seemed like fluff, that no doubt were explored in detail in the books.

And that’s maybe one of the only major flaws I had with this last installment, though. To me, the first 20-30 minutes of this film seemed very uninspired. Lots of people talking while sitting in chairs. Not much going on. Lots of exposition. And it’s not that I NEED action or else I won’t be able to appreciate it, but it was like, kind of boring. The first chunk of the film that is, much like I thought stretches of Part 1 were. But once it kicks into high gear and the central story actually starts rolling, this is an unquestionably good film.

And from someone who didn’t know what was going to happen beforehand, the twists and revelations and action were pretty great. And the killing off of the characters! (I’ve always said if I had a TV show for some reason, and I had to do a series finale, I’d kill off most of the characters, even if it’s a comedy show) I suppose that’s the only advantage someone like me has over the book readers, I got to experience the thrill of it all in a purely cinematic fashion. But again, this movie definitely wasn’t made for people like me. I think the level of passion is pretty cool amongst the fans of the Potter series. I went to a screening that only had about 30 people in it, at 2 pm, and there was still audience members who seemed excited and cheered and such.

But the movie itself, as I said earlier, it’s probably my third favorite Potter film (behind Goblet of Fire and Prisoner of Azkaban). Once Voldemort goes into full on attack mode, the movie really shines. The wizard battles in this are pretty phenomenal. Colorful, violent, high intensity fights. And the whole thing moves at a good pace in the second and third acts as well. To single out a specific scene, when Voldemort shows up at Hogwarts and tried to recruit people and Neville Longbottom gives his speech and so forth, that was one of the most riveting scenes I’ve seen in any film in a while. And there was no action in it! See, I don’t NEED action. :)

The epilogue seemed a little unnecessary and tacked on, though. But again, I’m sure fans of the book liked it.

Also saw it in 3D, and thought it was worth the extra $3. I can’t really point out any specific instances where the 3D dazzled me (like I could for Transformers), but it was pretty good overall. Lots of good depth. Yeah, could have been a little brighter at times, I suppose. Wasn’t a problem or anything, though.

All in all, a fitting end for the franchise. My favorite aspects of the whole series are the wonderful discoveries of magic intertwined with darker subject matter (as seen in the 3rd and 4th films). These last couple films were almost all dark, but it seemed appropriate. Maybe it wasn’t as emotional to me as it was for everyone else, as I’m just a casual fan of the films, but the series definitely went out on a high note. And $500 million opening weekend worldwide gross! Dayum! Even The Dark Knight Rises might struggle to compete with those numbers next year.


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Tim Wilson
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 20, 2011 at 4:03:59 pm

Went to see it again yesterday at the spur of the moment. Coupla quick notes:

--Saw it this time in IMAX 3D. Sorry fellas, size matters. We sat in exactly the same place in the theater that we did for the quite large "regular" 3D showing, and the difference was remarkable.

--I had also forgotten how much better IMAX can sound.

--In retrospect, my wife was right that our grief that the series was actually ending got in the way of us appreciating the movie on its own merits. On second viewing, we LOVED it.

--As usual, heard a lot and saw a lot that I missed the first time...in a couple of cases, I'm sure that the size of the screen and the depth of the sound contributed a lot.

--Most standing out on second viewing: Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes and their characters. They deserve a whole post each, but for now, I was more deeply moved by Snape's memories this time (they didn't carry enough weight the first time, but this time, figured as an emotional climax to the entire series that they should have), and saw real heartbreak in Voldemort a few times. Watch his hands - a phenomenal performance on that level alone.


--I don't remember the last movie we saw twice in a theater. Yet as we walked out, we started flipping through our calendars to figure out when we can see it again.


[Scott Roberts] "I wouldn’t say it’s the best Potter film of the series, as it’s a bit uneven, but it’s probably like the 3rd best."

I agree that Prisoner of Azkaban in particular was really special, and in some ways still my favorite...but I really like how dark the last few have gotten. Too many movies have made Armageddon look a little too shiny.

As much as it took me aback at the time, the slow start made sense to me on second viewing. Maybe they were setting up a counter-expectation, letting us know that this wasn't going to be the action-packed extravaganza that some had been predicting. In any I case, I think it's pretty ballsy to completely mess with rhythm like that. I can only imagine how hot the debates got.

[Scott Roberts] "To single out a specific scene, when Voldemort shows up at Hogwarts and tried to recruit people and Neville Longbottom gives his speech and so forth, that was one of the most riveting scenes I’ve seen in any film in a while. And there was no action in it!"

Neville was one of the real pleasures of the films in general, and this one in particular. He figures in the books in about the same measure, but the actor playing him is perfect, and they stage his "moments" to great effect.

[Scott Roberts] "this is an opinion of someone who has never read a single word out of a Harry Potter book "

I actually waited in line to buy the books, too. :-) The third went on sale at midnight on a Friday/Saturday, and I talked a bookseller in my office building into hosting a pajama party.

The first book in particular is a must. It's wonderful to watch how this unfolds, especially if you can put yourself in a 20th century mindset. Her touchstones are often pretty obvious, but she really spins an amazing yarn. It's easy to understand why this shook everything up.

[Scott Roberts] " this movie definitely wasn’t made for people like me."

They certainly made no apologies in the last couple of movies if you hadn't seen the movies, but I don't think that there was any assumption you'd read the books. Quite the contrary. There are some significant differences. So if they didn't keep you in the movie, they didn't get it right.

But yeah, to use one example, someone like Dobby is hard to understand, and his loss carries almost no weight at all if you haven't read the 5th book.

The biggest difference as an audience member is that, if you started reading the books when they came out, because of the interlocking release cycles, you've been in the thing for nearly 15 years non-stop. There's no precedent for this kind of engagement.


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Scott Roberts
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 20, 2011 at 7:06:06 pm

Did they actually shoot it in IMAX? Like, did it fill the entire screen? Because I've seen movies in IMAX (off the top of my head Spider-Man 3) that was just a regular movie played in the regular aspect ratio, but on a larger screen. And then stuff like Dark Knight and Tron Legacy switched back and forth between aspect ratios when they cut to the stuff they actually shot with IMAX cameras.

But even so, I'd see every regular movie in IMAX if they offered it (well, and if they lowered the $15 ticket price). Like you said, which I wholeheartedly agree with, the sound in the IMAX theater is the greatest sound available.


[Tim Wilson] "But yeah, to use one example, someone like Dobby is hard to understand"

Actually, maybe this is a book question you could answer from a previous film. When Dobby gets his freedom, why is it that he's more powerful than the elder Malfoy? If that's the case that they can beat up wizards, why don't elves run that world? Or are there just not a lot of them? (or not a lot of free ones?)


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Stephen Smith
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 20, 2011 at 7:11:32 pm

[Scott]
And then stuff like Dark Knight and Tron Legacy switched back and forth between aspect ratios when they cut to the stuff they actually shot with IMAX cameras.

The Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol trailer switched back and forth between aspect ratios. I wonder how many people even realized that that happened in the IMAX theater?

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Motion Tutorials


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Tim Wilson
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:21:36 pm

[Scott Roberts] "And then stuff like Dark Knight and Tron Legacy switched back and forth between aspect ratios when they cut to the stuff they actually shot with IMAX cameras."

It was indeed not shot in IMAX...and I wish that all of Dark Knight in particular was. :-) They certainly pimped it at the end of the Dark Knight trailer -- the same annoying first half and killer second half that you see online. And I gotta tell you, that last sequence looking up through the skyscrapers looked really cool on a big screen.

And Steven, I think you're exactly right - few people notice the change in aspect ratio. They just notice that something looks overwhelming now.

I can't say for sure, Scott, but I'll bet you a large bag of buttered popcorn...or a small car, your choice....that it was 1.78 at the IMAX theater, and 2.35 elsewhere. I'm normally nuts for widescreen, but I'm willing to sacrifice some width for height on special occasions. I thought the balance here worked out very well.



[Scott Roberts] "[Tim Wilson] "But yeah, to use one example, someone like Dobby is hard to understand"

Actually, maybe this is a book question you could answer from a previous film. When Dobby gets his freedom, why is it that he's more powerful than the elder Malfoy? If that's the case that they can beat up wizards, why don't elves run that world? Or are there just not a lot of them? (or not a lot of free ones?)"


Correcting myself from earlier, it was the second book where we first meet Dobby.

The second movie actually does a really nice job laying this out. They are in fact stronger than wizards in a lot of ways, with special powers of their own - like magically moving instantly across great distances to bring back a dark (yet still annoying) wizard back against his will in the seventh movie.

Dobby spends much of the second movie foiling Harry. We only learn later that Dobby is trying to protect Harry, even though he was actually employed by...wait for it...Lucius Malfoy. Harry plays a trick that leads to Lucius accidentally freeing Dobby, who gets to then smack Lucius around when he threatens Harry.

By the way, Jason Isaacs's portrayal of Lucius Malfoy was another real pleasure of the movies for me. He's pretty oily on the page, but Jason Isaacs brought him to life in a marvelous way.

But this explains why Lucius sputtered so much when Dobby shows back up in his house -- the bad blood between these two characters, in that place. It's also why Dobby so heavily emphasizes the word FRIEND with regard to Harry, in pretty much every scene.

Dobby shows up in a couple of other movies of course, but the second one is the big one.

There is indeed plenty of other Dobby and general house elf stuff in the books, including Hermione founding the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare. (I really like how much Rowling appreciates the fullness of her characters, including how annoying they can be, even on a topic that the author supports -- SPEW.)

Lots more interesting to me is the big first scene with Albus Dumbledore's younger brother Aberforth, in the basement under the pub, and the picture of their sister....whom the brothers accidentally killed in a duel with each other.

There was a tricky triangle between the two brothers, and an evil wizard that "our" Dumbledore, Albus, was romantically infatuated with (an infatuation not returned, but certainly exploited). This wizard had persuaded Albus to join him in founding a magical-race supremacist group that would eventually in fact lead to a bloody race war. Aberforth tried to stop them, hence the three-way duel. Their sister Ariana was trying to intervene when she was killed.

Albus has some additional complicity in her death. Ariana had been assaulted by some boys at age 6. Her father was sentenced to life in Azkaban for what he did to those boys, and their mother was killed by one of the girl's post-traumatic seizures. Albus was in charge of caring for the girl -- he deeply resented it, but insisted that Aberforth go back to school at Hogwarts.

When Aberforth returns, he finds Albus and this guy he's infatuated with ready to take off on their racist oddyssey -- and says, stop, you know our sister can't be moved, and you can't leave. No racially pure empire for you!

THAT's what starts the duel, and THAT's when Ariana dies in the crossfire. Yet when Albus rises to power as a paragon of virtue, Aberforth is hidden in plain view, and never acknowledged.

Oh yeah, and as Harry observes, Aberforth is the one who sends Dobby to Malfoy Manor to rescue our heroes at the end of Deathly Hallows pt 1.

Until then, none of this has anything to do with Harry of course. I don't want to oversell the complexity of the books, but they really are more nuanced than the movies.

So, everything you need to know about Dobby is in the second movie, even if the books have a whole lot more.


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Scott Roberts
Re: It all ended July 15
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:31:52 pm

That Dumbledore's brother content from the latest movie is kind of the perfect example of a scene purely for the book readers. I watched that scene, and got almost nothing out of it. It definitely felt like an unnecessary scene, to ME. But then you explain the cool, rich history and significance from the books, and it make sense that they would put it in the film, for the fans.

To relate it to a big epic film series that I've actually read the books for before I saw the films, Lord of the Rings, in Return of the King they had the Houses of Healing scene, where Faramir and Eowyn fall in love. Such an unnecessary scene for the movie, happens right in the middle of the Minas Tirith battle, kills all pacing, and I consider it the most gratuitous scene added in the film. Actually it might just be in the extended editions, regardless, anyone who didn't read the books would watch that and say "What the H? Why did they include this nonsense?" But for book readers, there was a whole chapter on Houses of Healing! Kind of a 90 second nod to the book readers saying "Hey, remember this chapter?!"

The more I think about it, I'm almost positive it wasn't in the theatrical cut, but it's still a similar concept, and kind of the same idea of giving a nod to the previosuly unmentioned Dumbledores for the fans.


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