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Movie Review Monday: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

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It is the end of an era, and Mike Finkelstein knows it.  Complete with Hogwarts uniform, his wand, a random owl and a $9.99 broomstick from Bed, Bath and Beyond, he had the honor of seeing the final Harry Potter movie.  Here is his review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II”

PLOT: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts as the entire school prepares for their final epic battle against evil, and Harry prepares to meet his fate against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Here it is.  After seven bestselling books and a decade-long journey in film, we have the final closing chapter in the HARRY POTTER franchise.  We have watched Ron, Hermione and Harry grow up from children into young adults, and our generation has grown with them.  And while DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I may have been David Yates’ romance, this final chapter goes out with one hell of a bang.

First off, everything I said in my DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I review still stands here.  It’s amazing to see how far these films have matured.  When you see SORCERER’S STONE and CHAMBER OF SECRETS and compare them to DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I and II, they’re completely different worlds.  That is just a testament to JK Rowling and every director and actor along the way who has helped shape these movies into what they are: a beautiful anthology of growing up.

We pick off minutes after PART I left off: Harry is at Dobby’s grave, and he, Ron and Hermione know they need to find the remaining Horcruxes to finish off Voldemort.  It is the perfect beginning to this final storm: twenty minutes of thunder and lightning (finding a few horcruxes, getting back to Hogwarts) and then the clouds open and the flood begins.

This film may be the shortest out of the entire series at 130 minutes (most entries run close to two-and-a-half hours), but it doesn’t matter, because the action is wall to wall.  Think of this as the climax of one five-hour-long epic, or the ultimate climax of twenty hours of a series.  The battle for Hogwarts is glorious.  It is gritty, the school is relentlessly destroyed, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or a student…anyone can and will die, and seeing some of our favorite characters breathe their last breath to protect their family, their friends, or Harry lets us know how much is at stake.

But where there is darkness, there is always some sort of light.  What makes this movie even more grand is how some of our favorite supporting characters get to take their epic final bows.  Cheers rang out constantly…when Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) finally share that passionate first kiss we’ve been waiting three movies for, it is absolutely adorable.  When Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall calls forth the guardians of Hogwarts and exclaims she’s always wanted to cast that spell, we see a little kid who just stole a cookie from the jar.  When Dumbledore has his final conversation with Harry, we have a sense of calm that only he could bring.  And trust me, those are only a select few moments.

One actor who has really come into his own, though, is Matthew Lewis.  I’m sure it’s the same for the books, but when this little runt named Neville Longbottom appeared in SORCERER’S STONE, we never expected he’d turn into anything.  In this final chapter, he is absolutely pivotal and gets some of the best moments not only in the movie, but in the entire series!  Some hysterical, some charming, and some downright moving, every single one left the audience cheering.  I am so happy JK Rowling paid both Neville and Matthew back tenfold for all the crap he had to deal with when he was little.

With all the praise, I will mention one little flaw: I know certain fans of the book had a major problem with things missing from the movie (from what I remember, this was an issue with many of the past films), and I could completely see where they’re coming from.  They were probably annoyed at some of their favorite parts being exempt or huge explanations being taken for granted.  As someone who has never read the books, there were a few details that had to be explained to me, but those little explanations didn’t take away from how epic the film was by itself.  And let’s be honest…unless you were making a ten part series, there is no way to fit every detail of 784 pages into two movies.

Harry Potter.  It is a name that has defined our generation.  Every book release and opening weekend was an event.  When the final book was released, it was the end of an era.  And now, we have the final curtain call, and it was nothing short of perfect.  After seven books, eight movies, and more than a decade of our lives, I bow to JK Rowling, David Yates, Daniel Radcliffe, and the entire cast and crew for bringing such a joy to so many people.  You, my friends, did it right.

GRADE: A

Mike’s LIKES:

1) DAVID YATES: The man has brought the legend of Harry Potter to a completely new level.  Everyone before him did a great job, but he brought a children’s story and created an epic about good versus evil, and finished it off beautifully.

2) A WORTHY END FOR AN ICONIC CHARACTER: Like I just said…after a decade with “the boy who lived”, the final film that we saw with Mr. Potter was worthy of his greatness.

3) RON AND HERMIONE, AMONG OTHER ROMANCE: Ron and Hermione are so CUTE together!  And so are Harry and Jenny!  And Neville and Luna! Yeah…the film is filled with their cute moments…makes me smile just thinking about it.

4) MATTHEW LEWIS AS NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM: When Neville first appeared as the loveable doofus in SORCERER’S STONE, we never expected he’d come this far.  Matthew Lewis stole every scene he was in, and played a fun, honorable, and charming ally for Harry.

5) THE SUPPORTING CAST: You couldn’t have had such an amazing series without the supporting cast.  From screen legends to young newcomers, the list of amazing actors goes on and on (I’ll redirect you to the IMDb page to see for yourself), and everyone had their moment to shine.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) FITTING ALL THE DETAILS: I completely understood the movie and had a blast with it, but I know I missed out on a lot of details by not reading the books.  Many people who read the books were disappointed with so much left out, and I could see why, but I don’t think there would be any way to fit it all in, unless the movie was split yet again into another two.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Kate Winslet was first considered for and reportedly offered the role of Helena Ravenclaw. The role was rejected by her agent before she was able to consider it, believing that Winslet would not want to “follow suit with every other actor in Britain by being a part of Harry Potter”.

2) Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have both said in interviews that filming their on-screen kiss was an “absolutely horrible” experience. It took only six takes to complete; whereas the kiss between Harry & Ginny took around ten, Ron & Lavender around 15, and Harry & Cho over 30 takes.

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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