Posts Tagged ‘harry potter’

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Lazy Movie Reviews: Into the Spider-Verse and more!

December 19, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – I absolutely loved it. Everything in this movie is so well done – from the story to the animation to the voice acting (especially Nicholas Cage). It’s all top notch. I thought there might be potential for things to get really convoluted with merging universes and multiple Spideys but it’s easy to follow and all the various characters give us reasons to care about them. This movie also had me laughing pretty much from start to finish and the story actually packs quite the emotional punch. It’s not just a strong animated movie… it’s one of the best movies of the year. Period.

8/10 (Must See)

Creed II (2018) – A decent follow-up to the first Creed but doesn’t pack nearly the same emotional punch. Still, for the 8th installment in the Rocky franchise, one can hardly complain. If you’ve enjoyed the story up to this point, this is more of the same.

5/10 (Decent)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald (2018) – This is the worst thing J.K. Rowling has ever written – that I’ve read or seen (I have not read her books for adults). I thought the first Fantastic Beasts was decent enough, although a far cry from the quality seen in the Harry Potter movies. My problems with the sequel are the same as the first movie, only much worse this time around. The characters in these movies are just so brutally hollow and uninteresting. The story is extremely weak here and the pacing is unreal slow. Creedance Bareback is one of the worst villains ever. Wait, is he a villain? Who knows. Who cares? Johnny Depp brings absolutely nothing to the role of Grindewald, but I did think Jude Law was fine as a younger Dumbledore. The creatures play a much smaller role in this movie and that’s a shame because they were the best thing about the first one. My interest level in this franchise has gone from middling to hanging by a thread

3/10 (Bad)

Widows (2018) – A captivating thriller with surprising twists and real world relevancy, plus top notch performances from Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. One of the more enthralling movies of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Mid90s (2018) – A nostalgic trip through my early teen years. This movie was like reliving my past, albeit without the actual skateboarding. From idolizing kids that are only a few years older (or in my case, the same age) to trying drugs, alcohol, and girls for the first time, this is a coming of age flick for kids that grew up in… the mid90s.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Overlord (2018) – I’m not sure I’m on board with calling this a B-movie as the special effects and cinematography were pretty good.
The actors are mostly unknown, but I didn’t think there was anything overly cheesy going on here. It’s a fun super-serum fueled zombie flick with Nazis as the bad guys.

6/10 (Fun)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018, Netflix) – I probably wouldn’t have watched this without seeing a strong recommendation from someone I knew. It is a welcome addition to the existing library of fun Christmas movies. This one gives Santa an upgrade in abilities and Kurt Russell is surprisingly great hamming it up as our favorite holiday folk hero.

6/10 (Fun)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018, Netflix) – I’m not sure how it happened, but this movie charmed my pants off. Wait. That sounds bad. The movie doesn’t start strong and the event that gets things rolling is a little dumb, but once the two leads start interacting with each other I think it gets quite good, as long as you can get past the fact that these are stupid teenagers acting like stupid teenagers.

6/10 (Fun)

Mandy (2018) – This movie was a total trip. If you ever wanted to drop acid and watch a movie… this would be a good film to go with. It feels like a mash-up of Hellraiser and Mad Max with a sprinkle of Evil Dead and a Nicholas Cage hell-bent on bloody revenge. Plus it has some funky camera work and cool music. Mandy gets a very strong recommendation from me, but you have to have an open mind and a thick stomach.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Incredibles 2 (2018) – We had to wait 14 years for this? As a huge fan of the original movie, I was really disappointed with this sequel. With such a long break in between films, you’d think they could come up with a more interesting story. I had the villain pegged the first time I saw them. In fact, I thought it was so obvious that I probably had to be wrong. Nope. Jack Jack the baby is easily the highlight of the movie. The rest of the main characters, aside from Elastigirl, aren’t given much room for growth. This movie isn’t nearly as funny or as charming as the first. Aside from the Toy Story movies and Finding Dory, Pixar has mostly fallen flat with their sequels.

5/10 (Decent)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – This was a massive disappointment for me. I liked the first movie and this sequel seems to bring nothing new to the table. This movie isn’t nearly as funny as it wants to be and while I won’t call it outright bad, it was pretty boring and unmemorable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) – I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t expecting much. I would have been less surprised if this sucked than if it was really good. It has been a couple of weeks since I saw it and nothing really stuck with me, so that says something. I thought dude playing Han did an fine, but unremarkable job. There were some easter eggs for franchise fans, but there was probably a ton of stuff that this semi-fan missed. I imagine Star Wars will be mostly pleased, but this was nothing special.

5/10 (Decent)

Replay Value: Into the Spider-Verse, Widows and Mandy are movies I’d happily watch again right now. Mid90s is worth seeing again. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Christmas Chronicles have some replay value, but the rest of these movies I’d never need to see again.

Sequel Potential: Into the Spider-Verse should definitely get a direct sequel. Fantastic Beasts, Creed II, and Ant-Man and the Wasp are all part of ongoing franchises. Solo is a spin-off that will probably get its own sequel. I would imagine Widows and Mid90s are standalone films. The Christmas Chronices has potential for future films.

Oscar Potential: Into the Spider-Verse is a lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination. I haven’t seen many animated movies this year, but I can’t imagine anything winning the Oscar over this one. I thought it was good enough to warrant some long shot Best Picture consideration, but that isn’t going to happen. The Crimes of Grindewald is on the short list for Best Score, but already whiffed on Visual Effects and Make-Up. I guess it is still a contender for Costume Design. Widows should get Viola Davis another Best Actress nom and some Best Picture consideration. I thought Elizabeth Debicki was worth consideration for her supporting role in the movie, but the competition is looking too stiff for a nomination. Incredibles 2 will probably get a Best Animated Feature nomination because Pixar movies basically always do, but it would have to be a very weak year for it to be deserved. I’ve actually only seen two animated features this year, so I have no idea. Solo: A Star Wars Story and Ant-Man and the Wasp are on the short list for the Visual Effects category.

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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016)

November 28, 2016

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell
Director: David Yates (Harry Potter 5-8, Legend Of Tarzan)

Bottom Line: I thought this Harry Potter spin off film from author J.K. Rowling was… okay. This story takes place seventy years before Harry Potter’s and finds noted wizard author Newt Scamander (Redmayne) and his suitcase of mysterious creatures setting foot on American soil for the first time. There was a huge difference between this story and the one we all know and love – and perhaps this will change as they unveil sequel after sequel – but the characters in Fantastic Beasts aren’t half as memorable as the ones in Harry Potter. Newt is charming and whimsical and the NoMaj/Muggle he befriends, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), is the heart and soul of the entire film. There’s also Alison Sudo’s Queenie, who seems like she could be Luna Lovegood’s grandmother. The rest of the characters are totally forgettable. There’s no Voldemort here. Not even a Professor Quirrell. I’m not even sure I really understood what the big threat was.

You’d think the American version of the wizarding world might offer up some interesting comparing and contrasting, but the big difference pretty much comes down to calling nonmagical people “NoMaj” instead of “Muggles.” That’s about it. Also, I found it interesting how racially diverse the magical community is in 1920s America. Apparently the wizarding world is about 160 years ahead of its NoMaj contemporaries – not only are minorities integrated, they can be President. I would have liked to see how a witch of such prominence interacted with NoMaj under the guise of her perceived social standing: a segregated black woman. Alas, we don’t get such a sequence despite the fact that prejudice (think “mudbloods”) plays such a huge role in Voldemort’s rise to prominence decades later.

I don’t want to give off the perception that I thought Fantastic Beasts was all bad; in fact, I found it enjoyable. You just can’t help but compare it to the quality of the franchise that spawned it. The creatures in the film are great and unique. It seems as though Rowling spent all her time thinking up fantastic beasts instead of developing interesting characters! The best parts of the film all feature Newt interacting or chasing the creatures in his suitcase.

I think fans of the Harry Potter series mostly won’t be disappointed with Fantastic Beasts, but I felt like it paled in comparison. It’s definitely not as kid friendly as its predecessor – if I was wondering what the heck was going on with the bad guys, there’s no way young kids are going to be able to follow it. Fantastic Beasts was enjoyable, but far from great. There could be hope on the horizon as the first Harry Potter was the worst one in the series, in my opinion. Still, I’d rather see the filmmakers adapt Harry Potter & The Cursed Child than make four more Fantastic Beasts movies.

Replay Value: Not itching to see it again.
Sequel Potential: Four sequels are announced, first one is in development already.
Oscar Potential: The last three Harry Potter movies were nominated for six Oscars total – mostly for Visual Effects, which would be this film’s most likely nomination.

Grade: 5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

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What If (2014)

February 5, 2015

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver
Director: Michael Dowse (Goon, Take Me Home Tonight)

Bottom Line: What If is a solid rom-com that showcases the comedic talents that Daniel Radcliffe occasionally flashed throughout the Harry Potter series. While not exactly genre-bending, What If is definitely one of the better romantic comedies of the past few years, mainly because Radcliffe and Kazan have such good chemistry together on screen. Funny and amusing, it’s not a must see, but it’s perfect for couples looking for a light movie to watch together. Also, I’m going to go ahead and make a bold prediction: Radcliffe picks up an Oscar nomination in the next ten years.

Replay Value: Not a keeper, but it’s a film I’d enjoy watching again I think.
Sequel Potential: I don’t think so.
Oscar Potential: None
Nudity: None.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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Check-Raise: Mid August Report

August 17, 2011

I’m depressed today. I haven’t been having a great month gambling and I really compounded my problems this morning. I did something I never do. I play Blackjack with Match Play coupons (free money), but I never gamble in the pit. Today, I showed up 30 minutes early for the morning tournament at Chips and decided to sit down at Ultimate Texas Hold Em. I’ve played it a couple times before, with minor success, and it appeals to my poker side since a sound preflop strategy in this game seems profitable. Max bet AQ preflop and 2x bet Q9 on Q high flop and lose to KJ on the river. Ugh. Max bet AJ preflop and lose to J5. Really? Max bet A4 preflop and 2x bet top pair on the flop (playing two hands) and dealer turns over a set. I can’t count how many times the dealer flipped his first card and only one card in the hole could beat me and he had it today.

All in all, -$190 in the pit. Then I run bad in the live game and my final straw is losing with AQ to KK on a AT83K board in a 20 BB pot after check-raising the flop and leading the turn. I even had the sense to check the river because I felt like he had KK or QQ and since I have AQ, I just felt it was KK most of the time. “I knew I needed that King.” Yeah, no shit moron. Nothing like losing big pots to two-outers on the river. Good day all.

So it’s August 17th and I’m showing a $55 profit gambling this month. Considering that I’m destined to have some losing months, even at the peak of poker greatness, I shouldn’t be too stressed out… but this month is a bit different since I’ve had to pull from my gambling bankroll for the first time since I’ve had one (again) because I’ve been moving this month and have basically no furniture. To put things in perspective, I keep a monthly budget and I’m $25 away from going over with two weeks to go… and I budgeted HIGH. I won’t know exactly how much I’ve pulled from my bankroll until the end of the month, but I do know now is NOT the time to be breaking even.

People often tell me that gambling for a living isn’t as rosy as it sounds. That’s making a lot of sense to me right now. I’m not having a losing month (yet), but even breaking even seems like a colossal waste of time, especially when you’re the hours leader at Chips Casino for two months running. I’m working 5 days a week at my day job–which is more than I want to–and I’m still putting in about 30-35 hours a week at the tables. Which means I’m basically doing nothing else with my life. I haven’t made a non-poker update on this blog in over a month. I didn’t even bother to review the new Harry Potter movie. I haven’t even seen Captain America or the new Planet Of The Apes. What kind of movie buff am I? All I do is work, play softball, and gamble. I have no social life. I can’t even imagine what I’d do if there was a girl out there that wanted to date me. After taking a beating this morning, today is the first day in probably a couple months that I’ve actually taken some time out to just lounge around. Hell, I’ve been living in this new house for over two weeks now and I’ve only unpacked and sorted the bare essentials.

I’ll probably be back at the tables later tonight, but right now a break–even a small one–feels really good.

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Movie Reviews: How To Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter, The Social Network

December 5, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

”We’re Vikings. It’s an occupational hazard.”
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera
Director: Dean Deblois, Chris Sanders
Quick Thoughts: A solid, underdog-becomes-a-hero family film that might be a little bit overrated. It’s very good, but its current standing amongst the top 250 films of all-time is probably being a bit absurd.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Great Christmas present for kids and I wouldn’t be mad about owning this film either, but I’m not rushing out to buy it.
Sequel Potential: I just read a release from Dreamworks saying there are going to be at least two more movies in this franchise and maybe as many as eight. Yikes.
Oscar Potential: Toy Story 3, Tangled, and this movie should be battling it out for Best Animated Movie. Unlike TS3, however, I don’t see Dragons getting a Best Picture nom.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Pt. 1 (2010)

”I must be the one to kill Harry Potter.”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Director: David Yates
Quick Thoughts: There are pros and cons to breaking HP7 into two parts. It’s good because the source material will be valiantly represented and kids won’t have to sit through a four or five hour movie. It’s bad because the first film doesn’t work that well as a stand alone project. The first half of J.K. Rowling’s book finds Harry, Ron, and Hermione doing a lot of walking around and minimal action. Almost everything exciting in the last book is going to happen in the second part. It is a very faithful adaptation, however, and I’m sure when the two movies can be viewed back-to-back the first film won’t seem so incomplete and boring. HP&TDHP1 doesn’t suck; it’s a beautiful film and a solid build up for the next movie, it’s just a little underwhelming. However you want to put it, the finale–coming next summer–is going to be EPIC and second part should garner the Harry Potter franchise its first Best Picture nomination. I’m just guessing.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d like to see it again before it leaves theaters and then I’m reading books 6 and 7 again before watching the finale.
Sequel Potential: Part 2 comes out July 2011… and for those that don’t know already, Rowling is toying with the idea of more Harry Potter books.
Oscar Potential: I don’t see HP getting any major nominations, but it should pick up some nods in some of the technical departments (art direction, costumes, score, etc.).
Nudity: We actually get dangerously close to seeing a topless Emma Watson. Crazy.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

The Social Network (2010)

”If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.”
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher
Quick Thoughts: A movie about the creation of a social networking website sounds dull as hell, but the great script from Aaron Sorkin, great performances from the surprisingly talented cast, and David Fincher’s usually solid direction makes this one of the best movies of 2010. Also, Andrew Garfield showed he has serious acting chops and should have everyone excited about the Spider-Man reboot.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: This movie was great the first time and I’ll definitely watch it again when it releases on DVD, but I’m guessing it’s replay value doesn’t extend much beyond that.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Should be a cinch for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations and my current favorite to win the Oscar the for the screenplay. This isn’t Fincher’s best directing job, but he always has an outside shot at an nomination. Jessie Eisenberg and maybe Andrew Garfield deserve mention as longshots for acting nominations.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

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Twilight Is Not Harry Potter

April 3, 2009

So what is a 26 year old grown man doing reviewing Twilight? Well, for one, I fancy myself an amateur film critic and it would be folly of me to not post my thoughts on a film as big as Twilight. Secondly, the series of vampire novels from author Stephenie Meyer were getting the kind of buzz the Harry Potter franchise was getting back in the early 2000s. I originally made some poor assumptions about the HP series (i.e. children’s lit) and that has grown into one of my all-time favorite book series. Not wanting to make the same mistake with The Twilight Saga, I jumped on the bandwagon much earlier this time. With that said, I borderline hated the first book in the series. I’ll get into more detail on my problems with the script (a.k.a. the novel) later, but I just wanted it to be known ahead of time that I was not a fan of the original material for this film.

I figured this film was moderately doomed from the start. As soon as I saw Robert Pattinson wearing lipstick on the cover of Entertainment Weekly I knew the filmmakers missed the mark on this one and any chance the story had of being presented in a serious manner was being flushed down the toilet. Not that I expect a ton of realism from a film about vampires, but the presentation of the source material was looking pretty corny before the film was even released. Actually watching the film, the level of quality really dropped as soon as the rest of the Cullen family was introduced. Not only was the acting from the Cullen family unnatural and rigid, but the whole baseball scenario was horribly adapted. The creators of this film need to holler at the makers of “Smallvillle” for some advice on super speed special effects.

I don’t want complain too much about the acting in the film, but something about it did rub me the wrong way. Kristen Stewart seemed so focused on “acting” that she looked like she was trying to remember her lines half the time. She always seemed to have a confused look on her face. It doesn’t help much that she had to take on the role of one of the worst heroines in the history of fiction. Okay, so I guess I can’t help but dive into my problems with the book. One of the biggest problems I had reading Twilight was that I absolutely hated Bella. If I was supposed to hate Bella, I’d say “hey, great job with the character,” but I’m pretty sure Bella is supposed to be likable. Well, she’s not. She’s an uptight, reactionary bitch that doesn’t seem to have a clue what she really wants. I thought she was continually unfair in her treatment of Edward and her disregard for every other guy in the book made her seem like a snob. Reading the book, I couldn’t come up with any reason Edward would be attracted to her. Speaking of which, how likely is it that an 80 year old vampire would find his soul mate in a 17 year old girl? I’m almost 27 and I can’t hold a five minute conversation with the idiot 18 year old girls my roommate sometimes has over for his “parties.” I just don’t buy into the fact that someone with that much life experience would fall in love with a kid. It’s not only an unlikely pairing, it’s perverse.

The comparisons between Twilight and Harry Potter are ludicrous and unfounded. The level of writing in the two series are not even comparable. J.K. Rowling has a thousand times the imagination that Stephenie Meyer has. What about Twilight is so unique? Vampires have been done to death and the only truly original elements being introduced here are the baseball thing and the way the sun makes their skin turn colors. How exciting. I could go on forever about how original the Harry Potter franchise is. Perhaps I’m being overly harsh on Meyer since I’ve only read the first book in the series and the first HP book didn’t exactly blow me away… but I didn’t dislike it either. It’s possible that the series will grow on me as I read more of the books, but that’s the problem, I didn’t like the first book enough to want to read the rest of them. Anyways, the box office totals say it all:

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone: $317.5 million
Twilight: $191.5 million

Score: 3.5 out of 10