What's summer without movies? I don't tend to shell out money to see a movie in the theatres without being very motivated. I watched many movies that I rented/borrowed from the library - but that's for another post. This summer boasted two movies I was dying to see - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Star Trek - and two movies that I just happened to see - Up and District 9. How did they pan out? I'll list them, from my least favorite to the cream of the crop.
As a side note, I do plan on getting the dvd's of at least Up, Half Blood Prince and Star Trek.
3. District 9
Don't get me wrong, it's not that District 9 was a bad movie. It was just a little bit too gory for my personal taste. The only thing that kept me from disliking the movie was the wonderful philosophical question it raised. There always seems to be some sort of superiority complex in the Original Star Trek. I mean if there are aliens out there, what does the phrase human rights, or calling actions humane imply? District 9 really highlights these issues. If aliens landed on Earth who looked nothing like us, who completely repulsed us and who seemed to be savage creatures, what would we do? Is it right for us to perform experiments on them and keep them in Apartheid like concentration camps? And at what point will we get over our greed for better weapons? I really loved that the film asked all this and more. I just didn't love the pain a character was going through being reinforced over and over again. Why on Earth (if you'll pardon the phrase) would I want to watch someone pulling off their fingernails or their skin? It was just a little bit too much for me.
Pixar is magical. For a while, I felt that Disney had lost the magic of the summer movie. As a child I couldn't wait to see the decorations put up at Sovereign Centre that would indicate what Disney's big summer movie would be. I memorised the songs from Lion King as my best friend and I listend to soundtrack on cassette. I ran around singing the songs of Pocahontas. We waddled like the ducks in the Aristocats. And now I can safely say, after several summers of solid hits (Ratatouille, Wall-E) that Pixar is really on a roll and has totally reimagined the magic of a Disney movie. Up was poignant, almost brought me to tears within the first 20 minutes. That was completely unexpected! And then it had me laughing for the remainder of the movie. I can't really say much without spoiling the plot, which was completely unexpected for me. It's just pure pleasure. Loved it.
1. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Speaking of magic...I start with a disclaimer. I am a Harry Potter geek. I've lost count of how many times I've re-read the books. I could probably enter competitions on Harry Potter trivia. And now, finally, I've gone to a Harry Potter movie, been completely sucked into the world, and left the theatre wanting to watch it again.
The above picture is from what I'd say is the second of the 3 opening scenes, that all seemlessly run into each other. I couldn't find an image of Dumbledore hugging Harry, but I have to mention it because that was the instant I knew I'd love the movie. It's not a long moment, and it's letting the audience in on a moment from the end of the previous film. This serves two functions. It ties this movie in with the previous one, and it gives us a glimpse of how much Dumbledore cares for Harry, protecting him at this harrowing time from the media and from the sorrow which must be sinking in. It's brilliantly done, because even though the books let us know how much Dumbledore cares for Harry, it hasn't been quite as apparent in the films (let's not forget the shouting/shaking scene in GoF). It also let us see how Daniel Radcliffe has improved by leaps and bounds in his acting skills.
HBP was full of these little moments. It had lots of laughs - Harry on Felix Felicis, why didn't I realise it would be like he's high? We kinda stormed into Harry and Ginny are attracted to each other, but it had to be done since Ginny's attraction to him wasn't set up enough in the previous films and Harry's realisation in the book is all internal. The cinematography was amazing; just look at that shot of Hogwarts.
And then there's Michael Gambon. One day he'll accidentally read one of the HP books and realise that the Dumbledore he almost faithfully portrayed in this movie is the Dumbledore he should have been portraying all along. Still, he did a wonderful job, and the cave scene at the end looks just like the British book cover. I was upset about his beginning of year speech and one of the things he said in reaction to Slughorn's memory but I suppose that's the script writer Steve Kloves' fault.
I of course commend everyone else's performances. Tom Felton had his best performance yet as Malfoy, very memorable. Emma Watson has improved a lot I think, along with the other younger cast members (Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright). Lavender Brown, played by Jessie Cave, was absolutely perfect!
I'm aware that people exist who haven't read the books, and of course not everyone watched the film in the theatres so I won't say much more. I do wholeheartedly recommend that you watch this movie though, even if you're an HP newbie. I'd say that you should probably start with movie 4 or 5, movie 3 prefferably, before getting to this one, since there isn't much introduction to the world.
Final thought: I'm counting down the days to Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2!
1. Star Trek
Tying for first place was the 11th Star Trek film. Another disclaimer - I'm on my way to becoming a Star Trek geek. I watched the entire original series (TOS) in preparation for this movie and I watched the first 6 movies (technically 5 1/2, didn't finish movie 6 in time) before. It was a wonderful decision because as much as this movie was skillfully made to be enjoyed by non Star Trek fans, it was made to be even more enjoyed by anyone who knows the original series.
My favorite thing about this movie may have been the casting. Uhura finally seemed to have a real job, Kirk wasn't getting every woman who walked in his path, and Spock's human side was visibly struggling with his Vulcan side. I'm not sure if I prefer Zachary Quinto's Spock to Leonard Nimoy's Spock yet, but I most certainly prefer Chris Pine's Kirk to William Shatner's. The others (Scotty, Bones, Chekov, and Sulu), who we were all waiting to see, played their roles well.
I can't say much about the plot without giving it away. Suffice it to say that I think it was a brilliant move and it gives them lots of leg room to make sequels. You can just see from the image below that this duo has lots of movies ahead of them.
Sometimes I get annoyed at the end of a movie when I can see their setting it up for sequels. In this case I say bring it on!