19 July 2011

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

I am not a Potter nerd.  I've read the books, and I saw most of the movies.  They're fine.  Fun for the most part.  But I'd never stand in line for one, or join a uberfan club in order to get my own Quidditch stick.  So I hope fans and non-fans alike will take this list in the manner in which I intend it -- good fun and with a bit of humor.  Or humour, if you prefer.

Things I Noticed Upon Viewing the Final Installment of Harry Potter

- Harry, it's time to get some laser eye surgery. (Or as my husband suggested, get someone to do a little occulum repairum or something).

Is that Hogwarts?  Nope, it's Coventry Cathedral after the bombing.
- Yep, I got it.  Potter World = Blitz-era London and England. (see: rubble strew ruins; dour-looking nurses in makeshift field hospitals; Neville as the anti-Neville Chamberlain; sending the kids off to the country; Potter as Churchill post-Coventry; everything begins and ends in a rail station).  Please lift the obviousum spell. 

- Voldemort seriously needs some lotion.

- Potter and Voldemort are NOT Sherlock and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.  Stop it.

- Maybe someone should get the students to help hold off the evil army, rather than run up and down lots of stairs.

- Seriously guys.  Spit it out!  You don't have time to be dramatic, speak in riddles or dance around the issue.

- The Room of Requirement would be a fantastic yard sale.

- A new hairstyle doesn't make you look 19 years older.

- Snape, you've got helmet hair.  Someone had to tell you.

- Maggie Smith rules, no matter what.

24 June 2011


Glorious indeed.  This is a wholly original, impeccable new film from writer/director Stephen Poliakoff.  A stunning cast illuminates a finite moment in English history -- the summer of 1939, on the eve of the unthinkable.  

The story centers on the Keyes family, and is told from the point of view of the eldest daughter, Anne (played by the incomparable Romola Garai).  The Keyes patriarch is a well-respected Minister of Parliament and of minor aristocracy.  Anne and her brother and sister throw their beloved father (Bill Nighy) a birthday party, which devolves into a political debate that rankles the family.  

Jeremy Northam speaks his mind, however unpopular his opinion
Intelligent, strong and curious, Anne begins to question England position of Appeasement and the wisdom of Neville Chamberlain.   A busy, popular film actress, she has to return to set, but cannot shake the suspicious things she begins to notice.  Then, when friends begin dying under mysterious circumstances, she starts to fear the worst.  Glorious 39 explores perception versus reality and how it affects day to day life. 

I desperately do not want to give away too much.  I knew very little when I saw it and its deliberate unfolding is intense.  While it features historical figures and issues, it is at its heart an incredibly suspenseful movie.  The viewer learns things as our heroine does, and thus we are just as much in the dark.  And just as wonderfully, Anne's character is anything but useless.  She is smart, spunky, and vigorous.  Garai absolutely nails this character and her performance should be lauded.  This is the second time that Nighy has played her father and their pairing is so special.  I'd be hard-pressed at this point to believe anyone claiming to be Garai's actual father.

Nighy and Garai - a father daughter moment.
Suspense, intrigue, mystery, fantastic writing, beautiful photography and lovely performances all converge here.  Look also for supporting roles with Julie Christie and Christopher Lee, both legends of the screen as well.  It may not be your typical period piece, but it is an amazing piece of filmmaking.  Add it to your list. 

As far as I know, it never enjoyed a theatrical release in the US.  It has only just been released on DVD and is available on Netflix.  

31 January 2011


Savannah-based film director and writer Annette Haywood-Carter begins shooting in February.  Casting for the film, "Savannah", was announced today in Variety: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118031220

Jim Caviezel

Chiwetel Ejiofor

The movie tells the story of an unusual friendship in early 20th century Savannah. We look forward to seeing this project come together.

24 January 2011

MESRINE: Parts Un et Deux

Part 1 - Killer Instinct
Part 2 - Public Enemy No. 1

I have rarely been so entranced by what is primarily an action movie.  So far-reaching is the protagonist's mayhem that it took two full length films to show just pieces of his exploits.  There could easily have been a third. 

The saga begins in the early 1960s when Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) struggles with his post in Algeria.  He is assigned to rout out revolutionaries in Algiers and punish with no mercy (these scenes harken back to the equally suspenseful Battle of Algiers).  Clearly conflicted, he returns home - to live with his parents.  His disillusionment is not unlike those returning from World War I, confused by their elders' insistence that war is honorable, as is a quiet home and a respectable job.  

Home life doesn't agree with Mesrine, but he finds that bank robbing holds a thrill, and a paycheck, he can't resist.  He becomes more embroiled in the criminal underworld and his "legitimate" life begins to crumble.  His wife and kids suffer from his short temper and angry outbursts.  He is finally apprehended and jailed for a number of years before he manages to escape (the first of many times).  The mood slowly morphs from bebop-infused heists (in which Mesrine insists no one is hurt and only the thieving banks suffer) to dark, solemn, psychologically-disturbed crime.  

Cassel very expertly draws this enigmatic character.  He will wink and give a half smile that elicits a chuckle, then scrunch up his nose in a sneer that is frightful.  Though Mesrine has no problem shooting police officers and stealing money, he is also incredibly charming, a stalwart friend and a fantastic cook.  He has never gone back on a promise and never hurts an innocent bystander.  The gendarmerie have labelled him Public Enemy #1, but the public are not so quick to condemn.  He is a modern Robin Hood. 

By the second film, Mesrine (that's MAY-reen) is struggling with this public image.  At once admired and reviled, he begins to lash out at those who try to quell his ideas.  He attempts to develop his stance as a revolutionary -- fighting against inhumane treatment in prison (like those he suffered), in addition to bringing attention to unfair banking practices and those who control them.  

Yet he can never quite reconcile himself with the absolute ruthlessness needed to achieve widespread change.  He has a tender side, which he often has trouble dealing with.  It's as if two halves are constantly battling one another -- and it's devastating, yet incredible, to watch.  We too, as the audience, are at the same time intrigued and repulsed by the outlaw.  Perhaps the only thing that is clear is that the ineffectual Paris police force (portrayed as little better than a team of Inspector Clouseaus) caused an unfair end to Mesrine.  

The Mesrine Saga is a taut and exciting portrait of a man who really existed.  It is a fun crime thriller to be sure, but it also explores what is means to "exist" and the idea that exterior perception can affect interior reality.

Many thanks to Psychotronic Films for screening these movies, and to Muse Arts Warehouse for hosting. 

View trailers of the films here