Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: A Review


I was once like you my friends, a non-believer, a skeptic, a nay sayer if you will. I knew OF this Harry Potter boy, knew of his exploits, but did not care at all about learning more, reading the books, or seeing the movie that was going to be produced. I was put off by the crazy amount of coverage a children's book was getting, various products in the stores. It was an innocent time, may of the year 2000, a time of change for me. For graduation, my best friend of 12 years bought me the first gift he had ever given me outside of a birthday. Before he gave it to me, he made me promise that I would use it for it's intended purpose, and not just put it on a shelf or give it to someone else. The gift was a book. That book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone. Less than two months later, he and I were in line for a midnight release of the fourth book. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Last week, the fifth movie based on the fifth book of the 7 part series was released, and it is a welcome addition to the existing movies and books, and the best amalgamation of the books/movies so far. The first two movies are very literal translations of the books they are based on, with the 3rd being the best stand alone film. I didn't much care for the 4th in the series, Goblet of Fire, neither the book or the movie, a low point in the series, but had great expectations for the Order of the Phoenix's turn to be put on the big screen, and I was not disappointed.

I won't even begin to give the back story to this universe, being 5/7th of the way in already. The latest chapter for the silver screen finds Harry being called a liar by the majority of the wizarding world, most everyone not believing him when he says that Lord Voldemort has returned from beyond. If having almost everyone think you are a liar and an attention whore isn't enough, Harry's friends and family have kept their plans a secret, and he is jaded. They have reformed the Order of the Phoenix, a group of wizards out to prevent Voldemort from taking power, but are hesitant to let Harry join them. On top of that, he nearly gets thrown out of school for protecting himself against Dementors, the Ministry of Magic is interfering at life at Hogwarts, he wishes he could both help and be with his God-father, Sirius Black, and Harry's biggest pillar of support, Albus Dumbledore, is ignoring him completely. It will be Harry's hardest year at school, both physically and mentally.

The movie does an excellent job of portraying the main plot points of the book, specifically Harry's alienation from his friends and the rest of the community, the Ministry's attempt to take over Hogwarts with Delores Umbridge, and showcasing how powerful Voldemort is truly becoming. Harry goes through a lot in a little time here, from being completely alienated, having his first girlfriend, being put into a leadership role, and finding out why he survived the night his parents were killed. While Prisoner of Azkaban showed the passage of time and the progression of the movie through small scenes with changing weather and seasons, Order of the Phoenix uses some classic movie cliches such as montages and spinning newspapers. As cliche as these are, they are well done, and make this more of a movie than a movie adaptation.

The toughest part of making this into a movie is turning the 870 page book into a movie children and adults could sit through, and more importantly, enjoy. Some plot points were changed, such as the Cho storyline and Graup, some minimized like the O.W.L. exams and Occlumency, and some removed completely like Quidditch and the Quibbler, but all the changes and exemptions worked EXTREMELY well. The "Weasly is our king" story can easily be started with the next movie for example, and St Mungo's and the additional Ministry and Grimmauld Place scenes would be a lovely addition to the DVD, but did not effect the final plot of the movie. Some other nice additions not found in the book are some of Ginny's reactions, and everything about Luna Lovegood was absolutely perfect. Luna was easily my favorite part of this movie.

The fanboy in me had a very hard time finding fault like in Azkaban (Lupin so easily could have explained the map, and no explanation about James Potter and pals), and Goblet (the final test was JUST a hedge maze, and Voldemort talked for only 10 seconds) but there were a few things to nitpick about. Little things showed up, like Dumbledore not having any glasses, but they were few and far between. My biggest "complaint" is about the scene in the Ministry around the stone archway. Only existing fans of the books/movies would truly understand what happened when Bellatrix yelled what she yelled, especially because what she said was hardly understandable. The only reason I knew what she said was because of the green light that came on screen upon her yelling the spell. I knew what she said, but what I actually heard was "acblagraaaa!!!!" Barely audible. A small thing that could have made a much bigger impact. In fact, I am split on whether I liked or disliked that scene because of the change made to what takes place on/in/around the stone archway.

This was an incredibly well done movie, and more than made up for the literal take on things from Goblet of Fire. Order of the Phoenix takes its place as my second favorite Potter movie after Prisoner of Azkaban. It is very mature (as it needs to be considering the subject matter) and the art direction is on par with Azkaban, and other films like Pan's Labyrinth and 300. I still say that the Harry Potter series would be better served in a TV series or made for TV mini series, but if David Yates directs Half-Blood Prince (my favorite of the books so far) as well as he handled Order of the Phoenix, then I will be first in line to see the next movie in late 2008. Ok, who am I kidding, I was going to be the first one there anyway...

4.5 starts (out of 5)

Images courtesy and Warner Bros. Pictures

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Numbers Game: Part 2

Microsoft must read my blog! See my previous post by CLICKING HERE!!! Microsoft just announced they extended to warranty on the 360 to a total of 3 years for the "red ring of death" issue. Hmm... I might be buying a 360 very very soon after all! Read the links below for the full story.

Major Nelson talking with Peter Moore (MP3)

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Numbers Game

It has been a while since I have posted because not a lot has been going on outside of work. All my TV shows are on summer hiatus (except for Top Chef) and no games have come out recently. But enough has happened recently for me to put together a little post. It's time to play the numbers game!

7/7/7- I don't know what its like everywhere else in the world, but the date of July 7th, 2007 is a HUGE deal in Vegas. Every store, every casino, has some promotion for 7/7/7 and it is getting rather annoying. Every sign I see, every newspaper and magazine and half the commercials on TV are about a sale or event. Strangest thing about this? Almost NO July 4th stuff being mentioned, its all about seven seven oh seven.

360- I want an XBox360. I never wanted an original XBox, as I always felt that Microsoft was just trying to take Sega's old position in the market and messing up things for Nintendo. I believe that MS has proven themselves in the market now, and the 360 seems like the right machine for me over a PS3. I currently have a Wii and Ps2 (DS and PSP and gaming PC too) and there are games that are 360 exclusives or coming out for both PS3 and 360 that I want, and a 360 is a clear winner between the two in my opinion. There are 2 reasons I have not went out and bought one yet. The first is price. I am rather certain that MS will drop the price at/after the minE3 this month, or by the holidays. I am afraid that if I buy one today, the price will go down $100 the next day, and I will be out that hundred. The other big fear I have is the number of broken 360s I constantly hear about. From red rings of death to A/V issues, to over heating to the things just crapping out, I cannot believe how many horror stories I have heard, especially recently, about the quality of the system. Check out the following story from DailyTech: the link! I will be buying an extended warranty when I get my 360, but I am very hesitant to pick one up because of the large number of bad stories that I hear on a daily basis.

10/1- Nintendo just announced October 1st as the release date for Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the DS. This is a portable follow up to the GameCube Wind Waker. It goes without saying I will be picking the game up, but it makes me want to go back and replay Wind Waker again on my Wii because Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to Wind Waker. I put in at least 50 hours when I first played this game, and don't know if I want to invest that much time into a game the 2nd time. I really want to play Wind Waker again, I do, but another 50 hours just to prepare myself for the sequel is quite a bit of work. I would have gladly done this in my younger days, and looking back, cannot believe how much time I was able to invest in games before having a full time job. I may replay it just enough to re familiarize myself with the story and characters and world, but not complete it, or go after every heart piece. I will probably just play the main story line and skip the side quests.

80s- Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s will be coming out mid July, and I am sad to say I am not excited in the least. The 2 Guitar Hero games are some of my all time favorites and my boredom rarely shows up now because as soon as I get fidgety, I pick up the guitar to play. But the set list of Rock the 80s has left me sorely underwhelmed. Maybe it is because I grew up IN the 80s, and didn't listen to that kind of rock as a kid. Of the whole set list (you can check it out on IGN by CLICKING HERE!!!) only 2 or 3 of the tracks are songs I know well enough to sing, and the rest are either "oh yeah, I have heard that before" or "I have never heard this song before in my life." I will probably end up renting it (thanks GameFly) but I can't imagine putting down $50 for songs I don't know or like.

8/27- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, has been pushed back a week, from August 20th to August 27th. Normally this would not be such a big deal to me, but I am taking some vacation time starting on the 22nd, and planned to dedicate a day or say to playing Metroid. Is it sad or pathetic that I am actually considering extending or moving my vacation time just so I can play Metroid more? I am being mature, don't plan on calling in sick or skipping, I planned this out so I would take vacation on/around the time a big game is released. The ultimate irony would be if I do move/extend my vacation, and the game sucks... I do not foresee that happening (I believe in you Retro) but all my worry and planning would be for naught.

W00t!- No numbers here, I realize that, but I did spell Woot with zeros instead of "O"s! I received the shirt I ordered during the last Woot-Off from, the official Woot shirt, with screaming monkey proudly freaking out on the front. The shirt is a high quality t-shirt, and very comfortable (see picture below). The best part about the shirt is the instructional comic that came with it that tells you how to turn the shirt into a cape. You can view the instructions by CLICKING HERE, thanks to JesusFreke from the Woot forums for scanning the comic in. Shirt.Woot is written all over the package and it appears they will be launching a shirt site soon, similar to the wine.woot site released in the past year. Thanks again for being the funniest friggin site around.

Click to embiggen