Monday, November 29, 2010

127 Hours (***1/2)

Directed by Danny Boyle


In telling the story of Aron Ralston, there are few film directors I would have preferred more than Danny Boyle. When you know that the majority of a movie is going to be a guy stuck in the same spot for an hour and a half, you'd like the guy making the movie to bring a lot of energy. And that's what Boyle has brought to any film he's ever made: a great abundance of energy. In his first film since the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle moves toward a more singular story - even if the visual style isn't much different - in telling the harrowing and infamous tale of Ralston's journey at the bottom of a canyon.

Played with stunning physicality and captivating charm by James Franco, Ralston is displayed as a rambunctious thrill-seeker, taking very little time to think before his next great (or dangerous) adventure. When we first see him, he is waking up in the middle of the night, preparing for his morning hike through the Blue John Canyon in the Utah desert. He rides his bike haphazardly over small hills and valleys, looking for nothing in particular. Hiking is not about the destintion for Ralston, it's about the adventure itself. So, who cares if your front bike tire ramps off a small bush of dry grass which catapults you twenty feet through the air, landing on your back. For Ralston, that's all part of the fun. And he always makes sure to take pictures.

So hungry for excitement, Aron approaches two young women (played by Kate Mara & Amber Tamblyn) who are lost near the canyon. He volunteers to help them and tells them that he's a guide (in reality, he's just an engineer), leading them to a spring at one part of the canyon that you have to slide down a crevice to get to. It's something of a make-shift water slide, and this act endears him to the two girls. But as soon as his guide duties are finished, he does not follow them elsewhere. They invite him to a house party where they promise free alcohol and a giant inflatable Scooby Doo. He accepts the invite... tentatively. Then he's off.

Trekking deeper into the canyon, the space gets smaller and smaller. The walls start to close in on each other and the sun begins to hide. As Aron tries to climb over a boulder, it slips out and he falls. The boulder has trapped his arm underneath it and he cannot get it out. He screams the names of the girls he'd been with moments earlier, but he's so deep down that no one can hear him. At this point, I'm sure most of us know the story. Aron Ralston has run the media gambit telling his queasy story of survival, but part of the greatness of 127 Hours is how it tells us just about every thing we didn't know - and that's all in Aron's mind. How do you survive 127 hours with only a burrito and five hundred milliliters of water? We already knew how Ralston survived physically, but Boyle's latest film shows us how he did it mentally.

A picture of the actual Aron Ralston with his arm trapped under the boulder. Proof of the film's impeccable attention to detail. Franco and Boyle used the actual, seldom seen recorded footage of Ralston stuck in the canyon to make the film further more true to the actual story.

Everybody knows one thing about Aron Ralston: he amputated his own arm so he wouldn't die in a Utah canyon. We can imagine the kind of spirit and will that a person must contain in order to perform an act like his - we can also imagine the desperation. If there's one thing that I appreciated about 127 Hours, was that it did not default toward histrionic melodrama to visualize that desperation, as it would have been so easy to do. We are not shown a man with an unbridled will to survive - we see a charming, adventurous young man who's put in a very foreboding situation, who has to make difficult decisions about whether or not he even can survive. Ralston's story has become the stuff of folk tale, but this film does its best to present him as a very engaging human being not a back-against-the-wall hero. This makes his actions - even though we already know what they are - seem even more heroic.

You can credit the screenplay (written by Boyle and his Slumdog co-scribe Simon Beaufoy), which does an excellent job of forming an empathetic character without having the flexibility of being able to set up a strong backstory. But I feel all of the power emotes from its director and main star. Danny Boyle takes a chance by giving the film a very steady, borderline upbeat tone, utilizing his usual breakneck editing style and inspired soundtrack choices (a montage scored by Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" is particularly exceptional). And James Franco also rolls the dice with his stunning performance here. It would have been so easy to play Ralston with a brave desperation that lionizes him (you want to try and convince me that Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn't have played it that way?), but instead makes him a bit reckless, slightly nonchalant, almost unaware of the severity of the situation. It's hard to do a scene where the main character has to drink a bag of his own sterile, days-old urine without making it seem histrionic, but Boyle and Franco downplay it almost gracefully. I fully expect Boyle and Franco to receive Oscar nominations for their work (if they don't, it would be criminal).

The film was a bit of a Slumdog Millionaire reunion of sorts, since both films have the same production designer (Suttriat Larlarb), cinematographer (Anthony Dod Mantle), and film scorer (A.R. Rahman) - in addition to Boyle and Beaufoy. This shows in much of the visual aesthetic, t
where the two films are very similar throughout. Both films have a very strong forward movement that are manifested in camera effects, quick shots, and an astonishing use of color. But 127 Hours hit me a whole lot harder between the ears than the 2008 Best Picture winner did. Perhaps the character of Ralston just stuck with me more than Slumdog's Jamal did. One thing that can't be disputed, James Franco is a much more seasoned acting talent then most of the no-names in Slumdog, but this film goes beyond just the performance from it's lead actor. All the glitz and style was used to serve the story and the character, which I don't think was always the case with Slumdog.

I really feel like 127 Hours will get better with repeated viewings. The film's final moments felt long to me and there were some storytelling decisions in the last act that I may have questioned. Perhaps that has more to do with my own heavy anticipation of the ending, than it does with the ending itself. Despite all that, we still have this: the work that Boyle and Franco combine to do here makes one of the best movies of the year. It's a story of survival, sure, but a psychological survival more than anything. As a member of the audience, you expect a big physical release by the time his arm has become detached. But you don't get that. What you get is something you never saw coming.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Oscar Predictions

We're coming close to December. On December 3rd, The National Board of Review will give out their awards for the best films of the year and Oscar season will have officially kicked off. By that point, we'll be drowning in various critics' top ten lists and various organizations listing off nominations. Simply stated, we'll have less speculation at this point, and more solid predictions will arise. So, while we still can, less throw caution to the wind and make some (not so) educated guesses about how things will plan out when the Academy announces their nominations on January 25th. There have been very little changes in the last month or so. The King's Speech and The Social Network are still the two biggest Oscar sure things (at least as far as Best Picture goes), but soon Black Swan and 127 Hours will be heading toward general audiences soon. There are too many films (like Blue Valentine, Another Year, and Barney's Version) that are coming out in late December to January, so picking them is still pretty much a shot in the dark. But, since we still have no precursors to go on, I'm still going to take a shot and say they'll be in there in the long run. After all that, here's my Thanksgiving picks:

Best Actor

Robert Duvall, GET LOW


James Franco, 127 HOURS


Mark Wahlberg, THE FIGHTER

There are two performances that I'm still clinging two, even though I have my reservations: Duvall and Wahlberg. I've seen Get Low and I know how unremarkable the performance and Duvall's performance is, but I still think there is a lot of good will developed between Duvall and the acting community in Hollywood. If he could win an Oscar for his sleepwalking performance in Tender Mercies, I think he has a good shot getting nominated here. That being said, there is always an old man slot in the Best Actor category, and this year it's between Duvall and Jeff Bridges' performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. One of them will get nominated in 2010, but not both. With Wahlberg, I'm really going on the trailer for The Fighter, which look terribly uninspired (and Wahlberg seems to be absolutely dominated as an actor by Christian Bale). But people have been talking about how good Wahlberg could be in this film for so long, and sometimes people don't like to admit when they're wrong (evidenced by Angelina Jolie getting a nomination for the mediocre Changeling in 2008, while Sally Hawkins' excellence in Happy-Go-Lucky got snubbed - still haven't gotten over that). Firth and Franco both seem pretty cemented in their two spots, but that fifth spot is still uncertain. I'm giving it to Ryan Gosling for his seemingly stripped-down role in Blue Valentine, but I'm not confident in that pick whatsoever right now, and could easily be supplanted by other candidates. Other candidates: Javier Bardem, Biutiful; Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network; Paul Giamatti, Barney's Version.

Best Actress



Jennifer Lawrence, WINTER'S BONE

Natalie Portman, BLACK SWAN

Michelle Williams, BLUE VALENTINE

I guess I'm further proving that I still haven't gotten over Hawkins' snub in 2008 (Happy-Go-Lucky was one of the best films that year and she's basically the main reason why), because I'd like to think that the Academy still feels bad about it and are going to throw her a bone for her supposedly inspired performance in Made In Dagenham. She's far from a sure thing at the moment. There are only two of those at the moment: Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. People have been raving about Black Swan since its Venice Film Festival premiere, and Portman in particular. The same could be said about Annette Bening after The Kids Are All Right's modestly successful box office run this summer. The other three spots are really just a crapshoot. There's Hawkins, who I think will become more of a sure thing as we move forward (the film looks fantastic, despite the fact that it seems like prototypical Oscar fodder). Other than that, there are two modest performances in small, independent films. First is Michelle Williams, who is said to be incredible in Blue Valentine, but will anyone be able to see it with its December 31st release? Then there's 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, whose stunning work in Winter's Bone (which I've seen) has kept steam despite a modest July run in theaters. In a fair world, Lawrence would be a lock. Other candidates: Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs; Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right (Category fraud? We'll get to that later); Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole (who I'd put in the final five, if it were 2004 - but she's still has to prove something after the last few years of mediocrity).

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, THE FIGHTER

Sam Rockwell, CONVICTION


Geoffrey Rush, THE KING'S SPEECH

Justin Timberlake, THE SOCIAL NETWORK

It's a bit disappointing that Mark Ruffalo's fantastic performance in The Kids Are All Right has been losing nomination momentum, but I still have faith that it'll work out in the end. Other than that, only Rush and Bale feel like safe bets in what is probably the most unpredictable of the acting categories. For the final two spots, I decided to side with two more unconventional predictions (though, with such lack of clarity in this spot, I don't think any pick should be considered to controversial). I'm in the minority with thinking that Justin Timberlake has a better shot for a supporting actor nomination than his Social Network co-star Andrew Garfield. It's certainly a more showy performance and you can't overstate Timberlake's overall popularity (will not be surprised at all if I end up being wrong about this, though). Then, there's Sam Rockwell heavily admired performance in Conviction as the wrongfully jailed brother to Hilary Swank's hard-nosed attorney. The film itself got a lukewarm response, but there was nothing but praise for Rockwell. Other candidates: Ed Harris, The Way Back; Bill Murray, Get Low; Bob Hoskins, Made In Dagenham. Yeah, it's a weak year.

Best Supporting Actress

Helena Bonham-Carter, THE KING'S SPEECH

Lesley Manville, ANOTHER YEAR


Miranda Richardson, MADE IN DAGENHAM

Diane Wiest, RABBIT HOLE

I'm taking a bit of a leap here, thinking that Moore and Manville (two Best Actress candidates) will hop over to the categories that they have a better shot in. Moore is fantastic (and she is a co-lead, not supporting), and I feel like people are going to find a way to get her nominated - but there's too much of a logjam in the lead category. I haven't seen Another Year (though it's #2 on my list of anticipated 2010 films - if you care), but I've heard that Manville is only a lead in terms of screentime, but is not the film's main star or protagonist. It's a flimsy line, obviously, but I'm exploiting it. The other three are simply obvious choices; three famous actresses in particularly bait-y roles. Richardson and Wiest are two veteran performers (of course, Wiest has already a two-time winner in this category) who are getting great marks for their turns. There hasn't been that much said yet of Bonham-Carter in The King's Speech, but if the film strikes gold on nomination morning like everyone expects, she's just popular enough to get a generous sweep into a nomination (think Alan Alda's puzzling nomination for The Aviator). Other candidates: Rosamund Pike, Made In Dagenham (might bump out Richardson); Amy Adams or Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Jackie Weaver, Animal Kingdom.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky, BLACK SWAN

Danny Boyle, 127 HOURS



Christopher Nolan, INCEPTION

When in doubt, just pick the five most talked about films and pick the directors. That's basically what I did here, trying to balance out the directors who are helped by the film (definitely Hooper and, to a point, Nolan) and the great autuers who've already made names for themselves (the other three). The one limb that I'm going out on: all five are (relatively) young guys and only Boyle has won one before. Usually, Oscar doesn't want to spend too much in uncharted territory and nominating both Aronofsky and Fincher in the same year seems a little good to be true (the only time Fincher ever got a bone was for the atrocious Curious Case of Benjamin Button). But I'm going to stick with them. The only one that gives me some trepidation is Tom Hooper, who is a relative unknown for The King's Speech, and it feels much more like an "actor's movie". Not that filmmakers shouldn't get nominated for making performance-based films, but other than Mike Leigh, when has that ever happened? Other candidates: Mike Leigh (hey now!), Another Year; Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right; David O. Russell, The Fighter.

Best Picture

127 Hours

Another Year

Black Swan

The Fighter


The Kids Are All Right

The King's Speech

Made In Dagenham

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

If I haven't made it obvious enough already: I've almost completely lost faith in the idea of The Fighter being a great film, but I still think it could make a strong run at some Oscar nominations (after The Blind Side debacle last year, I guess nothing is impossible). As for everything else, the only big leaps I'm making is Made In Dagenham making the cut over more critically acclaimed films like Winter's Bone or heavily-hyped Christmas releases like True Grit (I adore the Coen Brothers, but the original John Wayne film was horrendous, so my expectations have been lowered quite a bit because of that). Black Swan is on thinner ice then I'd like, but I would find it hard for the Academy to snub it in a category that is now ten spots wide and Another Year should make the list based on Mike Leigh's reputation alone. The easiest choices: The Social Network, 127 Hours, and The King's Speech. They can be considered retroactive locks pretty much. Then there's the tenth spot, which we've learned from last year will probably be reserved for the Best Animated Film. Toy Story 3 has been the greatest film of 2010 so far (still have so much left to see in only one month), and if it's Best Picture status isn't considered cemented at this point, it would be a travesty. Other Candidates: The Way Back; Rabbit Hole.

Here's the rest of my predix (w/out exhaustive commentary). Enjoy!

Best Original Screenplay

Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumber, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Andres Heinz and Mark Heyman & John Mclaughlin, BLACK SWAN


Christopher Nolan, INCEPTION

David Seidler, THE KING’S SPEECH

Best Adapted Screenplay

David Lindsay-Abaire, RABBIT HOLE

Michael Arndt, TOY STORY 3

Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle, 127 HOURS

Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, WINTER’S BONE


Best Cinematography


Matthew Libatique, BLACK SWAN

Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak, 127 HOURS

Wally Pfister, INCEPTION


Best Art Direction



Jess Gonchor, TRUE GRIT



Best Editing


Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall, THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Jon Harris, 127 HOURS


Andrew Weisblum, BLACK SWAN

Best Costume Design


Jenney Beavan, THE KING’S SPEECH

Louise Stjernsward, MADE IN DAGENHAM

Janty Yates, ROBIN HOOD

Mary Zophres, TRUE GRIT

Best Score

Carter Burwell, TRUE GRIT



Gustavo Santaoalla, BIUTIFUL

Hans Zimmer, INCEPTION

Best Visual Effects

Alice In Wonderland

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I


Iron Man 2

Tron: Legacy

Best Make-Up

Alice In Wonderland

Black Swan

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I

Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

Toy Story 3

Monday, November 22, 2010

Somewhere (***)

Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola


I think we can safely assume that Sofia Coppola doesn't think much about a life of Hollywood excess. Much like her fantastic 2003 film, Lost In Translation, her latest movie Somewhere follows a famous Hollywood actor at a crossroads. Of course, this crossroads sits between copious amounts of alcohol and fancy prostitutes. I imagine that it's incredibly difficult to make a film about an irresponsible, bloated, over-praised actor and make him seem likable. Now, having just finished Somewhere, I can say pretty confidently that Sofia Coppola has pulled off this feat twice and pretty effortlessly to boot. Of course, Somewhere isn't on the same level as Lost In Translation, but it has some truly great moments.

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a successful American actor who lives out of a hotel room at the infamous Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. His life is pretty simple: he invites people over for parties, everybody drinks, and he does his best to sleep with one of the women there. During the day, he may have the occasional press junket for his latest action film, but he's such a professional at this point that he can sleepwalk through all the questions and get home in time to view a pair of blond twins perform a choreographed striptease in his bedroom. There's very little of substance in Johnny Marco's life, but it doesn't seem to bother him much. Even when he breaks his arm, he walks around plaintively with his short cast as if it wasn't even there.

But Johnny does have some responsibilities. He has an eleven-year-old daughter named Cleo (Elle Fanning), who always seems to arrive at unscheduled times. Johnny's not a great father, but he's warm and loving. The fact that he can play Guitar Hero competently and orders Italian gellato in the middle of the night seems to make up for the fact that he isn't even aware that Cleo has been a practitioner of ice skating for three years. He also lets her spend an abundance of alone time with his funny, but occasionally sleazy friend Sammy (Chris Pontius, in the least surprising performance by a non-actor movie star I've ever seen). I thought more would be made about Sammy's ominous hovering over Cleo, but nothing materialized. That's a theme in Somewhere: things not materializing.

When Cleo's mother decides to skip town for an ambiguous amount of time, Johnny is left to take care of his daughter for the first time in what is probably a very long time. How does Johnny cope? Well, he just has her tag along. He even takes her on a trip to Italy, where his film is having its overseas premiere. Cleo cooks for the two of them whenever she can, but when she can't they just have room service. They play Wii, they listen to songs, and swim in pools. All very usual stuff for the two of them. Even when Johnny invites a former lover to stay in his room (the same room he shares with Cleo, mind you), the momentary conflict between them fades softly away. When they return to the States, Johnny prepares to take Cleo to her Summer camp, and all the while tries to reexamine the totality of nothingness that has consumed his life.

It's pretty hard to talk about the film's plot without making it seem boring, and perhaps that is the point. Johnny's life is a stream of endless vapidity and boredom. Long, meandering pauses permeate the film, while loud alternative rock music blares in the background. It's a testament to Sofia Coppola's talent as a writer and a filmmaker that Somewhere doesn't turn itself into pretentious monotony (I feel I may be in the minority here - if many found Lost In Translation uneventful, then this may feel to them like a shot of Valium). Her ability to craft such poignancy and character in such little moments is rather exhilarating to watch. The fact that she is able to show so much about Johnny and Cleo while having such limited dialogue between the two of them is interesting. It's certainly not a recipe for box office success.

I found myself so heavily drawn toward those great, smaller moments that it allowed me to forgive the more methodical, pondering sidebars. You know a scene or a shot has become too long when you find yourself asking as a viewer, "Well, we've been looking at this thing for such a long time; how come I can't figure out its symbolic meaning?" Luckily for Coppola, there are plenty of pithy, overzealous film students who are ready to grasp at straws and find the "meanings" for her. Myself, I just notice that Coppola is admirer of what many may see as mundane. She finds it endearing. And it's that warmth toward what many dismiss as "boring" that makes her films feel so endearing. But Somewhere really does challenge its audience, and sometimes even I was left scratching my head. Perhaps it's Coppola's defiance that will go on to define her filmmaking career, but it's hard to think that any of her films would even be made if she didn't have a certain movie legend as her father (you'd like to think that we could write about Sofia without mentioning Francis Ford Coppola, but it may take a few more films before that happens).

As I've always said, I prefer to see a filmmaker swing and miss then take the pitch. Somewhere was a giant porn hack, and I believe there was a lot more ambition here than the apathetic tone may allude to. If anything, it gets fantastic performances from its two main stars, Dorff and Fanning. Fanning, especially, plays the part with a much needed vibrancy, adding the occasional valley in a film that feels like an emotional plateau. The film is also is one of the more damning portraits of celebrity that I've ever seen, displaying the facetious life of American movie stardom as little more than free drinks and fake compliments. Not that many audiences are that interested in watching a man be miserable despite his numerous riches. Simply stated: Somewhere is about as great as a film that suppresses conflict can be.

So, where does that leave us? You may remember that I had Somewhere ranked #4 on the list of films I was most excited to see in 2010. I don't think it completely lived up to that ranking, but it did win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, so I don't think my enthusiasm was totally unwarranted. I fully expect this movie to get swallowed during its release at the end of the year, but I hope its not totally forgotten at the theaters. There's a certain segment of Hollywood that still seems to care about trying something different and I feel like America needs a movie like Somewhere every once in a while. Audiences need to get challenged now and then.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (***1/2)

Directed by David Yates


It's weird to tag on to a phenomenon as late as I have with the Harry Potter films. Only within the last twelve months have I seen all the films that came before this year's Deathly Hallows Part I, and for the first time I've come to realize what all the fuss was about. It's easy to dismiss the decision to break up the last story of the series into two parts as shrewd money laundering by greedy studio heads who look to squeeze as much as they can from enthusiastic Potter maniacs (and - still waiting on the second half - you could still make that assumption if you well wish). I wouldn't go that far, since it's obvious that the splitting into two parts has allowed a dedication to J.K. Rowling's prose that was not in any of the previous Harry Potter films.

Things are about as dark as ever for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). The Ministry of Magic, as well as Hogwarts School of Magic, have been taken over by Voldemort and his band of dark magic minions. In a cryptic meeting led by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the Ministry of Magic discuss their main goal: find and kill Harry Potter. More specifically, Voldemort wishes to finish off Harry himself. We can only guess how much bad karma Harry has built up amongst these people, as Voldemort goes as low as to snap Lucious Malfoy's wand in half during the tempestuous discussion. He's not messing around this time.

As for Harry, he's finally been abandoned by his burdensome muggle family, the Dursleys, and sits in fear of returning to his world of magic since everyone there either hopes to kill him, or report him to the Ministry to be killed. But then the group of the usual suspects - including Ron & Hermione, as well as Hagrid (Eddie Coltrane), Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), and the rambunctious Weasley twins (James & Oliver Phelps) - come to Harry's muggle home and decide to escort him on the very dangerous journey through the menacing Death Eaters on their way to the wizarding world. Their trip is quite the tumultuous one when the Death Eaters are tipped off about their arrival and not everyone makes it across free of scars.

With Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, appearing occasionally in flashbacks) out of the picture, the three young wizards drop out of Hogwarts while Harry plots as to how to destroy the remaining Horcruxes and bring down Voldemort's newly established reign of power. When Death Eaters attack the wedding of one of the Weasley sons, the three take a port key into an isolated wilderness where they can hide away and further plan how they can find and destroy the Horcruxes. They discover that they must find the lost sword of Gryffindor to destroy them, but drama bubbles between the three (as they are now mature young adults) as they bicker amongst themselves and have frightening meetings with Death Eaters that come across their path.

I'm not totally sure how much a non-obsessive Potter fan could appreciate Deathly Hallows Part I. The film totally ignores anyone who may be introducing themselves to the series, listing off characters at the film's start with lightning rapidity. But I guess if you decide to start following a film series on the seventh film, confusion is what you deserve. As we trudge toward the end, Deathly Hallows Part I is a methodical film that moves drearily, as if it knows that it has an entire second movie to fall back on. That being said, it is incredibly dense and has an attention to detail that no other Potter film has been able to approach before. Say what you will about dividing the final chapter, it allows them to make very careful storytelling decisions that lead to some compelling revelations of character.

As the story has unfolded, the Potter tale has gotten darker and darker with each film, and Deathly Hallows Part I continues that trend (one could only hope that the second part coming up in July of 2011 isn't just thirty minutes of action followed by a Lord of the Rings style epilogue of joyous family making). Aside from the dangerous trip to the wizarding world at the start, we have snake attacks, knife-wielding witches, and the unexpected ends of certain characters that seemed invincible. More then anything, it's emotional pull stings hard, as the relationship between Harry and his two friends reach all types of awkwardness (including a **SPOILER ALERT** CGI make session between Harry and Hermione, which, while passionate, is a lot more innocent then it sounds).

I could probably fill this entire review just by naming all of the magnificent English actors who appear in the Harry Potter series - many of which are in this film. Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, John Hurt, and Timothy Spall, just to name a few I haven't already mentioned (and let's not forget Richard Harris, who would have certainly reprised his role as Dumbledore, had he not died after the second film). But it's the performances of Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint that really stand out here. The young movie stars always had moments amateurism in their performances as the three wizards in training. Of course, it doesn't helped that they were surrounded by a superfluous amount of veteran acting talent, but that problem doesn't present itself here. It seems their talents have fully bloomed finally and their comfort level with the characters at this points allow their acting to flourish. One things that should be mentioned: the continued superb work from Ralph Fiennes as the one who should not be named, really giving the noseless beast a vicious cadence that can occasionally come off as charming.

After Part II is released next summer, it'll be strange to think that the decade of Potter has finally come to an end. The books have been finished for a great while, but it's almost uncanny how much the films themselves have evolved over the last ten years. Deathly Hallows Part I does not have the unbridled thrills of 2004's The Prisoner of Azakaban, nor does it possess the overlying gravitas of 2005's Goblet of Fire. But it does contain the heavy burden of being the final piece of this story, and it takes that responsibility very seriously. I would say with great confidence that splitting Deathly Hallows in two was a great storytelling decision (whether or not that was the true inspiration for the split, once again, is up to you), and a decision that Peter Jackson should have thought of when making Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. There's a lot of story to be told here, and this ensures that no Potter fans will miss an ounce of it.

Blog Update

Totally realize I have been completely absent for over a month. Busy times. Haven't had a chance to see a single movie. But that should be changing very soon, especially with some of the better, more anticipated films of the year looking to come out in the next few months. At the very least, expect some reviews to come soon. Starting with the new Harry Potter film, I will soon get the chance to see Fair Game, Somewhere, and 127 Hours. Thanks readers!