Weekend Viewing Roundup & My Top Fave Summer Movies

So the weekend just flew by… poof, that was fast! It’s actually been pretty hectic, back to the usual after a super mellow one last weekend as we recovered from our holiday. We saw Rango Friday night and yesterday, after a hot and humid day visiting a local art fair, we cooled off in a movie theater to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I’ll have the reviews later this week but first I just want to share my thoughts of the Summer movies I’ve seen so far. It’s interesting that the movies which trailers didn’t impress me initially end up being the ones I enjoy more, ok with the exception of X-Men: First Class as I like both the trailer and the movie itself. The one that surprises me the most is the ‘Ape’ movie as I never had much interest in the ‘franchise’ if you will, never having seen the original with Charlton Heston. But after seeing this, I’m now curious to see it and I’ve added it to my Netflix queue. My husband said we actually rented the Tim Burton version a while go, but I completely forgot about it (maybe I fell asleep watching that? ahah).

Turns out that the Apes prequel to the 1968 film definitely um, rises to the occasion with $54 million, making it the box office winner this weekend. Per box office mojo, despite narrowly beating The Smurfs last weekend with $36 mil, Cowboys & Aliens fell to third place this time, losing out to the little blue people by about $5 mil (Ouch, that’s got to hurt Jon Favreau!)

Well, if I had to rank the Summer big-budget movies I managed to see this year (those released from May until now), it’d look like this:

  1. X-Men: First Class
  2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  3. THOR
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
  5. Captain America

I’m kind of going back on forth between #4 and #5, I think I like both of them equally so both Captain America and HP 7.2 could easily be a tie. The only other movie I want to see in August is The Debt, which is scheduled to open on 8/31 but hopefully that is a wide release instead of a limited one.


Well, what did you end up seeing this weekend, folks? And how would you rank the Summer films you’ve seen this year?

Musings on the final Harry Potter movie

Well, the 8+ months wait was finally over. Yep, that’s how far apart the two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are and it was a bit frustrating after I saw Part I that I had to wait that long to see the conclusion.

I did my write-up about Part I in lieu of a straight-on review, so I’m going to do the same here. At the end of that post, I said that the best thing HP 7.1 did was make fans like me anticipate the FINAL movie all the more. On top of that, my friend Ted who’ve read all the books told me, “…nothing really happened much in the first half from the book and then on the second half, all hell broke loose.” So suffice to say, my expectation for HP 7.2 is quite up there… as in ‘It’s gonna be epic!!!’

Well, did it live up to my expectation?

Initially, I’d have said, ‘Not really.’ But I guess that’s because with an expectation THAT high, I’m bound to be disappointed. Now that it’s been a few days since I’ve seen it, here’s what I thought of the movie:

**SPOILER ALERT (some plot points might be discussed in this post)**

  • As in Part I, this movie opened with Severus Snape who is a crucial figure in the finale. Going in, I expected to see more of his compelling back story and in a way, the filmmaker delivered. As someone who didn’t read the books, I think it answered a lot of the questions about his complicated relationship with Harry.

    Alan Rickman is phenomenal as always, no wonder he is my favorite character in the whole HP supporting cast up until the very end. His inimitable voice and delivery is what I find fascinating about Rickman, though there was a part in this movie where it actually sounded a bit too over-the-top that I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched it. My gripe is with his short screen time, I suppose if I had read the books I’d know about it, but I really was bummed to see the character’s demise in the first half hour. Yes he still appeared in flashback but it just wasn’t the same.
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  • The hunt for Voldemort‘s horcruxes continues for Harry, Hermione and Ron (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint). The first part was quite action-packed as the three broke into Gringott’s vault in disguise. Helena Bonham Carter did an excellent job showing a more nervous side of Bellatrix Lestrange (as it’s actually Hermione disguised as her), her character is obviously more fun to watch when she’s deranged but it’s still a funny scene nonetheless. I forgot that Ciaran Hinds is in this as Dumbledore’s brother, but his character is pretty forgettable. Not exactly his fault but that’s just the way it was written.
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  • Back in Hogwarts, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad thinking what’s about to take place here. This poster and pretty much all the promo of the final movie promises that Hogwarts will burn! The events leading up to it are comprised of a few key scenes. The confrontation between Harry and Snape was an emotional one… “How dare you stand where he stood. Tell them how it happened that night. How you looked him in the eye, a man who trusted you, and killed him.” Harry told Snape, which led to a fight between him and Minerva (Maggie Smith). We all remembered that scene of Dumbledore falling to his death and that got me teared up a bit.
  • One of the highlights of the movie was when Minerva commanded the Stone Army to come to life to guard Hogwarts. “I’ve always wanted to use that spell,” She said giddily to Molly Weasly (Ron’s mom), and it was pretty darn cool to see her use it, too.

    Props for David Yates and the SFX folks for the cool effects in creating the shield around Hogwarts, overall the special effects is first rate. I saw it in 2D as I just don’t think most 3D movies are worthwhile. (By the way, if you’re up for it, take this Hogwarts house quiz).
    lll
  • The enemy gets stronger and inches closer and closer… Voldemort’s army moved in on Hogwarts from all sides, which is supposed to be all intense and scary but I was largely unmoved by it for some reason.

    I think the biggest beef I have with this final act is that the arch nemesis, the biggest, most bad-ass beast of all… the bald, nose-less, squinty-eyed Voldemort, in the end he didn’t seem all that intimidating to me. I mean, he seemed lot scarier throughout all the HP movies, even in the beginning when he was merely a tiny, deformed thing. I can’t explain it really and I’m not really criticizing Ralph Fiennes‘ performance or anything, but I just never felt the ‘shudder effect’ whenever he appeared like it used to… ok, perhaps one time when he said ‘Harry Potter… the boy who lived, come to die,’  as he summoned Harry to come closer. I kind of shuddered a little.
  • Btw, perhaps someone who’ve read the book can explain it to me. In the parts where Harry was supposedly dead in the forest, now why on earth would Voldemort ask someone else to check out if he was dead or not. I mean, if you’ve been trying to kill someone for a long time, searched long and hard for that person with all your might, wouldn’t you rather go over there yourself and make absolutely certain that the subject is actually dead?? Maybe there is a logical explanation to that (other than for plot device for Malfoy’s mom to find out if Draco is dead or not), but as of right now I’m scratching my head.
  • Ok, allow me to digress a bit. The ‘nyeaaaaaaaaaa’ squeals that were ubiquitous in every clip/trailer of HP 7.2 wasn’t that prevalent in the actual movie, thank goodness. Ironically, I actually was mildly disappointed that the V-man didn’t yell that when Harry yanked him to the bottom of the castle in their final battle 🙂
  • Speaking of the final face off between Voldemort and Harry, which is what every HP fan has been waiting for. One can’t help but feel the enormity of the circumstances, I mean, THIS IS IT, Harry finally has to fend for himself against the big evil dude. But at the same time, I wasn’t exactly transfixed by it if you will.

    Perhaps I’m all ‘spelled-out’ as in tired of seeing all those spell effects, I don’t know. There is quite a lot going on at the same time this scene is happening. Ron and Hermione are busy trying to kill, unsuccessfully I might add, the elusive Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake which is also his horcrux. But Neville gets to show his heroic side, yay! Man look at how he (Matthew Lewis) has grown, no longer is he the dorky kid on the block 🙂

  • Glad to see Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) back, even in the form of a dream sequence in a Heaven-like setting. The scene seems rather long and overly sentimental for my taste however, and so was the scenes of Harry with all his dead family/relatives (though again, it’s nice to see Gary Oldman in it). I’m gonna give that a pass however, as this being the last movie, I guess they’re allowed to get a bit melodramatic.
  • Ok, lastly I just want to comment on Hermione’s character. I feel like she’s not as strong in this as she has been in previous movies. What I mean by that is that, the prettier and less bookish she gets, she seems to lose her assertiveness as well. She hesitated killing a horcrux until Ron encourages her, which I find a bit uncharacteristic of her usually brave self. I realize that she’s obviously anxious about what they are going through, but she appears a whole lot more melancholy with Harry, embracing him every five minutes it seems. That part doesn’t bother me, but I do feel it’s a bit jarring to see the ‘evolution’ of Hermione in this movie, which this Guardian article covered in details.

    “There’s almost a direct correlation with actress Emma Watson‘s growing prettiness through the course of the films and Hermione’s decreased bookishness and pragmatism.”
    The article said, and even went so far as saying that “When it comes to film, something about a smart, fearless woman who doesn’t care about her looks makes Hollywood leery; even if, in this instance, she commands a loyal and loving built-in audience before the film begins.”

    Now, whether that assessment is entirely accurate or not, I do see her point of view and I did miss the spunkier Hermione.

It’s definitely a challenging task of visualizing J.K. Rowling’s vision in the books (as in with most other literary adaptation). Dan from Top 10 Films assessment that splitting the movies into two serves a purely commercial reason than anything else, and perhaps it might’ve been better to keep it as one long film. It’s hard to say if that would’ve made it a better finale, but one thing for sure, it’d perhaps be more engaging and coherent as some people won’t feel ‘disconnected’ if they didn’t have time to see Part I right before seeing the second one. Making one long film would also force the filmmaker to be more efficient/prudent in choosing what scenes to include, which is quite a formidable task.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dan also in regards to the veteran supporting cast easily outshining the main ones. Don’t get me wrong, I think those three did a tremendous job (as do the other young cast like Tom Felton as Draco), but obviously they’re not as experienced as the more mature actors. I’ve dedicated a post a while ago to highlight my Top Ten Favorites HP cast, and having seen ALL of them now, I still stand by that list 😀

In conclusion, despite some quibbles and falling a bit short of the ‘epic’ quality I was hoping for, I still think it’s a worthy effort to close such a beloved franchise. Unlike most fans though, I’m not at all emotional that it’s the end of HP franchise (at least in cinematic form). I’m glad I’ve watched them all and they have been entertaining, but there are other films that I’m anticipating so yeah, I’m ready to move on 😀


Well, those of you who have seen this final Harry Potter movie. What did you think? Was it as epic as you had hoped?

FlixChatter’s Most Anticipated 2011 Movies – Part I

This post has been in my draft folder for a while… originally I wanted to post right after award season is over. Now Oscar is already behind us for nearly a month (boy, I kinda forgot about it already), so I better not procrastinate any longer.


This post will be divided into two parts, Part I is from March – July and Part II consist of movies released in the later half of 2011. I only list those that I’d most likely be seeing in the cinema, based on the release date information from Movie Insider as of last night. As dates get shuffled and more movies are added, I will update this list accordingly. Anyway, here they are in order of release:

MARCH

March 11 (limited) – Jane Eyre
Synopsis:
The Gothic story of a lowly governess who captures the heart of her employer Mr. Rochester, only to discover that he’s hiding a terrible secret.


I’ve blogged enough about this topic that I don’t think I need to explain further why this is on the list. Check out the
trailer and stills from the movie. I can’t wait to finally see this in two weeks and find out how Michael Fassbender fares as Rochester compared to my all-time favorite.

APRIL

April 22 Water for Elephants
Synopsis: A 90-year-old man reminisces about his life during the Depression, when he found work at a B-level circus taking care of the animals. He sees the brutality of circus life while falling for the wife of an abusive animal trainer.

There’s something about the world of the circus that intrigues me, it certainly adds a layer of mystique to the love story. Amongst a sea of comic-book superhero flicks, it’s nice to see a romantic drama to break things up. The trailer looks pretty promising with gorgeous setting and lovely music. Rob Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon seem to have a decent chemistry and having Christoph Waltz here is a big plus. I’m ready to be swept away 🙂

Maybes:

  • HannaEric Bana and Cate Blanchett in one movie… how bad can it be? The premise of a child assassin isn’t very appealing to me, but still I might be curious enough to check it out because of the cast. Plus I like director Joe Wright’s previous work.

MAY

May 27 Tree of Life
Synopsis: The story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

Click image for more photos at Collider.com

I’m more intrigued about this more for its director, Terrence Malick (who also wrote the screenplay), than for the cast (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain). Malick’s last feature film The New World was back in 2005, which is a relatively short gap compared to the 20-year span his fans had to wait between Days of Heaven (1978) and the Thin Red Line (1998). The premise is intriguing and promises to be thought-provoking, and judging from the poetic trailer below, a sweeping visual vista is to be expected. This is certainly on the list of virtually every movie sites/blogs out there. I know it’s highly unlikely but it’d be nice if for once a movie like this beats a franchise film like Pirates at the box office.


Maybes:

  • Thor – Though initially I was anticipating this, the two trailers have been underwhelming. I’ll wait for the reviews before deciding whether to see it in the cinema or rent this one.
  • The Beaver – Yes, I don’t mind seeing a Mel Gibson movie. It actually looks pretty amusing from the trailer and the script made the top of the 2008 Black List (a list of yet-unproduced top screenplays picked by about 250 Hollywood execs).


JUNE

June 3 – X-Men: First Class
Synopsis:
Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together with other Mutants, to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift happens that propels the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.


This one is probably in my top five anticipated movie of the whole year. If you still don’t know anything about this movie, check out the
trailer and the gorgeous character posters. I think Matthew Vaughn has picked a wonderful cast for the main characters, especially James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles and Eric respectively. The dynamic relationship between these two are what I’m looking forward to the most.

June 10 – Super 8
Synopsis: In 1979, after the Air Force closes a section of Area 51, all materials are transported to a secure facility in Ohio. A train carrying some of the materials derails during an accident and something escapes from one of the cargo cars. A group of kids making movies with their Super 8 cameras accidentally capture what escapes on film.

The teaser that came out a few weeks ago was intriguing, but it wasn’t until the full trailer came out that I’m actually excited about this one. It’s a throwback to the classic Spielberg sci-fi movies like ET and the kids-cast kind have that Stand by Me vibe to it. The auteur is teaming up with JJ Abrams who wrote and directed the movie. The creator popular TV show Alias, Lost and Fringe, Abrams proved his directing chops in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. Kyle Chandler is a likable actor who finally gets to shine in a leading man role, good for him.

JULY

July 15 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Synopsis: The final adventure of Harry Potter as he attempts to bring an end to his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

This is the event all Potter fans been waiting for. No matter how you feel about the first installment (read my review), one thing we can all agree on is it made us look forward to this final film all the more. One of my favorite parts of this franchise is watching all those British thespians in various roles, both good and evil, and we’ll finally learn which side he/she really is on (I’m looking at you Professor Snape).

July 22 – Captain America
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.

I’m not as familiar about Capt. America amongst other Marvel superheroes. But the two main reasons I’m anticipating this are Aussie thespian Hugo Weaving as the main villain Red Skull and the retro look and feel of the movie, which director Joe Johnston has done before with Rocketeer. One thing for sure, Johnston has a knack for casting great actors in the role of villains (as he did in the role of fabulous baddie Neville Sinclair). Plus, one of my fave British actor Richard Armitage also has a small part as Nazi officer Heinz Kruger. The trailer looks pretty decent, so at the very least this could be the perfect popcorn entertainment of the Summer.


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July 29 – Cowboys & Aliens
Synopsis: Set in 1800s Arizona, a battle between cowboys and Apaches is interrupted by the crash landing of a space ship. The alien commander plans to tame the Old West and enslave everyone, but the cowboys and Native Americans turn their six-guns against the alien invaders.

Initially I was a bit disappointed that Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t going to re-team with his Iron Man director Jon Favreau for this, so it kinda fell off my radar. But then I saw the trailer and went ‘whoa!’ It’s got to be one of the most memorable trailers I’ve seen for upcoming movies, it’s bizarre in an exciting kind of way. I mean, it’s hard not to be intrigued even just reading the title! Gritty Bond Daniel Craig looks all bad ass in his cowboy outfit and whatever it is on his wrist certainly looks cool. Add curmudgeon Harrison Ford into the bargain (and sexy Olivia Wilde for the boys), then this just might be the one to beat at the box office this year.
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PART II will be posted later this week. For a full listing of ALL movies released in 2011, visit the-numbers site.


Well, any of your anticipated movies make the list? What movie(s) are you anticipating this Summer?