Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whatcha Watchin'?

I'm so glad you asked!

I've actually had the rare opportunity to watch a few movies of late and thought I would post about them here.

First up, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Our local Cineplex theatre is participating in the whole Potter Passport thing where you buy a pass to all 7 Potter movies for $25 and you get to see them all, once a week, leading up to the premiere of the last movie. SO, this week it was HP3.

Honestly, I can't say enough good things about Azkaban. Not being an avowed fan of the novels (or films, for that matter) I think it carries a bit of weight to say that this is, perhaps, the best of the series. Something about the first two movies was just too...happy American hocus pocus with kids, you know? Smiling faces, sucky sweet music, overly warm lighting and a really traditional shooting style. With Azkaban, the studio brought on Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón. I once read a comment that the first two films were perfectly serviceable but it wasn't until the third that they truly got it right and I think Cuarón had a lot to do with making that happen.

Right from the opening credits, you know this movie is going to be a bit different. The look of it is so much more moody and English than anything Columbus committed to film. The fog, the dampness, the aged exterior of Hogwarts, all of these things gave a new character to the series that, if memory serves, was never really recaptured in later installments of the series. The performances by the actors was a distinct improvement (although that may have more to do with age and experience than anything else) and little touches, like the irising in and out between scenes, just made this story so much more interesting to watch.

Lastly, I knew that John Williams did not do the scores for all of the movies, was certain that he did the first two, and assumed he did themes for the third but that Patrick Doyle (who did the next one) did most of the music. It sounded so different from the previous movies but just enough like Williams to make me think he still had some part in it. Well, I was surprised to find out that Williams was, indeed, sole composer on Azkaban and that he was clearly getting very specific direction on the first two movies because what we heard in the third was much closer to the kinds of music he was playing with in the new Star Wars movies, using more percussion and relying less on overt themes.

Some fans have criticized the movie as going too far off the page, but I've also heard the argument that it's the closest to the source material, so I guess it's who you ask. Me, I think it was pretty inspired, really.

The next movie I watched was Primer, a little indie movie that cost $7000 and made a splash at Sundance. A friend asked if I had seen it and I told him that I had always wanted to, ever since John Rogers mentioned on his blog that he thought the movie was amazing. He told me that was pretty much true and that I should check it out, so I went home and did just that.

What a treat this movie was. No budget sci-fi with a high concept, no special effects and a plot that will give your brain a charlie horse. To talk about it too much would probably take me into spoiler territory so I'll just say, if you dig movies like Pi or The Man From Earth, this is really worth checking out. And it's, like, 77 minutes, so it's not even a time drain for you busy people.

Last on the list for today will be Michael Clayton, a 2007 movie written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney. You've probably heard of it because it was nominated for a handful of Oscars. I remember when it was out and wanting to see it, just never getting around to going to the theatre and watching it. Writers I love kept blogging and tweeting about it expounding its many virtues, some even called it the best movie of that year. I'm not sure what sparked my interest in it last week, to be honest, but I'm so glad I put it in my DVD player and watched it one Monday morning. It was fantastic! A brilliant character piece and a legal thriller rolled into one. Sydney Pollack, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson all delivered great performances, and Gilroy did a good job of balancing the action and keeping things flowing and interesting. It's not a flashy movie, but I can find little or no flaw with it and so it gets my highest recommendation.

That's it for this time. There are actually a few more flicks I wanted to talk about but I'll maybe get to those in another post. Until then...



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