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Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008) Review

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Hellboy 2 The Golden Army

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Fantasy Violence
Cast:
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
John Alexander and James Dodd as Johann Krauss
Seth MacFarlane as Johann Krauss (voice)
Luke Goss as Prince Nuada Silverlance
Anna Walton as Princess Nuala
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Director: Guillermo del Toro

The evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is hell-bent on bringing the Golden Army to life, which will help him to conquer the world. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team join forces to defeat the callous ruler.

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The first Hellboy movie released back in 2004 was quite good, it was a unique and weirder comic book movie for the time, was really entertaining, and worked really well, largely working because of Guillermo del Toro’s direction and of course Ron Perlman as the titular character. It’s hard to imagine it but Hellboy 2 manages to be on another level over the first movie. It improves in just about every level from the characters, the story, the direction, everything.

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (aka Hellboy 2)

Ⓒ Universal

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army much like the first movie is another large scale epic world ending story, however you really notice some stark differences. First of all, whereas the first movie was supernatural and gothic, The Golden Army leans into being more fantasy. Additionally, as much as I liked the first Hellboy, there were parts of it that felt like del Toro was a little constrained, despite some of the unique aspects that he added. An example is the human character of Myers (played by Ruper Evans), who was positioned as the main character, central protagonist, and audience surrogate for the movie. He really did feel like a studio-mandated addition rather than anything anyone in the film cared about, and pretty much everyone agrees that film could’ve done without him. It seems that del Toro is one of those people who agreed, since Myers written out of the sequel, with a couple of lines explaining about how he was moved to Antarctica. With this moment, you can really tell that del Toro is having a lot more freedom with this movie, and was really making a pure del Toro movie rather than a movie that’s just mostly del Toro. The first Hellboy felt quite dense and expositional with its story, even if I enjoyed watching it. The sequel however has a far more free moving story that feels attached to the compelling plot and is well structured, but manages to effortlessly add themes as well as intimate and character moments in between it all that. The movie has a thematical and emotional core and you actually feel for the human sides of these characters. Hellboy 2 also has way more personality and charm than its predecessor. It takes itself a lot more seriously than the first Hellboy, but also has its fair share of jokes and humour, especially with sharp and witty dialogue. Hellboy 1 had humour but it’s more noticeable here and in a good way, it’s actually partly key to the film’s success. It’s often times character-based humour and makes them more endearing, rather than just going for an easy laugh. With an astounding balance of tone and an engaging story, Hellboy 2 just gets it all right.

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The cast and characters are all great. Ron Perlman is once again perfect as Hellboy, his work in the first film was already solid but he really makes the character his own in The Golden Army. His character is more interesting, whereas he could’ve disappeared under all the prosthetics and makeup, his performance here feels even more honest and confident. The rest of the cast and characters are where you notice the greatest improvements however. With the supporting characters, the first movie didn’t give them much room to grow (and was also saddled with an incredibly generic and forgettable audience surrogate). They changed that here and allowed their characters to be explored a little more. Selma Blair as Liz Sherman was decent in the first movie but felt rather underdeveloped, and it felt like they didn’t really know what to do with her character. Here she’s a lot more well realised and was great. One of the best characters in the first Hellboy was Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, unfortunately he’s not in that movie much and didn’t have that much involvement with the story, not beyond the first half anyways. Here, he’s one of the main characters, that was definitely welcome, and the script really gave Doug Jones a lot to do. Interestingly in the first movie, Jones only performed the physical part, while David Hyde Pierce provided the voice. In Hellboy 2 though, Jones gets to play vocal duties as well and gives such a great performance, among his best work. Jones also played a couple of other characters that had prosthetics, and as to be expected, he plays those roles very well too. The new additions of actors and characters were good too. The character Johann Krauss was a surprisingly solid and unique addition to the cast. He’s an interesting character, whose values and overall personality directly challenge and differ with Hellboy’s, leading to a lot of conflict between the two. Krauss overall is also quite a unique character for both the Hellboy movies and other comic book movies, I particularly like the moments when the film takes advantage of his powers. Seth MacFarlane voiced Krauss and I think this is actually his best work to date. Despite playing him with a hammy German accent, he plays the role surprisingly straight faced (or rather straight voiced) and was more reserved than you’d expect from him. One of the weakest parts of the first Hellboy was the villains, specifically the lead villain Rasputin. This time in Hellboy 2, Luke Goss plays the villain, and he’s a much more interesting villain this time around, he was actually somewhat memorable and fitted the story quite well.

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Guillermo del Toro directed Hellboy 2, and you really notice a step up 4 years between the two movies. He was key to the success of the first movie, without him, audiences would not have gotten such an original and iconic on this character. Don’t forget that del Toro got more freedom and a higher budget this time round, and he thankfully took great advantage of this. The film boasts some gorgeous cinematography and production designs. The Golden Army is definitely a more fantastical story instead of a fantastical one, and the aesthetic really benefits from that too. There’s also some amazing digital and practical effects, that mostly hold up quite well today. The designs of characters, monsters and creatures are also fantastic. Right after making Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro went all in with the creative designs of creatures and monsters. From the design of the elves to the Golden Army themselves, to even some of the slightly altered designs of Hellboy and Abe, they look incredible. There’s particularly a segment that takes place in a Troll Market, which mixes digital and practical effects and feels like a showcase of all the amazing effects that it had to offer. The action is fast paced, well filmed and very entertaining. The score by Danny Elfman was quite good as well, and fits the rest movie well.

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Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is an incredibly entertaining and well-made comic book movie, taking what made the first Hellboy so good and improving on both its strong and weaker points. It has an entertaining fantastical story, a greater grasp of the characters, as well as Guillermo Del Toro’s direction with noticeably more freedom. They all come together to form one of del Toro’s strongest works. One of the biggest cinematic disappointments is that del Toro never got to make Hellboy 3, he clearly had such a great handle on the characters and would’ve been wonderful to have seen that happen.

Hellboy (2004) Review

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Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Rupert Evans as John “Johnny” Myers
Karel Roden as Grigori Rasputin
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Towards the end of WWII, the Nazis resort to black magic and conjure a demonic-looking being called Hellboy (Ron Perlman). But the Allies capture him and he grows up to fight against evil rather than for it.

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I’ve been meaning to go back and watch the Hellboy movies from Guillermo del Toro again, especially after the more recent and underwhelming reboot. I remembered liking them quite a bit, and as it turns out they actually hold up quite well today. Despite some of its script faults, 2004’s Hellboy is a very fun fantasy comic book movie.

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Hellboy opens quite well and for the most works consistently well across its 2 hour runtime. It’s very entertaining, and creative, and the source material is perfect for del Toro to take on. The script is witty with some good lines and humour, the story is well paced, and it has a lot of fantasy and even noir aspects to it. It’s also heartfelt and genuine and establishes itself as a unique and larger than life comic book movie with a great atmosphere. Also keep in mind that this is back in 2004, so you can imagine how much of an impact and hit it would’ve been back then. Hellboy also does well as establishing its universe, though I feel like they could’ve done that without a human stand in character. It’s not all great though. The story isn’t really anything special, it’s a typical fantasy world ending plot that’s a bit predictable. It really doesn’t reach its fullest potential. Not all the characters are greatly handled. Hellboy of course is fantastic, but the human characters are particularly thinly developed and are quite bland, more on that later. Also maybe a slight nitpick, but it did feel like it ended a little abruptly, like there needed to be an extra scene right before it ended, but that’s a small gripe.

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The cast do a good job in their parts, even though some of them were restricted by the writing of their respective characters. Of course the big standout is Ron Perlman as Hellboy and he absolutely owns this role. His performance is larger than life, funny, likable, and well realised, and you can tell that Perlman is enjoying every second of it. It’s just hard seeing anyone else in the role. Selma Blair’s performance is good too, though her character does suffer from some confusion with the writing and characterisation, and not enough time spent with her. The love story between her character and Hellboy does actually work quite well though, and the actors share convincing chemistry. Doug Jones (along with the voice of David Hyde Pierce) plays Abe Sapien, an amphibious humanoid (and unsurprisingly plays him with a lot of makeup and visual effects). His character is the most memorable in the movie after Hellboy by far, and he really stands out in the scenes. Unfortunately his character doesn’t show up much in the movie, at least compared to the sequel. As I said earlier, the human characters were rather unremarkable. The biggest example is Rupert Evans as Myers, the lead human character. This character was bland, uninteresting, and very much felt like he was only there to be the audience’s insight into this world. However it’s easy to connect with Hellboy that we didn’t need that. It’s no surprise that when it came to the sequel, there was no stand in human character like that. John Hurt is in here as Hellboy’s father figure. The character himself doesn’t have a lot to him, but John Hurt as you’d expect does a lot with very little and elevates it. The villain side of the characters was rather forgettable. Karel Roden is okay as Rasputin (the main villain) but the character never really felt much of a threat, some of the side villains and monsters posed much more of a threat and were memorable than him. There’s a henchman who’s a Nazi and has a gas mask with blades, and he had far more presence as a threat than Rasputin.

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Guillermo del Toro directs this, and he was a great pick to helm a live action adaptation of the Hellboy comics. He directed this with such style and there was such attention to details, nothing here felt lazy. There are some solid cinematography and production design, with HP Lovecraft meets steampunk aesthetics. There are some excellent visual and practical effects here, and the best part is how del Toro blend the two. The creatures were particularly well handled, as if the movie was a full on creature feature. There are parts that don’t look so great, but considering that it was made back in 2004, it has held up quite well. The action scenes are riveting too, and are very entertaining to watch. The makeup is great, particularly with Hellboy and Abe Sapien. The score from Marco Beltrami was quite good, and added a lot to the movie.

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Hellboy is an entertaining and creative fantasy action movie, greatly directed by Guillermo del Toro, and features a perfect performance from Ron Perlman as Hellboy. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the best comic book movies, but it’s pretty good when looking at most of the comic books released in the 2000s, in fact it was ahead of its time. If you haven’t watched Hellboy yet, I strongly recommend doing so.

Snowpiercer (2014) Review

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Snowpiercer

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Curtis Everett
Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsoo
Ed Harris as Wilford
John Hurt as Gilliam
Tilda Swinton as Minister Mason
Jamie Bell as Edgar
Octavia Spencer as Tanya
Ewen Bremner as Andrew
Go Ah-sung as Yona
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Set in 2031, the entire world is frozen except for those abroad the Snowpiercer. For seventeen years, the world’s survivors are on a train hurtling around the globe creating their own economy and class system. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a group of lower-class citizens living in squalor at the back of the train are determined to get to the front of the train and spread the wealth around. Each section of the train holds new surprises for the group who have to battle their way through. A revolution is underway.

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Snowpiercer was the first movie from Bong Joon-ho that I saw, which was quite a while ago. Having watched all his other movies, it made me want to go back to this one, and it’s even better on a second viewing. The release of Snowpiercer wasn’t as large as it should’ve been, which is a shame, because had it been given a proper release it would’ve been a massive hit among everyone sooner. It’s a fantastic film that is worth seeing.

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Snowpiercer is a very thematic movie about class, and there are a lot of parallels throughout. A lot of it isn’t particularly subtle but this doesn’t bother me at all however, movies being blatant with its themes aren’t inherently bad, and Snowpiercer does go deeper than just leaving it at “rich people bad, poor people good”. At around 2 hours long, the movie held my attention quite well. It’s much more focussed on the story, ideas, characters and themes over the spectacle and visuals (even those are impressive too). At first it’s a straightforward story, a group of people at the back end of the train want to get to the front of the train, and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. However, there’s more going on, and the latter half of the movie sort of abandons the action movie energy from the first half for something much more intellectual and ambiguous, and I liked that too. Snowpiercer also feels very fresh, creative and original, and you can’t really compare it to any other sci-fi film, even though it’s not an entirely original film as it was based off a graphic novel (which I don’t think was that well known). The ending, as in the very last scene of the movie, was fine enough but I felt like it was missing something.

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This had a large cast, and all of them perform greatly, but there were three performances that stood out most. Chris Evans gives probably the best performance of his career in the lead role, as a much darker and conflicted character compared to most of the others that he plays, I’d like to see him more in roles like this. Song Kang-ho is here in his 3rd collaboration with Bong Joon-ho, and as usual delivers a solid performance. Tilda Swinton is the other standout as another transformative and unrecognisable character, and shined in her screentime in a over the top and gloriously hammy performance. The rest of the supporting cast with Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris also delivered some solid performances on their parts.

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We all know that Bong Joon-ho is a great director but he’s particularly great here, and his transition to movies in English was impressive. Taking away the fact that this movie is mostly in English, this doesn’t feel like an American blockbuster, especially when it comes to the action. It’s brutal, stylised, and was all around great and satisfying. It’s also visually stunning, the visual effects and cinematography were outstanding, and the attention to detail with the production and costume designs were top notch.

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Snowpiercer is one of my favourite movies from Bong Joon-ho, and he’s made some fantastic films. His direction was reliably exceptional and was key to making it work as well as it did. Add on top of that the work of the cast and a story and world I was engaged with throughout, and you have an outstanding sci-fi movie. Definitely watch it if you haven’t already.

V for Vendetta (2006) Review

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V For Vendetta

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, offensive language and sexual references
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Evey
Hugo Weaving as V
Stephen Rea as Finch
Stephen Fry as Deitrich
John Hurt as Adam Sutler
Director: James McTeigue

In a futuristic, totalitarian Britain, a freedom fighter known simply as V (Hugo Weaving), uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressive society. Evey (Natalie Portman) aids him in his mission to bring down the government.

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V for Vendetta has always been in my very long list of favourite movies. Its influence and impact is quite significant, even just looking at the rise in popularity with the Guy Fawkes mask very since the film’s release, even though it had been around for a while. It’s now been 15 years since V for Vendetta’s initial release, and this movie still holds up really well, and unfortunately still feels rather relevant.

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V for Vendetta is based off the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. A criticism of the movie is that a lot of the complexity from the original novel has been reduced, and from the time that I read it a long time ago I can’t necessarily disagree. The movie is a lot less morally grey and ambiguous, and more black and white, an example being that the character of V being less questionable as a character, and more like a classic anti-hero who is a freedom fighter against fascism. While at first that sounds negative, watching it on its own, it’s still a very great movie and I really liked the movie. As it is, V for Vendetta is still a politically charged and politically relevant movie and the setting is pretty realistic, and not really that fantastical despite it being a dystopia dictatorship. It is a political thriller first and foremost, and a very entertaining and engaging one at that.

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The cast all work very well in their roles. Although V is the face of the movie, it’s really Natalie Portman’s movie, and she is great in her part as Evey. She gets to really shine in the second act, especially during a certain pivotal segment of the film. Hugo Weaving plays V and is memorable and iconic in every scene that he’s in. You don’t see his face and is very mysterious and was interesting to learn about as the movie progressed. Weaving’s voice is so memorable and really added a lot of charisma and personality to the character. John Hurt is pretty much the dictator figure of the movie. He really plays the role very large and he does very well in his limited screentime. The rest of the supporting cast are also good, with the likes of Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and others playing their parts well.

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V for Vendetta is directed well by James McTeigue. Now the Wachowskis didn’t direct it (rather they were the writers and producers of the movie) but you could feel their influence all over it when it comes to the style, and especially when it comes to the action. Visually, it is quite striking and unforgettable, it’s a great looking movie, and the setting that the movie takes place in is fully realised. Despite it being a dystopian world technically, it is grounded and feels quite real. The action is great when it’s there, all of them involving V, with them being choreographed well and utilised the slow-motion to great effect. However, don’t expect to see a lot of action scenes in this movie, they aren’t the focus and it’s not that sort of movie.

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V for Vendetta is a great movie altogether, and one of my favourites of all time, definitely gets better with every viewing I have of it. It’s directed excellently, the performances are great (particularly from Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman), and I really liked the story. It may be well one of the best ‘comic book movies’ ever. Definitely watch this movie if you haven’t already.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Review

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko
Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood
Ray Winstone as George “Mac” McHale
John Hurt as Harold “Ox” Oxley
Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth
Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams
Director: Steven Spielberg

In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

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Despite the original trilogy being received very well, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got a lot of hate when it was released, especially from audiences. I always remembered liking it across the few times I had watched it, but I hadn’t seen it all that much, and it was just under a decade since I last saw it. With my recent rewatches of the other movies, I knew I needed to get back to the fourth one, and I’m glad to say that I still like it quite a lot, despite its very present issues.

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Storywise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t as strong as Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade but I was still interested in the adventure and was entertained from beginning to end. To a degree it plays things rather safe, it doesn’t do too much differently and it could’ve tried to stand out more among the other films. With that being said, it is the only Indiana Jones movie to features aliens. Some people don’t like the movie ultimately being about aliens, as you quickly find out. While I can certainly understand why plenty of people aren’t so that into that, thinking about it, I don’t really have that much of a problem with it. I do like the new setting, it’s a couple of decades later after the last movie, and so it’s during the Cold War, with Russians being the main source of conflict. With this being an Indiana Jones movie, it does have its silly moments as to be expected. Although there is the scene where Shia LaBeouf is swinging on vines with monkeys, the biggest one where Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge. This scene is beyond infamous, even many long time Indiana Jones fans hate on it. Honestly though, I found it absolutely hilarious and kind of enjoyed it. Considering this is the same series where Indiana Jones and two others flew off a plane in a inflatable raft onto a mountain, sliding off it and falling onto rapids without sustaining any injury, I think this isn’t that unexpected. With that said there are some parts that they could’ve toned down, as in some scenes (especially towards the end) there were certain things I would’ve preferred them not showing.

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Harrison Ford reprises his role from the last time since 1989. Some say that he wasn’t up at the level that he was in the other movies, mainly that he was too old for the role, but I thought that added to his performance quite well. At the same time, in his performance here I still saw an older Indiana Jones and not just older Harrison Ford (especially after seeing the other movies more recently). The line delivery, the comedy, the energy, all of it was here. Some people really didn’t like Shia LaBeouf in his role of Mutt Williams here, but I actually thought he was pretty good on his part. Considering what his role sounded like on paper, it could’ve been way worse. I do have a feeling that much of the dislike of the character might’ve come from the fact that it was LaBeouf playing him at that time. Karen Allen returns to reprise her role of Marion Ravenwood, and while she and Ford don’t have quite as strong of a dynamic as they did back in Raiders of the Lost Ark, they still had some great chemistry and it was still nice seeing them back on screen together. Ray Winstone and John Hurt also worked quite well in supporting roles. Cate Blanchett is the villain, and is actually probably the most memorable of the Indiana Jones villians, albeit being a bit cartoonish. However she works because of the dedicated and reliable performance from Blanchett, campy and entertaining, yet threatening enough as an antagonist.

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Steven Spielberg returns to directs this, and I still think he did a pretty good job. On a technical side it all works, it’s a great looking movie too. The action is pretty good on the whole, with some entertaining sequences that aren’t quite as memorable as the action in the rest of the series. There was a fight scene with Indiana Jones and a Russian later on which was sort of weak, but most of it is fine. The use of CGI has been criticised quite a lot, honestly most of it isn’t so bad, the biggest problem is the overuse of it (you can really feel George Lucas’s hand on that part). Even a gopher is created using CGI early in the movie for some random reason. Some of the action scenes do have this weird CGI feel to it, as if some parts of the background had digital effects thrown in for some reason. The third act without spoiling anything has some CGI which doesn’t look the best and in fact looks very goofy. I do agree that they should’ve had more practical effects, generally the use of CGI was unnecessary. With that said, when it came to the practical effects and production design it was all handled very well. The score by John Williams is good, there aren’t many distinct or memorable themes compared with the other movies, but the score as it is was worked. It’s always satisfying hearing these iconic themes in a movie again.

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As a return to the series almost 2 decades after the last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just a little bit disappointing. Nonetheless, on its own, I can’t deny that enjoyed it a lot. It has plenty of silly moments, it used a lot of CGI unnecessarily, and did play things a bit safe. However it was entertaining from beginning to end, the cast was great, and I enjoyed being on the adventure. I’m glad that it exists and I have problem placing it alongside the original Indiana Jones trilogy.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

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Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Gary Oldman as George Smiley (“Beggarman”)
Colin Firth as Bill Haydon (“Tailor”)
Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr
Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux
Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland (“Soldier”)
Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam
David Dencik as Toby Esterhase (“Poorman”)
Stephen Graham as Jerry Westerby
Simon McBurney as Oliver Lacon
Toby Jones as Percy Alleline (“Tinker”)
John Hurt as Control
Director: Tomas Alfredson

A retired spy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is summoned by the Government to investigate a furtive case. With a secret Soviet agent assumed to be working within their system, will George be able to unveil his identity?

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I remember watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy many years ago, and it’s always been one of those movies I’ve been meaning to rewatch for some time. I remember finding it to be a good movie, but it was really slow and I didn’t understand completely everything that was going on, it was a really complicated movie. I finally saw it a second time, and I got all the acclaim this time round, it’s a very well made movie, even though I can understand why it might not work for some people.

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For those who don’t know much about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, although it’s classed as a spy movie, this isn’t the James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of spy movie. It’s an investigative and truly espionage spy movie, with complex and shifty characters in a morally grey and bleak world. There aren’t many gunshots, and there isn’t anything even close to resembling action scenes. It’s also a very slowly paced movie, and this will definitely turn off a lot of people, I will admit that there were moments where it got a little too slow for my liking. It’s more than just that it’s a slow paced movie, it’s really complicated too, and maybe even hard to follow at times. You really have to pay close attention to from start to finish, otherwise you’ll probably miss some vital details. It’s not so much that it’s bad at crafting the story for the big screen, in fact I heard that it was well done considering the source material was apparently extremely hard to follow as it was. There are just a lot of moving parts, plotlines and characters that you have to pay attention to. Even having known much of the plot from the last viewing, after my second viewing I still had to look up a couple of things about the plot to clarify a few things I wasn’t certain about. As I was, I was invested in what was going on, even if it dragged in parts and I was lost in moments. The writing is quite strong, and the dialogue quite layered, with intimate character moments and subtext carefully placed throughout. Now having quite a good understanding of what happened, I think I’ll get this movie even more on a further 3rd viewing.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has such a great ensemble cast, and all of them worked well together. Gary Oldman plays the lead character of George Smiley, and he absolutely transforms into the role. Smiley is calm and collected, yet captivating in every scene. He’s quite effectively subtle, conveying so much without having to say much. The rest of the cast are at the top of their game, with Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and John Hurt all giving great performances. The highlights out of all of them for me were Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy doing so much in their screentime.

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Tomas Alfredson directed this movie quite well, he really set it well in the time period of the Cold War. The cinematography was by Hoyte Van Hotema, who shot the movie very well. It’s a very grey looking movie, yet it somehow still manages to be visually stunning and stylish. Tomas also does well at building up an effective atmosphere. The score by Alberto Iglesias is also great and fits the movie quite a bit.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won’t be for everyone, especially if you’re expecting a fast paced movie, it might even test the most patient of viewers. From the second viewing however, I found it to be a complex, deeply layered story, directed very well and features outstanding performances from its ensemble cast. I liked it a lot more on a second viewing, and I think that I will like it even more the more I come back to it.

Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Supernatural themes & violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Kelly Macdonald as Helena Ravenclaw
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: David Yates

A clash between good and evil awaits as young Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) prepare for a final battle against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Harry has grown into a steely lad on a mission to rid the world of evil. The friends must search for the Horcruxes that keep the dastardly wizard immortal. Harry and Voldemort meet at Hogwarts Castle for an epic showdown where the forces of darkness may finally meet their match.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the Harry Potter series. With it being the 8th film in the series and with a huge fanbase behind it (both from the book and the movie), there was a lot of hype behind it, thankfully it really delivered. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a fantastic and emotionally satisfying ending to the series.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 had a somewhat easy task, outside of the Gringotts Bank scene, most of the movie is one big final battle. But it still had the task of bringing everything together to deliver a fantastic conclusion, and I think it was effective in how they did that. It took just about all of the main plot points and characters and concluded them in a conclusive and satisfying way. As all Harry Potter films are like, things are different from the books. Some things like the final fight between Harry and Voldemort, I didn’t mind even though I know it was criticised from being different from the book. The book didn’t have much of a fight and was mostly a long conversation, so this version works better for a movie (though I agree that it would’ve been nice if there was more dialogue between the two). However the way it ends for Voldemort was a little underwhelming and cliché, and there should’ve been more of a transition between that scene and the next scene. There are some changes that I don’t think were great, like what happened with the Elder Wand at the end of the film. However there wasn’t really anything too much that ruined the experience. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the shortest of the Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 10 minutes long and it was the right length. It is long enough but it also gets to the point and main points of the story.

All the cast did a great job and served their purpose well. Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) are all great again, and all get to do major things in the movie. Like in Part 1, a lot of the supporting characters are pushed to the back and there’s so many of them but they all do great. Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin and more all do fantastic in their roles here. We also get to see the full character of Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape. He’s not in a ton of scenes but he is fantastic in them and deliver on some of the best scenes of the movie. Ralph Fiennes is once again great as Voldemort, still throwing himself into a rather pure evil role, but playing it so convincingly and with so much menace that it kind of works. He’s a little over the top at some points, particularly in one scene in the third act before the final confrontation, but I can’t see Voldemort being portrayed any better than how Fiennes did it.

The direction by David Yates is once again great. Deathly Hallows Part 2 has the most action in the series, we see a lot of wizard battles and destruction and it’s all handled really well. The visual effects are outstanding and still 7 years later look pretty good. The action scenes are entertaining and you can feel the weight behind everything that happens. Alexandre Desplat did a great score for Deathly Hallows Part 1 and I’m glad to see him do the score for Deathly Hallows Part 2 as well, elevating so much of the movie over what it already is.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 delivers on what it is supposed to. It’s entertaining, emotionally satisfying and brings the series to a close in the best way possible. It’s biggest flaws are the ending of one of the scenes in the third act and some of the differences between the book and the movie, and the latter is an issue with every single movie in the series, which only speaks to how fantastic of a movie it is.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Review

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Griphook
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
John Hurt as Garrick Ollivander
Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Director: David Yates

Without the guidance and protection of their professors, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) begin a mission to destroy the Horcruxes, the sources of Voldemort’s immortality. Though they must rely on one another more than ever, dark forces threaten to tear them apart. Voldemort’s Death Eaters have seized control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts, and they are searching for Harry — even as he and his friends prepare for the ultimate showdown.

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I’m aware that Deathly Hallows Part 1 gets a bit of a bad rap but I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because it’s a part 1 of a story, and is really seen as just setup for the second half. However this might be one of the best films in the long running series. Director David Yates once again does a great job, he takes advantage of having the story in two parts, utilising it well, adding some character development to the main characters. It does drag a bit especially in the second act but most of it really works.

The movie is quite dark, definitely the darkest of the movie series (though it doesn’t have as many depressing moments like in Half-Blood Prince) and you really feel the stakes throughout. There are little spots of brightness, just enough so that the movie isn’t overwhelmingly dark but not too much that you forget what’s at stake in the wizarding world. Splitting the books up into two really was a wise decision, it’s not the longest book in the series but it is a very big story and a whole lot happens, and so the more screentime given to the story, the better. It also allows David Yates and everyone else working on the movie to take their time with telling the story, you couldn’t do the entire Deathly Hallows book in one 4 hour long movie, and if one was to do that it wouldn’t be as good as what they have done here. Splitting the movie into two parts also gives more time to these characters and we get to know them a lot more and see them go through a lot of change. Deathly Hallows Part 1 really does feel like a Part 1 of a story and a setup for a big climax, however it’s not like other YA movies that have their last book split into two parts, it doesn’t feel like it’s padding out time. Yes, the second act does drag a little bit, especially when they are in the forest and not really doing anything, but it doesn’t drag too much, and as I said these moments are often used for character moments. The third act is done really well, very dark and tense and ending it on a pretty good note that sets it up for the last instalment in the franchise. Again, book changes are apparent, most of them don’t bother me. The movie does a good job at simplifying some of the things that happen and cutting out some of the unnecessary bits. With that said, Deathly Hallows Part 1 does have the singularly most obnoxious book to movie change, it’s to do with how Wormtail (Timothy Spall) is dealt with at the end, if you’ve read the books you know exactly what I’m talking about. Had they changed it to how the book did it, it would’ve taken up a minute at most and would’ve been a very dark and impactful scene. However they instead used that moment as a joke. It’s not movie-breaking but it’s nonetheless really irksome. Also a tad glaring is a bit involving a mirror, in the books its established in Order of the Phoenix, but here in the movie it just comes out of nowhere with no explanation for what it is and how it got there.

The acting once again was great. The dynamic between Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) was great and they give some of the best performances of their characters in the series. Since the movie is just them focussing on hunting down the Horcruxes we get to see them very prominently throughout the movie; we see them come together and get into conflicts as they struggle to complete this seemingly impossible task. A lot of the side characters are pushed to the background (because of how many they are and the fact that most of the movie is just focussed on the main 3) but they all do great, whether that be Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange or Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. One casting decision which wasn’t that great was Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood. Ifans is a good actor but he feels a little too over the top, even if he’s only in a couple scenes. Also while it’s a decent casting decision, Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour (the new Minister of Magic) is really only in a couple scenes here (having about the same screentime as in the book). He was introduced in the Half-Blood Prince book and they should have done the same as with the movie (this is more of a criticism with Half Blood Prince than Deathly Hallows Part 1.

Direction by David Yates really works once again for the Harry Potter movies. The cinematography is a little brighter than in Half-Blood Prince so you can actually easily see anything, however is dark enough that it fits with the tone of the story. The production design, CGI and other technical aspects are greatly handled as well. There is a storytelling scene close to the third act that is done really well with the visual style and animation. One scene that had some issues with its direction was a chase scene in the forest scene, it was really shaky and it was hard to see what was going on. I know I brought it up in other Harry Potter reviews but it is absolutely jarring how different the time period is, because some of the locations are rather modern looking at times. Not a huge problem but definitely something that stands out. The score for the movie is done by Alexandre Desplat this time and it was truly fantastic, adding a lot to the movie.

I actually really liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, it’s a lot better than I remember it being. It is quite bleak at times, and drags in some moments but ultimately it does achieve what it sets out to do, and makes for one of the best movies in the Harry Potter series. The story being in two parts may not be something that a lot of people like, but I think that overall ended up improving the films.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains supernatural theme
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Ian Hart as Quirinus Quirrell
John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: Chris Columbus

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is an average bespectacled 11 year old boy who has lived with the Dursley family ever since his parents died in a car crash. For some reason the family has always mistreated him. On his 11th birthday a giant man named Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) hands him a letter telling him that he has been accepted as a student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that his parents were wizards and were killed by an evil wizard Voldemort, a truth that was hidden from him all these years. He embarks for his new life as a student, gathering two good friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) along the way. They soon learn that something very valuable is hidden somewhere inside the school and Voldemort is very anxious to lay his hands on it.

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With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald releasing towards the end of the year, I decided to have a look through all of the Harry Potter movies in the lead up to its release. The books were very popular and in the late 90s, Warner Bros were looking to adapt this acclaimed and beloved series (which was still going on) to the big screen. In 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (no it’s not titled the Sorcerer’s Stone here in New Zealand) was released to much love from readers and non readers alike. I grew up with these movies with my family, so no matter some of the flaws that some of them have, I can’t help but love them. As for the Philosopher’s stone, it’s not one of the better movies in the series but I still like it, and watching it more recently, its actually impressive how well it started off the series for both those familiar with the Harry Potter books and those that weren’t.

Out of all the movies, Philosopher’s Stone is the most accurate to the book (you don’t get everything from the book in here though, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s only so much you can put into one movie). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically a better movie than the rest. Seeing it again recently, Philosopher’s Stone actually does some very impressive things that I didn’t notice before. What actually surprised me the most was the length of the movie, it was 2 hours and 30 minutes because it felt so much shorter. Director Chris Columbus really keeps the movie at a pretty good pace, it never feels like it lingers on things too much and it never feels rushed. Another great thing is when it comes to establishing the world of Harry Potter. When it comes to adapting fantasy or sci fi source material to the big screen, one of the biggest challenges is establishing the fictional world in a strong way to the audience, so that they are immersed and perfectly understand what kind of world they are in. With the Philosopher’s Stone, it’s done greatly, the story is simple but effective enough that you are willing to accept all the crazy magical things that this movie is establishing to you. The movie is very light hearted, especially in contrast with the rest of the series, however it really was the best way to start off the series. The book anyway has a mostly light tone, so the movie brought it to the big screen very well. Though I won’t lie this movie can feel really dated and a little too goofy and over the top at times (too many instances to list).

Almost all of the Harry Potter characters were perfectly cast. The main 3 actors with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (who play Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger respectively) do have some missteps but they all do good jobs. The child actors in the early films aren’t all the best and are a little rocky (especially with the line delivery), but they do improve over the years. The adult actors are all around well cast. Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore (who does a good job as Dumbledore in his two film appearances for their respective stories), Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape (absolutely perfect and much better than the book version of Snape), Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, all do excellent jobs. Even some of the one scene actors do quite well, like John Hurt as Ollivander the wandmaker. The only casting choice/character who doesn’t work quite as well is Ian Hart as Professor Quirrell. While not bad or anything, he really wasn’t anything special, was a little over the top and it’s pretty clear the moment he’s on screen that he’s secretly shady (for lack of a better non spoilerish term).

Yes, as you’ll probably get from my thoughts on the later Harry Potter films, I do prefer the darker movies but for what Chris Columbus was going for in the first two Harry Potter movies, it works rather well. It’s also a perfect way to bring the audience, whether they are fans of the books or not, into the world. Chris Columbus does a great job at establishing the Harry Potter world. The production design is really great, especially in Hogwarts, it really does make you feel like you’re in a magical school. The visuals aren’t as impressive as those in the later movies but for its time it worked very well. Some visual effects haven’t aged well (especially the green screen), but you can accept it as it’s a movie from 2001. John Williams’s score as always is iconic and very memorable, adding a lot of ‘magic’ into a movie with already so much magic. It is a little on the nose in a couple scenes when Voldemort is brought up and the score drops to an over the top ominous sound, but otherwise it’s quite good.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is still good, and as I said a perfect adaptation of the book. Even if you think it’s on a significantly lower level compared to the rest of the movies, I think it’s worth acknowledging a lot of the impressive things it did with establishing the world and keeping the long running movie at a pretty fast pace. It’s not my favourite of the Harry Potter movies, it does feel quite dated but it nonetheless did a good job at starting off the series.