TBT – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

alan rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, films, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Maggie Smith, meh, review, TBT

I’m so far behind my schedule today that I’ve left myself with no fucking time to do anything. I’ve left this to the last minute as I tried to get everything else done. I’m also tired so I can’t promise this will be the best thing I’ve ever written but I’m determined to get it done. After all, I sat through one of my least favourite Harry Potter films in order to have a subject this week. I’d have to say that my least favourite in terms of both book and film is Goblet of Fire but, thanks to their childish nature, I’ve never revisited the first two stories for years. I saw the first film at the cinema with my family for my mother’s birthday. I was 13 years old and completely obsessed with the books. I remember leaving the cinema feeling disappointed with some differences but, ultimately, I loved it. I mean it was faithful to the book and that was all that mattered to me. Let’s be honest though, that’s all that mattered to anyone.

The Philosopher’s Stone was the biggie. It was the book that let us enter into Harry Potter’s world and the film was the finally put that world on the big screen. There was a lot of pressure on it as the book’d had become a sensation with adults and children alike lapping up every word JK Rowling was writing. The writer was also incredibly protective of her books as she was still in the process of writing at the time and didn’t want to jeopardise her later books by giving the rights away. Thankfully, the films were made and they were a huge part of all of our lives for 10 years. We grew up with the child actors who took the massive roles. So it’s weird to go back and see where it all started.

The Philosopher’s Stone is a very faithful adaptation of the first book. It sets out everything about the wizarding world but with much more haste than the book. Sections are shortened or deleted to save time but there’s nothing really vital missing. For my own part I always wished the centaurs scene could have been more book-like but that was mainly down to my fondness for that part of the book. In real terms, the main criticism I have is that some explanations seems rushed, such as Hagrid introducing Harry to his wizarding heritage, but that probably has something to do with my familiarity to the book. All of the key points are there but it just feels more brusque that it should.

It’s not the story that I really have a major problem with when I rewatch this film. It’s the acting. I’m not a massive fan of Daniel Radcliffe in any of these films but he’s particularly annoying in these films. He’s young so it’s not exactly fair to call him that but I think Harry’s character in these films is just too vague and undefined. There isn’t really any proper characterisation for any of the major characters and there is a lacking of development. Even the background characters seem more gimmicky that real. Other than his overall look, I’ve never been a fan of Richard Harris’ Dumbledore if I’m honest as Michael Gambon really captured the darkness that’s hidden at his core. He feels too Disney for my liking. Alan Rickman is incredibly hammy in the first few films and Maggie Smith is just whittled down to that one withering look. It sees like a waste of good actors.

Then the main trio all seem too confused by who they are trying to be. Ron seems as though he belongs in Eastenders rarther than Hogwarts, Harry is just forgettable, and Hermione is the worst kind of smart girl stereotype. Watching these films just makes it more apparent how useful age and understanding is for actors. The older and more comfortable the main actors got then the better their characters became. The first two films don’t feel like Harry Potter films because the character’s feel like strangers.

Still, there is something great about revisiting this film. The Quidditch scene, though it seem aged nowadays, is still one of the best scenes. It’s fun and exciting seeing this amazing sport come to life before your eyes. The tests that need to be passed to find the Philsopher’s Stone are also well adapted in the film and the game of wizards chess is still incredible. Still, this feels like a long and slow film. It takes ages to really get going and it isn’t quite magical enough to make it work. I kind of see this film in the same way I see the Beatles if I’m honest. Everyone says that The Beatles invented popular music as we know it today and that they’re one of the greatest bands of all time. Now, I understand that they were important in the 60s but it’s not the 60s anymore. If I listen to their music now it just feels so juvenile and simplistic. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone opened the door to some great films but, if I’m honest, it’s lost its sense of importance and achievement as every new film was released.

TBT – Horns (2013)

Daniel Radcliffe, dark comedy, demons, films, horror, meh, TBT

Thanks to a 20 year old hispter I work with I’ve spent the last few months revisiting the music of my youth. We’ve had a bit of a 90s revival recently which consisted of the two of us singing the Spice Girls and B*Witched as loud as possible to the alarm of our coworkers. It’s now moved on to the 80s focusing mainly on The Smiths and Spandau Ballet. I used to love The Smiths as a teenager but my tastes have grown up with me. Thankfully I’m less of a pretentious dick these days. However, it’s fucking sad that such a large part of my musical soundtrack has just disappeared. I’m madly making throwback Spotify playlists as I type. I mention it because as I watched today’s film pick I heard so many songs I haven’t really listened to in years that the wave of nostalgia left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Something it’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, normally fails to do. It was only after he got my seal of approval in Swiss Army Man that I decided it was time to give some more of his post-Potter films a chance. He was kinda funny in that so shit can he be in the rest, right? I’ve always liked the sound of Horns. I’ve never read the book by Joe Hill because, as anyone who’s ever read my Sunday Rundowns will know, I’m pretty shit at getting books read. However, from what I knew of the plot I figured it would be an interesting concept. Would the film live up to my own hype though?

In an attempt to leave behind the boy wizard that made him a household name, Daniel Radcliffe has gone to great lengths to pick weird and unusual roles. In Horns he plays a young man accused of murdering the love of his life who begins to turn into some devilish being. The story opens with Ignatius Perrish (Radcliffe) being vilified by his hometown and local news outlets for the rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend Merrin Williams. Ignatius is adament he didn’t kill Merrin but the only person who believes him in his childhood friend Lee (Max Minghella). Although handily for Ig he’s a lawyer who accepts his case. When Ig wakes one morning to find demonic horns sprouting from his head he discovers a whole host of powers that he uses to find the real killer.

Horns is a difficult film to give a genre to. Is it a horror, a romance, a thriller or a dark comedy? Who fucking knows? Well, director Alexandre Aja certainly doesn’t if the finished product is anything to go by. I wanted to like Horns and, for a brief moment, I really did. Then it bipolared its way through another 90 minutes and I found my attention going elsewhere. There was plenty of potential here for a weird black comedy which I loved. The opening 30 minutes of the film is genuinely enjoyable as Ig comes to terms with his horns and new powers. The scenes where the townspeople become compelled to reveal their darkest secrets and act on their basic depravities is comedy gold. I mean it’s the kind of shit I used to love on shows like The League of Gentlemen. It’s clever, silly and really fucking funny.

Unfortunately, the story has to continue. It moves between flashbacks of intense YA romance with images of floaty dresses and dancing in treehouses, to Ig’s crime thriller investigation, and ending on a CGI horror-style showdown. Any comedy that once existed is quickly replaced with uber intensity. Within Horns a great story exists but it is just too bloated and self-indulgent. Had Aja picked a tone and stuck to it the whole thing would have felt slicker but instead it’s all over the place. There are certainly some great moments but as the shows keeps going on they get fewer and fewer. There is so much potential in that initial plot but it’s just lost within the trappings of a Hollywood film.

There is so much that is overlooked and plenty that is dragged out longer that it deserves. The cast are, for the most part, given little to do and fail to make much of an impression. Daniel Radcliffe gives it his best but the whole concept of this film lets him down. I can’t even tell if I actually liked him or not because I was so fucking confused by what was going on. I can see why people enjoyed it but it certainly deserves the roasting that most of the professional critics gave it.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Swiss Army Man (2016)

Daniel Radcliffe, films, fucking beautiful, fucking weird, review, silly

We all know that I was a pretty big Harry Potter fan back in my day and I have a great deal of love for the film series that goes with it. However, I can’t say I’ve ever been that convinced by Daniel Radcliffe as an actor. He always seemed kind of shitty especially when he came face-to-face with some of Britain’s finest actors. Harry has always been one of the worst parts of the whole series because he’s such a whiny fuck and Daniel hardly did anything to make him any better. So when the series ended I didn’t exactly follow his post-Potter career with any real gusto. I mean the guy really doesn’t come across well in interviews and seemed to pick any old piece of shit to appear in. I just couldn’t be bothered. Until this year with the release of a film that sounded so fucking odd I couldn’t say no. Of course, that didn’t get me to the cinema in any real amount of time but I finally watched the film that could easily have been an episode of The Mighty Boosh or something.

Swiss Army Man is the kind of film that defies summary because it’s so fucking absurd you can’t really do it justice. The basic narrative follows Hank (Paul Dano), a young man who managed to get washed up on an island in the middle of the ocean. Bored and alone, Hank turns to suicide to end his suffering. Just before he ends it all Hank is distracted when he notices a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) on the shore. Thanks to a handy flatulence problem, Hank is able to ride the cadaver to freedom and washes up back on dry land. On his journey home Hank discovers many other advantages to having a dead best friend when the corpse, whom he christens Manny, slowly comes back to life and reveals a handful of useful traits.

So, yeah, Swiss Army Man is a fucking weird film that is based around an incredibly silly premise. It is built around childish humour and jokes about farting, masturbation, and erections. It won’t be for everyone but it is certainly worth a watch. If nothing else the film is an excellent two-hander between Dano and Radcliffe. The weird relationship that forms between Hank and Manny gives so many feels it beats any typical rom-com. It’s the bromance to beat all bromances that have gone before. I mean how many bros can you use as a water fountain, a form of transport, and a handy gun? The film also builds on themes of mortality, social norms and love to name but a few. It’s a film that is much deeper than the sheer number of fart jokes would suggest.

However, there is also a sense that the film is trying to be deeper than it manages. You’d hardly believe a film that has a running gag about an energetic erection could be called pretentious but it kind of is. I may just be fucking cynical but the eagerness with which this film tries to be so carefree makes it feel anything but. It’s got a lot of energy and puts a lot of faith in its underlying message but it just lacks substance. It’s like those fucking awful Dumbledore quotes people stick on their living room walls that sound inspiring and stuff but are actually just really shallow. Which would be fine if it was handled in a light-hearted way but Swiss Army Man is so self-indulgent it’s almost cringey.

Still, it is a fun film that, in an age of remakes, reboots and unoriginality, really helps restore your faith in Hollywood. Whatever you might think about the juvenile jokes and insane premise it certainly stands out. It’s also very beautifully put together and filmed. The stupidity of the story is almost at odds with the stylish manner in which its presented. The films also goes some way to change my mind about Daniel Radcliffe. He throws himself into the role like a fucking trooper and puts up with a load of shitty scenarios. He also shows a lot of skill in playing the reanimated corpse. It’s never over-played or silly and, if this can be possible, feels real. It’s the two leads that really keep this craziness going and make this the emotional journey it ended up being. It’s divided opinion to some extent but I’d watch it again.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Daniel Radcliffe, films, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, review

I saw Now You See Me with a couple of friends and vividly remember one of them despairing about how much we enjoyed it. She said it was nonsense and the plot didn’t make sense. She wasn’t wrong, of course, but, as we tried to explain to her, that didn’t make it any less exciting. Yes, finishing the film made you realise everything pretty much happened for no reason but it was still fun. I can’t even say that I am a massive fan of magic as I’m far too cynical to appreciate it. I’m always looking for the hidden aspects and the slight of hand because that’s what adults do. However, films concerning magic are always incredibly exciting. The Prestige is utterly insane when you think about it too much but that doesn’t stop it being fucking amazing. So, whilst I won’t be shouting it from the hill tops, I was a fan of the first film. Still, I can’t say I was exactly thrilled by the idea of a sequel. Especially as it starred Daniel Radcliffe, the least talented actor of the Harry Potter films. At least Mark Ruffalo would be there and I’m sure there’s a lot of things I could get through with the help of Mark Ruffalo.

Remember the fun but otherwise forgettable 2013 magic film Now You See Me? Do you remember how it ended? Well you better because the sequel nobody wanted or expected is here. Despite Now You See Me ending on a very final and satisfactory note, the powers that be obviously thought they could squeeze it for more so we’re picking up where we left of in Now You See Me 2. For those who haven’t spent the last 3 years thinking about this film I’ll sum up. The magicians, known as The Four Horsemen, are in hiding and undercover FBI agent/magician Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is pretending to hunt for them. Meanwhile, angry patsy Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) is languishing in prison intent of making the Horsemen pay for setting him up for a pretty flimsy reason. He’s posting internet videos calling for vengeance and, when the Horsemen are called out of retirement, it looks as though he’ll get his chance.

The four magicians, minus the ginger Isla Fisher but with the addition of the more edgy Lizzy Caplan, are called on to reveal the greed of a businessman who possesses software that can steal data from its users. When the plot goes wrong and Dylan is outed as a double agent the group find themselves kidnapped by the supposed dead partner of the businessman, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). He forces the magicians to steal the software for him or he’ll kill them or something. It doesn’t really matter because, as we know by now, the plot really isn’t as simple as all that. Everyone is playing games and nobody really knows what’s going on.

It basically becomes the same kind of showdown we saw in the original between the corrupt and dangerous Mabry and our Robin Hood-esque magic group. However, this time there’s more talking and more exposition to get us to the very obvious ending. Plus, just when you think this film couldn’t get more ridiculous than its predecessor, in a weird subplot Dylan works on his continued Daddy issues when he goes to Thaddeus for help in tracking down his magic interns. To any normal person this seems like a fucking stupid idea but Dylan sees no problem with helping his arch-enemy escape from prison.

This film does succeed in providing you with everything you expect, though. There’s magic, brooding Mark Ruffalo, zany Woody Harrelson and annoyed Jesse Eisenberg. Although, in Now You See Me 2 there was far too much of the latter two and not enough magic in any sense of the word. Still, I guess these movies aren’t really about magic but are more of an Ocean’s Eleven meets The Prestige kind of caper. Magi-crime thriller? I dunno. Still, it is fun enough but, you can’t help feeling, second time around it just doesn’t have the same effect. Mostly because it was a completely unnecessary sequel. The story line is stretched super thin because there was just no place to go at the end of the first one. Whatever you may think of the quality, it was pretty self-contained.

No matter how many quirky new characters, secret identical twins or Chinese magic shops you throw into the mix, this sequel still feels like it fails to lie up to the, not so great, heights of its predecessor. Everything feels desperate and there are so many failed attempts to ramp up the thrills. Take Michael Caine’s dramatic reveal, which, thanks to his very obvious appearance in all the marketing, is nowhere near as thrilling as the filmmakers would have liked. The mood is much more bleak and Mark Ruffalo spends most of his time moping around. The rest of the cast seem content to treat the film as the insane story that it is but Ruffalo refuses to take a break. It often feels at odds with the rest of the proceedings.

The first film had no real expectations of itself and was a fun, flashy affair that didn’t care how absurd it was. And I liked that about it. This film is a tepid and unimaginative affair that calls on every stupid trick in the book to try and convince its audience that it’s relevant. Unfortunately, it’s not. I mean there are a couple of stand-out moments but nothing major. The only thing that really got me excited was the moment the group try and hide the stolen chip by slyly chucking a playing card back-and-forth in front of angry security guards. Even that feels half-arsed in the grand scheme of things though. You won’t necessarily hate this film but there is no denying it’s lost the magic of the original.