Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the Potter franchise ends not with a bang or a whimper, but unending fields of grey. Not shades of grey. Not grey to represent moral ambiguity. Just literal grey. No colour was used in the creation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
This is not to say that it’s a bad film (although it does have a bad title), For something that has been effectively ten years in the making, dragging seven films of baggage behind it, this is a movie that relies too heavily on the projections of its audience; David Yates has provided a near blank canvas upon which actors run through motions endowed only with the meaning that the audience chooses. Yates has forced us to do the heavy lifting, spending hundreds of millions of dollars without investing any of it in emotion or gravitas.

Directing With A Tintin Ear

I would dearly like to believe that Steven Spielberg isn’t a terrible person full of bad ideas, but being presented with the trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a severe test of my faith. I’m no wholesale motion capture snob, but I don’t understand how Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg could look at what they’ve created and call it aesthetically pleasing.

There was very little point approaching a Tintin project this way. While the scenery looks okay, Hergésque, even, the animation and the character models are simply not up to standard. This level of work is only one step above the visual hellscape that was Mars Needs Moms, which is considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time after inflation. If you look at the 50 second mark with Thompson and Thomson bumbling down the stairs, or the 1:50 mark where one of them hits the street light, it’s clear that Spielberg has no sense of animation. These characters are being clicked and dragged, and it’s not a good look.

Whoever decided that Snowy looked like a dog rather than a series of cotton buds needs to be fired, as well. It’s he and Tintin, rendered breathless by Jamie Bell, that get the worst of it all. Tintin, being the title character, needs to look less dumb. It’s too late for that. It was always going to be too late. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, intent on whittling away all of the good will that they’ve earned over the years, are uninspired thus far.

Next we have Captain Haddock, the most pleasing member of the bunch. He looks like Captain Haddock! Alas, he’s been rendered into a bumbling Scot. At this point in the Tintin mythos he’s a drunkard, but that’s not communicated here. Due to the inexplicable thick accent, the audience is forced to assume that his stupidity is directly related to his country of origin. I know that this isn’t strictly fair given that we’ve only got 2:24 to work with, but trailer cutters should know that first impressions count.

While I believe I will drag myself to see The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, I don’t hold out much hope for it. The sense of adventure might be pointing in the right direction, but the look and the sound are entirely wrong. Had Spielberg attempted to go all the way in either direction – live action and effects driven, or computer generated – he might have ended up with something worth looking at. Secret of the Unicorn is the movie of 2011 that I’m most likely to watch with my eyes closed.

Jack and Jill: Adam Sandler hates me and you and everyone we know

In Judd Apatow’s long and boring 2009 vanity project Funny People, Adam Sandler plays a successful comedian who made his fortune with a series of terrible and gimmicky comedies (a wizard has turned Adam Sandler into a baby! Only Justin Long can look after him!). In 2011, Funny People has come true.

Yes, Adam Sandler’s career has finally caught up with Rob Schneider’s. I never thought I’d see the day!

 

Making terrible movies is nothing new for Adam Sandler, but I think that Jack and Jill has to be a new low. It has to be, because I refuse to accept that he has made a movie worse than this one. I don’t make a habit of watching Adam Sandler movies and was burnt terribly by his last non-Apatow vehicle that I saw, so I’ll just keep on believing what I choose to believe.

 

Is there any way that Jack and Jill can be good? Adam Sandler plays himself and his twin sister, living in an idyllic and totally unsympathetic capitalist dystopia. Every single problem that the Sandlers face in this trailer can only be experienced by a stupidly rich person: “I hope my sister doesn’t ruin my pool by riding on a jet ski!” “I can’t believe Al Pacino is hitting on me court side at a Lakers game!” Even their apparent reconciliation, awkwardly shoe-horned  in the midst of the trailer, comes in the form of Double Dutch skipping on the $1.2 billion USD largest passenger ship ever built.

I know that the millions of families who go and see this movie will personally identify with the sickening bourgeoisie antics of Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler! If anyone recalls Macaulay Culkin’s Richie Rich from 1994, the entire concept was that Richie had so much money that he had no idea how to relate to society. A more “modern” example like Russell Brand’s remake of Arthur covers similar material, denouncing wealth while revelling in it.

The nightmare that the Sandlers live in with Katie Holmes is presented as if it is a wonderful life that can only be spoiled by outside influence. Humanity is presented as destructive to the American way of life, which is the right to own more than you could ever possibly need while systematically ignoring your family.

 

Of course, “none of this would matter” (it would) if the movie looked funny at all. It doesn’t. It has no capacity for laughs, existing only to bring further shame to Al Pacino, who I understand has made some good movies in his time … but that was so long ago I can’t remember. I can’t picture Katie Holmes and Adam Sandler having anything approaching chemistry, and the cute adopted child cribbed from Easy A is more than a little on the nose. I can’t wait for this movie to make billions and reinforce my total lack of confidence in the universe.

 

I’ve got one thing to say to you, Adam Sandler: Don’t Bring Me Down!

Spoilers of Ice and Fire, Part II

A Week of Ice and Fire, Bonus Round II!

In the second part of the two part “Spoilers of Ice and Fire” series, I look into some other characters. I have no idea how I’m doing for timing, but by the time this is published I firmly hope to be reading A Dance With Dragons.

 

Remember that if you don’t want to know what has happened in the books leading up to A Dance With Dragon, avoid reading this for your own sanity!

 

Spoiler city! So many spoilers for A Game of Thrones to A Feast For Crows you won’t know what to do with yourself!

Spoilers of Ice and Fire, Part I

A Week of Ice and Fire, Bonus Round I!

 

The rest of the Week of Ice and Fire has been dedicated to writing generally spoiler free impressions of A Song of Ice and Fire to date, carefully dancing around ruining anything for anyone. The final entries, however, are devoted to something else entirely: my thoughts on specific and sometimes horrific things that happened within the first four books.

 

If you don’t want to know stuff that happens in the books, you’ll want to avoid this. If you’re already familiar with the books, or you don’t care if you find out things ahead of time … step right in!

 

Spoiler city! So many spoilers for A Game of Thrones to A Feast For Crows you won’t know what to do with yourself!

 

A Feast For Crows

A Week of Ice and Fire, Day Four!

Ah, here is where it all ended six years ago. And this is only half the story – George R.R. Martin chose to split this book geographically, with only the southrons getting any attention in this volume. For news of those in the north and the east, we have to wait until A Dance With Dragons. This means two things: A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons are both sequels to A Storm of Swords, and we won’t get a follow up on the events of A Feast For Crows until The Winds of Winter is published … whenever that may be.

 

This isn’t all bad, because A Feast For Crows is a pretty dang good book. Yet, even more than A Feast For Crows, Martin has truly cultivated his taste for insane cliffhangers. I understand now why people have been so upset for the last six years (particularly as this volume has Martin “devoutly hoping” to release A Dance With Dragons within a year – signed June 2005), but … they’re not going to get any answers. Nothing but questions await us next week, but I don’t plan on devoting my life to cursing Martin’s name for taking his own sweet time.

 

Contains the risk of spoilers for the three books that came before it!

A Storm of Swords

A Week of Ice and Fire, Day Three!

 

I couldn’t find the laughably terrible cover that I have at home at a suitable resolution online, and the new “classy CG” covers are just awful so I’ve declined the opportunity to put them up. Just imagine a book with a really cool cover, because damn fantasy gets poorly treated in the cover stakes.

A Storm of Swords is the most exciting entry in A Song of Ice and Fire of the first three. It’s interesting to say this because it’s essentially an exercise in sadism for Martin from start to finish. Gelling in a way that A Clash of Kings never quite managed, the sheer dynamism on display makes for an incredibly entertaining book. Certainly, the entertainment value falls within the bounds of believability, but … truly, nothing is sacred to Martin, and that is amazing.

 

Contains spoilers for A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings

A Week of Ice and Fire, Day Two!

Of Kings!

 

A Clash of Kings is a good book, and, while it delivers on most of the promises of A Game of Thrones’ explosive ending, it makes a point of emphasising the fantasy roots of the series and is significantly less pleasant all around in its developments.

 

Contains spoilers for A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

A Week of Ice and Fire, Day One!

I've made a huge mistake.

 

It’s all happening for George R.R. Martin this year. With the long awaited A Dance With Dragons due next week and Game of Thrones now a hit HBO series, he’s probably selling more books than he has since 2005. I come to praise Martin, not to bury him beneath the detritus of the last fifteen years.

 

Now I’m going to take you back to ancient times: 1996. Robert Jordan was alive and good for pull-quotes, Terry Pratchett was putting out both Feet of Clay and Hogfather in the golden age of Discworld, and Neil Gaiman was finishing up Sandman and producing Neverwhere. They were good times.

Then came George R.R. Martin with Game of Thrones, first in the projected trilogy (now a septet) that comprises A Song of Ice and Fire. Without any of the baggage of the rest of the series I must say: this is a pretty damned good book. Certainly, it has some elements of the territory of genre: incest, rape, general unpleasantness, but the thing is that Martin presents these instances impartially, without eroticising them. Where another author might think that rape is the coolest thing going and will take every opportunity to insert it into their narrative, Martin uses it as what it is: a bad act committed by bad men. There are no heroes for him to debase with his fetishes … thus far.

Norwegian Wood (film)

How I missed those loving arms

It’s easy to have bad ideas. One such idea was “Let’s make Norwegian Wood into a movie!”
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami’s breakout novel, has in my uninformed opinion influenced Japanese cinema culture in the 24 years since it was first published. The nostalgic student romance genre has been essentially perfected as an art by a long series of directors – some distinctive, some interchangeable, but many worthwhile.

The same can’t be said of Anh Hung Tran, who has taken only the bad lessons and excesses of so much student melodrama and fashioned them into a movie that is not only superficial, but deeply unsatisfying. I don’t see how anyone who has read the book could be pleased with this result but, more than that, it is a failure of the cinematic form. Dull and soporific when it isn’t being irritating and shrill, there’s nothing here to recommend.