As the wonder of the Harry Potter adventure comes to a close, it is with an excited, yet heavy, heart that I see the first installment of the last book. What a fantastic ride! Deathly Hallows Part I is the best screen adaptation (thank you, Steve Kloves!) since the first film, Sorcerer’s Stone. The script is concise, action packed, funny and poignant. The dialogue sounds natural and there isn’t any obvious exposition that can drag a script down. The film is also the best directorial installment by David Yates – his earlier attempts being the last two in the series, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. This is great news since the last two movies are such a disappointment.
Early on, Yates brags on how he makes Phoenix the shortest movie in the franchise (coming in at a mere 138 minutes ). Right away I’m put on my guard. Doesn’t this guy realize that us diehard Potter fans are more than willing to sit for a almost three hours to see what happens? Doesn’t he get that fans want to see the most accurate adaptation as possible? Apparently, he doesn’t. Order of the Phoenix is a mess put together by a series of montages meant to propel the story forward, but only leaves the watcher wanting to see more action. Some of the same shots are even used twice. Unfortunately, Half-Blood Prince isn’t any better. It’s sloppy, disjointed. The scenes are choppy and don’t fit with one another. There is no linkage. The beautiful scene transitions of Alfonso Cuaron (Prisoner of Azakaban) and Mike Newell (Goblet of Fire) are badly missing. But the biggest problem of both of the films is that they really underestimate the audience. A damn shame.
But Deathly Hallows Part I does not disappoint! Thank the celluloid gods! It totally steps it up a notch, and not just one. It is literally a world away from Yates other attempts. It’s almost as if the onetime TV director went to film school and learned how to make a complete movie. This film is so much better than his past installments you have to wonder if he received extra help. The cinematography (executed brilliantly by Eduardo Serra – Girl with a Pearl Earring) is captivating. But it’s the editing that sets this movie apart. So much so, it’s hard to believe it’s the same editor from Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Mark Day. Perhaps, he too got some extra help to transfer his television editing skills to the big screen. But the best thing is that these guys finally got their sh*t together to produce a Harry Potter movie that exceeds fan expectations – all except for the wait. Waiting for July 2011 for the second half will be torture.
I’m so happy to see Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serendipity) really come into his own. Starring on the hit show Castle, Fillion manages to make his writer character endearing, but annoying, cute, yet manly and at the same time keep the tension up with policewoman sidekick, Beckett (Stana Katic – who I first remember seeing in the poorly received The Spirit).
First introduced to Fillion in the too short lived Joss Whedon series Firefly (also starring another crush of mine, Adam Baldwin. Love, love , love him in My Bodyguard, Netflix it today!), it’s great to see him in something that lasts more than four shows. But the storylines on Castle really shows off, Fillion’s comic ability combined with entertaining plots.
It’s not your normal cop show – Law & Order, NCIS, CSI – this one does have a beginning, middle, and an end, but it’s expertly combined with humor, and that is really what is making all the difference. Audiences get a full story about a crime (base on a real crime or not, it doesn’t matter), they get the tension between two incredibly good looking people of the opposite sex, and they get some well written dialogue that does its job to propel the story forward. The show is a great treat on Monday night and there is hardly any blood.
It can even make fun of itself and with Fillion’s added touch of bringing silliness with seriousness, Castle is the new Law & Order.
Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is an entertaining read centering around three characters living in Jackson Mississippi in the early 1960’s. Skeeter is an awkward, lanky, college graduate bordering on spinsterhood at the age of 23, and is white. Abileen and Minny are both black maids, having spent the majority of their lives raising white children while working in white households and trying to stay invisible.
The maids are really the secret keepers to the goings on in their employers’ households. And Stockett does a really good job of painting a poor picture of the white population of Jackson. This is mainly in the character of Miss Hilly – a bigoted young mother, uber supporter of segregation, and sorority sister of Skeeter. The woman is such a witch that you hear the famous music from the Wizard of Oz in your head whenever she appears in a scene.
It is a very interesting premise – the idea of telling a tale from the point of view of those who see all and hear all and say nothing. The story reveals itself in first person using the point of view of the three women. The maids speak in thick dated dialect (Law have mercy) and are really the most interesting. But the story depends upon Skeeter saving the day and I can’t help but wonder if it truly serves the story well – a white woman as the shining beacon of righteousness to the two black maids. It’s a sticky situation. Stockett lightly touches on it with one line from another maid, but any conflict the question might cause is trampled by Abileen. The story starts off being brave, but I think just isn’t brave enough.
Stockett builds her world with lovely narration and beautiful alliteration. It’s a bit jarring however, when more than halfway through the book to have the point of view change to third person in order to propel the story forward. This is an issue a lot of writers face creating works with the first person point of view (Stephanie Meyer and the Twilight books changing all of a sudden to somebody else’s point of view comes to mind). It lasts for one brief section, but it is enough to remove me from the story all together – and I’m not sure if I ever truly get back.
Since the novel has been optioned to film, it will be interested to see how the story is adapted. When dealing with characters that express such internal conflict and from such a personal place – coming from their own voice – it is extremely difficult to translate that intimate knowledge to a visual medium.
Time will tell.