From Movie Man Mike
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (B+) Next to the original film in this series, I think this one may be my favorite. You get to see the maturing of the characters in this film as they begin to question authority and take on the responsibility of saving the school. That’s particularly true for Harry, who starts out as a shy, reluctant hero, but who really gains his confidence as matters progress. This film, like the last, is a bit darker than the earlier films, but I expect that Rowling’s audience has matured as well. I didn’t care so much for Professor Umbridge’s character. She was a little annoying and tiresome. I am disappointed the filmmakers cut out some choice exchanges between Umbridge and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van) that were in the book, but then it was probably necessary because the book was quite long. I recommend this one, particularly if you are a fan of the series.
DVD review from Nick at Nite
How do you know a foreign film is a good movie? Well, you know it is a good movie if the subtitles don’t distract you or force you to lose interest in the film. This Spanish film was a good movie because for this English speaker — it was as if it was not subtitled. It is an original story involving either the very vivid imagination of a teenage girl or a trippy visit to an underworld with magical creatures set against the backdrop of the fascist regime in Spain. It would be difficult to tell the story in a few lines and I am not interested in spoiling the movie for anyone that has not seen it. In short, a teenage girl is forced into a difficult situation with her stepfather and pregnant mother. She finds an escape and solace in a mysterious book and the promise that she might be a princess who has been missing from her “underworld kingdom” for many years.
New from The Movie Snob
Ratatouille (D+). Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but I thought this movie from Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, was a big disappointment. It’s about a rat named Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt, Young Adult) who loves good food and good cooking. This makes him a misfit among his fellow rats, and when he finds himself in Paris he quickly attaches himself to a famous restaurant named Gusteau’s. He helps a garbage boy become a successful chef in Gusteau’s kitchen, and a couple of villains have to be overcome (most enjoyably the dreaded food critic Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O’Toole, Troy). Although visually spectacular, as you would expect, the movie as a whole is simply dull. The animated short that precedes it, about a would-be alien abduction, was okay.
Book review from The Movie Snob
The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. Continuing on through the new Library of America edition of PDK’s work, I read this novel, which won Dick an award for science-fiction writing. It is set in an alternative universe, circa 1962, in which the Axis won WWII. The United States has been carved up between Japan (the west coast) and Germany (the east coast), with an independent buffer state in between. Most of the action takes place in California, focusing on a mysterious European’s attempt to meet clandestinely with a mysterious Japanese, while Nazis try to prevent the meeting. Connecting many of the characters is a fascination with a best-selling novel about a world in which the Allies beat the Axis. An interesting book, better written than some of PDK’s others, but the ending left me unsatisfied.
Book review by The Movie Snob
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick. This is another of the four novels collected in the new Library of Americas edition of Dick’s novels from the 1960’s. It is truly bizarre. In the future, the Earth is slowly cooking because of global warming(!). As a result, the UN is drafting people and shipping them out to colonies on Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, where they eke out a bleak and hopeless existence. The colonists keep their sanity by taking a nominally illegal hallucinogen called Can-D, which deceives them into thinking they are back in Earth in its pre-global-warming days. Then news gets out that a mysterious and eccentric industrialist named Palmer Eldritch is returning from a years-long expedition to the star system of Proxima Centauri, bearing a new hallucinogen that is far more effective than Can-D. Is he a spy or agent for the alien Proxers? Or something even more sinister? A trippy book, definitely kept me wondering what was going on, but the ending was sort of a letdown.