The Harry Potter movie series comes to a close this week with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which, if I'm not mistaken, represents the eighth movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling's wildly successful book series.
I confess: I've never watched a Harry Potter movie. I've caught a few minutes here and there on HBO or at a friend's or family member's house, but for some reason I've never been compelled enough to sit down and take in the entirety of even one of the series' movies.—-
There are multiple reasons for this: Harry Potter/Daniel Radcliffe seems like an insufferable wuss; I'm not particularly fond of Brits (don't get me started on the Royal Family nonsense); I hate round, John Lennon-esque eyewear; I'm always suspicious of highly popular literary/film series; the name Hogwarts is deeply unappealing; I'd have to start with the first movie to understand what the hell is going on; and, perhaps most importantly, I've never been much of a fantasy/sci-fi geek.
Sure, I went through a brief comic-book phase (I still have the first 20 issues of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!), and I've always been a fan of campy genre movies, but, besides the original Star Wars trilogy and the work of a few authors (most prominently Philip K. Dick), I've never been able to get into fantasy/sci-fi stuff like Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons. I even have a hard time taking the overheated but amusing True Blood seriously.
Call me a snob or not sufficiently “imaginative,” but the genre often leaves me cold. There are multiple reasons for this, too, the most obvious being that its fantastical narratives and, in the case of movies and TV shows, its largely un-organic special effects almost always result in an attack on my suspension of disbelief, thereby emotionally inoculating its characters' various perils and challenges. Besides, “real” life has always seemed fucked up and fantastical enough as it is.
Of course, it's not as if Warner Bros. cares what I think or needs me to boost Potter's profile —enthusiasm for the series finale is at an all-time high. And, according to Scott Renshaw's positive review below, its fans are likely to find Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a satisfying conclusion to a series that has enraptured an entire generation of moviegoers and book readers. In an era of dwindling book readership and fractured cultural touchstones, that's a serious and largely commendable accomplishment.
A BETTER LIFE — Versatile director Chris Weitz’s A Better Life rarely transcends its programmatic structure and predictable character arcs, although its immigrant, working-class milieu is drenched in realism and heartache. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) —Marjorie Baumgarten (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 — It’s fair to say that while Hallows 2.0 is far from a perfect piece of film-craft, director David Yates and screenwriter Kloves know exactly how to guide us through this final chapter of J.K. Rowling's epic book series. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) —Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B
PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES — The title of Andrew Rossi's often fascinating, sometimes frustrating documentary is only partially accurate. While Page One does give us glimpses into The New York Times inner-workings and access to some of the people who work there, its scattershot narrative structure never fully illuminates how stories make their way to the front page of what is still considered the most important media entity in journalism. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) —Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Grade: B
WINNIE THE POOH —Everyone's favorite fictional bear, created by children's author A.A. Milne in 1926, gets another big-screen treatment, this one again featuring Pooh's buddies Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo as they embark on a quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary bad guy. (Opens wide today.) —JG (Rated G.) Review coming soon.