Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Winnie the Pooh, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan plus films on newspapers and travel
Harry Potter is the giant among the movies this weekend. Winnie the Pooh, Snow Flower and the grey lady of New York also show up.
Here's the List:
Harry Potter #8: 4 1/2 stars
Winnie the Pooh: 4
Page One: Inside the New York Times: 3
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: 2 1/2
180° South: 4
I Travel Because I Have To: 3
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Part 2: I remember Saturday afternoon at the movies years ago and no matter the film there was always a point when the music starts to rise up and it became apparent that it’s about to end. I had a version of that sad-sweet feeling during this film. It’s been ten years after all that we’ve followed Harry and his pals Hermione and Ron. Remember when they were just kids riding on broomsticks?
We watched them grow, school year by school year, through their teenage years to this.
It’s been a trip, as they used to say. And this final film is a glorious, rousing send off. The final man-to-man confrontation between Harry and Voldemort isn’t as long as I would have expected, but the build up to it is gripping and the battle scenes around it are spectacular. The attack on Hogwart’s and the rubble that results reminds exactly of the London Blitz. Even better, there’s an earlier sequence, in the underground vault of Gringotts Bank, reached via a roller coaster and guarded by a dragon, that’s exciting with tension and imaginatively-staged action. Later there’s a fire monster and our three friends get back on broomsticks to escape him. To me that’s part of the satisfying way this film wraps up the saga. It recalls what came before and answers all the questions still hanging, what Voldemort is really up to, how Harry really figures into it, final revelations about Snape and Dumbledore. It’s so well done, it doesn’t at all feel like boring exposition, but it does complete the themes of good vs evil, tolerance vs bigotry and fear of death.
The film looks almost black and white to support the gravity of the material. There are some slow spots but not many. Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry, gets far more to do than Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who are standing by silent in several scenes. Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are solid performers as usual along with a long roster of other fine British actors, many of whom get only a brief cameo. (5th Avenue, Dunbar, Rio, Oakridge, Scotiabank and suburban theatres everywhere.
4 ½ out of 5
WINNIE THE POOH: For the pre-Harry Potter set. It’s nice to see that in this time of hyper-active, pop-culture-stuffed animated films, there’s still room for a relaxed and quiet little movie like this. The honey-loving bear and all his friends are drawn by hand the old way and caught up in a charmingly simple story.
Actually, it’s a fusion of three stories from the Pooh books. Winnie is diverted from his honey quest into searching for Eeyore’s missing tail and further diverted into trapping a creature that seems to have kidnapped Christopher Robin. The gang digs a pit and, of course, end up falling into it themselves. The story is propelled by a misreading of a note. That, plus the cute way the scenes blend into actual storybook pages now and then, and occasionally letters fall about, make the film perfect for young children who have just started to read. It’ll actually encourage them to keep on. The animation is clean and bright, and talk show host Craig Ferguson is the most memorable of the voices. He plays the officious Owl. John Cleese narrates. And don’t leave til the credits end. All the characters re-appear during them and then, at the very end, there’s a surprise cameo that playfully nullifies a large chunck of the story. The film clocks in at just over one hour and is preceded by a short cartoon The Legend of Nessie, as in Loch Ness. (International Village and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
PAGE ONE: Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers are far more newsworthy right now but this fascinating documentary takes us “Inside the New York Times” and ultimately into a more important story. Can quality newspapers survive in this age of Google News? Well, they have to. Where do you think Google gets its news from? Or there’s Wiki Leaks, which is covered in the film. Somebody has to sift through those 1000s of cables and e-mails to tell us what they mean. Better yet, there’s a sequence in which NBC is showing a troop pull-out from Iraq that may only be a photo-op. We watch the Times staff try to verify exactly what it is. Scenes like that are strong endorsement for the grey lady and all newspapers. Unfortunately they’re outnumbered by more mundane stuff, fly on the wall observations that are interesting, but mostly to news junkies. The film centers on the paper’s media desk, and most consistently on one writer, David Carr.
He’s tenacious in getting information, acerbic about a blogger colleague and much of the so-called new media. He’s also a former crack addict and yet, still not at interesting as the last Times staffer the movies followed, the idiosyncratic fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham. That makes the film a far less compelling watch, even though the stakes are much higher. New media and dropping ad revenue are forcing changes but we see only the desk that reports on it not the whole newsroom. The Pentagon Papers are proudly recalled, but so is the weapons of mass destruction reporting of Judith (“My sources were wrong.”) Miller. Still, the case is firmly made for why we need courageous newspapers. (International Village) 3 out of 5
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN: And there’s yet more to talk about this week in the Rupert Murdoch household. Rupert’s wife Wendi, Chinese born and roughly half his age, is now a movie producer. As her first effort, she presents an extreme reworking of Lisa See’s popular novel about two lifelong friends, Snow Flower and Lily, in rural China 200 years ago.
They suffer foot-binding, arranged marriage and stern admonitions that “Disobedience is a woman’s greatest sin.” They are emotionally connected through a rite of sisterhood called laotong but betrayal, jealousy and revenge threaten it. Also, there’s civil unrest, a diphtheria outbreak and a harrowing march of refugees. Yet somebody, perhaps Wendi, director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) or the three screenwriters, thought that wasn’t enough. They added a parallel story set in modern-day Shanghai.
Nina and Sophia, played by the same actresses, Bingbing Li and Gianna Jun, have just as tight a friendship but less struggle. Nina is a businesswomen on the move, to New York perhaps. Her best pal Sophia, a descendant of Snow Flower’s, suffers a traffic accident that puts her into a coma and triggers flashbacks, memories, reconsiderations and only a pretty good melodrama. The old story is subtitled; the new one is in English. The most notable addition is a character played by Hugh Jackman, who even sings a famous Chinese song about “just one kiss.”
(Park Theatre, International Village, Riverport) 2 ½ out of 5
180° SOUTH: This is half of a strong double bill about travel the VanCity theatre is showing. Perfect for vacation season and offering much to think about.
This one is a documentary in which American surfer, climber and all-round adventurer Jeff Johnson heads south to Patagonia to retrace a trip taken 40 years earlier by two outdoorsmen he considers heroes. A boat trip, a broken mast, an eye-opening stopover on Easter Island, encounters with Chilean farmers fighting dams and pulp mills and finally meeting the two men he was emulating have the effect of transforming him and his ideas about progress. An beautiful film. (VanCity) 4 out of 5
Playing in tandem with …
I TRAVEL BECAUSE IT HAVE TO: With the extra thought I COME BACK BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, is a strange and dreamy mediation on travel from Brazil. A man we never see is driving through a remote area to scout a route for a new canal. He keep up a constant patter (in Portuguese) about his work, his woman back home and his “mad urge to turn back”. It feels like many a business trip but gradually it becomes something else. He admits he’s scared of being alone. But why is he alone? What does he mean he wants to restore peace in his house? The mood darkens as he keeps talking and reveals more about himself. He picks up hookers and at one truck stop finds the film’s title written on a wall. An sparse, unusual, almost experimental backing for the urge to keep moving. (VanCity) 3 out of 5
NOTE: The images were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners. Harry Potter photos carry this extra notice: © 2011 Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.