Latest Posts:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Oh yes, it was “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” If only all franchise films were as good as this one (Are you reading this, Rich Berman and the producers of “Star Trekr”). (mary’s note: I would italicize that parenthetical phrase, but it’s just me)

First off, I ache a little bit because this is one long movie. I guess director Chris Columbus and the producers figured a longer running time is fine if it tells a more complete story (“Lord of the Rings”). Good for them. American audiences don’t always need just a 90 minute movie. We do have longer attention spans if something is worthy. Columbus deserves to be congratulated for sticking it out. For a fantastic interview that Facer did with Columbus go here. (mary’s note: this plug is out of place. Maybe imbed it into the “Columbus” in the line just belowr)

I cannot believe this is the same man (Columbus) who directed “Nine Months.” Heck, I can’t even believe this is the same man who directed the last “Harry Potter.” That movie was often boring and misguided. “The Chamber of Secrets” has a whole different feel to it, and Columbus really owns the day. The way he used his camera I felt like David Fincher was at the helm. It’s a real shame Columbus won’t be directing the 3rd Potter; he’s got the command of it now.

“Chamber” held my attention throughout it’s over two and a half hour running time. The first one couldn’t do that; the characters just felt off, and the story seemed to skip from beat to beat like a pebble skipping over water. “Chamber” avoids all that, probably because we are already familiar with Ron, Harry, Hagrid and the whole bunch, so Columbus doesn’t have to waste much time on them. Instead he gets down to the heart of the story — which is a wonderful puzzle of suspicious characters, dark pasts and terrible events that demand answering. All of this is executed with sheer brilliance.

The movie reminds me of “The Sopranos” in the way each little story line pays off. We are never allowed to forget the smallest detail, like the qualities of a Phoenix’s tears or a glance of an eye across a crowded bookstore. Everything is important here, and everything is referenced back onto itself so that, we, the audience, enjoy the puzzle and take a part in its unveiling. This quality is a tribute to Potter author J.K. Rowling.

Rowling’s novels are really moderate at best. They are not by a stretch original or special, but they did something for the fantasy genre that, in the best comparison I can think of, Jackie Chan did for Kung Fu.

What do I meanr Well, Chan has made Kung Fu movies accessible by bringing a quality to them that they didn’t always possess: humor. The same goes for Rowling and the fantasy genre. By adding humor to the mix she is able to (like Chan) widen the audience and allow all people to identify with it. They also black-and-white the story with clear-cut good guys and bad guys, which makes it easier to understand so that still more people can become fans. Add in some of the genres most loved generalities, executed nicely, and you have a sure fire hit. Rowling does a nice touch, as I said before, by allowing great payoffs for audience attention to detail (and boy, do audiences love that). Anyway, this review is suppose to be about that movie in which Daniel Radcliffe is a star.

He really owns Harry now (You’ve heard that before, and you will more after this film). He delivers his lines crisply and with the air of seasoned pro. Though he has grown a lot in the last year, such a transformation befits his character, who is growing more sure of himself. Emma Watson as Hermione impressed me the most. She’s really beginning to look like a woman. Look at that jaw line and her brow and you can watch her growing up right in front of your eyes. At times, in the first Potter she was pompous and overzealous, but here she’s much better tuned as the know-it-all, loyal to the end friend. Kenneth Branagh got the most laughs. He fits the Gilderoy Lockhart role well, and it’s almost a shame his comic relief won’t be around again. There is little room for laughter, though, in the film’s dark and wonderful conclusion.

Where in the first film there was a lot of flame and fire to conclude the movie, “Chamber” has a perfect conclusion between Harry and Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort). Their exchange of words at the film’s end is marvelous and pulled off with precise acting and nice editing. Things then get really frightening really fast — young ones in the theater will be screaming in fright. But I’m telling you, it’s such a pleasure to have great dialogue and well timed, well executed action sequences in a film’s pay-off (Michael Bay, are you reading thisr).

On the whole, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” was a delight for me to behold. I am not a big fan of the first film or of the four novels, but this film made me want to like the whole franchise and everything associated with it. If only Agent 007 was always such a delightful wizard…err…no, that’s next week’s franchise. Got to sort these things out.

Rating: A
Share

Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon

Having seen the masterpiece that is “AI,” I went inquiring for other un-produced works by my favorite Director Stanley Kubrick. I had heard some time ago that Mr. Kubrick had planned to make a film based on the life of Napoleon. The project, as many of his did, had consumed him for years on end before he was forced to abandon it. Contacting some friends with vast resources, I landed my nicotine stained hands on a copy of a screenplay of “Napoleon” authored by Stanley Kubrick. The script was once located on the Internet but is no longer available at the request of the Kubrick family.

The script, dated September 29, 1969, runs 148 pages and follows the life of General Napoleon Bonaparte. Kubrick credits nearly 500 books on the life of the general as his historical education. Kubrick’s touches are all over the script. It is certainly the grandest project he ever took on. The large production costs the film might have incurred are the main reason the studios shut it down. A number of large battle sequences are elegantly described and detailed. My film loving heart wonders what kind combat sequences he would have painted. Certainly, it would have looked nothing like “The Patriot,” coming from the same general period. The meat of the script is in the relationship between Napoleon and his wife Josephine. I felt a felting glance of the kind of interrelationship tangle Kubrick later wove into “Eyes Wide Shut.” The scenes involving the two are well written and reveal the heart of Napoleon’s character.

Kubrick’s artistic touch is seen throughout the scripts. Along with the grandiose battle scenes, Kubrick seems to be dreaming of great sets to shoot as he writes his script. There is an intoxicating bedroom design of Josephine’s that consists of a bedroom entirely covered in mirrors. Kubrick stages a number of love scenes in here and in one case adds a very Kubrickian note at the end of one: MAXIMUM EROTICA.

Kubrick’s talent was not in the writing department for most of his career. He often worked tirelessly with co-writers, exchanging drafts, rewrites and ideas. This script bears only his name and shows it in many places. The dialogue is often very weak and Napoleon’s rise to fame is accomplished too swiftly. This leads to a very slow and confusing start to the film as characters and quick set pieces dance in and out of the script. Yet, by the beginning of the films 2nd act I was engaged. Napoleon’s letters to his wife were the main cause of this. It is here that we really begin to learn about the man who is so successful on the battlefield.

However it is the strength of Kubrick’s visualizations that really caught my attention. His detail of battle strategies and there executions are flawless.

At the script’s conclusion Kubrick has provided seven pages of detailed production notes. They include some interesting tidbits: his intention to shoot 1.3 minutes of film per day, over a half a year in five different countries. Kubrick’s attention to detail can be seen as he takes extra care to describe the various uniforms of the many armies in the film. He apparently went as far as to meet with representatives from Romania and Italy to discuss using their military as extras. He also details firms in New York that can produce uniforms for the movie at a reduced price, since he does not see the logic in renting uniforms for such an extended shoot. (The studio must have loved this).

As for the all-important casting of the title role, Kubrick plainly states he would not like to see a leading Hollywood star play the role. He states:, “I want an actor between 20-35 who has the good looks of the younger Napoleon and who can be aged and made up to look like the older Napoleon. He should be able to convey the restless energy, the callousness, the inflexible will… also (his) tremendous charm.”

All this reveals the extreme care Kubrick took to this project. At the end of the script is detailed a number of steps he took in pre-production. It appears the film was very close to actually going to the full production stage. Everything from the lenses he needed to the films Art Director seem to be in place according to the Production Notes. So what happenedr

Since Kubrick led a very withdrawn life not much is known about him and his projects. We do know however that he went on to film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1970 and release the acclaimed film in 1971. So somewhere in-between the dating of the screenplay, September 1969, and soon there after his interests changed. What he did produce consequently can certainly raise few objections. (Editor’s note: Michel Ciment’s long out of print 1980 book Kubrick goes into some detail about a number of aborted Kubrick projects, including details from several interviews Ciment had with Kubrick which are printed in the book. I had to spend a pretty penny to acquire a copy for my own collection.)

The details that are available make the case plain; the vast production which Napoleon would have become simply hobbled the project. Yet, Kubrick never gave it up, continuing on planning to make the film until the time of his death. Napoleon was Kubrick’s hero and he never let die his desire to produce the film. He was one who could not live with failure and the non-production of “Napoleon” has gone down as one of the great tragedies of cinematic history.

I have learned however that Warner Brothers is planning to produce the film based on Kubrick’s script. Details are sketchy and no director has been announced yet. However the Internet is a vast and wonderful place and I have learned of rumors that Ridley Scott is interested in the script. Almost no details exist yet to confirm or deny this rumor, but it certainly is an interesting one.

It is apparent however that Warner Brothers is moving ahead with production on Napoleon and a number of other Kubrick projects including “The Aryan Papers” and Foucault’s “Pendulum.” The success of “AI” and the intense interest in Kubrick are obvious reasons for this. However part of me wishes to see Kubrick’s work remain as is, a piece of tragic forgotten majesty scrawled on paper. Then again if there anything as chilling and marvelous as “AI,” I might give that a second thought.

Ridley Scott doing Kubrick… oh, man. I don’t know if the masses would be able to handle that. I know it’s something I would rush out to see. “Napoleon” needs a fearless filmmaker, and in my humble opinion, Ridley Scott is the only current filmmaker who could pull it off with any modicum of success.

The ever elusive Mr. X wanted to add something into the mix about the Napoleon story. How hot has this project becomer Ridley Scott isn’t the only one taking a long hard look. Seems none other than Brian DePalma sees this to be the one film which can get his moribund career back on track after twenty years of crap, and may be trying to buy the rights to the screenplay directly from the Kubrick family.

That is just so wrong.

Rating: A
Share