Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Time to review the movie as I promised to earlier. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a large book packed with far too many events to wedge into one movie, which was a problem with some of the previous films. Thankfully, Warner Bros decided to split the book into two movies and even then there is barely room for most of the story.  Interestingly, I’ve been reading reviews claiming that the magic has gone out of the Harry Potter movies.  I disagree and the review will explain why.

First, The Deathly Hallows is about Harry and his friends being forced to grow up.  They end up alone in a bleak, frightening, and apparently hopeless world where Voldemort has taken over the Ministry of Magic and is terrorizing the magical world.  Keep an eye out for propaganda that resembles that of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; the movie isn’t subtle about those references.  This isn’t a kiddie story anymore, instead it is about the beginnings of a war that doesn’t look winnable.

Deaths occur from the very beginning of the movie, which gets to fast start depicting the preparations by Harry and Hermione for the coming war.  Emma Watson has really grown as an actress and her scene with Hermione erasing herself from the memories of her muggle parents is well played.   Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry seems more uncertain and stubborn than ever, even as events start spiraling out of his control.  His wandering through the now vacated Dursely home is as symbolic as Hermione’s of having to leave home and become an adult.

There are moments of the humor so present in the previous movies, but it is clear this is a grimmer affair as the ending to the first action piece demonstrates. Blood is shed, characters die, and a momentary lull for a wedding doesn’t last long.  Quickly, Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasely are on the run for their lives while trying to finish the late Dumbledore’s quest to find and destroy fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul – the horcruxes.

One complaint will be made by many and that is the extended time in the wilderness being boring. Once again, I’ll disagree as this gave the young trio of actors wonderful character moments and conveys that they can’t count on older people to bail them out of trouble.  Rupert Grint as Ron shines brightest during these events as he has the greatest trouble adapting to the hardship. Ron always did lag behind the other two in maturity and it becomes painfully apparent that he has the most growing up to do.  This leads to conflict and a splitting of the trio as jealousies explode into the open. 

Along the way to the tragic ending of the movie, we are treated to an animated sequence that recounts what the Deathly Hallows are.  That part is pure magic, no pun intended.  It is a brief respite before the darkness comes and heroism fails.  The magic isn’t gone, but it has grown up.

The ending I liked, because it was a perfect place to split the material and because it reminds me a little of how Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back ended – except with less hope.  It left the audience I was with wanting more.

Was this the best of the films? No, but it was one of the best.  Seeing the change from school days to early adulthood in the main characters is something that added depth to the Harry Potter series and I appreciated seeing that greatly.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are now having to make adult decisions and fend for themselves and in the end, that is what this movie is about.  Of course it is all set up for Part 2 as well.

There is blood, gore, and one “romance” scene that definitely makes this movie not for young kids.  The pervasive gloom of the story is punctuated by frightening battles and attacks, so expect lots of tears for nights to come if you make the mistake of taking a young child to it.

As a footnote, I have to say the special effects are the best by far in the series.  Watching it in digital HD, I was stunned by the effects involving a certain house elf.  The CGI masters have come a long way since Gollum!

If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must see film. 

Harry Potter Midnight Screening

The last thing I expected to be doing today was going to the midnight opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  Okay, it was the second to last thing I expected.  The last thing would have to be going to it in the small town of Spring Grove, Minnesota. 

But this, in fact, is how my day ended.  Assisting my father in an aborted microwave installation in the afore mentioned town resulted in our passing the local state of the art movie theater several times. The first time I did a double take at what was on the marquee – after all, they don’t show first run movies, much less something this popular.  Upon returning home, a check on the Spring Grove Cinema’s home page verified that I hadn’t been hallucinating and that they would be showing it every night for two weeks.  An email reservation was required and on a lark I sent it in, the catch being that you have to show up fifteen minutes before show time or your seats might be sold.

The crowd wasn’t huge but along the numbers I’d seen at The Lord of the Rings midnight showings in a much larger city of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  It was a cheerful crowd that skewed young and the mood was good.  At six dollars a ticket it was more than a bargain.

So how was the movie, you wonder? 

A full review will wait until I’ve had some sleep, but this was one of the best entries in the series.  Fans of the book should be pleased at how faithful it was.  The performances were the best yet from the cast and there was a palpable feeling of dread throughout the film.  Also, it is not for small kids as there are deaths and gory maiming's in it, so please don’t think about taking them to it.

Somewhat off topic:

Two trailers stood out for me and they were for Tron: Legacy and Green Lantern.  Having seen both on the Web, only Tron had impressed me and Green Lantern disappointed on the small screen.  I’ve changed my mind about the latter after seeing it on the big screen and it looks dazzling.  Still not happy with the humorous bits that ring hollow, but the more serious parts look very good indeed.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Memorable and Unpredictable Election

Since I was up until 3:00 A.M., I’m hoping I have some semblance of coherency writing this post.  My father and I spent the evening with our State Representative Greg Davids with other supporters of his (kudos to Bonnie for being such a great hostess).  We’ve been doing this since election night in 2006, which unfolded like a horror movie  as the Democratic tsunami took Greg and most of the other state Republicans out of office.   I imagine that was the feeling in many a DFL victory party last night that turned into funerals when both the state house and senate went from veto proof majorities for them to Republican majorities.

I refused to make any solid predictions this year when asked by friends and political activists because at some point I realized none of the data coming in fit anything I’d seen before.  Combined that with a very strange atmosphere of smoldering resentment toward all politicians that I found amongst the average citizen of the area and I concluded this was going to be a strange election.  Even the political activists didn’t have much passion, aside from some of the Tea Partiers.   I knew the Republicans would win and win big nationally, but Minnesota looked bad.

Thanks to Mark Ritchie’s incompetence (or is it something more sinister?)  at managing the Secretary of State office, results for our local counties of Fillmore and Houston trickled in very slowly if at all on the SoS website.  That meant phone calls and trips to the local county courthouses to find out what was going on.  Houston County was forced to email results in because the line for the counting machines to the state capitol was dead.  That made for a long evening watching national and statewide races seesaw back and forth.

In the end, we saw the voters of the United States punish the Democratic Party for their ignoring the will of the people and following an extreme left wing agenda. That agenda is over, even though Republicans only took the U.S. House.  The gains in the U.S. Senate were large enough to make things very difficult for certain Democrat Senators to toe the party line when they are looking to get re-elected in 2012. 

The bigger news is that many state legislatures and governorships flipped to the GOP.  Why is this bigger news?  2010 is a census year and that means federal and state redistricting of voting districts.  With their penchant for gerrymandering, the Democrats had to hold on to everything they had to keep those districts or tamper with Republican dominated ones. Now Republican dominated legislatures will control the redistricting in many critical states and Minnesota.  Never thought I’d see that!

I’m pleased to say Houston County went completely red this election.

On to some specific races:

Greg Davids won HD-31B outright despite having two opponents. Steve Kemp (DFL) and Al Hein (Ind) split the liberal vote but even that didn’t matter as Greg won 53% of the vote for a clear knock out.  Surprising, I thought it would be tighter.

Rhett Zenke put up a good fight but Gene Pelowski HD-31A will never be knocked out as he is the last of the conservative Democrat breed.  At least Rhett won in Houston County and I hope he sticks around after redistricting.

Jeremy Miller upset Sharon Ropes in SD-31 which surprised many. This one didn’t surprise me, I knew Miller would win a close race and it was very close.  Congratulations on winning and securing the state senate for us, Jeremy!

Randy Demmer made it close against Tim Walz in CD-1, but enough people buy into Walz’s phony moderate act to keep him in office.  There was a poisoned atmosphere the unfairly hurt Randy that originated in the 2006 endorsement campaign that I think affected things. But the biggest problem is that unless we find a multimillionaire to self finance, Walz will always have a ridiculous money advantage. The union money borders on the infinite there.

The governor’s race is going into automatic recount with Emmer trailing Dayton by half a percent.  This race went bad because “moderate” Republicans decided to go out and get Horner elected.  His 12 % didn’t come from Dayton like some activists insisted, but mostly from Emmer.  But this gets uglier.  Hennepin County managed to have 180,000 more ballots cast than there are registered voters when there was only 58% turnout statewide.  This stinks of voter fraud and I predict the recounts will get ugly.

Those 180,000 votes would be enough to change the outcomes of the state constitutional offices as well.   As it stands, they all remain in the hands of the DFL.

That leads me to point out a problem that Minnesota has – we don’t have clean elections and haven’t for some time. The corruption and fraud in the Twin Cities has spilled out to affect smaller cities in the state as well.  Voter fraud is extremely hard to prove because there are very few safeguards against it in the system.  Voter ID is desperately needed here and would prevent it up front.

Finally, a comment on two races that gained national attention.  In Nevada, Harry Reid won when he shouldn’t have.  In Delaware, Coons destroyed O’Donnell easily.  Both those candidates were poor choices and in O’Donnell’s case, became a litmus test for purity amongst some conservatives.  Those who pointed out her Grand Canyon sized flaws were shouted down and accused of being RINO’s.  Quality of character matters and should matter to those of use who are conservatives.  Just because someone says things we want to hear doesn’t make them a good candidate or trustworthy.  That lesson needs to be driven home before November 2012 comes around.

Why?  Because the American public hates Republicans almost as much as they hate Democrats.  Republicans have to come through on fiscal issues or else they will be dumped out of office too. I expect the electorate to fragment over the next few years and there will be growing instability if the GOP screws up again.   Hostility toward the federal government is growing in proportion to the expansion of it.  Big government has been rejected along with Barack Obama’s radical agenda.  All newly elected Republicans better keep that in mind because the public is watching.