Film Club: Hollywood Holiday Releases
‘Harry Potter’ Leads the Pack of Big Releases
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air weigh in on the films opening for Thanksgiving.
The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air talk about the upcoming holiday releases including "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One," "Faster," and "Burlesque."
The Thanksgiving weekend will likely still be dominated by "Harry Potter,": which set box office records on its opening weekend. Joining it will be the action film "Faster," the Paul Haggis thriller "The Next Three Days," and the musical, "Burlesque." So you can choose amongst a sequel that can't stand on its own, a B-actioner with A-film aspirations, a contrived action drama, or a cheesy backstage melodrama.
You can listen to our discussion.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and You're listening to These Days on KPBS. Big movies, off beat movies, animated movies, Estonian movie, we've got it all on this Thanksgiving edition of the KPBS film club of the air. From the latest "Harry Potter" sequel to a satire about terrorists, from a man against nature squirm fest to Disney's take on Rapunzel, and more. The critics are here with your [CHECK AUDIO] guests, that is, Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic and author of the blog, cinema junkie. Beth, good morning.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Good morning, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott Marks, author of the film blog emulsion compulsion.com. Scott.
SCOTT MARKS: Hi.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Hi. Anders Wright for film critic for San Diego CityBeat. Good morning, Anders. Welcome to the show.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Thank you very much Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The latest Harry Potter film is really the one that's been dominating the box office lately. And we're gonna be talking about some of the big films that are in the multiplexes, starting with Harry Potter. I couple of you, I know, have seen the movie.
SCOTT MARKS: Gee, I wonder which two.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth, I know you saw this movie, you went to the midnight screening. First of all, tell us where this film is in the whole Harry Potter --
ANDERS WRIGHT: Canon.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's approaching the end. It's based on the last book, but the last book has been split in two for the films. Which I think is a combination of, on the one hand they say, well, we can't fit everything from the last book in a single movie, but it's also like let's see how much --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's milk this cow.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yeah, we can drag this series on to get as much as we can out of it. So we're at the end, the beginning of the end. The beginning of a long end. And the three young characters, Harry Potter and his two friends are pretty much on their own at this point, they're on the run, and Valdemort is expanding his reign of terror, you could say.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Since you were at this midnight screening, Beth, let me get a sense of what that was like, what was the scene like? Is there still this anticipation --
BETH ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah, definitely, and to me, that's that's fun about it. I really enjoy films that inspire this kind of passion. Because that's what makes it enjoyable. Was at the [CHECK AUDIO] and I think there were close to about 2000 people lined up outside, they had 11 screens showing it, as of the Wednesday before, I think six of those had been sold out, and they added, like, three AM screenings as well. People were in costume, people had been there since -- the person who was first in line had been there since Wednesday night at 10:00 o'clock for the Friday 1201 screening. So -- but it was a fun atmosphere. And the AMC Mission Valley did what they called the Harry Potter experience, and you could go down there and see the previous two Harry Potter films, leading up to number seven, and they had people in costume -- and it was fun. It was a party.
ANDERS WRIGHT: A potter party.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, this movie has been getting kind of good reviews, did you like it, Anders?
ANDERS WRIGHT: I liked it well enough, I've read all of the books I've seen all of the movies of the final book is very long and very epic, and the first half of it kind of meanders and takes its time. And so does this movie. It is slow and drawn out, and it's really a bridge to get to the final film, which is the epic final battle between good and evil and so on and so forth. You know, the thing is, these movies tend to be fairly well crafted, they're generally well made, as far as these kind of long form film adaptations go, but these are for potter people, potter completists, basically. And it's -- what I found was that I thought the movie was too long, and I thought it was too slow, and are I didn't want it to end of these books and these characters and these movies really mean something to the people who are into them, myself included. And even though I thought this was sort of the slowest of these final films, I also -- I wanted to get to the end. I didn't want it to end, and I didn't want to wait until July of next year to see it all wrap up.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you want -- did you think it was slow? Did you want it to end.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It felt padded and repetitious, and I was upset that snake, my favorite character 'cause it's played by Allen Rick man, had one line in the movie. I've been promising that he has a lot more prominence in the second part. But it felt -- watching this, I felt like, really? Did you need to drag this out to 22 movies.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I think that all of that, the stuff that's dragged out, the padded bits, the repetitive bits that's in the book.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, I mean, but that doesn't excuse it for the film.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Agreed.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But I think people who are fans of the book come out of it going, no no, we needed that. So if you've read all or most of the books, I think you have an obligation --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But this is not the first Harry Potter movie to see.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, do not see this 1 first, definitely. [CHECK AUDIO].
ANDERS WRIGHT: It's the same thing sort of with the Twlight movies, these are movies where the people who are going to see them who have read all of the books want them to be as close to the books as possible.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Uh-huh. Oh, there was a shriek at the one scene that wasn't in the book. There was a scene where Harry Potter dances with Hermione, and you could hear the whole audience --
ANDERS WRIGHT: Like, what is this? This is not there! But it's interesting because it doesn't always leave a lot of room for film makers to sort of have their own stance at all.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sure, yeah. Let me ask you, Scott. Have you never?
SCOTT MARKS: Why even bother? No, I haven't.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have you ever.
SCOTT MARKS: No interest. No interest.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have you ever seen a Harry Potter?
SCOTT MARKS: Hollywood's opiate of putting technology before storytelling. I have no interest. The trailers look so joyless. And what Anders said, you put a good director on there, and I'm there. On any of these --
BETH ACCOMANDO: Well, Alfonso Cuaron was a good director.
SCOTT MARKS: He's picking a paycheck. I can't even say --
ANDERS WRIGHT: I would actually say though that the stories they are given ever so good and so sort of well loved that in fact they're given a freight deal to work with. And it's a question of whether or not the film maker can pull it off. I thought Chris chemical bus who made the first movie, he's a terrible director. And it wasn't a very good movie. But the last few films have been well made, they're well put together, they look really good.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Convincing you, Scott.
SCOTT MARKS: Let's get to estonia.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But your not going to start there. It has to be something that you really want to see already. The Harry Potter franchise is so big and has such an enormous fan base, it's not that there's no room for new fans but they don't need them.
SCOTT MARKS: And you don't need me. You're right.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to a movie, Scott, you have seen.
SCOTT MARKS: Which one?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The next three days.
SCOTT MARKS: Oh, you guys haven't seen the next three days?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's directed by Russell crow, [CHECK AUDIO]. And Scott, you are not a haggis fan in so many ways did he redeem himself at all.
SCOTT MARKS: No. What is it with redemption, Maureen? My goodness, why are you so Catholic this morning? No, he didn't redeem himself. I have to tell you, there's one moment -- there are two moments in the film, which I didn't expect, [CHECK AUDIO] then they cut to a scene with the father and son in bed together. Now haggis, if anybody, should put on the screen in big letters two years later, but he showed a tremendous degree of restraint. [CHECK AUDIO] kidnapper, cut two years later, and then let's move on. So I mean, it's not an awful film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you were impressed by that.
SCOTT MARKS: Yeah. To see subtlety in a jump-cut in a Paul Haggis film, that really -- that woke me up. But it just keeps stupid and silly after a while, all the guy does is film coincidences. And that really drives me nuts.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's generous to call them coincidences. It's more like contrivances.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Anymore comments about the next thee days?
BETH ACCOMANDO: The only thing that I enjoyed was the scene with Liam Neeson.
SCOTT MARKS: I'm laughing 'cause it's in the trailer. His entire performance is in the trailer!
BETH ACCOMANDO: But it was the only moment in the film that came anywhere near being believable to me. Of this whole thing is about this guy who wants to bring his wife out of jail. But he talks to this guy who has broken out of jail repeatedly, and it's, I don't know, like a 3 to 5-minute scene at the most. But it was the only moment that engaged me and that I felt was remotely believable.
SCOTT MARKS: You didn't like the chase?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Chase was okay.
SCOTT MARKS: I thought it was a good chase scene.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's an chase scene in totally --
SCOTT MARKS: Yeah, you're right, maybe I just needed something to wake me up. Come on, I'm saying things about Paul Haggis. Let's go on to another movie. This is disease.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No comments on the Next Three Days.
SCOTT MARKS: I haven't seen it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I know that none of you have seen the movie Burlesque.
SCOTT MARKS: But that's not gonna stop us.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No, it's not. It's a big bucket hollywood film. Beth, give us an idea of this film. Who's in it, what's it about?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Oh, my God, well, I saw nine last year so I felt like I had dispensation not to see Burlesque. But Burlesque has Cher --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Looking fabulous.
SCOTT MARKS: If you had that much lanolin diffused over your face, believe me, I'd look like Cher.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I mean, the funny thing is is that Kristen Bell is, like, the main character.
SCOTT MARKS: No, no. Christina Aguilera.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, no, no.
SCOTT MARKS: Ah, you've giving it away!
BETH ACCOMANDO: And Stanley Tucci is wedge indeed there somewhere.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's a backstage musical, you know?
SCOTT MARKS: It's Mickey and Judy meets Showgirls.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yeah, exactly. If it's as bad as it could potentially be, it might be fun. I'm afraid it's just going to be bad, like Nine, the musical Nine, was last year.
SCOTT MARKS: I think this is gonna be so bad.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Much, much worse. Nine --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why do you say that, Anders?
ANDERS WRIGHT: Well, because Nine was bad, but it actually aspired to be something serious. This, I think, has no aspirations at all. Have you seen the trailer? She's bumbling around, and she gets in front of the microphone, it sounds like she's starting her car.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It actually looks pretty good, though, the quality of the film and the scenes.
SCOTT MARKS: Coyote ugly looked good too. So did show girls. No, I take that back, show girls is a great film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. So mixed expectations for Burlesque.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I don't think we have mixed examinations we're just not sure how low it's going to go. We all expect the same thing.
ANDERS WRIGHT: However, if you include all four 've us, you might call it mixed expectations.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, I was hoping for a little more.
SCOTT MARKS: What are you doing this afternoon, Maureen? Come on. It's on me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know [CHECK AUDIO] I know that you went to see a movie called faster. Last night.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes, I did.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us about that film.
BETH ACCOMANDO: There's a decent little B movie in there desperately trying to get out. There's 3 or 4 scenes that I really liked.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's it about?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's the Rock plays a guy who's been wrongfully imprisoned or not so much wrongfully imprisoned, but he's let out, and lees about to get revenge on everybody who killed his brother.
SCOTT MARKS: I never heard this before!
BETH ACCOMANDO: But he dies, and he gets reanimated. So I really want to know if this qualifies him as a zombie. 'Cause he idd die and he came back. He doesn't crave human flesh. Horribly shot. It's really claustrophobic, all of these tight cleanups where you see people's pours.
SCOTT MARKS: You'll find zombies anywhere. Did you find zombies in tangled?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's a lame action film.
SCOTT MARKS: Who directed it?
BETH ACCOMANDO: George Tilman Jr.
SCOTT MARKS: Oh, Soul Food? Oh!
ANDERS WRIGHT: Notorious.
BETH ACCOMANDO: The problem with it is is that it's -- there's a decent little B movie in there, but it has aspirations of being something more, so it's not willing to accept what it could really be good at.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Would you recommend that people go see this on Thanksgiving day?
BETH ACCOMANDO: If it's this or Burlesque, I would go see Faster.
SCOTT MARKS: A bad Rock film or a mummified Cher and Christina Aguilera?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes, yes. But that's my choice.
SCOTT MARKS: See them both. There's the answer. There you go. See them both.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if people have followed Harry Potter that's the one to go see in the megaplexes this weekend?
ANDERS WRIGHT: Look, if they haven't seen it already. That's the thing, the faithful have already gone. And if you've read them, people will any again.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They already have.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah, exactly. That's -- if you haven't seen the new Harry Potter movie, you're probably not a big Harry Potter fan at this point. These things are -- they're events, they're huge events not quite as big as when the new books came out. But if you've read all those books and seen all those movies, you don't need us to tell you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Exactly. You've probably already been. When we return we're gonna talk about a man who finds himself been Iraq and a hard place in the Utall wilderness. And we will return. You're listening to the KPBS film club of the air on These Days.