Category Archives: H

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010): United Kingdom – directed by David Yates

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some scary sequences, some violence and disturbing material, some sensuality

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 picks up in exactly the same manner as the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, dropping the audience into the middle of the action without any digressive exposition.  The Death Eaters are gaining power, the Order of the Phoenix continues their underground struggle to combat Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) are in constant danger.  Or at least Harry is, being the most wanted man in the magical world, and Hermione and Ron are stuck with him.

Viewers not familiar with the book series, and those who haven’t seen the films recently, may be confused.  The film suggests enough for viewers to be reminded of past events and characters.  And, as the first of two movies chronicling the final book, it primarily serves to set up all that will transpire in the final chapter.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its charm or excitement.

Continue reading

Henry V (1944)

Henry V (1944): United Kingdom – directed by Laurence Olivier

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mild violence

Laurence Olivier’s 1944 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry V is a bit of an odd bird.  The full title, as given in the credits, is The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, a name which likely was rather bulky for a marquee.  The film itself is almost as odd as Shakespeare’s original title seems today.  It begins as a period piece, a filmed stage play in early 1600’s England, then transitions into more traditional cinematic territory.  It never finds a solid footing, however, and is tonally scattered.

Continue reading

House of the Devil

House of the Devil (2009): United States – directed by Ti West

Rated R by the MPAA – contains some language, blood, violence, and suspense

There haven’t been a great number of quality American horror films in the past few years.  Not that the genre has ever been particularly high-brow, but there seems to have been a more dire dearth in the past decade.  Meanwhile, European horror, including French films like Inside [review here] and High Tension and the less effective Martyrs [review here] have taken center stage as far as the genre is concerned.

For these reasons it is rather pleasant to see such a precise and measured retelling of a well-trodden story in an American horror movie.  Director Ti West knows the history of the horror film, and crafts a remarkably effective pastiche of a time when horror was much simpler, more frightening, and not afraid of blood.  Even the small things are properly honored, such as the opening titles suddenly freezing like many were in the 1970’s.  Lovers of the genre, in particular, will appreciate these little touches.

Continue reading

Henry V

Henry V (1989): United Kingdom – directed by Kenneth Branagh

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some battle violence

It would be interesting to compare Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V with Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books [review here], another take on Shakespeare that turned out far differently.  While both use the Bard’s original text for dialogue, Greenaway’s version is a piece of celluloid turned into art, with a variety of unconventional editing and aesthetic techniques that give it a life of its own.  Meanwhile, Henry V is a perfect example of a standard adaptation, lushly staged with a focus on acting, the play’s original words, and little else.

Not that there’s anything wrong with using Shakespeare’s words verbatim; indeed, it would be almost sacrilegious to alter or modernize them.  With Branagh’s direction, Henry V feels the epitome of a British filmed play, albeit with enough cinematic flourishes to make it theatrically feasible.

Continue reading

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009): The Netherlands – directed by Tom Six

Not rated by the MPAA – contains exceedingly disturbing material, nudity, bizarre and disturbing gore, blood, language

Note: If you have heard of The Human Centipede and are still interested in watching it, you may be curious to read this review.  If you have not heard of the film I strongly urge you not to continue reading or look up other information concerning the film.

Looking back at cinema certain countries have created more disturbing and disgusting films than others.  Germany is responsible for trash such as Nekromantik and a number of others.  Italy has thrived for many years, granting cinema-goers a great many sick and twisted giallo and horror films, with titles like Cannibal Holocaust and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom topping them all.  Japan has been the master for the past 20 years, with Takashi Miike’s entire oeuvre leading the way.  But most of these films remain hidden in niche markets among movie lovers, something that has changed a bit with the release of The Human Centipede (First Sequence).

Continue reading

House of Wax (2005)

House of Wax (2005): United States – directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Rated R by the MPAA – contains language, sexual content, momentary wax nudity, violence, blood

The 2005 remake of House of Wax is a singular brand of generic film.  It was made, and exists, only to be seen briefly when released and then forgotten.  No effort was made, and most likely not intended, to ensure the film would stand the test of time.  The film does everything it needs to do to cover all its bases, with the aim of a quick, short, and hopefully profitable run at the box office (though the $30-$40 million budget would belie any intention of a quick turnaround).

All this being said, House of Wax isn’t actually a terrible horror movie.  It is a terrible film, but not actually a terrible horror movie.  There are some major problems with the film, but it does a number of things perfectly adequately and actually manages to roll a story up into a neat but shallow package without resorting to too many cheap tricks.  And it does feature Paris Hilton, in a role crafted to take advantage of her image in 2005.

Continue reading

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon (2010): United States – directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains contains action violence and some scary images

How to Train Your Dragon is one of the most exciting animated movies to come along in quite some time, and perhaps one of the best animated films ever by a company not named Pixar or Disney.  An interesting and unique setting combines with some thrill-ride moments and a qualified grasp of film production by the filmmakers to create quite an enjoyable film.

The basic story will be familiar, but the setting and characters add a certain unique charm.  Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is a small, puny boy who lives on an island in the North Atlantic.  An opening monologue introduces his town as being hundreds of years old, but with new buildings.  The reason, it becomes clear, is that the occasional attack by vicious dragons leaves the villages sans sheep and unburned houses.  But the townspeople fight back.  They are Vikings after all, led by the enormous and brave Stoick (Gerard Butler).  They fight back the dragons and defend their town; the feud between humans and dragons has lasted centuries.

Continue reading

His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday (1940): United States – directed by Howard Hawks

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mature themes

There is hardly a single flaw with Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday.  Everything, from the sparkling rapid-fire dialogue to the evident chemistry between the inimitable Cary Grant and the empowered Rosalind Russell works together to create a scathing satire, a tongue-in-cheek comedy, and a grandly entertaining movie.

There is a lot of talking in His Girl Friday, more than most movies these days might be allowed.  But it doesn’t get dull; instead, the dialogue is crisp and inundating, with sprightly wit and sly innuendos constantly tossed back and forth.  The two leads are charismatic and delightful, even as they constantly exhibit morally skeptical behavior.  Almost never before had such a strong female character dominated the screen; Russell’s Hildy Johnson is not afraid to pursue the lifestyle she enjoys.

Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009): United Kingdom – directed by David Yates

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some violence and some scary moments

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had a difficult task set for it, as J.K. Rowling’s sixth entry into the world of Hogwarts is the most accomplished of the first six novels.  The plot moves rapidly and is coherent and engaging in a way rarely before present in the series.  Fortunately, director David Yates was asked to return after helming one of the better films in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [review here].

The story continues its darker turn, this time focusing on Professor Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) extracurricular lessons with Harry as they attempt to find ways to combat Lord Voldemort and his minions.  At the same time, Harry’s personal life becomes more confusing as he progresses into his teenage years along with friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), who are just becoming aware that they may be more than “just friends.”

Continue reading

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker (2008): United States – directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Rated R by the MPAA – contains strong violence and gore, pervasive profanity, disturbing content

I’m not entirely sure that The Hurt Locker is a message movie.  I’m not convinced that it has groundbreaking truths about humanity to reveal, or that it delves into the warped psyche of war.  It does not seem to have an agenda; it is not overtly anti-war or pro-violence, but rather in favor of living over dying.  On the most basic level the film is a character study of an interesting, disturbing, and possibly disturbed individual.

The film opens with an intense scene of bomb defusal that might make even Hitchcock proud.  A small squad is on the ground in Iraq, charged with examining a pile of refuse with some protruding wires.  There is danger on all sides, the possibility of snipers in the surrounding buildings, and trip wires or traps that might detonate the explosive.

Continue reading