Film Friday: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’

by W. Andrew Powell
Daniel Radcliffe stars in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

Harry Potter fans bid their favorite hero goodbye this weekend as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II opens in theatres in 3D. Other new arrivals in theatres include Walt Disney’s animated Winnie the Pooh; and Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman
Director: David Yates

Rated: 8.5/10

This weekend marks the end of an era, particularly for younger followers who have grown up with author J.K. Rowling’s epic Harry Potter franchise which comes to a close with the eighth and final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.

As one of the last decade’s biggest and most loved franchises rolls to a halt, Harry Potter finally has his all-out battle with the evil Lord Voldemort while his friends fight for their lives and try to aid him in his battle. In the last film’s setup to the story, Harry, Ron and Hermione–played as always by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson–fought to find an answer as to how they could destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes, which contained a piece of his dark soul. The trio also had the difficult task of tracking down each of the lost horcruxes, which Voldemort had hidden as a means of making him nearly invincible.

Looking back, it’s easy to finally see that all of the things that happened to Harry since he was born were all leading to this moment, which is what makes Rowling’s story so moving, and in this final film, Harry’s past is explained in detail from the day his parents first met. We also get some long-awaited closure between friends, a few of Harry’s antagonists, and a couple of major hook-ups that make this finale all the more satisfying.

Most importantly, Part II finally delivers the action that we’ve all been waiting for, Part II the most action packed of the series, which is done without taking anything away from the story, or even from any of the comic moments which help lighten the film’s obviously dark mood. The special effects are big, bold, and well-executed, bringing this final chapter to life in vivid 3D with a moody score and excellent cinematography.

Walking away from the film, all of this bubbled up to the surface, and I can say I was very impressed with Daid Yates’ direction, and how he finished up the franchise. He gets fantastic performances from all his actors, particularly from Alan Rickman who plays the all-important Professor Severus Snape, the creepy Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes, and Matthew Lewis who plays Neville Longbottom.

The catch in my reviews is that I do have complaints all the same–complaints that I think many fans will share.

For instance, my complaint against Yates stands firm with this final film, where the director completely fails to bring the deepest emotions to the surface. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Yates had the pivotal moment to send off Dumbledore, which were filmed well, but lacked the depth of the sadness I expected from the scene. Likewise in Part II, the sorrow is all but missing from many of the key scenes, and the bitter-sweet moments don’t play out as strongly as they should have.

Part of that problem is that characters who die in this film played key parts in the books, but those roles have been drastically trimmed back in the films. I find no fault with Yates for that, but the film feels like it quickly pans across the emotional conflict in the story, rather than giving these moments their proper close-ups.

Lastly, at 2 hours and 10 minutes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is paced well and not too long, but it feels moderately rushed and edited down to the core, which has been trimmed of the build-up and pay-off from the story. Given my own editing choice, I would have liked to see the film 20-minutes longer with more explanation, but we’ll likely have to wait for the Blu-ray release for all of that. As it is, we only see Hagrid for a few minutes of the film, which comes all at the end, with no explanation where he was up until then, an example of some of the cuts that seem drastic.

This final chapter is a fitting ending, and Yates did the books justice in a way that will please fans while honouring Rowling’s dynamic characters–and I can’t deny this is the most satisfying film of the lot (even if I still think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite film)–but my rating comes with the gentle reminder that rarely does a book ever make it to screen without losing something in the transfer.

Winnie the Pooh
Starring: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Travis Oates, Bud Luckey, Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Director: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall

Rated: 8/10

Walt Disney brings author A. A. Milne’s sweet, lovable bear back for a fresh adventure this weekend, and for anyone like myself, who grew up on the original films and books, it’s a sweet return indeed.

Capturing the original hand-drawn style of the cartoons, Winnie the Pooh is a timeless film that could have been made twenty years ago, if it weren’t for some distinctly modern touches.

Jim Cummings voices the sweet ‘huny’-loving Pooh, and Tigger too, as the little stuffed bear goes on a search for his precious meal that leads him on an adventure to find Christopher Robin, voiced by Jack Boulter, who the group of friends fear has been captured by the terrible creature called the Backson.

Featuring all the friends we know and love, including Owl, Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Winnie the Pooh is a sweet adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood that will amuse kids and parents, whether they’ve seen a Winnie the Pooh movie before or not. It’s charming and funny, and the music by Zooey Deschanel with the wonderful direction of Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall.

Although I loved the film, which runs at a brisk but perfect 69 minutes, I would have to admit I was surprised that the movie didn’t push to be a little more nostalgic or endearing. Toy Story 3 pushed all my buttons at once, and left audiences in tears. While I didn’t expect Winnie the Pooh to leave anyone in tears, I was surprised the directors missed the opportunity to remind parents of their childhood with Winnie, and make the film a little more touching.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Starring: Werner Herzog, Dominique Baffier, Jean Clottes, Jean-Michel Geneste, Carole Fritz, Gilles Tosello
Director: Werner Herzog

Famed director Werner Herzog embarks on a historical journey with his latest film, which he also narrates, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary that explores the ancient Chauvet Cave in France, where man experimented with art over 30,000 years ago.

Premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Herzog was given rare permission from the French government to film in the delicate ecosystem of the cave, where Herzog examines the cave paintings with perspective from scientists and historical experts.

Maybe most surprising of all is the fact that the documentary was filmed in 3D, something even Herzog himself admitted he would never have done for any other film.

“The overall effect,” wrote Peter Howell for the Toronto Star, “aided by Ernst Reijseger’s score of rising choral harmonies and lush strings, is rapturous.”

Walter Addiego of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Art history lessons don’t get much better: Cave of Forgotten Dreams presents the world’s oldest paintings captured by one of film’s great visionaries.”

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