Harry Potter Movies Review

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Review:

Despite being a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I’ve always been a little meh about the movies. The early films came out about the same time as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they just didn’t stand up very well by comparison. The first two films were competently made, but lacked the sense of wonder in the books and never succeeded in making the world feel truly alive in the way the Lord of the Rings films did. The third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, was the most artistically accomplished in the series (with the exception of the unbelievably awful CGI werewolf), but made such egregious trims to the plot that I have to wonder if people who haven’t read the book even understand what is going on in certain scenes. The fourth and fifth films were back to competent-but-uninspired, and I never even bothered to watch the sixth, seventh, and eight, although my daughter likes them.

Amazing cast, though – practically a who’s who of great British actors.

My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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From Time To Time Movie Review

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Review:

This movie was advertised as a family film on Netflix, but my seven year old daughter didn’t get much out of it and we sent her to bed partway through. I think it would probably be better suited to somewhat older children – maybe 10 or 12.

My husband and I thought it was enjoyable, but not as good as its cast. From Time To Time is one of those films that’s like a game of “Who’s The Great British Character Actor?” It’s got the goddess Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall of Harry Potter, Dominic West of The Wire, Carice van Houten of Game of Thrones (I know, I know, Dutch, not British), Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey, Allen Leach of Rome, Harriet Walter of Sense and Sensibility, and more. Unfortunately, none of them were really given a whole lot to do.

The screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote Downton Abbey, Gosford Park, and other favorites of me and my husband, and based on the novel The Chimneys of Green Knowe (aka Treasure of Green Knowe). The main storyline is set in World War II Britain and follows a boy sent to live with his grandmother (Smith) at his family’s ancestral home in the countryside. On his very first night, he bumps into the ghost of one of his Regency-era relatives and soon realizes that he can travel between his own time and hers. When he discovers that his grandmother is struggling financially and may soon be forced to sell the estate, he uses his time travel ability to solve the mystery of some priceless jewels stolen from the ghost’s mother nearly 150 years earlier.

The blending of modern and Regency eras to solve a mystery from the past reminded me somewhat of Arcadia (complete with house fire), but without the play’s brilliant wit. Though Maggie Smith had a few good lines, none were as memorable as her other Julian Fellowes roles, as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey and Countess of Trentham in Gosford Park. The ending may also be a bit of a downer for some children.

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My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Review

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Review:

In season four, Buffy went to college, and the show floundered a bit trying to regain its footing after the change in setting and the loss of Angel and Cordelia. It is widely considered the weakest season of the show after season one. The pod people, refreshed from their extended vacation in season three, turned up quite a bit. (To be honest, several episodes had such bad reputations that I never even watched them.) Season four was also hurt by a boring Big Bad.

Another reason many people dislike season four is due to Buffy’s relationship with Riley. I actually kind of like Riley myself (possibly I’m biased due to the Iowa connection), but I nevertheless agree with the fandom at large that he’s a distant third on my list of favorite Buffy boyfriends.

Despite its flaws, the fourth season does contain several outstanding episodes. My favorites include:

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Melissa & Doug Wooden Sandwich-Making Set

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Review:

We have a number of Melissa & Doug play food sets, as my kids love them and play with them frequently. This is the one they play with least. My daughter likes the hamburger fixings, but seems less interested in everything else, and my son mostly ignores it entirely in favor of his Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Set. It is sturdy and well made, but spends most of its time on the shelf.

My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

Monsters University Movie Review

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Review:

Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. are my favorite Pixar movies, so I was curious to see  Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc. Sadly, though Monsters University was enjoyable light entertainment, it was nowhere near the level of the original film.

Even while laughing at Mike and Sulley’s collegiate antics, I could never get over the feeling that the story was just plain unnecessary and the movie, therefore, primarily an effort to liberate more of people’s cash from their wallets. It’s normal in today’s Hollywood to try to capitalize on the popularity of a successful stand-alone film with sequels, prequels, reboots, etc., but you expect something with a little more heart from Pixar.

Monsters University teaches us nothing particularly new or surprising about the characters or the interesting parallel world they inhabit, nor does it offer a particularly interesting twist on any of its moral lessons. (I was pleasantly surprised when, after telling Mike and Sulley that they would be expelled, Dean Hardscrabble actually stuck to her word and expelled them, forcing them to work their way through the ranks of Monsters, Inc. via the mailroom, instead of having them be rescued from their bad behavior at the last minute by Hardscrabble’s change of heart and/or a deus ex machina of some sort.)  Arguably, the film’s very existence contradicts Mike and Sulley’s backstory as laid out in Monsters, Inc., where Mike tells Sulley, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade,” suggesting that they met each other in elementary school, not college.

As a result, Monsters University is a pleasant enough way to while away 90 minutes of your life, but a far cry from Pixar’s best.

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My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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Center Stage Movie Review

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Review:

Okay, this is not a good movie. Let me just state that right up front. The plot is cliched, the characters are stereotypical, the dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy, and the acting is competent at best. However, it does have some great dancing, including ballet, Latin, modern, and jazz, and that makes it worth watching for anyone who loves dance. 2 stars for the movie itself, but a bonus half for the dancing.

My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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Supernatural Season 4 Review

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Review:

As you may have guessed from my review of season 3, I started losing interest in the show a bit during season three and never really regained it in season 4, to the point that I was actually surprised to realize that I’d watched every episode. The angels versus demons plot just wasn’t that interesting to me.

There were a few highlights, most notably the badass introduction of Castiel in “Lazarus Rising” and meeting young Mary Winchester (pretty badass herself) in “In the Beginning.”

My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Review:

Okay, I have seriously mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, it mystifies me how Disney thought it would be a good idea to make a children’s animated musical out of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hugo’s novel had to be butchered and bowdlerized almost beyond recognition to make it even semi-appropriate for children, and despite the butchering and bowdlerizing, it’s still full of dark themes that are, imo, inappropriate and confusing for young children. This essential darkness melds very poorly with the elements intended to make it more appealing to younger audiences, resulting in a sort of thematic whiplash. Goofy gargoyles do a big song and dance number one minute, Frollo sings about burning Esmeralda at the stake if she won’t agree to become his lover the next. It doesn’t work.

On the other hand, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, most of the songs are excellent, and Frollo is one of Disney’s best and most terrifying villains.

It’s worth watching for the incredible Heaven’s Light/Hellfire sequence alone.

Malificent is, and probably always will be, my favorite Disney villain, but she’s fundamentally a creature of fantasy and therefore truly frightening only to Disney’s youngest audience members. Evil fairies don’t exist in the real world. Frollo, on the other hand, is a distinctly human brand of evil. His hypocrisy and cruelty are terrifying in their very mundaneness – most adults have known a Frollo or two, or at least known somebody who has, and few will remember the encounter happily. For that reason, he is one of the few Disney villains that is probably scarier for the adults than the children in the audience.

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My rating: 2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)