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Fair warning: I am a huge Potterhead.  That being said, a rewatch of these beloved films led to my poking a few holes in them and discovering problems I hadn’t noticed before.  For instance, the acting on the part of the kids in the first couple of movies left something to be desired.  And watching them while trying to keep the details of the books out of my head left me feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The pace is quick, and there are a myriad of unexplained details.  But if you can look past that, the films still hold up.  They are magical and immersive, and picking out little things in the background that alluded to further world details became endlessly fascinating to me.

The first movie does a good job of introducing you to the main characters and setting the environment and tone.  The CGI is a bit lackluster in spots, but this film is older than you probably think.  It’s all charming and great for the whole family.  The basic story might seem a bit, well, basic, but it’s all handled so well that any derivative qualities can be forgiven.  The school feels amazing and home-like at the same time.

The second film expands the world a bit and makes the fight against evil seem more urgent and personal.  The three kids get closer, and the history of the school is fleshed out a bit more, making the adults in the story more interesting too.  This one’s a bit scarier, and I wouldn’t recommend it for the youngest viewers.  Especially those with a problem with spiders.

The third movie goes darker by a few more shades.  Harry’s troubles at home come to a head, and the dementors, a literal embodiment of fear itself, haunt the story.  There’s distrust and paranoia everywhere, and Harry himself is in great danger.  There are some time travel hijinks and plenty of excitement, but once again, this is not for the youngest viewers.

The fourth film is where the pace picks up even more.  Plot points are rushed through at breakneck speed, and certain character developments are barely touched on.  There’s a ton of action and adventure, and the story doesn’t feel as dark overall.  Except for the very beginning and the end.  The opening has a Nazi Germany sort of feel to it, and the ending includes the first major death in the series.  Not for the faint of heart.

The fifth movie sees the most changes, both to the environment of the world itself and the pace and tone of the story.  Things start falling apart, and Harry finds himself having to choose between fighting and giving up.  We get a better picture of a lot of the minor and background characters and see another unfortunate death.  This is one of the more frustrating parts of the series, due to the presence of a character that receives as much, or even more, hatred as the main villain.  But that does make the ending somewhat cathartic and worth the work to get there.

The sixth film has a sort of random feel to it.  The main plot is inconsequential compared to the problems dealt with in previous parts of the series.  But the ending is extremely consequential and brings us to the turning point of the story and the most important death.  While it feels like Harry is getting a nearly normal school year for once, he ends his sixth year at, not really a crossroads, but a cliffside.  And he chooses to take the leap.

The seventh and eighth movies were parts one and two of the seventh and final book in the series, so I’ll look at them as if they were one long film.  One long, mostly slow, painfully detailed film.  While the first six (or at least numbers four and five) movies felt like they were rushing through the story, seven and eight move too slowly for many audience members who haven’t read the books.  There were still details that didn’t make it into the films, but the pace was agonizing, considering we were right at the end.  In a way, this is brilliant, because it forces the audience to think about all the things, all the little pieces, that came together to put our heroes in the position they wound up in.  But it also made it difficult to maintain tension and excitement in spots.  The final battle, however, was worth the wait.  There were a few things that deviated wildly from the book, but there was plenty of payoff.  There were also a few more deaths, and none of them were given the attention they deserved, but considering how much was already crammed into this lengthy end of story, it might not have been possible to give them the honor they should have had.

Anyone who enjoys fantasy should enjoy the tales of Harry Potter.  In the end, they are more about friendship, love, and doing what’s right than magic and adventure.  The movies might feel a bit grating to those who prefer high drama and dislike whimsy, and the later films are not for the youngest viewers, as I said.  But the adult characters are well-acted, the kids greatly improve and grow into their roles, the effects are phenomenal by the end, and the story is engaging and timeless.  The fantasy tropes might be a bit rehashed, but they are handled extremely well.  Everything just comes together, and the world feels vast and detailed.  It’s a classic hero’s tale with a powerful villain, lessons to learn, and friends to make.  And a background history ready for the most attentive nerd.

Mouse Hunt

This physical comedy movie has some great stars in it, but that’s about the most positive thing I have to say.  The characters are two-dimensional and stereotypical, the plot is unoriginal, and the humor is bland.  It’s pretty good stuff if you’re very young and don’t have much experience in movie-watching.  But for those of us who’ve seen more than one slapstick comedy, we expect more.  Every joke in the film has been done before and better.  The highlight is Christopher Walken as a crazy pest control man, but even his scenes are slow.  The mouse itself is well-done and causes some humorous problems, but the focus is too much on the uninteresting human stars.  At least, the male characters are as maligned as the female ones for once, although one scene in particular had a woman simply allowing one of the male stars to jam his arm all the way down the front of her dress without knowing why, just sitting there as if she wanted it.  This made even less sense than the rest of the movie.  Which is really saying something, considering all the weak plot points and glaring plot holes.  It’s a pity because it felt like this one had some potential.  It doesn’t, however, live up to it.

Angel

This is a spinoff from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series, starring Buffy’s on-again/off-again boyfriend, the vampire Angel.  He goes on his own journey, completing quests and fighting evil.  Right from the start, the show has a darker tone than Buffy started out with, but that’s to be expected.  There are plenty of lighter, more fun moments, and the characters really stand out as separate entities.  Once again, the earliest couple of seasons are the best, but there are standout episodes throughout the five seasons.  The finale isn’t satisfying, however.  Buffy got a proper, if not happy, ending, but Angel gets none of that.  There are a couple of production reasons for this, but they’re not important.  Having gone through the whole thing, I would be sorely tempted to skip the ending and quit two or three seasons before I even get there, just to avoid the annoying parts.  That being said, there are still redeeming qualities in the show right up to the end, so it’s a toss-up.

The tv series.  Completely different from the movie, this one is darker, more serious, and more realistic.  It touches on heavy psychological and philosophical questions while inserting some lighthearted humor here and there.  The characters are sympathetic and touching, and the acting is leagues ahead of the movie.  It grows darker with each season, however, eventually landing somewhere in an extremely depressive state.  Happiness is always just out of reach, and characters outside of the core group often die.  The wordplay is more clever and fun, and the pacing is exciting without ever getting too fast-paced.  There is much to recommend this version, especially if you have the patience for its length.  Even in the darkest hours of the final seasons, there are fun and unusual storylines.  My favorite episodes reside in the first couple of seasons, but I can still pick out good ones throughout the show.

The movie is a different animal than the tv series.  It must be judged separately.  On that note, it’s almost a dark comedy about a slayer of vampires trying to deal with growing up and high school while learning about her destiny.  It’s fun and funny, and there are a lot of good and memorable moments.  Unfortunately, the acting doesn’t always measure up, and the rampant stereotypes get a little tiring after a while.  The whole thing has a very late ’80s, early ’90s feel to it, and that’s great if you’re feeling nostalgic.  It’s meant to make fun of a lot of things from that era, and it does, but it also falls short now and then, not really ever sure if it’s being serious or not.  If you can immerse yourself in the goofiness and humor, though, it’s delightful.

Bruce Lee’s most famous film, this one has a more big budget feel to it and is designed like a James Bond film from the same era.  There’s the same level of espionage and suspense, the same music, a similar plotline, and just as much sex, albeit not shown directly.  There’s still plenty of martial arts action, and Lee’s acting is a bit more subtle than in his past work.  But the rest of the cast is greatly improved, and everything feels more well designed and showcased.  The pacing and editing are excellent, too.  It’s a plot with a quest involving a martial arts tournament, an illegal drug racket, and a bit of revenge.  Typical kung fu movie stuff, but done in a modern way.  It’s light, fun entertainment, even for those who aren’t usually kung fu fans.  Just don’t expect any deep psychological drama or meaningful questions about life.

Fists of Fury

Another Bruce Lee classic, this one moves a bit slower than Chinese Connection.  Lee’s character isn’t as hotheaded, but he’s still prone to trouble, and the ending of the story is subsequently tragic.  There’s a drug ring conspiracy and family who are at turns helpful and frustrating.  Lee’s performance seems a bit over the top, but part of the problem might be that we’re never really given much explanation for anything.  There are gaping plot holes, and a lot of incidents seem almost arbitrary and unnecessary.  There’s plenty of kung fu fun; however, a lot of it isn’t had by Lee himself.  He spends the first half of the movie trying desperately not to get involved.  It’s quite a change of pace from the typical martial arts movie, but it has its own charms.  Don’t expect, Shakespeare, though.