Saturday, July 28, 2007

HP and the literary legacy

Note: I have done my best to avoid spoilers. I just finished Deathly Hallows, and I must say that it is even better than I expected it to be. The way in which J.K. Rowling fleshes out the Harry-Voldemort relationship, the story of the Horcruxes, Harry's final challenges, and wraps all storylines up is very impressive, and I believe this final chapter seals Harry's legacy not only as a pop culture phenomenon, but also as a literary triumph with a future legacy in academia. I also have assorted thoughts on the series' place in the culture around it, its post-modern leanings, its mythological ties, and the themes in the series, but I will save those for future conversations. Well done, J.K. You can retire with your millions knowing that you have made the world a better place, just like your Boy Who Lived.

P.S. Happy blogiversary to me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Die Free or Live Hard?

Almost two decades after John McClane single-handedly defeated a group of terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza, he returns to the big screen to save America from villain Thomas Gabriel. Of course, Gabriel is out to destroy all computer systems governing the United States. The result is an entertaining and at times preposterous blockbuster that is high on adrenaline-driving, testosterone-pumping action sequences and short on plot, character and continuity with previous installments in the Die Hard series....

Read the rest of my review here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a decent movie. The daunting task of translating the 750+ page book into a workable movie was accomplished with relative success. The screenwriters did a good job of trimming the fifth book of the series, and crafting a movie that preserves the essential parts of the story and keeps the movies going forward. The editors made some questionable decisions, as there are some awkward and abrupt transitions. The characters were well-done, though unfortunately underused save for Dolores Umbridge. But the movie just did not feel like it really hit all the heights, as the previous two editions had, and I think the blame lies in the direction. Unlike Azkaban, the third movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and to a lesser extent the Mike Newell-directed Goblet of Fire, Phoenix did not seem to achieve a sense of identity or pacing; rather, it seemed like director David Yates was trying to get through scenes to get to the next one. This resulted in several significant plot developments being insufficiently explained, and some confusion for the viewer. And unlike the previous movies, there was not much of a sense of the feel of Hogwarts or the magical world. Very little time was spent on establishing the feel of classrooms and what OWLs would be like, and there were virtually no storylines that were extraneous to the main plot (such as the Yule Ball in Goblet). There are several elements that were done very well, such as the Thestrals and the final battle in the Department of Mysteries; but there were also several disappointments, such as the lack of screen time for the Order of the Phoenix. I think this movie would have been better with a little more meat on its bones, and a director with a clearer mind for the movie having a life of its own. But, it's still a Harry Potter movie, and that in itself makes it worth seeing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Last chance for JFJ

The annual NHL free agent frenzy seems to have come to an end after two busy busy days of signing and lots of money being given to players who probably do not deserve it. The early winners seem to be the New York Rangers, who became the early favourites for the Stanley Cup with the signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez; the Pittsburgh Penguins, who addressed their needs for players to back up their big guns; the Philadelphia Flyers, who really had nowhere to go but up; and the Colorado Avalanche, who signed some good Canadian boys (Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan) to address their lack of grit. The big losers, initially, appear to be the Buffalo Sabres, who lost Drury and Daniel Briere; the New Jersey Devils, who lost Gomez and top defenseman Brian Rafalski; and the New York Islanders, who lost pretty much everyone and saw three teams in their division get better. And to keep up with all of the action happening in the Eastern conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs made their big splash by signing...Jason Blake. For $20 million for five years. Adding yet another too highly-paid player to the Leafs' roster. The Leafs made a big trade last week for goalie Vesa Toskala, which might pay off and help incumbent Andrew Raycroft get back on track, but they needed to address the need for someone to go with Mats Sundin. Although Blake just scored 40 goals (in a contract year, mind you), I'm still not sure he is that guy. The Leafs should still be in good shape to make the playoffs, with the impending demise of the Islanders and Canadiens, but I think they still need to get rid of one of their overpaid undertalented defenseman and get a good second-line forward. But this will be John Ferguson Jr's last chance with the team. If they do not make the playoffs, or even just squeak in, he should not be around next year. He has had a chance to make his mark and build his team, and this will be the year to prove his mettle. It will not be easy, but maybe Blake can pump in 40 goals and make a difference in Toronto. If not, JFJ will say bye-bye to the ACC. Then again, there's still a summer of wheeling and dealing to go.


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