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Robbie Coltrane

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Hallows, Four, Speeches, Grit, and Sky.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • Death comes to Hogwarts, and young Master Potter must beat it back one final time — but not before moping across the English countryside for two hours — in the full trailer for David Yates’ first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with the usual gang (and Bill Nighy) in tow. Not a big fan of the 7th book, but let’s face it, we’re all pot-committed at this point.

  • I was a Teenage Alien? No, it’s the teaser for D.J. Caruso’s I am Number Four, with Alex Pettyfer, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand and Timothy Olyphant. Mr. Seth Bullock notwithstanding, that bland, Twilight-y cast and the February release date suggests to me this is eminently missable.

  • King George isn’t mad, per se. But he does suffer from a rather serious stammer in the trailer for Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, and Guy Pearce. The trailer looks a bit too inspirational-true-story! and Oscar-baitish to me, but word of mouth on this has been g-g-g-g…well, ok, very good.

  • And, saving the best for last, a young girl — younger even than Kim Darby — (Hailee Steinfeld) enlists the services of one Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) for an Old West mission of vengeance in the first trailer for the Coens’ remake of True Grit, also with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. You know how I am about the Coens. I’ll be there.

  • Update: One more for the pile: Independence Day meets Cloverfield in the trailer for the Straus brothers’ Skyline, with Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, David Zayas, Scottie Thompson, and Brittany Daniel. Eh, the FX look rather impressive, if nothing else.

Teenage Wasteland.

Second on the weekend bill was David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment of the series (and Yates’ second directorial outing after 2007’s Order of the Phoenix.) On one hand, this year at Hogwarts is a deftly-made piece of work, and probably the most accomplished and filmic of the Potter movies (tho’ I still prefer Goblet of Fire overall.) But, on the other hand, Yates and the assembled cast are just gathering steam right as the source material is petering out. I racked my brains before the movie trying to remember anything about Half-Blood Prince the novel, and basically came up with the ending, “Slughorn,” “Harry’s Potions book,” and “Dumbledore drinks the crap.” These four things do not a movie make, particularly not a 150 minute movie like this one. You can pad it out with Quidditch and/or various adenoidal episodes on the Big Three’s part, but Half-Blood Prince — the movie like the tome — still feels somewhat overlong, unnecessary, and redundant.

Part 6 of the Harry Potter saga starts in media res — so much so that it feels like Yates & co. have basically given up on the non-readers — with a trio of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters openly attacking London Muggles in broad daylight. Yes, it’s gotten that bad. But the potential Chosen One (Daniel Radcliffe) has his mind on other matters at the moment — mainly, getting to know the cute waitress at the local station cafe once her shift ends. Alas for Harry, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) apparates into the scene and bigfoots that plan relatively quickly — Instead, he enlists young Potter in an scheme to entice former Prof. Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) back into the Hogwarts fold. (Slughorn is an inveterate namedropper, and thus susceptible to Harry’s influence. That being said, the dance of seduction here all seems a bit more unsavory when viewed rather than read.)

Anyway, soon Harry — and Slughorn — and the rest of the gang have all returned to Hogwarts (with the exception of those schoolboys in disgrace, the Weasley twins, who are now making a mint in Diagon Alley.) But the darkness all around has now seeped even into Fortress Dumbledore — students become bewitched, various assassination attempts go awry, and the scion of Slytherin in particular, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), seems to be under more strain than usual. Perhaps worse still for the gang, the trickle of teenage sensuality seen in Goblet and Order has swollen to a torrent, and Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are now in the full hormone-fueled throes of adolescence. Honestly, after all the pregnant looks, strange urges, and attempted snoggings in the first hour, I half-expected Harry to whip out an ID named “McLovin'” and try to score some butterbeer.

The kids all acquit themselves well enough given the modicum of plot this time around. Still, with all due respect to the teens, the secret weapon of the Potterverse on film remains the long and growing list of distinguished British thespians on hand. From the starting cast (Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, David Bradley, Mark Williams and Julie Walters) to the later pick-ups (Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Helen McCrory, Evanna Lynch), Half-Blood Prince is stocked to the gills with well-done character turns. The only person who noticeably stuck out as bad was Helena Bonham Carter — She’s wayyy over the top (again) and may be refining her Queen of Hearts here. (I also would’ve liked to have seen He Who Must Not Be Named at some point over the film, but I suspect he’ll be back for the next two installments.)

That being said, the best thing about Half-Blood Prince is probably Jim Broadbent’s turn as Slughorn. At first, he just seemed to be doing a slightly toned-down variation of his “snip, snip, slice, slice” cameo in Brazil. But Broadbent manages to infuse the character with a melancholy I never took away from his more glad-handing, Falstaffian persona in the book. This should’ve been the “Half-Blood Prince’s” movie, really (or Dumbledore’s, for that matter) — but, particularly given the notable absence of the high adventure or puzzle-solving plot dynamics of earlier Potter tales, it’s Broadbent’s haunted sense of regret here that leaves a mark after the credits roll.

The Royal Bloomenbaums.

Well, I have to admit, I went in rooting for Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom, which I caught last week at the local arthouse. Johnson has proven himself in the past to be a huge fan of Miller’s Crossing, which always goes far in my book. (Indeed, like all good disciples of that wonderful flick, Johnson understands the crucial importance of hats. The millinery may be the best part of Bloom, and Johnson has the good sense to let Rachel Weisz look adorable in a bowler for a good part of the run.)

But, sadly, the well-meaning but ultimately rather flimsy Brothers Bloom suffers from serious flaws. It’s a relentlessly good-natured caper flick, so harping on its problems feels a bit like acting the Grinch. But, nonetheless, The Brothers Bloom is too coy and precious by half. The main problem is that, for whatever reason, it’s been Wes Andersonized within an inch of its life. The static shots crufted over with hyperstylized bric-a-brac, the low-fi, DIY scene cards, the many peculiar eccentricities of the upper crust, the hipster’s vinyl collection of forgotten oldies comprising the soundtrack, the somewhat dubious minority characters, the jaunty, vaguely Tintin-ish plot — It got to the point where I sometimes forgot if Adrien Brody was supposed to be hectored by older brother Mark Ruffalo or by older brother Owen Wilson.

At any rate, The Brothers Bloom begins in Wes Anderson-style and never lets it go. When we first encounter the titular siblings, they’re two young orphans who already dress like the Artful Dodger, and who — moving from foster home to foster home — are already developing a taste for the long con. Even in these early years, the fraternal dynamic is set. Stephen, the elder (eventually, Ruffalo), is the idea-man. Using large flowcharts to get his beats across, he conceives extended, needlessly elaborate cons mainly as long-winded adventure stories to amuse his little brother. Meanwhile, Bloom, the younger (soon to be Brody), is the unwitting and eventually deeply beleaguered star of Stephen’s tales. Just like Tom Reagan in Miller’s Crossing, he tends to achieve the desired outcome of his brother’s gambits, but lose the girl in the process.

After they grow up, the brothers — along with their partner-in-crime, the basically mute explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi — more on her in a bit) — wreak havoc on various unsuspecting marks and gain notoriety all across the globe. But when Bloom has finally had enough, Stephen decides to concoct a bravura finish: A final job, one that will involve grifting a beautiful, bizarre, and deeply lonely New Jersey heiress, Penelope Stamp (Weisz). Will Bloom finally get the girl this time? Ah, no peeking — that would ruin the trick.

The Brothers Bloom is as obsessed with legerdemain and sleight-of-hand as, say, The Prestige, and as the movie moves to its conclusion its central conceit — cons/tricks = seduction = storytelling = filmmaking — grinds louder and louder. (Speaking of which, as part of its pledge Brothers telegraphs relatively early that the film will end in Mexico. This is a mistake. Partly because, as the movie wears out its welcome, I found myself wishing more and more that they’d get South of the Border already. And, when the movie *doesn’t* end in Mexico, it makes the convoluted, almost inchoate final act — in Russia, in case you were wondering — seem that much more meandering and purposeless.)

The problem is it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve seen this trick before. Like I said, this is a Wes Anderson movie through and through, and if, like me, you’re kinda over that whole aesthetic at this point, you’ll begin to lose interest even while Johnson is still dealing the cards. (Admittedly, the moments I liked best in Bloom probably count as Wes Andersonisms, from — for me, the biggest laugh in the movie — Rachel Weisz’s three-second-turn as a club DJ to Weisz and Brody dancing the bolero aboard a pleasure cruise on a moonlit night.) And don’t get me started on Robbie Coltrane, who even more than everyone else seems like an unnecessary emissary from the Andersonverse here.

Also in the debit department, there is the matter of Bang Bang. I won’t say she’s a racial stereotype that’s offensive, per se (particularly given the noise coming out of Transformers 2 this past week — it seems that bar is still set really low) — but everything from her unfortunate name (at best a Nancy Sinatra reference, but still too chop-socky by half) to her stint doing Tokyo karaoke suggests there’s a lot of really embarrassing Exotic Othering on Johnson’s part going on here. Honestly, when your Asian female character has more screen time and less dialogue than Chewbacca, something has gone horribly wrong. Next time, how about write the poor girl some lines?

At any rate, I can see some folks, particularly the Anderson-inclined, being able to overlook the many flaws of The Brothers Bloom and just see it as an easy-on-the-eyes, unabashedly romantic caper story. I am not one of those folks — At best, it’s a rental.

[Note: I realize The Brothers Bloom came out ages ago for many GitM readers. But, what can I say? It got here only recently — At the moment, I’m a victim of the limited release schedule. In a perfect world, I’d be talking about Moon, Whatever Works and/or The Hurt Locker right now, instead of studiously avoiding the 45 showings a day of Transformers 2. As it is, hopefully I can get to Michael Mann’s Public Enemies sometime over the coming weekend.]

Life and Death Experiences.

Plenty of variety in this weekend’s trailer bin: 28 Weeks Later‘s Jeremy Renner is the man you call if you’re in the Green Zone with a bomb on hand in the trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s warmly-reviewed The Hurt Locker, also with Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Guy Pearce.

  • A foolproof inside job at an armored truck company presumably goes horribly wrong in the new trailer for Nimrol Antal’s Armored, with Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Skeet Ulrich, Amary Nolasco, Milo Ventimiglia, and the much-missed Fred Ward. Remo Williams, the adventure continues.

  • Young Abigail Breslin offers up her kidney to save her sibling’s life in the trailer for Nick Cassavetes’ My Sister’s Keeper, with Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric, Alec Baldwin, Sofia Vassileva, and Joan Cusack. (Not really my cup of tea, but you never know. Hopefully, it goes better than this plan did in A Christmas Tale.)

  • Escort (and adult film star) Sasha Grey foregoes Craigslist for more Spitzer-type fare in the trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. (Which reminds me, the four-hour version of Che just made it here, although I haven’t partaken yet. Kind of a heady time commitment and all that.)

  • Finally, even the Muggle world is threatened by the darkening clouds of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the most recent trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with Jim Broadbent’s Horace Slughorn joining the usual Hogwarts suspects. Yeah, I’m in.

  • Some Jobs are Better than Others.

    “All he wanted to do was go to the movies.” In the most recent trailer bin, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) has a little too much fun as Public Enemy #1 in the second trailer for Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, also with Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, and Billy Crudup. Siblings Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo ill-advisedly go for one last — complicated –heist in the trailer for Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom, also with Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, and Robbie Coltane. There’s more trouble at work (this time of the factory variety) for Michael Bluth and Office Space/King of the Hill creator Mike Judge in this first look at Extract, starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, Kristen Wiig, Beth Grant, and Clifton Collins, Jr. And writer-director Robert Rodriguez continues in the Spy Kids vein in the cloying new preview for Shorts, with a gaggle of kids, Jon Cryer, James Spader, and William H. Macy.

    Last but not least, seemingly content they’ve got a winner on their hands, J.J. Abrams and Paramount begin an early publicity rollout for their big summer tentpole with this collection of new clips from Star Trek. Still unsure about both SylarSpock and the general tone of this thing, but Chris Pine’s Kirk and especially Karl Urban’s Bones look like they’ll be good fun here.

    Mudblood Aristocracy.

    Don’t drink the water…With Michael Gambon looking and sounding more Gandalfian than ever, the international trailer for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is now online. Well, ok then.

    Riddle in the Dark.

    In anticipation of the HP & The Half-Blood Prince trailer, which should be on later tonight, USA Today scores two stills from the forthcoming sixth Potter film, including this one of young Tom Riddle looking Omen-ish. (Conveniently, he’s played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Ralph Fiennes’ nephew.)

    Update: “I can make things move without touching them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can speak to snakes too. They find me, whisper things…And here it is. (Link sent via Raza.)

    The Dark is Rising.

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, director David Yates’ take on the fifth installment of J.K. Rowling’s (soon-to-be-completed!) series, is, I’m happy to report, a somber, suspenseful return to the increasingly dire matters at Hogwarts, and well in keeping with the higher standard set by Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell in the past two movies. While I think Newell’s Goblet of Fire remains my favorite film outing thus far, this one is right up there in my estimation, and given how much less Yates had to work with, that’s rather impressive. (For all its girth, Book V felt basically like a holding action to me — the wider narrative arc didn’t progress all that much from the end of Goblet to the end of Order, and the story suffered from a wham-bang action climax that didn’t really work on paper (it comes off better on-screen.)) Indeed, Yates’ Order not only captures my most prominent impressions of the book — Harry’s burgeoning teenage moodiness, the growing sense among the students of grim times ahead and important events already set in motion — but also significantly streamlines and distills Rowling’s most-sprawling tome into two-and-a-half hours of sleek, well-paced cinema. No mean feat of magic, that.

    By the start of Order, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is loose, Cedric Diggory is dead, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), once more at the mercy of the Dursleys for the summer, is poised on the verge of adolescent rebellion. He hasn’t heard a pip from friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) for months, nor has he heard any news of goings-on in the magical world. So it is with no small amount of surprise and consternation that Harry finds himself first attacked by Dementors one gloomy evening, then expelled from Hogwarts — by authority of the Ministry of Magic — for using his wand to defend himself. Brought back into the magical loop by these events, Harry discovers that many of his former allies, including godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), have banded together to re-form the Order of the Phoenix in preparation for Lord Voldemort’s next move. More troubling, it seems Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) is not only not inclined to believe Harry that You-Know-Who has returned, but also views Harry and his mentor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), as a political threat, and has turned the general public and popular press against them both. Finally, to further complicate Potter’s prospects, Fudge dispatches one Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to Hogwarts with a ministry mandate to stamp out both dark sarcasm and Defense against the Dark Arts in the classroom. Thus hemmed in, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find once more they need to take matters in their own hands, and begin to defiantly assemble what they call Dumbledore’s Army, a student organization dedicated to preparing for the worst. But, all the while, Lord Voldemort is up to his own tricks…and what good is Dumbledore’s Army if its young, bespectacled leader is already hopelessly compromised by his still-unexplained connection to the Dark Lord?

    As the paragraph above attests, there’re a lot of balls in the air this time around, but Yates, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, & co. do a solid job of keeping everything moving without doing grievous harm to any of the many included subplots. (Several have been excised regardless, such as this year’s Quidditch match. No real loss, imho.) And throughout, what Order of the Phoenix gets most right — in fact, one could argue it’s actually done better here than in the book — is the feeling that things are simmering to a boil. Hermione, Ron, and especially Harry have grown from wide-eyed, trusting children to gawky, hormonal teenagers (and better actors, for that matter), seething with imminent rebellion against the powers-that-be, and their world has similarly gone from a colorful, fantastic, and ever-so-occasionally dangerous realm of magical delights to a gray, ominous land of hidden agendas, political propaganda, fallible adults, and fatal consequences. In the last movie, Harry’s Hogwarts cohort were on the threshold of early adolescence, and had just begun to discover the tantalizing mysteries of the opposite sex. Here, slightly older, they come to another classic teenage rite-of-passage: finding that the world — and, more often that not, the people in charge — aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and that they may even actually be out to get you.

    Of course, Yates is helped out tremendously in bringing Order to life by his ever-expanding Dream Team of British thespians. Imelda Staunton, as the main new cast member, is note-perfect as Umbridge. A pink-festooned, unholy cross between the Church Lady and arguably the real You-Know-Who of Rowling’s books, Margaret Thatcher, she’s like something out of a Roger Waters fever dream (and continues the “The Tories are Coming!” subtext I noted in my review of the last movie.) Even with Staunton aside, tho’, Order is packed to the brim with quality actors reprising their roles from the first four films — Oldman, Hardy, Brendan Gleeson, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, etc., and particularly Fiennes and Alan Rickman. They’re all excellent, and frankly it’s good fun just to see so many of them around again to help further flesh out the Potterverse. (Although, having seen Naked and The History Boys since Goblet, I’m slightly more concerned about Harry hanging around the likes of Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths)…what would the Umbridges of the world have to say about that?)

    Dumbledore’s Army.

    Alert the Ministry: The new trailer for David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now online, albeit not in the best format. Looks…ok, although I’d be surprised if it lives up to Newell’s Goblet of Fire (or even Cuaron’s Prisoner, since Order may have been my least favorite book in the series thus far.) Update: It’s now available in Quicktime — go here instead.

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