Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Franchises and remakes: Same old story or a fresh perspective? | Feature | Entertainment

ScarfaceRolling out a re-tread of a tried and tested idea is (ironically) far from a new concept – in fact it has delivered some of the best films, games and even songs out there – but it also has a lot to answer for.

Tried and tested?

Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!
Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!

At present, only one or two films in IMDB’s top 250 are full remakes (though many are adapted from other sources such as books), so what is that makes Hollywood in particular so fond of taking a story for another spin?

The box office tells a different story however, with far more remakes getting a look in. Most recent of these is Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, which controversially re-introduced the character last year, just 10 years after Tobey Maguire became the web-slinger in 2002. Of course, this case is technically a ‘re-boot’, which the viewing public seem to be more receptive to and forgiving of.

Sometimes, the remake is more successful than the original, such as Scarface (above) or The Man Who Knew Too Much, and can even go own to spawn a franchise of its own. With such inconsistency, it can be difficult to pick out whether the film has been judged on its own merits, or compared to its predecessor, something which often happens with a franchise.

The power of the franchise

Look into my eyes, boy
“What do you mean there isn’t another book?!”

In film in particular, there is a big emphasis on the strength of franchises. For the studio big-wigs, the box office numbers are king, so films can carry on for near-countless iterations before dying out, just because viewers are bought into the franchise. Often the subsequent films don’t even have the same characters, or actors, such as in later instalments of Home Alone or The Bourne Legacy.

In numbers terms, film series like Harry Potter or Twilight make great sense to studios, and so they continue to be churned out year after year, but will their massive commercial success mean they will never fall victim to being remade? (Well, it would give someone else a chance to play a slightly more emotive Bella).

It’s in the game

Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she'd brought that HD grenade launcher
Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she’d brought that HD grenade launcher

For games there are a variety of different types of remake. Popular with publishers at the moment is the ‘HD re-release’ (see Metal Gear Solid HD Collection). Not a remake per se, this allows games-makers to slap some hi-def polish on a game from 10 years ago and release it as a collection, which often serves to bring the younger gaming audience up to date in time for a new release in the franchise.

Another option, which is more costly and time-consuming, is the full remake, which often takes the game back to basics and gives it a full visual re-working, even adding in new content, such as Halo Anniversary or the Resident Evil Gamecube edition.

Play it again, Sam

When will it end?
When will it end?

The music industry re-releases songs like they are going out of fashion (in fact, a lot of the time, because they are going out of fashion), with a new Rolling Stones or Beatles ‘definitive’ Greatest Hits collection out every few years.

Music gets away with it somehow, perhaps due to it’s ‘timeless’ nature, but where it does drop the ball is the cover song. The lowest of all remakes, this takes a song we know and love and often minces it into a slurry which is poison to our ears. Case in point is anything uttered by hyperactive hair enthusiasts Jedward in the past few years.

On the other hand, a re-imagining can offer a new perspective to a song, such as Gary Jules’ more sombre and more thoughtful rendition of ‘Mad World’, or Gabrielle Aplin’s thoughtful and more sombre rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. It just goes to show that the whole concept of recycling isn’t a massive waste of time as many have speculated.

So, what’s the point?

Classics like this would never exist if it weren't for remakes, just don't mention Ocean's Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.
Classics like this would never exist if it weren’t for remakes, just don’t mention Ocean’s Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.

As consumers we have a duty to demand the best. If we settle for less, that’s what we will end up with.

That said, there is value in the remake. Ocean’s Eleven and The Departed (to name just two) are way up our all-time top film lists, and the recent Devil May Cry reboot – DmC: Devil May Cry – proved to be far more engaging, stylish and entertaining than at least its immediate predecessor, but there is a danger in not taking a risk once in a while with a new IP.

The lesson is that just because a film, game or single might be from an established name, a long-running franchise, or based on a well-loved and well-used concept doesn’t guarantee its quality – good or bad.

So next time you splash your cash, think carefully whether you are investing because you like what you’ve already heard about it or just because you think you know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it can be a foregone conclusion of course, if you don’t like superheroes then probably the next Thor or X-Men isn’t for you, but sometimes if you take a risk and go in with no preconceptions, you might surprise yourself.

James Michael Parry

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Film: Review – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Look into my eyes, boyAfter seven films and countless different haircuts for its trio of young stars, the Harry Potter phenomenon comes to an end with the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

As the credits role you can’t help but be saddened that the adventures of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have come to an end. Even more saddening though (minor, yet obvious, spoiler alert) is that the trio have to put up with a fairly cringworthy closing scene, allegedly 19 years later, which sees them all reunited as their children make their way to platform 9 and three-quaters.

Admittedly it would have been expensive and probably unnecessary to digital age the group 19 years in order, but if Harry was 17 at the films climax, that would make him 36, and Radcliffe only looks in his mid twenties, which is obviously unsurprising when he is almost 21 in the real world.

Ron fairs worse, gaining a highly unconvincing beer belly, which Hermoione is the only one of the three which gets close to convincing.

Of course, by this point these things barely matter, since the excitement of the conclusion to this epic saga is ringing in the audience’s mind.

Part 2 begins right where Part 1 left off, so make sure you’ve brushed up before you go, with the trio of friends on a reed-covered beach, which resembles the image of Greek afterlife the Elysian Fields, as Harry morns Dobby’s heroic death.

The journey to destroy the horcruxes, parts of evil-doer Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul, continues, leading them back to Hogwarts for a Return of the King-esque final battle.

The supporting cast are as great as ever, particularly Michael Gambon who returns as Dumbledore in flashbacks, and fan-favourite Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) steals the show as leader of Hogwarts’ defence.

The self-reference of the films reaches fever-pitch as two of our heroes are forces to re-enter the Chamber of Secrets, a film which is drawn on almost non-stop at the close of the story, making you wonder if it was Rowling’s favourite as it seemed to contribute the most to the overall story.

At the end of any hero’s story, there has to be a face off with the arch enemy. In this case Harry and Voldemort come to blows with the usual display of red and green light and what looks like paint sparking out of each of their wands. Still after all this time it would have been nice to see some proper magic going on, wasn’t Harry supposed to have taken a lot of interesting magic lessons at this school? It seems the sum total of his skill after 7 years is limited to shouting ‘Stupify’, ‘Reducto’ and simply deflecting spells directed at him with a casual flick of the wrist.

In all the magic element seems to have been under-used, with the virtually limitless possibilities of turning things into other things, transforming oneself (or transfiguring to use the Potter-ism) and conjuring things, this potential is barely even touched upon.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint
What a difference a decade makes...

Another let down is that the ‘quest’ element of the story draws the trio away from the more fun aspects of the films over the years such as the school lessons themselves or the airbourne rugby sport that is Quidditch, indeed Harry is only seen on a broomstick for the briefest of moments this time around.

The quieter emotional moments are more convincing now though, with Alan Rickman (as Severus Snape) in particular putting on an impressive range, a stark contrast to his usual monotone self (which is nonetheless absolutely note-perfect).

Still, the battle of Hogwarts is undoubtedly a spectacle, taking up a major portion of the second half, and sees the castle we have come to know so well torn to pieces, much to the dismay of caretaker Mr Filtch.

The difficulty with telling a story most of the audience know the ending to is keeping things interesting, exciting and unexpected. Director David Yates manages this brilliantly, keeping everyone on their toes throughout, and undoubtedly delivering a cinematic spectacle if the cheers, laughs and applause of the cinema crowd are anything to go by.

Interestingly the biggest cheer came at the demise of a particular character, but not one you might expect… The entire cast perform at their best in battle, with every character having their moment. Best of all is Jason Isaacs’ Lucius Malfoy, who has such a contrast between now and when he first appeared in the Chamber of Secrets that he is scarcely recognisable.

In the end, with the conclusion of the story comes a clear and pointed full stop at the end of a magical journey that spans a decade. As the Hogwarts’ Express pulls out of the platform you almost wish the story would begin all over again.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Film: Review – I Am Number Four

Like teenagers the world over, I Am Number Four is a film which just tries to fit in. Alex ‘Stormbreaker‘ Pettyfer plays high school student John Smith, who is really an alien dubbed ‘Number Four’.

Following a frantic chase sequence which shows us the demise of Number Three, Number Four sets the scene with Pettyfer’s calm voiceover explaining that he and eight others are aliens who escaped from the planet Lorien as new-borns. Undesirables the Mogadorians were invading the planet and have now found the nine on Earth and have set about killing them in a ritualistic but necessary fashion – numerical order.

The film is based on the first novel of a six book series aimed at the Twilight saga audience, but unusually the back story is vague compared to other Stephanie Meyer’s vampire story, or J.K. Rowlings muggle on wizard universe. Add to that the cartoonish nature of baddies the Mogadorians, who look like an animalistic ancestor of Eric Bana’s Romulan leader Nero from the latest Star Trek film, and things begin to look a little undercooked.

Enter Glee star Dianna Agron as kooky love interest Sarah Hart, who brings everyman John out of his shell with her love of photography. Though the short run time keeps an uncomfortably fast pace, Agron and Pettyfer convince as they deal with changes far more unusual than the average teen.

Aside from some symbolic scars on his leg, Number Four looks like an average teenager. All that changes with Number Four’s coming-of-age as his ‘Legacy’, or superpower, gives him the (often uncontrollable) ability to shoot light from his hands, in a bizarre cross between Xmen‘s Cyclops and Iron Man, and as his new-found confidence grows so do his powers.

Number Four’s mentor and protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) keeps things grounded with a great balance beween matter-of-fact humour and stern-faced words of wisdom, but the fun really begins with the arrival of Number Six, Teresa Palmer, previously seen in December Boys and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Her teleportation powers and knife skills instantly add an element of ‘cool’ to proceedings, and Producer Michael Bay’s action streak shines through with a colossal explosion almost the second she appears.

Number Four’s situation becomes increasingly frantic as he battles to deal with his new found power while trying to keep Harri happy and Sarah safe.

The film builds to a crescendo of action as the two alien factions face off in an American football stadium, unfamiliar territory for Director DJ Caruso, previously responsible for the sublime Disturbia and frantic Eagle Eye. With action-man Bay behind him though, Caruso delivers an action spectacle more than adequate to keep the kids entertained.

The twenty year-old Brit Pettyfer holds things together fairly comfortably in what could be the first of six films, but with such expectation you can’t help but wonder if the film is just a bit too close to the norm to bring audiences back.

 

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry

Film: The most anticipated film releases of 2011

With the 2011 film release schedule now in full swing, with critic favourites The King’s Speech and Black Swan already capturing audience’s imaginations the world over, This Is Entertainment looks forward to some of the other delights the year has in store, courtesy of our very own Gillian Lambie in her first guest post.

Well we’ve all watched or heard about the likes of Toy Story 3, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and the 3rd Twilight: Eclipse – as well as all the other brilliant films that seen us through 2010. (I know this because we spent more than £1 billion pounds going to watch them all!)

So what’s next? What do we have to look forward to in 2011? The answer is: a lot. Around 119 films were produced in the UK last year, all ready for our viewing in the near future.

These upcoming titles include a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean named On Stranger Tides where we look forward to seeing Johnny Depp, as Captain Jack Sparrow, in much more excitement and danger.

Also, not too far away on 12 August a brand new film Cowboys and Aliens arrives, by spaceship! The cast including Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford take to the stage as cowboys from Arizona armed with rifles and guns ready to save the world. Looks to be an exciting, must-see movie.

But, if you can’t wait that long for aliens, then a Simon Pegg creation, Paul, enters our screens later this month. Written by the same creators of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul looks to be just as hilarious and full of just as many explosions and clever one-liners as Pegg has delivered previously with Spaced Director Edgar Wright. ’Paul’ is set to arrive on 18 February.

A second Sherlock Holmes is also on the cards for those of you who watched and enjoyed the first film with Robert Downey Jr. returning as the titular hero and Jude Law as his long-suffering sidekick this December. Their first outing was released in 2009 – a film that made an estimated £40 million in it’s first week of release – so the stakes are high and the new film has is bound to offer something for everyone.

To follow on the 2011 theme of sequels, Transformers 3, or Transformers: Dark of the Moon as it’s called, will be a perfect summer treat this July. Those who enjoyed the first two, and to be honest, there weren’t many that didn’t, will definitely enjoy this one!

And for the very few who are not taken by aliens, detectives and wizards – we have Captain America: The First Avenger. A film about a Superhero! The Superhero being Chris Evans, playing Steve Rogers – a man too unfit for the military but lucky enough to be turned into Captain America. The film looks to be released this July.

Not to mention Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which we have all been anticipating since….forever. The film follows on from the hugely successful series of Harry Potter films based on the books by J.K Rowling. I’ve got to say Part 1 was pretty good, if not a lot darker and scary than the first ever pre-teen Harry Potter we seen way back in 2001.

For those who liked to read those wonderful, fantasy filled story books when you were kids, remember the book War Horse by Michael Morpurgo? The book that was first published in 1982 but is still read by millions of children today? Yes? Well, in just less than a year we will be able to relive that book on the big screen. Director, Steven Spielberg has been very busy over the past year filming in locations all over England including Devon and North Hampshire ready for the release in December 2011.

Finally, watch this space for details on Disney below-the-radar release I Am Number Four in the next few weeks. All in all it’s looking to be a good year!

Gillian Lambie

Review : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
All growed up: Daniel Radcliffe as the titular boy-man-wizard
Six years have passed since Harry Potter was sitting alone under the stairs without a care in the world. Now the world has changed, darkness has fallen and Harry and co must leave home and go on a quest to find a way to defeat the mighty dark lord.
Voldemort now controls the magical world and the only way for our dynamic trio to defeat him is to destroy the remaining shards of his soul, known as Horcruxes.
At one point our teenage heroes wear one of the Horcruxes as a locket around their neck, which makes them slowly become overcome with anger and rage, not entirely unlike a certain ring, and you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just put it in their pocket instead.
If you’re thinking it all sounds a bit familiar, then cast your mind back to 2001; a group of heroes travelling in search of a way to destroy an item of jewellery to defeat an evil overseer? Hmmm…
Throughout the Deathly Hallows there’s a distinct Fellowship of the Rings feel. This isn’t automatically a bad thing of course, as director David Yates embracing the picturesque landscapes and dynamic camera work which gave the films such an epic sense of scale, but the sense of foreboding and ever-increasing darkness soon takes its toll.
The film itself begins the climax to the boy-wizard’s story solemnly, with Harry, Ron and Hermione all leaving home for what they know will be the final time. Particularly heart-breaking is the moment where Hermione wipes her parents memories of her, to protect them, and her face fades from the picture frames across her muggle – that’s non-magic – home.
The universe which author J.K Rowling might not be exactly the same as the one which we’ve got to know on screen, but fans will notice plenty of familiar touches crammed in between the lines, and the absence of Alnwick Castle (or Hogwarts to those in the know) mixes up the hum-drum school year formula and turns the film into a non-stop chase movie.
As ever, those who’ve read the books will understand far more of what is going on (Snatchers?), but the usual tension between the main characters and ample amounts of Polyjuice potion hurry things along. With Obi Wan/Gandalf/Dumbledore gone and Sirius long since departed, Harry has noone to guide him.
There’s a real sense of the group really not knowing what to do for the first time, which adds to the sense of helplessness and world-ending which Yates is keen to push.
The supporting cast are the usual high standard, with new addition Bill Nighy sublimely asserting his authority as new Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, and the return of Dobby the house elf is sure to be a hit with younger fans.
It’s Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson that we’ve all grown up with though and they all continue to be as effective as ever, though Radcliffe still lags behind the rest, but Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) really stands out from the ‘evil minions’ crowd, even over Ralph Fiennes’ chilling tones.
With the story only being half over it’s hard to build to a climax, though Yates succeeds in creating a impressive and lasting closing image, but the two parts demand watching together to give a real sense of finale. The film is an effective beginning to the end, but not exceptional, the closing chapter will either prove its worth or see the series fall short of the mark.
Rating: 3/5
James Michael Parry