A Virginia-born writer named Matt Bondurant wrote a historical novel called "The Wettest County in the World" back in 2008. He based the novel on the exploits of his grandfather and two granduncles, who ran a massive moonshine operation during the later years of the Prohibition era, in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Four years later, a movie version of Bondurant's novel finally hit the movie screens at the end of the summer.
Renamed "LAWLESS", the movie began in 1931 in Franklin County, Virgina; where three brothers - Forest, Howard and Jack Bondurant - run a successful moonshine business with the help of their friend, Cricket Pate. The brothers use a bar as a front for their illegal activities. And not only do they provide well-made moonshine to the Franklin County locals, but also to gangsters like Floyd Banner of Chicago. Two people arrive in Franklin County that prove to have a major impact upon the lives the Bondurant brothers. The first to arrive is a Chicago dancer named Maggie Beauford, who is hired as a waitress for their bar and slowly becomes romantically involved with the oldest brother, Forest. Not long after Maggie's arrival, a Federal Special Deputy Charly Rakes arrives in Franklin County and demands that all county bootleggers - including the Bondurants - give him a cut of their profits. Although the other bootleggers surrender to Rakes' intimidation tactics and decide to give him a cut, Forest Bondurant refuses to do the same. Rakes and his men set out to intimidate and terrorize the Bondurants into giving him a cut of their profits. And when that fails, he decides to go after their distillery and destroy it.
Most of the story is told through the eyes of the youngest Bondurant - Jack. At the beginning of the story, Jack is an inexperienced and sometimes introverted young man, who is kept out of the family's shine business, aside from acting as a driver for their deliveries. When Rakes gives him a severe beating as a warning to the family, Forest chides Jack for being unable to defend himself. But after Forest is nearly killed by two of Rakes' men, Jack takes matters into his hands and sets with his friend Cricket to deliver a shipment of booze to Floyd Banner in Chicago. Jack returns with profit for the family and himself. But his newly discovered self confidence leads him to make mistakes that not only endanger his family's moonshine operation, but also the lives of Cricket and the girl he loves, a German-American Baptist named Bertha Mannix.
"LAWLESS" turned out to be a very entertaining movie for me. But before I discuss how much I enjoyed the movie, I have to talk about its flaws. I believe that "LAWLESS" had two major flaws. One, director John Hillcoat delivered an unevenly paced movie. The first third of the movie took its time in setting up both the characters and the story. In fact, the pacing was so slow that I was in danger of either falling asleep or losing interest in the movie. I have one last complaint and it deals with the movie's introduction of the Floyd Banner character. I found the introduction of the Banner character rather irrelevant and unnecessary. In the movie, Banner arrived in Franklin County to shoot a competitor, exchange a glance with Jack Bondurant and return to Chicago. I found the entire scene irrelevant and a skimpy excuse to introduce Gary Oldman into the film. Especially since the Floyd Banner role proved to be rather small and serve as nothing more than a plot device to increase Jack's role as a moonshiner.
But once the movie was set up, "LAWLESS" proved to be very satisfying and entertaining. One aspect of the film that I truly enjoyed was the manner in which it recaptured so many details of early Depression-era Appalachian South. Hillcoat did a marvelous job in allowing the movie to permeate with atmosphere. However, Hilcoat did not achieve this superb re-creation on his own. He received help from the likes of cinematogrpher Benoît Delhomme, whose photography of the western Georgia locations struck me as breathtaking; Gershon Ginsburg's beautiful art direction and Chris Kennedy's production designs. I was especially impressed by Margot Wilson's costume designs. For years, Hollywood seemed to have difficulty in re-creating accurate costumes for the early 1930. The movie industry has improved a great deal over the past decade or so. And this was especially apparent in how Wilson's costumes not only accurately reflect the movie's period setting, but also the character and social positions of the characters. An excellent example of this proved to be the costumes worn by Shia Labeouf. He began the movie wearing clean, yet tight fitting clothes - including pants that were obviously too short. During the movie's second half, his wardrobe not only improved, but also became decidedly more flashy, reflecting his personal success in the moonshine business.
Although I found screenwriter Nick Cave's introduction of the movie's character, setting and plot rather slow; I must admit that the movie's overall story proved to be well written. I wonder if many critics and moviegoers had suspected "LAWLESS" would end up as some dramatic version of "THE DUKES OF HAZZARD" with plenty of high-octane action and cliched Southern stock characters. Or that it would turned out to be some take on the founding of NASCAR. Thankfully, none of those scenarios came to fruition. "LAWLESS" proved to be an intelligent mixture of a well done family drama and crime saga. First of all, Cave's script not only explored the Bondurants' illegal activities and how it attracted the attention of the law, symbolized in the form of the corrupted Federal officer Charly Rakes. But it also explored the Bondurants themselves - the intimidating Forest, who had developed a reputation for evading death; the easy-going and hard-drinking Howard, who also possessed a hair triggered temper; and youngest brother Jack, whose inexperience, introverted nature and distaste for violence led him to be disregarded by his older brothers as a dependable participant in their moonshine business.
The producers and Hilcoat certainly picked the right actors to portray the Bondurant brothers. I hope that Shia Labeouf will finally shake off his reputation as a mere tool dominated by special effects in over-the-top action films. He did a superb job in slowly developing Jack Bondurant's character from the insecure and immature boy to someone with a lot more confidence. I believe that Forest Bondurant might prove to be one of my favorite roles that Tom Hardy has ever portrayed. He did a marvelous job projecting an intimidating and commanding aura in his character. The character attracted a bit of a in-joke that originated with a local myth that nothing or no one call kill him. It was good to see Jason Clarke again, whom I have not seen in a movie since 2009's "PUBLIC ENEMIES". He was great as the easy going, yet hard drinking middle brother Howard.
I noticed that Australian actress Mia Wasikowska received a higher billing in the movie's credits than Jessica Chastain. I am a bit surprised, considering that her role proved to be smaller. Mind you, I had no problems with her solid portrayal of Jack Bondurant's love, Bertha Minnix. But her performance and role seemed minor in compare to Chastain, who had the juicier role as Chicago showgirl-turned-waitress, Maggie Beauford. Chastain was superb as world weary dancer who left Chicago to escape its chaos and mindless violence, only to find herself in the middle of more chaos in the form of the Bondurants' feud with Charly Rakes. And I was especially impressed with one scene between her and Hardy, as she struggled to suppress news of the rape she had endured at the hands of Forest's attackers. Many critics claimed that Gary Oldman had chewed the scenery in his brief appearance as Chicago gangster Floyd Banner. Aside from one moment when he lost his temper with a subordinate, I found Oldman's performance rather subdued. And he did a pretty good job in his one major scene. I believe that many critics had managed to overlook Guy Pearce's over-the-top performance as Federal deputy, Charly Rakes. With his slicked back hair, shaved eyebrows, exaggerated body language and effiminate manner, Pearce radiated urban eccentricity at its extreme. Yet, for some reason, the performance worked, due to Pearce's ability to infuse a great deal of subtle menace within the exaggerated persona. The movie also benefited from some solid performances from the likes of Dane DeHaan, who portrayed Jack's best friend Cricket Pate; Bill Camp, who portrayed Franklin County's backbone, Sheriff Hodges; and Lew Temple as the morally questionable Deputy Henry Abshire.
I realize that "LAWLESS" is not perfect. I feel that the slow pace in the first third of the film and the unnecessary manner of the Floyd Banner character's introduction prevented it from being a truly first-rate movie. But thanks to Nick Cave's adaptation of Matt Bondurant's tale, solid direction from John Hillcoat and a superb cast led by Shia Labeouf and Tom Hardy, "LAWLESS" still managed to become a fascinating tale of family bonds during the last years of Prohibition . . . and one of my favorite movies of the past summer.
RATING: R - Sexual situations. SUMMARY: Cole's encounter with a former lover brings back old memories right before his wedding. FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind. DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. Olivia McNeill, Christine Broome and Idril are my creations. NOTE: Takes place about a few days after "The Uninvited" - Alternate Universe Season 6.
The intercom on Cole Turner's desk buzzed. The half-daemon heaved a sigh and moved away from his computer screen, which displayed a legal contract, partially written by him. Cole rubbed his eyes and snapped on the intercom. "Yes?"
"You have a visitor, Mr. Turner," his assistant, Eleanor Read, replied. "A Miss Diane Moore. She hopes to become a new client."
As if he did not have enough clients. Cole had no desire to add another to his list of clients. Not while he was trying to finish this contract before his wedding. But he also knew that his employers would not take kindly to him turning away a new client for their firm. Especially since he happened to be Jackman, Carter and Kline's poster boy. "All right. Send her in."
Seconds later, Eleanor entered the office. "Miss Diane Moore," she announced. Cole's assistant stepped aside and ushered in the visitor. Cole gaped at the familiar figure, who brushed past Eleanor.
"What the . . .?" Cole stared at the new visitor in disbelief.
Eleanor asked, "Shall I bring a drink for Miss Moore?"
"An Apple Martini would be lovely," the guest replied. Eleanor regarded the visitor with dubious eyes, before she left the office. Cole glared. Once they were alone, she declared, "Belthazor, it's great to see you. As always."
Cole growled, "Apple Martini? Before noon? Good grief, Idril! And what the hell are you doing here?"
The dark-haired demoness' mouth formed a pretty smile. "I thought it would be nice for us to have lunch, together. Seeing you at your engagement party brought back old memories."
"Memories that I would rather forget," Cole retorted.
Idril eased into an empty chair. "But you can't forget, can you?"
Flashes of their brief affairs illuminated Cole's thoughts. He sighed. "No, I guess not." A triumphant smile curved Idril's mouth. "I guess I can't forget . . . us, anymore than I can't forget Christine Bloome from the Triple Six Club, in London. How is she, by the way? I haven't heard from her in years."
Idril's mouth tightened. "I wouldn't know." She seared Cole with a death glare, before Eleanor returned with her Apple Martini. Once his assistant had left, Idril took a sip of her drink. "What about lunch, Belthazor? Still interested? I thought the Oak Room at the Westin St. Francis would be nice."
Cole gave his former paramour a hard look. "And what else did you have in mind for us at the St. Francis? A room for the afternoon?"
"I see nothing wrong with re-capturing old times." Idril's smile returned. "Do you?"
A derisive snort escaped from Cole's mouth. "I don't recall any 'old times' at the St. Francis or any other hotel," he retorted. "Besides, I still have some work to finish."
Humiliation and anger briefly flashed in Idril's hazel-brown eyes. "What's the matter, Belthazor? Afraid that I might seduce you, again? And that the little lady will find out?" she said with a sneer.
Cole leaned forward, smiling coldly. Contempt oozed from his voice. "The 'little lady' is a good two inches taller than you. And what makes you think that I had allowed myself to be seduced by you? Maybe there was another reason why I had stuck it out with you for nearly a month."
Idril gasped, as her face turned pale. "Wha . . .?"
Someone knocked on the door, startling the pair. Seconds later, it swung open. Cole felt a slight twinge of anxiety as his fiancée, Olivia McNeill, entered the office. She shot a quick glance at the other guest. "Oh. I didn't realize you already had a guest."
"Didn't Eleanor . . .?" Cole began.
Olivia continued, "She wasn't at her desk." She stared at Idril and smiled politely. "Idril, it's nice to see you, again. How long has it been? A few days?"
Idril drained the last of her martini and set the glass on Cole's desk. Then she gave Olivia a tight smile. "And it's . . . nice to see you too, Miss McNeill. I . . . um, . . . I just came by to say hello to Belthazor." She stood up and turned to Cole. "Well, I guess I better get going. You've certainly given me something to think about, Belthazor. Bye."
"Good-bye Idril." Cole allowed himself a brief, triumphant smile, as he watched the demoness leave the room.
Olivia sat down in the chair previously occupied by Idril and brushed a few curls from her forehead. "Wow! What was that all about?" she asked.
Panic filled Cole. "What?"
"You and Idril. I had noticed a . . . distinct chill in the air. At least coming from you. What happened?"
Cole sighed. "Idril had asked me out for lunch in some puerile attempt to revive our relationship. She had suggested the Westin St. Francis."
Green eyes flew open. "So, that's where you two . . ."
"No!" Cole said sharply. "We were never at any hotel, together."
Another sigh left his mouth. "Look," Cole began, "I didn't mean to sound sharp. It's just that I've always found Idril annoying. In fact, I'm beginning to regret that I had anything to do with her, in the first place."
Olivia stood up and headed for the liquor cabinet. She poured herself a glass of club soda. "Didn't you once tell me that you only went out with her to satisfy an itch?"
Cole leaned back into his leather chair. "That's how it had started. But I eventually became involved with her . . . to piss off my mother."
"Huh?" The glass paused just an away from Olivia's mouth. "Are you . . . there's nothing Oedipal about all of this?"
Glancing at his watch, Cole mildly retorted, "Of course not! You know, we better get going, if you still want to have lunch. How about the Daily Grill?"
Olivia nodded. "Sounds great." She swallowed the last of her club soda. "Ready?"
Cole stood up and donned his jacket. He then linked arms with his fiancée and seconds later, they materialized in an alley just off Union Square. Once they were seated in a booth, inside the Daily Grill. After the couple had ordered their meals, Cole began his story.
"It all began after I had finished an assignment in Montreal," he said. "Around the late spring of '69."
Olivia frowned slightly. "Assignment in Montreal?"
"It was about a book," Cole murmured. He sighed. "A wizard's book of spells and rituals that Raynor wanted . . ."
Below are images from "ARGO", the new political thriller about the 1979-81 Iran Hostage Crisis, starring Ben Affleck. Also directed by him, the movie co-stars Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin:
Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Two (1994-1995) of "LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman". The series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher:
TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF "LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN" (SEASON TWO)
1. (2.18) "Tempus Fugtive" - Lane Davies and Terry Kiser are superb as time traveling villain Tempus, who wants to kill Superman before he becomes an adult, and legendary writer H.G. Wells, who needs Lois and Clark's help to stop him in this first-rate episode.
2. (2.14) "Top Copy" - Raquel Welch plays a television journalist, who is also an assassin hired to find Superman's identity and possibly kill him.
3. (2.22) "And the Source Is . . ." - Having discovered Tempus' diary, a criminal attempts to blackmail Superman into killing Lois Lane, or he will kill Clark's parents. Clark finally summons the courage to ask for Lois to marry him.
4. (2.03) "The Source" - Lois is suspended from The Daily Planet after she fails to help a source to the illegal operations of a corporation.
5. (2.10) "Metallo" - Scott Valentine has a field day as a petty criminal and boyfriend of Lois' younger sister Lucy, who is shot during a robbery before his head is grafted onto a kryptonite-powered cyborg body by a pair of scientists who are also brothers.
As a rule, I have never been an ardent fan of Charles Dickens' novels. I suppose my aversion to his writing stemmed from being forced to read his 1838 tale, "Oliver Twist", while in my early teens. That was the last time I had read a Dickens novel, but several film and television adaptations of his work awaited me for many years down the road. And I did not warm up to them.
After years of avoiding Dickens' novels or adaptations of his work, I finally decided to put my aversion of his writing aside and set my mind on watching "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND", Sandy Welch's 1998 adaptation of his last completed novel, published in 1864-65. Needless to say, "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND" proved to be a complicated tale. It featured at least three subplots - major and minor - and they all stemmed from the alleged death of the heir to a fortune created by his father, a former collector from London's rubbish.
"OUR MUTUAL FRIEND" began with a solicitor named Mortimer Lightwood, who narrates the circumstances on the death of his late client and the details of the latter's will to his aunt and a group of listeners at a London society party. According to Lightwood, Mr. Harmon made his fortune from London's rubbish. The terms of his will stipulated that his fortune should go to his estranged son John, who is returning to Britain after years spent abroad. John can inherit his father's money on the condition that he marry a woman he has never met, Miss Bella Wilfer. However, Lightwood receives news that John Harmon's body has been found in the Thames River. He and his close friend Eugene Wrayburn head toward the river to identify the body. And it was this sequence that led to the following subplots:
*Mr. Harmon's employees, Nicodemus and Henrietta Boffin inherit the Harmon fortune and take Bella Wilfer as a ward to compensate for her loss, following John Harmon's "death".
*John Harmon fakes his death and assumes the identity of John Rokesmith, the Boffins' social secretary, in order to ascertain Bella Wilfer's character.
*The man who found Harmon's "body" is a waterman and scavenger named Gaffer Hexam. He is later accused of murdering "Harmon".
*While accompanying his friend, Mortimer Lightwood, to identify Harmon's body, Eugene Wrayburn meets and falls in love with Hexam's daughter, Lizzie.
*Charley Hexam, Lizzie's younger brother, has a headmaster named Bradley Headstone, who becomes romantically and violently obsessed with Lizzie.
*A ballad-seller with a wooden leg named Silas Wegg is hired by the Boffins to read for them. When he finds Harmon's will in the dust, he schemes with a taxidermist named Mr. Venus to blackmail the newly rich couple.
*Mr. and Mrs. Lammle are a society couple who married each other for money and discovered that neither had any. They eventually set their sights on the Boffins to swindle.
I have seen many movies and read many novels in which disparate subplots eventually form into one main narrative. A major example of this is the 2002 novel and its 2008 adaptation, "MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA". But I cannot recall any form of fiction in which a particular narrative divides into a series of subplots in which one barely have anything in common with another. And I must say that I found this narrative device not only original, but rather disconcerting.
The problem I mainly have with "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND" is that I only enjoyed one major subplot - which dealt with Eugene Wrayburn, Lizzie Hexam and Bradley Headstone. I cannot deny that I found it very interesting and very tense, despite David Morrissey's occasional moments of histronics, when expressing Headstone's feelings for both Wrayburn and Lizzie; and actress Keeley Hawes' inability to express Lizzie's true feelings for Wrayburn until the last episode. And I suspect that director Julian Farino may have been at fault, instead of Hawes. Paul McGann's portrayal of the ambiguous Wrayburn struck me as the best performance not only in this particular subplot, but also in the entire miniseries.
Inheriting John Harmon's fortune attracted a good deal of greedy fortune hunters to the Boffins. Unfortunately, Silas Wegg's attempts to blackmail them ended on a whimper. It did not help that he spent at least two to three episodes (out of four) complaining about his lot in life and plotting with Mr. Venus. I was even less impressed with the poor and newly married Mr. and Mrs. Lammle's attempts to swindle money from the Boffins. In fact, I am still in the dark over how their attempt failed.
The subplot featuring John Harmon/Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer could have amounted to something. I found Harmon's gradual love for Bella very interesting to watch, thanks to Steven Mackintosh's subtle performance. And Anna Friel did a great job in developing Bella Wilfur from a materialistic and ambitious young woman, to one for whom love and morality meant more to her than material wealth. But the problem I have with this subplot? Bella did not learn the truth about John until some time after their wedding. Even worse, he had to resort to deception to find out whether Bella was worthy of his hand. I realize that when they first met, she was not exactly a pleasant woman. But he conducted their courtship, while deceiving her. Even worse, Bella forgave John a bit too easily, once she learned the truth.
Aside from the excellent performances; including those from Peter Vaughn and Pam Ferris as the Boffins, Kenneth Cranham as Silas Wegg, Margaret Tyzack as the imperious Tippins, and Dominic Mafham as Mortimer Lightwood; "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND" has two other virtues that I found impressive. The four-part miniseries' visual style struck me as colorful and at the same time, epic. And I believe one has to thank David Odd for his excellent. And Mike O'Neil's Victorian costumes truly blew me away. Not only did I find them beautiful, but a near accurate reflection of Britain in the 1860s.
One might believe that I dislike "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND". Trust me, I liked it. But I did not love it. I suspect that Sandy Welch and director Julian Farino did the best they could in translating Dickens' tale to the screen. Perhaps they more than did their best and that was the trouble. The 1864-65 novel is not considered among the novelist' best. "OUR MUTUAL FRIEND" has yet to improve my opinion of Charles Dickens as a novelist. Perhaps a second viewing might do the job.
Three sisters from Minnesota formed a highly successful close harmony singing group during the middle of the Swing era in the late 1930s and called themselves the Andrew Sisters. Below are links to featuring two of their biggest hits:
THE ANDREW SISTERS DOUBLE FEATURE
The Andrew Sisters consisted of LaVerne, Maxene and Patricia "Patty" Andrews. Throughout their long career, the sisters sold well over 75 million records. Their harmonies and songs are still influential today. And the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.
Here are links to video clips featuring two of their songs - "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Rum and Coca Cola":
"HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART I" (2010) Review
I have been a major fan of J.K. Rowling’s ”HARRY POTTER” novels as much as the next person. But I would have never become a fan if it had not been for the movie adaptations of the novels. Mind you, I have not harbored a high opinion of all the movie adaptations. It has been a mixed bag for me over the past nine years. Of the seven movies that were made, I have a high opinion of at least four of them. And the most recent movie - ”HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I” - happened to be one of them.
I never thought I would think highly of ”HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I”. When I had heard that Warner Brothers planned to split Rowling’s seventh novel into two movies, I did not think it was a good idea. And I felt it was an attempt by the studio to get as much profit from Rowling’s saga as much as possible. Being a steady fan of the franchise, I went ahead and saw . . . and thanked my lucky stars that the movie had not been shot in the 3-D process. Not only did I develop a high opinion of ”HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I”, I fell in love with it. Considering the number of complaints I have heard about the movie, I suspect that many would be surprised by my opinion. But I did. I fell in love with that movie. And considering the detailed nature of Rowling’s novel, the decision to make two movies from it may have done justice to Steve Kloves’ screenplay.
Directed by David Yates, ”HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I” told the story of Harry Potter and his two close friends – Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – and their efforts to elude Lord Voldemort and his Deatheasters throughout Britain, after the latter assumed control of the wizarding world following Albus Dumbledore’s death in ”HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”. Not only did Harry, Ron and Hermione do their best to elude Voldemort and the Deatheaters; they had to find and destroy the remaining horcruxes – objects or receptacles in which Voldemort had hidden parts of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality. Harry had destroyed Voldemort’s school diary in ”CHAMBER OF SECRETS”. And before the start of ”HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”, Professor Dumbledore had destroyed another - Marvolo Gaunt's ring. There remained five horcruxes for the trio to find and destroy. But as fugitives within Britain’s wizarding world, their task proved to be difficult.
As I had stated earlier, I ended up falling in love with ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I”. But this feeling did not blind me to its flaws. And it had a few. One, what happened to Dean Thomas? For the first time in the saga’s history, he had a bigger role. At least in the novel. He failed to make an appearance in this adaptation. Mind you, his lack of presence did not harm the story. But it would have been nice for Harry, Ron and Hermione to encounter at least one fellow Hogswarts student (other than Luna) during their adventures. And poor Dean Thomas had been sadly underused since the first movie. Two, I wish that director David Yates and editor Mark Day had chopped some of the scenes featuring the Trio’s ”Winter of Discontent”. I could understand that the three friends would endure a great deal of despair over their situation and the state of the wizarding world. However . . . was it really that necessary to endure so many shots of Harry, Ron and Hermione staring into space, looking depressed? These scenes nearly bogged down the movie’s middle section. The Dursleys barely made a presence in this movie. Worse, Kloves had decided to delete Harry and Dudley’s goodwill good-bye. Who became the new owner of Sirius Black’s home, Number 12 Grimmauld Place, following his death? Since ”THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE” movie failed to clear the issue, I had hoped this movie would. It never did. I had also hoped that ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I” would clear reveal the identities of the two other horcruxes that were revealed in the sixth novel - Helga Hufflepuff's Cup and Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem. The only thing that Kloves’ script did was mention that the Trio did not know about the cup, the diadem and two other horcruxes.
Despite these annoyances, I still love ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I”. The only HARRY POTTER movie that I love more is 2004’s ”HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”. There had been complaints of the movie’s dark tone. Personally, this did not bother me one bit. In fact, I reveled in the story’s darkness. Other HARRY POTTER have ended on a dark note. But the story’s dark tone was not only well handled in Rowling’s novel, but also in Kloves’ script. Why? Because it suited the story. Aside from the ”Winter of Discontent” sequence, the rest of the pacing for ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I” was well handled by Yates and Kloves. The movie also featured some outstanding sequences. Among my favorite were the following:
*Lord Voldemort’s murder of Charity Burbage at the Malfoy Manor.
*The Order of the Phoenix escort Harry to the Weasleys’ home, the Burrows.
*Harry, Ron and Hermione’s escape from Bill and Fleur’s wedding at the Burrows to London.
*The attack upon the Trio by two Death Eaters at a London café.
*The Trio steal Salazar Slytherin’s locket from Dolores Umbridge at the Ministry of Magic.
*Ron’s departure from Harry and Hermione, following a vicious quarrel between him and Harry.
*Harry and Hermione’s narrow escape from Godric’s Hollow.
*Ron’s reunion with Harry and Hermione and his destruction of Salazar Slytherin’s locket (a horcrux).
*Xenophilius Lovegood’s (and Hermione’s) narration of Peverell brothers and the Deathly Hallows.
*Dobby’s rescue of the Trio, Luna Lovegood and Mr. Ollivander from the Malfoy Manor.
Of the above scenes, at least three of them stood out for me. One of those scenes was the quarrel that broke out between Harry and Ron during the ”Winter of Discontent”. I found it ugly, brutal and emotional, thanks to the performances of the three leads. They really made this scene worked and for the first time; it occurred to me that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson had really grown in their skills as actors. Hell, in this scene, they gave the best performances in the movie. Another scene that really stood out was Xenophilius Lovegood’s narration of the bleak tale regarding the Peverell brothers and the three Deathly Hallows (the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility). What made this sequence unique was that it was shown via some visually stunning animations designed and directed by Ben Hibon. But the one scene that really impressed me was the Ministry of Magic sequence that featured the Trio’s retrieval of Salazar Slytherin’s locket from the odious Dolores Umbridge (now head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission). From the moment that Harry, Ron and Hermione used Polyjuice Potion to transform into three workers from the Ministry of Magic (Sophie Thompson, David O’Hara and Steffan Rhodri), until their escape via apparition; the entire scene was a fabulous ride filled with tension, humor, chaos and adventure. I would rate it as one of the best sequences in the entire saga.
I had already commented on the marvel of the three leads’ performances. For once, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson were the ones to give the most outstanding performances; instead of a supporting cast member. But there were other excellent performances. One came from Tom Felton, who continued his ambiguous portrayal of Hogswarts student Draco Malfoy that began in ”THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”. Another came from Ralph Fiennes, who gave a better performance as Lord Voldemort – especially in the opening sequence at Malfoy Manor – than he did in both ”THE GOBLET OF FIRE” and ”THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”. In fact, I could say the same about Helena Bonham-Carter, who seemed less over-the-top and a lot scarier than she was in her previous appearances. Rhys Ifan was deliciously entertaining as Luna Lovegood’s equally eccentric father, Xenophilius. And I have to give kudos to Sophie Thompson, David O’Hara and Steffan Rhodri did a great job in conveying their adolescent characters (Hermione, Harry and Ron) through body language – especially since the three leads added their voices. And in his few scenes, Alan Rickman was his usual superb self as the enigmatic Severus Snape. A good example of how ambiguous he could be can be seen in the sequence featuring the death of an old friend of Snape’s – Charity Burbage. All you have to do is look at Rickman’s eyes and face.
Considering that this tale has no choice but to end happily in ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part II”, I could assume that ”Part I” might prove to be the darkest movie in the HARRY POTTER. On the other hand, Yates and Kloves might prove me wrong. But despite a few flaws, I believe that ”HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part I” is one of the best movies in the franchise. I have not truly enjoyed a HARRY POTTER this much since ”THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”. And I can thank director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves; and the three leads – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Excellent job, guys. Excellent job.