Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

The Half-Blood Prince: Thoughts After Midnight

So Kelsey and I are officially part of the  largest midnight movie opening ever, with our $17.50 in ticket money having just pushed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince past the $22-million mark for Wednesday’s overnight opening.

It was a fun night, especially since neither of us had been to a midnight premiere before. We stopped at the grocery store on the way and bought a bag of gummi bears apiece, tucking them in our sweatshirt pockets. Picked up our internet-purchased tickets at the theatre kiosk and got in line at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Lots of lightning bolts drawn on foreheads. Lots of striped ties and prep school outfits and robes. (PotterMania: Helping Parents Recycle Graduation Gowns Since 1997!) Even a couple Dobbys and a surprisingly good Professor Lupin.

I figured on a decent tween crowd, but was surprised at how many high-schoolers there were, until I gave it some thought and realized that they’ve really grown up on these books and movies, and then it seemed pretty cool.

We filed into the theatre at about 11:20 and got a couple good seats about halfway to the top and on the end of the center section so Kels could have an aisle seat. I bought us a Coke to keep the sugar and caffeine levels up.

After the previews, the curtains flanking the screen pulled fully open, the lights dimmed completely, and Kelsey and I shared a “This-is-awesome” grin and settled into our seats. I hope someday she looks back and remembers that anticipation and the fun that came with it.

So, thoughts on the movie:

Having read the first four Potter books before the first movie in the series came out, my own mental construct of Rowling’s wizarding world and its characters has stayed pretty much intact as the books themselves have been adapted into movies. Basically, this means that I’ve been able to kind of treat the movie series as a totally different kind of experience than the books, even though I obviously know where the overall story is going.

The Half-Blood Prince has very different feel to it – the book did, too, but not quite as drastically – than the others in the series, and I think it’s because so much of the various storylines were trimmed to make them all fit into a watchable movie. There’s not a real overarching sense of growing dread or a constantly building feeling of impending doom, or a neatly-interlocking pattern of clues and discovery. Consequently there’s a lot less action in this one, though there’s no loss of drama. It’s more of a series of smaller mysteries and stories that run their own parallel courses, knocking together and eventually braiding into the larger tale.

There’s much less of Voldemort’s back-story, which I figured would be cut, but I missed it anyway, because the creeping growth of his evil throughout his childhood and younger years is a great and chilling portion of the book. The overall darkness gathering thorughout the wizarding world and spilling into the muggle community is similarly shortchanged. In both cases, though, the movie uses well-crafted scenes as snapshots hinting at the big picture, even adding in a couple new scenes to keep things moving.

(Aside: I’ve had a quiet crush on Helena Bonham Carter since my friend Jen showed me A Room with A View during our freshman year of college. Because of this, I find Ms. Crazypants Cackling Murderer who’s got Really Bad Teeth and Kooky Hair Bellatrix Lestrange inescapably hot.)

On its own merits, I enjoyed Half-Blood Prince easily as much as any of the other Harry Potter movies. (Honestly, I have trouble ranking them, although I think as a whole the first one is the weakest, since it spends sooooo muuuuuuch camera time lingering on the sets and visual effects.) But the newest one gets serious bonus points because it will always conjure up excitement and gummi bears and a memorable night with my daughter.

July 16, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Film, geek | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A routine expedition? I think not.

Not that we’d planned to see the new Land of the Lost movie, but wow, judging by the reviews and the box office, it sounds like Kelsey and I have been much better served having spent our time watching several of the original television episodes during the Sci-Fi channel’s marathons.

What I remembered about “Land of the Lost” from when I was a kid was mostly bits and pieces: The opening credits and the theme song. Sleestaks. (Which, it seems to be generally agreed upon by people of a certain age, were utterly terrifying, what with the hissing and the creepy slinking and the big shark-black eyes and all.) Pylons and crystals that looked like giant Lite Brite pegs. Dinosaurs. That’s about it – nothing about specific episodes or storylines or the tone of the show. (I had also never realized that Dad/Rick Marshall actually escaped the Land of the Lost in the third season opener to be conveniently replaced by Uncle Jack.)

Then, while doing some homework for the GeekDad Father’s Day Gift Guide, I learned about the impressive list of science-fiction writers who’d worked on the show – Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova and Theodore Sturgeon, for instance – and I was intrigued enough to set the DVR to record something like eight or ten episodes. (There’s a good 2004 interview with writer David Gerrold about season one, when most of those writers contributed, in the TV Shows on DVD archives.)

Truthfully, I didn’t have high hopes for my return down that thousand-foot waterfall. A few years back, I thought it would be fun to check out the Hanna-Barbera “Godzilla” cartoon my friends and I loved to watch on Saturday mornings in the late 1970s. It sucked. And I don’t even remember being super-attached to “Land of the Lost” in the first place – it was just another one of those Sid & Marty Krofft shows.

So watching “Land of the Lost” for the first time in probably close to 30 years, with my skeptical 12-year-old daughter along for the ride, I’m more than pleasantly surprised to find that:

The opening theme is exactly as I’ve recalled, down to the timing of the Marshalls’ scream as they plunge over the falls, and the miniatures-and-bluescreen work are also just as cheesy as I remember too.

The Sleestaks are still creepy: My daughter says so, without any prompting, and I find this strangely comforting.

For all the laughable special effects and simplistic acting, there’s actually some decent storytelling crammed into these sub-30-minute episodes, and the show’s tone is completely unlike the almost-all-for-laughs atmosphere of every other Krofft production that comes to mind. Multiple time streams, dead alien races, mind trips, travelers stuck halfway between worlds, questions that go unanswered and mysteries left that way. And while there are sitcom-esque one-liners regularly stuck in the Marshalls’ banter, for the most part, everything’s played straight: This is a bizarre and deadly world these kids and their dad (and later, uncle) are stuck in.

Kelsey & I liked this a lot more than we were prepared to, and I’m sad that we missed out on seeing most of the first season episodes, but that’s what DVD sets are for, and the summer stretches out ahead of us like a watercolor matte painting of an abandoned Altrusian metropolis.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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