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Alabama Moon (2009)
Good heart-felt family entertainment
I got the job of picking the Friday night movie for us to watch with our two boys. Alabama Moon turned out to be a great choice.
Although our youngest drifted off about halfway through, our 9 year-old was enthralled with the adventure story. Moreover, although the themes of death, anti- government sentiment and the realities of survivalism were treated fairly lightly, the movie triggered a few insightful questions from the kids - an indication that the level of the movie was perfectly pitched at their level of understanding and ability to deal with serious issues. A bit like Moon himself, really.
Of course there was corn and humour bordering on slapstick (the Constable is a caricature of the mean lawman), but it's right at home in a gentle family film like this. And if you want your kids to gain some deeper insight into what real friendship means, look no further than Moon and Kit.
Immensely satisfying for fans who can see the movie behind the book
I was lucky enough to see a preview of Half-Blood Prince three days before opening day. I saw it a second time with my son who is not quite ten, but who is generally mature for his age and doesn't scare easily. The two viewings give me the unique advantage of both the adult and the child perspective on the movie.
I only recently started counting myself a true Harry Potter fan after my son introduced me to the movies a couple of years ago. I finished the last book only three weeks before seeing the movie adaptation of Half-Blood Prince the first time.
With all the book details very fresh in my mind, I had high expectations of the movie. And Yates, the production crew and the cast definitely delivered. The movie impresses on many levels from an artistic point of view. The stripped landscapes and washed out colors convey a constant feeling of dread and foreboding. The standard train trip to Hogwarts was particularly stark, seen against a landscape scorched by a hot summer sun and dotted with dark pools of water. The usual lush greenery and joyous train ride are nowhere to be seen.
Personally, I felt the pace was spot-on and that the movie elegantly made time for all key plot points. But only if you enjoy a plot line driven by character and emotion. For the younger lot, looking for frightening wizard duels and attacks by magical creatures, the first hour and a half of the movie drags on a bit. My son certainly became fidgety, and didn't appreciate the finesse and sophistication of the plot and cinematic approach.
Most of the threatening and darkening tone of the movie was also lost upon him, whereas I reveled in the finer details contributing to a general sense of ever-encroaching darkness. There are worse things in life to be afraid of than big hairy spiders. My son missed seeing those - I was a lot more intrigued by the ominous undercurrents made palpable by the indomitable trio of David Yates (director), Steve Kloves (screenplay) and Delbonnel (photography).
Some people feel that the romantic comedy aspects played too large a role in the movie, but I felt this aspect added some much-needed lightness and human drama to the movie. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) all find themselves dealing with the vagaries of young love - from dealing with unwanted advances to finding love in unexpected places. The romance was aimed perfectly at the young teen market, and I found myself cringing ruefully at some of Lavender Brown's love-obsessed stunts and smiling wistfully at the tenderness between Harry and Ginny. Haven't we all been there at some stage of our lives?
All in all, Harry Potter is growing up. And so is the market for these movies. If you've seen all the movies up to now or read all the books, and your are at an age to appreciate the adult themes and movie techniques, this movie should fall pitch-perfect on your ear. You are likely to leave the cinema filled with a heart-wrenching sadness for innocence lost.
Purist fans will most certainly complain bitterly about numerous sub-plots, events and characters that were cut from the movie and the odd scene that doesn't exist in the book. But Yates' truly gutsy adaptation really works and brings a depth and clarity to the main themes of the book that is quite extraordinary. He manages to capture the lingering lightness of that time before the serious business of adulthood sets in, alongside the relentless buildup to the final showdown between The Dark Lord and The Chosen One. And the lack of closure at the end of the movie is no accident, I believe. Just like the book, this movie leaves you aching to see how it all ends (never mind the fact that you already know).
I must also commend the acting. The young leads have all matured in pace with the maturing content of the books and their acting shows it. Rupert Grint shines brightly in the somewhat Shakespearean love comedy he finds himself in, and makes the most of his new-found sport hero popularity. Emma Watson hits the spot, portraying Hermione's emotional vulnerability with gentle confidence and softness.
As for Radcliffe, it's easy to miss the evolution he's undergone as Harry, since there are other actors ostensibly given more to do in this outing, like Tom Felton and Bonnie Wright, both of whom get the opportunity to take their characters to a new level. Tom Felton, especially, does a remarkable job. But Radcliffe's task of playing the steadfast and courageous, yet not flashy or arrogant hero, remains a difficult one. Especially on second viewing, it becomes clear how his understated and controlled performance speaks very much to the type of man Harry Potter is shaping up to be. A man who is left with a tremendous responsibility at the end of this movie and takes it up without flinching. The boy-wizard is no more.
Of the older guard, Alan Rickman's Snape was a consummate performance, ... obviously. And Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore never felt more right than in this movie. Jim Broadbent's Slughorn is deliciously played with just the right mix of off-putting sycophancy and endearing pathos.
All in all - a triumph all around!