“MACBETH” (2006) Review

“MACBETH” (2006) Review

Over the years, a good number of filmmakers, novelists and playwrights have taken William Shakespeare’s plays and presented them in a different setting or with a twist. One such movie that comes to mind is the 1957 Broadway musical, ”WEST SIDE STORY”, which became an Oscar winning 1961 movie. The directors of both the play and the movie took Shakespeare’s ”ROMEO AND JULIET”, set it on the mean streets of Lower East Manhattan and gave it a different ending. Kenneth Branaugh’s 1996 version of ”HAMLET” was set in the late 19th century. And there have been two versions of ”THE TAMING OF THE SHREW” in which one movie was set at a Seattle high school and the other within an African-American family of sisters and their spouses. Director Geoffrey Wright did something similar with his 2006 adaptation of ”MACBETH”, which starred Sam Worthington and Victoria Hill.

In other words, what Wright did was retold the story of Macbeth as a crime story set in modern day Melbourne, Australia. Instead of a Scottish lord, Macbeth was an underboss of a powerful Melbourne gangster named Duncan. After leading Duncan’s gang in a drug deal that ended with the violent deaths of his boss’ rival – Macdonwald, Macbeth found a few pills inside of one of Macdonwald’s nightclubs and partook them. During Macbeth’s drug trip, he learned from three witches dressed as schoolgirls that he would one day assume total control of Duncan’s gang. But his wife, Lady Macbeth dismissed the prophecy, claiming that Macbeth lacked the ambition and drive to take control of the gang from Duncan. But when she learned that the gang leader would be staying overnight at their home, following a party, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to kill Duncan, frame his bodyguards and assume control of the gang. Which is exactly what happened. After the other gang members elected Macbeth as their new leader, the new gang lord struggled with the suspicions of others, Lady Macbeth’s mental decline and his own paranoia and guilt.

”MACBETH” would have slipped my notice if someone had not mentioned it on a LIVE JOURNAL blog for actor Sam Worthington. And I am glad that someone did. ”MACBETH” turned out to be somewhat better than I had expected. It was not the best film adaptation of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen. But I thought that Wright and actress Victoria Hill (who also served as co-writer) did a solid job retelling the play in a more modern setting. Both Wright and Hill managed to achieve this without a long running time for the movie. They also did a solid job in creating a decent crime story about power, greed and betrayal.

I am certain that some of you have noticed that I have used the word ”solid” a lot to describe the movie. But that is how I feel about it. ”MACBETH” was certainly not a terrible film. However, I would never consider it to be a favorite of mine. I had some problems with it. One, Will Gibson’s photography seemed rather dark and a bit on the gloomy side. Aside from Macbeth’s first meeting with the three witches at a cemetery, most of the movie’s scenes seemed to feature interior shots or a night time setting. I really do not know what to say about John Clifford White’s score. That I barely noticed it? There were times I began to wonder if the movie actually had a score – except in two scenes that featured the party Macbeth held for Duncan and the final sequence featuring the gang’s attack upon Macbeth at his home. Earlier, I had congratulated Wright and Hill for writing a screenplay that did not result in a long running time. However, Wright’s direction still managed to drag the film with occasional slow pacing throughout the movie. Between the minimal score, White’s dim lighting and Wright’s pacing, there were moments when I found it damn hard to stay awake.

The cast seemed pretty solid (ah, there is that word again). I was impressed by the three actresses who portrayed the witches – Chloe Armstrong, Kate Bell and Miranda Nation. They harbored a surprising mixture of sexual allure and menace. Their orgy scene with Worthington seemed . . . hell, I do not know how to describe that sequence. All I can say that it seemed odd. Matt Doran gave an intense performance as Malcolm, son of the murdered Duncan, who had suspected Macbeth for killing his father from the beginning. But I might as well be frank. When it comes to”MACBETH”, only the actor in the titled role and the actress portraying Lady Macbeth matter to me.

I would have never considered Sam Worthington to portray a Shakespearian role. Honestly, I never would. Look, I am well aware that he is a talented actor with a strong screen presence. But he simply never struck me as the type to do Shakespeare. Yet, he did an admirable job in his portrayal of the underboss who managed to get over his head following his coup d’etat against his boss, thanks to his wife’s ambitions and his own paranoia. Mind you, there were times I thought Worthington seemed a bit too young for the role. He must have been 28 or 29 years old when he shot this film. I would have preferred for him to tackle the role in another three or four years – like now. And I must admit that I found his portrayal of Macbeth’s descent into madness in his last scenes not very convincing. However, he still did a pretty good job. And he must have been one of the few actors who were not inclined to perform Shakespeare in front of a camera at the top of his lungs – like many other performers seemed inclined to do. For that I am grateful.

And I am also grateful to Victoria Hill for refraining from indulging in any acting histrionics. Like Worthington, she managed to spout her Shakespeare without indulging in any theatrical hamminess. But I would also like to add that I found her performance as Lady Macbeth to be mesmerizing. Honestly. I really enjoyed the subtle manner in which her Lady Macbeth drew the lead character into a murder scheme that would prove to be overwhelming for them both. In fact, one of her best scenes featured Lady Macbeth manipulating Macbeth into committing murder. Another favorite scene focused upon her reaction to Macbeth’s failure to originally kill Duncan’s bodyguards. Again, she managed to convey a great deal of emotion and passion without any histrionics. But my favorite scene featured the one in which her Lady Macbeth not only helped her husband carry out the coup d’etat against Duncan, she seemed to be in control of the entire operation. And Hill performed that entire scene with an interesting, yet complex mixture of cool resourcefulness and wariness. I can honestly say that she probably gave the best performance in the movie. She seemed more suited for her role than Worthington did for his.

I will never consider ”MACBETH” to be a personal favorite of mine. I rather doubt that I would ever have an inclination to watch it again. Will Gibson’s photography struck me as a bit too dark and gloomy – probably unnecessarily so. John Clifford White’s minimal score nearly put me to sleep. And so did Geoffrey Wright’s pacing of the film. And despite Sam Worthington’s solid performance, he did seem a bit too young for the title role of Macbeth.

However, I must admit that Wright managed to do decent job in transforming the story’s setting from medieval Scotland to the ganglands of Melbourne. None of the cast members indulged in histrionic acting as many other actors tend to do, while performing Shakespeare in front of a camera. Worthington still managed to give a good performance. And he was supported by a superb performance by Victoria Hill as Lady Macbeth. In the end, I can honestly say that this version of ”MACBETH” was not a bad movie.

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (1956) Review

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (1956) Review

Based upon Jules Verne’s 1873 classic novel, ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is the story of a 19th century English gentleman named Phileas Fogg and his newly employed French valet, Passepartout, attempt to circumnavigate the world in eighty (80) days on a £20,000 wager set by his friends at the Reform Club. Produced by Michael Todd, the Academy Award winning film starred David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton. 

Could someone please explain how ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” managed to win the 1956 Best Picture Academy Award? How on earth did this happen? Do not get me wrong. Ever since I first saw ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” on television years ago, I have been a fan of the movie. The idea of someone taking a long journey around the world – especially in an age before air travel – greatly appealed to me. It still does. I like the idea of travel, whether I am doing it myself or watching it on the big screen or on television. And even after all of these years, I still enjoy watching this movie. And yet . . . I simply cannot fathom the idea of it being considered the Best Picture of 1956. Even more surprising is the fact that John Farrow, S. J. Perelman, and James Poe all won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Perhaps the reason behind the movie’s accolades centered around Hollywood’s amazement that first time movie producer, Mike Todd, had succeeded in not only completing the film, but also creating an entertaining one. Two men directed this film – Michael Anderson, an Englishman who had only directed seven movies before ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”; and John Farrow, a well-known Australian director who had co-written the film’s script. Farrow, by the way, did not receive any credit for his work as a director of this film. Which makes me wonder how many scenes he actually directed. Considering the movie’s running time of 183 minutes (3 hours and 3 minutes), I find it surprising that it took only seventy-five (75) days to shoot it. Along with the four leading actors, the movie featured over forty (40) stars, 140 locations, 100 sets and over 36,000 costumes. No wonder Hollywood seemed amazed that Todd managed to finish the film.

Set around 1872, ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” told the story an English gentleman named Phileas Fogg (David Niven) who claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager with several skeptical fellow members of his London gentlemen’s club (Trevor Howard, Robert Morley and Finlay Currie included), the Reform Club, that he can arrive back within 80 days before exactly 8:45 pm. Together with his resourceful valet, Passepartout (Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”), Fogg sets out on his journey from Paris via a hot air balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his £20,000 from the Bank of England. Police Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by Ralph the bank president (Robert Morley) to trail and arrest Fogg. Hopscotching around the globe, Fogg pauses in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight; and in India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine) from being forced into a funeral pyre so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested upon returning to London by the diligent, yet misguided Inspector Fix.

The main differences between Jules Verne’s novel and the movie centered around Fogg and Passepartout’s efforts to leave Europe. Quite frankly, the novel never featured Fogg’s journey through Europe. In the novel, there were no stops in either France or Spain. Fogg had considered using a hot air balloon in Chapter 32, but quickly dismissed it. Also, Fogg never punched Detective Fix after being released from jail near the film’s finale. He simply insulted the detective’s skills as a whist player.

I might as well stop beating around the bush. What is my opinion of the movie? Like I had stated earlier, I still find it entertaining after all these years. I love travel movies. And I found the movie’s caricatures of the different nationalities that Fogg, Passepartout, Aouda and Fix encounters on the journey rather amusing – including encounters with a boorish American politician portrayed by John Caradine, Charles Boyer’s Parisian travel agent/balloonist and Reginald Denny’s parody of an Anglo-Indian official. The movie’s funniest moment featured Fogg and Aouda’s encounter with a Chinese gentlemen portrayed by Korean actor Philip Ahn, who proved that his English was a lot better than Fogg’s Chinese-English pidgin. The locations in this movie are absolutely gorgeous, especially Fogg and Passepartout’s trip over France, and the rail journeys through India and the United States. And Lionel Lindon’s Oscar winning photography is accompanied by the memorable score written by another one of the film’s Oscar winners – Victor Young. In fact, the most memorable thing about ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is Young’s score. Even after 52 years, it is the first thing many fans mention about the film.

I was surprised to learn that Cantinflas had won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy for his portrayal of Passepartout. Frankly, I found this as astonishing as the movie’s Best Picture Oscar. Mind you, his performance was a little more animated than David Niven’s portrayal of the stiff-upper lip Phineas Fogg. And his dance with a young dancer at a Spanish cantina was entertaining. But a Golden Globe award? I cannot think of one actor or actress in that movie who deserved any acting award. As for Niven, I think he may have gone a little too far in his portrayal of the reserved Fogg. There were times when he came off as a bit inhuman. I have to wonder about Todd’s decision to cast a young American actress from Virginia to portray the Indian Princess Aouda. Shirley MacLaine, ladies and gentlemen? She is the last person I would have chosen for that particular role. I must give her credit for not succumbing to some clichéd portrayal that would have left moviegoers wincing and instead, gave a restrained yet charming performance. Robert Newton’s portrayal of the persistent detective, Mr. Fix, was just as restrained. Which turned out to be a miracle, considering his reputation as a cinematic ham. Sadly, Newton passed away from a heart attack before the movie’s release.

One might ask why I had expressed astonishment at the thought of ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” winning the Best Picture Oscar for 1956. Quite frankly, I do not believe that the movie deserved such a major award. Sure, the movie is entertaining. And that is about the best thing I can say about the film. Granted, Victor Young’s score and Lionel Lindon’s photography deserved its Oscars. But I feel that the movie did not deserve to be acknowledged as 1956’s Best Picture. Not over other films like ”THE KING AND I””FRIENDLY PERSUASION””GIANT””THE SEARCHERS” or even ”THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”. Nor do I feel that the three men who won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay deserve their statuettes. Heck, the movie featured a major blooper carried over from the novel – namely Fix’s revelation to Passepartout in Hong Kong about the British authorities’ suspicions that Fogg may be responsible for robbing the Bank of England before his departure. Passepartout told Aouda about Fix’s suspicions . . . but neither of them ever told Fogg. Not even when they were about to reach the shores of Britain. Why?

Another scene that continues to baffle me centered around Passepartout’s bullfight in Spain. Impressed by the manservant’s cape work during a dance in a cantina, a Spanish-Arab sea captain named Achmed Abdullah (Gilbert Roland) promised to give Fogg and Passepartout passage to Marseilles if the manservant would take part in a bullfight. What started as a comic moment for Cantinflas turned into a bullfight that promised to never end. The damn thing lasted five minutes too long and I felt more than happy when Fogg and Passepartout finally arrived in Suez.

I have read Jules Verne’s novel. At best, it was entertaining fluff. I could say the same for the 1956 movie. Like the novel, lacks any real substance. For me, both versions struck me as nothing more than a detailed travelogue disguised as a series of vaguely written adventures. Unfortunately, the movie’s entertaining fluff lasted slightly over three (3) hours. Three hours? I like the movie a lot, but an obviously dated three hour movie based upon a piece of fluff like Verne’s novel just does not seem worthy of a Best Picture Oscar. Despite the movie’s undeserved Oscar, I still find it entertaining after all these years.

“THE BLACK DAHLIA” (2006) Review

”THE BLACK DAHLIA” (2006) Review

Judging from the reactions among moviegoers, it seemed quite obvious that director Brian DePalma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1987 novel had disappointed them. The ironic thing is that I do not share their feelings.

A good number of people – including a relative of mine – have told me that they had expected ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” to be a docudrama of the infamous 1947 murder case. Others had expected the movie to be an epic-style crime drama similar to the 1997 Academy Award winning film, ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL” – another Ellroy adaptation. ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” proved to be neither for many fans. For me, it turned out to be an entertaining and solid film noir that I enjoyed.

Told from the point-of-view of Los Angeles Police detective Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert (Josh Harnett), ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” told the story of how the January 1947 murder of Hollywood star wannabe, Elizabeth Short aka “The Black Dahlia” (Mia Kershner) affected Bleichert’s life and the lives of others close to him – especially his partner, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart). The story began over three years before Short’s murder when Bleichert saved Blanchard’s life during the Zoot Riots in 1943. After World War II, the pair (who also happened to be celebrated local boxers) participated in an inter-departmental boxing match to help raise support for a political bond issue that will increase pay for the LAPD, but with a slight tax increase. Although Bleichert lost the match, both he and Blanchard are rewarded by Assistant District Attorney Ellis Loew (Patrick Fischler) with promotions and transfers to the Warrants Department and the pair became partners. Bleichert not only became partners and friends with Blanchard, he also became acquainted with Blanchard’s live-in girlfriend, a former prostitute and artist named Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). Although Bleichert fell in love with Kay, he kept his feelings to himself, due to his relationship with Blanchard. Thanks to Blanchard’s penchant for publicity, the two partners eventually participated in the murder investigation of Elizabeth Short (nicknamed the Black Dahlia). The case not only led the pair to a rich young playgirl named Madeleine Linscott (Hillary Swank) and her family, but also into a world of prostitution, pornography, lesbian nightclubs and the dark underbelly of Hollywood life.

Written by James Ellroy and originally published in 1987, ”The Black Dahlia” became the first of four novels about the Los Angeles Police Department in the post-World War II era (”L.A. Confidential” was the third in the quartet). In my opinion, it was the best in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. I believe that it translated quite well to the movie screen, thanks to DePalma’s direction and Josh Friedman’s screenplay. Like the movie ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL””THE BLACK DAHLIA” turned out to be superior to its literary version. Not only did DePalma and Friedman’s screenplay recapture the ambiance of the novel’s characters and 1940s Los Angeles setting, the plot turned out to be an improvement over the novel. Especially over the latter’s chaotic finale. Despite the improvement, ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” never achieved the epic style and quality of ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL”. If I must be frank, I really do not care. Movies like the 1997 Oscar winner are rare occurrences of near perfect quality. Just because”THE BLACK DAHLIA” was another film adaptation of an Ellroy novel, did not mean that I had expected it to become another ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL”.

Mark Isham’s score for the film did not turn out to be that memorable to me. All I can say is that I am grateful that he did not attempt a remake of Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL” and ”CHINATOWN”. On the other hand, I was very impressed with Vilmos Zsigmond’s photography for the film. One sequence stood out for me – namely the overhead shot that featured the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s dead body in the Leimert Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. Ironically, part of the movie was shot in Sofia, Bulgaria substituting as 1946-47 Los Angeles. Production Designer Dante Ferretti and Art Director Christopher Tandon did a solid job in disguising Sofia as Los Angeles. But there were a few times when the City of Angels seemed like it was located on the East Coast. And I could spot a few palm trees that definitely looked false. However, I really loved the set designs for Kay’s home and the lesbian nightclub where Bleichert first met Madeline. I loved Jenny Beavan’s costume designs for the film. She did an excellent job of recapturing the clothing styles of the mid-to-late 1940s and designing clothes for particular characters.

One of the movie’s best strengths turned out to be its very interesting characters and the cast of actors that portrayed them. Characters that included the ambitious and sometimes malevolent ADA Ellis Loew, portrayed with great intensity by Patrick Fischler; Rose McGowan’s bitchy and shallow Hollywood landlady/movie extra; Elizabeth Short’s frank and crude father Cleo Short (Kevin Dunn); Mike Starr’s solid portrayal of Bleichert and Blanchard’s immediate supervisor Russ Millard; and Lorna Mertz, the young Hollywood prostitute portrayed memorably by Jemima Rooper. John Kavanagh and Fiona Shaw portrayed Madeline Linscott’s parents – a Scottish-born real estate magnate and his alcoholic California society wife. Kavanagh was charming and fun in a slightly corrupt manner, but Shaw hammed it up in grand style as the alcoholic Ramona Linscott. I doubt that a lesser actress could have pulled off such a performance.

Not only were the supporting characters memorable, so were the leading characters, thanks to the performances of the actors and actresses that portrayed them. I was very impressed by Mia Kershner’s portrayal of the doomed Elizabeth Short. She managed to skillfully conveyed Short’s desperation and eagerness to become a Hollywood movie star in flashbacks shown in the form of black-and-white audition clips and a pornographic film clip. At first, I found Scarlett Johansson as slightly too young for the role of Kay Lake, the former prostitute and artist that both Bleichert and Blanchard loved. She seemed a bit out of her depth, especially when she used a cigarette holder to convey her character’s sophistication. Fortunately, Johansson had ditched the cigarette holder and Kay’s so-called sophistication and portrayed the character as a warm and pragmatic woman, who turned out to be more emotionally mature than the other characters. I found Aaron Eckhart’s performance as the passionate, yet calculating Lee Blanchard great fun to watch. He seemed funny, sharp, verbose, passionate and rather manic all at once. There were times when his character’s growing obsession toward the Black Dahlia case seemed to border on histrionics. But in the end, Eckhart managed to keep it all together. Another performance I truly enjoyed was Hillary Swank’s portrayal of the sensual, rich playgirl Madeline Linscott. Just by watching Swank on screen, I got the impression that the actress had enjoyed herself playing Madeline. I know I had a ball watching her reveal the charming, yet dark facets of this interesting character.

Ellroy’s novel had been written in the first person – from the viewpoint of LAPD detective, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert. Which meant that the entire movie had to focus around the actor who portrayed Bleichert. I once heard a rumor that Josh Harnett became interested in the role before casting for the movie actually began. In the end, many critics had either dismissed Hartnett’s performance or judged him incapable of portraying a complex character. Personally, I found their opinions hard – even impossible – to accept. For me, Harnett did not merely give a first-rate performance. He ”was” Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert. One must understand that Bleichert was a difficult role for any actor – especially a non-showy role that also had to keep the story together. Throughout the movie, Harnett, DePalma’s direction and Friedman’s script managed to convey the many complexities of Bleichert’s personality without being overtly dramatic about it. After all, Dwight was basically a quiet and subtle character. Harnett portrayed the character’s growing obsession with both the Black Dahlia case and Madeline Linscott without the manic and abrupt manner that seemed to mark Blanchard’s obsession. You know what? I really wish I could say more about Harnett’s performance. But what else can I say? He perfectly hit every nuance of Bleichert’s personality. I personally believe that Dwight Bleichert might be his best role to date.

I wish I could explain or even understand why ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” had flopped at the box office. Some have complained that the film had failed to match the epic qualities of ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL”. Others have complained that it failed as a docudrama that would solve the true life murder of Elizabeth Short. And there have been complaints that Brian DePalma’s editing of a film that was originally three hours ruined it. I had never expected the movie to become another ”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL” (which did a mediocre job at the box office) – a rare case of near Hollywood perfection. I really do not see how a three hour running time would have helped”THE BLACK DAHLIA”. It was a complex story, but not as much as the 1997 film. Hell, the novel was more straightforward than the literary L.A. Confidential”. And since the Hollywood publicity machine had made it clear that the movie was a direct adaptation of the novel, I found the argument that ”THE BLACK DAHLIA” should have been a docudrama that would solve Short’s murder rather ludicrous. Since I had read the novel back in the late 90s, I simply found myself wondering how DePalma would translate it to the movie screen.

In the end, I found myself more than satisfied with ”THE BLACK DAHLIA”. It possessed a first-rate cast led by a superb performance from Josh Harnett. Screenwriter Josh Friedman’s screenplay turned out to be a solid job that slightly improved Ellroy’s novel – especially the finale. And director Brian DePalma did an excellent job of putting it all together. I highly recommend it – if one does not harbor any high expectations.



Set in present time South Boston and Ancient China, ”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is a martial-arts/fantasy film that was directed by Rob Minkoff. The movie also co-starred two of the most famous names in the martial-arts genre – Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The movie is basically about a South Boston teenage fan of Hong Kong kung fu films, who is transported back in time to Ancient China via a magical staff. There, he must undertake a quest to free the fabled warrior Sun Wukong aka “The Monkey King”.

In a nutshell, ”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining action film with strong fantasy and comedy elements. Our two martial arts stars portray Lu Yan – the Drunken Immortal (Jackie Chan) and The Silent Monk (Jet Li), who help Boston teenager Jason Williams (Michael Angarano) free Sun Wukong (also Jet Li) from the clutches of an evil immortal called the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is not perfect. To be frank, I only have two complaints about the movie. One, the editing by Eric Strand seemed rather choppy. There were moments when the movie lacked a smooth segue from one scene to another. And two, I found the backstory for Jason’s character rather clichéd. It seemed straight out of the rulebook for typical teen angst films that started with 1979’s ”MY BODYGUARD”. You know what I am referring to – shy geeky adolescent who is terrorized by the local bully, has profound experiences before successfully confronting bully in the last reel. Come to think of it, I saw something similar in the fantasy comedy, ”STARDUST”.

Despite the above-mentioned flaws, ”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining movie. Jackie Chan and Jet Li proved that despite their different styles and approaches to the martial arts genre, they could generate screen chemistry together. Michael Angarano is perfectly disarming and funny as the Boston teen who finds himself in an unfamiliar world. Portraying his potential love interest is Liu Yi Fei as Golden Sparrow, a young female orphan who seeks vengeance against the main villain. Speaking of villains, both Collin Chou (the Jade Warlord) and Li Bingbing (Ni-Chang, the White-Haired Assassin) provided a solid villainous challenge to the four heroes.

On the surface, ”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” provides solid entertainment and martial arts action. However, I must commend on two matters. One, I really enjoyed the superb fight sequence between the two martial arts stars – Chan and Li. Whatever expectation I had about their fight, the two stars and fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping more than fulfilled it. I have not enjoyed such a fight scene since Jet Li’s fight with Donnie Yen in ”HERO” or the two Michelle Yeoh/Zhang Yi fight sequences in ”CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON”. I would also like to point out the film’s cinematography shot by Peter Pau. The various landscapes of Ancient China, whether the characters are in the tropics, the forests, the desert or in the mountain regions, are exquisite.

In short, ”THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” is an entertaining film filled with solid action, drama, comedy, and great cinematography. As long as you are not expecting another ”CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON” or ”HOUSE OF THE FLYING DAGGERS”, you will not be disappointed.



I usually try to avoid reading reviews of movies I am interested in seeing in the near future. Instead of relying on the opinions of others, I prefer to form my own opinions. However, my curiosity got the best of me and I could not help but read several reviews and opinions on the fifth cinematic release from the HARRY POTTER franchise – namely “THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”. Mind you, the story was never my favorite HARRY POTTER novel, but after the near travesty (okay, perhaps that description is a bit exaggerated) . . . after the slight disappointment of 2005’s “GOBLET OF FIRE”, I could not help but wonder this particular movie would fare. After all, the novel was longer than even the fourth entry. Fortunately, my fears proved groundless and “THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” has become my second favorite HARRY POTTER movie.

Before I begin to wax lyrical over the movie, I need to point out what I consider to be flaws in the movie. My sister had informed me that the producers of the HARRY POTTER movies had originally intended Mike Newell – director of “GOBLET OF FIRE” – to helm the fifth movie. Somehow those plans fell through (thank the Lord above) and they found themselves scrambling for a new director before production was scheduled to begin. They eventually settled upon UK television director, David Yates. I must say that for his first theatrical production, Yates did an excellent job. But there is one aspect in which his years in television did the movie a disservice was the pacing. Quite frankly, I found the pacing a bit rushed. The movie felt more like it had a running time of at least 100 or 110 minutes, instead of a movie over two hours long.
I also had a few other problems with the movie. One of them happened to be Evanna Lynch, who portrayed the eccentric Hogswart student – Luna Lovegood. Before I receive accusations of sacrilege, please hear me out. Ms. Lynch physically captured the essence of Luna perfectly. And although she managed to convey Luna’s offbeat persona in a competent manner, there seemed to be something missing from her portrayal in the movie. Then it occurred to me that there were times when the movie Luna seemed to be devoid of any emotion. She came off as too serene. And as I recalled, the literary Luna was capable of expressing more emotion – including anger at Hermoine’s dismissive attitude toward her. And Luna was not the only character I had problems with. Characters like Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), Percy Weasley (Chris Rankin in a non-speaking role), Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) and the Blacks’ house-elf Kreacher, barely seemed to exist. Lupin’s biggest moment came when he tried to prevent Harry from chasing after the murderous Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter)

One last problem I had with the movie was the lack of closure on a few plot points. We never learned the consequences of Harry’s discovery that Umbridge had used veritaserum on Cho Chang in order to coerce her into exposing “Dumbledore’s Army” and Harry’s lessons. I never understood why Kreacher even made an appearance in the movie, considering he did not seem to have an impact upon the story. The movie failed to bring some closure or allow Harry to discuss with Sirius and Remus about Snape’s memories of the bullying James Potter. And what happened to Lucius Malfoy after Sirus (or Remus – I forgot whom) managed to defeat him? The movie never revealed his fate.

Despite the above flaws, I enjoyed “ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” very much. It still managed to be a more than satisfying summer movie. The original novel happened to be the largest in the entire series. Yet, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg managed to pare it down to the novel’s main narrative. I suspect many HP fans would have preferred an exact adaptation of the novel. Thankfully, Goldenberg spared the movie going audience of what could have been a long and excruciating period in the movie theater. To this day, I still believe that “THE SORCERER’S STONE” and “CHAMBER OF SECRETS” could have faced a little more editing. And some of the changes made to the story – Neville Longbottom’s discovery of the Room of Requirement (instead of Dobby the house elf); no visit to the St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries (along with no repeat appearance of Gilderoy Lockhart and Neville’s parents); Neville’s own revelation of his parents’ fate to Harry (instead of the discovery being made at St. Mungo); and Cho Chang’s exposure of the Dumbledore Army (instead of Marietta Edgecombe committing the deed) – did not hurt the story at all. However, I am certain many fans would disagree. What made “ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” work for me was the combination of a mystery regarding Harry’s connection to Voldemort and the growing fascist state at Hogswarts that also reflected within the wizarding world under Cornelius Fudge (Tom Hardy). I have to commend both Yates and Goldenberg for skillfully weaving these two elements within the movie’s plot.

The movie also benefitted from excellent acting by the cast. In fact, I found this to be a great relief after suffering from the hammy acting found in the previous entry – “GOBLET OF FIRE”. Both Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) were top-notched as usual. And so was Matthew Lewis as the likeable, yet clumsy Neville Longbottom. I especially must commend Radcliffe for conveying Harry’s angst over Cedric Diggory’s death in the last story and frustration at being ignored by Dumbledore. And I want to sink to my knees and give thanks to the spirits above and David Yates for preventing Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Ralph Finnes (Voldemort), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) and also James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) from repeating their over-the-top performances in “GOBLET”. Oh, such a relief! On the other hand, Helena Bonham-Carter’s portrayal of the insane Bellatrix Lastrange did seem over-the-top. But considering that the literary Bellatrix was equally hammy, I had no problems with this. By the way, I must applaud Imelda Staunton for her delicious portrayal of “Miss Hitler in Pink” herself, namely the ladylike, yet poisonous Dolores Umbridge; a Ministry undersecretary who became the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. In the novel, she is described as being toadlike, yet Ms. Staunton is obviously a more attractive-looking woman. But despite this, she managed to capture Umbridge’s insidious and bigoted evil beautifully.

However, the movie’s piece-de-resistance – at least for me – happened to be the battle that took place inside the the Ministry of Magic. I must confess that the literary version of the battle usually left me slightly confused. I guess I simply found it difficult to visualize what took place. But Yates’ direction not only clarified the entire battle for me, it left me feeling thrilled beyond measure. In my opinion, the battle has catapulted in what I now feel is probably the best sequence ever shown in any of the films so far. It was simply superb. Yet, there are other little golden moments in the film that I managed to enjoy:

-the Dumbledore Army’s Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons

-Ron stands up to Seamus for Harry

-Filch’s attempts to get inside the Room of Requirement

-Ginny’s jealous glances at Harry and Cho

-Dean Thomas’ (Alfred Enoch, who had more lines in this movie than the last two combined) argument with Umbridge

-Hermoine’s handling of Gwarp (different from the novel)

-the fact that both Ron and Ginny helped Neville and Luna escape from Draco and the Inquisitor’s Squad (I could be wrong that Ginny helped; if so, please inform me)

-Harry and the Order of the Phoenix’s trip to London via broomsticks

And one of my personal favorite moments in the movie turned out to be Fred and George’s torment of Umbridge before making their escape from Hogswarts. Classic moment.

Although “ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” possess have some flaws that prevent it from becoming my favorite HARRY POTTER movie so far (“PRISONER OF AZKABAN” still holds this title in my heart), I must admit that it reassured me that the movie franchise had not declined following the slightly disappointing “GOBLET OF FIRE”. nds.

“THE MOVING FINGER” (1942) Book Review

”THE MOVING FINGER” (1942) Book Review

Published in 1942, ”THE MOVING FINGER” is an Agatha Christie murder mystery about a small English town rocked by a series of poison pen letters that lead to suicide and murder. This particular novel featured the elderly Jane Marple as the story’s chief detective, despite the fact that the character only has a minor role.

Set during the early years of World War II, Jerry and Joanna Burton are disaffected siblings from London society who take a country house in idyllic town of Lymstock, so that Jerry can rest from injuries received in a wartime plane crash. They are just getting to know the town’s strange cast of characters when an anonymous letter arrives, rudely accusing the two of not being brother and sister, but lovers. They quickly discover that these letters have been recently circulating around town, indiscriminate and completely inaccurate. One of the letters eventually hits its target, when a local woman commits suicide after receiving hers. The story’s narrator – Jerry Burton – becomes suspicious that the woman’s maid may have witnessed something. Before he can alert the local police, the maid becomes a murder victim.

Author Agatha Christie has been known to admit that ”THE MOVING FINGER” was one of her favorites:

””I find that another one [book] I am really pleased with is ”The Moving Finger’. It is a great test to re-read what one has written some seventeen or eighteen years before. One’s view changes. Some do not stand the test of time, others do.”

I wish I could agree with the renowned mystery writer. I really do. However . . . I found ”THE MOVING FINGER” to be very unimpressive. It struck me as pedestrian and rather sloppily written. It seemed as if Mrs. Christie did not put much effort to create a well written. Even worse, this is supposed to be a Jane Marple novel. Yet, the elderly amateur detective did not even appear in the story, until the sixth chapter and appeared in a few scenes. And the novel only possessed eight chapters. Apparently one of the characters, the vicar’s wife, had decided to summon the one person she felt could solve the case – namely Miss Marple. Unfortunately, the elderly visitor from St. Mary Mead was used by Christie as a minor, deus ex machine style character. Which I found disappointing.

The only interest I found in ”THE MOVING FINGER” was the romance between Jerry Burton and Megan Hunter, the twenty year-old daughter of the woman who had committed suicide. I found it interesting, due to Burton being an interesting narrator. However, I also found his condescending attitude toward Megan and the ugly ducking/beautiful swan motif that surrounded her character and their romance barely palatable. All right, I found it damn annoying. But I must say that it was a hell of a lot more interesting that the main mystery. Speaking of which, it was not much of a mystery to me, considering that I was able to guess the identity of the murderer by the third or fourth chapter.

I am major fan of Agatha Christie. I have been one for years – ever since I was thirteen years old. But I must admit that ”THE MOVING FINGER” proved to be quite a disappointment to me. It seemed like a hastily written murder mystery, in which the main detective has only a few brief appearance. It also possessed an annoying romance between the novel’s slightly condescending narrator and a gauche twenty year-old. Christie could have done better than this.

“On the Analyst’s Couch” – 4/6


Here is the fourth chapter of “On the Analyst’s Couch”:


Within the next four months, Piper continues to visit Dr. Linnbakker. Meanwhile, the Charmed Ones vanquish the Source, Phoebe Halliwell marries Cole Turner, unaware that he has been possessed by the Source. The Charmed Ones, due to Paige Matthews’ suspicions, eventually discover that Cole is the Source and vanquish him. Then the sisters face a new Source – the unborn child of Phoebe and Cole/the Source. After the Seer steals the baby, the Charmed Ones then vanquish the new Source, the Seer and several upper-level daemons. About three weeks after the sisters save a witch from an FBI agent/witch hunter, Paige encounters Dr. Linnbakker at the South Bay Social Service Office. She makes an appointment to visit the analyst.


CASE #71231 – PAIGE MATTHEWS (MAY 28, 2002):

PAIGE: (Lies back on the maroon-colored chaise in Dr. Linnbakker’s office and glances around uneasily.) Why did I decide to come? I mean, I feel perfectly fine.

DR. LINNBAKKER: Hmm, the lady doth protests too much?

PAIGE: What are you talking about? I’m not having any problems. Lately. Well, not since we found out that Cole had gone demonic. But I wasn’t really having any problems. I just couldn’t get the others to believe me.

LINNBAKKER: Wow! For a woman who claims to be fine, you sure said a lot. Are you sure that nothing is troubling you?

PAIGE: (Scoffs aloud) Of course not! Everything’s fine. We’ve vanquished the Source, three times. Phoebe’s free from Cole. And Piper’s pregnant. Best of all, Piper and Phoebe have decided not to give up our powers.

LINNBAKKER: That was a pretty close call, wasn’t it?

PAIGE: Huh? Oh yeah.

LINNBAKKER: How is your relationship with your sisters?

PAIGE: (Sighs in frustration) Everything’s fine. Piper stopped resenting me, months ago. Thank God. And I’m not at loggerheads with Phoebe, now that Cole isn’t controlling her any longer.

LINNBAKKER: You mean the Source, right?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: The Source. That was the Source who had Phoebe under his control. Or perhaps I should also add the Seer.

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor) Yeah. (Pauses) Anyway, everything’s fine.

LINNBAKKER: Then why are you here?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Is there an echo in here? You seemed to be responding to my questions with monosyllables. (Pauses) Why . . . are . . . you . . . here?

PAIGE: Because you talked me into coming!

LINNBAKKER: I don’t recall convincing you. I do recall saying to you that if you want to talk, give me a call. Instead, you made an appointment. I guess you wanted to talk, after all. Or is there another reason why you’re here?

PAIGE: (Shrugs her shoulders) Okay, I wanted to talk.

LINNBAKKER: About what?

PAIGE: (Sighs) I don’t know. Everything seems anti-climatic, lately. (Pauses) I think Piper regrets not giving up her powers. See, we were visited by . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) I know all about the Angel of Destiny’s visit. It’s all here in the file.

PAIGE: (Frowns) How did you get that info . . .?

LINNBAKKER: I have my sources. Whenever I request information on supernatural beings, there is this dimension I like to visit.

PAIGE: Huh. Anyway, I think Piper wishes we had taken the Angel of Destiny’s offer to become mortal. And now that she’s pregnant, she seems a little preoccupied. Sometimes . . . sometimes I think she blames me for wanting to stay a witch.

LINNBAKKER: What do you mean? I thought it was your encounter with that FBI Agent Jackman that finally changed her mind.

PAIGE: Yeah . . . but . . . I don’t know. Every time I make a comment about how glad I am to be a witch, she gives me this look.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And I thought she had finally learned to “embrace” her heritage. I guess not. (Pauses) And Phoebe? How are you two getting along?

PAIGE: (Starts twirling her hair) Okay. I guess. At least she’s not hostile toward me, anymore.

LINNBAKKER: Are you referring to her wedding day?

PAIGE: (Nods) And when she got pregnant. Of course, I realize that she was under the influence of that evil spawn of hers.


PAIGE: I don’t know. I guess she still resents that I was right about Cole. Being evil, I mean.

LINNBAKKER: How did that happened, by the way?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: How did Cole become the Source? Did any of you ever find out?

PAIGE: I think it had something to do with that Hollow. You see, it’s a . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) I know all about the Hollow. So, because of it, he became the Source.

PAIGE: Yeah. He used the Hollow to absorb the Source’s powers.

LINNBAKKER: To save you from the Source. Yes, I know about that, as well. But wasn’t the Seer supposed to use the Hollow to take the Source’s powers away?

PAIGE: (Sarcastically) I guess she was “supposed” to do that. Maybe they had planned the whole thing – Cole and the Seer. Maybe he got tired of being a mortal and decided this was a good opportunity to become demonic again.

LINNBAKKER: Or maybe the Seer convinced him to use the Hollow in order to save you and your sisters’ lives. (Pauses) In fact, I believe that is what happened.

PAIGE: (Again, stares at the doctor) How do you know that?

LINNBAKKER: Records from my source. I have patients who happen to be of demonic nature, as well.

PAIGE: You have demons as patients?

LINNBAKKER: Yes, I do. Didn’t Piper and Leo tell you?

PAIGE: No. (Pauses) But then they never tell everything. And even if Cole had been tricked into using the Hollow, that doesn’t change the fact that he could have fought the Source’s influence.

LINNBAKKER: Phoebe could barely fight the Source’s influence. In fact, both did a better job of it than your ex-boyfriend. Remember Shane?

PAIGE: (Squirms with discomfort) Yeah, I remember him. At least he wasn’t an ex-demon.

LINNBAKKER: Well, that only made it easier for the Source to possess him. Whereas Cole . . . well, he did put up a fight. Saved your life twice, didn’t he?

PAIGE: (Sighs) Maybe.

LINNBAKKER: You didn’t like Cole, did you?

PAIGE: (Pauses) Why do you ask?

LINNBAKKER: I’m curious. Did you like him?

PAIGE: Not really.

LINNBAKKER: Why? You liked him when you two first met. After he and Phoebe saved you from Shax.

PAIGE: That was before . . .


PAIGE: Why are we talking about Cole?

LINNBAKKER: Why aren’t you answering my question?

PAIGE: (Huffs angrily) Okay! If you must know, I liked him before I found out he was Belthazor. You know, the demon sent to kill my sisters, two years ago.

LINNBAKKER: Let me get this straight. You liked Cole when you first met him. Even when you knew he was a half-daemon with a long past of evil. But when you found out that he was Belthazor, you began to distrust him?

PAIGE: He tried to kill my sisters, remember?

LINNBAKKER: And not even the fact that he has saved their lives on numerous occasions, and saved your life – what? Three or four times, won’t change your mind about him?

PAIGE: Look, I’m grateful for what he did, but whatever he has done when I first met him, doesn’t change what he did in the past. And like I said, how do we know that he didn’t see the Hollow as an opportunity to become demonic, again? Cole lost his powers, became the Source and nearly killed us. I mean, don’t you get it? He’ll always be evil, no matter what.

LINNBAKKER: Of course he’ll always have evil within him. And so will you. And so will Leo, Inspector Morris and your sisters. Good and evil is something we all carry within us.

PAIGE: Oh, come on Doc! I don’t exactly consider myself as evil. Or Leo and my sisters.

LINNBAKKER: Really? It’s funny. You seem unwilling to forgive Cole for his past. Have you ever wondered if anyone has forgiven you for yours?

PAIGE: (Eyes grow wide) What are you talking about?

LINNBAKKER: Must I bring up your past? Those years in high school when you drank, smoke and literally got into trouble all the time? You must have been quite a burden on your family. And according to your file (peers at Paige’s files) you managed to get a good number of your friends into trouble. Serious trouble.

PAIGE: Wait! How did you . . .? Piper told me that your files only covered the years we were witches. I’ve only been a witch for about a year.

LINNBAKKER: Yes, but thanks to your little trip into the past with Leo, the Elders were able to discover a lot about your past.

PAIGE: Okay, I was a bit of a hell raiser in school, but at least I was never a half-demon who spent over a century, killing others.

LINNBAKKER: The details may be different. And yes, you never killed anyone. But still, you caused harm for a good number of people. But since you were never a daemon, I guess you deserve redemption. Is that it?

PAIGE: Aren’t you being a little too complex?

LINNBAKKER: I don’t think so. But you seemed to have this tendency to judge others, don’t you? I shouldn’t be surprised. You are a Halliwell, after all.

PAIGE: What do you mean by that?

LINNBAKKER: Meaning, you should take a lesson from Agent Jackman. He’s a perfect example of how good intentions can lead a person down the path toward evil. And you seemed to have that same self-righteousness and unforgiving nature. You’re a smart young woman, Paige. And you have what it takes to be a talented witch. But if I were you, I’d get rid of that rigid view of good and evil, before it causes you any harm.

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor) What do you mean, rigid? A person is either good or evil.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Have you been listening to a word I said? What did I say? That everyone carries both good and evil within him or her. Life is not that simple, Paige. It’s not a fairy tale. Not even in the supernatural world.

PAIGE: Yeah, but . . . I don’t recall any warlocks or demons with a good side.

LINNBAKKER: Of course you have. I believe his name was Belthazor. Come to think of it, your sisters have, as well. Especially Prue. I believe she once became acquainted with a powerful half-daemon named Brendan Rowe. Only your sisters believed that he was part-warlock. (Murmurs) If such a thing exists. Has Piper or Phoebe told you about the Rowe Coven?

PAIGE: (Shakes her head) No.

LINNBAKKER: The Rowe brothers were three of the most powerful part-daemons in existence. Well . . . they were not completely part-human. The two older brothers had some human ancestry within them. But the youngest, Brendan, was purely half-human, half-daemon. Like Belthazor. He was more powerful than them, individually. But together, they were more powerful than him. They were the evil counterparts of the Charmed Ones. The youngest, Brendan, did not want to become part of their coven. He wanted to be a priest. Prue tried to help him, despite Piper and Phoebe’s protests, pressure from his two older brothers, and his attempt to kill Prue. But do you know who eventually destroyed the coven?

PAIGE: (Sarcastically) Obviously not.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Sorry. Of course you don’t. It was the middle brother, Peter. The irony of the whole thing is that Peter, who possessed less mortal ancestry than Brendan, could not stand by and watch older brother Greg, kill his baby brother. So, Peter threw himself in front of a knife that Greg had thrown at Brendan. And before he could die, killed Greg with the same knife. The odd thing is that he threw himself in front of Peter, to protect him. Out of brotherly love. Now does that sound like a daemon with no good side?

PAIGE: (Pauses) No. (Another pause) What happened to Brendan?

LINNBAKKER: Brendan gave up his powers to become a priest. So you see, even daemons and warlocks are conflicted. Evil as the Seer was, she was a firm believer in following the rules. Maintaining the balance between good and evil. Her problem was that she saw an opportunity for personal power in the Source’s Realm. And she used Phoebe, Cole and even the Source to achieve her goal.

PAIGE: (Sighs) Look, it’s a nice story. And maybe you’re right about good and evil within all of us. And maybe Cole was also being manipulated. But that doesn’t . . .

LINNBAKKER: Doesn’t what?

PAIGE: It doesn’t change the fact that Cole was the very demon who tried to kill my sisters. It’s just . . . I mean, I nearly lost them before I had the chance to get to know them. At least Piper and Phoebe.

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at Paige) Family is very important to you, isn’t it?

PAIGE: Of course, it is. Don’t you think that family is important?

LINNBAKKER: Sure. But you seem to take its importance to new heights.

PAIGE: Look, if you’re going to get into some psychobabble about some obsession I have about my family, you’re wrong. Just because I was adopted at birth, had problems with my step-parents before they . . . before they were killed, and spent a year looking for my real family . . .

LINNBAKKER: Don’t take this the wrong way, but all you’ve done is confirmed any psychobabble I might have told you. (Pauses) May I ask you something? After all that has happened this past year, why were you so willing to continue as a witch?

PAIGE: Being a witch is my destiny, isn’t it? My duty. I . . .

LINNBAKKER: Spare me the textbook answer, okay? When you first discovered that you were part-witch, part-whitelighter, you weren’t that enthusiastic. What changed your mind?

PAIGE: A year ago, Phoebe and especially Piper were treating me as a necessary addition to the Charmed Ones, instead of a sister.

LINNBAKKER: Okay. But why were you so willing to remain a witch, earlier this month?

PAIGE: (Pauses) I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.

LINNBAKKER: Nice try. But I want a real answer.

PAIGE: You tell me.

LINNBAKKER: Answer this. Does being a witch satisfy your desire to help others?

PAIGE: To help . . . Is there something wrong with helping others?

LINNBAKKER: No. But you’ve raised helping others to a fine art. Even before you became a Charmed One. Why else would you end up working at a social services office?

PAIGE: This is ridiculous! Are you saying that it’s a crime to help others?

LINNBAKKER: Good grief, Paige! It’s not your desire to help others that is the problem. It’s that your desire borders on ruthlessness. You seemed to be obsessed with protecting the innocent. And this desire has blinded you to the fact that the universe – mortal and supernatural – is not filled with those who are one-dimensionally good or evil. And it’s made you judgmental. (Pauses) Does this desire to help others have anything to do with your step-parents?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: (Gently) Are you so determined to help others, because you blamed yourself for your step-parents’ deaths?

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor, before slipping off the chaise) I’m out of here. (Walks toward the door)

LINNBAKKER: Well, I was right about one thing. You certainly are a Halliwell.

PAIGE: (Pauses near the door) As far as I’m concerned, that’s something to be proud of.

LINNBAKKER: Perhaps. Then again, being a Halliwell can also be a detriment.

(Paige walks out of the office.)

END OF CASE #71231

”HARRY POTTER and the Deathly Hallows” (2007) Book Review


“HARRY POTTER and the Deathly Hallows” (2007) Book Review

I usually do not post book reviews, but a great deal has been made about this last installment of J.K. Rowling’s “HARRY POTTER” series that I thought I might as well say something. I have only been a die hard fan of the series since the release of the third movie, ”PRISONER OF AZKABAN” in 2004. I had also seen the first two movies in the theaters. I had enjoyed both, but it was the third film that had induced me to read the novels. Between ”AZKABAN”and the books, I became a die-hard fan. But this is not about the other stories. This is about the last . . . ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”

I am going to make this short. As much as I have enjoyed the series, I have come to the realization that I like the last five novels – starting with ”AZKABAN” more than I do the first two. I guess I find it easier to relate the increasingly ambiguous nature of the story. And if there is one thing I can say about ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” is that it is one hell of an ambiguous novel. In it, Harry Potter and his two friends – Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger – truly start on their road to adulthood. And this, I believe, is the major strength of this novel.

By the time I came to the middle of the novel, I realized that for the first time in the series, most of its setting would take place away from Hogswarts. A part of me felt slightly disappointed that Harry, Ron and Hermoine did not reach the school until the last several chapters of the novel. On the other hand, I feel that this was the correct thing for Rowling to do. For me, ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” definitely seemed like a ”coming of age” story for our three protagonists. It was a maturity that they strongly needed in order to face the main villain, Lord Voldemort (aka Tom Riddle) and his Death Eaters. Looking back on the story, I do not think that Harry, Ron and Hermoine would have acquired their maturity and backbone if the story had mainly been set at Hogswarts. I think it was a very good move on Rowling’s part.

And our three heroes truly did grow. Hermoine learned to face her feelings for Ron and overcome that narrow-minded superiority that originally made her dismiss the legend of the Deathly Hallows. Ron learned to overcome his insecurity about his abilities as a wizard, his views on non-human magical creatures like house elves . . . and face his feelings for Hermoine. And Harry learned to overcome his tendency to play lone wolf and realize that people are not always what they seemed to be. The truths about Sirius’ treatment of Kreacher, Dumbledore’s past and his desires for powers, Snape’s feelings for Lily Potter and his true role in the war against Voldemort were powerful lessons for Harry. And I guess one could say they were powerful lessons for Ron and Hermoine, as well.

Of course, the deaths of Fred Weasley, Colin Creevy, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and others were painful. But it were the deaths of Dobby and Severus Snape that really moved me to tears. And the trio’s painful adventures throughout the British Isles seemed like another version of Homer’s “ODYSSEY” that probably lifted this last installment almost to an epic quality. I only have three complaints about ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”:

a) Aside from Horace Slughorn, none of the Slytherins had participated in the battle. It annoyed me that Rowling went through all of that trouble to allow Harry not to judge others for superficial reasons . . . and yet, she insisted upon maintaining the clichés about the Slytherins that they could not be trusted;

b) I wish that Harry had revealed to the others – especially the other Death Eaters that Voldemort was a half-blood;

c) The final battle at Hogswarts seemed like one chapter too long at times. But what can one expect when it was interrupted twice – first by Snape’s death and past memories and later by Harry’s ghostly encounter with Dumbledore?

But ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” also had some great moments. Here are my favorites:

a) Bill and Fleur’s wedding was a hilarious family affair for the Weasleys, until Kingsley Shacklebolt’s patronus warned them of the encoming Death Eaters;

b) Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s adventures in London – including their break-in of the Ministry of Magic;

c) Ron’s return and Hermoine’s reaction;

d) The trio’s adventures at the Malfoy Manor and their reunion with Dobby, Ollivander, Dean Thomas and Luna Lovegood;

e) The trio’s escape from Gringotts on a blind dragon;

f) Harry and Hermoine’s creepy visit to Godric’s Hollow;

g) The trio’s visit to the Lovegood home;

h) The trio’s encounter with Albeforth Dumbledore;

i) The trio’s return to Hogswarts;

j) Ron and Hermoine’s first kiss;

k) Ginny’s birthday kiss to Harry;

l) The chapter on Snape’s memories of Lily Evans Potter and Albus Dumbledore – which in my opinion was my favorite in the entire novel.

I wonder if J.K. Rowling will write any other books, now that she has finished her opus on the boy wizard, Harry Potter. If she does, I hope that they will be as excellent as the seven novels that have entertained the public for the last decade. But if her next book or books are not as good, I will not hold it against her. After all, she did create Harry Potter for all of us to enjoy for years to come – in both the novels and the movies.