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This week:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Filthy says:
"Presto, presto, P.I.!"

I wish I'd have come up with Harry Potter. There are loads of things I wish I'd thought up: Fabreeze, organized religion, socks and cartwheels. Of course, there are many things I did invent: the word "gnarly", prize dwarves, goats with human lips, a device you attach to a car battery to kill vampires, and gloves laced with thorns. There are other things I am still working on: a car that runs on bread, lights with solar panels that power themselves and goats with human lips and teeth.

The thing is, yes, my ideas are fucking brilliant, but they haven't made me rich. All they've done is made me a popular caller on the "Coast to Coast" wildcard line east of the Rockies. I'm also on a first-name basis with the people who advertise on television late at night and say they are looking to help inventors. They're full of horseshit; they're looking for suckers who will fork over great ideas like my goats, and give them a pile of cash, too. Fuck that. Nobody should ever have to pat to bring my great ideas into the world.

Anyway, I get the sense that Harry's creator, J. K. Rowling, never had to spend her own money convincing people that Harry Potter was a great idea. Don't get me wrong, I'm not full of sour grapes, I just wish I thought it up, or that kids bought as many goats as they did fantasy books.

As hard as it is for me to admit, though, and as much as I am forced by district court to no longer say I am, I am not J. K. Rowling. I did not write any Harry Potter books, and as a result, I am required to stop trying to get local liquor stores to give me free twelve-packs of Schlitz under false pretenses. I am Matt, the Filthy Critic, and I write novels about vampire robots that sit in my drawer, waiting for my death before they are discovered and cherished. I'm guessing the The Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer fan fiction will be largely forgotten.

Rowling's squeezed seven books out of this Potter kid, who apparently can do magic. I think more important to the series' success, though, is that Rowling gave everyone funny names. I sit around for hours trying to come up with clever character names and end up with people named Taco John (I just thought that one up one day while driving down the street) and Wiener Face. Wiener Face is a good guy, in case you couldn't tell. But Rowling seems to effortlessly think up names like Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Dumbledore and Dolores Umbridge. Second most important to her success is the world she created for Potter. It is a complete and fully-imagined corner of our world where magic is both everyday and remarkable. Somewhere below those two, but above the stupid drawings on the books' covers is that Rowling is a really good writer.

Rowling's fifth book is now the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The first movie was a pretty rote adaptation. The second one was fucking painful and boring to watch. The third was pretty damn great and the fourth was pretty damn ehh. This one falls just about in the middle of the pack. It's okay, sort of boring, loaded to the nuts with exposition and still slightly confusing to anyone who hasn't read the books.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Potter, and like the boy, he's an awkward, gangly teen. He has a limp romance with Cho Chang (Katie Leung), and a sort of lame friendship with two other wizards (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint). At the beginning of the story, Radcliffe is having bad dreams and all sorts of worries. I read somewhere that this is all supposed to be allegorical for the pain of adolescence, but we never see the kid having wet dreams or getting caught jerking off to ads for girdles in the back of a Ladies Home Journal.

He is introduced to the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society of wizards who believe him when he says that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes--remember, it's pronounced Ralf Fee-en-ess), the Darth Vader of wizards, has returned. The official government agency, the Ministry of Magic, doesn't believe him. So, the Order is trying to fight Fiennes on their own. Apparently, the dude want's a secret prophecy that only Radcliffe can get.

Meanwhile, to discourage people from panicking, the Ministry is discouraging anyone from talking about the Dark Lord. They install a new, humorless director and Radcliffe's school, Hogswart. Imelda Staunton is the pain in the ass with all the rules, and she makes life hard for the kids.

Of course, in the end, Radcliffe meets up with Fiennes and there's another big-ass battle with lots of shit breaking, flying and lighting up. Staunton gets her comeuppance, too. That's expected, and perfectly fine. As are the moments of magic, like a room that reveals itself only to people who truly need it, or Staunton's collection of Franklin Mint plates with cats on them that actually meow, the stairs that swing to and fro as they are needed. But that's the standard stuff.

Where this movie drags is in the subplots that make little or no sense in the context of the movie. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, the half-giant groundskeeper, is missing for the first half of the movie and briefly returns, but I don't understood why he had to be gone. When he does return, he introduces the kids to his full-giant half-brother, a fucking lame-looking CGI thing whose purpose or point is also unclear. At one point, Katie Leung is accused of ratting out the other kids to Staunton, which makes the others hate her. She is later vindicated, but just seems to disappear from the movie, so nobody ever even gets to say sorry to her. There are other dropped stories like these that stretch the movie out, add a lot of exposition, but really just stand between the beginning and the end.

The result is that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix feels like it's trying to cram too many Cliff Notes of the book in without knowing why. The bits it chooses to film feel arbitrary. It also feels like a setup for the next two movies. Actually, the book pretty much is that, but the movie could be more interesting. Director David Yates could have used a little more imagination of his own and relied less on Rowling's.

This one ain't as dreadful as the second, but it sure as hell doesn't match up to the third. It's just another Harry Potter coasting on the charm of the source material. Three Fingers.



Mose Persico of Entertainment Spotlight

License to Wed is "A hilarious date movie! Couples young and old will love this movie!"

Filthy's Reading
Anthony Holden - Bigger Deal

Listening to
King Kong - The Big Bang


24 Hour Party People