Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Harry Potter: A History of Magic Review

Harry Potter is a literary phenomenon. J.K. Rowling‘s books about the boy who lived has inspired an entire generation to love reading and believe in the power of magic.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic opened at the New York Historical Society on October 5th.

The exhibit tells both the story of Rowling’s writing process and the myths that inspired her as she wrote the novels. Containing historical artifacts, original art and pieces of the pre-publishing manuscript, the exhibit is a new spin the story that we all know and love.

I am not a huge Potterhead, but I loved this exhibit. It is engaging, fascinating, but most of all, it is incredible fun. As a writer, I enjoyed it because her process of writing was no different from any other writer’s. It inspired and reminded me that good writing is hard work and hard work hopefully leads to professional success.

I absolutely recommend it.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic will be at the New York Historical Society (170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024) until January 27th, 2019. Check the website for ticket prices and museum hours. 

 

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

When a fan of successful series of movies walks into the theater for the next chapter in the story, there is hope that this new film lives up the reputation of its predecessors. But sometimes, that hope springs eternal.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hit theaters this weekend. At the beginning of the film, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped from the authorities. His ideal world is one where wizards rule and non-magical humans are second class citizens. He needs Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) to see his plan to completion, but Credence has other goals. It’s up to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) with help on the back end from Dumbledore (Jude Law) to stop Grindelwald and find Credence.

Other reviews of this film have been tepid. While the film suffers from sequel-itis, in terms of other sequels, it could be a lot worse. I especially appreciated the ending. It answered the major question of the narrative, while leaving enough narrative strings for the next film.

I recommend it.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is presently in theaters. 

 

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Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters Book Review

For many a young and old literary nerd, Little Women is treasured classic.

2018 is the 150th anniversary of the release of Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel of four young women coming of age in the mid 19th century.

The new book, Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, by Anne Boyd Rioux, tells the story of how Little Women impacted both American and worldwide culture over the past 150 years.

Little Women was a smash when it hit bookshelves on September 30th, 1868. Since then, the book has become ingrained into the public consciousness. In her book, Ms. Rioux explains how each era viewed Little Women. She also writes about how modern feminism and modern female writers have used pieces of Little Women when creating their own works. Specifically, Ms. Rioux explains how Little Woman lives today in new characters and narratives. Belle from Beauty and The Beast, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls all have something in them from Little Women.

I will warn that this book is not for the virgin Little Women fan. It requires the knowledge that only comes via multiple reading and multiple viewings of the various adaptions. I really enjoyed this book. It could have turned out to be just another dry academic book detailing the history of Little Women and Louisa May Alcott. Instead it is  lively, entertaining and reminds its readers why Little Women continues to be relevant 150 years after it was initially released in bookstores.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary Of The Publishing Of Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone

20 years ago, an unknown author named J.K. Rowling published her first novel: Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone.

At the time, Rowling had what appeared to be three strikes against her: she was a single mother, she was unemployed and she was living under the black cloud of depression. Writing was the only thing that saved her sanity. Little did she know that her first novel would lead to the career that many writers can only dream of.

That one book produced 6 sequels, multiple movies, a theme park and since then, the world of Harry Potter has become iconic. Children all over the world have clamored to read not just the Harry Potter book series, but other books.

I bet the publishers who passed on the first Harry Potter book are kicking themselves.

The thing that for me, makes Harry Potter stand out is not the magic, but how ordinary his experiences are. Growing up, dealing with bullies, having that first crush, that first kiss, etc, dealing with the b*llsh*t that life throws your way, etc. He went through all of that and survived.

If he can survive that, we all can.

Thanks J.K. Rowling for introducing the world to Harry Potter. I can’t imagine it without him.

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Star Wars Character Review: Darth Vader

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy. For this post, I will also be briefly delving into some of the narratives in the prequels.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In previous posts, I have examined Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (the late Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (the late Alec Guinness).In this post, I will be writing about the series’s most iconic character, Darth Vader.

Every hero needs a villain. In whatever world that hero inhabits, the villain is the one who keeps the hero on their toes and challenges them as they go on their journey.   There is no more iconic film villain than Darth Vader. Physically acted by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, Vader is the ultimate villain. Physically imposing and a master of the dark side of the force, he is the overlord of the empire.

Darth Vader started his life as Anakin Skywalker, a young man who was blessed with force sensitivity and discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). He would grow up and marry Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) and father Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. An enthusiastic, slightly hotheaded young man with an eye for adventure in his early years (much like his son a generation later), Anakin turns to the dark side, looses his humanity and becomes Darth Vader.

For most of Episode 4 (A New Hope) and part of Episode 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), Vader is the standard villain. Then something begins to change. He begins to sense that Luke is also force sensitive and pursues him with the end goal of turning him to the dark side.  The infamous “Luke, I am your father” scene is one of the greatest plot twists in all filmdom, in my opinion.

In episode 6 (Return of the Jedi), Vader finally redeems himself and turns back into Anakin after killing the Emperor while saving his son. Revealing another one of filmdom’s great plot twists that Luke and Leia are twins (and turning their kiss in the Empire Strikes Back into a moment of incest), Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader dies and is finally at peace.

A villain should more than Snidely Whiplash. A more interesting and well-rounded the villain creates a greater threat to the hero, compelling them to act to defeat the villain. A mustache twirling villain who uses the hero’s loved ones/love interest to draw them out into a fight is boring and predictable. A villain that is complicated, that is motivated by more than the standard villain motives, now that is going to grab an audience and keep them wanting more.

To sum it up: A good story deserves a good villain. But if the villain is 2D, predictable and boring, then there is no point to the story or the journey that the hero will go on to defeat the villain. In creating the iconic Darth Vader, George Lucas challenged future writers, regardless of genre to create villains that excite the audience and encourage them to cheer on the hero as they defeat the villain.

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Happy Birthday, Maggie Smith

There are many who dream of earning their living as a performer. For all those who dream, only a small percentage will see their dreams become reality and an even smaller percentage will become legends for their performances.

Today is the birthday of Dame Maggie Smith, one the most respected performers on both sides of the pond.

Her two most famous roles are Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series and the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey.


Both characters are well past their prime. In a culture where youth is prized over experience (especially for women), both characters not only proof that there is life after a certain age, but we can be as vital and alive in our waning years as we were when were young.

Happy Birthday Maggie Smith (and please be in the Downton Abbey movie, if it is made. Downton wouldn’t be the same without the Dowager’s one liners).

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

A prequel or a sequel to a beloved series has to be done right. While exploring new territory with new characters and new narratives, it must also weave in the narrative and characters that fans know and adore.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a prequel to the Harry Potter series. Set in 1926 New York, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is carrying what appears to be an ordinary suitcase. But it is far from ordinary. When the creatures inside the suitcase escape and nearly destroy New York City, Newt must work with sisters Tina and Queenie Goldstein (Katherine Waterstone and Alison Sudol) and no-mag (i.e. muggle) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to get them back.

Before I go any farther I must say that I have not yet read the book, so this review is based solely on the movie. The thing that I enjoy and appreciate, both as an audience member and a writer is that J.K. Rowling understands how to write for movie audiences. The reason her books are so well-beloved and the movies are equally beloved is that the characters and the narrative come first, before any special effects. Of course, they are eye-popping, but she knows how to write a good story first and foremost. That is the key to this movie’s success.

I recommend it.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
is presently in theaters.

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RIP Alan Rickman

Today, the world lost Alan Rickman, one of the finest actors of  his generation.

Over the years, he played a variety of roles.

I would like to talk about three of my favorite Alan Rickman roles.

The first, is the most obvious. Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film series.

With his dark hair, dark cloak and slightly fear inspiring persona, Professor Snape appeared to be the standard villain.

But he was much more than that. His loyalty and love for Harry’s mother (and to Harry, by virtue of being her son) was so strong, that he tried to forget the angst that Harry’s father forced onto  him during their younger days and protect Harry.

The second role I am going to talk about is Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest.

Alexander Dane is a classically trained actor who has been type cast because of one science fiction role in one television program. His career, like most of his fellow actors, stuck in that one character. Rickman’s droll and disbelief is absolutely perfect.

The third and final role is my absolute favorite Alan Rickman role. If you know me, this is an obvious one. Colonel Brandon in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility.

To a woman of my age, a guy like Colonel Brandon is a catch. Steady, amiable, treats those around with respect, has a large income, but does not flaunt it, etc. But to a teenage girl like Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet), he is not the first choice of husband.

Sometimes we need a little prodding from fate to see what has been in front of us all along.

While his onscreen reunion with Winslet in last year’s A Little Chaos was not the greatest film, it was wonderful to see them on-screen together after 20 years.

RIP, sir. You will be missed by many.

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Something There Between Dan Stevens And Emma Watson?

In movie news that makes me incredibly happy, a new live action Beauty And The Beast will soon be in the process of being filmed.

In the title roles will be Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey). Playing Belle’s unwanted and obnoxious suitor , Gaston, is Luke Evans (Dracula Untold).

This movie is only in pre-production, but I am so excited about this movie.

In other Beauty And The Beast news, a French language Beauty And The Beast was released last year. As far as I know, it has yet to be released in the states either in theaters or on DVD.

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The Cripple of Inishmaan Review

Daniel Radcliffe is an exceptional actor. At the the young age of 24, he has starred in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. In the three years since the release of the final Harry Potter film, Radcliffe has continued to show audiences that he can play characters that are far from the world of his bespectacled wizardly alter ego.

His new play, The Cripple of Inishmaan is about a small island off the coast of Ireland. Among the residents of this island is Billy (Radcliffe), a orphaned young man born with a physical deformity. When Hollywood visits to make a film about their island, the residents hope for a chance for stardom. Vying for this chance of stardom is the very funny and mouthy brother and sister duo of  Helen and Bartley McCormick (Sarah Greene and Conor MacNeill). Billy’s aunts, Kate and Eileen Osbourne (Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna), who have raised Billy since his parent’s death, are equal parts concerned about him and quick to remind him of his deformity.

This play is very good and very funny. While most of the characters have a small town mentality, Billy is eager to leave his small town and find opportunity in Hollywood. The supporting cast is well chosen and very funny.

I recommend this play.

 

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