Sunday, November 7, 2010

Goblet of Fire Chapters 3-6

The Long Story

Sorry it's been so long since the last post. I have been doing my reading though. However, I haven't found much to comment on. During these 4 chapters, we get a lot of the author setting up the story. Since this book is such a long one, it would make sense that it takes longer to set up the story. In these chapters, Harry gets the invitation, goes to the Burrow, and takes a portkey to the Quidditch world cup. That's pretty well it.


Ok, I'm having a major ADD moment. As I'm sitting here thinking about what to say about this book, all that's going through my head is the awesome new clip from Deathly Hallows that I just saw:

I gotta say, I'm really really excited to see this movie. To answer your question, of course I'm going opening weekend. From what I've seen in interviews and such, this movie looks to be much different from the others. Nearly everything in part I takes place outside Hogwarts. I'm really glad they broke it into two parts. They'll be able to give the time and attention the finale deserves.


Back to the book. One thing I've been thinking about when I read this book is one memorable thing that happens at the end. I would talk about that when we get there, but by that time, I will probably forget what I was going to say about it, so I'm going to talk about it now. It's my blog... I can do what I want :) Recall that I talked about how the first death we experience in the series is that of Buckbeak. Well, we come to find out that Buckbeak didn't really die. At the end of Goblet of Fire, we get our first real death. This is the death that I think had the biggest shock factor up to this point. I really couldn't believe what I was reading. (Sorry to those who haven't read this book if I've spoiled anything.) Up to this point, it was really good story aimed at a young audience. Suddenly, the book is twice as thick and someone actually dies! My mind was blown. PEOPLE DON'T DIE IN KIDS BOOKS! This is why Old Yeller was so crappy. What is interesting about my reaction to this book is that it follows a lot of what Harry goes through. Harry's expectations about his world are turned upside down in this book. He's thrust into situations he's not ready for. It's like he knows that at some point he'd have to face difficult times, but he didn't expect to have to face them so soon. I felt the same way. I knew at some point, someone in the series was going to die, I just didn't think it would happen this soon and in this way.

Anyway, I'll try not to spoil any more of the book. Happy reading!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Goblet of Fire - Movie review

So, I was playing flag football yesterday and for those of you who know me, know I'm not the most intimidating of specimens being only 5'7" and weighing all of a buck-fifty. Imagine Colin Creevy trying to play Quidditch on the Gryffindor team. That would have been me. Anyway, after a missed catch, a teammate of mine told me to use the "Accio Football" spell. So of course, I tried. I left the field that day with the following conclusion... the spell's busted. That's my excuse anyway.

Alright, enough of my visions of grandeur and on to the movie review!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So Gryffindorks, as promised, I'm giving you my review of the Goblet of Fire movie. I haven't given my reviews of many of the other films and that's mostly because I've felt pretty strong about this one in particular as you'll see.

The best thing I can say about this movie, is that this premiere was the most fun I've attended. At risk of totally pegging the "Geek-o-meter," I'll tell you that I actually dressed up for this premiere. A bunch of friends and myself went to the midnight showing at a huge theater complex in Utah which had, correct me if I'm wrong, over 20 theatres with most of them showing Harry Potter. The complex was packed with Potter-ites. I, of course, was dressed as Harry and with us, we had a Snape, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Rita Skeeter, Ginny, and Trelawny. One of the best movie experiences of my life. I could totally "geek out" and get away with it because most of the people there were college students like myself.

The only disappointing thing was the movie itself. The following are my gripes about the movie:

1.) Dumbledore was just not right. In the book, Dumbledore is stressed and concerned, but in a quiet way. The strain didn't show to the students. In the movie, he was on edge the entire movie. No where in the books do you ever see Dumbledore lose his cool. I felt that by the 6th movie, Michael Gambon finally got Dumbledore right...mostly. I didn't feel that throughout the movie that Dumbledore was in control.

2.) Awful casting for Barty Crouch Jr. The character didn't fit the description of the Barty Crouch Jr. in the books at all. He wasn't a very believable villain. In the book, he creeped me out. His devotion to Voldemort was bordering on religous reverence, but in a really really creepy way. His character in the movie was pretty laughable.

3.) The maze. I understand having to cut out large portions of the book to fit it into one movie, but why change the maze completely? There was really no explanation in the movie for why the maze behaved the way it did. It was weird and I felt it could have been more true to the book without sacrificing time.

4.) The writing for Hermione was not true to her character. What I mean by that is that there was a disproportionate amount of time whining, moping, and fretting. Yes, there were those moments in the book, but there were times when she was quite cheerful too. We didn't get any of that in the movie.

5.) Not enough explanation about the Triwizard Tournament. I would have been very confused about the whole concept of the tournament had I not read the books. I felt kind of like they were making it up as they went. It didn't fit into the large overall plot of the series without any context.

6.) Not enough Snape. Underutilized talent. Enough said.

Now for some highlights:

1.) Brendan Gleeson was a fantastic Mad-eye Moody. He captured the essence of the character from the book very well, as well as providing a lot of comedy relief without being over the top. Mad-eye isn't meant to be a comical character in the books, but the way Gleeson pulled it off in the movie really worked.

2.) Voldemort's return scene at the end of the book was fitting in its creepyness. I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on Ralphe Fiennes to portray one of the most popular literary villains of all time acurately. I say that he did a pretty good job on his debut. My only complaint about that scene is that it could have been longer, but I can see why it wasn't. Most of what happened in the book is what is going on inside Harry's head. It's hard to see what he's thinking in a movie.

3.) One scene in particular that was done very well was the one when Harry returns to the stadium after having confronted Voldemort. The discord between the cheery band playing with the cheering of the crowd, and the absolute horror of what has just happened was quite powerful. It was a really uncomfortable moment, like a clown showing up to a funeral instead of a birthday party, but it was uncomfortable in a good way that added to the drama.

Out of all of the movies that have been produced thus far, I liked this one the least. With that said, I still love the movies. I imagine to myself that at some point in my lifetime, they'll redo the movies. I look forward to sitting in my handicapped accessable spot in the theatre with my fake wand in hand and a eye-liner drawn scar on my forehead.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Goblet of Fire Chapters 1 -2

Merlin's Beard! This book is long!

Welcome to the beginning of another book, Gryffindorks. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the 4th book in the series and really serves as the pivotal book in the series. From this book on, the mood changes from rather light-hearted to very serious. The big, overall plot really takes a turn at the end of this book as we'll see. This book is the 2nd largest in the series at a staggering 734 pages! Critics said that this would deter young readers from plowing through this one, but this juggernaut turned out to be the best-selling book in the series up until the 5th was published.

To recap, here's how I've ranked the books in terms of the books I liked best:

Sorcerer's Stone: 6th out of 7
Chamber of Secrets: 7th out of 7
Prisoner of Azkaban: 4th out of 7
Goblet of Fire: 2nd out of 7

I gave the 2nd place ribbon to Goblet of Fire for several reasons:

1.) It's one of the longest. More story = more awesomeness!
2.) Plot twists. This book is full of 'em.
3.) Shock factor. There are very few moments in the series that have absolutely floored me, but this story has a couple of 'em, including the death that shocked me most. There was a different death that made me the most sad, but that's another book. (No, it's not the big one in the 6th book, if that's what you're thinking.)
4.) Harry's world gets expanded. In the first few books, there is relatively little of significance that happens outside Hogwarts. This book really expands the scope of the wizarding world, with the addition of new magic, new ideas, and new characters.

With that said, I did not much like the 4th movie. This was in part due to the fact that the book was so awesome, and in part due to the book's length. The movie felt rushed. I'll offer my critique and critisisms of the movie in a later post. For now, it's off to the first two chapters.

Can I Give You a Hand?

The beginning of Goblet of Fire places us in Tom Riddle's home where we find Wormtail nursing a weak Voldemort. Wormtail, nervous, wimpering, and nearly wetting himself, begins to complain to Voldemort that the task of killing Harry Potter might prove too difficult. Voldemort replies that many of his servants would "give their right hand" to be put in the place of Wormtail. Though this hyperbole is often used, and in this case could easily be overlooked, it proves to be more than an exaggeration. Wormtail will indeed literally give his right hand.

The Village of Little What?

Even though the story of Harry Potter is told in third person, it is mostly told from Harry's perspective. It's like a reality show where the camera follows only Harry. There are a couple of chapters that take place outside Harry's presence and this is one of them. It's a great way for the reader to see what's going on outside Harry's life and see what potential things could lie in wait for our little hero.

Migraine Scar!

Harry wakes up with is scar hurting again and our little hero freaks out that Voldemort is skulking about Little Whinging. It's interesting that what Harry assumes is a dream was actually reality. Harry suspects this, but is afraid to admit it to others and to himself. This link between Harry's mind and Voldemort's becomes an extremely importand plot element of the next book.

The Boy Who Lived

In the first several books, as a reader, I've been satisfied in asking myself the same question that has been asked of all the characters in the books, "How did the boy survive?" To answer many of the secrets that lie ahead, the more important question should be, "Why did Voldemort not die?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to the quiz:

1.) Duh, he was a death eater. Too easy

2.) Macnair's first name is Walden. Who names their kid Walden? Must be a British thing.

3.) Flitwick's office. This is not, however, how it occurs in the movie. Harry and Hermione land on the battlement of one of the towers and Hermione uses the "Bombarda" spell (also not in the books) to blast the door open.

4.) I give full credit to answer D, but will accept partial credit for answer B as well.

P.S. Question #4 was just a joke. Don't take it too "Sirius"-ly. Bah ha ha. Bad pun intended.

I need to make harder quiz questions. Maybe you all just cheat. Hmmm.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Prisoner of Azkaban Chapters 21 - 22

Wouldn't They have Known?

So we finally find out how Hermione has been getting to all her classes. She can time travel! To be honest, I hate time travel plot lines. They're rarely done well, they're a cop-out of resolving the plot any other way, and they hurt my simple brain if they're too complicated. That said, I really liked this part of the story. It doesn't get too far-fetched or overly-complicated.

The great mystery that stumps Snape and Fudge is how Black managed to escape Hogwarts again. Earlier in the book, McGonagall mentions that she had to get all sorts of permission from the ministry for Hermione to have a time-turner. If the ministry knew she had it, why wasn't Fudge alerted that she had it? Someone dropped the ball.

"Read My Lips. No New Taxes."

Fudge is such a polititian. As soon as word reaches him that Black escaped again, his immediate worry is that the Daily Prophet will get word and that it will make him look bad. His first measure of damage control isn't dispatching Dementors and Aurors to go after Black, it's trying to save face. Lame. I like that this fictional character is a reflection of characters we actually see in real life.

Let's Have a Chat

I love the little chats that Dumbledore and Harry have at the end of each book. Here, Dumbledore speaks a bit prophetically. Dumbledore says that Harry will be glad he saved Pettigrew's life, and that he doubts that Voldemort will want a servant in the debt of Harry Potter. This will prove to be true in the 7th book. Dumbledore puts so much stock in love. He knows that it is one of the most ancient and powerful parts of magic. Love, trust, loyalty, and sacrifice are all things Dumbledore values most highly. Strangely, it wasn't always that way in Dumbledore's life. I think it was because of the tragic incidents in Dumbledore's life that he began to value those traits. I believe it was penance for the sins of his early life. As we'll see in the 6th and 7th books that the memories of his past misdeeds haunted him the rest of his life.

Death.... Again

Here again, we have more discussion of death as Dumbledore speaks to Harry of his father. The Harry Potter books are not exactly religious in nature, yet it is clear that Rowling created characters that believe in life after death. It is Voldemort's disbelief in life after death that makes him paranoid about death and obsessed with immortality. Dumbledore says that even though James Potter is dead, that he lives on through Harry. This idea transcends many religions... that those who have passed on never truely leave us. Even if Dumbledore doesn't believe this himself, it serves to give Harry hope. With so much tragedy in his life, he needs something like that to hold on to.

Quiz Time!!!!!!!!!!!

It's everyone's favorite time again... Quiz time! We'll start easy.

1.) What is MacNair's former occupation?

A.) Care of Magical Creatures professor?

B.) Head of Magical law enforcement?

C.) Head of the Disposal of Dangerous Magical Creatures Committee?

D.) Death Eater?

2.) What is MacNair's first name?

A.) Warwick

B.) Warren

C.) Walden

D.) Waldo

3.) Where was Sirius Black being held captive inside Hogwarts?

A.) Professor Flitwick's office

B.) Astronomy Tower

C.) North Tower

D.) Professor Trelawny's office

What is the appropriate response to this statement? "Man, I have to go to the bathroom!"

A.) Expecto Patronum!

B.) Mischief Managed.

C.) "Can't you hold it?"

D.) "You know the law Miss Granger, you must not be seen."

I'll give out the answers in a couple of days. ("Three turns should do it. Good luck.")

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prisoner of Azkaban Chapters 18-20

It All Comes Together

These chapters are difficult to analyze because it's the climax of the story and the majority of the time is spent either with action or explaining the previous 17 chapters. Since she already does that, that doesn't leave much for me to do. I'll try pointing out little things I saw in these chapters.

So, Sirius is innocent, huh? When I first read the books, I didn't see that one coming. Rowling does a great job creating a wonderful plot twist. It seems that plot twists, whether in books, TV shows, or movies tend to come out of no where without much "meat" to back them up. Confused? I'll explain what I mean. An effective plot twist isn't just throwing in a surprise plot element from left field. It must have supporting evidence. Anyone could have written that Sirius turned out to be a good guy, but in this case, there is plenty of evidence throughout the book to back it up. For example, people in Azkaban heard Sirius muttering, "He's at Hogwarts." Everyone interpreted that to mean that he was talking about Harry, but it's totally plausible that he was talking about Pettigrew. It all makes sense.

I Would Like to Speak with Harry and Hermione Alone

One subtle, but important character trait of Dumbledore is that he always observes the "niceties." He's always patient and polite. One subtle example of this is in the way he refers to Harry and Hermione. Snape always refers to Harry as Potter. Hermione, to most professors is Miss Granger. Dumbledore does the courtesy of referring to them by their first names. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe there is another faculty member except perhaps Lupin who refers to Harry and Hermione by their first names. To me, this symbolizes so much about Dumbledore. By calling them by their first names, he's bringing himself down to their level. Instead of speaking down to school children, Dumbledore treats them with the respect that he would expect the students to treat others with. In return, he expects the same respect be given to teachers, i.e. Harry referring to Snape as Professor Snape. This applies to all beings as well. Dumbledore would extend the same courtesy to the minister of magic as he would a house elf. It's these small details that combine to form the greater picture of who Dumbledore is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Prisoner of Azkaban Chapters 16-17

Oh Man, I Hate it When My Tortoise Still has a Spout for a Tail!

Reading about Harry and his exams makes me get test anxiety all over again. I love how Rowling uses real human emotions to make something imaginary like magic education seem believable. Anyone can relate to having pre-test anxiety or seeming overwhelmed by course workload. The details about magic that Rowling includes seem like they came from some encyclopedia. The subjects themselves seem like logical things one would need to learn to become a witch or wizard. I just think it's fantastic.

On a personal note, I just got done taking a 6 hour National Board Dental Examination on Thursday and that was brutal. Even with that, I've got nothing on what our trio had to do. They had to stay up until midnight to take their Astronomy exam on Tuesday night and then take History of Magic the next morning.


J.K. Rowling has come right out and said that death is a big theme that she deals with in the books. Death gets addressed in many different ways: ghosts, memories, where we go when we die, dealing with loss, ways to conquer death, and the worth of the soul. There are many deaths in the series and I really respect Rowling for not shying away from death, but embracing that it happens and that the good guys sometimes don't escape it. I also appreciate the mature approach she uses to deal with death, despite her young audience. In my opinion, they way Rowling deals with real human emotions is one of her greatest strengths as a writer, especially given that this is a fantasy novel.

Up to this point in the series, Harry has not encountered someone he knows dying while he's been at Hogwarts. Even though Harry's parents obviously snuffed it, we weren't "there" to experience it. Buckbeak's execution is really our trio's first exposure to death. Rowling spends a lot of time building up to this event and I think this is to set the stage for deaths that will occur later in the series. This is by no means the most significant death of the series, nor is it the one that impacted me the most (I'll let you know when we get to the death that impacted me the most.)

Sirius Black

So we finally get to our "showdown" with Sirius Black. When I first read this book, I was saying to myself, "The climax of this book isn't like the first two books at all." There's no Voldemort, there's no Horcrux-destroying fang! It's wonderful to see the series keep the reader on their toes.

When Harry has his want pointed at Sirius, Crookshanks interferes by sitting on Black's chest. Again, this is a point when Hermione should have done her research on Kneazles. She should have known that they are excellent judges of character. On a seperate note, doesn't it seem odd that Harry is about to kill Sirius, yet he doesn't even know the killing curse yet? We don't learn that one until the next book. I'm not sure what Harry was planning on doing to Black, but it couldn't have been that bad. Harry thinks he's so bad.