Jason Isaacs

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) ignores warnings from Dobby the House Elf (voiced by Toby Jones) not to return to Hogwarts, but there he finds the school is plagued by something attacking students and Harry starts hearing a voice that no one else can hear.

The Chamber of Secrets is darker in tone compared to its predecessor, but it still has a lot of childlike wonder about it. Just when you think you know everything about Hogwarts, there’s hidden dangers and rooms waiting to be discovered. Some of those dangers include giant animals that no one would want to meet in real life.

The scenes at The Burrow, the Weasley’s home, are wonderful. It’s the first chance for both Harry and the audience to see a proper wizarding family’s home and there’s a lot to see; dishes washing themselves and a fascinating clock are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s lovely to see more of the Weasley’s, especially Mrs Weasley (Julie Walters) who is a force of nature but it’s clear she loves her children, and Harry, very much.

The young cast have improved since their first outing, though aren’t as good as they grow up to be, but Rupert Grint shows the beginnings of some great comedic timing. They’re still surrounded by some great acting talent and there’s some new faces in the form of Kenneth Branagh as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. His ego makes him hilarious! Also joining the cast is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s (Tom Felton) father. He’s an imposing presence, and is both slimy and charming in equal measure.

The Chamber of Secrets is probably the most faithful of the adaptations but that does mean it can get a little bogged down with scenes and characters that don’t particularly further the plot. Anything with Dobby though is brilliant. For a computer-generated creature, he’s so emotive and easily likeable, his scenes with Harry are often funny.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starts to raise the stakes as you learn more about Lord Voldemort, but it still feels like there’s a safety net around our young heroes. But that is all about to change very soon. 3/5.

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Death of Stalin (2017)

After Stalin dies, the regime is thrown into chaos as members of the Committee struggle to take power.

The Death of Stalin is completely bonkers and stupidly funny. The situations these men find themselves in are hard to believe, and even more so when you remember the film is somewhat based on real life events.

The main conflict is between spymaster Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) and politician Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), both of them trying to be one step ahead and to get as many other allies as possible. The conversations between the two of them are full of double-meanings and it’s clear to see how clever both men are, especially compared to men like Stalin’s Deputy, Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor).

The whole cast is brilliant to be honest but got to have a couple of honourable mentions. Firstly, Jason Isaacs, who as soon as he appears on screen as General Georgy Zhukov, steals just about every scene he’s in, and Rupert Friend as Stalin’s son Vasily – he doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on but has some of the best lines.

The Death of Stalin is farcical and funny but then it does have this weird unsettling edge to it, where you think, “Should I be laughing at this?” It’s based on true events where people were sent to the gulags or shot or put on lists, and once you’re on that list who knows what could happen to you. People lived this fear and tyranny and while the officials were squabbling amongst themselves people were dying. Perhaps it’s because the cast all use their native American or British accents (or a more exaggerated versions of them) that it helps make it all seem a bit surreal and adds a bit of distance to the reality of the real life situation.

It’s thanks to a witty script and story that roars along at a pace that while watching it you tend to forget about the historical context. The Death of Stalin is absurd and if you like the humour and incompetence of the characters in The Thick of It and In The Loop, you’ll probably enjoy The Death of Stalin a lot. 4/5.