Tom Felton

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

As Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) starts his sixth year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) starts to teach him more about Voldemort’s past. Meanwhile emotions are running high as Ron (Rupert Grint) gets a girlfriend and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) appears to have a secret.

At the heart of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a mystery, in fact there’s a few of them. There is the secrets of Voldemort’s past and what the new Potions teacher Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) has to do with it. There’s the mystery of the old potions book marked as “the property of the Half-Blood Prince” that Harry is using to get him to the top of the class. And there’s the mystery of what Draco’s planning.

With all these potentially heavy plot threads, it’s a good thing The Half-Blood Prince is very funny at times. That comes from these teenage characters acting like teenagers and the great chemistry a lot of them have. There’s romance, heartbreak and miscommunication and it all comes together with these young actors who have grown into their roles. Rupert Grint has always had great comic timing but Daniel Radcliffe shines in this film and it turns out he can be pretty funny too.

Draco is such a tragic character in this film. Every time we’ve seen him previously he’s been horrible and mean for the sake of it, but in The Half-Blood Prince he’s clearly conflicted. While he doesn’t have a big role, when he is in on screen Tom Felton is wonderful.

While the performances are great, The Half-Blood Prince left me feeling a little bored. It’s a very informative film and the pace of it really slows down at some points. When there are big computer-generated set-pieces they are often thrilling, but in between them with all the teen angst it can feel a bit dull.

The colour palette of this film is also dull. It leaves everything feel very cold and looking washed out, though admittedly when there’s scenes with fire those bright orange colours sure do make an impact. In scenes in Dumbledore’s office it almost takes on a sepia tone which is a bit odd too.

While Rupert Grint is still great as Ron, Ron is unfortunately side-lined a lot in pivotal moments. This is never more noticeable than in the final scene where Harry and Hermione (Emma Watson) are having a meaningful discussion and Ron doesn’t say one word, just sits in the corner looking glum. I don’t know if he did have some lines that were then cut but having him not say anything makes him look like a third wheel to Harry and Hermione’s friendship which is simply not the case.

I think (though we’ll have to see what I make of the two Deathly Hallows films on rewatch) The Half-Blood Prince is my least favourite Harry Potter film. There’s (naturally) a lot of stuff from the book left out but this is the first film where you notice that, for instance there could have been more about Voldemort’s past to flesh him out as a villain and cut down on some of the romance stuff.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a film that’s building to something big, but it doesn’t really have the payoff one might be expecting. Still, it’s by no means terrible and it’s a decent addition to the series. 3/5.

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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.

REVIEW: A United Kingdom (2016)

a-united-kingdom-posterWhen Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the throne of Botswana, falls in love with and marries Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London it causes an international stir. Together they have to fight for their love and for Seretse’s right to be King of his country.

A film like A United Kingdom sinks or swims on its lead performers and their chemistry but luckily Pike and Oyelowo feel like such a believable couple. From the first moment they meet, you can believe they’re falling in love and their relationship grows stronger throughout the film as they each encounter bigotry from both their families.

Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport) and Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton) are the British bureaucrats who have interests in Botswana and who rules it. They are the faces of British politics in A United Kingdom and are as smarmy and conniving as you’d expect them to be. They believe they know all and know better than the people of Botswana and it’s a pleasure to see them proven wrong.

Naledi Khama’s (Terry Pheto) relationship with her brother and her sister-in-law Ruth is an unexpected delight. Naledi is as against their marriage, and Ruth in particular, just like anyone else to begin with but as their story progresses, Naledi and Ruth learn to work together and gain an understanding of one another. Seeing female characters put aside their differences and work together is always a delight. They become strong allies and each use their power and status to try and do the best for the people of Botswana.

A United Kingdom is an incredible true story that really should be more common knowledge. Not only is it a wonderful love story about love conquering all, but it’s about politics and international relations and racial tensions in Britain and around the world. It is also a beautiful film and the cinematography of both London and Botswana is stunning. It is seriously a very nice-looking film, and the contrasts between England and Botswana work so well together but it never makes one inferior to the other.

A United Kingdom is a wonderful film with some brilliant performances. It might make such a true and powerful story more like a fairy tale but that almost adds to the romance. 4/5.