Tag Archives: j.k. rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

2016 was a great year for Potterheads, especially me. I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood in April. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out during the summer. And then Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out in November. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a spinoff film and the first flick of a five film franchise. J.K. Rowling wrote a book with the same name for charity, but it was just an encyclopedia of imaginary creatures from the books. The film is a completely new story created for the big screen, which is awesome for real fans of Harry Potter.

Real fans of Harry Potter were never truly amazed by the films because we read the books before and knew what to expect. We already knew what was going to happen. We just debated what they were going to show, what they were going to skip, and speculate how they’d portray certain parts. I went into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them without a clue of what was going to happen. It was awesome to meet new characters and creatures and to see a whole new side of the wizarding world as the plot unraveled in front of me. It was the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Deadpool. 

I won’t even talk about what actually happens in the movie. I want you to discover it for yourself. My girlfriend is not a Harry Potter fan (nobody is perfect) but she really liked it. That’s how I know it’s a good movie and I’m not just being biased. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay. David Yates, the guy who directed the last Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and both parts of Deathly Hallows, is back in the director’s chair for this film. You get solid performances from the cast and there’s a mindfuck of a cameo at the end that leaves you anxious for the next installment. Damn, 2018 is a long time away.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young 

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II (Special Rehearsal Edition Script)

 There are two types of people in the world: fans of Harry Potter and everyone else. Me, I’m a fan of Harry Potter. A part of my life ended back in 2007 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released and the series ended. But then J.K. Rowling announced that she would continue the story onstage in a play. She also realized that not everyone would be able to see the production so she released the script in book form as well, bless her soul. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II (Special Rehearsal Edition Script) was released on July 31, 2016 and the Harry Potter nerds suddenly had a new story to lose their shit over. 

I kind of slacked off and forgot to preorder a paper copy, but I bought the e-book version and read the entire thing on my iPhone in a couple of hours. It’s mostly dialogue with a little bit of stage direction so it’s a much faster read than the later books in the series. It was written by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany and based on a story by J.K. Rowling. The story starts in the epilogue of the Deathly Hallows with an older Harry sending his sons James and Albus off to Hogwarts. I don’t want to say too much else. Spoilers aren’t fun. And you should be friending to read it for yourself so I won’t give anything major away. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are important characters, but the plot revolves around Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (Draco’s son). They are the next generation of wizards and they are trying to escape the shadow of their fathers. 

 We visit old charters. We meet new ones. And it feels good to be back in the wizarding world, I must say. The humor and charm are still there, as is the sense of dread that something wicked this way comes. It’s very satisfying. I wish it was longer. It’s always sad to reach the end of a great story, and this definitely seems like final chapter. I hope that J.K. Rowling has more in store for us, but this is a solid way to say goodbye to Harry Potter. Goodbye, Harry, old chum.

 Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Reed’s Flying Cauldron Non-Alcoholic Butterscotch Beer

Reed’s Flying Cauldron Non-Alcoholic Butterscotch Beer is a butterscotch cream soda and a blatant rip-off of Harry Potter’s butterbeer. J.K. Rowling would sue the people at Reed’s but she already has too much money. It tastes like what you would expect. It’s sweet, slightly carbonated, and is actually healthier than most sodas. It’s gluten free and 100% natural. It’s made from purified carbonated water, cane sugar, vanilla extract, natural caramel, natural flavors, and stevia rebaudiana leaf extract. Somehow that shit all fits together to create a tasty beverage. The label doesn’t mention anything about caffeine so I assume that it’s caffeine free, but I would avoid drinking one before bed just to be safe. It’s not that good of a soda, but the novelty factor makes it worth checking out.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

Leave a comment

Filed under Drinks

Harry Potter Books Ranked in Descending Order

Harry Potter is awesome, but some of the books are better than others. Here is my Critically Rated Harry Potter countdown.

#7: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This is the second book and it’s a little bit darker than the first one, but it’s still a kid’s book at this point. Voldemort is in it, but it’s just a teenaged version of him that was trapped in a diary. He’s not that formidable, and he hasn’t returned to power yet. It might not deserve to be the worst one, but I’ve got to start somewhere.

            #6: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone. This is the book that started it all. First time readers might be amazed by how innocent Harry Potter is. He doesn’t know anything about being a wizard and he gets introduced to a magical world and we get to explore it with him. It sets everything up, it introduces a lot of the main characters in the HP universe. It transcends being a mere kid’s book, but it’s still a kid’s book.

#5: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This is a dark story, but it’s still a kid’s book. You start to see the potential of Harry Potter. You have the Dementors and the main introduction of Sirius Black. Voldemort is not the main threat, and they have a ridiculous time traveling subplot that takes away from the overall quality of the third installment.

#4: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The sixth book is just a set-up for the seventh book, and it’s pretty apparent upon reading it. Nothing much happens, except for a lot of backstory about Voldemort and the fact that Dumbledore dies. It seems like a step back in the series and it is.

            #3: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This is the book where you learn how vast and expansive the Wizarding World is. You catch a glimpse of the Quidditch World Cup, you get to meet students from other wizard schools, and you start to see how Harry is different from his peers. Plus Voldemort returns to power and the series shifts into a darker gear.

#2: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This is the fifth book and the longest one of the series. J.K. Rowling goes into great depth and Harry accomplishes a lot in this book. He steps up, he’s actively trying to defeat Voldemort. He’s pretty much accepted his fate at this point. He realizes that he’s done more than most, and he starts to pass off what he’s learned to his fellow students. He becomes a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by the battle at the Ministry of Magic. The book is highlighted by the epic battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort.

            #1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is the final installment of the HP series and a beyond-satisfying conclusion to the saga. It goes back to the beginning and reminds you about everything you love about Harry Potter. It answers all the questions and wraps everything up in a pretty little package. The last book provides the most answers, and when you finish reading it, you don’t regret anything about sacrificing a good portion of your life following the exploits of a fictional character.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book)

The Harry Potter Saga concludes in the seventh and final book. Things are much different this time around. Harry, Ron and Hermione blow off their final year at Hogwarts and embark on a quest to track down and destroy Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes in order to defeat him. Voldemort has essentially taken over the wizarding world, forcing Harry and his supporters to go on the run. The war has started, and you can’t help but draw parallels between this war and the Nazi takeover during World War II.

Harry has no guide or mentor anymore. Dumbledore and Sirius were both selfish and died, and Harry rejected Lupin’s help. All he has is Ron and Hermione to help keep him on the right path. The friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione is strained almost to the breaking point. Ron has always been jealous of Harry and Harry has always been stubborn. Some shit goes down and Ron decides to bail. Harry and Hermione trek on together for a bit, but Ron’s absence is noticed. It is a relief when he comes back.

Halfway through the book, the trinamic trio is still tromping from place to place. They only have one Horcrux with no clue as to how to destroy it. They don’t even know what or where the other Horcruxes are. It makes you feel very worried, you know that the book is ending soon and they are running out of time. The final third part of the book takes place in one day. Everything that happens the morning leading up to the Gringott’s raid to the fall of Voldemort occurs in one day. Sorry I didn’t put a spoiler alert there, but if you didn’t know that Voldemort dies I feel really bad for your parents. I liked the nineteen years later epilogue as well, but I think that seventeen years later would have been better.

Severus Snape is the man. He spends the entire seven books being an enigma. You can never tell where his loyalty lies. All you know is that Dumbledore trusts him, but Dumbledore makes mistakes too. J.K. Rowling’s best character is the most mysterious, but his ultimate redemption is enough cause to go back and reread the entire series, because now you know his motivation. Certain actions make sense with this new information, whereas before they seemed out of character. His final line, “Look… at…me…,” is amazing, and I love it even more because J.K. Rowling respects the reader, and doesn’t cheapen it by blatantly stating “Harry, look at me so that I can die gazing into your mother’s eyes, oh, how I loved Lily so.”

Dumbledore’s backstory makes you look at him in a new light. He was not always a great man. He had to learn about himself, what his strengths were and what his weaknesses were. You learn about his family life, and some of his shadier moments. You aren’t sure if you can fully trust him, even though you want to. This doubt heightens the drama when Harry learns he must sacrifice himself. Is Dumbledore capable of raising Harry like a lamb for slaughter?

Harry Potter steps up in the Order of the Phoenix. In Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom steps up. While Harry is out running around in the woods, Neville takes it upon himself to rebel against Snape and restarts Dumbledore’s Army. He protects the other students at his own expense. He was deserving enough to get the Sword of Gryffindor (like Harry back in Chamber or Secrets), and he uses the sword to kill Nagini, a.k.a. the final Horcrux. Only the most important characters destroy a Horcrux. Dumbledore destroys the ring, Harry destroyed the diary (and himself), Hermione destroyed Hufflepuff’s cup, Ron destroys the locket, the diadem was accidently destroyed by Fiendfyre, and Neville destroys Nagini. He comes full circle, from being comic relief to being Harry’s pureblood equivalent.

It is a great book, and the best ending that she could have come up with. I will never begin to understand how she could create and finish such an amazing and magical series with the pressure of the world watching, waiting, and judging. J.K. Rowling became the first ever author billionaire. She deserves all her success and more. She didn’t invent wizards or goblins or magic wands. But she made them her own, and created a timeless story that seals its place with masterpieces of literature like the Lord of the Rings and Goosebumps.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (book)

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back at Hogwarts for their sixth year, and the sixth book is the darkest one yet. Voldemort is steadily gaining power, and even the Muggle world is starting to be effected by him. The war is coming, and Dumbledore knows isn’t going to be around much longer, so he starts to prepare Harry for what lies ahead.

Voldemort is still the main antagonist, but he isn’t physically present in this installment, he only appears in flashbacks in the Pensieve. Dumbledore and Harry explore memories that people have of Voldemort in order to gain insight as to defeat him. Dumbledore’s theory is that Voldemort has been creating Horcruxes to cheat death. Harry must figure out what items Voldy used to create the Horcruxes and he must find a way to destroy them.

Professor Horace Slughorn is a fun new character. Dumbledore convinces him to come out of retirement and resume his old position as the Potions teacher. Slughorn is the Head of Slytherin House. He has all the attributes of a typical Slytherin: he is a cunning, ambitious leader who enjoys power. He collects students that have potential, and uses his contacts from the “Slug Club” to improve his own status in life. He is a little bigoted, but he still can see past one’s blood status. Most Slug Club members are pure blood, but Lily and Hermione were still recruited, and Lily was his favorite student.

There isn’t as much of a mystery plot in this story. They spend some time trying to figure out what Malfoy is up to, and they also try to discover who the Half-Blood Prince is. A lot of time is dedicated to showing student life at Hogwarts. Ron gets a girlfriend and Hermione gets jealous and they have stop hanging out for a while. Harry develops feeling for Ginny and is torn between his heart and loyalty to his best friend. It seems like J.K. Rowling is setting everything up for the final book.

SPOILER ALERT: So Dumbledore dies at the end of this one. And now Harry is in control of his fate, he doesn’t have anyone to guide him anymore.  He doesn’t have Sirius or Dumbledore to ask advice. He’s not alone, he still has Ron and Hermione, but he knows that it is time to face Voldemort.

You find out at the end that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince. The book is basically called Harry Potter and Snape. J.K. does a tremendous job handling Snape’s moral ambiguity. You can never tell if he is good or evil, or which side he is on. The final reveal of his character in the Deathly Hallows would not have worked without his depiction in this book.

This book is much slower than the previous entries to the series. It’s more reflective and a character study than an exciting book about a wizard war. It’s the calm before the storm. A very important step before all Hell breaks loose.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (book)

This is the longest book in the Harry Potter series, and my personal favorite. There is way too much to review, so I’ll just be like the movie and leave out a bunch of stuff. J.K. Rowling takes Potter to a whole new level in this novel. Voldemort is back, but Cornelius Fudge and the Ministry of Magic refuse to believe it, and instead launch a campaign questioning Harry’s integrity and Dumbledore’s mental state.

The Ministry of Magic starts taking over Hogwarts slowly. First they make Fudge’s loyal employee, Dolores Umbridge, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. They gradually start imposing more and more decrees, and get rid of Hogwarts staff that threatens them politically. Fudge is extremely paranoid of Dumbledore, thinking he’s starting an army to seize control of the Ministry. Umbridge wont let the students perform defensive spells.

Hermione is weary of not learning, and she convinces Harry to teach her and a few other willing students defensive spells. He is reluctant at first, but eventually chooses to lead the fight against Umbridge. Harry, Ron, and Hermione recruit a few other students and form Dumbledore’s Army.

Life at Hogwarts gets more and more miserable as the Ministry takes over. Umbridge gradually becomes Headmaster, and Dumbledore is forced out. The earlier books were full of hope; this book is full of despair. Harry spends a lot of time being angry. He is still haunted by Cedric’s death, he is angry that he is out of the loop, he is hurt that people don’t believe him. But he chooses to fight, he wants to fight. He becomes a leader by choice.

Voldemort tricks Harry into thinking Sirius is in danger. Harry leads a small band of Dumbledore’s Army on a rescue mission, and realizes it’s a trap. They become overwhelmed by the Death Eaters. Harry finds out Voldemort is interested in a mysterious prophecy that holds answers to Harry’s past. Harry and his friends put up a fight, and suddenly Dumbledore and members of the Order of the Phoenix show up to help. In the midst of the battle, Bellatrix Lestrange kills Sirius. Dumbledore and Voldemort have a fierce duel, and you see why Dumbledore is the only one Voldy ever feared.

Neville also becomes more important. You learn about his past and how his parents were tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange. He is an orphan of sorts, just like Harry. He learns a lot with Dumbledore’s Army and joins Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Luna at Department of Mysteries and fights bravely. The prophecy also reveals that Neville could have been the Chosen one. “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …” Neville and Harry were born just one day apart, both their parents defied Voldy, but (SPOILER ALERT!) Voldemort marked Harry as his equal. That’s privileged information if you never finished the series. Sorry if I ruined your life, but it’s been out for a while.

The Order of the Phoenix is where bits and pieces from the earlier installments start to fall in place. You can start deducing where Harry and the story are going. You start to think that maybe Harry really is the Chosen One. There are many subplots and foreshadowing and Easter eggs. This book is where the series really takes off. There might be a lot of superfluous material, but when it comes to Potter, there’s no such thing as too much.

Critically Rated at 16/17

3 Comments

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)

Harry Potter’s fourth film translation got a new director: a very British and a very boring Mike Newell. This film has its moments but only because the book was filled with great moments. It was a step backwards for the franchise; it pales in comparison to what Alfonso Cuarón did with the third film.

Prior to filming, there was a lot of discussion into splitting the film into two parts because the book was so lengthy. Instead they decided to cut out most of the side plots and minor characters and focus primarily on Harry. By doing this, the film feels very rushed, and you get jerked around from place to place. It gives the movie an awkward flow. The Dursleys are noticeably absent from the beginning, instead we jump to Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys meeting up with Amos and Cedric “Twilight” Diggory and they all go to the Quidditch World Cup. They build up the excitement and introduce all the Quidditch players and then skip right over the game. You don’t see a second of actual Quidditch. I remember thinking that the projector must have made a mistake or they were missing a reel or something.

The whole movie goes on like that. They constantly cut over and skip significant things. And then they have the audacity to add characters like Nigel, and they even give Nigel lines! And they add whole scenes like the kids learning to dance. Why waste precious running time on stuff that isn’t even in the book? There is only one scene with Sirius Black. There is no Winky, Dobby, or Bagman.

Daniel Radcliffe is maturing more as an actor, but this film didn’t give him as much to work with as Prisoner of Azkaban. It is less character driven. Harry’s haircut is the worst out of all the films. It’s one of the worst movie haircuts of all time, up there with Tom Hanks in the DaVinci Code. Emma Watson stands out in the Yule Ball scene, and Rupert Grint’s best scenes were when he was fighting with Harry, and later making up.

The acting from everyone else was decent, Brendan Gleeson does a good job as Mad-Eye. Michael Gambon made a huge mistake as Dumbledore: he would never grab Harry violently like he did when he thought he submitted his name to the Goblet of Fire. David Tennant plays Barty Crouch, Jr. He added an annoying little tongue flick, something that Gleeson copied, and that shows that fake Moody and Crouch are the same person. It is a big “FUCK YOU” to the audience. Inserting Barty Crouch, Jr. into the opening scene with Voldemort and Pettigrew is another big “FUCK YOU.” Please Hollywood, treat us with some respect.

It is always good seeing Potter on the big screen. There are some really cool sequences in the movie. The first task with the dragon was really dynamic and action packed. It might be the best Harry vs. Magical Creature moment in all the films. It was good to see Moaning Myrtle again, creepy as she is. The second task underwater was eerie and memorable. The climax at the graveyard redeems the entire movie. First off they kill Twilight, and I love anyone who kills Twilight. And Voldemort comes back and gathers his army and him and Harry have a sweet light saber battle. I mean wizard duel. Yeah, that part was cool.

All in all the movie is entertaining and you have to see it if you’re watching the Harry Potter saga, so you can’t really avoid it. It just leaves a lot out, and maybe splitting it into two parts wasn’t such a terrible idea. They cut out a lot of important things, and some of the things they included didn’t need to be there. It was a step in the wrong direction for the movies. It might be some people’s favorite film, but some people eat glue sticks.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (book)

J.K. Rowling’s fourth entry into the Harry Potter world is a turning point for the series. The book’s length is almost double that of Prisoner of Azkaban. They are no longer children’s books, now they are novels. It is more adult and much darker than previous entries.

J.K. expands the wizarding world in a lot of ways. The Quidditch World Cup is a huge event, drawing witches and wizards from all over the world. She introduces new wizard schools like Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. The Ministry of Magic plays a bigger role, foreshadowing events to come in the Order of the Phoenix. J.K. Rowling starts to explore the political side of the wizarding world, showcasing how the accused Death Eaters were put on trial, and comments about how Fudge is afraid to lose power and control.

Harry and his friends are now teenagers and their hormones are raging. They start to notice to opposite sex. Harry has his first crush, Hermione has her first boyfriend, and Ron gets jealous. Ron and Harry also have a huge argument and spend a significant part of the story being mad at each other. There are a few new notable characters like the snooping reporter Rita Skeeter, the star Quidditch player Victor Krum, Barty Crouch, Sr. and Jr. and perhaps most importantly Mad-Eye Moody.

A lot of the book tackles subject matters that aren’t suitable for kids. People die in this book, innocent muggles like Frank Bryce, Ministry members like Barty Crouch, Sr. and even Hogwarts students like Cedric Diggory. Voldemort comes back, and there is a fierce dual between him and Harry.

Harry is mysteriously entered into the Triwizard Tournament, and he stumbles through the tasks with a lot of help and a lot of luck, but not much skill. Harry’s biggest turning point in the entire series takes place in the graveyard after the third task. “Harry crouched behind the headstone and knew the end had come. There was no hope… no help to be had. And as he heard Voldemort draw nearer still, he knew one thing only, and it was beyond fear or reason: He was not going to die crouching here like a child playing hide-and-seek; he was not going to die kneeling at Voldemort’s feet… he was going to die upright like his father, and he was going to die trying to defend himself, even if no defense was possible….” This is the moment where Harry steps up, where he accepts that he can’t control his fate but he can control how he handles it.

This book was a huge step forward in the saga. The story didn’t just darken, it also became more complex. There are more story arcs and subplots that only become relevant later on. There are subtle lines like, “For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a glimpse of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes” that will eventually get explained in the final few books. And Voldemort finally comes back, and the threat is now real. J.K. Rowling took Potter to the next level, and the phenomenon became justified.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)

Alfonso Cuarón directs the third movie in the franchise, taking over for Chris Columbus. The movie is much darker from the get-go, the Warner Bros. logo and opening titles are dark and gray, and we know that the Potter films are only going to get better.

Harry, Ron and Hermione are no longer kids, now they are teenagers. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are much more natural on screen in this one. The first two movies they were performing, now they are acting. Believe me, there is a difference. They know their characters now, and this screenplay gives them more material to work with. This movie is more character driven than the first two.

The adult cast continued to improve as well. Gary Oldman joined the cast as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson plays Trelawney, Michael Gambon takes over as Dumbledore, Timothy Spall is great as Peter Pettigrew, and David Thewlis plays Lupin. Not enough can be said about Alan Rickman as Snape, he can always be relied on to kick ass with just a few lines. Snape has a great moment where he instinctively protects Harry, Ron and Hermione from werewolf Lupin, it is insight to his true self.

The first two movies were great for laying out the foundation, but now a more accomplished director is able to build up the franchise.  Cuarón makes the word feel more natural and lived in. The students are still in robes, but they are disheveled and more casually strewn together. The wands are now much more unique and individualized, and they remain so for the rest of the films.  Hogwarts seems explorable and livable. The camera is much more dynamic. It sweeps around, it follows characters, and it gets hit with snow and rain. It feels like another character. This movie was a make or break point for the franchise; a bad director could have ruined everything. Cuarón improved upon everything Columbus did. I don’t have the facts to back this up, but I feel this movie got more people to read the books than any of the other films.

I wasn’t a fan of the time traveling aspect in the book. I feel it is a cheap to have time travel in a saga about magic, and I think J.K. Rowling realized the same and so time travel was never a plot device after Prisoner of Azkaban. That being said, I really enjoyed the time traveling aspect in the movie. They did it right.  Throughout the movie Hermione pops up suddenly, and later Harry gets hit by a rock, Hermione sees something strange, they are saved by mysterious howling, and Harry sees what looks like his father casting a patronus charm. Then later, they go back in time and you find out how Hermione was popping up suddenly, they find out that they threw the rock, that Hermione almost saw herself, that they were the ones howling and that Harry saw himself cast the patronus. And he even goes so far as to explain that he knew he could cast it this time, because he had already done it before.

A great movie, easily one of the best in the series. It is no longer a kid’s movie. Alfonso Cuarón is a great director and this film is proof. It is a part of a greater whole, but he made it very personal and very unique without ruining anything previously established. It sets up some story arcs for future installments, but it also stands out as its own film.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book)

The third installment of Harry Potter finds the young wizard and his pals back at Hogwarts for another magical year. New teachers like Professor Lupin and Trelawney provide Harry with insight to his past (and future). A shadowy character from James and Lily’s past escapes from Azkaban prison, and rumor is he is looking for Harry.

This book is longer and darker than the previous two books. It is on the cusp of no longer being a children’s book. Voldemort is notably absent. In fact, there is no real antagonist in this story. We are lead to believe that Sirius Black is the villain, but he turns out to be anything but. Another thing that sticks out is the use of time turners. Twist it a few times, and you go back in time a few hours. Hermione uses one throughout the year in order to go to all her classes, some of which overlap. Hermione and Harry use it at the end to rescue Buckbeak and save Sirius.

It is worth nothing that Sirius Black is the Prisoner of Azkaban, so the book is essentially called Harry Potter and Sirius Black. Harry finds a father figure in him, and Lupin to a lesser degree as well. Lupin is a great teacher. He brings out the best in Harry and teaches him advanced magic. Harry is starting to become powerful. In the first two books, he relied on luck and help from his friends. Now he is capable of producing a patronus charm to take on dozens of dementors at once.

James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew were best friends when they were students at Hogwarts. They invented the Marauder’s Map, and Harry uses it throughout the book and through the rest of the series. Sirius Black seems to be a threat at first, and than you find out he is a good guy. Lupin was a good guy the whole time, but at the end he transforms into a werewolf, and he becomes a threat. It’s a cool role reversal. Trelawney seems to be a fraud, but then she makes an actual prediction and in later books we find out more about her past prophecies.

The names of the characters usually are clues to their true nature. Remus and Romulus were the two wolf cub brothers who founded Rome. Sirius is the dog star. Black is a reference to Rebecca Black and her dark magic corrupting the innocent.

This is a fun read, and it sets up even more story arcs that get resolved in later books. You start to see that J.K. Rowling had Potter all mapped out, and this book is when shit starts to get crazy.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)

Harry Potter is back on the big screen in the second installment of the franchise. Chris Columbus directs again, and the whole cast comes back with a few new additions, like Kenneth Branagh as the swarmy Lockhart. Harry is a year older and dealing with new problems like the damn Chamber of Secrets being opened and being the prime suspect by his fellow students.

The film is still a kid’s movie, it is still bright and happy, but there are a few more scarier scenes. The scene with Aragog and the Basilisk are two of the most frightening creatures in the series.  The computer graphics are much improved over the rushed effects in the first film.

Richard Harris died shortly after filming. He obviously wasn’t in great health while playing Dumbledore and it shows. Dumbledore looks tired and very ancient.

This is a very loyal translation of the book. It follows the source material very closely, and so when they make unnecessary changes, I just don’t understand why. Why does Harry have to fall out of a flying car and dangle there while Ron shrieks and tries to pull him back in? Was a sequence involving 2 underage wizards driving a flying car to their magic school not amazing enough? The most puzzling part of the movie was the ending when Hagrid returns to the Great Hall and Harry says, “There’s no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid,” and Dumbledore starts a slow clap, and everyone cheers and hugs him. They act like he’s a hero. Hagrid didn’t do anything. It’s called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, not Hagrid Comes Home. It’s a very stupid ending to what had been a good movie.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (book)

Harry Potter is back for his second year at Hogwarts, and things are darker off the bat. A mysterious house elf named Dobby warns Harry of a plot against him and begs him not to return to Hogwarts. It would be pretty uneventful if he did, and so of course he goes back.

Someone has opened the fabled Chamber of Secrets, unleashing an evil that preys on Muggle-born students, turning them to stone. Harry is a prime suspect, and the other students start to become weary of him.

Of course it’s not Harry. He is the hero. He figures out what is going on with the help of a petrified Hermione, and he saves the day again.

J.K. Rowling’s second installment of the Potter saga introduces new and important characters like Dobby, Gilderoy Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy, and Arthur Weasley. She also plants more story arcs that will be resolved later, i.e. the powerful diary of Tom Riddle. There are a lot of similarities between Chamber of Secrets and the Half-Blood Prince. This is a great sequel and a necessary step to building a franchise. It sets up a lot for the future books as well.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series. Around the world it is better known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Americans are dumb though, and we don’t know what the Philosopher’s Stone is, so they changed it to Sorcerer’s Stone because it sounds more magical. This is the book that started it all. If you’ve never read it you are lucky. I wish I could read it again for the first time.

I saw the first three movies before I caved and started reading the books. The sheer depth of it blew me away. I love how Harry Potter is really mediocre, not at all like the powerful wizard you think he is. He is just a normal kid who suddenly finds himself thrust into a crazy world, where seemingly anything can happen and he is famous for something he can’t even remember.

J.K. Rowling planned out the whole saga in advance and it shows. She mentions characters like Sirius Black in the first chapter, well before we meet Sirius in the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This is a kid’s book. It is not your average kid’s book, but its still for the kids. Each book is about Harry’s next successive year at Hogwarts. Each book, Harry is older, he deals with more mature things, and J.K. Rowling’s writing improves with each book, so they only get better and darker as they go along.

Most people fail to realize how important Neville Longbottom is. On Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s very first nighttime excursion, Neville accompanies them. Gryffindor wins the House Cup because of Neville. Neville is Harry’s purebred equivalent.

A fun read, and a great foundation for the phenomenon that became Harry Potter.

Critically Rated at 15/17.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment