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Alternative Titles for the Harry Potter Series

I’m too hungover and lazy to write anything amazing, so I though I would spit out a list of alternative titles for the Harry Potter series. People like lists and people like Harry Potter. It’s a winning combination.

Book 1: Harry Potter & the Start of the Beginning

Book 2: Harry Potter & the Unnecessary Flying Car

            Book 3: Harry Potter & the One with Time Travel

            Book 4: Harry Potter & the Ultimate Reality Show

            Book 5: Harry Potter & the Cunt Called Umbridge

            Book 6: Harry Potter & the Death of Dumbledore

            Book 7: Harry Potter & the Sudden Realization that It’s Over and There is Nothing Else Worth Reading

So there you go. Hope you enjoyed my half-assed list.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympics are an amazing event. Every four years, athletes from various nations get a chance to compete against the world and represent their countries. Most athletes will never get a medal; the highlight of their Olympic experience is typically the Opening Ceremony. The host country usually puts on a little display to show off how amazing their country is, and there’s a lot of music and theatrics and fireworks. Then there’s the Parade of Nations where all the represented countries get a shout out and a moment in the spotlight.

The 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony was amazing. It was an impressive display of China’s power, and their power is in their population. They have a shit ton of people. And they can do shit in unison and that is terrifying and awesome. The London Games had a tough act to follow.

They tried though. They got renowned director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later) to direct the show, and they had every single British celebrity you can think of make an appearance. They had Daniel Craig a.k.a. James Bond! They had the mother fucking Queen of England! They had David Beckham and J.K. Rowling and Kenneth Branagh! They even had Mr. Bean and Sir Paul McCartney (the last good living Beatle)! There are only a handful of world-famous Brits and they were all there.

There was a theme to the ceremony. I’m sure there was. But it was boring and so I don’t know what it was. At one point they were paying homage to the Industrial Revolution and they forged Olympic Rings and it was beautiful and awe-inspiring. And then that shit just kept going on and on. And on and on. Then it went on some more. By the time the Parade of Nations was starting, I was done. I have the internet; I can see what countries are competing on my own time. I don’t need to rely on NBC’s extensive Olympic coverage.

It wasn’t a terrible Opening Ceremony. It just had the bad luck of following the best Opening Ceremony of all time. The Summer Olympics have started. That’s all that matters. Let the games begin.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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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

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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

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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

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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

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