Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince directed by David Yates

Bibliographic Information: Yates, D. (director). (2009). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (DVD). Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures.  ASIN: B002PMV9FG.  153 minutes, Movie Rating: PG.

Spoiler alert: This review may include information revealed in the Harry Potter films 1 through 5.

Plot Summary: Harry Potter, age 16, is in his sixth year at Hogwarts and things are changing rapidly.  The wizarding world finally recognizes what Harry has been saying for quite some time, that “he who must not be named,” the evil and very powerful wizard Lord Voldemort, is back and gaining strength.  Harry learns more from Professor Dumbledore about his mission to defeat Voldemort and has tasks to complete to move toward this goal.  New potions professor, Horace Slughorn, who has returned to Hogwarts from his retirement, has taken quite a liking to Harry.  Slughorn is impressed by people with name recognition, and Dumbledore and Harry hope to use Slughorn’s fondness of Harry to find out vital information about Voldemort from Slughorn.  Slughorn was a professor of Tom Riddle, Voldemort’s given name, when Riddle was a student at Hogwarts.  Dumbledore knows that a conversation in Slughorn’s memory holds some keys to important information about Voldemort that Harry needs.  In addition to these most atypical teenage activities, Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione are dealing with typical teenage events, specifically, schoolwork, friendships, and budding romance.

Critical Evaluation: It is a difficult task creating a movie from a much-loved and widely read book, but Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince lives up to its title.  The movie manages to be true to the book as much as possible, while taking advantage of the perfect medium to bring the story to life.  The acting is honest and convincing.  Those who have watched the five previous Harry Potter films will not be disappointed with this, the sixth, installment.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing up, and it shows in the way they look and in the way they behave.  This movie is a bit darker than the previous one, but that is consistent with the book as well.  Highly entertaining, exciting, and adventurous, Harry Potter fans will not be disappointed with this sixth installment of the movie series.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was nominated for dozens of awards and won many of those nominations.  Among an Academy Award nomination, MTV Movie Awards, Teen Choice awards, and many others, one award stood out as particularly unique: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince won the Scream Awards’ “Holy Shit! Scene of the Year” for the “Death Eaters Attack London” Scene.

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Harry Potter and his friends are in their 6th year at Hogwarts School and amidst school work and budding romances, they must work to keep the school and the wizarding community safe from the Dark Lord, Voldemort

Information about the Author/Director:  David Yates is a British film director who directed the final four films in the eight film Harry Potter series.  His previous work included directing an independent film as well as several television programs.

He received wide recognition for his work on all of the Harry Potter films, with the final three films each winning British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, in addition to many others.  Yates is currently working on an as yet untitled film based on the hit British television program Dr. Who.

Genres: Fantasy/Drama/Adventure

Curriculum Ties: comparison of the book and the movie

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 11 – 18

Challenge Issues:  There are those who claim the books and movies promote the occult and witchcraft.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the film, and it has won several awards and honors.

Why is this film included? The Harry Potter franchise is so huge and so popular, I felt I needed to include at least one film from the series in my blog.

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Precious directed by Lee Daniels

Bibliographic Information: Daniels, L. (director). 2009. Precious, Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (DVD). Santa Monica, CA: Lionsgate.  ASIN: B002VECM4A.  110 minutes, Movie Rating: R.

Plot Summary: Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, illiterate and living a life of unimaginable horror and suffering.  The physical and emotional abuse, that Precious endures at the hands of her mother is so brutally and meanly inflicted, that most viewers will wonder how a person could be so incredibly cruel.  Precious lives with her mother. Her father only appears every so often, and his visits resulted in the rape and impregnation of his daughter Precious.  The depths of abuse and cruelty leveled at  Precious might make another person crumble, but she pushes forward. She keeps trying to make a life for herself, dreaming, in beautifully filmed fantasy sequences, of being a much adored star.  When she is kicked out of her high school for being pregnant, Precious attends an alternative school. There, Precious has a teacher who believes in her students, often when they do not even believe in themselves. At her new school, Precious finally learns to read and write and she literally and figuratively finds her voice.

Critical Evaluation: This film is intense.  I expect that people familiar with the type of abuse and suffering Precious is subjected to, could experience some level of post traumatic stress.  Others, who have been fortunate enough not to have experience with this level of cruelty and brutality will likely find themselves in disbelief.  But, there is something about the acting and directing and scenery and dialogue that forces us to look at Precious’s life and recognize that there are people who suffer in similar ways.  Even those viewers who do not want to believe will be hard pressed not to, given the gritty realism of the film.  There is sadness and such devastating circumstances that viewers could become overwhelmed by emotion, but there is a tempering force.  Precious is strong, sometimes witty and often triumphant, and these moments, make worthwhile the viewer’s endurance of the suffering in the movie.

Critics loudly applauded this film; it received numerous awards and nominations, fifty film organizations nominated Precious for a variety of awards, the film won several of these.  Here are some highlights:

  • The 2010 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique (Won); Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Best Picture, Precious (Nominated); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Nominated); Best Actress, Gabourey Sidibe (Nominated); Best Film Editing, Joe Klotz (Nominated)
  • The 2010 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Precious (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama, Gabourey Sidbie (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won)
  • Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Precious (Won); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Won); Best Female Lead, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Best Supporting Female, Mo’Nique (Won); Best First Screenplay, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won)
  • NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Independent Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won); Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television), Lee Daniels (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mariah Carey (Nominated) and Paula Patton (Nominated); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Lenny Kravitz (Nominated)

An extensive list of awards and nominations for the film can be found here.

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Abused and ignored Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, and illiterate.  When she gets kicked out of school for being pregnant, she starts attending an alternative school, with a teacher who believes in her, and her journey toward a life of her own begins.

Information about the Author/Director: In addition to being a director, Lee Daniels is an actor and a film producer.  Notably, he produced the highly acclaimed film Monster’s Ball for which Halle Berry won the Best Actress Academy Award and which won the Best Screenplay Academy Award as well (Lee Daniels, n.d.).

Genres: Drama

Curriculum Ties: Discussions of poverty, abuse, acceptance, self-respect, self-esteem

Reading/Viewing Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 to adult

Challenge Issues: Violence; Emotional Sexual, and Physical Abuse; Mature Language.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this film included? While this movie is difficult to watch and painful at times, it also sends a message of hope and the strength of the human spirit.  It is feels frightening real and provides a voice to Precious, and other young women, who deserve to have their voices heard.

References:

Lee Daniels. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Daniels


Good Will Hunting directed by Gus Van Sant

Bibliographic Information: Van Sant, G. (director). 1997. Good Will Hunting (DVD). Santa Monica, CA: Miramax Films.  ASIN: 0788814664.  126 minutes. Movie Rating: R.

Plot Summary: Will Hunting, a young adult from the hardscrabble streets of South Boston, prefers street fights and drinking with his buddies to developing his semi-hidden genius.  From economics to mathematics, Will stuns snobby Harvard and MIT students at local bars who look down on him and his friends for their social status, although he meets a Harvard student who gives him her number.  Will works at MIT, as a janitor, and, while cleaning one evening, is drawn to a proof posted on a chalkboard in the hallway.  He solves the proof correctly and anonymously, and so ensues a search for the “student” who award-winning MIT mathematics professor, Gerald Lambeau, wants to praise.  After an arrest in a street fight, Will is bailed out by Lambeau who has taken note of Will’s innate math talents and wants to become his mentor.  The conditions of Will’s bail include being under Lambeau’s supervision and attending therapy, an idea Will openly laughs at, but agrees to in order to avoid further incarceration.

Critical Evaluation: Good Will Hunting is a great young adult movie.  It takes the common themes of love, friendship, and overcoming adversity and weaves them into a compelling, interesting, and moving story.  The main characters are three dimensional with strengths and flaws and, above all else, resilience.  The acting in the film is high quality, with particularly believable roles by Matt Damon playing Will and Robin Williams playing his therapist, Sean Maguire.  Will’s relationships are complicated by his troubled past, but his friends are always there for him.  His love interest, awealthy Harvard student, tries to understand who he is and where he is coming from, though he is not at all forthcoming about himself., and, in fact, lies about his past.  Those who do not care for curse words may bristle at times, but the language feels realistic, not gratuitous.  This movie deals with heavy topics with grace and beauty.  Viewers will hope for Will to triumph over all the troubles life has handed him.

Good Will Hunting was highly praised and honored.  A the 1998 Academy Awards, the movie was nominated for nine awards and won two: Robin Williams won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won the Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).  The screenplay also won the 1998 Golden Globe award, out of four Golden Globe nominations.

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Troubled young man, Will Hunting, works as a janitor at MIT. When his math skills seem to exceed those of any of the MIT students, Will’s life take a turn that could bring him far away from his South Boston roots, but does he want to go?

Information about the Author/Director: Gus Van Sant is an award-winning director who has directed highly acclaimed films. A sampling of his films include: Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Finding Forrester, Elephant, Paranoid Park, and Milk.  His most recent film, Restless, was released in September 2011.

Genres: Drama

Curriculum Ties: Discussion of class, emotional problems, abuse, overcoming obstacles

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15 to 25

Challenge Issues: Sexuality, Language, Violence, Drinking.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this film included? I loved it when it came out and I was a teen, and it was just as good watching it today.


Drive Me Crazy directed by John Schultz

Bibliographic Information: Schultz, J. (director). 1999. Drive Me Crazy (DVD). Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox.  ASIN: B000YABYLA.  91 minutes. Movie Rating: PG-13.

Plot Summary: High schooler Nicole Maris seems to have it all.  She is popular, and fashionable, she is in charge of the school’s 100 anniversary celebration, which includes a dance.  She has a huge crush on the star basketball player, Brad, who she hopes will take her to the anniversary dance.  Nicole gets the good news from her best friend that her dream date is about to happen, and then fate steps in.  Brad, right in front of Nicole’s eyes, literally falls head over heels in love with a cheerleader during a basketball game, when he stumbles and falls on her.  What is Nicole to do?  Without a date to the dance, she will be humiliated!  And then, she gets a great idea.  Nicole decides that she can turn Chase, her next door neighbor, into the perfect date to make Brad jealous.  Chase, not part of the popular crowd, is more interested in political rallies than pep rallies, and was recently dumped by his girlfriend; dating peppy, popular Nicole will drive his ex crazy.  Will their plan work, backfire, or turn into something neither of them could have imagined?

Critical Evaluation: Drive Me Crazy, based on the novel How I Created My Perfect Prom Date by Todd Strasser, is cute, has its moments, and has some entertainment value, but overall it is fairly predictable.  The main characters are flat but not unlikeable, and the plot takes a few unexpected minor twists.  The movie misses some opportunites, though, when it touches on, but fails to fully make any in depth comment on, popularity, judging people by their appearances, and friendship.  Surprisingly, this movie was on YALSA’s 2010 Fabulous Films for Young Adults list.

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: When the star basketball player and love interest, Brad, fails to ask Nicole to the school dance, she comes up with a plan to drive him crazy by going with her next door neighbor.

Genres: Romantic Comedy

Curriculum Ties: n/a

Reading/Viewing Level: Ages 12 to 16

Challenge Issues:  There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this movie.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.

Why is this film included? I chose it because it was on YALSA’s 2010 Fabulous Films for Young Adults list.


Juno directed by Jason Reitman

Bibliographic Information: Reitman, J. (director). 2008. Juno (DVD). Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox.  ASIN: B000YABYLA.  96 minutes. Movie Rating: PG-13.

Plot Summary: Sixteen and pregnant, Juno MacGuff, has a lot to figure out.  First, she must tell her dad and stepmom the news; they are supportive.  She knows she is not ready to be a mother, so she has some decisions to make.  She discovers that she does not want to have an abortion.  The option she chooses?  Adoption.  She then sets out to find the perfect parents for her as yet unborn child.  She finds what she deems to be the ideal couple in Mark and Vanessa Loring and she begins to establish a somewhat awkward but honest relationship with them.  She is also not quite sure how she feels about the boy who fathered her baby, Paulie, who has been her close friend for years and has had a crush on her for a long time as well.  While she remains somewhat coolly distant from him, Paulie and many viewers suspect she feels more than she is willing to admit.

Critical Evaluation: Juno is a charming movie.  The dialog is witty, straightforward, and intelligent and the characters possess a truthfulness not always found in movies.  The storyline and the characters are compelling, making viewers care about what happens to the young protagonist and her friends and family.  The movie demonstrates that  a person does not have to be a grown up to become pregnant, but becoming pregnant, as least for Juno, can make a person grow up.  Her obvious caring about the life of her soon to be born child and her decisions around that demonstrate that her pregnancy forced her to grow up fast.  Her teen angst and insecurities demonstrate that she is not all grown up yet.  With its humor and warmth, to some extent, this movie romanticizes teen pregnancy, but the honesty and integrity of the movie as well as the fact that it is highly entertaining make it worth a watch.  “The film received four 2008 Academy Awards nominations: Best Original Screenplay, which Diablo Cody won, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Ellen Page” (Juno, Wikipedia).

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: When sixteen year old Juno MacGuff discovers she is pregnant she realizes she is not ready to be a mother, so she goes in search of the perfect parents for her as yet unborn baby.

Information about the Author/Director: When asked in an interview about his first reading of Diablo Cody’s Juno script, director Jason Reitman stated, “Page One and I was just like, it was instantaneous. I was like “Oh my god, this girl can write.” Then it just becomes a question of, “Well she can write, but is there a story here?” then about halfway through, by the time we got to the ultrasound scene, I was pretty confident that if I didn’t direct this movie I would regret it for the rest of my life [emphasis mine].” (Douglas, 2007).

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Curriculum Ties: n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15 to 19 to adult

Challenge Issues: Premarital sex, teen sex, sexuality, teen pregnancy.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this film included? It is a great movie, and with its humor and honesty, I believe  it is destined to be a teen classic.

References:

Juno (film).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_%28film%29

Douglas, E. (2007). Jason Reitman Tackles Teen Pregnancy in Juno. ComingSoon.net. Retrieved from http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=39765