10 Thoughts I Had While Watching Night of the Living Dead

It’s Halloween season. So this week my blog entry will be thoughts I had while watching Night of the Living Dead.

1. I’m so used to seeing grainy prints of this cult classic. The people at the Museum of Modern Art and Criterion have really outdone themselves. This print looks pristine!

2. Is it an unwritten rule of horror that people can never find their house/car keys when creatures/killers are stalking them? It seems to be.

3. Pro-tip: Don’t joke around in a cemetery. That almost never ends well.

4. It’s really a shame Duane Jones didn’t have a long career after this. His performance is just stellar.

5. Bold of Romero to cast an African American in the lead role, especially at the height of the civil rights movement. On the surface his series is just a bunch of zombie movies. But he always finds inventive ways to sneak in social commentary.

6. The shambling zombies of the Romero universe I feel like I could handle. The lightning fast ones of 28 Days Later? I’d be scared.

7. I’d give that slap Ben gave Barbara a 2/4 on the Veda scale.

8. Not sure which would be worse: running from the zombies outside or being stuck in a boarded up house with someone like Mr. Cooper.

9. The scene where the zombified little girl kills her mother remains one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in any horror movie.

10. Ben’s senseless death at the end still guts me after multiple viewings.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching Ed Wood

Greetings, readers! Continuing my blog entries on thoughts I had while watching movies, here are 10 I had while revisiting Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

1. Everything about this movie is a living tribute to the cult director. Even the score by Howard Shore. It has a vibe that harkens back to the one for Plan 9 From Outer Space.

2. This is my favorite Tim Burton movie. And I’m a big fan of his movies, especially Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and the underrated Corpse Bride.

3. Johnny Depp not being nominated for an Oscar? Absolute travesty! He brings such warmth and humanity to the character. Makes it impossible to hate him, in spite of the cheesy movies he makes.

4. Apparently Tim Burton shopped the project around to other studios when his first choice wouldn’t allow it to be filmed in black and white. That was the right call. Helps capture the spirit of Hollywood in the 1950s.

5. I like to think Bela Lugosi would have been honored by Landau’s portrayal. It’s a brilliant performance! Glad he won an Oscar at least, along with makeup artist Rick Baker.

6. Seeing Bill Murray always makes me happy. He’s a treasure.

7. I know the scene where Ed Wood meets Orson Welles in the bar didn’t happen in real life. But I don’t care. It’s one of the best parts of a great movie.

8. I can’t see Tor Johnson without thinking of MST3K. “Time for go to bed.” Classic!

9. The recreations of the Plan 9 sets and taking us through the whole production of the cult classic? Flawless!

10. Ed Wood is one of the best movies about making movies. I could watch it every day and never tire of it.

5 Thoughts I Had While Watching Shine A Light

Throughout September I’ll be bringing you my reactions to movies in the form of lists of thoughts I had while watching them. To kick things off, here are five thoughts I had while watching The Rolling Stones concert movie Shine A Light.

1. “We can not burn Mick Jagger.” Hearing that from Martin Scorsese made me almost spit out my tea.

2. Kudos to Robert Richardson, the movie’s cinematographer. You can feel the energy radiating from the Beacon Theater throughout the movie.

3. Mick Jagger still has the moves to be one of the most commanding stage presences out there. Respect.

4. I do believe that is Jack White joining them onstage to play acoustic guitar for Loving Cup. Fantastic!

5. That rendition of As Tears Go By hit me right in the feels. Just beautiful!

Summer Under The Stars Viewing Guide: 8/23-8/29

It’s hard to believe that Summer Under The Stars is almost over. August is flying by! Here are my picks for the last full week of the festival.

Day 23: Olivia de Havilland

Recently we lost Olivia de Havilland at the age of 104. While she may be gone, she will never be forgotten. The fact that it’s darn near impossible to pick just one movie for her SUTS day is a testament to what a superb talent she was. Part of me wants to pick The Adventures of Robin Hood, a definitive swashbuckling movie. But, since it shows her full range as an actress, my pick is The Heiress.

Day 24: George Raft

Shockingly George Raft day doesn’t include his best performance: Scarface. So my pick is They Drive By Night. Raft gets top billing. But the supporting cast, especially Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart, really make this film noir shine.

Day 25: Anne Shirley

Day 25’s pick is one of the best noir films ever made: Murder, My Sweet. Bogart to me is the definitive Philip Marlowe. But Dick Powell really brings a grittiness to the part that subverts your expectations if you’ve only seen him in musicals. Anne Shirley is part of the rich supporting cast, along with Claire Trevor.

Day 26: Laurence Olivier

Few people could bring Shakespeare to life like Laurence Olivier. And my choice for his SUTS day is Hamlet. It’s the definitive film version of the classic, with Olivier excelling both in front of and behind the camera.

Day 27: Claudette Colbert

For Claudette Colbert day, my pick is The Palm Beach Story. Just edging out another favorite of mine, It Happened One Night, this is exhibit A why Preston Sturges was the master of screwball comedy. You’ll laugh so much your sides will ache.

Day 28: Paul Henreid

No matter how many times I see Casablanca, it never loses its power. Paul Henreid’s performance as resistance fighter Victor Laszlo is part of what makes the movie timeless. He manages to stand out in a cast that’s loaded with talent.

Day 29: Eva Marie Saint

For Eva Marie Saint day, I recommend North By Northwest. A definitive Hitchcock classic, I find something new to appreciate with each viewing. Eva Marie Saint’s performance is one of many reasons the movie endures.

I hope you enjoy the last few days of the festival!

Summer Under The Stars Viewing Guide: 8/16-8/22

Not sure what to watch for week three of Summer Under The Stars? Here are my picks.

Day 16: Cary Grant

There’s really no bad movie to watch in Cary Grant’s SUTS day. Most would expect my pick of the day to be His Girl Friday, given that it’s my favorite comedy ever. And people should definitely watch that. But, because I haven’t seen it in ages, my pick of the day is To Catch A Thief. Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock brought out the best in each other. And this movie is a great example of that.

Day 17: Maureen O’ Hara

For day 17 devoted to Maureen O’ Hara, my pick is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Brilliant adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. The chemistry between O’ Hara and Charles Laughton is something to behold. The movie really captures the humanity of the source material.

Day 18: Warren Beatty

Like Cary Grant’s day, the day devoted to Warren Beatty is loaded with great viewing options. Of the movies on the schedule, I recommend McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Robert Altman made many masterpieces during his career. But this gritty western might be his crowning achievement, right up there with Nashville, The Player and Gosford Park.

Day 19: Delores del Rio

One of 2020’s first time SUTS honorees is Delores del Rio. My selection for her day is Flying Down To Rio. It’s a light movie about a band leader who keeps getting his group fired due to his womanizing ways. The film is notable for being the first pairing of Astaire and Rogers. They have small supporting roles. But the chemistry is undeniable.

Day 20: William Powell

For me, one of the all around most charming actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood is William Powell. So it’s great to see him honored this year. And, my pick is The Thin Man. This to me is the quintessential William Powell movie. It shows off his ability to do screwball comedy, drama (especially during the long monologue at the dinner party towards the end) and it pairs him with the equally charming Myrna Loy. The Thin Man was my introduction to cinema. And I’m eternally thankful for that. If you need a movie to pick you up anytime, this is one of the best options.

Day 21: Diana Dors

I’m a sucker for a horror anthology movie. So my pick for day 21 devoted to Diana Dors is From Beyond The Grave. Dors is featured in the second segment: An Act of Kindness. Dors chews the scenery as the overbearing wife of Donald Pleasence.

Day 22: Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood is a more versatile actress than she gets credit for. And, one of her movies that doesn’t get shown as often as it should is Love With The Proper Stranger. It was ahead of its time in the way it handled the taboo subject of abortion. Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen play beautifully off of each other. It’s a bittersweet but lovely movie that deserves a wider audience.

Summer Under The Stars Viewing Guide: 8/9-8/15

Hope everyone is enjoying Summer Under The Stars! Here’s my viewing guide for week 2.

Day 9: Goldie Hawn

One of the new SUTS is Goldie Hawn. For that day, I recommend the offbeat comedy Cactus Flower. In addition to Hawn, there’s Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman. Trust me, you haven’t seen anything like it before.

Day 10. Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer is an actress who really deserves more recognition. There are a lot of great movies to pick from on her SUTS day. Part of me wants to pick The Women, as it’s one of my favorite comedies. But my selection is a pre-code gem called The Divorcee. It tackled the issues of infidelity and female sexuality in a way that was way ahead of its time. An essential pre-code movie.

Day 11: Sammy Davis Jr.

There was a clear winner for me for Sammy Davis Jr. day. I love a good heist film and I love the Rat Pack. Ocean’s 11 covers both bases. Stylish, funny and just plain fun, it’s a blast from start to finish. One if the definitive movies of the decade.

Day 12: Lana Turner

For the SUTS day honoring Lana Turner, my pick is The Bad And The Beautiful. It’s an unvarnished look at show business, particularly the movie business. The movie shows what people will do to get ahead in the industry.

Day 13. John Barrymore

The 13th day of the festival honors the versatile John Barrymore. I recommend Grand Hotel. Filled with an all-star cast that includes Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Lionel Barrymore, it tells the stories of various people staying at a Berlin hotel. Bonus? It has some of the best Art Deco design you’ll ever see in a movie.

Day 14: Steve McQueen

If you look up the word cool in the dictionary, Steve McQueen’s picture next to it. There’s a lot of great movies on the schedule. But, I have to go with Bullitt. It’s my favorite of all his movies, just ahead of The Great Escape. It’s a stylish crime movie. And it features, for my money, the best movie car chase ever.

Day 15: Nina Foch

Day 15 celebrates Nina Foch. My pick that day is Executive Suite. Another home run from the versatile director Robert Wise, it’s a fascinating boardroom drama about people battling it out to become the head of a manufacturing firm when the current one dies of a stroke. It’s much more interesting than it sounds.

See you next time for week 3!

Summer Under The Stars Viewing Guide: 8/1-8/8

It’s that time of the year again! TCM’s Summer Under The Stars Festival kicks off Saturday. Here is my pick for each day of the first week.

Day 1. Barbara Stanwyck

One of the first things that jumped out at me when the SUTS schedule came out was that Barbara Stanwyck was kicking off the festival. Anyone that knows me knows that she’s one of my absolute favorite actresses. So, which one movie do I recommend people see? Double Indemnity. I’m a huge fan of film noir. And Double Indemnity is one of he definitive noir films. In it, Stanwyck plays the ultimate femme fatale. It’s an absolutely chilling performance. She should have won an Oscar for it.

Day 2. Rock Hudson

Day 2 brings us 24 hours of Rock Hudson. And, for that day, my pick is Pillow Talk. It’s a quintessential romantic comedy and the best of the multiple films Hudson made with Doris Day. Add in wonderful supporting performances from Thelma Ritter and Tony Randall, and you have one of the most charming comedies ever made.

Day 3. Rita Hayworth

For the day devoted to Rita Hayworth, my selection is another film noir. It’s Gilda from 1946. It’s worth it for Hayworth’s sultry rendition of Put The Blame On Mame alone. But the whole movie has a great noir atmosphere.

Day 4. S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall

I love seeing which new honorees get put on the schedule each year. And this year one of the newbies is the versatile character actor S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall. If you don’t know his name, you certainly know his face. My pick for that day is one that I discovered recently on TCM: Romance On The High Seas. Directed by the versatile Michael Curtiz, it’s a delightful screwball comedy set on a cruise ship starring Doris Day. If you need pure escape, this is the movie for you.

Day 5. Ann Miller

For whatever reason, Ann Miller has never gotten the recognition of Astaire, Rogers, Kelly, etc. But she’s every bit as amazing of a dancer. So it’s great to see her get a SUTS day. If you watch one of her movies, make it On The Town. Loaded with talent, including Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra and featuring some marvelous song and dance numbers, it’s a pure delight. Look for Miller’s scene stealing performance of Prehistoric Man.

Day 6. Burt Lancaster

For the day devoted to Burt Lancaster, I recommend Seven Days In May. John Frankenheimer’s political thriller from 1964 is eerily relevant in today’s political climate. The cast also includes Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner and Fredric March.

Day 7. Sylvia Sidney

The 7th day of the festival honors Sylvia Sidney. My pick for that day is Alfred Hitchcock’s underrated Sabotage. The plot involves a Scotland Yard detective put on the trail of a saboteur who is part of a plot to set off a bomb in London. It’s a masterful thriller that should be shown more often.

Day 8. Charlie Chaplin

Picking just one movie for Charlie Chaplin’s day is a real challenge. But my selection is The Great Dictator. Chaplin’s satire of Nazi Germany was way ahead of its time. And Chaplin gives a speech towards the end that resonates loud and clear 80 years after its release.

That’s my guide to week one. See you next week for week two!

Harry Potter Revisited: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Here we are. The end of the Harry Potter movie saga. I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as one long movie. So my blog entry will be on both of them as well.

Throughout Pt. 1 & 2, Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to find and destroy the Horcruxes, those mystical objects that Voldemort divided his soul into to help himself stay immortal.

After an attack at the wedding of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour, the trio disapparate to London. They go to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. There, they learn that one of the Horcruxes is a locket that is now in the possession of Umbridge at the Ministry of Magic. Using Polyjuice potion to disguise themselves, infiltrate the Ministry and escape with the locket. In the process, however, Ron is injured. He cannot disapparate again until he heals. They take turns wearing the locket, hoping to dilute its power. But it overpowers Ron to the point he storms off after a falling out with Harry and Hermione.

Harry and Hermione then go to Godric’s Hollow to visit the grave of Harry’s parents. Afterwards, Harry and Hermione see a Patronus in the form of a doe. It leads them to a frozen pond where the sword of Gryffindor is buried beneath the ice. Harry breaks through the ice and retrieves the sword.

Ron then shows up and helps Harry destroy the locket. The trio makes peace and goes to visit Luna Lovegood’s father to inquire about a symbol he was wearing around his neck on a necklace at the wedding.

The symbol is the Deathly Hallows, three magical objects that combine to make a wizard a master of death. The trio then try to leave, but Mr. Lovegood plans to exchange Harry for Luna, who is being held prisoner by the Death Eaters. Harry, Ron and Hermione escape to the woods. But then they are grabbed by the Snatchers. The Snatchers turn them over to the Death Eaters, who plan to torture them for information. Dobby manages to help all the prisoners escape. But, in saving everyone, Dobby is killed. The first movie ends with Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore’s coffin and stealing the Elder Wand (one of the Deathly Hallows).

As Pt. 2 begins, Harry, Ron and Hermione ask the goblin Griphook to help them break into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts. Griphook agrees, in exchange for the sword of Gryffindor. After getting into the vault, they discover the Horcrux. It’s Helga Hufflepuff’s cup. Once Harry gets the cup, Griphook snatched the sword and abandons them. The trio escapes by releasing the dragon that serves as the Gringotts guard and riding on its back.

Harry then has a vision that the next Horcrux is related to Rowena Ravenclaw. Through Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth and Neville Longbottom, the trio takes a secret passage into Hogwarts. Snape, now Hogwarts headmaster, warns students and staff about aiding Harry Potter. When McGonagall challenges Snape to a duel following Harry’s arrival in the castle, Snape flees. McGonagall then gathers the Hogwarts community for battle.

Luna Lovegood insists Harry speak to Helena Ravenclaw’s ghost about the lost diadem of her mother Rowena Ravenclaw. Harry figures out from Helena that the diadem is in the Room of Requirement. Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione go into the Chamber of Secrets to destroy Hufflepuff’s cup with a Basilisk fang. Then the trio uses fang to destroy the diadem.

Voldemort’s army attacks. In the chaos, Harry has a vision where he learns that Nagini (Voldemort’s snake) is a Horcrux. They head toward the boathouse where they overhear Voldemort tell Snape that the Elder Wand will not serve him while Snape lives. Voldemort has Nagini kill Snape. Before Snape breathes his last breath, he has Harry take his tears and put them in the Pensieve.

From Snape’s memories, Harry learns that Snape despised Harry’s father (who bullied him), but loved his mother Lily. After Harry’s parents are murdered, Snape worked with Dumbledore to protect Harry from Voldemort because of Snape’s love for Lily. It is also revealed that Dumbledore was dying and asked Snape to kill him.

The Patronus that led Harry and Hermione to the sword of Gryffindor was conjured by Snape. But, there’s one more vital bit of information in Snape’s memories. Harry is also a Horcrux. The scar on his forehead was put there when the killing curse rebounded the night Harry’s parents were killed.

Harry turns himself over to Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest. Voldemort attacks him with the killing curse. Harry then lies in limbo. While in the spirit world, Harry meets Dumbledore. Dumbledore informs him that the part of Voldemort inside him is now destroyed. Harry then goes back into his body to defeat Voldemort.

Voldemort announces Harry’s death to the crowd at Hogwarts. As Neville makes a defiant speech and pulls the sword from the Sorting Hat, Harry reveals he’s still alive. Neville slays Nagini with the sword, making Voldemort mortal and Harry kills Voldemort.

There’s then an epilogue with the characters 19 years later sending their kids to Hogwarts.

I was skeptical at first of Deathly Hallows being split into two movies. But, having watched them as one long movie, the decision makes sense. The extra time allows us to fully appreciate the emotional weight of what happens to every character. As one movie, it would have felt rushed and ended the series on a sour note.

There’s a lot to love about these final movies. One of them is the fact that they use CGI and pyrotechnics, but intelligently. They never overshadow the human drama.

Speaking of human drama, I want to recognize two characters that really stood out in the last part. One is Neville Longbottom. As brilliantly played by Matthew Lewis, Neville comes full circle. He’s not the geeky kid everybody picked on in the first movie anymore. By the end he’s become one of the fiercest warriors at Hogwarts and a natural leader. His arc is just as satisfying as it was in the books.

And then there’s Alan Rickman. I’ve praised him before in my look back at this series. But he outdoes himself here. Learning Snape’s backstory and realizing the emotional burden he’s carried throughout the previous 6 movies, you really can’t help but marvel at Rickman’s acting chops. He reveals to the audience exactly what they need to know and when. It’s a brilliant performance that really solidifies what a brilliant actor he was. His passing was a great loss.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a satisfying ending to the blockbuster franchise. Everyone that worked on the series deserves a round of applause. It was a massive undertaking and they pulled it off beautifully.

Harry Potter Revisited: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I have now arrived at the 6th movie in my retrospective on the Harry Potter movies. It’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The ending in particular packs quite an emotional wallop. So spoilers ahead!

The movie opens on a somber note as Death Eaters (minions of Lord Voldemort) are seen attacking London’s Millennium Bridge. Both the wizard and Muggle worlds are under attack. Following right where Order of the Phoenix left off, Lucius Malfoy is disgraced and in Azkaban prison due to his involvement with the Death Eaters. His son, Draco (Tom Felton) is giving a secret mission by Voldemort. Draco’s mother gets Snape (Alan Rickman) to protect Draco and carry out the mission should anything go wrong. Snape is rumored to have been a mole in the Order of the Phoenix, informing on Dumbledore to Voldemort.

As another semester at Hogwarts begins, there is a new potions professor: Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). When Harry and Ron get their potions text books, Harry’s are filled with helpful notes from someone known as the Half-Blood Prince. The notes allow Harry to excel in the class and impress Slughorn. One day in potions, Harry wins a vial of Liquid Luck potion.

Dumbledore reveals to Harry that one of the reasons he hired Slughorn was because he has a memory relating to Voldemort that is needed in their quest to defeat the Dark Lord. Dumbledore has a version of the memory, but it has been altered. Why? Slughorn feels guilty about not stopping Tom Riddle (a young Voldemort) when there were signs he was headed to be a dangerous wizard when Slughorn had him as a student.

Harry uses the Liquid Luck to get Slughorn to give him the real memory. He succeeds. In the memory, Tom Riddle asks about Horcruxes. Horcruxes allow a wizard to divide their soul into seven pieces by putting them in inanimate objects. It allows the wizard to be immortal. Harry even destroyed one already: Tom Riddle’s diary in Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore and Harry set out to retrieve and destroy the other Horcruxes. In the process of getting Slytherin’s locket in a seaside cave, Dumbledore is forced to drink poison (he has to drink it to get at the locket).

Dumbledore apparates them back to Hogwarts. But he is weakened from the poison. After arriving back at Hogwarts, a number of Death Eaters arrive via a Vanishing Cabinet courtesy of Draco Malfoy. It’s revealed that Draco’s mission is to kill Dumbledore. But Draco just can’t do it. Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him, this ending his pain. Snape honor’s his request, enraging Harry. When Harry attempts to pursue Snape, it’s revealed that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince. The Death Eaters escape and Hogwarts holds a funeral for Dumbledore.

Half-Blood Prince is a return to form after the uneven but enjoyable Order of the Phoenix. What I appreciated the most was how front and center the friendship of Harry and Dumbledore was. This is some of the best acting by Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon in the whole series. And they’ve been solid throughout. My heart broke when Dumbledore was killed off. It was just like when I read the scene in the book.

I want to again credit Alan Rickman for being the pitch perfect Snape. There are so many layers to the character. And Rickman is able to tell us just what we need to know at just the right time as the series progresses. It’s masterful acting without being showy.

Where would I rank this one in the whole series? Ahead of Order of the Phoenix but after Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ll give my whole list after Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter Revisited: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Greetings, readers! Apologies for the delay on this blog entry. And now, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The fifth entry in the Harry Potter franchise is particularly bad. But it’s not great either. It’s somewhere in the middle for me. What a shame too. Because I loved the book.

Part of the problem to me is that the whole movie feels rushed. IMHO, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows should all have been split into two parts. More on this later.

The movie opens with Harry Potter fending off dementors who come after his cousin Dudley. Harry is brought before the Ministry of Magic for violating the decree of underage wizardry. He’s acquitted, in spite of being prosecuted by a kangaroo court. On that court is Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).

Umbridge is the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. But her class is a theoretical one, forbidding the students from learning defensive spells. Why? The Ministry of Magic is interfering in the curriculum at Hogwarts. Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) is so terrified of the very idea of Voldemort being back, that he does everything he can to discredit Harry and Dumbledore, who know for a fact that the dark lord has returned.

Since Umbridge won’t teach the students how to defend themselves, Harry, Ron and Hermione recruit some students go form Dumbledore’s Army. They meet in secret and Harry teaches them the ropes. Eventually the organization is found out. Umbridge uses all sorts of nefarious methods to get at the truth, including threatening Harry with the torture curse.

Luckily Hermione stops Harry from being tortured by giving Umbridge a fake story about Dumbledore’s secret weapon. Harry, Ron and Hermione lead Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest and let the centaurs get revenge on her (she has been further and further restricting the boundaries of their territory).

From there, the rest of Dumbledore’s Army eventually join them and head to the Department of Mysteries. Earlier on the movie, Harry has a vision of Sirius Black being tortured there. So they set out to save Sirius and retrieve the prophecy about Harry and Voldemort.

While at the Department of Mysteries, they are ambushed by Death Eaters, including Lucius Malfoy. Sirius and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix (a secret organization formed years ago to fight Voldemort) arrive in time to save Harry and company.

But all does not end happily. In the chaos, the prophecy is destroyed and Bellatrix Lestrange kills Sirius. Voldemort then arrives to try to kill Harry. Dumbledore arrived in time to stop him. In a last ditch effort to win, Voldemort tries to torture Harry by invading his mind. But Harry resists.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix crams a lot into its nearly 2 1/2 hour running time. In fact, it feels overloaded. I can’t imagine someone who hasn’t read the books or seen the previous movies being able to just walk into this one and make heads or tails of it. But, maybe that’s a moot point. At this point the franchise isn’t starved for having enough fans to support it.

My problems with the movie aside, it does have its good points. For example. this is the movie that introduces us to Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch). Luna is quirky and looked down on for being eccentric. But she proves a good ally for Harry and is often his voice of reason. Their friendship is one of my favorite things in the movie.

I also loved all the Dumbledore’s Army scenes, where we get to see Harry grow from student to teacher and become a mentor to his classmates. Amidst the learning of magic, there’s also real character development of Neville Longbottom. That is one of my favorite character arcs in the whole franchise.

And, as much as I hate the character of Umbridge, Imelda Staunton plays her flawlessly.

Order of the Phoenix has its flaws. But it’s still a movie I would happily watch if I came across it on TV or felt like having a Harry Potter marathon.