Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 - After Chris Columbus manufactured a pair of total duds in debuting the first two Harry Potter adventures to the big screen, Alfonso Cuaron gave the third effort an artist's touch, a welcome breath of sexiness and a sorely needed sense of humor. HP 3 remains my favorite adaptation in the series, and is the chapter that all subsequent films have had to live up to. Most have done so. Happily, the first half of the finale does not disappoint. I'm not sure there was any good cinematic reason that JK Rowling's lousy final installment of her septilogy should have been split in two, but Potter diehards can rejoice over studio greed since the material has found its way into the competent hands of director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves. The book, which features a gaping 300 page dead zone sandwiched between a fine beginning and end, could have easily been sliced and diced into a single feature film. That said, 7.1 is a supreme upgrade over the book, in spite of the paucity of the best stuff, namely: Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith.
So, here we are in year seven and the bad guys are winning. HP and friends are on the run and trying to piece together the puzzle that will destroy You Know Who once and for all. Director David Yates gets my applause for making something suspenseful out of Rowling's mess. The kids (never better as actors, by the way) are dodging Death Eaters and trying to keep out of sight in a world where Harry has been labeled 'Undesirable no. 1'. Stripping away dialogue and musical scores gives the film an unsettling kind of quiet as the three amigos tiptoe across Great Britain in search of Horcruxes. Sound boring? Well, what some might find slow, I found spooky, and there's just enough action to keep things moving along. Another deft touch is a breathtaking animated sequence that explains the book's rather ponderous plot line about the Deathly Hallows. If Horcruxes and Hallows sound like too much mumbo jumbo, just know that it's really seeing the kids grow up together (and seeing Helena Bonham Carter wreak havoc as a classic villain) that strikes a nerve. This is the third Potter project undertaken by the Yates/Kloves team, and it marks their third success. Thus I look forward to their next/last effort. 3.5 McBones (my outraged sometimes popular wife disagrees with my rating so much that she wants you to know that she gives it 5.0 McBones)
Elephant - A strange application of Gus van Sant's admittedly formidable artistic talents to a subject of the utmost sensitivity: school shootings. This to me felt nothing like the high school experience and nothing like tragedy, but rather a stringing together of strong visuals and Hitchcockian long takes. Van Sant builds up to the event in the way Titanic builds up to the sinking. I don't get it and I didn't like it. 1.0 McBones