Top 20 Movie Franchises of All-Time: #10 – 6

10. Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – 7.5/10
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – 7/10
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – 8.5/10
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – 8.5/10
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) – 8/10
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) – 8.5/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – 8/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – 9/10

Why I love them so much: “Love them” may be strong words this early on in our relationship, but I have to admit, I am astonished this series made it into my Top 10. As you can probably tell by now, nostalgia rates big-time for me, so it’s hard for newer films to make this list, much less rank this high. Is the prestigious standing a result of the leftover hypnosis of being in complete Potterworld for a week straight? Possibly. But as I was nitpicking my rankings of this list, I kept coming back to this point: there wasn’t a single bad movie in the entire collection. The first two don’t set the world on fire, but they are solid films. And unlike most franchises, the sequels actually got better and better instead of worse and worse. And because I did something I’ve never done with another franchise before, I have a bit of a bloggy bond with the boy wizard now.

Favorite moment of the series: The final hour of Prisoner of Azkaban. That’s when I realized that these films could actually be pretty darn good. Up until that point, I thought they were mildy enjoyable kiddie fare, more sophisticated than anticipated but also slow moving and meandering. Then Sirius Black reveals his true colors, professors turn into werewolves, Dementors do some serious life sucking on our hero, Hermione pulls a Doc Brown, and in mini-mystery fashion, Harry finally does something badass and saves his past self. If they would have just thrown in a gratuitous Dumbledore/McGonagall make out scene, that last hour would’ve been jam packed with everything you’d ever want to see in a Harry Potter movie.

Hottie Alert: Afshan Azad

My geeky confession: I’ve done a full 180 and gone from Harry hater to Potter proponent. Too many times to count, I was the guy who was bashing Harry Potter without even ever giving them a try. And in the week or two since I watched the movies back to back, I’ve run into a handful of people who dogged on the series upon hearing of my project. And instead of chiming in like I would have two weeks ago, I find myself coming to the support of Harry. Again, I need to reiterate, despite the high ranking, I’m not yet a full fledged fan.  My feeling that there were many meandering problems and lingering questions with the movies (that are apparently cleared up in the books) is still alive and strong. But there is no denying that I respect and admire the ambition, artistry and scope of the body of work.

Twitter status update: Whoa, big shoutout 2 @ProfessorSnape! Just saw him on MTV singing some song called “The Perfect Drug”! My Potions prof used 2 be a rock god!

9. Superman 

Superman (1978) – 9/10
Superman II (1980) – 9.5/10
Superman III (1983) – 6.5/10
Superman IV (1987) – 3/10
Superman Returns (2006) – 7/10

Why I love them so much: When I was growing up, the Superman movies were THE superhero movies. There were no Spider-Man flicks, no Batman films, no X-Men feature presentations. And there certainly weren’t any Iron Mans, Thors, Incredible Hulks, Fantastic Fours, Captain Americas, or Green Lanterns. And thank God, there weren’t any Daredevils, Ghost Riders, or Catwomans (although, 11 year old me couldn’t have cared less about a horrid script if it meant Halle Berry dressed in leather tights… I miss that guy). With apologies to the Toxic Avenger and (the very cool) Swamp Thing, for a child of the 80’s, the only true way to get your superhero fix via motion pictures was courtesy of the Man of Steel. And thanks to HBO’s Top 40 Radio-like rotation, anytime I needed a hit, I got my fix. So I fell in love with the original Christopher Reeve series. I don’t even care that the last two in the older collection were considered stinkers, once that epic theme song came on, I wanted to leap a giant building in a single bound.

Favorite moment of the series: Forget Lex Luthor, forget Zod, and for the love of all that’s holy, forget Nuclear Man. My favorite Superman villain on celluloid is Rocky, the bullying truck driver with an affection for roadside diners. Early on in Superman II, Clark has (stupidly) given up his powers for the love of a woman. Just wanting to enjoy some cheap scrambled eggs and pancakes with Lois, dorky Clark gets wailed on by flannel-loving Rocky. Fast forward to the end of the movie, and Supes has come to his senses and realizes that being Superman is awesome. Clark comes looking for revenge. He walks in proceeds to throw down some awesomely cheesy smack talk and annihilates Rocky, otherwise known as Huey Lewis on steroids, via the fastest spinning barstool in recorded fictional history. Astonished by the geek’s domination, the diner crowd sits stunned, to which Clark replies, “I’ve been working out.” Awe. Some.

Hottie Alert (for the ladies): Christopher Reeve

My geeky confession: Because of Superman and The Last Dragon (totally rad 80’s kung fu movie reference alert!), I used to think that catching bullets with your teeth was the most baddest thing ever. I kid you not, when I’d be playing Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers with my friends, when they shot me, I wouldn’t play dead like the other kids. When they’d say, in their little whiny voices, “I shot you!! You’re dead!!”, I’d reply, “I caught the bullet with my teeth!!”. I’d even actually make the physical motion of opening my teeth and clinching down on the incoming make believe bullets. Thanks, Superman, for making me the biggest Cops and Robbers cheater in 2nd grade recess.

Twitter status update: For all the idiot fanboys asking, yes, I would beat @TheBatman in a fight. It’s like asking who would win, Hercules or Inspector Gadget?

8. Toy Story

Toy Story (1995) – 9.5/10
Toy Story 2 (1999) – 9/10
Toy Story 3 (2010) – 9.5/10

Why I love them so much: Because I’m a human being with a functioning brain, funnybone, and heart. Seriously, if I have to explain to you why I love the Toy Story movies, you’re not the kind of person that I want hanging around my blog. I’m not even sure you’re a person, period.

Favorite moment of the series: When the credits rolled after the very first Toy Story film, which also happened to be the very first Pixar film. Why? Because it made me look like a prophetic genius. As soon as the cast and crew’s names appeared on the screen, I turned to my friend and said, “Animated movies will never be the same again.” Like I said… a genius.

Hottie Alert: Barbie (Toy Story 3)

My geeky confession: The Toy Story series turned me into a blubbering mess. Okay, saying you cried at the end of Toy Story 3 is like saying you woke up this morning and the sky was blue, the grass was green and Kristen Stewart is a wooden actress. All those things are just givens. But who has two thumbs and cried during a song about Woody’s girlfriend in Toy Story 2? This guy. (Cheap promotion time: the next list coming up after the Top 20 Franchises? The “Top 10 Movies That Shouldn’t Have Made Me Cry… But Did”).

Twitter status update: Our new owner just bought a singing Justin Bieber doll! WTF? Most. Annoying. Toy. Ever. #MissingAndy

7. Star Wars

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) – 9/10
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – 9.5/10
Star Wars: Episode IV – Return of the Jedi (1983) – 9/10
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – 8/10
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) – 5.5/10
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) – 8.5/10

Why I love them so much: I’m not a sci-fi guy or a fantasy freak. However, I am a movie historian. And there’s no denying that these films changed the entire landscape of moviemaking. But even if I didn’t account for my respect of its influence factor, the story of the galaxy far, far away would still occupy this spot. It’s the one sci-fi series that transcends all the geeky stereotypes and mystifies me with amazing storytelling, wonderful characters (and then there was Jar Jar), pioneering special effects, an always fun and inspired score, breathtaking action sequences, and a vivid mythology.

Favorite moment of the series: Alright, you’ve gotta admit that I’ve done a pretty good job of listing unexpected and underrated moments in this section of my list so far. So allow me one predictable, completely expected indulgence. I’m talking “Luke, I am your father” epic-ness here. Forget for a second how it’s totally played out and remember why it’s one of the all-time moments in movie history. This was before the day and age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection could read leaked spoilers on some random fan blog or find entire scripts on some message board. Five tiny words. One huge, worldwide nerd meltdown.

Hottie Alert: Natalie Portman

My geeky confession: The following was lifted straight from my Xanga page, circa Revenge of the Sith

Yes, that is me dressed as Darth Vader and my friend Larry as Chewbacca. And yes, those are paper plates on our faces… and a garbage sack on my back. Notice my light saber in the picture. It is broken because Larry and I let a couple of little girls that were sitting next to us borrow our sabers, and they had a battle that would make Obi Wan proud. Needless to say, though, the girl that borrowed mine lost, and my light saber was broken in half. Of course, my light saber was made of toilet paper rolls taped together and covered in construction paper, so the poor girl never had a chance. Hopefully, the movie theater people have cleaned up her dead body from the theater floor by now. It’s really distracting trying to watch a movie with a dead 10 year old just a few feet away from you. Oh come on– I’m just kidding of course!! It wasn’t that distracting.

Twitter status update: Tweeting I am. Bad actor Hayden is. Trillions of dollars Lucas has. Flunked 4th Grade English I did.

6. Godzilla

The entire Godzilla collection (1954-2004) – 8/10
*Excluding the horrid 1998 American remake. That film will go into my future “Biggest Movie Disappointments of All-Time” list.

Why I love them so much: A giant dinosaurish monster with spikes on his back who breathed fire and was played by an Asian man in a rubber suit. A five year old kid. You do the math.

Favorite moment of the series: I’m really tempted to list Godzilla training Baby Godzilla. (Seriously, shouldn’t I get a Blogger Gold Star for posting a PSA of a ferocious man-stomping monster training his adorable toddler monster to shoot fire out of his mouth, with the tyke only managing to blow out little smoke puff rings?) But alas, my favorite part of the Godzilla movies was always the thrill of watching a humongous monster fight another humongous monster. So imagine my delight when Godzilla faced off against… a robot Godzilla! Mechagodzilla, I salute thee.

Hottie Alert: Maki Mizuno

My geeky confession: I one time spent an entire hour arguing back and forth with a fellow monster movie fan on an online forum about the results and merits of King Kong vs. Godzilla. To this day, I am beyond angry that King Kong supposedly “won” the legendary battle of super-sized movie monsters. Ask anyone with any sort of knowledge of the two titans which one would truly win a cage match battle to do the death, and the consensus would undoubtedly be Godzilla. But in the most commercially successful film in the entire Godzilla collection, the moviemakers cheated for the oversized ape and gave him lightning power, or some stupid crap like that. The Tokyo Smasher and the Girl-Crazy Gorilla both fall into the ocean at the movie’s conclusion, and after a few suspenseful seconds, only Kong is seen swimming off. The American primate is proclaimed the winner, the Japanese reptile is thought to be the loser, and the half-Persian little boy is furious for the rest of his life.

Twitter status update: What up to my bros @King Ghidorah, @Megalon, and @Gigan. Fellas, let’s rent Land Before Time and peep it at @Mothra’s crib.

Coming up: Top 20 Movie Franchises of All-Time: #5 – 1

The Harry Potter Project: The Wrap Up


Wow. That was an intense five days and nights for me. My evenings were complete and full immersion into the Harry Potter movies. My days were a constant battle between working three jobs and doing what I really wanted to do, write Harry Potter reviews. My late nights were where the daytime reviews were polished off, with no pesky real job to get in the way. And it all culminated in my finally turning in my Harry Potter V Card after an insanely fun midnight showing of the final Potter flick, surrounded by what seemed to be a neverending line of devoted Potheads. (I took pictures with some of my favorites from that night and have interspersed them into this wrap up for your viewing pleasure.) The project was difficult to complete, but like Dumbledore says, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” So I did ask for help, and what do you know… they wrote this entire wrap up for me! Let’s see what they said I had to say!

How would I rank the movies, best to worst?
1. Deathly Hallows: Part 2
2. Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Half-Blood Prince
4. Goblet of Fire
5. Deathly Hallows: Part 1
6. Order of the Phoenix
7. Sorcerer’s Stone
8. Chamber of Secrets

Will I read the books? By far and away, this is the question that I’ve been asked the most since beginning this project and posting my reviews. I had never planned on reading the books (what a time investment! there’s 7 of them and they all look the size of Charlie Sheen’s little black book), but the resounding chorus of demands are starting to change my opinion. Starting to. And apparently, every single question or issue I’ve had with the movies is cleared up in the books, so that’s a bit of motivation (and frustration). My answer is… possibly. Or instead, I’ll answer this question with another question. The response to The Harry Potter Project has been enormous… if I were to do the same thing with the books, would you all come back and read my ramblings again?

 I was only scared that they would both useless character me to death.

Am I now officially a Harry Potter fan? This is a toughie. If your definition of a fan is just that I dig the movies, then yes, I am a fan. In my eyes, to be a true fan, you have to have years, or at least months or weeks, of emotional investment in something. Some time has to go by to let those connections to the material build and strengthen. Just like when Oklahoma City got our Thunder basketball team. I followed and supported them from Day 1, but it took some time, and some ups and downs and some emotional connection to the players, before I became a true fan, before I lived and breathed Thunder basketball. I think it’s the same way with movies, books, musicians or television. I will say this, when one of the cast members of these movies goes on to star in other projects, I will be interested in seeing them. And when a Harry Potter movie comes on TV now, I won’t be rushing hurriedly to turn the station to anything but Lifetime anymore. I imagine I’m gonna want to give the books a crack (yes, I said it) or rewatch the films at some point. For the true fans, after watching the last movie, I imagine you felt a great sense of sadness. Like this magical journey you’d been on for the past decade was over… and now what? What are you going to do with your life?! I understand because that’s how I felt when Lost came to an end. My theater was filled with the sounds of sniffles in the last few minutes, a result of the realization that there was never going to be any more Harry, Hermione, Ron and everyone else you’ve come to love so much. But for me, after I watched the final movie, I was more like, “Cool fight scene! Sooo glad Snape is a good guy! Man, what a week! Okay, let’s go to IHOP.” But I will say this: I’ve found myself thinking about the characters and pondering storylines even when I wasn’t in front of the TV or at my computer. So it’s started. I’ll put it this way: I’m not quite there yet, but the seeds have been planted for me to become a real fan.

Do I get the hype now? Yes. I undoubtedly have a newfound respect and appreciation for Harry Potter and the fans. All these years, I thought everyone was going gaga over some kids’ books about a nerdy little wizard. Little did I know how detailed and complicated J.K.’s world was, or how this nerdy little wizard was surrounded by so many wonderful characters. Or how he’s so much more than just a nerdy little wizard. I still feel like Harry Potter falls short when it comes to the iconic status achieved by the likes of Star Wars, only because that franchise has been around for so long and has stood the test of time, picking up new fans over several decades. But Harry definitely deserves his place among the cinematic giants, and his followers who have grown up with him deserve their place among film’s most ferocious fans.

Top 10 Characters (With 3 Word Descriptions of Why I Loved Them)
1. Hagrid- Simply the best.
2. Snape- Cinema’s biggest mystery.
3. Bellatrix- Killing is fun!
4. Sirius Black- Rebel, father figure.
5. Harry Potter- You wonderful boy.
6. Albus Dumbledore- A bad motherwizard.
7. Lord Voldemort – Straight up scary.
8. Hermione Granger- Voice of reason.
9. Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody- Grizzled, eccentric, tough.
10. Fred and George Weasley- Comic relief wiseguys.
** Honorable Mentions: Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood

How does Harry Potter stack up against other movie franchises? Well, I don’t want to spoil too much, because I have been inspired to post a list of my Top 20 Favorite Movie Franchises of All Time, starting tomorrow. I will say there were two recent movie phenomenons that I used to always make fun of (without watching, shame on me): Harry Potter and Twilight. Well, I’ve now seen them both. One of them I will stop making fun of, one of them I most assuredly will not.

 Me to my friend: “Hey, come take a picture of me with these nerds!”

My thoughts on Harry Potter and religion? I’ve worked in Christian radio (and other facets of the media, music and publishing industry) for over a decade now, and I remember when Harry Potter mania first started sweeping the world, some Christians were getting upset because they thought the books/movies supported witchcraft. I had heard that the characters used real witch incantations, that J.K. Rowling was a Wiccan, and that Harry Potter spelled backwards is the devil. I know that most Christians have now embraced the series and realized “oops, my bad”, but I thought I should at least touch on the subject. Well, as far as I can tell, the “real witch incantations” are just one or two words of Latin, J.K. Rowling actually grew up in church, and our schools are not in fact being overrun by wannabe witches. To me, the Harry Potter series was a classic tale of good versus evil, and the themes are as varied as friendship, loyalty, faith, perseverance, courage, sacrifice, hope and love. Sounds like another popular book I know.

Can you think of any reason how you could tie in a reference to a cheesy 80’s movie that you loved when you were a kid for the single purpose of posting a hilariously awful video? Why, yes. Yes I can. With all of Harry’s skill and pedigree, and despite being The Chosen One, he still never was able to pull off a magical spell nearly as awesome and powerful as Teen Witch. (You seriously need to click on that link. Do it. You’ll thank me. My blog will still be here when you get back.) Okay, you watch it? Now tell me how amazing it would have been if Harry would have put that spell on Hermione to impress Ron. We wouldn’t have had to wait until the 8th movie to finally see a kiss, I can guarantee you that.

How do the Harry Potter fans stack up against Lord of the Rings fans, Star Wars fans, etc.? This is something I really started to think about because of how encouraging, excited and, most importantly, patient, all the Harry Potter fans I’ve come across the past week have been to me. I’ve made some big boo boo’s (I posted an incorrectly labeled picture of Evanna Lynch in place of Geraldine Somerville for my first Hottie Alert… Luna showed up four movies later) and have had a few critical things to say (you may have seen the words “too long”, “meandering” or “drawn out” once or twice), but every single comment I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, appreciative and helpful. You guys have answered every question I’ve had. Fans of other sci-fi and fantasy giants are much more vicious when it comes to their beloved mythology. Star Trek fans get really ticked whenever you pronounce it “Star Track”, I can tell you that from first-hand experience. Multiple first-hand experiences. Rude nerds. Lord of the Rings fans tend to have a hint of elitism to them, as if their precious source material (see what I did there? precious? eh, nevermind) is so complex and high brow that the common folk just don’t get it. Condescending nerds. Star Wars fans blur the lines of fiction and reality because they spend so much time living in a galaxy far, far away in their mind. Textbook nerds. In my experience, Harry Potter fans have been amazingly… normal. Nonnerdy nerds. (If you’re a nerd and reading this, do not get offended. I’m a nerd myself, so I’m allowed to say the “n” word. Kinda like black guys.)

 O…M…G!!!!!!!!

Top 10 Scenes
1. Dumbledore vs Lord Voldemort.
2. The big Snape reveal (he’s good!!).
3. The entire last hour of Prisoner of Azkaban.
4. The graveyard scene: Voldemort’s transformation, Harry and Voldemort’s first battle.
5. Harry and Hermione’s tender conversation about heartache.
6. Tale of the Three Brothers and The Deathly Hallows (even if it seems pointless now).
7. Every single time Bellatrix is on screen.
8. Umbridge’s kitten plate scene (hate her, but love her taste in wall decor).
9. Hagrid gets cheered by everyone at Hogwarts (and by this blogger).
10. Harry steps up as leader, teaches his fellow students.

What’s my biggest complaint with the movies? I felt like there were way too many unexplained questions. I didn’t even list half of my lingering questions in my reviews. Those were just the one’s that really stuck out to me. Like clockwork, any question I had was met with an answer from a fan in the comments followed by the words, “It explains it in the books. You really should read the books when you’re done.” In all seriousness, thank you all for answering so many of my questions. You’ve been a huge help in filling in the details left out by the movies (or by my just plain not getting it). So what are a few questions I still have that I never mentioned and therefore still don’t have answers to? Okay, just off the top of my head… How was Sirius framed for the murder of the Potters when it was common knowledge that Voldemort did it? Whatever happened between Snape and Lily? How do the wizards keep all of this a secret from the Muggles when it seems like the whole thing is so huge? Is this all taking place on a fictionalized version of Earth, kinda like Batman and Gotham City, or is it supposed to be the real thing? Why was I supposed to feel strongly about the relationship between Harry and Ginny, when it wasn’t developed at all? Why is Draco completely useless? What’s up with the Defense of the Dark Arts position being a stepping stone for evil, lying teachers? How many pancakes can Hagrid eat at one sitting? What’s the most disgusting of all the Harry Potter jelly beans? Did Ron brush his teeth after throwing up slugs or did he go to bed with sluggy puke breath? Has J.K. Rowling ever been to a sporting event in her entire life?

 Hottie Alert: Yes, I’m talking about all three of us.

What’s your overall thoughts and reaction to The Harry Potter Project and the movies themselves? I’m so glad I did this. The pop culture nut in me can finally sleep well at night, knowing that I am now in the know on one of the biggest literary figures of the past century. And the overwhelmingly positive response to this blog was a huge added bonus that I didn’t see coming. The reaction I received from Potheads made it even more fun for me, and made the exhaustive timeline more bearable. (By the way, thank you again to everyone who has commented. I’ve read and appreciated every single one. And I plan on replying to all of them soon.) As far as the movies go, they far exceeded my expectations. I thought they might be a kiddish bore, but I was wrong on both counts. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed all the films. If I were to grade the entire series as a whole, I’d give it a very solid… 8/10.

Coming up next: Inspired by watching the Harry Potter series,
I will be posting my Top 20 Favorite Movie Franchises of All Time!
Will Harry make the list?

If so, how will he rank compared with the likes of Frodo, Luke, and Spidey?
Tune in tomorrow!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The Harry Potter Project

Professor Albus Dumbledore: Harry, you wonderful boy. You brave, brave man. 

The best thing about it: I felt like I didn’t just watch a movie… I experienced an event. I met my deadline and was able to see it at midnight, surrounded by passionate fans dressed up like everyone from Bellatrix (lots of them) to Hagrid (yay!) to a Golden Snitch (creative!), and they were just bursting at the seams. The fans’ excitement made my experience so much richer as a result. I’ve been to midnight premieres of all the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings movies, and on and on. But I’d never seen anything like this. Harry Potter fans very well may top them all. It’s like I got a contact high, and all of a sudden, I too was cheering when the Warner Brothers logo appeared on the screen and clapping and screaming any time one of our heroes did or said something awesome. I’m going to share more on my thoughts (and include pictures!) of the overall movie-going experience in my The Harry Potter Project: The Wrap Up tomorrow, but suffice it to say, I finally got a taste of Pottermania… and it was delicious.

What could have made it better: Before any Harry Potter fans get upset with what I’m about to say, let me preface it with this: I liked the final battle between Harry and Lord Voldemort. I did. It wasn’t as epic or grand in scale as Voldemort and Dumbledore’s battle, and I was a little bit bummed by that at first until I thought about it more. Dumbledore had over a hundred years of experience, and while Harry is amazingly talented, it was mostly still raw and untapped. So it was more like an arm wrestling match than it was some big spectacle of marvelous wizardly magic. It actually makes much more sense for Harry vs. Voldemort to be a power struggle, so given more time to dwell on the matter, I actually appreciate the restraint. My issue is this: Voldemort’s death was a wee bit anticlimactic. It’s what we’ve all been waiting to see for the past whole 5 days (okay, maybe some of you have been waiting slightly longer), and I wanted to lose my mind and tear the place down. I get it, all the Horcruxes had been destroyed, so he lost his power and just kind of faded away… it made sense. But I didn’t quite get the satisfaction I craved. I wanted one moment there in the end where I could cheer wildly. After the Bellatrix and Nagini kills, my audience was ready to go absolutely bonkers once Voldemort met his fate. But because of the (very beautiful) artistic way that he just kind of disappeared, there wasn’t that one big opportunity to jump out of your seat, pump your fists up in the air, and high five the random dude dressed like Lucius Malfoy sitting next to you.

Random thoughts: That first shot of the Dementors floating still in the sky, as if they were just stalking their prey, was fantastically eerie and the absolute perfect shot to set the tone and open this story. I was so impressed by this little 3 second shot that I turned to the friend sitting next to me and whispered, “remind me to include that shot in my review.” Well, the friend forgot to remind me, but thankfully I remembered. What a crap friend. Ron or Hermione woulda reminded me.

I have always been completely neutral about Professor McGonagall. As a matter of fact, I knew so little about her that I just had to look up her name. She was just “Maggie Smith” in my head. But she was so ridiculously awesome in this one. From her battle with Snape, to getting Harry’s back, to her cute excitement about finally being able to do that knights coming alive thing magic spell, she singlehandedly stole the show for a small portion of the finale.

I have to say it: the Deathly Hallows themselves seemed pointless. If you remember, I was wildly excited about the idea of someone collecting all three and becoming the Master of Death. I mean, come on, the final chapter of the story is named The Deathly Hallows, so I just assumed that they were going to be a game changer. But in the end, The Cloak of Invisibility didn’t even get mentioned again and Harry was so unimpressed by the Resurrection Stone, he just dropped it on the ground. It was all about the Elder Wand. So why not just call it Harry Potter and the Elder Wand?

Snape is good! Snape is good!!!! SNAPE IS GOOOOOOOOOD!!! (Imagine me doing a happy dance here, cause that’s how I felt.)

Without a doubt, the Snape tears in the water fountain thingy memory/flashback was my favorite part of the movie. The reveal and backstory were just glorious. It’s like that one scene tied it all together for me, and at the same time, finally lifted the veil on one of cinema’s all-time most mysterious characters (I have now officially given Snape this title). I know everyone else in the audience knew this reveal was coming, but for me, that’s the moment when I most wanted to cheer out loud.

Why does the Gryffindor Sword disappear and reappear randomly? And how come only a goblin can tell if it’s the true Gryffindor Sword or not? And most importantly, which would win in a Sword Tournament Final Four: the Gryffindor Sword, Excalibur, Rhindon, or the Sword of Omens? Sorry, my money’s on Lion-O.

I only half-cheered along with the crowd when Ron’s mom killed Bellatrix. Quite honestly, while it was fun to see sweet as pie Mrs. Weasley take out such a powerful villain, to me, it kind of betrayed the aura that is Bellatrix. She’s too badass to die at the hands of such a soft character. And again, like Sirius and Dumbledore’s deaths before her, it happened so quick. Judging from all the Bellatrix’s I saw in the audience, I’m not the only one with a thing for the brunette baddie. If it had to be a catfight, I would have preferred that Hermione take her out.

On the other hand, I whooped and hollered with the best of them when dorky cute Neville killed Voldemort’s slithering bestie.

Speaking of Neville, I haven’t once mentioned his name in this entire project, but now that it’s all said and done, I’m realizing what a wonderful character arc he’s undergone. I brushed him off as a throwaway supporting character in the beginning, someone just there to represent the token “nerd” in school. Little did I know he’d come into play in such a major way in the endgame. Revenge of the Nerds, indeed.

I loved how every single character that I’ve met over the past week had their individual moment to shine. I’ve mentioned by name some series-long characters in this review that I’ve never written about before. That’s how you wrap a story up: go back to the characters. They’re the reason fans fell in love with this story in the first place. Sure, the magic’s cool and all, but we fall in love with people, not potions. It reminded me of the Lost finale. Maybe not all the answers I wanted were given, but every character I loved made an appearance and an impact in the end.

So Harry Potter defeats Lord Voldemort in an epic battle. It’s what the entire series has been building towards. Every character in the movie has been scared to death for years now, and many of them had given up hope. The Dark Lord’s death pretty much just saved the universe. And Harry walks back into Hogwarts and… everybody’s just chillin’. Not even a, “What’s up, Har Dawg?”. No standing O. Just another Tuesday night at Hogwarts. What the?! No hero’s welcome?? Put the dude on your shoulders, throw a parade, have the Hogwarts glee club break out into an a cappella “We Are The Champions”, something!!

I gotta say, the 3D aspect was just ho hum. But I did score some pretty sweet Harry Potter spectacles out of the deal.

Confession time: I totally got caught up in the moment when Ron and Hermione finally did the deed, and I may or may not have cheered like a little schoolgirl.

I’ve been upset about the lack of Hagrid for a few movies now, and there still wasn’t nearly enough of my beloved gentle giant here. But I loved the role he played in being the one to carry Harry’s (supposedly) dead body back to Hogwarts. Even though I knew Harry had to still be living, it just felt so perfectly fatherly of Hagrid to care for Harry in that way.

While the 19 years later epilogue was all cute and made the story come full circle (old Draco: best Malfoy moment, ever, period), I left the theater a little perplexed. What’s Harry doing now? I figured he would take over the Dumbledore role and become Headmaster. He’s The Chosen One, so he’s gotta be doing something big and important, right? Right?! I mean, is Harry an assistant manager at Home Depot now, or what??

Hottie alert (Lifetime Achievement Award): Emma Watson

The Verdict: Now this is the nonstop, 100 miles per hour, thrilling conclusion that I was looking forward to all week. I didn’t know if they were going to be able to pull it off, but amazingly, they were able to answer most (but not all) of my essential questions, pack in lots of action, allow each character to have their moment, throw in a bunch of humor, maintain its dark mature tone, racket up the romance, and end it all with a rousing battle between good and evil. All series, I’ve been complaining about the movies dragging in places and being overly long, but my one complaint in this one is the complete opposite: I wish it could’ve gone a little longer. I mentioned in my Goblet of Fire review that if this series ever found the perfect balance of epic, cerebral storytelling and thrilling action-packed fun, it would be truly special. With Deathly Hollows: Part 2, they finally did it… and the results were pure magic. 9/10

Coming up next: The Harry Potter Project: The Wrap Up
(Overall thoughts on the series, I’ll rank the movies, make a Top 10 List of favorite Harry Potter characters, share my thoughts on Harry Potter fans, and more fun surprises!)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

The Harry Potter Project

Ron Weasley: Going somewhere? 
Harry Potter: No one else is going to die. Not for me. 
Ron Weasley: For you? You think Mad-Eye died for you? You think George took that curse for you? You may be the Chosen One, mate, but this is a whole lot bigger than that.

The best thing about it: Technically speaking, this was a near masterpiece. The film is beautifully shot and visually stunning (critics throw that catchphrase around too loosely, but here it is earned). Far and away, this is the most mature, emotional and “adult” Harry Potter flick. The darkness of the movie’s tone and emotion is matched by the art direction and cinematography. Just a gorgeous movie.

What could have made it better: If they would have hired an editor. Listen, I don’t mind long movies. The Godfather Trilogy are my favorite movies of all time, and each of them are at least 3 hours long. I don’t mind slow movies. I’m a regular at the indie theater in a nearby city that typically screens mindnumbingly slow foreign films. But even the movie elitist in me felt like there were far too many scenes that just dragged on forever, when they could have trimmed a lot of fat (camping out scenes, come to the front of the class, please). In a lot of ways, it felt like this film was just a big stretched out filler for Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I know it’s a journey, one that needs to be traveled to get to the eventual payoff. But man, does the journey have to be so dull?

Random thoughts: The idea of Hermione making herself disappear from her family’s memories was incredibly sad to me. It was like Eternal Sunshine of the Wizard Mind.

A midnight black owl just dropped an invitation in my mailbox to a Lord Voldemort dinner party! I already RSVP’d back with a “Oh, Hell no.”

In all seriousness, though, that Voldemort meeting with all the baddies table scene was pure yummy evilness. For the first time, I got an extended peek into the mind of the Dark Lord, and while terrifying, it’s kind of a fun place to visit.

The scene with multiple Harry’s was good fun. It reminded me of another multi-billion dollar movie franchise that featured a scene in a sequel of their hero showing up in many forms. But instead of seeming self indulgent and trying too hard to string the scene out while miserably and unsuccessfully playing it for laughs like this other unnamed franchise (it rhymes with My Bits of the Hair Lovey Bun), the multiple Harry’s served a purpose, made sense, and was cute, short and funny.

It’s about time I give some long overdue love to the entire Weasley family. They’re just a bundle of lovable fun, aren’t they?

Once Ron threw his locket-inspired fit of jealousy and rage, I was a little concerned we were going to dip into the temptation of love triangle waters. Thankfully, the dance that Harry and Hermione shared was more comforting love than it was secluded lust.

Oh, thanks, random doe (Mr. or Mrs. Potter, perhaps?) for bringing me just the sword I needed to destroy the locket! I gotta say, while I appreciate the gesture, it would have been nice if you could’ve just set it by the edge of the water instead of dropping it at the bottom of a frozen freaking pond!!

And since you’re in the giving mood, you mind bringing me the rest of the Horcruxes, the Elder Wand, and the stone that gives me Sixth Sense powers while you’re at it?

Harry’s face looked like the Elephant Man just got into a 12 round fight with Mike Tyson after Hermione zapped him. I find it hard to believe that Bellatrix and crew weren’t sure if it was him or not, considering his height, build, hair, and most of all, the company he was keeping. But it did lead to the only moment thus far where I’ve appreciated Draco at all. His silence in not identifying his long time rival was touching. (Although I sometimes think that Draco is incapable of making any sort of decision, good or bad, ever.)

In Chamber of Secrets, I thought Dobby was actually a bit annoying. But he came back with a vengeance in this one. He was heroic, rebellious, spunky, confident and surprisingly funny. As a reward, I’ll stop mentioning him in the same breath as Jar Jar Binks.

Surrounded by two other grown adults, I actually said, “Awwwww no, they can’t kill little Dobby!” in a raised tone. I’m a 34 year old man, and you made me say “awwwww” out loud, in a lovey dovey sad voice, in reference to a computer animated elf dying… kudos to you, Miss Rowling.

That said, see what happens when you actually take the time to let a death scene soak in, David Yates? It absolutely tears your audience up. It cracks me up, though, that they dwelled much longer on the death of a House Elf than Dumbledore or Sirius Black.

The tale of the three brothers and the Deathly Hallows: awesome. I loved the choice of showing that to us animation style. The story itself managed to create an incredibly enigmatic mythology and raised a hundred more questions for me in the matter of a couple of brief minutes. (What’s more important, having all three Deathly Hollows or destroying all of the Horcruxes? Is Harry’s cloak of invisibility THE cloak of invisibility?? How in the world are they going to find all three Deathly Hollows AND destroy the rest of the Horcruxes AND wrap up all the loose ends in one single movie??)

In what can’t be more than 10 minutes of actual screen time in the whole series, Bellatrix has managed to kill off both Dobby and Sirius Black. That’s an impressive deaths to minutes ratio, you evil hottie.

The final shot of Voldemort lifting the Elder Wand above his head, whilst standing over Dumbledore’s open casket, is easily the best movie ender of the series and has me completely jacked up for what I hope will be a thrilling conclusion.

Finally, let’s hear it for Daniel, Emma and Rupert. They showed off some serious acting chops in this one, especially our heroine. The trio and their emotional ties were at the forefront in this one, and these actors who started off with some rough edges in the first couple of movies have really matured and were able to pull off some emotionally complex scenes. I know I’ve only watched them act for 5 days now, and most of you watched them over the course of a decade, but I feel weirdly proud of them.

Hottie alert: Clémence Poésy

The Verdict: Flaws and all, this is a very good movie. It is. I think overblown expectations after the fantastic Half-Blood Prince and the anticipation of a nonstop, 100 miles per hour final chapter spoiled a little bit of the joy for me. It reminds me of the final season of The Sopranos. The first half of the season was slow and didn’t seem to be doing anything. But going through that enriched the final few episodes that much more, and the payoff was amazing. I’m hoping for the same with Harry. I’m torn here. On one hand, I feel like rating it as low as a 7, penalizing it for being so slow, meandering and, at times, just straight up boring. On the other hand, a part of me wants to rate it as high as a 9, rewarding it for kicking it up a notch in terms of acting and for being such a breathtaking feast for the eyes. I’ll settle on a happy middle. 8/10

Coming up next: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Harry Potter Project

Bellatrix Lestrange: Will you, Severus Snape, watch over Draco Malfoy, as he attempts to fulfill the Dark Lord’s wishes?
Severus Snape: I will. 
Bellatrix Lestrange: And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm? 
Severus Snape: I will. 
Bellatrix Lestrange: And, if Draco should fail, will you yourself carry out the deed the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform? 
Severus Snape: I will.

The best thing about it: I am completely befuddled as to whether Snape is good or evil… and I love it. I’ve flip flopped more than a Brett Favre retirement on my views of Snape’s soul. In all my years of watching movies, I can’t remember ever being so unsure about the intentions of a character. Sure, I’ve been surprised by twist endings or confused by character actions or motivations here and there, but the difference is that I’ve now watched 6 entire films and still have a better shot at guessing heads or tails than telling you if Snape is Dumbledore’s most trusted ally or if he’s Lord Voldemort’s BFF . Truly, J.K. Rowling has created one of cinema’s all time mysterious characters. And this movie is the one that hammered that point home to me. I am now more interested in and fascinated by Snape than any other character in the Potter universe (please forgive me, my dear Hagrid).

What could have made it better: If Dumbledore’s death would have hit me harder. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was shocked. I was ticked. I was confused. I was sad… kinda. But when all was said and done, I wanted to hurt more. Now maybe this wasn’t the film’s fault, or maybe it was, I haven’t really decided. Was it that I was so confused by what was happening leading up to his death (what’s going on with Draco? why isn’t Dumbledore fighting back?!?) and astounded when it happened that I just wasn’t able to process it all quick enough for those feelings to turn to grief and sorrow? Or was it that the Snape attack and subsequent Dumbledore fall lasted for only mere seconds before we cut away to shots of fleeing the scene and Beatrix destruction that I wasn’t able to soak it all in? For a movie series that seems to be long and drawn out in much less meaningful moments, it sure seemed to speed its way through what should have been the most dramatic and heart wrenching scene of them all. The few tears that Harry shed and the raised Hogwarts wands were tender touches, but I wanted more. Have Harry let out a raw roar of hurt, anger and anguish. Show pained reaction shots of those who loved him the most. Give me a long, still image of his lifeless body. Stop the music so that all our senses focus on the fallen master. This is the biggest moment we’ve experienced so far, it should feel big. Make me feel that pain.

Random thoughts: I can’t get enough of these memory flashbacks. Dumbledore and Tom Riddle’s first meeting was wonderful to eavesdrop in on. I really need one of those memory reading water fountains. Just to remember what I looked like back when I was a cute little tyke who was planting the seeds of becoming an evil mastermind one day.

I now present to you the winner of The Freakiest Harry Potter Moment Ever Award: random girl floating in the air with her arms raised, her head tilted back and her mouth wide open. That was an underwear checker. (Mine were only mildly soiled, for those who are curious.)

Of all the films so far, this one had to register the highest laughs per minute. My favorite line? Harry’s “Well, I am the chosen one” response to Hermione’s accusation about Asian hottie only liking him because of his status. Look at Harry with a little swag! Next thing you know, he’s gonna put out his first demo CD, “Witches and Hoes”.

Okay, Harry Potter fans, let this unbiased newbie settle the debate that has probably divided you all for years now: both Hermione and Ginny have nice skin, but Hermione’s is the fairest of them all.

Funny enough, in a movie that featured as its climax the death of arguably the most beloved of all characters, the most moving scene for me was the sweet talk that Harry and Hermione shared about the heartache of watching the one you love being with another. A beautiful portrayal of true friendship and teenage longing.

Awww… Harry took strange but sweet Luna to the dance. This Harry kid really does have a great heart. Either that, or he heard about those videos she had hidden down in the Chamber of Secrets.

Between Hermione and crazy stalker but crazy cute Lavendar Brown, Ron is scoring significantly higher on the hotties list than Harry’s lineup of Cho and Ginny.

Speaking of Lavendar, her little heart drawing in the hot air on the train scene made me fall in love with her. Ron, you mind sending that adorable little head case my way? If not, tell her to have an owl drop me a letter at Brandon@grabbagok.com.

Ron’s love potion crush was another highlight. Has anyone ever thought to try that one on Voldemort? He’s not gonna try to kill Harry Potter if he’s in love with him. Tell me you wouldn’t pay to see the Dark Lord standing outside Harry’s window with a boombox over his head, blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”.

It’s official: I am going to kill a baby House Elf.

Hottie alert: Elarica Gallacher

The Verdict: I guess this was the romantic comedy with a horror twist edition of the Harry Potter series. Oddly, The Half-Blood Prince was probably the most light hearted film thus far, but at the same time possibly the darkest film thus far as well. I would wager a guess that Harry Potter fans (is there a name for them, by the way? may I suggest “Potheads”?) are pretty divided on this movie because it tries to be so many things at once. It may be a surprise coming from someone as critical as I am, but I actually think they did a fantastic job of balancing the romance with the dark, foreboding tone. For the first time, I can actually say that I laughed, I (almost) cried, I peed my pants. 8.5/10

*Note: Thank you to everyone who has left me a comment so far. I really love the feedback. The response to this project has been very encouraging, and I truly appreciate it.

Coming up next: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1