The end is near, for Harry Potter and his gang.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth movie to be based on J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular books, and like all the previous sequels, it is darker and more mature than the instalments that have preceded it.
But there is only one book left to be adapted, and so this film is filled with a sense that things are coming to a head. Secrets are revealed, the nature of the evil Dark Lord Voldemort’s futile plan to cheat death is finally spelled out, and the film ends on a major cliffhanger that will set the story spinning towards its inevitable climax.
The best thing about the film is the way it finally – after all these years – gets Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) right, giving the Hogwarts headmaster just the right mix of absurdist whimsy, personal authority and startling vulnerability. Also very good is Jim Broadbent, the actor hired to play Horace Slughorn, the new potions professor.
But the film is regrettably lacking in other areas. There is very little spectacle, for one thing; in an odd way, it feels like one of those small character-based British dramas, except that there happen to be lots of visual effects in the background. And yet, ironically, the film pays very little attention to the supporting characters who have given this series some of its best grace notes.
While some major plot twists do transpire in this film, it feels strangely inert, and lacking in momentum. Hopefully, the powers that be will fix this problem when they adapt the seventh and final book – and bring the story to what should, by rights, be a stirring conclusion.
• • •
The release date has changed a few times, but as of this writing, a movie based on the true story of an Iranian woman who was stoned to death in the 1980s, shortly after the rise of the ayatollahs, is set to open in Vancouver-area theatres July 31.
The Stoning of Soraya M. is written and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, an American of Persian descent, and it features many Iranian actors in its cast – including Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was Oscar-nominated several years ago for House of Sand and Fog, and has since had prominent supporting roles in films like The Nativity Story.
But the film also marks the reunion of a few people who collaborated on The Passion of the Christ, including producer Steve McEveety, co-star Jim Caviezel (who plays the real-life French-Iranian journalist who first reported this story) and composer John Debney.
What is more, the new movie also has some narrative parallels to The Passion, since it, too, is set in the Middle East and revolves around an innocent victim whose slow, torturous execution is portrayed in brutal, harrowing detail.
My interview with McEveety and Caviezel is up at ChristianityTodayMovies.com.
I also posted a couple of ‘bonus quotes’ at my blog, in which McEveety talks about some of the other films he is working on, including: Left to Tell, which concerns the ‘spiritual warfare’ behind the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; and Snowmen, a family film written and directed by Rob Kirbyson, a UBC film-school graduate who happens to be a Christian.
• • •
Speaking of Kirbyson, his short film Ctrl Z, which played at the local film festival last year, has been picked up by NBC and turned into a series of short webisodes, all written and directed by Kirbyson himself. Check ‘em out online at NBC.com/ctrl.
• • •
Kevin Miller must like controversy.
Last year, the Abbotsford-based screenwriter, occasional actor (he played Lex Luthor in an episode of Smallville) and sometime BC Christian News contributor, co-wrote the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – which provoked a lot of debate about creationism, evolution, intelligent design and the social ramifications thereof.
And now, this year, he has a new documentary coming out that just might offend some of the conservatives who rallied to his previous film’s defense. It’s called With God on Our Side, and it’s about Christian Zionism – a theology which, as Miller puts it at his blog, leads “some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians. This leads to great suffering for Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike, and threatens Israel’s security as a whole.”
The film, he adds, “suggests that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favour one people group over another – but instead, promotes peace and reconciliation for Jews and Palestinians.”
The filmmakers hope to release the movie sometime later this year. You can watch a trailer and read a bit of info about the film at its website, WithGodOnOurSide.com.