Harry Potter – the good, the bad and the downright silly

I am probably in the minority again, but up until this year I have never read or watched any of the Harry Potter books or movies. But I finally decided to give them a try and I can safely say that the books are far better than the movies, especially from Azkaban. I have watched all the movies and am working on finishing the last two books, so sorry if I miss anything obvious in the 3 lists I’m about to present. Also, it will be a crossover between the books and the movies, which will become evident once we delve into the bad stuff.

I figured I’d list 5 of each in this post, so let’s kick this off.

THE GOOD

1. The very colorful universe

Truthfully, wizards and witchcraft are two subjects which have been used again and again in both cartoons and live action movies, but rarely does a universe have so much flavor and color as this one. From the original feel of the spells, due to the fact that they have different names than the classical ones, mostly Latin based to the large variety of colors and gimmicks such as house ghosts, magical and mythical creatures, which all have a role in the story, it’s truly a trip to a very magical place.

2. The power of friendship

This becomes even more evident starting with The Goblet of Fire, when Harry tells Cedric about the dragons and Cedric returns the favor with the whole golden egg hint. In Order of the Phoenix it jumps to the next level with the DA meetings and the final battle, where it’s not just Harry, Ron and Hermione, but many others including the adults from the Order.

3. The school nostalgia trip it takes you on

This one’s self explanatory, right? I mean you can’t help but feel nostalgic about your school years when watching this and as I’ve said in a previous post, the school years are actually some of the more important years in one’s life and are definitely filled with moments you will be remembering forever.

4. Minerva McGonagall

The adults at Hogwarts are kind of irresponsible most of the time, aside from Minerva McGonagall. She seems to be the only one that cares about student integrity (and I mean both physical and mental integrity), the only one that suggests Harry skip the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the one that protects the students when the Death Eaters take over etc. Plus, she stands up for her house students, but in a fair way (see also Snape for the exact opposite of this)

5. The wisdom of Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore made a few mistakes along the way, but most of the time he seemed like this wise old teacher you kind of wished you met during school. The one that was able to guide you through any and all challenges you might face and one of the few teachers not proud enough to admit he made a mistake (in Order of the Phoenix).

Now that we have the good out of the way, it’s time to look at the less successful parts of this franchise.

THE BAD

1. The Hogwarts curriculum (at least in the movies)

Seriously, it’s like these guys don’t learn anything useful…kind of like real life school to be honest. This is more evident in the movies though. Especially when Dobby dies. Is there NO spell that could mend his wound? Maybe it’s explained better in the books, as I’ve said, I still have 2 to go, but still…where are other useful spells for drying clothes when under water or ANY spells to protect themselves from jinxes?

2. Harry’s inability to do ANYTHING without help

For a main character, Harry is quite incapable of doing anything without some sort of help. Let’s take it movie by movie. In the Sorcerer’s Stone he manages to defeat Quirell because of Voldermort’s inability to touch him without burning, so there is that. But in Chamber of Secrets he goes into the Chamber without so much as a rock to his name in order to defend himself and has to rely on some sort of ex-machina in the form of Fawkes. In Azkaban he would have been screwed without Hermione and Albus Dumbledore. In Goblet of Fire, he would have been screwed without Hermione again (the summoning charm) and also without Hagrid, Cedric and fake Moody. While Fake Moody makes sense, as it was in his interest for Harry to win, the others…well, you get the idea. In Order of the Phoenix I get that the Order was needed because there were so many Death Eaters who had ambushed them at the Ministry. In the Half Blood Prince there wasn’t really anything he could do, Snape would have overpowered him easily should he have interviened. And in Deathly Hallows, he once again would have been screwed had it not been for Hermione.

3. The irresponsible adults

Seriously, apart from Minerva, every other adult is like: “meh, they’re kids and they’re dealing with things that even adults have trouble in mastering, what could go wrong?”. See any and all actions from Azkaban and beyond.

4. The incompetence of the Ministry of Magic

Seriously, J.K.Rowling must have really hated the Ministry when she was a teacher to have them portrayed as a bunch of buffoons with no grasp on reality. This is really evident in Order of the Phoenix (especially in the book, not so much in the movie), with Umbridge being the lead singer of the incompetence band.

5. The insane amount of info cut from the books in the movies post Chamber of Secrets

This really bugged me, because if you are a person who just wants to watch the movies, you’ll get really confused from Azkaban and beyond (more on that below).

And now, let’s lighten up with some of the more silly aspects I have noticed.

THE SILLY/FUNNY

1. The unbelievable confusion created in the movies by leaving out important aspects from the books

Examples include Hermione asking Hagrid about the Buckbeak meeting result even though no meeting was mentioned before that, Neville randomly finding the Room of Requirement without people realizing why it would be needed, Remus’s son being mentioned even though you don’t really know who he had the son with (I mean, you kinda sorta get that it’s Tonks, but without no focus on it, it’s a shock), the random wedding at the beginning of Deathly Hallows even though you hardly knew Bill and Fleur were a thing.

2. Hermione’s hormonal rage in The Half Blood Prince (the movie)

I’m actually looking forward to see if this is a thing in the book, but I found her reactions to Lavender and Ron’s fling funny…and annoying at the same time. Lavender likes Ron, she goes and kisses him. You like Ron, you sit there sulking HOPING he realizes you like him without doing a thing and then get a hissy fit…flawless logic.

3. Filch dancing with his cat at the Yule Ball

I don’t think there is anything more to say about this.

4. The portrayal of Dolores Umbridge in…most of her scenes

In the book, Dolores Umbridge is the kind of person you want to strangle, beat with a bat and then strangle her some more until her annoying “ahem, ahem” sound becomes “choke, choke”. She was a sadistic teacher who enjoyed taking everything from students and who got drunk on power. In the movies she’s just…I dunno, nothing special. I mean yeah, she takes over Hogwarts but you don’t actually feel her enjoyment of torturing students. And the satisfaction of Hermione leading her to the centaurs is all but gone.

5. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named doesn’t really do anything that villainy up until the last movie (somewhat true also for the books)

Let’s sum up this guy’s adventures after Harry was born. He failed to kill a toddler, failed to kill the same toddler when he grew up to be a kid because of the same curse that backfired on him when the kid was a toddler, spends another almost 3 books getting back to his human-ish form, fails to kill the same kid AGAIN, this time in front of his groupies, fails to kill the same kid AGAIN at the ministry, gets rid of the only one he ever feared, fails to kill the kid AGAIN at the beginning of Deathly Hallows (the movie), gets the wand of his greatest threat which is the most powerful wand ever and fails to kill the same kid AGAIN! And to top it all off, he ends up getting killed by the same kid along with his friends. And seriously, after Harry was born, what does this guy do? Sure, he kills that old man in the beginning of Goblet of Fire (although I’m not sure if it was him or Wormtail), but most of the dirty work is done by his minions. I get why the people who fought him before Harry was born might be scared, but he doesn’t seem to do…anything. And funnily enough, after he thought he killed Harry, instead of going full psycho on everyone, he starts gloating!

So yeah, this is a bird’s eye view I have on this universe. I might end up reviewing the movies and books separately, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

Sometimes, movies should just be fun

Another entry in my medium-sized list of things that annoy me is comprised of any and all movie critics who have no idea what they just watched. No, I am not talking about the Nostalgia Critic, Jeremy Jahns or Chris Stuckman, who, while making a living out of this, seem to grasp the movies they’re reviewing much more than actual movie critics who end up bashing a movie for the dumbest of reasons.

Now I get that constantly looking for flaws is their way of life, as sad as it may be. But I’ve been constantly baffled by the lack of understanding some of these guys seem to have for movies based on comic books, video-games or other assorted sources. During this weekend I went to the cinema and saw Power Rangers. Granted, I don’t know what the reviews for this movie are, I’ll probably go and check them out afterwards but I can almost guarantee that there will be someone out there, proffesional or not, who is going to comment on how the dialogue is cheesy, the story is predictable and the characters are bland. I enjoyed the movie for what it was because it knew what it wanted to be: a popcorn flick meant to raise some fun feelings of nostalgia of back in the day when people watched Power Rangers as kids. The costumes were awesome, the CGI was very well used and I had a really good time watching it, which is exactly what I wanted from such a movie.

But since I didn’t check the reviews for this one, let’s take another example: Need For Speed. This movie came out in 2014 and critics slammed it. Want to know if I enjoyed it? Hell yes. I went into the movie expecting a cheesy story, an over the top bad guy, fast cars, police chases, cool scenery and lack of any logical physics. And I got exactly that, plus the added comedy of Tobey’s crew.

I enjoyed the movie because it was as faithful as it can be to the source material. However, critics, most of them anyway, seem to have never played a Need for Speed game their entire life. I’ve played just about every single Need For Speed game from 1997 to 2014 and I would have been so dissapointed if they tried to transform this movie into some weird-ass character development story arc, when the games are the exact opposite. Sure, it might have been a bit slow at times, but other movies tend to do that as well, you can’t have action sequences all the time without people getting exhausted.

And sure, it’s very cool to not like a movie, beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. But, for the love of movies, check the damn source material before watching it. Otherwise, you end up making a bloody fool of yourself when all you can gather as flaws to a movie are things that, if you KNEW the source material, would realise make sense (like people saying that Aaron Paul went for James Dean but ended up as Steven Seagal…what does that even mean?). Seriously, what’s next, critics going to a Marvel movie and complaining there are super heroes in it?

The most important part of a story

I originally planned this to be a top 5 list of abysmal movies or TV show endings, but…I couldn’t come up with 5. I realize I’m not that much of a movie goer. So I’ve decided to expand on the theme and talk about the most important part of a story, be it in movie form, TV show form or written form. And in my view, that part is of course the ending. Be advised, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Did you ever find yourself actually liking a movie with a bad ending? I’ve never heard anyone say “well, the ending sucked but the 30 minutes in the middle were the best ever!!!111”. Ok, I might be paraphrasing a little bit, but seriously, a bad ending ruins a movie way more than people give it credit for.

It’s like Johnny Depp’s character Morton Rainey said in Secret Window. The most important part of a story is the ending, because, being the last act of it, it also represents the last impression that people walk out of said story or movie.

Take Law Abiding Citizen for example. You’re telling me Gerard Butler’s character was so arrogant he didn’t think of a backup plan should his hideout be discovered? Total nonsense, given how he outwitted EVERY SINGLE FREAKING PERSON OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM HE CAME ACROSS!! I’ve read somewhere that the ending was changed from Gerard Butler winning to Jamie Foxx winning, but honestly, it was for the worst.

And what about How I Met Your Mother? This long-ass sitcom turned…something weird…during the last 2 or 3 seasons was teasing us with the mother for so long and took us to one of the most interesting character development stories of recent years only to take the most giant of s**t on everything in the end. I mean come on, why in God’s name would you go through all the trouble of having Barney transform from playboy to reliable husband, giving The Playbook to the next generation, only to have him revert to his original form? Awesome writing guys. And killing off the mother so Ted can go and be with Robin, a thing that has NEVER worked time and time again…once again, awesome writing guys. No wonder there’s an alternate ending.

Speaking of Secret Window, some people hate the ending because of the somewhat unnecessary twist. I for one enjoyed it, it was a nice case of split personality with the person now being aware of his multiple personalities. Kind of like the movie Split, but with Morton not being aware of what he is doing until it was a bit too late.

I can almost guarantee the a bad ending makes a rating of 10 go down to 7 or 8 if you’re lucky. If someone is really pissed, he’d give that show a rating even lower than that. And all because of 10 to 15% of the entire thing. I’m not saying an ending should always be happy. Sometimes sad or bittersweet endings work. A good example of a very very horrifying ending was the movie Sinister, but it actually worked for the movie as a whole. I still get a bit creeped out when I think of it.

People look for closure in everything they do, it’s a human need, not basic, but very frustrating when you don’t have it. Why do you think people obsess over past lovers? Because they didn’t get the sense of closure from it, almost certainly because of the fact that they wanted it to go on, but the other person didn’t. It’s the same with movies and stories. People want them to have an ending, an ending that fits the series of events as a whole, be it happy, sad or nightmare inducing.

Open endings in books and movies (and music, sort of)

I have seen movies with open endings, I have read books with open endings (and to link it with music, I’ve listened to songs the fade out towards the end). And I came to the realization that I hate open endings. I don’t know if it’s because of the human need for closure or because of the fact that I consider this as the lazy man’s way of ending something, but I don’t like them at all.

I don’t get why people do it. There was this episode from House M.D. where House was obsessed over a series of books and the author of those books becomes his patient for the episode. And when the last book of the series comes out, House is pissed because the ending is open. And the author gives him a pretty cool reason for it, something along the lines of “isn’t life actually a series of events with open endings where you can’t know for sure what happens?”. House sort of accepts this answer, but still seems pissed about it.

And I feel his annoyance towards this issue. I don’t like open endings and of the two reasons mentioned in the first paragraph, if I am going to be completely honest with myself, the fact that I find it as lazy writing is more proeminent than the human need for closure. Open endings are easy, simply because you don’t have to actually resolve anything. You just leave it in the air and let people theorize the sh*t out of it. And I guess if you’re a fan of theory and maybe have a knack for philosophy or enjoy these kind of discussions, these endings are for you.

But imagine, if you will, the movie The Dark Knight Rises had it ended with Batman carrying the bomb and Blake looking into the distance after him and then BAM! roll credits. If that had happened, I’d have been so annoyed I’d have considered it the worst of the 3 from the trilogy. As it stands, it’s my favorite, though maybe not necessarily the best one. A more recent-ish movie that comes to mind with an open ending is The Judge, with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. I actually enjoyed the movie and, for once, wasn’t really that annoyed with the fact that the ending is rather open to discussion. Does he stay in his hometown to become a judge? Does he leave his apparently cheating wife and failing marriage in order to be together with his childhood sweet heart? No one knows. I mean I know it works in movies like Inception, in which the whole idea is based on whether or not all of that is a dream or not, but…most movies are NOT Inception.

Speaking of Batman, the guys over at Rocksteady pulled this open-ending crap with the final installment in the Arkham game trilogy, where after you have to endure those stupid, sadistic, abusive, f***ing tank battles and Riddler challenges, you get to see the full ending of the game which…SOLVES NOTHING!! I mean is it Batman? Is it some comic book direction they’re taking? Will we get a Superman game as semi-hinted through some Easter eggs from the Arkham Knight that will solve the mistery? I’m hoping for a spinoff game or series, but nothing was confirmed, as far as I know.

And music wise? Come on, is it really that hard to find a bloody chord or note to finish the song on? I’ve always interpreted this as the artist saying “meh, don’t know how to finish this one, so just keep playing for a few more seconds and then we’ll fade it out to make it seem more artsy”. In the words of Kimi Raikkonen: “BWOAH!”.

So yeah, I can safely say that I am not a fan of not having closure to something. You may feel differently and that’s fine, but I like having a conclusion to a story, be it one I like or not.

5 things that annoy me in sitcoms

Sitcoms are shows which are easy to get right and even easier to get wrong. You basically have a set of characters, most of them very one-dimensional, and put them through a series of events, more or less unfortunate, so we can laugh at them and forget about our miserable jobs and lost dreams for 30 minutes.

And as much as I love sitcoms, there are a few recurrent themes which I see in most of them and some are really irritating. And I am now going to list 5 of them:

1. The semi-dysfunctional family

You know why I like The Middle? Because it shows us the events that a mother of 3 has to go through in her life, juggling between a very narcissistic and self-obsessed son, a very zealous daughter and a socially estranged little son, all with a smile and somehow being able to instill some guidance as to where they should end up in life. And it shows that it’s not easy, and it’s ok to have doubts.

And on the other hand you have the Harper family in Two and a Half Men, every family except for the Gellers in Friends, Barney’s family in How I Met Your Mother and so on. It’s ok to have some tension between some family members, but to have so many of them divorced/slutty/etc. (Evelyn Harper, Judith Harper, Rachel’s mom if I remember correctly in Friends) is just tiresome at times.

2. The womanizer guy

Seriously, it’s like every other sitcom has this guy. You have Charlie Harper, Barney Stinson, Joey Tribbiani, Russell Dunbar etc. I guess it’s an easy gimmick to go to, but…I don’t know, maybe it’s because I can’t identify with such characters given that I was never the womanizer guy in school. It’s less annoying than the first one, but it tends to get old real fast.

3. Less than stellar work attitude for the main characters

One thing Friends did ABSOLUTELY brilliant is show the struggle that some people have with their jobs and also show that if you have the correct attitude and you fight for the job you want, you will get it, even though I still don’t get how they kept their jobs considering that they hung out at Central Perk so much. But there are other shows, such as King of Queens which portray their characters as being way too in their comfort zone and with no will to act in order to improve their status. And while I’ve met complacent people, it’s really not a good thing to portray this as a good thing, even if you use it as humor. But if that humor only results in the character going back to his comfort zone…you get the idea.

4. Promiscuity, both male and female

You have Seinfeld, in which Jerry is dating a different person every other episode. You also have Friends, where Joey and Rachel seem to be going through different partners every other 2 or three episodes. And don’t even get me started on Ted Mosby… I’m not saying pick the first guy or girl you meet and get married, but seriously, tone it down a bit.

5. Weird and questionable social etiquette and values

Seinfeld leads the way at this chapter, but in the end they actually get punished for it, by being sent to jail. You also have other examples, with the whole bro code and Barney’s playbook, Ross’s overreaction when seeing Joey and Rachel, because…reasons. And you also have this weird marriage like thing in King of Queens, where Carrie bosses Doug around and forces him to not go to some places because SHE hates the guys there. And of course, there will always be Al Bundy. At least Al has these amazing philosophical speeches when not behaving or doing questionable…anything.

So there it is, my list of 5 annoying things in sitcoms. I’m not saying that sitcoms are bad for showing us these things, it’s just that they seriously need to combine them with other situations as well. These same old routines tend to get boring at times.

I never wanted friends like the ones from F.R.I.E.N.D.S

If you listen closely, you can hear the angry mob coming and if you look closely, you can also see their torches and pitchforks.

Before I delve into the topic, let me get this out of the way: I liked the show FRIENDS. I think I’ve seen the entire series at least 4 times thanks to the endless reruns. And I still watch it if I have nothing better to do and it’s on TV. And even though it’s one of the more longer running sitcoms out there, it managed to stay pretty good until the end.

That being said, one topic of conversation I’ve seen in some online discussions is people saying they wished they had friends like the ones in the show. And I actually never got this, for a number of reasons, which I shall now list:

1. Too much drama in their lives

Seriously, at times it seems all they do is gossip and complain about their love lives. And they seem to be going through lovers like socks, especially in the earlier seasons. From Monica’s rant about “why wont’t I be married when I’m 40”, to the whole “we were on a break”, to other moments such as Ross’s reaction to seeing Joey and Rachel kiss, Joey’s reaction to Chandler kissing Kathy or whatever her name was (granted, he did go behind his back), Monica freaking out over Chandler sharing an office with that Wendy girl…you see where I’m getting at? I can barely handle social media meltdowns which happen only every 2 or 3 months. To be surrounded by such levels of drama on a daily basis would be unbearable.

2. They spend WAY too much time together

I don’t have a lot of friends. To that extent I sympathize with the characters, since being selective of your company is actually a good thing. That being said, aside from talking on Facebook with them every now and then, I also try to maintain a healthy amount of time spent in my own company. These guys spend un awful amount of time together. And I sometimes wonder how they can handle it. It seems a bit unnatural to be able to spend that much time with the same group of people without it leading to arguments, fights or pure boredom.

3. They are, save for maybe 2 of them, annoying to be around with

Drama aside, these people, or most of them anyway, would be a pain to hang out with. For example, Monica’s constant obsession with winning all the time would normally make non-competitive people (which aside from MAYBE Ross, all of them are) actively avoid here. Hell, Marshall Goldsmith has a list of 20 defects which cause you to fail to advance in your life. Take a wild guess as to what is the very FIRST one. The need to win in every single situation in life is the answer to that riddle.

Moving on to Chandler, his jokes are funny, but at times you just need to shut up, otherwise you end up seeming like a rude person, which, to be honest, he is at times. He can’t seem to have a conversation without poking fun at the person he’s talking to. That being said, he would be on the list of people I’d like to hang out with from the cast.

Monica and Phoebe are kind of meh. I mean they’re not all bad, but they’re not all good either. Monica is actually a pretty decent person when she’s not obsessed with winning. That doesn’t happen a lot though, but when it does, she does seem to be a nice person. Phoebe is more of the same, only instead of winning, I find her constant need to shove her beliefs down one’s throat a bit tiring. Guess it’s about luck when you’d meed either of them. Thouugh Monica’s winning obsession, as I’ve mentioned before, might be one of the most annoying character flaws a person could have.

Ross is possibly one of the most arrogant fictional or real characters I’ve ever seen. That being said though, he does have a PhD, which is NOT an easy feat, even though he gets mocked by his friends for it. While his arrogance renders him very puncheable in the face at times, I’d much rather spend my time with him, mostly because in some ways I am a geek myself.

And finally, we have Joey and Rachel. Out of the main cast, these are quite possibly the worst beings to be around with, for a variety of reasons. If you’re a guy, then standing anywhere near Joey while in a bar would almost guarantee that he’d walk away with the girl while you’d just drown yourself in drinks out of sorrow. Plus, there are his insecurities. For all his alpha male-ness, he’s surprisingly scared of anything that would embarass him too much (the scene with the eyebrows comes to mind). As for Rachel, if you ask a guy “hey, wanna date a selfish spoiled brat who constantly needs to be the center of attention and starts crying like a baby every time things don’t go her way and will actively try to ruin you with mixed signals because she can’t bloody decide if she wants you or not?”, more often than not the answer would be no.

And there it is, more or less sound reasoning why I try to avoid being around people who model their lives after fictional characters.

DCEU shortcomings

One of the most pointless things I see people start arguments over is the neverending debate of who is better: Marvel or DC? The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or the DC Extended Universe (DCEU)? I mean it’s ok to have an opinion either way, but to actually get worked up about it is…funny to me I guess, but in the end it be pointless, y’arr.

That being said though, in my opinion the MCU is, at the moment, far better than the DCEU. And I can’t say I am a Marvel fanboy, since my favorite hero was, is and always will be Batman. The MCU does have a head start to the DCEU, and the guys at Warner don’t seem to realize this when they make these super hero movies.

There are a few shortcomings with these movies, but the most important ones are the following, in my view:

  • weak scripts – having watched Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I can safely say that, while I am not as adamant as other people, something was lacking from the script. I don’t know if it was the action scenes, or if they tried to hard, or both, but something was lacking. Man of Steel was incredibly slow, Batman v Superman had the most bizarre of reasons for Batman to stop fighting Superman, Suicide Squad had an identical villainous plan to that of Zod. And don’t even get me started on Lex Luthor. And I don’t watch their TV shows because frankly, they don’t seem all that attractive.
  • characters with no background – ok so you know how before the first Avengers movie, you had movies for Thor, Captain America, Iron Man (with 2 movies here actually), Hulk while other important characters such as War Machine, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D etc were introduced in this movies so you already got accustomed to them when the first Avengers came? Well, you don’t have that in the DCEU. I mean, Man of Steel told us about Superman’s origin and in Suicide Squad they threw in a little bit of an origin story for Harley Quinn and Deadshot I guess, but the other characters are…bland. I don’t know anything about them, nor where they came from, nor why I should care about them. And before you say “yeah, but it’s in the comics/tv shows/other source material”…re-read the beginning of this rant. Justice League is coming out next year and the only heroes we know a little bit about are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, who will get a move before JL if I remember correctly.
  • bad character interpretation – I tried to like Lex Luthor but I didn’t. I definitely tried to like the Joker, but he was disgusting, annoying, over the top…plus they got the realtionship between him and Harley wrong. Need I say more? The only good character from the DCEU is Ben Affleck’s Batman. And Wonder Woman seems to have potential.
  • overuse of CGI – I think this speaks for itself. These movies rely too much on CGI for EVERYTHING related to villains. Go re-watch all of the 3 movies mentioned and you’ll know what I mean

What I’m trying to say is that Warner is rushing these movies way more than it should. The guys at Marvel didn’t come this far by rushing everything. They took their time and are now reaping the rewards. I know that there is a slight chance this movie genre might start to lose its aura, but is this really the best these guys can do? Only time will tell.