Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Has the same strengths and weaknesses as the other Harry Potter movies. The writers and director have done an admirable job of trimming the bloat that made this the worst Harry Potter book, but it is still too full of plot. There is still too much skimming over events.
On the plus side, the cast of quality British supporting actors grows ever larger, with Imelda Staunton excellent as the series’ best villain: the pink-clad, kitten-loving and vicious Dolores Umbridge. The special effects are top draw, with the climatic duels perhaps the best action in the increasingly dark series.
The Lives of Others
Set in East Germany in 1984, this is a riveting, slow-burning portrayal of an East German playwright and his partner under surveillance from the secret police. The acting is magnificent, particularly the man playing the head of the investigation. Grey haired, wearing grey clothes, working in grey offices, he is a man without a life of his own, and becomes absorbed in the lives of those he is watching. Nearly as great as Pan’s Labyrinth, which it upset for Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Blades of Glory
Hilarious mockery of figure skating, starring Will Ferrell and John Heder from Napoleon Dynamite as rivals turned partners. Some very cool figure skating scenes too, and a romance that – unusually for these sort of films – works. A cut above the usual Ferrell-Stiller-Owen comedy.
A nostalgia trip for we children of the 1980s and, if you disconnect your brain, a lot of fun. As you’d expect from Michael Bay (Pearl Harbour, Armageddon, The Rock) it’s all about machines that make things go bang and things going bang. Except for the likeable hero, the human characters are pretty forgettable, but the CGI alien robots aren’t. Some of the action scenes are too blurry and quickly edited to work out what is happening, but otherwise they are amazing.
Mediocre. A handful of funny bits, and well animated, but it’s time to leave Shrek in that swamp for good.