Thursday, July 27, 2017


J.K. Rowling

SPOILER ALERT, Komodo<all other dragons.

Whoa, the action begins not on Privet Drive, but at the Riddle House, a place where many years prior, nearly every member of that particular family was found dead. Gardener Frank Bryce stood trial for multiple homicide, only to be cleared when autopsies determined the cause of death for each Riddle to be…fright.

Distrust and conjecture colored Bryce's days, yet he was stayed on the job, watching over the Riddle abode. One night, suspecting that neighborhood no-good have broken in, he enters, only to overhear Lord Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew (now known as "Wormtail") discussing plans to murder Harry Potter. The WWII vet-turned-weed puller is detected by Voldy's pet serpent Nagini and taken down with an Avada Kedavra.

Harry witnesses the death of Frank Bryce in a vision that sends his signature scar to hurting. He should probably tell someone, a trustworthy authority figure, but first--Quidditch World Cup with Hermione Granger and the Weasleys. It's Ireland vs. Bulgaria (the latter squad featuring Ron Weasley's athletic idol, Viktor Krum) and everyone who's anyone is in attendance. Meet Percy, the obsequious Weasley (and the Weasley who knows the definition of and proper use of "obsequious")! Bill, the oldest, coolest Weasley! He's got long hair and a dragon earring! There's Charlie, he trains dragons and still has all ten of his fingers!

The Malfoys are also on hand to lord their superficial superiority over the Weasleys. (Seems Lucius made a sizable donation to St. Mungos Hospital on behalf of Admirable Gestures By Fundamentally Repulsive People, Inc.) Boo.

Wizards tailgate just like us Muggles, setting up magical tents (which disobey the laws of physics ala Snoopy's doghouse) outside the stadium. The game is pretty exciting, and ends in a victory for the Irish. The afterparties are ruined, however, when a group of Death Eaters--those loyal followers of Lord Voldemort--crash the festivities and start being bullies. Then, a symbol appears in the sky overhead, something that hasn't been seen in thirteen years: The Dark Mark, LV's personal logo, a Bat-Signal for fascist scum.

Harry's scar is aching anew throughout , and what's more his wand went missing in the confusion. It's found in the hand of Winky, house elf of longtime Ministry official Barty Crouch, Sr.. What's more, Harry's wand is found to be responsible for creating the Dark Mark.

Another year, another Defense of Dark Acts teacher, former Auror Alastair Moody, known as "Mad Eye." He sounds more gruesome than any teacher I ever had, rocking the face of a bobcat sorter, a prosthetic leg, and a magical eye that rotates 360 degrees inside the socket, meaning dude can even see through the back of his own head.

The creeped-out student body instantly perks up when Dumbledore announces that after a 400-year hiatus, the Twiwizard Tournament will be held once more. A notoriously dangerous contest held between Europe's largest wizarding schools (Hogwarts in Scotland, Durmstrang Institute in Bulgaria, and Beauxbatons Academy in France), each represented by a single wizard, the Tourney consists of three tasks, for which participants receive points based on skill, smarts and bravery. Whoever has the highest score at the completion of the third task wins the Twiwizard Cup and one thousand Galleons. In the interest of safety, a restriction requiring all applicants to be 17 years old has been added. Any student younger than that will have the slip of paper bearing their name rejected should they place it into the goblet.

Moody ain't really; he's either intense or he's asleep. "Constant vigilance!" His Muggle equivalent is the CPR Instructor who yells, "The hell with percentages! It's crunch time!" Under his tutelage, students are formally introduced to the so-called Unforgivable Curses, of which they are three: Inferius, Cruciatus, and Avada Kedavra. One makes you a puppet, one makes you a jellyfish, and the other makes you dead.

Students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons arrive for the ceremonial picking of the donuts. The Goblet spits out: Viktor Krum, representing Durmstrang; Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons; and from Hogwarts, pride of Hufflepuff, Cedric Diggory. Oh, and also Harry Potter. Who is three years too young. Dumbledore tries to remove Harry from the competition, but the Ministry's own Barty Crouch, Sr. reminds the Headmaster that the Goblet's choice constitutes a binding contract, and contracts actually mean something to magic-folk.

Ron is thrown into a tumult of jealousy. Blame the hormones that have him lusting after two girls at once (Hermione and Fleur), blame a hardscrabble upbringing that sees him rocking god-ugly fourth-hand robes, but the boy is sullen and sulky, convinced that his best bud, despite vehement claims to the contrary, is actually reveling in his notoriety as "The Boy Who Lived."

Ron is hardly alone; a majority of the students suspect chicanery on Potter's part, leading to a groundswell of support for Cedric. Adding to Harry's worries is the presence of Daily Prophet scribe Rita Skeeter, whose stories veer from saccharine to scandalous in the time it takes Ron to rip the wrapper from a Chocolate Frog. Shame there are no real journalists on hand to tackle stories of actual interest, such as, why hasn't Barty Crouch been showing up to the Ministry? Ponder ponder ellipses.

The Tournament involves three tasks. One involves dragons, the second underwater heroics, and the third, navigating a huge hedge maze. Harry damn near bites it during task the first, which snaps Ron back into his best senses and aww, friends again!

Adventure, athletics, intrigue, danger…whatever could be next?

Romance of course, courtesy of the Yule Ball, AKA, Magic: the Promening. Neither Harry or Ron can take the witch they want, so the Patil twins do in a pinch. Hermione is going on the arm of VIKTOR EFFING KRUM, so naturally Ron goes apoplectic, accusing her of betraying Harry by cozying up with his direct competition. The fact that Hermione has used magic to shrink her buck teeth and tame her profligate locks, thus achieving a heretofore unrealized level of "hubba hubba" has nothing to do with Ron's fury.

The center begins its collapse once the Third Task commences. Fleur is eliminated early by a stunning spell from the wand of Mad-Eye Moody, who then Imperiuses Viktor to take out Cedric. Harry is well ahead when he hears Cedric in distress. The two Hogwarts champions reach the end together, and decide that since a win for the school means more than individual glory, they should just both grab the Triwizard Cup and exit triumphant.

Mild hitch. The Cup is a Portkey.

Well, shit.

What's worse than standing in a graveyard? Lying in one. Almost as bad--Lord Voldemort and his servant waiting for you. Wormtail, on orders from his master, strikes down Cedric before binding Harry to a headstone. He then approaches a cauldron, filling it with, among other gross ingredients, his own severed hand. Stir-whip, stir-whip, voila! Lord Voldemort is back, full-bodied, possibly worse than Sedaka.

Voldemort summons the Death Eaters. Not for assistance in defeating Harry Potter; like any hubristic bad guy, he needs an audience. Once he's done giving Harry an upbringing info dump, they duel. Their spells collide, and since their wands share the same core, weird shit starts happening. Voldemort's wood begins belching up spells, and ghostly imprints of his most recent victims appear right there in the graveyard--including James and Lily Potter, who act as a distraction while Harry grabs the body of Cedric Diggory and, using the Portkey Cup, returns to Hogwarts.

Moody takes the poor kid to his office, ostensibly to get more information on what the hell just happened, but Moody knows already. He was the one responsible for putting Harry's name in the Goblet; further, he rigged the tourney. Before he can succeed where Voldemort failed, Dumbledore and other teachers barge in. A dose of veritaserum is all it takes to get the full story: the real Alastair Moody is in a magical trunk, has been for months; the fake Moody is none other than Death Eater Barty Crouch, Jr., whom everyone believed had died in Azkaban. No, turns out that was his already-ailing mom, who used Polyjuice Potion to take on her son's appearance, allowing him to escape and take up with dear old dad (whom he later killed). Lord Voldemort found out and recruited him to mimic Moody and expedite his re-ascension.

None of which Crouch got to say before a court of law. Believing the man a babbling lunatic, Minister Cornelius Fudge sentenced Crouch to the Dementor's Kiss. Despite protestations both Harry and Dumbledore, Fudge refuses to believe the Dark Lord has returned to wreak havoc. He simply cannot believe such. For a man in his position to remain comfortably in that position, only the status quo will suffice. Cornelius Fudge is no more built for war than Peter Pan or Tom Hagen.

Goblet of Fire is the first exhausting book in the series, and also the first to engender a genuine feeling of dread. So much happens, and even the light-hearted sections are teeming with barbed sentences. Not only are the plots relentless in both speed and direction, they're more disturbing (not just merely more "adult"). The wonder of the magical world remains, and always shall, but the relative peace in which they've lived since the initial defeat of Voldemort is set to be shattered.

Director-Mike Newell
Writer-Steve Kloves

Took till flick four for a Brit to get behind the camera. Who better than the man who brought the world Four Weddings and a Funeral? Um…Tony Scott? Sam Mendes?

Goblet of Fire was also the first Harry Potter film scored by a composer not named John Williams, preoccupied as the great man was with Revenge of the Sith. Patrick Doyle, a noted collaborator of Kenneth Branagh, was brought on board. The discrepancy in quality is instantly discernible. Doyle's music shows up to the party and almost immediately makes a beeline for a corner to lean against. I've no issue with that. It knows someone I know (or knew), it's not likely to start any fights, or break up any for that matter.

Pressure's on the non-musical parts of the film to impress, then. The cinematography throughout is murky, yet stylish to the point of arthouse, particularly in the opening sequences. The special effects are still dazzling, but that's expected by now. Nothing Newell and crew do builds significantly upon the template set by Alfonso Cuaron in Prisoner of Azkaban, and what could have been a really good movie ends up merely good thanks largely to sloppy pacing and patchy storytelling.

Boy howdy, the ham's cookin' nonstop in this one. Brendan Gleeson (Moody) and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) both rep for the Irish with fervor. David Tennant's all flicking eyes and flickering tongues as the bad Barty Crouch, so much so it's actually a plot point. I can't imagine the joy that reverberated throughout the British acting community when they started casting for these movies. When everything is essentially ridiculous, standard operating procedure is rendered useless. Every beach is suddenly a nude beach, and don't worry where the sand winds up.

Ralph Fiennes won the plum role of Lord Voldemort, the noseless magic Hitler, and this many years later I'm still much too unnerved by the graveyard scenes to give you a fair assessment of anyone's acting in it.

Twilight retroactively made Cedric Diggory into an unsympathetic character, even though Robert Pattinson's hatred for the role that made him a global superstar means he's impossible to truly loathe. Cedric's murder is affectingly portrayed, but absolute child's play compared to the moment Amos Diggory realizes his son's fate. Jeff Rawle, best known for starring in a Britcom with a dumb name, steps up to provide the series with one of its most memorable moments, suffused with raw emotion, and utterly authentic.

The main actors do fine, despite their uniformly dreadful hairstyles (Ron's laggard '70s 'do in particular qualifies as follicular slander). Daniel Radcliffe doesn't embarrass himself with any sudden screaming, Rupert Grint nails Ron's ridiculousness without having to be quite so ridiculous, and Emma Watson, well, Mr. Newell should have taken Emma Watson aside and told her, kindly yet firmly, that if she did not cease posthaste with the eyebrows, he would order a female assistant to administer a swift smack to the young girl's forehead.

Two and a half hours should be more than enough time to get most of the good stuff in, but the other books were not as long as Goblet of Fire; not even close. Intriguing side plots and character details had to bite the half-smoke for the sake of Harry' s journey. And that's fine. The ending, though? Uh, one of your schoolmates just died! Murdered, in fact! One of you wuckfits might be next!

700 pages, bound to be beloved moments lost in transfer. Hermione's revenge on Rita Skeeter, Bill and Charlie dueling with tables. What Kloves did to the Barty Crouch Jr. reveal, though, my sour lord. Rushed and improbable, are the two kindest words I can use. "Send an owl to Azkaban, think they'll find they're missing a prisoner." Oh piss off, Albus.

The mistreatment of Winky the house-elf opens Hermione's eyes to the pathetic "plight" of house-elves. In response she forms the Society For the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (or S.P.E.W.--girl, optics) to educate others about the situation and push for house-elves to be granted rights equal to those enjoyed by wizards.

(The few students who join the fight do so just to stop Hermione's badgering. Hagrid reminds her that the house-elves working at Hogwarts are grateful for their lot, and George Weasley of all wizards suggests Hermione talk with the elves, but she's intent on making the classic activist mistake of speaking for instead of listening to the actual oppressed.)

Is any of that missed in the film? Nah. It does Hermione no favors, anyway, no way in hell Kloves was letting that get even a second on the screen.

During the Second Task, each competitor must maneuver through obstacles in the Great Lake in order to rescue something they will "sorely miss." Tied to a large statue in a Mermish village are Hermione (for Viktor), Cho Chang (Cedric's girlfriend), Gabrielle Delacour (Fleur's sister) and Ron. Yes. Ron Weasley is "the thing Harry Potter will miss most, sir!" And you know why? It's not because he pulls amusing faces and says "Bloody hell!" whole bunches. It's because he'll bollocks up your whole morning then nearly die protecting you later that evening. Ain't no such thing as halfway "best friends." Ron at this point has no idea what he means to Harry, or to anyone else really, and my heart just tears for the kid. Does the movie fathom such emotional complexities? Does it, fuck.

The Yule Ball, another cock-up. Hermione's "makeover" has all the impact of a tossed marshmallow striking a silk sheet, considering the bushy hair disappeared after the second movie, and the buck teeth never even happened. Rupert Grint downplayed Ron's jealousy to the point I wondered if the entire experience was depleting him of the desire to ever act again (I mean, the first words he speaks in the movie are "Bloody hell!" so I wouldn't have been surprised.) In the book, though? Oh, fantastic. I just wanted to rap them both upside the head with spoons and order them off to a corner to feel each others bits.

Thanks to the voluminous gifts of Steve Kloves, viewers are treated to moments such as Harry entering the Weasley tent and proclaiming, "I love magic." That's like a guy turning to his buddy at a strip joint and saying, "I love tits."

We don't get to see the Quidditch game at all, a strong indication of how these films value spectacle over story.

Neither Durmstrang or Beauxbatons are gender-exclusive schools, per the original text, meaning we could have and should have avoided those corny introduction numbers wherein dudes wearing red grunt and stomp to (im)prove their manhood, while underfed French broads in powder-blue frippery sigh their way into every Hogwarts students dreams.

"Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry?" he asked calmly."

Gambon not reading the books wasn't normally a problem. One time, however, it turned into quite a problem.  Just wow. Slide whistle over the car stunt. Director casting his daughter in a main role. Deciding to shoot at the terrorists instead of just taking off in a time-traveling car. Kindly old Headmaster shaking the shit out of a 14-year-old boy while screaming in his face.

No Dobby. Didn't seem like a big deal at the time. 

No Charlie, meh. No Bill, meaning no origins of Bill/Fleur, my second-favorite romance of the entire series.

Ah, Fleur, the part-Veela who underwhelmed the whole Tournament. Wait, go back to that first part. Veelas are gorgeous creatures, with silvery hair and luminous skin. Regular females walk; Veelas shimmer. They are capable of turning a man into nothing more substantial than a drooling bone-box simply by walking past him. No words needed, not even an indirect gaze. Clemence Poesy is a very attractive woman, yet no woman on Earth could actually come close to matching the physical description of even a part-Veela. Fleur is definitely one of those characters in the Potterverse that only truly exists on the page and thus, in our heads.

These films always show the Hall tables sans cloths. Rare point to the films! Tablecloths are, without exception, more trouble than they are worth.

Viktor is quite different from the book, as well. Built like a brick shithouse, rather than a straw sculpture. I rather prefer movie Krum. I could use his head to crack eggs.

The movie doesn't give us Voldemort sharing his hard knock life story with Harry. I see you, Kloves, getting all picky with your usage of tropes.

Lord Voldemort, champion of racial purity, is himself a half-blood. How utterly without precedent!

"Do the Hippogriff"? I'd sooner pop a Natty Light, lean back in a lawn chair and watch a bunny get eaten by a fox.

Magic is a girl's best friend. I woulda used my wand to zap my zits/minimize my gums.

Bulgaria lost the Quidditch World Cup despite their Seeker catching the Snitch. What's dumber, that rule or that Seeker?

Nice of the Quidditch World Cup to give us a championship match that will never, ever happen in the FIFA World Cup.

According to Arthur Weasley, the family can't fly on enchanted carpets, since carpets are Muggle items and enchanting them is barred by law. Oh, okay. Fucking brooms?!

We learned Hagrid is the result of a union between a wizard father of average height and a giantess mother (20-25 feet tall). We, exactly? Theories abound. Fanfiction, hey, I wouldn't be surprised. Me myself, I always assumed she just laid down and he walked on in, y'know? Maybe already had his gunk in a bucket and just hurled it towards the target.

Goblet of Fire introduces the Portkey, a charmed object that transports anyone touching it to a predetermined location. Some are time-activated, such as the boot Harry, Hermione and several of the Weasley clan to reach the site of the Cup match. Others are touch-activated, like the Triwizard Cup. Okay. But why does Harry, when he touches the Cup a second time, not reappear in the maze, but outside of it?

"Kill the spare!" These are officially not children's books.

I'm surprised the American version wasn't renamed Harry Potter and the Really Hot Cup.

Nah, forget the Portkey, I'm all about the Pensieve, AKA, "magic memory bowl." A Pensieve is a basin filled with a person's extracted memories (rather cloudy, apparently). Yep, wand users can just place their trusty stick up to their temple and siphon out a memory (or more) and deposit it in the ol' Pensieve. Others may be able to view the memories, and that's not necessarily bueno or un-bueno, but here's the part that's always nagged my noggin--removing a memory would mean you no longer have the memory. Ergo, would you remember only the removal of the memory, while not retaining the actual memory? Say I was to extract the memory of the time I woke up in the middle of the night at outdoor school to discover I'd peed the bed. I would later only be able to recall the act of extraction,
while no longer being burdened by the shameful scene I withdrew. Right?

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