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Category: Reads

Hogwarts: A Decade

I could not have said it better.

The best 10 years (the books, 1997 – 2007) & another 10 years in between (the movies, 2001 – 2011) of my life.

Taken from http://9gag.com

 

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Never Thought I’d Live To See Hayley on Cosmo

& looking supremely fine.

Boy has she come a long way from the petite girl who appeared on YouTube with a big voice, sitting crossed-legged wrapped around in a blanket, singing “Pressure” by the side of the road.

Half-Blood

KV would just like to reaffirm here that he is behind those who believe the whole Moon trip is a massive conspiracy!

We all knew from the beginning no Potter movie could ever, EVER, come close to matching the ultimate experience of the Potter books. I only hoped that any of the movies could at least make an enjoyable cinema spectacle, or do some justice to the awesome world & plot Rowling created by transferring a little magic to the people who had not the chance to experience the books.

When Sorcerer’s Stone was made into a film, people complained it was way too kiddish & long. I adored the wonderful  choices of Rupert Grint & Emma Watson, as well as most of the rest of the primary cast, but cringed at Radcliffe. (Of course, I didn’t know at that time Radcliffe would require more than 3 movies to finally learn how to act)

Next was Chamber of Secrets, to which everyone agreed was better than the 1st, but still, too tailored for kids.

Then aboard came Alfonso Cuaron to make what is my favourite Potter movie, Prisoner of Azkaban. Thrilling & faithful to what was probably the best plot twist of all the books, only the casting of Gambon as Dumbledore laid a sole sour note on otherwise pretty much the definitive Potter movie.

Goblet of Fire was proof that a brilliant plot from one of the best books does not necessarily translate into a good movie. It was quite the Bollywood-ish mess, with a completely destroyed Yule Ball depiction & an embarassingly worsening mis-potrayal of the very much beloved Dumbledore (not forgetting Cho Chang).

Order of the Phoenix took the best aspects of its respective book & turned out to be quite excellent, though not without flaws. Gary Oldman, Evanna Lynch, Helena Bonham Carter & Imelda Staunton were terrific in their roles, easily slotting Phoenix alongside Azkaban as the best Potter bigscreen adaptations to date.

Now, we arrive at Half-Blood Prince. Come to think of it, there’s really not much to complain from apart from the plot holes & drastic changes, so what made it such an unsatisfying experience? The whole movie was quite beautifully made on screen, along with stellar acting. It did have its engaging & chilling moments, so why did I left the hall feeling like it was the slowest unhappening movie ever?

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Yes, every Potter fan is not going to stop grumbling about the many changes & left-outs of the book’s complicated plot, from the roles of Dobby & Kreacher to the Gaunts memory. I didn’t actually feel too bad about those, understanding that condensing the books to fit a film is required, but admittedly, this movie has strayed so far from the books it begs the big question of how the movies are going to bring a justified closure to the Potter journey in Deathly Hallows Part I & II. The humour was aplenty & quite brilliant, but over-switching between all those subplots & the more crucial main story of the Horcruxes, Voldemort’s past & Malfoy’s plan made it quite confusing, losing all sense of urgency & significance of the final build-up towards Deathly Hallows. Despite a handful of scenes that were brilliantly executed (such as Katie Bell being poisoned), addition of new scenes & the exclusion of the roles of Fleur, Bill & Scrimgeour were questionable, while Neville as well as Tonks were wasted (especially Tena’s Tonks, who made such an interesting presence in Order of the Phoenix). Yes, most of the crucial scenes were polished & beautifully done, but honestly, all sense of suspense & build-up were lost all the way towards the end, culminating in a non-climatic way. Dumbledore’s death felt hollow on screen, & Snape being revealed as the Half-blood Prince, & more importantly, as a pivotal ambiguous character, did not have its predicted impact.

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Of course, despite all this, it’s still freaking way better than Twilight. Romance included.

But enough about that, if I were to continue debating about the plot I could construct a whole thesis out of it. There’s also not much to shout about Nicholas Hooper’s scores, notably since I felt the best moments of the film happened to have no background music. Quite frankly, the later Potter film scores have never been the same since John Williams left. Now I’m going to have to give it to the spectacular performance of the cast that made the movie a much more bearable experience. The main trio have outdone themselves yet again, bringing Harry, Ron & Hermione’s maturing lifes to screen amazingly. Radcliffe, I must admit, was quite awesome in that Felix Felicis scene. Watson & Grint were simply perfect during those romantic scenes, & Lynch continues her stellar quirkiness. Helena Bonham Carter was incredibly seductive, newcomer Jessie Cave was a perfect & hilarious Lavender, & Rickman gave an impeccable performance as Snape. Gambon does improve, but still does not channel Dumbledore’s aura in any way. Oh, don’t forget both the actors who played the young & teenage Tom Marvolo Riddle; those were chillingly engaging performances! I would especially like to remark upon the intensed captivating Tom Felton as Malfoy, which without doubt is the outstanding performance in the movie. Finally, he gets the screen time he deserves!

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Of course, getting more screen time is not always a good thing, as Bonnie Wright displayed. Throughout all the Potter movies, the castings have rarely been wrong, rather more astonishingly spot-on (think Ron, Hermione, Snape, McGonagall, Hagrid, Malfoy, Lupin, Sirius, Trelawney, Umbridge, Luna, the Weasley twins, etc), with the exception of Gambon’s Dumbledore & now more glaringly, Wright’s Ginny Weasley. Wright lacks so much of the feisy personality Ginny is known for, instead giving us a mundane & unflattering Ginny.

At this rate, they should really just do all of us a favour by making Harry go get it on with Hermione or even Luna, seeing that they are way more interesting & share much more chemistry together in the movies.

KV is finally beginning to bang his head to the tunes of Paramore’s “Ignorance”.

Read KV’s review on Order of the Phoenix here.

I Finally Read Dan Brown

Hats off to Roddick, totally owned Fed. But I guess Fed is the ultimate player of the century for a reason, eh? Mad final match, I’m surprised Fed’s wife did not go into labour right there in center court.

Sorry Mr. Brown for taking this long, I am deeply ashamed & regret this very much. But more about that later.

I’m baaaacccck from Bali with me UTP bros & sistas. We fought valiantly against the swines & all the As & Hs & Ns & 1s, we wore sarongs, we discovered that anything that had land space qualifies as a road in Bali, we witnessed the overpopulation of motorcycles, & we discovered we were naturally talented in swallowing Kuta waves rather than surfing. Especially Suet Yeng, to whom I had to play Baywatch saviour to keep her from overdosing herself with salt water.

Kuta Beach

The closest we ever got to successfully standing on the board at Kuta beach

I would have loved to say Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was totally awesome but who am I kidding? It was one heck of an unbalanced movie, so thankfully I checked my brain at the cinema doors. I had no idea what the plot was all about frankly – something about Megatron working under The Fallen, a big gun that would shoot the sun or something hidden in the pyramids, & Megan Fox working in a bengkel – it was just plain ridiculous, but really who cares since we were there to see the robots & outrageous action-packed almost-pornographic shots of Megan Fox CGI spectacles. Minus the irritating twin Autobots (which the Devastator should have easily tapao’ed) & the many additional generic pointless Decepticons (& WHAT THE F**K WAS THAT DECEPTICON CHICK ALL ABOUT?! Tiba-tiba felt like Species pulak), Bay did not disappoint when it comes to cool robot action. The Optimus action scene in the mountains in the middle of the movie reigned supreme & was the spectacular moment of the film, it left me completely breathless. Bay really shouldn’t have attempted to do so much & draw out so many unnecessary scenes that just seemed to go on & on. Shia did a commendable job by the way, holding his own against the mighty presence of the robots.

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Optimus giving some serious prime ass whooping in the mountains

With this holidays completing its first month, I have been catching up with the one favourite thing I last religiously did with the last Potter book – reading. I finally, finally, gave a chance to Dan Brown, & first started off with Da Vinci, & now I’ve also completed Angels & Demons followed subsequently by Deception Point. I must say, regardless whether factual or not, Dan Brown sure knows a whole load of shit & is exceptionally gifted in creating outrageously superb plots, though I was occasionally tired by the sudden flashbacks & some overdrawn descriptive points of Angels & Demons as well as Deception Point. The Brown books could not however match my feverish fetish for Potter, but it would be unfair to compare Potter against the Dan Brown novels, due to their different writing styles & plot structure. Let’s just put it this way; I enjoyed tremendously the intelligence & thrill of Dan Brown, but I skipped meals, sleep & toilet trips for Potter. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate at the least to give a two-thumbs-two-toes-up & rate The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons & Deception Point as must-reads.

Now, I am one of those who unashamedly watched the movie version of Angels & Demons before reading the book, so I did enjoy the movie, but now after reading the book, I realize why many of Dan Brown fans are unhappy with how Ron Howard tremendously simplified the plot (almost completely taking away the science aspect & role of the book) & only concentrating on the battle against the Vatican. The many layers & complexities of all of Dan Brown’s stories are one of the best things about the novels, & more notably for Angels & Demons, since this particular book is where Dan Brown first attempts at intertwining science with controversial religious plots. Keeping faithful with the book would have given the Camerlengo’s role much more crucial resonance & substance on the big screen. 

Speaking of which, guilty of the sin of watching both Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations before reading Dan Brown, I robbed myself of the powerful exhilaration I would have experienced facing Dan Brown’s plot twists in Da Vinci & Angels head-on first time, & I only have myself to blame for not giving a chance to Dan Brown up till now. Anyway, just like Sir Ian McKellen in Da Vinci (as Sir Leigh Teabing), I admired the inspired choice of the brilliant Ewan McGregor as Camerlengo Ventresca/McKenna. Tom Hanks is definitely not the Langdon I imagined from the books, but at least I enjoyed Audrey Tatou (as Sophie Neveu) much more than Ayelet Zurer’s disappointing role as Vittoria Vetra. The one thing I truly was fascinated from the Angels & Demons movie, however, was how the grand sequence of the Camerlengo saving Vatican from the antimatter explosion was visually depicted. It was quite breathtaking on screen.

Camerlengo McKenna

Ewan McGregor was brilliant!

& again, because I watched both the movie versions of both Da Vinci & Angels before reading them, resulting in me imagining the respective movie characters in their roles when reading, I could not help but do the same for Deception Point. Of course there’s no Deception Point movie (yet, I guess?), but I couldn’t restrain myself from imagining particular actors/actresses playing the characters in the movie as I read. Interestingly though, from the moment Rachel Sexton (what an irresistable name!) appeared in the first few pages, the first actress that came into mind was relatively unknown Rachel Nichols, & I seriously do not know why! Call it male intuition? Anyway, you can see her in previous movies like Charlie Wilson’s War & P2 or in the coming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, since you probably do not know who I’m talking about.

Which begs a rather intriguing but insignificant question, who would be suitable to play the roles of the characters in Deception Point should there be a big screen adaptation in the future? Now, I figure the probability of a Deception Point movie is much less compared to the likelihood of Dan Brown’s soon-to-be-released The Lost Symbol being made a movie first, keeping in mind how we love the controversial Vatican & religious scandals as opposed to the government conspiracies of Deception Point, but what the hell, it’s the holidays for me. Oh, I’m going to take Rachel Nichols out of my mind for a more realistic choice (even though she stubbornly stucked in my mind all throughout my reading). Here’s KV playing director, for pointless fun.

Possible Rachel Sextons?

Rachel Nichols, Bryce Dallas Howard, Evangeline Lilly & Jennifer Garner

Rachel Sexton – Bryce Dallas Howard/Evangeline Lilly/Jennifer Garner
Michael Tolland – Ewan McGregor/Robert Downey Jr.
President Zachary Herney – Steve Martin. Joking! Harrison Ford?
Senator Sedgewick Sexton – Russell Crowe/John Travolta
Corky Marlinson – Paul Bettany
NASA Administrator Lawrence Ekstrom – William Peterson
William Pickering – Liam Neeson
Marjorie Tench – Judi Dench
Gabrielle Ashe – Marsha Thomason/Zoe Saldana
Delta-One – Clive Owen

This all-star cast is nuts, but Deception Point would make quite a kick-ass movie. Besides, who could possibly resist such a movie of which its protagonist carries a name like Rachel SEXTON?

So, anyone wanna lend me a copy of Digital Fortress? & by September, The Lost Symbol?

Hermione Granger Can Ride My Broomstick Any Day…

    On the way to KLCC with Alan & Kareen, with Kareen leading the way to the car park beside her office & me driving:

Kareen: “Okay, slow down here.”
Alan & Me: “Okay okay.”
Kareen: “Ok, you can put signal here.”
Alan & Me: “Signal? Signal to where?”
Kareen: “Okay, here here!”
Alan & Me: “Signal WHERE? Left? Right?”
Kareen: “Left! Left! Okay, turn left in front here!”
Alan: “You ah, never tell which direction to…”
Kareen: “Not here not here! This is tanah perkuburan! Ok ok, here…”
Alan: “…give signal or turn. I also shocked…”

    Let me get 1 thing straight. Harry Potter may be the main & title character of the 7 books (& movies), but he is no where near being the real hero. Yes, Harry Potter is a total wuss.

    The real & unsung heroes of the entire rebellion against Tom Marvolo Riddle, the Death Eaters & the Ministry of Magic journey were the people behind the boy who lived to complain & feel sorry about his own life without parents. There was Neville Longbottom, who turned from being the lousiest weak git in 1st year to 1 of the leaders in the final Hogwarts battle, decapitating Nagini, the last Horcrux, thus making Voldemort mortal, with Gryffindor’s Sword. Then there was the feisty & gutsy Ginny Weasley, & the quirky but loyal Luna Lovegood, who became leaders of the DA in the absence of Harry, Ron & Hermione. Of course, Dumbledore’s might & importance could never be overlooked, even when he was dead. He remained a calming presence, always seeming to have answers for everything. Don’t forget Remus Lupin, who taught Harry how to conjure up a Patronus, which proved to be the 1 of the most, if not the most important of spells. What about Dobby, who was most loyal to Harry? Most importantly perhaps, is Severus Snape, whose true loyalty & love for Lily Evans, Harry’s mother, & the sacrifices he had to make, served as the backbone to Voldemort’s defeat. Quite frankly, the whole series was built around Snape’s journey of complex moral ambiguity.

    & finally, there is Hermione Jean Granger.

    I did not know for sure how to pronounce Hermione until Goblet of Fire, when Hermione tried teaching Viktor Krum how to pronounce “Her-my-oh-nee”. But right from the 1st book, I was sure Hermione would be my favourite character till the end of the series. She came into Hogwarts as a bossy, clever, haughty “insufferable know-it-all” (as Snape said). She learned everything from books, her lepak place was the library & she loves raising her hands in classes. After that fateful troll encounter in the girl’s toilet, she became a true friend of Harry & that other git named Ron. In the beginning, she was this insecure girl with a knack for losing logic & priorities under stressful situations. After all, in Philosopher’s Stone, she told Harry & Ron that getting expelled was worse than getting killed. Who could forget her for completely losing it when she wailed that there was no wood to conjure up a fire to deal with the Devil’s Snare (she had a wand, you know), or that her Boggart formed McGonagall telling her she failed every subject? Though we all laughed at this bushy-haired-big-front-teeth girl in the beginning, it was all these characters of her which led to her being the total heroine behind Harry. Rowling says that Hermione feels “utterly inadequate…and to compensate, she tries to be the best at everything at school, projecting a false confidence that can irritate people.”

    She progressed through the books with her outstanding cleverness & skills in magic as well as her rational logic, & a very good heart. She was vocally against the enslavement of house-elfs, started SPEW, always helped those irritating 2 gits with their homework albeit a little grudgingly. She learned the Polyjuice Potion charm at such a young age in Chamber of Secrets, & that was incredibly useful right till the last book. She was the only student capable (& crazy enough) to attempt so many subjects that McGonagall allowed her to use the Time-turner in Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius commented to her that she really was the brightest witch of your age”. She was also the 1st to rebel under the Umbridge era in Hogwarts, starting Dumbledore’s Army that gathered all students to put theory into practice under the guidance of Harry. That movement proved an important change for most of the students, as Neville gained confidence & encouragement that sparked his character transformation while Ginny learned that she was awesome at hexes & the Reducto curse.

    Hermione’s contribution & heroics became really pivotal in the last book, the Deathly Hallows. She was fiercely loyal to Harry till the end. With Ron being a complete idiot who only knew how to complain, even abandoning the mission halfway, Hermione was always the 1 who remained on top of things, always had everything prepared. How many times did she save Harry’s hairy ass with her quick-thinking of places to Apparate to, & her sharp thinking of spells to use to protect them when in hiding & in those dire situations? Don’t even mention the fact that she made the biggest sacrifice among them all in preparation for the final mission to destroy all the remaining Horcruxes. She modified her parents’ memory into believing they were some other people & that they had no daughter, & made them move to Australia for their safety. In the final battle, she was the 1 who destroyed the cup in the chamber of secrets with a basilisk fang. Without Hermione, Harry was going into war like a limp dick with no testicles hanging on.

    & then, there is Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson.

    When Watson first appeared in the 1st movie as Hermione, I thought she was completely perfect. With her thick but sweet British accent pouring through her bossy lines, she was portrayed as being bright, snobbish but adorable. But when Emma grew up in Prisoner of Azkaban & matured into this drop-dead hot version of Hermione, all hot-blooded males broke loose. Bookish Hermione was not supposed to be this hot, not even by a mile. But Emma gave such convincing & outstanding performances in the movies to come that I forgave her for being so much more beautiful than what was portrayed in the books. She delivered Hermione’s lines with such intensity bordering on the over-acting lines, which was exactly how Hermione was. Perhaps Emma did over-act in Goblet of Fire, when almost all her lines came spluttering out as if she was going to cry every time, but all was again forgiven when she gave us the most memorable scene from the movie; the sight of her in a pink gown walking down the stairs with a megawatt smile at the Yule’s Ball. In fact, Emma maturing from cute in the 1st 2 movies into hot in the remaining movies, especially Goblet of Fire, was perfect timing, seeing that Katie Leung nuke-bombed as Cho Chang in the same movie. The Cho Chang of the books, the talented Ravenclaw Seeker who was the hottest girl in Hogwarts, was Asia’s sole pride & hope in stamping a mark in the Potter world. Instead, they casted this Scottish roti-cheeks girl who was not even as pretty as Edison Chen. You know it’s bad when she made the whole kissing scene in Order of the Phoenix a complete uggh moment. Are you seriously telling me there are no young teen Kelly Hus, Gong Lis or Kristin Kreuks among us to choose from?! Anyway, my point is, Emma Watson made Hermione into a full-circle kick-ass heroine, by making her hot. She sure sent pulses racing with the way she giggled during the “just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon” scene.

    Of course, Harry was not completely useless, as Voldemort made him to be a hero, allowing him to be a rallying point for the real heroes to gather round, to form the army that would take Voldemort down. However, without Hermione, without Snape, Dobby, Lupin, Neville, Luna, Ginny, Dumbledore, or even the Weasley twins, Harry would be a small fart to Voldemort. But among all these unsung heroes behind the boy with the lightning scar, my favourite character, & my Potter hero, is this bright, fiercely intellectual & loyal girl in the books who was enhanced into a beautiful one on the silver screen. & that is why I just joined the Facebook group “Hermione Granger Can Ride My Broomstick Any Day”.

    Something of interest, I found these summarized in Wikipedia. In an interview, online chat in the Wizard of the Month section of her website, & during her 2007 U.S. Open Book Tour, Rowling revealed additional character information that she chose not to include in the book. She stated that:

1. Harry becomes an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, & is later appointed head of the department. He keeps Sirius’s motorcycle, which Arthur Weasley repaired for him, but he can no longer speak Parseltongue after the destruction of Voldemort’s soul fragment within him.
2. Ginny Weasley plays for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team for a time, leaves to establish a family with Harry & later becomes the lead Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet.
3. Ron Weasley works at George’s store for a time, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, then joins Harry as an Auror.
4. Hermione finds her parents in Australia & removes the memory modification charm she had put on them for safety. She initially works for the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, greatly improving life for house elves & their ilk. She later moves to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement & assists in eradicating oppressive, pro-pureblood laws. She was also the only member of the trio to go back & complete her seventh year at Hogwarts.
5. Dumbledore‘s relationship with Gellert Grindelwald extended beyond mere friendship; indeed, Rowling has revealed that “Dumbledore is gay, actually”, & harboured romantic feelings for Grindelwald.
6. After his death, Voldemort is forced to exist in the stunted form Harry witnessed in the King’s Cross limbo; his crimes were too severe for him to become a ghost.

    Rowling also explained the fates of several secondary characters:

1. George Weasley continues his successful joke shop. George married Angelina Johnson & has two children: a son named Fred, in memory of his late twin brother, & a daughter, Roxanne.
2. Luna Lovegood searches the world for odd & unique creatures. She eventually marries Rolf, a grandson of the famed naturalist Newt Scamander. They have twins called Lorcan & Lysander. Her father’s publication, The Quibbler, has returned to its usual condition of “advanced lunacy” & is appreciated for its unintentional humour.
3. Percy Weasley married a woman named Audrey & had two daughters, named Molly & Lucy.
4. Firenze is welcomed back into his herd, who finally acknowledge the virtue of his pro-human leanings.
5. Dolores Umbridge is arrested, interrogated, & imprisoned for crimes against Muggle-borns.
6. Cho Chang went on to marry a Muggle.
7. Neville Longbottom becomes professor of Herbology at Hogwarts & marries Hannah Abbott.
8. Besides Victoire Weasley, Bill & Fleur Weasley have a younger son & a younger daughter, named Dominique & Louis.
9. On her website, Rowling posted a Weasley family tree, showing that Harry‘s children’s full names are James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter, & Lily Luna Potter.

    There have been transformations in the wider wizarding world:

1. Kingsley Shacklebolt is the permanent Minister for Magic, with Percy Weasley working under him as a high official. Among the reforms introduced by Shacklebolt, Azkaban no longer uses Dementors. Consequently, the world is now a “much sunnier place”. Harry, Ron, & Hermione have also been instrumental in reforming the Ministry.
2. At Hogwarts, Slytherin House has become more diluted & is no longer the pure-blood bastion it once was, although its dark reputation lingers.
3. Voldemort’s jinx on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position is broken with his death. There is now a permanent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry comes to the Defence Against the Dark Arts class to lecture several times a year.
4. A portrait of Snape, who briefly served as Hogwarts Headmaster, does not appear in the headmaster’s office as he abandoned his post. Harry ensures the addition of Snape’s portrait, and publicly reveals Snape’s steadfastness.

    This post may seem a little off timing, when many think that the Potter craze for the books have subsided while the next Potter movie is still months away, but for me, Rowling’s books are something close to a miracle that will linger for years. Hey, if she can make me & my generation of buggers, the generation of iPods & MTV, read her books & be totally engrossed in them, that’s quite an achievement ain’t it.

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