Films and Videos to Watch While Waiting for HP4
An original editorial by Robbie Fischer
Some of you may be familiar with the Book Trolley
, whose main mission is
to suggest good books for you to enjoy while you wait for the next Harry
book. But, being almost as much of a movie buff as a book lover, I
thought: Why shouldnt I also suggest a list of movies that you should
try while you impatiently await the next Harry Potter
Theres no reason why not. So here goes...
Part 1: Magical Movies for Kids
The most obvious films, to console Harry Potter fans in their agony of
anticipation, are the type of films that contain magic and appeal to
younger viewers. Here are the top twelve that come to my mind:
1) Disneys The Sword in the Stone, which is, hands down, my favorite
feature-length animation from the Mouse. Based on the first part of T.
H. Whites retelling of the King Arthur legend, it features an adorable
little boy named the Wart, who lives in Medieval England, and whose
fondest dream is to be a page to a real knight. A wizard named Merlin
has other things in store for him. Merlin becomes the boys tutor,
teaching him a variety of lessons by turning the Wart into different
kinds of animals. The movie also features some delightful songs, a
wizard duel, and some moments of both heartwarming tenderness and
side-splitting hilarity. Plus, you cant help but love the Wart! (Side
note: I should have mentioned the Higitus Figitus method in my Burrow
article on Moving Magic.)
2) The other Disney movie that I have deigned to buy on DVDso sue me,
theyre expensive!is The Black Cauldron, based loosely on the first two
or three books in Lloyd Alexanders beloved Prydain
Chronicles. I must
admit that some of it isnt the way I imagined it when I read the books.
I particularly didnt like the way Gurgi was portrayed. But it is a
breathtaking movie nevertheless, with romance, humor, menace, and
mystery, starting with a pig that can tell the future, and involving a
minstrel whose harp busts a string every time he fibs, a spoiled
princess, a farm boy who wants to be a hero, and a villain that gives
Skeletor nightmares. Not for nothing was this the first Disney animated
feature to earn a PG rating!
3) The Neverending Story, once again based on a favorite book of mine,
though I saw this movie loooooong before I read the book. I think the
sequel, Neverending Story 2, is based on a part of the book that the
first movie does not cover. These are live-action movies, and their
special effects are somewhat dated now, but I think they still have a
lot going for themluck dragons, magic rings, youthful heroes, books
that the reader becomes a part of (Tom Riddles diary, anyone?), and for
you LOTR fans, a well-known theme song by Annie Lennox.
4) The Wizard of Oz, a 1939 classic that still looks new. I must
confess, the flying monkeys scared me when I was very little. Later on,
though, I loved this movie, and the book it was based on. A tornado
sweeps young Dorothy Gale from her gray, Kansas farm to the vibrant,
colorful land of Oz. Follow Dorothy and her friends--the Lion, the
Scarecrow, and the Tin Man--down the yellow-brick road to the Emerald
City, so that she can destroy the wicked witch, meet the mighty wizard,
and prove that theres no place like home.
5) Mouse Hunt. OK, Ill admit, the connection to magic is very thin. But
there is a scene in which Nathan Lane and Lee Evans listen to a tape of
Christopher Walken saying to a mouse, Put that down! That tickles! And
Nathan Lane says, I dont think were dealing with an ordinary mouse.
Only if you can accept the idea of magic (at least for the duration of a
movie), can you imagine the wonderful possibilities of what that mouse
was doing. This modern-day slapstick from the director of the celebrated
Budweiser frog commercials is breathtakingly funny. Sometimes laughter
is the best magic of all.
6) The Iron Giant. Since Im already stretching the definition of magic
in movies, I cant let this one slip by. This is an old-school,
cell-animated feature from Warner Bros. and the director of the recent,
deservedly Oscar-winning movie The Incredibles. It is the story of a
twenty-foot-tall, indestructible robot from outer space, who crash-lands
off the coast of Maine in the 1950s. He soon befriends a very special
little boy named Hogarth Hughes, who teaches him that you choose what
you become. The giants choice becomes a matter of survival for the
whole planet, in a very, very touching story featuring the voices of Vin
Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, and Harry Connick, Jr.
7) A Series of Unfortunate Events. You already saw this one, didnt you?
Well, wait till it comes out on video. Then see it again!
8) Lilo and Stitch. I just recently saw this movie on cable TV. I think
it came from Disney, but if thats the case, I am amazed. Disney usually
doesnt do anything quite so edgy, weird, and full of character. Set
somewhere in Hawaii, it depicts a tough, lonely little girl being raised
by her older sister, and who adopts as her pet a dog that turns out to
be a destroying machine escaped from another planet. How Lilo converts
the little menace into a true member of her family, and averts a major
interplanetary incident, comes about at the end of a wild, funny, scary,
and just plain bizarre adventure which should apppeal to fans of both
Disney animation and animé.
9) Holes. Innocent boy gets convicted of a crime he didnt commit
(stealing athletic shoes). Gets sent to a juvenile prison / boys camp
in the Texas desert, where each boy is required to dig a hole in a dried
lake-bed, five feet deep and five feet around, every day. Gets caught up
in a dangerous adventure that spans several generations, including a
gypsy womans curse in the old country, a female outlaw in the old
west, a buried treasure, and a date with destiny. A very powerful
story, starring an impressive cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Jon
Voight, and Henry Winkler.
10) Matilda. Directed by Danny De Vito, and featuring Pam Aunt Marge
Ferris as the terrible Trunchbull, this is one of my favorite all-time
movies, and its based on a book by one of my favorite authors, Roald
Dahl. Matilda is a special girl who learns to make things happen by the
power of her mind. This is an ability she will need badly, as she is
forced to attend a horrible school where the headmistress likes to
11) Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While Im mentioning Roald
Dahl, how can I forget this masterpiece musical comedy/fantasy, based on
the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The most amazing thing about
it is that the whole movie was made as a gimmick to promote a candy bar
that isnt even made any more. Yet the movie remains a classic, in large
part because of the masterpiece performance of Gene Wilder as Willie
Wonka. I hear tell that Tim Burton is remaking this film, with Johnny
Depp in the Wonka role. That might be interesting to see, but Johnny
Depp will never replace Gene Wilder!
12) Chicken Run. Magic shmagic, this is just a hilarious send-up of The
Great Escape, in the form of a clay-mation film about chickens plotting
to escape from a poultry farm before the farmers wife turns them all
into pies. HP fans will thrill to vocal performances by the actors who
play Peter Pettigrew and Rita Skeeter.
Part 2: Special Effects Extravaganzas for the Whole Family
Now that Ive unloaded my dozen favorite childrens films, here are my
top ten picks from the Eye Candy department. And by the way, Im not
including LOTR on this list because it is so OBVIOUS. You will watch the
trilogy some time this year, wont you?
1) Fifth Element. Critics panned it, and the box office didnt treat
this movie very well either, but I think it is becoming a cult classic.
You have to understand that its a science fiction farce, a kind of
movie that has not been made before. It is also a brilliant visual
achievement, with detailed and panoramic views of our world (and others)
a thousand years in the futurean age when taxis fly through the sky,
opera singers have blue skin, and the ultimate evil in the universe is
trying to end everything. The cast includes LOTR veteran Ian Bilbo
Baggins Holm, our own Gary Sirius Black Oldman, Milla Jovovich, and
of course, Bruce Willis.
2) Star Wars and/or Star Trek. Take your pick. Or better yet, watch both
series of movies. The Star Wars movies get visually more and more
amazing, and they are packed with thrills, though after seeing them I
usually find that I cant describe one thing that happened (plot-wise).
The Star Trek movies are very uneven; I have heard a rumor of an
odd-numbered Star Trek movie curse which, based on what I have seen,
is pretty believable. I would begin by avoiding Star Trek: The Motion
Picture because it is nothing BUT a special effects extravaganza, with
no plot whatsoever. But Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has always been
my favorite one.
3) Independence Day / Stargate / The Day After Tomorrow. Three movies by
Roland Emmerich that explore the fantasy possibilities of the future
(alien visitors), the past (ancient Egypt), and the present (ecological
disaster). Loaded with eye-popping images, thrilling action, romance,
tragedy, flag-waving patriotism AND subversive themes of distrusting the
government, not to mention scenes of national treasures being blown up,
each one had audiences cheering and applauding at some point. So I think
theyll be good for 3 evenings of fun, at least.
4) The Matrix trilogy and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I group
these films together, not because they are officially connected in any
way, but only because they are both epoch-making film achievements. From
the moment Trinity high-kicks her way out of a room full of policemen
in the first Matrix movie, until Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow float by
an island full of dinosaurs at the end of Sky Captain, they reinvented
the whole craft of making movies in a visually stunning way.
5) Anything animated by Pixar studios, from Toy Story to Monsters, Inc.
and the aforementioned The Incredibles. These are truly adorable movies,
and each one is an explosive leap forward for the quality of computer
animation. Support them and, in effect, you are supporting the future
development of special effects in the Harry Potter movies.
6) The Mask with Jim Carrey. The movie abounded in special effects, but
thats only the half of it. Jim Carreys face is a special effect. I
think this is the movie that did the most to take advantage of that
7) The Red Violin. What on earth am I saying? This isnt a special
effects movie; its a music video for the work of composer John
Corigliano, featuring artsy-fartsy characters, superstition, sex, death,
and a lot of subtitles (with dialogue taking place in English, French,
German, Chinese, and Italian). But it is a movie of amazing beauty, both
for the eyes and the ears, and it is so eerie, so full of forboding, so
romantic, so tremendously moving, that (as if by magic) you forget that
you are reading subtitles and believe that you understand every word in
8) Any Marvel Comics movie, going back as far as you like. What they
lack in story depth, they make up in thrilling visual effects.
9) Any M. Night Shyamalan movie. Why? They dont have a lot of effects!
Well, thats why. I cant think of a better filmmaker, working today, to
use as an example of the awesome impact that can be achieved without
loads of special efffects. Study him to learn what the Harry Potter
filmmakers are going about as they obsess over every detail of lighting,
make-up, costume, scenery, and photography.
10) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing, as particular
examples of how a movie can stink, even when it has the best special
effectsbecause the story isnt there to back them up. And thus you will
learn to be more thankful than ever that the genius of J. K. Rowling is
behind the next Harry Potter movie!
Posted by: Sharon