Thursday, July 16, 2009

Half-Blood Prince Movie

I just saw the new Harry Potter movie last night. I had not planned to go on opening night, but I wound up with a free ticket and went on a whim. While it was pretty good, it wasn't quite what I expected. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that my expectations were sky-high given the early Tomatometer ratings in the astronomic range of 98%.

Additionally, book 6 was probably my favorite of the series (a close call with book 3, Prisoner of Azkaban). Unlike the previous two books which were high on the action and thrills, book 6 slowed down and spent more time on character development. Also, it helped that book 6 also had a very poignant cliff-hanger of an ending. I'd thought the death at the end of Order of the Phoenix had been sad, but it hardly compared to how I felt about the death at the end of Half-Blood Prince (in contrast, I wasn't really as deeply impacted by any of the deaths in the last book).

That said, the ending of the movie wasn't able to evoke quite the same feeling for me; indeed it was over quite quickly and the effect didn't linger. Though, perhaps, it wasn't realistic for me to expect the same reaction given that the end was now longer a surprise or such a shock. There's also the knowledge of what happens in the last book which probably factors into the experience too. Maybe the death would have hit me just as hard in the movie if I were watching it before reading the last book.

The ending aside, the movie had tons of excellent scenes. The opening attack on the Muggle world was a good touch. Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn was quite good and the memories of Lord Voldemort were chilling. Even the romance wasn't overly sappy; I particularly liked the scene where Harry and Hermione comfort each other after she's saddened to see Ron snogging Lavender. I must note, however, that the Harry/Ginny kiss was quite weak and didn't have any of the spontaneity or passion that was evoked in the book; it was especially disappointing given how much they kept hinting at the relationship.

But my biggest gripe was that the film often appeared to be a string of scenes rather than a cohesive story. This was probably a casualty of the fact that there was no single large plot thread, but several subtle ones. While it worked fine in the book, it may have been less appetizing for movie audiences.

Nonetheless, I can't complain too much about a free show. And I'll still probably go see it again when it finally comes out on IMAX.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Viva la Vida!

Last night, I went to my first (to be precise, I went to a Ben Folds & Sara Bareilles Concert during MIT's Spring Weekend, but I'm counting this as my first real one since it was outside of school) concert: Coldplay at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Needless to say, it was quite mind-blowing.

As this was my first concert, I should first note a few lessons for posterity:
  1. The main act doesn't start until a couple of hours into the show. So while I hurried to the Amphitheater after work to make the 7 p.m. start time, I needn't have. This is only true if you have reserved seats, probably not true for lawn seats. On the other hand, the opening acts weren't too bad, so it might be worth it to show up early.
  2. I forgot to bring any pocket money, but it was probably just as well. There are concessions, but they are absurdly over-priced. The only thing that was tempting was Ben & Jerry's, but at more than $5 for a scoop, it was best that I didn't have any money.
  3. You will be standing for most of the main act and probably singing along if you're a big fan. I luckily brought in a bottle of water which saved me from becoming hoarse before Viva la Vida. But I might have been better served with two bottles.
  4. It probably goes without saying, but concerts are extremely loud. They don't lend themselves well to carrying on cell phone conversations. Indeed, I often found myself grateful that I wasn't too close to the stage. I was in the 26th row and it was still quite loud.
Coldplay burst onto the stage a little before 9 p.m. playing Life in Technicolor in the dark. A few seconds in, a spectacular array of lights illuminated the stage and the band. The concert had begun!

Coldplay started off with a series of hit singles such as Violet Hill, Clocks, In My Place, and Yellow. During the latter, they released several large yellow beach balls into the audience to add to the excitement.

After the singles, Coldplay relocated to the lawn to play a couple of numbers. And then at the 10 p.m. mark, Chris Martin and Company bounded back to the stage and launched straight into Viva la Vida with a flourish. I think I'd already drained my bottle of water by this time and my voice was starting to grow hoarse. But I still sang along :)

By the end of the concert, Coldplay had played every song from the album (except Yes for some reason; I guess it wasn't concert-friendly?) and also covered Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Chris Martin came back for an encore and played The Scientist very soulfully on the piano. And the concert ended as it had begun: playing Life in Technicolor II (the one with the words) as the band faded into darkness.

Overall, quite an amazing experience for my first concert. The band also gave away free copies of a live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft containing some of the songs they played that night (also available for free download from Coldplay's site).

I think I have the concert bug now... would love to go to a U2 concert next! :)