New in Theaters – "Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix"
It’s the 5th of the Harry Potter series, and half-way through the film you’ll wish you had one – a fifth, that is – to dull your senses.
The latest installment of the magical mystery tour should be called "Harry Potter and the Order of Predictability," or "Same-Old, Same-Old in Sorcery Land."
Valiant Harry battles evil Lord Voldemort – with the loyal support of steadfast friends Ron and Hermione, his classmates at Hogwarts School for necromancers-in-training. Headmaster Dumbledore is kindly and sage. Lord Voldemort (who knighted him, anyway?) has a coterie of odious henchmen. Potter’s "Muggle" (non-magic) relations are, well Muggle-ish -- fat, dull and nasty. The Dementors (specters able to inflict agonizing deaths) make a guest appearance early on.
There are the mythical creatures from central casting (including centaurs, Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid’s giant half-brother and skeletal flying-horses), teenaged angst, youthful rebellion and High-Noon with wands.
New elements are haphazardly thrown in – Harry’s trial before the Ministry of Magic for casting spells in the presence of Muggles, something called a "prophecy" (a crystal ball that prophesizes) and a new Professor Against The Dark Arts, one Dolores Umbridge (a cross between a giggly grandmum and a dominatrix) who turns Hogwarts into Priscilla’s House of Pain.
I guess none of this is supposed to make sense. Am I the only one who wonders what Hogwarts grads do once they have their BAs (bachelors of abracadabra) – hang out a shingle "practicing witch/wizard" (potions for sale or rent, spells to cast, 50 cents), find dark wizards to fight?
If "The Order of the Phoenix" has any redeeming qualities, it’s the appealing juvenile trio, those Magical Musleteers Harry, Ron and Hermione, as well as the English public school virtues the novels and films celebrate – friendship, courage and stiff-upper-lip.
On the whole, given a choice between the Ministry of Magic and Ministry of Silly Walks, I’ll take Monty Python – and give The Order of the Turkey a C-.
New on DVD – "Shooter"
If Michael Moore hooked up with Cindy Sheehan, "Shooter" would be their love-child – a movie that drips with leftist (our-government-is-controlled-by homicidal-corporate- interests) paranoia and cynicism.
Mark Wahlberg is Bobby Lee Swagger (sounds like a nom de Nascar), an ex-Marine recon sniper whose last assignment went south. (On a mission in Ethiopia, his partner was killed and he was abandoned behind enemy lines.) When a shadowy CIA agent, Colonel Isaac Johnson (played by a disintegrating Danny Glover), finds Bobby Lee, he’s leading a mountain-man existence in Tennessee.
I can see why the part appealed to Castro chum and Hugo Chavez boy-toy Glover. The movie manages to hit all of the left’s favorite conspiracy theories – JFK was assassinated from the grassy knoll, everybody in the government (from your postal carrier to the president) knew prisoners were being tortured in Abu Ghraib, there were no WMDs in Iraq (Saddam was a saint) and American foreign policy is driven by Exxon’s profits.
Glover knows just what buttons to push (red, white and blue) to bring Bobby Lee out of retirement. The ex-gunnery sergeant is told they need his sharpshooter skills to help foil a plot to assassinate the president. What they really want is for him to show them how to whack an Ethiopian bishop on stage with the president. Then they want to set him up to take the fall.
The bishop knows the details of the latest U.S. atrocity in the Third World, the massacre of an entire Ethiopian village to make way for an oil pipeline. In what’s supposed to be an ironic twist, it’s later revealed that Bobby Lee was covering the kill squad’s retreat on his last mission, when his spotter died.
Senator Charles F. Meachum (played by a snarling, saliva-spitting Ned Beatty), the man Glover works for, delivers the Abbie Hoffman Memorial Lecture -- explaining just how rotten America is.
Meachum: "There are no sides. There’s no Sunnis and Shiites. There’s no Democrats and Republicans. There’s only HAVES and HAVE-NOTS. It’s not as bad as it seems. It’s all gonna be done in any case. You might as well be on the side that gets you well paid for your efforts."
"This is a country where the Secretary of Defense can go on T.V., and tell the American public, oh, that ‘This is about freedom. It’s not about oil.’ And nobody questions him, cuz they don’t wanna hear the answer, because it’s a lie! There are only so many places at the table, Gunnie. Now, are you on the INSIDE, or are you on the OUT!"
In case anyone missed the point, in one scene, an idealistic FBI agent, who joins Bobby Lee in his quest for justice, is wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt.
There are the inevitable car chases, narrow escapes, exploding buildings, car-going-off-a-bridge, lone-wolf good guy wiping out a battalion of baddies, helpless and scantily clad sweet young thing menaced by a leering thug, and "There’s going to be more shooting, more people are going to die. I didn’t start it, but I mean to see it through."
Not to mention the snappy dialogue. Meachum to Bobby Lee: "You can’t shoot me. I’m a sitting United States Senator," which brought to mind (I can’t help it) a classic Jonathan Winters routine where the Naval officer who’s about to be sacrificed to the volcano god tells the island chief, "You can’t do this to me. I’m a lieutenant, jg in the United States Navy."
Instead of renting "Shooter," you can cuddle up with "The Collected Speeches of Dennis Kucinich." Give this dud an F.