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Bank holidays are the best weekends

Very, very lazy weekend, much of which was spent playing with the shiny new iPod. Well, fixing up the ID3 metadata tags in my mp3 collection so that the iPod would display them in a reasonable manner. Well, that and playing GTA3, now that I've completed GTA:Vice City and am waiting for GTA:San Andreas to be released.

Saw Prisoner on Monday, which was fun and a welcome departure from the expositionary excesses of Chris Columbus. Very little squeeing of the drooling fangirls in the audience during the film itself, unlike the trailers. Yes, we had the Troy trailer, so there was the predictable "OMG LEGOLAS!!!" reaction.

Rather good Brit-filled cast, with notable performances from Gary Oldman and (especially) David Thewlis. The kids are growing up nicely, and Cuaron has got them to start acting like the schoolkids that they're supposed to be. More importantly, he has also got Felton to slow down when speaking, drawl more and lose the ghastly (native, one assumes) South London accent. The screenplay was a good adaptation, being faithful to the spirit, not to the word, and the addition of some (gratuitously CGI) transition sequences seems to have banished the jarring season changes/passage-of-time cuts that the previous two films suffered from (e.g. we're playing quidditch, and then it's suddenly winter). Making Lupin a jazz fan was a lovely touch that, while not in the book canon, adds to the character immensely.

My only niggle of the entire film was that Buckbeak made clop-clop-clop noises when cantering before taking flight, whereas as any fule kno, an animal with the back legs of a horse and a bird's legs up front should go click-clop-clop on cobblestones...

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Although Buckbeack's flight was gorgeously done, normally animated winged beings just 'flap flap flap' as if they were waving arms in the air. But the animators had actually watched large birds of prey in flight. Top skills!

Quite. I suspect that they've had much practice animating bird wings with all the owls.

You would think that, but in the first film the owls' flight was abysmal, and you could really tell the difference between animated owls and 'amazing animals' owls. It was dissapointing for an animal geek like me!

Maybe Buckbeak has special 'clip cloppy' talons.

Not big on exposition, is he? It worked well though, if a little choppy, and if he is sticking around for the next 2 I have more confidence now we will end up with manageable films telling, as you say, the spirit of the story and not the book line for line.

He's not unfortunately. Mike Newell is up next. Not sure what to make of that...

I'll suspend final judgement until I see it, but Newell's track record is good, if sparse. He has at least demonstrated that he can direct children with Into the West (even if that film is a bit sentimental and Oirish at times).

Oh was that one of his?

Well then...

I just hope he doesn't try to clean it all back up. I loved the grubbiness of this one.

Damn straight. In this one, the kids behaved like proper kids, Hogsmeade was not nearly as chocolate box as I'd feared, and the atmosphere was suitably dark.

(oh, and the knight bus was spot-on)

As I've said previously, I believe that the lack of exposition helps the storytelling in the film more than it hinders it. A case in point: as Lupin is transforming, Sirius asks him if he's taken his potion. What potion is this? If you've read the book, you'll know that this is the Snape-brewed potion to counter lycanthropy, and will probably allow yourself a small moment of smugness for having recognised it as such. If you've not read the book, you could probably work out that it's probably a potion that's supposed to stop him from transforming. The lack of exposition does assume that the audience can feed itself adequately if it is given a spoon, but I think this is no bad thing.

The choppiness was always going to be a problem when taking a book that spans a year and trying to compress it into two hours; it's far easier to tell the reader that time has passed than it is to show the viewer. For what it's worth, I like the whomping willow transition sequences, and think that they smooth out some of the more abrupt cuts.

I'm still not sure how the next two films are going to work, though. They're much more concerned with what Harry is thinking and how he is feeling than the previous books, and it's hard to see how they'll be able to get that across succinctly.

That said, I liked the way that they dealt with the issue of the broom that Sirius buys Harry in this film. By moving that within the film, they manage to dispense with a lot of extraneous plot (Harry falling out with Hermione, McGonagal confiscating the broom, etc) that isn't necessary to the main story.

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