Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/31/11

TITANIC (1997)
When composer James Horner was hired director James Cameron said that he absolutely did not want anything other than straight score for the film. James Horner secretly wrote "My Heart Will Go On" and secretly recorded it with Celine Dion. When he played it for Cameron he prefaced it by saying, "I know you'll probably hate it, but..." Cameron loved the song and put it in the film. (If you've ever seen an interview with James Cameron or read an article about him you'll know that this is probably one of the only times he's admitted he was wrong.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/29/11

TITANIC (1997)
The piece of music that plays during the portrait scene was never meant to be in the film. Composer James Horner recorded himself playing the main theme of the film on the piano and sent it to director James Cameron titled "Sketch." Horner meant that the song was a sketch of a piece of music that he was going to flesh out later with an orchestra. Cameron interpreted the title "Sketch" to mean that it was meant for the scene where Jack sketches Rose. Cameron loved how simple and beautiful it was and decided to use it in the final film. Personally, I'm very happy it's in the movie. It's my favorite song from the soundtrack.

Isn't it amazing?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/28/11

GREASE (1978)
In the original stage production that the movie is based on Sandy is American, but Olivia Newton-John couldn't do an American accent very well so the director altered the script so that Sandy was Australian and Newton-John could use her own accent.

That Sounds Familiar... "My Name is Lincoln"

Recently my posts have been quite lengthy and they have taken a while to write, so I thought that today I would talk about something that's small, but quite interesting. (Well, I find it interesting...)

Whenever you hear a piece of music in a movie trailer it is almost always not the music that will be in the movie. That is to say, trailer music is usually not the final film's soundtrack. Sometimes the music will be written especially for the trailer, but most times it is borrowed from another film's soundtrack.

There is one piece of music in particular that plays in many, many trailers. You've most likely heard it at one point or another without realizing it. The piece of music is called "My Name Is Lincoln" and it's from the film The Island (2005) directed by Michael Bay. The Island is not a very memorable film, but it's enduring legacy is this song. It was composed by Steve Jablonsky who does all of Bay's films. "My Name Is Lincoln" is, in my opinion, the most epic piece of score of modern times. This song is quite high on my list of favorite movie scores. It's on my workout playlist and when I listen to it I feel like I should go climb Mount Everest or something. Take a listen:

Doesn't the moment at 2:59 make your heart soar?

So, because this piece of music is SO epic, it's been used in a ton of trailers for epic movies. I like how the music feels a little different depending on what it's being played over. It's been used in dozens of trailers, but for now here are a few examples:

The most notable trailer it was used in is the extended trailer for Avatar (2010):

Then there's the trailer for Flyboys (2006). There's usually more than one piece of music in a trailer. It kicks in around 1:30.

I like how it's used in the trailer for Conviction (2010). It's a movie with an epic story, but it's not an action movie. Again, it kicks in towards the end at 1:41.

And finally, it's in the Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) trailer. It starts at 1:17.

Now that you know this piece of music you will recognize it in lots of trailers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/27/11

Clint Howard has appeared in 17 of his older brother, director Ron Howard's, films. Ron Howard has said that Clint is his lucky charm. Here are a few of his appearances:
FROST/NIXON: Interview Director Lloyd Davis
APOLLO 13: Cy Leibergot, A command center employee
CINDERELLA MAN: Referee in Jim's first losing fight
PARENTHOOD: Little League dad who heckles Steve Martin

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/26/11

During the first Golden Age of Disney animated films, Walt Disney nick-named his core group of animators the "Nine Old Men." The Nine Old Men were the main animators on every Disney film from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to The Rescuers (1977). This group of men is credited with refining the basic rules of hand-drawn animation that are still used to this day.

Snow White vs. Snow White

In Hollywood right now there are currently two different movies based on the story of Snow White in production.

Over the past few months I have been obsessively following this story and I can't get enough of it. It's just too good to be true: Two films based on the same story, each with talented casts, that are being released within less than 3 months of each other. It's like a more interesting, more sophisticated and more high-stakes celebrity feud.

First, here are the fast facts:

Snow White #1

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White - Kristen Stewart
The Huntsman - Chris Hemsworth
Evil Queen - Charlize Theron

Production Company:
Universal Pictures

Release Date: 
June 1, 2012

IMDb Synopsis:
In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman, ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed, winds up becoming her mentor and protector in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Snow White #2

The Brothers Grimm: Snow White

Snow White - Lily Collins
Prince Andrew Alcott - Armie Hammer
Evil Queen - Julia Roberts

Production Company:
Relativity Media

Release Date:
March 16, 2012

IMDb Synopsis:
A dark twist on the classic fairy tale, in which Snow White and the seven dwarfs look to reclaim their destroyed kingdom.

Let's compare, shall we?

The Snow Whites:

Clearly the people behind Snow White and the Huntsman are going for an epic, Lord of the Rings feel, which is fine except that Snow White's armor looks almost exactly like the Gondorian armor from Rings. The tree on Snow White's shield is dangerously close to the Tree of Gondor design. The notion that imitation is a form of flattery does not apply to film-making in my opinion. It just comes across as sloppy and unoriginal. Anyway, that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Even when I was young I was never a fan of the Disney princess movies. I don't like damsel-in-distress stories, so I like that this Snow White is going to be a tough warrior princess. You would think that after the Twilight films no casting director in their right mind would cast Kristen Stewart as a princess, however, after seeing the direction this film is going to take, I like the idea. Stewart does romantic and happy quite terribly, but intense and serious quite well. However, there is more danger of being called a copy-cat because Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland did essentially the same thing: turning a classic storybook girl into a warrior. See the similarities?

The Brothers Grimm: Snow White is also being marketed as a "modern" and "dark" interpretation, however, the picture of Lily Collins as Snow White does not look very dark. She looks a bit like a porcelain doll. This is the first film in an intended series of films called The Brothers Grimm, so this movie has the difficult task of setting the tone for the rest of the series.

I actually really like all the color in this photo. Lily Collins is the daughter of singer Phil Collins and she has just burst onto the scene. Her breakout role was playing Collins Tuohy is The Blind Side. That role didn't give her much to work with so I have no idea how good of an actress she is.

The Love Interests

I fell pretty hard for Chris Hemsworth when he played George Kirk in Star Trek. It is so hard to find an actor who can be an action star, but can also play the intimate, emotional moments. With most action movies I feel like the star is usually one or the other, rarely both. That being said, I have full confidence that Hemsworth can be both. Come on, who didn't cry at his performance is Star Trek? And though I haven't seen Thor, he received rave reviews, so he's got the action part covered. So let's go down our checklist: Overwhelmingly handsome. Check. Acting ability. Check. Action star status. Check. Scruffy action hero beard. Check. Stoic, brooding facial expression. Check.


Playing the love interest in The Brothers Grimm: Snow White is Armie Hammer. Armie Hammer is another new face. He recently played Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in The Social Network. According to Entertainment Weekly, the prince in this film is caught in a love triangle between Snow White and her evil step-mother. (That cannot be very good for their mother-daughter relationship.) Unlike Chris Hemsworth, Hammer has yet to be tested as an action star, however, I'm not sure how much action there will be in this film. I'm sure he will brandish a sword and ride a horse, but this film seems like it will be much less of an action movie than Snow White and the Huntsman. The picture of Lily Collins in The Bros Grimm is the only promo pic out right now, so we don't have a look at what the other characters will look like, but of course Armie Hammer will look the part once he's in costume.

The Evil Queens

And of course, you can't have a modern fantasy film without a sexy, evil villain. I am not a huge fan of Charlize Theron. My favorite movie that she's in is The Cider House Rules and even in that, she's not the stand-out actor. I don't really have much to say about her except that her costume is pretty amazing. Of the two Evil Queens, I think she definitely has the upper hand. Julia Roberts does not do sexy very well these days, but I think she could be great if she chooses to be passive-aggressive evil.

Neither of these films are on my list of highly-anticipated films of 2012, but I'm still looking forward to them. Who knows if either of them will be very good? In this year alone, there have been two films based on fairy tales that were both critical and box office disasters. The first was Red Riding Hood and the second was Beastly, which was based on Beauty and the Beast.

Whether the movies sink or swim, I will definitely be following this story to the end.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/25/11

The director wanted Khan's men to all be buff and tanned so he cast 80's Chippendale dancers to be Khan's crew.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/24/11

John Ratzenburger has a part in every Pixar movie.

Toy Story: Hamm, the piggy bank

A Bug's Life: P.T. Flea, the ring-leader of the bug circus

Toy Story 2: Hamm, the piggy bank

Monsters, Inc.: The Abominable Snowman

Finding Nemo: School of Fish, the fish that mime objects for Marlin and Dory

The Incredibles: The Underminer, the evil mole at the end of the movie

Cars: Mack, the 18-wheeler

Ratatouille: Mustafa

Wall-E: John, the human

Up: Tom, the construction foreman

Toy Story 3: Hamm, the piggy bank

Cars 2: Mack, the 18-wheeler

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/23/11

BIG (1988)
The rap/handshake that Josh (Tom Hanks) and Billy do multiple times in the film was suggested by Tom Hanks. He felt that the boys needed some sort of secret handshake and Hanks' son had just learned it at camp. The director loved it and put it in the film.

Tom Hanks still has it memorized. Check out this interview from 2009 where he does it perfectly, hand motions and all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/22/11

TITANIC (1997)
The portrait of Rose was sketched by director James Cameron. Cameron is left-handed, but Leonardo DiCaprio is not, so shots of the drawing being sketched are reversed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/21/11

In every Pixar film there is a section towards the end of the credits called "Production Babies." The "production babies" are the babies of everyone who worked on the film that were born during the production of the movie. For instance the were 58 babies born during the making of Wall-E, including three sets of twins.

Alexander & William, Amelie, Asher, Atlee, Ava, Avery, Berge, Cohen, Cora, Dillan, Dylan, Ellen, Emma-Brie, Emma Jane, Emma June, Esha, Evija, Flora, Friederich, Giorgia, Hailey, Harper & Griffin, Jack, Jackson & Parker, Jenna, Jonathan, Katie, Kayla, Keilani, Leila, Liam, Logan, Luca, Lucie, Maeve, Maya, Nasreen, Noah, Parisa, Peter, Phoenix, Reina, Sadie, Sequoia, Tais, Tessa, Tobian & Ellarudy, Tomas, Victoria, Violet, Violet Grace, Vivien, Vouk, Zumis

Fun Film Fact 07/20/11

Director Peter Jackson has a cameo in each of the films.
Fellowship of the Ring: He is the man eating the carrot as the four hobbits walk through the village of Bree in the rain to get to the Prancing Pony.
Two Towers: He is a Rohan soldier during the battle at Helm's Deep and he throws an arrow through a hole at an Urik-Hai.
Return of the King: He is the sailor that Legolas kills outside the mountain after the Army of the Dead sequence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coming Soon (Well, Soon-ish): The Amazing Spider-man

The first trailer for The Amazing Spider-man was released yesterday.

When it was first announced that the Spider-man franchise was going to be rebooted I thought it was ridiculous given that Spider-man 3 only came out in 2007. Sure, a new Spider-man film will rake in hundreds of millions no matter how good it is, but come on, give the public some time to breath and establish some new super hero franchises. 

I would have readily accepted a reboot if the rights to Spider-man had been sold to a different production company who was now trying to cash in as soon as possible. But no, the franchise is still with Columbia Pictures. I guess it still makes sense for Columbia to milk Spider-man for all he's worth. They would have gladly made Spider-man 4, 5, 6, 7, to infinity, but Tobey Maguire's contract allowed him to leave after the third film and he did so. So then Columbia was left with an all-star franchise but no star. Rather than pick up where they left off with a new Peter Parker, they chose to go back to the beginning, which was a smart choice.

Now that I've spent two paragraphs talking about how bad this could be I should say that I am REALLY jazzed about this movie. As I learned more about it and casting news was released, I got more and more excited. The two main things I am overjoyed about are the cast and the writers.

Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/ Spider-man) 

Andrew Garfield has just burst onto the scene, and what an entrance he has made. For starters, the fangirl inside of me loves him for how adorable and charming he is, but the film critic side of me loves his talent. Before being cast as Peter, Garfield only had two main-stream roles on his resume. The first was that of Tommy in Never Let Me Go. Never Let Me Go is a beautiful film based on an even more beautiful book. I would highly recommend both, although I would suggest you read the book first. There are some incredibly amazing acting moments in that film. I have seen the movie SO many times and there is a scene towards the end that never ceases to break my heart. If you've seen the film, you'll know what I'm talking about, but I will not spoil it for people who haven't seen it. His second big role was that of Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg's best friend, in The Social Network. Again, he has some incredible acting moments. Peter Parker is my favorite super hero because he is so normal. He's bullied in high school, he has a terrible job, he has difficulty getting the girl, and so on. I think Andrew Garfield will be able to bring the nerdy, shy aspects of Peter and the intense, determined aspects of Spider-man.

Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy)

Emma Stone is another fresh, young face to recently make it big in Hollywood. Her role as Olive in Easy A last year showed how she can reach both sides of the spectrum: She has incredible comedic timing, but she can also play the softer, more genuine moments too. In the previous Spiderman movies Peter's love interest was Mary-Jane Watson. In those films MJ was a combination of both Mary-Jane and Gwen from the comic books. In the comic books, Mary-Jane is the fun-loving party girl and Gwen is a bit more reserved and bookish and very intelligent, so the role Kirsten Dunst was playing was a combo of both women. Now we all know that Spider-man 3 was a complete mess because there were too many villians, Peter was unlikeable, the story was not well thought out, and there were too many explosions and not enough realistic dialogue. Despite all that, the thing that annoyed me the most was that Gwen Stacy was in the film. According to the timeline set out by the comic books, Gwen Stacy should not have been alive because she is killed by the Green Goblin. If Peter fights and kills the Green Goblin in the first film why is Gwen Stacy alive in the third film? Anyway, my knit-picking aside, I think Emma Stone will be a great Gwen Stacy.

Martin Sheen (Ben Parker)

I basically worship Martin Sheen. Everything he touches turns to gold in my eyes: Apocalypse Now, The Departed, The West Wing. I was probably most excited when I heard that he was cast as Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben needs to be strong, avuncular, and loving. Peter adores his uncle and at this point in his career, there is nothing Martin Sheen plays better that a loving father-figure. I'm sure he'll only have a few scenes in the film given that it's his death that is the starting point for Peter's choice to become Spider-man, but I have no doubt that Sheen will make the most of it.

(As a side-note, illegal on-set footage of the filming of Uncle Ben's death appeared on Youtube a few months ago and it was pretty impressive to see Andrew Garfield's and Martin Sheen's acting.)

The cast also includes Sally Field as Aunt May, Denis Leary as George Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as The Lizard/Dr. Conners. Of that list, I am most excited about Ifans. He has the most incredible range as an actor. You've probably seen some of his films without recognizing that it's the same actor. The most common example of that is that he plays Spike, the crazy roommate, in Notting Hill and he plays Xenophilius Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.

 The screenplay for the film is written by Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves. Sargent wrote the original trilogy, so we know he knows Spiderman well. And Kloves wrote all but one of the Harry Potter screenplays. Anyone who has seen the Potter films, especially the most recent one, knows that Kloves is a master at balancing action and emotion. He has an ear for witty dialogue and knows when to pack on the intensity. Could there be a more perfect union?? 

The film is set to come out on July 3, 2012. (Hence the name of this post.) 
And now we wait....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/19/11

Ron Howard and Kathleen Quinlan play high school classmates in the film. Years later Ron Howard directed Quinlan in Apollo 13 for which she received an Oscar nomination.

 Ron Howard is on the far left and Kathleen Quinlan is on the far right.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/18/11

Leslie Howard, best known for playing Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind, never intended to be an actor. He was working as a bank clerk when World War I broke out and he enlisted. After the war he was diagnosed as shell-shocked (which is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder) and was advised to take up acting as a form of therapy. Within a few years he became a well-respected actor in both London and New York.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Favorite Pieces from the Deathly Hallows: Part II Soundtrack

I'm waiting until I've seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II for a third time before I post my review, but for now here are my thoughts on the AMAZING soundtrack composed by Alexandre Desplat.

The Deathly Hallows: Part II soundtrack has 25 tracks, so I'm not going to talk about them all, just my favorites.

Beware of Spoilers Throughout

"Lily's Theme"

This piece of music is a perfect example of why I love a human voice and strings in a film's score. This plays during the very beginning of the film as we see shots of Snape at Hogwarts and oppressed students. One of the main things I've missed from the Potter films is Lily Potter. She is the reason Harry survived Voldemort's killing curse and she is a huge presence throughout the books. Despite her absence in the prior movies, she is very present in this film and that is mostly through the music. This beautiful female voice is heard all through the film. It plays during scenes about Harry and scenes about Snape. As much as those two hate each other, their mutual love for Lily ties them together.

"The Tunnel"

This piece plays as Harry, Ron, Bellatrix/Hermione, Griphook, and Bogrod travel into the depths of Gringotts on the twisty-turny track. I have to say, this scene made me a little dizzy the first time I saw and that wasn't even in 3D. The way it's shot suggests that the filmmakers were anticipating this to be one of the big 3D moments in the film, but the exciting and intense music prevents it from seeming gimmicky.

"Dragon Flight"

I love this song because it's the first piece of soaring (no pun intended), sweeping, and, dare I say, magical score. The first time I saw the film the moment at about 0:43 made me really excited to go home and listen to the soundtrack over and over again. This scene is the first sign of the action and excitement that is yet to come.

"Courtyard Apocalypse"

My favorite scene in the film is The Prince's Tale, but this is my favorite piece of music. It plays as Harry, Ron and Hermione fight their way through the castle and courtyard to get to Voldemort and Snape. At this point I had been crying for awhile, but this scene made me sob. Hogwarts is so much more than a school to so many of the characters and it was devastating to see it reduced to rubble and flames. This music is so epic and sad and the visuals are so scary and intense. The trio runs past so much destruction: Lavender Brown being killed by Fenrir Greyback, acromantulas, a giant wielding one of the rings from the Quidditch pitch, to name a few. I love this scene because it's a reminder that there are so many people fighting with Harry for the fate of the wizarding world. We all know how brave the trio and the members of the Order are, but there are hundreds more who are just as brave and willing to die for the cause. This song gives me chills.

"Snape's Demise"

I L-O-V-E how this piece of music begins with Hedwig's Theme. Harry and Snape's relationship is one of the most complicated relationships in the series. Snape's final act, giving Harry his memories, brings the two together. We also hear "Lily's Theme" again which is very fitting, of course.

"The Resurrection Stone"

When I listened to the soundtrack before I saw the film this is the piece of score that stood out to me. This is certainly one of the saddest parts of the film and one of the saddest pieces of music. Harry resurrects his parents, Sirius and Lupin and they walk with him as he walks to his death. So often in films the piece of score that plays right before a death has what I like to call "angel voices" meaning the score is accompanied by a high-pitched choral arrangement. The angel voices kick in right on cue at 1:15. Immediately after the angel voices we hear "Lily's Theme" again. See what I mean about her presence being throughout the film?


I would have to say this is the darkest piece of music, which is fitting because this is the darkest part of the film. The Death Eaters, led by Voldemort, victoriously proceed into the courtyard as Hagrid carries Harry's body. This song begins with a very ominous and sad version of "Lily's Theme." I like that "Lily's Theme" plays here because, though it's not mentioned in the film, Harry's sacrifice has protected everyone from harm, just as Lily's sacrifice protected Harry 16 years ago.

Now, the last song on the soundtrack is called "A New Beginning" but it is NOT the last song in the movie. The last song in the movie is called "Leaving Hogwarts."

"Leaving Hogwarts" plays at the end of the first film, Sorcerer's Stone, as Harry, Ron and Hermione board the Hogwarts Express. As the music reaches its peak at 1:49 the final image of the film appears: a beautiful shot of the train leaving Hogsmeade Station with Hagrid waving on the platform and Hogwarts in the background. Before Alexandre Desplat was confirmed as the composer for Deathly Hallows: Part II there were rumors that John Williams was going to return for the final film. As we hoped and prayed that Williams would return, my sisters and I talked about how amazing it would be if "Leaving Hogwarts" played during the epilogue. We never expected that to actually come true. Needless to say, when it started playing at the midnight premiere we lost our minds. In the book, there are many things that bring the story full-circle and the choice to play "Leaving Hogwarts" was a B-E-A-utiful way to bring the series to a close.

Fun Film Fact 07/17/11

A total of seven people played Darth Vader throughout the 6 films.
1. James Earl Jones voiced Vader in Episodes III, IV, V and VI.
2. The man inside the Vader suit in the original trilogy is David Prowse, an actor and bodybuilder.
3. Stuntman Bob Anderson did most of Vader's stunts, including the lightsaber duels.
4. When Luke takes off the helmet in Return of the Jedi it's yet another actor named Sebastian Shaw.
5. When George Lucas re-released the original trilogy he shot some extra scenes with actor Andrew Nelson in the suit.
6. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace young Anakin Skywalker is played by Jake Lloyd.
7. And finally, actor Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/14/11

Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, the boy who plays 11-year-old Voldemort in the flashback to the orphanage, is Ralph Fiennes' (Voldemort) nephew. I'm sure it was a bit of nepotism that got him the audition, but there is no denying that he was perfect for the role.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/13/11

Spoiler Alert
In the scene where Sirius dies, Dan Radcliffe's scream of anguish was so intense that director David Yates didn't want to put it in the film because he knew young kids were going to see it. Instead he opted to play the moment with no sound, just sad music. Personally I wish he had kept it in. I'm a big fan of Dan's acting in Order of the Phoenix and it would have been a great moment.


Ah, heck. Why not have another one today?
In the scene where Dumbledore's Army is being chased through the Hall of Prophesy by the Death Eaters none of the shelves holding the prophesies were actually there. There was just green tape marking where the shelves were and then they were all added digitally later. There were a lot of unusable takes because the actors were running so fast that they kept running into where the shelves would be.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/12/11

Before the film was released Warner Brothers released a screenshot of Harry next to the Riddle's tombstone in the Little Hangleton graveyard. The tombstone had the names Thomas Riddle, Mary Riddle, and Tom Marvolo Riddle. There was an uproar among the fans because the name "Tom Marvolo Riddle" should not have been on the tombstone. The people buried beneath the tombstone are Voldemort's father and grandparents. "Tom Marvolo Riddle" is Lord Voldemort's Muggle name, thus it should not have been on the tombstone. The backlash was so great that Warner Brothers changed the tombstone digitally so it had the proper names in the finished film.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/11/11

The visual effects animators were having trouble capturing the eerie, floating nature of the dementors, so to help them out director Alfonso Cuaron had a real dementor made. He put the dementor in a tank of water and filmed it. The way the dementor moved in the water was exactly the look Cuaron was going for. That way the animators had reference footage, so they could achieve the desired look. If you pay attention during the film, you can see that the dementors do, in fact, look like they're moving through water.

Harry Potter and the Midnight Premiere

Movies are not meant to be seen on a television, no matter how big it is, or on a little laptop screen. Movies are meant to be seen on a 22 ft. by 52 ft. screen and in a theater filled with people. The way you experience a film has everything to do with the environment in which you see it. I find that I laugh more when I am surrounded by people who are also laughing. Dramatic moments are made more dramatic when the theater is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

The greatest experiences I've ever had in a movie theater are the Harry Potter midnight premieres. There is nothing quite like seeing a new Harry Potter film at midnight.

At the movie theater I go to people start arriving at 6:00pm and there is a long, wide roped off line that everyone sits in. We all hang out, talk, make friends, play Harry Potter trivia, and read excerpts from the books as we wait anxiously for 11:30pm when we are let into the theaters.

The midnight premieres are all about the costumes. People who dress like Muggles are in the minority. I always try to choose a costume that is relevant to the movie we'll be watching, so for Half-Blood Prince I was Narcissa Malfoy because she's introduced in that film and for Deathly Hallows Part I I made myself a Golden Snitch dress and wore a headband that said "I open at the close" like the one Dumbledore leaves Harry in his will.

When the film starts the excitement in the theater is palpable. Each Potter film begins with the Warner Brothers logo, which has gotten darker and creepier as the films progress. For Deathly Hallows Part I the logo disintegrated like rusty metal, a sign of what was to come I suppose. Personally, I get a rush of adrenaline when that logo appears. In some ways it makes the reality of the moment hit home. Yes, I am about to watch a new Harry Potter film. And yes, I am among the first in the country to experience it. Bring it on. 
Midnight audiences are the best because it's all die-hard Potter fans. Everyone knows the books inside out, so we all laugh at our favorite lines from the books and cry our eyes out at the deaths. There is also this weird mixture of thrill and anticipation because, though we are all waiting for the best parts of the book to appear onscreen, there is nothing that prepares you for the moment when it is actually realized. I find this happens most with the action sequences. Reading about an action sequence is very different from watching an action sequence.

The other thing I really like about the midnight showings is that the audience knows when to laugh and when not to laugh. What I mean by that is that in the Potter films the are a few moments that might appear to be funny to someone who hasn't read the books. The best example of this is in Deathly Hallows Part I. When Harry, Ron and Hermione are captured by the Snatchers, Hermione hits Harry with a stinging jinx to distort his face so the Snatchers won't know who he is. His face becomes all swollen and lumpy. I was in non-midnight screenings where people who had clearly not read the books laughed at how ridiculous he looked. Fans of the books never laugh at that moment because they know the terrible danger that is about to come their way. They know that the trio will be taken to Malfoy Manor and they know Hermione is about to be tortured.

Another interesting thing about seeing the Potter films in theaters is watching the evolution of the audiences. On average I see each Harry Potter movie about 6 to 7 times in theaters. As the weeks progress, the audience changes. It goes from the die-hards to people who are not the biggest fans but are still interested to people who haven't read the books but feel like they should see the movie because it's a big cultural moment. In each screening there are also people like me who just keep coming back for more. My family has a tradition where we go to the movie at midnight and then see it again at 7pm. That way we get to see it with a first-time audience twice.

When you go to the movies you and everyone around you are meant to be swept away and carried through the story. And therein lies my favorite thing about going to the movies. When you see a movie in the cinema you are transported into the world of the film, but you are also very much aware of the people around you. You are taken in by emotion of the movie, but you are also surrounded by family, friends and strangers who are along for the ride too.

This feeling of community is exemplified a hundred-fold at Harry Potter midnight showings. I always feel as though I'm in a theater of 300 of my best friends. These midnight premieres just reaffirm what every Potter fan knows: Harry Potter brings people together.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/10/11

Rupert Grint's favorite scene to film was the scene where he vomits slugs because the props department made the slug goo in a bunch of different flavors like strawberry and peppermint, so it was quite fun for him.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/09/11

In the scenes where Fawkes the phoenix is not flying it's an animatronic bird made by the props department. The bird was so realistic looking that Richard Harris (Dumbledore) thought it was a real bird even though he was acting right next to it. Between takes he said to the director Chris Columbus, "It's quite amazing how well-trained these animals are these days." Oh, how I miss Richard Harris.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/07/11

Over the ten years that the films were made, Daniel Radcliffe wore 588 pairs of glasses and used 60-70 wands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/06/11

Throughout the whole movie Elle's hair is Reese Witherspoon's actual hair except for the scene outside the courtroom after she's won the case and Warner comes to talk to her. That scene was re-shot, but by that time Reese had a different hair-do for her next movie, so she is wearing a wig. If you look closely you can see that it looks very different from the rest of the movie.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/5/11

CAST AWAY (2000)
The beginning of the film was shot first and then production shut down for a year while Tom Hanks grew out his hair and lost 50 pounds. During the hiatus director Robert Zemeckis used the same crew to film What Lies Beneath. 



Monday, July 4, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/4/11

In the scene at the end of the film between Dumbledore, Harry and Lucius Malfoy, Malfoy says, "Let us hope that Mr. Potter will always be around to save the day." Harry's response, "Don't worry. I will be." was an ad-lib by 13-year-old Daniel Radcliffe. In later interviews Jason Isaacs (Malfoy) called the moment "electric."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/3/11

During the time before World War II many Europeans fleeing the war ended up in Los Angeles, so the filmmakers were able to cast an extremely diverse group of extras to populate Casablanca. In the "dueling national anthems" scene the extras were not instructed to cry, but many of them did anyway because the scene was very personal to them. (That scene will always be this cinephile's favorite film scene of all time.)

Fun Film Fact 07/2/11

127 HOURS (2010)
James Franco kept his textbooks hidden just out of frame so he could study while he was stuck, unable to move, in the tiny canyon set.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fun Film Fact 07/1/11

When David Seidler won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay he became the oldest person ever to win that award. He was 73.