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Jordan Hiller on Film

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PG)

It's not a coincidence. The same people who have waited on line for hours to catch the first glimpse of Harry Potter are the same people who are salivating in anticipation for The Lord of the Rings, and are definitely the same people who will wait on line for hours to see Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. This is the year of the dweeb. These three movies have arrived as the giant title wave of spazmania and because of the gargantuan number of (dementedly) devoted fans out there, we, the interested yet ultimately reality-based life forms, will have no choice but to be carried away in the current.

You will find yourself asking questions where the answers don't really make sense to you - and you won't even care - you'll just need to know. Questions about words that you have never heard before, concepts that never existed, and people you will never meet. Why will you need to know? Mainly so you won't be left out (because doesn't it seem like everyone is in on it but you?) and also because you are going to want to see the next Harry Potter or the next Lord of the Rings or the next Star Wars. We have no choice - dweebs rule this millennium and we can be comfortable with that because although they can get a bit out of hand at times with their "loyalty", they sure have mastered the tranquil art of escapism. Although this reviewer has not read a single Harry Potter book (and doesn't plan to - I'll just see the movies), I am not completely unfamiliar with the genre. After all, I did read The Hobbit and thought it was … not so bad.

In two short sentences - J.K. Rowling writes these books….hugely popular…movies making a killing..etc. Let's cut to the film itself. Not that I could, but to preface my remarks, I'm not going to compare the movie and the book although a good reviewer would probably do that (that's called anivus baby!). To satisfy those of you who need that type of information (though you guys definitely saw the movie already) here is a quote form a Harry Potter fan who read the book: "It's just how I imagined it" - RS

Anyway, Harry Potter does take us to a marvelous world that could only be conceived in the imagination. Some of the mythology is entirely original (the sport of Quidditch, the stone) while much of it is a new take (or more often not) on the universally accepted fantasy standards (witches, wizards, goblins, ogres, giants, unicorns, centaurs). The mixing of the two works without a hitch even as the story convinces s us that the world of fantasy and the world of (our) reality coexist simultaneously just on different parts of the planet.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) grows up in the real world treated wickedly by his aunt and uncle, not knowing himself that in the fantasy world he is a legend. When he reaches the age of 11 the staff of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry come to claim him (with a very cool image of hundreds of owls roosting in suburbia). Once he arrives at Hogwarts after gathering for himself a posse (a know-it-all witch and a laid back wizard), he always seems to receive the knowing "you'll go places" wink from teachers and students alike. I found it interesting that Harry is THE WIZARD even before he does anything. His powers have more to do with his past (ubiquitous parentage and a scar left by evil wizard Voldemort after Voldemort could not kill the baby Harry for mysterious reasons) than anything we perceive him to have done. His fame comes from right (destiny) and not deed. Do you think that is important? I don't…let me know.

While Harry makes a name for himself throughout the cold, stone halls of the breathtakingly structured school by excelling in sports and clashing with the bad guy, Malfoy, in training, the audience is treated to a lesson in Harry Potter 101. This part is a lot of fun - meeting the characters and familiarizing ourselves with some history; it is especially satisfying because we can be sure that this is not the end. If everything runs as planned there will be seven movies in this series amd I believe we will be treated to about one a year. Even though this movie impresses and delights on it's own, it is more exciting to view it as a teaser for the films to come. Everyone knows that The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are better than Star Wars (I despise Episode I - it is just not part of the series - OK?).

Unlike Episode I, the cast of child actors are able and likable and there isn't much fear that they will grow into unsightly pubescents a la Tina Yothers and Fred Savage (not to mention Isaac). The professors at Hogwarts consist of a wonderful ensemble from the greats of British theatre (Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, and Alan Rickman the man who should play the villain in every movie until I say stop) and Robbie Coltrane adds humor and believability to the role of the friendly, slightly bumbling giant Hagrid.

The directing honors went to Chris Columbus (Home Alone) tackling the all-encompassing labyrinth that is a Harry Potter movie and from the looks of things, he was born to do it. After Columbus' panned Bicentennial Man, it may have been a risk to tender him with a lavish fantasy, but his vision of Harry Potter and his world are pure and very convincing. The audience is carried away for three hours in dream like fashion and find themselves believing the impossible exists. He also capably (as I hear the books do as well) rides the fine line between a child's fantasy and the dark and demonic aspects of the tale. Readers were also pleased by the lengthy running time. I can attest that fans of books watching the movie based upon them become aggravated when the movie fails to include "that part" (however insignificant to the story in the long run). This movie feels like it included all the parts and while some of them could have been trimmed- all and all - they do all enrich the lore and enlighten the audience further while on our inevitable quest with Harry.

JEWISH PARANOIA AWARD (or The JPA's) - To Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

When Hagrid and Harry need to take out money for Harry they go to Gringotts Bank. Inside the bank all the bankers are "goblins". They all have long crooked noses, short statures, black beady eyes, crooked sharp teeth, and white tufts of hair sprouting from the sides of baldheads. In other words the bankers are clearly depictions of the Jewish moneylenders. Boycott the movie and the book.

- Bang Jordan comments

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