Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
A dark and gloomy installment to the franchise, David Yates´ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix contains fits and spurts of the magic of the previous films but generally underwhelms. The longest book in the series has become the shortest film (so far), and in many instances it shows; it´s plot-heavy and rushed, and the only film that can´t stand on its own – there are so many characters and references to past events that anyone who hasn´t seen the previous films or read the novels will be lost. The tone of the film also detracts; there´s a point where the darkness is appropriate to this Harry Potter film, but there´s also the inescapable fact that this is still a Harry Potter film. The gee-whiz attitude and awe-inspiring moments from the earlier films are completely missing, and the darkness seems forced; for a good while, the film feels oppressively gloomy without just cause. Though justification for the gloom comes at the end, with the death of a major character and Ralph Fiennes making for an effectively scary Voldemort, couldn´t we have had some fun in the two hours leading up to it?
Debut feature from director Jake Paltrow, The Good Night is not without flaws but excels as a rare intelligent and realistic comedy-drama. Gary (Martin Freeman), a dour British musician living in New York and stuck in an unsatisfying relationship with Dora (Gwyneth Paltrow), begins to dream of his, well, dream girl, personified by Anna (Penélope Cruz). Happier in dreams than reality, Gary begins to explore the possibilities of controlling his dreams with the help of low-rent dream therapist Danny DeVito. When he eventually meets Anna, the real-life representation of the girl in his dreams, she can only disappoint him; he soon retreats to his dreams, where he has more control. The fascination with dreams recalls the work of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, while comedy-drama structure and dialogue borders on Woody Allen territory; none of it is fully explored or realized, but enough of the film entertains and tickles the mind to provide a worthwhile experience. Direction is surprisingly assured for a first-timer, though the inevitable ending doesn´t come as a surprise. Cast is good, with Freeman channeling Dudley Moore as the everyman lead; DeVito has a lot of fun as the dream therapist (his best role in recent memory), and Simon Pegg is a standout as Gary´s wisecracking, sleazy friend. Major flaw: Gwyneth Paltrow´s argumentative Dora, who comes off as thoroughly unlikable though late plot developments suggest that perhaps shouldn´t have been the case. Excellent original score by Alec Puro.