Summer Movie Magic

With the release of the 6th Harry Potter movie last week magic is in the air, and so this week’s Summer of Reading Series selections focus on movie magic! Check out the reviews below for Labyrinth, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Inkheart, and The Prestige!
“Labyrinth” starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie
Sarah (a teenage Jennifer Connelly) rehearses the role of a fairy-tale queen, performing for her stuffed animals. She is about to discover that the time has come to leave her childhood behind. In real life she has to baby-sit her brother and contend with parents who don’t understand her at all. Her petulance leads her to call the goblins to take the baby away, but when they actually do, she realizes her responsibility to rescue him. Sarah negotiates the Labyrinth to reach the City of the Goblins and the castle of their king. The king is the only other human in the film and is played by a glam-rocking David Bowie, who performs five of his songs. The rest of the cast are puppets, a wonderful array of Jim Henson’s imaginative masterpieces. Henson gives credit to children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, and the creatures in the movie will remind Sendak fans of his drawings. The castle of the king is a living M.C. Escher set that adults will enjoy. The film combines the highest standards of art, costume, and set decoration. Like executive producer George Lucas’s other fantasies, Labyrinth mixes adventure with lessons about growing up.
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” starring Daniel Radcliffe and Kenneth Branagh
First sequels are the true test of an enduring movie franchise, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets passes with flying colors. Expanding upon the lavish sets, special effects, and grand adventure of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry involves a darker, more malevolent tale (parents with younger children beware), beginning with the petrified bodies of several Hogwarts students and magical clues leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) to a 50-year-old mystery in the monster-laden Chamber of Secrets. House elves, squealing mandrakes, giant spiders, and venomous serpents populate this loyal adaptation (by Sorcerer’s Stone director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves), and Kenneth Branagh delightfully tops the supreme supporting cast as the vainglorious charlatan Gilderoy Lockhart.
“Inkheart” starring Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren
“I prefer a story that has the good sense to stay on the page–where it belongs!” declares Elinor Loredan (Helen Mirren, in fine upper-crust form) in Inkheart, a rollicking adventure that appeals to adults as well as tweens and teens. But if Elinor got what she wanted, viewers would not–for the delicious premise of the film (based on Cornelia Funke’s best-selling novel is that book lover Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) has discovered a way to bring book characters to life. That means that adorable Toto from The Wizard of Oz is suddenly yapping under Mo’s daughter Meggie’s (Eliza Bennett) bed. But it also means that somewhere, a real person or thing has been sucked into the book world–battling flying monkeys and evildoers that suddenly are real threats. The film is crisply directed by Iain Softley, and Fraser and his costars (including Mirren, Paul Bettany, and Jim Broadbent) are worthy, watchable characters who appear to be having as much fun as the audience. And the film’s pro-book message will please young book readers, and their parents, who know that a good adventure in one’s imagination can never be rivaled by anything on any screen, of any size.
“The Prestige” starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Scarlett Johansson
Obsession, jealousy, and deceit define the tense relationship shared between two turn-of-the-century magicians in director Christopher Nolan’s dizzying tale of sleight of hand. Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are London-based magicians of the highest order, both blessed with spectacular powers of deception and both cursed with unrelenting envy for one another’s skills. When Alfred performs an awe-inspiring trick for which there seems no logical explanation, the friendly competition shared between the pair turns to deadly rivalry as the enraged Rupert determines to uncover his rival’s deepest secrets. In the world of illusion, however, nothing is ever quite as it seems, and the rules of the physical world simply don’t apply. Now, as bitter competition quickly begins to consume the souls of both performers, the firestorm birthed by their anger threatens to consume all who surround them. Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie co-star in a feature that finds director/screenwriter Nolan reuniting with brother Jonathan Nolan to adapt author Christopher Priest’s original novel.