Kid Stuff

Both 'Harry Potter' and 'Transformers' bring the best of overblown, bigger-than-life movie fun to summer screens

My inner child is one happy camper. It’s like I woke up to find that today is the first day of summer, and my birthday, and I’m going to Disney World. Why? Because two kick-ass action movies are finally living up to the standard of huge summer blockbusters, giving kids a reason to be thankful that school is out (and adults an escape from the office doldrums).

Just weeks before the final installment in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series hits bookshelves, the fifth movie lands in movie theaters by owl post. If you don’t understand that reference by now, just stop reading. Because for everything that Harry Potter and the

Order of the Phoenix is able to achieve, backstory is not one of them. If you missed the first four, good luck.



Daniel Radcliffe (left) in Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix

Anyone who has lugged around the tome that is Order of the Phoenix will tip their pointy hats to screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, who trims the fat from Rowling’s enchanted world with surgical precision. Order of the Phoenix is the first of the Harry Potter films to be merely based on the story, rather than a word-for-word, book-to-script translation. It’s also arguably the best of the films.

Little Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is all grown up — and hopefully so has his audience. Order of the Phoenix is dark — this is not your younger brother’s movie. With the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) back in corporal form (still missing his nose, though), Harry must convince the entire Wizarding community that the horrible must be believed.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
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Rated PG-13
138 Minutes

Aided by his trusted friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Harry fights the media, a corrupt government and, hardest of all, puberty. Not to mention his most dastardly foe yet, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), who makes even the most horrific villain look like a pussycat. Staunton is the perfect confection of cotton candy and pink frosting, until her sadistic side rears its ugly head.

Director David Yates has created nothing short of a visual masterpiece with this latest installment. Fortunately, he allows the special effects to play second fiddle to the storyline. The magical advancements of the secret army that Harry must train are fantastically displayed, but we’re more excited that Neville (Matthew Lewis) is succeeding than we are marveling at the special effects.



Sybil Trelawaney (actress Emma Thompson at left) and Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith)

Radcliffe has certainly matured, not only aging remarkably from the last film, but as an actor as well. Rather than just rub the scar on his forehead and wince, Radcliffe is able to bring depth to Harry and capture some of the trauma of being an adolescent boy — even without the Dark Lord trying to kill him.

For avid fans of the book, don’t expect it to be as true to Rowling’s story as the previous films. Gone is Quidditch, major plot lines in the book are not even mentioned (some should never have SPEW’ed forth to begin with) and many of our favorite teachers are mere cameos. However, interesting additions join the Hogwarts bunch, including the sinister Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and the flighty Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch).

Some plot corners are cut too sharp and some coincidences are just too neat, but overall Harry Potter fans will be pleased that the fifth film continues to expand Rowling’s magical world. From the opening notes that are now so familiar to the final wave of the wand, Order of the Phoenix casts a right proper spell.


Say ”Transformers” to most adults in their 20s and 30s and they will immediately respond, ”More than meets the eye.” For once, the tagline describes the movie to a T.



Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel: Transformers

Director Michael Bay, whose previous films include Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, has not only captured the wonder of these toys and the animated series, but he has also created a film that appeals to both the kids who grew up playing with Optimus Prime and Megatron action figures and the following generations who are more accustomed to PlayStations.

Little does Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) know that when he buys his first car he’s really purchasing an Autobot, a robotic alien sent to protect him (and Earth) from the evil Decepticons. Soon the other Autobots storm into town, hoping to find the source of their life, the Allspark, before the Decepticons take control of it.

Transformers
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Rated PG-13
144 Minutes
Area Theaters

Like the Transformers, the movie has two distinct parts — the first being fast-paced, engaging and funny character and plot development and the second being non-stop, high-octane action that will have you cheering in your seats. Sure, some of the action is so quick you don’t know which robot is fighting which, but it doesn’t matter — it’s just fun to watch.

In a film dominated by larger-than-life robots, LaBeouf is the one who really commands attention on screen. He’s the geek who would actually be brave enough to climb out on the ledge. He has great comedic timing and manages to pull off the inevitable cheesy lines with (some) credibility. It is, after all, an action flick — there are going to be some corny parts.

Action fans looking for a good time at the theater, you now have your pick of movies. Jack Sparrow has floated off and Spidey has swung into the sunset, making room for two huge hits to fill the void.