In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he'll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Mark Strong, and Michelle Pfeiffer
Initial Review by Phil Crone
There are two types of movies that fall into that dreaded B- to C range. The first are those that are just a big, fat nothing. The second are those that try hard and have a number of really good things and really bad things. They’re interesting but flawed. That’s the best way I can describe “Stardust.” While Stardust is successful at providing a refreshing take on the fairy tale genre and subverting a few of its tired tropes, it is ultimately weighed down by one of the most muddled third acts I can remember in a long time.
Initial Review by Phil
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is definitely an odd movie for this group, as we tend to lean toward things that are a bit more obscure. I imagine that a lot of people are going to blast through this review with just a few sentences, as I think most of us have formed our opinions on this franchise long ago. However, even though Ashli probably picked this one b/c it was the only one streaming, she picked the right one to have a conversation about. It’s easier to talk about where these movies fit in with regard to the series as opposed to stand-alone (more on that in a bit), and Goblet of Fire’s place as the transition from children’s story to the more mature young adult themes gives it a special place in the series.
Just for starters, even if you don’t like the HP franchise, you can’t help but respect it. Very few movie franchises are consistently of a high quality. Just look at some superhero franchises. Spiderman 3 is just bad. X-Men: The Last Stand is an abomination. Blade Trinity…. Anyway, that could hit a soft spot for some here. Numerous franchises ebb and flow in quality, even when all the same people are involved. (Godfather? Matrix?) Somehow, HP has gone through multiple directors and screenwriters, yet in eight movies, the lowest RT score is a 79% (Order of the Phoenix). Say what you want about this franchise, but that is damn impressive. Near the end of its run, I was never nervous that I was going to waste my time going to an HP movie at midnight (not by my choice), b/c they were all good.
Goblet of Fire stands out as an important step in this franchise as it is the first one to not end in a necessarily happy way. In fact, for a “kids movie,” the ending is bleak as shit. Harry has successfully thwarted Voldemort in the first two entries of the series, but this meeting sees him barely escape with his life while also getting his friend Cedric killed. I might be wrong, but Cedric might be the first “good guy” killed in the HP universe. This was a pivotal moment for the franchise, proving that, sometimes, the good guys don’t win, they just live to fight another day. This would be a pretty run-of-the-mill series if we just followed the same formula from Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, but Goblet of Fire changes all that and launches us into the real story of the franchise.
Beyond that, Goblet of Fire is similar to other entries of the series in that it touches on more base emotional issues that would speak to a teenage audience. It’s a theme that is constantly touched on in the series: even though we’re dealing with a group of gifted wizard teenagers, they’re still typical kids. We have the subplot of Ron’s jealousy of Harry getting selected for the tournament and the awkward Ron/Hermione relationship beginning to take form. Ron gets the most “human” material this time around, which probably isn’t good as Rupert Grint is the weakest actor of the three main protagonists. The relationship stuff works pretty well, but the jealousy subplot feels a little forced given the overarching story and who Harry is in this world. Speaking of Harry, this is probably his weakest movie in the series. Daniel Radcliffe is not given a whole lot interesting to do this time around, giving the bulk of the spotlight in the down scenes to Ron & Hermione. There are other nice moments that are relatable to some, such as the level of embarrassment Ron has for his Yule Ball getup (I avoided anything like this in my youth; also, I still really hate the Yule Ball scene).
HP movies always have good setpieces, but Goblet of Fire’s are some of the weaker entrants into the series. The first Tournament trial with the dragons is a great opener, but the scale of the remaining two leave something to be desired. Likewise, the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort is one of the weaker final battles, but the exchange between Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Radcliffe is well-done as usual. This is the first movie in the series with Fiennes, and is big introduction to the series is both impressive and “terrifying” for a movie in this genre. Fiennes gets off some good lines and plays the intimidating all-powerful lord of darkness well.
All the HP movies are good, but Goblet of Fire is one of the more special entries. It ushered in a new tone and era for the series, a world where not everyone who should live happily ever after necessarily did. It definitely has its weaknesses in relation to the other movies, but it’s understandable why it’s considered in the upper echelon of HP movies.
+ Brings Harry Potter out of the “happily ever after” era into a more adult and interesting series
+ Ralph Fiennes is great in his Voldemort debut
+ Solid acting in the downtime captures typical teenage angst
- Ron heavy
- Setpieces leave something to be desired in the context of the series as a whole
First Review by Chris
After watching Explorers, I thought of a news reporter interviewing 10-year-olds after they walk out of the theater. “How was it?” they’d ask. The kids would give responses like “Awesome” or “Best movie ever.” Explorers is one of those movies that I can see being good as a child, but viewing this for the first time in my mid-30s was a different story. I will be comparing it to many other ‘80s movies because scenes reminded me of many other ones.
The movie starts off with a display of the day’s technology—flying through Tron on a quest to destroy the Death Star. I’m just making shit up. It had a class ‘80s soundtrack that was appropriate. We’re introduced early to Ben (Ethan Hawke who I thought looked like Brad Renfro a little bit) and Wolfgang (River Phoenix). This was both of their screen debuts and if this movie taught us anything it was that River’s death was a tragedy. From his opening scene, you could tell that he was a natural in front of the camera. I enjoyed the early nod to “This Island Earth,” the movie viewed in “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.”
The plot starts with typical middle school bullshit. In a scene where Ben is being beat up by Steve Jackson and company (one gang member was played by Bradley Gregg who would later play River Phoenix’s brother Eyeball Chambers in “Stand By Me”), we are introduced to Darren, the third main kid. This scene alone reminded me of “Monster Squad “where E.J. comes to Horrace’s rescue. E.J. then proceeds to “hang out” with the group despite being rather different from everyone else in it. I got a similar vibe here. Darren starts hanging out with Ben and Wolfgang as they start building their spaceship. Darren came from a bad home life which I really wanted to see at some point. Wolfgang’s family was nuts. I’m not sure how many kids they had. I wanted to see more of his family. There was a kid in a highchair eating through a Halloween mask and a mouse that pushed levers to speak. I like cheese. Classic. Though brief, these were considered my highlights of the film.
So through experimentation, they create some type of electromagnetic bubble that floats around. They make a bigger bubble and learn that you can fly around in it. Let’s build a spaceship and fly around. We have the technology. Why are they doing this? To explore? I know it’s the title and all, but I wanted more of a motive. Darren had a bad home life, Wolfgang’s family was nuts, Ben was beaten up and awkward around his crush (played by the late Amanda Peterson). Maybe they needed to get away. Maybe they wanted to get away. I wanted more. I wanted something more realistic. I know it’s a fantasy movie, but another comparison was with the movie “Radio Flyer.” In “Radio Flyer,” young Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello build a working airplane out of a wagon. They do this in order to have Joseph’s character escape from their abusive alcoholic stepfather. Motive. I wanted a reason to this movie.
They go to a junkyard to get material for their spaceship, and there’s a dog (reminded me obviously of “Stand By Me”). Instead of “Chopper, sick balls” we see them give the dog chewing gum. Gum seemed to be a reoccurring thing throughout the film. Never caught the logic behind that. So, the spaceship is finished and they call it the Thunder Road after the Springsteen song which never appears in the movie, but probably should have. They fly around and mess with people at a drive-in movie. I swear that one time the actors in the movie were reacting to what was going on in reality. Maybe it was just a coincidence with timing. It didn’t make sense. The homemade spaceship crashes into the concession stand and then apparently is flying again. Those kids must’ve really built a damn good spaceship.
After the movie theater fiasco, the spaceship is spotted by a helicopter (one of its occupants played by Dick Miller who played Mr. Futterman in “Gremlins,” another film directed by Joe Dante). Off topic, but I met Dick Miller and Joe Dante years ago at a convention. I have a signed “Gremlins” poster with the two of them and Zach Galligan. Anyhoo, this is kind of a rushed subplot. Someone’s on to the kids and their ship, someone from space is apparently calling for them. They have visions in which they draw diagrams to upgrade their ship. Blah blah blah. According to Wikipedia, the film was incredibly rushed for time restraints. This is clearly obvious with the final product.
Fast forward to the worst part of it all. The ship somehow makes it up to space and they are brought aboard another ship. The three kids get separated, they’re going down slides (reminded me of “Goonies”), there are giant paparazzi robot spiders, creatures grabbing the kids in inappropriate places, it’s creepy, it’s kooky and it’s stupid. How can it get any worse? This is when we are introduced to Wak and Neek, two aliens that pretty much speak in multiple TV voices. It’s supposed to be funny, and I’m sure to kids it is. Wak, the male alien, reminded me of Max from “Flight of the Navigator.” And Neek, the female, was hitting on River Phoenix. A little disturbing. I actually have in my notes that Wak reminded me of JarJar Binks meets Bumblebee meets Johnny 5 meets Max from “Flight of the Navigator.” Long story short, a horrible attempt at comedy and again, no real motive as to why any of this is happening.
The kids and aliens talk. We learn that the aliens are afraid to come down to Earth because of how aliens are treated in Earth movies. They actually could’ve done something with this, I thought. Maybe taken a more serious approach. Darren has them listen to some Earth music. I swear he calls it 80s music. Wouldn’t it have just been called “music?” I grew up in the 80s, but I don’t recall it being called 80s music in the 80s. Maybe I misheard him. Anyhoo, we find out that the aliens are kids and their dad shows up and is pissed at them. Here’s a point that I thought could’ve been more effective had we seen Darren’s home life. He’s the one that points out that the aliens are kids and that the big creature is their father. A comparison to his own life perhaps? Maybe had we seen it?!
A long story short, the boys leave the ship and crash in a pond down on Earth. The ship sinks. Ben’s crush spies on them and later gives Ben a note, and then all four of them fly back up to space using some dream amulet the aliens gave them before they left. I don’t know; I was pretty much just waiting for it to be over by this point.
A good movie for kids, not so much for adults. It’s attempted fun with a lack of purpose. River Phoenix is greatly missed. Unfunny aliens. Maybe if they had had more time during production and didn’t rush things, we could’ve had something more concrete and worthwhile. I for one, simply didn’t care for this movie at all. I believe I’m going with a D+ on this one. Sowwy.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.