Sunday, November 17, 2002

Sunday morning 11am, and I'm on call -- again. Second Sunday call this month, with the first overlapping over a public holiday weekend. I've also got 6 calls in total, compared to 5 for the rest of the medical officer pool. Not sure if that's an oversight, or due in part to my upcoming 2-week-long leave. In any case, I'm exhausted, and praying very hard for a quiet 24 hours today. All of you in the ER, have mercy! :)

Anyhow, I watched Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets yesterday, so here's a review.

Instead of rambling on about the history of this wonderful series, I'll just say right now that the second movie installment is spectacular. Extremely faithful to the book, filled with eye-popping effects, with the introduction of a few new characters who are played fantastically by the respective actors.

Though the main players remain the same, they've definitely acquired a rapport with each other and the rest of the cast and crew. The comic timing is spot-on, the close friendship and camaraderie obvious, the pain very realistically portrayed. So what if Daniel Radcliffe ( Harry Potter ) and Rupert Grint ( the always hilariously goofy Ron Weasley ) have gone through the early stages of puberty and now croak their lines? The maturity in their acting more than makes up for that. And Emma Watson ( who's made Hermione Granger a role all her very own ) continues to excel, and appears to be blossoming into a very beautiful young lady ( a la Natalie Portman ).

Other characters like Professors Albus Dumbledore ( Richard Harris ), McGonagall ( Maggie Smith ), Snape ( Alan Rickman ) and the ever-jovial Hagrid round up the list. Sadly, Harris passed away after completing this film, and word has it Ian McKellen ( who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings ) has been wooed to replace him. Personally, I think Sean Connery would make a good Dumbledore. We'll just have to wait and see, I suppose.

Draco Malfoy is still in top form, and his role has been beefed up this time. I can't remember the boy actor's name offhand, but credit goes to him for making Draco so hateful that you really want to slap him whenever he shows up with his trademark sneer and greasy hair. My favourite addition, however, is Lucius Malfoy ( played to perfection by Jason Isaacs, who was Mel Gibson's arch enemy in "The Patriot" ). Banking on his villainous looks, he sports long flowing platinum blond hair and a long black cloak here, spewing his lines with a voice that rarely rises above a mere whisper. He literally steals the show at times, even when sharing the screen with main attractions Harris and Radcliffe. A stroke of casting genius!
Watch out too for the lad who plays Tom Riddle ( a character whose true identity I shall keep secret so as not to spoil the shocking ending ). I really don't know how they picked these actors, but everyone seems to be tailor-made for their respective roles. Even the girl who portrays Moaning Myrtle is a hoot!
Kudos too to the animators responsible for Dobby the house-elf. This had the potential for degenerating into a Jar Jar Binks debacle, but Dobby is adorable.
The only disppointment is Kenneth Branagh, who plays Gilderoy Lockhart, a narcissistic liar and egomaniac. True, we're not supposed to like him, but I found his performance forced and uninspired. Rumour had it Hugh Grant was the original choice. Maybe he would've done a better job.

There're some lovely scenes worth looking out for -- the flying car sequence, the Whomping Willow, the Quidditch match with a heart-stopping race between Potter and Malfoy ( beat this, George Lucas! ), the magic duel, a terrifying chase through The Dark Forest, and of course, the finale in the Chamber itself. The climactic scene is indeed very frightening, and I wonder how the children who see this movie will handle it. But judging from the peals of delighted laughter ringing throughout the theatre after the show ended, I think kids nowadays are growing up a lot faster than we did.

Chris Columbus, the man responsible for the first 2 Harry Potter films, will be stepping down after this, and the reins will be handed over to Alfonso Cuaron, who directed the revived version of "Great Expectations" ( which starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke ) and "A Little Princess". Hopefully, he will remain true to the spirit of the Harry Potter novels, as the next episode ( Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban ) is a hot favourite for many readers ( including myself ), and is the most poignant and touching among all the books Rowling has written so far.

So what're you waiting for? Go see this fabulous movie! :)

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