Posted in Harry Potter, movies, pop culture


I finally viewed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this morning. Before I dive into the movie, I want to comment about my movie experience.

I used to get a kick out of seeing movies on opening night with 6-10 of my friends. We’d get there early, plan out our strategy for getting the seats we wanted, then we’d stand in line an hour or two (or sit and play cards or talk). That was always fun because of the company.

I went through a period in my life when movies were seriously an extra that I didn’t have money for, and my movie buddies have moved on (and in many cases, moved out of the city). Now that I can afford to see a movie here or there, I reserve my movie money for the sci-fi flicks or special effects marvels that must be seen on the big screen. Otherwise, I just wait for the movie to come out on video and watch it in the comfort of my own home.

That said, Harry Potter movies are an in-theater must see. I don’t mind going to movies alone, so I decided I’d go to the first movie showing this morning at 9:45. I arrived at 9:20, got the fourth parking spot in, and walked into the very thinly populated theater lobby. I bought my ticket and went to the bathroom one last time (knowing I’d have to wait 2 1/2 hours to go again) then bought breakfast – a small popcorn (which costs a small fortune, but I had a movie gift card, no worries).

In a theater made for at least 300 people, this first showing of the day already had at least 20 people scattered throughout and by the time the movie started the theater was at least 1/3 full. I had the seat I wanted, there were no noisy people around me and everyone turned their cell phones off when Forrest Whitaker and AT&T told them to.

The only thing that made my experience any less than wonderful was wondering why anyone would bring a small child to a PG-13 movie that promised violence and death. There were many small children there (age 10 or less), and while I know people who take their kids to these movies (but I’m not talking 5 year olds), I also know they’ve read the books (the kids and parents), they’ve talked about the movies and know what to expect. It will never cease to amaze me to be in a theater full of kids, when the even the previews for other movies for this PG-13 movie scream that this experience is not for small children. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

I don’t envy the screenwriter who has to take a 870 page novel and squeeze a 2:15 minute movie out of it, but this adaptation of the doorstop-sized book rises to the challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie from beginning to end, and though the movie takes liberties with events (out of sequence, squeezed together) and some important actions are attributed to other characters (the betrayal of the D. A.), – which keeps the number of peripheral characters down – the movie stays true to the spirit of the book and would not have the stamp of approval from the novel’s author JK Rowling if it didn’t.

I won’t spoil the movie for those who don’t read the books but see the movies. I encourage anyone to read the books to get a fuller picture of Harry Potter’s world, because, as all movie adaptations go, they have a limited amount of time to work with, and details sometimes get left out in the movies that makes the whole experience richer. Reading the books in this series and then seeing the movies will take the experience from fuzzy rabbit-ear antenna to high definition.

By the end of the movie, I was satisfied with the storytelling and can now visualize the books even more fully. So many times I wanted to slap Dumbledore (that’s another blog entry) for ignoring Harry, and I often wanted to hug Harry and tell him that he’s not alone. I was impressed by the Ministry of Magic and the Department of Mysteries, and the Wand Duelling near the end gave me a whole new understanding of the nuances of the wand and how it really is an extension of the arm. It’s more than just swish and flick.

One scene in the movie was deeply poignant between Harry and his godfather, Sirius Black. Sirius says to him (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the screenplay in front of me) that it’s not DeathEater versus good or light versus dark, because “we all have good and evil within us, it’s which part we choose to act on that matters.”

That phrase is central to the Harry Potter world. Just as in the last movie when Dumbledore (who is still in line for slapping) tells Harry that the time has come when he will have to choose between “what is right, and what is easy,” Harry learns that the difference between him and Lord Voldemort (aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) is that he knows love and friendship, and Voldemort hasn’t and won’t. Harry has something worth fighting for, and Voldemort doesn’t. Harry chooses to act on the side of the good. The movie ends with Harry knowing that Voldemort’s defeat rests largely on his angsty teenage shoulders, but he’s not alone in the fight.

Another part of the movie that really drew a spiritual parallel for me were the scenes of the students learning Defense Against the Dark Arts. Dolores Umbridge (who was played to pink, sadistic, control freak perfection by Imelda Staunton) has decided that the students need to learn about Defense Against the Dark Arts so they can pass their tests, but the students do not need to learn how to use the spells to defend themselves.

How many people can quote Scripture but don’t know how to use it when they are under attack? It’s important to know the Word, but it’s equally, if not more important to know what to do with it and how to bring to life what it tells a person to do. Of course, if someone is raised in an environment where evil is ignored, why should they know about the armor of God, or how to protect themselves with God’s word?

Umbridge is merciless in her pursuit of keeping the kids in a safe, sterile environment where the mention of the reason actual application of the spells needed to protect themselves is cause for punishment. When Harry suggests that the evil they all fear not only exists, it’s back in the form of Voldemort, Umbridge makes Harry endure a painful detention where he writes “I must not tell lies,” on a piece of parchment and it’s etched, painfully, into his skin, and she makes him continue until it “sinks in.”

Hermione decides that they need to know how to protect themselves, and if Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic won’t show them how, they need to learn it themselves.

I don’t see this as the big teenage rebellion over authority that many reviewers have. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad example for kids. If you are a child and you know you are in danger, and the adults in your life won’t protect you, you must learn how to do it yourself. I know this firsthand.

In the Room of Requirement, Harry finally finds a purpose. All of his pain, all he has been through, all he has learned from facing evil, he can pass on to others. He can help his friends learn to defend themselves from the danger he has experienced personally. Even Neville Longbottom, the clumsy, accident prone teenage wizard learns to believe he can defend himself. Armed with these tools, these kids can now face evil with the belief that they can defeat it.

I still don’t see why people think lessons like that are evil, but I may never understand that mindset…another soapbox for another day.

All in all, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was an enjoyable experience. I watched all the way through to the end of the credits. Two other people were left in the theater and we spoke briefly about how well this movie was adapted from the book and then we talked about Book 7 and my plans to try and read it within 24 hours of it’s release (because I don’t want the ending spoiled!).

I can’t wait until Friday night so I can get book 7 and find out how the series ends!

Posted in pop culture, random, vacation


The following story was born because of a movie buff named Greg. He’s my friend Sharon’s uncle, and while we were at his house in Felton, he handed Sharon’s husband, Thomas, a DVD of The Magnificent Seven and told him he HAD to see it. In fact, he asked Thomas to write a report on it. Sharon, Thomas and I were discussing this proposed report and decided that Uncle Greg would get his report – but it wouldn’t be what he expected.

Thomas watched the movie while I was in San Francisco. When I got back, he and Sharon were discussing the proposed movie report/review and Sharon thought we should spin it a bit. In Thomas’ job, he experiences people who live in an alternate reality in their minds, so as we talked, The Magnificent Seven started to take on a whole new personality.

After I got back from vacay and my brain had time to rest, the following is what I came up with for Uncle Greg’s report/review. Keep in mind I’ve still yet to see the film in its entirety, and any similarities to the actual movie are not really… all that intentional.

The Magnificent Seven, the real story.


Chris Adams has a problem. His life as a bicycle cop in Monterey has him bored to tears. So, on the advice of his boss, Chief Calvera, Chris decides to go on vacation to spice up his life a little. While relaxing in a little village in Mexico, Chris goes into a coma after he goes horseback riding and gets bucked off his horse.


Our story begins when Chris wakes up in a tiny village in old Mexico… the old Mexico full of cheesy costumes, bad Spanish accents and classic cowboy lines like, “We deal in lead, my friend.” The villagers insist that the infamous bandit Calvera, who has continually raided their village of peasant means, will be back to finish the job and they beg Chris to help them.

Chris, a big hearted, bald, chain-smoking bicycle cop, now hidden beneath black Old West clothing and a tough as nails demeanor, believes he is dreaming, back in the sanitarium, or at worst, in purgatory, but he decides to help the villagers. Chris walks the town in search of help from the villagers, but he soon realizes he is in a town full of pacifists and will have to call on some old friends to help him defeat Calvera.

Chris, now off his schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder medication since he is in old Mexico where those medications haven’t been invented yet, calls upon the voices in his head for help, voices he hasn’t heard in years.

“We need a Personality Posse,” Chris muses.

The first personality to resurface is Chico, who apparently likes math and is from Chris’ left brain. “This is the kind of arithmetic I like,” Chico has been known to say. Chris could never really trust Chico, so he sends him on his way. Chico, however, is persistent, and lurks in Chris’ mind just out of his consciousness, until Chris finally decides to activate him and allow him to join in the plans to defeat Calvera. Chico also represents Chris’ libido, as he is constantly distracted by a peasant woman named Petra.

Next, Chris’ bff personality Harry Luck resurfaces. Harry’s Achilles heel is greed, and he believes Chris is going to get rich off this venture, so he’s all in.

After Harry starts dreaming of counting his pesos, Vin pops back into Chris’ consciousness. Vin, who looks remarkably like a badly made Steve McQueen clone, represents Chris’ addictive personality, as he has just gone bankrupt from his gambling addiction. Since Harry believes he’s going to get some money taking down Calvera, Vin can’t help but tag along.

Chris searches his mind for the worst of his deeply hidden, splintered personalities. He chooses Bernardo O’Reilly, who needs money as much as Harry and Vin do, but in O’Reilly’s own mind, he’s just an eccentric millionaire who likes to chop wood and he takes the job for kicks.

Chris also calls on Britt, who is lightning quick and likes shiny things, particularly switchblades. Britt also has an affinity for Schlitz beer. Finally, Chris allows Lee to join the posse. Lee has a pretty face, but is on the run from the law because, as he proudly boasts, he has no living enemies.

Chris believes that seven is a good number of voices to listen to, and seven isn’t necessarily a crowd, so he and his newly formed Personality Posse ride to the next village and buy some guns and ammo from the great great grandfather of a future arms dealer. They return to the village to make good on Chris’ promise to help.

Chris, and alternately, the Personality Posse, train the villagers in early era peasant guerilla warfare. Chico keeps getting distracted by Petra, and the villagers don’t seem to notice or care that Chris talks to himself quite often.

Calvera returns to the village and gets in quite a snit over the villagers hiring Chris to train them in early era peasant guerilla warfare. Calvera leaves the village, but Chico wanders off and discovers that Calvera has plans to teach the peasant villagers a lesson.

Chris and the Personality Posse debate over whether they should leave the village and chalk the failure up to lessons learned. Vin isn’t sure they should honor their contract, but Chris and a majority of the Personality Posse overrule him, reasoning that since they’ve gotten the villagers all riled up with a heightened sense of self esteem and a desire to lay down their lives for freedom, they should stay and fight.

An anonymous member of the Personality Posse decides to make a preemptive strike on Calvera’s camp and off they go. Unfortunately, they have a “d’oh!” moment because Calvera isn’t there. He has already made it back to the tiny town and conquered the villagers, who cannot carry out early era peasant guerilla warfare on their own.

Chris and the Personality Posse return to the village and stare down Calvera, but Chris blinks. Calvera, feeling slightly intimidated by the crazy American who argues with himself, takes Chris’ guns and banishes him from the village.

The Personality Posse is outraged and forces Chris to return to the village the next morning to show Calvera who’s boss… all, except Harry, who is counting his pesos and decides to sit this one out.

During the heat of battle, Harry feels a little bit like a git for leaving Chris and the rest of the Personality Posse in the lurch, so he goes back to help out and ends up getting killed. Of course, an extra personality, when it is killed in the mind, can never resurface in reality.

O’Reilly, who earlier had given a rousing speech to some villager children of how brave their parents really are, dies saving the urchins. Lee and Britt also die in the battle, proving that lightning speed isn’t always quick enough and that living enemies can really be annoying.

The villagers are inspired by the bravery and sacrifice shown by the Personality Posse and suddenly they have a total recall of their early era peasant guerilla warfare training and start throwing chairs, rocks, axes, sticks, and whatever they can find at Calvera and his men.

Chris finally shoots Calvera. Calvera wonders, as he lay dying, why an American who mumbles to himself would help a bunch of Mexican peasant villagers, but dies before he can have the epiphany.

After the dust settles in the village, all that remains of the Personality Posse are Chico and Vin. Chris is feeling rather lonely as only two voices are heard in his head and he isn’t used to the echo. Unfortunately for Chris, Chico, who has long been distracted by Petra, decides to stay behind with her in the village and start a family. Chico retreats to the far recesses of Chris’ brain, and is never heard from again. Now, Chris is left with Vin.

Chris and Vin ride out to the cemetery to pay tribute to the rest of the Personality Posse. Chris stares at the graves stoically, knowing he will never hear from them again.

Chris says to himselves, “Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.” Vin, thinking that defeating Calvera was definitely a win decides that Chris is too pessimistic for his own good, and decides banishment to Chris’ grey matter is a better option than listening to Chris’ negativity, so he disappears into the recesses of Chris’ mind and renders himself mute.

Chris finds himself alone again… without the aid of medication. This notion frightens him so much, he awakens abruptly from his coma. He decides to leave the hospital and enjoys the rest of his vacation on the beach at Cabo, watching local children make sand castles with their imaginary friends.


Posted in commentary, pop culture


Over the past few days, the world has been transfixed on the plight of Paris Hilton, 26 year old heiress to the Hilton Hotels fortune. In a week’s time, she’s been in jail, out of jail, and then got dragged kicking and screaming back to jail. If you don’t pay attention to such matters, go to Google News and type in Paris Hilton and you will see what I mean.

Yes, I found myself outraged when Paris was released after serving three days of a 45 day sentence (that was shortened already to 23 days). The woman has the best lawyers money can buy, the best of everything, she is used to getting her own way and used to escaping the consequences of her actions. Those sort of people put me on edge. I deal with the consequences of my actions every day and if I had to depend on my money and status to get me out of trouble, I’d be hosed.

When I read how outraged the judge was over her early flight from jail, I knew she’d have to go back. His sentence was a clear message to Paris Hilton and other socialites like her: You had your freebie (getting caught driving on a suspended license) and then you did it again so now you must face the consequences of your actions so hopefully you won’t do this again and taken someone else down with you. When Paris was released to serve the rest of her sentence in the luxury of her mansion, I knew the backlash was coming. You can’t leave your house, but the world can and will come to you… like that was going to go over well.

I don’t want to get into the legal jargon or a discussion of who’s right or who’s wrong as far as Paris’ release and subsequent return to jail is concerned, but obviously, it’s touched a nerve. All week long, the media has been full of coverage of this crazy, mixed up Hollywood circus.

I must say, though, that I felt some pity for Ms. Hilton as she cried hysterically in the back of the police car that was hauling her back to jail. I can’t imagine what it’s like having to go to jail, much less do it in such a public and humiliating way. I do hope she learns her lesson and she emerges from this time in her life a changed woman who has found a new purpose for her life. But I digress…

All week, I tried hard not to pay attention to all the hoopla, but I found myself keeping up with it a little anyway. I’m sure Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were thrilled to have a good portion of the spotlight taken off them for a while, even if it will probably be brief. There are countless other celebrities who will take Paris’ place in the spotlight at any moment now.

I wonder if people realize there were other events unfolding the world this week besides a socialite being sent to jail to serve time for breaking the law. Did anyone notice there was more violence in Iraq…or that many children in Africa were orphaned today because of AIDS (and are every day)? Did anyone notice our world leaders met at the G8 Summit, or that our president met with the Pope, the Shuttle Atlantis is in orbit again, and many parts of our country are dealing with a severe drought? Is anybody concerned that 5.7 million pounds of beef was recalled because of E Coli? In other news… the immigration bill was defeated and by the end of the month the bald eagle will no longer be an endangered species.

I could go on, but I won’t. A lot happened in the world that was by far and away more important than Paris Hilton’s incarceration, release, and incarceration. The media frenzy surrounding Ms. Hilton reminded me this week that I need to focus on the things that are really important and actually have a bearing on my life. Sure, making sure celebrites and regular Joes are treated the same by the judicial system has its place, but there are only so many hours in the day and so much else is going on.

Besides, I’ll be in California this time next week. Maybe we’ll take a road trip to Hollywood… not.

Posted in commentary, movies, pop culture


Even with all the hype surrounding the book The DaVinci Code, the movie came and went with a yawn (though it was a very lucrative yawn). The controversy generated that brought the pre-movie hype to a fever pitch seemed to fade away overnight. Truth be told, I was over-saturated by the controversy, the hype and all the books that sought to “break the code,” or “debunk the code,” (and books like that are still coming out) so I still have had no desire to see the movie yet.

Therefore, unlike the woman who has never read a Harry Potter book but wants them banned from her kids’ public school library because she believes they are evil (HP Controversy), I will not comment on something I haven’t seen and therefore do not have firsthand knowledge of. This review of sorts will make no references to The DaVinci Code the movie.

I did, however, finally read Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code. About a week ago, I was in Wal-Mart at about midnight after babysitting to pick up some household items and saw the mass market paperback edition in the checkout line available for less than $5. My curiosity got the best of me and I had wanted to read it (otherwise, how could I give an informed opinion on it?), so I purchased it.

I can see why The DaVinci Code has sold over 40 million copies. It’s a very well-written work of fiction and I read it as such. I read it in about three days. It was very difficult to put the book down even as my eyes drooped from tiredness at the end of the day. The DaVinci Code is a page turner in every way. Action. Intrigue. Mystery. An intellectual thriller. Many of my friends who have read the book have commented on how the book draws you in, holds your interest, and doesn’t let go until the very end. Though I found it somewhat predictable, it was still a great read.

Now for the controversy part. Did I mention that The DaVinci Code is sold in the fiction section in bookstores and is also catalogued as such? Yet many in the Christian community feel the Gospel is threatened or that people are being led astray by this work of fiction. Why?

I have searched the book’s prologue thoroughly and I still don’t see the phrase(s) in which many Christian commentators have asserted that this is where Dan Brown says that this fiction book is true, especially the parts about Jesus Christ. Misquotes have abounded and fanned the flames of controversy surrounding this book.

Author Dan Brown merely states in his prologue that the two historical Christian groups mentioned in the book are real (the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei) and the “descriptions of the art, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” That’s it.

Many people did not read the book and freaked out over their trusted Christian commentators’ assertions that what Dan Brown has said about the deity and life of Christ described in his book are true. Hence the umpteen books published on breaking and debunking the code that flooded the market from the time the book was first released until this very moment.

What gets me, really, about The DaVinci Code controversy is that many in the Christian community have gotten up in arms about how the life of Christ is portrayed (and do I need to say it again?) in this fiction book. Granted, what is said in The DaVinci Code about Christ goes directly against what the Bible says and what has been believed for centuries. But again, The DaVinci Code is fiction, right? Can one fiction book take on the Bible?

If, as a Christian, you believe in the inerrant word of God, then how can one little fiction book (or movie) change your mind about what you believe? What, as a Christian culture, are you so afraid of? If, as a Christian, you believe that the word of God is the truth and is the same yesterday, today and forever, do you really think Dan Brown and his 40 million copies of fiction can change that?

No. And yet the books and pamphlets abound.

Giving your neighbor a book or pamphlet (that he didn’t ask for by the way) about how awful The DaVinci Code paints the church is only going to make him wonder what you’re afraid of… because your neighbor knows The DaVinci Code is fiction. If he reads the pamphlet, he wonders why his eternal soul is in question because this book has been published. He wonders why people are protesting this work of fiction when there are children starving in Africa, or even down the street. People are more impressed by words more than actions anyway (“I was hungry and you fed me,” vs. “I was hungry and you preached at me,” but that’s another topic all together).

What is the Christian community really afraid of? Well, from what I’ve seen (and read), it’s ignorance of the word of God within their own ranks. Most Christians are ill equipped to handle The DaVinci Code, because they do not know the Bible well enough to tell fact from fiction and they are afraid that their “less educated” non-Christian friends/neighbors know even less and might believe The DaVinci Code might actually be more truth than fiction.

The book’s controversy really does cast a light on a very sensitive area within the church. Many Christians attend services, but fewer read and study the Bible. They depend on the man behind the pulpit to teach them all they need to know, and quite frankly, that is much more frightening to me than the insinuations made The DaVinci Code.