The DVD box had a quote from the Daily Mail's review, where they described it as "harmless", and I think that's fair. It's certainly not one of the all-time classics, but I actually quite enjoyed it, and it has a nice message behind it. ("Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.") Admittedly, the main characters are a bit insipid, and Sam (Cinderella) actually seemed a bit spoilt. She was upset about living in the attic, but I watched the film and thought "Hmm, her bedroom is bigger than the room I had at university. She also has her own car, a computer with a permanent internet connection, and a mobile phone, none of which I had as an undergrad. Yes, she has to work at the diner, but I did bar work. So stop moaning!" On the other hand, it's the supporting characters who make the film worth watching, particularly Jennifer Coolidge as the stepmother (who I recognise as Joey's agent from Joey).
I watched the cast commentary this morning (before I had to return the DVD to the library), and there were some interesting points. Actually, along with the featurette on the making of the film, it does seem as if the creative team put quite a bit of thought into it (e.g. coming up with 300 different fancy dress costumes for the ball). Towards the end, one of the actors said "So, that's my advice to any young males watching this film - if there's a girl you like, don't be afraid to take a risk." One of the other actors then said "Dude, I don't think any males are going to watch this film!" Hmmph. Ah well, I've never denied that I like (some) chick-flicks.
Meanwhile, I've been planning out my "Harry Potter" strategy. With the new film and book being released, I wanted to re-read the entire series to date. I figured that the best way to do this was to re-read the first four books, then watch the new (fifth) film, then re-read the fifth and sixth books, then get the seventh (final) book at the midnight opening. Normally I'd go to the cinema on Wednesday to get the "2 for 1" Orange Wednesday discount, but that would then leave me two days to read two thick books. So, instead I went to see it last night (Friday); I cut it a bit close, since I finished reading the fourth book during the adverts in the cinema, but I just had enough time. (Speaking of adverts, there was one for a Harry Potter DVD trivia game; the odd aspect was that all of the people in the advert had American accents.)
Incidentally, I was amused by this Facebook group: "No, I can't hang out with you on July 21st. HOW DARE YOU ASK?" Fortunately there aren't any SJA duties next weekend, so I can play hermit. I also came across this BBC web page last week, announcing the cast in August 2000. They look so tiny! (By contrast, during the film I was amazed at how tall some of them are now, particularly the twins.)
As for the film itself, I enjoyed it. They had to cut quite a lot out of the book and change certain plotlines, so some characters only had walk-on cameos, but on the whole I think that this worked well as a story in its own right. Some bits were funny, some were quite moving, and others were gripping. There were also a couple of scenes that just looked fundamentally cool; I'm generally not in favour of "style over substance" but in this case I'm willing to cut them some slack.
Mind you, I was surprised that they didn't include a recap of the story so far. There were some flashbacks within the film, but not at the very beginning. There were a couple of people sitting near me in the cinema, and I'm guessing that the girl was a fan of the series, so she'd dragged her boyfriend along to watch the film with her, but he was a bit confused; he kept asking her questions like "Who's Voldemort?" So, this probably isn't a good film to start out with if you're new to the series.
When Harry was rescued from Privet Drive, it seemed a bit odd for his broomstick to come flying out of nowhere with the others, since I'd expect it to have been in the house with him. However, I really liked the scene with the broomsticks flying along the Thames, particularly when they went past familiar landmarks (e.g. the Houses of Parliament), so I'm willing to turn a blind eye to any problems.
Regarding Kreacher the house-elf, I'd never quite realised how similar his name sounds to the word "creature", so I think it was just having it said out loud that made me recognise it.
When I read the book, I thought that Louise Fletcher (Winn Adami from DS9) would be perfect as Dolores Umbridge, but I think the actress they actually cast did a good job with it, and she nailed the mannerisms from the book. For that matter, I had to side with Snape when he whacked Ron with a textbook, and I did feel really sorry for Trelawny when she was evicted; since neither of them are particularly sympathetic characters, I think that a lot of this is down to the skill of the actors.
Thinking back to Goblet of Fire, I said that it was really Hermione's film. In this film, I think that Neville probably came out best, and I particularly liked the scene where he finally mastered the "Expelliarmus" spell (to disarm an opponent).
I've often felt that he's the character I'm most similar to, and this reminded me of something from my SCUBA training a few years ago. We practiced in a swimming pool before we went into the sea, and I got stuck when we had to remove our masks (which covered the eyes and nose) and continue breathing through the mouthpiece for one minute. The idea is that you might lose your mask by accident (someone else had hers kicked off by her buddy in the sea!), so you need to be able to keep yourself alive until someone can retrieve it for you. The problem I had was that whenever I tried breathing in through my mouth I'd also breathe in through my nose at the same time, so I'd inhale water, and have to break the surface of the pool because I was choking. I tried this a few times, but I couldn't get the hang of it, and the instructor said that we had to move onto other things because it wasn't fair to delay the rest of the class. This meant that I wasn't able to go out into the sea the next day, but I kept practising in the pool on my own, and wound up getting my Open Water qualification the day after everyone else. Anyway, one of the women from the group took me aside at one point and told me that all of the others respected me for carrying on with it when I found it so difficult. I don't say that to brag, but it's a happy memory that's stayed with me. (The "trick" I found was to imagine that I was sucking/blowing the air through a straw rather than just breathing normally.)
So, when Neville finally got the hang of his spell and everyone congratulated him, I don't think that they were being sarcastic or pitying him: it resonated with me as sincere appreciation for how hard he'd worked and a recognition of how important this was for him, even though it was just a simple spell for them. In other words, they really were happy for him; I certainly was.
As a related note, the scene with all the Patronus charms was very nicely done. Regarding Luna's, I'd pay money just to see a Dementor being chased away by a bunny rabbit!
I'll probably wait until Monday to re-read the book, just to give the film a chance to "settle". Regarding this coming Friday, I'm intending to pre-order the new book (because I think that the adult cover looks a bit more classy), but I haven't chosen a bookshop yet, so I'll see which one has the best deal; I suspect that I'll go to Waterstones, where it's half price.