The Harry Potter books and films have been a cultural event of the first degree for many years.
The movies had screenplays for each sequel that became more mature as the child actors grew up before our eyes. This evolution provided a successful formula that is fully realized in the final chapter of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry with great screen presence. His long-awaited showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort is the driving centerpiece of the plot. But his interaction with fellow wizards played by Emma Watson and Rupert Grint continues the coming-of-age saga that appeals to so many viewers.
The first-rate special effects are eye-popping. But they exist in service to an exciting story with dynamic twists and turns that shine light on many events in the previous films. It's a darker and more serious adventure than the others. But the magic and emotion of this final episode will entertain true fans and ordinary movie buffs alike.
It's sure to get attention at Oscar time.
Not a 'Fan' of 'Snow Flower' adaptation
Sometimes wonderful movies are carved from best-selling novels, if the filmmakers respect the source (see "Harry Potter.")
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is not one of them.
Perhaps producers don't trust that an audience could enjoy a story about two 19th century Chinese women and the painful traditions ("only through pain will you have beauty") that formed a lifelong friendship.
Modern-day characters are brought into the film that were not in the book, creating an uneven energy throughout. Perhaps it was just an excuse to have Hugh Jackman sing for us.
Two little girls, Snow Flower and Lily, are the heart of the movie. With their bound feet and arranged marriages, their lives are dictated by family duty. The photography here is rich and vibrant.
In the modern (and normally colorful) city of Shanghai, it is Sophia and Nina whose friendship is supposed to mirror that of their ancestors, but the connection is muddled and the scenes are gray and lifeless.
Sadly, the bloom has definitely faded from this "Flower."
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times