Reel Critics: Latest 'Potter' less for the children


Each new Harry Potter film moves into more adult territory as Harry and his companions get older and more sophisticated. The good and bad players in the drama remain the same. But their focus and attitudes become more grown-up as the story goes forward. The latest installment is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1." It's definitely more dark and complex than the previous films and not really kid friendly.

Harry and his friends are now being hunted by the minions of the Dark Lord. The evil ones have them on the run and are closing in with increasing speed. The young heroes barely escape each attempt to grab them and hang on by their fingernails to stay free. The tension and fear generated may intrigue the parents in the audience, but it might be too much for their younger children.

The story has lots of action but there's also a major element of confusion in the plot. The meaning of all the twists and turns is not always clear. It's obvious that the producers want us to see the next movie in the series to tie up the loose ends. It's all very well done, but the long drawn-out process is getting a little tedious.


Hiker's desperation yields complex emotions


Aron Ralston made front page news in 2003 as an experienced hiker who, when trapped by a boulder in a remote Utah canyon, severed his arm in order to survive.

Even with a known outcome, director Danny's Boyle's recreation of that ordeal in "127 Hours" is highly suspenseful with an outstanding performance by James Franco as Ralston.

Based on his book and video recordings, Ralston's story is a testament to the fragility of life and an exploration of the soul.

Thanks to Boyle's "up close and personal" perspective, the audience shares in the vast beauty of the landscape as well as in the exhaustion of the cramped nook where Ralston is trapped. It drives home the power of nature, where one false step can make us as small and insignificant as an ant.

Franco is a marvel as everything he portrays — disbelief, fear, gallows humor, pain — is shared in an intimate, unforced manner. There are no false notes here.

"127 Hours" leaves us all with food for thought — do we have that same mental and physical toughness within us? Hopefully, we'll never be put to the test.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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