Tag Archives: Dumbledore

Big Harry Potter news

tumblr_mhzxvzup1o1qcirsjo1_500Kermit is pretty much the only one who can adequately describe how I felt reading the big Harry Potter news this month.  NEW content, NEW movies, from J.K. Rowling.  This isn’t just snippets from Pottermore (though I enjoy those too), this is real new stuff in the same world we all love so much.

Warner Brothers and Rowling announced a new partnership on a ‘series’ of films based upon the adventures of Newt Scamander.  Rowling will write the screenplay for (at least) the first movie, because she wanted to ensure that the story was told correctly.  Which means she has had the whole back story for Newt Scamander in her head for years and years without ever needing to use any of it in a book. Scamander’s name is familiar to HP fans as the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Fantastic_Beasts_and_Where_to_Find_Them_2009_coverThe book (along with Quidditch Through the Ages) is a Hogwarts textbook published by Rowling for charity.  It’s a nonfiction book discussing the history of the control & classification of magical creatures, and describing the more popular/dangerous ‘beasts’ in the  magical world.

I was never particularly drawn to these nonfiction books, but I did read them both after the news came out.  There’s very little in Fantastic Beasts that gives any hint of the plot of these movies.  JKR says they will take place 70 years before the events in the Harry Potter series, so that means the 1920s.  The action will start in New York, but who knows where it will go from there.  The beasts in the book cover most of the Earth, though (naturally) the majority of them are in Europe.

From the book, we know a little about Newt Scamander.  He was born in 1897, so he’ll be in his 20s during the action of the movies. He is British and was in Hufflepuff house at Hogwarts. He works for the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. His grandson marries Luna Lovegood, though that event will clearly not be covered in the movies.

I’m so glad that JKR is returning to this world, and I really hope that there are little cameos from established characters.  Dumbledore was alive at the time, and I think she will probably have him turn up at some point.  Jo said that Dumbledore was the character she missed writing the most, and hey here’s another opportunity to write him.

That’s about the only person from the Harry Potter series that could reasonably make an appearance, but there are any number of family members that could show up.  Hogwarts and Diagon Alley and all the familiar places could easily show up on film again, which makes me very happy.  Even more exciting is the possibility we might glimpse some wizarding culture from other countries.  Is there a NYC equivalent of Diagon Alley?  I can only hope so. Undoubtedly, the search for magical beasts won’t take place mostly in cities, but I’m just hoping for a glimpse.

I don’t even care what she includes, I’m just so excited to learn more about this world.  Reading every Harry Potter book has been like looking through a pinhole camera. I get a little bit of information and I have a lot of questions, then I get a little bit more information with the next book, and I have more questions.  Most of them were eventually answered, but I will never reached a point of not wanting to know more.

JKR thanked the new CEO of Warner Brothers for making the whole project possible: “I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”

Well, all I can say is that I agree. Thank you, sir, for making this happen!

Jon and Steven


quartet soundtrackLet me start by saying I like the fact that UK filmmakers (and audiences) are unafraid of the aged population.  There are a number of incredibly brilliant English actors and actresses that still work regularly, that are older than three Hollywood actresses combined.  Similar to films like Calendar Girls and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet celebrates and examines the lives of people (gasp!) over 50.  Compare this to US movies with older people (titles like RED and The Bucket List) and it becomes obvious that the UK versions of these movies are smaller, and spend far more time dealing with the everyday lives of everyday pensioners.  They have less glitz and more heart, and I find them far more relatable. I really look to them to gain perspective as I age.

That being said, I didn’t love Quartet. Sometimes these films are so small, so simple that I feel let down by a lack of more dramatic change amongst the characters assembled. I felt that way about this film at the end.

The story follows the lives of several retired opera singers and musicians, all of whom live in a private retirement home for ex-professional musicians.  First, I thought, what an immaculate place to spend your retirement years.  Surrounded by music and talented people.  On the other hand, several of the characters are (literally) divas, making life difficult for those around them.

Three best friends, all opera singers, have been living happily in this home for years. Billy Connolly (Brave) plays the lascivious, flirtatious, Wilf; Tom Courtenay (Little Dorritt) plays the Felix to his Oscar. Reginald is a bit uptight, but kind.

wilf and reginald



Their girl Friday is Cissy, the scatter-brained, good-natured, slightly bland friend.


The three have a fairly nice life.  The home is a good place to live, and they are surrounded by music.  The place is aflutter, preparing for an annual fundraising performance in honor of Verdi’s birthday. Everyone is being bossed around by Dumbledore Michael Gambon, a music director who embodies every bossy self-centered stereotype you can imagine. I mean, look at the man’s outfit.




Still, they are living a nice life and relatively peaceful.  Enter Jean Horton, played by the incomparable Maggie Smith.

Quartet SmithNot only is Jean a diva, but she is Reginald’s ex-wife.  They are incredibly awkward around each other, a situation made worse by Dumbledore’s insistence that this quartet perform their greatest song together at the fundraiser.

The film has a lot of good and interesting things to say about getting older, about letting go of the pressures of performance and the expectations of others.  Jean is nervous to sing again, convinced she won’t be able to sing as well as she did in her youth.  She worries that her fans will be disappointed.  Wilf informs her immediately that all of her fans are dead.

I liked the characters and I liked the story, but there was just a little too little action for the movie to hold my attention.  The acting was wonderful, the music gorgeous, but it was just a wee bit boring.  And having four brilliant actors is great, but they don’t actually do a lot of singing on camera.  They certainly do not sing the great opera song they supposedly perform at the end.  I understand why (not everyone is an opera singer; it’s not like learning to play the kazoo), but it feels like a bit of a cheat.  It feels like when you can clearly see that the stunt double is twice the height of the actor/actress they’re playing.

There was one strange bonus in this movie: Sheridan Smith, aka Rudi (Smithy’s sister) from Gavin and Stacey has shed her chavvy costume and looks like a proper professional woman in this movie?!

Sheridan+SmithI know she’s an actress, and not apparently an actual chav, but I did expect her to zoom off in her heelys at least once in the movie.  That didn’t happen, alas.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Last week, I went on my first trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Okay, it’s not exactly British, being in Orlando, but it is definitely relevant to the subject matter of this blog, so I thought I would post a bit of a review and some advice for those who haven’t gone yet.

First piece of advice–you do not need a pass for multiple days. Unfortunately this park is woefully small.  I know they are planning an expansion and might be adding Diagon Alley with a Gringotts ride and Leaky Cauldron restaurant, but that is all conjecture.  I’ll probably go back when that’s done, because, hey, I’m just that big of a nerd.  As it stands, though, the Harry Potter part of the park can be seen in its entirety, twice, in about 4 hours.  Not knowing this, I ended up getting 4 day passes, which meant I got to go back and see it a second time, so it wasn’t a total waste. But it’s smaller than I expected, so keep that in mind.

You have to walk through half of the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure to get to the Harry Potter section. I would recommend turning right once you get into the park, and going around the circle anti-clockwise. This provides the best view of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts when you approach. The other direction brings you around the back.

As you come in, you pass under an archway with the Hogsmeade sign and the Hogwarts Express is clearly and immediately visible.

The conductor stands in front and poses for pictures with whomever wants one. There’s also a Hogsmeade ‘station’ which is really a place to put your stuff in Lockers if you’re nuts enough to go on the Dragon Challenge ride.

So, here’s the real scoop about what is disappointing about this park.  When I went on their website they have this big list of the shops that you can go into, everything from Zonko’s and Honeydukes to Ollivanders, the Owl Post, Dervish and Banges, Scrivenshaft’s…the list goes on.  But, unfortunately, there are really only about 3 of those shops that are real. The rest are just storefronts with ‘Back Soon’ signs, etc. So let me take you through geographically.

On the right is the train, and on the left are Zonko’s and Honeydukes, which are really just one large shop with two entrances.

There are tons of products in here, mostly little joke bits on the Zonko’s end. I wasn’t particularly tempted by any of the products in there. They have bits from the Skiving Snackboxes, plus stuff like U-No-Poo, Sneakoscopes, and Extendable Ears. The packaging on all of these is really cool, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  Honeydukes on the other hand! I was slightly disappointed that the Chocolate Frogs were so large, and as far as I could tell without buying one, were about the same as an Easter bunny, but a frog obviously. I was more intrigued by the Peppermint Toads, the Bertie Bott’s, and Cauldron Cakes. It was a really cute shop and they also had ‘homemade’ fudge behind the counter.

After these two shops you’ll find the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head.

Again, these are two separate entrances but inside they are open to one another. Slightly inaccurate, but I’ll forgive them. At the Three Broomsticks, you can order food and drink (non-alcoholic). The Hog’s Head serves all the non-alcoholic drinks plus some beers on tap. They have a Hog’s Head brew, which I didn’t try as I hate beer. If you go on a really busy day, I’ve heard that the Hog’s Head is a better place to get your Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice, as the lines are generally shorter. I have to say, as a vegetarian, there wasn’t much for me to eat at the Three Broomsticks. I ended up getting corn on the cob and roast potatoes. Good, but they were two sides, not a meal in themselves. My boyfriend got Shepherd’s Pie, which he enjoyed. It seems to more closely resemble actual food than a lot of places inside your typical theme park. And the drinks? I tried a frozen Butterbeer, a regular Butterbeer, and Pumpkin Juice. Frozen Butterbeer was the best by far (possibly aided by it being 90 degrees that day in Orlando). It tasted like a cream soda smoothie of some kind. The pumpkin juice wasn’t really juice, for the record, but seemed to be basically a pumpkin flavored soda.  I wish they had made it an actual juice. I know there are recipes online for something that is actually juice, so I may have to try those this fall when pumpkins are so cheap (i.e. November 1st or so).  Anyway, the Butterbeer is highly recommended!

Across from the 3B’s and the HH, you’ll find the entrance to the Dragon Challenge.

Background info: I am terrified of heights and roller coasters.  I have never been on a coaster that went upside down and had absolutely no intention of going on this one. My boyfriend did go on it however! While you’re waiting in line you get to walk past the Ford Anglia and some Triwizard posters and the cup. He said that the red coaster, representing the Chinese Fireball, wasn’t too bad. When you exit the ride you can hop back in line and ride the other one if you want. So he did, and the green coaster, representing the Horntail, is way way worse. I couldn’t have even successfully waited in line without passing out, but good to know if I ever suffer a head injury and then think that sort of thing is fun.

Past this ride is the Owl Post, one of the bigger shops that seems to mostly have wands and clothes. That is right next to Ollivander’s.  Here’s the deal with Ollivander’s: The line is usually really long. Our first day there, there were about 100 people in line, and it takes about 10-15 minutes for each group of 15-20 people to go. So it’s a long line. And they don’t even have a little sign telling you how long it will be. We ended up going back on a day when it was raining, when it was almost evening, and had only a 15 minute wait. So I am glad about that. You’re ushered into his shop and he picks ONE person who gets to try out a few wands. It’s pretty cool. He measures you and he’s snarky, and he gives the spiel about the wand choosing the wizard.  That one person gets to go up and try a few wands. They have effects rigged so shelves fall down and he repairs them with his wand, etc. But even if you are lucky enough to be the one person who gets picked, you still have to buy your wand in the shop next door. Everyone else just watches, and then it’s over. Worth seeing if the line is short, or if you really hope you’ll be the one person, but not essential in my opinion.

Past these buildings are a few of the fake shop fronts I mentioned.  Then there’s an open space where they have photo ops with some people posing as characters–not the main characters, but Hogwarts students or Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students.  They also have shows like the frog choir a few times a day.

Past that is the Flight of the Hippogriff ride.  This is technically called a family friendly roller coaster, so I steeled up my strength and went for it! While you’re in line you can look at Hagrid’s cabin, and while you’re going through the ride you get to bow to Buckbeak. It’s a really quick coaster that goes more in circles than up and down, which is what I vastly prefer. Highly recommended!

Past this, there’s just the castle itself! You can go through on ‘the tour’, which gives you the same experience as those riding, or you can go on the ride, or, I guess you could skip that and just go into the store at the back. I went on the ride twice, and on the tour. So…I’ve been through the castle three times.

You go in and you sort of catch bits of conversation between portraits, talking about how muggles have been allowed into the castle on these tours and we’ll be learning about the castle from Professor Binns. Along the way you see stuff like the Mirror of Erised, bits of the Quidditch team lockers, then into Dumbledore’s office.

He (through a Tupac-esque hologram) talks to you about the castle and hurries you along.  In the next little room you’re in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and Ron, Harry, and Hermione appear from under the invisibility cloak. Holograms, obviously. They tell you that you definitely don’t want to sit through Binns’ lecture, and you should follow them if you want to see the real Hogwarts. They also mention the fact that Hagrid has misplaced a dragon. Then Ron makes it snow with his wand accidentally, and real snow comes down from the ceiling. That part is really cool, and you do feel pretty integrated into the experience. I think they did an excellent job of making the waiting in line just as interesting as the ride itself.

So, the Forbidden Journey ride…I went on it twice. The first time it made me a bit ill, but I did have a full stomach at the time. The second go through, on a different day, went much better. You’re strapped into four-person carts that really move forward, back, vertical, and turn you damn near upside down. You zoom over Hogwarts with the trio, meet Hagrid along the way, and then you’re sort of sucked along, running away from his missing dragon out to the forest where you encounter Aragog and his very large family (a particularly worrisome moment for my arachnophobic boyfriend), and into the Chamber of Secrets where the Basilisk skeleton is waiting for you, and then you’re hit with dementors, and a minute later you successfully arrive back at the Great Hall and the ride is over. It’s really fun, but keep your eyes open. I closed my eyes the first time and it only made me feel more ill, and I missed bunches of stuff.

When you’re done with the ride you get spit out into the largest shop of all, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods.  I bought so much stuff! They have lots of clothing at that shop, plus winter gear, stuff for your house, flagons and coffee cups and stuff, all the books (in hardcover!), the movies, and lots of stuff that isn’t in the other shops. I ended up buying, over the whole course of our time there, a long sleeve shirt, a short sleeve shirt, Peppermint Toads, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, a Hogwarts flagon, a Ministry of Magic coffee mug, a Marauder’s coffee mug, and a Hogwarts Express key chain.  And, yes, it’s expensive. On the other hand, this was the first time I had ever been to a theme park as an adult, so why the fuck not?

So, my thoughts on the place? It was awesome. If you’re a big HP fan like me, it’s a must see.  It’s hard not to get excited to see stuff like this, even if you know it’s not the real Hogwarts.  My best advice is try to go during the school year, and on a weekday. It wasn’t too busy when we were there, which I am thankful for. I don’t think it would have been nearly as pleasant in July, when all the kids are out of school, it’s 10 degrees warmer, and the lines are all an hour long.  Also, plan on spending more than you think you will. Theme parks are notoriously expensive, but between the souvenirs, the overpriced food, and the taxi rides after walking 7-10 miles a day, I spent several hundred dollars more than I planned on.


Also, the most important bit of advice: remember to wear comfy shoes!