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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

Mark Palermo is shakenand stirred.

Every new Harry Potter movie is met with a response that it's darker than the last. But how can something be dark if it doesn't inspire emotion?

Brit TV director David Yates helms Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with an eye for deep shadows and baroque settings, but even the best-looking scenes lack dramatic force. When Harry and friends go on a nighttime broomride over the Thames, the rich blue of the sky and water contrasts the city lights in a striking image, except the subjects never interact with their environment. The same goes for when a warehouse full of crystal balls collapses around the heroes.

The series' view of young life remains too focused on its protagonist's academics. Fearing the return of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) trains his schoolmates against his evil forces. Consider how misguided this is: It's like if an entire season arc of Dawson's Creek focused on Dawson helping Pacey win the science fair. A teen pop sensibility would shake things up.

The film assembles an impressive adult cast, including Imelda Staunton, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. The grown-ups that don't want to destroy Harry serve to remind him that his friends aren't as special as he is—a valuable lesson, if you believe the world would benefit from more narcissism, entitlement and humourless protagonists. Harry, after all, is a wizard by birthright. Young fans of the series risk growing up to be the angriest nerds alive.

Without lyricism, it's flashy but prosaic fantasy storytelling.

Captivity

Captivity has been the target of scorn for months. Its controversial LA billboards led to numerous op-ed pieces about the state of horror films. Even with all this hatred lowering expectations, the reality of Captivity is that it's so unpleasant, the few people prone to look for virtues in it won't go to see it.

Captivity is a stupid movie made by smart people, meaning it's not as dumb as it looks. Roland Joffe and screenwriter Larry Cohen stage their critique of celebrity obsession. "You know something is real when you can touch it," is the movie's repeated mantra. Because celebrities are untouchable, that makes them not real, and henceforth "victimless" targets of society's impotent rage. Celebrated New York fashion scenester Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) wakes up to find herself trapped in a cellar where she's toyed with through video images, torture devices and merchandise of herself.

The film serves as the third in writer Cohen's Phone Trilogy, following Phone Booth and Cellular. Captivity has Jennifer text-messaging her high-society friends at the start, only to go crazy in a space without any communicative means.

The irony is that Captivity is ABOUT the things it's hated for—a culture that views women as objects, fascination with death and mutilation, turning to the misery of others for our entertainment and the end plays more honestly as a feminist horror film than Hostel Part II.

If Captivity can't be endorsed, it's because it's cheapened by gratuitous gore. When producers caught wind of the controversy the movie was generating, they shot more violence to meet the hype. Scenes of force-fed cannibalism and the consumption of battery acid are nasty in any context. Especially when they have none.

Serving humans? Write: palermo@thecoast.ca.

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