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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Do you do homework before you see a movie that’s part of a series?

A theater in Chicago is offering a free Harry Potter film festival, showing one film — for free! — in the series for one showing each, starting today and running through Tuesday, so that fans can refresh their memory or so that catchers-up can get up to speed before Half-Blood Prince opens with midnight shows late Tuesday night.

Which makes me wish I had time to rewatch the whole series before my screening of the new film on Monday. Which prompts today’s question:

Do you do homework before you see a movie that’s part of a series? Do you rewatch previous films, if you’re already a fan, or do you watch previous films for the first time rather than jumping into the middle of a series?
(Completely unrelated to the question: Hollywood Blvd., the Chicago multiplex that’s running the festival, sounds awesome: “The Hollywood Blvd Cinema is the Worlds First & Best Premier Movie Going Experience, with full service to each and every seat in our fully integrated Restaurant, Bar and Movie Theater. We seat you in high-backed leather executive chairs in beautifully and individually decorated auditoriums featuring DTS and all the latest Dolby Technology. We bring you movies the way they should be seen, in class, style and comfort like no place else on earth.” Why isn’t there someplace like that in New York?!)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Paul

    Only twice. Once there was a bar that showed “Fellowship of the Ring” and “Two Towers” the day before “Return of the King” came out, but I mostly went for the fun of it rather than to refresh my memory. They didn’t sell tickets and gave out free popcorn, but you had to buy drinks. Another time I watched “Batman Begins” the afternoon before going to see “Dark Knight” but that was really just because I was in the mood but had to wait for my friends.

    But most of the time I’m familiar enough with plots and character arcs in general that I can sit down in the middle of something and figure out what’s going on. I started watching “Buffy” on Season 4, for example, and didn’t have any trouble following along.

    On the other hand, I did find myself bored and picking up a Green Lantern comic book. I followed the plot, but my goodness, some of these comic lines have 50 years of back story to deal with, so I’m pretty sure I missed a lot of the emotional impact I was supposed to be feeling.

  • CoriAnn

    Sometimes. It depends on how long it has been since I’ve seen the first film(s) in the series and how familiar I am with it or how into the series I am. I am totally planning to start re-watching the first five HP movies this weekend before going to catch the new one on Wednesday. Partly because I love it so much and partly so I can keep straight in my head the differences between the movie universe and the book universe.

  • MBI

    Absofuckinglutely. Except for the Bond movies, I will not watch a film if I haven’t seen the previous films in the series. I have yet to see Bride of Chucky or Seed of Chucky, both of which I really want to see, because I haven’t gotten around to watching Child’s Play 3.

  • Brian

    My fiancee made a point of showing me the second Pirates of the Carribean movie before we saw the third, since I had not yet seen it. I’m not sure how much it actually helped, since neither of those two sequels made a lick of sense, plot-wise.

    In general, though, I like to be up to speed on what I’m watching, especially if there’s a significant amount of story continuity to remember between films or between book and film. I’ve prevented myself from seeing a bunch of movies that way, actually, since that tendency extends to wanting to read the book before seeing the movie based on it . . . then I never get around to either.

  • markyd

    In general, I do not spend time “reviewing” past movies before watching the next in the series. Mostly a time issue. While I have a crappy memory, I do recall most of the key moments, so I make do.
    I never jump into a series in the middle. That just sounds stupid to me.
    The first 4 Potter movies are on tv all the time. I’ve seen them TOO much really. I haven’t seen Order since seeing it in the theater, but I won’t make any efforts to.

    aside: I have been to that Hollywood Boulevard theater in Woodridge, IL(NOT Chicago, but I understand why you would say that) The wife and I saw 30 Days of Night there. Movie sucked, but the food and service was pretty good. Drinks were crazy expensive, though. I loved how it was decorated.

  • marshall myers

    I often try to if I’m able/have the dvd’s.

  • Gee

    No, usually not. I tend to view them in the correct sequence some time apart and then rely on vague memories. This isn’t planned, it’s just they way it turns out, but I like coming to a world fresh again.

    And as this is also a ‘talk amongst yourselves’ thread, I’ve just booked to see “Speaking in Tongues” with John Simm at The Duke of York’s (runs September – December). There are still plenty of tickets available if anyone visiting London then wants to catch it.

    :-)

  • doa766

    sometimes but no on the cases where I’m so familiar with the material like harry potter or lord of the rings

    if a new Alien (not AVP crap) came out I would have t rewatch the others because I haven’t seen them in years

  • Brian

    doa766: I can catch you up on the Alien franchise in about 30 seconds.

    Spoilers! Kind of.

    Alien: Spaceship crew discovers a mean, homicidal alien. Alien kills everybody; Ellen Ripley survives, along with a cat.

    Aliens: Unfrozen Ripley takes a Marine squad to a planet full of mean, homicidal aliens. Aliens kill everybody; Ellen Ripley survives, along with a little girl.

    Alien 3: Ripley crash-lands on a prison planet full of surly bald guys; unwittingly brings mean, homicidal alien with her. Alien kills everybody, studio execs muck about with movie; Ellen Ripley does not survive. David Fincher barely survives. Cat’s status unknown.

    Alien Resurrection: Uh . . . okay, you might have to watch this one again. Winona Ryder is an android. There are mean, homicidal aliens. That’s all I remember.

  • I am currently re-reading the Harry Potter Books (on book 6, and on track for finishing them all before next Wednesday).

    Also plan on trying to catch the Order of the Phoenix on video sometime this weekend. (seen the other movies more than once, but only saw OOTP at the theatre.)

    So, yes. I often do my “homework”.

    Re-read LOTR before seeing each movie, as well as watching the extended versions, on the big screen, of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers before seeing Return of the king.

  • Alli

    If it’s a movie based on a book, I usually reread the book before I see the film. I always do it for Potter. It’s not that I don’t remember what happens, I just want to see how many lines of dialogue or other small moments Kloves kept from the book.

  • Mimi

    But of course! Just rewatched HP3-5 in anticipation of the next one.

  • Shadowen

    No.

    I have been blessed with a memory for trivial minutiae that doesn’t fucking matter, such as the detailed plots of all my favorite films, books, comics, characters, etc.

    If I had half the memory for computer code that I do for Terry Pratchett, I’d probably be much wealthier than I’m already not.

  • I do when I have a chance. I make other people do homework, too. (I hosted a mini-screening of The Best of “Firefly” before we went out to see Serenity. Would have made n00bs watch the entire series first if I’d had the time.)

    I generally enjoy watching the Harry Potter movies first, however, so that instead of thinking, “They cut everything out!” I think, “That was neat” and then go read the super-extended author’s-cut version for ‘…the rest of the story.’ >B)

  • Victor Plenty

    Paul, if you skipped the first three seasons of Buffy, you may have no trouble keeping up with the plot, but you missed out on a lot of brilliantly written dialogue and character development. If you have the time, I highly recommend watching the first three seasons. At the moment they are all available for free on Hulu.

    As to the question at hand, whenever there is time and opportunity, I definitely prefer to review the previous movies before seeing the latest in a series. Sometimes I’ll even skip seeing a movie during its theatrical run if I’m not caught up on the previous movies.

    Luckily this won’t be a problem for me with the new Harry Potter movie, because I’ve read all the books and seen all the films that came before it.

  • Paul

    Oh, I did. I saw BtVS in this order: season 4, 5, 1,2,3, 6,7. It was interesting going back to the first three and wondering how much foreshadowing Whedon had planned vs. how much he just built as he went along. In ways, it was the most tied together show I’d ever seen, until his Angel and Firefly series, anyway.

  • Victor Plenty

    Glad to hear you didn’t miss out, Paul. That was some of the best television yet made, in my view.

    Regarding the new Harry Potter, is anyone else noticing most of the Tuesday midnight showings seem to be sold out already?

    Has this happened with any other movie recently?

  • Well, I did bother to see Firefly on DVD before seeing Serenity. And I used to read the various novel versions of upcoming movies back in the 1980s but it became too depressing to compare what was on the printed page with what showed up on the big screen.

    Apart from that, part of the fun of seeing a movie on the big screen is not having to do homework…

  • Has this happened with any other movie recently?

    Star Trek? After all, that francise’s fan base is every bit as dedicated as Harry Potter’s.

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