3 Theatrical trailer - Philospher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Azkaban
Cast/crew biographies - Cast and Crew Listing only
Featurette - Sing with the Choir
Behind the scenes footage - Magical Creatures
DVD-ROM features - Hogwarts Timeline
10 Interviews - Alfonso and J.K.Rowling, Shrunken Head Interviews with Cast and Crew (43 mins)
Interactive game - Hunt Scabbers, Magic you May Have Missed, Tour Lupin's Classroom, Tour Honeydukes, Quest of Sir Cadogan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban
Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 141 mins .
PG . PAL
In the Red Corner, representing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Griffindor House; Weighing in at a sprouting 13 years old, righteous boy-wizard: Harry Potter.
The notorious Sirius Black
In the Black Corner: He's dark. He's scary. He's one of the most feared Wizards the world has ever known. Recently escaped from Azkaban Wizard Prison, he is on the run with the entire complement of Azkaban's finest 'Dementors' hunting him down (But is he really worth all that trouble?): Sirius Black!
At the beginning of third year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), we find teenage angst beginning to set in. At thirteen years old, Harry is even more at odds with the Dursleys than usual, and in a fit of rage, charges out of home. After crossing paths with a large, black wolf in the bushes, Harry takes a spin on the outrageous night-bus, before meeting up with his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).
Harry befriends a Hippogriff
When Harry hears that the notorious, evil wizard Sirius Black (Gary Oldman, Immortal Beloved, Fifth Element, Dracula) has escaped from the 'inescapable' Azkaban Prison, Harry is concerned. When he finds out that Sirius is hunting him down, Harry becomes a little frightened. But when Harry finds out that it was Sirius who led Lord Voldermort ("You Know Who") to kill his parents, he is fiercely determined to find and kill Sirius himself!
"Dementors are vicious creatures. They will not distinguish between the one they hunt, and the one who gets in their way."
But what is the real story behind Sirius? Why would he want to kill Harry? With help from his friends, Harry, Ron and Hermione attempt to find out the truth about Sirius Black, but it won't be easy. This is another year at Hogwarts where anything can happen - and usually does!
A Dementor approaches
This year, apart from avoiding the horrifying, ghost-like Dementors and the at-large Sirius Black, our troublesome trio have a host of new Magic Classes to attend: They learn to read tea-leaves and crystal balls in Divination with the dotty Miss Trelawney (Emma Thompson, Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility); in Care of Magical Creatures class with Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane, GoldenEye, Nuns on the Run) they greet a half-eagle half-horse Hippogriff called Buckbeak; and in Defense Against the Dark Arts with Professor Lupin (David Thewlis, The Big Lobowski, The Island of Dr.Moreau), they must face a creature which takes the shape of their greatest fear - the shape-shifting Boggart. The three of them not only have to pass their exams, but avoid being attacked by a ferocious werewolf!
A fast-paced story with a much darker atmosphere than the previous two movies in the series (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban might appear a little too hectic for those fans who haven't already read the books.
In order to fit the movie into an acceptable time (141 minutes), a significant amount of background story needed to be omitted. This is a little disappointing as there is some interesting tie-ins between the characters within (and across) the story. But if author J.K.Rowling keeps doubling the size of each instalment, then we are bound to miss out on more and more of the details when they are transferred from paper to celluloid.
Ron, Harry and Hermione go down to Hagrid's Hut
New Director Alfonso Cuarón brings with him a new, and more dynamic vision of Hogwarts School Grounds. Gone are the flat, grassy grounds of Hogwarts, and in their place, hills and woods and a rocky path down to the Whomping Willow and Hagrid's Hut. The cute puddle of a lake has been replaced with an immense body of water nestled between the arms of huge mountains. Alfonso has done a great job and I think that this is a marked improvement on the old grounds!
Alfonso also takes a few more liberties, stepping away from the printed version of the story in order to incorporate a visual, and auditorial feast in bringing J.K.Rowling's novel to life. Continuous creative transitions as the camera moves through sets and landscapes, give us a wonderful perspective of the expansive and varying landscape and buildings. The music by John Williams is as good as ever, conjuring emotion in both the playful, and the solemn.
Just one howl before dinner
Notwithstanding the noticible changes in the three main characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, as they grow up, but some of the actors have also magically appeared, or disappeared. Following the sad passing of Sir Richard Harris (The Count of Monte Cristo, A Man Called Horse), we have a new Professore Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, played by Sir Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow). But for no reason we also have a new Minister of Magic! Several old faces are also missing from the teaching staff including Professor Flitwick, Madam Hooch, and Professor Sprout - but I am sure that the budget was big enough already without adding cameos for these characters also!
The movie is presented in a whopping 2.40:1 which helps to capture the wonderful panoramic landscapes, and sweeping flights amongst the Hogwarts buildings, that Alfonso has created for us. Colours througout are spot-on, with rich colours and saturated blacks with no artefacting present whatsoever. The image is crystal clear and spectacularly constructed.
As expected when constructing creatures and concepts of the imagination, there is quite a lot of blue-screen work with CG animals, scary monsters and beautiful vistas. These have all been done with an exceeding amount of care - and it shows! Characters interact very smoothly with their surroundings, and the exact point of transition into CG is often difficult to identify. This is some great work and is very satisfying, as I often find that bad digital effects will detract from even the most involving plot.
The sound is delivered in a very bass-driven Dolby 5.1 Surround. This is not a bad thing. The mood is significantly darker than the previous movies and the additional bass adds to that anxious atmosphere. A magical Music score by John Williams, seems more emotionally tied to the action than in the previous two Potter movies and carrys the mood of the audience.
Sound effects and foley work are wonderful, and seem quite focussed on bodily functions (burps, etc). Unfortunately, all this effort is up-front, literally, and tends to be lacking a little in the Surround department. Basically, there is not a lot of surround usage apart from echoes within the cavernous chambers of Hogwarts. This lack is emphasised by the music score which is quite ambient, using all surround channels to great effect.
The interesting addition of some alternative pieces, including a jazz piece, and a choir performance, spice up the orchestral Williams score and add a little complexity and depth reflecting the complexity of the movie as a whole.
It is also worth noting that the Credit Sequence is a clever take on the Marauder's Map which features in the film, in which ink footprints patrol the parchment as the Credits roll, and interact with the text. The score overlaying the end sequence is not some incongruous pop-music piece, but maintains the mood by providing a fun medley of music from the movie. This ties up the movie very nicely indeed.
The sugary goodness of Honeydukes
Just as Honeydukes in the town of Hogsmeade is packed to the rafters with so many lollies and other goodies, Warner Brothers have included an entire second disc of Extras, chockers with all the things we love (and some we hate, but more on that in a minute).
In addition to the main Feature, the First Disc also contains a couple of small Extras. The First is a simple splash-screen listing the Cast & Crew followed by Trailers for all three Harry Potter movies, all presented in 16:9.
Now, one extra thing included on the beginning of this disc is an unsolicited Polar Express Preview. This is a blight on otherwise excellent mastering of this disc. The Preview itself is good quality, but it is where it is placed that is the issue: This Preview appears as soon as you drop the disc into the player, and it cannot be skipped short of jumping to the Main Menu. This concept is rubbish! I got this disc for Harry Potter - not some crappy cartoon movie they can't sell!
Moving right along, Disc Two is where the real fun begins (with English, Dutch or German subtitles):
Firstly, Divination allows us to see five Unfinished Scenes complete with blue-screen and guy-wires still in shot. Then we have an 11 minute Interview with Director Alfonso Cuarón and author J.K.Rowling. Following this are Cast and Crew Interviews going for 43 minutes in total, where all significant Cast and Crew members appear (right down to the Dursleys!). All Interviews are presented in 4:3 format.
Then we go to Defense Against the Dark Arts. Here, Professor Lupin shows you some scenes from the movie and asks some questions to see what Magic You May Have Missed. This gets a bit tricky so you had better pay attention! Also is an interactive Tour of Lupin's Classroom.
Heading down to the Great Hall there are a few Games to play: You can pretend to be Crookshanks, Hermione's cat, and try to Catch Scabbers, or you can Sing along in Choir Practice. Finally, we have a Quest with Sir Cadogan in which you traverse the labyrinth of Hogwarts.
If you have you permission slip signed, you can head off to Hogsmeade for an InteractiveTour of Honeydukes.
After Honeydukes, it's back to the Hogwart's Grounds and down to Hagrid's Hut where there are two short Featurettes: One on animal handling in Care of Magical Creatures and Conjuring a Scene showcasing the creation of imaginary creatures.
Finally, the disc contains a Game Preview teaser for the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban PC Game, and a DVD-ROM containing the Hogwart's Timeline and some other good stuff.
All in all, this is an impressive two disc set which contains more Extras than many Collectors Editions do!
This is an amazingly complex story and a very creative adaptation by Alfonzo Cuarón of J.K.Rowling's imagination. The continuous adventure throughout the movie avoids any dull moments, and the suspense will indeed keep you on the edge of your seat. And the huge collection of extras will keep you in it!
Overall, this is an excellent addition to the infamous, and ongoing, Harry Potter saga.