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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(2004)
Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione return for their third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the teenagers are forced to face their darkest fears as they confront a dangerous escaped prisoner and the equally foreboding Dementors, who are sent there to protect them.
For more about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray release, see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on January 1, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths (I), Pam Ferris, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling, Adrian Rawlins
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
» See full cast & crew
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray Review
The video, audio, story and acting all come together with awesome results in the saga's third episode. the Harry Potter saga.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, January 1, 2008
Having hit its stride in The Chamber of Secrets, the Harry Potter saga reaches its zenith with Prisoner of Azkaban. Much of the third film's success is due to the quirky, humorous and stylistic nuances of director Alfonso Cuarón, who used the element of magic and witchcraft as devices for nonstop bewilderment, humor and--so far as home theater goes--system-stretching special effects. In this way, Cuarón effortlessly taps in to the excitement of the novel while entertaining the masses. The Prisoner of Azkaban keeps within the formula of the first two films, but also extends to new areas of wizardry, humor, danger and discovery.
The third story in the series serves up a few laughs at the outset, as Harry's abusive step- parents, Petunia and Vernon Dursley (Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths), continue to harass him. Vernon's sister Marge insults Harry to the point where his wizardry instincts take over and he inflates his step-aunt with hot air. The effects, as she expands into a round ball, floats out the door and into the sky, are quite remarkable (and the effects only get better throughout the film). Buttons fly off the lady's dress as she expands and her reaction is played perfectly. The comic relief ends as Harry is berated for this mishap. He insists it is the lady's own fault for insulting him, and as maligned teenagers are wont to do, he packs up his belongings and runs away from the Dursley's house. As Harry sets his chest down in front of a suburban park, a fearsome beast appears to be watching him from the bushes--a figure that will figure prominently into the plot.
Harry must quickly figure out how to meet up with his friends and mentors. Unlike in the other films, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is transported by the magical, triple-decker Knight Bus. As the vehicle meanders at supersonic speeds through busy streets, we are treated to more humor and effects from Cuarón. As the bus averts non-magical vehicles, the sheer thrill of this segue represents the very peak of the Potter series. While en route, the young wizard learns that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a convicted murderer said to be in league with Lord Voldemort, has escaped from prison. The Knight Bus drops Harry off in a bed-and-breakfast called the Leaky Cauldron where he is reunited with his friends.
The conflict soon materializes when Harry is told that Black played a role in the death of his parents. The prisoner may have escaped to finish him off. Just as daunting are the Dementors-- supernatural, flying beings that are looking for Sirius but also attack Harry during a quidditch match and menace him later. Much of the plot centers on Remus J. Lupin, Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts and Rubeus Hagrid, Professor for Care of Magical Creatures. The theme of lycanthropy play a key role in the story. Harry learns that people are not who they seem to be, and he must find Sirius before it is too late.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray, Video Quality
The video is of the quality seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--that is to say, nearly reference quality. Unfortunately, while the graphics are gorgeous, the CGI effectively flattens the picture. While the depth of many scenes is admirable, several of the night scenes appear two dimensional. Contrast, black level, resolution and color hue are excellent. The detail is pure eye- candy--especially in daytime landscape shots, such as when Harry and his friends are hiding in the pumpkin patch on the outskirts of Hogwarts. CGI effects, such as the Dementors and the breakneck ride of the Knight Bus, are also very impressive. No motion artifacts or excessive noise was observed.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio too is near reference quality, which only makes one wonder how impressive it could have been with higher-bitrate PCM. Voices and musical arrangements are full and clear, the soundstage is immersive and apt sonic cues are delegated to the appropriate speaker(s) for a powerful home theater experience. The audio production values are admirable. Sound effects really hit their mark with more impact than previous Potter films. The rumble and squeal of the bus ride is a good example. So, too, is the quidditch match, in which a whole array of sonic cues barrage the ears, from the flying balls that tweak the tweeters to Harry's Nimbus 2000 broomstick that rumbles the subwoofer.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray includes the featurettes (but not the games) from the standard DVD releases. It's essentially the same type of fare as on the other BDs in the series, but with insight into Cuarón's style, the proceedings become more interesting. For example, the Shrunken Head Interviews, clocking in at 44 minutes, delivers behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast. I wouldn't describe it as a good "making of" documentary, but it does speak to Cuarón's impact on the film. The director himself appears only in the 12-minute "Creating the Vision" featurette, which also includes Potter series author and creator J.K. Rowling and the film's producers. The emphasis here is more on how Prisoner of Azkaban was produced to fit in with previous films while adapting elements of the novel in a fresh way. No earth-shattering info here, though. More rapid-fire interviews come with "Conjuring a Scene", clocking in at a quarter of an hour. Here we learn how the characters interfaced with the design and set crew to give the movie its magic. Rounding out the supplementary material are interviews with an animal trainer and his crew who were instrumental in several scenes; a quick choir performance; standard definition trailers of the first three films in the series; and five minutes of deleted scenes.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Prisoner of Azkaban was, by far, the best-directed and -conceived film in the Harry Potter saga. To see it on Blu-ray in 1080p is a real treat. The actors step up their game, with Radcliffe appearing more natural. The set design and look of the scenes is enchanting. For fans of the Potter series, this BD is of course a must-have, but for those who find the saga hard to get into, Prisoner of Azkaban may be the entrance point into a rewarding series of films. The reason is undoubtedly due to Cuarón's style. He gets the best performances from his actors and high-caliber effects and set design from his crew. Enjoy, fellow muggles!
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