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Reviewed November 21st, 2004 by John D. Randall


“I'm warning you Hermione! You better keep that bloody beast of yours away from Scabbers or I'll turn it into a tea cozy!”

Harry Potter and the gang are back for their third year at Hogwarts and back on DVD as well. The cast has grown up even more, the film is darker and different in style than the first two films, but gives us even more emotion and furthers the adventures.

The creepy Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban prison and may be hunting down Harry Potter. Prisoner of Azkaban has good points and bad points. First up, the great world that was created on screen by Chris Columbus has been altered by director Alfonso Cuarón (director of Y tu mamá también). What results is a unique look and feel to the film.

One problem some people have with this film is the overuse of street clothes.

There is also a major continuity problem with the death of Richard Harris who played Dumbledore in the first two flicks. Michael Gambon who now plays the head wizard does a fine job, but his performance is noticeably much different from Harris’s portrayal.

Thankfully, everyone else is back to repeat their performances including Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), Emma Watson (Hermione), Maggie Smith (McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Snape), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) and others. In addition, we have some fine new talent this time around including Emma Thompson and the great Gary Oldman.

The two-disc Azkaban DVD set is great fun, but differs a bit in packaging from the first two DVD releases. You will first notice that the old cardboard style box is gone and replaced with a new plastic case. Warner should have used the plastic case from the beginning, but you might scratch your head trying to figure out why the three DVD cases will not fit nicely side by side.

The video of the film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and is pretty well done. After watching the film at the theaters, you might be surprised how dull film can look these days on the big screen compared to a nice digital format.

The audio is presented in English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The soundtracks rocks.

Upon putting in disc 1 of the set, you are treated to skip-able previews for “Polar Express” and “Elf” both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and full screen video. There are 35 chapter spots on the scene selections menu. On the special features menu you can choose from ‘Cast and Crew Listings’ which just lists the starts and film creators and then you can watch trailers for all three Harry Potter films in Dolby Digital 2.0 and shown in widescreen.

The real meat of the extras is of course on the 2nd disc. The first menu you are treated to is an option for English or French.

‘Divination Class’ contains many of the good extras on the disc. First up is “Trelawney’s Crystal Ball” which contains 5 deleted extended unfinished sequences from the film. Each clip is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is shown in widescreen. None of the five scenes are labeled with names. The first sequence is an extension of the bus sequence and runs 30 seconds, then comes a clip with Hagrid and a bird that runs 40 seconds. Next is all the kids in the main hall eating sweets which runs 1 minute and 4 seconds, then a clip with Sir Cadogan replacing the fat lady at the door to Gryffindor’s common room which runs 37 seconds and lastly a clip continuing Sir Cadogan’s story which involves all the kids of Gryffindor in their nightware learning that Sir Cadogan let someone unauthorized into Gryffindor – it runs 1 minute 53 seconds.

Next up is “Creating the Vision” which is an 11 minute 39 second behind the scenes look at the style of the third film. This includes interviews with the director, writer J.K. Rowling and others. “Head to Shrunken Head” includes a host of interviews with the cast and crew. There are chapter stops (The Heroes, The Gryffindors, The Slyterines, Professor Lupin and Sirus Black, Professor Dumbledoor and Rubeus Hagrid, The Dursleys, and The Filmmakers) or you can choose the Play All option. The interviews run 43 minutes and is shown in widescreen.

The next section is ‘Great Hall’. This section includes “Catch Scabbers!” a game to catch the rat using the remote on your DVD player, “Choir Practice” which lets you sing along to a song with words on the screen, and “The Quest of Sir Cadogan” which is a maze game going through paintings all over the school.

‘Defense of the Dark Arts’ has a two options: “Magic You May Have Missed” is a trivia game with clips from the film, and “Tour Lupin’s Classroom” where you can walk around using the remote.

‘Tour Honeydukes’ lets you tour the sweet shop using your remote.

The last section on the disc is called ‘Hogwart’s Grounds’. This section has a few options like “Hagrid’s Hut” which has a 4 minute 30 second documentary on the animals in the film called Care of Magical Creatures and also a 15 minute 30 second documentary called Conjuring a Scene that shows storyboards and animatics. Finishing the extras is a ‘DVD-Rom’ link to a timeline, trading cards and other online stuff and ‘Game Preview’ which is a trailer for the Prisoner of Azkaban video game by EA.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a lot of fun for all ages and the DVD is easily recommended. The film runs 141 minutes and is rated PG.


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