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on 7 August 2005
Yes this film is better than the first two, the direction, pace of the film, special effects and acting are of a higher standard. It also feels a little more grown up now, the lead characters are a few years older now and have adjusted to their roles, and the story of this one is much more darker and menacing. I have not read any of the books, but think the films are great and are getting better one by one. Featuring a strong UK cast this is a shown piece of British film making and acting. A highly enjoyable film but probably not suitable for very young children. It features talking shrunken voodoo heads, and a werewolf transformation as well as the ghoulish Dementors.
The DVD comes with a ton of extras varying from pointless to rather good. You can have a tour of Honeydukes, and professor Lupin's classroom. A very bad interactive game to catch the rat. Slightly better is the portrait quest game which is quite interactive. There is also a memory game featuring scenes from the film. A trailer for the game as well as trailers for all 3 films. A short 5 min feature on the animals in the film. One of the better extras is a 15 min look at the creation of Buckbeak and the look of the Dementors, showing the problems encountered and special effects used for them. There are 5 deleted scenes which don't vary to much from the final version. The best features are a 12 min talk with the director and J.K .Rowling giving an insight into the design of the overall look of the film and locations. Then there are interviews with the main characters in the film totaling 43 mins with Johny Vaughan and the Shrunken head,Lenny Henry. Which although fairly short on each group and not that insightful of the film, is still fairly fun and a good extra. Overall a great package for Potter fans and those who love magical films.
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on 17 October 2004
A lot of people are less than enthusiastic about Alfonso Cuaron's take on The Prisoner of Azkaban, and I must admit that I too was a little displeased at first. There are some interesting--some would say unnecessary--changes to the geography of Hogwarts (a new location for Hagrid's cabin, and the clock tower in the front of the school, for instance), as well a whole new directorial style that perhaps threw some people off.
But it seems to be the creative license taken with the plot that has caused the most discomfort for die hard fans of this imaginative and playful series. This movie is easily the least faithful to the letter of the book so far, and many fans can't seem to get past that.
I say it is least faithful to the letter, but in spirit it is right on target. This is the story where Harry begins to really delve into his past, learning more than he ever knew about his parents. This is facilitated by the appearance of Professor Lupin, an old school chum of Harry's father, and the escape of Sirius Black from Azkaban, who's relationship to Harry I shall not divulge for those few who have been in a coma for the last several years.
In essence, this is a coming of age story, and Cuaron really hits the nail on the head in this respect. His treatment of Harry's reaction to learning the connection between himself and Black is brilliantly played (I love the shots filmed from under the invisibility cloak in the Three Broomsticks), and Harry's relationship with Lupin was also spot on. And let's not forget the clever asides displaying Ron & Hermione's budding romance (surely you can see that one coming?!).
The casting, as usual, seemed to have tapped into the collective imagination of the fans. Who better to play Professor Trelawney than Emma Thompson?! Pam Ferris actually WAS Aunt Marge and Gary Oldman played the dissheveled, slightly mad Black to a "T". It's like they were plucked straight from my mind and placed on the screen.
To top it all off, the entire atmosphere of the series has taken a turn for the better with this movie. As much as I love the first two films (and I love them dearly), they now seem a little rigid in comparison. Cuaron really captured the playfulness of Rowling's books. Whether it was the Whomping Willow batting a bird out of the sky to signify the coming of autumn or Hermione wondering aloud about how her hair looks from the back, this film at times seemed to be winking at the audience.
This also came across in the musical score, once again brilliantly composed by John Williams. From "Aunt Marge's Waltz" to "The Knight Bus," Williams deftly captured the mood of Cuaron's film, and it seemed to me that he opened things up a little and had a bit more fun this time around. I cannot recommend the soundtrack enough for those who listen to this brand of modern-day classical music.
There's only one real problem with this DVD (not the movie itself), and it's the same problem I had with the previous two: where is the director's commentary?!!! I'm dying to get the inside scoop on these films, but so far have been denied in this respect. Hopefully we'll eventually get some Special Director's Cut 6 1/2 Year Anniversary Edition or whatnot, although I'd rather they rewarded their loyal fans by including the commentaries in the initial releases.
So to all those who were disappointed with this take on Harry Potter, watch it again and see what you think upon further review. It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate what Cuaron has done with this film, so don't give up on it before really giving it a go. It is, as Ron would say, "bloody brilliant!"
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on 14 December 2004
When I say the best in the series, I am not being subjective and describing the book. For me, The Goblet of Fire is the best Potter book. However, Prisoner of Azkaban is the best film, as it transcends the easy adaption of Rowling's characters and plotlines and utilises movie magic.
This film has a dark, atmospheric quality to it, so that it's more of a gothic drama than a family adventure film. The camera shots are more urgent and expressive, in contrast to Columbus' bog standard sentimental scenes. The adult actors (Thompson, Oldman, Rickman etc) are on top form, over-the-top one minute and subtle the next.
The extras to the dvd are satisfactory, although it seems likely that commentaries and extensive behind-the-scenes footage are being held back to a later planned Special Edition.
The only real complaint I had with the movie was the severe underusage of poor Crookshanks...
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on 7 November 2004
This film completely puts the first two in the shade. The change of director works very successfully and the main thing we notice is that the schoolwizards aren't constantly in uniform! Yes, we actually get to see Harry et al in jeans, hoodies and trainers. The characters are a great deal more rounded with much more humour and feeling. The CGI is stunning, even when used for mundane background action. I only have two complaints about this excellent film; the first is that I just cannot get away from Hermione (Emma Watson) and her complete overacting. It is something which bugs me like an itch through the whole film. The other problem is that if you have read the book, there are several glaring plot omissions which are very noticeably absent. It doesn't explain how Lupin became what he is, who made the Marauders' Map, or why Harry's Patronus is a stag. It also omits the very satisfying part where Harry's Hogsmeade permission slip has been signed. There are others besides and, while I am by no means a Potter nut,their absence was a pain in the bum because they were all relevant and I was very surprised that they were left out. However, this is thoroughly enjoyable and along with a cracking story it gives us a much more expansive view of life at Hogwarts and even a closer look at the surrounding grounds.
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on 8 July 2009
I've just finished watching Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix on DVD, and wondered if I'd put on a zombie movie by mistake, it was that lifeless. The only good thing about it (okay, except for Imelda Staunton as Umbridge) was to remind me how good this chapter by Alfonso Cuaron is. I'm not a die-hard fan of the books, and I don't care if the plot has been changed or if Hagrid's hut is now at the bottom of some steps (gasp! horror!) All I know is, after the first two lacklustre efforts by Chris Columbus, Hogwarts and the whole world of Harry Potter suddenly blossomed into life in this third film.

From the opening scene, wrapped around the titles, in which Richard Griffiths repeatedly bursts into Harry's room to try and catch him doing magic, you know you're in good hands. From them on, it's a different world altogether from Columbus's, which reminded me of an National Trust video advertising some castle or other. The Prisoner of Azkaban is packed full of music and life. It's a shame that Cuaron had to inherit all his child actors from the franchise instead of being able to pick his own, since, with the exception of Emma Watson, I'm afraid none of them seem very good. (And he's got a real knack for finding talented young actors -- his version of A Little Princess is full of them.) Nevertheless he did the best he could and managed to get half-decent performances out of them. From the adults meanwhile he got some brilliant performances. Excellent comic turns from Dawn French and Emma Thompson (and one from Alan Rickman too, emerging as a bogart from a wardrobe.) Then there is David Thewlis's quirky character. He really feels like that one decent teacher we all remember from school. (How disappointing to see him pop up again in The Order of the Phoenix, only to sit there like a stuffed prawn and do almost nothing.)

But what really makes the film is its style and atmosphere. Cuaron knows that it's not only the characters and the plot that make Rowling's world so appealing, but its goofy, old-fashioned, warm-hearted atmosphere. He keeps dialogue and exposition to a minimum, and fills the screen with colour and activity. There's as much going on in the background as in the foreground, and there are quirky little details everywhere. For some reason, I particularly loved the wizard in the Leaky Cauldron reading 'A Brief History of Time' while distractedly stirring his tea by magic. I don't know why, but it just felt right. All the scenes set in London are charming: the night bus slipping over Westminster bridge, a dripping railway arch, and the railway tracks outside Harry's bedroom window. By contrast those scenes in the Order of the Phoenix where we see the kids whizzing past the Canary Wharf Tower on their broomsticks just feel wrong. And when The Prisoner of Azkaban takes us to Hogwarts, this feels as it should too, full of music and motion: the school choir and their toads welcoming us to Hogwarts with a rendition of 'Hubble Bubble, Boil and Trouble'; the mounted knights continually bursting through the window; the snappish, querelous characters in the portraits. What a dreary affair Hogwarts is in most of the other films! If you're lucky you get to see a log fire burning in the background, while the actors stand stiffly in the foreground and say their lines...

Finally, I must mention one scene that really sticks in my mind as an example of Cuaron's talent. It's fairly unimportant in itself -- it's when Harry and his friends are larking about in their dormitory on their first night back at school, sharing a bag of sweets that makes one of them roar like a lion and another turn into steam engine; and then the camera pulls back through the window so that we're now looking in at them, and then it pulls back some more to include all of Hogwarts Castle, and we see the swarm of hideous Dementors that are encircling it. The books get a great deal of their effect from this juxtaposition of cosiness and danger, and this one scene dramatises it perfectly.
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on 23 March 2014
The first two films in the series were great, but I believe the third installment is even better. This time they bring in a different director, Alfonso Cuaron, and he does a really good job. "The Prisoner of Azkaban" has a different feel from the first two movies, due to the director creating his own style and atmosphere. This film is darker and more realistic and is brilliantly shot. The plot is really strong too, the movie keeps elements from the previous two, but adds much more personality. The first two films felt the same as Chris Columbus was the director for both, his take was stylized and fantastical. Alfonso's direction is more grounded, with fun aspects, and not as kiddy as the first two.

In this film Harry and his friends are starting to mature and are now teenagers. Harry enflates his aunt Marge into a giant floating ball and is surprised to find that he gets into no trouble even though using magic outside school is against the law. As the film progresses, we find that everyone is concerned for Harry's safety and learn that Sirius Black, an escapee from the high security prison Azkaban, wants to kill him. Dementors, foul creatures that feed on happy memories, stalk Hogwarts to protect it from Sirius Black getting inside. I won't tell you much more about the plot as it will spoil the movie for you, but the plot is really strong.

There are new additions to the cast in this one too. Michael Gambon replaces Richard Harris as the character Dumbledore after Harris's death not long after the release of the "Chamber of Secrets" in 2002. I feel he embodied Dumbledore better than Harris overall, despite not having lots of scenes, definitely not as many with Harry as with previous films. Professor Lupin is the new defence against the dark arts teacher and for me he is the best teacher of that subject they ever had in the series. He had the closest bond with Harry, making friends quickly with him and he was a good person, a great addition. This movie develops the intelligence of Hermione Granger more, I'm not going to tell you why as it's a spoiler, but that was great. Snape has a lot more to do and I think he's a brilliantly written character and the actor just owns all the scenes he's in. He had a lot better dialogue in this film and Snape believed Lupin was helping Sirius Black into the castle, as they had a past acquaintance, related to Harry's father. This is the only film in the series where the plot didn't center around Voldermort, he is mentioned but is not the focus this time. The scenes towards the end are excellently scripted and delivered with style and imagination, a very unique and interesting conclusion. It has to do with time, the only Harry Potter film to use that unique approach.

The acting is also top-notch, the adult actors are all veterans as usual and the kids got to strecth their legs more with acting. This film had the best use of music out of all the films in my opinion and is overall the strongest directed of all eight. "Prisoner of Azkaban" is arguably the best film in the series. I definitely consider it being in the top three. It's a shame Alfonso Cuaron only did this film, another director made "Goblet of Fire", but "Prisoner of Azkaban" is such a great film. Overall Grade: A
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on 21 November 2004
The third in the series is the best so far, without a doubt prisoner of azkaban is superb! The gang (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are now entering the world of the teenager, meaning their in normal teenage clobber, jeans and trainers instead of school uniform all the time. The acting is brilliant - i easpecially liked the chioce of Micheal Gambon as the new Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the eccentric Prof Trelawney. The effects also in this movie are brilliant - from the bright bright lights of the wands, to the night bus to buckbeak - everything in this film is a delight. The previous Hp films in comparison seem really baby-ish compared to this one, adults need not feel guilty about watching this movie as it really is one which caters for adults and children alike. The casting is ingenious - Gary Oldman as Sirious Black and a special note has to be made about Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew / Scabbers. There are certain ommissions made like the marauders map, but overall you'd probably forgive this. In all a truly exciting, spectacular and magical film!
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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2005
Prisoner of Azkaban was one of my favourite books in the series so far. To date, Warner Bros. have made two excellent films in Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets - and most people I know think that the first film was, marginally, the better of the two. I think Azkaban is perhaps even better still.
First of all, the acting is better in this film. The main characters have always been well beyond their years as far as that goes, but some of the supporting cast needed to improve, if only slightly. The set is also better, and suits the plot well. It does take a bit of getting used to after two films, but by half-way through you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. This film, then, brings together a confident cast and a set that will allow for the plot growth required of forthcoming films.
The extras on this two-DVD set are as good as ever, although you should note that most of it is aimed at kids rather than teens/adults.
As usual, the DVD set is well presented and sits alongside the previous two films nicely - similar cover artwork and the same style of case.
I can't wait for the next one.
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on 10 December 2004
I didn't see this movie at the cinema and only recently finally got the DVD, and I must say it was disappointing. Yes, the photography and "artistic" quality of the film was an improvement on the other two and some of the humour was funnier - Ron's nightmare about spiders and Dursley's cringing at his sister's inflation, for example - but in its failure to follow some of the, I think, essential intricacies and subtleties of J K Rowling's book it may have done irreversible damage to the movie franchise.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a good film: had I not read an HP book it might well be my favourite of the three, but knowing what's to come I forsee some problems for future films. Prisoner of Azkaban, JKR's favourite of her books, is pivotal to what happens later and as such has vital plot points which should have been rendered more faithfully by the movie.
I know, I know. Many say the film is "faithful to the spirit of the book" and "if you put everything in it would be six hours long" etc.etc. But to include, eg., the fact that prisoners eventually go mad in Azkaban and the reason why, uniquely, Black does not, Harry having difficulty repelling dementor-shaped boggarts under Lupin's tuition because of his secret desire to hear his mother's voice as he passes out, the identity of the creators of the Marauder's Map and why their singular abilities were developed, the purpose served by the Shrieking Shack and how it got its reputation, etc. Fifteen minutes, half an hour at most of these little explanations put in here and there would, for me, have made a far more satisfying film. As it was, I felt like someone expecting a feast and being served only watercress sandwiches.
Alonso Cuaron is, no doubt, a fine director. Steve Kloves did a good job in the first two films on the screenplay; not so good this time. And the whole editing job looked rushed to me.
The films and the books seem to be taking slightly different directions, with this film being the bifurcation point. It won't be easy to get the next movie back on course and if it too takes such an individual and maverick path, well, the movie after that may as well have Julian Clary in the cast and be filmed in the Caribbean.
Overall, good film, but disappointing as it could have been brilliant.
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on 5 December 2004
What a hard film to review. Like so many others i couldnt help but notice all the changes, such as the location of hagrids hut and the forbidden forest, the complete transformation of hogwarts, not to mention many others, what could possibly be the reason for this? The other major flaw is the running time which causes huge gaps inthe story to be cut out, quite important as some of it leads into film four. Its not like they had a small budget, the films could be an epic three hours if they wanted.
However, there are some major pluses - the story is much darker and much more apealing to adults. The scenes with buckbeak, warewoolf-lupin and the dementors are quite amazing and the young actors are really comming into their own.
Book 4 is brill and has the potential to be a quite astonishing film i just hope they do the book justice and not skimp on the story and running time. Still a very good film.
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