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Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on DVD

The third installment in Harry Potter's cinematic journey is a much darker movie than the previous two, not just in its subject but also in its look. And that's fine, though it may disappoint a few Potter fans.

It shouldn't though. The story and the characters are consistent with the earlier two Harry Potter movies, HP and the Philosopher's Stone and HP and the Chamber of Secrets. But just as the characters are a little more grown up, so here is the storyline.

Well, not everything's consistent. Some of the settings and locales have been rejigged for "Azkaban," such as the location of Hagrid's little cabin, which appears to be farther away than in the first flicks and is now accessed by following a path down a hill. We like the new look and locations, but miss the consistency between the movies.

Still, these quibbles aside, the third Harry Potter movie is a worthy entry into the series. We have other quibbles with the DVD, but more about that later.

The story this time sees the now pubescent Harry being stalked by a renegade wizard who escaped from Azkaban Prison supposedly to seek out and kill Harry. This supposed baddie and the tale around him are full of secrets and the plot is full of twists and turns - and interesting new characters and fabulous animals. But the ending is never completely resolved and we found that a tad disappointing.

Perhaps they'll take care of that in Number Four...

It's interesting to see the maturing cast being given maturing relationships (who's gonna get to be the main squeeze of Hermione in the end - Harry or Ron?), and it was lovely to see Malfoy get his.

And there are stunningly gorgeous shots and special effects, as well as another John Williams score. How can anyone not like this combination?

The DVD is sold in separate widescreen and Pan&Scan versions, unfortunately. Fortunately, we got the widescreen version, which is 16x9 TV compatible. As with the other Potter movies, it isn't the best example of a DVD, but for the most part it does the job.

The picture quality is sharp and clean for the most part, but we noticed what almost appeared to be some interference on it that you could see during particularly dark sections such as the period fades in and out of black. This interference consisted of colored wavy lines moving across the screen from top left to bottom right. When you pause the disc these lines would pause as well, which makes us think they're encoded right into the video track.

What's up with that?

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's fine.

We found the menus took a long time to play out and, as is becoming an unfortunate trend, you're whisked into a series of trailers before the menus begin. Fortunately, you can skip through them.

Extras in this two disc set include a series of deleted scenes, "Creating the Vision" - an interview with J.K. Rowling and the filmmakers, and interviews with the cast lead by Johnny Vaughan and the Shrunken Head. There are also three challenge games, "Conjuring a Scene" (making-of featurette), "Care of Magical Creatures" animal trainer featurette, Self-guided iPIX tours into Honeydukes and Professor Lupin's classroom, Choir Practice: sing-along with the Hogwarts choir, Hogwarts Portrait Gallery, a Hogwarts Timeline, Electronic Arts game preview and DVD ROM Features. You also get the trailers for all three Potter movies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, from Warner Home Entertainment
142 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan (Sold Separately), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Produced by David Heyman, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe
Written by Steve Kloves, Directed by Alfonso Cuaron


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