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on September 7, 2010
Like many of you who purchased the first two ultimate editions at a pretty penny, i was expecting extended editions of movies 3 and 4. What a disappointment! Were the big wigs at WB thinking that their fans would triple dip editions when they bring out all films in one super ultimate collection? I already owned all of the HP on Blu, but sold them when i started buying the Ultimate editions. I will NOT be purchasing 3 and 4. Very poor on WB's part to say its ultimate, and include 8 hours of bonus materials, but not the few extra scenes that regularly show on TV. Very poor indeed.
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on October 19, 2010
When Warner Bros. introduced this ultimate edition set last year my wife was thrilled. Naturally I ordered them for her as she is a huge Harry Potter fan, and I enjoy the movies as well. When we received the first 2 Ultimate Edition movies we were blow away by both the packaging and the amount of extra content included. For the first time in a long time we felt like we were really getting our money's worth and eagerly awaited the next two movies. Well the day the movies became available for pre-sale I slapped our order in and we anxiously awaited the release. Now a few weeks ago I did a little browsing online and realized that neither of the two Ultimate edition movies releasing this year contained extended editions of the movie, which was one of the main reasons we purchased the set last year. We've owned both the HD-DVD years 1-5 special box set, and then upgraded to the Blu-Ray version(still own these). After discussing it with my wife, she decided she still wanted the Ultimate Edition's this year (3 and 4) so I kept our preorder. Well today we received the products in the mail, and before I get into anything else I have to rant a little bit.

First thing I noticed with this years Ultimate Editions, the boxes are MUCH lower quality than last years. My wife unwrapped year 3 and the way they have it packaged is very flimsy and easy to tear, which she did. They added a holographic cover to both movies this year which looks great, but the way they have it packaged its going to rip and tear if you plan on watching your movies.

Gone is the magnetic snap that clasped the case shut in years 1 and 2.

Both of these "Ultimate" Edition movies seem to be cheapened and lesser in quality not to mention the lack of extended editions of hte movie which is why MOST people purchased them in the first place.

Warner Bros. knew that people were going to buy these, especially those that had already slapped down the money for Years 1 and 2. Late last week I wrote a letter to Warner Bros. asking them why they decided to not include the extra content from the movies that we know exists (it runs on the family channel).

I do NOT suggest picking up Years 3 and 4, even if you already own years 1 and 2. 1 and 2 are totally worth the money, and are great sets even if you own the first two movies because they add to them. These sets add nothing worth the cost, and ruin what could have been an excellent set to own..

:(
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on October 29, 2004
I loved this particular movie when compared to the series as a whole, but this is not why i'm writing this review.

This review concerns the "bonus" content for people who pre-order the dvd here on amazon. The "screensaver" is not an animated screensaver of the marauders map as you might think, which actually would have been quite nice if it had been done in the style of the map in the movie. You will be instructed to download a seperate application which will take over your windows screensaver functionality. The application is not very intuitive to use and I've since deactivated it. The "Marauders Map Screensaver" itself is nothing more then 3 random images of indistinct parts of the in-movie Marauder's Map with giant "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" logos that splashed everywhere. Its not very visually appealing as a screensaver and the images in opinion aren't very well done.

Just want to make sure that other people are aware of what exactly this bonus content is, and aren't buying the dvd here purely because of this. There is no marauders map style animation occuring here, and all that will be displayed are static images. I pre-ordered it here purely based on getting this bonus content, and I was rather disapointed with what i received.
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on June 7, 2004
The third installment of the Harry Potter films was ready for a new director, and Alfonso Cuaron seemed a likely choice. Chris Columbus was admirable in his fidelity to the plot of the first two books, but as Harry becomes a teenager and faces a more complex life, Columbus's candy-coated style is no longer appropriate. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the "darker" style that Cuaron promised.
In some respects I was not disappointed. Cuaron's interpretation of Harry's world is defined by inscrutable shadows and colored in misty greens and greys, rather than red-and-gold tapestry of movies one and two. This new palette is more natural, and in keeping with that, far more of the movie takes place out of doors. Cuaron gives Hogwarts a greater sense of age as well, making a crumbling courtyard and rickety bridge over a gorge central to many scenes. These locations, as well as the huge pendulum in the entry hall and clock face that Harry sits inside at one point, are a nicely subtle way to weave in the movie's (and book's) theme of time and how the past can't ever be completely undone.
Cuaron handles some scenes very well, especially brief, telling gestures or moments that provide character definition, such as the bit where Hermione grabs Ron's hand which made it into the trailer, and another where the two of them have an awkward conversation outside the Shrieking Shack. Other highlights include Harry and his dorm-mates up late eating candy that makes them impersonate animals (touchingly shows how very teenage they are); and a moment when Sirius, trying desperately to hold Lupin back from his change to werewolf, places his hand over Lupin's chest and says "You live in this heart!" - which is made all the more poignant because we know he can't stop the transformation.
Some plot points have been sacrificed in order to keep the film to a manageable length. Most of the time this works, as when Harry meets with Snape and Lupin in a beautifully lit nighttime corridor, precipitating the handover of the Marauder's Map and Lupin's realization that Peter Pettigrew lives; or when Harry receives the Firebolt from Sirius at a different point in the movie than in the book. There were, however, two changes which seemed inexplicable to me. First, the patronus charm is made into a shield of light rather than an animal which charges down the dementors. This eliminates Harry's discovery of his father within himself through his stag patronus (he does see a stag of light when he rescues himself at the lakeside, but when we see him from the perspective of rescuer there is no stag, and this is never explained). Similarly, even though Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs are named on the Marauder's Map, the nicknames and their relationship to Lupin, Pettigrew, Sirius, and James Potter is never explained. It would have taken only a few more minutes to add that explosition, which would have strengthened Harry's cinematic connections to his father tremendously.
All in all, I think it's possible that the viewers who enjoy this film the most will be those who haven't read the book. As someone who is very familiar with the Harry Potter book series, I kept finding myself hung up on the changes to the story (and just how much depth was lost) even as I enjoyed the beautiful cinemetography and deft handling of characters' relationships. My hope is that whoever directs film four is able to take some of Cuaron's artistic sensibilities and combine them with Columbus's sense of wonder and attention to plot detail. That would truly do Harry justice.
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on August 9, 2004
I appreciate that everyone is entitled to express their own opinions, be it positive or negative. However, I do take offense to the suggestion by many reviewers that I'm a mindless sheep just because I really enjoyed Prisoner of Azkaban.

Yes, I'd seen the trailers, as well as 'the making of' specials, and I've read the actual book at least half a dozen times. It is most certainly my favourite of all five books so far. But unlike so many others, I was not disappointed with the handling of the film, probably for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I went in with as few expectations as possible, knowing full well that everything that was in the book could not possibly be included in the movie. There is simply too much, and if Alfonso had done what so many fans seemed to expect of him, we would have ended up with a movie about five hours long. All those who were disappointed by the movie in this respect should forget about going to see Goblet of Fire right now. How do you think they are going to fit everything from that book into two and a half hours?

Prisoner of Azkaban was a very well developed film. There were a couple of things that were left out that I was disappointed over, but I'd anticipated it, and it did not detract from my overall enjoyment. The last half hour or so of the film was especially dramatic and exciting, and who could not love the scene in which Harry saves both Black and his alternate self from the Dementors with a powerful patronus spell? I thought it was a nice touch to include the image of the stag, even though the significanceof this was not explained.

Those who feel the need to nitpick at every detail are only being detrimental to themselves. I loved being able to sit back once more and immerse myself in a new Harry Potter film, and there was so much about it to enjoy.

Our three young heroes are really starting to grow up now - Harry expressed an appropriate and natural anger when he was led to believe that Sirius Black had betrayed his parents to Voldemort despite being their best friend. Hermione is maturing, and showing a wonderful incliment to bending the rules. It might not have been in the book, but I loved the scene where she punched out Draco, then looked back to Ron and Harry and said 'That felt good'.

And Ron... well, Ron is just Ron. He tends to be relegated to comic relief but the trio just wouldn't be complete without him. And the hint of a budding relationship betwenen Hermione and himself was encouraging.

Overall, there is far more in this movie to be excited about and pleased with, than to complain about. It is unrealistic to expect the director to stick exactly to the book, and not take any liberties - particularly when there is too much in the book to fit into the confines of two hours.

Just enjoy the movie, and if you aren't capable of that, then fine. That's your problem. Don't insult others because they do enjoy it.
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VINE VOICEon August 17, 2007
I will preface this review by saying that PoA is my favorite of the HP novels and I strongly felt that this film did it justice. It benefited a great deal from the change of director and there were some sweeping scenic shots in this movie that simply stole my breath, in particular the scene in which Harry and Lupin are having a discussion while on a Gothic bridge. The grandeur of the scenery and the lonely aspect of some of the wintry shots did a great deal to enhance the longing Harry feels in his search for the man whom he believes betrayed his parents and led to their deaths.

David Thewlis is a wonderful Lupin. His face expresses so much and he did such a wonderful job of expressing the sorrow and anger and regret that Lupin feels over what happened to the Potters. When he talks about Sirius, it's obvious how conflicted he is, how he is still unable to account for such a change in character of a man whom he thought he knew so well. I also found his interactions with Harry very touching and Thewlis made it apparent that Lupin fervently wants to do right by Harry, to protect him as he was unable to protect James.

Gary Oldman is simply a wonderful actor and his inclusion in the cast does much for the film. His Sirius is wound so tightly that you can see the tension in every inch of his body, his mind so close to coming unhinged due to years of guilt and torture in Azkaban that I could feel myself holding my breath in the Shrieking Shack scene. His interactions with Harry were powerful, evolving from hate and mistrust to tentative steps toward reconciliation and seeking to find something good in the ashes of Harry's tragedy.

I don't like Gambon as Dumbledore. I felt Harris did a much better job of capturing Dumbledore's true nature. I know Gambon wanted to put his own twist on the character but it is to the character's detriment. Dumbledore now comes across as feeble and befuddled and he doesn't exemplify the collected nature and almost constant sense of amusement that the Dumbledore of the books exhibits.

My other dissatisfaction with the film stems from the inconsistencies of the effects. Harry's Patronus is lovely and the Dementors are scary (though, truth be told, a bit too reminiscent of The Lord of the Ring's Nazgul) but when Lupin's werewolf form is revealed it's actually rather silly looking. The Knight Bus looked wonderful but the scenes on it were too cartoonish for my taste.

These are really minor bumps, though. The strength of this novel lies in the story, in Harry's search for the truth about what happened to his parents and in his grasping for someone to offer him the guidance he so craves. It is a story of great betrayal and yet it is difficult to truly hate Peter Pettigrew for his betrayal because his cowardice is entirely too human. Most of all, though, it is the story of Harry's search for his identity, for his roots, of his desire and need to learn more about a past of which he knows so little.
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on November 30, 2004
The more I watch this film, the more I enjoy it. When I saw it in theaters, I loved it, but I felt like it moved very fast... Too fast, in fact, during certain important scenes. The exclusion of certain facts from the books is being overblown, as if a whole twist was left out of the movie, which is a bunch of hyperbole. I too think including the bit about the Marauder's Map wouldn't have taken very long, but it's just more information to pack into an already packed film. Another thing that is being overblown is the reaction to the way the movie introduces the Firebolt. No one should be this emotionally attached to an inanimate object.

Prisoner of Azkaban does an infinitely better job than its predecessors at portraying the emotion between characters, and there are no better examples than the scenes between Harry and Lupin. The acting is complemented by the directing, which is complemented by the cinemetography and music (which is also substantially different in PoA than the first two movies).

Michael Gambon, who replaces the late Richard Harris, does a fantastic job at playing the part of Dumbledore, which is much closer to the character in the book than Richard Harris' take on the headmaster was. The trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione is exponentially better. I think this is partially due to the fact that Steve Kolves has gotten better with porting the dialogue over. In the first two films, there were sequences where characters said very blunt things to help explain what was happening on screen; things that were made obvious enough just by the visuals. This only happens once in Prisoner of Azkaban by my count.

I'm thankful Alfonso was at the helm of PoA. He took the films in exactly the right direction, and which a great amount of style. There are a ton of little camera tricks, large sweeping angles, complicated stretches of direction, simple but sensible shots, and a lot of artful editing. Add to that much improved acting and a better sense of magic to the surroundings, and you've got yourself a much successful adaptation.
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All I remembered about J.K. Rowling's novel "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" when I watched the movie was who Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) was in the Harry Potter world. Of course, it is hard not to remember that given the climax of the fifth book. But it is actually the fourth book that comes to mind because that was the novel where Rowling warned that things start to got significantly darker for our hero and it is clear that director Alfonso Cuarón has already sent the series off in that direction. Part of the look is visual, with Michael Seresin's cinematography given the old Hogwarts a new look, but there is also the fact that this is the shortest Harry Potter movie to date although each novel has been longer than its predecessors. Screenwriter Steve Kloves has streamlined the story so that the focus is on Harry dealing with the truth about how his parents were betrayed by a friend and sent to their deaths.
There are not too many series were the main characters are children played by actors who are growing up as well (the norm is to just forget about the kids in the sequels, like they did in the "Jurassic Park" series), which also us a sense of how things look different. On the way back to his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that Black has escaped from the infamous wizard's prison at Azkaban and that the vile Dementors, the scariest things we have seen to date, who guard the prison are now watching the gates of the school because Harry is his target. The "why" is even worse for Harry than the idea that there is once again somebody out there trying to kill him.
Of course there is a new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), who appears to like Harry; but you never can trust anybody in that particular post. The kids are also taking Divinations, which introduces them to Professor Sybil Trelawney (scene stealing Emma Thompson) and their friend Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) will actually be teaching the Care of Magical Creatures class. Those two are in on the primary action this time around, which leaves precious little time for Profesor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) to do anything, although as always we treasure every moment with Professor Snape (Alan Rickamn slowly milking the role of a lifetime for everything it is worth).
The best part of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is that in the climax (or should I say climaxes) right by Harry's side is Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), making sure there is one person who is up to speed on what is happening (at least as much as is possible given the massive plot complications in this one). Harry might have the raw talent, but Hermione has the smarts and this time she has ample opportunity to use them. There is no reason at this point to consider replacing any of the actors in the cast, young or old, except for the cold hard reality that has Michael Gambon now playing Albus Dumbledore. If it is all fixed, don't break it.
But above all this one comes back to Rowlings, her story, and her characters. Learning magic is not easy and Harry still does not really understand that he is going to be a great wizard, mainly because he is too busy being angry at the world (and he will get a lot angrier in the next couple of movies). This is a story about second chances and not just for Harry (think about it). "Prisoner of Azkaban" is the least interesting of the three films, and the five books for that matter, in terms of the larger story, especially since what is being set up here is rally being done so Rowling can take it away. But if there is one thing that Cuarón convinces us with this film, it is that this is not a kid's story anymore, even if that was how Chris Columbus played it in the first two movies.
Where the franchise needs to be careful is that this film has reduced both Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to comic relief caricatures. Ron, who was so brave at the end of the first film, now gets to shake for fear at the drop of a hat so that we can laugh at him. The film suggests that Ron and Hermione are fated to pair up, but if he keeps acting like this she will have nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, Malfoy acts like a bully without doing anything particularly mean. At this point the difference between Malfoy and his henchboys Crabbe and Goyle is that Draco speaks, but then he usually ends up whining and running away. Yes, replacing a slap with a punch is an interesting upgrade from the book, but then the book sets it up as a small moment of satisfaction against Malfoy's war against Harry; the film treats it more as an element to be played out by the numbers. "Prisoner of Azkaban" ups the ante on the Harry Potter series, and all of the characters need to put all of their chips on the table from here on in.
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on January 10, 2005
I was so looking forward to this movie, it being my favorite among the series. However, I was so disappointed I almost walked out of the theatre. I jnust had to stick around, due to morbid curiosity, and see how bad it would get.

It seemed to me as tho director Alfonso Cuaron was more interested in special effects than in storyline purity. For one thing, dementors DON'T fly! For another, a Patronus Charm doesn't turn into a huge silver shield. it charges down the dementors and sends them away.

I read an interview with Alfonso Cuaron shortly after seeing POA and was stunned to discover that he felt the movie should be about Harrys transition from childhood to adolescence. What about the title, Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso? If we wanted to see a movie about puberty, we'd go see a Judy Blume book turned to film. I was gratified, however, to read that J.K. stepped in and prevented him from axeing Madame Trelawney from the final movie, which was one character Alfonso felt was unneecessary. (Why, I have no idea.)

The movie was one rushed runaround from Daniel, Emma, and Rupert as they ran around Hogwarts, confusing the audience members whom hadn't read the book to have a clue what was going on. One other, small, unimportant detail I couldn't figure out... why were they the only kids in the movie wearing street clothes instead of Hogwarts robes?

I shudder to think of the hatchet job that will be done on Goblet of Fire, now that Warner Bros has decided to make it one 2 hour movie rather than two 2.5 hour movies, which was the original plan. I doubt I will bother to go see it in the theatre.

If you have read POA and liked it, beware of this movie... it will stun you with visual effects, but the storyline will be sorely disappointing.
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on July 20, 2010
The Extras are nice....sure. But the reason I bought the first two Ultimate Editions was primarily to own extended editions of the films. Warner Brothers is stating that they asked the directors if they wanted to make directors cuts and they both said no. I find that just idiotic. With all that extra footage....and I hear there is a lot....forget the directors. Have a disc of the original and then just make and extended edition without the directors' inputs. People love extended editions and would pay to see them on this package. Just look at the negativity surrounding the Lord of the Rings release. Many, many people would not buy it because it was not the extended editions. Same thing will apply here. I guarantee this will not sell nearly as well as the first two editions primarily because of the lack of an extended version. When will these companys learn? NO SALE!!!!!
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