Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
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Lord Voldemort has returned, but few want to believe it. In fact, the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth - including appointing Ministry official Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. When Professor Umbridge refuses to train her students in practical defensive magic, a select group of students decides to learn on their own. With Harry Potter as their leader, these students (who call themselves "Dumbledore's Army") meet secretly in a hidden room at Hogwarts to hone their wizarding skills in preparation for battle with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. . New adventure - more dangerous , more thrilling than ever - is yours in this enthralling film version of the fifth novel in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. A terrifying showdown between good and evil awaits. Prepare for battle!
Alas! The fifth Harry Potter film has arrived. The time is long past that this can be considered a simple "children's" series--though children and adults alike will enjoy it immensely. Starting off from the dark and tragic ending of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins in a somber and angst-filled tone that carries through the entire 138 minutes (the shortest of any HP movie despite being adapted from the longest book). Hopes of winning the Quidditch Cup have been replaced by woes like government corruption, distorted media spin, and the casualties of war. As the themes have matured, so have the primary characters' acting abilities. Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and especially Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) are more convincing than ever--in roles that are more demanding. Harry is deeply traumatized from having witnessed Cedric Diggory's murder, but he will soon find that this was just another chapter in the continuing loss he will endure. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned and, in an attempt to conceal this catastrophe from the wizarding public, the Ministry of Magic has teamed up with the wizard newspaper The Daily Prophet to smear young Potter and wise Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)--seemingly the only two people in the public eye who believe the Dark Lord has returned. With no one else to stand against the wicked Death Eaters, the Hogwarts headmaster is forced to revive his secret anti-Voldemort society, the Order of the Phoenix. This welcomes back characters like Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), kind Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), fatherly Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and insidious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and introduces a short list of intriguing new faces. In the meantime, a semi-psychotic bureaucrat from the Ministry (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton) has seized power at Hogwarts, and Harry is forced to form a secret society of his own--lest the other young wizards at his school be left ill-equipped to defend themselves in the looming war between good and evil. In addition, Harry is filled with an inexplicable rage that only his Godfather Sirius seems to be able to understand. This film, though not as frightening as its predecessor, earns its PG-13 rating mostly because of the ever-darkening tone. As always, the loyal fans of J.K. Rowling's books will suffer huge cuts from the original plot and character developments, but make no mistake: this is a good movie. --Jordan Thompson
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'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' is certainly a flagship next-gen title for Warner. The film is debuting on both Blu-ray and HD DVD day-and-date with the standard DVD version, and though there are some notable differences in terms of audio and extras, the one area where both high-def editions match up is this 1080p/VC-1 encode (framed at the film's original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio). Warner has certainly delivered the goods, and even with the startling number of reference-quality high-def titles I've reviewed in recent weeks, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' easily stands tall, boasting yet another a five-star video presentation.
I've often used the term "picture window effect" in my reviews, but right from the film's opening sequence, 'Order of the Phoenix' boasts some of the most three-dimensional images I've yet seen on a next-gen title. This continues throughout the film, with the level of detail and depth to this Blu-ray disc truly fantastic. Sharp, resplendent in fine texture and perfectly balanced in terms of balance and contrast, 'Order of the Phoenix' is absolutely top tier.
Of course, any 'Harry Potter' film is one of fantasy, and as such it's clear throughout that we are in a surreal and vibrant world. Colors are pushed to the max of saturation, but always stay one millimeter away from oversaturation. Hues remain rock solid and free of noise or other defects, so despite obvious skews in terms of color (blues and yellows are particularly accentuated), the presentation still feels surprisingly natural. Warner has also done a terrific job with compression, and I had no problems with any artifacts -- no edge enhancement, macroblocking or banding (even in heavily CGI'd sequences). Simply put, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' is a stunner.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Warner has been much better recently with their support of high-res audio on the majority of their next-gen releases, and this Blu-ray edition of 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' continues the trend with a stellar uncompressed PCM 5.1 Surround mix (48kHz/24-bit). It's easily on par with the Dolby TrueHD track on the HD DVD -- in fact, any audible differences are so marginal it's a wash. Both rate as a sparkling sonic experience. (Note that the Blu-ray does outgun the HD DVD when it comes to foreign language options. Although the HD DVD contains only English, French and Spanish tracks and subtitles, this Blu-ray edition contains a wealth of additional options -- check out the left sidebar for the complete list.)
It's no surprise that Warner spared no expense in bringing the latest Harry Potter adventure to the big screen. This is the best sound design you're likely to hear this year -- bold, highly immersive and unflagging in its sustained aggressiveness. There are so many fantastic sequences that you can just pick a chapter for instant demo material (the film's final 45 minutes in particular are a true aural delight). The rear soundfield is alive throughout, with sounds bounding all around with a transparency that's as close to the movie theater as you're going to get. Minor ambiance is not ignored either, with quieter scenes boasting a palpable surround presence. Even a simple whoosh of Harry's wand is often accompanied by a delightful subtle wisp of sound in the rears.
All other aspects of the source are equally excellent. Integration of music, dialogue and effects is pitch-perfect. Even with so many younger actors (and their sometimes thick English accents), I made out every word without ever reaching for my remote's volume controls. The score (by Nicholas Hooper, subbing for John Williams) is also impressively dispersed, with the appropriate majestic quality. And although 'Order of the Phoenix' may not be the subwoofer juggernaut of a film like 'Transformers,' when bass is needed, believe me, you'll feel it. There is not one aspect of this mix that disappoints.
The DVD content was of course well done. The picture is sharp and colorful, and the sound is top notch.
For that reason, I can only really recommend this movie to HP fans, as someone who watches it without the literary exposure to the book may miss a lot and not really appreciate the pace of the story and the events which unfold. Good movie for those who read the book, not so great for those who are not already familiar with what is taking place.
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