Sunday, May 29, 2011

Movie of the Week - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

This week’s movie is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).

The third film in the series, this adventure finds Harry, Ron and Hermione faced with a new danger: Sirius Black, the recently escaped convict from Azkaban Prison. He is an accomplice in the murder of Harry’s parents and murderer himself. Now, he is after Harry. Director Chris Columbus did a good job with the first two Harry Potter films, but Warner Bros.’s decision to bring in Alfonso Cuaron and give him a large measure of control over the look and feel of the film was brilliant (it is nice to see a studio trusting in the talent they bring to a project, I wish it were more common). Cuaron takes what could have been just another series of films made for children/families and young adults (like the first two) and turned it into an artistically wonderful film for all, and bringing the series to a much darker, grittier and more character driven place. The series is far better thanks to this aesthetic change (and Cuaron is a big reason for the series being as good as it is, along with David Yates who has also done an amazing job with the material as well). Cuaron worked with series screenwriter Steve Kloves (who wrote all but one of the films), composer John Williams (who scored the first three), cinematographer Michael Seresin (who does probably the best work of his career to date on the film; he also shot Cuaron’s segment of Paris, Je T’Aime), and series production designer Stuart Craig on the film, making for a great crew. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (all three take huge acting bounds forward in the film) and features excellent supporting work from Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon and David Thewlis. What makes this film great is how well Cuaron structures the narrative. He garners brilliant performances from the cast, making it all the more emotionally compelling and satisfying to go with the character development. This film is not so much about the magic and mystery of the Harry Potter world (like the first two films), it is about the relationships between the characters and their growth (which for me made the series one of my favorites – this film, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 are all incredibly films and are the reason this particular series is so special on film). It is among my favorites of the decade and on the AFI 2007 Top 100 Films shortlist, making it a must see of fans of the series and the genre. Check out the trailer.

Available on Ultimate Edition Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and to Rent

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