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Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban


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It opened here yesterday, and I caught it this afternoon. I have to say it's a 142 minute master class in how to make Chris Columbus look bad. If Columbus already didn't do enough to show up his lack of creative skills as a filmmaker in the previous two, Alfonso Cuaron firmly takes the third book and slaps Columbus round the head with it.

 

Michael Seresin joins ranks as director of photography, and Steven Weisberg comes aboard as editor. Together with Cuaron they take the franchise to levels it should have been at from the very start. The third film just oozes creativity, and takes risks (that pay off) in editing down the source material instead of being lazy and sticking to the book too much [an aspect that absolutely plagued Columbus' two attempts]. There?s also a great deal that appeals to adults in the third film too, something that could have been just as true in the last two films had they not been made on such a single tracked vision. Even the entire run of the end credits are executed with perfection and creativity in this one!

 

I've yet to find out of Seresin and Weisberg are attached to Goblet of Fire, which is currently in production. I'd hope they are as Cuaron has raised the bar on where the Potter films go from here, and whilst I am happy to see the franchise finally get a British director for the next one, I am still unsure if Mike Newell is the right man for the job [Goblet is also what I'd consider the most difficult book to adapt if one is too scared to be vicious in editing]. It would be nice to see further consistency in cinematography and editing from what has been established in Azkaban.

 

Newcomers in the cast prove to be absolute gems. With Gary Oldman as Sirius, David Thewlis as Lupin (inspired casting) and Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew, it?s hard to think of better people to have filled the shoes of such characters. Michael Gabon too, now Dumbledore, turns in a charming performance. His Dumbledore is different, more cheeky and lively than Richard Harris'. Both portrayals are quite different when viewed apart then, but merge them together and you are actually left with Dumbledore of the novels.

 

John Williams is on fine form here too. Whilst to be fair, due to time constraints in 2002, he only wrote the main themes for Chamber of Secrets (William Ross finished it off and worked them into a score), here he has written what I think is his best non-Spielberg movie score in a good five years, if not more. Medieval undertones, a waltz, a stupendous jazzy riff for the knight bus and glorious themes for Buckbeak and an absolutely beautiful parental motif that appears throughout make it a brilliantly eclectic musical work.

 

Oh and the Dementors are pretty great. I actually think the natural motion of Buckbeak served to be the best CG work in the film (tough to pull off given he is essentially half horse and half eagle), but the Dementors are done very nicely indeed. At the Odeon in London where I saw it today, a giant Dementor hand sits gripping hold of the tower. There are some nice pictures of the front of the Odeon cinema done up for Azkaban here.

 

 

Cuaron is happy to do another one he claims. Order of the Phoenix, or the eventual film of book Seven, would mark a welcome return. I?d love to see him finish the series and do book seven. Newell has a lot to live up to now. See or read any interview with the cast of Azkaban and you can?t avoid sensing their love and enthusiasm for Cuaron, and J.K Rowling seems much the same when she talks about the third film.

 

We can all keep dreaming about just what Terry Gilliam would have done with the films had he started them off, but Azkaban sure is a worthy, and real, substitute for such dreams.

 

Daniel (UK)

 

PS: Eyes peeled for Ian Brown of the Stone Roses making a cameo in the Leaky Cauldron!

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Originally posted by Daniel Brecher@Jun 1 2004, 02:44 PM

It opened here yesterday, and I caught it this afternoon. I have to say it's a 142 minute master class in how to make Chris Columbus look bad ... We can all keep dreaming about just what Terry Gilliam would have done with the films had he started them off, but Azkaban sure is a worthy, and real, substitute for such dreams.

When I read your post I was thinking that this is want I wanted to here if I were to see the new movie. Have you ever heard Gilliam's comments on the first movie? He nicely articulated what I was thinking of the first film and you echoed his comments in a few ways.

 

Here's a link to the Fresh Air interview (the interview with Mike Judge on the same page is fantastic; he says some great things about sitcoms):

 

http://freshair.npr.org/day_fa.jhtml?displ...Date=08/15/2003

 

-j

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I remember that interview yes. In fact, thank you so much for linking to it as recently I've been wanting to hear it again (I've not done so since it first aired online). I still think the first two films do their job to a degree. I like them. They serve their purpose, but in no way do they do so to the extent they should have done.... They were live action incarnations of the first two novels. Azkaban is that (though no way near as linear), and a good deal more. That's the most triumphant difference.

 

Daniel

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It is great to read these comments about my favorite of the Potter books.

 

Are we in the minority in holding Azkaban (as a novel) in such high esteem, Dean? I too have always been very fond of it, but it always seems to have been the novel (of the series thus far) that many have been quick to put down in comparison to the other four. I have always felt that book three is really where the characters emotionally became who they have remained in the books that have followed since.

 

Goblet of Fire has always been my least favourite, and I use the term ?least favourite? lightly I must stress. It?s none too dissimilar to the way I see Two Towers as my least favourite of the LOTR film trilogy for example. In my opinion the worst of the bunch, but still a bloody terrific work to be deemed a "worst" none the less, and I see book four of Potter in the same sort of way.

 

Goblet didn't strike me as genius until it got to the meat after the bulk of the frankly tedious Quidditch World Cup festivities were out of the way. The ending of the fourth novel is genius, I adore it, I just think Rowling's editor was too afraid to stand up to her and point out where book four could have been cut down, and I do fear that if Newell is not as strong in tackling the source material and re-crafting it for screen like Cauron has been with Azkaban, then Goblet of Fire (as a movie) will be a rather tiresome by the numbers affair like Columbus' two movies. We'll see.

 

Order of the Phoenix and Prisoner of Azkaban remain my favourites of the novels thus far.

 

Daniel

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Daniel,

 

Thanks for the non-spoiler :) review. It seems that the general feeling is that Cuaron has hit a home run with Prisoner of Azkaban. The only thing I have to figure out now is whether or not my 5 year old daughter will go & see this.

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It must be said there were a few bits that were freaking out some of the very young children at the showing I went to this afternoon. Generally the Dementors seemed to spook the youngsters the most, but there is one transformation of a character (I shant note who to avoid spoilers) toward the end that really got the smaller ones unsettled. Adults just sit through all these bits grinning and lapping it up of course. :)

 

I'd certainly use cuation with children under eight.

 

Daniel

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As supposed to the previous film, where our token child (a 9-year-old at the time) didn't bat an eyelid during the spiders, while us adults fought over who got the one coat to hide behind? :)

 

Glad to hear its so good; we're off to see it at the weekend.

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Originally posted by Daniel Brecher@Jun 1 2004, 03:54 PM

It is great to read these comments about my favorite of the Potter books.

 

Are we in the minority in holding Azkaban (as a novel) in such high esteem, Dean? I too have always been very fond of it, but it always seems to have been the novel (of the series thus far) that many have been quick to put down in comparison to the other four. I have always felt that book three is really where the characters emotionally became who they have remained in the books that have followed since.

 

Goblet of Fire has always been my least favourite, and I use the term ?least favourite? lightly I must stress. It?s none too dissimilar to the way I see Two Towers as my least favourite of the LOTR film trilogy for example. In my opinion the worst of the bunch, but still a bloody terrific work to be deemed a "worst" none the less, and I see book four of Potter in the same sort of way.

 

Goblet didn't strike me as genius until it got to the meat after the bulk of the frankly tedious Quidditch World Cup festivities were out of the way. The ending of the fourth novel is genius, I adore it, I just think Rowling's editor was too afraid to stand up to her and point out where book four could have been cut down, and I do fear that if Newell is not as strong in tackling the source material and re-crafting it for screen like Cauron has been with Azkaban, then Goblet of Fire (as a movie) will be a rather tiresome by the numbers affair like Columbus' two movies. We'll see.

 

Order of the Phoenix and Prisoner of Azkaban remain my favourites of the novels thus far.

 

Daniel

I could not have said that any better than you did Dan. I agree with everything in your post. A good friend of mine who also loves the Potter books feels the same way as we do about them, Prisoner and Phoenix are the two best. I guess there are three smart people in this world. ;)

 

-Dean-

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How was Gary Oldman? I've been a fan of his since State of Grace. I enjoy him in acting mode (State of Grace) or over-the-top mode (Fifth Element). Which was it here?

 

**SHORT 'SPOILER FREE' ANSWER**

 

Acting mode all the way from Oldman (and every other member of the cast). I love Sirius' look in the film. The hair, the make up. The tattoos on his body are especially nice. He's just right for the role and goes to an emotional level we've never really see him go in films before.

 

 

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***LONGER 'MINOR SPOILER' ANSWER***

 

Anyone who knows the book knows that Oldman has to perform quite a range of switching emotions as Sirius for the film in the short time he is on screen, and he does so with great success. Intimidating here, and then the complete loving opposite elsewhere. The loving side from Oldman is of course somewhat of a rarity in his film performances, but he is simply wonderful.

 

Daniel

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Gary Oldman is the primary reason I'm so interested in checking out Prisoner. Although it's also my favorite of the books thus far, I'm just really excited more than anything to see Oldman in another memorable role. Norm Stansfield in The Professional is one of my favorite performances ever - even though he tends to be in his "over-the-top mode" in that one.

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Gary Oldman=1 of the best actors of our time.

 

When I found out he was casted as Sirius I was very excited, but once I saw that he was casted as James Gordon in Batman Begins, I was blown away.

 

The man makes the best out of every role he does and quite often, Gary Oldman the actor, "disappears" into his characters.

 

-Dean-

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You know I forgot to name Emma Thompson amongst the adult newcomers in the cast. She puts in a terrific performance as Trelawney. Her make up too is brilliant. She's got a wonderful pair of glasses that accentuate her eyes making it look as though she's constantly peering through a pair of tiny spherical fish tanks.

 

Daniel

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I got to see Harry Potter over the weekend and I will 2nd Dan's original post. This is by far the best film in the series. Not one time did the film slow down a bit, which happened a couple of times in the 1st two films. I cannot wait to see this again, which will hopefully be before the end of the year. ;)

 

-Dean-

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Saw it on Sunday, and loved it. The three lead 'kids' are showing an amazing amount of improvement in the acting department; Daniel Radcliffe's Potter in particular having a lot more depth than in previous installments, but the others are also giving really good performances.

 

The real surprise, though, is just how ruthless they've been with the adaptation. If you'd have said to me a couple of months ago that they would have ripped all bar about two brief references to 'you know who' from the script, I'd have probably not believed you. But it works wonderfully; the 2h20 flies by.

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Originally posted by iainl@Jun 8 2004, 06:27 AM

The real surprise, though, is just how ruthless they've been with the adaptation. If you'd have said to me a couple of months ago that they would have ripped all bar about two brief references to 'you know who' from the script, I'd have probably not believed you. But it works wonderfully; the 2h20 flies by.

Agreed. I cannot believe Voldermort was only mentioned a couple of times. Also worth mentioning is the quality of the FX. IMHO, it was of much higher quality than the last two films. Seems like more care (money?) was put into them. I loved the effect of the Dementor's "kiss". :tu:

 

I am now re-reading the 3rd book......again. :D

 

-Dean-

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I forgot to add what I thought was a beautiful shot......

 

SPOILERS AHEAD.

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The shot when Harry unleashes the Patronus to save himself and Sirrius from across the lake was breathtaking. It was my absolute favorite part of the film.

 

-Dean-

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