ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  alfonso cuarón

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  fantasy

LENGTH  -  136 minutes

RELEASED  -  4 june 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  harry potter 3

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $130,000,000
harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban at

buy the dvd from harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban at

harry potter and his buddies start their third year of wizardry school at the same time a dangerous convict busts out of the wizard prison of azkaban.

the effects team spent six months creating the dementors.


picture from harry potter 3

picture from harry potter 3

picture from harry potter 3

picture from harry potter 3


three out of four possible stars

The now-famous child stars of the ridiculously profitable "Harry Potter" films are literally growing before audiences' eyes as each new film in the series is released and fans of the series should take heart that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson (playing Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, respectively) have yet again improved their skills in front of the camera as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban certainly highlights their increasing talents. As physical looks probably had much to do with the casting of the three young stars (each seems to resemble the physical description author Rowling offered in her books), fans of the series should find comfort in this sleek adaptation of the third book in the series of multi-hundred page tomes, since the actors seem to be getting better at what they do.

With a different director, Azkaban can lay claim to a darker, more intense story and tone that makes more use of the actors than of the special effects. While the special effects are certainly impressive, the difficulties Harry has regarding his family and his feelings about never having known his parents, come center stage in the film. Screenwriter Steven Kloves, having been charged with writing each of the adaptations, has further refined his skill as well, taking a large novel (each novel apparently increases in length as Rowling becomes a more liberal with the word-count) and compressing it into a very respectable and full story. Though there are probably events and personalities left on the cutting room floor (if they were ever included in the screenplay to begin with), there are still several new characters from which the audience should receive bundles of entertainment value.

Most impressively, Emma Thompson, playing the large-haired and noodle-brained "Professor Sybil Trelawney," makes a hilarious entrance in the film and it's a shame her character wasn't more heavily featured as her performance as the professor of divinity (telling the future) for students at "Hogwarts," the wizardry school Harry Potter and his friends attend. As the mysterious prison escapee, "Sirius Black," Gary Oldman is entirely engrossing in the role and fans can only wonder why this incredible actor has had so few roles in the past few years. He's certainly one of the best actors residing on English soil.

The film though is truly littered with great English performers and with Michael Gambon stepping into the shoes of "Albus Dumbledore," taking over the part from the late, great Richard Harris, viewers should be pleased with the experience and wisdom Gambon brings to the character. Maggie Smith is yet another powerhouse of an actor whose performance as "Professor Minerva McGonagall," the transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts, is formed of precious few minutes. Indeed perhaps the only reason each of these esteemed actors (and there are about ten more quite famous types in the film who all deserved more screen time) wasn't on the screen for additional scenes was because the production would have been more the length of a miniseries. Alan Rickman's enthusiastic characterization of the "Is he evil or is he not" Professor Severus Snape could certainly fill an entire movie alone.

The myriad lot of impressive performances are made all the more rewarding by a set of seamless special effects. The fantastic vistas (like flying over a castle, for example) and computer generated characters (the dementors are CGI during some scenes) blend in expertly with the dark and shadowy production design. The now familiar main theme (the piano diddle heard before the opening of all the theatrical trailers), composed by John Williams, is again an excellent compliment to the film as is the cinematography in which director of photography Michael Seresin (a new crewmember on the Potter series) takes full advantage of Stuart Craig's production design.

Parents of small children might want to be warned about letting their tykes see the black robed "dementors" (evil, flying guardians of Azkaban prison) in the film as the characters can certainly lay claim to being the creepiest personalities the film has to offer. Bearing a strong resemblance to the "Ring Wraiths" in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the dementors come complete with flowing black robes, eerie sound effects, and some downright terrifying decaying and long boned fingers. Scary even for adults! But they are well crafted creatures and are the most thrilling opponents Harry has to face in the film.

It's safe to say that if the current trend regarding the improvement of the films continues until the seventh planned film, the Harry Potter series could be destined for a plethora of film awards and accolades, as the stories seem to be getting better and better. What began as a slowly creeping and thunderous beast in The Sorcerer's Stone has tightened into a well-oiled machine with Azkaban and even the two plus hour length seems less of an issue in this episode. The movie really does fly by, showing off its excellent production values, improving teenage stars, and venerable supporting cast. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a more than worthy entry into this franchise and should make it all the more difficult for fans to wait until November 2005 for installment number four.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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