'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Ultimate)'
(Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, et al / 5-Disc DVD / PG / (2001) 2009 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: For the First Time Ever ... Uncover the intimate details of the search to cast Harry Potter and his friends • See Daniel, Rupert and Emma’s never-before-seen audition tapes • Be there with stars and filmmakers walking onto the set of the exciting first day of shooting • Learn about Chris Columbus’ critical, step-by-step decisions behind the creation of Harry Potter’s world on screen • Look back on an amazing decade’s worth of movies with Daniel, Rupert and Emma in new and vintage interviews never seen before!
Blu ray/DVD Verdict: I find it interesting that both the books and the movies in the Harry Potter saga got much better as they went along. The book did not have to go as far as the movies to become excellent, but both of them got good with HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. The difference in quality between the first two Harry Potter movies and the third is vast. Most of it was due to Alfonso Cuarón's amazing direction in the third film, after Chris Columbus's rather timid direction in the first two films.
Alfonso Cuarón raised the standard in the film series to an entirely new level, and subsequent directors (Cuarón turned down offers to continue directing films in the series, instead opting to make the absolutely extraordinary CHILDREN OF MEN instead, easily one of the best films of the past decade) took THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN as the model to follow, instead of the lackluster first two films.
The first film especially is hurt by the inexperienced lead actors. Daniel Radcliffe especially would improve as an actor in later films, but in this one he is often painful to watch, especially in the many shots in which Harry grins hugely, with the director holding the shot way beyond anyone's reasonable comfort level. Those in charge of casting might have wondered after the first film if they had done a wise job, but with each movie the three leads got better and better in their roles, to the point now where they are actually very good actors.
Whatever gamble there was in casting the three definitely paid off. The general opinion at the time of the first film was that some or all the three young actors would need to be replaced by the time the final films were going to be made. Thankfully, they were able to complete all the films while the actors were young enough. Still, as good as they have become in later films, they were all, especially Daniel Radcliffe, difficulty to watch in this first film.
But the real weakness in the film remains the incredibly bland direction. The first two films seem to have been made with 10-year-olds in mind. There is no darkness and they proceed from one gee-whiz moment to another.
Still, the film is not without its merits. While the three young leads had not yet grown into their roles, the casting for most of the other roles was exceptional. Richard Harris before his death made a very fine Dumbledore. And how perfect is Robby Coltrane as Hagrid? The casting of the great Alan Rickman was prescient, since at the time of the first film it hadn't yet been made clear how important Snape would be to later installments.
But as great as all of these people would be (and through THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE the supporting characters have been persistently brilliant), for me the single most delightful supporting actor is Richard Griffiths as Harry's utterly absurd and completely delightful Uncle Dursley.
But still, too much of the film is nothing but set pieces and special effects and the like. There isn't much substance. Most kids that I've talked to seem to enjoy THE SORCERER'S STONE; almost all adults that I have talked to find it pretty dull!
The best thing, however, is that the movies get much, much better as they go along. THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN is easily the best of the bunch, but all of the films released after it were much stronger than the first two. My big hope now is that the final two films (which will recount the final novel) will be as good. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
DISC 1: Theatrical Version
DISC 2: Extended Version with 7 Minutes of Footage Not Shown in Theatres
DISC 3: Diagon Alley • Tour the Gryffindor Common Room, Harry’s Room and the Great Hall - Welcome to the self-guided tour of Hogwarts, home of witches and wizards in training, and take in the sights. • Classrooms: Defense Against the Dark Arts; Spells and Charms; Potions; Transfiguration; • Third Floor Corridor; Deleted Scenes. • Sorting Hat • Library: Gallery of Art & Architecture; Hogwarts Yearbook; Guide to Ghosts - Discover the many marvelous and mysterious ghosts of Hogwarts. • Hogwarts Grounds: Quaffle and Bludger - Get a lesson from Oliver Wood on how to play Quidditch; Tour Hagrid's Hut - Welcome to the self-guided tour of Hagrid’s Hut, home of Rubeus Hagrid, the keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts, and his faithful companion, Fang. • Extra Credit • Interview - Capturing the Stone: A Conversation with the Filmmakers - Director Chris Columbus, Producer David Heyman, Screenwriter Steve Kloves and Production Designer Stuart Craig talk about casting and bringing the novel to life.
DISC 4: Introduction by Daniel Radcliffe - An introduction to the many special features for the Harry Potter films [NEW] • Creating the World of Harry Potter, Part 1: The Magic Begins - Discover the story of how one vision for the Harry Potter films came together out of limitless possibilities to create the visual world we have come to know and love. [NEW] • A Glimpse Into the World of Harry Potter 2001 International TV Special • Deleted Scenes • Trailers and TV Spots.
Plus a 48-Page Photo Book with never-before-seen images from Years 1-7 and 2 Ultimate Edition Character Cards (Card No. 1: Harry Potter, Card No. 2: Minerva McGonogall)
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