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</script></div>{/googleAds}Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban is, first and foremost, the best summer film of the season thus far. It is also easily the best of the Potter films yet; each one having gotten better in their own right since the series began. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Azkaban opens on a decidedly sour note (in tone) with Harry lashing out at a berating relative in a spurt of fury. Fearing reprimand, or perhaps even what he might do next, Harry runs away from the Dursley's and out into the night with no regard for what might happen to him when his â"magic" peers and teachers find out what he's done.

Before you can say â"muggle", he is whisked away on a magical â"Knight Bus" back in the direction of Hogwarts. This opening sequence is truly original and sets the film's tone right away. Wonderfully darker, scarier, and very much weirder than anything that has come before it. We know right away that we are in the hands of a decidedly different (and more talented) director. Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) is a truly gifted filmmaker, and his work here transcends anything that you might have expected from the Potter universe. Locations, characters, costumes, etc. are skewed in a different direction this time out and, believe me; we are all the more entertained because of it.

On his trip back to Hogwarts, Harry hears of the mysterious Sirius Black, a convict who supposedly caused the death of his parents. Black has escaped from Azkaban prison and, so we learn, is dead set on finishing off Harry.

That's all the plot you'll get from me, because the joy of Prisoner of Azkaban, whether or not you've read the books, lies in the delicious twists that are served up in its storyline.

All the leads (Watson, Radcliffe, and Grint) do much better work this time out, partly because of their age, but also because they are clearly starting to truly inhabit these roles. Gary Oldman and (despite what you've heard) Michael Gambon are truly wonderful in their roles. Oldman brings a sense of unpredictability to Sirius Black and Gambon truly makes the character of Dumbledore his own (after the sad passing of Richard Harris.)

This is a better film in every sense of the word and a truly memorable outing from this franchise. It's so good, in fact, that I'm sad that Cuaron is not returning for the fourth film (it's being helmed by Mike Newell.) Cuaron's vision is one that I would have loved to enjoy again and again.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 16:9

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Closed Captioned.

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; commentaries; trailers; featurettes; interactive features; scene access.

* Commentaries
o 1. Cast with Johnny Vaughan and the Shrunken Head
o 2. J.K. Rowling (Author), Filmmakers
* Trailers
o Original Theatrical Trailer
* Featurettes:
* Interactive Features:
o 3D Animated Menus
o Professor Lupin's Defense Against The Dark Arts Classroom iPIX Tour
o Electronic Arts Game Preview
* Games:
o Magic You MAY Have Missed
o Catch Scabbers
o Quest With Sir Cadogan
o Hogwarts Choir Sing-A-Long
* Text/Image Galleries: Hogwarts Portrait Gallery

Number of discs: 2 disc set

Packaging: Double-Disc Amaray Case