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2004 AD: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban - CinemaDave

Nov. 14th, 2005 07:36 am 2004 AD: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban

When I heard that Alphonsoe Cuaron was going to direct "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban," my expectations were lowered. The director's previous movie, "Y Tu' Mama Tambien" was a critically praised movie that was really a teen sex comedy so common in the early 1980's. Under Cuaron's leadership, the Harry Potter cinematic series has entered the next stage of maturity found in J.K. Rowling's books. Unlike the colorful cinematography of the first two movies, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban" uses a cold grey film stock. This production technique foreshadows the darker themes yet to develop in Harry Potter's future.

As Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) prepares for his third year of education at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he must endure the abuse of his muggle step family, the Dursleys. After losing his temper, Harry flees his summer residence and departs on a wild double decker bus ride through the streets of London.

Once on magical soil, Harry learns that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), has escaped Azakaban Prison. It is believed that Black murdered Harry's parents and was a follower of the evil Lord Voldermont. Because of this high profile jail break, Hogwarts School is put on martial law and is under the guard of the Dementors. The Dementors are Azakaban's secret guardians who have the ability to suck the soul of an individual. Harry develops a phobia to these cloaked ghouls. Lead by the bratty Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) Harry's rivals have a field day with Harry's fears.

Fortunately for Harry, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has hired a sympathetic Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), who coaches Harry with his fears. Harry also retains his loyal friendship with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), who are actually developing a little romance between each other.

The joy of watching this series is the attention to detail and the foresight of the producers. Composer John Williams has been retained and this musical genius has created an experimental musical score. During the surreal, yet humorous, double decker bus ride, Williams' musical score echoes the jazz tones of Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker,.

The ensemble of actors are magnificent. Emma Thompson portrays a hippy chick professor who teaches fortune telling. Given his previous association as cinematic villians, Gary Oldman adds the right balance of menace and madness as tortured Sirius Black. Replacing the late Richard Harris, Michael Gambon brings forth a whimsical Professor Dumbledore. Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith return in supporting roles that have been minimized by the screen play.

The child actors were approximately 13 during the filming of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban" and their baby fat is melting away. The biggest gasps from the audience come from the entrances of of the child actors. While the actors are rapidly changing, part of the charm is the familiarity of these actors performances. Emma Watson and Rubert Grint should foster the seed of romance between Hermonie and Ron respectively. Daniel Radcliffe is still the best adolescent leading man in the movie today. Keep up the great attention to detail Warner Brothers, you will be rewarded by consisting box office bonanza.

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