Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

release year: 2004
genre: fantasy
viewing setting: home DVD, 7/17/09 and theater, 6/4/04

synopsis: Young wizard Harry Potter and friends must contend with increased security at school, thanks to an escaped killer.

impressions: This was the first one of these I actually saw at the theater, and for once, an audience was quiet - no discussions, no cell-phones ringing. In retrospect, this was probably because it was opening night and everyone there was a fanatic. Anyway. This third movie saw a directorial change and a major acting change, but it still had the good pacing and fun factor. It was a good bit darker (scarier, maybe, for young viewers) but this reflects the changes in the tone of the books.

things to watch for: The dementors - easily the spookiest element in any of these films so far.

something this movie has that no other movie has: The Whomping Willow, an animated tree that smacks anyone or anything that comes too close - including poor sweet little birds.

acting: I won't re-hash any of the returning actors' performances; they all do great jobs, though the kids are getting older, and it shows. Michael Gambon is the new Dumbledore, and I didn't notice any major change, though my wife said he wasn't as good. Gary Oldman did a great job as Sirius Black, the first prisoner ever to escape from the terrible Prison of Azkaban. The other new cast member was David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, a quirky but powerful good guy. Also, there were some plot twists near the end.

final word: Good third movie in the series.

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