Newest Potter film sets the standard for the series
Told at a breakneck pace and sporting a stylistically somber look lifted directly from film noir, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban proves the most satisfying entry yet in the series of film adaptations of J.K. Rowling's immensely popular books. Fans of the novels often cite this chronicle of young Harry's third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the best of the bunch, and it's no wonder. Briskly told and dealing with more mature themes, the novel is entertaining and poignant as it shows Harry and his trusted friends Ron and Hermione leaving the innocence of childhood behind and taking their first steps into a world of uncertainty. Director Alfonso Cuarón re-creates these elements perfectly on the screen, making for a film just as satisfying as its source.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) arrives at Hogwarts unaware that he has a personal connection to the infamous wizard Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who has just escaped from Azkaban Prison. Black was a close friend of Harry's parents', but his betrayal ultimately led to their murder. Harry comes to believe that Black is intent on killing him as well and keeps on guard, as do Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts.
As with all of the Potter tales, nothing is as it seems. Cuarón's brisk pacing ensures that the twists arrive with an impact. Although this results in an entertaining film, some of the substance present in the book is lost as a result of the trimming made necessary by this economical telling. Nevertheless, Azkaban stands as the yardstick against which future entries in the series will be judged.
What other critics are saying. . .
The Day After Tomorrow [PG-13] Global warming throws the world into
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monumental ineptitude of the acting, writing and directing." (Peter Travers,
Route 66 Drive In
The Ladykillers [R] A professor assembles a group of thieves for a casino heist. After they hole up in a sweet old woman's home, they find that she's the biggest threat to their plans. Tom Hanks stars. "The Coens' remake of a comedy classic flounders amid extreme caricatures and strained humor. (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe
Man on Fire [R]A former Marine (Denzel Washington) swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect. "Audiences need to be aware that the violence is intense, but also very creative." (Marc Sigoloff, Illinois Times) Parkway Pointe
Mean Girls [PG-13]Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic. "You gotta love a film that poses the vital question: 'Is butter a carb?' " (Gregory Weinkauf, New Times newspapers) Parkway Pointe
Raising Helen [PG-13] After her sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident, a young woman (Kate Hudson) becomes the guardian of their three children. "The characters are clichéd, and their predicaments are familiar." (Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune) Parkway Pointe, Showplace East
Shrek 2 [PG] Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner
to celebrate her marriage, not realizing that the newlyweds are green ogres.
"Shrek 2 brims with perverse pleasures that show no respect for the rules
of kiddie-cartoon form." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Soul Plane [R] Things get funky on a black-owned airplane thanks to some last-minute passengers. Tom Arnold, Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Kevin Hart, and Monique star. "Movies like Soul Plane give bad taste a bad name." (Lisa Rose, Newark Star-Ledger) Parkway Pointe
Troy [R] An adaption of Homer's epic about the siege of Troy by the Greeks. Brad Pitt stars as Achilles. Eric Bana is Hector. Orlando Bloom is Paris. "This is The Iliad as a WWE SmackDown: violent fights, snappy insults and a connoisseur's idolatry of beautiful brawn." (Richard Corliss, Time); "Troy, besides being tremendously entertaining, is the best crib-sheet guide to Homer ever." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East
Van Helsing [PG-13] Legendary 19th century monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) heads to Eastern Europe to do battle with Count Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein. "A noisy, 19th-century fantasy adventure that goes nowhere." (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer) ShowPlace West, Route 66 Drive In