Friday, June 04, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN: The best movie of the summer, so far, and I would venture to say that you needn't be a Potter fan to enjoy this as a stand-alone film. Director Alfonso Cuaron has destroyed previous helmer Chris Columbus' idea of what a Potter film should be, has infused it with imagination, lush cinematography, and an indie-director's sensibility. This movie is like the heydey of Spielberg, those 70s pictures like JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, all the way into the 80s with ET and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, where a film had a sense of wonder to it. Where, when you watch it, you feel like you're seeing something special. Columbus, in the previous installments, never quite got there--we're talking about MAGIC here, and it always seemed a little held-back, straightforward, no sense of awe. Cuaron, like Spielberg, accomplishes this by acting the kid behind the camera. There's a joy you can see translated onto the screen. If you have ever seen A LITTLE PRINCESS, Cuaron's early kid-film, you knew he would be the right guy for this, even though everyone was worried that this was the guy who did the highly sexualized foreigner Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, and David Thewlis enter the Potter fold this time, along with Michael Gambon as the replacement for the late Richard Harris' Dumbledore. I've heard some whispers about Oldman and his performance, and he's fine, but I think Thewlis quietly steals this one. Gambon is a perfect Dumbledore, but he is so much more, well, lively, than the ailing Harris that it seems a different character. This is good stuff, though, and I recommend.


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