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  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Review  

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns for his 3rd year at Hogwarts, only to find that a dangerous wizard Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from the wizard prison of Azkaban and is also heading back to the school to find Harry. Soon Dementors (the Azkaban prison guards) have taken up residence in the school grounds and Harry is warned to stay away from Black at all costs!

The 3rd and darkest of the Harry Potter books becomes the darkest of the films to date both in tone and visually.

There have been a lot of changes between this film and its 2 predecessors - the most notable being Michael Gambon, almost seamlessly taking over the role of Dumbledore from the late Richard Harris. Chris Columbus has also been replaced by Alfonso Cuarón as Director and as a result the look of much of the school has been changed. Many of the locations familiar from the first 2 films are now in different places around the school (the willow being the best example after is prominent appearance in the second film).'

The 3 main actors - Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have settled into the roles over the previous two films to give more believable performances (Ron for example doesn't seem quiet as annoying as he did in the last films). It's a shame that if they don't hurry to make the remaining films that these roles will have to be recast purely due to age!

The list of guest stars of the Harry Potter films just gets longer and longer and is turning into a who's who of UK actors. Garry Oldman's Sirius Black is a desperate man on the run after years of incarceration. Emma Thompson gives a suitably scatterbrained portrayal of Divination teacher Professor Trelawney, and there are cameo appearances by Lenny Henry as a shrunken head, and Dawn French and Paul Whitehouse as magical paintings.

The CG effects are amazing. From the high speed 3 story Night Bus, the enchanted Marauder's Map, and the Dementors (Nightmarish ghouls that float gracefully through the air in exactly the same was that a jellyfish doesn't), right down to the Hippogriff Buckbeak (a mixture between a horse and an eagle).

But there is a problem with the film. It feels jerky, as if there are large chunks that have been edited out, not as smooth flowing as the previous 2 have felt.

If they had this much trouble fitting the slim volume of Azkaban into 159 minutes, what kinds of a mess will they make of the 4th film (Goblet of Fire) which is over 4 times as long?? We can only wait and see.

Review by Paul