Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rating: 4/4 (Alfonso creates a lush dark dream onscreen. Easily the best Potter movie yet. Must watch!)

From the creative genius of Alfonso CuarΓ³n, a virtual no-name in blockbuster Hollywood comes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which easily trumps the earlier 2 movies and sets the bar extremely high for any later Harry Potter movie. While Chris Columbus played safe by sticking to the book plot and creating very child-safe movies (which were starting to get boring), his successor bravely breaks that trend by delivering a lush, creatively brilliant piece. What Alfonso has created is a dreamy tale of magic, which while placating the rabid Potter-kid-fans, will take the adults on a spectacular ride of enthrallment. Alfonso has left his distinctive stamp on the movie, with its looks, feels and sounds, all distancing it from the earlier candy-color works, like white from black. The magical locations and creatures look more dirty, real, living and breathing. Scratch them and they will bleed! Potter fans will notice how the locations around Hogwarts, especially Hagrid’s home have changed for the better. They are far more real, mysterious, creepy and thrilling. Astute movie watchers will lick up the details added into every scene with painstaking care, like the paintings surrounding the Fat Lady, or the luscious snow-filled scenes in Hogsmeade. The icing on the cake is how the huge swinging pendulum and the clockworks are weaved into the movie, showing that in this movie/book the biggest protagonist is Time itself.

I cannot heap enough praise on Alfonso and his cinematographer Michael Seresin for their work in this movie. Alfonso has dispensed with the by-the-book wizard dresses of the earlier movies, and has dressed his students in modern T-shirt, jeans and short skirts under their robes. Harry, Ron and Hermione, all stand out here from the earlier movies with their puberty in full blast. Especially Hermione who is endearing with her cute perkiness. Daniel Radcliffe fails spectacularly to act in emotional scenes, giving expressionless blank looks, but Emma Watson (Hermione), Alan Rickman (Snape) and David Thewlis (Lupin) easily fill that lacunae with their stylish acting. Alfonso has made several plot changes from the book and has cut out major portions of it. Some Potter fans might despise this, but I loved it! Who wants to sit through 2 full Quidditch matches anyway! I can go on and on about this movie. Let me just say that this is easily the best Harry Potter movie yet!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rating: 4/4 (Another un-put-downable creation from Rowling!)

Sirius Black, a much feared murderer and crony of Lord Voldemort has escaped from the prison of Azkaban and is out to kill Harry Potter in the third book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In their year 3 at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron and Hermione are settling in well. There have been some changes in their teachers. Lupin, a shabby but competent new entrant is their new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher and Hagrid debuts with a class on Care of Magical Creatures. Dementors, the soul sucking prison guards from Azkaban believe that Sirius is in Hogwarts, so they hang around the school casting a dark shadow on the students and causing trouble to Harry. To be capable of fighting them, Harry learns the difficult Patronus spell from Lupin. The lives of Harry, Sirius and Lupin come to a head one fateful night, when time itself becomes the protagonist.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rowling can write, and write well! Book 3 is slim and about the same size as the previous 2 books. Using mostly the characters we already know from the previous books, she is able to churn out a twister of a climax. The use of time and of Harry’s Patronus charm by the lake is one of the coolest parts of the book. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a breezy, addictive read. Keep your bag of chips close by! πŸ™‚

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Rating: 3/4 (Entertaining for any Harry Potter fan)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is based on the second book in the Harry Potter series and returns with the cast from the first movie (thankfully). The plot structure is similar to the first work, a secret hidden in Hogwarts is revealed early and it is up to Harry to find and fight it. Though the movie is just as long as the first one (a ridiculous 2.5+ hours!), it feels much much longer, since the movie does not introduce anything new. The house elf Dobby has been conceptualized well, very fluid and evocative of pity with its antics. Harry Potter and his gang still seem a bit young and childish, compared to their characters in the book. The movie is surely entertaining for any Harry Potter fan. πŸ™‚

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Rating: 4/4 (A thrilling followup to The Philosopher’s Stone)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second title in the Harry Potter series where Harry returns to Hogwarts for his second year of study. The plot structure of the book is almost the same as the first one, only darker. Much like the first book, a secret that is hidden away inside Hogwarts is revealed pretty early on (i.e., The Chamber of Secrets). J. K. Rowling shows some confidence and ups the gore factor for her series a bit here with several near-deaths (called petrification) and writings in blood. If I were a kid, I would be thrilled and scared reading this book! πŸ™‚

The most interesting plot device is Tom Riddle, the top student from Slytherin who would go on to become Lord Voldemort. Introducing him, Rowling mixes into the story the idea that Harry and his nemesis are very much alike. They both are brilliant, like to break rules, learn new tricks, can speak to snakes, and even the Sorting Hat had selected them both for Slytherin. The similarity of the hero and the villain, or put another way the thin line between good and evil is probably one of the strongest plot ideas in fiction (ever), which will never lose its appeal. Memorable is how Dumbledore solaces Harry about this:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a good followup to The Philosopher’s Stone. The plot is gripping, even though I was not reading it for the first time. Maybe the only gripe I have with this book is that it is a bit too much similar to the first one. Thankfully, Rowling does not repeat that mistake with her later books.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Rating: 3/4 (A feel-good warm-fuzzy watch on any rainy day)

The first movie in a series is always a great experience! I love them because of the fresh new characters and the new world that is unveiled to the viewer. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone does not in any way belie this assumption. I watched the movie immediately after reading the book recently. I have both read and watched it many times before, but watching it after reading the book makes it a lot special.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Directed by Chris Columbus, the movie introduces a puny little Daniel Radcliffe as the eponymous Harry Potter. The movie remains very faithful to the book, which must have been easy since the book is quite a short read. This is not the case in the later movies in the series, which have to derive from much thicker tomes. The transition from book to movie is near perfect and I doubt any reader will have a bone to chew about it. The acting crowd is almost completely British, but thankfully they speak good internationally-grokkable English! There has been a lot of commendation about the quality acting in Harry Potter, which I agree with. My favorite here is unquestionably Alan Rickman, who plays Snape with such derisive aplomb! The CGI effects though old, look charming even today. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has all the feel-good warm-fuzziness of a boarding school novel and is hence a good (re)watch on any rainy day.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

Rating: 4/4 (A great start to a magical journey!)

I started on Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone having decided that I should reread the entire Harry Potter series before the release of the final 2 movies (which are based on the last book.) Though I had read this book a long time ago, it turned out to be a refreshing experience thanks to the ravages of time on my memory and the influence of the Harry Potter movies on my imagination. J. K. Rowling opens the book with the aftermath of a calamity in the world of magic. Voldemort, the super villain wizard has been vanquished while trying to kill infant Harry Potter. Harry is left to grow in the human (muggle) world at his uncle’s home, where he is subjected to years of bad treatment. Finally, when he comes of age, he is invited to the world of magic to study at Hogwarts, the school of magic. At Hogwarts, Harry forms strong friendships with Hermione and Ron. He studies the various forms of magic, learns to fly, to play the wizard sport of Quidditch and has plenty of adventures. Finally, the search for a secret philosopher’s stone pits Harry against his nemesis Voldemort in an epic battle.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

I love beginnings, both in books and movies. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is a delightful read, for the dreamy world of magic and wizards it throws open to the reader. Rowling shows great finesse in creating compelling characters like Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore and Snape. The school aspects of the book remind me of the Malory Towers and St. Clare’s series of books by Enid Blyton. In her own unique approachable style, Rowling explores aspects of justice, fairness, racism and discrimination in the book. Now that I know what happens in the later books in this series, it is quite satisfying to note the various plot elements that Rowling has thrown into her first book for later use. (Scabbers, the strangely behaving mouse owned by Ron is one example.) The book is a short quick read (I was left wishing it was longer) and is full of humour from cover to cover. Though written for children, the book was a great read and I am eagerly looking forward to rereading the rest of the series.

A bit of trivia:

“Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”, the Latin motto seen below the Hogwarts coat of arms (seen on the title page of the book) means “Never tickle a sleeping dragon” πŸ˜‰

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

[ Trailer ]

Rating: 3/4 (Harry Potter fans will not be disappointed)

Love and danger lurk large in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. The movie is based on the 6th book in the Harry Potter series. It is the antepenultimate movie, now that the studio has decided to split the last book into 2 movies! This movie is the darkest in the series yet and rightly so since the evil forces of Voldemort are gathering strength for a final showdown. Draco Malfoy is enrolled by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who also recruits Severus Snape to protect Draco and help him in this mission. Meanwhile, Dumbledore cajoles his old friend Horace Slughorn to come back and teach his potions class at Hogwarts. This move is not without a plan, as Dumbledore reveals to Harry that Voldemort was Slughorn’s favorite student, known back then as Tom Riddle.

But, even Voldemort cannot stop the harmones, which are raging like fire this year at Hogwarts. Every one is tripping, falling and sinking deep in love, Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, all of them! Sparks fly as smitten students fight to gain the hearts of their lovers. Charms aside, Harry cleverly manipulates Slughorn and learns how Tom (Voldemort) had split his soul and hidden it in several places. Dumbledore and Harry travel to one of these places to grab it, where after much effort they are duped. On their return, the dark forces finally converge on Hogwarts, as Snape and Draco move in for their final assault.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

Though extremely long at ~2.5 hours, I walked out quite satisfied with this movie. The first half is full of teen romance. There is an overload of infatuations and kissing (or snogging as it is termed in British English in the movie). Thankfully, most of the romance is peppered with sarcasm and pun. The relationships that the principal characters finally fall into feel very comfortable and that is a compliment to Rowling. While the characters in the initial Harry Potter movies were too young, I finally felt that I could connect with them here in their teen years. The movie is also loaded with some great acting. While Alan Rickman (as Snape) is always a delight to watch, Jim Broadbent (as Slughorn) is pure fun. His facial antics and slippery words make every one of his scenes enthralling. The darker half of the movie is engaging and intense, though similarities to Lord Of The Rings cannot be missed. The graphics are lovingly done, I especially liked all the non-action scenes composed in and around Hogwarts. Maybe the romantic fluff should have been tightly edited, but other than that this is a great package of a Harry Potter movie. I cannot wait for the final installments now! πŸ™‚