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HARRY POTTER YEAR 3 AND 4: ULTIMATE EDITIONS (Blu-Ray and DVD)
I was looking over at my DVD shelf, with all of the Harry Potter movies next to each other, and then over at my bookshelf, with all of my Harry Potter books next to each other...then back at the movies...then back at the books...HEY, WAIT A MINUTE! The BOOKS take up MUCH more space on my shelf than the movies! That's MOVIE-IST (or something). I need thicker editions of the Harry Potter movies so my DVD collection doesn't feel inadequate. If you're like me (and if so, go seek help) you need fear no longer, as Warner Brothers has put out these massive brick-sized "Ultimate Editions" of the films up through "Goblet of Fire" with that and "Prisoner of Azkaban" just having been released last week.
Okay, I'm done funnin' with you, because I'm going to put my chocolate frog cards on the table and admit that I'm a distressingly huge fan of all things Potter. So when I tell you that these new sets are something every buff should hope to see under the Xmas tree this year, you should believe me. Let's face it, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" still seems to hold the lead as the most popular of the film series, which is not surprising considering the wonderful work done by one-off director Alfonso Cuarón, and "Goblet of Fire", while not the best of the films, is nowhere near the worst, only feeling a bit rushed by comparison to the previous films (but look at the jumped up size of the book it was adapted from!). Assuming these aren't just pretty padding with the same ol' content inside (they're not), then it might seem like time to start clearing another shelf just to hold all 8 films when they come out all ultimatized (™ for the new word by Cyrus Tiberius Kirk, 2010). I mean, you ARE a fan, aren't you? Geez.
So let's get straight to the nitty-gritty, shall we? It's not like you're gonna buy these over-sized fancy-schmancy editions of the two films if you're not already a dork for Potter. So then, assuming that a synopsis is largely extraneous, it's onto the quality of the films, which is exactly the same as the previously released blu-ray editions of the films. Which is to say, NOICE! I've always felt that some of the best digital effects work out there has been in these films, each film being good enough to be usable as demos to show the top mark of where the industry was at, and HD shows off these qualities well. Cuarón's dark and moody film worried me that it wouldn't look as good on blu-ray, because sometimes the shadowy stuff doesn't look that great and you end up with lots of ugly looking artifacting, depending on how much work folks put in behind the scenes. I shouldn't have been worried because it all looks top-notch, as does Mike Newell's "Goblet of Fire". That as well had me a bit curious, as fire sometimes looks odd in HD and this one had a fire-breathing dragon prominently featured in it. No problems though. While I think both films could have used with some minor upgrades visually, I imagine almost no one outside of seriously anal retentive tech snobs will notice any problems.
Each film comes in a lenticular covered slip-cover case. The inner boxes are a pretty sturdy photo-embellished affair, that fold out to reveal three blu-rays, an envelope containing two character cards, and a hardback photo book each running around 50 pages. Oh yes, and a download code for the digital copy of the film, if you so desire to possess one. It seems like more and more of the blu-rays coming out these days are switching to this as a digital solution and it works for me, as it frees up space in the packaging and saves money for, ostensibly, better bonus features. What, I can dream, can't I?
Now, for the juicy bonus features. Starting with "Prisoner of Azkaban", here's what you get:
--CREATING THE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER PART THREE - THE CREATURES: The best part about these sets is the 8-part exhaustive documentary that is divided up amongst them. You can tell from the title of this 63 minute feature that it's gonna be good, and sure enough, it's probably the best of all the segments so far. BONUS KNOWLEDGE TIDBIT - The hardback books that come with each ultimate edition are always associated with whatever the documentary topic is.
--THREE VINTAGE TV SPECIALS: 'Vintage' seems like a strong word for stuff that came out in 2004, but regardless, the set includes "The Magic Touch of Harry Potter" (yeah, that's what he tells the girls, I'll bet), "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (that's when the girls realize how wrong they were after he's done touching them), and "The Making of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (...I got nothing...)
--INTERVIEW WITH ALFONSO CUARÓN: 8 minutes in Spanish with the guy who raised the bar incredibly high with chapter three. Surprisingly, he doesn't bitch about not being asked back to make the final film. You'd think he would have had something (snarky) to say about it, since he did publicly state on a number of occasions that he wanted to come back for the big finish. Even though I love what director David Yates did with the last two films, it felt not terribly symmetrical to NOT have Al come back for the final film(s).
--INSIDE THE CREATURE SHOP: The makeup dudes take you around the shop with their props and make you WANT.
--ADDITIONAL SCENES: An unimpressive five deleted scenes adding up to about five minutes (but, in HD, which is a rare upgrade for deleted scenes sections).
--THEATRICAL TRAILERS AND ADS: Because 'Ultimate' means every-frakking-thing.
--ORIGINAL BONUS STUFF: The DVD disc here is pretty much just the bonus features disc from the old DVD edition, but there's a lot of good stuff on there.
Okay, so, it's not actually as good a special features collection as what has come with previous sets, but it's not half-bad either, and it does have that AMAZING doc on the creatures. However, "Goblet of Fire" brings out the sweet stuff...
--CREATING THE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER PART FOUR: SOUND & MUSIC: This must be why the rest of the extras on here are kicked up a notch. As much as I do adore the score to the films, originally created by John Williams and for "Goblet of Fire", done by Patrick Doyle, but I don't know if I need 54 minutes of documentary about them. Still, 'Ultimate' indeed and it's certainly extremely well made and entertaining.
--PICTURE-IN-PICTURE EXPERIENCE, MOTHER-FRAKKERS: That's my own phrasing, btw. Taken from the old 2007 HD disc (moment of silence for dead tech), this is hosted by the Weasley twins (who almost certainly have nothing better to do most of the time) and has all sorts of good stuff in it for those who dig these sorts of affairs.
--CONVERSATIONS WITH THE CAST: 31 minutes with director Richard Curtis (chosen for reasons that remain mysterious) who interviews the main kids from the series and asks the hard questions. "Emma, who have you had sex with in the cast? We know you have with at least one of them, maybe more; out with it." Okay, maybe not that hard. But if anyone does see that interview somewhere, you GOTTA link me to it.
--FIVE VINTAGE TV SPECIALS: Five? Jebus, they sure amped up the advertising machine between movies 3 and 4. This is the sort of stuff they send out to press outlets during the original run of the films and includes such non-descriptive titles as "Behind the Magic", "Inside Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", "The Adventure Continues", "Some Animal Magic", and "Dark Matters, New Masters".
--ADDITIONAL SCENES: Ten minutes and eight scenes of sequences deleted for reasons that require no real explanation BUT, you know, at least they're in HD.
--TRAILERS AND ADVERTISING STUFF: You know you're glad it's there, even if you never, ever, look at it. What if a bunch of thugs break into your house and DEMAND you show them all the original advertising for the Harry Potter films or your dog gets it right between his cute little eyes? Suffice it to say, if you pick up these Ultimate editions, your dog is gonna make it out alive. If you don't go buy them...well, what kind of monster are you anyway?
--ORIGINAL BONUS STUFF: 110 minutes worth of the special features from the DVD set. There's a wealth of quality stuff here for people who never originally had that edition.
So, there ya go. What have we learned, faithful readers? That Cyrus is a Harry Potter fanboy and you will most likely add that to your list of things to mercilessly poke fun at him for, sending him back into a familiar spiral of shame and loneliness that he's nestled inside of since grade school? That Cyrus had a long and empty afternoon in front of him, no life, and nothing better to do than to wax eloquent at LENGTH about these sets? Or that thugs will indeed kill your dog if you don't buy them and prepare for the bonus features apocalypse age surely on the horizon? I feel like I've done my part to protect the young people of today from a dark horizon.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]