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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
David Yates
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Boyd, Richard Macklin, Harry Melling, Kathryn Hunter, Tom Felton
Writing Credits:
Michael Goldenberg, J.K. Rowling (novel)

Tagline:
The Rebellion Begins.

Synopsis:
Lord Voldemort has returned, but few want to believe it. In fact, the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth - including appointing Ministry official Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. When Professor Umbridge refuses to train her students in practical defensive magic, a select group of students decides to learn on their own. With Harry Potter as their leader, these students (who call themselves "Dumbledore's Army") meet secretly in a hidden room at Hogwarts to hone their wizarding skills in preparation for battle with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters.

New adventure - more dangerous - more thrilling than ever - is yours in this enthralling film version of the fifth novel in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. A terrifying showdown between good and evil awaits. Prepare for battle!

Box Office:
Budget
$150 million.
Domestic Gross
$291.704 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 12/11/2007

Bonus:
• Additional Scenes
• “Trailing Tonks” Featurette
• “The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter” Documentary
• “Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing” Featurette/Interactive Program
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix: Special Edition (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 27, 2007)

For the fifth installment in the super-successful series, we come to 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. At the end of the last flick – 2005’s Goblet of Fire - Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) suffered a near-fatal encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). It turns out that many don’t believe that Voldemort has returned, and they seek a way to suppress Potter’s claims.

One potential path emerges after an event that launches Phoenix. During summer break, vicious spirits called Dementors attack Harry and his loutish cousin Dudley (Harry Melling). Harry uses a spell to ward off these creatures. Since the underage use of magic outside Hogwarts grounds is strictly verboten, this lands Potter in hot water with the Ministry of Magic. Minister Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) pushes for Harry’s expulsion from Hogwarts, but with the aid of headmaster Dumbeldore (Michael Gambon), Harry retains his spot in school.

Other problems beset Harry at Hogwarts, partially due to the fact so many don’t believe his claims about Voldemort’s return. Most of the kids harass him, though Potter gets a vote in his favor when his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) reveals the existence of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society created when Harry was a baby. It exists to wage the good fight, especially against Voldemort.

This may give Harry some moral support but doesn’t offer much else to salve his woes at Hogwarts, especially when Fudge’s right-hand biddy Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) becomes part of the faculty. She takes over the Defense Against the Dark Arts class but doesn’t actually teach the kids spells. She seems downright down on magic in general, and the prim, uptight Umbridge puts lots of oppressive rules into place. She also takes pleasure in Harry’s punishment; when he continues to insist that Voldemort is back, she tries to teach him a lesson that produces physical scars on Potter’s hands.

Harry and his friends can’t overtly fight against the system, as even Dumbeldore seems powerless to oppose Umbridge due to her connections. However, they train in private. They call themselves “Dumbeldore’s Army” and teach each other spells that could be used to ward off Voldemort and his minions. Phoenix follows the problems with Umbridge’s rule at the school as well as Voldemort related developments.

When I reviewed Goblet, I referred to it as the first truly satisfying Potter flick. I found aspects of the first three that I liked, but I also encountered many problematic elements as well. I admit I’ve never really become engulfed in the World of Harry, and the initial three movies didn’t encourage me to embrace his adventures. Goblet didn’t make me a Harry-phile, but at least it gave me more of a clue about why the series generates so much attention.

Phoenix makes it two in a row. Indeed, this may be the best of the bunch. It certainly serves as the darkest of the five Potter flicks to date. The opening sequence seems almost nightmarish in its intensity, and the film doesn’t often let up after that. No, I doubt anyone will confuse Phoenix for Se7en or Silence of the Lambs; it remains a “PG-13” flick that acknowledges the youngsters in its audience.

However, it includes many fewer goofy or overtly comedic moments, and the film’s overall tone remains pretty dour. Umbridge presents arguably the series’ most chilling character, if just because she best connects to real life. It’s hard to be all that upset by a nose-less goof such as Voldemort; Fiennes does very well in the role, but he clearly exists solely in the world of fantasy.

Not so Umbridge, who – despite her Jackie Kennedy on steroids wardrobe - looks like she just stepped out of a job with the Bush administration. Phoenix wears its politics on its sleeve, as one can easily stretch the manner in which authority suppresses freedom to match with W and his cronies. You don’t have to make that jump if you don’t desire, but I think the film’s political points become obvious.

And those help allow Umbridge to become such a disturbing and unlikable character. She maintains a shiny surface; what with her pink and purple outfits – practically the only colors found in the gloomy atmosphere of Phoenix - and her near-constant (and fairly demented) grin, she delivers her lessons with an aura of cheer. That factor makes her inherent nastiness all the more upsetting. She’s such an improbable villain that her smug arrogance and refusal to consider any viewpoints other than her own become even more unsettling.

Director David Yates manages to deliver unquestionably the most efficient and streamlined Potter to date. Phoenix clocks in at just a little more than two and a quarter hours. In the real world, that’s a long movie, but by Potter standards, it’s a featurette. Okay, that’s a stretch, but it’s the shortest Potter to date by a moderate amount.

And it feels a lot shorter too – in a good way. 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone was only 14 minutes longer than Phoenix but it seems like it takes much more time to get where it wants to go. The prior Potter films tended to meander and try too hard to be all things to all people. Rather than focus on what translates to the big screen, I think the directors worried too much about the Harry-philes and attempted to pack in every little tidbit from the books that they could. That may have pleased the diehards, but it often didn’t make for good cinema.

With Phoenix, that trend could have intensified; the original novel runs an insane 900+ pages. That the film pares this down to less than two and a half hours comes as a minor miracle – and that the result works so well and makes so much sense seems even more amazing. This isn’t the bloated, rambling Harry of Chris Columbus’s first two movies. Potter’s worked down to fighting weight, and he leaves out the extraneous details. Phoenix embraces the meat of the story and worries less about throwing in every little subplot or detail from the book.

Again, I expect this may bug some fans, but I think it’s the right decision. Unless Warner wanted to turn Phoenix into two separate films, something had to give. The fact that the end result flows so well says to me that the suits made the right decision.

It also means that Phoenix is maybe the first Potter to really focus on Harry himself. In the prior flicks, he often felt like a supporting character and an afterthought. Part of that stemmed from their bloated nature; the filmmakers let the magic of Hogwarts dominate and forgot that they needed to tell an actual story.

Since plot comes to the forefront in Phoenix, that means Harry also truly takes the lead. He made steps in that direction during Goblet, and Phoenix demonstrates more growth in that area. It helps that Radcliffe has slowly turned into a believable performer. I didn’t like his work in the first three flicks, but I thought he finally showed signs of life in Goblet. For Phoenix, Radcliffe more than holds his own. He demonstrates true range and allows Harry to actually turn into an interesting character, not just a cute kid with a funky scar.

All of these factors make Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the best of the film’s five flicks to date. Oh, I can find problems with it. Some parts of the narrative aren’t as clear as I’d like, and I think the visual effects still aren’t very good. Computer-generated characters look pretty lifeless and fake, though other effects work fine. These concerns aside, there’s much more to like in Phoenix than to dislike. It actually has me looking forward to 2008’s Half-Blood Prince.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not a stellar transfer, the presentation satisfied.

My main complaint came from an issue that also marred some earlier Potter flicks: grain. The Super35 format tends to be grainy, and that was a distraction at times here, mainly – but not exclusively – in low-light shots. Otherwise, the image appeared free from defects.

As with prior discs, sharpness looked great. The movie maintained a fine sense of detail and distinctiveness at all times. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent.

Like I mentioned in the body of my review, Phoenix lacked many prominent hues. Umbridge’s outfits and room tended to be the most dynamic tones in the flick, though the colors always stayed pretty subdued. Within the production design, though, the hues looked good, and the purples and pinks looked pretty rich. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. Only the graininess of the image knocked it down to a still-solid “B+”.

In the case of the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it also seemed very good but not quite up to “A”-level standards. I thought the soundfield didn’t quite present the consistently enveloping experience I’d require to earn that higher grade. Not that it didn’t offer some strong bits. The variety of action sequences – especially the climactic one – created a lively sense of environment in which different elements zipped around the room. These opened up matters well and allowed the action to become vivacious.

I just didn’t think we got enough of these to make it to “A”-level. However, the track remained engaging, even during quieter scenes. Music showed good stereo imaging, and environmental elements formed together in a smooth, natural fashion. All of these made the soundfield quite good, if not killer.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded bright and vibrant, while effects came across as tight and powerful. Bass response appeared deep and firm. Across the board, this was a very good soundtrack.

Virtually all of this set’s extras are on its second disc. DVD One opens with a few ads. We get promos for Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game, Lego Batman: The Video Game, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Video Game, Get Smart, 10,000 BC and I Am Legend.

Over on DVD Two, we start with a collection of nine Additional Scenes. Taken together, they run a total of 10 minutes, 26 seconds. The first is really just an alternate angle; it shows Professor Trelawney’s awkwardness during Umbridge’s introduction at the Hogwarts banquet. It’s cute but would’ve been a terrible choice to include in the movie, as it completely distracts from Umbridge’s fascism.

Trelawney also comes to the fore in one of the others, as we see an alternate version of the scene in which Umbridge demands a prophecy from her. This one might actually be a little better than the segment in the final flick, mostly because it better explains why Trelawney can’t produce a vision for Umbridge; in the film as released, Trelawney looks incompetent.

An extension to the scene where ther kids take Umbridge to the forest either makes her look more sympathetic or nuttier – I’m not sure. It’s not particularly useful, though, so it was a good cut. All the remaining snippets tend to be minor bits that don’t stand out enough to merit individual mention. They’re interesting to see but not memorable.

An “on the set” featurette called Trailing Tonks goes for 19 minutes and 20 seconds. It follows actor Natalia Tena as she wanders around the movie’s sets. We watch her go through hair and makeup and then checks out various aspect of the production. This is a decidedly fluffy look at Phoenix, but it gives us an interesting perspective and entertains as it goes. I must admit it doesn’t make sense that she gets her hair and makeup done just to give us a tour, though; I figured the program would end with her at work, but we never see that.

The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter lasts 43 minutes, 49 seconds. Narrated by Jason Isaacs, we find comments from Tena, producer David Heyman, What Will Harry Do? author Janet Scott Batchler, The Harry Potter Lexicon’s Steve Vander Ark, Unlocking Harry Potter author John Granger, director David Yates, and actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Evanna Lynch, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Watson, James and Oliver Phelps, Brendan Gleeson, Matthew Lewis and Emma Thompson.

Essentially “Secrets” acts as a primer to bring fans back up to snuff before they see Phoenix. However, it fails to provide a particularly concise summary of stories, characters and themes. It kind of hops around from one area to another, all with the goal to promote Phoenix. This could’ve been a good summary program, but it’s too disjointed to succeed.

Finally, Harry Potter and the Magic of Editing provides two components. It starts with a five-minute and 19-second featurette that provides remarks from Yates and editor Mark Day. They discuss their work together and get into some specifics about particular scenes. This proves to be a tight, informative chat that tells us a lot about editing in its short running time.

Once the featurette ends, we can create our own edit of a Phoenix scene. I like this piece in theory but I think the reality disappoints. It’s very limited and doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity. It’s fun to see some alternate angles of the scene in question but otherwise it’s not particularly engaging.

The best of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the first one to make me interested to see what happens next. It’s still too long and meanders a bit too much, but it offers better focus and greater drama. The DVD presents excellent picture and sound but lacks substantial supplements. Though the continued absence of quality extras remains a disappointment, there’s a lot to like about this interesting movie and good DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main