Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Ultimate Edition

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    XenForo Template Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Ultimate Edition Blu-Ray

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Ultimate Edition

    Release Date: December 8, 2009
    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2001
    Rating: PG
    Running Time: 2:32:00 (theatrical) / 2:39:00 (extended)
    MSRP: $49.99

      THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
    Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 Partially 1080i or 1080p high definition;
    partially 480i or 480p standard definition
    Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 6.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1 EX (theatrical);
    DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1 (extended)
    Stereo
    Subtitles English SDH, Spanish English SDH (select bonus material)

    Note: This review includes content from my review of the "Harry Potter Limited Edition Collection: Years 1-5" on Blu-ray.


    The Feature: 3.5/5

    Often criticized for its lackluster direction and slavish adherence to the novel, "Sorcerer's Stone" has some undeniable charms thanks to perfect casting and impeccable production design. If not for the attention paid to these two elements I imagine the franchise would have died an untimely death for failing to capture the intricate, magical world so deftly created by author J.K. Rowling. And though the script and direction may lack a certain subtlety or art, they ultimately did the most important thing, which was create a solid foundation for the franchise to grow and become a suitable companion to the series of novels.

    The Ultimate Edition includes the theatrical and an extended version of the film. The latter adds seven minutes to the run time, reinstating the scenes that were first made available on the DVD release (and which are available for viewing in two locations in this edition's extras). The additional footage doesn't add much to the film as a whole, but those wanting more of the Harry Potter universe actualized on screen will probably be pleased.

    Video Quality: 4/5

    The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Edge halos are generally absent, but they do pop up occasionally in scenes with high contrast edges. Black levels and contrast can be inconsistent, but I recall this being a problem in the theatrical release as well, in particular the opening nighttime scene. Known as a bit of a mess on the DVD release, the high definition transfer remedies the problems in the opening but reveals the limitations of the source; blacks are solid and inky otherwise. Detail is also quite good, object textures and sharp specular highlights giving real depth to the visuals, though I was somewhat surprised by a couple instances when wide, lower light shots seemed to lose some detail. Colors show good depth and fidelity, particularly important for this first film that had a brighter color palette than the films that followed. Overall it's a very good transfer of probably the least visually dynamic film of the series.

    Audio Quality: 4/5

    The Ultimate Edition switches to lossless DTS-HD Master Audio from the uncompressed PCM of the previous release. As before, the mix isn't the most interesting or lively, surround activity existing in obvious places but not really present when it could provide some needed atmosphere or tone. LFE is equally utilitarian and dialogue is clear and detailed, amounting to a well-done presentation of a straightforward surround mix.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    The most notable additions to the special features package are the hour-long "Creating the World of Harry Potter" documentary, part one of eight to be released with each Ultimate Edition, and the In-Movie Experience picture-in-picture commentary. The package also sees the return of the original "Sorcerer's Stone" DVD interactive tasks, which impair access to some items by requiring you to complete the activities first. I much preferred how the Limited Edition boxed set stripped out the games to a separate disc, although the most heavily buried item, the gallery of deleted scenes, is duplicated (and in HD) in a more accessible location with the new documentary. The other consolation is the reinstatement of the concept drawings and set walk-arounds, which were left off the previous BD release.

    Disc-Based Extras


    Disc One


    In-Movie Experience: The picture-in-picture video commentary feature incorporates still image galleries, storyboard comparisons, behind-the-scenes footage, and director Chris Columbus explaining technical and logistical challenges of numerous scenes. Though there is not a separate way to access the storyboards and image galleries, it does allow the viewer to skip to the next commentary segment without having to sit through the entirety of the film. It's an improvement to the accessibility issues but still not a perfect solution.

    BD-Live: Includes a streaming trailer and information about two BD-Live events on December 7th and December 12th. December 7th is a preview of the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" and December 12th is a live community screening of "Half Blood Prince" with Daniel Radcliffe and David Yates. Go to www.harrypotter.com/blu-ray for more information.

    Disc Two


    Introduction by Daniel Radcliffe (1:54, HD): Radcliffe provides an overview of the Ultimate Edition extras.

    Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 1: The Magic Begins (1:02:47, HD): A truly in-depth and finely edited retrospective documentary offers some great perspective on the film that launched the franchise. Though probably by design, viewers will be impressed by director Chris Columbus's patience, hard work and passion for the project, and how crucial his particular personality and set of skills was to laying the proper foundation for the films to come. A few moments also indirectly address criticism about his directing, revealing that he sometimes shot with multiple cameras in order to best capture moments from his novice actors. Indeed, on-set footage reveals how much coaching and direction the kids required at times, showing that Columbus was incredibly nurturing and patient. Such care and concern shouldn't be taken lightly, considering the franchise needed the young actors to be in it for the long haul. In that respect, the documentary gave me a new appreciation for the film and the effort behind it. Here's hoping that the next seven installments of the documentary provide similarly fresh insights.

    A Glimpse into the World of Harry Potter (9:15, SD): International TV special from 2001 hits the requisite topics and features the original "Philosopher's Stone" title in its graphics.

    Deleted/Extended Scenes (9:36, HD): Seven scenes, the same that are found buried in Disc Three's interactive interface.

    Teaser Trailer (1:55, SD)

    Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:27, SD)

    Theatrical Trailer #3 (2:21, HD)

    TV Spots (7:46, SD): Fifteen commercials made for television.

    Disc Three


    The Library (SD): Contains concept drawings for props, characters and sets; brief video clips of 10 characters from Harry to Hagrid; and an overview of the ghosts of Hogwarts.

    Hogwarts Grounds (SD): Contains an overview of the game of Quidditch, a set walkaround of Hagrid's Hut, and a lesson on dragon eggs.

    Interviews (16:24, SD): "Capturing the Stone" features cast and crew talking about adapting the book and casting the beloved characters.

    Sorting Hat (SD): Contains an overview of the four Hogwarts houses.

    Diagon Alley (SD): Pick up some money from Gringott's Bank, buy a wand at Ollivander's, and pick up a pet owl. You will need a wand before you can gain entry to the Classrooms section of extras.

    Classrooms (SD): Visit classes on Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Spells and Charms, and Transfiguration. While there learn about the Hogwarts professors and complete various assignments to access additional content. Expect to find a scene dubbed in multiple languages and several deleted scenes.

    Tour (SD): Includes walkaround tours of the Gryffindor common room, the Gryffindor boys' dorm rooms, and the Grand Hall.

    Disc Four


    Digital Copy: Download a digital file of the theatrical version for playback on a computer or portable device. Compatible with Mac and Windows.

    Packaging and Physical Items


    "Creating the World of Harry Potter" Book: The first of eight books, which serve as companion items to the eight-part documentary, includes photos and concept drawings from the films up to the "The Half-Blood Prince."

    Collector Cards: Two heavy, oversized (4" X 6") trading cards feature Harry Potter and Professor McGonagall.

    Packaging: The two Blu-ray discs and special features DVD come in a quad-fold digpack case; the digital copy disc and trading cards are kept in an envelope-like container made of cardstock. The digipack case, the cardstock container and the companion book all slide into a sturdy cardboard case with hinged cover and magnetic closure. The cardboard case is printed and embossed like a hardbound book and looks quite handsome on the shelf. There's a slipcover for the case, but it's flashier and more commercial in its style as it also serves as the retail packaging for the release. Those wanting a bit of dust and damage protection might want to keep it on despite its less distinguished appearance.

    Recap and Recommendation

    The Feature: 3.5/5
    Video Quality: 4/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 4.5/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 3/5


    The In-Movie Experience is engaging, the hour-long documentary is a great addition, the book and trading cards are nice, and the construction and design of the packaging is first rate, but will the Ultimate Edition appeal to anyone except the most devoted Harry Potter fan wanting every extra ever created (up to now)? I'm doubtful, especially for casual fans who already own one of the previous BD releases. For them I'd say what they already have is sufficient, whether the single-BD release or the Limited Edition BD boxed set. For those yet to purchase the title (which I imagine aren't many) the Ultimate Edition makes for a nice package, but individuals will have to figure out for themselves how much more they are willing to pay for it. Currently, the Ultimate Edition is priced about $15 more than the standard single-disc BD. Probably worth it if the extras will be revisited, but if not, that $15 can buy a whole other BD title that is certain to be watched again (perhaps another Potter film?). Given the choice, I imagine many will opt for the standard BD edition, making this Ultimate Edition only for the most ultimate of Potter fans.


     
  2. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Looks like I eventually will be replacing my HD-DVD with this! Although I don't plan to until all the movies are out... And by then the packaging could be different... again! Any chance of correcting the title of the thread? It lists the first film!
     
  3. ATimson

    ATimson Second Unit

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    Not likely, seeing as how they have a documentary split into many parts; unless these two bomb, I don't see them not doing Ultimate Editions of the remaining six movies. :)
     
  4. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    will there bbe a review of the current release for next week?
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Sorry guys, I was prepping the review of "Chamber of Secrets" and mistakenly inserted the draft into this thread instead of my test thread!

    So embarrassing.

    Anyways, everything should be fine now.

    Tony, Warner hasn't sent us a copy of "Half-Blood Prince" yet, but you can expect a review of it as soon as it arrives.
     
  6. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    It seems wrong that someone who works at a video store can get to watch all the new releases before the reviewers on a site like HTF.
     
  7. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    I imagine Warner should probably offer some sort of upgrade program for owners of the previous BD (and HDD) release kinda like their new upgrade program for DVD-to-BD, if they want to sell many copies of this. Maybe they will at some point down the line. Until then, I can't see too many existing Blu customers doubledipping on this at the premium price -- and there probably aren't *THAT* many new Blu customers who'd go for this over the much cheaper original version either, if they weren't enthusiastic enough to have gone Blu and bought the originals already in the first place.

    I'd like to own this (mainly for my kid), but I'll be waiting until I can get it at a reasonable upgrade net price.

    _Man_
     
  8. ATimson

    ATimson Second Unit

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    Now, now. Maybe some people don't like normal Blu-ray cases and were waiting for it to show up in a digipak abomination like this. ;)
     
  9. Ensign Eddie

    Ensign Eddie Stunt Coordinator

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    I am definitely an enthusiastic Potter-phile, but I have been waiting on a better BD release (like this one) to replace my HD-DVDs.

    I still think that not including the "Philosopher's Stone" changes via seamless branching is a missed opportunity.
     

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