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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Two-Disc Special Edition



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#1 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 27 2007 - 09:16 AM

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Two-Disc Special Edition

Directed By: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman, Evanna Lynch, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson

Studio: Warner Brothers

Year: 2007

Rated: PG-13

Film Length: 138 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, English SDH

Release Date: December 11, 2007



The Film

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix follows the travails of young wizard Harry Potter (Radcliffe) during his fifth year of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Following the events of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which he witnessed the return of Lord Voldemort (Fiennes), the evil wizard who killed his parents when he was an infant, Harry finds himself an outcast. He is beset not just by the agents of Lord Voldemort, including a group of soul-sucking dementors that attack Harry and his cousin as the film opens, but also by the Ministry of Magic, the wizarding world government agency which is denying all reports that Voldemort has returned and publicly smearing those who claim otherwise. The only wizards who are willing to acknowledge the truth are the members of The Order of the Phoenix, including Harry's headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Gambon) and his godfather Sirius Black (Oldman), but even they are marginalized by the Ministry. Black, a wrongly accused wanted fugitive, is blamed in the media for most of the mischief caused by Voldemort. Once Harry returns to school, he initially finds few allies beyond his close friends Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson), and the obtuse but strangely perceptive Luna Lovegood (Lynch). Worse yet, officious and sadistic Dolores Umbridge (Staunton) has been appointed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dumbledore seems strangely reluctant to even communicate with Harry, and Harry is experiencing terrible visions suggesting a too close for comfort relationship between himself and Voldemort.

The darkest, longest, and, in many ways weakest entry in the series of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books is given an effective movie treatment by director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg. Out of necessity, large chunks of the book, including entire subplots have been excised in order to make a film of manageable length. While this results in the jettisoning of significant character development for Ron and Hermione, it also manages to address the book's chief weakness: its meandering and uneven pace. The sense of encroaching darkness and paranoia from the book, which was its most novel and successful characteristic, is maintained, with the focus staying squarely on Harry's emotional journey throughout the film's two hour plus running time.

Of the new series characters, Imelda Staunton is given the most screen time as the nightmare professor/grand inquisitor Dolores Umbridge, and she tears into her part with relish. Her ability to rationalize as necessary for the "greater good" behavior ranging from the magic-free teaching of defensive magic, to the banning of almost all student activities, to increasingly extreme forms of torture for purposes of either punishment or interrogation is both chilling and perversely comic. Her intensely pink wardrobe and make-up choices almost accomplish half the performance, but she never goes so over the top as to undercut the sense of menace necessary for the character to work. Good casting decisions and performances also help series newcomers Natalia Tena as Order of the Phoenix member Nymphadora Tonks and Evanna Lynch as spacey Hogwarts student Luna Lovegood to embody their characters effectively in relatively few scenes compared to the book. In the particular case of Luna, by dialing down her weirdness and allowing the actress to embody it quietly rather than play it for laughs, she becomes a much more interesting and poignant character than she was in the book. On the opposite side of the acting restraint spectrum is Helena Bonham Carter, who appears to have been indulged and/or encouraged to act over the top bat-poop crazy as Bellatrix Lestrange.

While the production design philosophy provides a sense of continuity with the other films in the series, Director Yates has a unique and skillful compositional and editorial sense that makes the film stand out as unique from its predecessors. The score by Nicholas Hooper in particular departs significantly from that of its predecessors, alerting viewers that they are in a darker and more dangerous world than that suggested particularly by the John Williams themes from the first three films, of which only the ubiquitous signature Hedwig theme is used. Only the slightly jaunty underscore used for Professor Umbridge goes for a lighter tone, and even that gets modulated as the film progresses and her sadistic nature is exposed. As with the previous films in the series, the digital effects vary widely in quality from seamless to seemingly unfinished. The 100% CGI creatures encountered in the Forbidden Forest are particularly unconvincing by the standards of recent big budget effects films, but this is a mild disappointment at worst.

The Video

The 16:9 enhanced 2.40:1 transfer looks a bit dodgy in an early scene where a camera pan across a grassy field results in a ton of digital compression artifacts, but it improves a great deal after that. Black levels and shadow detail are extremely well rendered, which is very important given that several key sequences take place in very dark conditions. The climactic scenes in the corridors of the Ministry of Magic manage impressive shadow depth while still rendering the brightly illuminated tips of magic wands without excessive blooming. Edge ringing was not significant, and compression is usually middling to good, with a few key problem shots such as the one noted above.

The Audio

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was overall quite pleasing with a much more aggressive use of the sound field than the earliest entries in the series. The extended chase and battle scenes from the film's climax are filled with lots of nifty directional effects and LFE "whomp". Alternate French, and Spanish 5.1 tracks are also available.

The Extras

When the first disc spins up, the viewer is greeted by a series of skippable promotional clips presented in 4:3 video and letterboxed when appropriate. They include a one minute and 23 second clip for the Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game, a 32 second clip for LEGO Batman: The Video Game, a one minute and 49 second clip for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Video Game, a one minute and sixteen second theatrical teaser for Get Smart, a one minute and eighteen second theatrical teaser for 10,000 BC, and a two minute and five second theatrical trailer for I Am Legend.

Other than the promos, all of the special features are contained on the second disc.

Deleted Scenes includes nine deleted or extended scenes running a total of ten minutes and 29 seconds presented in 16:9 enhanced video with DD 2.0 sound. Although not viewable separately, each clip is given its own chapter stop. They are as follows:
    [*]Trelawney sneezing, choking, and making a mess during the introductory feast in the great hall[*]Neville sticking up for Harry in the Gryffindor Commons[*]Pan across Gryffindor Commons with a lonely Harry seated by the fire[*]Extended sequence of Umbridge antagonizing Trelawney[*]Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle bullying a small student while Umbridge and Filch watch[*]Smoking hair gag w/Filch and Umbridge after Fred and George's fireworks prank[*]Extended scene with Umbridge, Harry and Hermione in the Forbidden Forest[*]Harry enters Dumbledore's office before their final conversation from the film[*]Harry packing to leave Hogwarts, and Ron checking to see if he is OK
Trailing Tonks runs nineteen minutes and 22 seconds. Actress Natalie Tena, who plays Tonks in the film, gives a personalized tour of the Harry Potter set. She takes her camera around the production site for looks at various departments including Hair and Make-up, Sound, Catering, and Animal Training. She also takes viewers on visits showing off her trailer, cast members playing a pick-up cricket game, bikes used for on-set transportation, props, models, graphics, special effects, fight training/wand choreography, and the creature model shop. Finally, she visits the sets for the Room of Requirement, Grimmaud Place, and The Ministry of Magic. It is all a bit twee and kid-oriented, but it is a lot more interesting than a standard Electronic press kit featurette.

The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter runs 43 minutes and 49 seconds and is presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Unfortunately, despite its length, this is exactly as interesting as a standard electronic press kit featurette. Narrated by Jason Isaacs, the stated intent is to look at all the films in the series for clues about what may come next. While some of the recaps of events from previous films may help those who have forgotten or not seen them, the real purpose of this program is clearly to promote the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Some of the speculation on where the series is going and what is important is interesting in light of the fact that the final book in the series has since been published and proved or disproved the points made, but most of the comments are thimble-deep observations along the lines of "Things are rarely what they seem", and "Harry has the capacity for good and evil and is defined by his choices". After an introductory segment, the program is divided into four additional segments with chapter stops and onscreen titles as follows: Things Are Not as They Seem, Choice, Pride and Prejudice, and Battle for Harry. Narrated by Jason Isaacs (who plays Lucius Malfoy in the films), on-camera interview participants include, Producer David Heyman, "What Will Harry Do?" Author Janet Scott Batchler, "Harry Potter Lexicon" Author Steve Vander Ark, "Unlocking Harry Potter" Author John Granger, and several actors from the film, mostly in costume and on set, including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, David Yates, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson, James and Oliver Phelps, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, and Natalia Tena.

Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing runs five minutes and 20 seconds and is presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. David Yates and Editor Mark Day discuss the importance of editing as well as their approach to it, inclusive of some illustrative examples from the film. This is then followed by an interactive feature where the viewer can choose from various takes/angles and soundtracks in different combinations for one scene. Unfortunately, the interface is not very well explained and there is not as much flexibility as in similar editing features from other titles I have seen.

On the DVD-ROM front, the second disc includes an Interactual interface that allows the viewer to access content from the film's web site, including the trailer which is identified as a "Harry Potter Sneak Peak". Aside from the movie-themed interface, I was only able to identify two pieces of DVD-ROM content that appeared to be native to the disc itself. The first is an interactive Hogwarts Timeline that chronologically tracks important milestones in the five Harry Potter films to date with an appealing graphical interface. The second is a digital download of the film. Selecting the digital download option brings up a screen asking the viewer for their password, which is included in an insert with the disc's packaging. Two separate copies of the film are then downloaded to the location designated by the user. The first is a medium resolution copy that takes up about 953 MB of disc space. The second is a lower resolution copy for portable devices that takes up about 589 MB of disc space. Both are in WMV format and have Digital Rights Management copy protection. The only portable device I have that plays WMV files is my Motorola RAZR V3xx cell phone, but I could not get it to play the copy-protected file. Both files played flawlessly on my PC when I spot-checked them and are presented at the film's original theatrical aspect ratio.

Packaging

The DVDs comes in a standard sized Amaray-style case with a hinged tray allowing it to accommodate both discs. The hard case is enclosed in a cardboard slipcase that reproduces the regular cover art with shiny foil enhancements. Inserts consist of a digital download password sheet and a mini catalog of assorted Harry Potter-related merchandise.

Summary

First time series Director David Yates and Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg lose a good deal of depth in adapting the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, but also improve on the source material in terms of pacing and focus. The film is presented in a good transfer marred only by occasional compression issues with very good audio. Even though the films are skewing older in their sensibilities as the series progresses, the extra features remain largely targeted towards younger viewers. Unless you are an absolute completist, you may want to save a few dollars and stick with the single disc movie-only edition.

Regards,

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 42 Travis Brashear

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Posted November 27 2007 - 11:47 PM

Wait, wait, wait...let me get this stright--the trailer for ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is only available via DVD-ROM this time??? Posted Image
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part...
--Det. William Somerset, SE7EN

http://www.dvdanthol...-movielist.html), http://LDDb.com/coll....user=Filmmaker

#3 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 28 2007 - 12:47 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Brashear
Wait, wait, wait...let me get this stright--the trailer for ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is only available via DVD-ROM this time??? Posted Image
Well, technically it is available on line and the DVD-ROM interface provides you a link to it.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#4 of 42 Stephen_J_H

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Posted November 28 2007 - 01:13 AM

I liked this a lot in theatres, especially the climax in IMAX 3D. Will be picking this one up, compression artifacts notwithstanding.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#5 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 28 2007 - 05:25 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
I liked this a lot in theatres, especially the climax in IMAX 3D. Will be picking this one up, compression artifacts notwithstanding.
I hope I did not overstate the case. The artifacting is very infrequent compared to recent WB releases like "Ocean's Thirteen" and "In the Land of Women", and this is a grainy film by modern standards which was likely difficult to compress.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#6 of 42 Travis Brashear

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Posted November 28 2007 - 07:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
Well, technically it is available on line and the DVD-ROM interface provides you a link to it.

Mother F! There is no damn good reason for that and a bad turn of course for Warners! Anyone know of any Warner Bros. DVDs with this trailer on it?
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part...
--Det. William Somerset, SE7EN

http://www.dvdanthol...-movielist.html), http://LDDb.com/coll....user=Filmmaker

#7 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 28 2007 - 08:47 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Brashear
...Anyone know of any Warner Bros. DVDs with this trailer on it?
According to my review notes, there is an "...Order of the Phoenix" trailer on "Happy Feet", but I do not recall whether it is an actual theatrical trailer or one of those abbreviated DVD trailers.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#8 of 42 Travis Brashear

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Posted November 28 2007 - 02:06 PM

Oh, I'd as soon kill myself as own that piece of shite...any other DVDs with this trailer?
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part...
--Det. William Somerset, SE7EN

http://www.dvdanthol...-movielist.html), http://LDDb.com/coll....user=Filmmaker

#9 of 42 Stephen_J_H

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Posted November 28 2007 - 04:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
I hope I did not overstate the case. The artifacting is very infrequent compared to recent WB releases like "Ocean's Thirteen" and "In the Land of Women", and this is a grainy film by modern standards which was likely difficult to compress.

Regards,
Ken, I'd definitely agree with your assessment of this as a grainy film. I'm lucky in an ignorance-is-bliss way, because my 480i 16:9 display tends not to show a lot of the artifacts that people complain of when watching movies on HD displays, upscaled or otherwise.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#10 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 28 2007 - 09:33 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Brashear
..any other DVDs with this trailer?
I've watched every Warner theatrical new release DVD that came out this year, and "Happy Feet" was the only one with the "..Order of the Phoenix" trailer. If it was included on a New Line or Warner TV on DVD release from last summer, I do not know. I did confirm that it is an actual theatrical trailer and the same one available from the web site. It runs less than a minute.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#11 of 42 Travis Brashear

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Posted November 28 2007 - 11:54 PM

(*pulls hair and screams through gritted teeth*)

Thanks, though; I do appreciate your investigation on my behalf...

Warner Bros., whatever the hell is starting to unravel over there, get it together! You've always been the most dependable and consistent studio in offering quality product but, from the SUPERMAN snafu of last Christmas up to now, you guys are really letting the ball drop in too many varied ways...
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part...
--Det. William Somerset, SE7EN

http://www.dvdanthol...-movielist.html), http://LDDb.com/coll....user=Filmmaker

#12 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 29 2007 - 04:53 AM

For whatever reason, Warner has not been including very many trailers on their new release theatrical DVDs recently. Of the eleven such DVDs I have reviewed since June, the only title I can think of that had one was We Are Marshall. On the other hand, if available, they almost always include trailers on their theatrical catalog releases.

I'm just happy that the A/V quality for this title was good. Other than occasionally interesting deleted scenes, the Harry Potter films have never had very involving special features, so my expectations were not too high.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#13 of 42 Ric Easton

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Posted November 29 2007 - 05:27 AM

Has anyone seen the box that comes with all 5 movies? Are separate keep cases stored inside? Are there markings on the trunk box that say what movies are included? My hope is that if I get the box is that I convert the films to slim cases and have room for the last two movies.

If I did get the box set, it would be the HD version, but I would asume that they are packed almost identically.

#14 of 42 Matthew Clayton

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Posted November 29 2007 - 02:19 PM

Ken, what's the bitrate for both the video and audio? I've read that the movie is encoded at a very high bitrate in a different review of the DVD, could you confirm that?

#15 of 42 Tarkin The Ewok

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Posted November 29 2007 - 06:52 PM

Those extras sound pretty disappointing. Who is the 2-disc set meant for, anyway? I doubt people are spending more just for games and fluff pieces. I hope WB includes some real making-of documentaries and commentaries in the eventual box set.

#16 of 42 Joe Caps

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Posted November 29 2007 - 10:42 PM

I am a hard core Harry Potter fan. but Warners has consistently dropped the ball on these releases - from poor color on the first two films (the trailers look better than the movies.) to stupid extra features, and the important features (interviews with cast , crew and making of stuff) is poorly laid out.
I was hoping to show friends all five trailers in a row for all five films (all other earlier releases had all the trailers.

#17 of 42 Travis Brashear

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Posted November 30 2007 - 12:10 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Caps
I was hoping to show friends all five trailers in a row for all five films (all other earlier releases had all the trailers).

No doubt...I find myself in the lamentable position of buying HAPPY-freakin'-FEET the next time Target or Best Buy has it on sale for $9.99. $10 for a trailer, Warner Bros.! Thanks...I'm sure you just loooove fools like me, don't you?
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part...
--Det. William Somerset, SE7EN

http://www.dvdanthol...-movielist.html), http://LDDb.com/coll....user=Filmmaker

#18 of 42 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted November 30 2007 - 01:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Clayton
Ken, what's the bitrate for both the video and audio? I've read that the movie is encoded at a very high bitrate in a different review of the DVD, could you confirm that?
I cannot confirm exact numbers until I get home this evening, but I believe disc one used at least 7.5 GB of the available space. There are also no extras besides the eight minutes or so of promos on the movie disc, not even the Interactual DVD-ROM interface present for the second disc.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#19 of 42 TravisR

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Posted November 30 2007 - 06:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Brashear
No doubt...I find myself in the lamentable position of buying HAPPY-freakin'-FEET the next time Target or Best Buy has it on sale for $9.99. $10 for a trailer, Warner Bros.! Thanks...I'm sure you just loooove fools like me, don't you?
I can understand wanting the trailer and it certainly should be on this DVD but if you 'need' it so badly that you're willing to buy a movie that you don't want at all to get it, you've only got yourself to blame.

#20 of 42 Craig Beam

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Posted November 30 2007 - 07:35 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Brashear
No doubt...I find myself in the lamentable position of buying HAPPY-freakin'-FEET the next time Target or Best Buy has it on sale for $9.99. $10 for a trailer, Warner Bros.! Thanks...I'm sure you just loooove fools like me, don't you?

Travis, if Warner is treatly you so badly, maybe you should stop buying their product.


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