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HTF REVIEW: "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone" (with screenshots)


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#1 of 128 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 12 2002 - 08:50 PM

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Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone






Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2001
Rated: PG
Film Length: 152 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1



Let the magic begin

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One of last year's biggest film successes came
in the form of the big screen adaptation of J.K.
Rowling's bestseller, Harry Potter & The
Sorcerer's Stone
. Dedicated Potter fans
everywhere were delighted with the film's devotion
to the book, making the film a $320 million
box-office hit.

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The film begins with a Wizard Dumbledore
(Richard Harris), Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith)
and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane)leaving a small
baby at the doorstep of a Human home. This is no
ordinary baby, as he bears a very special mark on
his forehead. The baby's name is Harry Potter.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) will spend the next
11 years of his life with a family that doesn't
love him, abuses him, and makes him sleep in a
cupboard below the stairs. As Harry reaches
nearer to his 11th birthday, he realizes that he
is not ordinary. He has magical powers that
abruptly appear whenever he feels angered or
scared. Though he may not understand who or
what he is, the day comes when magic visits him.
In one of the film's most memorable scenes, an
invitation is brought to Harry's home. Though his
Aunt and Uncle do all they can to make sure Harry
never reads that invitation, the powers of magic prevail.

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Harry Potter takes an incredible journey to Hogwarts,
School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. It is there that
he meets Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron
Weasley (Rupert Grint), who become Harry's closest
friends. Both Hermoine and Ron possess their own
special powers. It is these three special first-year
Wizards that embark on the adventure of their lives at Hogwarts.


Harry Comes to DVD


On May 28th, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone
comes to DVD in a very special 2-disc
Special Edition.

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The DVDs arrive in a cardboard slipcase with its
contents pulling out into a 4-pane gatefold that
contains chapter stops, a description of the extra
contents you can access (complete with photos),
and most of all, two DVDs sitting in plastic hub
housing. I must say that I was pretty impressed
with the overall packaging


How is the transfer?

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To break the news gently, I was slightly unhappy
with the transfer of this film. Though I remember
the film was somewhat grainy in theaters, this
transfer is plagued with a hint of video noise
which is most evident at the very beginning of
the film where we meet Harry's family. Though
the video is razor sharp, you can see the noise
on the walls and furniture. As the camera pans
outside Harry's muggle neighborhood, you can see
the roofs of the houses giving off bits of shimmer.
I was surprised that the transfer actually looks
better during most of the film's latter darker
scenes, as the day lit scenes expose more of the
video noise. The film doesn't look horrific by any
means, but like a pebble that rolls around in your
shoe, once you know the noise is there, you
immediately notice it everywhere. The sharpness
of the transfer makes the colors look very
vibrant, but a little too sharp. Flesh tones tend to
look more red than natural. As the film moves from
the world of muggles to the world of Hogwarts, the
transfer does become much better.

Certainly I think there is slight room for
improvement in this transfer from a studio that
has been putting out some of the best DVD transfers
to date.

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The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is very full-bodied.
The entire sound field remains very active, with
terrific use of the rears in not only accenting
John William's score, but amplifying the wonderful
effects of the film. Whether it be the sounds of
owls swooping from front to back delivering letters,
or the sounds of people shopping in Diagon Alley,
or even the echoing sounds from within a train
station, the rears make good use of the supplemental
action. Of course, the best sonic experiences come
during some of the movie's best magical moments.
These moments include Hagrid visiting the Potter
family on an isolated island, with sheets of rain
surrounding the viewing area. The LFE channel bursts
into action as heavy thunderous bass accents Hagrid's
pounding knocks on the front door. The Quiddich
match sports demo-quality audio as broomsticks fly
in and out of rear channels as they chase the small
"snitch" ball. There is a distinctive sense of
direction to this soundtrack that I usually only
sense with DTS tracks. I am happy that the Dolby
Digital audio did not dull this great sonic
experience. Another one of my favorite audio
moments comes when Harry must use his broom to
catch a flying key amongst thousands of other keys
that hover above his head. The audio gives a
terrific sense of the keys seemingly flying across
the viewing sound field. I think that viewers
will be very impressed by the robust and active
soundtrack on this DVD, not necessarily minding the
absence of a DTS track.


Special Features


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The disc begins with a wonderful animated
sequence that begins with the Warner Brothers
logo erupting into a sky full of owls. We
cruise along the clouds as scene segments
appear one after another. The animation ceases
with a picture of Hogwarts and the menu selections
listed to the left.

Disc One holds the full-length film
with a limited set of additional features that
include a list of Cast and Crew (with
no extended filmographies), the film's Teaser
Trailer
as well as the Original Theatrical
Trailer
.

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Disc Two begins with animation that
takes you across the water, into the isle where
Hogwarts sits. As heavy doors open, you enter
the great hall. A narrative voice welcomes you,
suggesting you take a look around and warning you
to stay away from the 3rd floor corridor. Seven
selections await your remote control selection.

Welcome to Diagon Alley...well, not just
yet. In order to enter, you must remember the
proper sequence of moving the bricks that guard
its entrance. No big deal if you forget, as the
narrator has a nasty habit of slipping answers out.

Once inside, you have the option of clicking
on the various merchant signs that allow you to
withdraw money, buy a wand and perhaps an owl.
In order to do all this, the viewer must properly
complete these chores in accurate sequence. This
involves having to find the key to withdraw money
from Gringott's bank in order to make the needed
purchases. There's some fun selecting your wand
from the wand shop -- a wrong selection causes
great havoc.

Select Sorting Hat and learn a little
about the different houses that make up Hogwarts:
Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
This is a fairly simple little ditty where you
click on individual house banners to hear the
narrator give a 10-second description of each.

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Interviews brings us to the documnentary,
Capturing The Stone: A Conversation with the
Filmmakers
. Meet Producer David Heyman,
Screenwriter Steve Kloves and Director Christopher
Columbus who talk about how the original concept
of the 'Potter' film was to combine all three
books into one film. While it would have been
an easy task to put the best action scenes from
all three books into one film, Producer Heyman
had Columbus promise him that he would be faithful
to the one book, which is exactly how he and Steve
Kloves began the project. The biggest challenge
was recreating the images that author J.K. Rowling
so vividly brings out to her readers. Production
Designer Stuart Craig talks about the building
of the 1,000 year-old Hogwarts both inside and
out. We ever so quickly get brief glimpses of not
only the movie sets, but production models as well.
A quick peek at the set where the film's big chess
game takes place with life-sized pieces, is pretty
amazing to see, though very brief. How do you
make an owl deliver mail? You'll see it! The
filmmakers talk about selecting the three kids
(Daniel, Rupert, Emma) and how well they screen tested
together, yet we never see the screen test. While
there some footage of off-screen play with the cast,
the whole problem with this 16-minute documentary
is that it just glosses over everything way too fast.
We never really see how the Quiddich match was
filmed or any insight into the effects work. We
never see enough of the set designs or even the
sets themselves. There's only brief glimpses of
behind-the-camera action. It's interesting that
kids probably will be bored by this documentary,
while the adults who are willing to watch it will
feel shortchanged.

In order to access Classes, you need first
to go to Diagon Alley and buy the correct
wand. This can be a real nuisance if you are not
looking through the supplements in one sitting as
there is no way to save the items you gathered in
previous visits. Once inside, you can click on
the many sections that give you more insight into
Hogwarts Faculty: Professor McGonagall, Severus
Snape and Filius Flitwick. If you correctly collect
all the clues, you gain access to the 3rd Corridor.
You should have no problem finding your way to the
secret corridor (feel around the menu), but once
inside I became frustrated after several attempts
of trying to select the correct flying Key. I just
gave up as the disc locks up with every wrong answer,
making you go back and recollect all the needed items
again. I do know that once you gain access to the
3rd Corridor, there are brand new never-before-scenes
to see. To be honest, I just don't feel like
working this hard to have to watch Special Edition
content that is not readily available.

Click on Tour and get an in-depth iPIX
tour of Hogwarts including the Great Hall and The
Gryffindor Common. Your remote buttons move you
forward and back as you seemingly walk through
the rooms themselves. Click on Hogwarts Grounds
and catch the snitch to learn more about it. Click
on the Quiddich balls in the case to have a scene
from the movie played that describes the game itself.
Barely interesting for anyone but kids.

The Library is full of books, and by clicking
on a selected few they reveal such goodies as
cast clips, clues to solving the 3rd corridor mystery,
as well as a still gallery filled with concept photos.
Nothing overly interesting here for adults.

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There is extensive DVD-ROM material that
includes Voice technology that enables users to
navigate through the disc using ONLY their voice;
a personalized iPIX tour of Hogwarts, navigating
through it in real time; Downloadable screensavers
and remembralls; Two game demos; Trade electronic
wizard cards with other members over the internet.


Final Thoughts


This DVD was made completely for kids and with
hardly anything of interest for adults. Any real
in-depth material on the making of the film and
its effects are glossed over so quickly that if
dare blink, you miss it all.

Posted Image

Kids, on the other hand, will probably have a
good time playing with the remote for an hour
or so exploring all the little goodies that are
hidden in the Special Feature areas. Certainly
they will have more patience than this adult
in trying to collect clues and wares in order to
see the bonus never-before-scenes.

It's hard for me to rave about this DVD. The
transfer quality is uneven -- especially in the
first 15 minutes of the film. The Special Features
are a total waste of time for anyone but kids. The
one reason you should be buying this DVD is because
it is, after all, Harry Potter.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 128 Michael Dueppen

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Posted May 12 2002 - 09:19 PM

Thanks as always for the review, Ron. I absolutely agree with you on pretty much everything you said.

For those who want to see the deleted scenes but don't want to play games to get them:
First go to Diagon Alley. There you have to click on the key in the Gringotts sign. Then enter Gringotts and get your money. Go to Ollivanders and get your wand (it always seems to be the third). Now go to the class rooms and select the owls to get to the Stone. Now you have to answer three questions. Should be pretty easy. First select the flute. Then find the key and then select the ball shaped potion.

- Michael
My DVD collection

#3 of 128 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 12 2002 - 09:23 PM

Michael,

The key is the sticking point. Which one?


Thanks

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#4 of 128 Michael Dueppen

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Posted May 12 2002 - 09:41 PM

Ron,
For me it was the one pretty much in the middle in the background. I just checked again.

- Michael
My DVD collection

#5 of 128 James Costin

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Posted May 12 2002 - 10:37 PM

Just a quick question to the American members of the forum regarding this film.
What are your thoughts on Warner Bros. changing the name of the film from 'Philosopher's Stone' to 'Sorcerer's Stone' because they believed that too many American cinemagoers wouldn't know what a philosopher was.

Do you find this patronising as I would? Would there really be that many Americans who don't know what a philosopher is?
Any thoughts?

#6 of 128 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted May 12 2002 - 10:59 PM

James: Warner Bros. didn't change the title for American release. J.K. Rowling did back with the book. Warner Bros. was simply honoring the American translation when planning releases.

That said, I'm importing the Canadian version.

#7 of 128 Bryan Tuck

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Posted May 13 2002 - 12:10 AM

Actually, I think it was Scholastic that suggested the change. I imagine Rowling approved it, but the publisher was afraid a book with "philosopher" in the title wouldn't sell well.

Strange.
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#8 of 128 Dan Brecher

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Posted May 13 2002 - 12:56 AM

Rowling did allow for the title change (amongst other alterations to the first novel) but she freely admits that she regrets not putting up a big enough fight to retain the original name. She let it slide purely for her want to see her first book on sale in the United States.

Dan

#9 of 128 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:10 AM

The title/stone name change has been reflected (albeit infrequently) through the subsequent books as well. There was a single reference to the philosopher's/sorcerer's stone in the fourth book, for instance. It's funny how one silly decision like that can propagate.

Personally, I'm picking up the Canadian disc. Canada is just a short drive south from Detroit, so it's pretty easy for me. Posted Image

Regards
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#10 of 128 John Berggren

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:36 AM

I'm also picking up the Canadian disc. Hopefully the soundtrack bitrate remains the same. I don't see why it would not though. I too am distressed at the change.

I also wish they'd created an adult edition of this release. I'm buying it anyway as I love the books and quite enjoyed the film, but I remain dissapointed.
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#11 of 128 Dean DeMass

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:38 AM

This is actually the 1st time where I would have preferred a Movie-Only version of a disc. I'll probably never watch the extras since you have to jump through a hoop, spit fire, eat an apple and then pee apple cider to watch them.

Hopefully someone can figure out a shorcut to them, especially the deleted scenes.

-Dean-

#12 of 128 SteveA

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Posted May 13 2002 - 02:14 AM

I wonder how the quality of the pan-and-scan transfer of this film compares to the anamorphic widescreen version? Since this is a "family" title, I wouldn't be surprised if Warner put more effort into the pan-and-scan transfer.

#13 of 128 Richard Waller

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Posted May 13 2002 - 03:01 AM

What's a good Canadian e-tailer to order from?

#14 of 128 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted May 13 2002 - 03:12 AM

Richard,
Your question was the topic of a whole other thread. Lots of suggestions are available by clicking here.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#15 of 128 PhilipG

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Posted May 13 2002 - 03:32 AM

Quote:
Just a quick question to the American members of the forum regarding this film.
What are your thoughts on Warner Bros. changing the name of the film from 'Philosopher's Stone' to 'Sorcerer's Stone' because they believed that too many American cinemagoers wouldn't know what a philosopher was.

Do you find this patronising as I would? Would there really be that many Americans who don't know what a philosopher is?
Any thoughts?

I suspect that a lot of people know what the common definition of a philosopher is. I also suspect that not so many people (including non-Americans Posted Image ) know that philosophy is not just the study of wisdom, truth or knowledge - it can also mean the branch of knowledge concerning alchemy, magic and the occult. Also note that JK Rowling did not invent the term "philosopher's stone"; it's been around for some time!

#16 of 128 Jeff Kleist

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Posted May 13 2002 - 03:57 AM

Since Warner just does 1 widescreen HighDef master and creates all versions from that, I'd say it has many of the same problems

Quote:
It's hard for me to rave about this DVD. The
transfer quality is uneven -- especially in the
first 15 minutes of the film.

That's the film ron, it looked horrific theatrically, and we ALL know why

Incompetant boobs lighting it, AND

(drum roll)

Super35!

Remember, friends don't let friends shoot Super35 for 2.35:1 aquisition for theatrical exhibition

#17 of 128 TheoGB

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Posted May 13 2002 - 05:49 AM

Err Jeff. Knock it on the head, there's a good fellow.

My copy of Seven looks gorgeous, as does T2, and I'm sure LOTR will look fantastic also. And EE aside, Phantom Menace didn't have this problem. Posted Image

I am not buying this until I get a an edition with features I want on it, I'm afraid...Posted Image

Cheers for the review Ron, but why are your screen shots from disc two 'squashed-looking'? Shouldn't they be in their original ratios too??

#18 of 128 Steve Tannehill

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Posted May 13 2002 - 06:59 AM

Ron, thanks for the in-depth review. Personally, I am ordering the Canadian version, but will probably also pick up a copy of the domestic release. Darn this collector's mentality! Posted Image

I think that Warner has missed the mark with HARRY POTTER by classifying it as a family-oriented release, where family implies children-only. Look no further than the kid-oriented supplements to see this.

But look at what Disney is doing with their A-titles like ATLANTIS, EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE, and TOY STORY 1/2. They release single-disc editions geared towards the kids, and double (or more) disc editions geared towards the adult collector.

That's what Warner should have done with HARRY POTTER, especially given the all-age appeal.

I'm still buying the DVD...but I doubt that I will spin the supplements more than once. Of course, my 9-year-old nephew might play with the supplements more than watching the movie; it is all a matter of target audience.

Let's hope that Warner will, in the future, target adults in their special editions, and use the Disney model of dual releases.

- Steve

#19 of 128 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted May 13 2002 - 07:50 AM

Quote:
Also note that JK Rowling did not invent the term "philosopher's stone"; it's been around for some time!
And is based on the somewhat factual tale of the real Nickolas Flamel. That was the biggest problem I had with the change... It lost it's connection with actual history. Nickolas Flamel was real in any event. Weither he actually created the Philosopher's Stone is another matter...

#20 of 128 Neil Joseph

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Posted May 13 2002 - 09:23 AM

Quote:
What's a good Canadian e-tailer to order from?
The Entertainment Warehouse is a pretty good Canadian e-tailer, based in Toronto's west end.
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