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


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#1 of 128 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 13 2002 - 12:50 AM

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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.



Posted ImagePosted Image



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





Posted ImagePosted Image



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 OFFLINE   Michael Dueppen

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:19 AM

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 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:23 AM

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 OFFLINE   Michael Dueppen

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:41 AM

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 OFFLINE   James Costin

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Posted May 13 2002 - 02:37 AM

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 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted May 13 2002 - 02:59 AM

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 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted May 13 2002 - 04:10 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 OFFLINE   Dan Brecher

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Posted May 13 2002 - 04:56 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 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted May 13 2002 - 05:10 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 OFFLINE   John Berggren

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Posted May 13 2002 - 05:36 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 OFFLINE   Dean DeMass

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Posted May 13 2002 - 05:38 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 OFFLINE   SteveA

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Posted May 13 2002 - 06:14 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 OFFLINE   Richard Waller

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Posted May 13 2002 - 07:01 AM

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

#14 of 128 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted May 13 2002 - 07:12 AM

Richard,

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



Regards,
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#15 of 128 OFFLINE   PhilipG

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Posted May 13 2002 - 07:32 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?

[quote]


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 OFFLINE   Jeff Kleist

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Posted May 13 2002 - 07:57 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.

[quote]


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 OFFLINE   TheoGB

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Posted May 13 2002 - 09:49 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 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted May 13 2002 - 10:59 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 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted May 13 2002 - 11:50 AM

[quote]

Also note that JK Rowling did not invent the term "philosopher's stone"; it's been around for some time!

[quote]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 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted May 13 2002 - 01:23 PM

[quote]

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

[quote]
The Entertainment Warehouse is a pretty good Canadian e-tailer, based in Toronto's west end.
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