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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, May 13, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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?
    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.
    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
    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
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
  2. Michael Dueppen

    Michael Dueppen Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 19, 2000
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    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.
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The key is the sticking point. Which one?

  4. Michael Dueppen

    Michael Dueppen Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 19, 2000
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    For me it was the one pretty much in the middle in the background. I just checked again.
  5. James Costin

    James Costin Agent

    Apr 4, 2001
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    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. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Feb 16, 2001
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    Albany, NY
    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. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

    Jan 16, 2002
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    Real Name:
    Bryan Tuck
    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.

  8. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

    Jan 8, 1999
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    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.

  9. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    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. [​IMG]
  10. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

    Jun 17, 1999
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    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.
  11. Dean DeMass

    Dean DeMass Screenwriter

    Jun 30, 1997
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    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.

  12. SteveA

    SteveA Supporting Actor

    May 25, 2000
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    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. Richard Waller

    Richard Waller Second Unit

    Oct 24, 2001
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    What's a good Canadian e-tailer to order from?
  14. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    Your question was the topic of a whole other thread. Lots of suggestions are available by clicking here.
  15. PhilipG

    PhilipG Cinematographer

    Jan 13, 2000
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  16. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

    Dec 4, 1999
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    Since Warner just does 1 widescreen HighDef master and creates all versions from that, I'd say it has many of the same problems

  17. TheoGB

    TheoGB Screenwriter

    Jun 18, 2001
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    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. [​IMG]
    I am not buying this until I get a an edition with features I want on it, I'm afraid...[​IMG]
    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. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

    Jul 6, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Steve Tannehill
    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! [​IMG]
    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. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Feb 16, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Albany, NY
  20. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

    Jan 16, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Neil Joseph

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