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Feature


Utter the simple phrase of ‘Harry Potter’ to any age, and it is nearly guaranteed that they will know what you are speaking about. Since becoming a worldwide phenomenon in 1999, the Harry Potter series has been turned into everything from video games to bathing products. Most notably, the series has been turned into a set of excellent films that are successful, for the most part, in recreating the major elements presented in the novels by author J.K.Rowling.

With this being the fifth film in the series of seven, I had a few fears going into in. First the books are getting longer, making me wonder if new director David Yates would be successful in presenting all the ideas Rowling went over in the book. While the film does not mention every little detail Yates is very successful in bringing the action, suspense, fear, emotion, and growth of the characters to the big screen in stunning style.

Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix is the fifth film in the Harry Potter franchise, based on the books by Author J.K. Rowling. All of the main cast from the first two films are back to reprise their roles. Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (played by Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson) are all back to their same old tricks at Hogwarts, but this time there’s a new twist.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry and friends return for their fifth year at the school only to discover that the rumours of Lord Voldermort returning in fact seem to be true. The ministry has appointed a new ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’ teacher, Professor Dolores Umbridge (played by Imelda Staunton), who begins to apply strict teachings and rules that leave the students feeling unprepared to defend themselves. It’s from this that Harry and his friends retaliate by forming a club called ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ to prepare themselves for the inevitable return of Lord Voldemort. What results is a film that might be one of the best Potter films to date mainly because of the excellent British cast Yates and team chose.

There’s just something about adding British actors to your film that brings a smile to my face. Perhaps it’s that most British actors just seem to have a greater love for the craft than American actors. Anyhow, the supporting cast to the film includes some old and new faces. Gary Oldman is back as Sirius Black, Maggie Smith is back as Minerva McGonagall, Michael Gambon is back as Albus Dumbledore, Alan Rickman is back as Severus Snape and Helena Bonhem Carter joins the cast as Bellatrix Lestrange. A safe, bold statement would be that there’s a fair share of excellent actors here.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues on with the Harry Potter magic in that the film is fairly faithful to the novel. New Director David Yates brings all the action, suspense, horror, drama, love and interest of the novel to the big screen in quite a splendid manner. Here’s hoping that the next in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which Yates is also Directing) continues on with the successful novel to film transition. This comes with a great welcome to High Definition and is sure to leave the fans pleased.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Video


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix arrives on a thirty gigabyte dual-layered HD DVD disc with a 1080p, VC-1 encoded, 2:40:1 widescreen presentation. What results is one of the strongest transfers to date.

The first thing you’ll notice is the opening sequence where Harry is sitting on the swing. The sharp image is stunning with excellent colours and perfect detail. Since the film was shot in Super-35, what results is a great translation into high definition video. The colours, as briefly mentioned, are rich, vibrant and ever so clear with excellent flesh tones. Simply pause and look at the clarity and detail on any of the actor’s faces. Grain only really pokes up in the first few moments of the film (where the Dementors attack Harry and Dudley).

A small fear I had was that some of the film’s action sequences, which are great, would result in a bit of motion blur as they had in the theatrical presentation (at least in the theatre I saw the film in). Thankfully no issues like this were ever found. As sinister as Lord Voldemort is, he looked even more evil in High Definition. Some early critics say there isn’t enough of a difference between HD and SD for the masses to adopt the formats. Either they’re blind or I’ve been drugged with something wonderful, as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of the, if not the, strongest HDM title I’ve seen yet. Congrats Warner on a stellar presentation!

Audio


Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio options, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix boasts some of the best surround presence I’ve ever heard in a majority of the HDM (Hi-Def Media) titles I’ve seen in the one-and-a-half years I’ve been watching.

Dialogue was crystal clear (with front presence in the centre channel) resulting in little to no volume adjusting. The rear sound field is deafening here with such powerful action sequences that will literally shake your room with strong LFE. For further evidence, watch the ending battle with Dumbledore and Voldemort. Listen as the sound effects swoosh and ring in the rears and the sub booms and shakes in response to the action on screen. What a great presentation!  

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The score by Nicholas Hooper is absolutely beautiful here. The TrueHD option gave more depth and clarity, letting everything ring threw in perfect harmony. I will mention that I did prefer the TrueHD option to the Plus 5.1, but if you’re system can’t support the newer lossless codec’, don’t fret, as the included Plus 5.1 is still great.

Extras


*All Bonus Materials are presented in 16:9 (Widescreen) in the MPEG-2 codec 480p standard-definition video with Dolby Digital Plus stereo sound. *

Warner has awarded Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a single disc HD-30 (thirty gigabyte) dual-layered combo disc. Exclusive to this HD DVD release is an IME (In-Movie Experience) that serves as a picture-in-picture commentary showing the viewer various interviews and sequences all while the film runs in the background. The included cast speaks fairly often giving us tons of insight into joining back together to film the fifth of seventh book, only with a different director. The IME feature also includes a bunch of mini-featurettes that are simply dubbed ‘Focus Points’.

The ‘Focus Points’ can be viewed separately or joined in with the IME. At sixty-two minutes in length, these ‘Focus Points’ work similar to how the original ‘Follow the White Rabbit’ worked on The Matrix. To focus on a point simply click the middle button on your HD DVD player’s remote. While this has obviously been done before, I still found this to be a rather cool addition. When compared to other IME’s found on other Warner discs (like 300 and Batman Begins), I noticed you can now skip chapters at any time by hitting the left and right arrows on the ‘disc’ IME icon. Definitely cool!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
We also get a feature entitled ‘Trailing Tonks’ that runs nineteen minutes and focuses on actress Nat Tena (who happens to play Nymphadora Tonks). She gives us a tour of the various stages used in the film. Next up is ‘Harry Potter and the Magic of Editing’. Running five minutes this interactive feature serves as a basic dummies guide to the editing process. Director David Yates and Editor Mark Day show how a ‘good’ edit is done vs. a ‘bad’ edit. Something interesting here is that we’re given a chance to edit our own scenes via a virtual mixing board of sorts with multiple angle choices.

Coming up are a few ‘Additional Scenes’. Comprising ten minutes of never-before-seen footage, most of the sequences aren’t anything all that special. I found it funny that most deleted sequences in films lately really aren’t anything more than extended sequences.

Lastly we get a few ‘Web-Enabled Features’, most of which are truly ground-breaking for the format. Included are:

‘Pick Your Favourite Scenes’ allows the viewer to do just that and share them with friends and fans all over the world (obviously given that they have a copy of the film on HD DVD). ‘Live Community Screening’ allows you to gather with fans for a screening of the film. You’re also given the opportunity to chat with the invitees via cell phone, remote or PC. ‘Music Downloads’ gives the user the ability to purchase wallpapers and ring tones for your cell phones. Obviously a standard marketing ploy, this was interesting enough I suppose.

*The only feature missing here, which is found on the DVD and competing Blu-ray versions, is the A&E documentary ‘The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter’. I suppose they had to give the Blu-ray version some type of exclusive feature in order to differentiate it from the HD DVD counterpart. *

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Overall


It’s obvious that the Harry Potter films are getting darker, but they certainly aren’t declining in quality as Phoenix continues on the rich quality of the films. Boasting incredible visuals and booming audio, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes highly recommended regardless of which format you chose to buy it on.


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