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HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE

SYNOPSIS:
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) lives with the Dursley’s, who have lied to him about his parents’ fate and keep him in a cupboard. Mysterious letters summon Harry, but the Dursleys destroy them. Finally Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) arrives to take Harry, via Platform 9 ¾, to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft: he is a wizard! Harry befriends fellow wizards-in-training Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). Together with his new friends, Harry embarks on the adventure of a lifetime at Hogwart’s, a wondrous place beyond Harry’s wildest imagination where he discovers his extraordinary talents and finds the home and the family he never had.

Magical in both its subject and its execution on screen, Harry Potter’s first movie adventure is a satisfying and entertaining exercise in having fun while learning something. I suspect its English cultural roots account for its endearing earthiness and lack of cuteness, while the immense resource of imagination banks of Chris Columbus, Steve Kloves, John Seale and Stuart Craig account for its gothic-flavoured fantasy world. Not forgetting John Williams, whose score is big, lush and full of temperament, tension and power.

The connection to the real world of today – via the splendid virtual entrance to Platform 9 ¾ - creates a psychological anchor for the film that is indispensable to its accessibility. The cast create their classic characters beautifully, from the ageing Richard Harris as the head honcho at Hogwart’s, through his side-kickess, Maggie Smith, to the three central wizz kids, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Radcliffe is a godsend to the filmmakers; he is not only perfect visually, but the boy can act without making it look too much like acting.

The big flying stunt scene is spectacular and exciting in every respect, and the endless detail in the production design helps make Hogwart’s a tangible place for the audience. (Maybe one day soon it will be, considering the popularity of Harry Potter’s world.) It’s a world where wizardry is an honourable profession and seems to exist for the purpose of doing justice and fighting evil in this world. And sometimes to have fun doing it. How irresistible is that.
Andrew L. Urban

With breathtaking cinematic magic, Harry Potter opens our eyes to a sublime world of fantastic fantasy. Whether you have read the book or not, this is a bewitching, marvellous film for anyone of any age willing to open the doors of their imagination. The boundaries between real life and the fantasy world are wonderfully created, and when the stones in the wall shift, allowing Harry to enter, we experience every step of this enchanted world with him. Like the world of Oz with its yellow brick road and munchkins, Harry Potter's world becomes our reality: its majestic castle setting filled with forbidden floors and secrets, staircases that change, paintings that come to life, mail messenger owls, unicorns and unforgettable characters entice us far beyond our wildest dreams.

Chris Columbus has created a mesmerising reality; a fine screenplay brings J.K. Rowling's book to life, while John Seale's imaginative cinematography makes the film look simply splendid. All the production is superb, from the detailed production design to the sensitive editing. With its haunting themes and dazzling orchestrations, John Williams' exciting, masterful score makes every sense in our body tingle with emotion.

Much has been written about Columbus' skill working with children, and here he elicits terrific performances. Daniel Radcliffe is perfect as Harry, conveying and transferring the wonder to us, while the other youngsters also give naturalistic, compelling performances. The cast's backbone is as solid as the castle walls, with stalwart, impeccably credentialled thesps Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltraine all wonderful.

The story's sentiments reinforce the importance of family and the line is clearly drawn between good and evil: there's drama, mystery, suspense and humour and I must admit I did shed a little tear. Harry Potter manages to avoid sloppy sentimentality, but weaves the perfect balance, allowing us to not only enjoy this fabulous fantasy on a visual level, but also on a satisfying emotional one. For my money, this use of special effects in cinema is the ultimate - allowing technology to make our fantasies real.

It's uplifting, imaginative and will make you feel fantastic. You can believe the hype – Harry Potter is indeed a phenomenon.
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Andrew L. Urban talks to Academy Award winning cinematographer

JOHN SEALE

DVD REVIEW

FINDING HARRY & FRIENDS

HARRY POTTER SPLASH PAGE

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE (PG)
(UK)

CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Ian Hart, Fiona Shaw, Robbie Coltrane

PRODUCERS: David Heyman

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

SCRIPT: Steven Kloves (screenplay) J.K. Rowling (novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seale ASC, ACS

EDITOR: Richard Francis Bruce

MUSIC: John Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Craig

RUNNING TIME: 152 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 29, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: May 28, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

Also available on DVD - our DVD review will be published in June







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