Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Post-modern formalists and traditional structuralists both seem to agree that this is the most fun and most wizard-tastic Harry Potter movie so far. Director Alfonso Cuarón focuses on the human elements, unlike his predecessor, Chris Columbus, who focused only on the cold, hard cash that long ago turned his soul into frozen stone. Cuarón thus makes the characters people we care about, and the plot a source of interest. He gets these effects not only through good, old-fashioned storytelling, but also through an intimate and drifting camera, and some thoughtful costuming. It doesn’t hurt that his leads are starting to grow into their roles, particularly Emma Watson, who, as Hermione, is now good enough to steal the show from Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry and Rupert Grint’s Ron. But nobody tops veteran David Thewlis’ turn as cursed dark-arts professor Lupin. He’s sad and human and sort of not-pretty in a pretty way. Tragically, this is the only Potter film that Cuarón has signed on for, so the series could go back to the effects-dependent slime pool from whence it came.

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