In this adaptation of the third book in JK Rowling's best-selling series, Harry Potter (Danielle Radcliffe) and his best friends Hermoine (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), must face the dangerous convict Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who has ties with their enemy Lord Voldemort and has escaped from Azkaban prison in search of Harry Potter. A scarier, darker story than the first two, "Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban" is the first instalment to be directed by Alfonso Cuarón ("Y Tu Mamá También"), who demonstrates remarkable versatility and proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The dark and dangerous mystery of Sirius Black's motive for revenge drives the action, but the film is full of stand-out moments courtesy of the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantages brought by having a Time-Turner just when you need one.
The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling's boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), "The Prisoner of Azkaban" is a Potter-movie classic. "--Jeff Shannon"