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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray] by Directed by Chris Columbus
Review by Charles Mohapel
Warner Home Video Blu-ray  ISBN/ITEM#: B002GJT4XW
Date: 27 January 2010 List Price $49.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

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This film was released in theaters in November 2001 as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US and as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK and Canada. It appeared on VHS in May 2002 and on DVD and Blu-ray in December 2007, it was only in December 2009 that Warner Home Video came out with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Ultimate Edition) on Blu-ray (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Ultimate Edition) on Blu-ray in the UK and Canada; ASIN: B002R02FDG).

Director: Chris Columbus

Writers (WGA):
J.K. Rowling (novel)
Steve Kloves (screenplay)

Daniel Radcliffe ... Harry Potter
Rupert Grint ... Ron Weasley
Emma Watson ... Hermione Granger
Richard Harris ... Professor Albus Dumbledore
Maggie Smith ... Professor Minerva McGonagall
Robbie Coltrane ... Rubeus Hagrid
Alan Rickman ... Professor Severus Snape
Tom Felton ... Draco Malfoy

"Creating The Characters Of Harry Potter", the 48-Page Photo Book with rare images from Years 1-7, is a gorgeous little hardcover book filled with wonderful concept sketches and stills from the movies. My favorites are of Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy sitting in front of the fireplace at Malfoy Manor with his dogs at hand and a snifter (probably filled with fine cognac) in his right hand, and finally the three Death Eaters in everyday clothes and wearing their masks and robes.

The film begins with young Harry Potter days away from celebrating his 11th birthday with his mean-spirited Aunt Petunia Dursley and her obese and ill-tempered husband Vernon and son Dudley. When a letter from Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft arrives in the mail for Harry, Vernon Dursley tells Harry that he will not go to Hogwarts. But when more and more Hogwarts letters arrive, the Dursleys panic and go to a vacation on a secluded island.

Harry stays awake in order to "celebrate" his birthday at midnight and is startled when a hairy bearded giant of a man kicks down the front door. It is Rubeus Hagrid and he has come to take Harry to Hogwarts for his first year of school. When Uncle Vernon tells Harry that he can't go to Hogwarts, Hagrid says sarcastically "And I suppose a great Muggle like yourself is going to stop him?" And so it begins...

Watching the theatrical version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Ultimate Edition) on Blu-ray again was like watching it for the first time. Delightful as ever, the version we saw in the theaters ran for 152 minutes, but with the seven additional minutes added to give us the extended version, the film is even more fun. None of the additional material is extraneous, but was most likely cut by Director Chris Columbus in order to move the film forward. Best of all, you can watch all of the deleted material in the seven deleted scenes on Disc 2.

While it would be nice if the "In-Movie Experience with Director Chris Columbus" were also available for the extended version, this interactive featurette makes you feel like you're in the editing room with him and Film Editor Richard Francis-Bruce. All in all, it's a wonderful featurette for all ages.

Warner Bros BD-Live requires a BD-Live Enabled Blu-ray Disc Player but is another cool featurette.

"Introduction by Daniel Radcliffe" is a short but effective lead in to an in-depth behind-the-scenes view of the Harry Potter films that makes anything I've seen previously from the first six films look like a work in progress.

"Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 1: The Magic Begins" is one of the eight comprehensive featurettes scheduled to appear exclusively in the Ultimate Editions of each of the eight films. Spanning the first six films in an artistically cut montage featuring cast and crew, some date back to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, while other vignettes are very recent. Did you know that for most, if not all scenes with the children in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 3 cameras were used simultaneously in order to capture the work of the inexperienced young actors? The theatrical version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was made using a great number of very short takes and is described as being very much like a documentary. For once I cannot say that this featurette was too short. What I can say is that without a doubt, this was my absolute favorite featurette.

"A Glimpse into the World of Harry Potter", an international TV special broadcast in 2001 is a wonderful peek behind the scenes during filming of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Deleted Scenes:
Dudley's New School Uniform
Petunia Cracks Eggs With Letters Inside
Tube Ride
Kids Leave Girls' Bathroom
Harry Sits By Fire In Great Hall
Harry Finds Nicolas Flamel Card
Snape Classroom (Extended)

The first two deleted scenes are absolutely hilarious and while they were cut so as not to have the film run for 3 hours, I'm very glad they saved them for us.

I really can't choose favorites from among the three trailers and various TV Spots, but when viewed one after the other, they made me want to watch the Extended Version right away.

"Capturing the Stone: A Conversation with the Filmmakers" is nice but no earthshaking secrets slipped out.

Before you hand your remote to the kids so that they can play with all the interactive features, make sure you put a fresh set of alkaline batteries in it - there's a veritable treasure trove of goodies to keep them occupied. Actually there is one interactive feature that requires being played in the DVD-ROM drive of your computer.

Exclusive to the Ultimate Edition is "Creating The World Of Harry Potter", an absolutely gorgeous 48 page mini-coffeetable book filled with color photos, as well as black & white and color concept sketches and concept paintings from the first six films. The last page has a beautiful monochrome concept sketch of Shell Cottage, the home of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour and a key location in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Last but not least among the goodies to be found in the Ultimate Edition are two Ultimate Edition Character Cards (Card No. 1: Harry Potter, Card No. 2: Minerva McGonagall). These are gorgeous sepia-toned photos measure 4 inches by six inches and are printed on a special heavy stock of a type I've never seen before.

I purchased the 2-disc Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Special Widescreen Edition) on DVD in 2002 and it was great for its time, but the 3 -disc (2 Blu-ray, 1 DVD) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray] absolutely blows it out of the water, both in terms of vastly superior audio and video, but also in terms of all the wonderful extras in the box. I ended up donating the 2-disc Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Special Widescreen Edition) to a charity.

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