Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Special Edition
In both its book and movie forms, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2006) marks a lot of firsts in the series about author J.K. Rowling's young, scarred wizard: Harry's first crush, the first death of a key character, the first time Lord Voldemort is revealed in all his snake-nosed glory. So it's sort of fitting that the fourth installment in the hugely successful film franchise (which is also the first to be helmed by a British director, Mike Newell) earned the series' first PG-13 rating. And deservedly so with its dark tones, themes of teenage angst, scary creatures, and moments of true danger and suspense, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is no kid flick. Of course, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) really isn't a kid anymore, either. Anyone who's had to face the kind of trials Harry comes up against every year he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is bound to grow up quickly. This time, Harry's perils revolve around the high-stakes Triwizard Tournament, a three-school challenge that pits him against fellow champions Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy), and Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) in the completion of three dangerous tasks. Watching Harry's back, as always, are faithful friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), as well as stalwart Hogwarts staffers like Professor Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and, of course, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). As in previous installments, Goblet also introduces a new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, this time gruff, unpredictable Professor Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson). Other new characters include Cho Chang (Katie Leung), the pretty object of Harry's burgeoning affections, and, as mentioned, He Who Must Not Be Named himself, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who creeps his way back to life in a graveyard during one of the movie's darkest scenes. Goblet's multitude of characters and plot twists make it a favorite among Potter readers, and Newell lives up to the challenge of adapting Rowling's 734-page tome. Certain parts are streamlined (the early scenes at the Quidditch World Cup), while others are enhanced (preparing for the Yule Ball with awkwardly funny dance lessons); through it all, Newell makes good use of his Britishness. The Hogwarts students' daily interactions seem more grounded in boarding school reality than they have in past installments Fred and George Weasley's (James and Oliver Phelps) study hall clowning smacks of authenticity, as does Harry and Ron's despair over having to ask a date to the ball. Those notes of reality make the movie's many effects-heavy sequences all the more convincing; it's easier than ever to believe that the world of wizards and witches really might be just out of our limited Muggle sight. That said, it's the film's special effects that take center stage in Warner Home Video's two-disc special edition Goblet of Fire DVD. The first platter features the movie, in all its anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) glory. The transfer is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio brings us right into the thick of the action (a Spanish 5.1 track is also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles). All of the extras can be found on the second disc, divided into four "regions": the Dragon Arena, the Lake, the Maze, and Hogwarts Castle. The first three all include shortcuts to the Triwizard Tournament game, which offers challenges that correspond to the tasks Harry must complete in the movie. Each area also has its own featurette or two: one each for each of the three tasks ("Harry vs. the Horntail: The First Task," "In Too Deep: The Second Task," and "The Maze: The Third Task"), others that focus on specific characters ("Meet the Champions," "He Who Must Not Be Named") or scenes ("Preparing for the Yule Ball"), and two that are more general in nature ("Reflections on the Fourth Film," "Conversations with the Cast"). Also included are an additional game ("To the Graveyard and Back Challenge"), 10 minutes' worth of deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case with paperboard sleeve.