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Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Ultimate Edition
2001 (2009) - Warner Bros.
Released on Blu-ray Disc on December 8th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Ultimate Edition
2002 (2009) - Warner Bros.
Released on Blu-ray Disc on December 8th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray Disc)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!


Film Ratings (Stone/Chamber): B-/B
Video (Both - 1-20): 18.5
Audio (Both - 1-20): 18.5
Extras (Both): A+

If you're a fan of Harry Potter, Warner's new Ultimate Edition Blu-ray releases of the first two films - Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets - is going to be both welcome and frustrating. They're welcome because they finally collect virtually every bonus feature that's been created and released previously for each of these films, and because extensive new material is available here too - material that, if you're a fan, you're really going to want. But if you ARE a fan, you probably already own these films on DVD or Blu-ray, and you may even have purchased Warner's Limited Edition Years 1-5 Collection box set as well. Therein lies the frustration.

At any rate, for review purposes, let's assume you ARE interested in the new Ultimate Editions on Blu-ray. So what do you get for shelling your shillings on yet another edition?

First of all, you get both the original Theatrical cuts - AND never-before-seen Extended cuts (Stone is 7 minutes longer, Chamber is 13 minutes longer) - of each film in full 1080p HD video. You can choose which version you wish to view when you start up the disc in your player. And if you watch the Theatrical cuts, you have the additional option of viewing with a new In-Movie Experience featuring lots of PiP video, art and commentary with the filmmakers and cast. The video quality on these discs is excellent - every bit as good as the previous Blu-ray editions - with vibrant color, deep blacks and good overall detail. [Editor's Note: Upon further comparison with the previous BD releases of Stone and Chamber, I actually believe the new video presentations are slightly better, presumably resulting from the additional disc space devoted to the film in the new Ultimate releases. Contrast is a little improved, with slightly deeper blacks, and there's a bit more fine detail in the image. The difference is not large, but there is a bit of an improvement.] You also get new DTS-HD MA lossless surround sound mixes (the previous versions were PCM and 640kbps Dolby Digital) that are on par quality-wise with the video, with big wide soundstages, natural imaging, excellent clarity and lively surrounds. Each movie disc also includes BD-Live access to online content.

Each set also includes a Blu-ray special features disc, containing nearly (but not quite) all of the previously released DVD and Blu-ray bonus content. Each also adds new content as well. For example, the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray special features disc includes all 7 deleted scenes in full HD, along with the film's teaser trailer, 2 theatrical trailers and 15 TV spots. You also get the A Glimpse into the World of Harry Potter TV special (previously only available on the DVD bonus disc in the Limited Edition Years 1-5 Collection box set), as well as a new video introduction to special features by Daniel Radcliffe, and the first installment of an all new high-def documentary series called Creating the World of Harry Potter. Included here is Part 1: The Magic Begins. The Blu-ray special features disc for Chamber of Secrets includes all 16 deleted scenes in full HD, the film's trailers and TV spots, screen tests with the actors, HBO's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets... Revealed special (also previously only available on the DVD bonus disc in the Limited Edition Years 1-5 Collection box set) and the second installment in the Creating the World of Harry Potter documentary, Part 2: Characters.

Now, if there seems like a last few extras missing on those discs, rest assured you'll find what's missing on the third disc of each set (DVD format this time). Essentially, they're the same special features discs from the original 2-disc DVD releases. As you'll recall, those discs were a bit frustrating, in that you had to go hunting for things like deleted scenes as Easter eggs. But now that those scenes are available on the BD special features discs, you only have to go hunting if you want to. Meanwhile, all of the games, 360 set tours and other interactive features from the DVDs have been preserved for those fans who enjoyed them. Near as I can tell, every single set-top feature that's been created for these films on DVD and Blu-ray is available in these sets.

On top of all that, each set includes Digital Copy versions of the films (I believe they're the theatrical cuts) on additional discs, as well as a set of 2 character cards. The icing on the cake for each set is a new 48-page hardback book for each film, each of which features TONS of cool photos, production artwork and more. The books are subject-matched to the new Creating the World of Harry Potter documentary installments. Finally, the packaging for each set is designed as a hardback slipcase with a wraparound cover. When they're all closed up and sitting on your video shelf, they look like hardback books - a nice and appropriate touch.

By the way, for those of you wondering if Warner plans to continue this series of Ultimate Editions with all the rest of the films, the answer is yes. Inserts in the packaging claim that the Ultimate Editions for Years 3-7 will be "available soon", and the packaging even lists the tentative titles of the future installments of the Creating the World of Harry Potter documentary series (Part 3: Magical Creatures, Part 4: The Music of Harry Potter, Part 5: The Evolution of Harry Potter, Part 6: Special Effects, Part 7: Growing Up Potter and Part 8: The Harry Potter Phenomenon) that will be included on them.

So as you can see, these new sets truly can be considered Ultimate Editions of the Harry Potter films. The content is comprehensive, the new extras are entertaining and quite welcome, and the A/V quality on Blu-ray is first rate. Given all that, I'm happy to give each of these sets a qualified recommendation. Qualified, because these are obviously the umpteenth dips on each of these titles. But they're still recommended for their quality and content, and because once you have them, I can't imagine that you'll ever need or want to buy these films on disc again. Just find a good sale price for each, and enjoy.

Bill Hunt
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