SRP $34.99 2.35:1(16:9) DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 WARNER BROS
SRP $35.99 2.35:1 PCM 5.1 WARNER BROS
SRP $35.99 2.35:1 DOLBY TrueHD 5.1 WARNER BROS

WARNER BROS. has released the latest of the "HARRY POTTER" films, "HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" on dvd, blu-ray and HD-DVD.  This critic must admit to not being much of a fan of the entire series. After "hating" the first film, the others admittedly improved, and while it's still frustrating to find the same story arc in each film, the different styles of the various directors taking the reigns, at least added some excitement to the series.  "ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" is certainly not the best(Prisoner of Azkaban), it's also far better than the worst(Sorcerer's Stone).   Knowing that Lord Voldemort is up to no good, Harry is putting together his own army, made up of Hogwarts students.  A big part of the film's tension resides from knowing that the pending showdown between good and evil is being hindered throughout by those on Harry's own side, refusing to accept what's coming(Administrators,etc), and it's easy to understand why this series is so popular with youth(let alone adults!), as its main protagonist is self-empowered, often fighting the system of adults.

There are more than a few predictable moments, but there are some genuine thrills as well, and the special effects look fantastic in all three formats!  WARNER BROS. has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the dvd(16:9 enhanced) and both the hd-dvd(1080p/VC-1) and blu-ray(1080p/VC-1) are opened up a slight bit more(2.40:1).  The dvd looks as good as the format possibly allows, with deep blacks and grays, rich colors and excellent detail, and no grain!

Still, the standard dvd format can't equal what's presented in high-definition, and virtually every scene on the identical blu-ray and hd-dvd is notably better looking than on dvd, with vastly superior depth. The CGI effects, while good looking on dvd, "come to life" on high-definition!  The hd-dvd and blu-ray perfectly perfectly compliment one stunning special effect after another. Colors are richer than the dvd, without ever succumbing to over-saturation.  The image is always close to "jumping off the screen," without any hint of noise or marring. Both hd-dvd and blu-ray are flawless!  These are amongst the best looking high-definition transfers ever released!

The dolby digital 5.1 mix found on the dvd is aggressive and thoroughly engaging.  Surrounds, discrete and bass effects are used effectively on a continuously exciting level. In spite of layers of effects, music, dialogue and panning effects never overshadow one another. It's a great mix!

While some may argue, there's no discernible difference between the spectacular Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix found on the Hd-dvd and the PCM 5.1 mix found on the blu-ray.  While loaded with great effects that immerse the viewer, even the more subtle moments are impressive, offering wonderful nuances within the ambient effects. Every aspect of the sound mix is stunning, and for those wanting plenty of bass, although they're not continuous, when employed, those moments are wall-shaking and impressive!  As good as the dvd mix is, the high-def mixes are notably better in terms of dynamic range and bass.

There are a variety of extras carried over on all formats, however, for some reason, the hd-dvd version doesn't include a lengthy tv special offered on dvd and blu-ray! Additionally, deleted scenes and two featurettes are only offered in standard resolution, whereas the blu-ray offers high-definition for these extras!