Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman.

Harry Potter is back at Hogwarts and this time Alfonso Cuarón is directing, ensuring that this will be the most successful outing of the franchise to date. Cuarón, whose CV includes 'A Little Princess' (1995) and 'Great Expectations' (1998), creates a more menacing magical world for Harry to inhabit which seems more faithful to JK Rowling's work than the previous two films.

The opening sequence at Privet Drive, in which the Dursleys seem even more grim than usual, concludes with a frantic and confusing bus ride through London which propels Harry back to Diagon Alley, where he quickly learns that the man who betrayed his parents, Sirius Black (Oldman), has escaped from Azkaban.

Back at Hogwarts, which seems less friendly than before, the Dementors of Azkaban circle the school hunting for Black, while Harry tries to deal with his fear of them with the help of the mysterious Professor Remus Lupin, played by David Thewlis. The focus has shifted from the adults, with Professor Snape (Rickman) and Dumbledore (Gambon, taking over from Richard Harris) taking a backseat to the teenagers, Harry, Ron and Hermione.

In particular it is the studious Hermione (Watson) who, in between flirting with the ever-hilarious Ron (Grint), matures into a powerful and resourceful witch while Harry tries to control his enormous power.

Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are maturing nicely into their roles, while the same cannot be said for some of their less prominent classmates. The adult cast has expanded to include the under-used Gary Oldman as Black and Thewlis as Lupin, with Gambon a worthy replacement for Richard Harris. Emma Thomspon adds some comic relief as Professor Trelawney and even Dawn French makes a memorable cameo appearance.

Darker and less episodic than the first two films, there are moments that may scare a younger audience. Rowling would probably welcome this development as an author who never shies away from making her readers deal with the harsher realities of life. Filmed in gloomy blacks and greys, Cuarón has crafted a visually stunning tale that sees the three main characters maturing and will leave the audience shouting for more! Don't miss.

Bree Treacy