Directed by: David Yates
Written by:Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Imelda Staunton, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson
Released: July 12, 2007
Grade: B+

It feels like only yesterday that I was watching the first Harry Potter movie.  In reality, it’s been almost six years.  I’ve been critical of all the sequels released in the past two months but the Harry Potter series is different.  There is depth in each story.  The idea of a two hour movie based on a novel rich in detail is a lot more enticing than a three hour pirate movie with no plot.

The Order Of The Phoenix starts with a dark, menacing tone.  Harry (Radcliffe) is attacked by a Dementor, an evil being which sucks life from you.  He manages to fend off the attack by using powerful magic.  Unfortunately, he performed this magic in the company of a Muggle (someone without magic ability) and so Harry been called before the Ministry of Magic to explain himself.

There are some at the Ministry who want Harry to be severely punished.  They do not believe Harry’s Dementor story or his claims that the dark Lord Voldermort has returned.  Thanks to the help of the persuasive Professor Dumbledore (Gambon), Harry is found not guilty and is allowed to attend Hogwarts School for his fifth year of education.

Not happy with the outcome of Harry’s trial, the Ministry has sent Dolores Umbridge (Staunton) to Hogwarts as its new teacher of Dark Arts.  She is keeping a very close eye on Harry and is reporting on his activities to the Ministry.  Knowing that he receiving no valuable training in his Dark Arts classes, Harry and his friends establish a secret club where they can practice defending themselves against evil spells.  They just have to make sure that Umbridge and her cronies don’t find out about it.

There is a lot more to this story.  Those that have read J.K. Rowling’s novel (and there are many millions of them) will know how it ends.  It won’t stop Harry Potter fans (myself included) from seeing this film.  Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg has done a top job in condensing Rowling’s novel into movie length.  Something is always happening and there are no lulls in the story.

The film has been directed by David Yates, a British director whom I’d never heard of previously.  Yates will also be directing the next film in the series, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, which is due for release in November 2008.

Of the cast, there is one clear standout.  Her name is Imelda Staunton and she plays Dolores Umbridge.  Staunton was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 for her starring role in Vera Drake.  As one of the villains in this tale, Staunton is amazingly obnoxious (that’s a compliment).  I couldn’t wait for the scene where she finally got she deserved.  Every scene in which she features is a highlight.

I’ve liked every film in the Harry Potter series and this one is no exception.  I don’t think it’s as good as some of the others but it still provides much entertainment.  Both kids and adults will be enchanted (and maybe even a little scared in parts).  Bring on the next movie!