Reviewer's grade: B+
The fifth installment of the "Harry Potter" franchise finds Harry and company at a bad moment in their lives: under the threat of a war with evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) all while facing pubescent misery and the wizarding equivalent of the SATs.
Long gone are the days of blithely flying around on brooms, worrying about Quidditch and Snape's potions final. Our little wand-wielders are growing up. While full of good performances, top-notch special effects and enough British character actors for two or three Shakespeare companies, new director David Yates has a little too much essential material to work with in adapting J.K. Rowling's book.
There are too many essential characters, plots and subplots to handle (even in almost two-and-a-half hours), leaving many sections feeling incomplete, confusing or unsatisfying. Still, for fans of the series it's a must-see. For those not familiar with the other four films, "Phoenix" will be be a puzzling exercise in frustration. PG-13