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In the silver-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, the fifth chapter in the beloved book series, everyone's favorite wizard-in-training (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself in increasingly perilous situations. Not only is Harry in trouble with the Ministry of Magic for using his abilities outside of school, his trusted mentor, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), has grown distant, and an icy new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), has arrived to bring a frightening level of discipline to Hogwarts. And waiting in the shadows is the demonic Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), an ominous figure whose very existence is questioned by the powerful Ministry, leaving Harry and his friends--most notably Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson)--to form a rebel group, Dumbledore's Army. Helmed by little-known British director David Yates and written by Michael Goldenberg (the first scribe to fill the boots of Steve Kloves), THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX continues the darker tone of the two preceding POTTER installments and deftly follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they face new foes and impending adulthood. While Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson all continue to imbue their characters with vitality and complexity, Staunton steals the show as the strict, merciless Umbridge, though the story, which lacks some of the special-effects-heavy set pieces of past chapters, happily leaves room for other actors to shine, most notably Alan Rickman (as the ever-enigmatic Severus Snape), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), and Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange). Another fine offering of POTTER movie magic, PHOENIX may not astound quite the way that THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN did, but it easily stands as one of the best films in the series.
Rating: PG-13 (MPAA) (for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images)