The magic is still there but the mood remains resolutely dark in this engrossing fifth episode in the fantasy franchise. With no Quidditch matches or tournaments to divert him, the task facing Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is to convince the wizarding community of the re-emergence of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). His cause isn’t helped when Dumbledore’s position as Head of Hogwarts comes under threat.
Adapting JK Rowling’s bumper-size book was always going to be a challenge, and it’s therefore surprising that David Yates’s film is the shortest to date. Less may not necessarily be more, however, as some characters are given short shrift and subplots are sketched over. That said, Yates instils proceedings with the requisite sense of wonder, Alan Rickman is deliciously dour as Snape and Rupert Grint’s Ron injects some much needed light relief, while Imelda Staunton steals the show as prim but poisonous tutor Dolores Umbridge.
In a spellbinding finale set in the Ministry of Magic, we finally see the forces of good and evil engaging in full-on combat, and it’s well worth the wait. Jamie Healy
Buckles are truly swashed and derring-do effectively done in this 12th-century adventure, which simply sets out to entertain handsomely and does so with a great deal of dash, flash and panache.
Kevin Costner is more “Indiana Hood” than the Locksley lad of yore and Alan Rickman is a joy to behold as the panto-styled Sheriff of Nottingham, while Morgan Freeman’s cultured Moor – Robin’s early saviour – is a commanding, though unlikely, medieval presence. But it’s director Kevin Reynolds who deserves the most praise for disguising such overfamiliar events with imaginative staging and a constantly roving camera, and turning in such an enjoyable popcorn epic.
And, yes, this is the film where Bryan Adams sings (Everything I Do) I Do It for You during the final credits. Alan Jones
This superb comedy stars Ed Helms as a naive and homely insurance agent dispatched to a cut-throat sales convention in the Iowa city that gives the film its name. Away from his comfort zone for the first time, he falls in with a wild crowd that includes boorish John C Reilly and flighty good-time gal Anne Heche, and their escalating stunts and japes threaten to derail his company’s goal of picking up a prestigious award for a fourth straight year.
It may sound a flimsy premise, but director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) delivers a laugh-out-loud ride that plays like a white-collar executive take on Animal House, and Phil Johnston’s script is awash with quotable one-liners. The Hangover star Helms never strays too far from the nerdy but good-hearted salesman he plays in the US version of The Office, but Reilly as the fouled-mouthed veteran steals all his scenes with a master class in vulgarity. Terry Staunton
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