Harry Potter (film series)

HARRY POTTER & THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE (aka HARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER'S STONE) (PG)
D: Chris Columbus
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2001
152 mins

Fantasy

W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: John Seale
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Judianna Makovsky

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick)

It's not a pre-requisite to have read J. K. Rowling's series of books, but it helps, especially if you're a big fan of them.
The Harry Potter series of books had already sold millions of copies before the first film went into production, so there was always going to be a fanbase for these movies, and by that token it leaves them rather criticproof.
As someone who hasn't read the books (and has no particular interest in doing so) the general premise of Harry Potter and his universe seems to be picked from other, different works of literature (Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series of books a prime example), ergo the Harry Potter stories aren't particularly original.
As for the film itself, it's a good introduction to the schoolboy wizard and his adventures, opening with Harry mistreated by his foster parents, living under a staircase while they spoil their legitimate son rotten. An invitation is then received for Harry to join Hogwarts, a fabled school for young wizards and witches which can only be reached by a magical train departing from Kings Cross station's platform 9 & 3/4.
During his first term at Hogwarts, Harry learns the basics of spell casting as well as the truth of his parents' death, before he goes on a quest with his friends Ron Weasley & Hermoine Granger to find the magical philosopher's stone.
It's a fine fantasy film for young kids, with some brilliant aspects to the production, especially in the set design, costumes and most of the visual effects (although the troll and Minotaur CGI effects are absolutely terrible for such a huge blockbuster). 
Personally, I have a minor gripe with the lack of originality in the Potter stories, but they also encouraged an entire generation of kids to read more, which is always a good thing. One of the more original aspects in the stories is the game of Quidditch, which the film dedicates quite an amount of time on. Though, to be harshly frank, it seems like the stupidest game ever devised. Perhaps it sounded more interesting in the books, but in the film it's just farcical. Honestly, if catching a 'golden snitch' wins the game, why all the other scoring methods?
The story may be mostly plagiarised, but it has so many fans I really can't be too harsh on it, especially since much of it was very enjoyable.
7/10

Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone
HARRY POTTER & THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (PG)
D: Chris Columbus
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2002
161 mins
 
Fantasy
 
W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Roger Pratt
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Judianna Makovsky
 
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley)
 
Harry Potter's second term at Hogwarts makes for a much longer movie (almost suicidally long at 161 minutes) and much more plaigarism from other works of literature, most notably Lord Of The Rings, as the character of Dobby (Gollum), the incredibly British house elf, is introduced. Liberties are also taken with timeless fantasy folklore so little Harry doesn't turn to stone when he slays a basilisk, just as well too as there's several more adventures to come.
Aside from an opening sequence involving a flying car and a handful of decent performances (Julian Glover & Kenneth Branagh particularly) this suffered from a ridulously overindulgent length and is quite possibly the weakest of the series. Fans might not agree, as the adaptation crams in as much of the book as possible, but I make this point a lot when reviewing adaptations of literary works: not everything needs to be included, film and book are two completely separate mediums, and sometimes there needs to be sacrifices for the purpose of pacing.
It still made a bucket load of cash and would be more appreciated by Harry Potter fans than those who've not read the books.         
6/10

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
HARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (PG)
D: Alfonso Cuaron
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman, Chris Columbus & Mark Radcliffe)
US/UK 2004
141 mins

Fantasy

W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Michael Seresin
Ed: Steven Weisberg
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Emma Thompson (Professor Sybil Trelawney), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew)

A switch of director makes a great deal of difference as Alfonso Cuaron takes over the duties from Chris Columbus, presenting a much more gothic vision of Rowling's books with some much sharper visual effects, cinematography and production design.
Many comparisons are still made between Harry Potter & Lord Of The Rings with the Whooping Willow a substitute for Treebeard (as well as The Dementors/Nazgul, Hippogriff/Giant Eagles, Arogog/Shelob) but it's not much of a surprise anymore since it was clear from the first book/film that J. K. Rowling is the biggest magpie in the history of literature.
The performances from the main trio of young actors were the weakest performances in the previous films, and while there's some improvement as the series goes on, they're still the weakest link as far as acting is concerned but, in all fairness, they are acting beside legends of the screen like Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, et al.
This is arguably the best of the Potter films though because of it's stronger, more adult and less predictable storyline, as well as some cutting edge visual effects (aside from the ghastly CGI werewolf. Ugh!)
7/10

Daniel RadcliHarry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Daniel RadcliHarry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
HARRY POTTER & THE GOBLET OF FIRE (PG)
D: Mike Newell
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2005
157 mins

Fantasy

W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Roger Pratt
Ed: Mick Audsley
Mus: Patrick Doyle
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Jany Temime

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew)

Harry Potter's fourth term at Hogwarts includes his competing in The Goblet Of Fire tournament (kind of like sports day to us muggles) and an impending school prom (which is more America-centric than in previous stories).
Like The Chamber Of Secrets, The Goblet Of Fire is mere filler in-between two more superior installments. 
Everything that made Prisoner Of Azkaban so enjoyable is lacking here, possibly because of another switch of directors, despite Alfonso Cuaron doing such a great job with the previous film.
The shortcomings can't all be pinned on the new director though, as the writing reverts back to the same predictable formula like an episode of Scooby Doo.
It's overlong, unbelievably dull and the sexual innuendos were both irrelevant and completely unnecessary. Just stick to the magic and adventure instead of bringing teen angst and puberty into the mix. The cheesy Jarvis Cocker songs should've been left out too.
Of course, fans of the books and the previous movies will love this, but in my opinion, J. K. Rowling had serious pound signs in her eyes when she wrote this one.
On the plus side, it sets up the fifth film quite nicely.
6/10

Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire
Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire
HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (PG)
D: David Yates
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman & David Barron)
US/UK 2007
138 mins
 
Fantasy
 
W: Michael Goldenberg [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Slawomir Idziak
Ed: Mark Day
Mus: Nicholas Hooper
PD: Stuart Craig
 
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham-Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Emma Thompson (Sybill Trelawny)
 
I do try to enjoy the Harry Potter films, but I just don't take to them the way fans of the books do.  This is an improvement on The Goblet Of Fire with an almost 1984-style theme to it and introduces the character of Hyacinth Bucket, I mean Dolores Umbridge, a right odious bitch who takes Hogwart's school under her stifling control.  I really wanted her to meet with a sticky end but had to remind myself that this is a children's film and it was highly unlikely.
The tone of the Harry Potter films get darker with each progressive film but unfortunately that doesn't always make the special effects look any better. Some of the CGI looked rough, unfinished and quite unprofessional and many scenes were hard to make out since director David Yates seemed obsessed with taking the dark material literally and the majority of the film takes place in dark corners, halls and shadows. I also had a bit of a beef with some of the better characters being limited to cameo appearances, but I suppose the nature of adaptation meant most of the book was cut out to keep pace.  I'd have prefered if Alfonso Cuaron stayed on as director after Prisoner Of Azkaban, my personal favourite of the series.
6/10

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
HARRY POTTER & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (PG)
D: David Yates
Warner Bros./Heyday (David Heyman & David Barron)
US/UK 2009
153 mins
 
Fantasy
 
W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Bruno Delbonnel
Ed: Mark Day
Mus: Nicholas Hooper
PD: Stuart Craig
 
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort)
 
The schoolboy wizard, whose wand gets bigger in each progressing film (filth!), and his group of friends, now fully into their teenage years, begin to hatch a plan to thwart the evil Lord Voldemort. 
My personal interest in the Harry Potter universe wanes with each and every film, I'm simply not a fan. I really did enjoy the first film & The  Prisoner Of Azkaban though, the others I just don't see what the appeal is, perhaps it's merely an age or generational thing.
That being said, these movies are completely critic proof. If you're a fan of the books or simply the other Harry Potter films, then you will most probably enjoy it. It's very well made from a production standpoint and is a good example of how British cinema has grown over the past 20 years, it's also immensely popular amongst the vast fanbase, despite the books being written by the biggest magpie in the history of literature (harsh, but fair).
6/10

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince