Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

At this point, the saga of everyone's favorite boy wizard feels like it's on autopilot - but that's okay. David Yates, helming the second half of the eight Potter features, may lack the personal vision that Alfonso CuarĂ³n and Mike Newell brought to their installments, but he's a smart guy who knows why audiences keep coming back: It's the cast, J. K. Rowling's story, and the special effects, stupid! So Yates directs his actors well, keeps the story center stage, and lets his effects crews pull out all the stops. End result: A string of satisfying if not particularly distinctive Potter movies.

Although I have never read any of the books, including this final one, I laud the decision to split Deathly Hallows into two separate films. The pacing can get a little slow in Part 1 - a good deal of time is spent with Harry and his friends hiding out and not knowing what to do - but I think they add to the richness of the characters and are much less boring to watch than magic wand battles or Quidditch matches.

The extra time also lets us indulge in some of Rowling's finer details: a stunning animated sequence that explains the origins of the Deathly Hallows is the best thing in the film. And as this is the first installment to take place completely outside of Hogwart's, the extensive location filming provides a breath of fresh air.

I don't need to go on, as nothing I could write here would convince anybody to change their mind about the movie. I'll just state for the record that I enjoyed it just fine and that I look forward to the conclusion. Needless to say, those who haven't followed the Harry Potter saga very closely will be totally lost.