Not Bad. Not bad at all.
I was a late comer to Harry Potter (I saw the first two movies well before I read any of the books), and while I'll be the first to point out that they are not high art, they are definitely a jolly good romp. If I had kids I would definitely make them read them, if nothing else because they are the one true path to Satan, and much easier to read than the Necronomicon, which, to be honest, I found uninspiring and in fact rather a bore.
The problem with reading the books, though, is that you instantly start picking the movies apart, and whining miserably about the bits the movie left out. Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets are still rather pristine in my memory, but Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire are forever sullied by small annoyances: would it have killed the director to put in a scene telling us the derivation of the names Moony, Padfoot and Prongs? Or for Dumbledore to have explained why Harry and Voldemort's wands acted the way they did at the end of Goblet of Fire? One wonders why the makers haven't taken a leaf out of Peter Jackon's book and released special editions with a half hour of extra footage - is it just that HP fans are far less fanatical than Tolkienites?
On this score Order of the Phoenix comes out actually rather well. At a guess this comes down to that particular book being badly in need of a good pruning. It is by far my least favorite book being quite damned dreary and overly infected with Harry's whining teenage recalcitrance. The movie improves matters to no end, without cutting out too many important scenes. Thankfully the acting from the youngsters is also definitely improving. They also quite arfully manage to wrap up the Cho Chang affair quite nicely, even if they do depart quite spectacularly from the book.
Speaking of acting, Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood**) will be one to watch for in the future. She nails the character as delightfully disconnected from world in her own serene reality, which as a first time actor is fairly impressive. It helps that the character is one of the stand-outs from the book - and that she has a fantastic irish lilt, which could potential cover a multitude of acting evils. I've always said that if I was to be reincarnated I'd like to come back as an African-American man, because black guys just naturally look better than any other race (just think about it - old balding white guy vs old balding black guy? No freaking contest. I'll take your Sean Connery and raise you one Samual L. Jackson. Or Morgan Freeman even). In light of Evanna Lynch I'd have to say if I had to be reincarnated as a woman then I would like to come back Irish. Perhaps this is not so surprising, the Irish being the niggers of Europe - everyone has treated them like dirt, even though they're so much cooler than everyone else*.
(Of course, one would hope no God would be silly enough to reincarnate me as a woman because if you gave me two breasts of my own I'm sure as hell not going to get very much work done).
But I digress. I was slightly surprised how much Luna features in the movie - I wonder whether Rowling has told that filmmakers that she plays an important part in the final book? (for my money I reckon she and Neville hook up. And I'll put money on an outside chance that it turns out the Neville ends up killing Voldemort as well - oh come on, it fits the prophecy doesn't it?).
For more musings and predictions check out Span's thread on this.
You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Are the Smurfs anti-Semitic Communists? - Why yes, Jimmy, yes they are.
What's the fastest-acting, most lethal poison? - I only ask because out of innocent curiousity you understand ...
* ... except when it comes dancing. Sorry, dancing is at heart a mating ritual, and Irish dancing is about as sexy as a polar bear. And not one of those pretty polar bears, either. I see you people from the North American Man-Polar Bear Love Association out there in the audience. And you're all sick, sick people I tell you.
** Okay, Luna Lovegood - excellent name for a character in a book about witches and wizards? Or something you would expect as the name of a girl in a Bond movie? It's not Plenty O'Toole, but still ... what was Rowling thinking?
"You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle aged woman: Stuff you pay good money for in later life." - Emo Philips