Like THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, this cinematic franchise has resonated with both fans of the J.K. Rowling books and “muggles” like myself who’ve just seen the movies. Technically, the films have always been of a higher caliber beginning with Stuart Craig’s detailed production and set design along with Alexandre Desplat’s effective musical score. All those are present in this penultimate installment which is also the beneficiary of some nifty camera work from cinematographer Eduardo Serra. Unlike some of the previous Potter films which left out some sequences in the interest of brevity, Steve Kloves’s screenplay has two movies to flesh out everything from the last book and he’s more than willing to linger over various scenes. Whether it’s to give audiences the chance for a long goodbye or to milk this series for every last dollar that can be squeezed from it, this particular entry is more deliberately paced in the same way that a baseball game gets played without a clock. It’s slightly overlong with the romantic storylines feeling as if they’re an awkward afterthought and I was disappointed that the villains, led by the Dark Lord Valdemort (Ralph Fiennes), didn’t get nearly enough screen time unlike all the distinguished British actors who’ve appeared in previous works that get trotted out for what seems like an obligatory curtain call. But the three main characters (Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson) still manage to carry this film on their now grown-up shoulders with unexpected help from house elf Dobby who gives this movie its emotional impact. The bottom line, though, with any movie in two parts is whether the first one made you want to see the second one. My answer to that question is an unequivocal “yes.” CRITIC’S GRADE: B

MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN DECEMBER: BLACK SWAN (December 3), THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (December 10), THE FIGHTER (December 10), FRANKIE & ALICE (December 10), THE TOURIST (December 10), HOW DO YOU KNOW (December 17), RABBIT HOLE (December 17), TRON: LEGACY (December 17), YOGI BEAR (December 17), COUNTRY STRONG (December 22), GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (December 22), LITTLE FOCKERS (December 22), TRUE GRIT (December 22), BLUE VALENTINE (December 31)