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Out of the last three big releases Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the first to make it to cinemas here (the other two being Nania and King Kong). These three films mark the end of what,in my opinion, has been a quite remarkable year as far as movie releases are concerned.

Over the last 12 months we’ve been visited by the undead, taken a trip to Sin City, seen how fantastic Jessica Alba is, been to hell and back with Keanue, seen one of them star wars films and saved the world from War while Tom Cruse jumped on Oprah’s couch.

So, what can a little spectacled nerd hope to achieve against competition like that? No, I meant Potter – sheesh, don’t be so sensitive!

I have to be honest and say up front that it’s taken me this long to get to the point where I can even appreciate, let alone enjoy the Harry Potter stories. My girlfriend is a fan and has dragged me along to all of the previous movies during their time in the cinema and then, once again, inflicted them upon me when they emerged on DVD. I endured the first two films (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) – I swear that damn ‘Dobby’ thing nearly had me liking Jar Jar… I said NEARLY! – and was prepared to have spent another 2 hours filling a seat when the little woman insisted that we see the third in the series (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). However when the end credits began to roll on that film I came away a changed man. Yes, I still take the movies with a grain of salt and I wasn’t breaking my neck to get into the cinema to see this latest release (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), but i had become obvious that the Potter stories where managing to mature along with the cast of the film.

Too often series or characters (particularly young ones) suffer from a perpetual childhood or adolescence. Their initial audience tends to outgrow them and, while they may collect new fans along the way, they inevitably run out of steam. The author of the Potter books (J.K Rowlings) appears to be acutely aware of this and each progressive story in the series has ‘aged’ accordingly and, as you’ve no doubt already heard, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the darkest and most frightening of the stories thus far.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) along with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), return Hogwarts to learn that their school will be hosting a prestigious and dangerous tournament: The Tri-Wizard cup. Due to the dangerous nature of the competition it is decreed that no student under the age of seventeen will be allowed to compete – however it’s soon discovered that shenanigans are afoot when Harry name is announced at the fourth competitor in what should be a three person tournament.

There are some new characters introduced in this latest story from the Potter series: Most notably Alastor ‘Mad Eye’ Moody (Brendan Gleeson) the new teacher for defence against the dark arts and Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) a nosey journalist who is intent on sensationalising everything about Harry and his involvement with the tournament. One thing that struck me almost immediately about this latest film is that all of the characters, even the dislikable ones (like the underused Alan Rickman as Severus Snape), are far more appealing in this movie. Perhaps it’s the familiarity that comes with having such a solid and consistent cast over the course of 4 movies, but all of the characters seem to have more meat and believability to them this time around. Or perhaps some of that credit should go to first time Potter director Mike Newell (Pushing Tin, Four Weddings and a Funeral).

It’s hard to know where Newell’s influence on this film begins and where Rolwing’s character and story growth leaves off. But, given Newell’s background he has to be handed a large dose of the credit for the look and over all more mature tone that this carries.

Along with this more mature attitude Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire brings with it some of the best special effects this side of anything involving Peter Jackson. And because we all wait for Jackson’s King Kong to hit cinemas and have just been spoilt by the last 12 months worth of SFX riddled movies, it’s most likely that The Goblet of Fire will be a little over looked when discussing this area of recent films, however the sequences which involve a large reptile like creature clambering across the rooftops of Hogwarts are simply stunning.

The past year has been something of a bonanza for film fans and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the few remaining big names to hit the screen before we cross into 2006 (Only Kong and Nania remain with any name power) and Goblet of Fire doesn’t disappoint, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that this movie actually does the series the great service of bringing a sense of future to the franchise. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter then you wont be disappointed by this movie. However if, like me, you’ve found the previous movies to be only mildly entertaining you should be in for a treat with this one.

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