Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. A-

It's dark, gloomy, foreboding and it's one of the best movies of the year. The Harry Potter series continues to amaze me because it does two things: one, it creates satisfaction for the serious fans of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, and two, it gives serious fans of true cinema something to take in and appreciate. Since I happen to fit into both of the aforementioned categories, then there is no doubt that I was absolutely delighted by this wonderful movie, which lives up to the tradition of the previous Potter films, and then some. The director is David Yates, who also did 'The Order of the Phoenix,' which was solid, but not as good as this. There is dark presence throughout the movie, but screenwriter Steve Kloves, back from his Harry Potter hiatus, manages to weave enough humor into the story to keep people from getting too depressed. Yes, like 'The Empire Strikes Back,' (to which HP6 has been compared) this isn't exactly a happy movie. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all return, and as the series progresses, these actors seem to be growing more and more comfortable with their roles. Radcliffe particularly seemed less frigid than he did in the last film. But as good as the trio was in the movie, they're still not the bright spot. I think the performances that I'll remember the most belong to three terrific British actors, all of whom make it hard to tell where their loyalties truly lie. They are Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, and the newcomer, Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. Felton to me has true acting abilities, more so even than Radcliffe, Watson, or Grint. Rickman has always been great, but as his character becomes more involved, we get more of a sense as to how talented he really is. Then there's Broadbent as Slughorn, my favorite character in the movie. Broadbent, who brings his veteran experience to the table, turns Slughorn into a truly wonderful character, sympathetic, despite his flaws. 'The Half Blood Prince' is also a stunningly well-made motion picture. This is a result of Yates' superb direction, Stuart Craig's production design, newcomer Bruno Delbonnel's impeccable cinematography, Mark Day's editing job, and senior art director's Andrew Ackland-Snow's art direction. I also loved Nicholas Hooper's score. If you have the soundtrack, make sure to listen to the beautiful piece entitled 'When Ginny Kissed Harry.' On the downside of the film, I was a little disappointed with Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore. Gambon is a great actor and I wish nothing against him, but I didn't really feel for him as I think I would have if Richard Harris still had the role. But overall, I loved this movie. It's the second best in the series, behind only the timeless 'Prisoner of Azkaban.' Note-if you have never read the books, I advise that you stay away from the movie, because otherwise you will be utterly confused.

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