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HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE

SYNOPSIS:
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in his sixth year at Hogwarts, a year in which a war of wizards is raging around him - a war in which he must eventually either win or die. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) takes it upon himself to show Harry an incomplete history of ex Hogwart student then known as Tom Riddle and in doing so discloses the secret to the Dark Lord's immortality. Meanwhile, Harry has discovered a battered potions textbook, filled with the notes of a wizard calling himself the 'Half-Blood Prince'. Against Hermione's (Emma Watson) warnings, he begins to rely on the book, and the spells in it... The war goes on as Dumbledore and Harry make a journey to try and find a way to stop the Dark Lord; but the battle explodes onto the home front with tragic results. The beginning of the end has come.

Review by Louise Keller:
If the devil is in the detail, then J. K. Rowling must be on first name terms with the devil. This 6th installment of the Harry Potter franchise is dark and brooding while the intricate detail of this fantasy world is as extraordinary as ever. Memories and dark magic make up the mainstay of the story, while infatuation and love's keen sting leaves its mark both sweetly and comically. However, the film is definitely not for young kids with its dark themes and complex plots. In many ways, it is as though the latest adventure is intended for an older audience: the fans that have grown up alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. It needs patience to keep abreast of the complicated storyline (and the 153 minute running time) and at times I wondered whether we really need yet another game of Quidditch. But the film, under the directing wizard wand of David Yates looks fabulous with superb production design, wondrous visual effects and moody lighting.

There is less differentiation between the real world and that of Hogwarts this time, and screenwriter Steve Kloves, who wrote five of the six screenplays, deftly marries the realities with the ease that the characters flit from one to the other. There are some plot holes, though. We are reminded of Hogwarts' defining dining hall with its distinguishing floating candles, the photo frames with the images that move within as well as the familiar characters, like Michael Gambon's Dumbledore and Alan Rickman's memorable Professor Severus Snape, who seems to spit out his words as if they are snakes. Jim Broadbent's Professor Horace Slughorn (who we first meet disguised as an armchair) is marvellous as the new potions teacher: Broadbent allows his facial expressions to convey boyish enthusiasm and worldly despair all at once. Helena Bonham Carter is a knockout as the wild-haired Bellatrix Lestrange, who is very strange indeed.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have grown with their roles and here, each of their characters suffers the pangs of infatuation. The scene when Harry and Ron are sharing confidences as they lie in bed at night, is quite endearing (as though it is girls' skin that is the first thing infatuated teens notice about an attractive girl). Hermione is smitten by Ron, but of course Ron has eyes for Lavender (Jessie Cave), and Harry has a thing for Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright)... Ah the games of love.

There are more serious things however, when Snape takes an unbreakable vow to protect Tom Felton's Malfoy. Harry is given greater responsibility by Dumbledore and the scene involving water, fire and skeletons is the film's most spectacular. Less spectacular is the ending, which will disappoint many. It would be difficult for anyone new to the Potter film series to keep up with everything, but for the die-hard fans, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince will no doubt be a princely addition.

Review by Andrew L. Urban
Liquefied memories stored in phials for ready access are the most audacious and interesting wizardy invention in the sixth Harry Potter film, memories that are key to the immortality of the Dark Lord. But donít get overexcited, this isnít the final HP film and that climax is not due yet. Indeed, the end of this movie is something of anti-climax, a muted affair that doesnít provide the appropriate payoff for our cinematic investment. After two and a half hours, we deserve a big finish, maybe as big as the opening, which is a dazzling sequence of Death Eaters causing mayhem and havoc in London.

With swirling thunder clouds and music cues that foreshadow shock and awe, itís an ominous start to what turns out to be a less then riveting story. Or rather, a story that is stretched too thin and told with too many fillers Ė hence the 153 minute run time.

Complicating the lives of our heroic trio are teenage crushes that cause much emotional mayhem, striking all three youngsters. There are always potions, of course, but you have to be careful or youíll end up making eyes at the wrong target. Here, the filmmakers adjust the tone for comedy, but itís the kind you find in a sitcom and feels like a crunching gear change. Sadly, none of the budding romances and triangulations ring true, which rather waters down their impact. A bit like the magic, which has been gradually replaced by what seems more like superpowers and less interesting as the serial goes on.

Fans will be pleased to learn that all the familiar elements are in place, from the funky little gizmos and wizard tricks to two quick games of fast flying Quidditch and the bigger magic that enables Michael Gambonís Dumbledore, for instance, to teleport himself with Harry on his arm from place to place. (Except when he most desperately needs this power, of course.) Thereís less attention to clarity of story, though, which moves on square wheels as Harryís adversaries crowd around him. The effects are mostly magical, but for the giant (dead) spider that looks like a stuffed prize from a shooting gallery. It takes centre stage in a Ďwhatís this aboutí scene that has escaped the editor.

Of course, this is just the prelude to the two part finale; Dumbledore even prepares us for a hairy Potter when he tells Harry he should shave.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

HARRY POTTER SPLASH PAGE

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (M)
(UK/US, 2009)

CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, Timothy Spall, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Gemma Jones, Bonnie Wright, Oliver Phelps, James Phelps, Tom Felton,

PRODUCER: David Barron, David Heyman

DIRECTOR: David Yates

SCRIPT: Steve Kloves (book by J.K. Rowling)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brune Delbonnel

EDITOR: Mark Day

MUSIC: Nicholas Hooper

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Craig

RUNNING TIME: 153 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 16, 2009







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