| The sixth movie in the series based on the penultimate book by J.K. Rowling brings the legions of loyal and devoted fans another captivating story that will leave everyone yearning for more.
After waiting eight extra months since the release was pushed back from last November, moviegoers will find this installment of the fantasy adventure to be the darkest and most serious in the blockbuster franchise.
The bad guys known as the Death Eaters spread mass destruction and death to the civilized world and drain away hope and happiness. Storm clouds and a grim mood portend the coming of evil.
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), now age 16, has become a leader and accepts the fact that he is the Chosen One. Harry's mentor and beloved headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), takes Harry along on a recruiting trip to bring back old friend and colleague Horace Slughorn (Oscar nominee Jim Broadbent from "Moulin Rouge!" and "Topsy-Turvy") to the Hogwarts faculty.
Dumbledore believes Slughorn possesses vital information about his former student, Tom Riddle, who later became Lord Voldemort.
Harry enrolls in Slughorn's class in an attempt to get close to him and become his favorite student. Harry grabs a used Advanced Potion-Making textbook from a cabinet in the classroom. The inside page bears the inscription, "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince." The textbook contains notes and spells in the margins from this mysterious figure.
Things get a bit dicey for those in the audience who have not read Rowling's novel, since new concepts and terms are introduced. A device called a Pensieve allows vials of bottled memories to be revisited in the present. These recollections are shown in flashbacks and offer clues as to how Voldemort became the most dangerous evil wizard of all time.
The restricted section of the library contains books about a rare form of magic known as Horcrux. It makes a person immortal because it allows for the soul to be split into pieces and concealed in ordinary objects referred to as "horcruxes." By gathering them up, the person's spirit can either be resurrected or destroyed.
Besides setting the stage for the final confrontation of good versus evil, the movie covers the raging adolescent hormones of typical teenagers. The students, now in their junior year of high school, are attracted to the opposite sex. The entire student body can't seem to keep their hands to themselves. The pleasures of flirting and making out become more popular than recess.
Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) has her cap set for Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). She gives him a lot of attention and they become a romantic item. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) silently sulks and confides in Harry about her feelings of jealousy and heartbreak. She believes that Ron will end up in her arms and that they will share a future together. Harry is also smitten by Cupid's arrow. He tells Ron that Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Ron's younger sister, has nice skin to go along with being smart, funny and attractive.
Surprises await regarding which couples will be sharing passionate kisses.
The funniest scene in the movie occurs when Ron devours a box of love-potion-laced chocolates intended for his roommate Harry.
Besides being the captain of the Quidditch team, Harry keeps his eyes on the secretive maneuvers of his villainous rival Draco Malfoy (Tom Fenton), who is central to a nefarious mission involving vanishing cabinets. The color is drained from Malfoy's scenes to alert the audience to the presence of an all-consuming evil.
Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) becomes a pivotal figure who can't be trusted after he makes an unbreakable vow. Maggie Smith (as Professor Minerva McGonagall), Robbie Coltrane (as Hagrid), Helena Bonham Carter (as Bellatrix Lestrange) and Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood) return in small supporting roles.
Radcliffe, Grint and Watson appear in a number of scenes together. The winning camaraderie of this famous trio adds luster to the shower of favoritism bestowed upon them by the audience. They appear to be much more confident and self-assured in their respective roles. They seem like family, having grown up before our eyes over the past eight years.
Gambon, Broadbent and Rickman display their superlative acting chops among the veteran adult cast members. They each get big moments to shine in the spotlight.
The impressive sets, production design and special effects are once again worthy of awards recognition. The film looks fantastic, with gorgeous eye candy throughout provided by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel ("Across the Universe," "A Very Long Engagement" and "Amelie"). Composer Nicholas Hooper has provided a fantastic musical score that perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of whatever is taking place on screen at any moment.
Director David Yates makes a triumphant return at the helm of this project along with original screenwriter Steve Kloves, who took a break from the series in the last movie.
This latest adaptation, which condenses the 652-page novel, does have a few drawbacks. Some of the dialogue is hard to understand because of the British accents and the use of slang terms. The movie is way too long with a running time of over 2½ hours. The pacing is slow at times. The editing process could have easily left on the cutting room floor about 30 minutes of unnecessary padding without altering the main storyline. The romantic entanglements seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things with too much time devoted to an ice cream social and a Christmas party hosted by Slughorn.
Parents with younger children should be aware of one frightening scene when a hand comes out of the water and grabs Harry. This may cause nightmares to impressionable youngsters.
The bottom line is, you can't get off the Hogwarts express train now, because there are more groundbreaking revelations and magic tricks up the sleeves of this franchise in the final two installments. The IMAX version has been delayed due to contractual restrictions, but will be available in Johnson County exclusively at AMC Studio 30 beginning July 29.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"