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Just as the character of Harry Potter matures during the course of the seven books that made up the J. K. Rowling series, the stories themselves also take on a maturity of their own, and with it, a darker, more adult tone. As a motion picture, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE ($36) is the most mature of the bunch, as well as being the most complex, emotionally rich and certainly darkest film of the movie franchise released thus far. Comparisons to the book are rather pointless, because as the movie series has grown, it has become less and less slavish in following the books’ explicit details, which translates to better, and certainly more cinematic film versions. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE that finds a number of its characters being moved about like they were on a chessboard and facing destinies that are being chosen by others. Over the course of the film, loyalties are questioned; tested and betrayed- heroes emerge as villains… while villains emerge as tragic figures.

The plot of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE finds Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in his sixth year at Hogwarts’ School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, along with best friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)…and if you are just tuning in, things are looking fairly grim. Outside Hogwarts, the Wizarding World stands at the brink, as the Ministry of Magic is unable to contain Lord Voldemort’s followers, who wreak havoc everywhere they go. Inside Hogwarts, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) sets a task before Harry- use his celebrity to charm the new Potions master Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), whose mind contains a memory, which may be the very key to stopping The Dark Lord forever.

However, as our hero tries to gain access to the critical memory, there is an unbeknownst danger that lurks inside the walls of Hogwarts… and it comes in the form of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), whom Lord Voldemort has tasked with a secret mission. Of course, this Hogwarts based skullduggery occurs in the midst of teen angst, unrequited love and the student body’s favorite pastime- snogging. Oh yes… as for The Half-Blood Prince of the film’s title, lets just say that he was the former owner of a used textbook, one which gives Harry an unbelievable proficiency in his potions class. The marvelous cast of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE also features also features Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Wright, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, David Thewlis, Natalia Tena, Helena Bonham Carter, Dave Legeno, Timothy Spall, Helen McCrory, Jessie Cave, Evanna Lynch, Matthew Lewis, Alfie Enoch, Devon Murray, William Melling, Warwick Davis, David Bradley, Gemma Jones, Frank Dillane and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin.

Warner Home Video has made HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is a dark, dark, dark movie that is phenomenally well rendered, thanks to a marvelous 1080p presentation. Despite so much darkness during the course of the movie, image sharpness, clarity and dimensionality all remain generally excellent. Additionally, fine detail and texturing score very highly, especially in this context. Given the nature of the material, colors look appropriate and tend to be quite subdued. Flesh tones always look correct for a group of characters that reside in this fairly dreary climate. Blacks are pitch perfect and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast has been given an occasional push, while shadow details are pretty much first rate. The elements from which HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE has been mastered are free from flaws. A modest veneer of grain is ever-present, which maintains the organic quality of this excellent presentation.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. I have to say that this is one of the best sounding tracks that I have had the recent pleasure of listening to. However, that pleasure does not for the raucous qualities of the bigger action set pieces. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE typifies the best qualities of what happens when a sound designer takes full advantage the discrete nature of modern soundtracks, then applies his craft with a great deal of subtlety and nuance. Sonically, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is like a painted canvas where small little strokes bring the subject to life, unlike when one just slathers on the paint with a trowel. Of course, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE also sounds marvelous during the bigger action set pieces… at which time sounds swirl and explode throughout the soundstage. The lossless encode really enhances Nicholas Hooper’s moving score, as well as giving the sound effects a truly convincing quality. Dialogue reproduction is natural and fully intelligible. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across this set. Disc one starts off with Warner Brothers immersive Maximum Movie Mode, which offers viewers an enhanced version of the film with picture-in-picture pop up windows that contain, interviews, scene relevant ancillary programs, as well as animatics, special effects breakdowns, production stills, scene comparisons and concept art (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Programs from the Maximum Movie Mode are also available to view independently as a series of Focus Points.

On disc two, one will find Featurettes and other programs include the following: Close-Up With The Cast Of Harry Potter (twenty nine minutes), One-Minute Drills (seven minutes), First Footage From The Deathly Hallows (two minutes), J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life (fifty minutes), What's On Your Mind? (seven minutes) and The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter (twelve minutes). Seven minutes of Additional Footage closes out the standard supplements. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Disc three offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray. An authorization code is provided for a Digital Copy of the film, which is just a download away.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is definitely one of the best, if not the best of all cinematic adaptations of the J. K. Rowling book series. The Blu-ray presentation is absolutely top of the line in terms of both the video and audio. Absolutely recommended.



Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (+ BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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