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Posted: July 22, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Six films in, Potter movies still magical

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A person's reaction to "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" will depend largely on how devoted they are to J.K. Rowling's novel on which it is based. Those who believe any cuts from book to screen are a sacrilege will be largely disappointed. Unfortunately for those fans, studios are not in the habit of making eight hour blockbusters. But for everyone else, the sixth entry into the Potter franchise presents the darkest and most compelling entry to date.

As Harry enters his sixth year at Hogwarts, the wizarding world is in a state of fear after Lord Voldemort's public return. The school now has to be constantly protected against advances from the Dark Lord's Death Eaters while students attempt to focus on more normal matters like school work, quidditch tryouts and, of course, the opposite sex. While Harry learns of Voldemort's past with Dumbledore's help, he must also come to terms with some very adult feelings towards his best friend's sister, Ginny.

More so than any previous entry, "Prince" effectively explores Harry, Ron and Hermione's progression from children to adults. While they have always faced very dangerous challenges, the trio must now confront something potentially far more painful: love. This leads to some of the hysterical situations, particularly between Ron and his very affectionate girlfriend, Lavender Brown. The more adult situations also provide a chance the showcase the core group of young actors' talent. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have transformed from children just reading their lines to fine young actors who can carry a summer film.

After a so-so first effort with "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," director David Yates produces what can only be described as the best looking Potter film to date. Hogwarts is beautifully realized and, for the first time, a quidditch match seemed like a legitimate sport instead of an excuse to show kids flying on brooms.

While there are several scenes missing from the book that maybe should have been left in, particularly the final chapter, Yates is able to effectively translate the core of the story. Anyone looking for a good story, superb acting and pristine special effects would do well to check this one out.

"Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" is rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality. It has a running time of 153 minutes.

GRADE B+

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