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

Genre(s): Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
Warner Brothers || PG - 153 minutes - $35.99 || December 8, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-12-17


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: David Yates
Writer(s): J.K. Rowling (novel); Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman


Theatrical Release Date: July 15, 2009


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Maximum Movie Mode
  • Focus Points
  • 6 Featurettes
  • Additional Scenes
  • DVD Copy
  • Digital Copy
  • BD-Live


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Although not as strong of a narrative as previous outings, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is still a good entry in the sixth entry into the series that sets up for one mighty of a two-part finale set for release in 2010 and 2011.

After the events in Order of the Phoenix when things looked bleak for our intrepid Harry Potter (DANIEL RADCLIFFE) – with the Ministry of Magic targeting Dumbledore (MICHAEL GAMBON) and Potter for their warnings that Voldemort is in fact back – saw many changes for Hogwarts until they are vindicated with the witnessing of the Dark Lord’s presence. When Half-Blood Prince opens, we find that Harry is now a celebrity and the Chosen One in the wizardry world, but Voldemort and his Death Eaters grow ever so bold by even attacking in the Muggles’ world.

Meanwhile, Dumbledore enlists the help of Harry to recruit one Professor Horace Slughorn (JIM BROADBENT) to return to teach at Hogwarts because he may have important memories of interactions with Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort but he is more than reluctant to reveal them. We also find the sleazy Draco Malfoy (TOM FELTON) who, with the help of his mother and Bellatrix (HELENA BONHAM CARTER), working for Voldemort in a secret mission critical in the Dark Lord’s plans for Hogwarts while Severus Snape (ALAN RICKMAN) has pledged to protect Draco.

All through that, Harry’s best friends Ron Weasley (RUPERT GRINT) and Hermione Granger (EMMA WATSON) are growing up and a little teenage angst crops up as Ron starts dating an off-kilter chick much to Hermione’s chagrin while Harry may also find his own love interest in a close friend. Kind of “Degrassi” with wizards...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince isn’t a bad entry into the series, but I never quite got into it either. I didn’t think the narrative or plot was as fulfilling as the others (coming from a non-reader of the books) though it does set up the two-part finale. I can’t put my finger on it, as the cast is still good and the direction seemed to be right, but it didn’t really hold my attention compared with the previous entries.

However, the movie does feature some solid performances from the reliable Michael Gambon to the kids who we’ve watched grow up on screen. Plus, I’ve always found the supporting cast in the Potter films to be pretty impressive. Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall (who doesn’t even have any lines), David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane and many others make brief appearances in important roles.

Overall, I still think it’s a decent movie in a series that’s always been high in quality. Director David Yates who also made his wizardry debut with Order of the Phoenix effectively provides a dark tone to the series that will culminate with a massive battle. And after missing from the previous film, Steve Kloves makes his return as screenwriter. I felt Kloves was the missing ingredient that was missing from OotP, of course this one failed to capture my attention...

That being said, I still have high hopes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, that it will wrap the series up much in the same way Return of the King did, and yes, even with the multiple endings.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

DISC ONE:

Maximum Movie Mode – Now a staple amongst Warner’s higher profile releases, this feature allows you to watch the movie while also checking out features via picture-in-picture. Now there are some gaps but luckily you can use the right arrow on your remote control to skip to the next one or you can utilize... ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Focus Points (37:26; HD) – With this, you can take a look at individual featurettes which include: “The Millennium Bridge” (3:26), “Shooting on Location” (1:56), “Professor Slughorn” (2:48), “Building Relationships” (2:04), “Director David Yates Returns” (2:44), “Wool’s Orphanage” (2:49), “Ron and Lavender’s Kiss” (2:06), “The Burrow” (2:55), “Harry and Ginny’s Kiss” (2:03), “Aragog Returns” (2:58), “Creating the Cave” (2:28), “Designing the Virtual Cave Environment” (3:40), “The Inferi” (3:25) and “The Underwater Sequence” (2:04). These aren’t the best mini-featurettes but give you an idea on how certain scenes were shot. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

BD-Live – This is the normal portal for Warner’s online content though you do have the options of creating your own screening and check out user commentaries. On 12/12/09, there was a live screening with star Daniel Radcliffe and Producer David Barron (taking David Yates’ place as Yates came down with the flu). Like the one for The Dark Knight, this had text but thankfully they’ve added audio this time which was much, much better. Apparently this will be available on BD-Live for those who missed it. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

DISC TWO:
Close-Up with the Cast of Harry Potter (28:34; HD) – Hosts Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas) lead us on an entertaining look at the cast of Harry Potter as they explore their interests away from acting and spend a day on set with the production team. This featurette is split into 8-parts each spending time with certain members of the cast or crew (i.e. the first one shows star Daniel Radcliffe and Editor Mark Day having a conversation about film editing or Rupert Grint shows off with the stunt department). Luckily there is a Play All option so you can watch them all without stopping.

One-Minute Drills (6:45; HD) – Each cast member has 60 seconds to describe his or her character’s personality, history, relationships and other traits before time runs out. If you want a Cliff’s Notes on each character, this is the featurette for you...

First Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (1:50; HD) – Fans will surely rejoice upon seeing this footage for the final Harry Potter movie. After some comments from the director and producer (within behind-the-scenes footage), there is about 44 seconds of footage to tease the fans.

J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life (49:46; HD) – A look into the life of J.K. Rowling over the last year of writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Just to note, an advisory beforehand states that it reveals information on important story points which occur in the final book. This was actually a well filmed look at the author, her life and the process of writing the novel.

What’s on Your Mind? (6:43) – Hosted by Tom Felton, the cast is put on the spot when asked a series of rapid-fire questions on their likes and dislikes. I’m sure some fans will take notes to update these actors’ Wikipedia pages.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (11:40) – This is an “inside look” at the amazing world of magic and excitement being created at Universal Orlando Resort. The Resort is building the Harry Potter theme park where visitors are able to experience what we’ve seen in the movies or read in the books. Most of it is just concept art of what it will look like, though I think I saw some pictures crop up online of Hogwarts.

Next up are some Additional Footage (6:51), 8 to be exact, that I imagine will make it into an extended version when Warner releases the film as an “Ultimate Edition” in a couple years probably. The scenes themselves aren’t great and a few are extended from what was already in the film.

DISC THREE contains a DVD Copy which is nice if you have kids and want to take the movie on the road.

Also in the set is a download link and code for a digital copy of the film.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Presented in 1080/24p high-definition with a 2.40 aspect ratio, Harry Potter looks almost fantastic, I say almost because I did notice some pixilation during the darker scenes especially towards the end. Pixilation aside, black levels looked very nice while detail levels on the faces and objects were well defined; even during the opening I noticed no signs of banding, just a smooth transition from one color range to another.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is also impressive with strong dialogue levels coming from the center channels and the audio effects making use of both front and rear channels. There was a certain depth to the audio and it made for an enjoyable home theater experience, you will not be disappointed.



.::OVERALL::.

While Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince didn’t quite grab me compared to a few of its predecessors, it’s still an entertaining entry leading way to what should be an intense two-part finale. The Blu-ray contains some nice features – not up to expectations for a blockbuster, but decent enough – and the video/audio transfers are both fantastic. And for families, getting the DVD in there too makes this for a tempting purchase and it is well worth it.