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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The sixth of the Harry Potter films, 'Half-Blood Prince' continues the series' slow spiral into ever-darker magical terrain. As expected the three friends (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are older and their priorities have changed. For example, the movie begins with Harry reading in a subway cafe, effortlessly flirting with a buxom waitress. She asks him to wait for her to get off work, and waits -- only to be magically whisked away by Dumbledore on urgent business related to the series' principal antagonist, Voldemort.

This time around the plot revolves around a new professor at the magical school called Hogwart's. The new professor, Horace Slughorn, is a frumpy ladder-climber who lusts to bump elbows with the famous and up-and-coming -- maintaining a trophy wall of photos of his past students who have gone on to greatness. Dumbeldore enlists Harry's help to convince Slughorn to teach at Hogwarts again and to tease from Slughorn a memory of a former student. Dumbledore keeps important memories about Voldemort in little glass vials, reviewing them in a magic pool of water.

The elder wizard is certain Slughorn possesses a memory crucial to defeating Voldemort. It seems that one of Slughorn's former students, Tom Riddle, went on to become Voldemort. It's up to Harry to convince Slughorn to share his memory of Riddle with Dumbledore.

Meanwhile, the main characters continue to develop. Ron becomes the goalie of the quidditch team and gets a girlfriend named Lavendar, causing Hermione (who loves Ron) considerable anguish. Draco Malfoy, the rich ne'er-do-well bully from the previous films has fallen on hard times -- his father has been sent to the magical prison called Azkaban for being in league with Voldemort. Professor Snape (played with perfect severity by Alan Rickman) is working for Voldemort and has given a magical oath to protect Malfoy at all costs and help him complete a 'mission' of some sort.

Harry also finds a mysterious used textbook with notations in the margins, containing a page declaring that it is the property of 'the half-blood prince'. The book teaches Harry new (and deadlier) spells, and helps him ace his potion-brewing class.

'Half-Blood Prince' seems to be setting up audiences for the final film -- we learn more about who Voldemort is and was, the magical sequences become deadlier and scarier (including a very scary cursing of a fellow student) and the sense of impending doom is ramped up considerably. Director David Yates keeps the action moving along nicely -- audiences probably won't realize that the movie is nearly three hours long.

Compared to the previous Harry Potter films, Half-Blood Prince has more action and less high school drama -- although what drama is outlined is hysterically funny at times and more engaging for adults.

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