Quick movie review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" 

This edition of the J.K. Rowling adaptations franchise has the requisite number of fantastic images, but feels stripped down in an efficient way -- the grand conclusion of the whole saga is but one book (that will be split into two movies) away and this plays like a major transition piece dealing with a number of individual transitions along the way. Although there are no cliffhangers, the stage is clearly being set for something very, very big. And dark. But the ominous tone is balanced with romance and some lighter moments. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is minutes away from scoring a date with a comely young lass when Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) pops up with a mission involving retired potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent). Harry soon reunites with best pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson). That smug little blond-haired prick Draco (Tom Felton) is back as well -- now he's taller and more gaunt, looking like a young Jonathan Pryce. Also in attendance is the usual group of grand British actors, with Alan Rickman as Snape receiving more time in the spotlight, and Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham Carter getting the short-shrift. 153 minutes.

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