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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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#1 Steve McBride

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:32 AM

Saw the movie at midnight. Being someone who read all of the books when they came out I was a little disappointed by the story and what they were able to put into the film. I was shocked to see that it was only about two hours and twenty minutes, I thought they would of tried to squeeze a bit more into it and extend it to closer to three hours. Though I do think it worked out for the amount of stuff they put into the time.

Cinematography was great. Loved the dark feel to the entire film with the contrast given to the image. One scene that really stood out to me for excellent cinematography was the scene at the Weasley's house and they're running through the wheat field. The color was beautifully done, had a warmer and desaturated look than the rest of the film which definitely made it stand out along with the movement of the characters running through the field.

Anyone know if it's going to be in next month's AC?
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:40 AM

Saw it tonight, I thought it was shot beautifully. Loved the softness of the lighting itself, but there also appeared to be some filterage too, not sure how much of it was in front of the lens, or possibly added in post. I have a feeling it was added in post, since most of the scenes I noticed it in were also FX shots. Doesn't look like anything's gonna show up in next month's AC mag, so I'm searching for sources to find out what Delbonnel did with the images.

Now, if only good lighting made for a great film, which it isn't. It's really a bunch of book fragments thrown together to make for a beginning, middle and end of a 2.5 hr movie. Hardly anything that happens in the film is consequential to what happened in previous scenes, and many scenes which seemed key or foreshadowing to the story, ended up going nowhere. For those who have seen it (NO SPOILER HERE), was I the only one waiting for John Hurt's character the wandmaker to show up at some point?

But all in all, the film just didn't gel together storywise like most the previous HP's. Characters seemed perpetually unaffected or unconcerned, as if they were just going through the motions and emotionless...as evidenced by something Harry says to Dumbledore early in the film "At this point sir, I just tend to go along with it." No kidding.
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#3 Hampus Bystrom

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 09:29 AM

I'm going to see it tonight, looking forward to it actually. Roger Ebert gave it his infamous thumb up, and it's sitting at a pretty decent 88% at Rotten Tomatoes with at least 20 different reviews.
I mean, it's Harry Potter, it's a trying-encompass-all-generations, crowd pleaser, which shouldn't attract me. But I actually like Harry Potter, I stopped reading the books after the fifth one in, what was it, 2003, and lost interest after that one. But when the latest arrived, I thought I should catch up and read the sixth and the seventh, and I really liked the The Halfblood Prince. I thought it was dark, entertaining and quite possibly the best in the series.
So I hope the film can live up to my expectations.

Why do "blockbuster" films always have to go over the top with contrast? They always crank it up to ridiculous proportions, especially fantasy and science fiction, and it seems like this one is no exception. But I thought it worked very well with Watchmen, so it's not always a terrible choice. Anyway, I'll report back latahhh.
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#4 John Young

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 09:32 PM

I semi enjoyed this film. As a sort of fan of the HP line, I must say what distracted me the most was the score. As a Music Theory Major, I have studied John Willaims' scores and writing styles for some time. Whoever this Hooper character is, failed at life. The scenes which needed a vast musical cue were almost dead, and the scenes that didn't need anything at all had some almost romantic forte. I liked ONE cue, which appears during the dinner party scene. It was quaint, just like the scene, and helped move the dialogue along. With the establishment of the Leitmotif's of the Williams score; how DARE this Hooper character to break from the convention. Even the middle films which Williams did not score use the same idée fixe throughout the score. Harry Potter has a huge story arc, complete with recurring themes and motives. Even if one wants to write "signature" pieces to stick in the middle of a story; if 7 films use the same actors throughout, it should use the established musical themes as well. Take a hit from Opera...

Visually, I found the almost classic cinematography refreshing, and I always could see what was going on, unlike most modern action movies. I agree with the above posters in that the digital window transitions were not needed, and I LOVE the establishing and wide-almost scope shots and how they give this Potter film more of a cinematic feel.

I'll watch it again next week.
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#5 Phil Jackson

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:40 PM

I semi enjoyed this film. As a sort of fan of the HP line, I must say what distracted me the most was the score. As a Music Theory Major, I have studied John Willaims' scores and writing styles for some time. Whoever this Hooper character is, failed at life. The scenes which needed a vast musical cue were almost dead, and the scenes that didn't need anything at all had some almost romantic forte. I liked ONE cue, which appears during the dinner party scene. It was quaint, just like the scene, and helped move the dialogue along. With the establishment of the Leitmotif's of the Williams score; how DARE this Hooper character to break from the convention. Even the middle films which Williams did not score use the same idée fixe throughout the score. Harry Potter has a huge story arc, complete with recurring themes and motives. Even if one wants to write "signature" pieces to stick in the middle of a story; if 7 films use the same actors throughout, it should use the established musical themes as well. Take a hit from Opera...

Visually, I found the almost classic cinematography refreshing, and I always could see what was going on, unlike most modern action movies. I agree with the above posters in that the digital window transitions were not needed, and I LOVE the establishing and wide-almost scope shots and how they give this Potter film more of a cinematic feel.

I'll watch it again next week.


As far as the score goes Hooper is a frequent collaborator with David Yates, and though I'm sure their work together on other ventures is fine, it does not work for these films. When you have John Williams setting the tone for a franchise and then Patrick Doyle doing an admirable follow up (one of his best works even if he only sparingly used the Williams' Hedwig theme), Nicholas Hooper is a major disappointment. A de-evolution in the franchise which is unfortunately all too common. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's music for the Nolan Batmans are similarly functional but on the whole do not contribute anywhere near what Danny Elfman's famous march did for the Burton movies (and Elliot Goldenthal's subsequent spinoffs). I do know John Williams has expressed interest in returning to the franchise.

I'm actually amazed the Harry Potter series has achieved the level of basic continuity that it has over the last several films with directors ranging from Chris Columbus to Alfonso Cuaran to David Yates, but I am not sure the series has taken a turn for the better. I for one would love to see Cuaran return to the franchise.

Like so many things in the world of artistry the great ones are not defined necessarily by great work on one film here or there. Any DP operating at the major motion picture level, for the most part, has at one point or another, done work that is outstanding. Same goes for composers, editors, costume designers, production designers, etc. What sets Williams (and the DP equivalents) apart is a mastery of craft. Williams isn't a better composer because he writes catchier tunes, he's a better composer because with his writing comes a complete mastery of romanticism, jazz, post-modernism, baroque, if you listen hard enough to A.I. there's even some techno in there. The best speakers aren't those who can spit out a few flowery phrases here and there but those who have a mastery of the concept of the language. There's Ann Landers and then there is Shakespeare. The same is true for the cinematic arts. There are your run-of-the-mill DP's who put out nice looking work, and then those who are Rembrants with light and composition. The real challenge for directors and producers is allowing themselves to be exposed to, and having the good taste enough to know the difference and sometimes this means knowing when a frequent collaborator is the right man for the job and when he/she is not. (hypothetically speaking, the actual politics of filmmaking often are more constraining).

That's not to say that every project John Williams does is the right project for him, or every Janusz Kaminski project is right for him. I do however think that they have the benefit of working with a guy like Steven Spielberg who has the good sense enough to empower the people who work for him to do work that is often exceptional and more importantly coalesces well in the final product. Even if the movie itself is not that great, sometimes the exceptional craftsmanship will be enough to overcome whatever plot and screenplay weaknesses exist. Jurassic Park and the first few Harry Potter movies for example. David Yates has proven himself to be a capable director and yet I can't help but think, these films could be more.
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#6 Saul Pincus

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:16 PM

Nicholas Hooper has confirmed (in this month's issue of Film Score Monthly Online, http://www.screenarc...nline/main.cfm) that he won't return for subsequent films. And for what it's worth, this is Hooper's second crack at Harry Potter and the third film in a row (after Patrick Doyle's score for the fourth film) that has barely referenced John Williams' rich thematic architecture.
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#7 Alexander Disenhof

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 08:30 PM

Just to get back to the visuals for a second - how did they achieve the look in those memory sequences? Like mentioned before, it was a seemingly faux bleach-bypass look, but it also featured a vertical smearing and bleeding of the image. Do people think this was done entirely in post? Or maybe some of it in camera? When looking at one memory where Tom Riddle asks Horace Slughorn about Horcruxes, the fire in the background almost looks reflected into the image by glass or something.

I'm not a fan of any of the movies in general - none of them have done the books any kind of justice - but this film certainly did have a great visual style.


Alex D.
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#8 Jason Outenreath

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 03:00 PM

Do we know if this was JDC? The image was quite soft overall and it seemed the more wide open the look the more diffused it got (although the contrasty lighting and solidly dark art direction prevented it ever going mushy). The diffusion had to have been somewhat in camera, as the blacks werent as affected, but I also noticed many of the vfx sequences particularly the faux bleach bypassed flashbacks had a lot of digital dffusion and fake shutter smearing (with washy bleeding blacks and vertical highlights).


Actually, I think the opposite. Pretty much 80% of the shots required compositing, and if that was the case, using any filtration on the lens would make it immeasurably more difficult for the compositor to work. Also, its easier to make stuff look real in a composite and "cheat" when you add diffusion in post. You can get away with a lot more. From what I understand it's common practice. But I too noticed the intense diffusion present in a lot of the scenes.

That said I really liked the overall look of the film. Very impressive cinematography I thought, although the screenplay seemed to have some serious structural problems that made it feel a bit choppy visually, though to no fault of the cinematographer. It felt like a time where you want to make a cake or something, and don't have enough eggs, but too much of something else, so you just add 2 of everything and hope that it comes out right.

Edited by Jason Outenreath, 27 July 2009 - 03:03 PM.

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#9 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 06:05 PM

Hmmmm'

Not to sure what to say about this one... it left me a little cold...

I agree with Tim about the excellent blocking and framing - very interesting compositions going on.

The lighting too was amazing at times...

However, one thing I'm beginning to hate more and more in big-budget films and in recent Harry Potter films is excessive grading, for me its really getting out of hand, de-saturation, bleach-by-pass, crushed blacks all running amuck here - and all changing from scene to scene.

Of course it may just be my sensibilities, i was a big fan of Michael Seresen's embracing of nature take on it.

Story wise, its all very exciting, and not doubt this is all superior entertainment, nicely written, well acted, excellently paced but I can't help feeling its lost a sense of magic?
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 08:00 PM

I saw this today.

Great post as always Tim. I too thought the lighting, compositions, and coverage choices were great. Must have been a tough one for the focus puller, shooting at those wide stops. I enjoyed how the lighting was often source motivated and expressionistic at the same time - the first scene in Slughorn's house lit by "wand light" for example. Interesting choice to go with a very soft top-lit night exterior look for the same scene too. Lots of candle-lit interiors where the color balance was kept fairly neutral - liked the desaturated color palette. Loved how the windows were treated - the light always seemed to be coming in from the perfect angle to create separation and texture in the background, with some detail still holding outside. I agree that this film felt like anamorphic, despite being shot Super 35. I guess it comes down to the great widescreen compositions, using a limited range of focal lengths and shooting at a wide stop.

I thought they went too far with the diffusion in just one scene in Dumbledore's office, where the professor and Harry watch Slughorn's true confession (I think). Whereas the rest of the film had a very natural lens diffused look most of the time, this scene just stood out to me as looking artificial - mid tones like Harry's grey jacket suddenly had halation, and fine detail like Dumbledore's beard suddenly looked mushy except where it was in focus. I thought it might be digital diffusion, it looked like the gaussian blur photoshop overlay gone too far. It probably wouldn't have bugged me if it was consistent but I only really noticed it in this scene.

Don't know if it was just the projection masking but I noticed a lot of frames did look uncomfortably tight at the top, hairline-cropped 3 shots, etc. It was probably the projection.

SPOILERS NOW:

I don't know what happened with a lot of the digital effects, but they didn't look very real. I would guess that maybe they just weren't finished in time, but didn't they push the film's release back by 6 months at the last minute? The set extensions in the various streets/villages, the collapsing bridge, Fawkes, a lot of these just didn't hold up well. I also noticed a lack of "guts" in the practical effects, like Dumbledore's burned hand, Harry's broken nose, Malfoy's sectumsempra injury, etc. Perhaps one contributing factor was the PG rating, which they clearly shot for. The book is much more graphic in terms of gory detail, which I think does help sell the illusion of reality. I mean, it's pretty unrealistic to show a collapsing bridge with no pedestrians falling off, when just a few seconds ago it was packed with hundreds of people. I don't think it was worth pulling the punches for, given that the subject matter is way too dark for a PG film anyway. Lake full of zombies, anyone?

I have to say that the screenplay and direction were inexcusably bad, given the source material. In particular, I think two scenes at the end of the film were inexplicably ruined: one, the "lake of sleeping zombies" scene, and two, the "death scene."

In the first scene, Harry and Dumbledore, canoe out to a little island the middle of an underground lake and find a bowl full of black liquid. Upon which, Dumbledore immediate says, I must drink this potion, but it may be poisoned; if I get sick, just keep making me drink it." No mention of what makes him deduce that he must drink it, or why it's important to get rid of the liquid in the first place. So he dips his cup, drinks, then falls to his knees and moans. At which point, Harry keeps refilling the cup (in jump cuts!) and forces Dumbledore to drink it all down. Which makes me want to ask, why don't you just pour it on the ground?! But of course, I read the book, so I know the answer. The characters aren't stupid, but the filmmakers sure make them seem that way...
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#11 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 05:06 AM

I have to say that the screenplay and direction were inexcusably bad, given the source material. In particular, I think two scenes at the end of the film were inexplicably ruined: one, the "lake of sleeping zombies" scene, and two, the "death scene."


Its interesting how people who have read the books are always annoyed that details are excluded when those of us who haven't really don't care, in-fact probably relieved - otherwise it could end up a two-bathroom-trip film. I didn't really care that Dumbledore knew to drink the water, like I didn't really care that Indiana Jones knew to pull the fulcrome-release lever to stop him and his colleague being crushed - if anything the audience just puts it down to experience!

I agree with you that the 'death scene' lacked the punch it should have had, though it was better than the horrible Lord of the Rings equivalent - but that was because of an error made in story/direction wise much earlier on.

And that is: like the 4th film it broke with keeping to Harry's point of view - I think this was a grievous mistake, the whole fun of these films is that it unravels in front of the central characters eyes, its not about suspense but rather unravelling a mystery. In particular the scene where Malfoy's mother and Snape meet was not only unnecessary but actually undermined the drama and kick of the death scene. A few hints and clues scattered into the film would have been better build up.

Other annoyances for me was constantly being told about Harry's attraction to Ginnie and yet never actually seeing it for my self. Lastly was the ending, the 3rd had a great finale shot, and the following films have never tried to live up to that, they've often offered a boring landscape or something - this in particular was very weak, its intellectual connotation (almost trying to be Douglas Sirk) was obvious but i didn't want to care, because it was ultimately an under-whemling shot and the CGI was very unconvincing.
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