‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
Love potions, common-room snogging, adolescent heartbreak. As young-adult adventures go, the sixth book in the Harry Potter series is awfully light on the adventure.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) give their most charming performances to date. Ron is particularly funny under the addling effects of a love potion, and Hermione is sad and sweet in a moment of romantic disillusionment.
All of which is to say that the film, with its romantic triangle (square? pentagon?), its gorgeous production design and its bang-up final action sequence, might be the most enjoyable Harry Potter movie yet for people who don’t particularly care about Potter movies. (2:33; PG for scary images, violence, language and mild sensuality)
‘Julie & Julia’
Two movies battle for pride of place in Nora Ephron’s adaptation of memoirs by blogger Julie Powell and culinary legend Julia Child.
Either way, Powell’s whiny, sad-sack self-absorption is no match for Child’s spirit, strength of character and joie de vivre, a fact made painfully clear in a movie that soars whenever Child (Meryl Streep) is on the screen and sags when Powell (Amy Adams) shows up.
Intercut with Child’s inspiring story is the insipid modern-day tale of how Powell blogs for a year about cooking recipes from Child’s seminal book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” a project that will result in fame, a book contract and a movie deal.
Ephron strenuously tries to draw parallels between her protagonists’ struggles, but it’s no use. (1:58; PG-13 for brief strong profanity and sensuality)
John Dillinger was an ugly, ruthless son of a gun, so naturally, Johnny Depp plays him as a quiet, shifty rogue who robs banks with scissorhands instead of submachine guns.
Leading the FBI manhunt is a rigid agent named Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale. Depp’s Dillinger and Bale’s Purvis are neither charming nor despicable, nor do they occupy that delicious gray area between the two.
The movie’s faint pulse comes from French actress Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”), who plays Dillinger’s girlfriend, Billie Frechette. If the fire in Cotillard’s eyes had been matched by Depp and Bale throughout, the film might’ve really popped.
Instead, for two hours and 20 minutes, it simply goes click, click, click. (2:20; R for gangster violence and language)
Also available: “AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa”; “The Cove”; “The Jerry Lewis Show Collection”; “Lost: The Complete Fifth Season”; “World’s Greatest Dad”
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