Who's In It: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, David Thewlis
The Basics: Some really bad stuff is about to go down for the wizard kids because freaky skull shapes are appearing in black storm clouds, Hogwarts students are being tossed around like rag dolls in the snow thanks to a mysterious curse, Draco Malfoy lurks around the school like he's practicing for his advanced skulking class (why doesn't some professor ask that kid for his hall pass, anyway?), Dumbledore is extremely worried and enlisting Harry's help in finding out the secret of Voldemort's power, the Death Eaters are terrorizing everyone in sight--especially the poor Weasleys--and, in the scariest development of all, the kids are about 17 now and all they can think about is having sex. Not that they do. But if hormonal moping and moony eyes could get you knocked up, this would be an episode of MTV's 16 and Pregnant.
What's The Deal: Okay, so it's a placeholder. But it's a really good placeholder. For several films now it's been fight fight fight and, honestly, I like a good Quidditch match, (weird twist to that: this time Quidditch is all about jockeying for alpha sexual dominance: those flying brooms have never been more dong-like) and I like to see the kids, you know, going to class and hanging out and stuff like that. And they do that a lot here. Sometimes the big bad climax takes a little time to brew itself up and this is the moment where that happens.
Creepiest--And Therefore Best--Scenes: The whole movie is dark and bleak, bleak and dark, and it's got the spooky, slate-gray-and-black production design to prove it, reaching its visual climax in a scene on a jagged rock jutting out of a raging ocean, gross creatures swarming around and Harry battling for his and Dumbledore's life. Oh, and the possession of the girl in the snow is as freaked-out as anything you'd see on that videotape in The Ring.
Coolest Support Staff: Young actresses Jessie Cave, as Lavender Brown, the girl who obsessively demands love from Ron Weasley, and Evanna Lynch, as Luna Lovegood, the girl who just sort of walks around all spaced-out, steal pretty much every scene they're in. I was going to talk about how diabolically cool Alan Rickman is again, but how many times can you say that before you sound like a broken record? He is, you know he is, he knows he is. We can move on.
One Beef I Have With This Movie As Someone Who Doesn't Bother Reading The Books: There's almost no information about why I'm supposed to care about The Half-Blood Prince. They talk about him a little. Hermione can't find out much about him. Then they don't really bring him up again until the end when you find out who he is. If he's part of the title, shouldn't he have been more relevant to the story?