Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Ultimate Edition Release Date: June 14, 2011 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Digipak and extras in a heavy cardboard case Year: 2009 Rating: PG Running Time: 2:33:30 MSRP: $49.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 2.40:1 Standard and high definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Narration 2.0, French (dubbed in Quebec) 5.1, French 5.1, German 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Dutch 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1, Catalan 5.1, Belgian Dutch 5.1 Variable Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese Same Note: The following includes material from the HTF review of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Blu-ray from 2009. The Feature: 4.5/5 The wizarding world has finally accepted the truth of Voldemort's return, but that doesn't make fighting the dark wizard any easier. His followers, the Death Eaters, are growing in number and strength by the moment, and growing so bold as to attack Muggles in broad daylight. The world is beginning to look like it did 16 years ago, when Voldemort was at the height of his powers. But then, as now, that time included Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), the "chosen one" who nearly destroyed him then and who is prophesied to defeat him again. The key to victory may be locked in the mind of Professor Slughorn (James Broadbent), the returning Potions teacher at Hogwarts who taught Voldemort when he was a student and revealed to him an arcane piece of witchcraft that lies at the heart of his apparent invincibility. While Harry is tasked by Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to ferret out the memory, Harry's schoolyard nemesis Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has been given an assignment of his own, one that makes him increasingly distant and moody. Eventually their concurrent missions will collide, with the aftermath being more devastating than anyone would have expected. Undeniably the darkest of the Harry Potter films, "Half-Blood Prince" is also the most mature, a reflection of the practically adult main character and his comrades. Having accepted the mantle of "chosen one" and the sacrifices it entails, Harry's resolve to defeat the Dark Lord is focused and intense as we begin to see the hero we all know he would become. And though young love blossoms for both him and his best friends, there's not a moment when the clouds of the impending storm aren't casting their shadow. Though it makes for a particularly gloomy installment, it also affords the actors some of their strongest performances, in particular when each must return to the comfort and strength of their friendship. Though much of the events of this sixth film can be seen as set up for the two-part finale, I doubt anyone will deny it whets the appetite for what is to come and cannot come soon enough. Unlike the previous Ultimate Editions, "Half-Blood Prince" does not include an extended version of the film but only the theatrical cut. Video Quality: 4.5/5 The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The cinematography is particularly dark and dim in this film, with very few moments of color or brightness. In such plentiful moments of limited illumination, black levels prove to be deep and stable, with very good shadow detail. Contrast appears accurate with the full range of values, though again things tend to hover towards the bottom end of the scale. Though the color palette is pretty limited as a result, scenes like the Weasley Twins' joke shop prove to be satisfyingly deep and saturated in their appearance. Fine object detail and overall sharpness can be a little difficult to judge in the darkness, but moments of exceptional clarity in skin and hair, and consistent resolution between close-ups and wide shots, show there's no need to be concerned. And with no indications of sharpening or noise reduction measures, it all adds up to another first rate transfer. Audio Quality: 4.5/5 The surround channels in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provide balanced and detailed support for the score and a great blend of directional and atmospheric effects. The experience in the more involving sequences, like the Quidditch match and trip to the cave, is immersive, but I found myself noting a lack of ambiance during the quieter, dialogue-heavy scenes. Dialogue itself can be a bit difficult to discern with some of the accents in play, but I can't find fault with the amount of detail or the levels in relation to the other channels. LFE is deep and robust and effectively balanced with the rest of the activity. Special Features: 5/5 The most notable addition to the extras is the hour-long "Creating the World of Harry Potter" documentary - part six of eight being released with each Ultimate Edition (UE). The rest of the items are carryovers from the 2009 Blu-ray edition, a few additional promotional pieces, and of course new packaging and physical items. [Disc One] Maximum Movie Mode includes "Focus Point" featurettes (see below); cast and crew offering thoughts and analysis of the film's story, themes and character motivations; behind-the-scenes still images; and scene comparisons deconstructing the visual effects work. Though only the Focus Points are accessible separately, the viewing mode does allow the user to skip to the next sequence of material without having to sit through the entirety of the film. It's an improvement to the accessibility issues of the past but still not a perfect solution, though I do tend to enjoy these enhanced commentary features for both their breadth of information and visual variety. Focus Points (37:46, HD) Millennium Bridge (3:27) describes the logistics of filming the national landmark. Shooting on Location (1:57) describes advantages of shooting outside of a studio. Professor Slughorn (2:48) provides analysis of the character and actor James Broadbent's particular interpretation of him. Building Relationships (2:05) explains the film's themes of friendship and romance. Director David Yates Returns (2:45) describes the director's work style and vision. Wool's Orphanage (2:49) shows the design and inspiration for the set. Ron and Lavender's Kiss (2:07) reveals the anticipation and nerves about the scene. The Burrow (2:56) shows the filming of the Weasley home invasion. Harry and Ginny's Kiss (2:04) features the actors talking about, preparing for, and filming the scene. Aragog Returns (2:59) describes the work of building a giant spider to scale. Creating the Cave (2:29) shows challenges in constructing and filming the terranean set. Designing the Virtual Cave Environment (3:41) describes the visual effects work used to expand and enhance the set. The Inferi (3:26) describes the inspiration, design and animation of the creatures. The Underwater Sequence (2:06) shows the filming of the scene and adding the CGI elements. BD-Live [Disc Two] Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 6: Magical Effects (1:04:09, HD), the sixth installment in the eight-part documentary, covers the films' various magical sequences and how filmmakers bring them to life through practical and digital technology. For special and visual effect enthusiasts, there's loads of interesting content, highlights of which include the Voldemort vs. Dumbledore showdown in the Ministry of Magic, the moving portraits in Hogwarts, practical Patronus effects, and much much more. Though some of the material is undoubtedly included in various forms across the releases, the piece is a comprehensive and detailed consolidation of the special effects work done for the franchise as a whole. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Behind the Magic (46:50, SD) is a 2009 promotional piece produced for British television, covering the main story elements with behind the scenes and interviews with the cast and crew. J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life (49:46, HD) covers a specific period in Rowling's life, but that fact proves rather inconsequential. Even though it's a pretty important year - when she completed and released the final Harry Potter book - the follow-alongs to publisher meetings and the book's premiere ultimately pale compared to the more personal pieces. Rowling is very candid about her early life experiences - the death of her mother, her estrangement from her father, and her failed first marriage - and how they informed the creation of the Harry Potter universe. Her openness throughout makes for an engaging look at one of the most successful writers of our time. Close Up with the Cast and Crew (28:34, HD) features members of the cast visiting various phases of the production in this entertaining, but somewhat juvenile, piece. Daniel Radcliffe visits editing; Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) visit special effects; Jessie Cave (Lavender Brown) visits the owl trainer; Rupert Grint visits stunts; Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) visits the wardrobe department; Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) visits the art department; James Phelps (Fred Weasley), who worked as an assistant director during the shoot, shows what his day is like; and Emma Watson visits the makeup department. One-Minute Drills (6:45, HD) features James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton and Emma Watson attempting to explain their respective character arcs in less than a minute. What's On Your Mind (6:43, HD) is a superficial fluff piece that has Tom Felton asking members of the young cast various questions, like "Do you like chocolate or strawberry ice cream?" The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (11:40, HD) is a now-vintage promotional piece teasing the 2010 opening of the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. There are very few glimpses of the actual park, most of the material consisting of artist models, sketches and lots of people talking about how great it will be. First Footage from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (1:50, HD) includes a one-minute trailer for the final Potter films and is preceded by some general comments from Producer David Heyman and Director David Yates. Deleted Scenes (6:51, HD and DD5.1) Harry and Hermione Walk Through the Halls of Hogwarts (:29) Harry and Hermione Discuss the Marauder's Map (1:02) Harry, Ron and Hermione Discuss the Vanishing Cabinet (1:07) Harry and Dumbledore Arrive at the Cave Entrance (:41) Harry and Dumbledore Leave Cave (:22) Clouds Gather Over Hogwarts as Flitwick Conducts Choir (1:42) Harry Joins Ron, Hermione and Ginny in the Common Room (:43) Harry and Hermione Discuss Ron at Astronomy Tower (:44) Interstitials (4:42, HD), presumably produced for Internet advertising, promote various aspects of the film. The Story (:57) highlights the film's major storyline. Love is in the Air (:57) highlights the romantic entanglements. Meet Professor Slughorn (:57) introduces the new Hogwarts professor. The Story of Tom Riddle (:57) highlights Voldemort's back story. Comedy (:57) highlights the film's humorous moments. Trailers (8:28, HD) Teaser Trailer (1:41) Theatrical Trailer #3A (1:53) Theatrical Trailer #4B (2:27) Theatrical Trailer #5 (2:27) [Packaging and Physical Items] "Creating the World of Harry Potter: Magical Effects" Book is the sixth of eight volumes, which serve as companion items to the eight-part documentary. Book Six includes photos and artwork highlighting the films' various visual effects. Collector Cards include two heavy, oversized (4" X 6") trading cards of Draco Malfoy and Albus Dumbledore. Digital Copy download is made via a website. The offer expires June 12, 2012. The Packaging includes a tri-fold Digipack case for the two Blu-ray discs and a cardstock envelope container for the trading cards. The Digipack case, the cardstock container and the companion book all slide into a sturdy cardboard case with a hinged cover. The cardboard case is printed and embossed like a hardbound book and looks quite handsome on the shelf. There's a slipcover for the case, but it's flashier and more commercial in design as it also serves as release's retail packaging. Those wanting a bit of dust and damage protection might want to keep it on despite its less distinguished appearance, though the lenticular cover image is a nice addition. Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 4.5/5 Special Features: 5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3/5 The sixth part of the documentary is particularly interesting, the book and trading cards are appealing, and the construction and design of the packaging is first rate, but will the Ultimate Edition draw anyone except the most devoted Harry Potter fan wanting every extra ever created? Again, I am doubtful, especially for casual fans who already own the previous BD release, which came out fairly recently. For someone who hasn't yet purchased the title the Ultimate Edition makes for a nice package, but for a price. Currently, the Ultimate Edition is priced about $20 more than the standard edition BD and is probably worth it if the extras will be revisited. If not, the extra money can buy a whole other title. Given the choice, I imagine many will opt for the standard edition, making this Ultimate Edition - like the others - only for the most ultimate of Potter fans.