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Latest Harry Potter film among new DVD reviews 

THE HANGOVER (2009). One of this past summer's biggest hits proved to be this headache-inducing effort in which soon-to-be-married Doug (Justin Bartha) heads to Las Vegas to enjoy a final blowout romp with henpecked Stu (Ed Helms), dimwitted Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and prickish Phil (Bradley Cooper). After waking up to discover that the husband-to-be is MIA, the trio stumble around Vegas trying to piece the mystery together, a taxing jaunt that puts them in contact with two sadistic cops, a sweet-natured hooker (Heather Graham), and a pissed off Mike Tyson (as himself). That a convicted rapist like Tyson would be showcased in such fawning, reverential fashion ("He's still got it!" admires Stu after the former boxer decks Alan) pretty much reveals the mindsets of the filmmakers and their target demographic. This represents the worst sort of pandering slop, the type that appeases impressionable audiences who don't even realize they're being insulted. Never likable, funny or interesting enough to earn sympathy or command attention, the leads in this slapdash film wander through a series of set-pieces that reek of comic desperation rather then genuine inspiration.

Extras in the two-disc Special Edition include audio commentary by Cooper, Helms, Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips; an 8-minute gag reel; a compilation of the movie's physical comedy; and 100 new photos from the missing camera featured in the film.

Movie: *1/2

Extras: **1/2

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009). In terms of sustained quality, I daresay that the Harry Potter franchise trumps all other limited series featuring more than three entries – and now here's the sixth installment to add more fuel to the fiery debate. Chris Columbus was unfairly lambasted in some quarters for the first two Potter pics, but I think his comparatively lighthearted approach worked since the early chapters were as much about the Disneyland appeal of the Hogwarts school as anything else. But as J.K. Rowling's books progressed, the child actors matured, and the directors changed, the franchise began to take on a decidedly darker tone, with a likable character killed off in each of the three most recent works and teen protagonists Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) continually having to contend with raging hormones that prove to be as challenging to conquer as any Dementor. Here, there's the feeling that the bad guys are winning, and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) needs to quickly come up with some sort of game plan. He enlists the unwitting aid of a former professor, the jovial if distracted Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), and instructs Harry to discreetly probe him for information that might help them defeat Voldemort and his minions. Harry takes on the task, albeit not at the complete expense of a social life. He finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to Ron's younger sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright, the weak link in the cast), even as Ron and Hermione continue to be drawn to each other. Director David Yates mixes personal scenes involving the students with more weighty material that furthers the blackest aspects of the saga. These latter-named segments are suitably moody – and often allow the FX team to show off their handiwork – yet the heart of the piece remains the interactions between the characters, both teen and adult.

Extras in the two-disc Special Edition include six minutes of deleted scenes; a half-hour featurette featuring interviews with cast members; the 50-minute piece J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life; and a 12-minute look at the upcoming theme park attraction "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" (at Florida's Universal Orlando Resort).

Movie: ***

Extras: ***

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