...and here's what I thought of them.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
I'm a very casual fan of the Harry Potter series, in that I've only read the first book and seen all of the released films. They're enjoyable adventure films, chockablock with special effects and drama, grounded in a rather large (albeit derivative) mythology. In other words, they ain't bad.
This film, however, the sixth in the series, suffers from the bloated source material. There's just far too much happening in the book. The revelation of who is the Half Blood Prince is a wasted half second of screen time. It's robbed of all weight by the film's insistence on a breathless pace.
The best parts of this film (which can be said of all the films) is the character drama and interaction. But now, the relationships are influenced by the growing storm of hormones, which makes everything all the more interesting and hilarious. This is the funniest of all the Harry Potter movies.
However, just like in the previous three movies, the middle sags and drags. I was extremely bored with the slow reveal of the mystery. The plots of the movies are slaves to the school-year structure: every mystery has to be stretched, no matter how improbably, over the academic months. It's illogical and irritating. Combine that with the fact that Harry is always in the right place at the right time to eavesdrop and obtain crucial information. He never actually solves a mystery, he simply bumbles along until the end of school comes.
The pace, which is at time too fast and other times too slow, is a problem, but not fatally so. I enjoyed this movie, and it almost made me want to read the book. I won't though.
The Last Exorcism
Horror depends so much on its ability to scare that if a movie can't scare, it's considered a failure. This is a problem to a much larger degree than say a comedy. Horror movies live or die by the quality of their scares, whereas a comedy can survive even if all the jokes aren't hilarious. Therefore, horror movies are often victims of harsh judgement. After all this, it's nice to be pleasantly surprised by a horror movie (more so than being surprised by a comedy). The Last Exorcism is a mockumentary about a charlatan exorcist and a film crew, off to document his last exorcism as a fraud. But when they meet the girl who claims to be possessed, things take a darker turn.
Aided by a charming fantastic lead and a creepy girl, this movie succeeds up until the first last five minutes, when the very careful ambiguity is compromised. There are some great jump-scares, but overall it's an exercise in tension, and delivers on that promise.
I really enjoyed this movie, and one of its reveals features one of my all time favourite plot devices, which I won't spoil, but suffice it to say that things aren't what they seem (without being a stupid reality-altering plot-twist, which I fucking hate). I would recommend this to fans of real horror, not cheap Wal-Mart horror like the Saw franchise.