Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Available Friday, 4/15)
Coolest extra: Additional scenes (DVD); Exclusive sneak peek of an opening scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Blu-ray)
Complex says: It says a lot about Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 that we didn’t want to scream in unfulfilled anger at the film’s unresolved ending.
The practice of dividing a movie into halves generally irks us, a combination of anger towards having to spend twice the bucks and being forced to wait a year for the follow-up. But this seventh Potter flick is too rousing and potent to complain about; darker than usual and brimming with kick-ass visual effects, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 works as a reputable standalone film despite its open-ended nature.
Be warned, though: This one isn’t for those who think Sirius Black is another Internet rap sensation. Watching The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 with little to no prior knowledge of the Ministry of Magic will likely turn one’s brain into pudding; director David Yates’ third Potter movie jumps right into the action without any sort of recap, as it should. At two-and-a-half hours long, it’s already an endurance test for partial Potter heads and folks watching it just to make their Dumbledore-loving friends and significant others happy. Take that from someone who’s slept on a couch after calling Ron Weasley “soft.”
Buy it now: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Coolest extra: Country Strong soundtrack (DVD); “Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters” featurette (Blu-ray)
Complex says: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: An alcoholic former country music star meets a younger fan who inspires the shattered celebrity to put down the hooch and return to respectability. Oh, and the lead actor gives one of those obvious “I hope you’re watching, Academy Award voters” performances.
If you’re thinking about Crazy Heart, you’re wrong on two accounts: one, that Jeff Bridges flick is good, and, two, Bridges earned his Oscar. No, we’re talking about Country Strong, in which Gwyneth Paltrow acts her ass off to no avail. She plays Kelly Canter, a boozing Faith Hill type motivated to reclaim her chart-topping abilities by a country wunderkind (TRON: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund).
As the predictable story bumps along, Paltrow, Hedlund, and Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester (as Canter’s younger hot-piece competition) belt out a plethora of honky-tonk jams, which, admittedly, are catchy enough to entertain the hardest of rap dudes. Or maybe we just needed a reason to sit through the movie without sipping on moonshine ourselves. Country Strong seems to exist for no other reason than to push Paltrow’s musical dreams onto the pop culture landscape, a mission also being carried out by her appearances on Glee. We’ll stick with Fox’s showcase of sexy young actresses.
Buy it now: Country Strong
Coolest extra: None available (DVD)
Complex says: Quietly, the United Kingdom has been cranking out some of the most disturbing horror flicks of the last five years. In 2008, for example, James Watkins’ teens-gone-wrong shocker Eden Lake delivered one of the bleakest endings in recent years, matched by the overall desolate mood of Tom Shankland’s The Children, an actually scary “creepy kid” movie.
The most recent entry into the British genre front is Heartless, starring Jim Sturgess (21) as a photographer with a heart-shaped birthmark on his face who makes a deal with the devil: If he commits a series of sticky-fingered crimes, his face will look normal. But when he’s asked to kill his wannabe model crush, he balks, which prompts a gang of hoodie-wearing demons to stalk him.
Heartless comes from the mind of British artist/director Philip Ridley, who shows a great deal of imagination here. He’s able to alternate between themes of the occult and romance with equal credence, with plenty of assists from a cast full of on-point actors, namely well-equipped leading man Sturgess. At times, though, the love story gets in the way of the film’s progress; Ridley’s ability to stage moments of dark horror makes us wish he would’ve ditched the prerequisite love subplot and made Heartless a Clive Barker-esque foray into grim demonism.
There’s enough inventiveness on hand to save Heartless, though, and solid performances from Sturgess and Clemence Poesy (as the model turned mark) decrease the frustrations elicited by the romantic distractions. And, really, such unsentimental complaints are minor when a movie is this original.
Buy it now: Heartless
Behind The Burly Q
Coolest extra: Bonus interviews (DVD)
Complex says: The next time you’re reading a nudie magazine or ogling a celebrity sex tape, do remember that you’re one lucky pervert. Back in the days when cameras took black-and-white pictures and Alfred Hitchcock was the living master of suspense, provocative entertainment never went beyond sexy dances and exposed cleavage. Yes, times were rough back then.
To better understand how men used to indulge in T&A, check out the documentary Behind The Burly Q, an exhaustive look at the once-prominent live show medium known as Burlesque. Theaters and nightclubs put on extravagant performances with half-naked women, strippers, and comedians, though without any full-on nakedness since the world was a much tamer place during the heyday of the “burly Q.”
For Behind The Burly Q, director Leslie Zemeckis (wife of prolific Hollywood director Robert Zemeckis) traveled across the country to interview as many still-alive performers as possible, as well as journalists who covered the shows firsthand.
Wisely, Zemeckis keeps the tone irreverent and loose, balancing some pretty upsetting insider accounts with snappy editing and happier recollections. Peep the duality: One former dancer talks about the struggles of paying for her son’s polio treatment, while veteran actor Alan Alda jokes about his father’s days as a “tit singer.”
It’s a fun watch, but the faults are glaring. Zemeckis curiously overlooks today’s Burlesque resurgence (spend a night in Caesar’s hotel in Las Vegas), and the graphics used to introduce new segments look free-computer-program cheap.
Even though it's of second-rate production quality, Behind The Burly Q is still a worthy viewing experience, mainly because sex always sells our minds. With nude chicks so readily available online and on TV, it’s refreshing to feel aroused by what’s not shown for a change, however briefly. Now please excuse us while we visit Sue’s Rendezvous.