Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVDs In Brief: April 13, 2011

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Illustration for article titled DVDs In Brief: April 13, 2011

While splitting the final Harry Potter book into two movies seems like an obvious commercial decision—Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Warner) brought in close to a billion dollars worldwide, and no one involved is eager to see that gravy train end—it was a plausible artistic decision as well, given the book’s length and the impossibility of cramming that much story into two hours. But at times during the occasionally draggy, self-indulgent, morose Hallows Part 1—which is understandably mostly setup with little payoff—it’s easy to wish the filmmakers had been forced by circumstance to show a little more discipline…

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With appearances on Glee and a lead role in Country Strong (Sony), Gwyneth Paltrow spent much of last year trying to add singing and performing to her repertoire. She acquits herself well onstage as a troubled chanteuse in Country Strong, but offstage, the movie is pure cheese, an earnest but misguided drama about the way celebrity can magnify personal problems. The film did lead to the weird spectacle of Paltrow singing at the Country Music Awards, which is proof that just about anything is possible…

The latest from the great French director Claire Denis, White Material (Criterion) employs the same elliptical style that has resulted in such varied and mesmerizing films as Beau Travail, Friday Night, and 35 Shots Of Rum. White Material brings Denis to her childhood roots in colonial Africa, the site of her 1988 breakthrough Chocolat and much of Beau Travail. Anchored by a powerful lead performance by Isabelle Huppert, the film subtly captures the faith and hubris of a European woman who chooses to stay on her farm in an unnamed African country, even as it’s being swept up in civil war…

More than a decade ago, Mark Hogancamp, an amateur artist and alcoholic, was beaten nearly to death in a bar brawl, emerging from a coma with significant memory loss and an altered personality. Unable to relate well to other people, and no longer drawn to drink, Hogancamp created a tiny Belgian town in his backyard, populated it with figurines based on neighbors, and started enacting World War II scenarios. His fantasies are chronicled in the fascinating documentary Marwencol.