This week's new film releases are a lovely New York melting pot: ballroom dancing teens, Arab/Israeli anxieties, motor skills-challenged geeks, neurotic female friends, and a thoughtful Polish director thrown in for good measure. Spring may have sprung outside but it's also a great time to be inside at the movie.
If you saw last year's documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, you're already familiar with dancing teacher Pierre Dulaine and his work with children around the country. For the fictionalized version Take the Lead hitting theaters this weekend, they turned Dulaine into the suave Antonio Banderas (insert Jimmy Fallon saying "too sexy! too sexy" in your head, if you must) and made the elementary aged kids high schoolers but all the hot ballroom action seems to be still the same. If you've had your Napoleon Dynamite DVD on repeat in the disc player, give it a rest by catching Jon Heder's newest role in The Benchwarmers opposite David Spade and Rob Schneider. It probably goes without saying that you'll have to coat check your brain for that one. Another entry in the "silly but could be fun" category is the gangster comedy, Lucky Number Slevin with Josh Hartnett. The cast has some good/big names (Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Lucy Liu) depending on how you slice it, and the action is sure to be bombastic and over the top.
Some more indie options include this year's Sundance premiere, Friends with Money directed by Nicole Holofcener (Lovely and Amazing) starring Jennifer Aniston as the girl friend with no money in a group of class conscious Angelenos. The stellar cast also includes Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and Frances McDormand, and that line-up alone is enough to get Gothamist to shell out the $10.75. The lovely Natalie Portman connects with her Israeli heritage in Amos Gitai's small feature, Free Zone about a Jewish American girl traveling with her mother-in-law to meet her fiancée's business partner in Jordan.
Outside of the main cineplexes, we urge you to check out at least something from each of these excellent festivals starting this weekend. First, The Complete Kieslowski: A Road Map of the Soul begins this week at Lincoln Center, running through April 23. Most art house devotees will be familiar with Polish director Kieslowski's Three Colors series, which will all screen next week, but maybe try to catch part of his Decalogue, a ten part series each dealing with a commandment. It's been 10 years since this amazing artist passed away, but his work only gets more resonant with time.
The Best of Village Voice series at BAM kicks off this weekend as well, a wonderful annual festival of films you may have missed from last year curated by the weekly paper. One of our favorite movies from 2005 that they're screening is Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumiere on Apr. 21 but you should also consider taking in Ziyi Zhang's return to the screen post-Memoirs of a Geisha in Princess Racoon, a frothy costume musical. Also, director Andrew Bujalski, whose films Funny Ha Ha (screening this Friday) and Mutual Appreciation will be on hand for a Q&A next Friday with critic Dennis Lim.