Two quite controversial and buzzed about movies hit New York theaters this weekend. So far the critical opinion of raving lunatic Mel Gibson's new foreign language feature, Apocalypto, seems to be pretty favorable. The movie about a Mayan family man and the invading nearby tribe, sounds like it is painstakingly composed but has quite a bit of gratuitous, sadistic violence. Lisa Schwartzbaum in EW even calls it "the weirdest, most violent movie of the year," so take that recommendation/pan for what it's worth. The diamond industry has been quaking in its tassled loafers for months over the release of Leonardo DiCaprio's new thriller Blood Diamond. Now we finally get to see the film they thought was going to be such a public relations nightmare. Leo plays a South African diamond smuggler who teams up with a Sierra Leone farmer (the always excellent Djimon Hounsou) to outwit a syndicate of businessmen. From the trailers it looks pretty heartpounding, and not just because the lovely Jennifer Connelly is also in it.
As for the rest of the major releases, do we really need a movie that's Home Alone meets The Terminal? Apparently so, according to the makers of Unaccompanied Minors, a new kiddie comedy featuring Li Lo's ex, Wilmer Valderrama and five kids running wild in a snowed-in airport.
We mentioned this release last week but as a reminder David Lynch's newest, Inland Empire opens for a short run this weekend. Don't count on understanding what's happening plot-wise with this Laura Dern-led cast, but expect it to be thought-provoking. Nick Nolte may be known more for that crazy man in a line-up mug shot than for his acting work, but he continues in the later part of his career to deliver nuanced performances. A new indie starring Nolte, Off the Black is a prime example of how the former leading man is using his middle aged looks to impart realness in character-driven stories. In director James Ponsoldt's first film, Nolte plays an aging, alcoholic small-town umpire who develops an unlikely friendship with a local player (Trevor Morgan). All the actors do nice work but Nolte's melancholy Ray Cook will stick with you long after the credit finish rolling.
Film Forum has a program of documentaries devoted to film love starting this week with the 2004 film, Bergman's Island paired with the short My Dad Is 100 Years Old. The former features an extended interview with master director Ingmar Bergman in his charming Fårö Island home. The man who envisioned Death and a Knight playing chess waxes nostalgic about his childhood, his marriages, his filmography and his philosophy on life. Actress Isabella Rossellini paired up with frequent collaborator, Canadian director Guy Maddin to make a short movie remembering her father, Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini on the 100th anniversary of his birth. At one point Isabella dresses up as the canonical directors David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini and Charlie Chaplin, then argues with herself about the history of cinema. Trust Gothamist when we say, this goofy dress up is worth the price of admission alone. By the way, Isabella will be in the house for the 7:50 pm screening tonight.
The Museum of the Moving Image has been running a great series devoted to French Film Wave director and critic Jacques Rivette over the months of November and December. On Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 10 they'll be showing an imported 16 mm print of Out 1, his 12 and a half hour epic about '60s counterculture. Can you imagine? That's like clocking in at work and then just sitting there watching one long movie all day, for two days straight! Fortunately, the Museum has even arranged a box lunch for the marathon viewers. Believe it or not though, tickets for the movie on these dates are sold out at this point, but you can now buy tickets for an encore in March, over the weekend of the 3rd and the 4th. Mark your calendars now, you crazy cinephiles.
Desiree Burch hosts a program of "New York City's best writers and performers" according to the NYT, called Smut at Galapagos in Williamsburg every Monday night. This week, starting at 8 pm, check out work by Elizabeth Dahmen, Emily Epstein, Katie Halper and the bizarre yet delightful short filmmaker Fritz Donnelly. Plus, it's free so really, you can't go wrong.
Screenwriter and director Nancy Meyers knows what women want to watch at the movies--she made both the hilarious Private Benjamin and the Oscar-winning Something's Gotta Give after all. Her newest chick flick confection is The Holiday starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black; and it's just as fluffy yet diverting as you'd hope. Winslet plays Iris, a London journalist who discovers that the ex that she still loves is about to marry someone else. Diaz is Amanda, a Los Angeles movie trailer editor who throws out her boyfriend when she finds out he's sleeping with his receptionist. The depressed duo decide they have to get the hell outta Dodge over the Christmas holiday, and agree to swap houses for two weeks. But of course, they don't stay mopey for long as a new environment brings new adventures and new cuties to flirt with. While The Holiday does contain the requisite romantic comedy cliches like soundtrack sing alongs, heroines with unrealistically bottomless bank accounts and a final race to get the guy, it's still a popcorn bucket full o' fun.
[Kate Winslet and Jack Black make beautiful music together in a production still from The Holiday.]