Frank Miller devotees have been salivating all over their computers in anticipation for the new adaptation of his Greek battle comic book 300, which comes out this weekend. Like the version of Miller's Sin City from '05, 300 makes nice with the stylized visuals giving us the most lush, chiseled, half-naked warriors and warrior wives ever depicted on screen. In particular the actors playing the Spartan queen and king, Lena Headey and Gerard Butler look like they were carved from stone. Word to the wise though, the flick is long on gratuitous, baroque violence and short on three dimensional characters.
Indian director Mira Nair releases her new movie this one based on the novel of award-winning, local author Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake. It stars Kal Penn, in a much deserved serious role, as an Indian American with a heavy duty name trying to negotiate assimilation in the States as well as stay connected to his traditional family. Cinecultist already recommended The Host when it had a brief run a few weeks ago at the IFC Center but now that it's out theatrically, we'll say it again, this is a damn fun and smart monster movie. To recap: the Han River has been polluted by the evil imperial American military complex and as a result a winged, four-legged fishy beast thing with teeth is terrorizing the city. One extended family tries to save their teen daughter from being eaten by the monster but their chances for success don't look good. Good times, good times.
Treading over some of the same ground as Hotel Rwanda and Sometime In April, Beyond the Gates also recounts the mid-'90s atrocities in Africa from the point of view a Catholic priest (John Hurt) and a teacher (Hugh Dancy).
If you still haven't gotten enough steamy French film action from the Rendez Vous With French Cinema series at Lincoln Center check out a repeat from last month's Film Comment Selects also from France of Exterminating Angels, now playing at IFC Center. "Drawing from his own experience with an audition process that ended in a lawsuit, director Jean-Claude Brisseau (Secret Things) creates a tale of a filmmaker who begins casting his new movie, a thriller with several explicitly erotic scenes." No two ways about it, this movie is steamy with a capitol steam.
A head's up for next week, the Film Society at Lincoln Center will be screening three films by Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang starting on Wednesday. His movies have often been featured in the New York Film Festival, including last year's selection of The Go Master about the most well-known master of the Japanese board game Go who happens to be Chinese. Tian is one of the darlings of the international film festival circuit, so go get on that bandwagon.
If you haven't had a chance to see the meditative documentary about the silent French monks, Film Forum will be hosting a Q&A with Father Michael Holleran, a member of the Order of Carthusians, the group featured in Into Great Silence on Saturday and Sunday at the 1:15 shows. A life devoted to spirituality isn't something too many New Yorker live, so a documentary like this one is a great glimpse inside.
Oh crud, Cinecultist forgot last week to mention the awesome selection of Shohei Imamura films now playing at the BAM Cinématek, "Pimps, Prostitutes and Pigs: Shohei Imamura's Japan." The movies run through the end of the month out in Brooklyn and while his later excellent movies like The Eel and Warm Water Under Red Bridge, which both star Koji Yakusho (the deaf girl's father from Babel), aren't playing until then, don't miss some of his earlier, more difficult to see works. Even though Imamura was mentored by mannerist director Ozu, Imamura's "images can barely contain the creative anarchy unleashed within them." In particular, make a screening of The Pornographers on Saturday a part of your movie going schedule for the weekend. In the liner notes for the Criterion Collection DVD release of this movie J. Hoberman asks, "Is Imamura sardonically suggesting that the preceding two hours of frantic hustling and grubby sex have been his version of porn? Or is The Pornographers the twentieth-century version of the nightlife of the gods?" A director whose work poses such intriguing questions is surely worth a watch.