We here at Gothamist love our movies, but this is getting regoddamndiculous. After a weekend where the only major release to make even a little bit of money was the one that didn't screen for critics due to the studio's awarenessof its suckitude, distributors this week have gone hog wild. There are 19 -- count 'em nineteen! -- new releases in local theaters this weekend, seven of them from major Hollywood studios. Some of these big releases are obvious attempts to grab some big box office before the heavy-hitter holiday blockbusters; others are simple efforts to give films with big name talent that may not have lived up to expectations a chance to grab an audience; and the remainder mark the real beginning of Awards seasons, films with slim Oscar hopes that aspire to get a jump on what promises to be a very crowded December.
A Gothamist Pick: Sure there's more than enough new stuff this week, but chances are that not much of it will have a shelf-life as long as what BAMcinématek will be screening tonight through Sunday -- highlights from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, an event held in Italy which for the past 24 years has showcased rare and restored international works from the earliest days of cinema. BAM's four day series features six programs, all with live piano accompaniment. The two most interesting to us would have to be Friday's "Treasures from the Chest," and Saturday's "Lillian Gish Program." Gish was one of the greatest and most famous stars of the silent era, arguably rivaled only by Mary Pickford. This program includes two of her films from 1915 (the same year she starred for D.W. Griffith in Birth of a Nation): Enoch Arden and The Lily and the Rose.
Way too many new releases, midnight movies and the rest of the week after the jump:
All new and shiny: So you want something in color, with words and recognizable actors? To us, the most interesting of this week's new releases is Shopgirl, adapted from Steve Martin's own novella and in which he co-stars with Jason Schwartzman and Claire Danes. We're also extremely curious about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, the directorial debut of Lethal Weapon creator Shane Black who in the early '90s started receiving record-breaking screenplay deals for films like The Last Boy Scout and Last Action Hero before virtually disappearing from Hollywood for most of the past 10 decade.
We've seen North Country and have to say we were underwhelmed, especially considering the artistry and sensitivity director Niki Caro showed in her last feature, Whale Rider. We think audiences will love it because of its subject matter, but this "inspired by a true story" (as opposed to recreating the actual real events) movie tries too hard to be Norma Rae, instead wasting an incredibly talented cast by falling into clichéd and predictable Hollywood underdog drama. In fact, we imagine that Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story starring little thank-god-she-escaped-the-clutches-of-Cruise Dakota Fanning is potentially more honest about its weepy sentimentality and therefore more interesting. Hell, it throws its "Inspired by" qualification into its title. As for Stay, we're certainly tempted by the presence of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Hoskins. We don't, however, feel the same gravitational pull from The Rock when it comes to Doom, but after the success of The Fog last week, who knows if what kind of box office success the pro-wrestler-turned-action-star may be cooking.
Midnight Movie Smackdown: Well, you can't get much different than this so we won't even try to make some not-so-clever connection. This Friday and Saturday at midnight the Landmark Sunshine will screen artist Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 which was, in its own way, both the middle and final episode in Barney's five film Cremaster Cycle.
Over at the IFC Center, the Waverly Midnights "Midnight Rocks" series answers the question, "What do The Beatles and Superman have in common?" Why, Richard Lester, of course, the man credited with directing Superman II, but more notably responsible for the great 1964 day-in-the-life of The Beatles feature A Hard Day's Night. The latter film will screen Friday and Saturday night.
And just for kicks, we're going to throw the Two Boots Pioneer Theater into the equation for those of you who want a bit of gore in your midnight flicks. Friday night, the Pioneer offers a sneak preview of a film Japanese horror fans have eagerly awaited for four years: Pulse. It opens in limited release next month, but the Pioneer has it tomorrow. Meanwhile, it's hard to believe that it's already been 20 years since Re-Animator became an instant cult classic. The Pioneer celebrates with a midnight screening on Saturday.
So what else is new?
As we mentioned previously, simply too much. We can suggest you check-out Protocols of Zion (Friday at Lincoln Plaza and Angelika), a fascinating documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world post-9/11 from Marc Levin, who we interviewed yesterday. There's also the multi-film festival award winning documentary After Innocence (Friday at Quad Cinema) which focuses on seven men released from prison thanks to DNA evidence after years of incarceration and their attempts to re-enter society with very little support from the criminal justice system which mistakenly locked-up them.
Don't confuse After Innocence with just plain Innocence (now playing at Cinema Village), however. A French film which brought its first time director Lucile Hadzihalilovic the new director's prize at the 2004 San Sebastian Film Festival, Innocence tells a unique coming-of-age story at an all-girls boarding school. One more new film unlike anything you've ever seen is Ushpizin (now playing at Lincoln Plaza and Landmark Sunshine), yet another festival favorite written by, starring and set-among ultra-orthodox Jews who generally aren't big members of the film community. When Ushpizin premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, every screening sold out (in fact, they were all oversold) thanks in large part to large groups of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews wanting to see this film which, they heard, faithfully (or not) represented their community. Distributor Picturehouse knows its audience -- all the film's release dates throughout the country occur on Wednesdays rather than Fridays to avoid the Jewish sabbath. Additionally, a series of special screenings tonight, Saturday night and Sunday are being held at FDR High School in Borough Park with separate seating for men and women to encourage attendance by an ultra-orthodox audience that might otherwise be uncomfortable attending.
Other films potentially of note this week: Spanish horror thriller Rooms for Tourists (now playing at Two Boots Pioneer); Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family (now playing at IFC Center), Susan Kaplan's documentary about two men and one woman who lived together for 13 years as one trio -- husband, husband and wife; The Optimists (Friday at Quad Cinema), a documentary about how the Christian and Muslim neighbors of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews banded together to save their lives during the Holocaust; the Oprah-narrated doc Emmanuel's Gift (Friday at Village East) about a disabled orphan in Ghana who grew-up to defy the odds and thrive as an example and messenger of hope, fostering social and political change in his own country; Peter Bate's documentary about Belgian King Leopold II and his destructive colonization of the Congo, Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death; and The Time We Killed, the story of an agoraphobic writer who's fears are only magnified by the pending US invasion of Iraq.
The rest of the week:
The Walter Reade Theater's month-long tribute to the Japanese Shochiku Company wraps-up today with a recent must-see film: Hou Hsiao-hsien's lovely Café Lumiere. Hurry, though: the last screening is at 5 PM. But you might as well hang-out at the Walter Reade because at 7:30 is another "Young Friends of Film" special event. Tonight's film is Ariel from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. As with all YFF events, you get free popcorn and soda plus a post-screening reception featuring open bar, a great assortment of hors d'oeuvres and live music from the Haas Vaz Jazz Duo. And to top it off, the screening will be introduced by noted film critic Amy Taubin. The catch? All this can be yours for the low-low price of $25. Of course, this is why an actual YFF Membership can prove to be such a good value.
In August Film Forum presented a multi-week sold-out run of Bernardo Bertolucci's brilliant The Conformist. In case you missed it, they're giving you a second chance. Actually, they repeatedly extended it during that run, so this is more like the fifth or sixth shot, but regardless, starting Friday for one week only, you can once again see Bertolucci's 1970 classic in a theater as it was intended.
Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention any option to see 2001: A Space Odyssey projected on a screen bigger than the one in our living room. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 6:30, the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria presents Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece.
So you're done atoning for Yom Kippur, you've gotten your post-fast blood sugar back up to decent levels, and maybe you've even participated in a little harvest fun celebrating Sukkot. Now it's the weekend and you've managed to rest and reflect for for shabbos; what better way to enjoy your Saturday evening than with a 1950s 3D horror movie double feature? Makor obviously thinks there isn't one which is why starting at 8 PM they're screening It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
If you don't have problems paying for a movie ticket during the day, you might one to head down to IFC Center for another installment of their current "Weekend Classics" series currently showcasing Francois Truffaut. This week's selection is the often-overlooked Two English Girls at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
The Billy Wilder series is back at MMI this weekend with some of his lesser-known works including his rarely seen second film as a director, 1943's Five Graves to Cairo on Sunday at 2 PM. Definitely a minor work among the Wilder oeuvre, it still presents a curious contrast to one of his later films, One, Two, Three, which follows at 4 PM. (It also screens at 4 on Saturday.) One, Two, Three was Wilder's follow-up to his brilliant dark comedy The Apartment, and it suffers by comparison. Still, it's an entertaining, if dated, comedy featuring the last on-screen performance by James Cagney -- as a Coca-Cola executive in West Berlin charged with stopping his boss' daughter from marrying a communist -- until he appeared in Ragtime 20 years later.
And if you're not burnt out on silent films from the Prodenone series at BAM, you should swing by the New-York Historical Society for their "Silent Clowns Film Series." This week's selection, screening Sunday at 2 PM, is the hysterical Hot Water featuring the always phenomenal Harold Lloyd.
As we mentioned last week, MoMA began a series showcasing French actress Isabelle Huppert and we're not really fans of her latest Gabrielle. If you want to see a better film involving Huppert as a wife suddenly deciding she wants out of a marriage, you can check-out La Séparation screening at MoMA on Monday at 6 PM.
In its continued mission to educate while entertaining, Film Forum starts a month-long series honoring Japanese director Mikio Naruse, often overshadowed by the likes of Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi, but certainly deserving of equal notoriety. The series -- "Naruse: The Unknown Japanese Master" -- kicks off on Friday with a four day run of his 1960 melodrama When a Woman Ascends a Staircase. On Tuesday, for one-day only they'll screen Naruse's Wife as well as a one-time only (at 6:30 PM) showing of Older Brother, Younger Sister.
Scandinavia House continues its Greta Garbo series on Wednesday at 5:30 and 8 PM with one of the most star-studded romantic drama hits of the '30s, Grand Hotel. In addition to Garbo, the film stars John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore and it won the 1932 Oscar for Best Picture. One of the earliest films to successfully follow multiple characters through interweaving yet individual storylines, it's a must-see.
However, if the proximity to Halloween makes you more enthusiastic for a different kind of romantic movie -- say, one with monsters-- you might want to take a long lunch hour and head over to the Donnell Library Center branch of the New York Public Library for "In Frankenstein's Footsteps." After the animated Betty Boop short Betty in Blunderland, they'll be showing the classic horror sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. If you've never seen Bride, don't simply think that it's a campy example of bad and early sequelitis. Bride is classic early horror in its own right, and arguably even better than the film that preceded it. Don't let the hairdo fool you!