On the nonfiction side of cinema this week, you’ve got portraits of a famous banjo player, an infamous boxer and, er, nature, while the fiction side delves into a dystopic, mutant-infested future, a bedraggled small town in Korea and Bret Easton Ellis’ decadent ’80s Los Angeles.
The Mouse House launches its brand new nature documentary arm Disneynature with an Earth Day premiere of this year-in-the-life-of-our-planet feature. The bad news is that “Earth” recycles a lot of the footage from the BBC series “Planet Earth,” which anyone who feels the least bit smug about their TV already owns. The good news is that “Planet Earth” is pretty sick, and seeing it on the big screen is bound to be an improvement over even the glossiest home HD experience.. Patrick Stewart narrated the U.K. version of the film, but here in the U.S. Lord Vader himself, James Earl Jones, lends his gravelly vocal gravitas to the inevitable environmental message.
Opens Wednesday, April 22nd in limited release.
Two young Korean girls are put in the care of their neglectful, alcoholic aunt while their mother tries to track down their absentee father in this second film from director So Yong Kim, whose 2006 debut “In Between Days” was a critical favorite. Left to their own devices, Jin and Bin must fend for themselves, but “Treeless Mountain” doesn’t give in to easy sentimentality, instead choosing to tell its delicate and absorbing story from an immersive child’s eye view.
Opens Wednesday, April 22nd in New York.
“Baby on Board”
Heather Graham and Jerry O’Connell play a workaholic couple whose lives are thrown into chaos by their unplanned pregnancy in this film from Brian Herzlinger, who you may remember from “My Date with Drew.” The most notable thing about this comedy may be that distributor Angry Monkey Entertainment is launching it exclusively in digital theaters classified as “E-Cinema,” as opposed to those meeting the “D-Cinema” standard, a distinction that likely won’t matter to any average moviegoer.
Opens in limited release.
Argentinean filmmaker Daniel Burman’s last feature, “Family Law,” was about the relationships between fathers and sons. His new film, “Empty Nest,” skips ahead to a post-parenting era. The comedic drama looks into the lives of a prosperous and supposedly happily married couple who find that, their children grown and gone, they have no choice but to deal with decades of accumulated annoyances and resentments. The husband, a playwright suffering from writer’s block, escapes into flights of fancy he begins to have trouble separating from reality.
Opens in New York.
Writer, punk rocker and former model Dito Montiel made a splash with his filmmaking debut, 2006’s autobiographical Queens-set “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.” For his next trick, Montiel’s trying out more mainstream territory with this action flick starring “Saints”‘ Channing Tatum as a streetwise (naturally) hustler who’s brought into the world of underground bare-knuckling brawling by a man who becomes his manager (Terrence Howard).
Opens in wide release.
Also known as the nonfiction film no one had heard of at the Oscars, Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s “The Garden” was up for an Academy Award for best documentary feature earlier this year, but is only now getting its turn in theaters. The film delves into the battle to preserve a 14-acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles that developers hope to bulldoze in order to build warehouses.
Opens in Los Angeles.
How dead-on you’ll find Paolo Sorrentino’s savage satire will depend on your familiarity with Italian politics — the film skewers the less-than-honorable Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who’s been elected to the Italian parliament seven times despite, or because of, his shady connections. Even if you’ve never heard of Andreotti, who reportedly walked out of a screening declaring “no, no — that is really too much,” there’s something to be said for Sorrentino’s visual style, which juxtaposes its flashiness with an intentionally and amusingly flat performance from lead Toni Servillo.
Opens in New York.
Though he’s credited as one of the screenwriters on this adaptation of his 1994 short story collection, Bret Easton Ellis backed away from the film in a recent interview with MTV, saying “as a writer, you definitely feel a certain lack of control.” Maybe it’s that “The Informers,” a tale of ’80s L.A. excess starring Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Brad Renfro (in his last film) and many others, was shredded by critics when it premiered at Sundance, with Variety claiming it rated “less than zero on the sophistication scale.”
Opens in limited release.