This week plays host to a release slate so big that when it’s finished doing the rounds in theaters we expect it to climb out of the sea and attack Japan.
“Act of God”
Following “Manufactured Landscapes,” her compelling 2006 portrait of photographer Edward Burtynsky and the paradoxical beauty of his images of industry, Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal turns her attention to one of nature’s most dynamic phenomenon. Collecting a multitude of testimony from lightning strike survivors and witnesses, Baichwal explores a host of ideas and explanations for this awe-inspiring experience, from the miraculously divine to the maddeningly random.
Opens in Chicago.
With an actual medical condition taking the place of the now-nearly-obligatory dose of quirk, writer/director Max Mayer’s gentle story of boy meets girl — his first film since 1998’s “Better Living” — scored him the Alfred P. Sloan Award at Sundance earlier this year. British actor Hugh Dancy plays the titular role of a young man living with Asperger’s whose world is slowly brightened by romantic overtures from his neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne).
Opens in limited release.
“Aliens in the Attic”
Having loaded up a flying saucer full of inspiration from the cult classic “Spaced Invaders,” British comedy writer Mark Burton, who in recent years has had a hand in “Madagascar” and “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” coughs up this anarchic kids comedy, brought to life by journeyman helmer John Schultz. A troupe of impossibly white-teethed teen TV regulars, led by “High School Musical” star Ashley Tisdale, fill out the Pearson family, who find their Maine holiday home beset by dimwitted aliens bent on conquest. Surprising it’s not in 3-D, really.
Between penning increasingly tasteless “Saw” sequels, co-scripters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan found they had a few ideas for dastardly devices of death left over. Just enough, in fact, for Dunstan to make his directorial splash erecting four walls around them and calling it “The Collector.” Josh Stewart stars as an ex-con with designs on burgling his new employers’ summer home, unaware that a masked maniac has taken the family hostage inside and rigged up a lethal labyrinth of deathtraps. One can only hope this means they’ll still have something in the tank for the recently announced “Saw VII.”
Photographer Louie Psihoyos teams up with ex-dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Ric O’Barry for this documentary that uncovers a shocking subsection of the already controversial fishing industry in Japan. Landing an Audience Award at this year’s Sundance, the film follows Psihoyos and his team as they infiltrate a guarded cove near the town of Taiji to document the barbaric practices of black-market fishermen who slaughter some 23,000 dolphins annually.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.
Debuting back in 1997, DocuWeek has become an annual theatrical tradition, trading films between New York and Los Angeles to showcase the best and brightest documentary talent around and qualify their films for Oscars in the process. This year’s DocuWeek kicks off with weeklong runs of “Dirt! The Movie,” exploring man’s cosmic relationship with, yes, dirt (LA 7/31, NY 8/7); “The Sari Soldiers,” which depicts the role of women in protesting the Nepalese civil war (LA 7/31, NY 8/14); “Smile Till It Hurts,” a history of the Up With People organization (LA 7/31, NY 8/7); “Sunrise/Sunset. Dalai Lama XIV,” which depicts 24 hours inside the residence of the Dalai Lama (LA 7/31, NY 8/7); “Sweet Crude,” which centers on the daily struggles of impoverished oil workers in the Niger Delta (LA 7/31, NY 8/14); “Garbage Dreams,” a fly-on-the-wall look at the lives of Egyptian trash collectors (NY 7/31, LA 8/14); “Hunting Down Memory,” the story of a Norwegian man who inexplicably lost 27 years of his memory (NY 7/31, LA 8/14); “Racing Dreams,” an inside look at the world of championship junior kart racing (NY 7/31, LA 8/14); “Severe Clear,” an embedded account of the march to Baghdad during the Iraq War (NY 7/31, LA 8/7); “Tapped,” an eye-opening look at the international impact of the bottled water industry (NY 7/31, LA 8/7); and finally, “Yes Madam, Sir,” an account of the first Indian woman to join the police force (NY 7/31, LA 8/14).
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.
“Flame and Citron”
An ultra-stylized account of World War II espionage based on the true-life exploits of a pair of Danish resistance heroes, helmer Ole Christian Madsen’s latest plays like a taut, sweaty war comic, shaded with much duplicity and double-dealing. Thure Lindhardt co-stars as codename “Flame” opposite recent Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen as codename “Citron,” the yin and yang of the spy game, one disturbed by the dance with death that is their attempts to undermine the Nazis, the other positively intoxicated by it. In Danish and German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.
Some impressively big names embody the shifting perspectives on a shocking act of violence that reverberates through the surviving witnesses of a fatal shooting at a restaurant in Aussie director Rowan Woods’ American debut, adapted by Roy Freirich from his own novel. Shifting back-and-forth between the central event and the mini-arcs of the gathered ensemble, we come to know the stories of Kate Beckinsale’s waitress, Guy Pearce’s surgeon, Forest Whitaker’s cancer sufferer and a pair of childhood best friends played by Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutcherson, each trying to come to terms with the aftermath.
Opens in New York.
In an ideal world designed by Hollywood’s reigning king of bromantic comedy Judd Apatow, there is no doubt that men would be able to reproduce together. But until that day comes, there’s still the awkward business of finding your ideal woman. Apatow’s third directorial outing co-stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a comedy star diagnosed with cancer who finds a kindred spirit in up-and-comer Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). Recovered from his near-death experience, Simmons is inspired to go after Laura (Leslie Mann), the girl that got away. Only the simple matter of her happy marriage to husband Clarke (Eric Bana) stands in his way. Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill co-star as Rogen’s roommates to keep up Apatow’s bromance rep.
Following her 2005 documentary “Made in Taiwan,” German filmmaker Monika Treut furthers her fascination with the Asian nation with this erotically charged culture clash thriller. Part romance, part supernatural mystery, “Ghosted” tells the story of Hamburg artist Sophie Schmitt (Inga Busch), as she puts the finishing touches on an art installation in Taipei in memory of her late Chinese lover. Having rebuffed the advances of Mei-Li (Hu Ting-Ting), a reporter investigating her lover’s death, Sophie returns home where Mei-Li follows, seduces her and then disappears, leaving behind no trace that she ever existed at all. In English, German and Mandarin with subtitles.
Opens in New York.
Filmed around the same time as last year’s eye-opening, anti-ageism doc “Young@Heart,” documentary filmmaker Dori Berinstein chronicles a group of New Jersey seniors who step out and come together as the first ever hip-hop dance team for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. From the first auditions to center-court halftime performances, Berinstein showcases the funky moves and tireless enthusiasm of the members of this novice dance troupe who are unafraid to try something new and daring in the name of free-spirited fun.
Opens in New York..