The low-down on this week's premieres
Based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller, Sin City is co-directed by Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Spy Kids) and Miller `see review, page 21`. In this metropolis, lush special effects, a la Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, are meshed with dabs of film noir to create an amoral underworld of criminals and corruption. To show off his star-recruiting power, Rodriguez casts a blockbuster lineup including Jessica Alba (Honey), Rosario Dawson (Alexander), Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Benicio del Toro (Traffic), Michael Clark Duncan (The Green Mile), Josh Hartnett (Hollywood Homicide), Michael Madsen (Kill Bill: Vol 2), Mickey Rourke (Man on Fire), Clive Owen (Closer), Brittney Murphy (Little Black Book), and Nick Stahl (Terminator 3). Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) is also credited as a special guest director for one of the film's three segments. The last time Tarantino contributed a fraction of a film was 1995's vacant Four Rooms, where his portion, A Man from Hollywood, was the highlight of the hotel.
A spinoff of the Barbershop films of 2002 and 2004, Beauty Shop finds Queen Latifah (Traffic) moving from the candy-striped pole to her own posh salon. Whether its fixing dreadlocks or cornrows, Latifah is armed and dangerous with her hairspray, curling iron, and natural receptiveness to gossip.
Representing Germany as the Best Foreign Language Film nominee at this year's Academy Awards, Downfall, aka Der Untergang, tells the story of the last days of Third Reich dictator Adolf Hitler. This film is the first from Germany to engage in this sensitive subject matter since 1956's The Last Act.
Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela is a documentary about the largest gathering of human beings on the planet. Every 12 years, 70 million pilgrims congregate for a spiritual festival and celebration where India's hottest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna, meet. It's a Dalai Lama sauna.