New Year's week is typically a dry time for new releases, which is likely fine by multiplex employees. After last weekend's record box office, they could use a rest. But we cinephiles are always in need of fresh options, and just because it's the week after Christmas -- a traditional peak time for moviegoing -- doesn't mean there should be a total lack of new offerings. I know I'm not the only person who grew up regularly going to the movies on New Year's Eve.
Fortunately, while there seems to be no studio fare out this week, there are a few new films coming out in limited release. And each appears to be worth checking out if they're available in your area now or later, theatrically or otherwise.
"The White Ribbon"
What it is: The latest from Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke ("Funny Games"), "The White Ribbon" is a drama set in a German village just prior to the start of World War I. The film follows a few of the local patriarchs -- a pastor, a doctor and a baron -- as strange, seemingly coincidental things begin happening in the area. Haneke says the film is about "the origin of every type of terrorism, be it or political or religious nature."
Why you should be interested: Haneke is one of those oft-controversial directors whose work is always worth a look, regardless of your taste or favor for his past films. Each new effort is at least interesting and provocative. "The White Ribbon" is especially notable, as it won the top award (Palme d'Or) at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
How you can see it: Sony Pictures Classics debuts "The White Ribbon" in NY and LA tomorrow, but they will be rolling the film out to other markets through March (see the booked theater list here). There's a possibility the film will be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar -- it is Germany's official submission for consideration -- so it may gain further distribution with that honor. Regardless, if your area isn't represented in Sony's scheduled bookings, contact the distributor and your local arthouse and try to get it to play near you.
"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"
What it is: Based on a recently rediscovered screenplay from Tennessee Williams ("A Streetcar Named Desire"), "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" stars Bryce Dallas Howard ("Spider-Man 3;" the upcoming "Twilight Saga: Eclipse") as a Southern heiress who falls for a man (Chris Evans, of "The Fantastic Four") beneath her social class. Set in Memphis in the 1920s, the film also stars Ellen Burstyn and Ann-Margaret.
Why you should be interested: Williams' plays and scripts are some of the most revered of the 20th century, and it's intriguing to see a new film from his writing at this point in time. Even if it's not as great as the classics "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Baby Doll" or "Suddenly, Last Summer," fans of the master dramatist are likely to be satisfied. Howard, coming off a number of blockbuster franchise installments has earned some praise for her performance, though the always underrated Evans is an appealing talent, as well.
How you can see it: "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" opens in New York and Los Angeles tomorrow.
What it is: "The Chaser" is an acclaimed South Korean thriller about a cop-turned-pimp whose girls keep vanishing. Eventually he discovers a connection between all the disappearances and investigates the case of the most recent girl gone missing in the hopes of finding her still alive. The international hit is set to be remade by Leonardo DiCaprio and "The Departed" screenwriter William Monahan, who would direct.
Why you should be interested: It's certainly worth seeing the original before the remake is released (provided it's actually made), plus "The Chaser" may also appeal to fans of similar films by Chan-wook Park ("Oldboy") and/or popular Asian cinema in general.
How you can see it: IFC Films opens "The Chaser" in NYC tomorrow, and it appears to be simultaneously playing on IFC's Festival Direct on-demand channel. The film also comes out on DVD in a mere two weeks.