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Beyond the Gates
directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Depending on your outlook, Beyond the Gates will either resonate as a tale of extraordinary humanity in the chaos of Rwanda or a cheap knock-off of Hotel Rwanda. In Michael Caton-Jones’ tale of the horrors in Rwanda, two educators (Hugh Dancy and John Hurt) struggle to save lives amidst the ethnic cleansing spreading across the country. Against the protests of the United Nations workers and the jaded attitudes of the media in the country, the teachers protect people by keeping them in their school compound. This set-up sounds eerily familiar… as if the same movie had already been made, but with Don Cheadle in the lead.

The Exterminating Angels
directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau
When will movie characters learn that sex opens a Pandora’s Box of very, very bad things? In the case of French movie The Exterminating Angels, a director (Frederic van den Driessche) casts three women secure enough with themselves (and being really dirty in front of other people) to star in a movie exploring female pleasure. It’s not long before the women turn the tables on the director, however, and force him to go further with his “exploration” than perhaps he wishes. Thanks to acclaimed director Jean-Claude Brisseau, Angels, which was a hit at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, takes on a Kubrickian aura when it could easily have devolved into lurid sexploitation. Also starring Maroussia Dubreuil, Lise Bellynck and Marie Allen.

The Host
directed by Joon-ho Bong
When a dimwitted lab assistant, at the behest of his boss, dumps a lot of formaldehyde down the drain, a giant monstrous sea creature erupts from the waters of Seoul to terrorize the people of South Korea. The creature in The Host could be the bastard offspring of an ungodly union between Godzilla and Jaws, with a splash of Frankenstein tossed in for good measure. This is a genre picture through and through, taking it back to its Nuclear Age roots of out-of-control science run amok. Who wants to take bets on how long it will be until Hollywood remakes it? Starring Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae and Ah-sung Ko.

The Namesake
directed by Mira Nair
Kal Penn completes his transformation from kooky racial stereotype sidekick (Van Wilder) to dramatic artiste in this adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the clashing of traditional Indian values and modern global realities. Gogol (Penn), raised in America, struggles with his parents’ ideas for his future and his happiness. He has a white girlfriend; his parents want him to settle down with a nice Indian girl. He wants to change his name; they want him to embrace his heritage and the meaning behind his name. The film’s themes might resonate, and director Mira Nair might attract audiences, but viewers might not be able to get past Penn’s comedic past, one role removed from Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. Also starring Irfan Khan and Tabu.

300
directed by Zack Snyder
This adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is a dramatic, gory recreation of the 480 B.C. Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans took on the massive Persian army. But Gladiator it is not. It isn’t even Troy. Flawed as those two films might be, they’re at least fun, with a touch of subtlety. 300 is as subtle as a Trojan Horse lit aflame and rolled into the movie theater—and with just as much screaming. Gerard Butler, as Spartan king Leonidas, screams his way through the movie so brutishly that he makes Sean Penn look like a mumbler. Also starring Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham and Vincent Regan.

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