By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! March 7, 2014 at 1:39PM
While there's plenty to see in theaters this weekend (we've outlined three), the film you won't want to miss is Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac: Volume 1," and you can watch it from the comfort of home. It arrived on VOD Thursday before hitting theaters on March 21. Also arriving this weekend is another auteur output, Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," as well as indie thriller "Grand Piano" and macho action spectacle "300: Rise of an Empire." Trailers below.
In "Nymphomaniac," it's not just about sex. There's plenty of it, to be sure, in this very dark comedy about a woman's sexual history. That woman, Joe, is played with ferocity by Lars von Trier's favorite damsel-in-distress, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and in recounting her coital past, the film becomes a psychosexual picaresque -- and a truly twisted character study. Framing the story is the banter between Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard, equally discomfiting and hilarious. (Actual line from the film, spoken by Skarsgard after Gainsbourg reveals lurid details of her past: "That's an excellent parallel to river trout fishing!")
Don't miss Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel." With its stellar cast and archly arranged set pieces, it is indeed the most Wes Anderson film he's ever made. Make of that what you will, but it's pure visual pleasure, with hilarious turns from Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton (however briefly), Ralph Fiennes and Jude Law, among many others.
Hitchcock would have admired Eugenio Mira's tightrope thriller "Grand Piano," starring Elijah Wood as a storied concert pianist who's told via cell phone by an unknown assailant (voiced by John Cusack) that he will die if he plays one wrong note. Tight editing and gorgeous music choices pull you deep into this nail-biter, which gives new meaning to the term "stage fright."
Also hitting theaters in wide release is the "300" sequel, "Rise of an Empire," delivering the chiseled, masculine goods once again while adding French art film actress Eva Green to the mix (fun fact: Lars von Trier wanted her to play Gainsbourg's role in his 2009 "Antichrist"). Reviews are all over the map for this one, but needless to say it's a bloody bit of CG-fun that's probably a welcome and mindless refreshment for some following awards season. If the male demo comes through, this film will play well.
Nymphomanic: Volume 1 Dir. Lars von Trier, Denmark | Magnolia Pictures | Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Stacy Martin, Uma Thurman | 88% Fresh | Variety: "A ferociously entertaining experience in which one finds von Trier at the peak of his craft, linking together ideas about female sexuality, fly-fishing and artistic creation with equal amounts of playfulness and intellectual rigor." | Our Sundance review
The Grand Budapest Hotel Dir. Wes Anderson, USA | Fox Searchlight | Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman | 79% Fresh | Entertainment Weekly: "I've had my Wes Anderson breakthrough - or maybe it's that he's had his. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a marvelous contraption, a wheels-within-wheels thriller that's pure oxygenated movie play." | Our review and Berlinale cast interview and press conference coverage
Grand Piano Dir. Eugenio Mira, Spain | Magnet Releasing | Cast: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishe, Tamsin Egerton | 86% Fresh | Village Voice: "Even after the story falls apart, you still feel you've seen something. 'Grand Piano' has savoir-faire to burn."
300: Rise of an Empire Dir. Noam Murro, USA | Warner Bros. | Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro | 40% Fresh | Time Out: "It's flesh and carnage that the audience is here to see, and Murro delivers it by the glistening ton, pausing only for stray bits of backstory."