200801311444.jpgAs we approach the apex of the international awards season the biggest week for quality cinema releases in memory is upon us. With 8 Oscar nominations, the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men leads the pack and opens today at Readings, Lighthouse Petone, Paramount, Sky City Queensgate and the Embassy. Based on a Cormac McCarthy gothic crime novel, No Country reportedly sees the Coen’s back in their finest form since Fargo . Josh Brolin (American Gangster) plays a hunter who stumbles on a suitcase full of money and decides to keep it. He doesn’t realise that one of the biggest badasses in screen history (Javier Bardem) is coming to get him – and the money.

George Clooney as Best Actor is one of seven Oscar nominations gained for Michael Clayton, a paranoia-thriller about a corporate fixer who uncovers a plot that cannot end well for his clients – or for him. Written and directed by first-timer Tony Gilroy (co-writer of the Bourne trilogy), Michael Clayton brings to mind 70s classics like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor (directed by Sydney Pollack who stars in Michael Clayton). Readings, Empire, Lighthouse Petone, Penthouse and Sky City Queensgate.

[The rest of this week’s new releases after the jump]

The third Best Picture nomination to open this week is the surprise Indie hit Juno, which, like Little Miss Sunshine last year, came out of Sundance to win the hearts of cinema-goers everywhere. Ellen Page’s 16-year-old Juno McGuff finds herself pregnant and thinks she’s mature enough, not to have it and keep it, but to find decent parents for it. All over town at Readings, Empire, Rialto, Regent-on-Manners, Lighthouse Petone, Penthouse, Sky City Queensgate.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s passionate environmental documentary shouldn’t slip under your radar this week: The 11th Hour is, by all accounts, a positive and uplifting call to arms about building a sustainable future. You can find it at Rialto and the Penthouse.

Also at Rialto (and the Paramount), Don Cheadle stars in Talk to Me, the true story of the Washington D.C. ex-con turned radio star and civil rights activist “Petey” Green. 10 years ago, director Kasi Lemmons made the wonderful Eve’s Bayou and Talk to Me has garnered some positive reviews in advance of arriving here.

Finally, the kiwi-made vampire thriller 30 Days of Night opens at Readings and Regent-on-Manners. Produced by the Xena and Herc outfit led by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, it stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and Danny Huston plus a host of local faces under lots of make-up.

Juno has already been reviewed at Funerals & Snakes and the rest will be featured next week (and in the Capital Times on Wednesday).