Jennifer Merin(WOMENSENEWS)–Get set for even more tantalizing foreplay before we finally reach the spectacular late-month multinational release of "Sex and the City 2" on May 27. Between now and then you can count on an ongoing spring blizzard of media teases, with bits and snippets dropped about everything from plot twists to hat tricks, from fashion, makeup and hairstyle tips to illicit interludes.

To date, Warner Bros.’ marketing team has been quite coy about revealing elements of this latest incarnation of Carrie and crew and I have not been able to preview it. Amid all this, suspense is inevitably building about whether this sequel can inspire anything like the massive public love affair with the first "Sex and the City."

What we know thus far about the story is that the quickly-approaching middle-age and already somewhat settled shopportunistic quartet takes off on a girls-go-wild vacation to Abu Dhabi–yes, Abu Dhabi–where Carrie, whose marriage to Mr. Big is in a slump, happens to bump into her ex-squeeze Aidan Shaw. That’s all that’s been revealed, but oh oh, and oh my–and all of that in Abu Dhabi.

For starters, join the club of skeptics who are wondering why the famously New York-centric hedonistic fashionistas would choose to jet off for a girly getaway in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. We all need a little escape, but are audiences–women and men–who are so stressed by this punishing recession ready to embrace these notoriously conspicuous consumers’ foray into a famously oil-rich capital?

If you’ve been speculating that the film’s clever and resourceful writer-director Patrick Michael King and his producers were lured to Abu Dhabi by oil-rich sheiks who’ve already demonstrated intent to buy into the glamorous, influential movie industry by founding the affluent Middle East International Film Festival, you’re probably wrong.

Instead, it seems that the socially and politically conservative authorities of the United Arab Emirates banned the filming of this tale of liberal ladies in their country.

Camel Rides to Somewhere

So when Carrie and crew step out of their Jimmy Choo shoes and away from the party-girl platform to embrace their wild-woman inner instincts and mount camels for desert rides, they’re actually in Morocco, apparently a more indulgent host to U.S. cultural trends and those who represent them.

Even so, Abu Dhabi anticipates a tourist rush following the film’s release. Such is the influence of the Sex-and-the-City franchise.

The first movie was marketed in 2008 to the "women’s niche audience" and achieved huge box office success. "Sex and the City" earned $55.7 million on opening weekend, making it the fifth largest R-rated opener ever. To date, it has grossed more than $400 million dollars worldwide.

For some, the success of "Sex and the City" was hailed as a benchmark for women in film. Those of us in a dissenting camp thought differently. We enjoyed the show and were pleased to know that a film starring women could make money and generate a massive, built-in audience for further adventures. But the cartoonish gals’ consumerist preoccupations hardly seemed to represent real women’s concerns or interests. It was about female escapism, not affirmation.

The upcoming movie may stir a bit more dissent.

In this film, the quartet seems so oblivious to any real-world external concerns that there’s substantial Internet chat suggesting fans may be less enchanted this time around.

Meanwhile, several films of particular interest to women release earlier in the month and genuinely warrant our attention and support.

Motherly Themes

Of three highly worthwhile films that debut on May 7–two days before Mother’s Day–two play right into the motherhood theme.

"Babies," a documentary by French filmmaker Thomas Balmes (the film’s in French with English subtitles), follows the first year of four babies born in different corners of the world; Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. It’s a fascinating comparative revelation of how different cultures welcome their babies into the world and immediately begin the process of cultural integration. The quartet of babies is adorable and their emerging personalities are profiled with love, warmth and gentle understanding.

Carrie Bradshaw and crew in Abu Dhabi in "Sex and the City 2."In "Mother and Child," writer-director Rodrigo Garcia takes on the subject of adoption in a story that interweaves three engaging stories. Annette Benning plays a middle-age physical therapist who lives with and cares for her aging mother and is suffering guilt and bitterness from having given up the child she had when she was 14 years old. Naomi Watts plays that child, now a bright and ambitious lawyer who’s in two unsatisfying relationships: one with her boss (Samuel Jackson) and one with her neighbor, whose wife is pregnant. In the third plot line, Kerry Washington plays a woman who is desperate to have a child but cannot conceive and, so, with her husband, seeks a solution through a private Catholic adoption service.

Garcia, who’s revered by the actresses who’ve worked with him, brings his characters’ stories together in surprising, always interesting and meaningful ways. I highly recommend this film.

Also opening May 7 in limited release, "The Oath" is Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras’ extraordinary investigation of the disparate fates of two brothers who were both arrested as suspected terrorists in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Both brothers were formerly staunch al-Qaida supporters and close associates of Osama bin Laden. One brother, Abu Jamal, went through detainment and trial and is now a taxi driver in Yemen. The other brother, Salim Hamdan, is currently imprisoned at Guantanamo.

Poitras’ compelling work provokes public consideration and debate about how the war on terrorism is being handled by U.S. authorities and how international perceptions of U.S. anti-terrorism practices affects foreign attitudes toward the United States as an international power.

Compelling Hawaiian Princess

Opening on May 14, "Princess Ka’iulani" is a narrative feature based on the true story of the Hawaiian princess who in 1888, when she was but 12 years old, was removed from her family and relocated to Victorian England. Through personal fortitude, Ka’iulani (played by Q’orianka Kilcher) develops the commitment to try to right the injustices her people are suffering under American control. Ka’iulani’s story is compelling and Kilcher’s performance is gripping. The film is moving and inspiring.

Queen Latifah stars in the femme-centric "Just Wright," also opening May 14. Directed by Sanaa Hamri ("Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," 2005), this smart romcom features a gal who maintains her cool and self-respect as she bounces between being a best friend and seeking true love. The film’s unique basketball twist makes this chick flick appealing to men as well as women.

"Letters From Juliet," also opening May 14, features Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, a romantic young woman whose travels bring her to the home of William Shakespeare’s star-crossed heroine in Verona, where heartbroken lovers leave letters to invoke advice from the spirit of Juliet. Sophie finds and answers a letter that was written in 1957 and in doing so facilitates a lover’s reunion that was 50 years in the making. Vanessa Redgrave plays the letter writer, who is now advanced in years. It is a charming and romantic story that’s brought to life with two beautifully realized performances by two generations of superb actresses.

After that, we get closer to the big debut of "Sex and the City 2," which will undoubtedly be the month’s box office powerhouse, while the other films flowering in May provide as much, if not more, viewing satisfaction.

In addition to covering film for Women’s eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for ( and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (, a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada.

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