Movies out today: It's time for an action-packed weekend

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It’s a weekend of serious stuff (well, for the most part) at South African moviehouses, with manly men doing stuff like picking up guns, and flaming chains, and going to war… against everyone from drug dealers to Germans to, uh, the Devil himself. Can’t you just smell the testosterone?

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
– Of today’s 4 major releases, this is probably the one comic fans and teenage boys will be most interested in. Then again it’s a PG-13 sequel to a dire 2007 comic adaptation (my original review) that very few enjoyed. Anyway, in Outing #2 for Marvel’s tormented, anti-hero Ghost Rider, Nicolas Cage is back as the title character – known in human form as Johnny Blaze. This time Blaze, while hiding out in Eastern Europe, is called upon to save a young boy from the Devil (Ciarán Hinds). Specifically shot in 3D, by the team behind Crank. Watch the trailer here.

Critical reaction to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has been tepid at most, but then again that’s hardly surprising given the film’s strained attempt to appear badass in the trailer (flaming urine, anyone?). Currently sitting with an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 14% Fresh – well below that of the original – Spirit of Vengeance apparently has stunning surroundings, but feels like a neutered straight-to-DVD release.

War Horse: On the opposite end of the pedigree spectrum, there’s this World War I drama, based on an acclaimed novel and play… and directed by Steven Spielberg. Currently in the running for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, War Horse centres on a thoroughbred that is recruited for the English war effort, and touches lives on both sides of No Man’s Land. Jeremy Irvine plays the horse’s desperate farmboy owner, while Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch are some of the recognisable faces that round off the cast. Watch the trailer here.

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Given how the trailer left me sobbing, I think it’s safe to say that War Horse is an unapologetic, good old fashioned tearjerker. Some will no doubt find the film blatantly manipulative and sentimental as a result, but then again, Spielberg has never been known for downplaying emotion. The degree to which you enjoy War Horse then will probably depend on how quickly your heart warms to on-screen events. However, even if you’re a stone-cold cynic, the film is nonetheless technically brilliant, with gorgeous visuals.

This Means War: If you like your action less heavy and historical, and more slick and superficial, there’s this unusual blend of romantic comedy and espionage actioner. Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play a pair of ridiculously named CIA agents (FDR and Tuck respectively) who find their friendship pushed to the limits when they both fall for Reese Witherspoon. Commence underhanded rivalries using the latest spy technology while the 2 men should really be concentrating on a vengeful criminal mastermind (Til Schweiger). Charlie’s Angels’ McG directs.

You can read Kervyn’s review of This Means War here. For the record he’s been quite a bit kinder towards the film than international critics, who have dismissed it as clunky, unfunny, poorly scripted and completely lacking chemistry. Still, if you’re in the mood for 98 minutes of pretty people, frothy, fast-paced shenanigans and a distinct lack of reality in any form, This Means War might work for you.

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Elite Squad: The Enemy Within – Screening in limited release at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau is this action thriller from Brazil. Admittedly I’ve never heard of this sequel, or its award-winning 2007 predecessor The Elite Squad, but it’s the highest grossing film in Brazilian history. Semi-fictional, the movie looks at the operations of Rio’s highly elite military police squad, the Special Police Operations Battalion, as they tackle crime – particularly drug trafficking – and government corruption. Wagner Moura is the tough lieutenant colonel caught up in the chaos.

Boasting a Rotten Tomatoes of 95% Fresh, Elite Squad is apparently super tense, hard hitting and gritty. It’s smarter than you’d think for a police drama – commenting with unrestrained rage on Rio’s social reality – but its real strength lies in its action scenes (including police raids and prison riots) that are completely exhilarating. P.S. The director of Elite Squad is currently set to helm the RoboCop reboot.

Last Updated: February 24, 2012

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

  • It always baffles me that the minute a film doesn’t have a major hollywood star in the lead, and features a largely foreign tongue, it’s immediately consigned to Nouveau cinema. In this country at least, not sure about what happens elsewhere. 

    It happened with DayWatch, now it happens with Elite Squad. That said, it also happened with Drive.

    The common thread seems to be that of films that ask more of their audiences beyond what is the expected norm. Which should tell something about a) distributors in South Africa or b) audiences in South Africa

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