Movies releasing in SA today: Bring on the action, drama and fantasy

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After a few dud weeks of new releases, today is a bumper day for South African movie fans. Four high profile films open locally (2 of them 2012 Oscar nominees). Bring on the pedigree. Bring on the quality.

Hugo: Shot specifically for 3D, and screening in both 2D and 3D, is this family fantasy adventure… from director Martin (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) Scorsese of all people. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the film centres on an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives behind the walls of a train station in 1930 Paris. While he collects parts to build his inventor father’s (Jude Law) unfinished automaton, Hugo encounters the likes of Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen and Christopher Lee.

Hugo is the most nominated film at this year’s Academy Awards, competing in 11 categories. The film has received widespread acclaim, racking up an aggregated review score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently it’s elegantly made, rich in wonder and a beautiful tribute to the magic of cinema. Definitely my pick of the new releases.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (3D): George Lucas has found a new way to milk Star Wars devotees of their pennies: a converted 3D re-release of the movie that gave the world Jar Jar Binks! More seriously, the film allows audiences to relive events they haven’t witnessed on the big screen in 13 years – specifically Jedi Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor’s’s involvement in a conflict that precedes the fall of intergalactic democracy. Oh, and there’s kiddie Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd), Natalie Portman, a pod race and battles aplenty.

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For those who didn’t see it the first time round, The Phantom Menace is hit-and-miss: technically mind-blowing, but hamstrung by flat characters and a dull plot.

Safe House: It’s action-espionage thriller time… with a South African backdrop. Ryan Reynolds is a Cape Town-based CIA operative, who must escort deadly ex-agent Denzel Washington to another secure location – while rebel soldiers and morally dubious CIA agents are in hot pursuit. Watch the trailer here.

Evidently Safe House is quite watchable, and delivers solid, aggressive actions scenes in the Bourne style. However, audiences shouldn’t expect originality – Safe House is very much a paint-by-numbers genre entry.

The Iron Lady: Nominated for Best Actress and Best Make-up at this year’s Academy Awards, The Iron Lady is a controversial biopic about Britain’s first and only female prime minister. Actress supremo Meryl Streep plays the divisive figure of Margaret Thatcher, and the film depicts her political rise and fall, as well as her struggles with dementia in later years.

Unsurprisingly, Streep’s breathtaking work is considerably better than the movie as a whole. Apparently The Iron Lady can’t decide what it wants to say about Thatcher and settles for the predictable middle ground.

Last Updated: February 10, 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.

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