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Movies out for the festive break

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Today begins the Christmas holidays for many South Africans, and considering the number of people on a festive break from today, here are all the new releases hitting local cinemas before the end of 2012. See you in the New Year.

Friday, 21 December

Life of Pi:
Visionary director Ang Lee brings Yann Martel’s “unfilmable” fantasy adventure novel to the big screen in spectacular 3D (and 2D) style. Suraj Sharma stars as a young man who survives a shipwreck but finds himself adrift on a lifeboat for 227 days with a Bengal tiger.

A commercial and critical hit, Life of Pi has been racking up awards – most recently 3 Golden Globe nominations, including one for Best Picture. You can read Kervyn’s review here. In short, the film is the most beautiful 3D movie to date but it falls a bit short in terms of emotional and philosophical impact.  89% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

End of Watch:
A “handheld camera” style movie that isn’t a horror flick? Here you go. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star in this slice-of-life drama about a pair of beat cops in South Central Los Angeles. They joke, they mess around and their surprising effectiveness eventually tick offs a drug cartel.

At times you wonder where the episodic End of Watch is going. However by the finale you’ll find yourself fully engrossed and emotionally engaged, thanks chiefly to its charismatic leads and hard-hitting nature. 85% Fresh according to international critics. Read our review here.

Here Comes the Boom:
Frequent Adam Sandler collaborator, Mall Cop and Zookeeper Kevin James stars in this comedy about a once apathetic teacher who becomes an MMA fighter to save his school’s music department. Also with Salma Hayek.

You won’t be watching Here Comes the Boom for its incisive wit. This one is your standard lowbrow sports comedy and underdog tale. Undemanding and formulaic, but not unwatchable.

The Master:
Right, here’s your antidote to Here Comes the Boom: writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest drama – and follow-up effort to There Will Be Blood. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a psychologically damaged WWII veteran who falls in with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Scientology-style cult. Also with Amy Adams.

Already a multi-award winner in all categories, arty The Master is apparently complex and challenging. It’s made extra worthwhile by its tremendous performances.

Celeste and Jesse Forever:
Also screening in limited release is this indie romantic comedy. Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a young couple who maintain an unusually close relationship despite having married young and separated. Of course, their deep friendship prevents each other from moving on. Co-written by Jones.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is apparently charming and breezy. It’s not quite as insightful or realistic as it strives to appear though.

Friday, 28 December

Adventures in Zambezia:
South African animation studio Triggerfish brings us a colourful 3D family adventure to finally erase the foul taste of Jock of the Bushveld. Zambezia centres on falcon Kai, who heads to the “big city” of Zambezia to join its elite aerial defence force, The Hurricanes. With the voices of Abigail Breslin, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy and Samuel L. Jackson.

Adventures in Zambezia won the Best South African Feature award at this year’s Durban International Film Festival, and is in the running for a couple of Annies. Judging by the show-all trailer, I doubt Zambezia is amazing but it nonetheless demonstrates real creativity and wit.

Jack Reacher:
Say what you want about Tom Cruise but he still makes some damn fun blockbusters. Here he brings Lee Child’s tough-as-nails military cop turned drifter from the page to the big screen. Plot-wise, Reacher is recruited to find evidence after a sniper goes on a killing spree. With Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog and Richard Jenkins.

Currently sporting a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 80% Fresh, Jack Reacher is apparently a satisfying, twisty popcorn thriller.

Silver Linings Playbook:
The latest from filmmaker David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook stars Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man trying to turn his life around. In the process he ends up becoming Jennifer Lawrence’s dance partner. Also with Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker.

This romantic comedy-drama may have an awful premise on paper, but walking a tonal tightrope, the film has dazzled critics and scooped many awards for its involving screenplay and performances.

In Darkness:
Screening in limited release is this harrowing, real-life drama about a Polish maintenance worker (Robert Więckiewicz) who helps hide a band of hunted Jews in the sewers of Lwow during the Holocaust. In Polish with English subtitles.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, In Darkness is apparently tough to watch but very exciting. Emotionally demanding but rewarding.

Last Updated: December 21, 2012

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