The Movies is going on seasonal shutdown between Christmas and the first week of January. These however are the movies hitting South African cinemas over the next three Fridays. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you got it!
Today, 20 December:
Screening in 2D and 3D is the latest animated family film from Disney. In the Tangled mould, Frozen is a musical comedy adventure loosely based on the Snow Queen fairy tale. With the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff.
Frozen has been a smash hit, commercially and critically. Energetic, emotionally resonant, with stunning visuals and great songs, it’s been called the best animated Disney flick since the studio’s The Little Mermaid – Beauty and The Beast renaissance. 89% Fresh.
This thriller – based on an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy – is a change of pace for director Ridley Scott. Michael Fassbender is the title character, a lawyer who becomes embroiled in the drug trade across the Texas-Mexico border. Also with Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz and Brad Pitt.
The Counselor has been called a disappointment given the talent involved. Evidently it’s an unsatisfying talky mix of bleakness and incoherence.
Look, it’s The Hangover for the pensioner set. In this comedy, childhood friends Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline join their buddy Michael Douglas in Las Vegas for the latter’s bachelor party.
Last Vegas is watchable, but still quite bland and predictable. This isn’t to say that there’s no novelty in seeing all these legends together on the same big screen, and they inject heart into proceedings.
The latest comedy-drama from Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine centres on Cate Blanchett’s depressed, destitute socialite, who is forced to move in with her working class sister (Sally Hawkins). Also with Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard.
Favourable comparisons abound to A Streetcar Named Desire, and the film is busy accumulating multiple accolades this awards season, particularly for Blanchett. Smart, emotionally engaging and superbly acted.
In a World…:
Lake Bell writes, directs and stars in this indie comedy about a vocal coach and wannabe voice-over artist who is struggling to develop a reputation in the film industry – which retains a bias towards male voices.
In a World… is apparently an insightful, funny satire that offers a glimpse into a behind-the-scenes world film audiences rarely see. Best of all, it’s free of the usual smugness inherent to “movies about movies.”
Shot for 3D, 47 Ronin puts a fantasy spin on a famous slice of Japanese history. Keanu Reeves is a half-breed “Chosen One” yet again, helping 47 rogue samurai to avenge their murdered lord. This involves fighting giants, sorceresses and more.
At the time of writing this post, no reviews had appeared online yet for the much delayed 47 Ronin. You can track the film’s performance on Rotten Tomatoes here however.
Walking with Dinosaurs:
The classic BBC documentary TV series gets a 3D fictional overhaul for this family adventure that mixes computer-generated dinosaurs with live-action backdrops. With the voices of John Leguizamo and Justin Long, plus Karl Urban appearing in the modern day scenes.
Walking with Dinosaurs is visually spectacular, but evidently suffers from the “needless” decision to insert flat dialogue after shooting. It reeks of an attempt to make the whole project more cutesy for the kiddies, and in turn sell more merchandise.
This historical drama has been inspired by real-life events. Set just after the Japanese surrender that concluded World War II, Tommy Lee Jones is General Douglas MacArthur. He instructs Matthew Fox’s Brigadier General to investigate whether the Japanese Emperor should be tried for war crimes.
Critics have said that Emperor is competently made, with a striking performance by Jones. However, the decision to introduce a fictional romance and other Hollywood cliches distracts from the intriguing true story.
Not that we needed it, but here’s a remake of the classic horror film – based on course on Stephen King’s novel. Chloë Moretz is the title character, a teenage outcast who discovers she has telekinetic powers. This doesn’t sit well with her nutty, fundamentalist mother (Julianne Moore).
Critics have said that the Carrie remake is apparently well-made but still unnecessary. Oh, and now it’s more supernatural revenge flick than horror. A divisive 49% Fresh.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:
The 1939 short story – and 1947 film – get a 21st Century treatment in this romantic fantasy adventure. Ben Stiller is a magazine employee who loses himself in a series of heroic daydreams. Also with Kristen Wiig and Shirley MacLaine.
The film’s episodic format and lack of laughs has disgruntled some reviewers. Others however have appreciated its surrealism, poignancy and old school optimism.
Justin Beiber’s Believe:
Screening in 3D is this concert film and sequel to Never Say Never. Like the title suggests, it covers the teen heartthrob’s latest world tour, and the continued behind the scenes drama related to his super stardom.
Believe opens in the US on Christmas Day so reviews have yet to surface. This said, you can track the film’s critical reception closer to release here.
Liam Hemsworth and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson star in this crime drama based on the true story of an armoured car robbery. A young man and his best friend stage the largest cash heist in American history, which brings unwanted attention from the police and local crime bosses.
Empire State went straight to DVD in the US, when it released back in September. As a result it doesn’t have much coverage from film critics. This said, apparently the movie isn’t unwatchable. It’s full of tough guy posturing and predictability, but it’s gritty and satisfying for what it is.
Laura Michelle Kelly and Ronan Keating star in this Aussie romantic comedy about a housewife on an isolated Tasmanian farm. She becomes an online sensation because of webcam videos shot in her kitchen, putting strain on her marriage. Based on the musical play Sinksongs.
Evidently Goddess is charming, impossible-to-dislike fluff. It’s uplifting and upbeat, even if narratively mired in cliche.
What Maisie Knew:
Screening in limited release is this indie family drama – updating the Henry James novel of the same name – about an observant little girl who becomes an ill-used pawn in her parents’ divorce. With Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgård.
What Maisie Knew has been described as a tasteful, touching and highly perceptive melodrama – if you’ll pay to see this kind of thing on the big screen.
Last Updated: December 20, 2013