Movies out today: 6 of the best, worst and mediocre

4 min read

It’s all about choice this weekend at South African cinemas. You want it, you got it – whether it be a Christian values drama, sci-fi horror, a cheerfully nostalgic musical (with puppets) for the whole family, a pedigreed biopic about a controversial statesman, a vigilante thriller or even an award-winning psychological drama based on an award-winning novel.

Courageous: Wholesome indie film Fireproof was a massive hit with Christian audiences, so from the same company comes another drama about ordinary men and community heroes – this time Georgia cops. The policemen of Courageous make a commitment to improving their troubled home lives, by embracing the importance of family.

Given its heavy-handed approach to promoting Christian values, Courageous won’t be for everyone. This said, the film is apparently not unwatchable – and manages to be genuinely inspiring – but suffers from feeling overlong and overstuffed with topics.

The Darkest Hour: On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum is this “When Aliens Attack” movie, set in Moscow. Emile Hirsch heads up the cast of American twentysomethings who must survive when invisible, energy-stealing extraterrestrials descend on the Earth’s cities. Shot specifically for 3D. Watch the trailer here.

If you like your sci-fi blockbusters brain dead and extra superficial, you may get a kick out of The Darkest Hour. Everyone else, beware the awful script and cheap effects. The film received an aggregated review score of just 12% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

J. Edgar: After The Aviator, Leonardo DiCaprio is back on biopic turf… this time for director Clint Eastwood. Playing the title character, Leo joins Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas and Judi Dench to examine the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the founder and first director of the FBI. A celebrated figure during the “gangster wars” of the Prohibition Era, Hoover was later accused of overstepping his authority and being a closeted homosexual.

On paper J. Edgar looks like blatant award bait. However, critical response to the 2 hour 17 minute “epic” has been mixed. Apparently Leo is outstanding – and was a notable 2012 Oscar snub – but the ambitious film is flawed; muddled and laboured in execution.

The Muppets: I’m very curious to see how well this comedy musical does locally given how little it’s been hyped – and given the debatable amount of love South African audiences have for Jim Henson’ puppets with personality. In this first big screen Muppets movie in over a decade, Jason Segel and Amy Adams help Kermit, Miss Piggy and co. raise funds to save their Hollywood Theatre.

By all accounts, The Muppets is must-see for franchise fans and newbies alike. The film has been called clever, heartfelt and charming. Some have even gone so far as to call The Muppets the Happiest Movie of 2011 and one of the year’s unexpected best.

Seeking Justice: If you’ve been to the movies recently then you’ve probably been subjected to the trailer for this action thriller. Nicolas Cage plays an ordinary citizen who, after the violent rape of his wife (January Jones), finds himself indebted to a secret but powerful vigilante group, headed by Guy Pearce.

Seeking Justice only opens in the US on 16 March, but European reviewers have complained that this passable, if unambitious, effort completely falls apart during its third act. It’s apparently not an all-out turkey… but nonetheless file this one under “Nic Cage needed the money.”

We Need to Talk About Kevin: Well, this is what I’m going to see this weekend. Although she ultimately didn’t receive an expected Oscar nomination for her work in this psychological thriller-drama, Tilda Swinton stars as mother who suspects her son is a sociopath… except nobody believes her. Based on the acclaimed novel by Lionel Shriver. Trailer and profile here.

You’ll be watching We Need to Talk About Kevin for its mesmerizing performances and sustained suspense. At the same time it’s worth noting that some have called it “hard to watch” and unsubtle. Only screening at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau.

Last Updated: January 27, 2012

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