Movie boffin: What’s happening at the cinema

By admin
04 October 2013

In the mood for some popcorn in the dark and the enveloping seats of your nearest cinema? Check out what’s starting on the big screen this weekend.

If you’re tired of blockbusters set in a fantasy world and looking for something more grounded, why not check out Rush (16DLNSV)? Oscar-winning film-maker Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) directs this action-packed film based on the real-life rivalry in the ’70s between two Formula 1 racing drivers – playboy Brit James Hunt (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) and methodical Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl of Inglourious Basterds).

Films about motor sports rarely live up to expectations, but Rush has received almost universal praise, garnering 88 and 75 per cent respectively on reviews aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The former called it “a sleek, slick, well-oiled machine; a finely crafted sports drama with exhilarating race sequences and strong performances from Hemsworth and Brühl”. British film magazines Empire and Total Film were also effusive in their praise, the former awarding it four stars while the latter went as far as five, critic James Mottram writing that it’s “utterly gripping. Aided by two punchy lead turns, an Oscar-worthy script and stunning in-car footage, Howard’s race film delivers top-gear drama. A piston- and heart-pumping triumph”.

Nothing for Mahala (PG) is a local comedy about Axe (Thapelo Mokoena of Generations), a yuppie who’ll do almost anything to maintain his flashy lifestyle. The Cape Times’ Steyn du Toit describes him as “a suit-wearing hamster running inside his corporate wheel trying to keep up with the Joneses”. When a lucrative deal falls through, a chain of unfortunate events means Axe ends up in court and the judge orders him to do 200 hours’ community service at a retirement home. Here he meets the home’s stern manager Reneilwe (Mmabatho Montsho, also of Generations) and a host of colourful characters, including a retired boxing promoter (Marius Weyers), who teach him a few life lessons.

The film received mostly positive reviews. Both the Cape Times and Die Burger gave it three stars. Du Toit praised the script written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey, “The film’s dialogue is witty and well executed, avoiding the paint-by-numbers clichés so often found in South African comedies.” Die Burger’s Paul Boekkooi was pleased with the plot, saying it’s “a typically South African one without coming across as hackneyed or predictable”. He was also impressed with the production values and the naturalistic acting the actors maintain “even in the most humorous situations”.

Halle Berry stars in The Call (16V), a thriller centred on emergency switchboard operator Jordan Turner (Berry) whose life falls apart when she fails to save a teenage girl from being murdered. After descending into alcoholism she’s back at work six months later when another teenage girl (Abigail Breslin of My Sister’s Keeper) calls in to say she’s been abducted. Can Jordan save the girl this time?

The film received mixed reviews – Rotten Tomatoes gave it 44 per cent, saying that it “builds plenty of suspense before taking a problematic turn in the third act”. This was the complaint of many critics. Total Film’s Paul Bradshaw gave it three stars, writing that “Berry’s fine performance powers a gutsy, original thriller that keeps you on tenterhooks . . . until the dumbest finale in years makes you wish you hadn’t bothered”. Jason Best of Movie Talk wrote, “The Call delivers taut no-frills thrills for two-thirds of its brisk running time. But the plot falls apart spectacularly and the ludicrous finale will leave you groaning.” Empire’s Neil Alcock was even more dismissive, giving it two stars and describing the movie as “derivative, formulaic tosh that could easily have been written for Sandra Bullock in the mid-’90s”.

Fantasy action movie R.I.P.D. (10LVH) tells the story of a Boston cop, Nick (Ryan Reynolds), who’s murdered by his partner (Kevin Bacon) and on his way to the afterlife when he’s recruited by the Rest in Peace Department, an undead police force tasked with catching vengeful spirits that have escaped into the land of the living. Partnered with a scruffy sheriff (Jeff Bridges), Nick uncovers a plot to end life as we know it.

The movie received mostly negative reviews, scoring only 14 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and 25 per cent on Metacritic. The consensus on the former was that “it has its moments – most of them courtesy of Bridges’ performance as an undead Wild West sheriff – but R.I.P.D. is ultimately too dim-witted and formulaic to satisfy”. Total Film’s Ken McIntyre gave it two stars, writing that “if this all sounds very Ghostbusters-meets-Men in Black, well, it should. R.I.P.D. is one of the most derivative action comedies in recent memory, with every gag, stunt and action sequence liberally pilfered from some other film”. Empire’s Olly Richards also gave it two stars and lamented the wasted opportunity, saying it’s “a great idea someone started but apparently neglected to finish”.

Those looking for a film that addresses contemporary issues should enjoy Arbitrage (13LD), a thriller starring Richard Gere as Wall Street hedge fund manager Robert Miller who’s desperately trying to complete the sale of his debt-ridden company to a bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. While also struggling to conceal an affair from his wife (Susan Sarandon), Robert’s plan has almost succeeded when an error forces him to turn to a young financial whizz (The Secret Life of Bees’ Nate Parker) for help.

The movie received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 87 per cent, describing it as “both a tense thriller and a penetrating character study, elevated by the strength of a typically assured performance from Gere”. Empire’s David Hughes gave it four stars and also praised Gere’s acting, calling it an “effective thriller that demystifies Wall Street without diminishing its complexity”. David Denby of The New Yorker said Gere gives his best performance yet and wrote that the film is “part thriller [and] part character study [that] moves swiftly and confidently with many details that feel exactly right”.

Raja Rani* is a Tamil-language romantic drama about John (Arya) and Regina (Nayanthara) who are forced into an arranged marriage. Initially they’re deeply unhappy, but things begin to change when they reveal their previous love affairs to each other, which helps them gain new insights.

The film received generally positive reviews. The Times of India’s M Suganth gave it three stars, writing that “the film does leave you exhausted by the time it ends. Still, it remains always watchable, mainly because director Atlee [Kumar] embraces his old-school storytelling methods with conviction”. S Saraswathi of Rediff.com also gave it three stars and said, “Debutant director Atlee’s Raja Rani is a simple, refreshing tale about how to cope with life when we lose someone we love. The film has a lot going for it and definitely succeeds in entertaining the audience.”

-Sandra Visser

*Age restriction to be announced.

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