Movie boffin: what’s happening on the big screen

By admin
18 November 2013

This week choose between two dramas based on true events, a horror movie or an Afrikaans musical.

The thriller Captain Phillips (13 V) stars Tom Hanks as the captain of a US container ship that’s hijacked by four Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, who’s known for his visceral action sequences but also the gritty, documentary style with which he recreates real events. 

The movie received almost universal praise, with critics’ review aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic giving it 94 and 83 per cent respectively. The former described it as “smart, powerfully acted and incredibly intense, [a movie that] offers filmgoers a Hollywood biopic done right – and offers Hanks a showcase for yet another brilliant performance”. British film magazines Empire and Total Film awarded it five and four stars respectively, with Empire’s Dan Jolin writing that “both Greengrass and Hanks are on award-deserving form in a riveting, emotionally complex and hugely intelligent dramatisation of a real-life ordeal”.

After starring in the well-received The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), Harry Potter’s Emma Watson again shows off her versatility by playing an airhead Los Angeles teen in crime drama The Bling Ring (16 DL) who gets drawn into a classmate’s plan to rob celebrities’ homes. Director Sofia Coppola’s forte is casting an ambivalent eye over the empty lives of the famous like she did with Lost in Translation (2003) and Somewhere (2010) and she does so again here, examining the shallow, spoilt existence of young people obsessed with celebs.

The film received average to positive reviews: on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic it scored 60 and 66 per cent respectively. On the former the consensus was that “while it’s certainly timely and beautifully filmed, The Bling Ring suffers from Coppola’s failure to delve beneath the surface of its shallow protagonists’ real-life crimes”. James Berardinelli of ReelViews.net echoed this sentiment: “All the characters are shallow and one-dimensional and, while one can argue that this is the point, it doesn't make for 90 minutes of engaging cinema”.

Empire’s Ian Freer was more positive, giving it four stars and writing that the film “has a fluid morality and is all the more interesting for it”.

Like the title says, Insidious: Chapter 2 (16 V) is the sequel to the 2010 horror movie in which a suburban couple’s young son was abducted by a demon to another plane of existence. Dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) managed to save him but not before bringing something back with him. Now his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), suspects something isn’t right and tries to uncover the childhood secret that’s left her family vulnerable to the spirit world.

The movie received mostly negative reviews, getting only 38 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and 40 per cent on Metacritic. On the former it was described as “decidedly short on the tension and surprises that made its predecessor so chilling”. Andy Lea of the Daily Star newspaper complained that “clever isn’t the same as scary. It’s the unexplained, not the over-explained, that tingles the spine”. Total Film’s Mark Samuels was also unimpressed, giving the movie two stars. He writes that “you will jump, though most of the spooky stuff feels very second-hand”.

Conversely Empire’s Chris Hewitt gave it four stars and called it “hugely hokey horror fun that’s the match of the original”.

If you’re looking for something more light-hearted why not try As Jy Sing (PG L) – “if you sing” – an musical starring Afrikaans singer Bobby van Jaarsveld as a school music teacher who lives for his singing group – the outcasts of their sports-mad school. When the choir depart for a singing camp in preparation for a competition, buffoonish school principal (singer Robbie Wessels) instead sends them to a survivalist boot camp run by Sergeant Major Fourie (another singer, Bok van Blerk). Will they tough it out and still manage to make it to the competition?

Die Burger’s Laetitia Pople gave the film only one star and criticised director André Odendaal for hiring famous singers to attract viewers but then not giving them enough of a chance to sing or to create more than one-dimensional characters. Steyn du Toit of the Cape Times was a little more forgiving, awarding the movie two stars and describing it as a combination of local musical box office hits such as Pretville (2012) and Liefling (2010) and the “believe-in-yourself/celebrate diversity sentiments found in Glee and High School Musical”. He writes it has a specific audience in mind who wants a certain kind of cinematic experience, contains “lots of singing, dancing and sincere cheesiness, but isn’t a bad film. It was made by a very competent team and is well executed”.

- Sandra Visser

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