Movie boffin: what’s happening at the cinema

By admin
25 October 2013

Latest releases at the cinema

Khumba (PG V) is the second film from South African animation studio Triggerfish and tells the story of young zebra Khumba (voiced by Hotel for Dogs’ Jake T Austin) who’s rejected by his superstitious herd and blamed for a drought because he was born with only half his stripes. He makes friends with a wildebeest (Loretta Devine of Jumping the Broom) and a flamboyant ostrich (Richard E Grant of Withnail and I) and together they set out on a mission across the Karoo to find the waterhole where the first zebras got their stripes.

Laetitia Pople of Die Burger gave the film four stars, saying that it pulses with life and that each character is well-rounded without being cutesy. She said, “It’s a unique, high-quality product so rooted in South Africa and the continent that there’s not a hint of Hollywood’s idea of Africa”. Terri Dunbar-Curran of the Cape Times gave it three stars, writing that although it’s “specifically aimed at children, Khumba also carries a couple of sniggers for adults”. Both reviewers also praised the beautiful rendering of the Karoo.

With his Fast & Furious franchise going from strength to strength, Vin Diesel tries to resurrect one of his other film series which has stalled. Riddick (16 LNV) is the second sequel to Pitch Black (2000), the gripping sci-fi thriller that made Diesel famous. Unfortunately attempts to turn the sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), into a space opera flopped, so Diesel and director David Twohy go back to basics with this third outing. Infamous mercenary Riddick (Diesel) is again stranded on an inhospitable planet fighting monsters. In order to escape he activates an emergency beacon, which brings two teams of bounty hunters to the planet and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues.

The film received mostly mixed reviews. Critics’ reviews aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic gave it 60 and 49 per cent respectively. On the former the consensus was that “it may not win the franchise many new converts, but this back-to-basics outing brings Riddick fans more of the brooding sci-fi action they’ve come to expect”. British film magazine Empire’s Chris Hewitt gave it three stars, praising Diesel’s ability to hold the attention and describing it as “overlong and often overcooked, [but] nevertheless a relative return to form for [the actor]”. Fellow British film magazine Total Film’s Kevin Harley was less impressed, giving it two stars and writing that it’s “too stodgy for B-movie suspense, too silly to shock, too sexist to stomach.”

British writer/director Richard Curtis, known for his witty, sweet romcoms such as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999), directs another romance but with a sci-fi twist. About Time (13 L) is centred on Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Weasley in Harry Potter), who at the age of 21 finds out he’s inherited the power to travel through time from his father (Bill Nighy of Love Actually). Tim can’t change history but he can go back and change his own life and when he meets the charming Mary (The Notebook’s Rachel McAdams) he uses his power to make their life perfect. But eventually Tim finds out that not even time-travel can free you from heartache.

The movie hasn’t been widely reviewed yet but Empire’s Mark Dinning gave it four stars and described it as “more than just a time-travel rom-com. This is a movie that asks you questions and doesn’t sugar-coat as many of the answers as you’d expect. Smart and sweet, funny and genuinely moving. Should probably come with a ‘there’s something in my eye’ warning”. Total Film’s Matt Maytum gave it three stars, calling it “a little more soulful and more reflective” than Curtis’ previous work. He adds, “Don’t expect a life-changer, but it’s a pleasant shift of pace”.

Die Ballade van Robbie de Wee (13 DLV) – “the ballad of Robbie de Wee” – is an Afrikaans thriller based on a short story by South African crime writer Deon Meyer. Directed by Darrell Roodt (Yesterday, Cry, the Beloved Country) it stars Neil Sandilands (Bart in 7de Laan) as music producer Len van Jaarsveld, who’s hit rock bottom when he’s introduced to talented musician Robbie de Wee (Marno van der Merwe of Pretville). Len sees Robbie as his ticket back to the big time and turns him into a star. But when a young woman is found dead in the singer’s hotel room, Len goes into overdrive to protect his star from the media and the authorities.

The film received widely differing reviews. On the one hand Pople gave it only two stars, writing that you’ll see the twist coming a mile away and that Van der Merwe’s overwrought acting ruins the last scenes. On the other, the Cape Times’ Steyn du Toit gave it four stars, calling it “an unpatronising Afrikaans film with lots of suspense and substance. Its multi-layered plot should appeal to a wide audience, resulting in both a cinematic thrill-ride as well as an existential examination of our contemporary society”.

Battle of the Year (7-9PG LV), starring Lost’s Josh Holloway and singer Chris Brown, is another dance movie about a crew of dancers who want to win a dance competition. The plot isn’t really important, it’s all about the moves.

But the film received mostly terrible reviews, scoring 29 and only five per cent on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes respectively. On the latter it was criticised for its “hopelessly hokey plot and unintentionally hilarious dialogue” and described as “flimsy even by the standards of the dance movie genre”. Louis Black of the Austin Chronicle found that “the dance sequences are a mess, which is the kiss of death for a film in this genre”.

Sandra Visser

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