Movies today, South Africa!

There are over 7 new films opening in South Africa today, including the highly anticipated South African wildlife adventure White Lion, Crazy Heart, the 93% Fresh musical drama that just scored Jeff Bridges an Academy Award nomination, and even the original Toy Story (100% Fresh), re-releasing for a single week in 3D.

My picks for the weekend however are as follows - and curiously, all are adaptations of popular novels:

1) If the trailer is to be believed, then Dear John is a good old-fashioned Hollywood tearjerker with beautiful people and lots of gloss. Based on the Nicholas (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook) Sparks' novel, the film tells the story of a soldier, John (Channing Tatum), and a college student, Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), who meet during Spring Break and promptly fall in love. The couple refuses to let John's frequent deployments get in the way of their relationship and remain in close contact through continual letter writing until tragedy is triggered.

Dear John is 28% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which obviously isn't very good. The film is apparently quite cliched and features more believable chemistry between John and his father than John and Savannah. Still though, I imagine non-cynics will find something to enjoy about the film, even if it's the blatant emotional manipulation. And I have to admit that Amanda Seyfried is probably my favourite young actress at the moment. I imagine she weeps quite beautifully.

2) The Lovely Bones is also based on a bestselling novel, this time from Alice Sebold. Directed by Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Heavenly Creatures' Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones is a supernatural thriller-drama centered on a young girl (Saoirse Ronan) who is raped and murdered, and finds herself looking down from the afterlife on her grieving parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) and her unpunished killer (Stanley Tucci), who will do anything to protect his secret.

The Lovely Bones was generally considered a rare disappointment from Jackson when it was released in the United States in December. The film is just 36% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Tucci (nominated for an Academy Award) and Atonement's Ronan have been praised for their performances, and there has been much acclaim for the artistic flair Jackson brings to his depiction of the afterlife. However, most critics have called the film a unsatisfying thematic muddle as it tries to combine violence, revenge, grief, sentimentality and suspense. By the sound of things, the degree to which you enjoy The Lovely Bones will depend on how admiring you are of Jackson's ambition as he attempts to adapt a very challenging text for the big screen.

Personally, I'm a big Jackson fan, so out of all the films released this weekend this is the one I'm most likely to take a chance on.

3) Finally this weekend there's the Harry Potter-wannabe Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. In fact directed by Chris Columbus, the man behind the first 2 Potter films, Percy Jackson is based on the popular series of children's books by Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson focuses on an American high school student (Logan Lerman) who discovers that he is actually the son of Greek god Poseidon, and that Olympus is now magically accessible beyond the top of New York's Empire State Building. Now the subject of attacks by assorted mythological creatures, Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a training facility for other young demigods and supernatural beings to learn to harness their powers. Joined by new and old friends, it's up to Percy to save his mortal mother and avert a war between the gods.

The cast of Percy Jackson includes both young unknowns and recognisable adult faces, including Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Keener, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Rosario Dawson, Steve Coogan and Kevin McKidd. The film is currently a decent 49% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics either lambasting it as a soulless, profit-driven Harry Potter knockoff, or celebrating it for its light-hearted tone, general wit and engaging action scenes.

As a mythology buff I'm actually quite surprised that I've never heard of Percy Jackson - the books or the films - before. Then again, although I'm intrigued, I don't quite know if I have the motivation to see this one in the cinema.


Dante said…
Lightning Thief looked great in the trailer. He also doesn't seem like that "why always me" self pitying wizard called harry. Looking forward to it myself. I am also a bit of a Greek mytho fanboy so that part of it definitely has me interested.
MJenks said…
My wife, who had to plan release parties for the last couple of books in the series, says they're actually pretty good. The books, at least.

And, as Dante said, a lot less whiny and angsty.
Pfangirl said…
Thanks for the comments, guys. Perhaps I'll start slow to overcome my concerns... checking out the books first before watching the film.
GreenLantern said…
I didn't think much of Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia. Then I caught Jennifer's Body, and while I found myself increasingly annoyed by Megan Fox, I was captivated by Seyfried. Her eyes. There's something about her eyes...
Pfangirl said…
GreenLantern, I just find her strangely likeable in everything she's been in.

For me, she was one of the highlights in Mamma Mia!, although that could have been because she was probably the best singer in the cast.
GreenLantern said…
I reckon I'd like her more in a second viewing of Mamma Mia. Did you see she's been cast in a werewolfy take on Little Red Riding Hood flick, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who helmed the first Twilight movie? Mixed feelings about where who they're probably aiming the movie at, but could be fun.
Pfangirl said…
GreenLantern, it is not advisable to subject yourself to the hysteria of Mamma Mia a second time. It's just not healthy!

And thanks for the Red Riding Hood news. I didn't know about it. It sounds like a great concept; just pity about the film landing such a bland, paint-by-numbers director.

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