Movies releasing today, SA: Birdies and Liam Neeson

It's a good week at South African cinemas with three notable new movies opening today. And frankly I'd be happy to watch any of them, as each offers a different 'flavour' to satisfy my different movie tastes.

The Eagle: If you found Centurion too big, dumb and cartoony, then you may prefer this much more earnest take on the real life disappearance of Rome's Ninth Legion in Northern Britain circa 120ADE. Based on Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 youth novel, The Eagle focuses on a Roman officer Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) who sets out beyond Hadrian's Wall to find out what happened to his father' legion, and recover its symbolic Eagle standard. Perhaps not too brightly, Aquila takes his resentful Celtic slave (Jamie Bell) with him.

The Eagle is 41% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Although far from perfect this historical action adventure is apparently a solid, gritty throwback to older sword-and-sandal movies. Even if Tatum is an uninspiring lead.

Rio: Screening in 2D and 3D is this animated family comedy, clearly intended to be the big franchise follow-up to Fox's Ice Age series. The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg voices Blue, a rare, highly pampered and flightless Macaw who is sent to Brazil to mate with the last female of his species, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). However, in evading poachers, the 2 birds find themselves on the run in the vibrant tropical city of Rio, making new friends and enemies. George Lopez is toucan Rafael and Tracy Morgan bulldog Luiz, although it looks like a band of pickpocket marmosets steal the movie.

Rio is currently 94% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently the movie is everything you expect it to be: fun, colourful and perky. Even if the film isn't groundbreaking, it's (refreshingly) not trying to force a message down anyone's throat. Rio only opens in North America next Friday (15 April), so for a change we're getting the movie first. Enjoy this rare occurrence!

Unknown: Liam Neeson is back in "unexpected action badass" turf in this thriller based on a French novel. Neeson is doctor Martin Harris, who travels to Berlin with his wife (January Jones) for a conference. One car accident and coma later, Harris wakes to find his wife with another man (Aidan Quinn), who evidently has just stepped into Harris's life. Fortunately Diane Kruger is around to help overcome the identity crisis in a tale that sounds pretty similar to that old Harrison Ford movie Frantic.

Unknown is 55% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, where it has been called implausible and derivative, but never dull. Once again Liam Neeson delivers the action goods, even if the film doesn't quite match his intense, appealing efforts.


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