Movies out this weekend: penguins, caves & Groundhog Day on a train

Seeing as tomorrow - Thursday - is a public holiday in South Africa, the weekend's new movie releases are opening a day earlier than usual. From tomorrow you can catch the following high profile flicks in local cinemas:

Mr Popper's Penguins: Clearly, and VERY unfortunately, Jim Carrey has signed the same contract that saw The Rock and Eddie Murphy forced to appear in brain dead, derivative family comedies. Because in this very loose adaptation of the beloved children's book (I'd never heard of it!), Carrey stars as a workaholic divorced dad who rediscovers his playful side, and readjusts his life priorities, when he inherits several out of control penguins.

The film looked horrible in the trailer, but, alas, I can't confirm whether these preview impressions are accurate. At the time of writing this blog post, early online reviews for the film were suspiciously absent. The film's Rotten Tomatoes page is currently still empty of critics' quotes. Still, I feel confident enough to recommend that you steer clear of this one if you're older than 10.

Sanctum: Another week, another 3D release. The difference here though is that this thriller adventure is produced by Mr 3D himself, Avatar's James Cameron. Featuring a little to moderately known Aussie and British, including Richard Roxburgh and Ioan Gruffudd, Sanctum focuses on a group of divers who find themselves trapped in Papua New Guinea's Esa'ala Cave. It's Vertical Limit plus The Descent meets The Poseidon Adventure as these men and women are pushed to physical, mental and moral extremes to survive.

Sanctum is a mediocre 31% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The film apparently has its moments, and entertains with its tense action-survival scenes - especially once you get past the 30 minute mark. However, the dialogue is terrible, the characters thin and the whole project feels terribly uninspired. In other words, right from the start you'll have a very good idea who's going to be the self-preserving traitor and just who will be the character/s to make it to safety.

Source Code: Already profiled as part of this blog's Trailer Tuesday feature is this sci-fi thriller from the director of the thought-provoking and highly acclaimed Moon. In Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an air force pilot recruited (unwillingly) for a top secret military programme that lets him experience the last 8 minutes of someone's life. In this case, those 8 minutes take place before a deadly terrorist train bombing, and Gyllenhaal is forced to relive them repeatedly as he tries to identify the culprit. Things become complicated though when our hero falls for doomed train passenger Michelle Monaghan.

Source Code is definitely my pick of the new releases, as well as one of my most highly anticipated movies of 2011. The film is an exceptionally strong 91% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics are calling it smart and satisfying, combining charismatic performances, edge-of-your-seat action and an intriguing mystery. You probably shouldn't think too much about things but on the whole, Source Code is that rarest of action thrillers - a movie that relies on character and relationships to engross instead of special effects and super explosions.


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