Movies releasing today: Romcoms, action and kiddie fare

It's about escapism for the whole family at South African cinemas today, with your top 3 new releases as follows:

Friends with Benefits - This saucy R-rated romcom is the second genre entry this year to focus on the topic of friends-turned-fuck buddies. Moviegoers probably remember the very similar No Strings Attached which released much earlier this year (read my review here). The difference here though is that the relationship-phobic couple at the centre of this unconventional relationship is played by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Emma Stone and Jenna Elfman round out the cast.

In comparison to No Strings Attached, Friends with Benefits has a much higher rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, coming in at a very healthy 73% Fresh. Apparently the chemistry between the leads is fantastic. And as formulaic - and deliberately artificial - as the film is, it's carried along by the likeability of its leads, zippy pacing and dialogue with zing. For the record, Friends with Benefits comes from the director of the similarly breezy, witty and satisfying Easy A (my review here).

Colombiana - Frankly, I'd never even heard of this revenge actioner starring Zoë Saldana as a young woman orphaned by Columbian drug lords. Naturally said young woman changes her career aspirations from graphic designer to assassin, and 15 years later operates as a highly skilled hitman by day, and vigilante killer by night... waiting to cross paths with her parents' killers again. For the record, this latest "chick kicking ass" movie is written and produced by Luc Besson, who was also behind Taken, Leon/The Professional, the Transporter series and, of course, La Femme Nikita.

Colombiana is 28% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are calling it messy B-grade fun, with Saldana convincing as she delivers the gravity-defying action goods. Other reviewers however have complained that the film is sunk by its unintentionally hilarious dialogue, incoherent storyline (strewn with plot holes) and increasing preposterousness. Definitely not a movie for unforgiving audiences then.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World - As much as Robert Rodriguez churns out tributes to 70s exploitation cinema, he keeps coming back to the massively successful, family-friendly Spy Kids franchise. So here we are at Spy Kids 4, this time with Jessica Alba as the "spy mom" forced to pass the espionage banner, with all its accompanying high-tech gadgetry, to her step-kids. Spy Kids 4 is screening in 2D and 3D. It's unclear whether the film will show in South Africa with the "4D Aroma-scope" - basically a scratch-and-sniff descendant of Smell-O-Vision - promised in the film's trailer.

Spy Kids: All the Time In the World is 22% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. General consensus is that the film is a tedious, cartoonish roller coaster with little to entertain anyone over 10 - except 90 minutes of groan-worthy puns, and Jessica Alba in a catsuit. The film's supporters however have referred to it as a refreshingly unobnoxious family movie that offers likeable characters and harmless (if forgettable) fun.


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