Movies releasing today: Dancing penguins and haunted houses

Around 8 new movies open in South African today. These include this laughably bad local comedy (seriously, watch the trailer!) and - on the opposite end of the quality spectrum - highly acclaimed Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball (95% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes).

My 2 high profile picks of the week though are as follows:

Happy Feet Two: Screening in 2D and 3D is this unexpected sequel to the CGI-musical adventure that won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2007. This time the action centres on the offspring of Elijah Wood's Mumble, the penguin who found expression through dance in the original movie. Mumble's son Erik lacks his father's smooth moves and, embarrassed, sets out across the Antarctic to find his true calling. Meanwhile, the penguin community faces its greatest ever threat. As with its predecessor, Happy Feet Two features an all-star voice cast, including Robin Williams, P!nk, Hank Azaria, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Sofía Vergara and Hugo Weaving.

I remember enjoying the first Happy Feet for the most part, but the marketing material for Two has done little to tempt me back into the theatre. I mean, as well choreographed and colourful as everything looks, rapping penguin chicks quickly become tedious... and reek of desperation to appear hip. Happy Feet Two is a divisive 42% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently the animation is stunning and there's still a ton of fun to be gleaned from the film's musical numbers, but the script is jumbled, the cast overcrowded and the entire project suffers from an overall lack of freshness.

Dream House: Whatever you do, do not watch the trailer for this horror thriller. Basically, and bizarrely, it reveals the big twist at the heart of this mystery. Anyway, Daniel Craig stars as a successful publisher who relocates with his wife (Rachel Weisz ) and 2 young daughters to their dream home in a quiet New England town. The house harbours dark, tragic secrets though, and with the help of his neighbour (Naomi Watts), Craig's character sets out to uncover the murderous truth, however dangerous it is to his life... and his sanity.

Apparently the studio wrestled creative control away from Dream House director Jim Sheridan, and that's almost never a good thing. It certainly hasn't been a good thing for Dream House. Apart from the spoiler-riddled trailer, the film opened without pre-screenings for critics (another bad sign!) and proceeded to rack up a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 8% Fresh. Oh dear. The end result has been called messy and turgidly paced. Not even good acting can salvage the movie, which slips into complete made-for-TV melodrama by the end.


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