Movies out today: Scares, strippers, soldiers and orphans

If you are on South Africa's east coast for the next week or so, there are dozens of movie screenings to choose from as part of the 2012 Durban International Film Festival. For everyone else across the nation, you have 4 new cinema releases to check out from today.

The Woman in Black:
Daniel Radcliffe's first role post-Harry Potter sees him confronting vengeful spirits in this surprise horror hit, based on the novel and its stage adaptation. Radcliffe plays a young Edwardian Era solicitor whose latest assignment takes him to a coastal village plagued by child deaths and sightings of a fearsome woman in black.

It's taken 5 months for The Woman in Black to reach our shores, but the wait is worth it if you like your horror in the throwback style - creepy and well-crafted instead of gory and gimmicky. Read my full review here. For the record, overseas the film has racked up an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65% Fresh. Put simply: The Woman in Black is an old-fashioned ghost story, with both the pros and cons that go with it.


Magic Mike:
It's been called "The Citizen Kane of stripping movies!" Or maybe it's just Coyote Ugly with guys... Sure to be a hit with female (and gay male) audiences this weekend, Magic Mike stars Channing Tatum as the title character - a male stripper living the good life in Miami until he starts to reassess his ambitions. Alex Pettyfer is the young slacker Mike takes under his wing. Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello play veteran strippers.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, Magic Mike is apparently hard not to like. Don't expect an original plot, but the film is an infectious good time - a guilty pleasure with smart dialogue, flashy dance moves and plenty of raunchiness. Starts stronger than it finishes though. 79% Fresh.


Act of Valour:
For guys who can't stomach the thought of staring at Tatum's abs and ass for 2 hours, they can replenish their macho reserves with this military actioner, featuring a mix of unknown actors and real-life Navy SEALS. Designed in part as a recruitment tool for the US Navy, this is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - The Movie, with an elite squad of SEALS running covert missions around the globe to exterminate a complex terrorist threat to the United States.

Act of Valour was a surprise box office hit when it opened back in February in America.The public were pleased, although critics complained that the film's truly thrilling action scenes are counterbalanced by terrible acting and lots and lots of flag-waving. Subtle and character-driven this one ain't! 25% Fresh.


Lucky:
If you demand some realism in your movie diet this week, there's this local drama. A solid performer on the international film festival circuit, Lucky centres on a 10 year old orphan (Sihle Dlamini) who relocates from his rural village to the big city only to be rejected by his uncle there. Despite racial tensions and a language barrier, an unusual bond develops between the boy and an elderly Indian woman (Jayashree Basavaraj) who takes him in.

 If you prefer escapist movie fare, Lucky probably won't have much appeal for you. But if you like intimate, "slice of life" cinema, Lucky is apparently both resonant and appreciably understated. Read review snippets here.


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