Movies out today: Return of the Wolf Pack and plenty of suspense

It's a mix of mindless crowd-pleasers and thinking fare for adults this weekend at the South African box office. Four new films hit local cinemas from today.

The Hangover Part III:
I'm anti sequels to hit comedies at the best of times. You might be able to squeeze the laughs out into a second film, but by #3, no matter how far you try to push things, the freshness is gone. So view with caution the claims that The Hangover Part III is breaking from the wild bachelor party formula, simply because this time the Wolf Pack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) are on a road trip, and actually retain their memories.

Anyway, word on the street is that The Hangover Part III has alienated a lot of series fans by going "dark, angry and cynical," playing out more as an action thriller than a raunchy R-rated comedy. Apparently it just ain't fun anymore and feels largely pointless. Better than Part II though. 20% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

Texas Chainsaw 3D:
Do people still watch these? The rebooted Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise gets its first 3D entry. A bunch of young unknowns journey into redneck territory only to encounter a vengeful Leatherface. The plot sounds quite Halloween-ish actually, with a young woman discovering she's related to the chainsaw-wielding maniac.

Despite some attempts to explore Leatherface's character, Texas Chainsaw 3D is heavy on the gore (as per the franchise formula) and sloppy in execution. Ultimately just an attempt to cash in on the 3D format gimmick. 19% Fresh.

Side Effects:
The latest effort from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh is this psychological thriller about a suicidal woman (Rooney Mara) who is put on an experimental drug and commits a horrible deed. Suspecting deception, her disgraced psychiatrist (Jude Law) sets out to discover the truth. Also with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum.

Being a Soderbergh film, you know Side Effects will be stylish by default, but according to critics it's must-see for suspense fans. It's apparently very much in the Hitchcock vein, full of twists, even if a minority of critics have called it more serviceable than exceptional. 85% Fresh.

Shadow Dancer:
Screening in limited release is this dramatic thriller from Britain. Based on the novel of the same name, Andrea Riseborough plays a Belfast woman forced to spy on her family - all IRA members - by MI5. Clive Owen is the English agent monitoring her. Also with Gillian Anderson.

It's slow-burn film festival fare, but Shadow Dancer has been praised for its performances, intelligence and emotional impact. A complex and gratifying for grown-ups 88% Fresh.


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