Movies out today: Slaves, spies and delivery men

Four new movies hit South African cinemas today, and audiences get to choose from a mix of heavy drama, light comedy and slick action.

12 Years a Slave:
This historical drama just won the Best Feature Film - Drama award at this year's Golden Globes, and is one of this award season's heavy hitters. Based on a true story - and 19th Century memoirs - Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free man in the North who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. The star-studded cast includes Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt.

Coming from Shame and Hunger director Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave is apparently a pretty rough watch; harrowing in terms of its unflinching depiction of cruelty. Powerful, artfully shot and exceptionally well acted, the film has managed to earn a devastating 97% Fresh rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit:
Also screening on IMAX is this action thriller that reboots another big screen espionage series. Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan - previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck - is back, this time at the start of his career with the CIA, and this time portrayed by Chris Pine. Keira Knightley is Jack's love interest, Kevin Costner his superior and Kenneth Branagh doubles up duties, as the film's director and chief onscreen antagonist, a Russian businessman.

At the time of writing, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was sitting with an aggregated review score of 67% Fresh. The general consensus seems to be a rather damning "Competent." File this one under Popcorn Flick - very watchable, well acted and pleasantly brisk, but hardly world changing. Not that you really want anything more from this kind of flick.

Delivery Man:
Vince Vaughn stars in this comedy drama about a middle-aged delivery man whose already drama-filled life (pregant girlfriend, mob debts) becomes even more complicated when he discovers he's fathered over 500 children via sperm donations made during his college years. Also with Chris Pratt.

Remake Delivery Man is far from your typical Vaughn comedy. The film's star is likeable in this softer, heartfelt family film, but the project is let down by its apparent lack of laughs and increasingly contrived plot. 39% Fresh.

Academy-award winning screenwriter (for Juno) Diablo Cody pens and directs this indie comedy drama. After surviving a plane crash, a young woman (Julianne Hough) stuns her conservative community by denouncing God and heading off to Las Vegas. There she meets Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer.

Cody's directorial debut apparently features her trademark sharp dialogue. However, it's apparently all-round dull and forgettable. No bite whatsoever. 22% Fresh.


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