Movies out today: Family dramz, Frankenstein and plastic men

Five new films hit South African cinemas today, and they seem to be split between silly action-packed escapism and more astute examinations of dysfunctional human relationships.

The LEGO Movie:
The biggie release of the weekend is this animated action comedy for the whole family. Screening in 2D and 3D, the film uses a CGI-replication of stop-motion to convey the real-world tangibility of the LEGO toys central to this Matrix-y tale. For the record, The LEGO Movie centres on very ordinary construction worker Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), who is revealed to be the "Special," a hero destined to save the LEGO Universe. The all-star voice cast includes Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman.

Expect The LEGO Movie to claim the Best Animated Feature accolade at next year's Oscars. The box office smash hit has an aggregated review score of 96% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics have called it a wonderfully inventive deconstruction of the Hollywood blockbuster (heh!). It's smart, funny and loads of fun. For a local opinion, read Kervyn's review at TheMovies.co.za. It's hands down his favourite film of 2014 so far.


I, Frankenstein:
Screening in 2D and 3D is this adaptation of the little known Darkstorm graphic novel. From the producers of the Underworld franchise comes this supernatural actioner that continues the story of Mary Shelley's outcast creature. Slightly scarred but otherwise hunky in his hoody, Aaron Eckhart's title character is drawn into a centuries' long war between the gargoyles - headed by Miranda Otto - and demons - headed by Bill Nighy. Due to his man-made nature, as opposed to Divine creation, Adam (yes, seriously!) Frankenstein is key to Humanity's fate. Trailer Tuesday profile.

Now there's nothing wrong with a film being deliberately trashy and stupid. The bigger issue is when this type of film just isn't fun. And that is evidently the biggest problem with I, Frankenstein. It's just too damn serious. Over at TheMovies, Kervyn has called it dull - both in terms of its concept handling and visuals. It may become a guilty pleasure for some, but that hasn't stopped the film from earning a dire 4% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


About Last Night:
This saucy romantic comedy follows two young couples as they attempt to play the dating game, building a lasting relationship off the foundation of a one-night stand. It is a remake of the 1986 film, as well as the original play on which it is based. Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant star.

As a romantic comedy, About Last Night is evidently one of the goodies - insightful, honest and committed to providing enough genuine raunchy laughs to offset the lovey-dovey stuff. It's not exactly a revolutionary genre entry but the pacing is great, and Hart is evidently a huge asset.  76% Fresh.


August: Osage County:
It may be clunkily named but this darkly comic domestic drama is an adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The members of a dysfunctional family gather in a rural hamlet when the patriarch vanishes. The all-star cast includes Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as violent-tempered mother and daughter, as well as Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor and more.

Rather unsurprisingly, August: Osage County has been highly praised for its performances, earning much critical love - and Oscar nominations - for its two leading ladies. Then again, by all accounts, performances are your chief reason to watch the film, which tends towards the loud, emotionally exhausting and obvious. 64% Fresh.


Nebraska:
Not tired yet of families at each other's throats? Screening in limited release is this indie comedy-drama in black and white. In a small Midwestern town, a curmudgeony old man (Bruce Dern) insists that he has won a $1 million prize in a magazine subscription sweepstakes. This shakes up his family and the local community, who all want a piece of the supposed pie. From director Alexander (Sideways, The Descendents) Payne.

Although it didn't win any Academy Awards at this year's ceremony, this highly acclaimed film was in the running for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor and Original Screenplay. It's simple, elegant and resonant, if you like this kind of low-key, intimate cinema. 92% Fresh.

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