New movies out today: Six different survival and sci-fi thrillers

It's a pretty emotionally dour week at the movies. There are no cutesy kiddie films or comedies in sight; just drama, desperation to escape and heroes questioning the rightness of the status quo.

Noah:
The most high profile of this week's releases is this "inspired by" take on the famous Old Testament Bible story. A man (Russell Crowe) receives visions from God that the world will be destroyed with the exception of himself and his family. As a result he follows Divine instruction to build a monstrous ark, even as his actions bring him into conflict with the local community. Screening in 2D, converted 3D and 3D IMAX, and also starring Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins. Trailer Tuesday profile here.

The latest from writer-director Darren Aronofsky since Black Swan, Noah is apparently very flawed but also very powerful. It's ambitious, visually stunning and packed with ideas, but it's also likely to alienate a lot of people with its unapologetic WTF-ness. For a South African perspective, you can read Kervyn's TheMovies review here. Otherwise know that Noah is currently 76% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.


 
Divergent:
Following The Hunger Games and, erm, The Host, here's another thematically dense Young Adult novel adaptation with sci-fi leanings. This time our heroine (Shailene Woodley) lives in a dystopian future where you undergo an aptitude test at 16, and are split into factions based on your personality type (brave, selfless etc). Except Tris is one of the few who cannot be easily boxed, making her a threat to the system. Recognisable faces in the cast include Ray Stevenson, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd and more.

Divergent has been a commercial success, but hasn't exactly dazzled critics. Strong performances but the film - which sets up a trilogy - conforms too much to the formula established by its genre predecessors. Some reviewer are calling it a pleasant, tough surprise though. 40% Fresh.


Hours:
Hours - not to be confused with super depressing The Hours - is one of the last movies completed by Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker before his death. This survival thriller centres on a husband and father who must keep his newborn, incubator-dependent daughter alive when Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, and the city is thrown into turmoil.

Playing on a parent's worst nightware, Hours evidently becomes more and more engrossing as it progresses. It's B-grade at its core, but a surprisingly strong Ordinary Joe performance by Walker holds it all together. 61% Fresh.


Oldboy:
Finally making its way to South Africa is Spike Lee's remake of the cult Korean mystery-thriller - itself a manga adaptation. A man (Josh Brolin) is inexplicably kept prisoner in a hotel room for 20 years. Finally released, he sets out to uncover the reason for his confinement, and get revenge. Also with Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley.

This American version of Oldboy has largely split critics. Some can't get past the "unnecessary remake" barrier, labelling the film uneven and shallow. Others have called it appreciably lean and mean; very stylish and suitably brutal. For the record, this isn't the cut that Lee wanted to release theatrically. 42% Fresh.


Out of the Furnace:
Christian Bale stars in this gritty, blue collar thriller about a steel mill worker who becomes embroiled in his brother's (Casey Affleck) efforts to clear his gambling debt. It sounds generic enough, but there's a lot of talent involved in Out of the Furnace. Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott produce, while Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard all appear in front of the camera.

In fact, the big names are your chief reason to watch tough, macho and very violent Out of the Furnace, which strives for Intensity in all departments - sometimes laughably so. Well acted though. 52% Fresh.


Europa Report:
I confess I'd never heard of this found footage sci-fi thriller, but then again, it came out overseas around the same time as (deservedly) attention-hogging Gravity. Europa Report centres on a six astronauts on a privately funded mission to look for life on one of Jupiter's frozen moons. Recognisable names in the international cast include Michael Nyqvist and South Africans Sharlto Copley (again this week) and Embeth Davidtz.

The low-key Europa Report is evidently highly suspenseful, and benefits from both its slow-burn approach and emphasis on real-world science. 80% Fresh.

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