Film Guide - March 7, 2014

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TO SW GuideBlue . Blue Jasmine

300: Rise of an Empire: lots of slow motion shots of guys being impaled on swords and blood spraying around. Companion piece to the original film, though Eva Green gets a whole lot more screen time than Lena Headey did in the original. ** TS

Rusalka: Reflecting composer Dvorak's dramatic sensitivity, this Met Opera's magical realism is an excellent setting for Renee Fleming in her signature role, with great support from Piotr Beczala, Dolora Zajik and John Relyea. **** PB

The Grandmaster: Gorgeously shot, this is Wong Kar Wai’s take on the significance and cultural impact of martial arts on Chinese society and psyche, with a meandering love story and very well choreographed kung fu scenes. **** TS

The To Do List: Hollywood churns out more drivel in this coming-of-age comedy set in the 90s, about a socially awkward teen desperately trying to lose her virginity. We've seen it many times before and done better. * AK

Vrou Soek Boer: Veering wildly between cliched storyline and brutally honest insights, this Afrikaans movie is more rom than com as it hones in on the divide between Joburg’s fast-paced lifestyle and the platteland’s slower approach. ** TS

Winnie Mandela: Sticking to the safe surface this unauthorised bio-pic is beautifully lensed but gives no insight into Winnie Madikizela Mandela. ** TO

12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen’s searing adaptation of the true-life account of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. Difficult to watch, but essential viewing. **** WP

American Hustle: Crazy funny ensemble piece from director David O Russell garnered 10 Oscar nominations and features an excellent soundtrack and art direction. **** TS

Anchorman 2: Not a must-see film but a good laugh and a lesson in editorial independence. Watch if you like formula and catch-phrase gags. Don’t expect a deep storyline. Look out for thick furs and burgundy suits. *** WM

Blue Jasmine: Cate Blanchett gives a Oscar-winning performance in director Woody Allen’s film about the vagaries of rich people. **** DdB

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Bright and cheerful family-oriented animation with food puns that range from screamingly funny to utterly dire. *** TS

Dallas Buyers Club: The true-life story of redneck rodeo cowboy-turned-unwitting eighties HIV/AIDS activist, Ronald Woodroof. Oscar-winning performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. **** LdM

Delivery Man: Vince Vaughn makes for a likeable lead, but this almost-charming comedy suffers in comparison to its Canadian source material. *** WP

Elelwani: Ntshavheni wa Luruli’s slow-burning meditation on Venda culture shows one woman trying to straddle the line between being stifled by tradition and bringing an old culture into modern times. **** TS

Faan se Trein: Willie Esterhuysen delivers a pitch-perfect performance, supported by a sympathetic cast, in Koos Roets’ excellent folk tale set in 1950s Karoo. **** DdB

Her: Spike Jonze’s wistful romance features a strongly nuanced performance from Joaquin Phoenix as a guy who falls in love with an artificial intelligence. **** TS

Monuments Men: Noble intention, but strangely slowly paced and it just hits you over the head with the message that art is important. Yes, it is but show us why, don’t tell us. ** TS

Pad Na Jou Hart: Strongly scripted and well paced, this is a sweet road trip movie with a heavy rom-com leaning. *** TS

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: The fifth instalment marks a change in setting, but there aren’t enough thrills to justify this sequel. ** WP

Pompeii: Although aesthetically beautiful, director Paul W S Anderson’s shortcoming is in his telling of a love story against the adventurous backdrop of an erupting Mount Vesuvius. Big on the gladiator action but pitiable on the overall execution. A box-office disaster in the making. ** DT

Ride Along: Ice Cube plays the straight man to Kevin Hart’s crazy little fellow in a funny buddy cop movie. Clichéd plot, but amusing in the moment thanks to Hart’s schtick. ** TS

Robocop: Surprisingly ok reboot of a very smart 80s sci fi flick. This one emphasises action and cool tech over surreal commentary on the media and authoritarianism. Robocop on his bike looks cool, though. *** TS

Saving Mr Banks: When Disney Productions do a good job, they go all out. Here’s their version how Walt Disney persuaded PL Travers to let him make their seminal movie, Mary Poppins. Touching performance from Emma Thompson. **** TS

Schuks! Your Country Needs You: Critic-proof candid camera from Leon Schuster with help and a bit of a storyline from Rob van Vuuren. ** WM

The Best Man Holiday: Malcolm D Lee rekindles the charm of The Best Man in this sequel over a decade later. His conflicted characters are united by their friendship, which sees them survive the troubles in their relationships. This is a film about friendships, faith and family and is laden with comic and bittersweet moments. *** DT

The Book Thief: Great casting but so many of the book’s myriad storylines are frittered away to dilute the story’s impact, so the rushed conclusion tempers the tear-jerking ending. *** WP

The Frozen Ground: Nicolas Cage gives a mercifully restrained performance as the 1980s Alaskan State Trooper chasing down John Cusack as a serial killer. Atmospheric and bleak. *** TS

The Nut Job: Bland animation forcibly mixes a human bank caper with an animal nut heist job. ** TS

The Perfect Wave: Surfer-turned-evangelist Ian McCormick’s (Scott Eastwood) Damascus moment is preaching to the converted. Great surf scenes though. *** TS

The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese’s film is centred on Jordan Belfort, a real-life swindler and penny-stock conman.**** WP

Vampire Academy: Badly paced, featuring acting of the Hannah Montana school and poorly choreographed action sequences, this latest teen urban fantasy adaptation is hopefully the nail in the genre’s coffin. ** TS

Winter’s Tale: Akiva Goldsman’s feature film debut has a muddled narrative and plotholes and continuity faults, but if you like the idea of Colin Farrell riding to save the day on a white horse, this is for you. *** TS

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