Movies out today: slaves, starving proletarians and soccer stars

Catch two Oscar nominees and one… erm… Razzie candidate at the South African box office from today.

Django Unchained:
Director Quentin Tarantino is back with this 165-minute Spaghetti Western set in America’s Deep South. Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave freed by Christoph Waltz’s dentist-turned-bounty hunter. Working as partners, they swear revenge on Leonardo DiCaprio’s brutal plantation owner, who has Django’s wife (Kerry Washington).

Nominated for five Academy Awards and many other awards – plus the recent winner of Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor and Screenplay – Django Unchained has an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes review score of 89% Fresh. Like Tarantinto’s last effort, Inglourious Basterds,  the film’s brash fusion of history and escapist entertainment may not be for everyone. It’s apparently very violent, energetic and at times completely insane. Oh, and it may overstay its welcome a bit.

Les Miserables:
Lovers of movie musicals take note. The theatre sensation finally makes the transition to the big screen with this big-budget 158-minute effort. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables follows ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) over the course of 17 years, as he resolves to be a better man, raising the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) while evading policeman Javert (Russell Crowe). Also with Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.

From the director of The King’s Speech, Les Miserables screams “Oscar bait!” For the record, the film is nominated for eight Academy Awards, and has already won three Golden Globes (for Jackman, Hathaway and Best Musical/Comedy) along with many other accolades. Your feelings about non-stop singing and lack of subtlety may determine your response to this one. Some critics have called it emotionally powerful and visually spectacular; others have labelled it bloated and overblown. Strong performances though. 70% Fresh.

Playing for Keeps:
Gerard Butler stars in and produces this romantic comedy drama of a has-been football star who tries to revive his flagging fortunes while doing good by his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and son… Oh, and dodging the attentions of soccer moms Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer.

Playing For Keeps has a pretty strong cast but don’t be fooled. With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 4% Fresh, it’s typical romcom schmaltz delivered half-heartedly and inconsistently. The film even earned Biel a Razzie nomination. Ow.

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