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CINEMA

This week’s movie releases

An artificially intelligent robot gets led astray by gangsters in Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Chappie’ Paul Thomas Anderson takes on Thomas Pynchon in ‘Inherent Vice’

Robot wars: Sharlto Copley brings an AI droid to life in ‘Chappie.’
Robot wars: Sharlto Copley brings an AI droid to life in ‘Chappie.’

Dividing audiences in to those happy to soak up the heady atmosphere and those who like their stories neatly tied up, Inherent Vice is the seventh movie from Paul Thomas Anderson and also marks the first time that the intricate and playful prose of Thomas Pynchon has been adapted for the big screen. Set in 1970, it’s a detective story partly in the key of Polanski’s Chinatown and Altman’s The Long Goodbye starring Joaquin Phoenix as a permanently drug-addled PI who’s asked by former flame Katherine Waterston to investigate the disappearance of her new property magnate squeeze. Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams and Martin Short all crop up in this unconventional mystery, which, like P.T.A.’s previous There Will Be Blood and The Master, features a soundtrack by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.

After bursting on to the scene with the hailed District 9 then letting everyone down with Elysium, South African director Neill Blomkamp returns with Chappie, a tale of a childlike, artificially intelligent android kidnapped and corrupted by gangsters in a future crime-saturated Johannesburg. Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel plays the machine’s inventor – who’s also behind a battalion of lower-tech police robots cleaning up the city streets – while Hugh Jackman is the rival colleague angry about funding cuts to his own droid project. Meanwhile, regular Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley brings Chappie to life via motion capture.

Ex-CIA man Pierce Brosnan is coaxed out of retirement to protect a key witness from an old case (Olga Kurylenko) in action thriller The November Man, based on Bill Granger’s bestselling series of spy novels. But his one last mission ends up bringing him into conflict with his former agency partner, leaving him out on his own with no one to trust. Old Hollywood hand Roger Donaldson – No Way Out, Thirteen Days – directs.

Peace by piece

The new film from the co-writer of last year’s homegrown comedy hit Ocho apellidos vascos, Borja Cobeaga’s Negociador is a tragicomedy loosely based on the peace talks held between the Spanish government and ETA terrorists in 2005 and 2006. Centered on chief government negotiator Manu Aranguren (Ramón Barea) – inspired by real-life Basque politician Jesús Eguiguren – it zeros in on the everyday details of the negotiations: the often absurd coincidences, mistakes and misunderstandings on which everything hinges.

Set in medieval China, historical action flick Outcast stars Hayden Christensen as a former Crusader trying to recruit legendary knight Nicolas Cage to help him protect a young prince. The US-Canadian-Chinese-French production is directed by first-timer Nick Powell.

Surfacing in Spain three years after it premiered at the Sundance Festival, British director Stephen Frears’ Lay the Favorite stars Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Beth, an ex-stripper and aspiring Vegas cocktail waitress who gets caught up in the world of illegal sports betting after an encounter with professional gambler Bruce Willis. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Willis’s jealous wife while Joshua Jackson is the journo hoping to win Beth’s heart.

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