The RoadAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.
This brilliantly crafted adaptation is a haunting examination of our species. Anchored by staggering performances that are both genuine and raw, the film's arresting take on humanity is smart, honest and brutally real. Pastels of grey and brown dominate a desolate, barren landscape that coupled with an ominous score mirror the relentlessly oppressive mood. Some may find this sombre tone tedious, while others will find an emotional resonance in its savage beauty. Although "The Road" might be a harrowing journey, its an ultimately rewarding one.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
Sherlock HolmesAndrew O'Dea
Detective Holmes engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis who threatens all of England.
Although faithful to the source material, this movie isn't bound to it, and the legendary detective presented is an eccentric and captivatingly flawed hero that boxes, boozes, and deduces. The stylishly monochromatic production of a grimy 19th century London provides a perfect backdrop as we delight in the exchanges of wit and banter between Holmes and his trusty counterpart Watson. Combining sublime action sequences and a gripping plot to boot, "Sherlock Holmes" equates to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's elementary.
A band of humans are pitted in a battle against a distant planet's indigenous population.
A visual masterpiece when viewed in its desirable 3D medium, the sheer imagination and technical genius of this film manages to impart a sensory impact never before achieved in cinema. The visuals are simply breathtaking to the point where even the narrative is at times overlooked. Gaze in awe as you're immersed amongst the stunning colours and luminescence of 'Pandora', and marvel while seamless CGI creates some of the most exhilarating and brilliant action sequences of all time. "Avatar" is truly an out of body experience.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
The Informant!Andrew O'Dea
The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre.
"The Informant!" is densely layered yet unassumingly funny satire. More 'quirky funny' than 'laugh-out-loud funny', it pokes fun at corporate greed as we navigate through a delightful web of deceit. The lead actor is superb, and we struggle whether to critisise or empathise with his goofball character. Although it may not have a lasting impact, the oddity of the film alone is enough to keep you entertained as you grapple with being informed on misinformation.
Where the Wild Things AreAndrew O'Dea
A disobedient little boy sent to bed without supper creates his own world inhabited by wild creatures.
This film is a strangely endearing adaptation of the literary classic. Though some may find the story languid at times, it's redeemed by spectacular cinematography and an almost despondent poetry. Brief moments of fun and frivolity are usurped by darker, more pensive undertones as we draw an emotional parallel between Max and the exquisitely realised 'Wild Things' that echo his feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration... and it's to be admired for embracing this childhood angst rather than simply condemning it. Let the wild rumpus start!
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.
The Boys Are BackAndrew O'Dea
A sports writer struggles with suddenly becoming a single parent in tragic circumstances.
"The Boys are Back" is a tale of fatherhood. A deeply moving meditation on life, death and the importance of family, the heart-wrenching opening sequence sets the tone for the film's sense of purpose that resonates throughout. Far from manufactured, it avoids being conveniently sentimental as it veers between moments of grief and humour. The cinematography is simply stunning, coupled by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack and sublime male-focussed performances that make this a movie for both boys and girls alike.
The Brothers BloomAndrew O'Dea
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue.
"The Brothers Bloom" is an offbeat, eccentric story. The unique approach to story-telling is utterly refreshing as it blends moments of genuine romance, intrigue and comedy which are complemented by a superb, mostly orchestral score. At times it becomes a little self-aware, but for the most part is buoyed by host of glorious performances that sustain an engagingly quirky and whimsical style. A pleasantly charming film that blooms then blossoms.
The Damned UnitedAndrew O'Dea
A look at Brian Clough's 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds United.
A compelling and often humorous biopic, this movie is a football fan's delight, and they will revel in the nostalgia and seamlessly intertwined archival footage. However, you don't necessarily have to enjoy football to enjoy this film. Essentially character-driven, most of the drama occurs off the pitch. Fantastic storytelling, rich and engaging dialogue, and a superb man-of-the-match performance from the lead actor manage to separate "The Damned United" from your typical sports flick. GOOOOOOALLL!!!
Che: Part 2Andrew O'Dea
In 1967, 'Che' leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia.
"Che: Part 2" is the culmination of a fascinating journey that marks Che's ultimate downfall. This film maintains the authenticity of "Part 1", albeit with a darker, more pensive tone. It evokes a sombre sense of impending doom whilst remaining as historically faithful as possible, refusing to glamorise its subject. This uncompromising approach is refreshing, and the lead actor's enigmatic performance is truly worthy of encompassing the man who is arguably the most iconic figure of the 20th century.
Che: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
In 1956, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
This film is an austere portrayal of the mechanics of Che and his guerrilla war rather than an account of the man himself. His political and social ideals are interwoven - and impressively not championed - as we traverse the sumptuous Cuban landscape and share in his experience that was the armed struggle of the revolution. A stylish overture of sorts opens the film, and it sets the tone for the sprawling and vividly authentic epic that is to come.
Funny PeopleAndrew O'Dea
A seasoned comedian forms a friendship after learning of his terminal, inoperable health condition.
"Funny People" is an inventive albeit meandering comedy. Sometimes sophisticated and sometimes crass, it presents an intriguing blend of humour and sentiment. Terrific performances from the leads and supporting cast are bolstered by a host of obscure cameos, including one of the most hilariously 'honest' Australian characters to be shown in an American film. This movie is far from seamless, and seems to drag in parts, but still retains enough moments of genuine insight and laughter to entertain most.
Two young Americans with special abilities must race to find a girl in Hong Kong before a shadowy government organization called Division does.
"Push" is a forgettable addition to the 'superheroes' genre. The only superpower present here is the uncanny ability to teleport from one completely inane plot hole to another. The storyline is as boring as it is confusing, exacerbated by flimsy handheld camerawork and an unflattering visual style. Even the ostentatious action sequences end up looking like nothing more than sci-fi muddle. When push comes to shove, this film falls flat on its face.
The SoloistAndrew O'Dea
An L.A. journalist befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article.
This movie is a sensitive but surprisingly unmoving portrait of a unique friendship. The performances from the two leads are solid, but are wasted on a story that isn't as meaningful as it should be. Although this true narrative admirably raises some important social issues, it also fails to adequately explore them. You can't help but feel what should be a powerful film instead seems prosaic and lacks any real substance, making "The Soloist" a sweet song that simply sings out of tune.
In New York City, a young counterfeiter is introduced to the world of street fighting.
"Fighting" is yet another 'underground' brawling pic that packs little punch. Don't be mislead by the title, as this movie plays more like an unconvincing character study interrupted by the odd fist-fight. Weighed down by a seriously sluggish plot, it drags on from scene to scene, evoking little feeling except making you want to throw in the towel. Brutal, bone-crunching fights are laughable, leaving the mumbling pretty-boy-lead with nothing but a few scratches on his chin. Pay the price for admission and you're in for one nasty sucker-punch.
Inglourious BasterdsAndrew O'Dea
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
"Inglourious Basterds" is history brazenly re-imagined. A stunning ensemble cast bask in the rich characterisation, creating a host of characters each as enthralling as the next. Some of the most memorable moments are simply 'set-piece' scenes of witty, original, and intelligent dialogue. Although used sparingly, every action sequence is a celebration of excess, and the film manages to capture cinema violence at its spectacular, blood-spattering best. Glorious!
District 9Andrew O'Dea
An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.
"District 9" is a compelling film of original and insightfully speculative science-fiction. An intelligent and inventive story not only keeps us enthralled, but also provides an allegorically fascinating social commentary. The filmmaker effectively combines interviews and archival footage to bring a gritty and immersive realism to screen. Intertwined in the 'mockumentary' style are vaporizing (at times literally) action sequences that both dazzle and entertain.
Public EnemiesAndrew O'Dea
The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
"Public Enemies" feels like a series of tommy-gun battles and antique car chases, which although very impressive, do not constitute a good story. It's not terrible, but there's simply not enough build up to pivotal scenes, and the lead actors (who are great in their roles) are hindered by a severe lack of character development. A major annoyance is the camerawork; digitally shot, but not used to good effect. The only heist here is having to pay for admission.
A young man who was sentenced to 7 years on prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement.
"Bronson" is a sensationalised biopic of 'Britain's most violent prisoner'. The performance from the lead is both exceptionally raw and stunning in presenting the hulking brute with a penchant for chaos. The filmmaker curiously meshes violence with artistic oddities, and although entertaining, this technique also disappoints in providing any real or meaningful insight. Perhaps intentionally, we see Charles Bronson for 'what' he is, and not 'why' he is.
Red CliffAndrew O'Dea
Based on the events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China, The Battle of Red Cliffs.
"Red Cliff" is a plush historical epic of the grandest scale. The scope is enormous and perfectly realised in sublimely sweeping battle scenes. Due in most part to this release being a condensed version of the original, some of the character development has clearly had to have made way in favour of the action sequences. However, the brilliance of the exhilirating battle choreography and dazzling effects alone are enough to render this film a period war movie of the highest quality.
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the DinosaursAndrew O'Dea
When Sid's attempt to adopt three dinosaur eggs gets him abducted by their real mother to an underground lost world, his friends attempt to rescue him.
"Ice Age 3" fails dismally in its attempt at what is now the benchmark for a successful animation - the discerning ability to entertain both kids and adults alike. Stunning visuals alone are not enough, more importantly, there must be a plot to match. The creativity of the earliest films have all but melted away, as the paint-by-numbers storyline combines with jokes so dated they're almost pre-historic. Let's hope this franchise is now extinct too.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAndrew O'Dea
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book mysteriously marked "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Voldemort's dark past.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is one of the darkest and most thoroughly entertaining instalments yet. Wondrous set designs are darkly lit, and add to the brooding nature of the film. Despite these dark overtones, moments of teen romance add a genuine comical touch. There seems to be decidedly less action, preferring to elaborate on characters core to the story, setting the up the franchise for an inevitably epic conclusion. A spellbinding tale, darker is definitely better.
Transformers: Revenge of the FallenAndrew O'Dea
Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers.
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a relentless sensory bombardment that presents what is unequivocally the pinnacle in movie sight and sound. Visually stunning CGI and thunderous action sequences do their best to keep you distracted from what is a laboriously cluttered and convoluted plot. This film is undoubtedly nothing more than a vehicle for visceral amazement; unfortunately there's literally not "...much more than meets the eye".