The BossAnthony Macali
A motivational speaker hits rock-bottom after being arrested for insider-trading and losing her fortune, forcing her to turn to her former assistant for help.
"The Boss" is yet another venture for its vehemently foul-mouthed co-writer and star, and a certain fondness for her brand of humour is a recommended prerequisite. We have another outrageous and admittedly funny character on display, but alas her performance is bigger than the story itself. To carry a film on antics alone is a tough gig, and a promising start crumbles into a subsidiary plot and tiresome bad behaviour. This exec is a one-trick pony.
The Huntsman: Winter's WarAnthony Macali
The Huntsman goes in search of the Magic Mirror to prevent it from getting in the hands of ice queen Freya, who seven years prior sabotaged the soldier's romance while under her service.
"The Huntsman: Winter's War" is thoroughly unoriginal, with a story that is easy to foretell. The plot and adventure mirrors many significantly better films that have come before it. While no expense has been spared on the production design, what's really disappointing is that the beauty of the visuals markedly exceed the appeal of the story's cold and uninspiring characters. Fall in love with this fairytale, and you will be heartbroken. This is generic Hollywood "playin'-it-safe, big-cast CGI fodder".
Eye in the SkyAnthony Macali
A military operation to capture terrorists in Kenya comes under question when the request for a drone strike to bomb the target causes a heated debate across government factions.
"Eye in the Sky" might be divisive in nature, but the thrills and tension it provides are unquestionable. Although lacking certain subtleties, it incisively poses the question: "What is an acceptable cost of life to kill a terrorist?" The conundrum is debated with great vigour from the superb global cast, creating a captivating drama. Favouring back-room politics over guns and explosions, this film successfully reveals how modern warfare is controlled by static soldiers behind computer screens. Eye for suspense.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeAnthony Macali
Superman's aid to society comes under question after the fallout of his confrontation with General Zod, and continuous collateral damage he leaves in his path.
For all its scale and enterprise, "Batman v Superman" falters under the weight of a rudimentary plot. It seems any form of character progression was better served in previous films. In this outing, a large proponent of the running time is spent building upon the uninspired grudge at the center of story. The rest is occupied by heavy CGI visuals and extensive action set pieces we've become accustomed to. While the film never descends into boredom, it's frustrating that so many key elements are lacking, considering its size and promise. The dawn of further spin-offs.
London Has FallenAnthony Macali
Leaders of the world gather in London for the funeral of the Prime Minister, only to discover it's a trap.
Much like its previous rescue, "London Has Fallen" delivers exactly on what it advertises on the tin. It's a ridiculous premise, with a set of cartoon cut-out world leaders, our magnanimous hero and a litany of terrorists. The action and explosions that follow rain debris across the great British city, with cheesy jokes aplenty. High ranking officials crowd round-tables in disbelief, and the key is not to treat their political melodrama too seriously... you will find more amusement this way. Arrive with low expectations and you won't be cross. This is bloody fun.
Hail, Caesar!Anthony Macali
When movie star Baird Whitlock goes missing, production is halted on the epic feature he was working on. It's just one of the many problems for studio executive Eddie Mannix to fix.
"Hail, Caesar!" is a homage to Hollywood's Golden Era and a platform for some larger political and spiritual questions littered across the directors' back catalogue. In isolation, there are a number of amusing and entertaining scenes, but often they don't seem to service the overall picture. The film is rich in period detail and delightful characters, but there is little to take away from its wide agenda apart from the occasional chuckle. A breezy salute.
Clavius, a member of the Roman Army, is entrusted with the task of finding Jesus after his body disappears from the tomb.
"Risen" is perhaps one of the best looking Biblical films you are going to see. Sizzling desert landscapes and large sandstone structures create the perfect setting, but it was always going to require a miracle to enthral an audience with the rest. Given the subject matter, it's a relief the film is not especially preachy. The lead centurion puts in an honourable performance, gritted and stern in his quest for the truth and wholly predictable path to redemption. Righteous.
Zoolander 2Anthony Macali
Derek Zoolander comes out of hiding to return to the fashion world in a bid to win back custody of his son, Derek Junior.
It’s been a long time between catwalks for Derek Zoolander, and his return brings an updated collection of social satire that made his first outing so famous. While it retains some of the fun, it doesn't strike a very stunning pose with only a semblance of wit and creativity. "Zoolander 2" is silly and sloppy; countless high-profile cameos attempt to boost the credibility of the film, but cannot hide a very poor script. It's a model of recycled characters and cheap jokes. A follow-up faux-paus.
In the 1950s a young Irish girl migrates to Brooklyn, where she must learn to fall on her feet.
"Brooklyn" is an old-fashioned, simple, and exquisitely told romance story. It's a gorgeous looking film with the perfect match of characters and locales. For most parts the film dailies along, anchored by mesmerising performances that bring it to life and draw the emotion. The lead features in almost every frame, and could not be better cast. Her portrayal is wonderful to watch, as we observe her character learn, grow and shine in the limelight. Immigrants unite… this is an incredibly charming voyage.
Steve JobsAnthony Macali
A backstage look at Steve Jobs as he prepares for the launch of three of his new computer products.
"Steve Jobs" provides a startling insight into a ruthless business-man, remarkable in his vision and uncompromising in his approach, especially to his unfortunate co-workers and mystified daughter. Don't expect an in-depth discussion of the technology and evolution of Apple products... it's the little known and tumultuous father-story that takes centre stage, and it's the cunning of Jobs that really entertains. While some may find the three-act structure a little repetitive, strong dialogue and a stylish interface give this film air. A tempered innovator.
Michael Stone, an author on customer service, checks into a hotel and goes in search for some excitement to introduce to his relatively dull life.
"Anomalisa" is a curious observation of the mundanity of life, and the effect its simple premise will have on you is fascinating. It's a mesmerising stop-motion animation, and despite an unusual choice of visuals, it remains a deeply human story that deftly explores the beauty of romance in a largely uneventful day. In its search for meaning, there are many droll moments, but also scenes of personal insight that offer a profoundly relatable experience. A beautiful mystery.
The 5th WaveAnthony Macali
An alien force arrives on Earth and attempts to rid the planet of all the humans via its five phase plan.
The most confusing thing about "The 5th Wave" is trying to decipher what it's about... triumph of the human spirit and survival, or the hopelessness of humanity against greater natural forces? Ashamedly, could it even be a young girl caught in a dystopian love triangle between her pubescent crush and ambiguous saviour? Sadly the latter tends to steal the spotlight and is one of many disappointments in a rather lazy film consisting of shabby special effects and clunky dialogue. The umpteenth young adult end-of-the-world adaptation.
The Danish GirlAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, the marriage of artist Einar Wegener comes into question when his penchant for women's clothing prompts a transformation into the female persona Lili Elbe in the 1920s.
"The Danish Girl" is a delicate film, chronicling the extraordinary life of its protagonist in a very intimate way. With art as an ongoing theme, beautiful cinematography surround the intriguing character arcs. Striking, well grounded performances capture the volatility of the central relationship, exploring the ever-confused couple in their great distress. Perhaps falling short in its emotional impact, the story does successfully highlight an absence of social progression. The entangled artist.
After discovering their parents are selling their childhood home, two sisters decide to throw one last party at the place.
"Sisters" skirts the topic of growing old, and demonstrates the obvious and pitiful differences to the glory days of the past. To acknowledge this film as a study of women in their mid-forties would be giving it too much credit. This is lowest common denominator comedy, relying on its fantastic leading ladies and the surprisingly crass language spurting from their mouths. It certainly won't win any awards, but there is never a dull moment between the sharp wit and the low-brow. Siblings behaving badly.
A retired composer and his longtime film director friend reflect on their lives at a Swiss Spa.
"Youth" is a film that demonstrates how growing old can change your perception on life, and once seen through the quirky gaze of its main characters, the world opens up. A luxury resort is the perfect setting to host a gathering of eccentric characters, and their odd and seemingly inconsequential behaviour consumes a large portion of the running time. Touching performances are sometimes lost as we attempt to grasp the context of the narrative, which only becomes apparent towards the finale, when the commentary becomes a little more forthright. Mature and weird.
Star Wars: The Force AwakensAnthony Macali
The dark First Order face The Resistance in the hunt for BB-8, a droid harbouring a map believed to detail the location of the missing Luke Skywalker.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" makes a triumphant return, but sadly this wistful event will only leave its fans rejoicing. A new generation of amiable characters are introduced, and familiar ones welcomed back, yet the story fails to take-off. Flashy action pieces and an overpowering sense of nostalgia struggle to hide the obvious dip at the halfway mark, as the film is forced to echo and salvage elements of its past to complete its mission. A billion-dollar franchise awakens.
The RevenantAnthony Macali
After an ugly confrontation with a grizzly bear, Hugh Glass is left for dead in the snow by his crew.
"The Revenant" is unrelenting, unflinching and brutal. It's man against the elements, against nature and fellow man. This astounding tale of survival is wrought with sadness, set against great beauty. Gruelling performances combine with breathtaking visuals to create mesmerising cinematography, amongst terrain so harsh that you feel the chill of the snow along with the awe of the immense landscape. Despite the harrowing experience, this amazing production demands expedition. Extraordinary frontier.
Bridge of SpiesAnthony Macali
An American lawyer defending a Russian spy becomes part of a negotiation of prisoners.
"Bridge of Spies" begins as a curious courtroom drama, laying the foundations for a treacherous negotiation set against the Cold War, where intel and espionage rule. The period is remarkably recreated, the look and detail conveniently transporting us back in time, complete with particularly poignant scenes of the infamous Berlin Wall being erected. For a film that mostly takes place in embassies with officials drinking scotch behind closed doors, it's surprisingly engaging thanks to the fierce dialogue and air of tension. Bridge to a bygone era.
In the Heart of the SeaAnthony Macali
Inspired by Moby Dick, a ship is stranded at sea after its hunt for whale oil turns sour after a confrontation with a giant sperm whale.
Being stranded at sea is a terrible experience; hungry and trapped with no end in sight. It's an ordeal similar to watching this film, so make sure you bring popcorn to stave off the hunger. "In the Heart of the Sea" stinks, and no amount of computer-generated whales and their blow-holes were going to save this ship from sinking. The story is so boring and uninvolved that you just don't care; about any of the characters, or their fate. Stay clear of this storm. Disaster of the sea.
A young jazz drummer, inspired by the tutelage of his psychotic teacher, does whatever it takes to be the best.
"Whiplash" is exceptional... with all its encompassing blood, sweat and tears. No musical background is required, as this brilliantly determined film will completely absorb you with commanding performances, enchanting rhythm and rapid editing. The story is a strong is a character piece, with the spotlight shining on the obsessive culture and lengths some of the orchestra members go to better their skills, expertly captured in the films contained and manic style. Just the right tempo.
99 HomesAnthony Macali
After being evicted from his home, a father starts working for the very real estate broker who facilitated his dispossession.
"99 Homes" is an emotionally charged story about the economic fallout of the US financial crisis, with a particular focus on the families who lose their homes. The intimate and close-up style, bolstered by the desperate and compelling performances, create a heartfelt and personal story, which is deeply empathetic. From the first eviction, the dramatic tension never lets up, and raises questions of morality at every turn. One good film.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Anthony Macali
Katniss Everdeen leads a rebellion onto the Capital in search of its dictator President Snow.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" is war: a war of conflict, but more so a war of words and propaganda. The final instalment of the franchise provides a valuable examination of the subject, exposing the horrors of dispassionate politics and countless fatalities to its younger audience. Propelled by a bold story and even bolder hero, this fitting finale doesn't disappoint, darting through its significant running time with just the right amount of action, excitement and despair. An eerie and all too familiar revolution.
A washed-up Chef decides to return to the kitchen, repairing his broken relationships of past.
"Burnt" combines all the common ingredients to feed a familiar story. But the audience's appetite is kept whet as the film goes deep inside the belly of the restaurant beast. The scenes set in the kitchen are hot and temperamental, with many chefs furiously cooking and plating food. The rapid editing grants the audience a genuine sense of the pace and stress of the job. While the character drama isn't so appealing, with its tired and predictable manner, it's enough to satisfy a film genre rarely explored. 3 (non-Michelin) stars.
Crimson PeakAnthony Macali
An aspiring author, haunted by the ghost of her mother, falls in love with an engineer seeking funds for a clay harversting machine.
Early in the piece, mother ghost remarks "Beware of Crimson Peak"... and sadly it's a warning to be heeded by all. This gothic romance is incredibly dull, and no amount of lavish production can bring it to life. Sure it's creepy, and certain characters are appropriately sinister, living in their haunted house brimming with broken timber, oozing red clay, and white snow. For all its effort, it achieves little in the scare or excitement stakes. A hollow tragedy.
The LobsterAnthony Macali
A man checks into a hotel and has 45 days to find a partner, or be transformed into an animal of his choosing.
The quirky premise of "The Lobster" certainly captures your attention, and for the first half at least, plays out with weirdly dark and terrific humour. The film is laden with allegory, especially in its almost cynical commentary on relationships and the brutal punishment for those who don't conform. Beautifully shot with a formidable supporting cast, it's a shame curiosity wavers towards the end of the story, as our apathy for the characters falters with the plot. The one that got away.