What We Do in the ShadowsAnthony Macali
Follow the lives of three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles, like being immortal vampires.
"What We Do in the Shadows" demonstrates that life is hard for a vampire in Wellington. In true mockumentary style, the introduction of a wide-range of housemates is the best and funniest part of the film. The dry humour and deadpan delivery creates many laugh-out-loud moments, as it employs the classic bloodsucker traits and applies them to the modern world. While the lack of a story becomes prevalent towards the end, it doesn't last too long. They do hilarious.
A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save Virunga National Park in Congo.
"Virunga" is a vibrant national park full of life and, to much dismay, a place of death. This breathtaking parcel of land happens to fall on a large oil deposit, and the battle between preservation and money plays out extraordinarily on screen. It's a shocking juxtaposition that lets its characters share their messages, from the adorable keepers and their family of gorillas, to the faceless business men contracted to incite war. A fine example of fearless journalism and heartfelt conservation. Primeval.
Paper PlanesAnthony Macali
An imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
"Paper Planes" is a laudable representative of Australian drama, reminding us of some of the more imaginative and simpler pleasures in life. With themes of grief, bullying and the importance of winning, it's difficult to dislike this innocuous outing. While it may struggle to find an audience outside of its target demographic, the performances of the adolescents and uplifting musical score will inspire a generation. Pull out the A4's... and start folding.
An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
'Joe' is a well-revered man and surprising anti-hero to the strange dwellers of his back-wood community. He resides in a neighbourhood full of sinister characters, with troubled pasts and captivating lives. In the middle lies a relationship with the young Gary. Their exchanges form the most rewarding part of the film, as they thrive and learn from their experiences. Despite a lull towards the end, the local menaces will keep on you on edge. A hard-working performance.
A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.
"Mommy" is an onerous film to watch, and the deliberate and narrow aspect ratio provides little escape from the situation or cast. The characters steal the focus, and their performances are worthy of our attention. We can feel the despair and helplessness of managing the short-tempered Steve, and the terror in knowing he could snap on a whim. It's a long and emotional sitting, with limited moments of unassuming happiness. Family first.
Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career.
For its entirety, "Locke" sits firmly in the confines of a car... just a man and his mobile phone. While this premise might initially grab your attention, it's the great dialogue that keeps you listening, and the varied characters in his phonebook keep the conversations fresh. You genuinely fell empathy for the sorrowful Ivan in the most dramatic day of his life. The stress and tension builds with each new dial, as he tries his best to right wrongs in a restricted environment. Locked in your seat.
The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
"Predestination" revels in the very paradoxes created in its story. The two characters at the centre are as intriguing as the subject matter, and their stories of the past make for a fascinating plot. Once swept away by the narrative, the 'time-travel' arc kicks in… and so does the confusion. It's difficult to make sense of it all upon first viewing, but time passes quickly, and the journey is enjoyable enough. Predestined to bemuse.
Deliver Us from EvilAnthony Macali
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rites of exorcism.
"Deliver Us from Evil" is a bizarre crime thriller where the victims are 'possessed'. For most part, the police investigation at its core plays out rather conventionally, affirming the real world setting and origins. Gradually evil and scares creep in, usually in very dark rooms, accompanied by very large bangs. Even with the terrifying gore-extravagant finale, bouts of surprising humour break up the overwhelming moments of occult. Delivers on its promise.
A Million Ways to Die in the WestAnthony Macali
As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test.
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" sure is persistent in preaching the dangers of the American frontier, and happily employs the language of today to make fun of it. Sadly the modern speech serves very little purpose except to describe countless sketches of vulgarity, toilet humour and poor slapstick. Characters come and go, with an alarming number of cameos, but much like the main star, shoot off jokes that repeatedly miss the target. There are better ways to laugh in the cinema.
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures threaten our very existence.
"Godzilla" is back bigger and better than ever. This reincarnation of the story does not lay dormant for very long, feeding nuclear fears and manifesting them in the grandest and most terrifying of creatures. The special effects are superb, with hellish production sets and gravitating action that will leave you in awe. However, this monster's greatest success is the decidedly human element, brilliantly capturing the universal threat and far-spanning emotional reactions of all characters involved. Let them fight.
The DoubleAnthony Macali
A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite.
"The Double" is dark, twisted and strangely comedic. In a clever expression of loneliness and anxiety, it's easy to sympathise and share in the feelings of the bumbly protagonist. While the setting doesn't always make a lot of sense, the quirkiness is not excessive. Usually such conventions isolate the audience, but it serves a valuable purpose in breaking the mundane and sad overtones with bouts of witty and insightful and laughter. Worth seeing once.
Bad NeighboursAnthony Macali
A couple with a newborn face unexpected difficulties after they're forced to live next to a frat house.
"Bad Neighbours" lives up to the name. These new arrivals are loud, noisy and not very funny. It's apparent the dialogue is largely made of improvisation; a continuous set of fraternity gags and two conniving parents… neither side of the fence is a winner. All the best jokes have cultural references, and with the film won't stand the test of time. The excruciating characters and experience make the running time feel so long. Just bad.
As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fight the threat of artificial intelligence.
"Transcendence" is a story high in concept, but low on explanation. Despite the director's best efforts, it's difficult to succumb to the doomsday scenario dreamed up. Moving at a quantum-like pace, the film readily skips over the 'science' and settles on exploring the apprehension and awe of a supercomputer with a brain. While impressive in its infancy, the plot descends into all kinds of silliness and confusion towards the end. Makes less sense.
The Lego MovieAnthony Macali
An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.
"The Lego Movie" is an amusing anti-hero story wrapped in a world of little interconnecting blocks. It's puzzling to identify the target audience; adults will revel in the nostalgia and quick-wit, while kids will delight in the fast and frenetic colour and explosions. The film-makers have exceeded expectations in capturing the wonderful creativity and fun of their subject matter, with brilliant characters and animation. Break out the toy box, Lego is awesome.
Muppets Most WantedAnthony Macali
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.
"Muppets Most Wanted" bears all the classic tropes of a sequel low on ideas and thin on plot. It's still impossible to resist the innocuous charm and nostalgia of the wildly animated characters, looking so great in their colourful skins. Moving at a fast pace, the jokes are largely hit-and-miss. While the hits are funny, it’s unlikely this rag-tag crew will win over any new audiences with this show, despite the support of countless cameos. Most conventional.
An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
"Nebraska" is the black-and-white story of a rather confused elderly man. His poignant history is revealed during an absurd adventure to the titular destination, ensuring a stop-over at the town of his birth grants us a glimpse of small-town country life. All the characters we meet are equally colourful and droll, while conveying the quiet fragility and banal habits of old age. Simple and stripped-back, the film is a winner thanks to its lovable lead. Rich in sympathy and laughter.
Blue Is the Warmest ColourAnthony Macali
Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair.
"Blue Is the Warmest Colour" is an intimate and uncompromising story about first loves, sexual discovery and desire. The camera is close-up and firmly focused on the young Adele, adding an emotional reality that leads you to believe you are watching a true story unfold. You cannot imagine any other cast playing these spirited characters, and their performances are fascinating. Some of the more graphic scenes will shock, and although the film is too long, you can't deny the amazing storytelling. Red hot.
Are We Officially Dating?Anthony Macali
Three best friends find themselves where we've all been - at that confusing moment in every dating relationship when you have to decide "So... where is this going?"
That awkward moment "Are We Official Dating?" is about is barely spoken out. What dominates most of the discussion of its young cast is how sex and relationships work in the modern day, in all of its vulgar and candid glory. Regrettably the film is a little too inconsistent to get its underlying moral messages across, serving up a disconnected mix of comedic set pieces and 'dating' advice. A refreshing topic, but not bold enough to challenge the Hollywood ideals. Caught in the middle.
Winter's TaleAnthony Macali
A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.
The greatest miracle in "Winter's Tale" is how the film was born in the first place. For the most part, it doesn't make any sense, and talk of true love and flying horses only complicates matters even more. The funny thing is (aside from the cringe-worthy dialogue) is that the audience may actually find themselves interested in seeing just what other foolishness they might come up with. It seems the only magic lies in making up rules along the way to suit the story. Destined to fail.
The PastAnthony Macali
An Iranian man deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. His wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife's request for a divorce.
"The Past" is a minimalistic drama that firmly holds your attention from beginning to end. Through conversations of the family members, both adults and children alike, a back-story is gently realised that evokes sympathy from the audience. As certain characters are favoured, each new revelation begins to influence judgement, feeding curiosity even further. Unassuming and honest, this film feels like a genuine portrayal of a complicated relationship. Don't look back.
Last VegasAnthony Macali
Three sixty-something friends take a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal.
In "Last Vegas" all the characters are winners. The illustrious cast is a sight to behold, it's just such a shame how their collaboration is played out in this tame effort. Sexagenarian jokes about prostates and bad hips come with the territory, and although some are mildly /amusing, the film never strays far from its predictable and happy ending. As fun as a debaucherous weekend can be in the city of lights, this outing is careful not to offend. A disappointing reunion.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.
"Frozen" is the story of two sisters surrounded by a dazzling world of ice that gleams so impressively in this animation. While the characters and relationships are tailored to suit a modern audience, the core of the story sticks to a classic formula with familiar themes of family and love. Full of adventure and laughs thanks to a troupe of goofy sidekicks, this film distinguishes itself with merry displays of music and song. For the young princesses of the world.
August: Osage CountyAnthony Macali
A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in.
"August: Osage County" plays host to a family steeped in unresolved issues. As each character is introduced, they bring extra weight to the drama. Based on a play, there are no small parts to this story, allowing each member of the ensemble to thrive, most memorably when they sit together in a dining scene to never forget. While the film lingers towards its conclusion, there's no doubt individuals will resonate identify with parts of the narrative before the end. Funny: Sad Family.