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.
The WalkAnthony Macali
In 1974, French artist Philippe Petit dreams of walking a tightrope across the World Trade Centre.
"The Walk" is an amazing film that grants its audience a true appreciation of the outlandish imagination and endeavour of the feat at hand. Such simple conceit is extended to a marvellous story, revealing the outright madness of its artist and the elaborate logistics of suspending a cable 400m above the ground. The iconic Twin Towers are gloriously reconstructed, and the dizzying view from the top is both beautiful and terrifying. Spectacular visuals and brilliant 3D place you right on the wire, drawing you into a tense and deeply emotional experience. A coup to remember.
Black MassAnthony Macali
The true story of James "Whitey" Bulger, who became an FBI informant to rid the Mafia competition.
The portrayal of this notorious crime figure is absolutely chilling, and the performance alone warrants the existence of this film. However the simple way the narrative recreates the key moments of his life is less affecting. Time jumps, characters arrive and inevitably go, and it often feels disconnected. So while it doesn't offer any incisive insight into this Boston baddie, apart from the fact that he was a very violent and intimidating man, a gangster flick is always fascinating. Mass murder.
The InternAnthony Macali
An online fashion site offer a senior Internship program to boost their public image.
"The Intern" is a feel-good outfit, which will appeal to a wide audience. Despite the cliché setup, the film is stylish, and is carried with aplomb by the two delectable leads. This unconventional pairing is clearly the best part, as they drive the most laughs and delight in sharing their stories and offering life lessons. While it might languish in the final third when a heap of drama and themes are forced upon the narrative, its overarching sweetness will please its buyers. The perfect fatherly figure.
The GiftAnthony Macali
A man from the past comes back to haunt a couple, leaving wrapped presents at their doorstep.
"The Gift" is the gift that keeps on giving... the creeps. Hooked from the very first interaction between our lead characters, the suspense builds as their rich and sinister backstories are revealed. Largely set in a single house, this conspicuous setting brings even more unease, in its vulnerability and realism. Interest tends to wane towards the end as the conceit becomes a little monotonous. But the film's greatest achievement is its unpredictability. You don't know how it's going to end, which is a rare cinematic gift.
Straight Outta ComptonAnthony Macali
The story of hip-hop group NWA, who grew up on the streets of LA and revolutionized rap music.
"Straight Outer Compton" is a rags to riches story with a unique hip-hop twist. This fascinating portrayal chronicles the lifetime of NWA, and looks at the blatant racism, which inspired some of their music. The cast is remarkable, eliciting genuine empathy and support in their quest to simply produce dope beats. While the film might lose its way towards the end, unsure which character's story to narrow its gaze, it doesn't affect the overall entertainment and charisma. Straight Outer History.
We Are Your FriendsAnthony Macali
An aspiring DJ sets out to produce that one special track to mark his name and launch his career.
"We Are Your Friends" offers a little plastic sachet of party life. While it doesn't shy from the unavoidable sex and drugs associated with the scene, it does ultimately settle on a story about the music. With an acute focus on electronic dance music, this film explores the ambition of youth and the art of the deejay. In one particularly joyful sequence, we are treated to a lesson in syncing rhythm and beats to the human heart. The themes might not appeal to all, but it's certainly throwaway fun. A mashup of ideas.
City of GoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about famous LA food critic Johnathon Gold.
"City of Gold" is an admirable documentary about a wonderful writer, whose commentary on food transcends boundaries in multiple ways. Apart from his utterly brilliant style, and encyclopedic knowledge and passion for his hometown, he is famous for shining the spotlight on some of the smaller restaurants. Not one to discriminate, Mr. Gold values cooking as a service to a community, and provides a telling insight into multicultural society, where food can bring people together. This guy really likes tacos.
The WolfpackAnthony Macali
Not permitted outside of their apartment, the Angulo brothers only escape is their film collection.
"The Wolfpack" is an intimate look at a large family sadly confined to the boundaries of their apartment. Home-schooled by their devoid mother, the children's only view of the outside world is through the skewed reality of cinema, which could only contribute to their weird behaviour. It's hard to watch, especially as the young brothers gradually realise the misery of their imprisoned existence. Even more heartbreaking is their tethered creative talents, limited to charming re-enactments of famous movies. An agonising insight into social suppression.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Anthony Macali
In the 1960s, an American and Russian operative must join forces to stop a nuclear bomb.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." is all style and no substance. When these secret agents aren’t jumping and shooting at one another, they are delivering fashion advice. With this example you can appreciate the uncomplicated direction of this story. It starts off obnoxious, but slowly grows on you over the course of the mission. Everything is so nice to look at, and plot reveals are neatly constructed (and deconstructed) for the audience, leaving little to the imagination. Sleek and chic, and not so special.
Deep WebAnthony Macali
A documentary about the 96 per cent of the internet that goes unindexed by search engines.
"Deep Web" is a highly informative and educational insight into the little known and hidden portion of the World Wide Web. The less you know beforehand, the more you will be astounded at 'Silk Road', the illicit drug marketplace at the centre of this investigation, and its equally fascinating libertine founder and administrator. Ultimately the film raises a discussion about privacy in a digital world, and neatly highlights the gaps in today’s Internet freedom. Can the good guys hack the bad guys?