After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy.
"Unbroken" is a prisoner of war drama that shows the limits of how many beatings a single person can take. The camera is placed firmly in the thick of the action and lets the remarkable true story do the heavy-lifting, revealing an incredible, resilient man and his ever-constant fight for survival. Unsurprisingly, this film encompasses all the inspirational quotes accustomed to the genre, but thankfully these clichés don't overshadow the impact. Unrelenting.
Big Hero 6Anthony Macali
The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
"Big Hero 6" is a whiz-bang robotic romp, self-assured in its style and execution. Set in the clever and aptly titled 'San Fransokyo', we are presented with an awesome mix of colourful and futuristic animation to suit the story. The unlikely hero is an oddly marshmallow-looking invention, a functional and affable health bot whose impassive questions and incessant shuffling generate the greatest laughs. Kids and adults will escape unscathed in this action-packed adventure. Pain-free.
When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant.
"Nightcrawler" is a film that will immediately capture your attention and maintain it throughout. Roving through the night is a chilling anti-hero, unabashed and unafraid to succeed. His unrivaled determination forms the film's backbone, exposing society's startling and interminable thirst for news, bloody news. It's a brilliantly eerie performance from the lead, and combined with edge-of-your-seat thrills, will be sure to shock and entertain its viewers. Must-watch video.
Let's Be CopsAnthony Macali
Two struggling pals dress as police officers for a costume party and become neighborhood sensations
"Let's Be Cops" take dress-ups to an entirely new and ridiculous level. While the premise can be easily dismissed, it provides the setup for many of the outrageous skits and varied laughs on patrol. Apparently being an officer of the law is great for picking up women, and if you can get past blatant objectification and not take the rest of the film too seriously, the outcome is mildly entertaining. Let's leave our brain at the door.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1Anthony Macali
In District 13, Katniss Everdeen works to a nation moved by her courage under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends.
Just as this franchise begins to catch fire, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is reduced to a slow-burn, which can only be attributed to its division into two separate films. World war has begun and the images are striking, but their emotive impact is lost when the characters continue to tread over the same ground... literally. The strength still lies in the ensemble cast, as their bravado resides over some of the more spectacular set pieces. It's less games, more politics.
Love, RosieAnthony Macali
Lifelong friends Rosie and Alex discover the challenges of staying in touch as they grow older, live apart and meet new people.
"Love, Rosie" is a glossy and predictable romantic comedy that forgoes personality. Despite the best efforts of the charming and gorgeous leads, we care very little for their fate. This is a film of close-up passionate kisses and beautiful sun rays gleaming through the background, interlaced with awkward and unrealistic comedy setups that draw restrained bouts of laughter. Many years pass, boredom sets in, and we're still left looking for something real. Lots of love, but no heart.
Two Days, One NightAnthony Macali
Sandra discovers that her workmates have opted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
"Two Days, One Night" ponders a precarious dilemma. We learn our protagonist is wrestling a sickness, and feel the helplessness and frustration that comes living with it, amplified by a strong and palpable performance. While the setup is questionable, it enables an interesting and often unseen view of families on the weekend, and the common economic struggles they face. The quiet pace might not suit everyone, but it allows time to properly introduce the various characters, and effortlessly create an emotional connection. Lingers many days after...
Kill the MessengerAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.
"Kill the Messenger" gets caught up not knowing what kind of film it wants to be. Considering the alarming and hard-hitting news of the discovery, the expectant feelings of anger and discontent towards the cover-up are severely lacking. The narrative serves more as a lesson in public relations, as we watch an honourable journalist get discredited; his breakdown not as interesting as the politics. An admirable story to bring to the fore… even if the message isn't clear.
With Earth on the brink of extinction, a group of space explorers search for a new habitat.
"Interstellar" is an unparalleled visceral experience. This epic feature hurtles by at the speed of light, its jolting emotional course riding the bumps of a family growing and living apart. We cannot help but marvel at the enigmatic and visual amazement of deep space, and the unforgettable adventure of traversing into a new galaxy. This film represents a commanding feat from its director, and demands big-screen cinematic attention to fully appreciate the illustrious detail and absorbing sound and score. Out of this world, out of this time.
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
Before I Go to SleepAnthony Macali
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
"Before I Go to Sleep" is more frightening than one might think. Living with amnesia is a damned reality, and the film vehemently captures the constant fear and mistrust our protagonist is feeling. With eerie photos and distressing video diaries, each daily cycle will keep the audience guessing, as strong performances from the cast pull in many different directions, mentally and emotionally, before descending into the darkness of the final act. Sweet dreams.
Gone GirlAnthony Macali
With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
"Gone Girl" is a compelling investigation into the fallout of a missing person... where nothing is what it seems to be. The extraordinary story plays out with a candid reality that elevates this thriller to a class above, with countless twists and turns that continually renew your interest during an extensive running time. Supported by great characters and an electrifying score, this chilling film will linger long after the case is closed. Masterstroke found.
Advanced StyleAnthony Macali
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.
"Advanced Style" is a lovely documentary that will invigorate and enliven. As it fleetingly delves into the profiles of the stylish ladies who make up this blog-inspired film, we get exposed to some deeply creative and driven elderly women that one might not normally notice walking down the street. We also learn that with age comes a great sense of humour, with the interviewees encouraged to share stories just a little more philosophical than the contents of their wardrobe. A passion for fashion.
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Crash, bang, creek... "Annabelle" is a pointless prequel. Not afraid to cash-in on the success of its predecessor, this film possesses no plot. Instead it relies on well-worn tricks to frighten the audience; exaggerated music, disheveled apparitions and the countless slamming of doors. Once the audience starts laughing at the glaringly obvious setups and lingering doll shots, you know there's a problem. Put her back in the cupboard.
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.