Vantage PointAnthony Macali
With a Rashomon narrative style, the attempted assassination of the president is told from several different perspectives.
"Vantage Point" might seem interesting at first, with its "different points of view" storytelling, large ensemble cast and an American president. In truth, it's a bit repetitive and formulaic, with revelations only coming after we endure the assassination again and again. In the end, the bad guys die, there's a car chase to please all the confused viewers, and the story gets nicely wrapped up. Entertaining enough, but still annoying.
An inside look at Italy's modern-day crime families. Based on a book by Roberto Saviano.
This film is a sprawling mess of characters and storylines. You see a mafia suit distribute money among the neighbourhood, two gung-ho youths wanting to be gangsters, and a guy who creates skirts in a workshop. It leaves us clueless as to how all these scenes fit together to create the big picture. Trying to make sense of it all is a slow and boring exercise. "Gomorrah" is a poorly executed and frustrating insight into the Italian underworld.
Tropic ThunderAnthony Macali
Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.
This film could have easily been titled "War Movie", inline with the many other spoof films. The premise is understandably contrived, and a challenge to be convincing. If you're seeking wit, you won't find it in this jungle. Jokes consist of recreating classic war scenes and actor parodies, ironically commenting on their retarded role choices. "Tropic Thunder" has a big cast and big budget, but relies too heavily on props and stereotypes to elicit laughs.
Forgetting Sarah MarshallAnthony Macali
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's travelling to the same resort as her ex.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a delightful comedy filled with many interesting characters. The best parts are the small snippets that fall in-between scenes. These whimsical moments contain some of the best jokes, but also some welcome insights into our protagonists. The only disappointing bits are the undue vulgarity and contrivances towards the end. This film is a memorable mix of laugh-out-loud scenarios and genuine heartbreak.
Pineapple ExpressAnthony Macali
A stoner and his dealer are forced to go on the run from the police after the pothead witnesses a cop commit a murder.
If you smoke weed, more often then not, you end up in crazy scenarios. They are often highly contrived, outrageous, and equally hilarious. When the bad guys over-estimate the good guys, suspecting they're intelligent hired professionals, it's always hysterical. Like a number of characters, some jokes are not great, though never resorting to vulgarity. "Pineapple Express" is a ridiculous comedy of ridiculous people, stuck in ridiculously funny situations.
There Will Be BloodAnthony Macali
A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
"There Will Be Blood" is a raw and compelling film about one man, driven to succeed if only to be regarded as successful rather than flourish in riches. Any person who stands in his way is a considered a threat and a competitor, a philosophy that makes him neurotic and psychotic. A vigorous score heightens the dread and tension, and evokes strong emotion in this story of an entrepreneur of undeniable intensity and greed.
An FBI agent tracks a serial killer with the help of three of his would-be victims - all of whom have wildly different stories to tell.
It's always captivating when information is revealed the way this film does. Three victims are interviewed by the cops; three different perspectives are intertwined; and then the audience is left to put the pieces together. The performances are strong across the board, all accessories to driving the speeding tension. A riveting story, twisted narrative and sadistic characters make "Surveillance" an engrossing thriller.
Be Kind RewindAnthony Macali
A man whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, the two men set out to remake the lost films.
A wave of nostalgia hits you in "Be Kind Rewind" as our affable heroes go about remaking a list of video classics that include Ghostbusters, Robocop and Rush Hour. The intention is to inspire the filmmaker in all of us, but it often feels a little too self-indulgent on the director's part. The video sketches provide plenty of do-it-yourself innovation and a lot of fun; it's the rest of the film you want to fast-forward.
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
There is much to love and hate about Juno. She undermines the process of giving birth with her contrived banter, and is immature and naive when it comes to adult issues. It's a credit to the film that we still find sympathy for our smart-mouthed hero. She takes responsibility for the impregnation and is deeply appreciative of the varied idiosyncratic characters that support her. "Juno" is an admiring tale that will frustrate and amuse.
Diary of the DeadAnthony Macali
A group of young film students run into real-life zombies while filming a horror movie of their own.
The internet video revolution has spawned a number of these "home camcorder" films. This medium is ideal for creating a claustrophobic and isolated environment, the perfect playground for zombies to scare. A relentless sense of dread seeps from the screen, a feeling that augments the relief and humour of other parts of the story. Scenes often end in fits of laughter, with the living dead dispatched in an array of innovative manners. With a mix of solid scares and laughs, and a fresh new perspective, "Diary of the Dead" is great fun.
A Complete History of My Sexual FailuresAnthony Macali
Indy filmmaker Chris attempts to interview his ex-girlfriends to find out why they dumped him.
It's difficult to ignore such an amusing title. This documentary starts promisingly, our lovable loser aggravating some of his past liaisons with the help of his mother. There is a definitive point about half-way that marks the passing of this premise. Chris has to resort to stunts to fill the remainder of the running time, some guiltily hilarious, though most are pathetic. The only genuine moments feature the girl our filmmaker was to marry. These are also the dullest. This film is quietly amusing in the first half, and a disappointing failure in the second.
Ben XAnthony Macali
An alternative to getting bullied at school, an autistic teenager retreats into the world of online games.
"Ben X" provides a respectful insight into the direct, and indirect, effects of autism. Frantic mish-mash editing adeptly creates Ben's isolated world, portraying his simple wish to be free from the torments of his peers and social etiquette. Surprisingly, delving into the online-world demonstrates both therapeutic qualities and dangers, as it cleverly weaves the multimedia of the game into the real world. The conclusion is questionable, but doesn't deny the story's warmth and grace. A well-grounded deterrence for bullies round the world.
An examination of the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Polish officers and citizens in 1940.
There is no denying the importance of this film. However, its purpose invokes a rather dull and bleak history lesson. The streets of Poland are beautifully recreated on the screen, only to be lost amongst the bombardment of sporadic jumps through time. The interesting aspect of the tragedy is the taboo nature of the subject, but this is only briefly explored and serves as mere introduction to the horrifying and unyielding finalé. "Katyn" provides overdue closure to those connected with the story, but lacks the emotion to connect with the rest.
The Spiderwick ChroniclesAnthony Macali
Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is another children's fantasy with very little to separate it from the rest. After a slow introduction, we finally delve into the mystical world of faeries and goblins, a group of computer generated creatures who provide some excitement. Apart from a big exploding finalé of tomato sauce, the rest of the story is rather insipid and dull, despite the excellent performances of the young cast. Fun and fantastical, but all too familiar.
The Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
The Dark KnightAnthony Macali
Batman and Gordon join forces with the new DA to take on a psychotic robber known as The Joker.
There is so much to admire about this film. The dark tone resonates with an audience that live in a not-so-perfect world. The grand-scale action sequences involving trucks and bikes are testament to money being better spent on explosions than computer graphics. Assortments of characters are given their due screen-time, but all are overshadowed by the Joker, who creates an unprecedented sense of dread and anarchy. "The Dark Knight" is so good that you forget about its comic origins, as it stands alone as exceptional action and crime classic.
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
The Darjeeling LimitedAnthony Macali
Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other.
It's difficult to relate to this wealthy family, so far detached from reality. Rather, you laugh at their bickering, addiction to cough medicine, fondness of snakes and pepper spray, and other mishaps aboard the Darjeeling Limited. The Indian people and culture suffer from the little attention they receive in this feature, which delivers more of a postcard snapshot than an enlightening journey. What the film lacks in spirit, it makes up for in family camaraderie.
Run Fatboy RunAnthony Macali
A chunky, clueless guy leaves his pregnant fiancée on their wedding day only to discover 5 years later that she is his one true love.
It's difficult to describe what bad comic-timing is, but "Run Fatboy Run" is surely an adequate demonstration. There are too many unbearable characters and too many bad jokes that race towards a neat and predictable ending. A marathon to endure, this film is not as funny as it thinks it is, and one you should run away from.
A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years.
Our young hero entertains when exploiting his gift to rob banks and travel the world. It's unacceptable to spend the entire film showcasing how cool this teleporting is. Whenever our protagonist meets the other characters of the story, the interactions are simply woeful. This film constantly jumps scene to scene skipping any traces of plot or action and leaving a scar of disappointment no person should go through.
The Bucket ListAnthony Macali
Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
The problem about these two men, apart from their uninspired performances, is the fact we don't care if they pass away or not. Their ambitions are more comparable to household chores, as they trudge along each adventure in vapid fashion. The whole act is a little too cheesy, corny, and convenient for my liking. Better suited for a TV midday movie, this film should not be on your list.
Kung Fu PandaAnthony Macali
Po the Panda is the laziest animals in all of the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.
Animated films continue to lead the way in family entertainment, and this one is no exception. This picture is invariably breathtaking, set amongst impressive landscapes and showcasing the very fast and fluid kinetics of martial arts which make it exciting to watch. The film presents enough vibrant and infectious fun to make it impossible to despise. "Kung Fu Panda" is funny, witty, and truly awesome.
Martian ChildAnthony Macali
A science-fiction writer, recently widowed, considers whether to adopt a hyper-imaginative 6-year-old abandoned and socially rejected boy who says he's really from Mars.
"Martian Child" is a well-produced film with a simple message and a good heart. The titular Dennis is the most frustrating of all the characters - one scene you want to slap him, the next you want to hug him. The film deals with these problems, how parents struggle with troubled kids, and how kids have trouble facing the real world. Not the most exciting film of the year, but a genuinely human and heartfelt story.
The MistAnthony Macali
A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
"The Mist" is your stock standard horror film where you throw a bunch of people in a room, endanger their lives, and see how they react. The result is a colourful quarrel of religion, reason and rationale. The joy comes from watching the locals get their comeuppance as the poor-looking monsters feast on them. In these films you always find yourself questioning the decisions the characters make. Our protagonists' judgement at the end is truly mystifying.
Charlie Wilson's WarAnthony Macali
A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
A man hidden from the radar, Charlie Wilson is an amazing character with cause against the Soviets that rivals his passion for women and whiskey. The movie is propelled by the charisma of its lead characters, and all-star cast who delightfully play off one another. There are also many moments in the story that frighteningly resonate with the politics of today. This film is about Charlie's success, America's failures and the causalities along the way.