Jupiter AscendingAnthony Macali
Jupiter's boring and destitute life of house cleaning changes when Caine, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down.
"Jupiter Ascending" shoots for the stars and falls flat on its face, relying on worn conventions and hopeless romanticism to propel its story. There's no question the visuals are amazing; a galaxy of brightly coloured planets, outrageous outfits, and finely detailed mazes and structures. Once the exposition finally kicks in, the back-story is a little more interesting, but also quickly forgotten, as we query some of the more gaping aspects of the plot. Box-office descending.
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.
Exodus: Gods and KingsJan Di Pietro
The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Moses... know him, right? Too bad if you don't! It's his story, although instead of a story, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" presents itself like a literal recounting of events. Like Moses' walk in the desert, this film is long, arduous, and is likely to cause hunger and thirst. It's always strange to watch historical figures behaving like modern folk. Ancient Egypt is recreated with astounding visuals... about all it's worth. Might be fun for "believers", but the movie gods have abandoned the rest of us.
The Young and Prodigious T.S. SpivetAnne Murphy
A ten-year-old scientist sets out from his family's ranch in Montana and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.
Prodigious? Perhaps. Beguiling? Absolutely. This movie reaches out from the screen to engage with the imaginations of the audience and it is a delightful experience to see the world through the eyes of a serious young boy. While whimsical and almost naive in style, the heart wrenching back story of a family divided by trauma directs us to regard this as a mature tale. Not only cowboys are born under a wandering wondering star.
Dawn of the Planet of the ApesAndrew O'Dea
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is darker than its predecessor, replete with themes of politics, trust, betrayal and family. This brilliantly realised science-fiction movie is both smart and exciting in narrative and amazingly splendid in visual effects, with the on-screen simians appearing just as real as their human counterparts. No monkey business here, this film is an intelligent piece of popcorn entertainment. Movie strong. People enjoy.
Guardians of the GalaxyAndrew O'Dea
A group of misfits finds themselves the target of a manhunt after acquiring an all-powerful orb.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is utterly dazzling as a sci-fi spectacle, but its real strength lies in the charisma of its characters. The band of atypical yet weirdly loveable heroes at its core affirms the film's goofy and energetic nature, as it strikes a cosmic balance between rollicking action and humour. It also proves to be a musical treat, with the eclectic soundtrack providing a slew of classic songs to compliment the irreverent fun. Relive that feeling of being a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon with this awesome addition to the movie universe.
Transformers: Age of ExtinctionAndrew O'Dea
A mechanic's family join the Autobots as they are targeted by a bounty hunter from another world.
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is a loud, effects-driven assault on intelligence. The film manages to stupefy what is already a dumbed-down formula with a bombardment of plot points so nonsensical they cause the audience to mind-numbingly dismiss them. Shameless and overt product placement underpin a monstrous running time that ensures the chaos gets real boring, really fast; the entire experience feels like a long-winded race to smash and destroy things from one location to the next. Here's hoping this tepid instalment signals the extinction of the franchise.
Edge of TomorrowAndrew O'Dea
An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race.
Funny, suspenseful and imaginative, "Edge of Tomorrow" plays like a smart and engaging video game. With brains to match the brawn, the film's repetitive premise never becomes predictable. Exhilarating action sequences are broken up by moments of dark humour, and tension is maintained thanks to deft pacing and an intelligent script. This captivating sci-fi adventure serves as a fine counter to the formulaic alien-invasion thrillers to which audiences have otherwise become accustomed. Good enough to revisit, and again.
X-Men: Days of Future PastAndrew O'Dea
The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is a coherent, plot-driven action film. The visual effects are stunning in this accomplished mutant showcase, complete with monumental set pieces and superb ensemble cast. The compelling narrative holds enough appeal to entertain both the average cinema-goer and comic book geek alike, and thanks to a clever script, allows this rebooted franchise to undo and rewrite the failings of its predecessors. The future is bright.
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.
Captain America: The Winter SoldierAndrew O'Dea
Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.
"Captain America 2" is testament to big-budget blockbusters capable of delivering substance in both plot and action. Grittier than its predecessor, this well rounded sequel plays more like an espionage thriller, and surprises in its contemplativeness of political and social relevance. A host of characters are each given time to develop without disengaging the audience, complementing the lavish visual effects and explosive, bone-crunching set pieces. Stars and spangles.
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.
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.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAnthony Macali
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.
"The Desolation of Smaug" is an incredible return to middle-earth, brimming with dazzling action and adventure. Considerable doom hangs above, as our band of heroes continue their mission, each revealing motives that create conflict and intrigue. It's an epic journey that passes swiftly, charging towards an unveiling of one of the most amazing creatures to fly across the big screen. Fans of the series will find everything they've been searching for. Mountains of gold.
A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights lives his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race.
"Planes" is a simple story of flying fun. The premise is basic and sticks to a tried formula, lacking the boost in creativity required to distinguish this animation from the rest. As a result, the film is best suited to the youngest of age groups, who will marvel at the soaring aeroplanes brought to life in colourful 3D. There is plenty of spectacle and lots of racing, astutely captured and easy to follow, darting to the finish of a short and sweet running time. Fly in, fly out.
Pacific RimAnthony Macali
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world.
"Pacific Rim" is the perfect suit for an audience with a penchant for large robots. On display is the most spectacular of heavy-machinery, brought to life with cutting edge special effects in gleaming detail. It's clear the monsters were as thoughtfully designed, repulsive creatures who appear as ominous threats, thanks in part to the small bunch of rag-tag humans who make us partially care. The film has a mission, and delivers exactly on what it sets out to do... Robots vs Monsters.
Man of SteelAndrew O'Dea
A young man is forced to confront his secret extra-terrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded.
Alongside a torrent of CGI explosions and mayhem, the director also brings an unexpected depth and sense of melancholy to the characters in "Man of Steel". Although diminished, there is still an undercurrent of purpose even though countless skyscrapers are toppled and smashed like jenga blocks. However, the greatest disappointment is that any exhilaration from the visual splendour wears thin as action sequences become excessively prolonged and repetitive. This rusty reboot is far from super, but hope remains in the foundation of a franchise with the potential to eventually soar.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...
After EarthAndrew O'Dea
A crash landing leaves Kitai and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape.
This ill-conceived film is an uninspiring, predictable story of survival. Poor acting isn't helped by wooden dialogue, nor the leading man's charisma being wasted in what is essentially a supporting role. The special effects are especially sub-par, which is particularly disappointing given dazzling visuals are often the most exhilarating and redeeming feature of sci-fi flicks. The best part about "After Earth" is finally making it to the 'after' part.
The Great GatsbyAnne Murphy
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.
"The Great Gatsby" as a book is a literary classic and it's difficult to review the movie without making comparisons. Most viewers will watch with some sort of expectation. Do so at the peril of your enjoyment, look too critically and you'll see this is not a perfect image of the novel. Forget familiarity, the director has delivered a turbo-charged, multi-coloured and visually spectacular version of the story and intriguing characters alike. This film version is true to the source but somehow greater.
Star Trek Into DarknessAndrew O'Dea
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is engaging on a magnificent scale, bringing the flare and energy of its predecessor to screen. A cluster of high octane action sequences are set against the visual grandeur of other-worldly backdrops, all the while propelled by solid storytelling. The director has sewn this movie together with an almost clinical precision, and the entire cast play their roles with sublime conviction, in particular the chilling and malevolent villain at its core. Set phasers to awesome.
Wreck-It RalphAndrew O'Dea
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
"Wreck-It Ralph" brings classic arcade games to life through a wildly fun and exciting premise. It's just a shame the brilliant concept doesn't quite live up to its potential. Although the animation is superb, it eventually runs out of tokens, winding up as a simple 8-bit film that gives preference to visuals over heart. You won't be disappointed by the brilliant animated-short that precedes it, but unfortunately the main event is only mildly entertaining at best. Game over.
A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
"ParaNorman" has an admirable vision; introducing a younger audience to the world of horror. From the outset, the slightly warped aesthetics grab your attention, signalling an animation far from normal. There are plenty of ghouls, but they are a small distraction. At its core, the story is about a kid fighting his fears and the bullies at school. It's a touching experience and one with welcome bouts of humour. Inspiring a generation to battle their demons, this film is alive and well.
Life of PiAnthony Macali
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
"Life of Pi" charts an amazing story of survival, feats of courage and countless horizons. There are plenty of opportunities to gaze at majestic visuals, from exotic animals to the colours of the sea, enriched with dream-like sequences that grant the freedom to push the artistic boundaries, 3D and all. The film's biggest struggle is the amount of time spent on a life-boat, reaching a point to drive its audience sea-sick. A far from thrilling, yet nonetheless beautiful adventure.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo Baggins sets out on an adventure with a group of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home.
The greatest delight of this movie is the simple joy in being able to revisit the magic of Middle-Earth once again, captured in all of the director's visionary glory. In this chapter, an aura of whimsy and charm are preferred to the darker nature of the film's predecessors – a light-hearted approach that remains faithful to the literary classic upon which it is grounded. Although it has its share of storytelling detractions, in particular the deliberately slow pacing, there are still enough moments of action and allure to sustain, making "The Hobbit" a journey worth taking.