Win WinAnne Murphy
A struggling lawyer and wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
The good-humoured and flawed characters which populate "Win Win" are acted with refreshing individuality. The movie plays out as a down to earth and warm comedy, that is hard not to be charmed by. As the captivating plot develops, and very human problems are encountered, an almost constant tickle of laughter fills the cinema. Audience interest is engaged by the readily recognisable challenges of ordinary people and their relationships, and we're ready to empathise. Nobody loses.
The BeaverAnthony Macali
A troubled husband and executive adopts a hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
"The Beaver" is really funny and really sad, chipping away at a frenetic pace. The puppet is strangely hypnotic, with an accent and antics that produce most of the laughs in a performance clearly indebted to his master. We're soon reminded the situation is quite serious, and that some outlets often serve as rather unorthodox modes of therapy. While the audience might have the required patience for such, the characters do not. The son wrestles with issues of his own, pressing a sub-plot that doesn't quite work. On the whole though, this outfit is short, shrewd and deeply moving.
A group of students investigate a series of mysterious bear killings, but learn that there is something more dangerous going on. They follow a strange hunter, and learn that he is actually a troll hunter.
Those who don't take this film too seriously are certain have a lot of fun, as the film's comedy is essentially rooted in this very mantra. The director is to be applauded for the resourcefulness of integrating the giant trolls - almost seamlessly - on what must have been a very modest budget. Although the film has a tendency to become quite languid at times, its drolly comic style and the beautiful fjords and forests of Norway littered throughout make it watchable. Fee, fi, fo... fun!
Red DogWendy Slevison
Based on the true story of Red Dog, who united an outback community while in search of his master.
Watching this movie feels a bit like sitting around a camp fire listening to your mates tell a darn good yarn. It's a quintessentially Aussie experience with wonderfully personal characterisations and a truly incredible story. The first-class cinematography brings the mining area of Western Australia gloriously to life in a visual feast of red and turquoise. The human actors do a fine job of portraying the mateship that forms in the small mining towns, but of course the dog steals every scene he's in - what a talented boy! A blue ribbon for "Red Dog".
Cedar RapidsAnne Murphy
Tim Lippe has no idea what he's in for when he's sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention.
"Cedar Rapids" is a surprising and heart-stealing comedy, thanks mostly to the nuanced portrayal of the central character, as a naive and amiable man. This hearty movie is rude and rambunctious while managing to be emotionally earnest. In line with the indie tradition the result is disarming despite the morally dubious convention setting. Movie goers will take away a genial glow even as what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids…
A teenage loner, who wears pyjamas to school, is befriended by the slightly oddball Vice Principal.
Perhaps the only thing more difficult than being a high-school teenager is being a teenage misfit at high school. "Terri" is an unexpectedly endearing movie, thanks to the understated but oversized performance of the protagonist and the big hearted, if crazed, turn by the Vice Principal. The honesty embedded into the portrayals of all of the characters contributes to making this disarming film an original gem. The director's eye allows for scenes as bruising as they are amusing without trading sensitivity for laughs. Go Terri.
Big Mamma's BoyAnthony Macali
Rocco struggles to choose between the love of his life and his doting, over-protective Italian mother.
"Big Mamma's Boy" is an admirable attempt at cross-culture comedy, though its appeal outside the uniquely Italian and Australian community is always in doubt. Fast-paced dialect is slowed down and accents are accentuated as the humour reaching for that wider 'family-friendly' audience, but the result "no taste so good". The suburbs of Melbourne are a welcome backdrop, but too many jokes miss the mark when you to try to please everybody. Some ham-full acting and haphazard skits make the film as patchy as a lasagne. A lot to love, though more could have been left at home.
Bad TeacherWendy Slevison
A foul-mouthed junior high teacher sets her sights on a rich colleague instead.
This is a movie that starts out at full throttle, and from there, finds it hard to maintain momentum. Despite trying so hard to be outrageous with its brazen, juvenile comedy, "Bad Teacher" is ultimately not terribly funny. The jokes are just too obvious; there is no subtlety or nuance. Everything is in your face. The cast, in particular the leading lady, work (too) hard with mediocre material that lacks wit and warmth. You don't care about what happens to these 'teachers' - and you definitely don't want to waste an apple on any of them.
Beautiful LiesAnne Murphy
An anonymous love letter leads to a slew of misunderstandings.
Frivolous, frothy, and fabulous rather than slight. In short, everything hoped for from a good French rom-com is served up in "Beautiful Lies". It is delectable. The comic storyline is complicated enough to tease out laughter around situations of mistaken identities and misguided efforts of matchmaking. There's no mistaking funny for ridiculous however; this is an intelligent and warm movie that brims with affection. The delightful cast bring depth to the characters, who relate genuinely to each other and the audience can't help but care what happens in the end. Sincerely comique.
Special TreatmentAnne Murphy
A world-weary psychoanalyst and a classy prostitute both struggle with relationship issues.
The premise for "Special Treatment" is intriguing, but unfortunately the film fails to leverage the plot for comic or dramatic interest. While parallels are sketched between the professions of the two main characters, the outlines drawn are insufficient to sustain audience curiosity, which is not encouraged to deepen into involvement. The supporting cast suffer in undeveloped roles, as clients and friends, they fail to bring enough colour to the screen to be appreciated as eccentric, and subsequently end up looking pitiful. Better treatment required to make this movie special.
The TripStefan Bugryn
Steve Coogan and fellow comedian Rob Brydon eat and drink their way through a restaurant tour.
It's quite difficult to categorise this film. It's part travel show, part culinary diary, part documentary, part comedy! In this respect it is truly unique, but the lack of any discernable events or conflict also make it a little uninteresting. It's almost like you're just waiting until the actors start doing their own comedic character impressions again, which are actually hilarious. Had they ingrained some sort of incident, drama, anything... it would have been a lot more engaging. Instead, we're literally just dished up two mates dining at restaurants and cracking jokes.
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
Cars 2Anthony Macali
Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.
It takes time adjusting to a parallel world of talking planes, trains and automobiles. Once "Cars 2" hits its rhythm, this clever adaptation of the most famous spy franchise of all time will appeal to all ages. Our favourite characters are back, with laughs (and lessons) coming from the most unlikely of heroes in the simple-minded Mater, whose case of mistaken identity drives most of the laughter. While the film is probably one leg too long, it does allow for some more time to enjoy the cultural joking and the iconic cities recreated and polished in beautiful digi-colour. Can't lose this race.
Little White LiesAnne Murphy
Despite suffering a traumatic accident, a group of friends go ahead with their annual beach vacation.
"Little White Lies" is an entertaining mix of comedy and drama. The film follows the cracks that appear as little pretences are revealed, straining the relationships among a group of long-time friends. It drifts along with a vacation atmosphere and a song-after-song soundtrack. You will probably wish you were a part of the tight-knit group by the seaside. Deep connections and human foibles are explored and exposed by the extraordinary French ensemble cast. Most enjoyable, and that's no lie.