Alvin and the Chipmunks: The SqueakquelAnne Murphy
The world famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio return to contend with the pressures of school, celebrity, and a rival female music group known as The Chipettes.
A familiar cast of characters squeak and shrill their way through predictable slap-stick fare. Disappointingly there's little depth to the prosaic story-line, and while children will be enormously entertained by the high school antics of the warbling rodents, there is little in the goofy plot to amuse older viewers. Be warned that the best thing about this movie is the clever word play in the title. There's nothing crisp about these cheeky, chirpy chips.
Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion.
"Religulous" would be a documentary but for its unbalanced, mocking tone. Comedy is given priority over facts and there are many amusing but unnecessary cheap shots. At times the disdain of the interviewer for the people interviewed is disquieting. Not so much investigative as much as lampooning in tone, too often the aim seems to be to provoke and dismiss rather than attempting to open debate. Nonetheless the topic is bravely tackled and worth seeing for some of the 'only-in-America' tableaus. Warning: Disturbingly dogmatic.
A cowardly shut-in is forced to join up with a seasoned slayer in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.
"Zombieland" has zombies aplenty, but it would be unfair to label it this genre alone. In between the biting scenes you'll find a buddy comedy, and an adventure into the malevolent unknown. There are enough guns and gore to satisfy the blood-hounds, but also lessons in surviving the unreal epidemic, often shooting across then screen in its own typically amusing style. The characters are fully-fleshed out and thankfully realised in a world populated by a critical few. Fast, funny and terribly infectious.
Away We GoAnne Murphy
A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family.
This film is a road movie at heart, and disappointingly fails to connect with the audience's heart. A lot of miles are traversed by the central couple but this is a study of people met on the journey rather than the places travelled to. The characters encountered are shallow and vulgar stereotypes, and their depiction is coloured with contempt rather than wit or insight. The resultant product is slight; funny without being funny ha-ha.
The Informant!Andrew O'Dea
The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre.
"The Informant!" is densely layered yet unassumingly funny satire. More 'quirky funny' than 'laugh-out-loud funny', it pokes fun at corporate greed as we navigate through a delightful web of deceit. The lead actor is superb, and we struggle whether to critisise or empathise with his goofball character. Although it may not have a lasting impact, the oddity of the film alone is enough to keep you entertained as you grapple with being informed on misinformation.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable GirlsAnne Murphy
A profile of the world's only comedic, singing, dancing, lesbian twin sisters.
"Topp Twins" evokes the '100% Pure New Zealand' tourist campaign that showcases the pure hearts and honest lifestyles that are recognisably typical of our imaginings of life in nuclear-free New Zealand. This documentary chronicles the careers of two remarkable characters that are both subversively and overtly political, and the tone is musical and humorous. The movie is threaded with a cabaret performance, recent and archival footage cleverly edited to tell this down to earth, and at times quite moving, story. Topp viewing.
Cold SoulsAnne Murphy
Paul is an actor who feels bogged down by his participation in a production of Chekov's play, Vanya.
"Cold Souls" has a delightfully original storyline told with a sombre, almost deadpan tone. The movie provides an intelligent and inquisitive voyage into existential angst, a surreal and introspective journey of both the familiar and the unknown. It could have been heavy going but for the well-crafted production, and the result is an entrancing and stylishly minimalistic film where the attention to detail is apparent. More 'funny peculiar' than 'funny ha ha' in style, this comedy is refreshingly soulful to boot.
Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsAnthony Macali
Inspired by the beloved children's book, the film follows Flint Lockwood, a young inventor who dreams of creating something that will improve everyone's life.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is one of those extraordinary kids' films that caters for adults as well, and probably serves them better with a fast-paced wit and running gags. The movie is absolutely stuffed with laughter and outright lunacy, with a host of wonderful and uniquely animated characters. Despite a subtext about the dangers of excessive food, this absurdly entertaining film will leave you hungry for more.
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab KahaniAmit Jain
A story about a carefree, immature young man whose sole purpose of life is to share joy and laughter. In his pursuit of spreading happiness he meets a beautiful girl and falls in love.
"Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani" (The Amazing Story of Strange Love) is a no-brainer comedy suitable for kids and young adults. The story is slack, and the plot lacks any realism. The sets are designed to mimic a fairyland, and the soundtrack consists of a few romantic and fast beats. A slap-slick and in your face comedy that will mildly amuse and entertain.
The Boys Are BackAndrew O'Dea
A sports writer struggles with suddenly becoming a single parent in tragic circumstances.
"The Boys are Back" is a tale of fatherhood. A deeply moving meditation on life, death and the importance of family, the heart-wrenching opening sequence sets the tone for the film's sense of purpose that resonates throughout. Far from manufactured, it avoids being conveniently sentimental as it veers between moments of grief and humour. The cinematography is simply stunning, coupled by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack and sublime male-focussed performances that make this a movie for both boys and girls alike.
The Brothers BloomAndrew O'Dea
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue.
"The Brothers Bloom" is an offbeat, eccentric story. The unique approach to story-telling is utterly refreshing as it blends moments of genuine romance, intrigue and comedy which are complemented by a superb, mostly orchestral score. At times it becomes a little self-aware, but for the most part is buoyed by host of glorious performances that sustain an engagingly quirky and whimsical style. A pleasantly charming film that blooms then blossoms.
Wake Up SidAmit Jain
A romantic comedy involving a lazy, rich, and unmotivated slacker called Sid and a career-oriented aspiring writer.
"Wake Up Sid" is a fresh new age romance set in the urban jungle of Mumbai. A well directed feel-good movie, it has a wonderful all-star cast with a beautifully subtle soundtrack (not the typical Bollywood dance numbers). A relaxed, cool film that accurately portrays modern Indian youth while exploring events that most of us would have lived through.
Whatever WorksAnne Murphy
Attempting to impress his ideologies on religion, relationships, and the randomness of existence, lifelong N.Y. resident Boris Yellnikoff rants to anyone who will listen, including the audience.
"Whatever Works" contains all of the autobiographical elements expected from this writer-director. From the New York City neighbourhoods that form the urban backdrop, to the unlikely romantic action, it's a little predictably familiar. Enjoy the existential ponderings, the witty 'kvetching' and the laugh out loud one-liners. It is not so much a return-to-form as a return-to-the-familiar for the film-maker, an encore of what used to work.
Julie & JuliaAnne Murphy
Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
Two storylines are baked together, although about 50 years separate them, and the result is delicious. Scenes effortlessly transport the viewer in and out of the lives and kitchens of Julie and Julia, capturing a shared passion for cooking. The characters are wonderful, warm, and loving; their relationships golden roasted and close to perfect. This movie is appetizingly presented and readily devoured. As both Julie and Julia would have said... bon appetit!
Whip ItAnthony Macali
In Bodeen, Texas, an indie-rock loving misfit finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.
"Whip It" is a movie about girls on skates, who find strength and delight in bumping one another on the circuit. It's unfortunate the story doesn't race as fast as our heroine Bliss, as she competes with a mother beaming with morals and a predictable plot. The familiar formula will best serve an audience of younger girls, who may gather some inspiration from this flick. Despite a team of superstar actresses, the moments of boredom outscore moments of fun.
Couples RetreatWendy Slevison
Four couples settle into a tropical island resort for a vacation, and participate in the resort's therapy sessions.
This film is a confused jumble of lacklustre characters, puerile humour and vulgar sight gags. The people who should be participating in therapy sessions are the studio executives who gave it the green light. The setting is spectacular; everything else is awful, particularly the script and the acting, from a cast you'd expect more from. Please don't waste your hard-earned money to see this, or you may well need therapy too.
Many Kisses LaterAnne Murphy
Follows the relationships of six couples between Christmas and Valentine's Day, exploring the various ways a former romantic partner or 'ex' can shape our lives.
"Many Kisses Later" is a capricious romantic comedy pastiche, more similar in style to English films of the genre than American offerings. The relationships are well observed, even if the ensemble of characters seems almost too congenial at times. As the storylines overlap and diverge, our attention is captivated, and laughter bellows forth with almost every scene. Effervescent and entertaining, don't wait until later, enjoy many kisses now.
Looking for EricAnne Murphy
Eric, a postman whose life is descending in to crisis, receives some life coaching from Eric Cantona.
For the most part, the tone of "Looking for Eric" has a steady down beat of realism as individuals within a loosely connected family tackle emotional issues including loss and depression. The cast extends beyond family to encompass important relationships with friends, heroes, and deadbeats. The plot is refreshingly unpredictable with a triumphant, if somewhat incongruent, conclusion tacked on. All is forgiven as the credits roll... the audience feels good and Eric may have found what he was looking for.
An updated version of the 1980 musical, centered on students of the NY Academy of Performing Arts.
The grit, heartbreak, passion and talent of the characters was the heart of the ground-breaking original movie. These elements are absent in this 'reinvention'. It is bland and soul-less, two things a film about performing arts should never be. Clearly aimed at the MTV audience, this is a sequence of performance numbers interrupted by inconsequential plot, rather than a character study in the lives of extraordinarily talented students desperate for success. More sparkler than flame, this "Fame" bungles its audition.
Imagine ThatAnne Murphy
A financial executive who can't stop his career downspiral is invited into his daughter's imaginary world, where solutions to his problems await.
"Imagine That" is a confused family offering, where on one hand the setting is an industry probably incomprehensible to children, and on the other is humour that is juvenile, unlikely to amuse older audience members. Mediocre on many fronts, yet incredible too, as no special effects are used in a film where an imaginary world is a major plot feature. Some movies made for the big screen go straight to a DVD release, imagine that.
(500) Days of SummerWendy Slevison
A romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe in true love, and the man who falls for her.
"(500) Days of Summer" is an offbeat romantic comedy that challenges the familiar elements of this genre by turning them upside down. Precisely because of this, some viewers will love it; some not so much. The film's distinctively quirky style is inspired by the first-time-feature director's background in music video. With perfectly-cast leads and an intriguing soundtrack, this movie should work but ultimately lacks the essentials of humour and warmth to pull off its dare to convention.
Funny PeopleAndrew O'Dea
A seasoned comedian forms a friendship after learning of his terminal, inoperable health condition.
"Funny People" is an inventive albeit meandering comedy. Sometimes sophisticated and sometimes crass, it presents an intriguing blend of humour and sentiment. Terrific performances from the leads and supporting cast are bolstered by a host of obscure cameos, including one of the most hilariously 'honest' Australian characters to be shown in an American film. This movie is far from seamless, and seems to drag in parts, but still retains enough moments of genuine insight and laughter to entertain most.
Soula Ela XanaAnne Murphy
A teacher on the Greek island of Spetses receives four offers of marriage on her 30th birthday.
This cheeky Greek pantomime style comedy is like fairy floss for the audience; pretty, sweet and insubstantial fare. The characters romp around in an overly theatrical style that is faintly amusing and only mildly entertaining. It's certainly no aphrodisiac, and from the misleading title to the predictable ending the on-screen antics fail to excite the viewer. As a cinematic experience you are left hoping there is something better than S.E.X.
My Life in RuinsWendy Slevison
A travel guide rediscovers her romantic side when she takes a tour group on a trip around Greece.
"My Life in Ruins" is a flamboyant, sugar-sweet romantic comedy set along the tourist trail of Greece and it's islands. With its one-dimensional leading lady and characters so stereotyped they are virtually caricature, this cloyingly sentimental movie is only moderately enjoyable. As it takes you on its plodding and predictable bus ride towards 'true love', the film's spectacular scenery overwhelms the naive and formulaic plot. For something syrupy and Greek, I would recommend a piece of Baklava instead.