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.
By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfil his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America.
"Up" is an imaginative film of dazzling heights and adventure. En route to the wilderness, we befriend two of the most acutely realised characters ever created. It's a pure joy to watch as their personalities and mannerisms unfold during numerous suspenseful encounters, complete with hilarious talking dogs and a particularly snappy rainbow bird. This emprise of hopes and dreams is masterfully undertaken, reminding both kids and adults to never give up.
Taking WoodstockAnthony Macali
A man working at his parents' motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969.
"Taking Woodstock" presents a curious perspective of the legendary festival, whose sheer logistics provide more interest than anything else. The story centres on Elliot, as we watch him break free from his parents to co-ordinate a festival for thousands of hippies. While the film captures the culture of the time, it unfortunately shuns the music, meaning most will come away feeling less than "high". Take away the bright colours, and you have a dull film.
Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbour.
A somewhat eccentric addition to the romantic comedy genre, this utterly charming and insightful film deals with a condition not fully understood by most people. The title character is realistically and sensitively portrayed, while the female lead perfectly sustains him, in roles which will help raise public profile about the small yet significant segment of our society who suffers from Aspergers. This movie is a quirky, unassuming and tenderly realised story about a search for love and acceptance, something much more difficult for "Aspies" than most.
Unmade BedsAnthony Macali
The story of two people living in the same warehouse whose paths never cross until fate steps in.
"Unmade Beds" is a stylishly quirky movie that follows Axl's quest for his father, and Vera's quest for love. The vague plot is forgotten as our characters enjoy a constant flurry of partying and having fun. These experiences are captured with a youthfulness and style that make it a unique joy to watch. Although some viewers will get swept away by the whimsical romance, others will be frustrated by the lack of concrete conclusions. This film is a refreshing piece of art and technique, despite a pacing that may put some to sleep.
Pardon My FrenchCourtney Slevison
Novelist Celimene is suffering from a severe case of writers block when she discovers she is being stalked by Anaïs, a strange young woman craving attention.
"Pardon My French" is a simple story of the power that strangers can have on our lives. More a character study than traditional narrative, this film is a snapshot of Celimene's life as she struggles with being stunted both creatively and emotionally. Although the characters are likeable, they remain unengaging and don't hold the viewers intrigue. At times tedious and unfocussed, this quirky film is a pleasant experience, but ultimately forgettable.
Hannah Montana: The MovieWendy Slevison
As Hannah Montana's popularity begins to take over her life, Miley Stewart takes a trip to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee to get some perspective on what matters in life the most.
The heroine of this entertaining movie has a huge fan base and the producers have unapologetically aimed it straight at them. The story is a simple one, about relationships and growing up, and of course there are songs. It's fun and quaintly wholesome, not a bad thing these days, with young girls bombarded by media images pushing them to grow up way too fast. The young star is a comedic delight, "an' there ain't nothin' wrong with that, y'all."
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the DinosaursAndrew O'Dea
When Sid's attempt to adopt three dinosaur eggs gets him abducted by their real mother to an underground lost world, his friends attempt to rescue him.
"Ice Age 3" fails dismally in its attempt at what is now the benchmark for a successful animation - the discerning ability to entertain both kids and adults alike. Stunning visuals alone are not enough, more importantly, there must be a plot to match. The creativity of the earliest films have all but melted away, as the paint-by-numbers storyline combines with jokes so dated they're almost pre-historic. Let's hope this franchise is now extinct too.
Flamboyant Austrian fashionista Brüno takes his show to America.
"Brüno" is sharp celebrity satire dressed in highly frivolous homosexuality. An overtly graphic character, Bruno will equally offend and entertain, as he tackles the idiosyncrasies of the rich and famous. Such an outfit is hilarious, but doesn't last very long, as the creative team begin to struggle with ideas and a limiting awareness of the hoax. These weaknesses are exposed further when the film loses its 'shtick-factor' in the short running time. Is still worth the show, but will quickly fall out of fashion.
The ProposalAnne Murphy
A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.
In the tradition of romantic comedies "The Proposal" is improbable and implausible and its salvation is that it is delightful from start to finish. A little formulaic perhaps, and that's easily forgiven as this movie delivers on charm and mirth. As the genre demands, the lovable characters are caught up in a silly situation but there's enough honesty in some very touching moments to connect and maintain audience empathy. A beguiling proposal, so say "I do...".
Land of the LostAndrew O'Dea
On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall is sucked into a space-time vortex alongside his research assistant and a redneck survivalist.
"Land of the Lost" is an abomination of a movie. Bad sets combine with bad acting to create a "comedy" with no excuse for the multitude of tasteless jokes devoid of even the slightest hint of wit. Every scene seems to be nothing more than yet another tireless opportunity to parade some gimmicky prop, as it consistently loses all sense of direction. The only thing to be found in this film is an overwhelming sense of relief when the end credits roll.
Year OneAnthony Macali
When a couple of lazy hunter-gatherers are banished from their village, they set off on an epic journey through the ancient world.
"Year One" is a film comprised of cheap sets and cheap laughs. In the beginning, the jokes are primitive, and take time to grow in charm and wit. Many of the characters stand strong alone, but never band together well, meandering from scene to scene with biblical characters that handily feed the plot. Although some of the performances are uninspired, others never grow old. A clumsy production with just enough spectacle to satisfy the movie gods.
The HangoverAnthony Macali
A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
"The Hangover" premise is familiar and simple, the perfect breeding ground for plenty of laughter and stupidity. While the trailer might steal most of the best moments, the film is still hilarious. The characters are half as likeable as they should be, but it does make it funnier when bad stuff happens to them. It only struggles towards the ending, as jokes resort to bad cameos and slapstick. Despite a few headaches, it's still a winner.
Sunshine CleaningAnne Murphy
In order to raise the tuition to send her young son to private school, a mum starts an unusual business, a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service, with her unreliable sister.
This is an endearing movie in a low key 'indie' style. A beguiling cast portray a dysfunctional family facing their everyday relationship challenges. The comedy is so heartfelt that laughs catch on the way up, almost mutating into sobs, before rising as smiles. The tone is as mirthful as it is melancholic, despite the dark storylines. "Sunshine Cleaning" is the perfect antidote for messy everyday lives.