In July 1979, during the Summer holidays, in a house in Brittany, a family gathered to celebrate Granny Amandine's sixty-seventh birthday.
Family's are funny when generations gather to celebrate special events, the experience an odd mix of funny-ha-ha and funny-peculiar. "Skylab" is thoroughly charming as it highlights the oddities of a family get-together, full of beautifully observed moments and interactions readily remembered from our shared histories. Missing is a stronger narrative to glue it all together and provide a point to the production; as it is, the question 'so what?' remains unanswered. Pie in the sky…
Cherry on the CakeAnne Murphy
A lonely woman with a crushing fear of commitment attends a New Year's Eve party that puts her in an uncomfortable predicament.
"The Cherry on the Cake" is a French rom-com that reminds us what hard work the dating game is. The plot is built upon a trivial but amusing premise that gets overworked until it becomes tiresome. Girl and guy meet, but girl tires of guy until guy becomes unavailable, and then girl is interested again. If it sounds irritating in premise,then it's a even more annoying when realised on screen; if only the film was played out with more humour. No cherry picking.
Save Your Legs!Stefan Bugryn
A ragtag team of suburban cricketers get a chance to tour India.
"Save Your Legs" acts better as a postcard of India rather than the team bonding, coming-of-age drama it's meant to be. The film's intentions may be good - it's cute and charming at times - but overall the result is mostly boring, with jokes often bordering on cringe-worthy. It also becomes very predictable, one of the movie's biggest flaws, and the ending can be spotted a mile away. Though substantially well produced, it lacks any real substance... save your pennies.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
The Guilt TripAndrew O'Dea
As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom's house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.
"The Guilt Trip" is a predictable road-trip comedy that relies solely on the chemistry of its leads to drive the laughter. Thankfully, they form a highly likeable comedic duo who, despite the lacklustre script, manage to elicit some genuinely hilarious moments. The ride is bumpy at times, but it's their interplay that sustains what is essentially a light-hearted, frivolous and feel-good movie that will not disappoint the intended audience. A guilty pleasure.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark StrangerAnne Murphy
Follows a pair of married couples, Alfie and Helena and their daughter Sally and husband Roy, as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.
The grass is always greener it seems, as the characters follow their hearts looking for love, or forget their senses and succumb to lust. "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is fun but it is also a little frantic with the pace of the action matching the upbeat jazz soundtrack. There's a lot going on in this social comedy, leaving the story a little crowded. Everybody meets somebody.
This is 40Anthony Macali
A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of "Knocked Up".
"This is 40" likes to confront us, to no great surprise, that at times marriage and children are not exactly what they're cracked up to be. We have a couple, suffering some kind of mid-life crises, throwing their arguments onto the big screen, while reassuring an audience that turning 40-years-old is not that bad. Admittedly, there are some well observed moments and matchless humour to be found in the day-to-day, but our investment in the characters bear very little. After spending over two hours with these people, there's nothing to cherish… and that's depressing. This is fruitless.
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.
Liberal ArtsAnthony Macali
When 30-something Jesse returns to college for a professor's retirement party, he meets Zibby, a young student.
"Liberal Arts" is an unassuming study of growing up, exploring the many fears and regrets that come with growing older. For most the part, the film is set within the grounds of a college, bringing with it a loaded sense of nostalgia. The quiet setting steers all the focus on loveable pair at the centre of the film, allowing them to share their stories at their own pace. Conversations are funny, charming and sure to resonate with our own. A delightful relationship to reflect on life.
Chris wants to show girlfriend Tina his world, but events soon conspire against the couple and their dream caravan holiday takes a very wrong turn.
"Sightseers" operates on two levels. Skimming along the surface is an everyday romance between two late bloomers and beneath that, with a strong undertow, is a darkly disturbing satire studded with serial crimes. The script is clever, and the characters are sharply observed. Original and almost bordering on bizarre but for the biting social comment woven through the macabre story - this is a hilarious movie. A sight well worth seeing.
The romantic travails of a Parisian pharmacist who receives philosophical advice from a Woody Allen poster.
Everything we love about French film is in "Paris Manhattan" - the stylish characters, their dry wit, and an oddly endearing, eccentric approach to life. It's fortunate that the movie exudes warmth and convivial family relationships, and hard to take exception to this movie even though it is frivolously light on for narrative. The movie is a little disjointed in parts but it frolics along, and if nothing else is a charming homage to romance, not to mention the icon at its core. Paris, Je t'aime.
Love Is All You NeedAnne Murphy
A hairdresser who has lost her hair to cancer finds out her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter's wedding and meets a widower who still blames the world for the loss of his wife.
There is a cocktail of family relationships all being stirred in a lemon grove on the Italian coast. "Love is All You Need" is a subversive and gently amusing comedy about romance the next time around. The scenery is spectacular, the characters credible and likeable, but somehow the story doesn't quite achieve its potential. Maybe a little more is needed.
Pitch PerfectAnthony Macali
Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group.
"Pitch Perfect" is camp as hell, and a lot of fun. The a capella renditions are surprisingly entertaining, taking some of our favourite songs and lending them a new voice. Our performers are largely a group of misfits, an eclectic and dynamic bunch of girls who dance and step to a great amount of llaughter and conflict. Wittingly tongue-in-cheek, this film is bound to appeal to those fond of music and singing. Destined for stardom.
Celeste & Jesse ForeverAnne Murphy
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Here is a likeable couple who prove that breaking up is hard to do. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is really the opposite of a 'rom-com', so much so it could be labelled as an 'unrom-com' except that it is oddly romantic despite the efforts to part. The script is witty, it skips along with clever banter and we're delivered an honest snapshot of a good, but not quite good enough, relationship. This movie has both endearing moments and painful realisations but on balance there are more laughs then tears. BFF's.
The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnne Murphy
An introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Loners know that adolescence is a time of alienation. While nobody wants to be like everybody else, shyness is a disability, and we tend to have a biting need for friendship and belonging. The director demonstrates remarkable sensitivity in showing the agony of awkward social situations and largely avoiding cliché. The central characters are entrancing as they navigate their lives with quirky individualism, and they're interesting and real. Tissues are recommended for this piercing movie that is as troubling as it is vivacious. It gets better, wallflowers.
2 Days in New YorkAnthony Macali
Manhattan couple Marion and Mingus, who each have children from prior relationships, find their comfortable family dynamic jostled by a visit from Marion's relatives.
It's hard to believe all the French behave as badly as Marion's family in "2 Days in New York", but that doesn't make it any less funny. The in-laws aren't afraid to say what they think, and when placed amongst the US to ramble, the culture divide draws a lot of laughs. Cynics might find it a little pretentious and the ending might not do it any favours.Though, give it a chance and you might find there are some genuine laugh out loud moments that make the jaunt worthwhile.
Robot & FrankAndrew O'Dea
Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift: a robot butler programmed to look after him.
Both odd and intriguing, "Robot & Frank" is an intelligent, heartfelt meditation on aging and family. The familiar story may border on over-sentimentality at times, but an assured direction keeps it restrained, and the result is a quietly hilarious, quirky little film. Smart and sweet, its magnetism is driven by a brilliantly understated performance from the lead, whose on-screen chemistry with his robot companion provides much of the gentle humour and profound moments. There's nothing at all robotic about this one.
The Angel's ShareAnthony Macali
New Dad Robbie vows to turn his life around after narrowly missing jail.
"The Angel's Share" features the most unlikely of heroes, a band of drop-outs reluctantly serving their community hours and looking for a way out. Their solution lies in the bottle, but not how you might think, as a visit to the distillery makes a connoisseur of some and introduces the audience to the curious world of whiskey collectors. It may take awhile, but to the film's accomplishment, you start to root for the crims, drawing laughs from their haphazard excursions, not-so-smart decisions and odd relationships. They're certainly no angels, but you'll still want them to win.
God Bless AmericaAndrew O'Dea
On a mission to rid society of its most repellent citizens, terminally ill Frank makes an unlikely accomplice in 16-year-old Roxy.
Satirical in nature, "God Bless America" questions the morality and social denigration of the modern world we live in. The story is sharp yet still makes for easy viewing, a mix of shock-tactic violence and witty dialogue that can sometimes border on being too lengthy. Despite being uneven in parts, many will find themselves agreeing with the comical verbal tirades of the lead, as the film blurs the line between being darkly amusing and disturbingly truthful. Only in America…
Seven PsychopathsAnne Murphy
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu.
You might imagine a movie about seven psychopaths may feature too many deranged killers but in this film the number is just right. With a Hollywood backdrop, quirky script, aggressive all-star cast and numerous acts of murderous violence, the on-screen experience is both viciously funny and hilariously cruel. Some of the jibes delivered by the callous hit men are thoughtlessly unfunny, but are then diluted by the witty development and delivery of the rest of the story. Count them.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
The IntouchablesStefan Bugryn
The true story of a quadriplegic aristocrat who forms an unlikely friendship with a young man.
"The Intouchables" could very well have been a cliché ridden odd-couplestinker, but instead, proves to be an amazingly touching experience. The loveable characters manage to make light of a hard situation with ease, avoiding cheesy sentimentality by delivering one of the most genuine friendships in modern cinema. The storyline is so charmingly simple, with much of the beauty derived from the fact that you find yourself laughing along with them in an otherwise depressing situation. Topped off with a mesmerising piano score, this one can't be ignored.
A playwright whose marriage and career are in a free fall has an explosive run-in with his former neighbour, a right-wing ex-con.
"Collaborator" is an intelligent movie with a slow fuse, the tension builds just a little more with almost every sentence spoken. This is a surprisingly gripping movie, as for the most part, the modest production is set in a lounge room. The familiar setting is loaded with socio-political comment as two estranged neighbours reflect on their shambolic lives. There are observations about relationships, growing up and thwarted ambition, leaving audiences much to think about. Guilty by association...
Safety Not GuaranteedStefan Bugryn
A group of journalists investigate a classifieds ad seeking a partner to travel through time.
This quirky character, who believes without a doubt he can time travel, has a lasting effect on everyone he comes across. Whether they be amused, surprised, annoyed, or just plain curious, they are all drawn compellingly into his world. This magnetism will also translate to the audience, as his passion and eccentric behaviour are quite simply, endearing. The 'true story' feel to the narrative is hampered a little by recognisable faces, but all in all, this one is a heart-warming winner. Safety may not be guaranteed, but entertainment is.