The Grand Budapest HotelAnne Murphy
The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
The hotel is sited in a fictional wonderland somewhere in Europe around the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. Quirky is the adjective that springs to mind when describing this portrayal of one man's remarkable life. In addition to being a visual feast, this immensely enjoyable movie is delightfully funny with an unpredictable story-line. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is enthralling, and all but faultless. Ask for the concierge and check-in now.
Toy Story 3Anthony Macali
Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care centre after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
You might have reservations going back to play with old toys, but don't be afraid, as "Toy Story 3" is still fantastically creative and charming. A fresh assortment of characters come out of the box, each equally entertaining and unique. The film is a perfect example of pure genius story-telling and craft. The visuals invariably impress, but the 3D glasses are better served to hide away the tears of nostalgia. It's hard to let go of the story behind one of the best animated features of all-time.
Much Ado About NothingAnne Murphy
A modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.
Finally a rom-com that is unabashedly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny. The ingredients of this movie create a heady cocktail that ensures audience delight. First take a work published in 1600, stage it as a garden party with players costumed in business attire speaking with American accents, sit back, and swig. The secret is having the cast drink a lot, it works, and the otherwise silly plot twists make more sense than ever. Ta-dah and much ado.
Please GiveAnne Murphy
In New York City, a husband and wife butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in apartment the couple owns.
Manhattan films about nothing should be a genre of their own. Equal parts smart drama-comedy and introspective reflection on the human condition, "Please Give" is grounded in the angst of reality and near perfect. This is a chick flick populated with grown-ups who are still growing up. The city dwellers dealing with the everyday while struggling with life's big issues like guilt and insecurity are imperfect as well as sharp and funny. Nothing to give just breathe it in.
Up in the AirAnne Murphy
With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.
A movie for the times, "Up in the Air" is topical and astutely observed. Social satire doesn't get delivered more incisively than this perfectly balanced movie. Just when a character approaches caricature the comedic effect is turned back and some of life's big questions are plausibly presented. We respond with a collective sigh, not to mention the odd tear. Let "Up in the Air" bring you back to earth.
The MuppetsAnne Murphy
With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theatre from an oil tycoon.
The Muppets are as comically endearing as ever in their return to the big screen, as the troupe get back together to sing and dance their way through a classic good vs evil storyline. This is a nostalgic romp even though the characters haven't aged, not that the audience would want them to, and they're just as corny as they ever were. The magic works, maybe because no-one is more self deprecating than the characters themselves. Absolutely the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppet-ational...
Four LionsAndrew O'Dea
The story of a group of British jihadists who push their fantastical and abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point...
This film is a witty, riotously funny, and undeniably unique comedy. At no stage does it resort to extracting cheap laughs from its volatile subject matter as is the case with so many other movies that pose as "outrageous". Brilliantly written, the hilariously farcical tone generates a constant supply of laughter, yet there is also an underlying intelligence that presents a very real and relevant message. All those involved in the making of "Four Lions" should most definitely take pride in it.
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".
The First Beautiful ThingAnne Murphy
A misanthropic professor returns to his hometown to assist his dying mother.
A mother's life is recounted through the memories of her son, and the present viewed through his eyes. "The First Beautiful Thing" is about the everyday frustrations of family, the people closest to us who we never quite forgive for being themselves. The acting is engaging, warm, and vulnerable, as characters are authentically portrayed in this humorous and at times very moving story. The film moves seamlessly between past and the present, the scenes coloured with familial warmth. A truly beautiful thing.
Remy, a sewer rat makes an unusual alliance with a restaurant's new garbage boy Linguini.
A story about a rodent that can cook may not sound very appetising, but don't under-estimate one of the most beautiful films of the year. From the glowing Paris skyline, to the buffet of foods you wish to grab straight off the screen, "Ratatouille" is a warm animation that is fast and fun. The highlight is the affable Linguini, a lanky and dopey character, but once puppeteered by Remy, is uproariously amusing with his comical antics. It succeeds in making us sympathise with a rat and believing anyone, human or animal, can cook.
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.
Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.
"Superbad" is the most hysterical movie of the year so far. A simple story and adept insight into life growing up, it truly captures the awkwardness in meeting girls and the difficulty in obtaining alcohol underage. Delivered with brash dialogue that is fresh and funny, this film is Superbad-Ass.
Fantastic Mr. FoxAnthony Macali
Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family.
You quickly forget "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a children's book as you marvel at the quirk and style of this clever adaption. The wild assortment of animals spring to life in impressive detail and spellbinding character, going about their business just like real people would. It's always funny when the foxes behave like humans, and while children may not understand all the jocularity, this sly fox has enough charisma to keep any audience enthralled. Cussing brilliant!
The GuardAnne Murphy
An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.
"The Guard" is a comedy threaded with some serious themes. The genre is an original police-buddy action combination delivered in a lilting Irish style which proves delightful. The central character is a foul-mouthed modern masterpiece, politically incorrect, big hearted, world weary and honourable, as well as disrespectful, again a little bit of everything in the mix. This is a very funny movie but not so much laugh out loud as wryly observed and darkly humorous. Many unguarded moments.
Griff the InvisibleAnne Murphy
Griff, office worker by day, superhero by night, has his world turned upside down when he meets Melody, a beautiful young scientist who shares his passion for the impossible.
This fabulous movie is set against an atmospheric Sydney backdrop. It's not quite Gotham City, but then "Griff the Invisible" is quintessential Australian film-making, both in accent and flair. Featuring a loner who creates his own world, the film is comic without hilarity, and presents with a refreshingly grounded style as a result. Griff is not like everybody else, he wouldn't want to be, he's as much anti-hero as super-hero. I see you.
A modern retelling of the story of Rapunzel, a Princess who has spent her entire life in a tower.
A feisty frypan-wielding heroine. A horse bursting with personality that behaves like a bloodhound. A quirky colour-changing sidekick. And, of course, hair - 70 feet of lush, golden, magical hair. It's all here - delightfully crafted characters and a rousing soundtrack, everything you'd hope for from its creators. The animation is a visual feast in its attention to detail, with a blend of old-school painting and drawing, and incredible 3D CGI. This film is a rollicking adventure that has heart, soul and humour. Go get tangled up in the queue to see it.
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.
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.
Mirror MirrorAnne Murphy
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
A favourite story recounted for today's audiences. The charming prince, while handsome, is more affable than heroic and it's the beautiful princess who achieves her own victories. The story retains all of its original elements and is retold with a fabulous sense of humour and spellbinding magic. "Mirror Mirror" is magnificently staged and gloriously costumed; it is also CGI enhanced, but only just enough to ensure no wrinkles. The fairest of them all.
Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
Get LowStefan Bugryn
An old hermit throws himself a funeral party... while he's still alive.
This thoughtful meditation on forgiveness starts out as a comedy, but unravels to become something much more poignant. The joke of the 'funeral party' lasts only briefly, while the true drama slowly creeps in. What really makes this film work is the fine acting by the three leads. The odd sense of humour, and some truly touching moments are delivered with marvellous poise by the cast. Combined with stylish music, customers and production design, it makes for a very enjoyable movie... and that's the low down!
The WayAnne Murphy
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El Camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
'El Camino de Santiago', or 'The Way of St James', has been a Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years and this movie shows why the walk is more travelled now than ever before. The story may be fiction, but the trail itself, the magnificent scenery, and the diverse experiences of pilgrims are real. Not everyone's path, but those who do watch will experience a melancholic and moving film. This way for a life affirming journey.
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.
The HedgehogAnne Murphy
Paloma is a serious, but deeply bored 11 year old, who decides to kill herself on her twelfth birthday.
"The Hedgehog" is a melancholic and elegantly understated character study, artistically crafted and entrancing. The film's direction is deft, uncovering a very moving exploration of the human condition beneath a simple tale. The story is focused on three intelligently drawn characters with rich inner lives in which they insulate themselves from the world outside. The performances of the lead roles are without fault, balancing humorous, absurd, and enigmatic characteristics. We see both the prickles on the outside and the warm hearted inside of a hedgehog.
Dean SpanleyWendy Slevison
Set in Edwardian England where upper lips are always stiff, a cantankerous old man and his long-suffering son begin a strange journey that eventually allows the old man to find his heart.
This is a truly original story of love, loss, and grief, populated by intelligent and disarmingly eccentric characters. The story starts slowly, but before the viewer can summon a yawn, they are drawn in, entranced, as the well-told tale unfolds - both poignant and comical at the same time. Offbeat, whimsical, moving and very funny, you'd have to be barking mad to miss it.