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.
A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home.
Based on a beloved children's book written in the 1950's, themes of dislocation and finding a home translates as a story for today. The tale of a well-mannered, marmalade-loving stowaway has been updated without losing any of its charm. Sometimes the bear finds trouble and sometimes trouble finds the bear in this relentlessly funny adventure. The humour works for young audiences and is witty on another level to amuse the grown-ups who buy the cinema tickets and popcorn. Bear hug.
Inherent ViceAnne Murphy
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
"Inherent Vice" is a pleasure to watch, a perfect antidote to straight monochromatic movies. Maybe it could be a little shorter and certainly the story threads could be more coherent - some will consider those points as flaws while others will sink into their seats and revel in the ride. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the actors' flawless performances matched only by a superb soundtrack. Nice vice.
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.
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.
U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
As funny as it is rousing, "Pride" is not to be missed. Flamboyant meets frumpy when two disparate communities come together in difficult times, and while it's not all solidarity and sunshine their story makes for an engrossing movie. Knowing the plot is based upon recent socio-political history brings poignancy, as we watch people put aside their differences to stand together. Can one review hold more superlatives? Riotous, rampaging and romantic, just suffice to say this effort stands proud.
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.
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.
Last Cab to DarwinAnne Murphy
A taxi driver with a terminal condition embarks on a long drive to Darwin in order to die with dignity.
"Last Cab to Darwin" is unmistakably an Australian film. You could change the towns and the countryside but the characters are true-blue types not found anywhere else in the world. The cinematography is stunning, with the road trip crossing a magnificent sunburnt country. In addition to the characters and scenery we are rewarded further by the unsentimental exploration of vexing social issues. The movie personalises ordeals, and then tackles them with heart just as any archetypal taxi driver might do. Dinky die.
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".
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.
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.
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 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...
Inside OutAnthony Macali
When young Riley is forced to move house with her parents, she must reconcile the constantly changing emotions in her brain.
"Inside Out" is so comprehensive and creative in its depiction of what goes on inside our heads, you are almost convinced it is real. This remarkable animation is super clever in its colourful representation of human emotions and memories, creating an indelible, heartfelt and amusing cinematic experience. Exploring the imaginary world of the mind generates excitement at every turn, and its frantic pace and sharp wit will captivate onlookers of all ages. Pure joy.
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.
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 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.
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.
Moonrise KingdomAnthony Macali
A pair of young lovers flee their town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
"Moonrise Kingdom" follows the sweet romance of two misunderstood kids, who find solace in one another after everyone else has given up on them. The narrow island setting is full of quirks, making use of a tour guide to describe some of its more famous tidbits, and adding a homely touch to the affair and adventure. A colourful cast push the expedition along, playing the frustrated parents and companions with good humour and trepidation; but the heart of the film lies in the relationship, a chronicle of a harmonising affection from a simpler time. A love story to rise up and conquer all.