In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Part grimly realistic and part fairy tale, "Precious" is the gritty story of one girls nightmarish existence. There is a redemptive thread thanks to the resilient core of the central character, but that element alone is insufficient to lift the bleak realism to an entertaining level. At the same time the raw exposed mood is compromised by a couple of plot twists that swim in sentimentalism. The emotional content is as uneven as the camera work. Precious but tarnished.
Margin CallAndrew O'Dea
Follows key people at a bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Greed and opportunism are rife in this ensemble drama that paints a very loose snap-shot of the foundations of capitalist society, bottled into one investment firm on the eve of a financial crisis. The story is dialogue-driven, and although it deftly ponders the volatile issue of money versus morality, it fails to really delve past the numbers, lacking the visceral punch or emotional drive to grab our attention. Some will find this film serviceable enough as financial thriller, but for those wanting a little more emotional involvement, "Margin Call" is not a wise investment.
An examination of the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Polish officers and citizens in 1940.
There is no denying the importance of this film. However, its purpose invokes a rather dull and bleak history lesson. The streets of Poland are beautifully recreated on the screen, only to be lost amongst the bombardment of sporadic jumps through time. The interesting aspect of the tragedy is the taboo nature of the subject, but this is only briefly explored and serves as mere introduction to the horrifying and unyielding finalé. "Katyn" provides overdue closure to those connected with the story, but lacks the emotion to connect with the rest.
White House DownAndrew O'Dea
A policeman must save his child and protect the president from a group of paramilitary invaders.
Action junkies will be enthralled by this fist-pumping spectacle, a shameless popcorn flick that would have its audience believe the President of the USA is capable of firing rocket launchers from a speeding armoured-limousine. Some of the set-pieces are explosive, and while the special effects are impressive, they eventually become tiresome and repetitive. The lead is perfectly suited to his role as the action star, but isn't helped by moments of dialogue and patriotism so cringe-worthy that they become downright hilarious. Was it meant to be a comedy? White House frown.
Taken 2Andrew O'Dea
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.
Route IrishAndrew O'Dea
A private security contractor sets out to discover the truth about his friend's death in Iraq.
Although gripping at times, "Route Irish" is too often let down by pointless tangents in its story and the fact that it constantly feels the need to explain the plot rather than letting the audience figure it out for themselves. Not exactly the most effective technique when trying to heighten a 'thriller'. Combined with a melodramatic ending and characterisation that is let down by some sub-par acting, the film attempts to make a concerted political commentary on the Iraqi war that doesn't quite have the impact it should. No through-road.
Restless CityAnne Murphy
Tells the story of an African immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle and falling in love is his greatest risk.
Senegalese immigrants who survive on the fringe of US city life are the subject of this uneven movie. Perhaps the reason for the rough on-screen presentation and crooked camera angles is to present images as the characters experience them, but it is a bumpy ride for audiences. "Restless City" can also be appreciated as bold and innovative film making, one that will divide opinion but is interesting nonetheless. Restless spirits.
A drama centered on three people who are touched by death in different ways.
For a film with such promise; the director and cast are of the highest caliber, this movie really falls short on all levels. With the exception of a couple of scenes (the opening is on another level of film direction), the story, characters, and climax are all rather lame. A film on this material should force audiences to question their faith in the afterlife or the ability to communicate with the dead. Instead, it looks uninspiringly at the experiences of three individuals with no agenda on the subject presented. "Hereafter" - underwhelming in life and death.
Set on a rural farm in New Zealand in 1984, Boy, is the story of an 11 year old with a vivid imagination coming face to face with life's realities.
This coming of age tale is sweet at heart and the unpretentious portrayal of Boy's story is endearing. The comedic moments and the uniquely Maori dialogue make this film. However, the one-incident-after-another plot wears a bit thin at times and leaves a few too many loose threads. Is Boy the man? Nah bro'!
The SoloistAndrew O'Dea
An L.A. journalist befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article.
This movie is a sensitive but surprisingly unmoving portrait of a unique friendship. The performances from the two leads are solid, but are wasted on a story that isn't as meaningful as it should be. Although this true narrative admirably raises some important social issues, it also fails to adequately explore them. You can't help but feel what should be a powerful film instead seems prosaic and lacks any real substance, making "The Soloist" a sweet song that simply sings out of tune.
The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesAnthony Macali
When her mother disappears, Clary learns that she descends from a line of shadow hunters.
This story of a fantastical world hidden among ours, a long-standing mythology of good vs evil, and a pair of star-crossed creatures finding love in the unlikeliest of places is starting to feel all too familiar. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" makes up the rules along the way, providing answers to all the supernatural wonders and armaments for our drab protagonists. The continuous hocus-pocus soon transforms into boredom, and the inevitable romance hinted throughout is cringe-worthy, out of place in a film otherwise dark in tone. Full of the mundane.
A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.
Plaudits are due to this film for the sheer ambitiousness and difficulty of task in adapting and portraying such a complicated Shakespearean work. There's no doubting the coherency and effective structure as it doesn't tamper in the slightest with Coriolanus' immortalised lines. Unfortunately, it's just that in contrast to the contemporary setting, this particular movie simply doesn't work. There's something entirely foreign about an elite army unit storming a barracks quoting Shakespeare while under fire from semi-automatic rifles and rocket launchers. Not to be...
Rabbit HoleWendy Slevison
Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident.
"Rabbit Hole" wants to be an authentic and poignant exploration of grief and the differing ways in which people deal with it. Unfortunately, despite excellent performances from a fabulous supporting cast, the film feels slightly contrived and unconvincing - due mainly to the much lauded leading lady, who plays her role with about as much emotional depth as the wrinkles on her forehead. You feel as though you are watching her act the way she thinks someone might behave in such tragic circumstances. The journey through this rabbit hole just doesn't quite lead to wonderland.
Seven PoundsWendy Slevison
An IRS agent with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.
"Seven Pounds" is an average movie that could have been better with a heavier hand from the editing department and a lighter touch from the director. The story, while powerful and engaging, evolves slowly, and there are too many lingering shots of the main character's pained face. When all the pieces of the puzzle do finally come together, the factual implausibility unfortunately weakens the film's credibility.
I Am LegendAnthony Macali
Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.
This post-apocalyptic thriller is all too familiar, with too much focus on a barren New York that becomes dull quickly after the excessive panning. More tameness comes in the form of the terrible infected, tanned a bland grey and lacking physicality. A group of computer generated embodiments are simply not as menacing as real people dressed in pale makeup and blood. Often tense but far from legendary.
Zero FocusAnne Murphy
Spurred by the disappearance of a newly-wed husband, three women in post-war Japan are drawn into a murder mystery.
"Zero Focus" is a mystery thriller set in post-war Japan. The plot is complicated and bodies pile up as the murders out-number the suspects. The movie is moody and melodramatic, evoking the classical work of directors from a past era. Despite the cultural setting there is familiarity to the style and unusual camera angles. The lengthy drama is eventually brought to a lengthy conclusion, but no thread is left unexplained as final scene follows final scene, leaving focus diminished.
Pride and GloryAnthony Macali
A saga centered on a multi-generational family of NYPD officers. The family's moral codes are tested when Ray Tierney, investigates a case that reveals an incendiary police corruption scandal.
"Pride and Glory" is a slick production, albeit with a gritty "handheld" style. The characters shoot through scripted dialogue in indistinguishable fashion, lacking the creativity to generate an interesting "corrupt cops" story. To the films' credit, the ways the 'force' extract information from the bad guys is refreshingly original. The producers should take pride in these rare moments as the rest of the film is slow, tiresome and far from glorious.
Last Chance HarveyWendy Slevison
In London for his daughter's wedding, a rumpled man finds his romantic spirits lifted by a new woman in his life.
"Last Chance Harvey" is the story of a late-in-life romance between two dull and dreary characters who feel that life is passing them by. With no sizzle between the stars, and no sparkle in the script, the audience has no investment at all in the relationship. The film is stolid and unsatisfying, offering little more than a chance to have a snooze, which you might as well do at home.
Fair GameTom Jones
A CIA agent's identity is revealed by the White House to discredit her husband after he writes a piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.
"Fair Game" is a dummies take on the 'he said/she said' enquiries which led to President Bush declaring that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Although this political drama is easy-to-follow, you kind of wish there were more thrills, shocks or unforeseen twists in the script, which at times lacks impact. The inclusion of real footage enhances the film; as it goes from being less conspiracy based to looking more like a historical account. Neither right nor wrong, just fair.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1Anthony Macali
The Quileute close in on expecting parents Edward and Bella, whose unborn child poses different threats to the wolf pack and vampire coven.
First there was the brooding, then the moping, followed by a lot kissing... and now the consummation everybody has been waiting for. In "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1" nothing else happens. It feels like the most disconnected chapter of the series, with little reference to the past and no conflict to sink our teeth into. They simply transformed the book into a film, a process that could only be satisfying to its readers. Breaks your heart.
A man's unhappy existence comes unravelled after a chance encounter with an old friend's son.
Post-apartheid South Africa looks dated, painted in sepia tones, in this film about repression and infatuation. The central character is tormented with closeted rage. He is so emotionally taut there is an almost explosive undercurrent threading the increasingly uncomfortable scenes. Although noisy with background sounds there are long sequences without dialogue which serves to add to the dangerous mood. Ultimately the narrative is insufficient to provide coherence, which lets down interest as the pace stumbles. Mirror mirror on the wall not much beauty here at all.
A bandit leader kidnaps the wife of the policeman who killed his sister, but later falls in love with her.
This film attempts to recreate the Indian mythology of "Ramayana" into a modern tale. The cinematography is amazing, magnificently shot in the remote jungles of India and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. However, even though the music may be a treat to your ears, the film lacks soul in terms of story, and the screenplay lacks substance or the presence of an exciting climax. Although "Raavan" might lose direction in its distinction between the main character's identity as brutal demon or outlaw helping the poor, it's still worth a watch if not simply for the stellar cast.
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.
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.
Caesar Must DieStefan Bugryn
Inmates of an Italian prison rehearse a performance of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'.
The line between reality and fiction are blurred here, where prisoners are acting in a script within a script, and follow the play in and out of real life. The whole film is a novel concept, but it doesn't work perfectly. It has its moments, but the fact that you aren't invited to care about any of the characters doesn't help its cause. Like the prisoners themselves, it tries hard to be quite important, but it's nothing too special. Watch this only if you want to experience something different.