Amreeka - Movie Poster

Amreeka

3.0 Anne Murphy

A drama centered on an immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Illinois.

Warm and funny, "Amreeka" covers important issues of diversity and tolerance with a light and humorous touch. In fact, it is light enough to be a little heavy-handed in delivering the message that people from the middle-east are good people. The immigrant experience looks easy in this setting - a little hardship, a touch of outrage at the attitude of the locals, and each day better than the last. In the land of the free it's possible to feel homesick while smiling. Only in Amreeka?


Marie Antoinette - Movie Poster

Marie Antoinette

3.0 Anthony Macali

The story of French Queen Marie Antoinette, crowned at the age of 19 and living the glamorous life.

This movie showcases a beautiful 18th Century France, a portrait of extravagant costumes, intricate set pieces, lavish parties; all playful and frivolous. Don't expect a pressing insight into the trials of ruling an empire. The most difficult decision Marie Antoinette has to make is if she should sneak out of the castle to attend a costume party (spoiler warning, she does). Like the numerous cakes the Dauphin indulges in, the film is sweet but not quite fulfilling.


Barney's Version - Movie Poster

Barney's Version

3.0 Anne Murphy

Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer.

"Barney's Version" is a character study covering 30 years of one man's life. Depth is compromised by span when a life - even a fictional one - is featured in a movie-length couple of hours. This is a rambling, uneven and shallow movie held together by strong acting. The comedic story takes an unexpected and solemn turn towards the end, but by then there's not a lot of emotion vested in the outcome for the amiable but self-centred characters. An interesting soap opera version.


The Bling Ring - Movie Poster

The Bling Ring

3.0 Tom Jones

Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

Anyone who admires or tries to emulate the lives of celebrities, prepare for disappointment. You'll find little inspiration here, except maybe the very cool soundtrack. This film does not glamorise, or popularise this culture, which is arguably a healthy step in the right direction. The characters have zero substance, except what they snort. They're not likable, funny, endearing, or worth pitying; their story isn't even compelling, just repetitive. Steal, party, steal, party, you get the picture.


A Mighty Heart - Movie Poster

A Mighty Heart

3.0 Anthony Macali

The film is based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying and unforgettable story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death.

"A Mighty Heart" is a genuine and heartfelt account of tragedy. The excellent performances reflect a true sense of the frustration, determination and suffering of all those involved. The film struggles to draw the audience into the investigation, presumably of little concern to the director with motives that seem to favour accuracy over entertainment. An authentic portrayal with a good heart, but little excitement.


The Other Boleyn Girl - Movie Poster

The Other Boleyn Girl

3.0 Anthony Macali

Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.


I Love You Phillip Morris - Movie Poster

I Love You Phillip Morris

2.5 Anne Murphy

Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, a member of the local police force, when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life.

"I Love You Phillip Morris" contains some squirmingly uncomfortable stereotyping of various characters, and a flawed portrayal of gay men played for laughs by straight men. It's as unfunny as it is shallow, particularly disappointing is that the central romance is underdeveloped. The story, with its furious pace, covers a lot of events, mostly prison escapes, and unfortunately that's at the expense of real insight or depth. You might love Phillip Morris but probably not Steven Russell.


Zero Focus - Movie Poster

Zero Focus

2.5 Anne 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 Glory - Movie Poster

Pride and Glory

2.5 Anthony 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 Harvey - Movie Poster

Last Chance Harvey

2.5 Wendy 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 Game - Movie Poster

Fair Game

2.5 Tom 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 Rite - Movie Poster

The Rite

2.5 Wendy Slevison

A young American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

This is the most recent addition to a select collection of films that deal with the subject of exorcism. Despite eventually falling short of its early potential, squandering both pace and tension, the movie is admittedly somewhat unsettling at times, and leaves you in a rather philosophical frame of mind as you leave the cinema. The senior star plays his part with controlled enthusiasm, and together with the magnificent Roman backdrop, lifts and gives some credibility to an otherwise rather average film. "The Rite" is just alright.


White House Down - Movie Poster

White House Down

2.5 Andrew 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.


The Tree - Movie Poster

The Tree

2.5 Anne Murphy

Fate strikes taking the father of a family of four and leaving his daughter convinced that her dad still lives in the giant fig tree growing near their house.

There is a tension between holding on and letting go, mourning and living that's central to the plot. The idea behind the story is imaginative and unfortunately the movie lacks depth on the screen as does the dialogue that fails to hold interest. Even the characters at their best are blandly stereotypical. Thankfully the Australian countryside is magnificent, as is the titular tree. It just doesn't take root.


The Soloist - Movie Poster

The Soloist

2.5 Andrew 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.


In a Better World - Movie Poster

In a Better World

2.5 Stefan Bugryn

The lives of two danish families take a turn for the worst as their children form an unhealthy friendship.

This art house film doesn't really go past the point of 'enjoyable'. The so-so storyline is redeemed somewhat by decent acting and rich visuals, but it won't really glue you to the screen the whole time. Don't be mistaken; there are some very hard hitting scenes - the problem is that they're emotionally weak, despite the fact it delves into some pretty heavy themes. It almost feels like an extended version of a Danish soap opera. In a better world, this would have been a better movie.


Margin Call - Movie Poster

Margin Call

2.5 Andrew 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.


Lincoln - Movie Poster

Lincoln

2.5 Anthony Macali

As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Without a preceding interest in the subject matter, "Lincoln" may struggle to win your vote. The historic period is recounted in splendid detail. Fine visuals don't aid the understanding of this important, turgid story that features a lot of bearded men arguing in dark rooms. Despite a remarkable and benevolent performance from the President, interest wanes as the long running-time draws out. Unlikely to please the majority.


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Movie Poster

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

2.5 Anthony 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.


Precious - Movie Poster

Precious

2.5 Anne Murphy

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.


Notorious - Movie Poster

Notorious

2.5 Anthony Macali

The life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm.

Notorious is a biopic of one the greatest, Biggie Smalls, who curiously narrates himself in this film of his life, from hustling on the streets to becoming the king of East-Coast hip-hop. Despite his many indiscretions, Big Poppa is portrayed favourably, because as you know, "Mo Money = Mo Problems". However, such empathy only detracts from the portrait of an already dubious character, even though his music is obviously tight.


Restless City - Movie Poster

Restless City

2.5 Anne 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.


Flicker - Movie Poster

Flicker

2.5 Anthony Macali

A Telecom Company is troubled by a number of mishaps to its network and employees.

The story of "Flicker" is set in a conventional office, pale and dull and host to a number of workers with peculiar problems. Many are unmotivated or sad, but all of them granted small quirks to make the film that little more amusing. Surprisingly these nuances aren't the problem, as we share a certain empathy in relation to these well-developed characters. The issue is how it all fits into the big picture, and the continual jumps in the narrative becomes frustrating and lacks any real connection (aside from the common employer they share). Not as bright as you might think.


Away We Go - Movie Poster

Away We Go

2.5 Anne 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.


Public Enemies - Movie Poster

Public Enemies

2.5 Andrew O'Dea

The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.

"Public Enemies" feels like a series of tommy-gun battles and antique car chases, which although very impressive, do not constitute a good story. It's not terrible, but there's simply not enough build up to pivotal scenes, and the lead actors (who are great in their roles) are hindered by a severe lack of character development. A major annoyance is the camerawork; digitally shot, but not used to good effect. The only heist here is having to pay for admission.