Step Up 3DWendy Slevison
A tight-knit group of New York City street dancers find themselves pitted against the world's best hip hop dancers in a high-stakes showdown that will change their lives forever.
Using the same mainstream storyline as many other chick-flicks such as friendship, love, competition and issues of trust, this is definitely a film intended for dance lovers. While showing a disappointing lack of imagination in the plot and rather forced and fake acting, the electrifying dance scenes and razor-sharp chorography do redeem the film. However, it could have stepped its game up a bit.
The Strength of WaterAnne Murphy
When a mysterious stranger arrives in an isolated coastal town, 10-year-old twins are forced apart.
This film is more mood than story. The brooding characters are burdened with emotion but without anywhere to channel it. Wild New Zealand coastal landscapes are artistically captured, and the screen is laden with images that evoke dark undercurrents and equally dark overtones. The inescapable heaviness of production is not quite balanced by the simplicity that's almost necessary when dealing with big themes through the eyes of children. "The Strength of Water" is strong enough to overpower.
Lost KissesAnne Murphy
A girl in the deprived outskirts of a Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
"Lost Kisses" uses cynicism to explore our faith in the inexplicable, and satirically mocks our need to keep up appearances. While not taking an overt stance on one side or the other of religious belief and our desire for miracles, there's a lot going on under the surface-line of the story. It's a pleasure to be allowed to draw your own meaning. A peck on the cheek.
Marie AntoinetteAnthony 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.
Green ZoneAndrew O'Dea
Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.
"Green Zone" is a more of a thriller than an action film. Those expecting a series of gunfights will be sorely disappointed, as the crux of the story stems from its political subtext, interesting as it is. Although the battle footage brings an admirably tense and frenetic realism, the cinematography is at times a little too chaotic, and the grainy hand-held camerawork tends to hold it back rather than enhance. All points to consider before deciding whether or not to spend your green on this one.
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Knowing the events on the screen are based on real crimes provides a chill of disbelief for audiences as the scenario unfolds over a day. "Compliance" is a psychological deliberation on rank or authority and power, but mostly is a study of oppression. It is impossible to watch without thinking what you would have done in the same situation, and as much as it is tempting to dismiss people's actions as "only in America", sadly the same could happen anywhere. Deeply disturbing.
A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots.
"Incendies" reveals the remarkable journey of a mother, in search of an explanation for her enduring state of despair. As her kids set out on their quest, the truth is exposed through the seamless weaving of past and present. Nawal's story is one burdened by war, religion and tradition, highlighting the generational gap and the sheltered knowledge we have of the 'primitive' views of a past that can cause so much nurtured grief. The fire burns strong and powerful, but very slow.
11 FlowersStefan Bugryn
A young boy experiences the Cultural Revolution in China in a very confronting, personal way.
This is a child's point of view of a very turbulent time for China, a tale of a poor family in a small town. There is a creepy, almost ominous feeling beneath the narrative, but the whimsical playfulness of the main character and his young friends break the gloom and manage to keep the tone light for the most part. Despite the actors' very young age, their performances are actually quite commendable. The visuals, even though filtered with many bleak colours, are quite rich and powerful, and are as beautiful as a 100 flowers for the eye.
A young man who was sentenced to 7 years on prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement.
"Bronson" is a sensationalised biopic of 'Britain's most violent prisoner'. The performance from the lead is both exceptionally raw and stunning in presenting the hulking brute with a penchant for chaos. The filmmaker curiously meshes violence with artistic oddities, and although entertaining, this technique also disappoints in providing any real or meaningful insight. Perhaps intentionally, we see Charles Bronson for 'what' he is, and not 'why' he is.
The MasterStefan Bugryn
In 50's America, a lost soul floats through life after WWII, falling under the charm of a cult leader.
Despite the ongoing sense of anticipation, there was little in the way of 'big' moments throughout this extended 'bro-mance'. At times, you can't help but feel a little lost with where the story is heading, or exactly what it's trying to achieve. However, what saves it are the stellar performances from both leads, as well as the luscious production values and direction. The score, which really makes the pace of the story feel energised, is mesmerising. It all looks and sounds great, but feels a little lacklustre. Not a master, but perhaps its apprentice.
To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
"Contraband" doesn't move along at a great speed of knots, but contains plenty of drama and thrills. For the most part, the story takes place on a ship, and the environment is a not often seen and interesting place. The hand-held camera style is distracting, regularly zooming in and out of focus. There's a lot to like about our main character, using his street-smarts to continually outwit his sinister opponents. In the end, this predictable import brings home the goods.
Brighton RockAnne Murphy
Charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a death wish.
"Brighton Rock" is a moody and suspenseful thriller, set by a gaudy seaside carnival. A serving girl looking for love gets entangled with a criminal establishing the central tension between good and evil. The movie is dark but the chilling tone becomes hard to hold as the odd scene teeters on a melodramatic precipice... almost, but not quite, compromising its otherwise ruthless edge. An unmistakably English veneer of tea-shop gentility is cracked by hardened characters and gripping action. Callous at its core. Brighton rocks unrelentingly.
The story of Steve Jobs' ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.
"Jobs" follows a small tenure of the famous entrepreneur, from the birth of the home-PC, to the tumultuous times of leading a publicly listed company. In a largely neglectable performance, we discover a determined and at times difficult figure, with a very strict vision and diet. At its best, the story excels in simply documenting the journey, captivating your attention without frills. Once you reach the end, despite the uneventfulness, you'll want to see more evolution. Static and compliant.
The Jane Austen Book ClubAnthony Macali
Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.
Having read zero Jane Austen books, I still found this film mildly entertaining. The fun comes when each member of the club relate the stories to their own tragic lives. This process causes them to break down, and to make spiteful and bitter comments to each other that are often amusing. There is also the benefit of having one guy in the group to serve the males watching this chick flick. The only sour note is the predictable ending where they all invariably find love.
Damsels in DistressAnne Murphy
A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.
A term often used to describe indie films is 'off-beat', and it's a phrase that perfectly fits "Damsels in Distress". The dialogue delivered by the earnest characters is witty and sparkling, but the plot is a little sluggish by comparison. 'Odd-ball' is another description that springs to mind, and this movie is original if a little bewildering, as it doesn't lead anywhere. No distress, but try precocious, awkward, or delightful damsels.
A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
Two Days, One NightAnthony Macali
Sandra discovers that her workmates have opted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
"Two Days, One Night" ponders a precarious dilemma. We learn our protagonist is wrestling a sickness, and feel the helplessness and frustration that comes living with it, amplified by a strong and palpable performance. While the setup is questionable, it enables an interesting and often unseen view of families on the weekend, and the common economic struggles they face. The quiet pace might not suit everyone, but it allows time to properly introduce the various characters, and effortlessly create an emotional connection. Lingers many days after...
A Lady in ParisAnthony Macali
Anne leaves Estonia to come to Paris and care for Frida, an elderly Estonian lady who emigrated to France long ago. Anne soon realizes that she is not wanted.
"A Lady in Paris" is a people movie with a small ensemble. The nature of the story grants our leads time to open-up, and the slow pace will not suit most. With some patience, the characters become a little more interesting as they begin to reveal the fun and frivolities of Frida's past. While the setup is rather conventional, it's the small details that set this film apart, sharing thoughtful insights into the perils of growing old and reflecting on life choices. An affair to last a lifetime.
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?
A Mighty HeartAnthony 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.
Free MenAnne Murphy
In Paris during WWII, an Algerian immigrant is inspired to join the resistance by his unexpected friendship with a Jewish man.
There is a low key feel to the characters and scenes in "Free Men", and the storyline provides a new twist to a war plot and friendships during a time of turmoil. It has the credibility of being "based on strong evidence" which is the tag-line appended to the credits. This previously untold story is interesting viewing for historians, Francophiles and freedom fighters alike. Liberte, egalite, fraternite and the brotherhood of man.
We Bought a ZooAnthony Macali
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Based on a true story, "We Bought a Zoo" doesn't have a bad bone in its body. It's an adventure with a menagerie of fluffy animals, great and small, and the odd staff who service them. While an underlying story of grief drives the plot, the film lacks the courage to fully explore the strife and emotion. After all, this is as family-friendly as it gets, and in the end nothing can compete with the excitement of a zoo. A ticket that will leave you warm and fuzzy.
It's a sweltering summer before the final year of school and Billie and Laura share every secret except for Billie's biggest secret - she's crazy in love with Laura's boyfriend, Danny.
"Galore" is a moody movie that captures the nihilism of youth. It's a grim story of realism as opposed to other more fanciful offerings about youth that create 'Grimm' tales of fantasy. The central 'BFF's' have nothing much to do and nowhere to go but cycle to the local swimming hole for relief from their otherwise stifling situations. Still it is compelling, even as the viewing experience is suffocating. Galore?
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony 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.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...