21 is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
This decidedly Hollywood account of the MIT Blackjack team is fair entertainment that will please gamblers and confuse others. After a slow setup we race through the rules of 21 and jet off to Las Vegas to enjoy the highs of bringing down the house. The movie can't maintain this level of fun, with its weak plot rising to the surface in a manufactured ending that feels contrived. Once you see past the flashy bright lights, you realise "21" isn't a big winner.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.
Inspired by real events, a young Spanish girl is gracious in accepting her imminent death from an aggressive cancer while she is preoccupied with daydreams about a boy from theatre group.
This extraordinary film is both a pleasure to watch, and yet difficult viewing; most disquieting is the way in which the religiously devout are overtly mocked for their piety and fervent belief. Camino is a well crafted movie; particularly notable are the fantasy dream sequences used to escape dark realities and pursue faith in love; an emotional drama overpowering in its intensity.
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.
Sweeney ToddAnthony Macali
The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.
"Sweeney Todd" is as dark and twisted as it is a dull and boring. We know Sweeney wants revenge, but can't he stop singing and staring angrily out his window - just get on with the job. Few of the songs are enjoyable, and they all tend to slow the plot to an almost unbearable halt. Some will enjoy the throat-slashing and corpse-thudding antics of the barber, but after having watched this film, I found myself seeking my own vengeance and salvation.
Cairo TimeAnne Murphy
A romantic drama about a brief, unexpected love affair that catches two people off-guard.
Cairo creates a magnificent backdrop for this movie, the mood is exotic and the scenery is breathtaking. The pace in the summer heat is languid, and the already heavy atmosphere is laden with meaningful glances. Without meaning to give anything away, the previous sentences provide a full plot description, as not very much happens. "Cairo Time" is well produced and almost serves better as a travel documentary than a romantic drama, as charming as the love story is. Slow, subtle and lingering, it might stay around for a time.
Based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis.
Séraphine's paintings reflect both her simplicity and her deep commune with nature. The artist's life is appropriately rendered with compelling images of rural life in the French village of Senlis before World War 2. Although visually delightful, the characters and story are sketched without sufficient dimension to enthral the viewer. The aesthetic experience would be enhanced by a stronger narrative dimension.
Something BorrowedWendy Slevison
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
Adapted from a popular novel, "Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy of errors, where everyone seems to be in love with the wrong person. The movie is essentially the characters sorting themselves out. Unfortunately, this takes a while, and by the end of the overly long running time, audience investment in the protagonists has wilted a bit. While the actors all do a fine job of their roles, the film lacks freshness and charm. The plot feels a little like something borrowed.
The Bling RingTom 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.
Dolphin TaleAnne Murphy
A story centred on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.
An amazing heart-warming tale, pardon the pun, based on a real story is related in "Dolphin Tale". This movie will be embraced by young audiences as an exciting adventure in an adult world. Older kids may find it formulaic as adversity is transformed into triumph, but nonetheless it's stirring viewing. The dolphin is a scene stealing star that puts the rest of the cast in the drink despite their solid performances in this family friendly fun film. Move over Flipper.
Dreamgirls follows the lives of three young women who form a singing trio called the "Dreamettes". Their rise to the top is not as smooth as their lyrics.
This film is a continuous exposition of music, illuminated brilliantly on the stage. It's all visually stunning, in particular the montages that race through time. Casting real-life singers to the main roles is an inspired choice that draws strong vocal performances to the screen. But like many good songs, they are overplayed and tire towards the finale.
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
18 Years Old and RisingAnne Murphy
Primo, a boy with a humble background, is studying for University entrance while trying to impress girls who hang out with a crowd of rich young things.
Set in Paris in the early 80's as a Presidential election looms, "18 Years Old and Rising" has an interesting political text for a film of the coming of age genre. Like the main character, this movie takes risks to impress, and it shows a hero's quest for love that is memorable, bold, and fun. It is a pleasure to watch a storyline that delights by not being predictable. Forever young.
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.
Rock the CasbahAnne Murphy
Problems arise when Sofia returns to Tangiers and her family is reunited for her father's funeral.
"Rock the Casbah" leaves a lasting memory of its stunning visual backdrops and scenery, and there's a sense of enjoying something sumptuous being put before the audience. Family relationships are at the fore of this engaging character-driven drama and there are skeletons aplenty coming out of the proverbial closet. The flow is disturbed by uneven acting performances and don't be misled by the title, while some scores are settled these are familial and not musical in nature. Rolls rather than rocks.
A small-town girl ventures to LA and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.
"Burlesque" is everything you might imagine - clichéd, yes. Thin on plot, yes. Largely a performance vehicle for it's leading ladies, yes. But it's more - it's entertaining escapism, and isn't that what movies are all about? The voices are incredibly rich and robust; the dance numbers are glitzy and gaudy, yet tightly choreographed and executed. The entire cast is highly watchable (even if it's just to see if the elder of those leading ladies can actually move her top lip) and combine to deliver a film that is sexy without being salacious.
A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.
"Snitch" seizes upon the value of a 'based on true events' premise and tells the story of an amiable father who throws himself into the most dangerous of situations. Trying to win the trust of shady drug lords isn't easy, creating an atmosphere loaded with suspense. It quickly becomes apparent that our wishful hero is out of his depth, and the film is successful enough in its character portrayals that we actually care. Each move may be predictable, but the ride is enjoyable enough. Dobbed in.
The true story of how Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escaped into the Belarussian forests, where they built a village in order to protect about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.
A sincere and authentically portrayed movie, the sublime production values are prevalent throughout. The story itself remains engrossing for the most part, but there's also a permeate feeling that it could've been better had it defied convention; to better convey the inspiration of the actual events. However, despite this flaw, "Defiance" still serves as an entertaining film that does well to appropriately memorialise one of the more extraordinary stories of WWII.
What We Did on Our HolidayAnne Murphy
Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.
While the story is all about celebrating granddad on his birthday, it's his three young grandchildren who steal almost every scene; they are as sassy as they are beguiling. The kids have access to greater intelligence, both rational and emotional, than the adults. The grownups have dibs on inappropriate outbursts, and you have to wonder if you're laughing at them, or with them? Viewing this likable movie may prompt self-reflection and if not you'll have lots of charming holiday images. Now what to do with the rest of our lives?
Unmade BedsAnthony Macali
The story of two people living in the same warehouse whose paths never cross until fate steps in.
"Unmade Beds" is a stylishly quirky movie that follows Axl's quest for his father, and Vera's quest for love. The vague plot is forgotten as our characters enjoy a constant flurry of partying and having fun. These experiences are captured with a youthfulness and style that make it a unique joy to watch. Although some viewers will get swept away by the whimsical romance, others will be frustrated by the lack of concrete conclusions. This film is a refreshing piece of art and technique, despite a pacing that may put some to sleep.
The Book of EliAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.
"The Book of Eli" is a very well made movie, but only from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately, stylish sepia tones and occasional moments of choreographed brilliance are outweighed by a gaping storyline. Even though it manages to raise some intriguing spiritual conundrums, the nonsensical plot fails to lend these questions of morality any real substance. This shortfall is only made worse by an abursd plot twist that fails to be anywhere near as as reverent as it aspires to be. Amen.
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.
Van Diemen's LandAnthony Macali
The true story of Alexander Pearce, Australia's most notorious convict. In 1822, Pearce and seven fellow convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour.
"Van Diemen's Land" plays like a horror/slasher film. The format is very simple: convicts sit by the fire hiding fears they're the next to be killed, and then proceed to walk through the forest (in the most captivating moments of the film), before one is inevitably bludgeoned to death for food. If we were able to associate more with the characters' hunger and desperation, it may have had a greater impact, but in the end it's just simple and barbaric.
Mademoiselle ChambonAnne Murphy
Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life.
"Mademoiselle Chambon" is an emotional drama laden with unexpressed feeling that hovers between sensitive and stagnant. While subtlety must have been the director's intention, the effect is slack and stifled. The story has a very long fuse, as restraint is favoured over illicit passion. Unfortunately, the wick is so slow burning that by the final scene interest in the characters has been extinguished. With barely any action and sparse dialogue, the movie fails to ignite (which could be the point), and for many this film will seem pointless.
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.