Valkyrie - Movie Poster

Valkyrie

3.0 Andrew O'Dea

Based on actual events, a plot to assassinate Hitler is unfurled during the height of WWII.

The strength of this film lies in a superb production design that helps to construct a positively accurate and immersive account of 1940's Berlin. It creates a stylistic period feel that is amplified by a stirring orchestral score throughout. Unfortunately, much of the authenticity, and subsequent integrity, is lost on American and British accents portraying German ones; as well as an unbefitting and uninspiring performance from the lead. "Valkyrie" definitely won't cater to everyone, but those impassioned by this period in history may find it rousing.


He's Just Not That Into You - Movie Poster

He's Just Not That Into You

3.0 Wendy Slevison

This Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting story lines deals with the challenges of trying to understand human behaviour.

Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name, this movie is overpopulated with under-developed characters making mistakes, behaving badly, and being downright stupid - surprise surprise, mostly the women. An ensemble cast, who individually can be very good, get lost in the mire of a script laden with stereotypes. While generally entertaining, there are sections where you find yourself not caring who's just not into who.


Bronson - Movie Poster

Bronson

3.0 Andrew O'Dea

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.


Agora - Movie Poster

Agora

3.0 Anne Murphy

A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity while falling in love with the famous female philosophy professor Hypatia of Alexandria.

This visually extravagant epic looks to the skies pondering shape of our universe, while on the ground bloody religious disputes are fought with stones and daggers. Disappointing is the production sloth that depicts one side as dirty and grey and the other as pale and clean. Barely forgivable, even in the 400AD setting, is a disquieting patriarchal tone discolouring ancient Alexandria. Unforgivable, is the lack of dramatic tension as "Agora" devolves into tedium.


The Jane Austen Book Club - Movie Poster

The Jane Austen Book Club

3.0 Anthony 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.


A Lady in Paris - Movie Poster

A Lady in Paris

3.0 Anthony 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.


Get Low - Movie Poster

Get Low

3.0 Anne Murphy

Equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party.

"Get Low" is a good old fashioned hokey folky story with warm understated performances from a big name cast, and a mule. It's deftly crafted and charming to watch. There's a slow build around the themes of guilt and forgiveness before the eventual plot reveal. Although tears are coaxed out during the long awaited climax, this movie will be watched for the dawdling journey rather than the ending. Hard not to like but lacking real highs and lows.


Step Up 3D - Movie Poster

Step Up 3D

3.0 Wendy 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.


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.


Giovanna's Father - Movie Poster

Giovanna's Father

3.0 Anne Murphy

A protective father stands by his misfit daughter after she commits a terrible crime.

Complex reactions to tragedy are explored in this story of obsession. With war as the backdrop, relationships are ravaged while Bologna is bombed. "Giovanna's Father" is not easy viewing and interest is held by the unconventional story-line. The soundtrack maintains a steady rhythm, and the use of sepia tones aids in recreating a past era of hardship. Superb performances by the lead actors are convincing and avoid being melodramatic, with the spotlight firmly on Giovanna's Father rather than the dastardly deeds of his daughter.


The Silence - Movie Poster

The Silence

3.0 Anne Murphy

The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.

A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.


Dolphin Tale - Movie Poster

Dolphin Tale

3.0 Anne 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.


Green Zone - Movie Poster

Green Zone

3.0 Andrew 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.


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.


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?


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.


9 - Movie Poster

9

3.0 Andrew O'Dea

A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.

This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.


World War Z - Movie Poster

World War Z

3.0 Andrew 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'...


The Wings of the Kirin - Movie Poster

The Wings of the Kirin

3.0 Anne Murphy

Detective Kaga Kyoichiro investigates when a man's body is found under the statue of the Kirin on Nihonbashi bridge under strange circumstances.

This is a classic murder mystery that gets more mysterious as the story progresses. The script is taken from a series of Japanese detective novels, and for the most part it's a well structured story, but when translating from book to screen the retention of the many sub-plots appear to weigh the movie down with complexity. At the same time it is the nuances of the story that hold interest despite the measured pace and lack of action scenes. A kirin has wings but doesn't fly.


The Angel's Share - Movie Poster

The Angel's Share

3.0 Anthony Macali

New Dad Robbie vows to turn his life around after narrowly missing jail.

"The Angel's Share" features the most unlikely of heroes, a band of drop-outs reluctantly serving their community hours and looking for a way out. Their solution lies in the bottle, but not how you might think, as a visit to the distillery makes a connoisseur of some and introduces the audience to the curious world of whiskey collectors. It may take awhile, but to the film's accomplishment, you start to root for the crims, drawing laughs from their haphazard excursions, not-so-smart decisions and odd relationships. They're certainly no angels, but you'll still want them to win.


Men, Women & Children - Movie Poster

Men, Women & Children

3.0 Andrew O'Dea

Parents and their teenagers grapple with the many ways the Internet affects their lives.

"Men, Women & Children" is a character-driven ensemble drama that provides a glimpse of our cultural evolution (or some may argue devolution) through social media. Perhaps a victim of its own scope and ambition, the exploration of this Wi-Fi culture across a multi-story narrative is thought-provoking, although the delivery is somewhat heavy-handed. The vulnerability and sentiment at the film's core is sure to divide its audience; it will either resonate or leave them with a sense of contrivance. A family conversation still worth having.


Gangster Squad - Movie Poster

Gangster Squad

3.0 Anthony Macali

A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s.

"Gangster Squad" investigates a time when the most effective way to combat violence was with more violence. The characters are menacing and hard-edged, although this strangely conflicts with the polished look of the film, clearly used to instil a sense of nostalgia for the era. The production is a little too clean and manufactured for the subject matter, robbing the story of the momentous and emotional impact it could have achieved. A talented squad do their best, and excite for the most part, but fail to captivate overall. Plastic gangsters.


Far from the Madding Crowd - Movie Poster

Far from the Madding Crowd

3.0 Anthony Macali

Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.

"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.


Rebelle - Movie Poster

Rebelle

3.0 Anne Murphy

Somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Komona a 14-year-old girl tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war.

The atrocities that surround a girl kidnapped by rebels when she was 12 years old are inhuman in their ruthlessness. Seen through her eyes, the story is a work of fiction but the situation is as credible as the one shown on screen. With its understated approach, "Rebelle War Witch" looks to be drawn from reality. Told from a child's perspective, the depiction of the fate of child soldiers is so plausible it's horrifying.


18 Years Old and Rising - Movie Poster

18 Years Old and Rising

3.0 Anne 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.