The ReaderAndrew O'Dea
Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.
"The Reader" is a compelling story that takes a very different approach to the Holocaust. The impeccably considerate and pensive style of the film helps us empathise with a character who, by rights, we should loathe. Amplified by an extraordinary performance from the lead actress, it exercises our moral compass, forcing us to wrestle with the issue of law versus morality. An ultimately moving and thought-provoking account set against a dark chapter in history.
A grief counselor working with a group of plane-crash survivors finds herself at the root of a mystery when her clients begin to disappear.
"Passengers" is a horrible drama that fails dismally in its feeble attempt to pose as a thriller. Everything about the movie is decidedly uneventful, accentuated by sluggish pacing and an unremarkable script. The gloomy camerawork throughout succeeds only in making the vapid plot seem monotonous; the only respite coming when it inevitably crashes and burns in a dissatisfying twist-ending. If you pay to go watch this film, you will have been taken for a ride.
He's Just Not That Into YouWendy 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.
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.
A mother's kidnapped son is returned to her, but she realises immediately that the boy is not hers.
"Changeling" is an example of classic movie making at it's most potent. A magnificent unhurried telling of an extraordinary true story, it's also a commentary on social and moral dilemmas still faced today. The authentic visual feel, exceptional cast and old-style direction combine to create an outstanding film. A superb performance by the lead actress pays no heed to her physical beauty, focusing wholly on the anguish, despair and struggle of an ordinary woman fighting to be heard by the powers-that-be. Has anything really changed?
Revolutionary RoadAndrew O'Dea
A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950's struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children. Based on a novel by Richard Yates.
In such an involving examination of relationships, you'd expect this to be a more emotionally engaging film. The thing that sustains it is the phenomenal acting from the entire cast. The two leads feed off of each other's despair so brilliantly it almost hides the fact that the script is very mediocre. That's not to say nothing can be garnered from the tragic beauty of the story; it's just that the monotony at times makes "Revolutionary Road" feel like a one-way street.
The story of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
Harvey Milk was an ordinary man filled with courage and the conviction to create change, who became a modern-day hero. Chronicling the last eight years of the activist's life, as he fights tirelessly for gay rights, the film vividly revives the radical period of the 70's. The convincing and sensitive portrayal by the lead actor, combined with an equally compelling supporting cast, makes this biopic both inspiring and moving. Highly recommended.
Set in 1964, Doubt centres on a nun who confronts a priest, suspecting him of abusing a student.
"Doubt" is an example of the play-to-film translation not always succeeding. Featuring two highly acclaimed actors, a very good support cast, and a fine reputation as a stage piece, what could go wrong? Well, something did. The lead performances, while magnificent, overshadow the subtle material; the glaring metaphorical symbols used are clumsily overworked, and several serious issues, besides the main one, are highlighted and then largely ignored. Worth seeing, as there are some truly great scenes.
Gran TorinoAndrew O'Dea
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal his prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
"Gran Torino" tells the story of a man in transition. The film is driven by a weathered and steely performance from the lead actor, who peerlessly chisels out an insular and reluctant hero. A no-nonsense aesthetic means it shuns political correctness, presenting an unrepentant bigot who doesn't discriminate - he hates everyone. Surprisingly, it's these old school prejudices that create moments of genuine comedy and warmth. Highly recommended.
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.
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.
The WrestlerAnthony Macali
A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit.
In a movie about wrestling, it's only fitting that the acting in this film is superb. "The Wrestler" explores what a human being is capable of, and then what they do. It's this no holds barred honesty that makes this film spectacular. As the camera follows Randy "The Ram" onto the stage of his life, he bears all to his fans, and the audience, in a wonderfully poignant performance. If wrestling is all about acting, then this film is the teaching manual.
Marley & MeWendy Slevison
A family learns important life lessons from their adorable, but naughty and neurotic dog.
"Marley and Me" positions itself as a romantic comedy but unfortunately it fails to deliver. With no chemistry between its lead actors, the characters and plot are difficult to engage with, and you find yourself not really caring about the human stars. It's the 22 adorable Labradors who share the role of Marley that are the best part of this movie, and the only laughs come from the innumerable scenes of chewing and destruction. For dog-lovers with lots of patience only.
I've Loved You So LongWendy Slevison
This powerful story explores the tentative relationship between two sisters who barely know each other, as a shell-shocked Juliette arrives to live with her younger sister Lea, after being away for 15 years.
"I've Loved You So Long" is a raw, sparse film about human pain that is at times difficult to watch, and yet mesmerising. As Juliette slowly but uncompromisingly opens and embraces her new life, we rejoice as she finally begins to reclaim power from the oppressive secrets of her past. With an exquisitely stripped-down performance from the lead actress, this magnetic, emotionally wrenching film is very highly recommended.
Vicky Cristina BarcelonaAndrew O'Dea
Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is an audacious romantic comedy that raises provocative questions on life and love. Set amongst the splendour and beauty of a Catalan backdrop, the affable characters provide a funny and capricious look into human relationships. The arts, love, sexual passion, and desire are blended together, explored, and then endearingly exposed in all of their intricacy - creating a bittersweet, entertaining film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonAndrew O'Dea
Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a beautifully crafted and acted film, but the running time and ambiguity surrounding its message holds it back. Lessons of fate, mortality, life, and death are prevalent - but they remain convoluted. For all their enigmatic symbolism, they are difficult to comprehend and appreciate. However, that's not to say the audience won't be able to draw their own conclusions from the many parables throughout. Indulge your curiosity, watch it, and make up your own mind.
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
"Frost/Nixon" is an intelligent and provocative political drama. The film's strength lies in dialogue that is witty and engaging, delivered by superlative performances from the two leads. Frost and Nixon are combatants slugging out a verbal war, gaining ascendancy only to be countered. Their battle of wills generates cinema that is completely engrossing. Who'd have thought that two men sitting down and talking to each other could be so entertaining?
American TeenAnthony Macali
A documentary on seniors at a high school in a small Indiana town and their various cliques.
All the stereotypes are covered in this down-to-earth documentary, allowing every audience member to find a teen they can relate to. Our young protagonists are a mature lot, providing good material for the camera. As you could imagine, there is plenty of angst and drama, and while most of it is probably staged, it's still fun to experience vicariously. "American Teen" is ultimately about confronting new chapters in our lives, and is definitely worth a look.
Slumdog MillionaireAnthony Macali
The story of how impoverished Indian teen Jamal Malik became a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?"
"Slumdog Millionaire" is a beautiful, almost epic story of love, struggle and money. The plot is tightly constructed, with Jamal reflecting on the vivid memories of his past - recollecting his life in the Indian slums - while answering questions on the show. High in emotion, and rife with tension, this film is both breathtaking and fascinating, an experience that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.
"Twilight" is in essence a thinly veiled melodrama. The bulk of the film constitutes parading an endless procession of our star-crossed lovers staring longingly at each other, which achieves nothing but to reduce it to a lumbering bore. It feels like filler to a paper-thin plot, glaringly prevalent when crucial story revelations are uncovered simply by using an online search engine. An overwhelming sense of the anemic is coupled with dialogue that is as bland and as pale as the vampires' ridiculous skin. Appropriately put, this movie sucks.
High School Musical 3: Senior YearAnthony Macali
Troy and Gabriella struggle with the idea of being separated from one another as college approaches. Along with the rest of the crew, they stage a spring musical to address their fears about their future.
"High School Musical 3" might be better suited for the stage, but definitely not for the big screen. It feels like cameras were simply stationed in front of each performance, creating a dull and disappointing view considering the potential of cinema. The dance choreography is impressive, far superior to the songs that take too long to gather any momentum or vivacity. The climax is a simple re-hash of the film's earlier songs, and like my senior year, I couldn't wait for it to be over.
The OrphanageAnthony Macali
A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.
There aren't many things creepier than a house haunted by ghost children. In a scare climax, a medium channels the voices and cries of the sick orphans. It might be a little clichéd, but it's far from shallow. It also deals with grief and loss, themes supported by impressive performances. While the story lingers in these moments, the twists of the finalé forgive the build-up. A beautiful story of life and death, "The Orphanage" is a film not to be abandoned.
When a landlady, to protect her sexy niece, turns down two young men eager to rent her apartment, they pretend to be gay.
Similar stories in Hollywood have produced deplorable fare, but how does the Bollywood version compare? Laughs are the same, elicited from the "obvious" humour in straight people playing gay stereotypes. The best scenes involve Sam's mother, who unintentionally becomes aware of his lifestyle change, a key scene that introduces the running themes of family and forgiveness. "Dostana" is superficial, but you will find it hard to resist its glamour and charm.
Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot.
"Australia" reverently captures the culture of our land, from the quintessential outback "aussie" to the native spiritual Aboriginals. This is an ideal, albeit clichéd, backdrop for a romance to develop, and this relationship persistently takes centre stage, overshadowing the many sad events within the story. Ambitious in scope and venture, "Australia" is our country's patriotic film, and despite some underwhelming key scenes, is one to be proud of.
The HappeningLuke Bartter
When large amounts of people start inexplicably committing suicide in America, panic ensues.
The real disappointment about this movie stems from it's obvious lack of quality throughout. Other than a few intense scenes, it's dull and long-winded, so your curiosity runs out regardless of the unusual phenomenon. When you stop caring about the 'why' or even what happens to the characters, watching feels like a task. Tedious and lifeless, the most mysterious thing is how "The Happening" managed to get made into a feature film.