When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters.
This version of the classic fairy tale "Cinderella" is simply spellbinding and will enchant a new generation of little people, especially those who love dress ups. A thoroughly modern angle is that a young woman is most desired for her kindness and inner beauty. The movie brims with visible beauty too. There are spectacular magical effects, stunning vistas of the mythical kingdom, and watch for a star turn by the fairy good mother. Here's to happily ever after.
Into the WoodsAnne Murphy
A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children's stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.
Though the musical score is enchanting and performances from the cast magical, "Into the Woods" doesn't deliver. We venture out with plenty of charm, colour, and costumes, but somewhere before halfway the story is lost. The glamour of the production doesn't compensate for an overly long and muddled plot. Sad but true that we can't see the woods for the trees in this confused offering. Get outta there.
A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home.
Based on a beloved children's book written in the 1950's, themes of dislocation and finding a home translates as a story for today. The tale of a well-mannered, marmalade-loving stowaway has been updated without losing any of its charm. Sometimes the bear finds trouble and sometimes trouble finds the bear in this relentlessly funny adventure. The humour works for young audiences and is witty on another level to amuse the grown-ups who buy the cinema tickets and popcorn. Bear hug.
Paper PlanesAnthony Macali
An imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
"Paper Planes" is a laudable representative of Australian drama, reminding us of some of the more imaginative and simpler pleasures in life. With themes of grief, bullying and the importance of winning, it's difficult to dislike this innocuous outing. While it may struggle to find an audience outside of its target demographic, the performances of the adolescents and uplifting musical score will inspire a generation. Pull out the A4's... and start folding.
Muppets Most WantedAnthony Macali
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.
"Muppets Most Wanted" bears all the classic tropes of a sequel low on ideas and thin on plot. It's still impossible to resist the innocuous charm and nostalgia of the wildly animated characters, looking so great in their colourful skins. Moving at a fast pace, the jokes are largely hit-and-miss. While the hits are funny, it’s unlikely this rag-tag crew will win over any new audiences with this show, despite the support of countless cameos. Most conventional.
Hotel TransylvaniaThomas Jones
Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter.
Depicting Dracula, Frankenstein, the big bad wolf and all the other legends as suffering from the same dilemmas and stresses as humans, was obviously designed to offer greater perspective to the intended audience. Unfortunately these characters are likely to keep children awake at night. Despite all their human charm and sense of humour, they are still scary, particularly to look at. Undeniably, this film is entertaining, but parental guidance is necessary. It is the mash, it is the monster mash.
Scandal MakersAnne Murphy
A radio DJ/entertainer in his 30s suddenly learns he may be a grandfather, thanks to a young girl who has a baby son and claims to be his daughter.
The premise of this film is entertaining and it bounces along at a fun pace. The storyline is captivating; imagine what a vain young man with a public profile might do when he discovers he is a grandfather. "Scandal Makers" sets out to amuse and it is family entertainment, Korean style. It's easy to imagine this being subject to a Hollywood re-make. Likeable rather than scandalous.
The Pirates! Band of MisfitsAnthony Macali
The Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award.
"The Pirates!" is another adventure from a production house who continue to painstakingly animate their films with clay. They do so successfully with this film, creating a world of splendid colour and detail that keep the eyes busy. The story is an inherently amusing one, moving along at a swift pace, but the journey is lacking in laughter, with numerous gags failing to reach that 'hilarious' territory. It becomes even more frustrating when you acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into the craft, and realise that the humour just isn't on the same deck as the visuals. A stunning mismatch.
Dr. Seuss' The LoraxAnne Murphy
Dr. Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope.
"The Lorax" targets young audiences and captivates them with candy coloured animation, cute critters and a lively pace, all presented in 3D. Although the original story book was written 40 years ago, this is a fable for today with greed pitted against green. There's a strong moral message about the importance of caring, and thankfully the lesson is related without preaching; instead there's singing and dancing in a kid's own adventure. Spirited school holiday viewing, a magical movie starring Truffula trees.
John CarterAnthony Macali
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.
"John Carter" is a bit out there... Mars if you want to get technical. The planet is brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects, creating an impressive futuristic desert landscape. When our hero gets teleported to this faraway place, he is introduced to a curious assortment of creatures, and people with strange names and differing ambitions. After these initial encounters, the excitement dies down and John leaps into to his belated and ever-changing quest. It's a constant battle between boredom and a beautiful view.
Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandAnthony Macali
Sean Anderson partners with his mom's boyfriend on a mission to find his grandfather.
The beauty of "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" isn't just in the visuals or adventure. Listen to the random spiels of science that solve all the mysteries, and the story moves along at a swift pace. As expected, the film isn't big on plot or character development, and the 3D doesn't add much except to enable the large production designs and special effects, which can only hold your attention for so long. If you can sit back and absorb the humour and colour, the movie will deliver on everything it says on the ticket.
Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery.
"Hugo" is a magical story for kids with a penchant for adventure. A fantastic French train station is brought to life, and thanks to some crafty 3D, delves into the gleaming maze of clocks and cogs that surround the walls. As our young characters continue to solve the puzzle, the plot strangely shifts, taking the audience in a completely new direction... to explore the birth of cinema. It's an odd division in the film, and accompanied by a few irrelevant supporting members, unsettles the enchantment of this visual treasure. All the pieces seem to fit.
The MuppetsAnne Murphy
With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theatre from an oil tycoon.
The Muppets are as comically endearing as ever in their return to the big screen, as the troupe get back together to sing and dance their way through a classic good vs evil storyline. This is a nostalgic romp even though the characters haven't aged, not that the audience would want them to, and they're just as corny as they ever were. The magic works, maybe because no-one is more self deprecating than the characters themselves. Absolutely the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppet-ational...
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.
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.
Happy Feet TwoAnthony Macali
Mumble's son, Erik, is struggling to realize his talents in the Emperor Penguin world.
"Happy Feet Two" is actually an existential film with penguins, but don't let the seemingly grim subject matter get you down. It takes a good hike to get going, but once it does, there is plenty of the famous singing and dancing that made the first film so popular, and en masse. Thousands of penguins stamp their feet in this majestic world, its scope and beauty coolly realised with some very colourful animation. In the face of grave danger, these flightless birds find hope and life in their music. Skip along and you will be happy too.
The Lion KingAndrew O'Dea
Tricked into thinking he killed his father, a guilt ridden lion cub flees into exile.
Although 3D doesn't add a great deal to this conceptually brilliant masterpiece, we are thankful for the opportunity to once again view this magical movie on the big screen. "The Lion King" is a sprawling and grandiose epic played out across the African savannah, driven by a story that is Shakespearian-esque, and a soundtrack that is both uplifting and fun. The hand-drawn animation is still as exquisite and extraordinarily beautiful as ever. What a pleasure that generations both old and new are still able to enjoy and marvel in its magnificence. The king of cartoons, this is a royal treat.
Red DogWendy Slevison
Based on the true story of Red Dog, who united an outback community while in search of his master.
Watching this movie feels a bit like sitting around a camp fire listening to your mates tell a darn good yarn. It's a quintessentially Aussie experience with wonderfully personal characterisations and a truly incredible story. The first-class cinematography brings the mining area of Western Australia gloriously to life in a visual feast of red and turquoise. The human actors do a fine job of portraying the mateship that forms in the small mining towns, but of course the dog steals every scene he's in - what a talented boy! A blue ribbon for "Red Dog".
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. EvilAnne Murphy
Red Riding Hood is training in the group of Sister Hoods, when she and the Wolf are called to examine the mysterious sudden disappearance of Hansel and Gretel.
Red is a girl who stands up for herself and knocks her opponents out, delivering action before comedy. Still, the snappy dialogue and cracking one-liners are welcome in movies aimed at younger audiences, providing enjoyment for the grown-ups. Annoyingly, there's some not so subtle stereotyping, and you can't help noticing the baddies are all chubby and the goodies fit and trim. Wink, wink, as all in all, it's more good than evil.
Mr. and Mrs. IncredibleAnne Murphy
In ancient China, a husband and wife, both of them retired superheroes, contend with the high cost of living, infertility, and other contemporary life issues.
A movie that doesn't take itself too seriously is always good viewing, and "Mr and Mrs Incredible" is just such a film. The feel-good story around a happy marital life of the charismatic lead characters is spiced up with a little martial arts action, all delivered in a mythical Chinese style. Fantasy and reality are cheerfully interwoven in a remote village filled with vivid and colourful characters. Bright and enjoyable, rather than incredible.
Gnomeo & JulietAnne Murphy
Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Yogi BearWendy Slevison
A filmmaker travels to Jellystone Park to shoot a project and soon crosses paths with Yogi Bear, his sidekick Boo-Boo, and Ranger Smith.
"Yogi Bear" is a clumsy and uninspired mix of animation and live action that rolls out a tired old story line while trying to impart an environmental message. Ho hum…The animation of the bears is quite nicely done, but it's not enough to make this film 'bearable' for anyone over five. Given that Yogi is "smarter than the average bear", he may be a little insulted at this version of his life.
Primary school teacher Paul Maddens is charged with producing the school's nativity play.
"Nativity!" delivers warm, family friendly, Christmas cheer by the manger full. The story-line is corny, and the plot holes are substantial yet all is forgiven because it's funny and it's cute. The feel-good factor is pumped right up and delivered upon. The final scene, in particular, is fabulous, with some foot tapping original songs and knock-out performances by the children. Audience members in the demographic the film is aimed at clapped as the credits rolled. A jovial ho ho ho was enjoyed even though a bah-humbug was anticipated.