A young jazz drummer, inspired by the tutelage of his psychotic teacher, does whatever it takes to be the best.
"Whiplash" is exceptional... with all its encompassing blood, sweat and tears. No musical background is required, as this brilliantly determined film will completely absorb you with commanding performances, enchanting rhythm and rapid editing. The story is a strong is a character piece, with the spotlight shining on the obsessive culture and lengths some of the orchestra members go to better their skills, expertly captured in the films contained and manic style. Just the right tempo.
Straight Outta ComptonAnthony Macali
The story of hip-hop group NWA, who grew up on the streets of LA and revolutionized rap music.
"Straight Outer Compton" is a rags to riches story with a unique hip-hop twist. This fascinating portrayal chronicles the lifetime of NWA, and looks at the blatant racism, which inspired some of their music. The cast is remarkable, eliciting genuine empathy and support in their quest to simply produce dope beats. While the film might lose its way towards the end, unsure which character's story to narrow its gaze, it doesn't affect the overall entertainment and charisma. Straight Outer History.
We Are Your FriendsAnthony Macali
An aspiring DJ sets out to produce that one special track to mark his name and launch his career.
"We Are Your Friends" offers a little plastic sachet of party life. While it doesn't shy from the unavoidable sex and drugs associated with the scene, it does ultimately settle on a story about the music. With an acute focus on electronic dance music, this film explores the ambition of youth and the art of the deejay. In one particularly joyful sequence, we are treated to a lesson in syncing rhythm and beats to the human heart. The themes might not appeal to all, but it's certainly throwaway fun. A mashup of ideas.
Love & MercyAnne Murphy
In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis.
"Love and Mercy" delivers plenty of good vibrations, relationship fluctuations, and the odd drug induced hallucination and a subsequent oversupply of medications. The story behind the talent of the fresh faced band is riveting. Most impressive is the depiction of the creative process, it's not easy to show how songs are imagined brought to life. The performances are brilliant, even with the challenge of two different actors playing the younger and older versions of the central character. Surf's down and up.
A documentary on the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
It is hard not to be curious about Amy Winehouse and her demise, but you can't help but feel a sense of irony watching this compelling portrait of a talent who didn't come to terms with fame. Does the doomed singer's story on the big screen subject her to even more public scrutiny? Film footage, drawn from public archives and family sources, is used to create an intimate and affecting story of a woman for whom love was a losing game.
Pitch Perfect 2Anthony Macali
In a bid to overturn their recent suspension, The Barden Bellas compete in the A Capella World Championships, where they meet their international rival Das Sound Machine.
"Pitch Perfect 2" will find it hard to rival the success of its first outing, but there are still plenty of witty jokes, crude slapstick and politically incorrect commentary to delight audiences. The weakest part of this sequel is the story, which invests more in the laughs, than the drama. While the strength of the original cast is bolstered by fresh additions, the film ultimately lacks the rhythm and catchy tunes of the predecessor. Corny, forgettable, yet still very funny. Das good.
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.
The Broken Circle BreakdownStefan Bugryn
A pair of musicians have their love put to the test when tragedy strikes their family.
This is an emotionally dynamic and musically outstanding film that only comes around every so often. What stands out most, and what you will stick with you the longest, is the stirring soundtrack, which creates a beautiful dream-scape that perfectly embodies the moving storyline. It is a tragic journey that will warm your heart, and break it at the same time; a great depiction of the bohemian spirit, and a bold study of modern beliefs. Close to being a masterpiece that should be viewed by all audiences. Nothing broken here.
Elspeth Dickens is stuck in an isolated farmhouse with her twin toddlers when a web-cam becomes her pathway to fame and fortune, but at a price.
It's faint praise to say that "Goddess" is a pleasant enough movie. The title suggests heavenly heights might be achieved but it is rooted in ordinariness. While this Australian production is not bad, it disappoints by not being fabulous either. It bounces around with a slightly annoying level of frivolity, finding form as a light and bright escapist production that never quite clicks into gear. Humdrum benign Mum.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Pitch PerfectAnthony Macali
Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group.
"Pitch Perfect" is camp as hell, and a lot of fun. The a capella renditions are surprisingly entertaining, taking some of our favourite songs and lending them a new voice. Our performers are largely a group of misfits, an eclectic and dynamic bunch of girls who dance and step to a great amount of llaughter and conflict. Wittingly tongue-in-cheek, this film is bound to appeal to those fond of music and singing. Destined for stardom.
Searching for Sugar ManAnne Murphy
Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest '70s rock icon who never was.
This well constructed documentary tells of a search for the artist who was largely unknown where he lived in the USA. The story of a humble man and his music is an almost mythic tale, set to an uplifting original beat. Anyone who owned a Rodriguez album in the 1970's probably wore out the vinyl grooves playing the record again and again. Almost better than the memorable lyrics is this astounding story of the man behind them. "Sugar man you're the answer…".
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
Katy Perry: Part of MeWendy Slevison
A documentary that chronicles Katy Perry's life on and off-stage, following her journey from childhood to one of the world's most popular female singers.
"Katy Perry - Part of Me" has lots of music and concert tour footage, which will certainly appeal to fans. Yet there are also many humorous and heart-rending insights into Katy the daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend and wife that add a very personal aspect to the documentary format. When the sudden trajectory of her career takes its toll on her personal life, Katy’s pain and anguish is palpable, and unpretentiously shared with her audience. Katy Perry is only part "Pop Princess".
Rock of AgesAnthony Macali
A small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.
Such is the affection for "Rock of Ages", it would remain a hit if they simply played the songs from the musical. The film-makers don't stray too far from this formula, changing parts with varying success. Hard-core rocker Stacie Jaxx gets the juiciest part, his outrageous lifestyle stealing the show and leaving a nasty hangover for the rest of the entourage. Surely the other characters deserve more attention, even if their versions of the classics barely entertain. The dance routines are splendid, but the final celebration never reaches a climax. Buy a ticket, don't expect a memorable performance.
Sympathy for the DevilAnne Murphy
Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil uses both documentary and staged sequences, alternating between an inside look at a rock band's recording process and reflections on politics.
Watching "Sympathy for the Devil" is like opening a time capsule and being transported back to 1968. The viewing is patchy as the camera moves from a recording studio to a yard of car wrecks. The Rolling Stones reveal themselves as incredibly professional as they create their magic, a stark comparison to the intellectualising revolutionaries who become quite tedious to watch. Back in those days, even Jagger didn't move like Jagger, but he was compelling musician.
StreetDance 2Wendy Slevison
After suffering humiliation by the crew Invincible, a street dancer looks to gather the best dancers from around the world for a rematch.
If the numbers in the title of this film cause a little uncertainty, listen to that feeling, and save your money. Actually, to call this a "film" is being quite generous - it's really just a succession of dance sequences. The dancing is very good, but that's it. The plodding, formulaic plot is like an afterthought, and the dancers are appalling actors anyway. Cheap, clumsy 3D effects do nothing to enhance what is essentially a rehash of all the other dance movies of recent times. Sit this one out.
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...
City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, but his rebellious spirit shakes the town up and he sets out to have the rules abolished.
This remake of the classic is bound to have its sceptics, both those who are fans of the original, as well as those who had no interest in it the first time around. All cynicism will be pushed aside however, as this film is simply too fun to not enjoy. The two young leads carry the movie with an authenticity that lifts it from the cheesy mess it could have been, and the impressive choreography gives "Footloose" an exuberance that will have you dancing in the aisles.
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.
A junior high school musical, about a frizzy-haired, hermaphrodite, an outcast who fights back.
The main character is called Spork, after an implement that's part spoon and part fork. The name provides a hint about the style of movie this is, where life is played out in an exaggerated comic book style. "Spork" is fun, a singing and dancing movie populated with a likable collection of quirky friends surrounding the central misfit. The movie's theme is one of self-acceptance over fitting in with any group, all realised through a satisfying, if nasty, battle between the outcasts and the mainstream. Put a spork in it.
Bus PalladiumAnne Murphy
It's the 80's and the boys have formed a band, now all they need is the big time.
Five childhood friends form a rock band as young men, put them on a tour bus, and we're watching the movie equivalent of rock 'n' roll heaven. The stereotypical band members are troubled by nothing more than the usual sex and drugs and making music together, their travails accompanied by an authentic soundtrack that recreates the feel of the era. The boys are as likable as "Bus Palladium" is enjoyable. Get a ticket and get on the bus.
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.
I'm Still HereAnne Murphy
A documentary on Joaquin Phoenix's transition from the acting world to a career as an aspiring rapper.
A documentary that gives the both the subject and the director writing credits, is perhaps not a documentary. "I'm Still Here" is as audacious as it is reckless, or perhaps a better description for the film and its star is wrecked. We see an actor seemingly discard his script and don his vulnerability, wearing it on the outside, unkempt and tormented. The Hollywood industry laughs and so does the public, at a stumbling mumbling freak. The point, no doubt, is to see who has the last laugh.
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.