The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1Anthony Macali
In District 13, Katniss Everdeen works to a nation moved by her courage under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends.
Just as this franchise begins to catch fire, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is reduced to a slow-burn, which can only be attributed to its division into two separate films. World war has begun and the images are striking, but their emotive impact is lost when the characters continue to tread over the same ground... literally. The strength still lies in the ensemble cast, as their bravado resides over some of the more spectacular set pieces. It's less games, more politics.
With Earth on the brink of extinction, a group of space explorers search for a new habitat.
"Interstellar" is an unparalleled visceral experience. This epic feature hurtles by at the speed of light, its jolting emotional course riding the bumps of a family growing and living apart. We cannot help but marvel at the enigmatic and visual amazement of deep space, and the unforgettable adventure of traversing into a new galaxy. This film represents a commanding feat from its director, and demands big-screen cinematic attention to fully appreciate the illustrious detail and absorbing sound and score. Out of this world, out of this time.
The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
"Predestination" revels in the very paradoxes created in its story. The two characters at the centre are as intriguing as the subject matter, and their stories of the past make for a fascinating plot. Once swept away by the narrative, the 'time-travel' arc kicks in… and so does the confusion. It's difficult to make sense of it all upon first viewing, but time passes quickly, and the journey is enjoyable enough. Predestined to bemuse.
A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.
"Lucy" is a stylish action thriller replete with dizzying effects and splendid imagery. Ambitious in scope, the movie is held together by a fascinating premise and a superb performance from the lead. Unfortunately, for a film that explores the idea of human potential, it doesn't quite to live up to its own. Interesting without being entertaining, it loses credulity with a slew of logical plot gaps either glaringly convenient or simply left unexplained. Reaches 60% of its capacity.
Guardians of the GalaxyAndrew O'Dea
A group of misfits finds themselves the target of a manhunt after acquiring an all-powerful orb.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is utterly dazzling as a sci-fi spectacle, but its real strength lies in the charisma of its characters. The band of atypical yet weirdly loveable heroes at its core affirms the film's goofy and energetic nature, as it strikes a cosmic balance between rollicking action and humour. It also proves to be a musical treat, with the eclectic soundtrack providing a slew of classic songs to compliment the irreverent fun. Relive that feeling of being a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon with this awesome addition to the movie universe.
Dawn of the Planet of the ApesAndrew O'Dea
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is darker than its predecessor, replete with themes of politics, trust, betrayal and family. This brilliantly realised science-fiction movie is both smart and exciting in narrative and amazingly splendid in visual effects, with the on-screen simians appearing just as real as their human counterparts. No monkey business here, this film is an intelligent piece of popcorn entertainment. Movie strong. People enjoy.
Transformers: Age of ExtinctionAndrew O'Dea
A mechanic's family join the Autobots as they are targeted by a bounty hunter from another world.
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is a loud, effects-driven assault on intelligence. The film manages to stupefy what is already a dumbed-down formula with a bombardment of plot points so nonsensical they cause the audience to mind-numbingly dismiss them. Shameless and overt product placement underpin a monstrous running time that ensures the chaos gets real boring, really fast; the entire experience feels like a long-winded race to smash and destroy things from one location to the next. Here's hoping this tepid instalment signals the extinction of the franchise.
Edge of TomorrowAndrew O'Dea
An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race.
Funny, suspenseful and imaginative, "Edge of Tomorrow" plays like a smart and engaging video game. With brains to match the brawn, the film's repetitive premise never becomes predictable. Exhilarating action sequences are broken up by moments of dark humour, and tension is maintained thanks to deft pacing and an intelligent script. This captivating sci-fi adventure serves as a fine counter to the formulaic alien-invasion thrillers to which audiences have otherwise become accustomed. Good enough to revisit, and again.
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures threaten our very existence.
"Godzilla" is back bigger and better than ever. This reincarnation of the story does not lay dormant for very long, feeding nuclear fears and manifesting them in the grandest and most terrifying of creatures. The special effects are superb, with hellish production sets and gravitating action that will leave you in awe. However, this monster's greatest success is the decidedly human element, brilliantly capturing the universal threat and far-spanning emotional reactions of all characters involved. Let them fight.
As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fight the threat of artificial intelligence.
"Transcendence" is a story high in concept, but low on explanation. Despite the director's best efforts, it's difficult to succumb to the doomsday scenario dreamed up. Moving at a quantum-like pace, the film readily skips over the 'science' and settles on exploring the apprehension and awe of a supercomputer with a brain. While impressive in its infancy, the plot descends into all kinds of silliness and confusion towards the end. Makes less sense.
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased software.
Inquisitive, imaginative and intelligent, "Her" is a touching commentary about the modern realities of human connection. At the film's heart is a poignant relationship between a man and his operating system, but this is not a cautionary tale, rather an elegantly crafted and vulnerable story free of cynicism. The movie's charm lies in the way it will emotionally resonate so differently with different people, underpinned by an exquisite direction and brilliant performances. A wistful meditation about love, loss, and relationships in a rapidly advancing and technological world. She's a beauty.
The Hunger Games: Catching FireAnthony Macali
Katniss becomes a target of the Capitol after her victory in the Hunger Games sparks a rebellion.
The best thing about "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is you know there's going to be another games. Like the first installment, the anticipation and build-up to the event is as thrilling as the tournament itself. Be prepared for refreshing new costumes, players and sinister threats as our heroes unwillingly participate in a constant battle of determination and wit against their oppressors. While some of the character scenes are a little patchy, thematically the film remains a victor. The fire burns bright.
About TimeAnthony Macali
At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life.
"About Time" is one of those sweet romantic comedies designed for everybody to love, with the added gimmick of time-travel to keep the story moving forward. It's a plot device we've all seen before, but the charming set of characters allow a welcome and constant reminder to treasure every moment of our day-to-day lives. Despite the lack of originality, there's enough laughter and plenty of good-will to forgive the film for its obvious flaws. About life.
Two astronauts try to make it back to Earth after an accident leaves them stranded and adrift in space.
This is a triumph in film-making. It's a captivatingly visceral and immersive experience grounded by jaw dropping visual effects and sound design, complementing one of the most engaging stories of survival you will see. So much truth is given to every aspect of the journey, making it feel incredibly authentic and genuinely absorbing. "Gravity" is edge-of-your-seat drama and action that will remain with you long after the credits roll. A modern classic.
In the year 2154, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to a grossly polarised Earth.
"Elysium" is an absorbing sci-fi adventure loaded with allegory. Although the political overtones can be heavy-handed at times, it's always refreshing to view a movie where the guns and explosions are balanced by an intelligent and relevant social conscience.The production values are superb, and impressive visuals add weight to a succession of gritty action sequences full of gory violence and splatter. While the conclusion is a little predictable, the brisk pacing and intensity make this film about dystopian class division exciting and imaginative enough to entertain.
The World's EndAnthony Macali
Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival.
"The World's End" is a directors attempt to satisfy a sense of nostalgia, granting inspiration to this drunken comedy. The start is promising, an eclectic bunch of old friends reflecting on their lost youth, memories we can all relate to. The banter is quietly funny, and momentum builds with each humorously named pub until the whole quest descends into a science-fiction farce. It feels like lazy way to rescue a story that would otherwise run out of drink. Pub crawl come robot crawl? WTF.
Pacific RimAnthony Macali
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world.
"Pacific Rim" is the perfect suit for an audience with a penchant for large robots. On display is the most spectacular of heavy-machinery, brought to life with cutting edge special effects in gleaming detail. It's clear the monsters were as thoughtfully designed, repulsive creatures who appear as ominous threats, thanks in part to the small bunch of rag-tag humans who make us partially care. The film has a mission, and delivers exactly on what it sets out to do... Robots vs Monsters.
Man of SteelAndrew O'Dea
A young man is forced to confront his secret extra-terrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded.
Alongside a torrent of CGI explosions and mayhem, the director also brings an unexpected depth and sense of melancholy to the characters in "Man of Steel". Although diminished, there is still an undercurrent of purpose even though countless skyscrapers are toppled and smashed like jenga blocks. However, the greatest disappointment is that any exhilaration from the visual splendour wears thin as action sequences become excessively prolonged and repetitive. This rusty reboot is far from super, but hope remains in the foundation of a franchise with the potential to eventually soar.
After EarthAndrew O'Dea
A crash landing leaves Kitai and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape.
This ill-conceived film is an uninspiring, predictable story of survival. Poor acting isn't helped by wooden dialogue, nor the leading man's charisma being wasted in what is essentially a supporting role. The special effects are especially sub-par, which is particularly disappointing given dazzling visuals are often the most exhilarating and redeeming feature of sci-fi flicks. The best part about "After Earth" is finally making it to the 'after' part.
Star Trek Into DarknessAndrew O'Dea
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is engaging on a magnificent scale, bringing the flare and energy of its predecessor to screen. A cluster of high octane action sequences are set against the visual grandeur of other-worldly backdrops, all the while propelled by solid storytelling. The director has sewn this movie together with an almost clinical precision, and the entire cast play their roles with sublime conviction, in particular the chilling and malevolent villain at its core. Set phasers to awesome.
Iron Man 3Andrew O'Dea
When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
The third instalment of the "Iron Man" franchise once again welcomes the familiar fusion of humour and action. Although the pacing can feel uneven at times, almost as if cruising on auto-pilot, the film is held together by a clever script and the charisma of its leading man who entertains with trademark wit, quips and playboy antics. However, it's the shiny suit that is the star of the show, and it doesn't disappoint in a myriad of explosive CGI that reaches its peak in an epic finale. Proves its mettle.
A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
"Oblivion" is a dystopian thriller that plays like a mix-tape of science fiction flicks; borrowing heavily from like-minded genre films that came before it. For the most part, the movie is fairly engaging, and it's difficult not to appreciate the sweeping landscapes and polished production values that are matched to a pulsating soundtrack. Yet for all the visceral flair, it's a shame the story lacks the originality and tension to distinguish itself from being just another clone. Too obvious.
The HostAnthony Macali
An unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories.
"The Host" entertains an unusual mix of science-fiction and romance. The doomsday premise raises many questions, but the only one it attempts to answer, to much chagrin, is that of love. It presents a girl, and the ethereal being coexisting inside her head, falling for two different boys. It's a complicated situation that no amount of kissing can solve, and the bizarre scenario often draws unintentional laughs. Apart from this dilemma, the rest of the film is far from ground-breaking and largely uneventful. Every body wins.
Cloud AtlasAndrew O'Dea
An exploration how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future.
"Cloud Atlas" is a sprawling, thought-provoking film that explores the consequences of our actions, based upon the premise that the choices in one life will influence the next. The scope is epic; narratives are interwoven and re-visited as it spans the centuries and into the future, requiring an utmost attentiveness throughout. The sheer ambitiousness of this movie is sure to polarise. The audience will either be baffled and exasperated by such a layered and complex story, or thrilled by the mystery and profound emotional effect left on their philosophical compass.
Robot & FrankAndrew O'Dea
Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift: a robot butler programmed to look after him.
Both odd and intriguing, "Robot & Frank" is an intelligent, heartfelt meditation on aging and family. The familiar story may border on over-sentimentality at times, but an assured direction keeps it restrained, and the result is a quietly hilarious, quirky little film. Smart and sweet, its magnetism is driven by a brilliantly understated performance from the lead, whose on-screen chemistry with his robot companion provides much of the gentle humour and profound moments. There's nothing at all robotic about this one.