The Fifth EstateAnthony Macali
The story of Wikileaks and its quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power.
Like the much maligned website, content is king in "The Fifth Estate". Behind every great idea is a great man, and the picture painted of Julian Assange is one of ego and narcissism. Surprisingly, the patchy back-stories of the characters aren't as interesting as the history of the famous site and its technical challenges. By favorably revisiting numerous articles of breaking news, the film successfully underscores the unprecedented impact of the organisation, disrupting everyone in their path minus the journalism they feed. A captivating, yet leaky, source.
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
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.
White House DownAndrew O'Dea
A policeman must save his child and protect the president from a group of paramilitary invaders.
Action junkies will be enthralled by this fist-pumping spectacle, a shameless popcorn flick that would have its audience believe the President of the USA is capable of firing rocket launchers from a speeding armoured-limousine. Some of the set-pieces are explosive, and while the special effects are impressive, they eventually become tiresome and repetitive. The lead is perfectly suited to his role as the action star, but isn't helped by moments of dialogue and patriotism so cringe-worthy that they become downright hilarious. Was it meant to be a comedy? White House frown.
Now You See MeAnne Murphy
An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.
"Now You See Me" is a dazzlingly stylish but silly movie. This sort of cat and mouse thriller is generally not known for its plausible plot and, holey-moley, this one stretches credulity to breaking point. Thank goodness for the likeable cast who seem to revel in the hocus-pocus. The production lacks some magic, partly because every trick that's conjured is also revealed - a bit of a letdown. Leaves nothing up its sleeve.
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother.
In a movie fraught with dichotomies, a mother and daughter vie for the attention mysterious uncle who is both sinister and smooth. The film is as stylish as the story is twisted. Unfortunately, the more macabre the plot becomes, the more predictable the next development is. The initially promising premise reveals itself as shallow. "Stoker" is visually stunning, almost gothic in style as is hinted at in the title, although the setting is modern day. Chilling but nothing preternatural.
The ConjuringAnthony Macali
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Rooted in the origins of a true case, "The Conjuring" is frightening. Largely set in an eerie country home, this story doesn't appear to bring anything new to the genre, but the execution is haunting. The tension slowly builds and the heart-rate jumps with each scare. Even with the lights on you don't feel safe. There are few moments of silliness, but they are lost in the shadowing score, and the many bumps and thumps that mark the return of the exorcism. The film is possessed.
A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.
"Snitch" seizes upon the value of a 'based on true events' premise and tells the story of an amiable father who throws himself into the most dangerous of situations. Trying to win the trust of shady drug lords isn't easy, creating an atmosphere loaded with suspense. It quickly becomes apparent that our wishful hero is out of his depth, and the film is successful enough in its character portrayals that we actually care. Each move may be predictable, but the ride is enjoyable enough. Dobbed in.
Olympus Has FallenAnthony Macali
The White House is ambushed by an army of terrorists and the Preisdent is taken hostage. A former guard leads the one-man rescue.
"Olympus Has Fallen" is a non-stop assault of guns and explosions, striking a close resemblance to video games. This B-Grade action revamp features the prototypical bad guys of North Korea, and a hero relishing the violence he's confronted with. Leading the charge to save the world, our patriotic general does not shy from the bloody onslaught or increasingly amusing 'one-liners'. If you can arrest the flaws and the lull at the half-way mark, you may find the ludicrous situation good fun. Stands up.
Side EffectsAnne Murphy
A woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.
Much like its characters, "Side Effects" is never in touch with reality, not that realism, per se, is necessary for a good movie. The misrepresentation of mental health problems and treatment is a little unforgivable though; an already marginalised population may be further stigmatised, and that's not entertainment. There are lots of twists and turns that build intrigue but somehow the story manages to become more preposterous with each plot revelation, and the suspension of disbelief is necessary for viewing enjoyment. Pharma meets psychodrama.
The PaperboyAnne Murphy
A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.
"The Paperboy" is a big, bold, and brash movie, with feint glimpses of beautiful. It's rare to see a US production laden with ironic social content, but there's barely an 'ism' untouched. This film goes all out, led by a cast who dare to go all the way, so don't say you weren't warned. It's the sixties and we're down South. During an unbearably steamy summer filled with the dark foreboding that lurks in the bayous, only one character grows up. Paperboy or iron man?
Zero Dark ThirtyAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful thriller that isn't driven by an ideology or political agenda. The film serves as a dramatised yet convincing chronicle about the hunt for the world's most wanted man, made all the more authentic by an exceptionally superb cast, leads and cameos alike. While it maintains momentum with an almost clinical focus, the tension builds to a riveting finale; and even though the ending might be a foregone conclusion, the night-time incursion where they "get their man" is as exhilarating and gripping as the complex story itself. A confirmed thrill.
Jack ReacherAndrew O'Dea
A homicide investigator delves into a case involving a trained sniper who shot five random victims.
"Jack Reacher" is an outlandish crime-drama hampered by a severe lack of originality and a false assuredness in its direction. Rather than maintaining an element of suspense, crucial twists and plot points are explained in painstaking detail, as the film builds to an anti-climax you wish arrived sooner. Along with gaping holes in the storyline that are just plain baffling, action sequences are boring and generic, and the dialogue clichéd to the point of being unintentionally laughable. Don't go reaching into your pocket for this cinematic mess.
Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.
The opening scene sets the tone for this sublime thriller where the tension is maintained amidst action sequences that are both stylish and gritty. While the scenery and cinematography are exhilarating, the beauty of "Skyfall" lies in its emotional depth and grim poignancy. Nods to the franchise origins are sophisticated and sincere, and the intelligent backstory of our beloved icon is underpinned by a polished script, taut direction and exquisite cast, all of whose interplay and on-screen chemistry mark this instalment as one of the best. Undoubtedly earns its licence to thrill.
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
"Argo" captures your attention from start to finish. If you're not familiar with the political context, don't stress, as the brilliant opening sequence will give you all the background you need. Once up to speed, you can fully appreciate the treacherous and volatile situation of the time, made even more unbelievable by its grounding in a true story. The ensemble cast is brilliant, doing their best to prolong the exciting suspense and tension throughout. The result is universally good. Ar, go watch it.