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.
Love, RosieAnthony Macali
Lifelong friends Rosie and Alex discover the challenges of staying in touch as they grow older, live apart and meet new people.
"Love, Rosie" is a glossy and predictable romantic comedy that forgoes personality. Despite the best efforts of the charming and gorgeous leads, we care very little for their fate. This is a film of close-up passionate kisses and beautiful sun rays gleaming through the background, interlaced with awkward and unrealistic comedy setups that draw restrained bouts of laughter. Many years pass, boredom sets in, and we're still left looking for something real. Lots of love, but no heart.
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 Best of MeJan Di Pietro
A pair of former high school sweethearts reunite after many years when they return to visit their small hometown.
There have been fine romance-dramas of a similar ilk to this film, but this one falls far short of the mark. You will not learn anything, you will not feel anything; no, scratch that... you might actually love it if you keep a stack of cheap romance novels on your bedside table. The story is unbelievable in a bad way, and the key narrative events can be sniffed a mile off. Sure to polarise audiences, "The Best Of Me" is not the best of cinema.
A battle-hardened sergeant commands his 5-man Sherman tank crew on a deadly mission.
As much an 'anti-war' as it is an action film, "Fury" depicts an uncompromising and morally provocative story immersed amongst the horrors and futility of WWII. Along with an astonishing attention to detail, there is also a starkly grim authenticity to the brutality of tank warfare; and it's amidst the claustrophobia we're able to get to know the characters so intimately. Visceral and violent, brutal and unrelenting, it leaves little room for sentimentality, culminating in an extraordinary combat scene sure to leave its audience reeling. Harrowing.
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
This Is Where I Leave YouJan Di Pietro
When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home.
Life isn't perfect, and the dramas and absurdities within it are manageable, so long as there is honesty and communication. "This is Where I Leave You" likens secrets to cancer, positing human beings as creatures who grow through obstacles. A noble message. This neatly wrapped package contains endearing characters who actively cancel out some expository excrement early on. Although the premise is poorly justified, it's a genuinely enjoyable story, living up to the comedy/drama promise. If we all had a portable potty to enjoy anytime, anywhere, things'd be just great.
Before I Go to SleepAnthony Macali
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
"Before I Go to Sleep" is more frightening than one might think. Living with amnesia is a damned reality, and the film vehemently captures the constant fear and mistrust our protagonist is feeling. With eerie photos and distressing video diaries, each daily cycle will keep the audience guessing, as strong performances from the cast pull in many different directions, mentally and emotionally, before descending into the darkness of the final act. Sweet dreams.
Gone GirlAnthony Macali
With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
"Gone Girl" is a compelling investigation into the fallout of a missing person... where nothing is what it seems to be. The extraordinary story plays out with a candid reality that elevates this thriller to a class above, with countless twists and turns that continually renew your interest during an extensive running time. Supported by great characters and an electrifying score, this chilling film will linger long after the case is closed. Masterstroke found.
The JudgeJan Di Pietro
A big city lawyer returns home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder.
"The Judge" provides genteel drama with textbook precision. It places the family unit and justice as the guiding institutions for society, suggesting that if Middle America's families are suffering, the world will come crumbling down. What we all need, apparently, is law to keep us "equal". There are funny, commendable performances, although they are stained by poor script and story, and it becomes frustrating to watch genuinely interesting characters held hostage to beige tasks. Raise your right hand… away from your wallet!
Dracula UntoldAndrew O'Dea
Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself.
"Dracula Untold" is an origin film that injects new blood into an otherwise tired subject. Taking the famous vampire back hundreds of years, there's a degree of thought to the back-story that is both obvious and refreshing. Although the screenplay is most definitely flawed, the trespasses into clichéd territory can easily be forgiven by an audience who will appreciate the charismatic lead and his frequent forays into the grim and gory. Doesn't suck.
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Crash, bang, creek... "Annabelle" is a pointless prequel. Not afraid to cash-in on the success of its predecessor, this film possesses no plot. Instead it relies on well-worn tricks to frighten the audience; exaggerated music, disheveled apparitions and the countless slamming of doors. Once the audience starts laughing at the glaringly obvious setups and lingering doll shots, you know there's a problem. Put her back in the cupboard.
The EqualizerJan Di Pietro
A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life, until he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters.
"The Equalizer" is rampant Hollywood patriotism. It's vengeance in the name of justice, and an unashamed reaffirmation of the American dream. However, the characters are memorable, and the direction is slick. Highlights include enthralling scene work and highly creative gore. The film thrills and stirs passion, but you might puke red, white and blue afterwards.
The Inbetweeners 2Andrew O'Dea
Neil, Will and Simon receive an invite from Jay to join him in Australia whilst on his gap year, who promises them it's "the sex capital of the world".
"The Inbetweeners 2" reunites its audience with the foul mouthed, awkward quartet in this relentless procession of puerile comedy. Those expecting anything even remotely more than lowbrow humour and excrement gags will be sorely disappointed. Shock value is at the forefront of what is an otherwise flimsy film, with some truly cringe-worthy set pieces providing moments of genuinely uproarious laughter. Well-good banter.
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.
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.
Deliver Us from EvilAnthony Macali
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rites of exorcism.
"Deliver Us from Evil" is a bizarre crime thriller where the victims are 'possessed'. For most part, the police investigation at its core plays out rather conventionally, affirming the real world setting and origins. Gradually evil and scares creep in, usually in very dark rooms, accompanied by very large bangs. Even with the terrifying gore-extravagant finale, bouts of surprising humour break up the overwhelming moments of occult. Delivers on its promise.
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.
22 Jump StreetAndrew O'Dea
After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
"22 Jump Street" is one of those rare sequels that meets expectations and perhaps even improves upon its predecessor. This satirical comedy is preposterous in the best possible way, and the effortless chemistry between the leads keeps their bromance constantly amusing and often hilarious. The self-referential humour is both senselessly silly and witty, making fun of its own recycled nature – be sure to stick around for the end credits. Bring on the jump to 23.
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 Two Faces of JanuaryAnne Murphy
A thriller centred on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer.
A drama that unfolds while holidaying in the Mediterranean, this sophisticated thriller delivers on tension and keeps you guessing about the plot. Apparently everyone has two faces and a cool linen suit, but there's nothing too high-tech or fantastic; it is all credible and the elements combine to seduce. The absence of gimmicks means you can imagine yourself in right the picture. Bring on the rest of the year.
After a bad blind date, a man and woman find themselves stuck together at a resort for families, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship.
Towards the end of its running time, this movie goes all out to deliver on the feel-good front. Wait for it and you'll leave the cinema smiling. All of the vulgarities fade, and the sexism and racism the audience has endured gets airbrushed away with lovey-fuzzy-happy. Is it worth it? Unless you need a serotonin boost skip this movie, and go out to lunch, sans family. Blended? More like mashed.
Grace of MonacoAnne Murphy
The story Grace Kelly's crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco and France, and a looming invasion of Monaco.
We're informed that this is a fictitious account of real events and it's impossible to discern what's real and what's not. It's an intriguing story that might have worked better as complete fiction. The princess is acted with beauty and grace, pardon the pun, but there are an annoying number of full screen close-ups of her countenance. If the camera is looking for warts shouldn't it focus on a frog or the prince? Airy-fairytale.
X-Men: Days of Future PastAndrew O'Dea
The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is a coherent, plot-driven action film. The visual effects are stunning in this accomplished mutant showcase, complete with monumental set pieces and superb ensemble cast. The compelling narrative holds enough appeal to entertain both the average cinema-goer and comic book geek alike, and thanks to a clever script, allows this rebooted franchise to undo and rewrite the failings of its predecessors. The future is bright.