The DUFFJan Di Pietro
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labelled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier more popular friends.
This film is the epitome of pop culture: there are social media gags left, right and center. There are times when the story feels like one long advertisement for the film's fad catch phrase, 'duff', but it warms on you, and becomes genuinely funny thanks to enjoyable performances and clever script work. Don't expect art, but this could be a defining film for young spectators. Bring your "DUFF" to this one.
Fast and Furious 7Anthony Macali
Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother.
"Fast and Furious 7" is completely ridiculous. To expect anything different, especially after seven installments, would make you as absurd as this film. This movie is pure vehicular mayhem, and despite the preposterous nature of the stunts and story, is also surprisingly and unavoidably fun. Jet-setting from one major set-piece to the next, the action sequences smash the boundaries of thrills and frivolity. All your favourite characters are back, saving the world in style and charming the audience with the unexplained abundance of cars at their disposal. If only cars could fly.
Get HardStefan Sgarioto
When an Banker is wrongfully convicted for fraud, he enlists the help of the man who washes his car.
"Get Hard" is exactly what you'd expect it to be: stupidly nonsensical and immature. With repetitive jokes about prison rape, ethnic minorities, class status and homosexuality the focal point, this film is borderline offensive, occasionally funny, but ultimately wears itself too thin. The progression of story is also stunted significantly due to how much time is devoted to the antics of a makeshift prison. The idea of an actual narrative almost seems a second thought. By no means a side splitter, but not entirely void of the occasional laugh either - perhaps I'm just getting soft.
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.
Top FiveAnne Murphy
A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.
The phrases 'intermittently funny', 'crass' and 'predictable' are all that's needed to sum up "Top Five" and then words fail. If only words had failed the writer, director, and lead actor.
Following the events of Divergent, Tris continues her fight against the elite leaders of post-apocalyptic Chicago.
"Insurgent" struggles to deliver the same energy and emotion as its other young adult adapted counterparts; due in part to its convoluted premise, wooden characters and a lack of story progression. In the end, it all just seems rather pointless and predictable. Whilst the film is polished nicely with a hip visual style and stunning action sequences, it's all a ruse to hide what is a rather bland interior. If you're craving another dystopian teenage rebellion, stay hungry a little longer.
Still AliceAnne Murphy
A linguistics professor and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.
For all of its compassion and sensitivity "Still Alice" is, in part, a horror story. Anyone who has experienced the deterioration of somebody close with any form of dementia will recognise this woman’s descent into confusion and the possibility that the same could happen to any of us. It is a heartbreaking tale to watch, thanks to the talented cast who make each scene believable, and of course there is no chance of a happy ending. Still only a shell of Alice.
A one-time police droid becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
"Chappie" is full of intriguing ideas, but perhaps its greatest feat lies in the sense of empathy we feel for a sentient robot we know very well not to be human. The interaction between the title character and exaggerated personas of his gangster co-stars is seamless and feels absolutely genuine. Ultra-violent choreography and stunning visual effects underpin whimsical and heartfelt moments of humour. If you can forgive the flimsy narrative and embrace its sentimental intentions, this film remains an entertaining sci-fi romp. Happy Chappie.
Unfinished BusinessThomas Jones
A hard-working small business owner and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives.
"Unfinished Business" is full of hot air. The suits, the briefcase full of papers, and the 'figures' they keep talking about are all part of a charade, for what is essentially a sketch comedy show full of dick, boob, and sex jokes. It's about as satisfying as bocconcini, which for those who are allergic to dairy, are little mouthfuls of nothing. The humour will appeal to the lowest common denominator, so if you have a brain maybe take your business elsewhere.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelAnthony Macali
Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" recycles the formula of its first incarnation, and succeeds once again thanks to the vigour and humour of its cast. While the plot in this edition is not particularly grand, the beloved elderly troupe carry the drama through the colourful and gleaming streets of India, notwithstanding the addition of a few fresh faces, whose introduction could be considered the only distinction from the first film. Same cup of tea, lots of sugar.
Seventh SonAndrew O'Dea
Young Thomas is apprenticed to the local Spook to learn to fight evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away.
"Seventh Son" is an over-produced and under-conceived fantasy epic full of swordplay, sorcery and snores. Despite an impressive set design and visuals, the slick CGI isn't enough to compensate for a predictable narrative that fails to produce any semblance of originality or imagination, as the talents of a promising cast are wasted amongst a barrage of animated monsters, explosions and some downright perplexing accents. Son of a dud.
In the midst of a con's latest scheme, a woman from his past shows up throwing his plans for a loop.
"Focus" is a glossy, fairly well-executed con story. Tension builds in a series of twists the audience won't see coming, typically key to a successful thriller. Unfortunately the sheer volume of turns in this film mean they tend to lose their impact with each new revelation. Moments of crude humour are used effectively, and there's a host of likeable characters that help distract us from an uneven plot. Never boring but not all that engaging, it's more cubic-zirconia than diamond: shiny and a little contrived... but otherwise enjoyable.
Fifty Shades of GreyAnthony Macali
Literature student Anastasia's life changes forever when she meets handsome billionaire Christian.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" is a story about the allure of wealth, and bizarre sexual contractual agreements that arise from 'dating' a wealthy man. An introduction to these politics from our two leads is assuredly the most interesting part of the film. Unfortunately the rest is a bitter disappointment, dominated by a tiring and flirtatious game of to-and-fro, a precursor to the passionless and sanitised sex that follows. Attractive leads, inadvertent laughs and very little to love. Don't submit to boredom.
The GamblerAndrew O'Dea
A lit professor and gambler's debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark.
"The Gambler" is a tale of personal redemption and the moral muddiness of gambling. Unfortunately it's difficult for an audience to sympathise with a pretentious protagonist bent on self-destruction, throwing money against the wall while failing to garner any semblance of a lesson from the experience. Despite a host of terrific performances from the supporting cast, the story feels a little over-wrought, as it meanders to a point where we end up not caring enough to be invested in the tormented anti-hero's fate. Got to know when to fold em'...
Jupiter AscendingAnthony Macali
Jupiter's boring and destitute life of house cleaning changes when Caine, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down.
"Jupiter Ascending" shoots for the stars and falls flat on its face, relying on worn conventions and hopeless romanticism to propel its story. There's no question the visuals are amazing; a galaxy of brightly coloured planets, outrageous outfits, and finely detailed mazes and structures. Once the exposition finally kicks in, the back-story is a little more interesting, but also quickly forgotten, as we query some of the more gaping aspects of the plot. Box-office descending.
Dumb and Dumber ToAnthony Macali
20 years since their first adventure, Lloyd and Harry go on a road trip to find Harry's newly discovered daughter.
"Dumb and Dumber To" is one of those sequels that sadly sours your experience of watching the first instalment. Revisiting the characters 20 years on was always a dangerous proposition, and this agonising journey does very little to validate the idea. A large number of the jokes are mere imitations of their first incarnations, and anything else that is somewhat original is generally pretty poor. For most part, the film trudges along before grinding to an inevitable halt. Just dumb.
After her marriage crumbles and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed tries to put her past behind her and hikes more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, alone.
"Wild" brings an uplifting memoir about seeking redemption through physical challenges from the page to the screen, and is true to original text. While managing to traverse a full gamut of emotion, there are funny and even uplifting moments. It’s impossible to say if it is the walker or the rugged walk that most impresses, and even harder to resist the urge to pull on your hiking boots. Wild thing might make your heart sing.
The InterviewAnthony Macali
Dave Skylark, host of the celebrity tabloid show "Skylark Tonight" lands an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
"The Interview" has a few funny segments, but will struggle to capture your attention for the life of the film. The 'Skylark' character is a great one, and his gaudy and obnoxious behaviour provides some unique entertainment. Problems arise when they eventually land in the People's Democratic Republic and they're not exactly sure what to do with the supreme leader, resulting in a number of lame cultural references that fail to gain applause. Slightly controversial, even less laughter.
Taken 3Andrew O'Dea
Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed.
Action junkies will find "Taken 3" enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way, while the rest of its audience must be prepared to switch their brains off. Bordering on tedious, this film plays out like a family melodrama interspersed with car chases and fight scenes. Thankfully there's some semblance of a cohesive plot, despite holes in it gaping enough to drive an aircraft through, before flipping it end-on-end and exploding in a fiery spectacle. Let's hope the film lives up to its tagline and "ends here". Taken the piss...
The Theory of EverythingAnthony Macali
A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
"The Theory of Everything" is an inspiring look into the great physicist, focusing on his endeavour rather than his achievement. With great heart and warmth, and minimal mention of science, we see a man confronted with a terrible condition and the inescapable effects on his relationship. Together with his equally resilient wife, they battle each obstacle and embrace it with good humour. The central performances are seamless, and as remarkable as they are, thankfully do not distract from the story considering the subject. The theory is sound.
American SniperAnthony Macali
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history.
"American Sniper" is the story of a war veteran and his ongoing conflict with the before and after effects of his ceaseless tours of duty. The action is fierce as the camera lies beside the sharp-shooter. You can almost feel the long, cold gun in your very own hands, unwittingly raising questions about the necessity of all the brutality. Unrelenting short scenes fuel the adrenalin and thrill of combat, astutely contrasting against the quiet and aimless life back home. American hero.
After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy.
"Unbroken" is a prisoner of war drama that shows the limits of how many beatings a single person can take. The camera is placed firmly in the thick of the action and lets the remarkable true story do the heavy-lifting, revealing an incredible, resilient man and his ever-constant fight for survival. Unsurprisingly, this film encompasses all the inspirational quotes accustomed to the genre, but thankfully these clichés don't overshadow the impact. Unrelenting.
A fading actor tries to reclaim his past glory by starting a Broadway play.
"Birdman" is a remarkable movie. Its a continuously moving story in narrative, emotion, and camera-work. It feels like one unbroken scene, pieced together with a seemingly single shot. We're situated more like an observer than an audience, peering over shoulders and watching a man's life falling apart piece by piece. More European in style than American, it's still intangibly Hollywood. The highlight is the performances, you can't walk away without remembering them. It's all really unique, almost a little absurdist at times, but definitely worth your time. High in the pecking order.
The Imitation GameAndrew O'Dea
During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code.
Part history lesson, part tragedy, "The Imitation Game" is a compelling biopic. This suspenseful drama reveals pieces of the puzzle slow and steady, with flashes of brilliance that unfortunately aren't sustained throughout. Nonetheless, with a constantly shifting chronology, it brings the remarkable legacy of the troubled mathematical genius to screen in an affecting portrait. The lead provides a sensitive portrayal in what is an empathy-stirring performance, outstanding in its awkwardness. An enigmatic man, cryptic and clever.
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.