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.
Fright NightCourtney Slevison
A teenager suspects that his new neighbour is a vampire.
The 'teenage vampire flick' has become a cinema epidemic, and "Fright Night" wastes no time in slotting itself right into the sexy/comedy/horror genre. Neither funny nor scary enough to hold its own, this latest addition feels like a clumsy mash-up of movies we have all seen before and is therefore predictable, soulless and unengaging. For some, it may be an enjoyable enough way to spend a couple of hours, but ultimately this one is frightfully forgettable.
A group of zoo animals decide to break their code of silence in order to help their lovable zoo keeper find love.
There are two incompatible angles in "Zookeeper": romance and talking animals. The largely unfunny romantic thread might appeal to adolescents, but it's unlikely to ignite much interest in a family-fun setting. The zoo animal antics could amuse young audiences if they talked about something other than how to attract a mate; conversations that probably won't resonate with kids. If only these beasts had decent script writers... what's said in the zoo should stay in the zoo.
15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
There is an underlying idealism and sentimentality to "Submarine" that is tenderly masked by moments of genuine hilarity. Just like sonar, you can't see it, but you can feel it there. The humour is oddball and quirky, but never to the point where it's self-aware. With a soundtrack that is simply sublime, and whimsical visuals to match, this is a stylish and funny story told with great affinity by a clearly talented first-time director. Submarine down. Periscopes, emotion, and laughter up.
One DayAndrew O'Dea
After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives.
"One Day" represents a promising move away from the fabricated, sickly modern trend of most romantic dramas. This movie poignantly captures the complexity of relationships and the way lives meander and inextricably change, bolstered by the terrific on-screen chemistry of our two leads. We enjoy the way they generate humour and warmth in the same way we appreciate how the film explores themes of love and loss. Whatever happens tomorrow, you'll always have today.
Horrible BossesAnthony Macali
Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness.
"Horrible Bosses" does have some funny moments, but you would know that if you saw the trailer. Unfortunately the feature doesn't breed anything new, struggling to stretch its thin plot based on a wicked daydream. Ridiculous situations ensue and our heroes grow less likeable and more smug. Each skit draws in its fair share of laughs, but you remain wary of such a slick production and notable cast, and can't help from feeling both are a little wasted. A comedy (and film) of errors.
A priest disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.
"Priest" makes the most of its short running time to deliver what is, in the end, a sleek action flick. Sure, there are clichés aplenty and the dialogue may cause you to wane at times, but it's all offset by some seriously stylish action sequences. What else could you honestly expect from a film where the hero flings ninja-stars in the shape of a crucifix? Although lacking in originality and littered with flaws, the target demographic will nonetheless be more than satisfied by this perfectly acceptable vehicle of vampire-slaying. Say 'Three Hail Marys' for enjoying this guilty pleasure.
Conan the BarbarianAndrew O'Dea
The tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.
"Conan the Barbarian" is a spectacle without substance. Produced on a large scale, the set design and fight sequences are initially impressive, replete with gruesome, blood-spattering violence. Most disappointing though, is that ultimately the film becomes repetitive and tiresome. Amplified by the lack of any characterisation at all, the audience soon discovers there's no backbone to the bone-crushing... and the most barbaric thing is the fact you have to pay the cost of admission.
Jane EyreAnne Murphy
A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
A film adaption of a literary classic is rarely considered as good the book but this one is superb. "Jane Eyre" is likely to captivate all, including the most avid readers among us. This effort is well cast, capturing a perfect balance of brooding passion and guarded vulnerability. The cinematography captures a gothic austerity on the screen that reflects the social confines and well mannered restraint of the times, balanced by a landscape of moody spellbinding moors. Passionate plain Jane.
Green LanternWendy Slevison
A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.
This movie adaptation of the comic-book superhero is a blast. There's a lot packed in, but it's easy for a novice to pick up the story and enjoy the ride. Fantastic CGI and special effects are balanced by the charming, slightly swaggering characterisation of our very human hero. Before he can save the world, he has to learn to face his own fears, a big task for this trainee Lantern who has spent his life shirking responsibility. Obey the green light and go see it!
Cowboys & AliensAnthony Macali
A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region.
"Cowboys and Aliens" really is as stupid as the title suggests. What begins promisingly as a well-grounded western with a barely acceptable premise, slowly turns to farcical romp. It seems the 'aliens' are reduced to a basic condiment, simply added as a side dish, or a spice, in an otherwise very bland story. Sure, it's probably the only chance you'll get to see an extraterrestrial get hog-tied, but that's no excuse for a film where the characters and audience share a single plight… as mere victims of gold-digging.
The BeaverAnthony Macali
A troubled husband and executive adopts a hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
"The Beaver" is really funny and really sad, chipping away at a frenetic pace. The puppet is strangely hypnotic, with an accent and antics that produce most of the laughs in a performance clearly indebted to his master. We're soon reminded the situation is quite serious, and that some outlets often serve as rather unorthodox modes of therapy. While the audience might have the required patience for such, the characters do not. The son wrestles with issues of his own, pressing a sub-plot that doesn't quite work. On the whole though, this outfit is short, shrewd and deeply moving.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.
Red DogWendy Slevison
Based on the true story of Red Dog, who united an outback community while in search of his master.
Watching this movie feels a bit like sitting around a camp fire listening to your mates tell a darn good yarn. It's a quintessentially Aussie experience with wonderfully personal characterisations and a truly incredible story. The first-class cinematography brings the mining area of Western Australia gloriously to life in a visual feast of red and turquoise. The human actors do a fine job of portraying the mateship that forms in the small mining towns, but of course the dog steals every scene he's in - what a talented boy! A blue ribbon for "Red Dog".
The EagleAndrew O'Dea
In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father's memory by finding his lost legion's golden emblem.
Full of action-adventure appeal, "The Eagle" is a completely serviceable movie for those who like films with swords n' sandals. Based on the famously lost Ninth Legion of Rome, the plot is erratic, but is carried by actors who surprisingly acquit themselves with a good deal of restraint in delivering likeable characters. Although it may all feel a little too familiar, it's supported by some splendid cinematography that makes for an enjoyable enough story. It might not soar, but it definitely flies.
Captain America: The First AvengerAndrew O'Dea
Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America.
The 1940's are faithfully re-created in this stand-alone origin story, with a superb production design that creates a welcoming and often humourous vibe. It reverberates though the entire film and provides the perfect platform for some good ole' fashioned entertainment. "Captain America" provides all the action, adventure and visual thrills one would expect from a superhero story, along with brilliant characterisations from both heroes and villains alike. The target audience is sure to leave the cinema satisfied... the man in red, white and blue won't let you down.
Big Mamma's BoyAnthony Macali
Rocco struggles to choose between the love of his life and his doting, over-protective Italian mother.
"Big Mamma's Boy" is an admirable attempt at cross-culture comedy, though its appeal outside the uniquely Italian and Australian community is always in doubt. Fast-paced dialect is slowed down and accents are accentuated as the humour reaching for that wider 'family-friendly' audience, but the result "no taste so good". The suburbs of Melbourne are a welcome backdrop, but too many jokes miss the mark when you to try to please everybody. Some ham-full acting and haphazard skits make the film as patchy as a lasagne. A lot to love, though more could have been left at home.
A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.
"Hanna" is a film that will divide action fans. Some will appreciate that this isn't your conventional assassin flick, as it straddles the line between art-house and mainstream cinema. Others will lament the lack of action as it takes the time to explore themes of family and coming-of-age. Although the fight and chase sequences might be sparse, they are each technically captivating, and enhanced by a brilliantly pulsating, almost hypnotic soundtrack. Surreal and wayward, but still hits the mark.
Bad TeacherWendy Slevison
A foul-mouthed junior high teacher sets her sights on a rich colleague instead.
This is a movie that starts out at full throttle, and from there, finds it hard to maintain momentum. Despite trying so hard to be outrageous with its brazen, juvenile comedy, "Bad Teacher" is ultimately not terribly funny. The jokes are just too obvious; there is no subtlety or nuance. Everything is in your face. The cast, in particular the leading lady, work (too) hard with mediocre material that lacks wit and warmth. You don't care about what happens to these 'teachers' - and you definitely don't want to waste an apple on any of them.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Anthony Macali
Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest of finding the Dark Lord's three remaining Horcruxes.
From dark, to darker, to pure black, the final installment does not disappoint. The excruciating build-up of Part 1 is justified in this fast-paced climax, high in tension and full of magic, action and spells that shape a siege for the ages. Every wizard is witness to the ultimate assault of good and evil, characters fighting their destinies, confronting love, life and death. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is sombre in mood but not in nature, producing an impressive finale to a much-loved epic.
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
Transformers: Dark of the MoonCourtney Slevison
The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets.
This film is made for fans of the franchise, and for that purpose it's a great movie. Of course, others may be dismayed by the predictable storyline and cheesy dialogue. The special effects are outstanding, especially in 3D, and the epic action sequences will conjure enough excitement to satisfy the wide-eyed little kid in all of us. "Transformers 3" ultimately works because it's able to keep the story grounded enough in reality to make you think that it could almost be real… almost.
Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
Cars 2Anthony Macali
Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.
It takes time adjusting to a parallel world of talking planes, trains and automobiles. Once "Cars 2" hits its rhythm, this clever adaptation of the most famous spy franchise of all time will appeal to all ages. Our favourite characters are back, with laughs (and lessons) coming from the most unlikely of heroes in the simple-minded Mater, whose case of mistaken identity drives most of the laughter. While the film is probably one leg too long, it does allow for some more time to enjoy the cultural joking and the iconic cities recreated and polished in beautiful digi-colour. Can't lose this race.
Picked as her best friend's maid of honor, lovelorn and broke Annie looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.
Although "Bridesmaids" may target a female demographic, it is definitely not your typical 'chick flick'. The film is both intelligent and ridiculous, but most notably it's also dexterously funny - there's enough raw comedy that will elicit some serious laughter from the boys and girls alike. The lead actress shines in her role along with a cast of characters who are clearly having fun in their assault on convention, gentility and good taste. Always the bride...