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.
Gangster SquadAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s.
"Gangster Squad" investigates a time when the most effective way to combat violence was with more violence. The characters are menacing and hard-edged, although this strangely conflicts with the polished look of the film, clearly used to instil a sense of nostalgia for the era. The production is a little too clean and manufactured for the subject matter, robbing the story of the momentous and emotional impact it could have achieved. A talented squad do their best, and excite for the most part, but fail to captivate overall. Plastic gangsters.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
Wreck-It RalphAndrew O'Dea
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
"Wreck-It Ralph" brings classic arcade games to life through a wildly fun and exciting premise. It's just a shame the brilliant concept doesn't quite live up to its potential. Although the animation is superb, it eventually runs out of tokens, winding up as a simple 8-bit film that gives preference to visuals over heart. You won't be disappointed by the brilliant animated-short that precedes it, but unfortunately the main event is only mildly entertaining at best. Game over.
A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
"ParaNorman" has an admirable vision; introducing a younger audience to the world of horror. From the outset, the slightly warped aesthetics grab your attention, signalling an animation far from normal. There are plenty of ghouls, but they are a small distraction. At its core, the story is about a kid fighting his fears and the bullies at school. It's a touching experience and one with welcome bouts of humour. Inspiring a generation to battle their demons, this film is alive and well.
Life of PiAnthony Macali
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
"Life of Pi" charts an amazing story of survival, feats of courage and countless horizons. There are plenty of opportunities to gaze at majestic visuals, from exotic animals to the colours of the sea, enriched with dream-like sequences that grant the freedom to push the artistic boundaries, 3D and all. The film's biggest struggle is the amount of time spent on a life-boat, reaching a point to drive its audience sea-sick. A far from thrilling, yet nonetheless beautiful adventure.
Liberal ArtsAnthony Macali
When 30-something Jesse returns to college for a professor's retirement party, he meets Zibby, a young student.
"Liberal Arts" is an unassuming study of growing up, exploring the many fears and regrets that come with growing older. For most the part, the film is set within the grounds of a college, bringing with it a loaded sense of nostalgia. The quiet setting steers all the focus on loveable pair at the centre of the film, allowing them to share their stories at their own pace. Conversations are funny, charming and sure to resonate with our own. A delightful relationship to reflect on life.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo Baggins sets out on an adventure with a group of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home.
The greatest delight of this movie is the simple joy in being able to revisit the magic of Middle-Earth once again, captured in all of the director's visionary glory. In this chapter, an aura of whimsy and charm are preferred to the darker nature of the film's predecessors – a light-hearted approach that remains faithful to the literary classic upon which it is grounded. Although it has its share of storytelling detractions, in particular the deliberately slow pacing, there are still enough moments of action and allure to sustain, making "The Hobbit" a journey worth taking.
Trouble with the CurveAnthony Macali
An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip.
Don't expect too much baseball in "Trouble with the Curve". Instead, this offering plays more like one of those 'father-daughter relationship' movies. The father, grumpy and old, is stuck in his ways, spending most of his time grumbling and moaning while watching the game he loves. His daughter, a lawyer, is busy, career driven and resentful. The performances are heartfelt, but sadly the film is a little dull, and ties all the loose ends ever so neatly. No curve balls here, this story is predictable as can be... better picks out there.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Pitch PerfectAnthony Macali
Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group.
"Pitch Perfect" is camp as hell, and a lot of fun. The a capella renditions are surprisingly entertaining, taking some of our favourite songs and lending them a new voice. Our performers are largely a group of misfits, an eclectic and dynamic bunch of girls who dance and step to a great amount of llaughter and conflict. Wittingly tongue-in-cheek, this film is bound to appeal to those fond of music and singing. Destined for stardom.
Celeste & Jesse ForeverAnne Murphy
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Here is a likeable couple who prove that breaking up is hard to do. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is really the opposite of a 'rom-com', so much so it could be labelled as an 'unrom-com' except that it is oddly romantic despite the efforts to part. The script is witty, it skips along with clever banter and we're delivered an honest snapshot of a good, but not quite good enough, relationship. This movie has both endearing moments and painful realisations but on balance there are more laughs then tears. BFF's.
The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnne Murphy
An introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Loners know that adolescence is a time of alienation. While nobody wants to be like everybody else, shyness is a disability, and we tend to have a biting need for friendship and belonging. The director demonstrates remarkable sensitivity in showing the agony of awkward social situations and largely avoiding cliché. The central characters are entrancing as they navigate their lives with quirky individualism, and they're interesting and real. Tissues are recommended for this piercing movie that is as troubling as it is vivacious. It gets better, wallflowers.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2Anthony Macali
After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi.
The immortal franchise has come to an end, with "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" proving they really didn't need to split the last chapter. Picking up from where previous film finished, the going is slow. Thankfully, the vampires of the world come to hand, showcasing their special powers and effectively covering the thin plot. Despite such adversity, the journey eventually gets wrapped up rather neatly, and it's a stirring goodbye. Finally the light goes out on a saga to be cherished... and now forgotten.
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.
Alex CrossAnthony Macali
A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.
"Alex Cross" is your typical crime-thriller that some studio thought warranted a big-screen production. The titular detective is a notable presence, showing off his impressive analytical skills and wracking his brain to solve the puzzle and motive of a crazed killer. The pace is mild, and the rather psychotic turn mid-way adds some weight to the situation, but the shift is rather abrupt and dubious. An investigation-by-numbers that is moderately suspenseful.
The MasterStefan Bugryn
In 50's America, a lost soul floats through life after WWII, falling under the charm of a cult leader.
Despite the ongoing sense of anticipation, there was little in the way of 'big' moments throughout this extended 'bro-mance'. At times, you can't help but feel a little lost with where the story is heading, or exactly what it's trying to achieve. However, what saves it are the stellar performances from both leads, as well as the luscious production values and direction. The score, which really makes the pace of the story feel energised, is mesmerising. It all looks and sounds great, but feels a little lacklustre. Not a master, but perhaps its apprentice.
Dredd 3DAndrew O'Dea
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.
"Dredd 3D" is a classic grindhouse shoot 'em up. Bullets rip through faces and bodies splatter from a great height in glorious slow-motion, stylishly drawing out each bloody micro-second. While the 3D effects do nothing but enhance a terrible sense of retro-fitting, gore-addicts will still no-doubt be enthralled by the relentlessly graphic violence; even though it only serves as compensation for the tired and unimaginative 'cops vs bad guys' storyline. Bordering on dreadful.
End of WatchAnne Murphy
Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
If you hear that "End of Watch" is a cop-buddy movie don't be misled; this riveting and intense drama is much more than that. It's a film that is so good it transcends the simple genre classification, so edgy that it redefines police-buddy movies. Although the pace is fast space is made for a rarely witnessed humanness in uniform, with a friendship that goes beyond mere allegiance. Keep watching.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
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.
Killing Them SoftlyAndrew O'Dea
A professional enforcer investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
"Killing Them Softly" is both an arresting crime drama and socio-political commentary of the USA's 2008 economic crisis. The fusion of a violent underworld and pessimistic critique of capitalism is a strange mix, and the adjustment can be distracting. If nothing else though, it provides thought-provoking viewing even if the references are heavy-handed at times. The dialogue is cynical, the cinematics stylish and the acting superb; yet the fuse is an extremely slow burn. Some will be dismayed at the lack of explosiveness, while others will enjoy seeing the killing done 'softly'.
A bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and authorities who want a cut of their profits.
"Lawless" is steeped in dirt and bloody vengeance, painting a grim and violent picture amongst what is a distinct and evocative recreation of depression-era America. Masterfully crafted and beautifully filmed, it's the style and attention to detail that coerces us to overlook the minor storytelling flaws that hold it back from being a potential classic. Performances from the leads as well as terrific ensemble cast are terrific, underpinned by a sublime 'hillbilly' score. Uncomfortable and unsettling, this entertaining jar o' moonshine kicks like a mule.
Taken 2Andrew O'Dea
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.
In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits.
What would you do if you met yourself 30 years from now? Would you hug and tell yourself how healthy you look? This time travel film is far from some ploy to sell you life insurance. The characters are trying to kill their future selves, in a roundabout way. It is seriously cool. The plot is unpredictable for the entirety and the characters are as disturbing as they are likeable. Prepare yourself for hours of post film analysis. It's a ride