We Bought a ZooAnthony Macali
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Based on a true story, "We Bought a Zoo" doesn't have a bad bone in its body. It's an adventure with a menagerie of fluffy animals, great and small, and the odd staff who service them. While an underlying story of grief drives the plot, the film lacks the courage to fully explore the strife and emotion. After all, this is as family-friendly as it gets, and in the end nothing can compete with the excitement of a zoo. A ticket that will leave you warm and fuzzy.
Happy Feet TwoAnthony Macali
Mumble's son, Erik, is struggling to realize his talents in the Emperor Penguin world.
"Happy Feet Two" is actually an existential film with penguins, but don't let the seemingly grim subject matter get you down. It takes a good hike to get going, but once it does, there is plenty of the famous singing and dancing that made the first film so popular, and en masse. Thousands of penguins stamp their feet in this majestic world, its scope and beauty coolly realised with some very colourful animation. In the face of grave danger, these flightless birds find hope and life in their music. Skip along and you will be happy too.
Tower HeistAnthony Macali
A group of hard working guys conspire to rob a wealthy business man's high-rise residence.
"Tower Heist" might not be the most complex of capers, but it does produce plenty of laughs along the way. The high calibre cast is fun to watch, the only drawback being their inability to share the screen time in satisfying amounts. Much of the entertainment comes from the ordinary hotel crew and the birth of their criminality. Clearly out of their depth, they embark on hilarious exercises to plan and prepare. It's a shame that when our heroes and villain do confront, the exchange is pretty tame, sharing metaphors to be ignored. Few surprises but gets the job done.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost ProtocolAndrew O'Dea
The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organisation's name.
This latest instalment of the franchise certainly lives up to its 'blockbuster' status. The explosions, car chases and action sequences in "Ghost Protocol" may be unrelenting, but the thrills they provide are cheap, and the lack of a coherent storyline effectively means it loses its grip on being gripping. There's always going to be an element of preposterousness in an action-flick, but this one goes too far and too often, reaching a point where it overtly insults our intelligence. Mission Implausible.
Puss in BootsAnthony Macali
A story about the events leading up to the sword fighting cat's meeting with Shrek and his friends.
The cat's out of the bag with "Puss in Boots", the 'diablo gato' showing enough charm to headline his own film. He's cheeky, cute, and a wanted outlaw, as we discover in a delightful flashback of his back story. Curiosity is lost when the fairy-tale plot begins, introducing characters who aren't as much fun as our hero. The animation is great, just look at the fur, but could have looked better and brighter if they shied away from the 3D format. It's is still very funny when felines break out and exhibit their cat-like traits. A welcome spin-off to cross swords.
New Year's EveTom Jones
The lives of several couples and singles in New York intertwine over the course of New Year's Eve.
Another occasion where 99.9% of the funding is spent on star power and the rest goes to the scriptwriter. Remember show and tell? Well New Years Eve is more tell, without the show. Characters relay so much information about themselves and the situation in every line, but you never actually see anything. It is over the top. The ball dropping at midnight is treated like a military operation complete with presidential style press conferences. When it comes to New Years, hold out for the real thing.
Jack and JillWendy Slevison
Family guy Jack prepares for the annual event he dreads: the Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister.
This latest offering from a well-known comedian is assuredly the worst movie of his career, and quite possibly the worst movie ever. The thought that $79 million was spent making it is not only alarming, it's actually offensive. Celebrity cameos and an aging but highly talented co-star do nothing to save this mess - it has no humour and no heart. It appears that no skill at all was involved in its creation. This film is an abysmal failure and should be avoided at all costs. Jack and Jill tumble down, down, down...
The Inbetweeners MovieAnthony Macali
Four socially troubled 18-year-olds from the south of England go on holiday to Malia.
"The Inbetweeners Movie" will make you do at least one of these two things: encourage you to get completely drunk, or cringe and wince with embarrassment. It's safe to say friends of the show will love this film, as this extended episode takes our gang to a foreign country where trouble and hilarity ensue. For others, catching up with the teens' brash vulgarity shouldn't take long. Each character banters and dances, always poking fun and searching for the girl of their dreams. Exploiting the naivety of youth has never been so funny. Boys will be boys in this trip to remember.
Arthur ChristmasWendy Slevison
On Christmas night, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for a mission.
"How DOES Santa deliver ALL those presents in one night?" Well, here is the answer, in this charming and engaging addition to the Christmas movie genre. Santa's family are just like any other family, so it seems, with their squabbles and power struggles. Ultimately the job must get done though, and despite some quirky yet substantial obstacles on this particular Christmas Eve, it eventually does. With voice work provided by a quite dazzling array of well-known actors, this delightful romp is guaranteed to imbue Christmas spirit into even the most cynical of viewers. Merry Christmas!
The Ides of MarchStefan Bugryn
A game of dirty politics plays out behind the scenes of the campaign for a Presidential candidate.
This is minimalistic film-making at it's best. The movie tackles some truly hard-hitting notions, but packs its punch with the little things. It's captivating to watch the actors hold back the emotion, where the drama is implied rather than thrown in your face. The long stares. The knowing eyes. It all sizzles in the background… but you can definitely feel it. The director could have easily gone for high melodrama, but instead went for the complete opposite, and it paid off remarkably. A vote of confidence.
Theseus is a mortal man chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion.
"Immortals" is another story of Ancient Greece, where the gods sit in the sky and watch men fight below. The mad king is delightfully evil, exercising his wicked ways in every scene. His counterpart, the chosen one, is the most able-bodied of them all, spending most of the time chasing and tensing. The large scale production looks great, with a myriad of effects thrown up on screen, but the story is plain and lacks any emotion or wonder. Once the swords hit the ground, the film is largely forgettable, and a shining example that quantity does not conquer quality.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1Anthony Macali
The Quileute close in on expecting parents Edward and Bella, whose unborn child poses different threats to the wolf pack and vampire coven.
First there was the brooding, then the moping, followed by a lot kissing... and now the consummation everybody has been waiting for. In "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1" nothing else happens. It feels like the most disconnected chapter of the series, with little reference to the past and no conflict to sink our teeth into. They simply transformed the book into a film, a process that could only be satisfying to its readers. Breaks your heart.
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
"Moneyball" is intelligent filmmaking that takes an unlikely subject and makes it interesting. It's a testament to the solid direction and brilliance of the scriptwriters that a story about the business of baseball could be so captivating. You can't help but be drawn in as it explores the opposing philosophies of intuition versus statistics, bolstered by that feel-good sentiment of rooting for the underdog. An entertaining movie that covers all the right bases, this one is right on the money.
I Don't Know How She Does ItCourtney Slevison
A comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy, a working mother trying desperately to juggle marriage, children, and a high-stress job.
This film aims to reflect on the trials of being a working mother in today's post-feminist society. What it does instead is present a hideously outdated view of the clichéd gender roles and insult the intelligence of anyone with two brain cells to rub together, especially working mothers themselves. This is a tedious, unfunny, and poorly made film. The dialogue is so cringe-worthy, and the overall tone so depressing, that it will leave you wondering not how they do it... but why.
A political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays.
The identity of one of our greatest writers is scrutinised in "Anonymous", a tawdry tale of fiction staged as lusty historical drama. The audience is kept busy trying to work out who's who as the time-frame jumps into the past and back again, causing confusion when we try to match the older and younger actors of the same character. Sordid conspiracies abound, and it's all a bit fanciful, convoluted and overly long. As they say in the classics, "It's not Shakespeare".
In TimeCourtney Slevison
In a future where people stop aging at 25, and time is literally money, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth.
This is a slick, futuristic action-thriller with one of the most original and refreshing movie premises in the sci-fi genre to date. Visually, the film is awesome; the stylised landscape and clothing help to tell the story of a strange world, each scene worthy of a portrait. Thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking, "In Time" is only slightly hindered by performances of the two leads, but thankfully it's what goes on around them that steals the show. Definitely one worth making the time to see.
The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts event - a path that puts him on a collision with his older brother.
"Warrior" is a surprisingly affecting movie. The fight choreography is exceptional, and the rush of adrenaline as the kicks and punches fly is palpable. We feel every bone-crunching hit, but the beauty is that there's enough heart to match the violence. Although it may border on cliché at times, there is an undeniable emotional honesty behind the action, carried by a trio of outstanding acting performances from the male leads. A knock-out film that will leave you counting stars...
The Three MusketeersAndrew O'Dea
The Musketeers unite to save the French throne and prevent Europe from being engulfed in war.
This take on "The Three Musketeers" is an unoriginal and pointless exercise that would have the original author of the classic rolling in his grave. A blatant attempt at a 'franchise cash-grab', this film has all the charisma and wit of a feathered plume. The special effects alone are dismally substandard, and as if it weren't enough, we're also exposed to 3D in its most exploitative form; a retro-fitted mess that adds nothing to the action except to serve as an annoying excuse to shoot cannonballs and point swords in our faces. All for one? One to miss.
A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
What's Your NumberAnthony Macali
A woman looks back at the past twenty men she's had relationships with in her life and wonders if one of them might be her one true love.
In a story about finding 'the one', "What's Your Number" is concerned about the number of partners you have slept with. The city setting is beautifully shot, and a vast contrast to the crude nature of much of the discussion. The romantic duo at is generally likeable, always walking and eating and conveniently wearing very little. Sadly, their plight is not one you can sympathise with, extending far beyond our span of attention. My number? 2 stars...
Real SteelAnthony Macali
Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot.
"Real Steel" is your favourite boxing movie played out by robots. The start is a little worrisome as our protagonist father essentially sells his son, but that won't deter the kids who will find this blockbuster most appealing. The fighting bots look big and strong, battling for cash in some impressive urban environments. Aside from the aesthetics, you can expect the heart-warming plot to follow instruction from the cliché ridden films before it. The steel isn't real, but the CGI is pretty solid.
City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, but his rebellious spirit shakes the town up and he sets out to have the rules abolished.
This remake of the classic is bound to have its sceptics, both those who are fans of the original, as well as those who had no interest in it the first time around. All cynicism will be pushed aside however, as this film is simply too fun to not enjoy. The two young leads carry the movie with an authenticity that lifts it from the cheesy mess it could have been, and the impressive choreography gives "Footloose" an exuberance that will have you dancing in the aisles.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.Andrew O'Dea
A father's life unravels dealing with a marital crisis and managing the relationship with his children.
This multigenerational love story is a cut above your average romantic comedy, and for the most part, is a funny, honest and insightful film. The only pity is that long stretches of engaging rom-com fare are punctuated by brief moments of that gooey clichéd stuff we're all too familiar with. However, bolstered by a stellar cast who are sublime and charm us senseless in their individual roles, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." still provides a refreshing insight into the humour, tragedy, and wonderfully weird circumstances of love. Whether it's stupid or not is completely up to you.
The SmurfsAnthony Macali
The evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their magical village.
If you watched the original cartoon, then this 3D reanimation of "The Smurfs" marks a nostalgic return, with young newcomers also sharing in the wonder of these cute-little-blue guys. They enter the real world, and it's funny watching them run amok, in particular Clumsy Smurf, who loves to cause trouble with satisfying results. Beyond these initial encounters, the story lacks imagination and is best suited to the tiniest of toddlers. Let's hope any further arrivals are reserved to once in a blue moon.
Monte CarloAnthony Macali
Three young women are whisked away to Monte Carlo after one of the girls is mistaken for an heiress.
There are very few surprises in "Monte Carlo", and much like its three heroines, we're encouraged to 'seize the moment'. The film's charm is impossible to resist, and the French coastal setting, with its lavish hotels and lookouts, is the perfect playground for the affable young cast. They play out the familiar premise with great humour, and even share a few messages and morals along the way. While slightly over-staying its welcome, the movie remains ashamedly fun, appealing to the hopeless dreamer inside all of us.