John CarterAnthony Macali
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.
"John Carter" is a bit out there... Mars if you want to get technical. The planet is brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects, creating an impressive futuristic desert landscape. When our hero gets teleported to this faraway place, he is introduced to a curious assortment of creatures, and people with strange names and differing ambitions. After these initial encounters, the excitement dies down and John leaps into to his belated and ever-changing quest. It's a constant battle between boredom and a beautiful view.
Project XAnthony Macali
Three high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for them.
"Project X" is yet another 'found-footage' experiment that is full of surprises. The simple agenda breeds plenty of hilarious moments, with the attention firmly focused on the trio at the centre of the party, and their wide range of responses to the gathering chaos. It certainly is the most epic teen party to hit the screen, and while the parading nudity and constant binge-drinking might not appeal to every goer, it does highlight the stupid (and irreversible) things we do for a night of fun and ecstasy. Project success.
A Little Bit of HeavenThomas Jones
A guarded woman finds out she's dying of cancer, but when she meets her match, the threat of falling in love is scarier than death.
This film is the most superficial and farcical depiction of a woman battling cancer ever to grace our screens. It goes so far the wrong way (think puns about colon cancer) that anyone who has experienced or been affected by the disease is likely to be offended by the way the subject is treated. The acting is of a quality you'd expect from a high school drama class and the script is terrible; heaven is a white cloud. Hard to like, even a little bit.
To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
"Contraband" doesn't move along at a great speed of knots, but contains plenty of drama and thrills. For the most part, the story takes place on a ship, and the environment is a not often seen and interesting place. The hand-held camera style is distracting, regularly zooming in and out of focus. There's a lot to like about our main character, using his street-smarts to continually outwit his sinister opponents. In the end, this predictable import brings home the goods.
Killer EliteAndrew O'Dea
When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader.
Shot in a gritty visual style, "Killer Elite" simply lacks the flair to separate it from the rest of the paint-by-numbers action flicks. There are definitely pockets of impressive, adrenaline-fueled action sequences and stunts, yet as the plot unfolds and the body count rises, the audience will find themselves misguided by a storyline that is over-complicated. This isn't helped by the wooden leading man and a supporting cast who should've simply done better. All killer, no filler.
The GreyAndrew O'Dea
In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.
This tale of survival is a surprisingly philosophical one. "The Grey" is still punctuated by enough action to thrill, but at its core remains a meditation on existentiality and an intelligent snapshot about man's primal will to live. Unsparingly bleak, the film's spiritual agenda is stripped as bare as the cold and wild backdrop it's set against; carried by some superb characterisation and the commanding presence of its leading man. Once more into the fray...
This Means WarAnthony Macali
Two operatives wage a battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same girl.
Two hardened men might front this stunt but don't be fooled. "This Means War" is a romantic comedy with a different take. Outlandish circumstances persuade two of the CIA's finest to exploit their resources to court a girl. This would never happen in the real world, but it's a funny scenario to watch unfold nonetheless. The jokes are snappy and everybody is beautiful and bright, with all the right characteristics to suit the plot. In the end it comes down to the trio at the centre of this triangle, and there's a lot to love about their conflict.
Safe HouseAnthony Macali
A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
You can't help but laugh at the irony of "Safe House". What is supposed to be a temporary detention and interrogation room for captured criminals is a mere launching pad for the first of many intense shoot-outs and car chases. The action doesn't stop, and the film's suspense remains taut throughout thanks to some handy camerawork, a pumping soundtrack and the frenzied senior officials all pointing fingers at one another. Guns, lies, espionage… nobody's safe.
Underworld: AwakeningAnthony Macali
In a changed world, humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans.
Selene wakes to a slightly new and promising premise, although nothing has really changed in "Underworld: Awakening". Cue the familiar leather, washed-out hues and dramatic, flickering, down-lights. Some sinister human characters are introduced and they successfully stretch the short running-time, often with scenes faithfully inserted between the countless Vampire/Lycan in-fighting. While the action sequences are impressive, they go far too long, thanks in part to the resilience of each race. You won't find fresh blood here.
Man on a LedgeThomas Jones
As a police psychologist works to talk down an ex-con who is threatening to jump from a Manhattan hotel rooftop, the biggest diamond heist ever committed is in motion.
Any film that starts with a car chase in a cemetery is bound to be good. "Man on Ledge" is packed with non-stop drama, suspense, action and characters. There are so many players in this game, each with their own rising stakes, and the way the multiple stories unfold simultaneously, with not a minute of screen time wasted, is incredibly smart and highly entertaining. Don’t let the title deceive you, the plot is a lot thicker and will keep you on the ledge of your seat.
Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery.
All the audience needs to know is this movie is nowhere near as cool as it sounds. "Chronicle" might have its moments, like a seriously awesome action scene towards the end, but as for the rest, it simply falls short of being anything really unique. Instead, it will be left to your imagination to fill in the gaps of what it could've been. Sometimes the film is just plain awkward to watch, thanks in no large part to the B-grade scripting, dialogue, special effects, acting... pretty much all of it. Chronicle this one as 'fail'.
J. EdgarAndrew O'Dea
Director of the FBI for almost 40 years, J.Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered.
This biopic is as unprovocative as it is uninformative. So much of "J Edgar" is dedicated towards an unnecessary focus on the man's battle with his sexuality and unrequited romance that it loses direction. Eventually, it labours towards the end of what is ultimately a dull and turgid affair. Utterly disappointing when you consider the talent of the director and the squandered opportunity to delve into the life of one of the most influential and controversial characters in the history of the United States. Sucks almost as much as the protagonists' vacuous namesake.
A Few Best MenAnne Murphy
An English groom and his three best men travel to the Australian Blue Mountains for his wedding.
Everything about a "A Few Best Men" is exaggerated. From the central romance to the panoramic Australian scenes, the lure and perils of illicit drugs for the groomsmen to the political ambition of the bride's father, this movie is larger than life and complete with a cast of clichéd characters. As is expected of wedding fairytales there is little semblance to reality. Not that there is anything wrong with cinema escapism, but some will want to escape the cinema rather than watch this celebration of matrimony. Baaa.
Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandAnthony Macali
Sean Anderson partners with his mom's boyfriend on a mission to find his grandfather.
The beauty of "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" isn't just in the visuals or adventure. Listen to the random spiels of science that solve all the mysteries, and the story moves along at a swift pace. As expected, the film isn't big on plot or character development, and the 3D doesn't add much except to enable the large production designs and special effects, which can only hold your attention for so long. If you can sit back and absorb the humour and colour, the movie will deliver on everything it says on the ticket.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
The Darkest HourThomas Jones
In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.
What this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in its effects. The cinematography is seriously cool, particularly the large-scale depictions of Moscow as a ghost town, which will have you wondering 'how'd they do that?' The acting falls a bit on the melodramatic side and you kind of wish the invisible threat, which they are all running from, was more frightening. For a big budget, end of the world flick this does not fail to capture you for a darkest hour (and a half).
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.
Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery.
"Hugo" is a magical story for kids with a penchant for adventure. A fantastic French train station is brought to life, and thanks to some crafty 3D, delves into the gleaming maze of clocks and cogs that surround the walls. As our young characters continue to solve the puzzle, the plot strangely shifts, taking the audience in a completely new direction... to explore the birth of cinema. It's an odd division in the film, and accompanied by a few irrelevant supporting members, unsettles the enchantment of this visual treasure. All the pieces seem to fit.
The MuppetsAnne Murphy
With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theatre from an oil tycoon.
The Muppets are as comically endearing as ever in their return to the big screen, as the troupe get back together to sing and dance their way through a classic good vs evil storyline. This is a nostalgic romp even though the characters haven't aged, not that the audience would want them to, and they're just as corny as they ever were. The magic works, maybe because no-one is more self deprecating than the characters themselves. Absolutely the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppet-ational...
The Girl with the Dragon TattooAnthony Macali
Journalist Mikael is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth, a young computer hacker.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a classic whodunit set in Sweden and is genuinely captivating from start to finish. A rich set of characters drive the story, each with their own motives, and at times, sinister agendas. Our young heroine is the most impressive in a striking and memorable performance. Just be warned, the film is long, and there are some particularly disturbing scenes, but they all play their part in the arresting plot. Can't wait to see the girl again.
Dolphin TaleAnne Murphy
A story centred on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.
An amazing heart-warming tale, pardon the pun, based on a real story is related in "Dolphin Tale". This movie will be embraced by young audiences as an exciting adventure in an adult world. Older kids may find it formulaic as adversity is transformed into triumph, but nonetheless it's stirring viewing. The dolphin is a scene stealing star that puts the rest of the cast in the drink despite their solid performances in this family friendly fun film. Move over Flipper.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsAndrew O'Dea
Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is a film dotted with action, mystery, intrigue and humour, picking up right where its predecessor left off. The audience will once again regale in the superbly realised relationship between Holmes and Watson, their chemistry and witty banter providing the perfect accompaniment to an intricate storyline and a series of gripping action sequences. Although some may find this instalment overly stylised, most fans will no doubt be satisfied. It's elementary.
War HorseAndrew O'Dea
Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.
"War Horse" is most definitely a movie for those partial to the majestic beauty of horses, though it's not necessarily a prerequisite. Some may justifiably find the story a little too syrupy and sweet, but it does also take place amidst the brutal theatre of war, where thankfully the film does not shy, and the director is at his dazzling best. Others will enjoy the sentimentality of an extraordinary journey coupled with the bond between man and horse simply too difficult to resist.... if so, then giddy up.
The Iron LadyThomas Jones
A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Romance or political drama? "The Iron Lady" could be shelved under either genre as it depicts the political rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher against the backdrop of her mourning the passing of her husband. There is a nice balance of both plotlines and the inclusion of real footage adds conviction to this film. The performance of the lead is so convincing it's like a Madame Tussauds figure coming to life. Thatcher herself endorsed 'doing something' rather than trying to be 'somebody'. With that in mind, do something... go and see this film.
The Adventures of TintinAndrew O'Dea
Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship.
This instalment of the revered cartoon is faithful enough to the source material and its host of much loved characters to keep the hardcore fans appeased. There's enough of the mystery and adventure one would expect from our classic hero, and - of course - his irrepressible little white dog. The 3D animation is exquisite as the camera swoops and soars, bringing the motion-captured world to life. Unfortunately, the stunning visuals aren't matched by a lacklustre story. "The Adventures of Tintin" might be a fun ride, but still far from the exhilaration of a rollercoaster.