Django UnchainedAndrew O'Dea
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Unbridled violence is unleashed in this Spaghetti Western, teetering between comedy and gore. The profanity and blood flow in a celebration of excess, belying the film's racial consciousness and intelligent commentary on a dark period in American history. Although undermined by elements of self-indulgence, the director also brings to "Django Unchained" a trademark penchant for witty dialogue, sharp storytelling and sublime style. Unshackled and foolishly fun.
Hellboy II: The Golden ArmyAnthony Macali
The mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his team must save the world from the rebellious creatures.
"Hellboy I"I is a CGI camp of cogs of creatures. We still love the band from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, a bunch of down-to-earth superheroes who fight the bad guys at night, and amusingly discuss their personal relationships by day. Like Abe and Hellboy, it's an odd mix that relishes in a refreshing world of supernatural creativity and action. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, and is all the better for it.
Body of LiesAndrew O'Dea
Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius's 2007 novel about a CIA operative who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan.
"Body of Lies" is a political thriller that presents a current perspective of the turmoil pertinent to the Middle East. Rather than descending into patriotic nonsense, it takes a pointed look behind the veil of the 'War on Terror'. Those with a vested interest in the often volatile yet delicate balance of diplomacy and international espionage will find this film intellectually engaging, while others may find the portion of action sequences, however impressive, lacking.
Me and Orson WellesAnne Murphy
A teenager is cast in the production of "Julius Caesar" directed by a young Orson Welles in 1937.
"Me and Orson Welles" is a coming of age drama within a convincing theatrical setting. The era is authentically replicated, and the characters so well drawn the audience is transported to thinking we're watching Orson Welles in his prime. The raging genius, ruthless manipulator, and ambitious actor and director are all credibly presented. Theatre life and backstage dramas within the chaos of the production process are all used to enthral, and it's crowned by romantic intrigue. This is a well directed movie that ends with applause.
The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge.
A motion-capture animation of breathtaking visuals, "Beowulf" is a story of one enigmatic warrior, his gruff voice and the monsters he meets. The most merry-making of them all, is a large dragon with a fiery breath that blasts from the cinema speakers at full volume. The action will please the fantasy fans, and the rest will marvel at the computer graphics that tends to overshadow the plot, characters, and any other elements of the film.
Gnomeo & JulietAnne Murphy
Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ProposalAnne Murphy
A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.
In the tradition of romantic comedies "The Proposal" is improbable and implausible and its salvation is that it is delightful from start to finish. A little formulaic perhaps, and that's easily forgiven as this movie delivers on charm and mirth. As the genre demands, the lovable characters are caught up in a silly situation but there's enough honesty in some very touching moments to connect and maintain audience empathy. A beguiling proposal, so say "I do...".
Recently released from prison, Scott Lang takes part in a safe heist, and stumbles upon an odd looking costume that can shrink its wearer down to size.
A character based on an insect may not be the most appealing of superheroes, but rest assured, Ant-Man's entry into the comic universe is just as endearing as his fellow kin. This film sticks rigidly to the formula, with a cleverly selected cast, cheerful humour and splendid visuals bringing this bug-size world to sumptuous life. It is action on a scale rarely seen, armies of ants crawling through pipes and darting under doors achieves a newfangled manner of fun. This little guy packs a punch.
As the result of a childhood wish, a teddy bear comes to life, though he's not what you might expect.
"Ted" is essentially your typical, crass buddy-movie with the adage of having a fantastically refreshing premise. There might be some inconsistencies in the script, but the broadly formulaic storyline is offset by moments of uproarious hilarity, and you'll find it hard not to lose your stuffing. The vulgarity is made all the funnier by the fact it emanates from something we all might've grown up with as children. There are a host of amusing cameos, but it's the foul-mouthed little bear that is the star of the show. Definitely worth a cuddle, just be prepared for the reach-around...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
Harry, Hermoine and Ron race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes.
This penultimate chapter of the Potter franchise undoubtedly cements its transition from children's story to mature fantasy. Tinged with frightening scenes and violent action sequences, the decidedly dark and brooding tone is established from the outset. Credit is due to direction that still manages to strike a balance between tragedy and humour, while the special effects throughout are simply spectacular. This film basically serves as a vehicle to build suspense and anticipation for the climactic final installment, and now the stage is set for what promises to be a magical conclusion...
Cloverfield follows five New Yorkers from the perspective of a hand-held video camera. The movie starts as a monster of unknown origin destroys a building.
"Cloverfield" is filmed from the perspective of its protagonists using a hand-held camcorder, a technique which is effective for the majority of the short running time. The monster is a mighty sight to behold, and you wish it featured more. It's the monster's spawns that are the stars, their calls and cackles leaving you in fits of laughter, rather than frightened from their beckoning bite. By the end, you are exhausted, and perhaps nauseous, from the non-stop footage.
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.
San AndreasAnthony Macali
A helicopter pilot embarks on a mission to save his daughter after the state of California is rocked by a series of devastating earthquakes.
"San Andreas" is an action extravaganza; a non-stop avalanche of shattered windows, twisted metal and edge of your seat thrills. This disaster film features all types of craft – land, sea and air – each piloted by our hulking hero, who provides a continuous tremor of suspense and peril. Relying heaving on some commendable special effects, this completely ridiculous story packs it all in. Hard to fault.
The AvengersAndrew O'Dea
A team of superheroes form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
"The Avengers" is one for the fanboys/girls. It suffers in parts from a few needless characters, and is held back by overly long stretches where nothing gets hit, blown up or smashed. However, once the film eventually manages to flesh out its massive host of superheroes, we are treated to what is quite simply a visceral feast of unrelenting action; the seamless CGI and 3D medium tailored brilliantly to enhance every bang and crash. Perhaps most surprising are the intermittent moments of seriously funny comedy. Far from super, but the experience is definitely nothing to be avenged.
Kazakhstan TV reported Borat is sent to the US and A to report on the greatest country in the world.
Yes it's funny, and it pokes fun at Jews and the Yanks... and he infuriates most people. But a thing all great comedies have is memorable moments. Apart from the many "Hi-Fives" I have given to my peers, nothing else really stuck from the film. To be pure comedy gold, we need to be able to recite those lines so we can pretend to be as funny as Borat himself.
Death ProofAnthony Macali
Two separate sets of women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.
Homage to the classic Grindhouse cinema of the 80's, "Death Proof" is an suspenseful thrill-ride featuring many delightful ladies. With a killer soundtrack, the only thing that slows this vehicle is the tenuous dialogue. Most of the pop culture babble will interest you and a large portion of it won't. But let's not forget we're in a surreal world, where the crazed predator engages in a climatic pursuit which is possibly the best car sequence in history.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.
St. VincentAnne Murphy
A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
At some point the audience will realise they're watching the aging lead actor playing his elderly self, or some down-on-his-luck movie character version of himself. Don't feel like a sucker for playing along and enjoying the film. The endearing qualities of the protagonist allow you to put cynicism aside, forgive the unlikely plot elements, and be entertained by the ubiquitous fogey next door with a proverbial heart of gold. Wholly unlikely Saint.
The Boys Are BackAndrew O'Dea
A sports writer struggles with suddenly becoming a single parent in tragic circumstances.
"The Boys are Back" is a tale of fatherhood. A deeply moving meditation on life, death and the importance of family, the heart-wrenching opening sequence sets the tone for the film's sense of purpose that resonates throughout. Far from manufactured, it avoids being conveniently sentimental as it veers between moments of grief and humour. The cinematography is simply stunning, coupled by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack and sublime male-focussed performances that make this a movie for both boys and girls alike.
Warm BodiesAndrew O'Dea
After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
This offering from the 'zom-rom-com' movement is a refreshing approach to the tale of teen-romance. Zombie purists expecting an onslaught of guts and gore will be sorely disappointed, as at its heart, this movie is an unlikely love story that bucks convention. Although the action and comedy are sparse, it still entertains when necessary. With more wit and life than most from the genre, "Warm Bodies" makes for a surprisingly charming film. Dead on.