Captain PhillipsAndrew O'Dea
The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 cargo ship hijacking by Somali pirates.
This evocative retelling of the MV Maersk Alabama hijacking brings the tension of a real-life hostage drama to screen. The director's trademark visceral style and realism is perfectly suited to this intense biopic, and the handheld camerawork compliments the turbulence of the situation at hand. We remain gripped by the antagonistic relationship between the two captain as the film builds to a dazzling crescendo of military operations. Anchored by superb acting, particularly the brilliant performance from the lead, "Captain Phillips" is a thrilling cinematic voyage well worth boarding.
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.
Snow White and the HuntsmanAndrew O'Dea
The Huntsman is ordered by the Evil Queen to hunt down Snow White in the woods.
This dark take on the classic fairy-tale is driven by a medieval resonance. Splendid cinematography and production values transform the screen into an exquisite world, a dichotomy of bleakness and beauty. The action sequences are solid, and it's refreshing to see a heroine not playing the tiresome role of 'helpless damsel'. Unfortunately, the lead lacks the conviction to really deliver; but is thankfully redeemed by her counter-part, who skilfully elicits a distant sympathy for the tormented Evil Queen. Might not be the fairest of them all, but it's still safe to take a bite from this apple.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.
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.
Ted 2Anthony Macali
Ted and Tami-Lynn get married, but when they evaluate their options for having children, the government questions Ted's status as a person.
Ted returns alive and well in this sequel, with all of the crude vulgarity and boyish humour that accompanied his first outing into the world. While the story arch remains familiar, the jokes are fast and fresh. If you can handle elevated levels of weed inhalation and sperm deposits that feature in this film, then you may find similarly offensive material laugh-out-loud funny. An amusing piece of property.
A family is haunted by evil spirits who try to embody their comatose child.
This has to be one of the scariest movies made in a long time. As a narrative, it doesn't break any new boundaries, but uses old-school shock tactics extremely well. It thrives on familiar moments like 'what's around the corner?', and 'who made that noise?', whilst slowly revealing the plot (and genuinely horrific creatures) as you go along. There are odd moments of humour that break the mood and don't belong in the film, but as a salute to the Hollywood Book of Horror, it is a frightening treat.
The DictatorAndrew O'Dea
A heroic dictator risks his life to ensure that democracy will never come to the country he oppresses.
Tastelessness and absurdity run wild in "The Dictator" as no sexuality, race, gender or religion are spared the ruthlessness of the supreme leader. It's downright offensive... you know you probably shouldn't laugh, but it's so wrong that it coerces it out of you in some perversely wicked way. Unforgettably memorable moments are bolstered by a fast pace and short running time, and although the jokes are hit and miss, thankfully it's mostly the former. If you're after something outrageous, then prepare to be hilariously oppressed.
Speed RacerAnthony Macali
Speed Racer who is a young man with natural racing instincts whose goal is to win.
"Speed Racer" is a CGI flurry of cars and colours illuminated by a story of corporate corruption, a matter that would float past the intended audience of little ones. The themes of art vs business vs family are as clear as the Mach 5's slick exterior, but get lost in the frenzy of car-racing and kung-fu. The racetracks are loop-to-loop monsters, providing the best thrills in some sharp and edgy editing that puts you in the drivers seat. This film is a long and inconsistent race, worthy of watching if only to revel in all the bright colours.
Big Hero 6Anthony Macali
The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
"Big Hero 6" is a whiz-bang robotic romp, self-assured in its style and execution. Set in the clever and aptly titled 'San Fransokyo', we are presented with an awesome mix of colourful and futuristic animation to suit the story. The unlikely hero is an oddly marshmallow-looking invention, a functional and affable health bot whose impassive questions and incessant shuffling generate the greatest laughs. Kids and adults will escape unscathed in this action-packed adventure. Pain-free.
A Skype conversation within a group of high-school kids goes awry when an unknown person infiltrates their digital world.
For the entire length of its short-running time, "Unfriended" takes place on a computer screen. This high-concept setting is the best thing about this horror movie. A techie's wet dream, its brilliance lies in its detail, adeptly capturing modern-day communication and its various tools. You won't sympathise with a lot of the characters, and you aren't supposed to. The only exception is the young girl who forms the premise, and perpetuates the strong anti-cyberbullying message. Like.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.
Grand in its scope and ambition, "The Battle of the Five Armies" is an action-ravaged adventure saturated in the director's customary visual splendour. Pitting dragon against man, against dwarf, against elf, against orc, the battle sequences are exquisite, especially during the film's mammoth finale. Although characterisation is somewhat neglected, there's enough tension and thrills to make the journey there (and back again) a satisfying conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy... one last time.
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.
Knocked UpAnthony Macali
For fun loving party animal Ben Stone, the last thing he ever expected was for his one night stand to show up on his doorstep eight weeks later to tell him she's pregnant.
A cocktail mix of crass jokes and baby sentimentality, "Knocked Up" is a surprisingly touching story that will leave you drunken with laughter. With a premise that is borderline believable, it introduces a unique perspective on birth, one not afraid to poke fun at all parts of the 40 week journey. It shows the miracle of birth, the trials of marriage and how fantastic, difficult and funny life can be.
Where the Wild Things AreAndrew O'Dea
A disobedient little boy sent to bed without supper creates his own world inhabited by wild creatures.
This film is a strangely endearing adaptation of the literary classic. Though some may find the story languid at times, it's redeemed by spectacular cinematography and an almost despondent poetry. Brief moments of fun and frivolity are usurped by darker, more pensive undertones as we draw an emotional parallel between Max and the exquisitely realised 'Wild Things' that echo his feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration... and it's to be admired for embracing this childhood angst rather than simply condemning it. Let the wild rumpus start!
About TimeAnthony Macali
At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life.
"About Time" is one of those sweet romantic comedies designed for everybody to love, with the added gimmick of time-travel to keep the story moving forward. It's a plot device we've all seen before, but the charming set of characters allow a welcome and constant reminder to treasure every moment of our day-to-day lives. Despite the lack of originality, there's enough laughter and plenty of good-will to forgive the film for its obvious flaws. About life.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dawn of the Planet of the ApesAndrew O'Dea
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is darker than its predecessor, replete with themes of politics, trust, betrayal and family. This brilliantly realised science-fiction movie is both smart and exciting in narrative and amazingly splendid in visual effects, with the on-screen simians appearing just as real as their human counterparts. No monkey business here, this film is an intelligent piece of popcorn entertainment. Movie strong. People enjoy.
Behind the CandelabraThomas Jones
The tempestuous relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover is recounted.
Surprisingly, for a film about a figure as flamboyant as Liberace, it’s a little dark. The central relationship spirals into some very odd and destructive behaviour; imagine your boyfriend wanting to adopt you as his son. From the fashions and furnishings, to the stigmas surrounding homosexuality, this film accurately captures the era with which it is set. Though at times it does become a bit farcical, there are award-worthy performances all round, particularly from the man who is the candelabra.
Black SheepAndrew O'Dea
An experiment in genetic engineering turns harmless sheep into blood-thirsty killers that terrorize a sprawling New Zealand farm.
"Black Sheep" is a horror comedy pertaining to the most unique of premises. It's clever and fun and gets away with it because there's no need to pull the wool from our eyes, and it's easy to just sit back and enjoy the mutton madness. These 'baa-baa bad sheep' blend enough humour and gore to create a sublime comedy. If you donâ€™t take things like this too seriously, ewe'll be sure to laugh...
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?