A chronicle on the life and presidency of George W. Bush.
This movie is not what people might expect, as it sets out to construct an almost empathetic "W". The undeniable highlight is the superbly convincing portrayal by the lead actor, who manages to embody the character study so well, sometimes you forget just who's on screen. However, criticism lies in a feeling that the biopic resigns itself not to delve deeper in its attempt to humanise the man. Although this nonpartisan style may disappoint some, the insight provided by the filmmaker makes it a film that shouldn't be "misunderestimated".
The HostAnthony Macali
An unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories.
"The Host" entertains an unusual mix of science-fiction and romance. The doomsday premise raises many questions, but the only one it attempts to answer, to much chagrin, is that of love. It presents a girl, and the ethereal being coexisting inside her head, falling for two different boys. It's a complicated situation that no amount of kissing can solve, and the bizarre scenario often draws unintentional laughs. Apart from this dilemma, the rest of the film is far from ground-breaking and largely uneventful. Every body wins.
Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.
Science-fiction films usually present good value, and especially ones with extra-terrestrials, but you leave wanting more from "Paul". What was once cute about a bromance road trip loses its charm when the bond between the self-confessed geeks becomes a little too pronounced. The movie strives for mainstream appeal, fielding a varied range of jokes from satirical science-fiction writers, toilet humour and a galaxy of cultural references. In the end, the quips are hit and miss, invariably creating a funny, but not fantastic film. Average alien fodder.
Step BrothersAnthony Macali
Two spoiled guys become competitive stepbrothers after their single parents get hitched.
"Step Brothers" is a film of two adults behaving like kids. The jokes are cheap and immature, their amusement heightened by gratuitous swearing and childlike behaviour. You watch things happen on the screen, things that you know are supposed to be funny, but they simply don't make you laugh like they once used to. Brennan and Dale fatefully grow and mature, seamlessly and conveniently, and just in time for the inevitable happy ending. One to watch for those who are fond of juvenile performances.
The EqualizerJan Di Pietro
A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life, until he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters.
"The Equalizer" is rampant Hollywood patriotism. It's vengeance in the name of justice, and an unashamed reaffirmation of the American dream. However, the characters are memorable, and the direction is slick. Highlights include enthralling scene work and highly creative gore. The film thrills and stirs passion, but you might puke red, white and blue afterwards.
Harry BrownAnthony Macali
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice.
"Harry Brown" is an exceptionally made film, but the revenge takes too long, drawn out to a point where the comeuppance just doesn't match the build-up. There are great depictions of drug-dealer dwellings and troubled youth, creating a genuine sense of discomfort and distress. Invariably such a setup brings violence, including a curiously riotous ending, but digitised blood spurts just don't have the same impact as traditional cinema wounds. Dark and dangerous but a little too slow.
The Fifth EstateAnthony Macali
The story of Wikileaks and its quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power.
Like the much maligned website, content is king in "The Fifth Estate". Behind every great idea is a great man, and the picture painted of Julian Assange is one of ego and narcissism. Surprisingly, the patchy back-stories of the characters aren't as interesting as the history of the famous site and its technical challenges. By favorably revisiting numerous articles of breaking news, the film successfully underscores the unprecedented impact of the organisation, disrupting everyone in their path minus the journalism they feed. A captivating, yet leaky, source.
Dark ShadowsAnthony Macali
An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
"Dark Shadows" is a dark comedy, although the jokes aren't as black as its gothic setting, a magnificent candlelit manor. Our protagonist is an affable chap and a vampire out of his time, coming to grips with the quirks of the modern world and the members of his equally awkward and peculiar family. The unusual scenario is a surprising platform for laughs in what is an otherwise insignificant story. The cast may be marvellous, but the film won't leave any everlasting marks.
No Strings AttachedTom Jones
A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical.
What works in this film, is that the leads, despite being impossibly good looking, are relatable, likeable and convincing - not just actors trying to be comedians. The majority of the comedy comes from the supporting cast, who handle the often dirty/toilet humor in a way that makes you laugh and not gasp. Complimented by a superb soundtrack, this movie is hard not to enjoy on some level, but don't expect it to break any new ground for the genre. When it comes to romance and comedy, the strings are still very much attached.
Hannah Montana: The MovieWendy Slevison
As Hannah Montana's popularity begins to take over her life, Miley Stewart takes a trip to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee to get some perspective on what matters in life the most.
The heroine of this entertaining movie has a huge fan base and the producers have unapologetically aimed it straight at them. The story is a simple one, about relationships and growing up, and of course there are songs. It's fun and quaintly wholesome, not a bad thing these days, with young girls bombarded by media images pushing them to grow up way too fast. The young star is a comedic delight, "an' there ain't nothin' wrong with that, y'all."
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.
The Young VictoriaAnne Murphy
A dramatization of the first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.
This film proceeds at a gentile and regal pace with sumptuous sets and lavish costuming as befits the era. It is to be enjoyed as a love story rather than for revealing any political machinations of the time. Romantic and majestic, "The Young Victoria" is restrained but entertaining, without indulging in any unnecessary frivolity of life at court. Perhaps a sequel with a middle-aged Victoria would deliver more intrigue and drama, or at least some hot flushes... a satisfying and elegant period piece.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning ThiefAndrew O'Dea
A teenager discovers he's the son of the Greek god Poseidon and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between Zeus and the gods.
Although it suffers from predictability and humour that doesn't always work, the way "Percy Jackson" translates classical myths into the modern spectrum is both clever and at times fun and exciting. A strong supporting cast and satisfying action sequences combined with terrific visual effects help to sustain it through some weak plot points. Far from a great film, it's sure to appeal to its key demographic; kids will love it, while the rest of us might appreciate a free lesson in Greek mythology.
He's Just Not That Into YouWendy Slevison
This Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting story lines deals with the challenges of trying to understand human behaviour.
Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name, this movie is overpopulated with under-developed characters making mistakes, behaving badly, and being downright stupid - surprise surprise, mostly the women. An ensemble cast, who individually can be very good, get lost in the mire of a script laden with stereotypes. While generally entertaining, there are sections where you find yourself not caring who's just not into who.
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.
American ReunionAndrew O'Dea
Jim, Michelle, Stifler, and their friends reunite in East Great Falls for their high school reunion.
This instalment of the "American Pie" franchise is definitely one for the nostalgia fans only. There are a lot of forced and awkward moments, and some will find the often contrived humour a little lame. Others will find it laugh-out-loud hilarious. You should know exactly what to expect from this film. Many of the classic jokes are revamped and revisited, showcasing the vulgar dialogue and juvenile behaviour that made the earliest instalments (and the Stifmeister!) so popularly funny and successful. Go in expecting anything else, and you'll leave with pie on your face.
Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesAndrew O'Dea
With the 70s behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy, returns to take New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.
Vintage Ron Burgundy returns to the screen in this fantastically outrageous sequel. Not nearly as much fun as the prelude, hard-core fans will no doubt be left in stitches by the familiar silliness of "Anchorman 2", and the rapport of its cast who shine in their individual performances. The film is downright hilarious in parts, only to be let down by stretches of padded, low-brow humour in-between. By no means a comedic gem, but offers just enough to stay classy.
The Expendables 2Stefan Bugryn
The Expendables reunite for another mission that ends up being a personal vendetta for revenge.
Thank God they made "The Expendables 2" fun, because if it wasn't, it wouldn't have worked. On an artistic level, this film is as stale and unoriginal as a piece of toast; but on a fanboy level, it's as good as it gets, pure action-indulgence. The genre-heroes poke fun at themselves and each other, jamming countless references for fans young and old. They weave in and out of the formula that made them stars, having as much fun as the audience, and showing the world they haven't been expended just yet.
Happy FeetAnthony Macali
A tap-dancing penguin called Mumble is outcast from his colony because he can't sing. The leaders blame him for the lack of fish in the region. Mumble goes in search for the real problem.
The 'penguins dancing' concept relies heavily on gimic, and so due credit should be given to the CGI wizards behind this flick. After a slow start, the laughs come fast once Humble begins his journey with his Latin companions. By the end, you won't be able to stop tapping your feet.
Hotel TransylvaniaTom Jones
Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter.
Depicting Dracula, Frankenstein, the big bad wolf and all the other legends as suffering from the same dilemmas and stresses as humans, was obviously designed to offer greater perspective to the intended audience. Unfortunately these characters are likely to keep children awake at night. Despite all their human charm and sense of humour, they are still scary, particularly to look at. Undeniably, this film is entertaining, but parental guidance is necessary. It is the mash, it is the monster mash.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.
State of PlayAndrew O'Dea
A team of investigative reporters try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
This is a reasonably well-executed political thriller. Surprisingly, sharp dialogue provides witty yet sporadic comical relief, while the carefully plotted conspiracy makes for a polished although somewhat uninspired movie. Unlikely contrivances and one climatic plot twist too many mean that, at times, the film seems to meander and lack coherent direction. However, despite this state of flux, "State of Play" is redeemed by an intelligent script and moments of genuine tension that provide enough surprises, thrills, and intrigue to entertain.
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.