Pacific RimAnthony Macali
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world.
"Pacific Rim" is the perfect suit for an audience with a penchant for large robots. On display is the most spectacular of heavy-machinery, brought to life with cutting edge special effects in gleaming detail. It's clear the monsters were as thoughtfully designed, repulsive creatures who appear as ominous threats, thanks in part to the small bunch of rag-tag humans who make us partially care. The film has a mission, and delivers exactly on what it sets out to do... Robots vs Monsters.
Great ExpectationsAnne Murphy
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
"Great Expectations" could be the original coming-of-age tale, and with its themes of social class, justice, love and obsession, it is apparent the original work was written by a social critic. It's probable that those who have not read the source material will enjoy the movie the most, although reading it could be marginally quicker than the film running time. Still, it is well worth taking the time to watch this sumptuous and well acted nineteenth century London drama with its gothic overtones. Expectations exceeded.
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.
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.
Magic MikeAnthony Macali
A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
Sex, drugs... and dollar bills, "Magic Mike" offers us a sneak peek into the not-so-glamorous, but surprisingly creative life of a male stripper. While the job requires a certain exquisite physique, there is an impressive amount of work involved in the highly choreographed dance numbers and imaginative use of costumes and props. Unfortunately the magic doesn't last forever, as Mike searches for more to his life, with ambitions of a real career and a romance that can't compete with the novelty of dry-humping on stage. There's more to Mike than meets the eye.
Sex and the City 2Courtney Slevison
Two years have passed since Carrie Bradshaw finally bagged John "Mr. Big" Preston, the man she was always meant to be with...
"Sex and the City 2" delivers on its mantra, ensuring that fun, fashion and frivolity are the order of the day. However, some of the best scenes come when the glitzy curtain is drawn back and the struggles of making a marriage and family work are exposed. As a whole, this movie is exactly what you should expect: the script isn't all that great, but as a visual feast it works a treat. So kick back with a Cosmopolitan and catch up with some old 'friends'.
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.
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.
The ReboundAnthony Macali
In New York City, a single mom captivates her new neighbour, a much younger man.
"The Rebound" is a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy that ticks all the right boxes. There is great chemistry between the two leads, even though the children steal the show with their questionable preciousness and jocularity. The movie's worst quality would be the title, partly derived by Sandy's unique profession in sport statistics, making her even more appealing to the boys. As predictable as it may be, it's nicely wrapped up in a series of extended montages, preventing any forays into the over-soppy. The aim is true, as this film scores a winner in all the right categories.
The Guilt TripAndrew O'Dea
As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom's house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.
"The Guilt Trip" is a predictable road-trip comedy that relies solely on the chemistry of its leads to drive the laughter. Thankfully, they form a highly likeable comedic duo who, despite the lacklustre script, manage to elicit some genuinely hilarious moments. The ride is bumpy at times, but it's their interplay that sustains what is essentially a light-hearted, frivolous and feel-good movie that will not disappoint the intended audience. A guilty pleasure.
Tooth FairyLuke Bartter
A bad deed on the part of a tough minor-league hockey player results in an unusual sentence: He must serve one week as a real-life tooth fairy.
Despite relying on the visual of a grown man dressed as a fairy to hook you in, this family comedy provides plenty of enjoyment, mainly due to the charisma of its leads. Several of the story-lines run parallel to create a feel similar to a series of sketches, and while there are no surprises to be found, "Tooth Fairy" is never boring and occasionally quite funny. Far more likeable and charming than expected, it's recommended for children, inner and actual.
A re-enactment of the harrowing Everest mountain expeditions on May 10 1996.
"Everest" boasts a big name cast, but the indisputable star role is filled by the mountain itself. The remarkable cinematography shows it as lofty and imposing and all due glory is afforded to nature. Sadly human drama is one of the understated elements. The superficial view of the impassioned and zealous characters is problematic. There are too many people with too many untold back stories, and just too many unanswered questions. Apparently 'the bigger the better' does not always hold true. Ain't no mountain high enough?
No Strings AttachedThomas 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.
Zack and Miri Make a PornoAnthony Macali
Lifelong platonic friends Zack and Miri look to solve their respective cash-flow problems by making an adultfilm together.
"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is a film of two halves. The first half is hilarious and fantastic, introducing us to the loveable friends and their daily escapades. It's when the title comes to life that the film fails miserably. It's certainly not as much fun as promised, leaving you wishing Zack and Miri found a more entertaining solution to their cash problems.
The Pirates! Band of MisfitsAnthony Macali
The Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award.
"The Pirates!" is another adventure from a production house who continue to painstakingly animate their films with clay. They do so successfully with this film, creating a world of splendid colour and detail that keep the eyes busy. The story is an inherently amusing one, moving along at a swift pace, but the journey is lacking in laughter, with numerous gags failing to reach that 'hilarious' territory. It becomes even more frustrating when you acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into the craft, and realise that the humour just isn't on the same deck as the visuals. A stunning mismatch.
The Hangover Part IIStefan Bugryn
The wolfpack get themselves in trouble again days before Stu's Thai wedding.
This sequel is no more than a duplicate of the original... just in another country. There are a lot of moments where you will feel like you've been before, but the characters are likeable enough to allow them to just get away with it. Some laugh-out-loud scenes manage to carry the film only so far, and while the neat ending is a little too didactic, it's still worth seeing. Watch out for the cringe-worthy musical performance by a well-known boxer; it could well be cinema's worst. He was probably hung-over.
Dreamgirls follows the lives of three young women who form a singing trio called the "Dreamettes". Their rise to the top is not as smooth as their lyrics.
This film is a continuous exposition of music, illuminated brilliantly on the stage. It's all visually stunning, in particular the montages that race through time. Casting real-life singers to the main roles is an inspired choice that draws strong vocal performances to the screen. But like many good songs, they are overplayed and tire towards the finale.
A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights lives his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race.
"Planes" is a simple story of flying fun. The premise is basic and sticks to a tried formula, lacking the boost in creativity required to distinguish this animation from the rest. As a result, the film is best suited to the youngest of age groups, who will marvel at the soaring aeroplanes brought to life in colourful 3D. There is plenty of spectacle and lots of racing, astutely captured and easy to follow, darting to the finish of a short and sweet running time. Fly in, fly out.
The RunawaysAnthony Macali
Based on lead-singer Cherie Currie's book 'Neon Angel' - a reflection of her experiences as a rock star in the '70's teenage band 'The Runaways'.
"The Runaways" is a musical biopic of teenage girls and their love for rock 'n' roll. This film exposes their relatively unknown story, charting their seedy formation and rise to fame in mesmerising style. The group is held together by terrifically eye-opening performances from the leads. Despite uneven levels of entertainment, this movie entices you to learn more about its popular music and lessons in addiction. A blur of a band easily forgotten.
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.
As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fight the threat of artificial intelligence.
"Transcendence" is a story high in concept, but low on explanation. Despite the director's best efforts, it's difficult to succumb to the doomsday scenario dreamed up. Moving at a quantum-like pace, the film readily skips over the 'science' and settles on exploring the apprehension and awe of a supercomputer with a brain. While impressive in its infancy, the plot descends into all kinds of silliness and confusion towards the end. Makes less sense.
Monsters vs AliensAnthony Macali
When a meteorite from outer space hits a young girl and turns her into a giant, she is taken to a secret government compound where she meets a ragtag group of monsters.
Monsters vs Aliens is a fun film, and I'm sure was a lot of fun to make, but it's certainly no masterpiece. Despite the jaw-dropping visuals and towering production design, the story is pretty unengaging for kids and adults alike. There is still plenty of humour to amuse all tastes, but it needed more monsters, typically ones that could inject a bit more wit into the film.
A Mighty HeartAnthony Macali
The film is based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying and unforgettable story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death.
"A Mighty Heart" is a genuine and heartfelt account of tragedy. The excellent performances reflect a true sense of the frustration, determination and suffering of all those involved. The film struggles to draw the audience into the investigation, presumably of little concern to the director with motives that seem to favour accuracy over entertainment. An authentic portrayal with a good heart, but little excitement.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
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.