Green ZoneAndrew O'Dea
Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.
"Green Zone" is a more of a thriller than an action film. Those expecting a series of gunfights will be sorely disappointed, as the crux of the story stems from its political subtext, interesting as it is. Although the battle footage brings an admirably tense and frenetic realism, the cinematography is at times a little too chaotic, and the grainy hand-held camerawork tends to hold it back rather than enhance. All points to consider before deciding whether or not to spend your green on this one.
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.
The Karate KidWendy Slevison
A single mother moves to China with her young son, and in his new home, the boy embraces kung-fu.
This movie leaves you a little puzzled. Why is it called "The Karate Kid" when it's about kung-fu? Why didn't the editor chop at least half an hour out of it? And... why should people go see this movie? The answer to that is that it's an enjoyable journey - an uplifting tale about a cross-cultural/generational relationship between a pair of improbable allies. Countering the inevitable clichés are skillfully choreographed fight scenes and some truly spectacular scenery. So, in spite of pondering the other questions, you'll almost certainly leave the cinema feeling that the 'kid' did pretty well.
Sex and the CityAnthony Macali
The girls are back in town.
If the idea of watching 4 back-to-back episodes of "Sex and the City" sounds alluring, then you will love this. The length might be epic, but the pace is aligned with the TV show, maintaining all the fun, fashion and sex. We love spending time with these characters as they face some of the tougher challenges in life like marriage and divorce, a step above the usual frivolous banter of the series. On the other hand, if you're not a fan of our mid-forty heroinés, you will despise the glimpses into their lives. Fans of the show will find this film fabulous.
Olympus Has FallenAnthony Macali
The White House is ambushed by an army of terrorists and the Preisdent is taken hostage. A former guard leads the one-man rescue.
"Olympus Has Fallen" is a non-stop assault of guns and explosions, striking a close resemblance to video games. This B-Grade action revamp features the prototypical bad guys of North Korea, and a hero relishing the violence he's confronted with. Leading the charge to save the world, our patriotic general does not shy from the bloody onslaught or increasingly amusing 'one-liners'. If you can arrest the flaws and the lull at the half-way mark, you may find the ludicrous situation good fun. Stands up.
The TownThomas Jones
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.
"The Town" is your classic cops and robbers fare, with a little bit of heart. The robbery scenes are exhilarating and are directed in such a way that you share the thrill of being chased, and the adrenalin which comes with the risk of getting caught. The problem with this film lies in the moments between the robberies, where a story tries to develop but really only slows the whole thing down. Much like its characters, this film is a goodie and a baddie.
Valentine's DayCourtney Slevison
Couples and singles break-up and make-up based on the expectations of Valentine's Day.
"Valentine's Day" is cute, undemanding fluff, offering nothing original or unique to the rom-com genre. Boasting an impressive ensemble cast of Hollywood stars, the film feels a bit crowded with everyone scrambling for screen time, ultimately leaving you with only an unsatisfying snippet of each storyline. Like the sickly sweet candy shared on the day of love, the initial cheap thrill wears off, leaving you wanting something a bit more substantial. However a few funny moments and the odd 'warm fuzzy' make this an enjoyable enough date movie.
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.
The Bling RingThomas Jones
Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes.
Anyone who admires or tries to emulate the lives of celebrities, prepare for disappointment. You'll find little inspiration here, except maybe the very cool soundtrack. This film does not glamorise, or popularise this culture, which is arguably a healthy step in the right direction. The characters have zero substance, except what they snort. They're not likable, funny, endearing, or worth pitying; their story isn't even compelling, just repetitive. Steal, party, steal, party, you get the picture.
The Wolf of Wall StreetAndrew O'Dea
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker to his desperate fall.
This character driven story is an amoral orgy of excess fuelled by drugs, sex... and money. While being an indictment of greed, there are no moralistic judgements; instead the white-collar criminals damn themselves. Outrageous hilarity ensues as the audience are invited to revel in unbridled decadence and debauchery. A stylistic and witty film featuring remarkable performances, the only flaw is an overindulgence in running time, making it difficult to hold the audience's attention in parts. Although it huffs and puffs, it just doesn't quite blow the house down.
The Twilight Saga: New MoonAnthony Macali
Realising Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward makes the difficult decision to leave.
This sequel significantly outshines its predecessor, as the presence of a storyline improves it in leaps and bounds. The eclipse of romance is welcome, as we share Bella's pain and encourage her recklessness. Despite console from (decidedly buff) friend Jacob, her time spent moping takes a lot longer than the film lets you believe. Their performances are less than desirable, but we find some hope in the small moments of action, laughter and extension of the mythology. Less brood and more mood, "New Moon" has successfully revived the saga.
A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.
"Lucy" is a stylish action thriller replete with dizzying effects and splendid imagery. Ambitious in scope, the movie is held together by a fascinating premise and a superb performance from the lead. Unfortunately, for a film that explores the idea of human potential, it doesn't quite to live up to its own. Interesting without being entertaining, it loses credulity with a slew of logical plot gaps either glaringly convenient or simply left unexplained. Reaches 60% of its capacity.
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 post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
In the midst of a con's latest scheme, a woman from his past shows up throwing his plans for a loop.
"Focus" is a glossy, fairly well-executed con story. Tension builds in a series of twists the audience won't see coming, typically key to a successful thriller. Unfortunately the sheer volume of turns in this film mean they tend to lose their impact with each new revelation. Moments of crude humour are used effectively, and there's a host of likeable characters that help distract us from an uneven plot. Never boring but not all that engaging, it's more cubic-zirconia than diamond: shiny and a little contrived... but otherwise enjoyable.
The Way BackAndrew O'Dea
Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, "The Way Back" is authentic film-making that proves you don't need CGI to create a sweeping epic. The incredibly long running time and deliberate pacing commands you to appreciate the vast distances and stunning landscapes of the protagonists' journey, step by slow step. One suspects this was entirely the director's intention, and in this regard credit is undeniably due. Some will no doubt be inspired by this sprawling story, but others may get lost along the way.
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.
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher.
"Appaloosa" respects the conventions of a traditional western, with its slow pacing intersected by the gun-slinging one would expect. The chemistry and repartee between the two leads is superb, and together they excel in dialogue and humour that is as dry and effective as the dusty landscape that dominates the film. However, the fundamental flaw is that it presents a story all too familiar - that's not to say it doesn't make an entertaining western - it's just that, at times, it lacks the tension and emotion of a 'good-ole-duel' to separate it from the rest.
The Men Who Stare at GoatsAnne Murphy
A reporter in Iraq might just have the story of a lifetime when he meets a former member of the U.S. Army's New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions.
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" is goofy and amicably humoured, yet it's disappointing and insufficiently acerbic considering the military parody it aspires to be. The good natured cast are excellent although it's a shame one of them isn't a goatherd as this movie is a little free range. The story is funny enough, but the plot wanders pointlessly, leaving the audience glassy eyed and staring.
The Lincoln LawyerThomas Jones
A lawyer conducts business from the back of his car while representing a high-profile client.
Films depicting client/lawyer relationships always make for compelling viewing and "The Lincoln Lawyer" is no exception. It's a classic cat and mouse chase, as both client and lawyer work to stay one step ahead of each other until the fat lady sings... seriously. This film seems to end four times before it actually ends. The acting is one-dimensional and there are a few sub-plots that are devoted too much screen time, but the central story will have you hooked. Any appeals to this judgement are denied.
Killing Them SoftlyAndrew O'Dea
A professional enforcer investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
"Killing Them Softly" is both an arresting crime drama and socio-political commentary of the USA's 2008 economic crisis. The fusion of a violent underworld and pessimistic critique of capitalism is a strange mix, and the adjustment can be distracting. If nothing else though, it provides thought-provoking viewing even if the references are heavy-handed at times. The dialogue is cynical, the cinematics stylish and the acting superb; yet the fuse is an extremely slow burn. Some will be dismayed at the lack of explosiveness, while others will enjoy seeing the killing done 'softly'.
Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries and forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism.
"Splice" is an ambitious and provocative film that presents an intelligent take on an often visited ethical dilemma. The performances from both the leads and creature are great, and help to sustain a relatively solid story that unfortunately winds up being undercut by a perversely baffling and cumbersome climax. Competent in splicing a difficult genre and theme, this film still manages to be an engrossing yet erring blend of horror and oddball family drama.
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.
300 Rise of an EmpireAndrew O'Dea
Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is an epic spectacle of video-game violence and gore. This stylised action fantasy retains the familiar and flashy comic-book style of the franchise, replete with blood-spattering slow motion and enough visceral excess to keep the senses engaged. Although it pales in comparison when evoking the same emotional vigour of its predecessor, the void is redeemed by the sultry, murderous heroine at its center who steals and carries the show. Not bad as a stand-alone movie, it's just missing some limbs.
The Theory of EverythingAnthony Macali
A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
"The Theory of Everything" is an inspiring look into the great physicist, focusing on his endeavour rather than his achievement. With great heart and warmth, and minimal mention of science, we see a man confronted with a terrible condition and the inescapable effects on his relationship. Together with his equally resilient wife, they battle each obstacle and embrace it with good humour. The central performances are seamless, and as remarkable as they are, thankfully do not distract from the story considering the subject. The theory is sound.