21 is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
This decidedly Hollywood account of the MIT Blackjack team is fair entertainment that will please gamblers and confuse others. After a slow setup we race through the rules of 21 and jet off to Las Vegas to enjoy the highs of bringing down the house. The movie can't maintain this level of fun, with its weak plot rising to the surface in a manufactured ending that feels contrived. Once you see past the flashy bright lights, you realise "21" isn't a big winner.
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.
When an ex-superhero is murdered, a vigilante named Rorschach begins an investigation into the murder, which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion.
"Watchmen" is by all accounts yet another successful comic-book adaptation, resplendent in its visual flair. The artistic style matches the grandeur of a plot that also manages to deliver intellectually, as it explores the complex nature of mankind. However, the disapointing drawback is a myriad of subplots that dilute the story, making it feel convoluted at times. Still worth a watch - if not for the brilliant title sequence, then for the vintage soundtrack.
Deliver Us from EvilAnthony Macali
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rites of exorcism.
"Deliver Us from Evil" is a bizarre crime thriller where the victims are 'possessed'. For most part, the police investigation at its core plays out rather conventionally, affirming the real world setting and origins. Gradually evil and scares creep in, usually in very dark rooms, accompanied by very large bangs. Even with the terrifying gore-extravagant finale, bouts of surprising humour break up the overwhelming moments of occult. Delivers on its promise.
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonAndrew O'Dea
Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a beautifully crafted and acted film, but the running time and ambiguity surrounding its message holds it back. Lessons of fate, mortality, life, and death are prevalent - but they remain convoluted. For all their enigmatic symbolism, they are difficult to comprehend and appreciate. However, that's not to say the audience won't be able to draw their own conclusions from the many parables throughout. Indulge your curiosity, watch it, and make up your own mind.
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.
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'...
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.
Death RaceAndrew O'Dea
Ex-con Jensen Ames is forced by the warden of a notorious prison to compete in our post-industrial world's most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must kill one another on the road to victory.
"Death Race" is a film pertaining to pure mindless entertainment. It takes us on a violent ride fuelled by all the fast cars, big guns, explosions and gore one would typically expect from the unashamed action genre. Fans of such cheap thrills will revel in the fun generated by the constant high-octane race sequences, while those seeking more dramatic substance will find the movie as a whole severely lacking.
21 Jump StreetAnthony Macali
A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to school to blend in and bring down a drug ring.
In the case of "21 Jump Street", the fact it doesn't suck is the most surprising. From the very outset, the film makes us aware its 80's reprise is not original, and setting such a tone makes it easier to like and laugh. The bumbling detectives play their parts well, lost in the world of the modern high-school and playing up the geek/jock stereotypes to hilarious results. Unfortunately, most of the jokes are hit and miss beyond this point, compounded by a long running time and unnecessary vulgarity. Jump to it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
White House DownAndrew O'Dea
A policeman must save his child and protect the president from a group of paramilitary invaders.
Action junkies will be enthralled by this fist-pumping spectacle, a shameless popcorn flick that would have its audience believe the President of the USA is capable of firing rocket launchers from a speeding armoured-limousine. Some of the set-pieces are explosive, and while the special effects are impressive, they eventually become tiresome and repetitive. The lead is perfectly suited to his role as the action star, but isn't helped by moments of dialogue and patriotism so cringe-worthy that they become downright hilarious. Was it meant to be a comedy? White House frown.
A political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays.
The identity of one of our greatest writers is scrutinised in "Anonymous", a tawdry tale of fiction staged as lusty historical drama. The audience is kept busy trying to work out who's who as the time-frame jumps into the past and back again, causing confusion when we try to match the older and younger actors of the same character. Sordid conspiracies abound, and it's all a bit fanciful, convoluted and overly long. As they say in the classics, "It's not Shakespeare".
The Adjustment BureauStefan Bugryn
A politician must fight forces that 'control his fate' to stay together with his true love.
This movie could have been so much better than it was. The concept behind it is highly original, and you can be forgiven for thinking it would be a game changer. Possibly with a different crew or director, it could have lived up to its potential. However, despite the constant action sequences, it never really feels that exciting, and you will inevitably walk away disappointed. If only they 'adjusted' the film to make it more enjoyable.
Are We Officially Dating?Anthony Macali
Three best friends find themselves where we've all been - at that confusing moment in every dating relationship when you have to decide "So... where is this going?"
That awkward moment "Are We Official Dating?" is about is barely spoken out. What dominates most of the discussion of its young cast is how sex and relationships work in the modern day, in all of its vulgar and candid glory. Regrettably the film is a little too inconsistent to get its underlying moral messages across, serving up a disconnected mix of comedic set pieces and 'dating' advice. A refreshing topic, but not bold enough to challenge the Hollywood ideals. Caught in the middle.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullAnthony Macali
Famed archaeologist Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.
It has been 18 years since the last instalment and those looking to cure those archaeological cravings will be satisified. The same characters, crew and triumphant score are reunited to recreate the wonderful fun and action of the series. Our hero may have aged, but like the audience, his passion is reignited when we embark onto the next adventure. However, after waiting for so long, it's disappointing we don't find anything new to treasure.
Mei, a young girl whose memory holds a priceless numerical code, finds herself pursued by the Triads, the Russian mob, and corrupt NYC cops.
The male star of this movie has almost created his own genre and "Safe" is the latest addition to his body of work. As always, the action is full-on and the body count super high - for fans, this is more of what they love. The plot almost seems to be an afterthought, but with the adrenalin racing and reality enjoyably suspended for an hour or two, who cares? It's safe to say that if you're up for the ride, you'll have a blast!
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedAnthony Macali
Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe join a travelling circus on their back home to New York.
"Madagascar 3" starts like most franchises that run out of ideas... by travelling to Europe. Within the wag of a tail, our favourite animal friends are overseas and roaring along at a frantic pace, opening with a ruckus to satisfy the most attention-seeking of kids. Once the initial excitement dies down, the energy runs out, and the film resorts to the limitless colour and fireworks at its disposal to enthral over the thin circus plot. An uninspiring show.
Theseus is a mortal man chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion.
"Immortals" is another story of Ancient Greece, where the gods sit in the sky and watch men fight below. The mad king is delightfully evil, exercising his wicked ways in every scene. His counterpart, the chosen one, is the most able-bodied of them all, spending most of the time chasing and tensing. The large scale production looks great, with a myriad of effects thrown up on screen, but the story is plain and lacks any emotion or wonder. Once the swords hit the ground, the film is largely forgettable, and a shining example that quantity does not conquer quality.
Muppets Most WantedAnthony Macali
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.
"Muppets Most Wanted" bears all the classic tropes of a sequel low on ideas and thin on plot. It's still impossible to resist the innocuous charm and nostalgia of the wildly animated characters, looking so great in their colourful skins. Moving at a fast pace, the jokes are largely hit-and-miss. While the hits are funny, it’s unlikely this rag-tag crew will win over any new audiences with this show, despite the support of countless cameos. Most conventional.