A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
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.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The SqueakquelAnne Murphy
The world famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio return to contend with the pressures of school, celebrity, and a rival female music group known as The Chipettes.
A familiar cast of characters squeak and shrill their way through predictable slap-stick fare. Disappointingly there's little depth to the prosaic story-line, and while children will be enormously entertained by the high school antics of the warbling rodents, there is little in the goofy plot to amuse older viewers. Be warned that the best thing about this movie is the clever word play in the title. There's nothing crisp about these cheeky, chirpy chips.
Hotel TransylvaniaThomas 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.
Bottle ShockAnthony Macali
The story of the early days of Californian wine-making, featuring the now infamous blind Paris wine-tasting of 1976, which has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris".
Bottle Shock is a whimsical tale of wine, passion and love. Unfortunately, it's the servings of love that are the most unpalatable, with some thin romances used to fill out a lean plot. Such a story accords the film-makers an opportunity to showcase the stunning Californian wine country, and they squeeze every last drop of it, producing a film that should cater to most tastes.
The InternshipAnthony Macali
After losing their sales job, two middle-aged men are forced into a career change.
"The Internship" a.k.a. 'The Google movie' paints a glamorous and humorous picture of the greatest workplace in America. Get past the initial grandstanding, and you might discover a charming story of two salesmen lost in a digital future. Their foray into the world of technology is comical one, taking place in the bright yet surprisingly hostile environment of computer geeks. You don't need to understand all of the tech-jargon to get the gist, but it certainly might help. The film's only error is the time it takes to produce results. Google it.
Star Wars: The Force AwakensAnthony Macali
The dark First Order face The Resistance in the hunt for BB-8, a droid harbouring a map believed to detail the location of the missing Luke Skywalker.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" makes a triumphant return, but sadly this wistful event will only leave its fans rejoicing. A new generation of amiable characters are introduced, and familiar ones welcomed back, yet the story fails to take-off. Flashy action pieces and an overpowering sense of nostalgia struggle to hide the obvious dip at the halfway mark, as the film is forced to echo and salvage elements of its past to complete its mission. A billion-dollar franchise awakens.
Step Up 3DWendy Slevison
A tight-knit group of New York City street dancers find themselves pitted against the world's best hip hop dancers in a high-stakes showdown that will change their lives forever.
Using the same mainstream storyline as many other chick-flicks such as friendship, love, competition and issues of trust, this is definitely a film intended for dance lovers. While showing a disappointing lack of imagination in the plot and rather forced and fake acting, the electrifying dance scenes and razor-sharp chorography do redeem the film. However, it could have stepped its game up a bit.
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.
Flamboyant Austrian fashionista Brüno takes his show to America.
"Brüno" is sharp celebrity satire dressed in highly frivolous homosexuality. An overtly graphic character, Bruno will equally offend and entertain, as he tackles the idiosyncrasies of the rich and famous. Such an outfit is hilarious, but doesn't last very long, as the creative team begin to struggle with ideas and a limiting awareness of the hoax. These weaknesses are exposed further when the film loses its 'shtick-factor' in the short running time. Is still worth the show, but will quickly fall out of fashion.
One ChanceAnthony Macali
The true story of Paul, an amateur opera singer who became a phenomenon after winning "Britain's Got Talent".
"One Chance" is the inspirational story of Paul Potts, and his competition with the forces preventing him from singing opera. Bullied at school, he received no support from his father and lacks the confidence to hold his nerve on stage. While the film only scratches at the surface of these issues, it's still uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully there are many moments of humour throughout to curb the continuous heartbreak, especially when the road to success is this long. An emotional winner.
The MasterStefan Bugryn
In 50's America, a lost soul floats through life after WWII, falling under the charm of a cult leader.
Despite the ongoing sense of anticipation, there was little in the way of 'big' moments throughout this extended 'bro-mance'. At times, you can't help but feel a little lost with where the story is heading, or exactly what it's trying to achieve. However, what saves it are the stellar performances from both leads, as well as the luscious production values and direction. The score, which really makes the pace of the story feel energised, is mesmerising. It all looks and sounds great, but feels a little lacklustre. Not a master, but perhaps its apprentice.
Men, Women & ChildrenAndrew O'Dea
Parents and their teenagers grapple with the many ways the Internet affects their lives.
"Men, Women & Children" is a character-driven ensemble drama that provides a glimpse of our cultural evolution (or some may argue devolution) through social media. Perhaps a victim of its own scope and ambition, the exploration of this Wi-Fi culture across a multi-story narrative is thought-provoking, although the delivery is somewhat heavy-handed. The vulnerability and sentiment at the film's core is sure to divide its audience; it will either resonate or leave them with a sense of contrivance. A family conversation still worth having.
The VisitStefan Bugryn
Two young children visit their grandparents for the first time and realise something is very wrong.
The plot twist is no new thing to cinema, and when it’s executed correctly, it can make a film feel refreshing and new. The twist in "The Visit" is incredibly clever, and breathes fresh air to a somewhat boring script after the half way mark. For a large portion of the film, it feels like everything is on repeat. If it weren't for the natural and very engaging performances from the two very young leads, it could be considered quite unentertaining. Come for the visit, stay for the surprise.
The Bourne LegacyAnthony Macali
In the wake of the saga surrounding Jason Bourne, another participant of the program emerges, who tries to escape the higher powers attempting to shut him down.
Perhaps not in the same vein as its predecessors, "The Bourne Legacy" is good enough to stand on its own two feet. 'Number 5' is just as charismatic and dangerous, but the stakes are not high enough in this cat and mouse chase. He's just a man looking for his meds, and uses all his resourcefulness racing to the drawn-out action finale waiting for him at the end of the film. Born from the same mould, but not as reliable.
A group of elite warriors are hunted by members of a merciless alien race known as Predators.
"Predators" delivers all that one would expect from such a movie. The plot is thin, but our group of anti-heroes and evolved Predators admirably do just enough to sustain an air of tension. The action sequences are tight, with plenty of stylish gore to satisfy the gruesomely entertained. Although there are some welcome nods to the original, the disappointing thing about this reboot is that it fails to distinguish itself. On the whole though, it must be said that the film succeeds in at least revisiting the franchise and actually getting it back on track - so be sure to "stick around...
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.
Before I Go to SleepAnthony Macali
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
"Before I Go to Sleep" is more frightening than one might think. Living with amnesia is a damned reality, and the film vehemently captures the constant fear and mistrust our protagonist is feeling. With eerie photos and distressing video diaries, each daily cycle will keep the audience guessing, as strong performances from the cast pull in many different directions, mentally and emotionally, before descending into the darkness of the final act. Sweet dreams.
To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
"Contraband" doesn't move along at a great speed of knots, but contains plenty of drama and thrills. For the most part, the story takes place on a ship, and the environment is a not often seen and interesting place. The hand-held camera style is distracting, regularly zooming in and out of focus. There's a lot to like about our main character, using his street-smarts to continually outwit his sinister opponents. In the end, this predictable import brings home the goods.
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.
Super 8Anthony Macali
After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town.
"Super 8" incites nostalgia, as we share the enthusiasm of the young crew making a short film. Just as the wonderfully realised characters start to develop, an underwhelming and subsequently non-threatening accident crashes the party in more ways than one. Strange things start to happen, some large objects get thrown about, but all it seems to do is rile our interest. Unfortunately the kids stop being kids, turn into detectives, and unveil a remarkably poor revelation. Not that great.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleAnthony Macali
A British writer struggles to fit in at a high-profile magazine in New York.
This film could have been a shrewd attack on the culture of celebrity, but decides to play it safe instead, directly contradicting the very ethos of our main character, Sidney Young. As hard as Sidney tries to lose friends, mostly by getting into the most contrived and ridiculous of situations, he still seems to charm his work colleagues, while entertaining the audience with his seditious wit. "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" is about an enjoyable character, one with a message inconsistent with the very fluff of his own story.
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.
Morning GloryAnne Murphy
An upstart television producer accepts the challenge of reviving a struggling morning show program with warring co-hosts.
"Morning Glory" is as cute as a kitten, and just as fluffy and playful. Audiences will find it either predictably amusing or predictably irritating, as it it sticks to a tried and true formula, offering no surprises and delivering on all expectations. This is a bright funny film with a big name cast, who appear to enjoy acting like cornflakes. It bubbles along with all of the snap, crackle, and pop that many enjoy in the morning.
Real SteelAnthony Macali
Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot.
"Real Steel" is your favourite boxing movie played out by robots. The start is a little worrisome as our protagonist father essentially sells his son, but that won't deter the kids who will find this blockbuster most appealing. The fighting bots look big and strong, battling for cash in some impressive urban environments. Aside from the aesthetics, you can expect the heart-warming plot to follow instruction from the cliché ridden films before it. The steel isn't real, but the CGI is pretty solid.