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.
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.
The Sorcerer's ApprenticeAnthony Macali
Master sorcerer Balthazar Blake recruits a seemingly everyday guy in his mission to defend New York City from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath.
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a modern take on the world of wizardry, competing in the popular genre with more money and less imagination. The ingredients are familiar: boy meets girl, the journey of the 'chosen' one, love is more important than the end of world... such unoriginality is cleverly cloaked in wiz-bang special effects and the charisma of the cast. Despite its bewitchery, the film is ultimately entertaining and destined for a future of more 'life' lessons from sorcerers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The GiftAnthony Macali
A man from the past comes back to haunt a couple, leaving wrapped presents at their doorstep.
"The Gift" is the gift that keeps on giving... the creeps. Hooked from the very first interaction between our lead characters, the suspense builds as their rich and sinister backstories are revealed. Largely set in a single house, this conspicuous setting brings even more unease, in its vulnerability and realism. Interest tends to wane towards the end as the conceit becomes a little monotonous. But the film's greatest achievement is its unpredictability. You don't know how it's going to end, which is a rare cinematic gift.
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.
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 Last StandStefan Bugryn
A small town sheriff must stop a Mexican druglord from crossing the border.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough originality to set "The Last Stand" aside from the rest. It takes a little too long to actually kick in, and it's not until the second half that the action really gets under way. Petrol-heads get their fix, with just as many car chase scenes as there are shoot-outs; and of course, one liners and comedic moments are never far away. It won't go down in history as one of the best action movies ever, but it's still a fun ride, if that's what you're after.
The UninvitedCourtney Slevison
Anna Rydell returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardised thanks to her cruel stepmother, aloof father, and the presence of a ghost in their home.
What could have been yet another sub-par thriller with predictable plot twists, manages to transcend the status-quo with excellent performances from the leading actresses. The story isn't particularly inspired or original, but it does have a killer twist that you definitely won't see coming. With stylish visuals and the occasional satisfying jolt of suspense, "The Uninvited" makes for a more than adequate Friday night thrill.
The Adventures of TintinAndrew O'Dea
Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship.
This instalment of the revered cartoon is faithful enough to the source material and its host of much loved characters to keep the hardcore fans appeased. There's enough of the mystery and adventure one would expect from our classic hero, and - of course - his irrepressible little white dog. The 3D animation is exquisite as the camera swoops and soars, bringing the motion-captured world to life. Unfortunately, the stunning visuals aren't matched by a lacklustre story. "The Adventures of Tintin" might be a fun ride, but still far from the exhilaration of a rollercoaster.
A classic Disney fairytale collides with modern-day New York City in a story about a fairytale princess who is sent to our world by an evil queen.
In an attempt to bring quintessential Disney to the youth of today, "Enchanted" fantastically throws the adorable Princess Giselle into a busy city metropolis. Her journey is ultimately amusing as she searches for Prince Charming, a purpose that could quite literally echo our own ambitions. The conclusion is predictably out of a Hallmark Card, but the film is still charming enough to appeal to all the wicked witches of the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Terminator SalvationAndrew O'Dea
After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.
This movie is a gritty, post-apocalyptic action showcase. Outstanding effects and camerawork capture an endless flow of action sequences with consummate precision. Purists will gorge on a glut of adrenaline-fuelled mayhem and dazzling pyrotechnics, while those who require a little more substance will be disappointed by a plot that's about as emotionally engaging as a T-100. Still, there's enough promise to suggest this franchise will definitely "be back"...
The Nice GuysAnthony Macali
In 1970's Los Angeles, two private investigators begrudgingly collaborate to unravel a conspiracy surrounding the suspicious death of a porn actress.
"The Nice Guys" is a forgettable crime caper that's not overly funny or boring. It's a film largely carried by its two famous stars, who diverge from more traditional roles to bring their charm to the swinging 70's. They do make an amusing duo, and combined with a precocious and delightful team member, together they glide through the contrived plot with intermittent bouts of laughter. Harking back to the buddy-comedies of yesteryear, audiences wishing to relive the era and nostalgia with find the most enjoyment. Perfectly tolerable guys.
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.
Dirty GrandpaStefan Sgarioto
Right before his wedding, an uptight young guy is tricked into driving his grandfather to Florida for Spring Break.
"Dirty Grandpa" aims to shock and horrify viewers with its crude humour and a complete disregard for boundaries. It's a combination that makes quite a violating viewing experience. The running joke throughout – where a perverted senior citizen exhibits the libido of a teenager - is made to be as uncomfortable as possible. There are laughs to be had, but they often come with that bad taste that lingers after the joke has worn off. No maturity found here.