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.
Get Him to the GreekAndrew O'Dea
A record company intern is hired to accompany out-of-control British rock star Aldous Snow to a concert at L.A.'s Greek Theatre.
"Get Him to the Greek" is at its outrageous best when poking fun at the music industry. The star of the show is perfect in his role, and along with a particularly funny cameo appearance, there are several uproariously 'laugh-out-loud' moments. The disappointing drawback is that a flimsy story means the film tends to lose direction, as it needlessly tries to be something more than a genuine comedy. Still, there's more than enough hilariously vulgar debauchery to keep most entertained.
Dracula UntoldAndrew O'Dea
Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself.
"Dracula Untold" is an origin film that injects new blood into an otherwise tired subject. Taking the famous vampire back hundreds of years, there's a degree of thought to the back-story that is both obvious and refreshing. Although the screenplay is most definitely flawed, the trespasses into clichéd territory can easily be forgiven by an audience who will appreciate the charismatic lead and his frequent forays into the grim and gory. Doesn't suck.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Anthony Macali
In the 1960s, an American and Russian operative must join forces to stop a nuclear bomb.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." is all style and no substance. When these secret agents aren’t jumping and shooting at one another, they are delivering fashion advice. With this example you can appreciate the uncomplicated direction of this story. It starts off obnoxious, but slowly grows on you over the course of the mission. Everything is so nice to look at, and plot reveals are neatly constructed (and deconstructed) for the audience, leaving little to the imagination. Sleek and chic, and not so special.
Something BorrowedWendy Slevison
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
Adapted from a popular novel, "Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy of errors, where everyone seems to be in love with the wrong person. The movie is essentially the characters sorting themselves out. Unfortunately, this takes a while, and by the end of the overly long running time, audience investment in the protagonists has wilted a bit. While the actors all do a fine job of their roles, the film lacks freshness and charm. The plot feels a little like something borrowed.
Astro BoyAnthony Macali
Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Tenma.
This movie is aimed at a young audience - the science of good and evil is broken down into colours of blue and red, whilst also exploring themes of grief, friendship and family. However, there's still plenty of action and comedy on the horizon, and it's difficult to resist the charm of the delightful Toby and his growth into Astro. Although not entirely exciting and armed with a somewhat robotic plot, "Astro Boy" remains a serviceable film for fanboys and kids alike.
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.
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.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2Stefan Sgarioto
Amidst a massive family revelation that demands another Greek wedding, Toula and Ian also deal with the fact that their daughter wants move interstate for college.
It's quite easy to say that "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" is bigger, fatter and 'Greekier' than its predecessor; however there comes a point when you realise you've been just been fed re-heated leftovers. Aside from a few plot tweaks, there isn't anything actually new being brought to the table. Not that it really matters though, because just like the first serving, there are plenty of crazy family antics and corny sitcom style jokes to keep the audience satisfied. No BYO baklava required.
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.
The Jane Austen Book ClubAnthony Macali
Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.
Having read zero Jane Austen books, I still found this film mildly entertaining. The fun comes when each member of the club relate the stories to their own tragic lives. This process causes them to break down, and to make spiteful and bitter comments to each other that are often amusing. There is also the benefit of having one guy in the group to serve the males watching this chick flick. The only sour note is the predictable ending where they all invariably find love.
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.
Joy, a divorced mother of two, overcomes financial and family trouble to become the founder of a large business dynasty by inventing the Miracle Mop.
"Joy" is a fairly basic story about the rise of an underdog - with the main character navigating failures and defying the odds to succeed. Even in Joy's case, which includes both the support and betrayal of her unconventional family, it's nothing we haven't seen before. The most surprising aspect is that a story about the creation of a mop can be so entertaining. Despite some great casting and quirky dialogue, it does suffer from a confused tonal palette, not always sure where it should be hitting the mark between comedy and drama. Some joy to be had.
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.
A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.
"Snitch" seizes upon the value of a 'based on true events' premise and tells the story of an amiable father who throws himself into the most dangerous of situations. Trying to win the trust of shady drug lords isn't easy, creating an atmosphere loaded with suspense. It quickly becomes apparent that our wishful hero is out of his depth, and the film is successful enough in its character portrayals that we actually care. Each move may be predictable, but the ride is enjoyable enough. Dobbed in.
Through a magical portal, a race of Orcs invade the realm of Azeroth in search of a new home.
Video games are typically a truly immersive experience, but sadly "Warcraft" the movie is not quite the same. The beginning is slow... very slow, grinding through the necessary setup required for all the noobs in the audience. Once we arrive at a point where we can vaguely recall the names of the clan, things become a little more interesting, exploring the admirable traditions of the Orcs, and challenging viewers with various mythologies and plot twists. Visually satisfying, breathtaking close-ups combat the less impressive vistas that deliberately mimic the source material. An honourable campaign.
We Bought a ZooAnthony Macali
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Based on a true story, "We Bought a Zoo" doesn't have a bad bone in its body. It's an adventure with a menagerie of fluffy animals, great and small, and the odd staff who service them. While an underlying story of grief drives the plot, the film lacks the courage to fully explore the strife and emotion. After all, this is as family-friendly as it gets, and in the end nothing can compete with the excitement of a zoo. A ticket that will leave you warm and fuzzy.
Pineapple ExpressAnthony Macali
A stoner and his dealer are forced to go on the run from the police after the pothead witnesses a cop commit a murder.
If you smoke weed, more often then not, you end up in crazy scenarios. They are often highly contrived, outrageous, and equally hilarious. When the bad guys over-estimate the good guys, suspecting they're intelligent hired professionals, it's always hysterical. Like a number of characters, some jokes are not great, though never resorting to vulgarity. "Pineapple Express" is a ridiculous comedy of ridiculous people, stuck in ridiculously funny situations.
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.
A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
"Oblivion" is a dystopian thriller that plays like a mix-tape of science fiction flicks; borrowing heavily from like-minded genre films that came before it. For the most part, the movie is fairly engaging, and it's difficult not to appreciate the sweeping landscapes and polished production values that are matched to a pulsating soundtrack. Yet for all the visceral flair, it's a shame the story lacks the originality and tension to distinguish itself from being just another clone. Too obvious.
Alice in WonderlandAndrew O'Dea
19-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure.
"Alice in Wonderland" is a pleasant movie that revisits all of its familiar and much loved characters in splendid detail. The gorgeously rendered fantastical world is a visual delight, counteracting the lack of plot substance in parts. Disappointingly, you can't help but feel that the irresistible combination of director and source material has given way somewhat to studio convention. Although most (including the little ones) will find the film's sense of escapism enjoyable, it's forgivable to be late for this not-so-important date!
I Love You, ManAnthony Macali
Friendless Peter Klaven goes on a series of man-dates to find a Best Man for his wedding.
"I Love You, Man" is far more annoying than it should be. While the "man-dating" idea makes for an interesting and hilarious juxtaposition against 'normal' relationships, it's shackled by the awkwardly nervous fumbles in the lead's attempt to make friends. They're very funny at the start, but dominate the dialogue towards the end as the same material is regurgitated (at times literally). The signs are clearly emblazoned in the sky; the formula for the modern comedy is starting to tire, despite there being some love around this film.
This Means WarAnthony Macali
Two operatives wage a battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same girl.
Two hardened men might front this stunt but don't be fooled. "This Means War" is a romantic comedy with a different take. Outlandish circumstances persuade two of the CIA's finest to exploit their resources to court a girl. This would never happen in the real world, but it's a funny scenario to watch unfold nonetheless. The jokes are snappy and everybody is beautiful and bright, with all the right characteristics to suit the plot. In the end it comes down to the trio at the centre of this triangle, and there's a lot to love about their conflict.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. EvilAnne Murphy
Red Riding Hood is training in the group of Sister Hoods, when she and the Wolf are called to examine the mysterious sudden disappearance of Hansel and Gretel.
Red is a girl who stands up for herself and knocks her opponents out, delivering action before comedy. Still, the snappy dialogue and cracking one-liners are welcome in movies aimed at younger audiences, providing enjoyment for the grown-ups. Annoyingly, there's some not so subtle stereotyping, and you can't help noticing the baddies are all chubby and the goodies fit and trim. Wink, wink, as all in all, it's more good than evil.
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.