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.
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.
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...
Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate puzzling murders.
"Surrogates" presents a curious concept that tactfully blends intrigue with action. It races through the premise, leaving little time to question any ambiguities, while providing an opportune setup to parade a world of eye-pleasing 'models'. While the story maintains this heightened pace, a consequence is that many of the sub-plots are neglected trying to keep up. Solid performances, storyline and action make this a vehicle just good enough to inhabit.
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.
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.
Black MassAnthony Macali
The true story of James "Whitey" Bulger, who became an FBI informant to rid the Mafia competition.
The portrayal of this notorious crime figure is absolutely chilling, and the performance alone warrants the existence of this film. However the simple way the narrative recreates the key moments of his life is less affecting. Time jumps, characters arrive and inevitably go, and it often feels disconnected. So while it doesn't offer any incisive insight into this Boston baddie, apart from the fact that he was a very violent and intimidating man, a gangster flick is always fascinating. Mass murder.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Confessions of a ShopaholicWendy Slevison
A college graduate lands a job as a financial journalist in New York City to support her shopping addiction, and falls for a wealthy entrepreneur.
This is a movie that does not take itself too seriously. Equate it to eating fairy floss, and you will not be disappointed. It is fun, flighty and a visual feast for fashionistas. The leading lady makes a very cute clothes-horse, and handles the amusing script splendidly. Having a laugh whilst we are in the middle of a recession is nothing to feel guilty about. So, relax and enjoy - no confession necessary.
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.