The Change UpAndrew O'Dea
A comedy in which a married father accidentally switches bodies with his best friend, leading to a series of wildly complex difficulties.
This instalment of the body-swap genre is ultimately a crass affair, and is largely dependant on shock value rather than wit – not to say it's completely devoid of any intelligence. Like its protagonists, the audience too will be split, as the film's talented cast push the boundaries of tastefulness. Some will find the perverse humour laugh-out-loud funny, while others will simply find it vulgar and clichéd. "The Change Up" is definitely borderline... it really could go either way.
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.
Frank and Casey travel to a place somewhere in time and space known only as Tomorrowland.
Despite captivating visuals and an exciting imaginative palate, this space mission struggles to keep steady traction due to inconsistent storytelling. On the one hand the audience isn't bogged down with too much science. On the other, the film refuses to divulge any secrets behind the mysterious "Tommorrowland" until the third act. This waiting game makes the story slightly less engaging. But it's still an epic adventure; filled to the brim with spectacle, positivity and hope. Take me to "Tomorrowland" today.
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.
State of PlayAndrew O'Dea
A team of investigative reporters try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
This is a reasonably well-executed political thriller. Surprisingly, sharp dialogue provides witty yet sporadic comical relief, while the carefully plotted conspiracy makes for a polished although somewhat uninspired movie. Unlikely contrivances and one climatic plot twist too many mean that, at times, the film seems to meander and lack coherent direction. However, despite this state of flux, "State of Play" is redeemed by an intelligent script and moments of genuine tension that provide enough surprises, thrills, and intrigue to entertain.
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.
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.
The Lovely BonesAnthony Macali
Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and killer from heaven.
This movie fields some grim subject matter, only to raise the question: why make it? It's an honest display of a family in disarray, broken and unable to heal. However, apart from this genuine touch, it only manages to wander through a gallery of postcard landscapes in an attempt to inspire hope beyond death. Or perhaps the director just wanted to borrow the climatic scenes of suspense and unease from the book? Like its heroine, "The Lovely Bones" lives in a world of limbo, stuck somewhere in between a good and a bad film.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3Anthony Macali
Armed men hijack a subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind.
"The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" is bland remake that favours visuals over drama. Its jilted style is a haze of whirs and blurs as it attempts to generate excitement. However, it fails to provide any genuine tension, leaving the viewer questioning plot holes and character motives rather than placing us on-board the titular train. Not a complete wreck, but this film is plain and predictable, although it might just deliver enough "cool" action to please commuters.
Big Mamma's BoyAnthony Macali
Rocco struggles to choose between the love of his life and his doting, over-protective Italian mother.
"Big Mamma's Boy" is an admirable attempt at cross-culture comedy, though its appeal outside the uniquely Italian and Australian community is always in doubt. Fast-paced dialect is slowed down and accents are accentuated as the humour reaching for that wider 'family-friendly' audience, but the result "no taste so good". The suburbs of Melbourne are a welcome backdrop, but too many jokes miss the mark when you to try to please everybody. Some ham-full acting and haphazard skits make the film as patchy as a lasagne. A lot to love, though more could have been left at home.
A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building - along with a 12-foot Great White Shark.
"Bait" is the story of a very hungry shark, brought beyond the shore with the help of some unremarkable special effects. Once the disaster subsides, the talent emerges from the water and we have the consummate setting for chills and spills. They make it quite clear which fish we want to live, and the chumps to be chewed, not shying from the blood and limbs synonymous with killer sharks, yet still suffers from taking itself a little too seriously. Dead in the water.
After EarthAndrew O'Dea
A crash landing leaves Kitai and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape.
This ill-conceived film is an uninspiring, predictable story of survival. Poor acting isn't helped by wooden dialogue, nor the leading man's charisma being wasted in what is essentially a supporting role. The special effects are especially sub-par, which is particularly disappointing given dazzling visuals are often the most exhilarating and redeeming feature of sci-fi flicks. The best part about "After Earth" is finally making it to the 'after' part.
When his idyllic life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive.
With the all-star cast and firepower at its disposal, "Red" has all the ammunition required for success. Sure, it does have some individually funny moments, but for a movie pertaining to be a pure action comedy, the one-liners simply aren't funny enough, and the explosions and gunfights simply not that exciting. The only real sense of danger comes from a host of fine actors putting their careers in jeopardy with such a poor choice in film. They really should know better. Red? Bet on black.
A Million Ways to Die in the WestAnthony Macali
As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test.
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" sure is persistent in preaching the dangers of the American frontier, and happily employs the language of today to make fun of it. Sadly the modern speech serves very little purpose except to describe countless sketches of vulgarity, toilet humour and poor slapstick. Characters come and go, with an alarming number of cameos, but much like the main star, shoot off jokes that repeatedly miss the target. There are better ways to laugh in the cinema.
Law Abiding CitizenAnthony Macali
A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free.
"Law Abiding Citizen" wastes no time delving straight into an egregious game of 'good guys vs bad guys'. At times, the way it manages to sway favour between lawyer and particularly clever murderer hungry for revenge can be intriguing. But flick the switch, and suddenly you find yourself locked into some inescapable moments of sinister dialogue and contrivance. It's a shame this thriller takes such a long time to teach its lesson of justice, only for the the final verdict to be a disappointment.
Run Fatboy RunAnthony Macali
A chunky, clueless guy leaves his pregnant fiancée on their wedding day only to discover 5 years later that she is his one true love.
It's difficult to describe what bad comic-timing is, but "Run Fatboy Run" is surely an adequate demonstration. There are too many unbearable characters and too many bad jokes that race towards a neat and predictable ending. A marathon to endure, this film is not as funny as it thinks it is, and one you should run away from.
Sorority RowCourtney Slevison
A group of sorority sisters try to cover up the death of their house-sister after a prank gone wrong, only to be stalked by a serial killer.
"Sorority Row" is a typical 80's slasher remake aimed at horny teenagers, promising a few thrills and a few hot girls. The premise evaporates pretty quickly and you won't scream, but rather laugh at the parade of horror clichés and squealing, bra-clad, sorority girls. Definitely not the smartest or scariest horror flick you'll see, but possibly one of the most fun to watch if you don't take it too seriously.
Wall Street: Money Never SleepsStefan Bugryn
A young wall street trader learns firsthand about the dark side of America's corporate elite.
Greed continues to reign in this uninspiring tale about everything wrong with modern day capitalism. The subject matter and the characters could have been leveraged to create a much more engaging storyline, but it falls short of a potential Greek tragedy, and turns into a second rate, forgettable drama. Like the money grubbing fat cats it portrays, it looks fancy, but really has nothing much to offer. Greed is still good, but as for this movie... not so much.
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.
Journey to the Center of the EarthAnthony Macali
On a quest to find out what happened to his missing brother, a scientist, his nephew and their mountain guide discover a fantastic and dangerous lost world in the center of the earth.
"Journey" is designed as a crowd pleaser, but what little enjoyment there is comes from the luminous world beneath ours, a labyrinth of impressive 3D visuals and molten lava, providing warmth far greater than the characters. Blatantly akin to a kid's theme-park ride, it intersperses mild suspense, best capsulated when our heroes out-pace a large dinosaur. This film suspends all scientific belief, taking you on a ride that is far from adventurous.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
An ex-cop and his family are the target of an evil force that is using mirrors as a gateway into their home.
Mirrors are pretty scary, uncanny in their ability to reveal unsightly curves and impure skin. This film takes it to a whole new level. The mirrors in "Mirrors" like to trap souls, absorb bullets, and callously break jawbones. A premise such as this is purely ridiculous, and far from chilling, despite some great creepy locations. Upon reflection, "Mirrors" has many laughable scenes, and if not taken seriously, is as satisfying as the rather amusing ending.
The RiteWendy Slevison
A young American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.
This is the most recent addition to a select collection of films that deal with the subject of exorcism. Despite eventually falling short of its early potential, squandering both pace and tension, the movie is admittedly somewhat unsettling at times, and leaves you in a rather philosophical frame of mind as you leave the cinema. The senior star plays his part with controlled enthusiasm, and together with the magnificent Roman backdrop, lifts and gives some credibility to an otherwise rather average film. "The Rite" is just alright.
Public EnemiesAndrew O'Dea
The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
"Public Enemies" feels like a series of tommy-gun battles and antique car chases, which although very impressive, do not constitute a good story. It's not terrible, but there's simply not enough build up to pivotal scenes, and the lead actors (who are great in their roles) are hindered by a severe lack of character development. A major annoyance is the camerawork; digitally shot, but not used to good effect. The only heist here is having to pay for admission.
Wreck-It RalphAndrew O'Dea
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
"Wreck-It Ralph" brings classic arcade games to life through a wildly fun and exciting premise. It's just a shame the brilliant concept doesn't quite live up to its potential. Although the animation is superb, it eventually runs out of tokens, winding up as a simple 8-bit film that gives preference to visuals over heart. You won't be disappointed by the brilliant animated-short that precedes it, but unfortunately the main event is only mildly entertaining at best. Game over.