The life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm.
Notorious is a biopic of one the greatest, Biggie Smalls, who curiously narrates himself in this film of his life, from hustling on the streets to becoming the king of East-Coast hip-hop. Despite his many indiscretions, Big Poppa is portrayed favourably, because as you know, "Mo Money = Mo Problems". However, such empathy only detracts from the portrait of an already dubious character, even though his music is obviously tight.
In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Part grimly realistic and part fairy tale, "Precious" is the gritty story of one girls nightmarish existence. There is a redemptive thread thanks to the resilient core of the central character, but that element alone is insufficient to lift the bleak realism to an entertaining level. At the same time the raw exposed mood is compromised by a couple of plot twists that swim in sentimentalism. The emotional content is as uneven as the camera work. Precious but tarnished.
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.
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.
Dinner for SchmucksTom Jones
When he finds out that his work superiors host a dinner celebrating the idiocy of their guests, a rising executive questions it when he's invited, just as he befriends a man who would be the perfect guest.
Though there are funny moments, "Dinner for Schmucks" is clearly produced for American audiences and doesn't translate to the Australian sense of humour. Where we should be laughing at the displays of stupidity depicted in the film, we're more likely to remark 'oh my god'. The comedy of errors becomes relentless, which can be partly blamed on the script. Arguably, they relied too heavily on the talent of the starring comedians to make it work. Funny for only certain tastebuds.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
A drama centered on three people who are touched by death in different ways.
For a film with such promise; the director and cast are of the highest caliber, this movie really falls short on all levels. With the exception of a couple of scenes (the opening is on another level of film direction), the story, characters, and climax are all rather lame. A film on this material should force audiences to question their faith in the afterlife or the ability to communicate with the dead. Instead, it looks uninspiringly at the experiences of three individuals with no agenda on the subject presented. "Hereafter" - underwhelming in life and death.
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.
Seven PoundsWendy Slevison
An IRS agent with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.
"Seven Pounds" is an average movie that could have been better with a heavier hand from the editing department and a lighter touch from the director. The story, while powerful and engaging, evolves slowly, and there are too many lingering shots of the main character's pained face. When all the pieces of the puzzle do finally come together, the factual implausibility unfortunately weakens the film's credibility.
I Am LegendAnthony Macali
Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.
This post-apocalyptic thriller is all too familiar, with too much focus on a barren New York that becomes dull quickly after the excessive panning. More tameness comes in the form of the terrible infected, tanned a bland grey and lacking physicality. A group of computer generated embodiments are simply not as menacing as real people dressed in pale makeup and blood. Often tense but far from legendary.
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 political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays.
The identity of one of our greatest writers is scrutinised in "Anonymous", a tawdry tale of fiction staged as lusty historical drama. The audience is kept busy trying to work out who's who as the time-frame jumps into the past and back again, causing confusion when we try to match the older and younger actors of the same character. Sordid conspiracies abound, and it's all a bit fanciful, convoluted and overly long. As they say in the classics, "It's not Shakespeare".
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.
The SoloistAndrew O'Dea
An L.A. journalist befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article.
This movie is a sensitive but surprisingly unmoving portrait of a unique friendship. The performances from the two leads are solid, but are wasted on a story that isn't as meaningful as it should be. Although this true narrative admirably raises some important social issues, it also fails to adequately explore them. You can't help but feel what should be a powerful film instead seems prosaic and lacks any real substance, making "The Soloist" a sweet song that simply sings out of tune.
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.
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.
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.
The Princess and the FrogCourtney Slevison
A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans, the film centers on a young girl named Princess Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again.
"The Princess and the Frog" is a charming and vibrant film that is sure to satisfy its little fans, but unlikely to find itself labeled a classic. Beautifully drawn and steeped in the effervescent glow of New Orleans, it almost rises to the occasion, but somehow manages to fall short in both magic and authenticity. The scattered bursts of jazz music strive to bring the movie to life, but the feature songs are forgettable, unfortunately like much of the film itself.
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.
Save Your Legs!Stefan Bugryn
A ragtag team of suburban cricketers get a chance to tour India.
"Save Your Legs" acts better as a postcard of India rather than the team bonding, coming-of-age drama it's meant to be. The film's intentions may be good - it's cute and charming at times - but overall the result is mostly boring, with jokes often bordering on cringe-worthy. It also becomes very predictable, one of the movie's biggest flaws, and the ending can be spotted a mile away. Though substantially well produced, it lacks any real substance... save your pennies.
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.
Are We Officially Dating?Anthony Macali
Three best friends find themselves where we've all been - at that confusing moment in every dating relationship when you have to decide "So... where is this going?"
That awkward moment "Are We Official Dating?" is about is barely spoken out. What dominates most of the discussion of its young cast is how sex and relationships work in the modern day, in all of its vulgar and candid glory. Regrettably the film is a little too inconsistent to get its underlying moral messages across, serving up a disconnected mix of comedic set pieces and 'dating' advice. A refreshing topic, but not bold enough to challenge the Hollywood ideals. Caught in the middle.
Taken 2Andrew O'Dea
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.
Horrible BossesAnthony Macali
Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness.
"Horrible Bosses" does have some funny moments, but you would know that if you saw the trailer. Unfortunately the feature doesn't breed anything new, struggling to stretch its thin plot based on a wicked daydream. Ridiculous situations ensue and our heroes grow less likeable and more smug. Each skit draws in its fair share of laughs, but you remain wary of such a slick production and notable cast, and can't help from feeling both are a little wasted. A comedy (and film) of errors.
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.