The Spiderwick ChroniclesAnthony Macali
Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is another children's fantasy with very little to separate it from the rest. After a slow introduction, we finally delve into the mystical world of faeries and goblins, a group of computer generated creatures who provide some excitement. Apart from a big exploding finalé of tomato sauce, the rest of the story is rather insipid and dull, despite the excellent performances of the young cast. Fun and fantastical, but all too familiar.
The Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
The Dark KnightAnthony Macali
Batman and Gordon join forces with the new DA to take on a psychotic robber known as The Joker.
There is so much to admire about this film. The dark tone resonates with an audience that live in a not-so-perfect world. The grand-scale action sequences involving trucks and bikes are testament to money being better spent on explosions than computer graphics. Assortments of characters are given their due screen-time, but all are overshadowed by the Joker, who creates an unprecedented sense of dread and anarchy. "The Dark Knight" is so good that you forget about its comic origins, as it stands alone as exceptional action and crime classic.
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
The Darjeeling LimitedAnthony Macali
Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other.
It's difficult to relate to this wealthy family, so far detached from reality. Rather, you laugh at their bickering, addiction to cough medicine, fondness of snakes and pepper spray, and other mishaps aboard the Darjeeling Limited. The Indian people and culture suffer from the little attention they receive in this feature, which delivers more of a postcard snapshot than an enlightening journey. What the film lacks in spirit, it makes up for in family camaraderie.
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.
A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years.
Our young hero entertains when exploiting his gift to rob banks and travel the world. It's unacceptable to spend the entire film showcasing how cool this teleporting is. Whenever our protagonist meets the other characters of the story, the interactions are simply woeful. This film constantly jumps scene to scene skipping any traces of plot or action and leaving a scar of disappointment no person should go through.
The Bucket ListAnthony Macali
Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
The problem about these two men, apart from their uninspired performances, is the fact we don't care if they pass away or not. Their ambitions are more comparable to household chores, as they trudge along each adventure in vapid fashion. The whole act is a little too cheesy, corny, and convenient for my liking. Better suited for a TV midday movie, this film should not be on your list.
Kung Fu PandaAnthony Macali
Po the Panda is the laziest animals in all of the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.
Animated films continue to lead the way in family entertainment, and this one is no exception. This picture is invariably breathtaking, set amongst impressive landscapes and showcasing the very fast and fluid kinetics of martial arts which make it exciting to watch. The film presents enough vibrant and infectious fun to make it impossible to despise. "Kung Fu Panda" is funny, witty, and truly awesome.
The MistAnthony Macali
A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
"The Mist" is your stock standard horror film where you throw a bunch of people in a room, endanger their lives, and see how they react. The result is a colourful quarrel of religion, reason and rationale. The joy comes from watching the locals get their comeuppance as the poor-looking monsters feast on them. In these films you always find yourself questioning the decisions the characters make. Our protagonists' judgement at the end is truly mystifying.
Charlie Wilson's WarAnthony Macali
A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
A man hidden from the radar, Charlie Wilson is an amazing character with cause against the Soviets that rivals his passion for women and whiskey. The movie is propelled by the charisma of its lead characters, and all-star cast who delightfully play off one another. There are also many moments in the story that frighteningly resonate with the politics of today. This film is about Charlie's success, America's failures and the causalities along the way.
Speed RacerAnthony Macali
Speed Racer who is a young man with natural racing instincts whose goal is to win.
"Speed Racer" is a CGI flurry of cars and colours illuminated by a story of corporate corruption, a matter that would float past the intended audience of little ones. The themes of art vs business vs family are as clear as the Mach 5's slick exterior, but get lost in the frenzy of car-racing and kung-fu. The racetracks are loop-to-loop monsters, providing the best thrills in some sharp and edgy editing that puts you in the drivers seat. This film is a long and inconsistent race, worthy of watching if only to revel in all the bright colours.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.
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.
Sweeney ToddAnthony Macali
The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.
"Sweeney Todd" is as dark and twisted as it is a dull and boring. We know Sweeney wants revenge, but can't he stop singing and staring angrily out his window - just get on with the job. Few of the songs are enjoyable, and they all tend to slow the plot to an almost unbearable halt. Some will enjoy the throat-slashing and corpse-thudding antics of the barber, but after having watched this film, I found myself seeking my own vengeance and salvation.
A gun-for-hire known only as Agent 47 is ensnared in a political conspiracy, which finds him pursued by both Interpol and the Russian military as he treks across Eastern Europe.
Agent 47 is best described as a focused man, more satisfied in making his kill than pleasuring his women. It's these anti-bond heroics that are refreshing to watch. Unfortunately, the film suffers from the uninteresting police in his pursuit, overplayed in typical hammy performances. The action scenes are also wasted in some bad forms of style and nuisance editing. This adaptation is still a hit above your usual video game exploit.
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.
Cloverfield follows five New Yorkers from the perspective of a hand-held video camera. The movie starts as a monster of unknown origin destroys a building.
"Cloverfield" is filmed from the perspective of its protagonists using a hand-held camcorder, a technique which is effective for the majority of the short running time. The monster is a mighty sight to behold, and you wish it featured more. It's the monster's spawns that are the stars, their calls and cackles leaving you in fits of laughter, rather than frightened from their beckoning bite. By the end, you are exhausted, and perhaps nauseous, from the non-stop footage.
American GangsterAnthony Macali
In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of a heroin kingpin.
"American Gangster" is an epic story of two people. Frank Lucas, a religious and devoted family man; and his polar opposite, Richie Roberts, the incorruptible cop, troubled at home but determined in his lonely pursuit. You can't help but take Frank's side, relishing his journey from rags to riches, and joining his vast corrupted network of cops and soldiers who succumb to greed. It's not until we see the effects of 'Blue Magic' that we're reminded his business is heroin. A brilliant and engaging crime classic.
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.
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.
Far from a mid-life crisis, I found little to relate to in this sorry tale. Nonetheless, it's impossible not to sympathize with our titular waitress as we suffer her arduous imprisonment. As it hits an all time low, Jenna finally breaks free from her mundane lifestyle. We share her wry smile as she engages in a mischievous relationship with the hilarious and bumbling doctor. "Waitress" is a saccharine and sometimes quirky dish that everyone should try.
Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
"Atonement" is a love story torn by unfortunate circumstance. Briony's interpretation of events are marred by jealously, and cleverly presented in a style that shows the points of view of all involved. These key events play alongside a beautiful score, complete with resounding keys of a type-writer that haunts throughout. This film is a timeless period piece and an admiral adaptation that shows the power of the written-word.
A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences checks into the fabled room 1408.
Your typical bad guy comes in the form of a mask-wearing, knife-wielding bandit, or some kind of monster or creature. But a hotel room? Funny enough, a room can be scary - and frightening enough to make you question your very own alarm clock, telephone and the walls of your home. This lodge haunts your past, with plenty of suicidal ghosts to keep you company. It's thrilling and chilling stuff, only suffering in the certain level of unease that comes in the frantic finalé. A terrifying film of terrifying heights.
The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge.
A motion-capture animation of breathtaking visuals, "Beowulf" is a story of one enigmatic warrior, his gruff voice and the monsters he meets. The most merry-making of them all, is a large dragon with a fiery breath that blasts from the cinema speakers at full volume. The action will please the fantasy fans, and the rest will marvel at the computer graphics that tends to overshadow the plot, characters, and any other elements of the film.
Death ProofAnthony Macali
Two separate sets of women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.
Homage to the classic Grindhouse cinema of the 80's, "Death Proof" is an suspenseful thrill-ride featuring many delightful ladies. With a killer soundtrack, the only thing that slows this vehicle is the tenuous dialogue. Most of the pop culture babble will interest you and a large portion of it won't. But let's not forget we're in a surreal world, where the crazed predator engages in a climatic pursuit which is possibly the best car sequence in history.