How to Train Your DragonAndrew O'Dea
A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely owner of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.
"How to Train Your Dragon" is a beautifully imagined film driven as much by its story as the dazzlingly rendered visuals. The intelligent script provides plenty of fun for adults and kids alike, as thrilling elements of action and adventure combine to create stunning 3D flying sequences. We're enchanted and charmed by a wonderfully eclectic bunch of characters, particularly the relationship between Hiccup and his pet dragon. Sensationally entertaining from head to tail, this movie soars.
A cowardly shut-in is forced to join up with a seasoned slayer in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.
"Zombieland" has zombies aplenty, but it would be unfair to label it this genre alone. In between the biting scenes you'll find a buddy comedy, and an adventure into the malevolent unknown. There are enough guns and gore to satisfy the blood-hounds, but also lessons in surviving the unreal epidemic, often shooting across then screen in its own typically amusing style. The characters are fully-fleshed out and thankfully realised in a world populated by a critical few. Fast, funny and terribly infectious.
The ConjuringAnthony Macali
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Rooted in the origins of a true case, "The Conjuring" is frightening. Largely set in an eerie country home, this story doesn't appear to bring anything new to the genre, but the execution is haunting. The tension slowly builds and the heart-rate jumps with each scare. Even with the lights on you don't feel safe. There are few moments of silliness, but they are lost in the shadowing score, and the many bumps and thumps that mark the return of the exorcism. The film is possessed.
Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.
When you find yourself weeping in a cinema, why is it that you cry? Is it for the life loves and losses of fictional characters or for your own fragile mortality? Something extraordinary is orchestrated when a writer and director conspire to bring a finely tuned production to the screen. Credit must also go to the talented actors who perform together seamlessly as a quartet. "Performance" is played like a concerto. Bravo!
Guardians of the GalaxyAndrew O'Dea
A group of misfits finds themselves the target of a manhunt after acquiring an all-powerful orb.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is utterly dazzling as a sci-fi spectacle, but its real strength lies in the charisma of its characters. The band of atypical yet weirdly loveable heroes at its core affirms the film's goofy and energetic nature, as it strikes a cosmic balance between rollicking action and humour. It also proves to be a musical treat, with the eclectic soundtrack providing a slew of classic songs to compliment the irreverent fun. Relive that feeling of being a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon with this awesome addition to the movie universe.
Gran TorinoAndrew O'Dea
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal his prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
"Gran Torino" tells the story of a man in transition. The film is driven by a weathered and steely performance from the lead actor, who peerlessly chisels out an insular and reluctant hero. A no-nonsense aesthetic means it shuns political correctness, presenting an unrepentant bigot who doesn't discriminate - he hates everyone. Surprisingly, it's these old school prejudices that create moments of genuine comedy and warmth. Highly recommended.
The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts event - a path that puts him on a collision with his older brother.
"Warrior" is a surprisingly affecting movie. The fight choreography is exceptional, and the rush of adrenaline as the kicks and punches fly is palpable. We feel every bone-crunching hit, but the beauty is that there's enough heart to match the violence. Although it may border on cliché at times, there is an undeniable emotional honesty behind the action, carried by a trio of outstanding acting performances from the male leads. A knock-out film that will leave you counting stars...
Star TrekAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members.
"Star Trek" is by all accounts a very successful instalment that will both entertain and appease trekkies and non-trekkies alike. Chronological events are sewn superbly into a reconstituted storyline that births an 'enterprisingly' new and exciting contemporary model. The characters are drawn carefully, remaining faithful to the Star Trek legacy, and thrive amongst an array of visually dazzling action sequences. Set phasers to fun, because this is a franchise destined to live long and prosper.
The Ides of MarchStefan Bugryn
A game of dirty politics plays out behind the scenes of the campaign for a Presidential candidate.
This is minimalistic film-making at it's best. The movie tackles some truly hard-hitting notions, but packs its punch with the little things. It's captivating to watch the actors hold back the emotion, where the drama is implied rather than thrown in your face. The long stares. The knowing eyes. It all sizzles in the background… but you can definitely feel it. The director could have easily gone for high melodrama, but instead went for the complete opposite, and it paid off remarkably. A vote of confidence.
Zero Dark ThirtyAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful thriller that isn't driven by an ideology or political agenda. The film serves as a dramatised yet convincing chronicle about the hunt for the world's most wanted man, made all the more authentic by an exceptionally superb cast, leads and cameos alike. While it maintains momentum with an almost clinical focus, the tension builds to a riveting finale; and even though the ending might be a foregone conclusion, the night-time incursion where they "get their man" is as exhilarating and gripping as the complex story itself. A confirmed thrill.
Bridge to TerabithiaAnthony Macali
A preteen's life is changed after befriending the new girl at school.
This is a rare film that encourages children to use their imagination. The beauty of "Terabithia" is its growth parallels the children's minds and does not appear instantly on the other side of the looking glass. A large proponent of the film confronts relevant issues facing young adolescents. While bullying gets the most attention, the story also touches class distinction, religion, friendship and death. This fable shows how the power of imagination can help cope with the real world and bearing an "open mind" is good.
Pitch PerfectAnthony Macali
Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group.
"Pitch Perfect" is camp as hell, and a lot of fun. The a capella renditions are surprisingly entertaining, taking some of our favourite songs and lending them a new voice. Our performers are largely a group of misfits, an eclectic and dynamic bunch of girls who dance and step to a great amount of llaughter and conflict. Wittingly tongue-in-cheek, this film is bound to appeal to those fond of music and singing. Destined for stardom.
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures threaten our very existence.
"Godzilla" is back bigger and better than ever. This reincarnation of the story does not lay dormant for very long, feeding nuclear fears and manifesting them in the grandest and most terrifying of creatures. The special effects are superb, with hellish production sets and gravitating action that will leave you in awe. However, this monster's greatest success is the decidedly human element, brilliantly capturing the universal threat and far-spanning emotional reactions of all characters involved. Let them fight.
X-Men: First ClassAndrew O'Dea
In 1962, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend... and future archenemy.
"X-Men: First Class" is a successful revival of the franchise. Fans won't be let down as the movie remains faithful to its source material, managing to deliver a solid story replete with witty dialogue and pulsating action sequences. The dazzling CGI provides an entertaining showcase of mutant powers, while the superb cast are just as impressive, underpinning character development and bringing real substance to the story. Top of the class.
Mao's Last DancerWendy Slevison
Based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin, who was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet.
This movie tells an extraordinary tale of passion, sacrifice and political tug-of-war, centred in Communist China and the United States in the late 70's. With all the elements of a grand saga, this story of a modest and unassuming young man discovering his love and talent for ballet is both absorbing and incredibly moving. His fight for choice, at immense personal cost, is inspiring and unfortunately still very relevant in much of the world today.
King Leonidis leads a band of elite warriors to war in the defence of their revered Sparta.
A gourmet for the purest of action fans, "300" is a visual feast. It doesn't concede to that typical movie concept whereby our heroes find themselves vastly outnumbered only to overcome insurmountable odds. Amidst all the testosterone and glistening abdominal muscles, it still does well to conjure inspiration and give substance to the brave three hundred's valour and sacrifice. It's brutal, but ultimately moving. With ferocious battle sequences choreographed using superlative CGI, and a plot to match, slaughter never looked this good.
Animal KingdomWendy Slevison
Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
"Animal Kingdom" is a raw, understated exploration of the ongoing 'dog eat dog' battle between the police force and a criminal family. This is a skewed reality where life is cheap, and survival often comes down to the nonchalant disposal of other lives to ferociously protect your own. Loyalties are fluid, honesty a foreign concept. This powerful film tells its compelling tale with assurance and class, and features superb performances from an ensemble of the finest actors in Australian cinema.
Inglourious BasterdsAndrew O'Dea
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
"Inglourious Basterds" is history brazenly re-imagined. A stunning ensemble cast bask in the rich characterisation, creating a host of characters each as enthralling as the next. Some of the most memorable moments are simply 'set-piece' scenes of witty, original, and intelligent dialogue. Although used sparingly, every action sequence is a celebration of excess, and the film manages to capture cinema violence at its spectacular, blood-spattering best. Glorious!
Knight and DayAnne Murphy
June Havens finds her everyday life tangled with that of a secret agent who has realised he isn't supposed to survive his latest mission.
"Knight and Day" is as much video game in style as it is action movie, and it's pure high-energy entertainment. While they have fun and resist taking themselves too seriously, the big name leads are compelling with their on-screen chemistry. The pace doesn't let up, with exhilarating chase after chase. There's a captivating mix of comedy, romance and an upbeat soundtrack in this fabulous Hollywood fare that holds attention throughout. Fun viewing day or night.
TRON: LegacyAnthony Macali
A virtual-world worker looks to take down the Master Control Program.
"TRON: Legacy" is a digital extravaganza, highlighting the progress of special effects in the many time cycles between its predecessor, barely a required prerequisite. The visual artistry in this film is unparalleled, constructing a highly immersive universe that is truly dazzling. The retro illuminations harness a mesmerising force, luring you into a journey of exhilarating action and adventure. Complete with a distinctive futuristic soundtrack, the experience will struggle to escape from your memory. Close to perfect.
Duelling alien races, the Autobots and the Decepticons, bring their battle to Earth, leaving the future of humankind hanging in the balance.
"Transformers" is a relentless blockbuster fuelled by comedy and powered by action. When the sentient robots transform, it's an opera of sight and sound, ten thousand moving parts clicking and turning to excite and astound. A geek's delight, the toy line has been credibly transported to the silver screen, fully realised with the magic of computer graphic designers that continue to reshape the cinema of today.
An unnoticed high school student with no powers or training decides to become a super-hero.
"Kick-Ass" weaves teen melodrama with some of the coarsest language and most gratuitous and glorious violence ever seen on screen. Every action sequence is amazingly original, bolstered by inventive choreography and superb production values. Although the storyline is flimsy in parts, the uneven pacing may be considered deliberate, as our expectations are frequently and often shockingly shattered at any given moment. The director is to be applauded for this completely unrestrained film, free from industry conformity. Genuinely messed up, but totally kicks ass.
Sherlock HolmesAndrew O'Dea
Detective Holmes engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis who threatens all of England.
Although faithful to the source material, this movie isn't bound to it, and the legendary detective presented is an eccentric and captivatingly flawed hero that boxes, boozes, and deduces. The stylishly monochromatic production of a grimy 19th century London provides a perfect backdrop as we delight in the exchanges of wit and banter between Holmes and his trusty counterpart Watson. Combining sublime action sequences and a gripping plot to boot, "Sherlock Holmes" equates to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's elementary.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Anthony Macali
Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest of finding the Dark Lord's three remaining Horcruxes.
From dark, to darker, to pure black, the final installment does not disappoint. The excruciating build-up of Part 1 is justified in this fast-paced climax, high in tension and full of magic, action and spells that shape a siege for the ages. Every wizard is witness to the ultimate assault of good and evil, characters fighting their destinies, confronting love, life and death. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is sombre in mood but not in nature, producing an impressive finale to a much-loved epic.
Minions are recruited by a super-villain who hatches a plot to take over the world.
The population of minions, rambunctious yellow characters, are seeking a dastardly villain to serve. It seems they're better at finding a leader than keeping them. On their extraordinary adventures they are good at getting into trouble and even better at slapstick play. Their antics are endearing, you can't help but be charmed by their gibberish language and their wide eyed innocence. Young audiences will be delighted by this winning formula, while older folk will be thoroughly amused. Mellow yellows, not at all despicable.