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.
The Great GatsbyAnne Murphy
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.
"The Great Gatsby" as a book is a literary classic and it's difficult to review the movie without making comparisons. Most viewers will watch with some sort of expectation. Do so at the peril of your enjoyment, look too critically and you'll see this is not a perfect image of the novel. Forget familiarity, the director has delivered a turbo-charged, multi-coloured and visually spectacular version of the story and intriguing characters alike. This film version is true to the source but somehow greater.
The FighterAnne Murphy
A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980's.
If you thought stories of the boxing hero had retired to their corner, grab a ringside seat... "The Fighter" will get you in a clinch. Oddly the fighter himself is the most conventional, and possibly the least interesting character in the ensemble. There are no glass jaws among his family, brawlers all. While not landing a full body blow, the action is powerful if punishing to watch. The gloves are off, and the audience is delivered a TKO.
Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq, wh After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin.
'Tis an ambitious undertaking to make a film with only one character and only one setting, especially when that setting is a wooden box. All involved, particularly the lead who battles the worst bureaucracy to try and survive, deserve great credit for achieving this feat in such a compelling way. The suspense is sustained brilliantly. Just when the situation looks like it couldn't get anymore dire, it does, in a most unexpected and nightmarish way. "Buried" is bold, brave and breathtaking.. literally.
127 HoursStefan Bugryn
A man gets stuck under a boulder while he ventures out alone to a canyon in Utah.
It is quite obvious the film-makers wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with the protagonist throughout this harrowingly absorbing ordeal. At times it almost feels like a 'docu-drama'. There's an abundance of uncomfortable close ups as the storyline is confined to that wretched canyon, while 'that scene' is unflinchingly realistic (you won't ever forget it!). In doing so, they created a film experience that is both gruelling and rewarding, and will leave you deep in thought afterwards. Every minute, and hour, is worth it.
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.
Jane EyreAnne Murphy
A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
A film adaption of a literary classic is rarely considered as good the book but this one is superb. "Jane Eyre" is likely to captivate all, including the most avid readers among us. This effort is well cast, capturing a perfect balance of brooding passion and guarded vulnerability. The cinematography captures a gothic austerity on the screen that reflects the social confines and well mannered restraint of the times, balanced by a landscape of moody spellbinding moors. Passionate plain Jane.
An adventurous girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home.
"Coraline" is a mesmerising story of family and imagination. The claymation is enthralling and the pain-staking detail with which it was made is awe-inspiring. Such amazement transcends to the creepy and kooky "other" world, as we're invited to explore a dark and twisted universe of characters with button-eyes and questionable morality. Although it may haunt young children, they will certainly value their parents afterwards. A wondrous fable of exploration and fantasy.
The Book ThiefAnne Murphy
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others.
A German town becomes the backdrop for a story about the humanity and personal politics of ordinary people when their lives are assaulted by World War II erupting around them. The simplicity needed to tell the tale from a child's perspective is not compromised by the scale of this production, a feat that creates absorbing viewing. As a novel "The Book Thief" was a best-seller and on the screen it becomes a very moving experience. Steal a look.
Avengers: Age of UltronAnthony Macali
In his attempts to create an AI robot to protect the world, Tony Stark inadvertently triggers the birth of Ultron, a machine hellbent on destruction.
Want to see a group of costumed heroes smash a whole bunch of robots, with great humour and style? Then "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is for you. With unlimited state-of-the-art tech at their disposal, the film-makers have created a universe of gleaming special effects and relentless action. Rarely do you get the opportunity to take a breath, as a barrage of set pieces power through the less than modest running time. It's a fantastic age to save the world.
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.
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.
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.
Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
Although "Rango" might contain guitar playing owls and animals aplenty, it's not really an animation suited for kids. Like a lucid dream, our philosophical lizard ventures into the desert, and through an amusing account of luck and classically trained theatrics, becomes a leader to an eclectic bunch of western inspired creatures. Superb aesthetics, scarily realistic textures and political motifs central to the film create a very odd, yet surprisingly enjoyable experience. Cool, clever and deeply refreshing.
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.
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.
The Blind SideAnne Murphy
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
"The Blind Side" has quite a plot, all true, all fairy-tale and all feel-good. With a remarkable story to tell, the film is not unnecessarily cheapened by sentiment. It is related in a down to earth manner that could be described as understated, marred only by the cloying musical score which is definitely overplayed. This pragmatic movie is delivered with faultless performances from the cast, and it is surprisingly moving to watch. Be blindsided.
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.
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.
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.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
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.
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!
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 airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
"Flight" begins with one of the most exhilarating cockpit sequences you will ever see, and never lets up. This tale centers on the pilot, riddled with a substance addiction, and the morality that surrounds his heroic endeavour. It's an investigation that generates further intrigue and suspense as it travels along, despite the odd scene that undermines its gravity. A truly riveting story and performance from the lead. Strap yourself in.