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.
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.
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.
Arthur ChristmasWendy Slevison
On Christmas night, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for a mission.
"How DOES Santa deliver ALL those presents in one night?" Well, here is the answer, in this charming and engaging addition to the Christmas movie genre. Santa's family are just like any other family, so it seems, with their squabbles and power struggles. Ultimately the job must get done though, and despite some quirky yet substantial obstacles on this particular Christmas Eve, it eventually does. With voice work provided by a quite dazzling array of well-known actors, this delightful romp is guaranteed to imbue Christmas spirit into even the most cynical of viewers. Merry Christmas!
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.
The HangoverAnthony Macali
A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
"The Hangover" premise is familiar and simple, the perfect breeding ground for plenty of laughter and stupidity. While the trailer might steal most of the best moments, the film is still hilarious. The characters are half as likeable as they should be, but it does make it funnier when bad stuff happens to them. It only struggles towards the ending, as jokes resort to bad cameos and slapstick. Despite a few headaches, it's still a winner.
The Hunger Games: Catching FireAnthony Macali
Katniss becomes a target of the Capitol after her victory in the Hunger Games sparks a rebellion.
The best thing about "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is you know there's going to be another games. Like the first installment, the anticipation and build-up to the event is as thrilling as the tournament itself. Be prepared for refreshing new costumes, players and sinister threats as our heroes unwillingly participate in a constant battle of determination and wit against their oppressors. While some of the character scenes are a little patchy, thematically the film remains a victor. The fire burns bright.
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.
Bad NeighboursAndrew O'Dea
A couple with a newborn face unexpected difficulties after they're forced to live next to a frat house.
Thanks to witty script and inventive humour, "Bad Neighbours" successfully teeters the fine line between being clever and tasteless. The life of a college party animal is juxtaposed with the role of responsible parent in this foul-mouthed, low-brow frat house comedy about people denying the inevitable changes that come with getting older. Energetic and engagingly stupid, the unlikely duo at the films core drive the laughs, as hilarious generational warfare accelerates from one over-the-top set piece to another. Welcome to the neighbourhood.
Friends with KidsAnthony Macali
Two best friends decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic, so they can avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships.
"Friends with Kids" is about breaking conventions, offering an atypical (and refreshing) perspective on marriage and children. It thrives on the chemistry of its two leads, dishing out their rather brash commentary on the failed relationships of their friends, and sharing some of the opinions we always think but never say. The experiment unfolds and it's funny, only to succumb to the formulaic predictability so promisingly absent from the first half. Film with laughs.
Julie & JuliaAnne Murphy
Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
Two storylines are baked together, although about 50 years separate them, and the result is delicious. Scenes effortlessly transport the viewer in and out of the lives and kitchens of Julie and Julia, capturing a shared passion for cooking. The characters are wonderful, warm, and loving; their relationships golden roasted and close to perfect. This movie is appetizingly presented and readily devoured. As both Julie and Julia would have said... bon appetit!
Children of MenAnthony Macali
In 2027, as humankind faces the likelihood of its own extinction, a disillusioned government agent agrees to help transport and protect a miraculously pregnant woman.
This is a disturbing look at London in anarchy, rife with violence and refugees impounded in cages. The future is glum when no children exist. The Bexhill refugee camp scenes towards the end are breath-taking. If you don't understand why there are no children in this movie, or continue to question it, this movie is not for you.
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.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
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.
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.
Role ModelsAnthony Macali
Wild behavior forces a pair of energy drink reps to enroll in a Big Brother program.
This film is testament to those 'crass-comedies with charm' which have now grown to become their own sub-genre. Whilst containing your typical vulgar jokes, it doesn't rely on them for cheap laughs. Instead, the most uproarious scenes are generated by low-key interplay shared between some of the movies' more eccentric characters. There's never a dull moment as it propels you into the hilariously crazy and endearing world of 'Live Action Interactive Roleplaying Explorers', or L.A.I.R.E. "Role Models" is definately a comedy to aspire to.
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.
Green LanternWendy Slevison
A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.
This movie adaptation of the comic-book superhero is a blast. There's a lot packed in, but it's easy for a novice to pick up the story and enjoy the ride. Fantastic CGI and special effects are balanced by the charming, slightly swaggering characterisation of our very human hero. Before he can save the world, he has to learn to face his own fears, a big task for this trainee Lantern who has spent his life shirking responsibility. Obey the green light and go see it!
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.
The Iron LadyTom Jones
A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Romance or political drama? "The Iron Lady" could be shelved under either genre as it depicts the political rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher against the backdrop of her mourning the passing of her husband. There is a nice balance of both plotlines and the inclusion of real footage adds conviction to this film. The performance of the lead is so convincing it's like a Madame Tussauds figure coming to life. Thatcher herself endorsed 'doing something' rather than trying to be 'somebody'. With that in mind, do something... go and see this film.
It's ComplicatedWendy Slevison
During their son's graduation, Jane hooks up with her ex-husband, Jake, who's now remarried. As well as becoming her ex's mistress, Jane also finds herself drawn to Adam, a smitten architect.
This movie, a quirky variation on the typical love triangle premise, is extremely funny. On many occasions throughout, the entire cinema was laughing uproariously, a somewhat rare experience. The delightful stars work fabulously together, and appear to be having an absolute ball. The feeling is contagious. It's really not complicated at all â€“ for a good laugh and a bit of fun, see this film!
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.
Salmon Fishing in the YemenWendy Slevison
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realise a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a film that's as original as its title. Adapted from the novel of the same name, it is a refreshingly imaginative and appealing cross-cultural narrative featuring warmly authentic performances from an extremely likeable cast. Humorously juxtaposing the frenzy of politicians clamouring for public approval against the solitude and grace of fly-fishing, this movie takes you on an improbable but decidedly pleasurable journey that's well worth the fare.