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.
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
The Hunger GamesAnthony Macali
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death.
There's so much going on in "The Hunger Games" that you're bound to find something to cheer for. In a world of poverty and social class, it explores themes of politics and power, while emphasising the unsavoury demand for reality entertainment and violence. All these observations warrant our likeable heroine to do battle, an exercise that will satisfy the more bloodthirsty of fans. The build-up to the ceremony still ranks best, its history and spectacle matched by the lavish make-up and fashion on parade. Captivating and intense, the odds are definitely in its favour.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Bran Nue DaeAnne Murphy
In the summer of 1965 a young man is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome - fishing, hanging out with his mates and his girl.
It's a pleasure to watch a colourful Australian film that doesn't skirt around serious indigenous issues. Even with its underlying messages "Bran Nue Dae" is far from sombre; humour and music are the vehicles used to stir the collective conscience of the audience. This is a funny, high-spirited and rollicking road trip with an outstanding ensemble cast. If only every day dawned so brightly...
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixAnthony Macali
With their warning about Lord Voldemort's return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts.
Harry endears Hogwarts, a home of magic tricks, lavish feasts and Quiddich heroics, which is not as much fun when he who should not be named (Voldemort) is tormenting his mind. Potter fights some real evil this time around; defending against the dark arts, blinding dementors and stunning evil Azkaban escapees. Join the wonderful ensemble cast of Dumbledore's army in the most terrifying and suspenseful instalment of the series yet. Darker is better.
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.
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.
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.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
Moonrise KingdomAnthony Macali
A pair of young lovers flee their town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
"Moonrise Kingdom" follows the sweet romance of two misunderstood kids, who find solace in one another after everyone else has given up on them. The narrow island setting is full of quirks, making use of a tour guide to describe some of its more famous tidbits, and adding a homely touch to the affair and adventure. A colourful cast push the expedition along, playing the frustrated parents and companions with good humour and trepidation; but the heart of the film lies in the relationship, a chronicle of a harmonising affection from a simpler time. A love story to rise up and conquer all.
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.
Star Trek Into DarknessAndrew O'Dea
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is engaging on a magnificent scale, bringing the flare and energy of its predecessor to screen. A cluster of high octane action sequences are set against the visual grandeur of other-worldly backdrops, all the while propelled by solid storytelling. The director has sewn this movie together with an almost clinical precision, and the entire cast play their roles with sublime conviction, in particular the chilling and malevolent villain at its core. Set phasers to awesome.
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 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.