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.
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.
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!
The Way Way BackAnthony Macali
14-year-old Duncan is having a rough time enjoying his vacation away with his mother and new boyfriend, until finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
"The Way Way Back" is a coming-of-age tale that will make you wish for summertime. The warm beach-side is an interesting setting to play out the conflict, as the shy Duncan wrestles with the reality of his newly blended family. With the help of the most unexpected of strangers, he slowly gains confidence and there is great joy to be found in watching him grow. A wonderful mix of laughter and drama, held together by a fantastic cast. Take the vacation.
The Other GuysStefan Bugryn
Two mismatched New York City detectives seize an opportunity to step up like the city's top cops.
"The Other Guys" is a clear cut above the typical Hollywood comedy, offering a swag of genuine laughs that are both original and often unexpected. The storyline is your standard buddy-cop fanfare, but often veers off to focus on extended jokes about the characters which would make even the hardest cynic laugh. The 'been there, done that' action leaves a little to be desired, but an onlsaught of jokes offer the audience a uproarious distraction throughout. Hilariously fun for everyone, not just the other guys...
Edge of TomorrowAndrew O'Dea
An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race.
Funny, suspenseful and imaginative, "Edge of Tomorrow" plays like a smart and engaging video game. With brains to match the brawn, the film's repetitive premise never becomes predictable. Exhilarating action sequences are broken up by moments of dark humour, and tension is maintained thanks to deft pacing and an intelligent script. This captivating sci-fi adventure serves as a fine counter to the formulaic alien-invasion thrillers to which audiences have otherwise become accustomed. Good enough to revisit, and again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
True GritAndrew O'Dea
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.
"True Grit" is a film that holds the idea of a classic western in high reverence. The spectacular cinematography is a highlight in this story of retribution, and the directors' hands are clearly present; the storyline contains all the wit, deadpan humour and fleeting moments of brutality that one has come to expect from them. Although some may be dismayed at the tonal slur that is the dialogue, the language is drawling yet authentic, and we revel in the interplay between the leads, each impeccable in their roles. Gritty n' good.
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 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.
Shutter IslandAnthony Macali
Set in 1954, Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.
"Shutter Island" opens with a dreadfully ominous musical composition, promptly setting the tone for this dark and disturbing thriller. The hospital for mental health is the perfect setting for the director to play games with the mind, as Teddy's scrutiny slowly intensifies, clouding his dreams with reality. The fragments of his delusions are haunting, as you're drowned in a loud and often exaggerated score. It will send shudders down the spine, keep you guessing, and enthral to the very end.
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.
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 Social NetworkAnthony Macali
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
"The Social Network" is a telling portrayal of one the world's most unsociable guys. Expertly played, the punk billionaire is depicted as an obnoxious genius, his computer antics spurred by teenage anguish. The film is well informed and doesn't shy away from the geeky mumbo-jumbo, as it creates a real sense of the amazing scale and technical brilliance of 'The Facebook'. The first half of the movie is fast and exciting, but the second half tends to lag with unfavourable characters and court-room exposition. Nonetheless, 'FilmDude' likes this.
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!
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!
Set in the summer of 1987 and centered around a recent college grad who takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park, only to find it's the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.
Despite its 'indy' pretensions, this story has more heart than its formulaic predecessors. Sure, it might follow your typical boy meets girl scenario, but it rises above the cliché with a cast who wonderfully capture the fun, frivolity and angst of the time. Although short on the laughs it may promise, it still makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Coupled with an awesome 80's soundtrack en-loop, "Adventureland" is a charming ride about growing up and finding love.
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.
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.
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.