The DictatorAndrew O'Dea
A heroic dictator risks his life to ensure that democracy will never come to the country he oppresses.
Tastelessness and absurdity run wild in "The Dictator" as no sexuality, race, gender or religion are spared the ruthlessness of the supreme leader. It's downright offensive... you know you probably shouldn't laugh, but it's so wrong that it coerces it out of you in some perversely wicked way. Unforgettably memorable moments are bolstered by a fast pace and short running time, and although the jokes are hit and miss, thankfully it's mostly the former. If you're after something outrageous, then prepare to be hilariously oppressed.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
Harry, Hermoine and Ron race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes.
This penultimate chapter of the Potter franchise undoubtedly cements its transition from children's story to mature fantasy. Tinged with frightening scenes and violent action sequences, the decidedly dark and brooding tone is established from the outset. Credit is due to direction that still manages to strike a balance between tragedy and humour, while the special effects throughout are simply spectacular. This film basically serves as a vehicle to build suspense and anticipation for the climactic final installment, and now the stage is set for what promises to be a magical conclusion...
The Imaginarium of Doctor ParnassusAnthony Macali
The story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary 'Imaginarium', a travelling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom.
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" daringly paints a picture of the adventurous world that is your fantasy. The mystery behind the mirror provides plenty of curiosity and suspense, as we take a front-seat to the allure and charm of the 'Imaginarium'. To our modest disappointment, the production loses some of the gamble on its hollow and luckless storyline. Creatively colourful and grand, this film is an entertaining show for those with an open mind.
Red CliffAndrew O'Dea
Based on the events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China, The Battle of Red Cliffs.
"Red Cliff" is a plush historical epic of the grandest scale. The scope is enormous and perfectly realised in sublimely sweeping battle scenes. Due in most part to this release being a condensed version of the original, some of the character development has clearly had to have made way in favour of the action sequences. However, the brilliance of the exhilirating battle choreography and dazzling effects alone are enough to render this film a period war movie of the highest quality.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.Andrew O'Dea
A father's life unravels dealing with a marital crisis and managing the relationship with his children.
This multigenerational love story is a cut above your average romantic comedy, and for the most part, is a funny, honest and insightful film. The only pity is that long stretches of engaging rom-com fare are punctuated by brief moments of that gooey clichéd stuff we're all too familiar with. However, bolstered by a stellar cast who are sublime and charm us senseless in their individual roles, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." still provides a refreshing insight into the humour, tragedy, and wonderfully weird circumstances of love. Whether it's stupid or not is completely up to you.
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
There is much to love and hate about Juno. She undermines the process of giving birth with her contrived banter, and is immature and naive when it comes to adult issues. It's a credit to the film that we still find sympathy for our smart-mouthed hero. She takes responsibility for the impregnation and is deeply appreciative of the varied idiosyncratic characters that support her. "Juno" is an admiring tale that will frustrate and amuse.
Forgetting Sarah MarshallAnthony Macali
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's travelling to the same resort as her ex.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a delightful comedy filled with many interesting characters. The best parts are the small snippets that fall in-between scenes. These whimsical moments contain some of the best jokes, but also some welcome insights into our protagonists. The only disappointing bits are the undue vulgarity and contrivances towards the end. This film is a memorable mix of laugh-out-loud scenarios and genuine heartbreak.
Tower HeistAnthony Macali
A group of hard working guys conspire to rob a wealthy business man's high-rise residence.
"Tower Heist" might not be the most complex of capers, but it does produce plenty of laughs along the way. The high calibre cast is fun to watch, the only drawback being their inability to share the screen time in satisfying amounts. Much of the entertainment comes from the ordinary hotel crew and the birth of their criminality. Clearly out of their depth, they embark on hilarious exercises to plan and prepare. It's a shame that when our heroes and villain do confront, the exchange is pretty tame, sharing metaphors to be ignored. Few surprises but gets the job done.
Celeste & Jesse ForeverAnne Murphy
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Here is a likeable couple who prove that breaking up is hard to do. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is really the opposite of a 'rom-com', so much so it could be labelled as an 'unrom-com' except that it is oddly romantic despite the efforts to part. The script is witty, it skips along with clever banter and we're delivered an honest snapshot of a good, but not quite good enough, relationship. This movie has both endearing moments and painful realisations but on balance there are more laughs then tears. BFF's.
This Is the EndAndrew O'Dea
While attending a party at James Franco's house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse.
"This Is the End" is a creative comedy that plays like one stupendous inside-joke the audience is invited to. Although there are stretches of tedium at times, memorably hilarious scenes are never too far away. The self-referential and defacing style is bolstered by a witty script and a superb cast willing to mock themselves, with a host of high-profile cameos providing some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Juvenile, crude, and funny till the end.
A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories.
This film will convince you that America has the worst health care system in the world, and that France is a good country to live in. There is nothing more powerful than showing the price tags of body parts, supplemented by uncovering the greed and corruption of the government and insurance companies. How can the same medicine be 2400% more in the US than Cuba? This highly entertaining documentary will make a socialist out of you.
The Boy in the Striped PyjamasAndrew O'Dea
A story seen through the eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a commandant of a concentration camp, who forms a forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence.
This film takes a surprisingly poignant approach to a very difficult subject matter. Credit must go to the filmmakers' remarkable ability to capture, then maintain, a child's naivety and innocence amidst the horror of the holocaust. Significantly, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is to be applauded for avoiding condescension; and although at times some may find it harrowing - almost devastating - for children especially, it constitutes a very important film.
A writer discovers a top-secret drug that allows him to use 100% of his mind.
From the opening credits, which take you zooming through the streets of New York, you know you are in for a ride. This fast-paced action thriller takes you into the colour-saturated, visually intense universe of the lead character. The relationships between the characters aren't particularly well-developed but all roles are performed well. The film doesn't delve into the moral implications of the effects of the drug but it's an entertaining trip, appealing to our deepest desires of wealth, intelligence, power and the ability to do whatever we want.
Paranormal ActivityWendy Slevison
A couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.
The title of this 'mockumentary' alone will be enough to send shivers down the spines of some. Following the 'haunted house' premise, this is a low-budget, high-scare-count thriller that works well due to the apparent normalcy of the protagonists. Filmed simply and sparingly - the hand-held camera work is a perfect device for enhancing the disarming 'real-life' quality - the suspense builds slowly but effectively. So does the nervous tension in the cinema, and the nail marks in the armrest! Not for the faint-hearted, take a friend and go in daylight hours.
War HorseAndrew O'Dea
Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.
"War Horse" is most definitely a movie for those partial to the majestic beauty of horses, though it's not necessarily a prerequisite. Some may justifiably find the story a little too syrupy and sweet, but it does also take place amidst the brutal theatre of war, where thankfully the film does not shy, and the director is at his dazzling best. Others will enjoy the sentimentality of an extraordinary journey coupled with the bond between man and horse simply too difficult to resist.... if so, then giddy up.
Django UnchainedAndrew O'Dea
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Unbridled violence is unleashed in this Spaghetti Western, teetering between comedy and gore. The profanity and blood flow in a celebration of excess, belying the film's racial consciousness and intelligent commentary on a dark period in American history. Although undermined by elements of self-indulgence, the director also brings to "Django Unchained" a trademark penchant for witty dialogue, sharp storytelling and sublime style. Unshackled and foolishly fun.
After being set up by a corrupt Texan business man, an ex-Federale unleashes a violent rampage of revenge against anyone who stands in his way.
This film can be summed up using three B's; brawn, babes and bullets. It runs along a revenge plot that breaks no new ground in terms of writing, which will no doubt bore and annoy some audiences. But it actually indulges in its own gratuity, and lets the cheesy violence and cool one-liners reign supreme. It is almost entirely overtly cliché, yet it's obvious that this is the intention. Don't expect an Oscar winner, because this surely would never make the 'cut'. Otherwise, it's slashing good fun!
Hot FuzzAnthony Macali
A city cop, too good for his job, is reallocated by his colleagues to the English country town of Sanford. The cop soon discovers a lot of suspicious accidents in this supposedly quiet town.
There are many laughs in this tribute to the buddy cop films of the eighties with countless references (some purposely orchestrated). The grande finalé should have started earlier in the film, but was not unwelcome and provides the best satire. If your humour welcomes fly-kicking elderly citizens to the head, you will enjoy this.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldCourtney Slevison
Scott Pilgrim must defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil exes in order to win her heart.
This is a film like no other you've seen before, and Scott Pilgrim is an equally unique hero. Highly imaginative and often hilarious, this quirky film feels a lot like watching a video game in live-action. Blending fantasy and reality seamlessly with candy-coloured visuals, the film's only pitfall is that by the time the climactic fight scene is reached, it feels a little repetitive. With so many crazy and offbeat characters crammed in, you will definitely want to live and play in Scott Pilgrim's world.
A look at the life of serial killer John Bunting.
The world looks like a more sinister place after watching "Snowtown". The story, which recounts real events, is chilling and shows life as you wish it wasn't. The setting is a colourless and unsettling suburban landscape, all the more terrifying for its ordinariness. It's sometimes hard to tell the relationships between the characters, not that it's possible to care for any of them. The dramatic build is slow and we squirm at what's coming and, unsurprisingly, the audience becomes enmeshed in scenes so sickening that they're almost unwatchable. Snowtown is no town to be.
The Two Faces of JanuaryAnne Murphy
A thriller centred on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer.
A drama that unfolds while holidaying in the Mediterranean, this sophisticated thriller delivers on tension and keeps you guessing about the plot. Apparently everyone has two faces and a cool linen suit, but there's nothing too high-tech or fantastic; it is all credible and the elements combine to seduce. The absence of gimmicks means you can imagine yourself in right the picture. Bring on the rest of the year.
Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery.
"Hugo" is a magical story for kids with a penchant for adventure. A fantastic French train station is brought to life, and thanks to some crafty 3D, delves into the gleaming maze of clocks and cogs that surround the walls. As our young characters continue to solve the puzzle, the plot strangely shifts, taking the audience in a completely new direction... to explore the birth of cinema. It's an odd division in the film, and accompanied by a few irrelevant supporting members, unsettles the enchantment of this visual treasure. All the pieces seem to fit.