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!
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.
Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.
When you find yourself weeping in a cinema, why is it that you cry? Is it for the life loves and losses of fictional characters or for your own fragile mortality? Something extraordinary is orchestrated when a writer and director conspire to bring a finely tuned production to the screen. Credit must also go to the talented actors who perform together seamlessly as a quartet. "Performance" is played like a concerto. Bravo!
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.
Minions are recruited by a super-villain who hatches a plot to take over the world.
The population of minions, rambunctious yellow characters, are seeking a dastardly villain to serve. It seems they're better at finding a leader than keeping them. On their extraordinary adventures they are good at getting into trouble and even better at slapstick play. Their antics are endearing, you can't help but be charmed by their gibberish language and their wide eyed innocence. Young audiences will be delighted by this winning formula, while older folk will be thoroughly amused. Mellow yellows, not at all despicable.
Eddie the EagleWendy Slevison
Based on the true story of an unconventional British athlete who surprised the world by competing in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics
"Eddie the Eagle" is a heart-warming and quirky movie about an eccentric young man who, from an early age, and with no athletic prowess whatsoever, is determined to become an Olympian. With his tireless dedication and infectious optimism, this lovable underdog somehow manages to make his dream come true, with the help of a down-and-out coach. Stunning ski scenes, surprising cameo appearances and authentic performances from the cast all contribute, but Eddie the unlikely hero is the star. This feel-good film soars.
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures threaten our very existence.
"Godzilla" is back bigger and better than ever. This reincarnation of the story does not lay dormant for very long, feeding nuclear fears and manifesting them in the grandest and most terrifying of creatures. The special effects are superb, with hellish production sets and gravitating action that will leave you in awe. However, this monster's greatest success is the decidedly human element, brilliantly capturing the universal threat and far-spanning emotional reactions of all characters involved. Let them fight.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.
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.
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 Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Anthony Macali
Katniss Everdeen leads a rebellion onto the Capital in search of its dictator President Snow.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" is war: a war of conflict, but more so a war of words and propaganda. The final instalment of the franchise provides a valuable examination of the subject, exposing the horrors of dispassionate politics and countless fatalities to its younger audience. Propelled by a bold story and even bolder hero, this fitting finale doesn't disappoint, darting through its significant running time with just the right amount of action, excitement and despair. An eerie and all too familiar revolution.
The Big ShortAnne Murphy
Three parallel stories of different men who realised how precarious the US housing and investment markets were on the eve of the Great Financial Crisis.
"The Big Short" is a bold movie that is both cynical and humourous in its fact based analysis of the loose and rampant practices of the banking system. It's as scary as it is entertaining while affirming the theory that money markets are driven by fear and greed. Unexpected vignettes serve to explain the almost inexplicable structures used in the bond market, with parody being the perfect vehicle. Could well go a little longer.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.
Sassy and laugh out loud funny, "Trainwreck" sets a new standard for modern rom-coms. More than the script, which is sharp and absolutely hilarious, it is the lead character, in particular who steals the show, and delights by deftly turning the tables on gender stereotypes. It is she who calls the shots with her romantic hook-ups. You forgive her sexism as she delivers a performance with an aura of innocence and crackling wit. This wreck is no accident.
17 AgainCourtney Slevison
In 1989, Mike O'Donnell was the star of his high school basketball team. Now 20 years later, with his glory days behind him, a magical encounter gives him the chance to be 17 again.
In a familiar body-swap genre, this movie shines with charm and good-humour. The film is led by the brilliant casting of the main character, with a great supporting cast. While clearly aimed at teenage girls, "17 Again" will reach a broader audience due to its big heart and great comedic moments. The perfect film for undemanding, feel-good fun.
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.
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.
Captain America: The First AvengerAndrew O'Dea
Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America.
The 1940's are faithfully re-created in this stand-alone origin story, with a superb production design that creates a welcoming and often humourous vibe. It reverberates though the entire film and provides the perfect platform for some good ole' fashioned entertainment. "Captain America" provides all the action, adventure and visual thrills one would expect from a superhero story, along with brilliant characterisations from both heroes and villains alike. The target audience is sure to leave the cinema satisfied... the man in red, white and blue won't let you down.
Bad Neighbours 2Anthony Macali
With their second baby on the way and house for sale, Mac and Kelly's plans are thrown in disarray when a new sorority moves in next-door, hell bent on exercising their right to host parties.
"Bad Neighbours 2" is a very surprising sequel. The concise plot, combined with consistently funny and to-the-point humour makes it a superior comedy than its predecessor. The cultural references and topical satire remain, while its crudeness never oversteps the mark, riding that fine line between amusing and distaste. It might not linger long in your mind at film-end, but the entire ensemble make equal contributions to sustain the laughter. Bucket-loads of fun... join the bloc.
After her marriage crumbles and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed tries to put her past behind her and hikes more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, alone.
"Wild" brings an uplifting memoir about seeking redemption through physical challenges from the page to the screen, and is true to original text. While managing to traverse a full gamut of emotion, there are funny and even uplifting moments. It’s impossible to say if it is the walker or the rugged walk that most impresses, and even harder to resist the urge to pull on your hiking boots. Wild thing might make your heart sing.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.