The ConjuringAnthony Macali
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Rooted in the origins of a true case, "The Conjuring" is frightening. Largely set in an eerie country home, this story doesn't appear to bring anything new to the genre, but the execution is haunting. The tension slowly builds and the heart-rate jumps with each scare. Even with the lights on you don't feel safe. There are few moments of silliness, but they are lost in the shadowing score, and the many bumps and thumps that mark the return of the exorcism. The film is possessed.
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!
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
The Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
In the year 2154, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to a grossly polarised Earth.
"Elysium" is an absorbing sci-fi adventure loaded with allegory. Although the political overtones can be heavy-handed at times, it's always refreshing to view a movie where the guns and explosions are balanced by an intelligent and relevant social conscience.The production values are superb, and impressive visuals add weight to a succession of gritty action sequences full of gory violence and splatter. While the conclusion is a little predictable, the brisk pacing and intensity make this film about dystopian class division exciting and imaginative enough to entertain.
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.
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
"Moneyball" is intelligent filmmaking that takes an unlikely subject and makes it interesting. It's a testament to the solid direction and brilliance of the scriptwriters that a story about the business of baseball could be so captivating. You can't help but be drawn in as it explores the opposing philosophies of intuition versus statistics, bolstered by that feel-good sentiment of rooting for the underdog. An entertaining movie that covers all the right bases, this one is right on the money.
Men in Black IIIAnthony Macali
Agent J travels in time to MIB's early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.
You may think "Men in Black" did not warrant a return, but all will be forgotten by the end. Number "III" is great, returning with the same camp humour and 'end of the world' plot that made us so fond of the franchise. The agents effortlessly slip back into their suits to stop the bad guys, embodied by one of the most frightening and creepy aliens you will ever see. The film does its best to make sense of a time-travel story, and the result is fun and surprisingly good. Don't be afraid to go back in time.
The GreyAndrew O'Dea
In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.
This tale of survival is a surprisingly philosophical one. "The Grey" is still punctuated by enough action to thrill, but at its core remains a meditation on existentiality and an intelligent snapshot about man's primal will to live. Unsparingly bleak, the film's spiritual agenda is stripped as bare as the cold and wild backdrop it's set against; carried by some superb characterisation and the commanding presence of its leading man. Once more into the fray...
August: Osage CountyAnthony Macali
A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in.
"August: Osage County" plays host to a family steeped in unresolved issues. As each character is introduced, they bring extra weight to the drama. Based on a play, there are no small parts to this story, allowing each member of the ensemble to thrive, most memorably when they sit together in a dining scene to never forget. While the film lingers towards its conclusion, there's no doubt individuals will resonate identify with parts of the narrative before the end. Funny: Sad Family.
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.
St. VincentAnne Murphy
A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
At some point the audience will realise they're watching the aging lead actor playing his elderly self, or some down-on-his-luck movie character version of himself. Don't feel like a sucker for playing along and enjoying the film. The endearing qualities of the protagonist allow you to put cynicism aside, forgive the unlikely plot elements, and be entertained by the ubiquitous fogey next door with a proverbial heart of gold. Wholly unlikely Saint.
The canine star of a fictional sci-fi/action show that believes his powers are real embarks on a cross country trek to save his co-star from a threat he believes is just as real.
With a premise as cute as our hero, "Bolt" was always going to succeed, especially in the hands of a production team who know exactly what they're doing. As Bolt discovers how to behave like a 'normal' dog, many will delight in his lessons in canine antics. Classifying films like this as 'cartoons' do them an injustice, considering how visually stunning the animation is. You may forget the film quicker than you can say 'Bolt', but will thoroughly enjoy the show.
A CIA analyst is forced onto the field to recover a nuclear bomb after the identities of the organisations agents are compromised.
In this film, the style and sophistication of the spy genre is turned on its head, drawing plenty of laughs from the 'fish out of water' plot device. Agent Cooper, the aggressive and foul-mouthed analyst turned secret agent, is unequivocally the star of the show, cracking countless jokes, and making a mockery of the deliberately clichéd and amusing espionage setups. While the story is silly, the great supporting cast do a good job in complementing this one-woman show. License to farce.
City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, but his rebellious spirit shakes the town up and he sets out to have the rules abolished.
This remake of the classic is bound to have its sceptics, both those who are fans of the original, as well as those who had no interest in it the first time around. All cynicism will be pushed aside however, as this film is simply too fun to not enjoy. The two young leads carry the movie with an authenticity that lifts it from the cheesy mess it could have been, and the impressive choreography gives "Footloose" an exuberance that will have you dancing in the aisles.
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.
Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbour.
A somewhat eccentric addition to the romantic comedy genre, this utterly charming and insightful film deals with a condition not fully understood by most people. The title character is realistically and sensitively portrayed, while the female lead perfectly sustains him, in roles which will help raise public profile about the small yet significant segment of our society who suffers from Aspergers. This movie is a quirky, unassuming and tenderly realised story about a search for love and acceptance, something much more difficult for "Aspies" than most.
American SniperAnthony Macali
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history.
"American Sniper" is the story of a war veteran and his ongoing conflict with the before and after effects of his ceaseless tours of duty. The action is fierce as the camera lies beside the sharp-shooter. You can almost feel the long, cold gun in your very own hands, unwittingly raising questions about the necessity of all the brutality. Unrelenting short scenes fuel the adrenalin and thrill of combat, astutely contrasting against the quiet and aimless life back home. American hero.
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.
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!
Fruitvale StationAnthony Macali
The purportedly true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III on the last day of 2008.
Based on a true story, "Fruitvale Station" is the tragic chronicle of Oscar, and the frightful events of his New Year's celebration. A gritty style and clever mobile phone subtitles document the day with added authenticity, in a recollection where the characters admiringly take precedence over incident. Our protagonists aren't perfect, but their portrayals feel genuine, with a focus on family and relationships that add significant emotional weight, which becomes more apparent with the overwhelming sense of dread that arrives at the last stop. A great injustice.
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.
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.
Snow White and the HuntsmanAndrew O'Dea
The Huntsman is ordered by the Evil Queen to hunt down Snow White in the woods.
This dark take on the classic fairy-tale is driven by a medieval resonance. Splendid cinematography and production values transform the screen into an exquisite world, a dichotomy of bleakness and beauty. The action sequences are solid, and it's refreshing to see a heroine not playing the tiresome role of 'helpless damsel'. Unfortunately, the lead lacks the conviction to really deliver; but is thankfully redeemed by her counter-part, who skilfully elicits a distant sympathy for the tormented Evil Queen. Might not be the fairest of them all, but it's still safe to take a bite from this apple.