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.
Burn After ReadingAndrew O'Dea
A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.
"Burn after Reading" is a wry, satirical comedy that revels in its own quirkiness. The outstanding performances convey a series of characters that haven't a clue what's going on - and neither do we - but therein lies the fun. The plot is as brilliant as it is convoluted. We don't see anything coming as each twist gathers momentum, creating a hilarious sense of the inconsequential. An absurdly entertaining film.
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 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.
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.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo Baggins sets out on an adventure with a group of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home.
The greatest delight of this movie is the simple joy in being able to revisit the magic of Middle-Earth once again, captured in all of the director's visionary glory. In this chapter, an aura of whimsy and charm are preferred to the darker nature of the film's predecessors – a light-hearted approach that remains faithful to the literary classic upon which it is grounded. Although it has its share of storytelling detractions, in particular the deliberately slow pacing, there are still enough moments of action and allure to sustain, making "The Hobbit" a journey worth taking.
Iron Man 3Andrew O'Dea
When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
The third instalment of the "Iron Man" franchise once again welcomes the familiar fusion of humour and action. Although the pacing can feel uneven at times, almost as if cruising on auto-pilot, the film is held together by a clever script and the charisma of its leading man who entertains with trademark wit, quips and playboy antics. However, it's the shiny suit that is the star of the show, and it doesn't disappoint in a myriad of explosive CGI that reaches its peak in an epic finale. Proves its mettle.
Water for ElephantsAnne Murphy
A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet.
"Water for Elephants" is an atmospheric movie evoking an old-fashioned, Hollywood romantic style. Watching this circus-spectacular you might be both sorry and glad you didn't run away to join the circus. Beyond the glitter of show time under the big-top is a tough life, particularly during the Depression of the 1930's. The circus also holds an exotic allure, and the travelling show and its performers enchant as the story unfolds. The elephant steals the show, no junk in this trunk.
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.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.
Behind the CandelabraTom Jones
The tempestuous relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover is recounted.
Surprisingly, for a film about a figure as flamboyant as Liberace, it’s a little dark. The central relationship spirals into some very odd and destructive behaviour; imagine your boyfriend wanting to adopt you as his son. From the fashions and furnishings, to the stigmas surrounding homosexuality, this film accurately captures the era with which it is set. Though at times it does become a bit farcical, there are award-worthy performances all round, particularly from the man who is the candelabra.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' NestTom Jones
Lisbeth is recovering and awaiting trial for three murders. Mikael must prove her innocence, but Lisbeth must be willing to share the details of her sordid experiences with the court.
Millennium fans will be fulfilled by this portrayal of the final book of the series. The magnitude of this story is handled well, despite feeling a little rushed at times. The quickened pace impacts on the suspense, which is never given enough time to really build. Consequently, the film feels less like a thriller and more like a courtroom drama. However, the acting is superb, the story is bold and the climax… revenge has never tasted so sweet. She's kicking nests... and goals.
As the result of a childhood wish, a teddy bear comes to life, though he's not what you might expect.
"Ted" is essentially your typical, crass buddy-movie with the adage of having a fantastically refreshing premise. There might be some inconsistencies in the script, but the broadly formulaic storyline is offset by moments of uproarious hilarity, and you'll find it hard not to lose your stuffing. The vulgarity is made all the funnier by the fact it emanates from something we all might've grown up with as children. There are a host of amusing cameos, but it's the foul-mouthed little bear that is the star of the show. Definitely worth a cuddle, just be prepared for the reach-around...
Little Miss SunshineAnthony Macali
A troubled family go on a road trip to enter their daughter into a Young Miss America Pageant.
This eclectic bunch faces all kinds of issues on their trip. From drugs and suicide, to homosexuality and death, all scenarios that will make you cry, make you cringe and most importantly make you laugh. It highlights the value of family and camaraderie, no matter how disturbing your family might be.
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.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAndrew O'Dea
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book mysteriously marked "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Voldemort's dark past.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is one of the darkest and most thoroughly entertaining instalments yet. Wondrous set designs are darkly lit, and add to the brooding nature of the film. Despite these dark overtones, moments of teen romance add a genuine comical touch. There seems to be decidedly less action, preferring to elaborate on characters core to the story, setting the up the franchise for an inevitably epic conclusion. A spellbinding tale, darker is definitely better.
This film takes you on board spaceship "Icarus II" where an international crew of scientists attempt to reignite a dying sun with a payload of explosives.
The mission is dangerous (the sun is pretty hot) and it's interesting to see how the crew react when their lives and the future of mankind is at risk. Thrilling stuff that will entertain those who don't favour science fiction.
Where the Wild Things AreAndrew O'Dea
A disobedient little boy sent to bed without supper creates his own world inhabited by wild creatures.
This film is a strangely endearing adaptation of the literary classic. Though some may find the story languid at times, it's redeemed by spectacular cinematography and an almost despondent poetry. Brief moments of fun and frivolity are usurped by darker, more pensive undertones as we draw an emotional parallel between Max and the exquisitely realised 'Wild Things' that echo his feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration... and it's to be admired for embracing this childhood angst rather than simply condemning it. Let the wild rumpus start!
Angels & DemonsWendy Slevison
Symbologist Robert Langdon works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.
A definite prerequisite for enjoyment of this film is an ability to suspend reality, and just go for the crazy ride. The cinematography, music score and CGI are all top quality. The stunning Roman scenery, much of it authentically recreated in a studio in LA, makes a perfect backdrop for this thrilling, albeit absurd, murder mystery. Action-packed from start to finish, this well-crafted movie doesn't take itself too seriously. It's entertaining and heaps of fun. Nothing sinful about that.
Warm BodiesAndrew O'Dea
After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
This offering from the 'zom-rom-com' movement is a refreshing approach to the tale of teen-romance. Zombie purists expecting an onslaught of guts and gore will be sorely disappointed, as at its heart, this movie is an unlikely love story that bucks convention. Although the action and comedy are sparse, it still entertains when necessary. With more wit and life than most from the genre, "Warm Bodies" makes for a surprisingly charming film. Dead on.
Horton Hears a Who!Luke Bartter
Horton the Elephant struggles to protect a microscopic community from his neighbors who refuse to believe it exists.
As the strip mining of our youths continues, this is the first Dr. Seuss film adaptation that maintains the appeal of the original source. It's a vivid and exciting world, with genuine warmth, humour and true "Seuss-esque" dialogue. The plot does slow in the middle, but recovers for a satisfying finalé. With a good message about imagination, friends and just listening, "Horton" is worth looking out for, especially if you need to keep some little folk entertained.
Burke and HareAnthony Macali
Two 19th century grave robbers find a lucrative business providing cadavers for a medical school.
"Burke and Hare" might be a little grim for a comedy, but retells the true story of the historic Irish duo in quite an innocuous away. As the narrator kindly reminds us, we shouldn't really sympathise with murderers, but we do anyhow, following the crazed antics of the delightful cast, each with their own wonderful and weird plights. It slows to a canter towards the finale, in its "everything for love" sub-plot, but the film is funny and peculiar enough to survive to the end. An opportunity to have some fun with death and corpses.
The Boat That RockedAnthony Macali
A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's.
"The Boat That Rocked" is a dazzling compilation of the best music of the sixties, played and presented by an equally upbeat cast. There is no story, only parody, with scenes that'll either make you cringe, smile or laugh out loud. In fact, it's so wrought with feel-good moments that it may be enough to make you sea-sick. However, if you enjoy being immersed in such euphoria, you'll enjoy this film, maybe even love it, and everyone else can revel in the celebrated soundtrack.
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.
Death ProofAnthony Macali
Two separate sets of women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.
Homage to the classic Grindhouse cinema of the 80's, "Death Proof" is an suspenseful thrill-ride featuring many delightful ladies. With a killer soundtrack, the only thing that slows this vehicle is the tenuous dialogue. Most of the pop culture babble will interest you and a large portion of it won't. But let's not forget we're in a surreal world, where the crazed predator engages in a climatic pursuit which is possibly the best car sequence in history.