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...
Safe HouseAnthony Macali
A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
You can't help but laugh at the irony of "Safe House". What is supposed to be a temporary detention and interrogation room for captured criminals is a mere launching pad for the first of many intense shoot-outs and car chases. The action doesn't stop, and the film's suspense remains taut throughout thanks to some handy camerawork, a pumping soundtrack and the frenzied senior officials all pointing fingers at one another. Guns, lies, espionage… nobody's safe.
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.
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.
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.
Body of LiesAndrew O'Dea
Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius's 2007 novel about a CIA operative who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan.
"Body of Lies" is a political thriller that presents a current perspective of the turmoil pertinent to the Middle East. Rather than descending into patriotic nonsense, it takes a pointed look behind the veil of the 'War on Terror'. Those with a vested interest in the often volatile yet delicate balance of diplomacy and international espionage will find this film intellectually engaging, while others may find the portion of action sequences, however impressive, lacking.
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.
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.
Gnomeo & JulietAnne Murphy
Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?
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.
Hellboy II: The Golden ArmyAnthony Macali
The mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his team must save the world from the rebellious creatures.
"Hellboy I"I is a CGI camp of cogs of creatures. We still love the band from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, a bunch of down-to-earth superheroes who fight the bad guys at night, and amusingly discuss their personal relationships by day. Like Abe and Hellboy, it's an odd mix that relishes in a refreshing world of supernatural creativity and action. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, and is all the better for it.
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.
Knocked UpAnthony Macali
For fun loving party animal Ben Stone, the last thing he ever expected was for his one night stand to show up on his doorstep eight weeks later to tell him she's pregnant.
A cocktail mix of crass jokes and baby sentimentality, "Knocked Up" is a surprisingly touching story that will leave you drunken with laughter. With a premise that is borderline believable, it introduces a unique perspective on birth, one not afraid to poke fun at all parts of the 40 week journey. It shows the miracle of birth, the trials of marriage and how fantastic, difficult and funny life can be.
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 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.
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.
The Informant!Andrew O'Dea
The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre.
"The Informant!" is densely layered yet unassumingly funny satire. More 'quirky funny' than 'laugh-out-loud funny', it pokes fun at corporate greed as we navigate through a delightful web of deceit. The lead actor is superb, and we struggle whether to critisise or empathise with his goofball character. Although it may not have a lasting impact, the oddity of the film alone is enough to keep you entertained as you grapple with being informed on misinformation.
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...
Despicable MeTom Jones
When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds himself profoundly changed by the growing love between them.
"Despicable Me" is highly entertaining, well imagined and even at times quite touching, which is unexpected of a film where the hero is a sociopath living in a world where being evil is big business. The politically incorrect humour will have you laughing at the expense of innocent characters. It's 3D at its best, so make sure to secure any belongings; one particular scene on a rollercoaster feels too close to the real thing. Whether you feel guilty or not, it's still a pleasure to watch.