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!
TRON: LegacyAnthony Macali
A virtual-world worker looks to take down the Master Control Program.
"TRON: Legacy" is a digital extravaganza, highlighting the progress of special effects in the many time cycles between its predecessor, barely a required prerequisite. The visual artistry in this film is unparalleled, constructing a highly immersive universe that is truly dazzling. The retro illuminations harness a mesmerising force, luring you into a journey of exhilarating action and adventure. Complete with a distinctive futuristic soundtrack, the experience will struggle to escape from your memory. Close to perfect.
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.
Guardians of the GalaxyAndrew O'Dea
A group of misfits finds themselves the target of a manhunt after acquiring an all-powerful orb.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is utterly dazzling as a sci-fi spectacle, but its real strength lies in the charisma of its characters. The band of atypical yet weirdly loveable heroes at its core affirms the film's goofy and energetic nature, as it strikes a cosmic balance between rollicking action and humour. It also proves to be a musical treat, with the eclectic soundtrack providing a slew of classic songs to compliment the irreverent fun. Relive that feeling of being a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon with this awesome addition to the movie universe.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
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.
Fast FiveThomas Jones
Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.
After watching this film, the drive home will feel slower than ever before and any muscles you thought you had will look more like excess skin. The cars and the men in this film put all to shame. The car chases and action sequences are non-stop, over the top, till you drop... and then some. The story, which follows a trio of crims on the run ties these amazingly shot scenes quite nicely together. If you have the need for speed, fasten your seatbelts.
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.
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.
The EagleAndrew O'Dea
In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father's memory by finding his lost legion's golden emblem.
Full of action-adventure appeal, "The Eagle" is a completely serviceable movie for those who like films with swords n' sandals. Based on the famously lost Ninth Legion of Rome, the plot is erratic, but is carried by actors who surprisingly acquit themselves with a good deal of restraint in delivering likeable characters. Although it may all feel a little too familiar, it's supported by some splendid cinematography that makes for an enjoyable enough story. It might not soar, but it definitely flies.
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.
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.
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.
Iron Man 2Andrew O'Dea
Billionaire Tony Stark must contend with deadly issues involving the government, his own friends, as well as new enemies due to his superhero alter ego Iron Man.
"Iron Man 2" is fuelled by ultra-impressive effects and some explosively awesome action. The plot is a little rusty and isn't helped by the uneccessary introduction of characters for inevitable future franchises. Thankfully, it's redeemed by both leads who are superb in their roles, and they combine brilliantly to capture the loveably narcissistic Tony Stark and the hulking Russian menace Ivan Vanko. Not completely iron-clad, but there's definitely more than enough firepower to entertain the fanboys.
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.
Crazy HeartAnthony Macali
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him.
"Crazy Heart" has great country songs that will appeal to all fans of music. It plays as an insight of a washed-up musician - old, poor, and often drunk, with little comfort/relief but for his recollections of his time at the top and continued luck with the ladies. Perhaps the story shows too much admiration for 'Bad Blake', who gets away a little too easily with some of his lesser qualities. In the end, the film is a one-man show, with a central performance strong and charming enough to uplift the masses.
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.
Hollywood superstar Vincent Chase makes his directorial debut, which wreaks havoc for everyone.
The elements of this film remains faithful to its source, ensuring "Entourage" was made for the fans. It doesn't have that 'epic' feel and the stakes aren't higher than they normally were; it almost feels like just another episode where the ending is a little abrupt, feeling rushed without giving its audience comfortable foreclosure. Nevertheless, the characters and their bromance remain as charming as ever, with no love lost for them and their antics. It has everything you expect, sure to satisfy its admirers, and maybe win a posse of new ones.
A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after he goes missing in Afghanistan.
"Brothers" is as compelling as it is emotional, a powerful combination. As the title suggests, the focus is our most important relationships, the ones with family. The story navigates some difficult political and ethical terrain and is all the better for doing so without judgement. The audience is treated as intelligent, and almost everything is pared back except the strong performance from the entire cast. The overall tone and simple background setting are downplayed for realism, and the lingering memories are heart wrenching. He ain't heavy...
The AvengersAndrew O'Dea
A team of superheroes form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
"The Avengers" is one for the fanboys/girls. It suffers in parts from a few needless characters, and is held back by overly long stretches where nothing gets hit, blown up or smashed. However, once the film eventually manages to flesh out its massive host of superheroes, we are treated to what is quite simply a visceral feast of unrelenting action; the seamless CGI and 3D medium tailored brilliantly to enhance every bang and crash. Perhaps most surprising are the intermittent moments of seriously funny comedy. Far from super, but the experience is definitely nothing to be avenged.
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.
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.
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...
The Darjeeling LimitedAnthony Macali
Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other.
It's difficult to relate to this wealthy family, so far detached from reality. Rather, you laugh at their bickering, addiction to cough medicine, fondness of snakes and pepper spray, and other mishaps aboard the Darjeeling Limited. The Indian people and culture suffer from the little attention they receive in this feature, which delivers more of a postcard snapshot than an enlightening journey. What the film lacks in spirit, it makes up for in family camaraderie.
Cars 2Anthony Macali
Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.
It takes time adjusting to a parallel world of talking planes, trains and automobiles. Once "Cars 2" hits its rhythm, this clever adaptation of the most famous spy franchise of all time will appeal to all ages. Our favourite characters are back, with laughs (and lessons) coming from the most unlikely of heroes in the simple-minded Mater, whose case of mistaken identity drives most of the laughter. While the film is probably one leg too long, it does allow for some more time to enjoy the cultural joking and the iconic cities recreated and polished in beautiful digi-colour. Can't lose this race.