The MasterStefan Bugryn
In 50's America, a lost soul floats through life after WWII, falling under the charm of a cult leader.
Despite the ongoing sense of anticipation, there was little in the way of 'big' moments throughout this extended 'bro-mance'. At times, you can't help but feel a little lost with where the story is heading, or exactly what it's trying to achieve. However, what saves it are the stellar performances from both leads, as well as the luscious production values and direction. The score, which really makes the pace of the story feel energised, is mesmerising. It all looks and sounds great, but feels a little lacklustre. Not a master, but perhaps its apprentice.
Dredd 3DAndrew O'Dea
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.
"Dredd 3D" is a classic grindhouse shoot 'em up. Bullets rip through faces and bodies splatter from a great height in glorious slow-motion, stylishly drawing out each bloody micro-second. While the 3D effects do nothing but enhance a terrible sense of retro-fitting, gore-addicts will still no-doubt be enthralled by the relentlessly graphic violence; even though it only serves as compensation for the tired and unimaginative 'cops vs bad guys' storyline. Bordering on dreadful.
End of WatchAnne Murphy
Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
If you hear that "End of Watch" is a cop-buddy movie don't be misled; this riveting and intense drama is much more than that. It's a film that is so good it transcends the simple genre classification, so edgy that it redefines police-buddy movies. Although the pace is fast space is made for a rarely witnessed humanness in uniform, with a friendship that goes beyond mere allegiance. Keep watching.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
"Argo" captures your attention from start to finish. If you're not familiar with the political context, don't stress, as the brilliant opening sequence will give you all the background you need. Once up to speed, you can fully appreciate the treacherous and volatile situation of the time, made even more unbelievable by its grounding in a true story. The ensemble cast is brilliant, doing their best to prolong the exciting suspense and tension throughout. The result is universally good. Ar, go watch it.
Killing Them SoftlyAndrew O'Dea
A professional enforcer investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
"Killing Them Softly" is both an arresting crime drama and socio-political commentary of the USA's 2008 economic crisis. The fusion of a violent underworld and pessimistic critique of capitalism is a strange mix, and the adjustment can be distracting. If nothing else though, it provides thought-provoking viewing even if the references are heavy-handed at times. The dialogue is cynical, the cinematics stylish and the acting superb; yet the fuse is an extremely slow burn. Some will be dismayed at the lack of explosiveness, while others will enjoy seeing the killing done 'softly'.
A bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and authorities who want a cut of their profits.
"Lawless" is steeped in dirt and bloody vengeance, painting a grim and violent picture amongst what is a distinct and evocative recreation of depression-era America. Masterfully crafted and beautifully filmed, it's the style and attention to detail that coerces us to overlook the minor storytelling flaws that hold it back from being a potential classic. Performances from the leads as well as terrific ensemble cast are terrific, underpinned by a sublime 'hillbilly' score. Uncomfortable and unsettling, this entertaining jar o' moonshine kicks like a mule.
Taken 2Andrew O'Dea
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.
In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits.
What would you do if you met yourself 30 years from now? Would you hug and tell yourself how healthy you look? This time travel film is far from some ploy to sell you life insurance. The characters are trying to kill their future selves, in a roundabout way. It is seriously cool. The plot is unpredictable for the entirety and the characters are as disturbing as they are likeable. Prepare yourself for hours of post film analysis. It's a ride
Hotel TransylvaniaTom Jones
Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter.
Depicting Dracula, Frankenstein, the big bad wolf and all the other legends as suffering from the same dilemmas and stresses as humans, was obviously designed to offer greater perspective to the intended audience. Unfortunately these characters are likely to keep children awake at night. Despite all their human charm and sense of humour, they are still scary, particularly to look at. Undeniably, this film is entertaining, but parental guidance is necessary. It is the mash, it is the monster mash.
A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building - along with a 12-foot Great White Shark.
"Bait" is the story of a very hungry shark, brought beyond the shore with the help of some unremarkable special effects. Once the disaster subsides, the talent emerges from the water and we have the consummate setting for chills and spills. They make it quite clear which fish we want to live, and the chumps to be chewed, not shying from the blood and limbs synonymous with killer sharks, yet still suffers from taking itself a little too seriously. Dead in the water.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedAnthony Macali
Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe join a travelling circus on their back home to New York.
"Madagascar 3" starts like most franchises that run out of ideas... by travelling to Europe. Within the wag of a tail, our favourite animal friends are overseas and roaring along at a frantic pace, opening with a ruckus to satisfy the most attention-seeking of kids. Once the initial excitement dies down, the energy runs out, and the film resorts to the limitless colour and fireworks at its disposal to enthral over the thin circus plot. An uninspiring show.
The WatchAndrew O'Dea
Four men who form a neighbourhood watch group as a way to get out of their day-to-day family routines find themselves defending the Earth from an alien invasion.
This is a high-concept, low-brow comedy that simply doesn't work. Sure, the initial shock-value might elicit some laughs, but a lazily written script will ensure that variations of the same vulgar gags will become tiresome and stale. Even some genuinely funny moments from particular leads aren't enough to resurrect a story which is nothing more than an after-thought to a barrage of unoriginal toilet humour. Don't watch "The Watch".
Hit and RunAnthony Macali
A man on the witness protection program decides to risk it all to follow his girlfriend.
"Hit & Run" begins in a small country town, the home of Annie and Charles, quietly in love, and sharing a chemistry that actually creates a concern for their fate. In their escape they hit the ground running with plenty of bumps along the way, obstacles in the form of deranged ex-boyfriends and small-time criminals who play with great madness and humour. High-octane chases dominate the latter parts of the film, sure to entertain an audience that share the similar fetish for cars as its main character. A fast and fun ride.
Moonrise KingdomAnthony Macali
A pair of young lovers flee their town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
"Moonrise Kingdom" follows the sweet romance of two misunderstood kids, who find solace in one another after everyone else has given up on them. The narrow island setting is full of quirks, making use of a tour guide to describe some of its more famous tidbits, and adding a homely touch to the affair and adventure. A colourful cast push the expedition along, playing the frustrated parents and companions with good humour and trepidation; but the heart of the film lies in the relationship, a chronicle of a harmonising affection from a simpler time. A love story to rise up and conquer all.
The Expendables 2Stefan Bugryn
The Expendables reunite for another mission that ends up being a personal vendetta for revenge.
Thank God they made "The Expendables 2" fun, because if it wasn't, it wouldn't have worked. On an artistic level, this film is as stale and unoriginal as a piece of toast; but on a fanboy level, it's as good as it gets, pure action-indulgence. The genre-heroes poke fun at themselves and each other, jamming countless references for fans young and old. They weave in and out of the formula that made them stars, having as much fun as the audience, and showing the world they haven't been expended just yet.
Total RecallAndrew O'Dea
A factory worker begins to suspect that he is a spy after having fake memories planted in his head.
"Total Recall" is an unimaginative, humourless insult to the original sci-fi classic it is based upon. A convoluted script that takes itself way too seriously is only compounded by a host of cheesy one-liners delivered by actors that have neither the charm nor charisma to pull them off. The CGI is excessive and poorly executed, although certain fanboys might be pleased by the 'extra titillation' on offer. The entire movie feels like one continuous chase scene, propelled by a storyline that is nothing more than lame political allegory. If only it was possible not to recall this disaster.
Hope SpringsAnne Murphy
A middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counselling session to repair their relationship.
The calibre of the acting brings authenticity to the predicament of a couple married so long that they're companions rather than woman and husband. Audiences will empathise with experiences of the central couple in their therapist's office. While noted as a comedy, "Hope Springs" is not played for laughs, although it is quite humourous. This is a film about the loss of romance/losing romance, then striving for what you want, and making love. Hope actually bounces right off the screen and into your heart.
The Bourne LegacyAnthony Macali
In the wake of the saga surrounding Jason Bourne, another participant of the program emerges, who tries to escape the higher powers attempting to shut him down.
Perhaps not in the same vein as its predecessors, "The Bourne Legacy" is good enough to stand on its own two feet. 'Number 5' is just as charismatic and dangerous, but the stakes are not high enough in this cat and mouse chase. He's just a man looking for his meds, and uses all his resourcefulness racing to the drawn-out action finale waiting for him at the end of the film. Born from the same mould, but not as reliable.
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 CampaignAnthony Macali
The world of politician Cam Brady is shaken up with the introduction of a new candidate in district, who challenges his Congress position in an upcoming election.
"The Campaign" lacks any substance or agenda, except to make its supporters laugh. The plot is weak, and the topic is simply a platform for a handful of skits that happen to feature the same two politicians behaving badly for mild amusement. The stretches in-between the jokes are dull, and with nothing on the line, the debate warrants very little interest. Where's the hard-edged commentary or satire? This is a fight that won't sustain the full campaign.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterStefan Bugryn
The prolific American President leads a double life as one of history's greatest vampire-hunters.
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is basically an action movie for teenage boys. The bumbling script and rushed back-story means you don't really care for any of the characters or their motives. However, even though it starts off as a no-brains fang-banger, it actually becomes bizarrely interesting watching historical events woven with outrageous fiction. Don't be mistaken, this is mostly a pretty stupid film, but seeing an infamous American president slaying evil spirits against the backdrop of a historically famous era, only just saves it from sucking completely.
Magic MikeAnthony Macali
A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
Sex, drugs... and dollar bills, "Magic Mike" offers us a sneak peek into the not-so-glamorous, but surprisingly creative life of a male stripper. While the job requires a certain exquisite physique, there is an impressive amount of work involved in the highly choreographed dance numbers and imaginative use of costumes and props. Unfortunately the magic doesn't last forever, as Mike searches for more to his life, with ambitions of a real career and a romance that can't compete with the novelty of dry-humping on stage. There's more to Mike than meets the eye.
The Dark Knight RisesAndrew O'Dea
Eight years on, the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is testament to the fact that an epic blockbuster is capable of creating an action-packed, intelligent and rousing spectacle without the use of 3D or excessive CGI effects. Terrific performances from a superb cast are shadowed only by a booming, brooding score that serves as the film's spine, imposing the tension and gravity of every magnificent scene. This is a thrilling conclusion that soars rather than rises to the occasion, delivering a dramatically and emotionally satisfying finale to what is an unquestionably brilliant trilogy.
The Amazing Spider-ManAndrew O'Dea
Peter Parker finds a clue that might unlock why his parents disappeared when he was young.
The direction is assured in this fluid film that presents a fresh perspective of the legendary character. The brilliant blend of motion capture and CGI action sequences are used sparingly, giving weight to a storyline with substance enough to match the amazing manoeuvres of 'Spidey' when he's out doing what he does best. There are some awkward moments, but the charming young actors carry their roles with aplomb. Slick and entertaining without being brilliant, this is finally an instalment that crawls up, rather than down, the drainpipe… get bitten by the reboot.