Dark ShadowsAnthony Macali
An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
"Dark Shadows" is a dark comedy, although the jokes aren't as black as its gothic setting, a magnificent candlelit manor. Our protagonist is an affable chap and a vampire out of his time, coming to grips with the quirks of the modern world and the members of his equally awkward and peculiar family. The unusual scenario is a surprising platform for laughs in what is an otherwise insignificant story. The cast may be marvellous, but the film won't leave any everlasting marks.
The Five-Year EngagementAnthony Macali
Tom proposes to his girlfriend, Violet, but unexpected events keep delaying their marriage.
"The Five-Year Engagement" is all about hanging in for the long haul, withstand those tumultuous times and you will be rewarded. The film has much in common with the couple at its centre. There are ups and downs along with a series of funny bits that don't add up to very much. Thankfully, the characters slowly grow on you (in particular the impressive and ever-charming female lead), emotion creeps in, and the messages about relationships defy Hollywood convention and actually contain some truth. Nobody's perfect.
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.
StreetDance 2Wendy Slevison
After suffering humiliation by the crew Invincible, a street dancer looks to gather the best dancers from around the world for a rematch.
If the numbers in the title of this film cause a little uncertainty, listen to that feeling, and save your money. Actually, to call this a "film" is being quite generous - it's really just a succession of dance sequences. The dancing is very good, but that's it. The plodding, formulaic plot is like an afterthought, and the dancers are appalling actors anyway. Cheap, clumsy 3D effects do nothing to enhance what is essentially a rehash of all the other dance movies of recent times. Sit this one out.
The Lucky OneTom Jones
A Marine travels to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.
If you start to notice more and more photos of women popping up in obscure places, this film is to blame. It gives single women hope that a man could be out there trying to find them right at this minute. Some may call it stalking, but apparently if he's incredibly good looking and has a pet dog it's not weird at all. This film ticks all women's boxes. It is romantic and sad at the same time. If this is what you're looking for, you're in luck.
Salmon Fishing in the YemenWendy Slevison
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realise a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a film that's as original as its title. Adapted from the novel of the same name, it is a refreshingly imaginative and appealing cross-cultural narrative featuring warmly authentic performances from an extremely likeable cast. Humorously juxtaposing the frenzy of politicians clamouring for public approval against the solitude and grace of fly-fishing, this movie takes you on an improbable but decidedly pleasurable journey that's well worth the fare.
A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.
Adapted from the board game of the same name, "Battleship" is one hell of a movie. For some, it may actually feel as though you are in Hell. Laughably bad dialogue, ludicrously over-the-top CGI, apathetic acting and a volume level that could permanently damage ear drums all combine to make this film an unforgettable/unforgivable viewing experience. Massive suspension of disbelief required - the plot holes go all the way to the bottom of the ocean, along with the ship. It's a s(t)inker.
The HelpAnthony Macali
An aspiring author decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work.
"The Help" is a remarkable film that tells an important tale without being heavy-handed. It succeeds in reflecting the period effortlessly, but the true brilliance is in the story-telling. All the characters have an interesting experience to share, with a common agenda to highlight the glaringly obvious injustice of the time for both maids and women alike. While it's not without some humour, this movie is essentially heartbreaking and heart-warming stuff. No assistance required to watch this one.
The Pirates! Band of MisfitsAnthony Macali
The Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award.
"The Pirates!" is another adventure from a production house who continue to painstakingly animate their films with clay. They do so successfully with this film, creating a world of splendid colour and detail that keep the eyes busy. The story is an inherently amusing one, moving along at a swift pace, but the journey is lacking in laughter, with numerous gags failing to reach that 'hilarious' territory. It becomes even more frustrating when you acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into the craft, and realise that the humour just isn't on the same deck as the visuals. A stunning mismatch.
American ReunionAndrew O'Dea
Jim, Michelle, Stifler, and their friends reunite in East Great Falls for their high school reunion.
This instalment of the "American Pie" franchise is definitely one for the nostalgia fans only. There are a lot of forced and awkward moments, and some will find the often contrived humour a little lame. Others will find it laugh-out-loud hilarious. You should know exactly what to expect from this film. Many of the classic jokes are revamped and revisited, showcasing the vulgar dialogue and juvenile behaviour that made the earliest instalments (and the Stifmeister!) so popularly funny and successful. Go in expecting anything else, and you'll leave with pie on your face.
Margin CallAndrew O'Dea
Follows key people at a bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Greed and opportunism are rife in this ensemble drama that paints a very loose snap-shot of the foundations of capitalist society, bottled into one investment firm on the eve of a financial crisis. The story is dialogue-driven, and although it deftly ponders the volatile issue of money versus morality, it fails to really delve past the numbers, lacking the visceral punch or emotional drive to grab our attention. Some will find this film serviceable enough as financial thriller, but for those wanting a little more emotional involvement, "Margin Call" is not a wise investment.
Dr. Seuss' The LoraxAnne Murphy
Dr. Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope.
"The Lorax" targets young audiences and captivates them with candy coloured animation, cute critters and a lively pace, all presented in 3D. Although the original story book was written 40 years ago, this is a fable for today with greed pitted against green. There's a strong moral message about the importance of caring, and thankfully the lesson is related without preaching; instead there's singing and dancing in a kid's own adventure. Spirited school holiday viewing, a magical movie starring Truffula trees.
Wrath of the TitansAnthony Macali
Perseus braves the treacherous underworld to rescue his captured father, Zeus.
If the Greek gods saw this film, they would be pretty angry. "Wrath of the Titans" has a power of boredom to rival its ancestor. Clearly the film-makers just made up the rules for these ancient characters along the way. At each checkpoint we get an explanation of the plot, and without it you would find yourself in a place darker than the underworld. Admittedly the CGI is impressive, but ultimately of no consequence in a world of gods and humans we don't care about. Let us pray they don't forge another.
Mirror MirrorAnne Murphy
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
A favourite story recounted for today's audiences. The charming prince, while handsome, is more affable than heroic and it's the beautiful princess who achieves her own victories. The story retains all of its original elements and is retold with a fabulous sense of humour and spellbinding magic. "Mirror Mirror" is magnificently staged and gloriously costumed; it is also CGI enhanced, but only just enough to ensure no wrinkles. The fairest of them all.
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.
The Hunger GamesAnthony Macali
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death.
There's so much going on in "The Hunger Games" that you're bound to find something to cheer for. In a world of poverty and social class, it explores themes of politics and power, while emphasising the unsavoury demand for reality entertainment and violence. All these observations warrant our likeable heroine to do battle, an exercise that will satisfy the more bloodthirsty of fans. The build-up to the ceremony still ranks best, its history and spectacle matched by the lavish make-up and fashion on parade. Captivating and intense, the odds are definitely in its favour.
21 Jump StreetAnthony Macali
A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to school to blend in and bring down a drug ring.
In the case of "21 Jump Street", the fact it doesn't suck is the most surprising. From the very outset, the film makes us aware its 80's reprise is not original, and setting such a tone makes it easier to like and laugh. The bumbling detectives play their parts well, lost in the world of the modern high-school and playing up the geek/jock stereotypes to hilarious results. Unfortunately, most of the jokes are hit and miss beyond this point, compounded by a long running time and unnecessary vulgarity. Jump to it!
The Devil InsideWendy Slevison
In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms.
This movie follows the lead of others in its genre by using the found-footage, hand-held camera, mockumentary style of filming. The problem is we've see it all before. Despite strong attempts at realism, including using a highly talented contortionist for the possession scenes, and interviews with real specialists discussing exorcism to add credibility to the fact/fiction pitch, the film is disappointingly clichéd and time-worn. Worst of all, though, it's just not scary! And as for the ending, what the devil were they thinking?
John CarterAnthony Macali
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.
"John Carter" is a bit out there... Mars if you want to get technical. The planet is brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects, creating an impressive futuristic desert landscape. When our hero gets teleported to this faraway place, he is introduced to a curious assortment of creatures, and people with strange names and differing ambitions. After these initial encounters, the excitement dies down and John leaps into to his belated and ever-changing quest. It's a constant battle between boredom and a beautiful view.
Project XAnthony Macali
Three high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for them.
"Project X" is yet another 'found-footage' experiment that is full of surprises. The simple agenda breeds plenty of hilarious moments, with the attention firmly focused on the trio at the centre of the party, and their wide range of responses to the gathering chaos. It certainly is the most epic teen party to hit the screen, and while the parading nudity and constant binge-drinking might not appeal to every goer, it does highlight the stupid (and irreversible) things we do for a night of fun and ecstasy. Project success.
A Little Bit of HeavenTom Jones
A guarded woman finds out she's dying of cancer, but when she meets her match, the threat of falling in love is scarier than death.
This film is the most superficial and farcical depiction of a woman battling cancer ever to grace our screens. It goes so far the wrong way (think puns about colon cancer) that anyone who has experienced or been affected by the disease is likely to be offended by the way the subject is treated. The acting is of a quality you'd expect from a high school drama class and the script is terrible; heaven is a white cloud. Hard to like, even a little bit.
To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
"Contraband" doesn't move along at a great speed of knots, but contains plenty of drama and thrills. For the most part, the story takes place on a ship, and the environment is a not often seen and interesting place. The hand-held camera style is distracting, regularly zooming in and out of focus. There's a lot to like about our main character, using his street-smarts to continually outwit his sinister opponents. In the end, this predictable import brings home the goods.
Killer EliteAndrew O'Dea
When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader.
Shot in a gritty visual style, "Killer Elite" simply lacks the flair to separate it from the rest of the paint-by-numbers action flicks. There are definitely pockets of impressive, adrenaline-fueled action sequences and stunts, yet as the plot unfolds and the body count rises, the audience will find themselves misguided by a storyline that is over-complicated. This isn't helped by the wooden leading man and a supporting cast who should've simply done better. All killer, no filler.
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...
This Means WarAnthony Macali
Two operatives wage a battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same girl.
Two hardened men might front this stunt but don't be fooled. "This Means War" is a romantic comedy with a different take. Outlandish circumstances persuade two of the CIA's finest to exploit their resources to court a girl. This would never happen in the real world, but it's a funny scenario to watch unfold nonetheless. The jokes are snappy and everybody is beautiful and bright, with all the right characteristics to suit the plot. In the end it comes down to the trio at the centre of this triangle, and there's a lot to love about their conflict.