The Lego MovieAnthony Macali
An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.
"The Lego Movie" is an amusing anti-hero story wrapped in a world of little interconnecting blocks. It's puzzling to identify the target audience; adults will revel in the nostalgia and quick-wit, while kids will delight in the fast and frenetic colour and explosions. The film-makers have exceeded expectations in capturing the wonderful creativity and fun of their subject matter, with brilliant characters and animation. Break out the toy box, Lego is awesome.
The Grand Budapest HotelAnne Murphy
The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
The hotel is sited in a fictional wonderland somewhere in Europe around the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. Quirky is the adjective that springs to mind when describing this portrayal of one man's remarkable life. In addition to being a visual feast, this immensely enjoyable movie is delightfully funny with an unpredictable story-line. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is enthralling, and all but faultless. Ask for the concierge and check-in now.
Muppets Most WantedAnthony Macali
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.
"Muppets Most Wanted" bears all the classic tropes of a sequel low on ideas and thin on plot. It's still impossible to resist the innocuous charm and nostalgia of the wildly animated characters, looking so great in their colourful skins. Moving at a fast pace, the jokes are largely hit-and-miss. While the hits are funny, it’s unlikely this rag-tag crew will win over any new audiences with this show, despite the support of countless cameos. Most conventional.
300 Rise of an EmpireAndrew O'Dea
Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is an epic spectacle of video-game violence and gore. This stylised action fantasy retains the familiar and flashy comic-book style of the franchise, replete with blood-spattering slow motion and enough visceral excess to keep the senses engaged. Although it pales in comparison when evoking the same emotional vigour of its predecessor, the void is redeemed by the sultry, murderous heroine at its center who steals and carries the show. Not bad as a stand-alone movie, it's just missing some limbs.
Wolf Creek 2Andrew O'Dea
The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor.
Set against the harsh yet beautiful Australian outback, "Wolf Creek 2" manages to carry its own as a quintessentially 'Aussie' horror flick. This bone-grinding sequel might lack the shock surprise of its predecessor, but there's still enough depravity and carnage to appease the gore-hungry and chill-seekers alike. Although some may find the story bordering on predictable, most will giddily revel or revile in the grim-humour and violence of the 'fair dinkum' sociopath at its core. Bloody hell.
Are We Officially Dating?Anthony Macali
Three best friends find themselves where we've all been - at that confusing moment in every dating relationship when you have to decide "So... where is this going?"
That awkward moment "Are We Official Dating?" is about is barely spoken out. What dominates most of the discussion of its young cast is how sex and relationships work in the modern day, in all of its vulgar and candid glory. Regrettably the film is a little too inconsistent to get its underlying moral messages across, serving up a disconnected mix of comedic set pieces and 'dating' advice. A refreshing topic, but not bold enough to challenge the Hollywood ideals. Caught in the middle.
Winter's TaleAnthony Macali
A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.
The greatest miracle in "Winter's Tale" is how the film was born in the first place. For the most part, it doesn't make any sense, and talk of true love and flying horses only complicates matters even more. The funny thing is (aside from the cringe-worthy dialogue) is that the audience may actually find themselves interested in seeing just what other foolishness they might come up with. It seems the only magic lies in making up rules along the way to suit the story. Destined to fail.
Last VegasAnthony Macali
Three sixty-something friends take a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal.
In "Last Vegas" all the characters are winners. The illustrious cast is a sight to behold, it's just such a shame how their collaboration is played out in this tame effort. Sexagenarian jokes about prostates and bad hips come with the territory, and although some are mildly /amusing, the film never strays far from its predictable and happy ending. As fun as a debaucherous weekend can be in the city of lights, this outing is careful not to offend. A disappointing reunion.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
Labor DayAnne Murphy
Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride.
Five days can pass with a blink in screen time, but in this two hour effort the "Labor Day" weekend seems interminable, and staying engaged takes a bit of effort. This low-action romance might leave you snickering as the credits roll, such is the implausibility, and it's difficult to believe it's supposed to be taken seriously. Fortunately the actors keep the film together with fine performances, yet as hard as they work, their efforts are insufficient to weigh credibility to the story. Even if you're ready for the weekend, just keep Friday on your mind.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
The Wolf of Wall StreetAndrew O'Dea
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker to his desperate fall.
This character driven story is an amoral orgy of excess fuelled by drugs, sex... and money. While being an indictment of greed, there are no moralistic judgements; instead the white-collar criminals damn themselves. Outrageous hilarity ensues as the audience are invited to revel in unbridled decadence and debauchery. A stylistic and witty film featuring remarkable performances, the only flaw is an overindulgence in running time, making it difficult to hold the audience's attention in parts. Although it huffs and puffs, it just doesn't quite blow the house down.
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.
"Frozen" is the story of two sisters surrounded by a dazzling world of ice that gleams so impressively in this animation. While the characters and relationships are tailored to suit a modern audience, the core of the story sticks to a classic formula with familiar themes of family and love. Full of adventure and laughs thanks to a troupe of goofy sidekicks, this film distinguishes itself with merry displays of music and song. For the young princesses of the world.
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased software.
Inquisitive, imaginative and intelligent, "Her" is a touching commentary about the modern realities of human connection. At the film's heart is a poignant relationship between a man and his operating system, but this is not a cautionary tale, rather an elegantly crafted and vulnerable story free of cynicism. The movie's charm lies in the way it will emotionally resonate so differently with different people, underpinned by an exquisite direction and brilliant performances. A wistful meditation about love, loss, and relationships in a rapidly advancing and technological world. She's a beauty.
Saving Mr. BanksAnne Murphy
Author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.
You don't need to be a critic to appreciate a film about the story behind a film, or the story behind the book the film is based on. Fact, fiction and fantasy are woven together in a fabulously entertaining way. "Saving Mr. Banks" fires the imagination and reminds us of the magic of childhood; thanks in part, to the outstanding performances of the cast. It's also an unexpectedly moving tale. See it, spit spot.
The Book ThiefAnne Murphy
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others.
A German town becomes the backdrop for a story about the humanity and personal politics of ordinary people when their lives are assaulted by World War II erupting around them. The simplicity needed to tell the tale from a child's perspective is not compromised by the scale of this production, a feat that creates absorbing viewing. As a novel "The Book Thief" was a best-seller and on the screen it becomes a very moving experience. Steal a look.
The Secret Life of Walter MittyAnne Murphy
A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action.
Suspend disbelief and step into the sort of adventure we ordinary folk only dream about. In addition to the ripping story line there are quirky characters and a stunning visual presentation, a magical combination. There is an interesting sub-plot about corporatism and the value placed on the bottom line rather than employees which has us hoping that someone can pull a rabbit from a hat. Remind the cynics when they scoff that it is the star gazers who create the magic. Shhh.
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.
Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesAndrew O'Dea
With the 70s behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy, returns to take New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.
Vintage Ron Burgundy returns to the screen in this fantastically outrageous sequel. Not nearly as much fun as the prelude, hard-core fans will no doubt be left in stitches by the familiar silliness of "Anchorman 2", and the rapport of its cast who shine in their individual performances. The film is downright hilarious in parts, only to be let down by stretches of padded, low-brow humour in-between. By no means a comedic gem, but offers just enough to stay classy.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAnthony Macali
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.
"The Desolation of Smaug" is an incredible return to middle-earth, brimming with dazzling action and adventure. Considerable doom hangs above, as our band of heroes continue their mission, each revealing motives that create conflict and intrigue. It's an epic journey that passes swiftly, charging towards an unveiling of one of the most amazing creatures to fly across the big screen. Fans of the series will find everything they've been searching for. Mountains of gold.
American HustleAnthony Macali
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.
"American Hustle" isn't a memorable crime caper, but it's thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. It doesn't take long to get swept up by the glamour and characters of the time, parading their retro costumes to the sound of a lively 70's soundtrack. Soon begins a battle of wits, each player out to scam the next, in a clever way to keep the story full of suspense. Moments of tension are broken with scenes of laughter, but ultimately there's no real substance to all the cons. Robbed of empathy.
The Spectacular NowAnne Murphy
A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."
Some matches are made in heaven, and the romantic match central to "Spectacular Now" is made on a front lawn. That should tell you that this is a quirky but down to earth tale. The focus is on the now rather than the future, but the past looms large for the characters. Spectacular suggests grand, but it's the simplicity of the everyday that is most engaging. Then there is self-discovery, ubiquitous and inevitable in coming-of-age movies, and breathtaking here. Simply stupendous.
One ChanceAnthony Macali
The true story of Paul, an amateur opera singer who became a phenomenon after winning "Britain's Got Talent".
"One Chance" is the inspirational story of Paul Potts, and his competition with the forces preventing him from singing opera. Bullied at school, he received no support from his father and lacks the confidence to hold his nerve on stage. While the film only scratches at the surface of these issues, it's still uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully there are many moments of humour throughout to curb the continuous heartbreak, especially when the road to success is this long. An emotional winner.
The Hunger Games: Catching FireAnthony Macali
Katniss becomes a target of the Capitol after her victory in the Hunger Games sparks a rebellion.
The best thing about "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is you know there's going to be another games. Like the first installment, the anticipation and build-up to the event is as thrilling as the tournament itself. Be prepared for refreshing new costumes, players and sinister threats as our heroes unwillingly participate in a constant battle of determination and wit against their oppressors. While some of the character scenes are a little patchy, thematically the film remains a victor. The fire burns bright.
The Fifth EstateAnthony Macali
The story of Wikileaks and its quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power.
Like the much maligned website, content is king in "The Fifth Estate". Behind every great idea is a great man, and the picture painted of Julian Assange is one of ego and narcissism. Surprisingly, the patchy back-stories of the characters aren't as interesting as the history of the famous site and its technical challenges. By favorably revisiting numerous articles of breaking news, the film successfully underscores the unprecedented impact of the organisation, disrupting everyone in their path minus the journalism they feed. A captivating, yet leaky, source.