Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Where the Wild Things AreAndrew O'Dea
A disobedient little boy sent to bed without supper creates his own world inhabited by wild creatures.
This film is a strangely endearing adaptation of the literary classic. Though some may find the story languid at times, it's redeemed by spectacular cinematography and an almost despondent poetry. Brief moments of fun and frivolity are usurped by darker, more pensive undertones as we draw an emotional parallel between Max and the exquisitely realised 'Wild Things' that echo his feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration... and it's to be admired for embracing this childhood angst rather than simply condemning it. Let the wild rumpus start!
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.
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.
The Boat That RockedAnthony Macali
A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's.
"The Boat That Rocked" is a dazzling compilation of the best music of the sixties, played and presented by an equally upbeat cast. There is no story, only parody, with scenes that'll either make you cringe, smile or laugh out loud. In fact, it's so wrought with feel-good moments that it may be enough to make you sea-sick. However, if you enjoy being immersed in such euphoria, you'll enjoy this film, maybe even love it, and everyone else can revel in the celebrated soundtrack.
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.
Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbour.
A somewhat eccentric addition to the romantic comedy genre, this utterly charming and insightful film deals with a condition not fully understood by most people. The title character is realistically and sensitively portrayed, while the female lead perfectly sustains him, in roles which will help raise public profile about the small yet significant segment of our society who suffers from Aspergers. This movie is a quirky, unassuming and tenderly realised story about a search for love and acceptance, something much more difficult for "Aspies" than most.
Captain America: The First AvengerAndrew O'Dea
Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America.
The 1940's are faithfully re-created in this stand-alone origin story, with a superb production design that creates a welcoming and often humourous vibe. It reverberates though the entire film and provides the perfect platform for some good ole' fashioned entertainment. "Captain America" provides all the action, adventure and visual thrills one would expect from a superhero story, along with brilliant characterisations from both heroes and villains alike. The target audience is sure to leave the cinema satisfied... the man in red, white and blue won't let you down.
Tower HeistAnthony Macali
A group of hard working guys conspire to rob a wealthy business man's high-rise residence.
"Tower Heist" might not be the most complex of capers, but it does produce plenty of laughs along the way. The high calibre cast is fun to watch, the only drawback being their inability to share the screen time in satisfying amounts. Much of the entertainment comes from the ordinary hotel crew and the birth of their criminality. Clearly out of their depth, they embark on hilarious exercises to plan and prepare. It's a shame that when our heroes and villain do confront, the exchange is pretty tame, sharing metaphors to be ignored. Few surprises but gets the job done.
A doctor's wife becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness.
This allegorical film depicts societal collapse, triggered by mass loss of sight, accompanied by the descent into ugly degradation as people struggle against each other for survival. Filmed with a starkness that provides a sense of the white fog which precedes the blindness, and displaying a fiercely committed performance from the lead actress, this movie is a challenging experience which is certain to stimulate both thought and conversation afterwards.
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.
Forgetting Sarah MarshallAnthony Macali
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's travelling to the same resort as her ex.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a delightful comedy filled with many interesting characters. The best parts are the small snippets that fall in-between scenes. These whimsical moments contain some of the best jokes, but also some welcome insights into our protagonists. The only disappointing bits are the undue vulgarity and contrivances towards the end. This film is a memorable mix of laugh-out-loud scenarios and genuine heartbreak.
After being set up by a corrupt Texan business man, an ex-Federale unleashes a violent rampage of revenge against anyone who stands in his way.
This film can be summed up using three B's; brawn, babes and bullets. It runs along a revenge plot that breaks no new ground in terms of writing, which will no doubt bore and annoy some audiences. But it actually indulges in its own gratuity, and lets the cheesy violence and cool one-liners reign supreme. It is almost entirely overtly cliché, yet it's obvious that this is the intention. Don't expect an Oscar winner, because this surely would never make the 'cut'. Otherwise, it's slashing good fun!
Angels & DemonsWendy Slevison
Symbologist Robert Langdon works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.
A definite prerequisite for enjoyment of this film is an ability to suspend reality, and just go for the crazy ride. The cinematography, music score and CGI are all top quality. The stunning Roman scenery, much of it authentically recreated in a studio in LA, makes a perfect backdrop for this thrilling, albeit absurd, murder mystery. Action-packed from start to finish, this well-crafted movie doesn't take itself too seriously. It's entertaining and heaps of fun. Nothing sinful about that.
Sucker PunchStefan Bugryn
A young girl confides in her own fantasy world to help her escape out of a mental asylum.
If you walk into this movie with an open mind, you may just enjoy it. It's essentially just a feature length, pseudo-erotic video game, complete with different levels and 'bad guys' to defeat. There is an abundance of stylistic violence, with many scenes looking like something straight from the pages of a comic book. It won't take you long to realise the storyline is merely an excuse to showcase the visuals. If you go along for the ride, then you'll enjoy yourself. If you don't, well then, you're just a sucker...
Charlie Wilson's WarAnthony Macali
A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
A man hidden from the radar, Charlie Wilson is an amazing character with cause against the Soviets that rivals his passion for women and whiskey. The movie is propelled by the charisma of its lead characters, and all-star cast who delightfully play off one another. There are also many moments in the story that frighteningly resonate with the politics of today. This film is about Charlie's success, America's failures and the causalities along the way.
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.
Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery.
"Hugo" is a magical story for kids with a penchant for adventure. A fantastic French train station is brought to life, and thanks to some crafty 3D, delves into the gleaming maze of clocks and cogs that surround the walls. As our young characters continue to solve the puzzle, the plot strangely shifts, taking the audience in a completely new direction... to explore the birth of cinema. It's an odd division in the film, and accompanied by a few irrelevant supporting members, unsettles the enchantment of this visual treasure. All the pieces seem to fit.
Black SheepAndrew O'Dea
An experiment in genetic engineering turns harmless sheep into blood-thirsty killers that terrorize a sprawling New Zealand farm.
"Black Sheep" is a horror comedy pertaining to the most unique of premises. It's clever and fun and gets away with it because there's no need to pull the wool from our eyes, and it's easy to just sit back and enjoy the mutton madness. These 'baa-baa bad sheep' blend enough humour and gore to create a sublime comedy. If you donâ€™t take things like this too seriously, ewe'll be sure to laugh...
The Twilight Saga: EclipseAnthony Macali
Bella is forced to choose between her love for vampire Edward and werewolf friend Jacob.
It is made abundantly clear that "Eclipse" is about decisions. It's hard to choose between the equally attractive (and buff) leads who continuously confess their undying love. Thankfully, this tiresome triangle doesn't consume the show. A great supporting cast share their interesting back-stories and shed light on the mystical history of vampires and werewolves, building tension for the frantic action showdown. Expect the inevitable lingering kisses amongst mountain tops and fields of flowers, but this instalment offers a little more to feast upon. Your choice.
The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge.
A motion-capture animation of breathtaking visuals, "Beowulf" is a story of one enigmatic warrior, his gruff voice and the monsters he meets. The most merry-making of them all, is a large dragon with a fiery breath that blasts from the cinema speakers at full volume. The action will please the fantasy fans, and the rest will marvel at the computer graphics that tends to overshadow the plot, characters, and any other elements of the film.