Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
Big Hero 6Anthony Macali
The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
"Big Hero 6" is a whiz-bang robotic romp, self-assured in its style and execution. Set in the clever and aptly titled 'San Fransokyo', we are presented with an awesome mix of colourful and futuristic animation to suit the story. The unlikely hero is an oddly marshmallow-looking invention, a functional and affable health bot whose impassive questions and incessant shuffling generate the greatest laughs. Kids and adults will escape unscathed in this action-packed adventure. Pain-free.
The ProposalAnne Murphy
A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.
In the tradition of romantic comedies "The Proposal" is improbable and implausible and its salvation is that it is delightful from start to finish. A little formulaic perhaps, and that's easily forgiven as this movie delivers on charm and mirth. As the genre demands, the lovable characters are caught up in a silly situation but there's enough honesty in some very touching moments to connect and maintain audience empathy. A beguiling proposal, so say "I do...".
A look at the life of serial killer John Bunting.
The world looks like a more sinister place after watching "Snowtown". The story, which recounts real events, is chilling and shows life as you wish it wasn't. The setting is a colourless and unsettling suburban landscape, all the more terrifying for its ordinariness. It's sometimes hard to tell the relationships between the characters, not that it's possible to care for any of them. The dramatic build is slow and we squirm at what's coming and, unsurprisingly, the audience becomes enmeshed in scenes so sickening that they're almost unwatchable. Snowtown is no town to be.
A Skype conversation within a group of high-school kids goes awry when an unknown person infiltrates their digital world.
For the entire length of its short-running time, "Unfriended" takes place on a computer screen. This high-concept setting is the best thing about this horror movie. A techie's wet dream, its brilliance lies in its detail, adeptly capturing modern-day communication and its various tools. You won't sympathise with a lot of the characters, and you aren't supposed to. The only exception is the young girl who forms the premise, and perpetuates the strong anti-cyberbullying message. Like.
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.
Story of the 1960's Zodiac Killer who committed a series of murders and taunted police.
"Zodiac" is a movie of obsession, set comfortably in the pale inner city of San Francisco. The start is fractured with murders, orchestrated in a fashion that exhibits the killer's sadistic nature. You can sense the frustration of detectives, an emotion shared for the length of this film. The pace livens on the enthusiasm of cartoonist Robert Graysmith, as you share his fixation in finding the right suspect while sacrificing family commitments. This film rewards patience with the final breakthrough providing a fitting conclusion to a well-told story.
A dying wish sends James Bond on a rogue mission to uncover an evil criminal organisation.
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' seems to be the attitude of the filmmakers in the 24th installment of this franchise, as it sticks to the famous formula. Original? Noo… with a double O. We see our blue-eyed spy doing what he does best, catching planes, trains and automobiles, fighting scar faced evildoers, and seducing pretty women with accents. The scale of the opening sequence is awesome, but the middle is a bit all over the shop. However the world is saved when the action is heightened towards its more entertaining end, giving audiences the full spectrum.
Edge of DarknessWendy Slevison
As homicide detective Thomas Craven investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion.
Adapted from a popular British television series, "Edge of Darkness" showcases the leading man in his signature genre, the action thriller. Solidly produced, with strong performances and plenty of dramatic tension, most of the film is a satisfyingly intense ride. Unfortunately, the last section becomes somewhat chaotic, and the body count ridiculously high. A word of warning â€“ the storyline is quite complex, so concentrate or you'll be left in the dark.
A writer discovers a top-secret drug that allows him to use 100% of his mind.
From the opening credits, which take you zooming through the streets of New York, you know you are in for a ride. This fast-paced action thriller takes you into the colour-saturated, visually intense universe of the lead character. The relationships between the characters aren't particularly well-developed but all roles are performed well. The film doesn't delve into the moral implications of the effects of the drug but it's an entertaining trip, appealing to our deepest desires of wealth, intelligence, power and the ability to do whatever we want.
Bastille DayAnthony Macali
A young pickpocket becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot after unknowingly stealing a bag that contains a bomb.
"Bastille Day" is a frolicking thriller with just the right balance of frenetic action and comedic whip. Sure the story may be a little preposterous, but combined with a pleasant Parisian setting it's more than serviceable. What really elevates this film above its genre peers is the compact running time and great chemistry between the two leads. Their charm and expert hands bring welcome bouts of comic relief amongst the sober politics and espionage. This parade delivers.
An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
"Trance" is a demonstration in the odd behaviours associated with art, hypnosis and love. What starts as an apparent heist film quickly transitions into a psychological thriller, challenging the audience to discover the truth. With each chapter, the story introduces new pieces of the puzzle and dissecting each revelation delivers a sense of accomplishment. Driven by a great cast of ensnaring characters, the only frustrating memory might be a plot-twist too many. A riveting piece missing perfection.
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.
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!
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.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.
Grand in its scope and ambition, "The Battle of the Five Armies" is an action-ravaged adventure saturated in the director's customary visual splendour. Pitting dragon against man, against dwarf, against elf, against orc, the battle sequences are exquisite, especially during the film's mammoth finale. Although characterisation is somewhat neglected, there's enough tension and thrills to make the journey there (and back again) a satisfying conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy... one last time.
Red CliffAndrew O'Dea
Based on the events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China, The Battle of Red Cliffs.
"Red Cliff" is a plush historical epic of the grandest scale. The scope is enormous and perfectly realised in sublimely sweeping battle scenes. Due in most part to this release being a condensed version of the original, some of the character development has clearly had to have made way in favour of the action sequences. However, the brilliance of the exhilirating battle choreography and dazzling effects alone are enough to render this film a period war movie of the highest quality.
Behind the CandelabraThomas Jones
The tempestuous relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover is recounted.
Surprisingly, for a film about a figure as flamboyant as Liberace, it’s a little dark. The central relationship spirals into some very odd and destructive behaviour; imagine your boyfriend wanting to adopt you as his son. From the fashions and furnishings, to the stigmas surrounding homosexuality, this film accurately captures the era with which it is set. Though at times it does become a bit farcical, there are award-worthy performances all round, particularly from the man who is the candelabra.
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.
The Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
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!
Recently released from prison, Scott Lang takes part in a safe heist, and stumbles upon an odd looking costume that can shrink its wearer down to size.
A character based on an insect may not be the most appealing of superheroes, but rest assured, Ant-Man's entry into the comic universe is just as endearing as his fellow kin. This film sticks rigidly to the formula, with a cleverly selected cast, cheerful humour and splendid visuals bringing this bug-size world to sumptuous life. It is action on a scale rarely seen, armies of ants crawling through pipes and darting under doors achieves a newfangled manner of fun. This little guy packs a punch.
Django UnchainedAndrew O'Dea
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Unbridled violence is unleashed in this Spaghetti Western, teetering between comedy and gore. The profanity and blood flow in a celebration of excess, belying the film's racial consciousness and intelligent commentary on a dark period in American history. Although undermined by elements of self-indulgence, the director also brings to "Django Unchained" a trademark penchant for witty dialogue, sharp storytelling and sublime style. Unshackled and foolishly fun.
Steve JobsAnthony Macali
A backstage look at Steve Jobs as he prepares for the launch of three of his new computer products.
"Steve Jobs" provides a startling insight into a ruthless business-man, remarkable in his vision and uncompromising in his approach, especially to his unfortunate co-workers and mystified daughter. Don't expect an in-depth discussion of the technology and evolution of Apple products... it's the little known and tumultuous father-story that takes centre stage, and it's the cunning of Jobs that really entertains. While some may find the three-act structure a little repetitive, strong dialogue and a stylish interface give this film air. A tempered innovator.
The DUFFJan Di Pietro
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labelled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier more popular friends.
This film is the epitome of pop culture: there are social media gags left, right and center. There are times when the story feels like one long advertisement for the film's fad catch phrase, 'duff', but it warms on you, and becomes genuinely funny thanks to enjoyable performances and clever script work. Don't expect art, but this could be a defining film for young spectators. Bring your "DUFF" to this one.