ParaNorman - Movie Poster

ParaNorman

3.5 Anthony Macali

A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

"ParaNorman" has an admirable vision; introducing a younger audience to the world of horror. From the outset, the slightly warped aesthetics grab your attention, signalling an animation far from normal. There are plenty of ghouls, but they are a small distraction. At its core, the story is about a kid fighting his fears and the bullies at school. It's a touching experience and one with welcome bouts of humour. Inspiring a generation to battle their demons, this film is alive and well.


Body of Lies - Movie Poster

Body of Lies

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius's 2007 novel about a CIA operative who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan.

"Body of Lies" is a political thriller that presents a current perspective of the turmoil pertinent to the Middle East. Rather than descending into patriotic nonsense, it takes a pointed look behind the veil of the 'War on Terror'. Those with a vested interest in the often volatile yet delicate balance of diplomacy and international espionage will find this film intellectually engaging, while others may find the portion of action sequences, however impressive, lacking.


Thor: The Dark World - Movie Poster

Thor: The Dark World

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

Thor embarks on his most perilous journey yet against an enemy that even Asgard cannot withstand.

"Thor 2" is loaded with enough thrills and goofy-laughs to keep the fan-boys appeased. Although the story doesn't quite match the spectacle, the brisk pacing the helps to overcome brief moments where the film gets side-tracked to indulge its plethora of characters. While the leading man's hulking presence is as mammoth as the God he portrays, it's actually his on-screen brother Loki who provides most of the entertainment and intrigue. A perfectly fun visual showcase that culminates in an action-packed and other-worldly climax. Hammer-time.


Insidious - Movie Poster

Insidious

3.5 Stefan Bugryn

A family is haunted by evil spirits who try to embody their comatose child.

This has to be one of the scariest movies made in a long time. As a narrative, it doesn't break any new boundaries, but uses old-school shock tactics extremely well. It thrives on familiar moments like 'what's around the corner?', and 'who made that noise?', whilst slowly revealing the plot (and genuinely horrific creatures) as you go along. There are odd moments of humour that break the mood and don't belong in the film, but as a salute to the Hollywood Book of Horror, it is a frightening treat.


Gnomeo & Juliet - Movie Poster

Gnomeo & Juliet

3.5 Anne Murphy

Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.

"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?


St. Vincent - Movie Poster

St. Vincent

3.5 Anne Murphy

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.

At some point the audience will realise they're watching the aging lead actor playing his elderly self, or some down-on-his-luck movie character version of himself. Don't feel like a sucker for playing along and enjoying the film. The endearing qualities of the protagonist allow you to put cynicism aside, forgive the unlikely plot elements, and be entertained by the ubiquitous fogey next door with a proverbial heart of gold. Wholly unlikely Saint.


Bridesmaids - Movie Poster

Bridesmaids

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

Picked as her best friend's maid of honor, lovelorn and broke Annie looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.

Although "Bridesmaids" may target a female demographic, it is definitely not your typical 'chick flick'. The film is both intelligent and ridiculous, but most notably it's also dexterously funny - there's enough raw comedy that will elicit some serious laughter from the boys and girls alike. The lead actress shines in her role along with a cast of characters who are clearly having fun in their assault on convention, gentility and good taste. Always the bride...


Zodiac - Movie Poster

Zodiac

3.5 Anthony Macali

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.


The Sapphires - Movie Poster

The Sapphires

3.5 Anne 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.


Elysium - Movie Poster

Elysium

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

In the year 2154, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to a grossly polarised Earth.

"Elysium" is an absorbing sci-fi adventure loaded with allegory. Although the political overtones can be heavy-handed at times, it's always refreshing to view a movie where the guns and explosions are balanced by an intelligent and relevant social conscience.The production values are superb, and impressive visuals add weight to a succession of gritty action sequences full of gory violence and splatter. While the conclusion is a little predictable, the brisk pacing and intensity make this film about dystopian class division exciting and imaginative enough to entertain.


Moneyball - Movie Poster

Moneyball

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

"Moneyball" is intelligent filmmaking that takes an unlikely subject and makes it interesting. It's a testament to the solid direction and brilliance of the scriptwriters that a story about the business of baseball could be so captivating. You can't help but be drawn in as it explores the opposing philosophies of intuition versus statistics, bolstered by that feel-good sentiment of rooting for the underdog. An entertaining movie that covers all the right bases, this one is right on the money.


Men in Black III - Movie Poster

Men in Black III

3.5 Anthony Macali

Agent J travels in time to MIB's early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.

You may think "Men in Black" did not warrant a return, but all will be forgotten by the end. Number "III" is great, returning with the same camp humour and 'end of the world' plot that made us so fond of the franchise. The agents effortlessly slip back into their suits to stop the bad guys, embodied by one of the most frightening and creepy aliens you will ever see. The film does its best to make sense of a time-travel story, and the result is fun and surprisingly good. Don't be afraid to go back in time.


The Grey - Movie Poster

The Grey

3.5 Andrew 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...


Me and Orson Welles - Movie Poster

Me and Orson Welles

3.5 Anne Murphy

A teenager is cast in the production of "Julius Caesar" directed by a young Orson Welles in 1937.

"Me and Orson Welles" is a coming of age drama within a convincing theatrical setting. The era is authentically replicated, and the characters so well drawn the audience is transported to thinking we're watching Orson Welles in his prime. The raging genius, ruthless manipulator, and ambitious actor and director are all credibly presented. Theatre life and backstage dramas within the chaos of the production process are all used to enthral, and it's crowned by romantic intrigue. This is a well directed movie that ends with applause.


August: Osage County - Movie Poster

August: Osage County

3.5 Anthony 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.


Cloud Atlas - Movie Poster

Cloud Atlas

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

An exploration how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future.

"Cloud Atlas" is a sprawling, thought-provoking film that explores the consequences of our actions, based upon the premise that the choices in one life will influence the next. The scope is epic; narratives are interwoven and re-visited as it spans the centuries and into the future, requiring an utmost attentiveness throughout. The sheer ambitiousness of this movie is sure to polarise. The audience will either be baffled and exasperated by such a layered and complex story, or thrilled by the mystery and profound emotional effect left on their philosophical compass.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Movie Poster

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

3.5 Andrew 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...


Footloose - Movie Poster

Footloose

3.5 Courtney Slevison

City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, but his rebellious spirit shakes the town up and he sets out to have the rules abolished.

This remake of the classic is bound to have its sceptics, both those who are fans of the original, as well as those who had no interest in it the first time around. All cynicism will be pushed aside however, as this film is simply too fun to not enjoy. The two young leads carry the movie with an authenticity that lifts it from the cheesy mess it could have been, and the impressive choreography gives "Footloose" an exuberance that will have you dancing in the aisles.


American Sniper - Movie Poster

American Sniper

3.5 Anthony Macali

U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history.

"American Sniper" is the story of a war veteran and his ongoing conflict with the before and after effects of his ceaseless tours of duty. The action is fierce as the camera lies beside the sharp-shooter. You can almost feel the long, cold gun in your very own hands, unwittingly raising questions about the necessity of all the brutality. Unrelenting short scenes fuel the adrenalin and thrill of combat, astutely contrasting against the quiet and aimless life back home. American hero.


Hanna - Movie Poster

Hanna

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

"Hanna" is a film that will divide action fans. Some will appreciate that this isn't your conventional assassin flick, as it straddles the line between art-house and mainstream cinema. Others will lament the lack of action as it takes the time to explore themes of family and coming-of-age. Although the fight and chase sequences might be sparse, they are each technically captivating, and enhanced by a brilliantly pulsating, almost hypnotic soundtrack. Surreal and wayward, but still hits the mark.


Fruitvale Station - Movie Poster

Fruitvale Station

3.5 Anthony 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.


17 Again - Movie Poster

17 Again

3.5 Courtney Slevison

In 1989, Mike O'Donnell was the star of his high school basketball team. Now 20 years later, with his glory days behind him, a magical encounter gives him the chance to be 17 again.

In a familiar body-swap genre, this movie shines with charm and good-humour. The film is led by the brilliant casting of the main character, with a great supporting cast. While clearly aimed at teenage girls, "17 Again" will reach a broader audience due to its big heart and great comedic moments. The perfect film for undemanding, feel-good fun.


Snow White and the Huntsman - Movie Poster

Snow White and the Huntsman

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

The Huntsman is ordered by the Evil Queen to hunt down Snow White in the woods.

This dark take on the classic fairy-tale is driven by a medieval resonance. Splendid cinematography and production values transform the screen into an exquisite world, a dichotomy of bleakness and beauty. The action sequences are solid, and it's refreshing to see a heroine not playing the tiresome role of 'helpless damsel'. Unfortunately, the lead lacks the conviction to really deliver; but is thankfully redeemed by her counter-part, who skilfully elicits a distant sympathy for the tormented Evil Queen. Might not be the fairest of them all, but it's still safe to take a bite from this apple.


The Boys Are Back - Movie Poster

The Boys Are Back

3.5 Andrew O'Dea

A sports writer struggles with suddenly becoming a single parent in tragic circumstances.

"The Boys are Back" is a tale of fatherhood. A deeply moving meditation on life, death and the importance of family, the heart-wrenching opening sequence sets the tone for the film's sense of purpose that resonates throughout. Far from manufactured, it avoids being conveniently sentimental as it veers between moments of grief and humour. The cinematography is simply stunning, coupled by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack and sublime male-focussed performances that make this a movie for both boys and girls alike.


Juno - Movie Poster

Juno

3.5 Anthony Macali

Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.

There is much to love and hate about Juno. She undermines the process of giving birth with her contrived banter, and is immature and naive when it comes to adult issues. It's a credit to the film that we still find sympathy for our smart-mouthed hero. She takes responsibility for the impregnation and is deeply appreciative of the varied idiosyncratic characters that support her. "Juno" is an admiring tale that will frustrate and amuse.