The canine star of a fictional sci-fi/action show that believes his powers are real embarks on a cross country trek to save his co-star from a threat he believes is just as real.
With a premise as cute as our hero, "Bolt" was always going to succeed, especially in the hands of a production team who know exactly what they're doing. As Bolt discovers how to behave like a 'normal' dog, many will delight in his lessons in canine antics. Classifying films like this as 'cartoons' do them an injustice, considering how visually stunning the animation is. You may forget the film quicker than you can say 'Bolt', but will thoroughly enjoy the show.
The BeaverAnthony Macali
A troubled husband and executive adopts a hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
"The Beaver" is really funny and really sad, chipping away at a frenetic pace. The puppet is strangely hypnotic, with an accent and antics that produce most of the laughs in a performance clearly indebted to his master. We're soon reminded the situation is quite serious, and that some outlets often serve as rather unorthodox modes of therapy. While the audience might have the required patience for such, the characters do not. The son wrestles with issues of his own, pressing a sub-plot that doesn't quite work. On the whole though, this outfit is short, shrewd and deeply moving.
Death ProofAnthony Macali
Two separate sets of women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.
Homage to the classic Grindhouse cinema of the 80's, "Death Proof" is an suspenseful thrill-ride featuring many delightful ladies. With a killer soundtrack, the only thing that slows this vehicle is the tenuous dialogue. Most of the pop culture babble will interest you and a large portion of it won't. But let's not forget we're in a surreal world, where the crazed predator engages in a climatic pursuit which is possibly the best car sequence in history.
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.
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.
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.
Water for ElephantsAnne Murphy
A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet.
"Water for Elephants" is an atmospheric movie evoking an old-fashioned, Hollywood romantic style. Watching this circus-spectacular you might be both sorry and glad you didn't run away to join the circus. Beyond the glitter of show time under the big-top is a tough life, particularly during the Depression of the 1930's. The circus also holds an exotic allure, and the travelling show and its performers enchant as the story unfolds. The elephant steals the show, no junk in this trunk.
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
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.
Celeste & Jesse ForeverAnne Murphy
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Here is a likeable couple who prove that breaking up is hard to do. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is really the opposite of a 'rom-com', so much so it could be labelled as an 'unrom-com' except that it is oddly romantic despite the efforts to part. The script is witty, it skips along with clever banter and we're delivered an honest snapshot of a good, but not quite good enough, relationship. This movie has both endearing moments and painful realisations but on balance there are more laughs then tears. BFF's.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAndrew O'Dea
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book mysteriously marked "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Voldemort's dark past.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is one of the darkest and most thoroughly entertaining instalments yet. Wondrous set designs are darkly lit, and add to the brooding nature of the film. Despite these dark overtones, moments of teen romance add a genuine comical touch. There seems to be decidedly less action, preferring to elaborate on characters core to the story, setting the up the franchise for an inevitably epic conclusion. A spellbinding tale, darker is definitely better.
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.
War HorseAndrew O'Dea
Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.
"War Horse" is most definitely a movie for those partial to the majestic beauty of horses, though it's not necessarily a prerequisite. Some may justifiably find the story a little too syrupy and sweet, but it does also take place amidst the brutal theatre of war, where thankfully the film does not shy, and the director is at his dazzling best. Others will enjoy the sentimentality of an extraordinary journey coupled with the bond between man and horse simply too difficult to resist.... if so, then giddy up.
This Is the EndAndrew O'Dea
While attending a party at James Franco's house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse.
"This Is the End" is a creative comedy that plays like one stupendous inside-joke the audience is invited to. Although there are stretches of tedium at times, memorably hilarious scenes are never too far away. The self-referential and defacing style is bolstered by a witty script and a superb cast willing to mock themselves, with a host of high-profile cameos providing some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Juvenile, crude, and funny till the end.
Hellboy II: The Golden ArmyAnthony Macali
The mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his team must save the world from the rebellious creatures.
"Hellboy I"I is a CGI camp of cogs of creatures. We still love the band from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, a bunch of down-to-earth superheroes who fight the bad guys at night, and amusingly discuss their personal relationships by day. Like Abe and Hellboy, it's an odd mix that relishes in a refreshing world of supernatural creativity and action. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, and is all the better for it.
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.
Liberal ArtsAnthony Macali
When 30-something Jesse returns to college for a professor's retirement party, he meets Zibby, a young student.
"Liberal Arts" is an unassuming study of growing up, exploring the many fears and regrets that come with growing older. For most the part, the film is set within the grounds of a college, bringing with it a loaded sense of nostalgia. The quiet setting steers all the focus on loveable pair at the centre of the film, allowing them to share their stories at their own pace. Conversations are funny, charming and sure to resonate with our own. A delightful relationship to reflect on life.
This film takes you on board spaceship "Icarus II" where an international crew of scientists attempt to reignite a dying sun with a payload of explosives.
The mission is dangerous (the sun is pretty hot) and it's interesting to see how the crew react when their lives and the future of mankind is at risk. Thrilling stuff that will entertain those who don't favour science fiction.
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.
Gnomeo & JulietAnne 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?
Little Miss SunshineAnthony Macali
A troubled family go on a road trip to enter their daughter into a Young Miss America Pageant.
This eclectic bunch faces all kinds of issues on their trip. From drugs and suicide, to homosexuality and death, all scenarios that will make you cry, make you cringe and most importantly make you laugh. It highlights the value of family and camaraderie, no matter how disturbing your family might be.
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.
The Two Faces of JanuaryAnne Murphy
A thriller centred on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer.
A drama that unfolds while holidaying in the Mediterranean, this sophisticated thriller delivers on tension and keeps you guessing about the plot. Apparently everyone has two faces and a cool linen suit, but there's nothing too high-tech or fantastic; it is all credible and the elements combine to seduce. The absence of gimmicks means you can imagine yourself in right the picture. Bring on the rest of the year.
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.