Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldCourtney Slevison
Scott Pilgrim must defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil exes in order to win her heart.
This is a film like no other you've seen before, and Scott Pilgrim is an equally unique hero. Highly imaginative and often hilarious, this quirky film feels a lot like watching a video game in live-action. Blending fantasy and reality seamlessly with candy-coloured visuals, the film's only pitfall is that by the time the climactic fight scene is reached, it feels a little repetitive. With so many crazy and offbeat characters crammed in, you will definitely want to live and play in Scott Pilgrim's world.
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.
The AvengersAndrew O'Dea
A team of superheroes form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
"The Avengers" is one for the fanboys/girls. It suffers in parts from a few needless characters, and is held back by overly long stretches where nothing gets hit, blown up or smashed. However, once the film eventually manages to flesh out its massive host of superheroes, we are treated to what is quite simply a visceral feast of unrelenting action; the seamless CGI and 3D medium tailored brilliantly to enhance every bang and crash. Perhaps most surprising are the intermittent moments of seriously funny comedy. Far from super, but the experience is definitely nothing to be avenged.
Knocked UpAnthony Macali
For fun loving party animal Ben Stone, the last thing he ever expected was for his one night stand to show up on his doorstep eight weeks later to tell him she's pregnant.
A cocktail mix of crass jokes and baby sentimentality, "Knocked Up" is a surprisingly touching story that will leave you drunken with laughter. With a premise that is borderline believable, it introduces a unique perspective on birth, one not afraid to poke fun at all parts of the 40 week journey. It shows the miracle of birth, the trials of marriage and how fantastic, difficult and funny life can be.
The Boy in the Striped PyjamasAndrew O'Dea
A story seen through the eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a commandant of a concentration camp, who forms a forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence.
This film takes a surprisingly poignant approach to a very difficult subject matter. Credit must go to the filmmakers' remarkable ability to capture, then maintain, a child's naivety and innocence amidst the horror of the holocaust. Significantly, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is to be applauded for avoiding condescension; and although at times some may find it harrowing - almost devastating - for children especially, it constitutes a very important film.
Burke and HareAnthony Macali
Two 19th century grave robbers find a lucrative business providing cadavers for a medical school.
"Burke and Hare" might be a little grim for a comedy, but retells the true story of the historic Irish duo in quite an innocuous away. As the narrator kindly reminds us, we shouldn't really sympathise with murderers, but we do anyhow, following the crazed antics of the delightful cast, each with their own wonderful and weird plights. It slows to a canter towards the finale, in its "everything for love" sub-plot, but the film is funny and peculiar enough to survive to the end. An opportunity to have some fun with death and corpses.
The Woman in BlackAnthony Macali
A lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost terrorizing the locals.
The message is clear from "The Woman in Black". Stay away, or be haunted. A mist-laden and exquisite countryside plays host to the ghost, a town riddled with scary looking kids and impending doom. The film is at its terrifying best with the lead simply exploring the dark house of his confinement. In a time when one cannot simply turn on the lights, every creak and crack builds unbearable tension. Unfortunately this apprehension doesn't last to the end. Good old-fashioned frights.
In TimeCourtney Slevison
In a future where people stop aging at 25, and time is literally money, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth.
This is a slick, futuristic action-thriller with one of the most original and refreshing movie premises in the sci-fi genre to date. Visually, the film is awesome; the stylised landscape and clothing help to tell the story of a strange world, each scene worthy of a portrait. Thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking, "In Time" is only slightly hindered by performances of the two leads, but thankfully it's what goes on around them that steals the show. Definitely one worth making the time to see.
Fast FiveThomas Jones
Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.
After watching this film, the drive home will feel slower than ever before and any muscles you thought you had will look more like excess skin. The cars and the men in this film put all to shame. The car chases and action sequences are non-stop, over the top, till you drop... and then some. The story, which follows a trio of crims on the run ties these amazingly shot scenes quite nicely together. If you have the need for speed, fasten your seatbelts.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.
Body of LiesAndrew 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.
The EagleAndrew O'Dea
In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father's memory by finding his lost legion's golden emblem.
Full of action-adventure appeal, "The Eagle" is a completely serviceable movie for those who like films with swords n' sandals. Based on the famously lost Ninth Legion of Rome, the plot is erratic, but is carried by actors who surprisingly acquit themselves with a good deal of restraint in delivering likeable characters. Although it may all feel a little too familiar, it's supported by some splendid cinematography that makes for an enjoyable enough story. It might not soar, but it definitely flies.
Paranormal ActivityWendy Slevison
A couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.
The title of this 'mockumentary' alone will be enough to send shivers down the spines of some. Following the 'haunted house' premise, this is a low-budget, high-scare-count thriller that works well due to the apparent normalcy of the protagonists. Filmed simply and sparingly - the hand-held camera work is a perfect device for enhancing the disarming 'real-life' quality - the suspense builds slowly but effectively. So does the nervous tension in the cinema, and the nail marks in the armrest! Not for the faint-hearted, take a friend and go in daylight hours.
Jurassic WorldAnthony Macali
The re-branded theme park "Jurassic World" is trying to introduce some new genetically engineered dinosaurs to the island in a attempt to attract new visitors.
"Jurassic World" might lack the awe and wonder of its original predecessor, but still delivers a thrilling, albeit superfluous experience. This exhibit is low on fresh ideas, reviving a franchise we thought was extinct and presenting it to a new generation, while cleverly feeding the nostalgia of previous visitors. Bolstered by a strong cast, the most impressive species in this film are the humans. The two leads are a highlight, breathing life and fun to this ride. A prehistoric rehash.
After her marriage crumbles and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed tries to put her past behind her and hikes more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, alone.
"Wild" brings an uplifting memoir about seeking redemption through physical challenges from the page to the screen, and is true to original text. While managing to traverse a full gamut of emotion, there are funny and even uplifting moments. It’s impossible to say if it is the walker or the rugged walk that most impresses, and even harder to resist the urge to pull on your hiking boots. Wild thing might make your heart sing.
Love and Other DrugsAnne Murphy
Maggie is an alluring free spirit who won't let anyone - or anything - tie her down.
"Love and Other Drugs" is a love story that hams it up and attempts to pass as a rom-com. There’s a super dose of romance as the themes of love, relationships and commitment are played out with enough depth to dissolve any hard-hearted genre cynicism. There are some annoyingly superficial and muddled moments offsetting the serious underlying themes of illness and the drug industry with levity. Watching this mixed up but enjoyable offering you're stirred rather shaken. Humming; "Jump up, bubble up, what's in store?".
Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.
Sassy and laugh out loud funny, "Trainwreck" sets a new standard for modern rom-coms. More than the script, which is sharp and absolutely hilarious, it is the lead character, in particular who steals the show, and delights by deftly turning the tables on gender stereotypes. It is she who calls the shots with her romantic hook-ups. You forgive her sexism as she delivers a performance with an aura of innocence and crackling wit. This wreck is no accident.
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.
A one-time police droid becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
"Chappie" is full of intriguing ideas, but perhaps its greatest feat lies in the sense of empathy we feel for a sentient robot we know very well not to be human. The interaction between the title character and exaggerated personas of his gangster co-stars is seamless and feels absolutely genuine. Ultra-violent choreography and stunning visual effects underpin whimsical and heartfelt moments of humour. If you can forgive the flimsy narrative and embrace its sentimental intentions, this film remains an entertaining sci-fi romp. Happy Chappie.
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.
Cars 2Anthony Macali
Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.
It takes time adjusting to a parallel world of talking planes, trains and automobiles. Once "Cars 2" hits its rhythm, this clever adaptation of the most famous spy franchise of all time will appeal to all ages. Our favourite characters are back, with laughs (and lessons) coming from the most unlikely of heroes in the simple-minded Mater, whose case of mistaken identity drives most of the laughter. While the film is probably one leg too long, it does allow for some more time to enjoy the cultural joking and the iconic cities recreated and polished in beautiful digi-colour. Can't lose this race.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the TombJan Di Pietro
Larry spans the globe, uniting favourite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.
The third installment of the "Night At The Museum" franchise is a fun one. There are cameos galore, all of which actively contribute to the comedy and story. You don’t need to have watched the first two to follow, and the narrative is palatable for viewers of any age. The special effects are fun but not overdone, and although the scenes do lose their way at times, they're redeemed by great performances. Come alive and enjoy the ride.
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.
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.