Margin CallAndrew O'Dea
Follows key people at a bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Greed and opportunism are rife in this ensemble drama that paints a very loose snap-shot of the foundations of capitalist society, bottled into one investment firm on the eve of a financial crisis. The story is dialogue-driven, and although it deftly ponders the volatile issue of money versus morality, it fails to really delve past the numbers, lacking the visceral punch or emotional drive to grab our attention. Some will find this film serviceable enough as financial thriller, but for those wanting a little more emotional involvement, "Margin Call" is not a wise investment.
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.
Wrath of the TitansAnthony Macali
Perseus braves the treacherous underworld to rescue his captured father, Zeus.
If the Greek gods saw this film, they would be pretty angry. "Wrath of the Titans" has a power of boredom to rival its ancestor. Clearly the film-makers just made up the rules for these ancient characters along the way. At each checkpoint we get an explanation of the plot, and without it you would find yourself in a place darker than the underworld. Admittedly the CGI is impressive, but ultimately of no consequence in a world of gods and humans we don't care about. Let us pray they don't forge another.
Mirror MirrorAnne Murphy
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
A favourite story recounted for today's audiences. The charming prince, while handsome, is more affable than heroic and it's the beautiful princess who achieves her own victories. The story retains all of its original elements and is retold with a fabulous sense of humour and spellbinding magic. "Mirror Mirror" is magnificently staged and gloriously costumed; it is also CGI enhanced, but only just enough to ensure no wrinkles. The fairest of them all.
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.
The Hunger GamesAnthony Macali
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death.
There's so much going on in "The Hunger Games" that you're bound to find something to cheer for. In a world of poverty and social class, it explores themes of politics and power, while emphasising the unsavoury demand for reality entertainment and violence. All these observations warrant our likeable heroine to do battle, an exercise that will satisfy the more bloodthirsty of fans. The build-up to the ceremony still ranks best, its history and spectacle matched by the lavish make-up and fashion on parade. Captivating and intense, the odds are definitely in its favour.
21 Jump StreetAnthony Macali
A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to school to blend in and bring down a drug ring.
In the case of "21 Jump Street", the fact it doesn't suck is the most surprising. From the very outset, the film makes us aware its 80's reprise is not original, and setting such a tone makes it easier to like and laugh. The bumbling detectives play their parts well, lost in the world of the modern high-school and playing up the geek/jock stereotypes to hilarious results. Unfortunately, most of the jokes are hit and miss beyond this point, compounded by a long running time and unnecessary vulgarity. Jump to it!
The Devil InsideWendy Slevison
In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms.
This movie follows the lead of others in its genre by using the found-footage, hand-held camera, mockumentary style of filming. The problem is we've see it all before. Despite strong attempts at realism, including using a highly talented contortionist for the possession scenes, and interviews with real specialists discussing exorcism to add credibility to the fact/fiction pitch, the film is disappointingly clichéd and time-worn. Worst of all, though, it's just not scary! And as for the ending, what the devil were they thinking?
John CarterAnthony Macali
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.
"John Carter" is a bit out there... Mars if you want to get technical. The planet is brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects, creating an impressive futuristic desert landscape. When our hero gets teleported to this faraway place, he is introduced to a curious assortment of creatures, and people with strange names and differing ambitions. After these initial encounters, the excitement dies down and John leaps into to his belated and ever-changing quest. It's a constant battle between boredom and a beautiful view.
Project XAnthony Macali
Three high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for them.
"Project X" is yet another 'found-footage' experiment that is full of surprises. The simple agenda breeds plenty of hilarious moments, with the attention firmly focused on the trio at the centre of the party, and their wide range of responses to the gathering chaos. It certainly is the most epic teen party to hit the screen, and while the parading nudity and constant binge-drinking might not appeal to every goer, it does highlight the stupid (and irreversible) things we do for a night of fun and ecstasy. Project success.
A Little Bit of HeavenTom Jones
A guarded woman finds out she's dying of cancer, but when she meets her match, the threat of falling in love is scarier than death.
This film is the most superficial and farcical depiction of a woman battling cancer ever to grace our screens. It goes so far the wrong way (think puns about colon cancer) that anyone who has experienced or been affected by the disease is likely to be offended by the way the subject is treated. The acting is of a quality you'd expect from a high school drama class and the script is terrible; heaven is a white cloud. Hard to like, even a little bit.
To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
"Contraband" doesn't move along at a great speed of knots, but contains plenty of drama and thrills. For the most part, the story takes place on a ship, and the environment is a not often seen and interesting place. The hand-held camera style is distracting, regularly zooming in and out of focus. There's a lot to like about our main character, using his street-smarts to continually outwit his sinister opponents. In the end, this predictable import brings home the goods.
Killer EliteAndrew O'Dea
When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader.
Shot in a gritty visual style, "Killer Elite" simply lacks the flair to separate it from the rest of the paint-by-numbers action flicks. There are definitely pockets of impressive, adrenaline-fueled action sequences and stunts, yet as the plot unfolds and the body count rises, the audience will find themselves misguided by a storyline that is over-complicated. This isn't helped by the wooden leading man and a supporting cast who should've simply done better. All killer, no filler.
The GreyAndrew 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...
This Means WarAnthony Macali
Two operatives wage a battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same girl.
Two hardened men might front this stunt but don't be fooled. "This Means War" is a romantic comedy with a different take. Outlandish circumstances persuade two of the CIA's finest to exploit their resources to court a girl. This would never happen in the real world, but it's a funny scenario to watch unfold nonetheless. The jokes are snappy and everybody is beautiful and bright, with all the right characteristics to suit the plot. In the end it comes down to the trio at the centre of this triangle, and there's a lot to love about their conflict.
Safe HouseAnthony Macali
A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
You can't help but laugh at the irony of "Safe House". What is supposed to be a temporary detention and interrogation room for captured criminals is a mere launching pad for the first of many intense shoot-outs and car chases. The action doesn't stop, and the film's suspense remains taut throughout thanks to some handy camerawork, a pumping soundtrack and the frenzied senior officials all pointing fingers at one another. Guns, lies, espionage… nobody's safe.
Underworld: AwakeningAnthony Macali
In a changed world, humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans.
Selene wakes to a slightly new and promising premise, although nothing has really changed in "Underworld: Awakening". Cue the familiar leather, washed-out hues and dramatic, flickering, down-lights. Some sinister human characters are introduced and they successfully stretch the short running-time, often with scenes faithfully inserted between the countless Vampire/Lycan in-fighting. While the action sequences are impressive, they go far too long, thanks in part to the resilience of each race. You won't find fresh blood here.
Man on a LedgeTom Jones
As a police psychologist works to talk down an ex-con who is threatening to jump from a Manhattan hotel rooftop, the biggest diamond heist ever committed is in motion.
Any film that starts with a car chase in a cemetery is bound to be good. "Man on Ledge" is packed with non-stop drama, suspense, action and characters. There are so many players in this game, each with their own rising stakes, and the way the multiple stories unfold simultaneously, with not a minute of screen time wasted, is incredibly smart and highly entertaining. Don’t let the title deceive you, the plot is a lot thicker and will keep you on the ledge of your seat.
Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery.
All the audience needs to know is this movie is nowhere near as cool as it sounds. "Chronicle" might have its moments, like a seriously awesome action scene towards the end, but as for the rest, it simply falls short of being anything really unique. Instead, it will be left to your imagination to fill in the gaps of what it could've been. Sometimes the film is just plain awkward to watch, thanks in no large part to the B-grade scripting, dialogue, special effects, acting... pretty much all of it. Chronicle this one as 'fail'.
J. EdgarAndrew O'Dea
Director of the FBI for almost 40 years, J.Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered.
This biopic is as unprovocative as it is uninformative. So much of "J Edgar" is dedicated towards an unnecessary focus on the man's battle with his sexuality and unrequited romance that it loses direction. Eventually, it labours towards the end of what is ultimately a dull and turgid affair. Utterly disappointing when you consider the talent of the director and the squandered opportunity to delve into the life of one of the most influential and controversial characters in the history of the United States. Sucks almost as much as the protagonists' vacuous namesake.
A Few Best MenAnne Murphy
An English groom and his three best men travel to the Australian Blue Mountains for his wedding.
Everything about a "A Few Best Men" is exaggerated. From the central romance to the panoramic Australian scenes, the lure and perils of illicit drugs for the groomsmen to the political ambition of the bride's father, this movie is larger than life and complete with a cast of clichéd characters. As is expected of wedding fairytales there is little semblance to reality. Not that there is anything wrong with cinema escapism, but some will want to escape the cinema rather than watch this celebration of matrimony. Baaa.
Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandAnthony Macali
Sean Anderson partners with his mom's boyfriend on a mission to find his grandfather.
The beauty of "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" isn't just in the visuals or adventure. Listen to the random spiels of science that solve all the mysteries, and the story moves along at a swift pace. As expected, the film isn't big on plot or character development, and the 3D doesn't add much except to enable the large production designs and special effects, which can only hold your attention for so long. If you can sit back and absorb the humour and colour, the movie will deliver on everything it says on the ticket.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
The Darkest HourTom Jones
In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.
What this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in its effects. The cinematography is seriously cool, particularly the large-scale depictions of Moscow as a ghost town, which will have you wondering 'how'd they do that?' The acting falls a bit on the melodramatic side and you kind of wish the invisible threat, which they are all running from, was more frightening. For a big budget, end of the world flick this does not fail to capture you for a darkest hour (and a half).
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.