The HostAnthony Macali
An unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories.
"The Host" entertains an unusual mix of science-fiction and romance. The doomsday premise raises many questions, but the only one it attempts to answer, to much chagrin, is that of love. It presents a girl, and the ethereal being coexisting inside her head, falling for two different boys. It's a complicated situation that no amount of kissing can solve, and the bizarre scenario often draws unintentional laughs. Apart from this dilemma, the rest of the film is far from ground-breaking and largely uneventful. Every body wins.
Elspeth Dickens is stuck in an isolated farmhouse with her twin toddlers when a web-cam becomes her pathway to fame and fortune, but at a price.
It's faint praise to say that "Goddess" is a pleasant enough movie. The title suggests heavenly heights might be achieved but it is rooted in ordinariness. While this Australian production is not bad, it disappoints by not being fabulous either. It bounces around with a slightly annoying level of frivolity, finding form as a light and bright escapist production that never quite clicks into gear. Humdrum benign Mum.
The Incredible Burt WonderstoneAnthony Macali
When a street magician's stunts begins to make their show look stale, superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton look to salvage on their act.
The world of magic is an easy target, which makes it even more astonishing how much of a failure "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is. Not long after the first act, the tired comedic routine becomes repetitive and predictable. Viewers beware; don't be fooled by the illustrious cast, who might try hard, but are not funny, performing with little class and no laughs. As a member of the audience, you'll wish you could disappear.
Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.
When you find yourself weeping in a cinema, why is it that you cry? Is it for the life loves and losses of fictional characters or for your own fragile mortality? Something extraordinary is orchestrated when a writer and director conspire to bring a finely tuned production to the screen. Credit must also go to the talented actors who perform together seamlessly as a quartet. "Performance" is played like a concerto. Bravo!
Oz the Great and PowerfulAnthony Macali
A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.
This prequel to the "Wizard of Oz" is full of mystery... the greatest being: why was it made? Special effects have come a long way, and "Oz the Great and Powerful" puts them to good use in a land saturated with colour, billowing landscapes and a yellow brick road with a 3D makeover. Hyper visuals are nice but this film needs more from its sweet story. The tale of redemption stalls, and non-human characters steal the show from the magician famous for charisma. Oz the not-so-great.
Great ExpectationsAnne Murphy
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
"Great Expectations" could be the original coming-of-age tale, and with its themes of social class, justice, love and obsession, it is apparent the original work was written by a social critic. It's probable that those who have not read the source material will enjoy the movie the most, although reading it could be marginally quicker than the film running time. Still, it is well worth taking the time to watch this sumptuous and well acted nineteenth century London drama with its gothic overtones. Expectations exceeded.
Cloud AtlasAndrew 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.
Save Your Legs!Stefan Bugryn
A ragtag team of suburban cricketers get a chance to tour India.
"Save Your Legs" acts better as a postcard of India rather than the team bonding, coming-of-age drama it's meant to be. The film's intentions may be good - it's cute and charming at times - but overall the result is mostly boring, with jokes often bordering on cringe-worthy. It also becomes very predictable, one of the movie's biggest flaws, and the ending can be spotted a mile away. Though substantially well produced, it lacks any real substance... save your pennies.
Side EffectsAnne Murphy
A woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.
Much like its characters, "Side Effects" is never in touch with reality, not that realism, per se, is necessary for a good movie. The misrepresentation of mental health problems and treatment is a little unforgivable though; an already marginalised population may be further stigmatised, and that's not entertainment. There are lots of twists and turns that build intrigue but somehow the story manages to become more preposterous with each plot revelation, and the suspension of disbelief is necessary for viewing enjoyment. Pharma meets psychodrama.
The Last StandStefan Bugryn
A small town sheriff must stop a Mexican druglord from crossing the border.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough originality to set "The Last Stand" aside from the rest. It takes a little too long to actually kick in, and it's not until the second half that the action really gets under way. Petrol-heads get their fix, with just as many car chase scenes as there are shoot-outs; and of course, one liners and comedic moments are never far away. It won't go down in history as one of the best action movies ever, but it's still a fun ride, if that's what you're after.
As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
Without a preceding interest in the subject matter, "Lincoln" may struggle to win your vote. The historic period is recounted in splendid detail. Fine visuals don't aid the understanding of this important, turgid story that features a lot of bearded men arguing in dark rooms. Despite a remarkable and benevolent performance from the President, interest wanes as the long running-time draws out. Unlikely to please the majority.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersAndrew O'Dea
Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.
The old adage hints that you should never judge a movie by its title, but in this retelling of the classic fable, audiences would be remiss to expect anything remotely more than Hansel & Gretel... hunting witches. The premise is ludicrous and predictable in this film that values style over substance, yet action fans will nonetheless be entertained by watching a host of witches serving as nothing else but vessels to cackle then splatter across the screen. Don't be lured by this candy.
Zero Dark ThirtyAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful thriller that isn't driven by an ideology or political agenda. The film serves as a dramatised yet convincing chronicle about the hunt for the world's most wanted man, made all the more authentic by an exceptionally superb cast, leads and cameos alike. While it maintains momentum with an almost clinical focus, the tension builds to a riveting finale; and even though the ending might be a foregone conclusion, the night-time incursion where they "get their man" is as exhilarating and gripping as the complex story itself. A confirmed thrill.
An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
"Flight" begins with one of the most exhilarating cockpit sequences you will ever see, and never lets up. This tale centers on the pilot, riddled with a substance addiction, and the morality that surrounds his heroic endeavour. It's an investigation that generates further intrigue and suspense as it travels along, despite the odd scene that undermines its gravity. A truly riveting story and performance from the lead. Strap yourself in.
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.
The Guilt TripAndrew O'Dea
As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom's house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.
"The Guilt Trip" is a predictable road-trip comedy that relies solely on the chemistry of its leads to drive the laughter. Thankfully, they form a highly likeable comedic duo who, despite the lacklustre script, manage to elicit some genuinely hilarious moments. The ride is bumpy at times, but it's their interplay that sustains what is essentially a light-hearted, frivolous and feel-good movie that will not disappoint the intended audience. A guilty pleasure.
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.
This is 40Anthony Macali
A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of "Knocked Up".
"This is 40" likes to confront us, to no great surprise, that at times marriage and children are not exactly what they're cracked up to be. We have a couple, suffering some kind of mid-life crises, throwing their arguments onto the big screen, while reassuring an audience that turning 40-years-old is not that bad. Admittedly, there are some well observed moments and matchless humour to be found in the day-to-day, but our investment in the characters bear very little. After spending over two hours with these people, there's nothing to cherish… and that's depressing. This is fruitless.
Jack ReacherAndrew O'Dea
A homicide investigator delves into a case involving a trained sniper who shot five random victims.
"Jack Reacher" is an outlandish crime-drama hampered by a severe lack of originality and a false assuredness in its direction. Rather than maintaining an element of suspense, crucial twists and plot points are explained in painstaking detail, as the film builds to an anti-climax you wish arrived sooner. Along with gaping holes in the storyline that are just plain baffling, action sequences are boring and generic, and the dialogue clichéd to the point of being unintentionally laughable. Don't go reaching into your pocket for this cinematic mess.
Gangster SquadAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s.
"Gangster Squad" investigates a time when the most effective way to combat violence was with more violence. The characters are menacing and hard-edged, although this strangely conflicts with the polished look of the film, clearly used to instil a sense of nostalgia for the era. The production is a little too clean and manufactured for the subject matter, robbing the story of the momentous and emotional impact it could have achieved. A talented squad do their best, and excite for the most part, but fail to captivate overall. Plastic gangsters.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
Wreck-It RalphAndrew O'Dea
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
"Wreck-It Ralph" brings classic arcade games to life through a wildly fun and exciting premise. It's just a shame the brilliant concept doesn't quite live up to its potential. Although the animation is superb, it eventually runs out of tokens, winding up as a simple 8-bit film that gives preference to visuals over heart. You won't be disappointed by the brilliant animated-short that precedes it, but unfortunately the main event is only mildly entertaining at best. Game over.
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.
Life of PiAnthony Macali
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
"Life of Pi" charts an amazing story of survival, feats of courage and countless horizons. There are plenty of opportunities to gaze at majestic visuals, from exotic animals to the colours of the sea, enriched with dream-like sequences that grant the freedom to push the artistic boundaries, 3D and all. The film's biggest struggle is the amount of time spent on a life-boat, reaching a point to drive its audience sea-sick. A far from thrilling, yet nonetheless beautiful adventure.
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.