The Grand Budapest HotelAnne Murphy
The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
The hotel is sited in a fictional wonderland somewhere in Europe around the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. Quirky is the adjective that springs to mind when describing this portrayal of one man's remarkable life. In addition to being a visual feast, this immensely enjoyable movie is delightfully funny with an unpredictable story-line. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is enthralling, and all but faultless. Ask for the concierge and check-in now.
Blue ValentineAnne Murphy
The film centres on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.
"Blue Valentine" is like stepping through a dream door into the spiral of a failing relationship between a husband and wife; you're drawn into the minutiae of love and frustration. The couple's interactions are intensely scrutinised, almost dissected by the camera, over a period stretching a little more than a day. The experience of watching is both compelling, and at the same time, a little like trying to breathe under water, such is its wrenching emotional grip. Valentines don't come any more blue.
Casino RoyaleAnthony Macali
In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro.
A more realistic Bond was definitely what the cards ordered, and our new hero was in no doubt of delivering it. All in a world we can relate to - the constant threat of terrorism and the rise of the game of poker. We all want to be James Bond... now it's even more believable we can be.
The Lion KingAndrew O'Dea
Tricked into thinking he killed his father, a guilt ridden lion cub flees into exile.
Although 3D doesn't add a great deal to this conceptually brilliant masterpiece, we are thankful for the opportunity to once again view this magical movie on the big screen. "The Lion King" is a sprawling and grandiose epic played out across the African savannah, driven by a story that is Shakespearian-esque, and a soundtrack that is both uplifting and fun. The hand-drawn animation is still as exquisite and extraordinarily beautiful as ever. What a pleasure that generations both old and new are still able to enjoy and marvel in its magnificence. The king of cartoons, this is a royal treat.
In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job till date.
Boldly ambitious on a universal scale, "Inception" is awe inspiring, bringing to life the imagination of the mind in amazing visual detail. Mastering the idea of dreams within dreams may take some time, but it's this kind of challenge, rarely seen in blockbusters, that keeps you absolutely enthralled. It shoots through its running time at a whole new level, immersing you in the sub-conscious of the characters on screen without any contraptions. Unmistakably mind-blowing.
The HelpAnthony Macali
An aspiring author decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work.
"The Help" is a remarkable film that tells an important tale without being heavy-handed. It succeeds in reflecting the period effortlessly, but the true brilliance is in the story-telling. All the characters have an interesting experience to share, with a common agenda to highlight the glaringly obvious injustice of the time for both maids and women alike. While it's not without some humour, this movie is essentially heartbreaking and heart-warming stuff. No assistance required to watch this one.
A small robot embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.
This is a wondrously inventive and poignant film that takes us on a journey of galactic proportions. The clever and heartfelt storyline is reflected amazingly onto screen through unequivocally stunning animation. We can't help but be captivated by our rusty little robotic hero as he scoots around the universe, inadvertently teaching us lessons of life, love, humanity, and the fragile nature of our planet. With storytelling and pure visual magic at its absolute best, "WALL-E" is out of this world.
Bright StarWendy Slevison
Based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
There are two 'bright stars' in this exquisite film - the leading lady, with her flawless performance, and the poetry, which will have viewers searching for their high school poetry books seeking to revisit the works of the romantic poets. This beautifully filmed glimpse into lives 190 years ago succeeds due to the stunningly simple way it tells its story of an intense and yet ultimately doomed love. Shakespearian in its tragedy, "Bright Star" is exceptional movie-making... a leading light not to be missed.
With Earth on the brink of extinction, a group of space explorers search for a new habitat.
"Interstellar" is an unparalleled visceral experience. This epic feature hurtles by at the speed of light, its jolting emotional course riding the bumps of a family growing and living apart. We cannot help but marvel at the enigmatic and visual amazement of deep space, and the unforgettable adventure of traversing into a new galaxy. This film represents a commanding feat from its director, and demands big-screen cinematic attention to fully appreciate the illustrious detail and absorbing sound and score. Out of this world, out of this time.
A band of humans are pitted in a battle against a distant planet's indigenous population.
A visual masterpiece when viewed in its desirable 3D medium, the sheer imagination and technical genius of this film manages to impart a sensory impact never before achieved in cinema. The visuals are simply breathtaking to the point where even the narrative is at times overlooked. Gaze in awe as you're immersed amongst the stunning colours and luminescence of 'Pandora', and marvel while seamless CGI creates some of the most exhilarating and brilliant action sequences of all time. "Avatar" is truly an out of body experience.
A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home.
Based on a beloved children's book written in the 1950's, themes of dislocation and finding a home translates as a story for today. The tale of a well-mannered, marmalade-loving stowaway has been updated without losing any of its charm. Sometimes the bear finds trouble and sometimes trouble finds the bear in this relentlessly funny adventure. The humour works for young audiences and is witty on another level to amuse the grown-ups who buy the cinema tickets and popcorn. Bear hug.
A Mayan village is overrun by a vicious tribe, imprisoning the men and sentencing them to be sacrificed.
"Apocalypto" throws you deep into the jungle, welcoming the simple life of hunting to eat, tribal dances and procreation. The editing is fast, setup brilliant and characters superb. You will be gripped and curious and always anticipating the fate of our heroes.
Two astronauts try to make it back to Earth after an accident leaves them stranded and adrift in space.
This is a triumph in film-making. It's a captivatingly visceral and immersive experience grounded by jaw dropping visual effects and sound design, complementing one of the most engaging stories of survival you will see. So much truth is given to every aspect of the journey, making it feel incredibly authentic and genuinely absorbing. "Gravity" is edge-of-your-seat drama and action that will remain with you long after the credits roll. A modern classic.
Toy Story 3Anthony Macali
Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care centre after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
You might have reservations going back to play with old toys, but don't be afraid, as "Toy Story 3" is still fantastically creative and charming. A fresh assortment of characters come out of the box, each equally entertaining and unique. The film is a perfect example of pure genius story-telling and craft. The visuals invariably impress, but the 3D glasses are better served to hide away the tears of nostalgia. It's hard to let go of the story behind one of the best animated features of all-time.
District 9Andrew O'Dea
An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.
"District 9" is a compelling film of original and insightfully speculative science-fiction. An intelligent and inventive story not only keeps us enthralled, but also provides an allegorically fascinating social commentary. The filmmaker effectively combines interviews and archival footage to bring a gritty and immersive realism to screen. Intertwined in the 'mockumentary' style are vaporizing (at times literally) action sequences that both dazzle and entertain.
Remy, a sewer rat makes an unusual alliance with a restaurant's new garbage boy Linguini.
A story about a rodent that can cook may not sound very appetising, but don't under-estimate one of the most beautiful films of the year. From the glowing Paris skyline, to the buffet of foods you wish to grab straight off the screen, "Ratatouille" is a warm animation that is fast and fun. The highlight is the affable Linguini, a lanky and dopey character, but once puppeteered by Remy, is uproariously amusing with his comical antics. It succeeds in making us sympathise with a rat and believing anyone, human or animal, can cook.
The Hurt LockerAndrew O'Dea
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.
"The Hurt Locker" is far from being just another war movie; it's a brilliantly directed human drama and intense psychological thriller. It ignores plot conventions, pompous flag waving and political commentary in favour of a gritty realism that unceremoniously hurls you onto the front line. The film doesn't glorify violence, yet somehow we're absorbed by an inescapable tension and this supremely masculine story that so vividly presents a sense of what it's like in war-torn Iraq. Simply dynamite.
The Dark KnightAnthony Macali
Batman and Gordon join forces with the new DA to take on a psychotic robber known as The Joker.
There is so much to admire about this film. The dark tone resonates with an audience that live in a not-so-perfect world. The grand-scale action sequences involving trucks and bikes are testament to money being better spent on explosions than computer graphics. Assortments of characters are given their due screen-time, but all are overshadowed by the Joker, who creates an unprecedented sense of dread and anarchy. "The Dark Knight" is so good that you forget about its comic origins, as it stands alone as exceptional action and crime classic.
Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsAnthony Macali
Inspired by the beloved children's book, the film follows Flint Lockwood, a young inventor who dreams of creating something that will improve everyone's life.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is one of those extraordinary kids' films that caters for adults as well, and probably serves them better with a fast-paced wit and running gags. The movie is absolutely stuffed with laughter and outright lunacy, with a host of wonderful and uniquely animated characters. Despite a subtext about the dangers of excessive food, this absurdly entertaining film will leave you hungry for more.
Gone GirlAnthony Macali
With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
"Gone Girl" is a compelling investigation into the fallout of a missing person... where nothing is what it seems to be. The extraordinary story plays out with a candid reality that elevates this thriller to a class above, with countless twists and turns that continually renew your interest during an extensive running time. Supported by great characters and an electrifying score, this chilling film will linger long after the case is closed. Masterstroke found.
Up in the AirAnne Murphy
With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.
A movie for the times, "Up in the Air" is topical and astutely observed. Social satire doesn't get delivered more incisively than this perfectly balanced movie. Just when a character approaches caricature the comedic effect is turned back and some of life's big questions are plausibly presented. We respond with a collective sigh, not to mention the odd tear. Let "Up in the Air" bring you back to earth.
Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.
"Superbad" is the most hysterical movie of the year so far. A simple story and adept insight into life growing up, it truly captures the awkwardness in meeting girls and the difficulty in obtaining alcohol underage. Delivered with brash dialogue that is fresh and funny, this film is Superbad-Ass.
Fantastic Mr. FoxAnthony Macali
Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family.
You quickly forget "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a children's book as you marvel at the quirk and style of this clever adaption. The wild assortment of animals spring to life in impressive detail and spellbinding character, going about their business just like real people would. It's always funny when the foxes behave like humans, and while children may not understand all the jocularity, this sly fox has enough charisma to keep any audience enthralled. Cussing brilliant!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAnthony Macali
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.
"The Desolation of Smaug" is an incredible return to middle-earth, brimming with dazzling action and adventure. Considerable doom hangs above, as our band of heroes continue their mission, each revealing motives that create conflict and intrigue. It's an epic journey that passes swiftly, charging towards an unveiling of one of the most amazing creatures to fly across the big screen. Fans of the series will find everything they've been searching for. Mountains of gold.
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.