A washed-up Chef decides to return to the kitchen, repairing his broken relationships of past.
"Burnt" combines all the common ingredients to feed a familiar story. But the audience's appetite is kept whet as the film goes deep inside the belly of the restaurant beast. The scenes set in the kitchen are hot and temperamental, with many chefs furiously cooking and plating food. The rapid editing grants the audience a genuine sense of the pace and stress of the job. While the character drama isn't so appealing, with its tired and predictable manner, it's enough to satisfy a film genre rarely explored. 3 (non-Michelin) stars.
The LobsterAnthony Macali
A man checks into a hotel and has 45 days to find a partner, or be transformed into an animal of his choosing.
The quirky premise of "The Lobster" certainly captures your attention, and for the first half at least, plays out with weirdly dark and terrific humour. The film is laden with allegory, especially in its almost cynical commentary on relationships and the brutal punishment for those who don't conform. Beautifully shot with a formidable supporting cast, it's a shame curiosity wavers towards the end of the story, as our apathy for the characters falters with the plot. The one that got away.
Black MassAnthony Macali
The true story of James "Whitey" Bulger, who became an FBI informant to rid the Mafia competition.
The portrayal of this notorious crime figure is absolutely chilling, and the performance alone warrants the existence of this film. However the simple way the narrative recreates the key moments of his life is less affecting. Time jumps, characters arrive and inevitably go, and it often feels disconnected. So while it doesn't offer any incisive insight into this Boston baddie, apart from the fact that he was a very violent and intimidating man, a gangster flick is always fascinating. Mass murder.
A re-enactment of the harrowing Everest mountain expeditions on May 10 1996.
"Everest" boasts a big name cast, but the indisputable star role is filled by the mountain itself. The remarkable cinematography shows it as lofty and imposing and all due glory is afforded to nature. Sadly human drama is one of the understated elements. The superficial view of the impassioned and zealous characters is problematic. There are too many people with too many untold back stories, and just too many unanswered questions. Apparently 'the bigger the better' does not always hold true. Ain't no mountain high enough?
The back story to the character Peter Pan; the tale of an orphan boy who embarks on an adventure to discover his history and magical powers.
The target audience will be spell-bound by the central little boy's colourful and daring adventures. In "Pan" the CGI and 3D are used to boisterous effect. There's plenty of derring-do as rip-roaring battles follow one after another. Unfortunately the technical effects don't quite cover for the lack of storyline. The plot is missing from action and it looks like the best parts of this tale have already been told. Pan-handled.
The VisitStefan Bugryn
Two young children visit their grandparents for the first time and realise something is very wrong.
The plot twist is no new thing to cinema, and when it’s executed correctly, it can make a film feel refreshing and new. The twist in "The Visit" is incredibly clever, and breathes fresh air to a somewhat boring script after the half way mark. For a large portion of the film, it feels like everything is on repeat. If it weren't for the natural and very engaging performances from the two very young leads, it could be considered quite unentertaining. Come for the visit, stay for the surprise.
The GiftAnthony Macali
A man from the past comes back to haunt a couple, leaving wrapped presents at their doorstep.
"The Gift" is the gift that keeps on giving... the creeps. Hooked from the very first interaction between our lead characters, the suspense builds as their rich and sinister backstories are revealed. Largely set in a single house, this conspicuous setting brings even more unease, in its vulnerability and realism. Interest tends to wane towards the end as the conceit becomes a little monotonous. But the film's greatest achievement is its unpredictability. You don't know how it's going to end, which is a rare cinematic gift.
We Are Your FriendsAnthony Macali
An aspiring DJ sets out to produce that one special track to mark his name and launch his career.
"We Are Your Friends" offers a little plastic sachet of party life. While it doesn't shy from the unavoidable sex and drugs associated with the scene, it does ultimately settle on a story about the music. With an acute focus on electronic dance music, this film explores the ambition of youth and the art of the deejay. In one particularly joyful sequence, we are treated to a lesson in syncing rhythm and beats to the human heart. The themes might not appeal to all, but it's certainly throwaway fun. A mashup of ideas.
An Irrational ManAnne Murphy
A philosophy professor is enduring a deep and hopeless melancholy which lifts after he engineers a murder.
The existential themes from the writer/director are familiar, as is the struggle between right and wrong, which the film's protagonist faces. The material might look a little tired, but the lead actors invigorate the story and bring it to life with strong performances, despite seeing them all losing their moral bearings. "An Irrational Man" holds attention as it plays out thanks in part to the dialogue, which is engaging banter with an intellectual edge. Irrational but sound.
City of GoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about famous LA food critic Johnathon Gold.
"City of Gold" is an admirable documentary about a wonderful writer, whose commentary on food transcends boundaries in multiple ways. Apart from his utterly brilliant style, and encyclopedic knowledge and passion for his hometown, he is famous for shining the spotlight on some of the smaller restaurants. Not one to discriminate, Mr. Gold values cooking as a service to a community, and provides a telling insight into multicultural society, where food can bring people together. This guy really likes tacos.
The WolfpackAnthony Macali
Not permitted outside of their apartment, the Angulo brothers only escape is their film collection.
"The Wolfpack" is an intimate look at a large family sadly confined to the boundaries of their apartment. Home-schooled by their devoid mother, the children's only view of the outside world is through the skewed reality of cinema, which could only contribute to their weird behaviour. It's hard to watch, especially as the young brothers gradually realise the misery of their imprisoned existence. Even more heartbreaking is their tethered creative talents, limited to charming re-enactments of famous movies. An agonising insight into social suppression.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Anthony Macali
In the 1960s, an American and Russian operative must join forces to stop a nuclear bomb.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." is all style and no substance. When these secret agents aren’t jumping and shooting at one another, they are delivering fashion advice. With this example you can appreciate the uncomplicated direction of this story. It starts off obnoxious, but slowly grows on you over the course of the mission. Everything is so nice to look at, and plot reveals are neatly constructed (and deconstructed) for the audience, leaving little to the imagination. Sleek and chic, and not so special.
Rules of the GameAnne Murphy
An employment agency in the North of France mentors young people through their job search efforts.
We follow three marginalised young people in their efforts to prepare for job interviews. It's easy to snicker at the disenfranchised youth for now knowing how to pitch their experience and skills to prospective employers. The filmmaker's fly-on-the-wall approach is even handed in that it appears non-judgemental. On the surface the struggles and responses of the kids look a bit funny, and it might have been easy to mock them, but the underlying societal issues are no laughing matter.
Malcolm is a high school geek, a virgin who loves hip hop and wants to go to Harvard, all goes awry when he and his friends have a wild encounter with the shady LA drug culture.
"Dope" is a smart coming-of-age story, packed with adventure. The movie opens energetically, rolling with the hero and his best friends. There are laughs to be had as the trio find themselves in more and more trouble. The second half loses pace and dawdles, before finishing with a heavy-handed lecture about race based assumptions. All in all, more awesome than dopey.
Force of DestinyAnne Murphy
A journey of love on a transplant waiting list.
Inspired by the life experiences of the writer/director "Force of Destiny" poignantly shows the shock of receiving a dire medical diagnosis. Thankfully the movie resists overplaying the tragic aspects of facing death, capturing more a sense of the ordinary, which makes the viewing so interesting. The everyday goes on albeit with a heightened sense of grief. Emotions are held down by the characters, as they try to cope with an unthinkable future. While the tone is restrained and sombre, the impact is forceful.
Far from the Madding CrowdAnthony Macali
Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.
The Mafia Kills Only in SummerAnne Murphy
Inspired by real events, this is a black comedy about 20 years of history of Sicily from 1970s to 1990s, mocking Mafia Bosses and restoring the generosity of the heroes of Antimafia.
A comic yet powerful depiction of the dark criminal forces which pervaded the everyday life of one boy as he grew up. Relating history of the mafia through fiction, with a satirical spin is satisfyingly original and enjoyable even with the annoying narration. A surprisingly affecting movie for the homage it pays to officials who died trying to bring the good fellas to justice. Killing in all seasons.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
Frank and Casey travel to a place somewhere in time and space known only as Tomorrowland.
Despite captivating visuals and an exciting imaginative palate, this space mission struggles to keep steady traction due to inconsistent storytelling. On the one hand the audience isn't bogged down with too much science. On the other, the film refuses to divulge any secrets behind the mysterious "Tommorrowland" until the third act. This waiting game makes the story slightly less engaging. But it's still an epic adventure; filled to the brim with spectacle, positivity and hope. Take me to "Tomorrowland" today.
Pitch Perfect 2Anthony Macali
In a bid to overturn their recent suspension, The Barden Bellas compete in the A Capella World Championships, where they meet their international rival Das Sound Machine.
"Pitch Perfect 2" will find it hard to rival the success of its first outing, but there are still plenty of witty jokes, crude slapstick and politically incorrect commentary to delight audiences. The weakest part of this sequel is the story, which invests more in the laughs, than the drama. While the strength of the original cast is bolstered by fresh additions, the film ultimately lacks the rhythm and catchy tunes of the predecessor. Corny, forgettable, yet still very funny. Das good.
Infinitely Polar BearAnne Murphy
A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier.
This is a goofy, amiable story based on the experiences of the writer and director. The central family make the most of their chaotic home life and there are plenty of funny moments. As enjoyable as "Infinitely Polar Bear" is, you may be left asking 'so what?'. This movie is superficial and bordering on trite, complete with a happy ending. Limited but bearable.
Kolya, with the help with an old friend now lawyer, fights the mayor to save his home.
"Leviathan" is multi-layered Russian drama that boldly investigates themes of corruption, broken families and religion. Centering on the small family in the middle of the dispute and set in the quiet and eerily beautiful sea-side surrounds, it allows us to emotionally connect with the characters and their struggle without obstruction. Arguments and celebrations often lead to the excessive consumption of vodka, and further complications arise when the story takes unexpected turns. Deep, dark and troubled waters.
A Little ChaosThomas Jones
A female landscape-gardener is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles.
Set in the days when periwigs were 'in', "A Little Chaos" depicts one of the earliest examples of a backyard blitz, as our heroine gets her hands dirty to create an outside ballroom at the Palace of Versailles. Overcoming bad weather, a saboteur, and a wheelbarrow full of skepticism, she proves to be more than just a dame in a dress. Despite this garden show including a budding romance and a buried past, ultimately it fails to grow on the audience.
Manny LewisJan Di Pietro
The film follows the story of a famous fictional stand-up comedian Manny Lewis, who connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to one person.
"Manny Lewis" is a heartwarming story told with refreshing simplicity. Fortunately, it lacks the typically overt, 'Aussie-brand' larrikin humour exhibited by some Australian comedies. The result is a film with great heart, poignancy, and many sobering laughs. Some scenes drown in rom-com cliches, but understated, lovable characters make it bearable. I wouldn't watch it 'Manny' times, but once was good enough.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelAnthony Macali
Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" recycles the formula of its first incarnation, and succeeds once again thanks to the vigour and humour of its cast. While the plot in this edition is not particularly grand, the beloved elderly troupe carry the drama through the colourful and gleaming streets of India, notwithstanding the addition of a few fresh faces, whose introduction could be considered the only distinction from the first film. Same cup of tea, lots of sugar.