Wild TalesAnne Murphy
Six short stories involving distressed people.
While we're told revenge is a dish best served cold, in this anthology of short stories we get to watch raging tempers and murderous passions unleashed. Each vignette is more outrageous than the one before, though surprisingly all are still believable, even when viewed from our less hot-tempered everyday world. Maybe we do live too close to the edge and it takes only a little to have exasperation explode into something uncontrolled and unpredictable. Wild and witty with dire consequences.
A CIA analyst is forced onto the field to recover a nuclear bomb after the identities of the organisations agents are compromised.
In this film, the style and sophistication of the spy genre is turned on its head, drawing plenty of laughs from the 'fish out of water' plot device. Agent Cooper, the aggressive and foul-mouthed analyst turned secret agent, is unequivocally the star of the show, cracking countless jokes, and making a mockery of the deliberately clichéd and amusing espionage setups. While the story is silly, the great supporting cast do a good job in complementing this one-woman show. License to farce.
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.
Banksy Does New YorkAnne Murphy
Documentary chronicling the famed street artist's "31 works of art in 31 days" in New York City.
"Banksy does New York" is lively and interesting, but stumbles a little when it shows tweets on the screen. Using social media to evidence the excitement and hype surrounding the artist's self-proclaimed residency in New York, works better in some forms than others. Even so this documentary is thought provoking, continually asking "who is the artist?" and "what is art?" There is no question however this enigmatic artist is smart, political, and satirical. It's Banksy doing what Banksy does.
A Skype conversation within a group of high-school kids goes awry when an unknown person infiltrates their digital world.
For the entire length of its short-running time, "Unfriended" takes place on a computer screen. This high-concept setting is the best thing about this horror movie. A techie's wet dream, its brilliance lies in its detail, adeptly capturing modern-day communication and its various tools. You won't sympathise with a lot of the characters, and you aren't supposed to. The only exception is the young girl who forms the premise, and perpetuates the strong anti-cyberbullying message. Like.
While We're YoungAnne Murphy
A couple's career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.
A comic film with a sharp satirical edge, "While We're Young" takes a critical look at narcissism and self-obsession. In a sophisticated and adult way the story addresses the parts of us, which don't want to grow up. It is refreshing to see a mocking sort of message delivered without sarcasm, a welcome change from other more screwball offerings. The intergenerational humour allows us to recognise ourselves, whatever our age. Nobody wants to be middle aged, not while we're (feeling) young.
It FollowsStefan Bugryn
A young woman is relentlessly pursued by an evil curse after having sex with someone.
What stands out in this film, and what will stay with you the longest, is the soundtrack. The otherworldly, ethereal, 80's synth soundscape creates an incredible dynamic to the drab suburbia world the characters inhabit. It adds tremendous strength to the story itself, which fully encompasses an overbearing fear of the unknown. Anyone and anything is a threat. This psychological terror, never fully explained, evokes feelings of paranoia, which continue to follow you as you exit the cinema. It, Entertains.
X + YAnne Murphy
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
A tender and affecting film about a type of genius, which comes with seeing the world in a different way. "X + Y" works on all levels thanks to an endearing cast of various misfits, none of whom can solve their own problems. The calculations are interesting but impenetrable for the average viewer. The real joy is in the discovery of something more important than mathematics. Whether you find the plot formulaic or not, it adds up.
The DUFFJan Di Pietro
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labelled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier more popular friends.
This film is the epitome of pop culture: there are social media gags left, right and center. There are times when the story feels like one long advertisement for the film's fad catch phrase, 'duff', but it warms on you, and becomes genuinely funny thanks to enjoyable performances and clever script work. Don't expect art, but this could be a defining film for young spectators. Bring your "DUFF" to this one.
Fast and Furious 7Anthony Macali
Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother.
"Fast and Furious 7" is completely ridiculous. To expect anything different, especially after seven installments, would make you as absurd as this film. This movie is pure vehicular mayhem, and despite the preposterous nature of the stunts and story, is also surprisingly and unavoidably fun. Jet-setting from one major set-piece to the next, the action sequences smash the boundaries of thrills and frivolity. All your favourite characters are back, saving the world in style and charming the audience with the unexplained abundance of cars at their disposal. If only cars could fly.
A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot.
Set amidst the melting pot of violence and political tension of Belfast in '71, this unconventional yet taut thriller is an introspective into the bitter conflict between Catholics and protestants at the time. There are bombs, bullets and bodies aplenty without being a prototypical action movie, and despite being a slow burn, still maintains an aura of suspense as we accompany our hero through a gritty urban war-zone; the jittery hand-held camera work lending a sense of urgency and immediacy. A willing tale from another decade.
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.
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.
American SniperAnthony Macali
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history.
"American Sniper" is the story of a war veteran and his ongoing conflict with the before and after effects of his ceaseless tours of duty. The action is fierce as the camera lies beside the sharp-shooter. You can almost feel the long, cold gun in your very own hands, unwittingly raising questions about the necessity of all the brutality. Unrelenting short scenes fuel the adrenalin and thrill of combat, astutely contrasting against the quiet and aimless life back home. American hero.
After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy.
"Unbroken" is a prisoner of war drama that shows the limits of how many beatings a single person can take. The camera is placed firmly in the thick of the action and lets the remarkable true story do the heavy-lifting, revealing an incredible, resilient man and his ever-constant fight for survival. Unsurprisingly, this film encompasses all the inspirational quotes accustomed to the genre, but thankfully these clichés don't overshadow the impact. Unrelenting.
The Imitation GameAndrew O'Dea
During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code.
Part history lesson, part tragedy, "The Imitation Game" is a compelling biopic. This suspenseful drama reveals pieces of the puzzle slow and steady, with flashes of brilliance that unfortunately aren't sustained throughout. Nonetheless, with a constantly shifting chronology, it brings the remarkable legacy of the troubled mathematical genius to screen in an affecting portrait. The lead provides a sensitive portrayal in what is an empathy-stirring performance, outstanding in its awkwardness. An enigmatic man, cryptic and clever.
Maps to the StarsAnne Murphy
A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.
"Maps to the Stars" is a disturbing social satire that is also an absorbing study of human character, if you can bear to watch it. The bleak yet original story is gripping for the way it gradually unfolds without revealing what happens next. It's involving thanks to the strong cast who bring the reprehensible, self-absorbed characters to life. Everyone has self-destructive tendencies but the desperate violence they wreak on each other is what's most jaw-dropping. A dark night in Tinseltown.
St. VincentAnne Murphy
A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
At some point the audience will realise they're watching the aging lead actor playing his elderly self, or some down-on-his-luck movie character version of himself. Don't feel like a sucker for playing along and enjoying the film. The endearing qualities of the protagonist allow you to put cynicism aside, forgive the unlikely plot elements, and be entertained by the ubiquitous fogey next door with a proverbial heart of gold. Wholly unlikely Saint.
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.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesAndrew O'Dea
Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.
Grand in its scope and ambition, "The Battle of the Five Armies" is an action-ravaged adventure saturated in the director's customary visual splendour. Pitting dragon against man, against dwarf, against elf, against orc, the battle sequences are exquisite, especially during the film's mammoth finale. Although characterisation is somewhat neglected, there's enough tension and thrills to make the journey there (and back again) a satisfying conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy... one last time.
Big Hero 6Anthony Macali
The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
"Big Hero 6" is a whiz-bang robotic romp, self-assured in its style and execution. Set in the clever and aptly titled 'San Fransokyo', we are presented with an awesome mix of colourful and futuristic animation to suit the story. The unlikely hero is an oddly marshmallow-looking invention, a functional and affable health bot whose impassive questions and incessant shuffling generate the greatest laughs. Kids and adults will escape unscathed in this action-packed adventure. Pain-free.
The One I LoveAnne Murphy
Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them.
"The One I Love" is an offbeat exploration of affairs of the heart and it's amusing if not outright funny. The plot is intriguing with a premise that confounds before it unfolds, so be sure not to let anyone reveal the story before you see it. Apart from the captivating performances of the lead actors, what makes this movie so diverting is the puzzle it presents. She loves me, she loves me not.
Particle FeverJan Di Pietro
Physicists are on the cusp of the greatest scientific discovery of all time - or perhaps their greatest failure.
High drama plays out in this film through vigorous debate, ambition, and a hardcore desire to find the truth – about everything. The scientists crusading for cosmic knowledge at the core of "Particle Fever" are the real story here, and the ultimate winner is physics, as it fully consumes its worshipers. These die-hard geniuses are stuck in a fever of ignorant pursuit, hurtling towards a likely end of nothing, but relishing every second of the journey. So goes life.
The Young and Prodigious T.S. SpivetAnne Murphy
A ten-year-old scientist sets out from his family's ranch in Montana and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.
Prodigious? Perhaps. Beguiling? Absolutely. This movie reaches out from the screen to engage with the imaginations of the audience and it is a delightful experience to see the world through the eyes of a serious young boy. While whimsical and almost naive in style, the heart wrenching back story of a family divided by trauma directs us to regard this as a mature tale. Not only cowboys are born under a wandering wondering star.
What We Do in the ShadowsAnthony Macali
Follow the lives of three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles, like being immortal vampires.
"What We Do in the Shadows" demonstrates that life is hard for a vampire in Wellington. In true mockumentary style, the introduction of a wide-range of housemates is the best and funniest part of the film. The dry humour and deadpan delivery creates many laugh-out-loud moments, as it employs the classic bloodsucker traits and applies them to the modern world. While the lack of a story becomes prevalent towards the end, it doesn't last too long. They do hilarious.