300 Rise of an EmpireAndrew O'Dea
Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is an epic spectacle of video-game violence and gore. This stylised action fantasy retains the familiar and flashy comic-book style of the franchise, replete with blood-spattering slow motion and enough visceral excess to keep the senses engaged. Although it pales in comparison when evoking the same emotional vigour of its predecessor, the void is redeemed by the sultry, murderous heroine at its center who steals and carries the show. Not bad as a stand-alone movie, it's just missing some limbs.
Wolf Creek 2Andrew O'Dea
The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor.
Set against the harsh yet beautiful Australian outback, "Wolf Creek 2" manages to carry its own as a quintessentially 'Aussie' horror flick. This bone-grinding sequel might lack the shock surprise of its predecessor, but there's still enough depravity and carnage to appease the gore-hungry and chill-seekers alike. Although some may find the story bordering on predictable, most will giddily revel or revile in the grim-humour and violence of the 'fair dinkum' sociopath at its core. Bloody hell.
The Wolf of Wall StreetAndrew O'Dea
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker to his desperate fall.
This character driven story is an amoral orgy of excess fuelled by drugs, sex... and money. While being an indictment of greed, there are no moralistic judgements; instead the white-collar criminals damn themselves. Outrageous hilarity ensues as the audience are invited to revel in unbridled decadence and debauchery. A stylistic and witty film featuring remarkable performances, the only flaw is an overindulgence in running time, making it difficult to hold the audience's attention in parts. Although it huffs and puffs, it just doesn't quite blow the house down.
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.
"Frozen" is the story of two sisters surrounded by a dazzling world of ice that gleams so impressively in this animation. While the characters and relationships are tailored to suit a modern audience, the core of the story sticks to a classic formula with familiar themes of family and love. Full of adventure and laughs thanks to a troupe of goofy sidekicks, this film distinguishes itself with merry displays of music and song. For the young princesses of the world.
Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesAndrew O'Dea
With the 70s behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy, returns to take New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.
Vintage Ron Burgundy returns to the screen in this fantastically outrageous sequel. Not nearly as much fun as the prelude, hard-core fans will no doubt be left in stitches by the familiar silliness of "Anchorman 2", and the rapport of its cast who shine in their individual performances. The film is downright hilarious in parts, only to be let down by stretches of padded, low-brow humour in-between. By no means a comedic gem, but offers just enough to stay classy.
American HustleAnthony Macali
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.
"American Hustle" isn't a memorable crime caper, but it's thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. It doesn't take long to get swept up by the glamour and characters of the time, parading their retro costumes to the sound of a lively 70's soundtrack. Soon begins a battle of wits, each player out to scam the next, in a clever way to keep the story full of suspense. Moments of tension are broken with scenes of laughter, but ultimately there's no real substance to all the cons. Robbed of empathy.
One ChanceAnthony Macali
The true story of Paul, an amateur opera singer who became a phenomenon after winning "Britain's Got Talent".
"One Chance" is the inspirational story of Paul Potts, and his competition with the forces preventing him from singing opera. Bullied at school, he received no support from his father and lacks the confidence to hold his nerve on stage. While the film only scratches at the surface of these issues, it's still uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully there are many moments of humour throughout to curb the continuous heartbreak, especially when the road to success is this long. An emotional winner.
The Fifth EstateAnthony Macali
The story of Wikileaks and its quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power.
Like the much maligned website, content is king in "The Fifth Estate". Behind every great idea is a great man, and the picture painted of Julian Assange is one of ego and narcissism. Surprisingly, the patchy back-stories of the characters aren't as interesting as the history of the famous site and its technical challenges. By favorably revisiting numerous articles of breaking news, the film successfully underscores the unprecedented impact of the organisation, disrupting everyone in their path minus the journalism they feed. A captivating, yet leaky, source.
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights lives his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race.
"Planes" is a simple story of flying fun. The premise is basic and sticks to a tried formula, lacking the boost in creativity required to distinguish this animation from the rest. As a result, the film is best suited to the youngest of age groups, who will marvel at the soaring aeroplanes brought to life in colourful 3D. There is plenty of spectacle and lots of racing, astutely captured and easy to follow, darting to the finish of a short and sweet running time. Fly in, fly out.
The story of Steve Jobs' ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.
"Jobs" follows a small tenure of the famous entrepreneur, from the birth of the home-PC, to the tumultuous times of leading a publicly listed company. In a largely neglectable performance, we discover a determined and at times difficult figure, with a very strict vision and diet. At its best, the story excels in simply documenting the journey, captivating your attention without frills. Once you reach the end, despite the uneventfulness, you'll want to see more evolution. Static and compliant.
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother.
In a movie fraught with dichotomies, a mother and daughter vie for the attention mysterious uncle who is both sinister and smooth. The film is as stylish as the story is twisted. Unfortunately, the more macabre the plot becomes, the more predictable the next development is. The initially promising premise reveals itself as shallow. "Stoker" is visually stunning, almost gothic in style as is hinted at in the title, although the setting is modern day. Chilling but nothing preternatural.
The RocketAnne Murphy
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home.
"The Rocket" plays as a crowd-pleaser, perhaps that's because the target audience is hard to define. The setting is post-war Laos and the protagonist is a child but there are scenes that might be confronting for children. The movie is pleasing, quite exhilarating, a crowd-pleaser must be a movie with such broad appeal that you enjoy it even if you don't identify as the target demographic. Not rocket science but it's a blast.
The Bling RingTom Jones
Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes.
Anyone who admires or tries to emulate the lives of celebrities, prepare for disappointment. You'll find little inspiration here, except maybe the very cool soundtrack. This film does not glamorise, or popularise this culture, which is arguably a healthy step in the right direction. The characters have zero substance, except what they snort. They're not likable, funny, endearing, or worth pitying; their story isn't even compelling, just repetitive. Steal, party, steal, party, you get the picture.
Pacific RimAnthony Macali
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world.
"Pacific Rim" is the perfect suit for an audience with a penchant for large robots. On display is the most spectacular of heavy-machinery, brought to life with cutting edge special effects in gleaming detail. It's clear the monsters were as thoughtfully designed, repulsive creatures who appear as ominous threats, thanks in part to the small bunch of rag-tag humans who make us partially care. The film has a mission, and delivers exactly on what it sets out to do... Robots vs Monsters.
Baby BluesTom Jones
Natalia really wanted to have a baby. Now she has got one and her extrovert seventeen-year-old life has suddenly become one big struggle.
Idiotic teenage parents should be outlawed. Prepare for your anger to intensify, as you sit incapable of doing anything, and watch the appalling parenting of an innocent child. Highly stylised, with brightly coloured scenery, and a pretty twisted euro-techno soundtrack, this film is bold in its delivery of such a grim subject. The acting at times is a bit melodramatic, but equally it works at enhancing how unlikable all the characters are. Time to saddle up, and get on your high horse.
Man of SteelAndrew O'Dea
A young man is forced to confront his secret extra-terrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded.
Alongside a torrent of CGI explosions and mayhem, the director also brings an unexpected depth and sense of melancholy to the characters in "Man of Steel". Although diminished, there is still an undercurrent of purpose even though countless skyscrapers are toppled and smashed like jenga blocks. However, the greatest disappointment is that any exhilaration from the visual splendour wears thin as action sequences become excessively prolonged and repetitive. This rusty reboot is far from super, but hope remains in the foundation of a franchise with the potential to eventually soar.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...
Monsters UniversityAndrew O'Dea
A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University - when they weren't necessarily the best of friends.
"Monsters University" is more than adequate as a stand-alone film. Although it brings the same successful charm to screen as its predecessor, it takes far less risks, and seems content to appease its audience rather than dazzle them. Impressively animated, there are still a host of clever moments that deliver life lessons to learn and college humour to laugh, with both subversive gags for the adults and colourful entertainment for the kids. B minus.
The InternshipAnthony Macali
After losing their sales job, two middle-aged men are forced into a career change.
"The Internship" a.k.a. 'The Google movie' paints a glamorous and humorous picture of the greatest workplace in America. Get past the initial grandstanding, and you might discover a charming story of two salesmen lost in a digital future. Their foray into the world of technology is comical one, taking place in the bright yet surprisingly hostile environment of computer geeks. You don't need to understand all of the tech-jargon to get the gist, but it certainly might help. The film's only error is the time it takes to produce results. Google it.
Happiness Never Comes AloneAnne Murphy
Sacha is only interested in one night stands and has a phobia of children, until he meets Charlotte, the divorced mother-of-three and ex-wife of one his employer's powerful clients.
This French rom-com is delightful, and there's much enjoy. Unfortunately, like many in the genre, there's not a lot to make it memorable. The good-looking leads enchant with their on-screen chemistry, and the humour has a physicality to it that borders on slap-stick, providing an amusing touch of vaudevillian styling. You can't help but be enamoured - this movie delivers a delightful affair of the heart. Happiness, apparently, comes for couples.
A Lady in ParisAnthony Macali
Anne leaves Estonia to come to Paris and care for Frida, an elderly Estonian lady who emigrated to France long ago. Anne soon realizes that she is not wanted.
"A Lady in Paris" is a people movie with a small ensemble. The nature of the story grants our leads time to open-up, and the slow pace will not suit most. With some patience, the characters become a little more interesting as they begin to reveal the fun and frivolities of Frida's past. While the setup is rather conventional, it's the small details that set this film apart, sharing thoughtful insights into the perils of growing old and reflecting on life choices. An affair to last a lifetime.
A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.
"Snitch" seizes upon the value of a 'based on true events' premise and tells the story of an amiable father who throws himself into the most dangerous of situations. Trying to win the trust of shady drug lords isn't easy, creating an atmosphere loaded with suspense. It quickly becomes apparent that our wishful hero is out of his depth, and the film is successful enough in its character portrayals that we actually care. Each move may be predictable, but the ride is enjoyable enough. Dobbed in.
Lost in SiberiaAnne Murphy
A shy German logistician of a mail order company is sent to Kemerovo in Siberia to accomplish better work flow in the Russian subsidiary company.
Sometimes we have to travel far from home in order to find ourselves, and that mantra is central to this movie. A conservative business man becomes captivated by a traditional singer, an attraction that highlights the economic and social differences of individuals and their respective homelands. "Lost in Siberia" is quirky and heartwarming, the perfect antidote to a working week that might leave you feeling a little jaded. The best thing about getting lost is being found.
Haute CuisineAnne Murphy
The story of Danièle Delpeuch and how she was appointed as the private chef for François Mitterrand.
"Haute Cuisine" is a tasty factional account of a woman cooking and making her way in a man's world. Kitchen environments are not known for their diplomacy, and the chef has a poise and self-assuredness that could provide a template for woman in business. Her spirit is inspiring. Expect light fare rather than a big meal, and it's satisfying nonetheless. The food provides as much entertainment as the politics, and foodies will enjoy the reverence paid to simple ingredients, not to mention the pleasure of eating. Gastronomic!