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.
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.
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'...
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 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.
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.
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!
Olympus Has FallenAnthony Macali
The White House is ambushed by an army of terrorists and the Preisdent is taken hostage. A former guard leads the one-man rescue.
"Olympus Has Fallen" is a non-stop assault of guns and explosions, striking a close resemblance to video games. This B-Grade action revamp features the prototypical bad guys of North Korea, and a hero relishing the violence he's confronted with. Leading the charge to save the world, our patriotic general does not shy from the bloody onslaught or increasingly amusing 'one-liners'. If you can arrest the flaws and the lull at the half-way mark, you may find the ludicrous situation good fun. Stands up.
First PositionAnne Murphy
A documentary that follows six young dancers from around the world as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.
The physicality, athleticism and strength of mind of ballet students at the top of their art is extraordinary. Even so, in a world of reality TV competitions, the struggle to win has become all a bit clichéd. This is one for aficionados who will appreciate the achievements of the dancers, and for the rest of us this performance piece is heart-warming, if predictable, without being too tutu.
A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
"Oblivion" is a dystopian thriller that plays like a mix-tape of science fiction flicks; borrowing heavily from like-minded genre films that came before it. For the most part, the movie is fairly engaging, and it's difficult not to appreciate the sweeping landscapes and polished production values that are matched to a pulsating soundtrack. Yet for all the visceral flair, it's a shame the story lacks the originality and tension to distinguish itself from being just another clone. Too obvious.
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.
Mt. ZionAnne Murphy
Turei's family are hard-working potato farm workers in rural New Zealand.
The town is Pukekohe and the year is 1979, it is hard to break away from family and community and young men have big dreams. "Mt Zion" is a modest movie that appeals with its simple earthy feel. You're left to wonder if we grow up too quickly and lose imagined possibilities. Subtitles are provided when a Maori dialect is spoken and there is the odd line of English dialogue that could use translation too, if you know what I mean bru. Singing songs of Zion.
Somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Komona a 14-year-old girl tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war.
The atrocities that surround a girl kidnapped by rebels when she was 12 years old are inhuman in their ruthlessness. Seen through her eyes, the story is a work of fiction but the situation is as credible as the one shown on screen. With its understated approach, "Rebelle War Witch" looks to be drawn from reality. Told from a child's perspective, the depiction of the fate of child soldiers is so plausible it's horrifying.
In July 1979, during the Summer holidays, in a house in Brittany, a family gathered to celebrate Granny Amandine's sixty-seventh birthday.
Family's are funny when generations gather to celebrate special events, the experience an odd mix of funny-ha-ha and funny-peculiar. "Skylab" is thoroughly charming as it highlights the oddities of a family get-together, full of beautifully observed moments and interactions readily remembered from our shared histories. Missing is a stronger narrative to glue it all together and provide a point to the production; as it is, the question 'so what?' remains unanswered. Pie in the sky…
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.
Thérèse DesqueyrouxAnne Murphy
The unhappily married woman struggles to break free from social pressures and her boring suburban setting.
Based on a classic French novel, "Therese Desqueyroux" is about the boredom of a life of privilege for a woman restrained within a marriage arranged by her family. The movie begins in 1926, but the theme of the suppression of self is timeless, the actions of the protagonist coldly calculated as her martial devotion wanes. Understated and restrained performances serve to highlight the banality of a life lived without passion. Is our fate within or beyond our control? Je ne regrette rien.
The ImposterAnne Murphy
In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappeared without a trace from San Antonio, Texas, three and a half years later he is found alive, in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture.
Truth is often stranger than fiction as this jaw-dropping documentary proves. The story would be disconcerting as fiction, and it is cruel and heart-wrenching as the truth. There are as many twists and turns as in a suspense-thriller, and while watching the audience will have to remind themselves that no-one could possibly make up this improbable plot. The spoiler is in the title.
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.
The story of an aging couple who are crippled by the devastating effects of a stroke.
"Amour" acts like a claustrophobic, tightening grip that doesn't let you breathe until the credits roll, and is certainly an uncomfortable movie to watch. Just as one of the visiting characters states, "...I had a beautiful and sad moment with you", which is exactly what this experience feels like; an observational look at a couple's silent yet divinely emotional demise into old age. The discreet moments and absence of music can be deafening, adding to the overall and ever-increasing sense of tension and sadness. Lots of tough love for the audience.
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Knowing the events on the screen are based on real crimes provides a chill of disbelief for audiences as the scenario unfolds over a day. "Compliance" is a psychological deliberation on rank or authority and power, but mostly is a study of oppression. It is impossible to watch without thinking what you would have done in the same situation, and as much as it is tempting to dismiss people's actions as "only in America", sadly the same could happen anywhere. Deeply disturbing.
The ImpossibleStefan Bugryn
A family is caught in the horror of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
Whilst the production values and direction are both amazing, bringing the seemingly 'un-filmable' to life, they are a little inconsistent. There are some stagey and clichéd moments that will make you cringe momentarily, and the ending is somewhat predictable. Negatives aside, within the patchiness, there are some truly moving sequences. It's hard not to get swept away by the aching melodrama and jaw dropping realism. The tale is truly incredible, and one that is told in an impressive manner overall. Not impossible to enjoy.