The Darkest HourThomas Jones
In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.
What this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in its effects. The cinematography is seriously cool, particularly the large-scale depictions of Moscow as a ghost town, which will have you wondering 'how'd they do that?' The acting falls a bit on the melodramatic side and you kind of wish the invisible threat, which they are all running from, was more frightening. For a big budget, end of the world flick this does not fail to capture you for a darkest hour (and a half).
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.
The DescendantsThomas Jones
A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
The depiction of suburban life in Hawaii adds some interest to this film, but the central dramas are not particularly compelling or original. The moments of potential intrigue don't last long enough, so the stakes for the hero character are never raised high enough to set your heart racing. The narrative voice-over is unwarranted, something the director obviously worked out a third of the way into making the film, as it's nowhere to be heard in last two thirds. Descending in more ways than one.
Dolphin TaleAnne Murphy
A story centred on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.
An amazing heart-warming tale, pardon the pun, based on a real story is related in "Dolphin Tale". This movie will be embraced by young audiences as an exciting adventure in an adult world. Older kids may find it formulaic as adversity is transformed into triumph, but nonetheless it's stirring viewing. The dolphin is a scene stealing star that puts the rest of the cast in the drink despite their solid performances in this family friendly fun film. Move over Flipper.
The Adventures of TintinAndrew O'Dea
Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship.
This instalment of the revered cartoon is faithful enough to the source material and its host of much loved characters to keep the hardcore fans appeased. There's enough of the mystery and adventure one would expect from our classic hero, and - of course - his irrepressible little white dog. The 3D animation is exquisite as the camera swoops and soars, bringing the motion-captured world to life. Unfortunately, the stunning visuals aren't matched by a lacklustre story. "The Adventures of Tintin" might be a fun ride, but still far from the exhilaration of a rollercoaster.
We Bought a ZooAnthony Macali
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Based on a true story, "We Bought a Zoo" doesn't have a bad bone in its body. It's an adventure with a menagerie of fluffy animals, great and small, and the odd staff who service them. While an underlying story of grief drives the plot, the film lacks the courage to fully explore the strife and emotion. After all, this is as family-friendly as it gets, and in the end nothing can compete with the excitement of a zoo. A ticket that will leave you warm and fuzzy.
Puss in BootsAnthony Macali
A story about the events leading up to the sword fighting cat's meeting with Shrek and his friends.
The cat's out of the bag with "Puss in Boots", the 'diablo gato' showing enough charm to headline his own film. He's cheeky, cute, and a wanted outlaw, as we discover in a delightful flashback of his back story. Curiosity is lost when the fairy-tale plot begins, introducing characters who aren't as much fun as our hero. The animation is great, just look at the fur, but could have looked better and brighter if they shied away from the 3D format. It's is still very funny when felines break out and exhibit their cat-like traits. A welcome spin-off to cross swords.
We Have a PopeAnne Murphy
A story centered on the relationship between the newly elected Pope and his therapist.
The basis of the plot is intriguing and shows the potential human fragility of a man confronted with being elected into a daunting role. The story is potentially fascinating but a little underdeveloped. We don't get to know the characters sufficiently to empathise with any of them. Add to that the episodic character of some scenes which start unexpectedly and stop too suddenly to link coherently to the central thread of the story and the movie never quite realises it's potential. Do we have a Pope?
Waste LandAnne Murphy
Contemporary artist Vik Muniz takes us on an emotional journey from the world's largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to an art auction in London.
Beauty is found by engaging with people who create livelihoods recycling garbage picked from a vast waste dump. In working with the artist, the director shows how truly awesome the human spirit is. They respect the subjects of the art project that is central to this documentary. The thoughtful approach and the time taken to encounter people through a lens of humanity, rather than stereotypes, is uplifting. A work of art.
The Ages of LoveAnne Murphy
Three chapters tell three interconnected love stories that illustrate the three ages of man, Youth Maturity and Beyond.
A rom-com is that bit more enjoyable for being Italian, the stories and characters are less stereotypical than their Hollywood counterparts. The content ripens and matures as the movie progresses through the ages of man, each delivering more depth than the previous story. None are too deep, all deliver some fun and are refreshing for their European sophistication. The comedy is it is light and agreeable, there’s nothing to tax an audience in the storylines. Ti amo.
The DebtAnthony Macali
Retired Mossad secret agents learn of some shocking news about one of their colleagues.
A curious remake, "The Debt" is the American production of an Israeli story with Israeli agents. There is no problem translating the narrative, as our main characters live in the present day with a large burden from their past. Their history unfolds through flashbacks, but it's difficult to engage with the younger selves who seem suitably miscast. A sample of their fate is revealed in the beginning, and it does thwart a lot of the suspense. The rest of the history is captivating enough, as our spies execute a mission tainted with emotion. A film that owes much to its story.
A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
Midnight in ParisStefan Bugryn
On vacation in Paris, a married man slowly falls in love ... with the city itself.
Imagine you're a writer, and you get the chance to travel back in time to have a conversation with the world's best writers. 1920's Paris with Ernest Hemingway? Pretty cool huh? "Midnight in Paris" rides on this highly original concept, and keeps both the dreamers and thinkers happy. If you're a lover of fine culture, you can't go wrong with this film. The Parisian backdrop will have you in awe; the cinematography is amazing. Not the director's best work, but certainly worth a watch. Tres bien!
Red StateStefan Bugryn
Three young teenagers get more than they bargained for when they accept an online invitation for sex.
"Red State" is a bit weird, but weird in a good way. It's a real genre bender. The films begins as your average teen horror, then reverts to action, before finishing off as a comedy - all with socio-political undertones! Just as you think you know where it's going to turn, it hits you with a different twist. Characters are chopped, changed and dropped like flies. The plot thickens more than the blood that is spilled. An interesting state to be in... whatever it may be!
Real SteelAnthony Macali
Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot.
"Real Steel" is your favourite boxing movie played out by robots. The start is a little worrisome as our protagonist father essentially sells his son, but that won't deter the kids who will find this blockbuster most appealing. The fighting bots look big and strong, battling for cash in some impressive urban environments. Aside from the aesthetics, you can expect the heart-warming plot to follow instruction from the cliché ridden films before it. The steel isn't real, but the CGI is pretty solid.
Monte CarloAnthony Macali
Three young women are whisked away to Monte Carlo after one of the girls is mistaken for an heiress.
There are very few surprises in "Monte Carlo", and much like its three heroines, we're encouraged to 'seize the moment'. The film's charm is impossible to resist, and the French coastal setting, with its lavish hotels and lookouts, is the perfect playground for the affable young cast. They play out the familiar premise with great humour, and even share a few messages and morals along the way. While slightly over-staying its welcome, the movie remains ashamedly fun, appealing to the hopeless dreamer inside all of us.
The Change UpAndrew O'Dea
A comedy in which a married father accidentally switches bodies with his best friend, leading to a series of wildly complex difficulties.
This instalment of the body-swap genre is ultimately a crass affair, and is largely dependant on shock value rather than wit – not to say it's completely devoid of any intelligence. Like its protagonists, the audience too will be split, as the film's talented cast push the boundaries of tastefulness. Some will find the perverse humour laugh-out-loud funny, while others will simply find it vulgar and clichéd. "The Change Up" is definitely borderline... it really could go either way.
Lost KissesAnne Murphy
A girl in the deprived outskirts of a Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
"Lost Kisses" uses cynicism to explore our faith in the inexplicable, and satirically mocks our need to keep up appearances. While not taking an overt stance on one side or the other of religious belief and our desire for miracles, there's a lot going on under the surface-line of the story. It's a pleasure to be allowed to draw your own meaning. A peck on the cheek.
20 CigarettesAnne Murphy
An assistant film director working in Iraq finds himself caught up in a suicide attack.
This movie tells the autobiographical story of its director with a lighter touch than a documentary might have allowed. Iraq is shown as a place where soldiers and peace-keepers are wondering what they were doing there. Injury is graphically depicted, providing a palpable experience of the horror of war. A strong but very watchable political statement is made by bringing a personal story to the big screen. The cigarettes provide an interesting device to contrast everyday life with a day in a war zone. Smoking.
Sorelle MaiAnne Murphy
The director's family is filmed over a 10 year period acting in film roles rather than biographic depictions to create an experimental and dramatic work.
"Sorelle Mai" is an interesting movie that follows the hopes and mostly thwarted dreams of a brother and sister. What makes it really interesting is knowing what the director attempted and the scope of the project. For those sitting in a cinema it's not obvious how ambitious the film-making is, and for the average viewer the slight narrative may be insufficient to captivate. Appreciate this one for being well crafted. Sisters are doin' it...
A priest disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.
"Priest" makes the most of its short running time to deliver what is, in the end, a sleek action flick. Sure, there are clichés aplenty and the dialogue may cause you to wane at times, but it's all offset by some seriously stylish action sequences. What else could you honestly expect from a film where the hero flings ninja-stars in the shape of a crucifix? Although lacking in originality and littered with flaws, the target demographic will nonetheless be more than satisfied by this perfectly acceptable vehicle of vampire-slaying. Say 'Three Hail Marys' for enjoying this guilty pleasure.
The Greatest Movie Ever SoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.
The self-proclaimed "Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is far from it, though it does provide an interesting exposé into the unfamiliar advertising industry. The director/ documenter's lack of charisma is redeemed by his resourceful and determined displays, especially when forced to sell his idea to the advertising companies themselves with the aid of some amusing place cards. In the end, it's hard to tell if the financiers or film-makers come out on top, although as an audience, we're not 100% sold.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.
A group of students investigate a series of mysterious bear killings, but learn that there is something more dangerous going on. They follow a strange hunter, and learn that he is actually a troll hunter.
Those who don't take this film too seriously are certain have a lot of fun, as the film's comedy is essentially rooted in this very mantra. The director is to be applauded for the resourcefulness of integrating the giant trolls - almost seamlessly - on what must have been a very modest budget. Although the film has a tendency to become quite languid at times, its drolly comic style and the beautiful fjords and forests of Norway littered throughout make it watchable. Fee, fi, fo... fun!
Siblings from Japan get stranded in a small town, Littlerock, while waiting for a replacement rental car.
Viewing American culture, through the eyes of a non-English speaker is interesting but almost insufficient to maintain feature length interest. Perhaps it is the desolate location where nothing much happens, or the listless locals, but boredom stealthily encroaches. At times it feels that not enough is happening on the screen. Even so this story of strangers in a remarkably strange land is unsettling enough to hold attention, leaving a lasting imprint. It's like looking through a magnifying glass and not a kaleidoscope.