Map of the Sounds of TokyoAnne Murphy
A dramatic thriller that centres on a fish-market employee who doubles as a contract killer.
"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" delivers edgy views of Tokyo, with interesting landscapes you are unlikely to view as a tourist. The movie title bears no relation to the scenes and story - it could be lost in translation. At its core this is a love story, or story of physical yearnings over romantic love. Whatever the level, there is a strong and credible connection between two unlikely characters, each a little lost in their own world. A stylish movie with lots of Tokyo, but no map and no sounds.
The ReboundAnthony Macali
In New York City, a single mom captivates her new neighbour, a much younger man.
"The Rebound" is a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy that ticks all the right boxes. There is great chemistry between the two leads, even though the children steal the show with their questionable preciousness and jocularity. The movie's worst quality would be the title, partly derived by Sandy's unique profession in sport statistics, making her even more appealing to the boys. As predictable as it may be, it's nicely wrapped up in a series of extended montages, preventing any forays into the over-soppy. The aim is true, as this film scores a winner in all the right categories.
Eating Out: All You Can EatAnne Murphy
Tiffani and her friend Casey try to lure the gorgeous Zack with a phony online profile using the image of Tiffani's buff ex, Ryan... which works fine until the real Ryan shows up.
"Eating Out 3" is the latest installment in a trilogy following the romps of a group of characters through some raunchy situations and hook-ups. The style is almost cartoonish, with beefcake leads who spend little time with their shirts on, and their daffy female friends. This movie looks like it was made on a shoestring budget without extravagant sets or staging. If you like trashy, with some decent one-liners, try dining here.
Hollywood je t'aimeAnne Murphy
A gay Parisian shows up in Hollywood at Christmas time, ready for his close-up.
A not so classic take on the Hollywood experience where every actor is a waiter and vice-versa. While the central Frenchman starts out as a "Dorothy" type of tourist transported to a strange land, he soon links up with a colourful band of supporters. Los Angeles is shown as unglamorous and seedy, yet in this movie the city is loved only for the diversity of the big-hearted characters encountered while trekking its yellow brick road. Je t'aime adventures in Hollywood, where prudes will need to stay home.
Green ZoneAndrew O'Dea
Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.
"Green Zone" is a more of a thriller than an action film. Those expecting a series of gunfights will be sorely disappointed, as the crux of the story stems from its political subtext, interesting as it is. Although the battle footage brings an admirably tense and frenetic realism, the cinematography is at times a little too chaotic, and the grainy hand-held camerawork tends to hold it back rather than enhance. All points to consider before deciding whether or not to spend your green on this one.
Alice in WonderlandAndrew O'Dea
19-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure.
"Alice in Wonderland" is a pleasant movie that revisits all of its familiar and much loved characters in splendid detail. The gorgeously rendered fantastical world is a visual delight, counteracting the lack of plot substance in parts. Disappointingly, you can't help but feel that the irresistible combination of director and source material has given way somewhat to studio convention. Although most (including the little ones) will find the film's sense of escapism enjoyable, it's forgivable to be late for this not-so-important date!
The Men Who Stare at GoatsAnne Murphy
A reporter in Iraq might just have the story of a lifetime when he meets a former member of the U.S. Army's New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions.
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" is goofy and amicably humoured, yet it's disappointing and insufficiently acerbic considering the military parody it aspires to be. The good natured cast are excellent although it's a shame one of them isn't a goatherd as this movie is a little free range. The story is funny enough, but the plot wanders pointlessly, leaving the audience glassy eyed and staring.
My Name Is KhanAmit Jain
Rizwan Khan, a muslim boy from Mumbai suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that complicates socialisation.
"My Name is Khan" is both a love story and a quest with an angle of religion and world- trembling repercussions. The film is captivating, well-acted and amusing in some parts. It preaches important messages about tolerance, hope, persistence, forgiveness and the power of love. Strong performances from the lead cast and strong cinematography and score make this a well made movie that not only entertains, but mesmerises.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning ThiefAndrew O'Dea
A teenager discovers he's the son of the Greek god Poseidon and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between Zeus and the gods.
Although it suffers from predictability and humour that doesn't always work, the way "Percy Jackson" translates classical myths into the modern spectrum is both clever and at times fun and exciting. A strong supporting cast and satisfying action sequences combined with terrific visual effects help to sustain it through some weak plot points. Far from a great film, it's sure to appeal to its key demographic; kids will love it, while the rest of us might appreciate a free lesson in Greek mythology.
Valentine's DayCourtney Slevison
Couples and singles break-up and make-up based on the expectations of Valentine's Day.
"Valentine's Day" is cute, undemanding fluff, offering nothing original or unique to the rom-com genre. Boasting an impressive ensemble cast of Hollywood stars, the film feels a bit crowded with everyone scrambling for screen time, ultimately leaving you with only an unsatisfying snippet of each storyline. Like the sickly sweet candy shared on the day of love, the initial cheap thrill wears off, leaving you wanting something a bit more substantial. However a few funny moments and the odd 'warm fuzzy' make this an enjoyable enough date movie.
Tooth FairyLuke Bartter
A bad deed on the part of a tough minor-league hockey player results in an unusual sentence: He must serve one week as a real-life tooth fairy.
Despite relying on the visual of a grown man dressed as a fairy to hook you in, this family comedy provides plenty of enjoyment, mainly due to the charisma of its leads. Several of the story-lines run parallel to create a feel similar to a series of sketches, and while there are no surprises to be found, "Tooth Fairy" is never boring and occasionally quite funny. Far more likeable and charming than expected, it's recommended for children, inner and actual.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The SqueakquelAnne Murphy
The world famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio return to contend with the pressures of school, celebrity, and a rival female music group known as The Chipettes.
A familiar cast of characters squeak and shrill their way through predictable slap-stick fare. Disappointingly there's little depth to the prosaic story-line, and while children will be enormously entertained by the high school antics of the warbling rodents, there is little in the goofy plot to amuse older viewers. Be warned that the best thing about this movie is the clever word play in the title. There's nothing crisp about these cheeky, chirpy chips.
Nowhere BoyAnne Murphy
A chronicle of John Lennon's childhood.
"Nowhere Boy" is an almost absorbing bio-pic telling the story of the teen years of the boy who became a member of one of the world's most influential bands. It is the little known background of the subject that makes this movie worth watching. Although apparently historically accurate and crammed with period detail, the film doesn't reveal much of a sense of the singer and song-writer we know from his later achievements. 'Nowhere Boy' becomes one of the writer's of 'Nowhere Man', and it's disappointing that the title suggests something more profound.
A politician's relationship with his unusually developed son - the child suffers from a disease that causes him to age rapidly, rendering him an old man.
"Paa" invokes thought on varying subjects of modern Indian urban life from single parenthood and rare disease, to the media and its influence on politics and human relationships. The performances from the entire cast are fabulous, especially the lead who is brilliant in his role. It blends emotion and laughter in just the right places, and makes this film a definite family entertainer.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion.
"Religulous" would be a documentary but for its unbalanced, mocking tone. Comedy is given priority over facts and there are many amusing but unnecessary cheap shots. At times the disdain of the interviewer for the people interviewed is disquieting. Not so much investigative as much as lampooning in tone, too often the aim seems to be to provoke and dismiss rather than attempting to open debate. Nonetheless the topic is bravely tackled and worth seeing for some of the 'only-in-America' tableaus. Warning: Disturbingly dogmatic.
The Strength of WaterAnne Murphy
When a mysterious stranger arrives in an isolated coastal town, 10-year-old twins are forced apart.
This film is more mood than story. The brooding characters are burdened with emotion but without anywhere to channel it. Wild New Zealand coastal landscapes are artistically captured, and the screen is laden with images that evoke dark undercurrents and equally dark overtones. The inescapable heaviness of production is not quite balanced by the simplicity that's almost necessary when dealing with big themes through the eyes of children. "The Strength of Water" is strong enough to overpower.
A drama centered on an immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Illinois.
Warm and funny, "Amreeka" covers important issues of diversity and tolerance with a light and humorous touch. In fact, it is light enough to be a little heavy-handed in delivering the message that people from the middle-east are good people. The immigrant experience looks easy in this setting - a little hardship, a touch of outrage at the attitude of the locals, and each day better than the last. In the land of the free it's possible to feel homesick while smiling. Only in Amreeka?
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab KahaniAmit Jain
A story about a carefree, immature young man whose sole purpose of life is to share joy and laughter. In his pursuit of spreading happiness he meets a beautiful girl and falls in love.
"Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani" (The Amazing Story of Strange Love) is a no-brainer comedy suitable for kids and young adults. The story is slack, and the plot lacks any realism. The sets are designed to mimic a fairyland, and the soundtrack consists of a few romantic and fast beats. A slap-slick and in your face comedy that will mildly amuse and entertain.
The Twilight Saga: New MoonAnthony Macali
Realising Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward makes the difficult decision to leave.
This sequel significantly outshines its predecessor, as the presence of a storyline improves it in leaps and bounds. The eclipse of romance is welcome, as we share Bella's pain and encourage her recklessness. Despite console from (decidedly buff) friend Jacob, her time spent moping takes a lot longer than the film lets you believe. Their performances are less than desirable, but we find some hope in the small moments of action, laughter and extension of the mythology. Less brood and more mood, "New Moon" has successfully revived the saga.
Astro BoyAnthony Macali
Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Tenma.
This movie is aimed at a young audience - the science of good and evil is broken down into colours of blue and red, whilst also exploring themes of grief, friendship and family. However, there's still plenty of action and comedy on the horizon, and it's difficult to resist the charm of the delightful Toby and his growth into Astro. Although not entirely exciting and armed with a somewhat robotic plot, "Astro Boy" remains a serviceable film for fanboys and kids alike.
Giovanna's FatherAnne Murphy
A protective father stands by his misfit daughter after she commits a terrible crime.
Complex reactions to tragedy are explored in this story of obsession. With war as the backdrop, relationships are ravaged while Bologna is bombed. "Giovanna's Father" is not easy viewing and interest is held by the unconventional story-line. The soundtrack maintains a steady rhythm, and the use of sepia tones aids in recreating a past era of hardship. Superb performances by the lead actors are convincing and avoid being melodramatic, with the spotlight firmly on Giovanna's Father rather than the dastardly deeds of his daughter.
Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate puzzling murders.
"Surrogates" presents a curious concept that tactfully blends intrigue with action. It races through the premise, leaving little time to question any ambiguities, while providing an opportune setup to parade a world of eye-pleasing 'models'. While the story maintains this heightened pace, a consequence is that many of the sub-plots are neglected trying to keep up. Solid performances, storyline and action make this a vehicle just good enough to inhabit.
Funny PeopleAndrew O'Dea
A seasoned comedian forms a friendship after learning of his terminal, inoperable health condition.
"Funny People" is an inventive albeit meandering comedy. Sometimes sophisticated and sometimes crass, it presents an intriguing blend of humour and sentiment. Terrific performances from the leads and supporting cast are bolstered by a host of obscure cameos, including one of the most hilariously 'honest' Australian characters to be shown in an American film. This movie is far from seamless, and seems to drag in parts, but still retains enough moments of genuine insight and laughter to entertain most.
The Young VictoriaAnne Murphy
A dramatization of the first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.
This film proceeds at a gentile and regal pace with sumptuous sets and lavish costuming as befits the era. It is to be enjoyed as a love story rather than for revealing any political machinations of the time. Romantic and majestic, "The Young Victoria" is restrained but entertaining, without indulging in any unnecessary frivolity of life at court. Perhaps a sequel with a middle-aged Victoria would deliver more intrigue and drama, or at least some hot flushes... a satisfying and elegant period piece.