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.
Unmade BedsAnthony Macali
The story of two people living in the same warehouse whose paths never cross until fate steps in.
"Unmade Beds" is a stylishly quirky movie that follows Axl's quest for his father, and Vera's quest for love. The vague plot is forgotten as our characters enjoy a constant flurry of partying and having fun. These experiences are captured with a youthfulness and style that make it a unique joy to watch. Although some viewers will get swept away by the whimsical romance, others will be frustrated by the lack of concrete conclusions. This film is a refreshing piece of art and technique, despite a pacing that may put some to sleep.
A young man who was sentenced to 7 years on prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement.
"Bronson" is a sensationalised biopic of 'Britain's most violent prisoner'. The performance from the lead is both exceptionally raw and stunning in presenting the hulking brute with a penchant for chaos. The filmmaker curiously meshes violence with artistic oddities, and although entertaining, this technique also disappoints in providing any real or meaningful insight. Perhaps intentionally, we see Charles Bronson for 'what' he is, and not 'why' he is.
Hannah Montana: The MovieWendy Slevison
As Hannah Montana's popularity begins to take over her life, Miley Stewart takes a trip to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee to get some perspective on what matters in life the most.
The heroine of this entertaining movie has a huge fan base and the producers have unapologetically aimed it straight at them. The story is a simple one, about relationships and growing up, and of course there are songs. It's fun and quaintly wholesome, not a bad thing these days, with young girls bombarded by media images pushing them to grow up way too fast. The young star is a comedic delight, "an' there ain't nothin' wrong with that, y'all."
Flamboyant Austrian fashionista Brüno takes his show to America.
"Brüno" is sharp celebrity satire dressed in highly frivolous homosexuality. An overtly graphic character, Bruno will equally offend and entertain, as he tackles the idiosyncrasies of the rich and famous. Such an outfit is hilarious, but doesn't last very long, as the creative team begin to struggle with ideas and a limiting awareness of the hoax. These weaknesses are exposed further when the film loses its 'shtick-factor' in the short running time. Is still worth the show, but will quickly fall out of fashion.
Is Anybody There?Anne Murphy
Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents.
The movie is charming in a traditionally British way and disappoints for not being more than a quaint period piece, albeit a recent period. A tinkly slow soundtrack accompanies a tinkly slow story. The themes of aging and death don't offer the audience more than creeping rigor mortis as the story fails to engross. See it only for the fine performance of the lead actor and be warned that nobody else is there.
I Love You, ManAnthony Macali
Friendless Peter Klaven goes on a series of man-dates to find a Best Man for his wedding.
"I Love You, Man" is far more annoying than it should be. While the "man-dating" idea makes for an interesting and hilarious juxtaposition against 'normal' relationships, it's shackled by the awkwardly nervous fumbles in the lead's attempt to make friends. They're very funny at the start, but dominate the dialogue towards the end as the same material is regurgitated (at times literally). The signs are clearly emblazoned in the sky; the formula for the modern comedy is starting to tire, despite there being some love around this film.
Terminator SalvationAndrew O'Dea
After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.
This movie is a gritty, post-apocalyptic action showcase. Outstanding effects and camerawork capture an endless flow of action sequences with consummate precision. Purists will gorge on a glut of adrenaline-fuelled mayhem and dazzling pyrotechnics, while those who require a little more substance will be disappointed by a plot that's about as emotionally engaging as a T-100. Still, there's enough promise to suggest this franchise will definitely "be back"...
State of PlayAndrew O'Dea
A team of investigative reporters try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
This is a reasonably well-executed political thriller. Surprisingly, sharp dialogue provides witty yet sporadic comical relief, while the carefully plotted conspiracy makes for a polished although somewhat uninspired movie. Unlikely contrivances and one climatic plot twist too many mean that, at times, the film seems to meander and lack coherent direction. However, despite this state of flux, "State of Play" is redeemed by an intelligent script and moments of genuine tension that provide enough surprises, thrills, and intrigue to entertain.