• Tenet

    Tenet

    ★★★★

    Tenet’s reputation as a confusing movie precedes it. Early in the film, one character tells the Protagonist “don’t try to understand it, just feel it.” However, the movie seems to actively want the audience to engage with its ideas and unravel the heady concepts that fuel it. It’s up to each viewer how much effort they want to expend in understanding the movie. Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist whose work inspired Interstellar, serves as a consultant on this movie too.…

  • Seventh Son

    Seventh Son

    ★★

    Adapted from John Delaney’s novel The Spook’s Apprentice, the first in his Wardstone Chronicles series, Seventh Son has had its release date pushed back several times after being originally set to open in February 2013. This is rarely a good omen and the result is a film that is profoundly middle-of-the-road. It’s not a flat-out train wreck, but there’s every chance it would’ve been more entertaining if it actually were one. “Remember, all you need is inside you. Just don’t…

  • Taken 3

    Taken 3

    ★★

    “It ends here”, the tagline on the poster proclaims. If this really is the conclusion to the Taken series, then it ends with a whimper rather than a bang. Taken 3 – or Tak3n, if you prefer - is a rote, derivative affair. This is essentially The Fugitive, with a pursued protagonist who has to prove to the determined cop in charge that he did not kill his wife. The first Taken film drew comparisons to the TV series 24,…

  • Blackhat

    Blackhat

    ★★½

    Cybercrime, a globe-trotting hunt, a furloughed convict aiding the authorities, geopolitics – it all sounds pretty exciting. Therefore, it’s a shame that Blackhat ends up being pretty dull. It’s not a poorly-made film, just a boring one. Even with the requisite shootouts and chases, Blackhat never fully grabs hold of the audience. There are some surprises, even a few thrills, but each step forward in the plot feels merely perfunctory. Techno-thrillers are an interesting genre because those films often feel…

  • The Boy Next Door

    The Boy Next Door

    ★½

    The Boy Next Door comes from Blumhouse Productions, a studio which has found great success with low-budget horror flicks including the Paranormal Activity franchise. It is puzzling just what demographic The Boy Next Door is going for. On the surface, there’s the Desperate Housewives-style angle of a woman in her 40s falling for a dangerous boy toy but the film’s second half packs in swearing, surprisingly gruesome violence and a dash of nudity (though not from Lopez herself). The Boy…

  • The Imitation Game

    The Imitation Game

    ★★★★½

    The Imitation Game is based on Alan Hodges’ biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. Graham Moore’s screenplay landed at the top of the Black List, an annual survey of the most-liked unproduced scripts in Hollywood, in 2011. The title The Imitation Game refers to the Turing test, which determines how well a machine can imitate the thought processes of a human being. At face value, this looks entirely like an Oscar-bait biopic carefully engineered for maximum Academy voter appeal. Despite its…

  • The Wedding Ringer

    The Wedding Ringer

    ★★

    There was a time when R-rated comedies that weren’t American Pie were not viable commercially-successful propositions. It all makes sense when one discovers The Wedding Ringer was written in 2002, then known as “The Golden Tux”. Todd Phillips was attached to produce – he would go on to direct The Hangover. The Wedding Ringer feels like a pale imitation of films like The Hangover, never fully committing to the hijinks, the gags never feeling as inspired and genuinely outrageous as…

  • Strange Magic

    Strange Magic

    ★★

    Strange Magic begins with a map unfurling and we find out that the two magical domains in which the film takes place are actually called “Fairy Kingdom” and “Dark Forest”. Within the first minute, it’s clear nobody really was interested in doing anything new with the story, which is a shame given the technically-accomplished animation work from Lucasfilm Animation Singapore. Even then, the detailed, lush backgrounds are offset by sometimes-creepy facial animation, sitting on the edge of the uncanny valley.…

  • Mortdecai

    Mortdecai

    ★★★½

    Mortdecai is based on Don’t Point That Thing At Me, the first in late author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s series of comic thriller novels. Film critics often describe action comedies as “romps” – there is no better way to describe Mortdecai other than a “romp”. This is a lowbrow movie gleefully prancing about in a highbrow movie’s clothes, tongue ever so firmly planted in cheek from start to finish. The plot features such hoity-toity elements as a priceless Goya painting, art auctions,…

  • Big Eyes

    Big Eyes

    ★★★½

    Big Eyes marks director Tim Burton’s first biopic since 1994’s Ed Wood, re-teaming him with that film’s writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It’s been repeatedly noted that this is Burton’s first live-action film since 1996’s Mars Attacks! without either Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter. A project like Big Eyes is exactly what Burton needs and it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that this film about artistic integrity comes from a director once lauded as a fresh, unique voice…

  • Unbroken

    Unbroken

    ★★½

    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, the non-fiction book by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, served as the basis for this film. Zamperini’s true story really is an inspiring one and seemed a natural candidate for an awards-worthy biopic. There is some major pedigree behind the scenes, with the screenplay written by the Coen Brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, cinematography by Roger Deakins and music by Alexandre Desplat, all no strangers to “big important movies”.…

  • Jupiter Ascending

    Jupiter Ascending

    ★★★

    A friend remarked that she thought Jupiter Ascending was an adaptation of a young adult novel, and it’s not hard to see why. The Wachowskis follow the “chosen girl” template to the letter, with the Mary Sue trope of an ordinary girl who discovers her extraordinary destiny in full effect. The foremost example of the space opera subgenre in film is the Star Wars saga – unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending has more in common with the prequel trilogy than the original…