The Hunger Games are back, with sequel Catching Fire hitting Australian cinemas yesterday, and we have our official review on the buzzed-about film. Is Jennifer Lawrence still an impressive heroine? Is the story translated as well as it was in the first film? Do the new characters bring anything fresh to the franchise? We've got all these questions answered right here, in our video movie review.
We’ve seen plenty of unforgettable characters from Tom Hanks over the course of his career, and the Oscar winner gives another fantastic performance in Captain Phillips. Of course, he does have some pretty amazing inspiration: the film is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, the real-life cargo ship captain whose vessel, the Maersk Alabama, was seized by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa in 2009. The real story is unbelievable enough, but by focusing so tightly on the unfolding of Phillips' ordeal, director Paul Greengrass elevates Captain Phillips above ordinary biopic fare. Greengrass has created a thriller so tense, you might find your knuckles have turned completely white by the movie's end.
The Captain and his crew are en route to Mombasa, Kenya, when Phillips notices two unknown crafts sidling up to his ship. What begins as a hijacking turns into a hostage situation, eventually forcing a standoff between the pirates and the US Navy so anxiety-inducing that you can practically smell the sweat. Hanks is terrific, but he's not the only one doing the heavy lifting. Find out what makes Captain Phillips so special when you read more.
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal headline the thriller Prisoners, about a pair of little girls who go missing and the desperate measures their parents take to find them. When the young daughter of Keller and Grace Dover (Jackman and Maria Bello) disappears along with her friend, the daughter of Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) devotes himself to finding the girls. The child abduction plot has been done before, but the sharp Prisoners freshens up the genre. There are lot of elements that make it a must watch, so keep reading to find out what they are.
The plot keeps you on your toes.
The first mystery of the movie is the lack of evidence linking the super obvious prime suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), to the girls. Frustrated by this, Keller decides to turn the tables on Alex to get answers, but if you think the movie is just a revenge saga, you would be wrong — and pleasantly surprised. As Prisoners gets going, different mysteries unspool, and you're trying to connect the dots while scratching your head. If you love a good mystery, this is the movie for you. Sure, there may be a couple plot holes on the way to unraveling it, but it's so entertaining that you won't care.
More of our thoughts on Prisoners when you keep reading.
Chris Hemsworth may be best known for Thor, but seeing director Ron Howard's outrageously high-octane racing drama Rush will make you forget all about the suit of armour and giant hammer. Hemsworth stars in the true story as James Hunt, an up-and-coming British Formula 1 driver caught in a bitter rivalry with his main competitor, Austrian racer Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The two couldn't be more opposite; Hunt is a charismatic ladies' man more famous for his parties than his skills behind the wheel, while the seriously buttoned-up Lauda is constantly in a single-minded pursuit of the next title. Hemsworth is magnetic as playboy Hunt, but it's Brühl who stuns, creating a such an intense character that it's impossible to look away from the screen.
Though the film begins with Hunt (and his bare butt), the narrative is just as much about his rival, Lauda. As the working-class Hunt swerves between the track and various women, the wealthy Lauda discreetly buys his way into the races, trading his valuable knowledge of engines for higher ranks on the teams. The way the competitors are juxtaposed at times borders on too obvious. Hunt is a party animal, Lauda goes to sleep early. Hunt marries a haughty socialite (Olivia Wilde), Lauda settles down quietly. Hunt doesn't prep, Lauda studies the racetracks. They're the odd couple, but Howard's acute focus on the evolution of their relationship is perfection. Get more of the scoop on Rush when you read more.
This year's Toronto International Film Festival showed off lots of new movies — ones that already have people talking about awards season — and we're giving you our thoughts on all the big festival films. 12 Years a Slave is already making a big impact, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts serve up emotional turmoil in August: Osage County, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto expand their range in Dallas Buyers Club, and we're giving you our first impressions of these movies and more when you click through. See our brief reviews on TIFF movies now, and start placing your Oscar bets.
— Additional reporting by Lindsay Miller
By now you've probably heard about Jennifer Aniston's striptease in We're the Millers, but is the rest of the movie as hot as Jen's bikini body? Watch our video movie review to find out if the new comedy, which also stars Jason Sudeikis and Emma Roberts and hits Aussie cinemas next week, is worth checking out.
In Now You See Me, four magicians (played by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) use their skills to rob banks and wealthy bank accounts — and their magic touch leaves a detective (Mark Ruffalo) on their trail and just trying to keep up. The heist movie may not be on your radar as a must-see yet, but it should be — the action flick is a cool-looking, highly entertaining adventure. Here are the reasons why you shouldn't miss Now You See Me.
The plot seems pretty straightforward from the trailer, but there are twists galore. To say much more might take away some of the fun, so suffice it to say that there is a lot going on — and plenty of surprises you won't see coming. Sure, at the end you may notice some plot holes, but you'll have had too much fun to care.
The Spellbinding Ensemble Cast
Fisher, Eisenberg, Franco and Harrelson have good chemistry as the Four Horsemen, the stage name of their troupe. It may be an action thriller, but Now You See Me is still light, thanks to the cast's subtle humour and the script's wit. While the Horsemen often have the spotlight, it's Ruffalo's character who we spend the most time with as he tries to figure out how the magicians are tricking the world. While Ruffalo's character is much more straight-laced than we're used to seeing him, he still brings that signature charm, even when he's frustrated and being left in the dust.
Get the other two reasons after the jump.
If you get déjà vu looking at the cast of This Is the End, then chances are you're a fan of Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up or Superbad. In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's directorial debut, they round up friends and frequent co-stars James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jay Baruchel (plus Rogen himself, naturally) for a comedy about the end of the world. Rather than being just another instalment in their repertoire of film collaborations, This Is the End sets itself apart from their previous projects, because each actor is playing a heightened version of himself — giving them the chance to make fun of each other, while also dealing with the apocalypse. It's unique, meta and ridiculously funny.
The movie takes us to a party at Franco's house, which is just as weird and star-studded as you'd expect it to be. Rihanna's there, Emma Watson's there, Michael Cera's there doing drugs and alienating people — there's so much celeb-spotting in the first half of the movie that you worry the second, post-apocalyptic half can't keep up with all the fun. It's not an issue: when the movie switches gears to show us how Franco, Rogen and the rest of the guys cope with the end of the world, some truly raunchy, outrageous humour emerges. It may be too over-the-top for some, but if you appreciate the comedies of any of these dudes, then you'll be trying to catch your breath between laughs. To find out why else I loved This Is the End, just keep reading.
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock bring a lot of good to the ol' good cop, bad cop routine in the laugh-out-loud comedy The Heat. Bullock plays Ashburn, a straight-laced FBI agent vying for a promotion when she's faced with working alongside local Boston cop Mullins (McCarthy). Their mission: dismantle a vicious cartel of local drug dealers — without destroying each other first! (Cue laughter.) While neither actress goes too far outside her own range, they still make a highly enjoyable pair to watch on screen, especially once their personal barriers break down. The premise may sound familiar, but McCarthy and Bullock actually manage to put a fresh spin on the buddy-cop genre.
While initially Ashburn and Mullins don't take kindly to each other's tactics (Ashburn is a by-the-books officer, and Mullins would rather break the book's fingers), they're forced to work together when the stakes are raised and Mullins' family is put in danger. Mullins' dedication to her family runs so deep that she had previously sent her own brother (Michael Rapaport) to prison when she saw him getting mixed up with drug dealers. Now that he's out, he may be their only way into the cartel. It's actually pretty clever, and the family dynamic adds a genuine touch to the comedy. Find out what else I liked about The Heat — and what I wasn't so hot on — when you read more.
Disney heads to the Wild West for The Lone Ranger, a rollicking action film that's a good time, though it's not without its problems. Armie Hammer takes the lead role as John Reid (aka Lone Ranger), a lawyer-turned-vigilante who gets caught up in an adventure involving an organ-eating villain, a lot of silver, and one ornery Native American named Tonto (Johnny Depp). Depp in an ornate costume plus treasure plus action sounds an awful lot like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and given that The Lone Ranger is also directed by three-time Pirates director Gore Verbinski, it's no surprise that this film feels like Jack Sparrow and co. just moved westward.
Our yet-to-be-masked hero John first encounters Tonto while travelling by train to see his brother and family. Through a series of mishaps, John and Tonto end up shackled together while notorious criminal Butch Cavendish (a hideously scarred William Fichtner) escapes custody and conveniently disables the train's brakes. Despite a rocky beginning, John and Tonto grudgingly agree to work together when they realise Butch — rumoured to have a habit of eating the still-beating hearts of his victims — is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. Their pursuit of Butch is just the tip of the iceberg; along the way John and Tonto uncover an even bigger scandal involving a cave full of silver and corruption along the railways. Despite so many elements, the film sags a bit in the middle before a triumphant finish. Get more of my thoughts on The Lone Ranger when you read more.