Stephen Hawking: There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Synopsis: The story of physician Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane.

The Theory of Everything is an above average biopic which unfortunately doesn’t rise above its strong subject matter. The problem with biopics is that they end up being clips of important parts of a famous person’s life. Biopics such as A Beautiful Mind and The Aviator although have strong performances from its lead actors only skim the surface of powerful lives. Films such as The Social Network and Schindler’s List provide an accurate take of a part of that person’s life (possibly the most important part). The Theory of Everything unfortunately falls into the former category by trying to fit in twenty or more years into a two hour frame. Therefore we don’t quite get into Hawking’s theories or how he came to them (except for clumsy scenes depicting a look into a fireplace birthing his theory of the black hole). Where the film succeeds is in its extraordinary performances. Eddie Redmayne’s performance of Hawking captures the physicality and heart of a man paralysed by ALS. His performance never feels false and this is quite an achievement to capture the speech and physical bodily tension of Hawking over the years as his body slowly degenerates. Felicity Jones also excels as his wife Jane. She could have played it as the sad wife constantly trying to help however Jones fills Jane with a strong spirit and a will all her own as she tries to find her own identity as a wife of not only a successful and popular physicist but also a man whose body is failing him. Also she must take care of her children and find time for herself to finish her own studies. It is a powerful and heartbreaking story which elevates this biopic to something greater.


The film is visually striking and captures its time quite perfectly. Overall a better than average biopic which often falls into the pitfalls of telling a vast story in two hours but the lead performances make it memorable.

Rating: 3 Stars




Andre Allen: I am telling you, everything means something.
Chelsea Brown: No everything does not mean something. Okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Remember those, jokes?

Director: Chris Rock

Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove

Synopsis: A Comedian turned actor discusses the highs and lows of his life of fame with a New York Times writer who happens to share a few things in common with him.

First off, this films title is a running motif throughout the film as various characters list their top five rappers. I’m not a hardcore rap fan however growing up my cousins would blast Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg through their speakers so I was versed in the genre from an early age. As I grew up I came to love the genre and my current top five rappers are;
1. Kanye West
2. Eminem
3. Drake
4. Tupac Shakur
5. Jay Z
Probably a lot of hardcore rap fans would disagree with my list however since ‘Yeezy’ blew up in 2004 with his album ‘College Dropout’, I’ve loved all of his albums since and haven’t missed one. I’ve also been to his concert when he was out here in Melbourne and he was amazing! I believe his albums have each gotten better from 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ to 2013’s ‘Yeezus’. Also his latest track with Rihanna and Paul McCartney ‘FourFiveSeconds’ is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod. Also Eminem has been my favourite rapper since 2000’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and was probably my number one rapper through the 2000s. However I think his latest album 2013’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ was a disappointment and makes him drop a spot. Just like Yeezy I’ve loved Drake since his debut 2010’s ‘Thank Me Later’ to this years surprise album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. He may not be as prolific as Yeezy, Em and Jay but he is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod and I actually prefer him these days over Jay. However I would be remiss not to include Tupac Shakur who I grew up with and introduced me to the genre and also I love Jay’s flow. I also love a bit of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and when I’m working out Pitbull.


However enough about rap let’s discuss Chris Rock’s latest comedy Top Five. Top Five is Rock’s most personal film to date, dealing with a comedian turned popular comedy star who is hated by the critics and hasn’t had a good film yet. Unfortunately this is also true of Rock’s career. He is an amazing comedian, sharp, energetic, powerful and most of all hilarious. With 1996’s hit stage show Bring the Pain the first comedy show I saw of Rock I remember crying of laughter. It was brilliant and he managed to top that with 1999’s Bigger and Blacker. He returned again in 2004’s Never Scared and 2008’s Kill the Messenger. His live shows are all amazing and sadly he hasn’t been able to translate that to the screen. His two previous directorial efforts 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife were critical and commercial disasters. I’ve enjoyed his films however I’ve only enjoyed moments in them, I don’t think I’ve loved any from beginning to end, including the Grown Up series, Madagascar series, and his work with Kevin Smith. However I think Top Five is the reverse of his previous films where I love it from beginning to end and there are only a few moments I didn’t enjoy.


As you can see I love stand up comedy and naturally I love films that deal with this subject matter including 2009’s Funny People and Martin Scorsese’s classic 1982’s The King of Comedy. This film deals with Andre Allen (Chris Rock) who is a famous comedian turned popular actor who is about to get married to a reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) (shades of Kanye and Kim) while trying to be taken seriously for his new dramatic film dealing with the Haitian revolution. He agrees to an interview with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (the luminous Rosario Dawson) to plug his film. At first he is hesitant because of the Times negative reviews of his previous films but reluctantly agrees for the press. He discovers a kindred spirit in Chelsea as they discuss the highs and lows in their lives and their shared experiences as recovering alcoholics. The film has an effortless chemistry between the two stars and they elevate the material and help it grow unlike Rock’s previous directorial efforts. However their discussions of the effects of recovering from alcohol addiction I felt didn’t ring as true as Rock’s analysis of the entertainment industry possibly because he could bring more truth to the entertainment industry rather than being a recovering addict. The film still works as a semi-autobiography and dig at the entertainment industry and what artists will do to have their art taken seriously. It is a fascinating film which also deals with topics (strong in Rock’s stage shows) such as race, politics, family and a real insight into the mind of one America’s best comedians.


With a kinetic directorial style, sharp and witty writing and excellent performances from Rock and Dawson this is the smartest comedy in years and possibly the best film dealing with a stand up comic. It also boasts an excellent supporting cast and cameos from Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, J.B. Smoove, Leslie Jones and Ben Vereen.

Rating: 4 Stars

My Top Five Chris Rock films
1. Top Five
2. New Jack City
3. Madagascar
4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
5. Dogma

My Top Five Comedians
1. Jerry Seinfeld
2. Chris Rock
3. Eddie Murphy
4. Kevin Hart
5. Louie C.K.




Wayne Kyle: There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs, Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: The true story of Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in American history with over 160 confirmed kills over four tours during the Iraq war. However when he returns home to his family he can’t easily escape the war that now lives inside him.

Clint Eastwood returns to fine form in this gripping true story of American soldier Chris Kyle. The film opens in Kyle’s childhood with his strict Catholic father teaching him the respect for guns and to protect your own no matter what. It is these values that follow Kyle into adulthood when he begins to see America is under attack from foreign enemies. He joins the army and becomes a NAVY seal. His skills with a sniper rifle are quickly discovered by his superiors and he is promoted. Meanwhile Chris meets Taya and they soon fall in love and get married. However just before they get married the tragic events of 9/11 occur which sparks the American war with Iraq.


Eastwood has a strong eye for action scenes from his early works such as The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) to Sudden Impact (1983) to Unforgiven (1992). Even his dramas can contain gripping action sequences such as Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Gran Torino (2008). It is during Kyle’s tours in Iraq where Eastwood’s direction really shines in his gripping and tension filled sequences involving Kyle having to take a shot, whether it is a child or mother or another skilled sniper these action sequences are breathtaking and elevate this film to a very high standard. Eastwood knows there is no black and white reason for the war or for taking a life and Kyle’s story is filled with compromised choices that no man should ever have to make. Eastwood also shows the human frailty of being in the war and taking so many lives as Kyle returns to a quiet and loving home but can’t get the screams and gunshots out of his head.


Bradley Cooper gives a gripping performance as Chris Kyle not only physically (he put on mass pounds to appear bulky as the real Kyle) but also emotionally with his piercing eyes showing us the cost of war. He is riveting throughout and elevates the film to near classic status. Sienna Miller also turns in a strong performance as Kyle’s wife Taya who also must deal with raising a family and trying to save her husband from the war he can’t leave behind. The politics do become a bit shaky by the end of the film as Eastwood and Cooper show a man struggling with this devastating war however as the film ends Eastwood begins to portray Kyle as a true American hero however Cooper portrays him as a broken man who had given too much to his country with little reward. Although the politics are a tad unsteady, Eastwood and Cooper deliver a strong and riveting drama.

Rating: 4 Stars




Nicky: It’s about distraction. It’s about focus. The brain is slow and it can’t multitask. Tap him here, take from there.

Director: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie

Synopsis: Veteran con man Nicky teaches a young apprentice Jess in the art of the con. Never lose focus, however as Nicky grows feelings for his apprentice their latest con may become more difficult for everyone involved.

The old school charming Will Smith is back in form in his latest con caper romantic drama, Focus. Smith was the hottest star of the 90s with blockbuster hits such as Bad Boys (1995), Independence Day (1996), and Men in Black (1997). In the 2000’s he began to explore his dramatic side with the biopics Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) but still found time to provide blockbusters such as I, Robot (2004) and I Am Legend (2007) however the 10s haven’t been as kind to him with the box office and critical failures such as After Earth (2013) and Winter’s Tale (2014). As a comeback vehicle Smith has chosen a con artist caper film in the vein of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and American Hustle (2013) however this film is a pale imitation at best.


Although Smith returns to form with his charming one liners and buff muscles flexing through his stylish clothes, the film has a flawed script which never lives up to the potential of its excellent leads. Matching Smith’s charm is the beautiful Margot Robbie hot off her impressive debut in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Robbie is not only a sexy foil for Smith but she also has the acting ability to stretch her character from inept pocket thief to a skilled, sexy and appealing hustler. The plot revolves around Smith’s Nicky training Robbie’s Jess into a skilled con artist. Soon enough Nicky falls for Jess and decides to abandon her so he doesn’t “lose his focus” as a skilled con artist who can’t have anything or anyone stop him from completing the long con. Predictably they meet again three years later as Nicky is planning his next con which could make him millions.


In a film like this I was expecting plenty of plot twists and clever set pieces involving people getting conned. Unfortunately there aren’t many twists and the final act is a convoluted mess which should have left the audience surprised instead of scratching their heads wondering what the point of the last two hours were. With impressive cinematography and good actors unfortunately the script and its surprises aren’t impressive and leaves this film feeling like a waste of everyone’s time.

Rating: 1 Star