Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine
It is beautiful, and it is difficult to watch. It is heartwarming, and it is heart-wrenching. It is absorbing, and it's unsettling.

If I had to pick as single image to represent this film, it would be a close-up of the "Love/Hate" tattoos across the knuckles of Robert Mitchum's preacher-serial killer character in 1955's disturbing "Night of the Hunter."

Director Derek Cianfrance's film is also easily the most moving and thought-provoking of this year's Oscar nominees. Both a veritable acting clinic and a daring departure from movie-making convention, it's at its root a hard-to-resist character study. That's because the character being studied is you and me and everyone else who has ever fallen in, and out of, love.

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The Virginity Hit

The Virginity Hit
The idea of a bunch of high school teens trying to get laid was a surprisingly refreshing convention when American Pie reused it back in 1999. The film updated the classic teen sex comedy formula and offered a delicate balance of raunchy and sweet, caring not only about our male leads, but their female lovers – whose needs were just as important (if not more so) as the men.

Now, more than 10 years later, things have most certainly changed. The teen sex comedy feels drained once more – worn out and often just filled with mindless sex, nudity, drug use and crass behavior. Some of it is funny, but most films fail to deliver anything of note. The only filmmaking team that really seems to find success in the genre is the Apatow gang, but even they've branched off from the genre, focusing less on films like Superbad and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and sinking deeper into more mature films. Director Greg Mottola (who also directed Superbad) had some fascinating and poignant observations in Adventureland, but that film failed to garner much interest.

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Chain Letter

Chain Letter
Technology is evil, I tell you... EVIL! At least, that's what Chain Letter poorly attempts to convey over the film's drawn-out, tiresomely bland 89-minute running time. Yup, Chain Letter is one of those films that tries (and fails) to scare us out of using technology. But even worse (or preposterous), our villain is an e-mail spammer who murders those who don't forward his villainous chain letters. Oooo, scary... or stupid – take your pick.

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Monsters

Monsters
Do not be fooled by the title. While Monsters features its fair share of creatures over the course of its 97 minute runtime, this is far from your average sci-fi flick. Rather, it's a sweet, small-scale story, set against a backdrop of large-scale alien invasion.

The story starts six years after a NASA probe was sent into space to collect evidence of alien existence. Said probe crashed on re-entry to Earth over Central America, and soon after new life forms began to appear in Mexico. Fearing invasion, much of the country was quarantined, and is now considered the "infected zone."

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The new family comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid, based on the best-selling book series by Jeff Kinney, follows smart-alecky Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) as he begins his first year at middle school. Smaller than the other kids (but not the smallest, thankfully) and not yet smitten with the opposite sex, Greg sees this period as a silly but necessary rite of passage before he can get on with becoming the rich, famous, handsome and powerful man he believes he'll grow up to be. He's in for a hard year.

Whether it's dealing with his jerk older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), roving local bullies, or wise-beyond her-years student newspaper reporter Angie (Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz), Greg will learn that things aren't going to go his way as easily as he'd expected. To make matters worse, his chubby best friend -- the perpetually child-like Rowley (Robert Capron, who looks like a young Chris Farley) -- begins to outshine him. What Greg does next will teach him important lessons about friendship, honesty, and taking responsibility.

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Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine
Borrowing liberally from 1985's Back to the Future, MGM's new time-travel comedy Hot Tub Time Machine follows three old friends -- Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou, a.k.a. The Violator (Rob Corddry) -- who, along with Adam's teenage nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), find themselves inexplicably transported back in time to 1986 after spilling a drink on the controls of a hot tub that turns out to be a time machine.

There, trapped in the era of Miami Vice, Reagan, Jheri curl and Poison, the three friends are seen by everyone else as their teenage selves. They must not do anything that could screw-up the space-time continuum and thus change the future, and so are forced to relive the same traumatic events they went through in 1986. Along the way, though, they begin to realize how much better their lives would be in the present if they did alter the course of history. Do they dare?

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Clash of the Titans

Clash of the Titans
A remake of the 1981 cult classic of the same name, Clash of the Titans follows demi-god Perseus (Sam Worthington) as he seeks revenge against the gods after the death of his family. His quest will see him embark on a grand adventure where he must battle many fantastic and horrifying creatures in order to rescue Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) and the doomed city of Argos from the wrath of the gods. That's the story in a nutshell. Many characters from the original film have been jettisoned altogether and plot elements have been shifted around.

The original Clash of the Titans is an example of a movie you liked as a child, but when revisited as an adult it's just not as good as you remembered. Indeed, it's quite hokey and boring, and the special effects – as dated as they were even when it came out – are really the biggest reason why it's still talked about. But for many people of a certain age, myself included, the original Clash was often one's first exposure to Greek mythology, and at least in this reviewer's case it helped trigger a lifelong interest in the subject. That said, the acting in the film was pretty bad, with Harry Hamlin as a rather drab and passive Perseus who just has things happen to him. While Worthington's Perseus may not have a terribly complicated or original arc, at least he actually drives the narrative forward, makes his own decisions, and has objectives he wants to achieve rather than simply reacting to the actions of others.

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Date Night

Date Night
Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) are a self-proclaimed boring couple from New Jersey. Work and parenting dominate every moment of their lives, leaving them in a comfortable but passionless rut. Not wanting to end up like their divorced friends, Phil and Claire opt to do something really special this time for their regular date night away from the kids: dinner at a posh Manhattan restaurant. But when it looks like they won't land a table, Phil fatefully steals the reservation of a no-show couple named the Tripplehorns so that he can treat his wife to a nice evening.

Everything's going great until two thugs (Common and Jimmi Simpson) show up at their table and escort them outside. It turns out the Tripplehorns have crossed the city's crime lord and are in possession of a flash drive that he wants back. This leads to one long crazy night where Phil and Claire must outrun some of the city's most powerful and notorious figures, but they also just might put a little spark back into their relationship along the way.

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Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction
Cemetery Junction is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's attempt to do for British youth what the likes of Diner, The Big Wednesday, Stand By Me and Dazed and Confused have done so successfully for our American counterparts. That is to create a feel-good coming-of-age drama that deals with the trials and tribulations of growing up in a sensitive, honest and entertaining manner.

However, while they manage to mix comedy and drama as effortlessly as they did on TV's The Office, the pair are rather less successful in terms of creating character and dialogue on this occasion, with their first celluloid effort filled with two-dimensional characters spouting cliche after cliche.

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Centurion

Centurion
Dog Soldiers/The Descent director Neil Marshall takes on the swords and sandals genre in this typically bloody action flick.

Fashioning a fantasy around the legendary missing Roman Ninth Legion, Marshall has cannily cast the versatile Michael Fassbender (Eden Lake, Inglourious Basterds) as principled Roman warrior Quintus Dias. Dias is the sole survivor of a Pictish raid in northern Britain, AD 117. Spared death after swearing at the Picts in their own language, prisoner Dias is rescued by fellow Romans, only to find himself knee-deep in more bloodshed when he teams up with the Ninth Legion.

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Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Please be advised that this review contains some spoilers. You should be happy to know Iron Man 2 more or less wins its battle with "sequelitis," managing to successfully squeeze a hodgepodge of storylines and characters into one two-hour adventure while still keeping the narrative focus sharply on Tony Stark (played once again with unbridled aplomb by Robert Downey, Jr.). Iron Man 2 doesn't always successfully balance all of these moving parts, but considering how wildly it could have gone off the rails (think Schumacher's Batman sequels), it's a significant and highly entertaining accomplishment on the part of Marvel Studios and director Jon Favreau.

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I Love You Too

I Love You Too
If you're 33 years old, drive a miniature train for a living and eke out an existence in a granny flat with your improbably gorgeous girlfriend from the UK, logic might dictate that you're already living behind the relationship 8-ball. As such, it's really not a grand idea to date said-girl for three-and-a-half years and never tell her you love her. Frankly, it makes you look like an emotionally-stunted schmuck - and if she leaves you (and she should), you can't ponder the whys and wherefores.

And so it goes in 'I Love You Too' – the filmic product of TV presenter and comedian Peter Helliar ('Rove Live'), starring opposite acclaimed Australian actor Brendan Cowell ('Noise', 'Beneath Hill 60') and supported by a strong Australian and international cast, including the diminutive but captivating Peter Dinklage, model Megan Gale and TV's 'Chuck' star Yvonne Strahovski.

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Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom
Off the back of 'I Love You Too', the latest dud to test our faith in Australian populist filmmaking, the dark and shocking 'Animal Kingdom' by first-time feature director and screenwriter David Michod has bolstered our hopes once again. Michod has, quite deftly, crafted a crime story that manages to tell a very traditional tale in a manner that is identifiably Australian but never overt; delicate and dignified, but bursting into moments of punctuated violence and intensity practically without warning.

The backdrop of suburban Melbourne builds a radical tonal disconnect for the audience; the white picket fences belie the warped family ties at play. Shot with an eye for capturing the bleak atmosphere, Animal Kingdom is also immediately reminiscent of another gorgeously produced and crafted film, 'Lantana' – both creations careful to put characters and acting in line with taut photography and pace.

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Robin Hood

Robin Hood
Don't believe the ads. Ridley Scott has not made a Robin Hood movie. Or at least not a complete one. No, this film is his attempt to make a more commercially viable version of Kingdom of Heaven, an epic about the Crusades (and their aftermath) with its complicated history distilled down to a more easily digestible but not particularly compelling form. Scott doesn't even seem particularly interested in Robin Hood (played by Russell Crowe), as a legend or a character.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street
We're not usually ones to advocate for more skin in a non-'skin-flick' (well, okay— we are), but this is one of those rare instances where a film broaches the risky 'too-serious' shooting style for a premise as implausible and silly as they come. What would fix this? Surely taking a deep breath and letting go of the pretence, embracing the silliness and giving people as much titillation as possible. Heck—it worked for Wes Craven's original film back in 1984 and again most recently with 'Jennifer's Body'. Unfortunately, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' is neither as enjoyably schlock as the original or as slickly produced (and marketed) as the successful Megan Fox creature feature.

For those unfamiliar with the dubiously "classic" original, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a slasher-film in the purest sense, revolving around the killing of teens – and lots of them. The villain is the iconic Freddy Krueger, a being who haunts his victims in their dreams, breaking through to their waking lives to tear them apart with his single finger-bladed glove.

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MacGruber

MacGruber
Saturday Night Live has been the inspiration for some of the funniest films of the last few decades, with the likes of Wayne's World and The Blues Brothers changing the comedy landscape for the better. The show was also the breeding ground Coneheads, It's Pat and A Night at the Roxbury, however, so it isn't all good on the SNL adaptation front.

Mercifully, MacGruber -- just about -- falls into the former category. Based on the sketch of the same name and starring Will Forte, the concept is a simple one: the title character is a MacGuyver-esque American hero who is none-too-bright, with his particular blind spot being explosives.

On TV, the comedy traditionally revolved around Mac accidentally blowing s**t up, and the filmmakers have taken the 'if it ain't broke' approach to the movie, with Grubes doing much the same thing on the big-screen.

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