A Month of SundaysAnne Murphy
A real-estate agent fumbles through mid-life circumstances, navigates encounters with people from his present and his past.
"A Month of Sundays" is a warm movie where the central character is mired in his less than fulfilling life and uninspired about any future prospects. He is downbeat about his lot, and even working in the buoyant housing market fails to lift his outlook. The introspective nature of the story means that the screen action is a little slow, fortunately the funk lifts and we're delivered a satisfactory, but not so memorable, viewing experience in the end. Wish it was Monday.
A day in the life of a Footscray Pawn shop owner and the characters who inhabit the neighbourhood.
The most striking element of "Pawno" is how well observed the characters are. The players assembled by this independent filmmaker are familiar and recognisable, from the scallywags to the battlers, each embodying a part of a quintessentially Australian psyche. There are many story-lines woven into the episodic plot, and a lot of emotional territory is traversed while not straying too far from a particularly interesting shop in a suburb known for its diversity. It's all here, astute and darkly colourful. Pawn stars.
Two brothers in Iceland who don't speak to each other are united in their efforts to save their flocks from being destroyed for a suspected disease.
"Rams" can be viewed as a complex, understated drama in an interesting setting that leaves the viewer to connect threads that are not overly explained. Conversely you may find yourself nodding off after counting sheep while the story plods on. There's no denying the beauty of the desolate landscape and the quality of the cinematography, but this movie will be most appreciated by those with a well-developed sense of the bizarre. Baa or bah?
A documentary about the role of Sherpas on Everest was being filmed in 2014 when an ice fall resulted in a significant loss of life.
The ways of Sherpas and mountain climbers are brought into sharp relief in this engrossing social commentary. Much of what we witness beggars belief, as the camera captures entrenched exploitation, all exacerbated by different belief systems and communication styles. Day-to-day activities highlight the inequalities, climbers enjoy a hot towel and a cup of tea brought to their tent, while Sherpas carry supplies including a toilet up the mountain. Appalled in Nepal.
Kung Fu Panda 3Anne Murphy
Po continues on his journey of legendary awesomeness encountering both his past and his destiny.
Stunning 3D animation, precisely choreographed action sequences, and well-tuned character voicing are what we have come to expect from this franchise. The production crew delivers on all counts. The adventures of our quirky on-screen friends take us into other-worldly realms and steeps the audience in mantras drawn from Eastern philosophies. The back story is in danger of being over explained, but the central message is simple enough: find your chi, be yourself, and it's OK to eat rather a lot of dumplings. Panda expanded.
The WitchAnne Murphy
A devout family of Puritans, in early colonial America, are outcast from their community.
"The Witch" gets off to a flying start. Pardon the pun as there are no broomsticks involved, and this film is without humour. The story does start well and builds some tension, but ultimately fails to deliver any real spine-tingling chills. The offering is not all that satisfying as we're left to interpret the action, and it's a bit too open ended. What did happen? Does religious fervour invite evil acts? What we do know is that this is an atmospheric folk-tale, or a moralistic warning. No cackles.
A Bigger SplashAnne Murphy
A taut drama is played out when a music producer visits a singer on an Italian island where she is recuperating with her partner.
A sun-drenched holiday by a pool is no simple matter when much more is bared than naked flesh. "A Bigger Splash" is a sophisticated and complex melodrama centred on relationships. You can't help but enjoy the flaunting of hedonism that only comes of pure narcissism. There are plenty of dark undertones, and the story is one to keep audiences guessing. There's a delicious tension knowing the unexpected is coming. In hindsight though, the symbolism employed is annoyingly blatant. Making waves.
The Lady in the VanAnne Murphy
The true story of an eccentric woman who lived in her van for 15 years while parked in the driveway of a playwright.
This is one of those stories where fact is stranger than fiction. The performance from the actor who plays the lady herself is fabulous, a perfect portrayal of a lonely but cantankerous and independent woman who has her wits about her. Mystery surrounds the character, and our discoveries about her are revealed like jigsaw pieces. The full picture isn't portrayed, not in all those years. Restrained, polite, and very English. Van in no man's land.
45 YearsAnne Murphy
News from the past disturbs a couple as they prepare for a party to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Apparently you can learn something about your spouse that causes you to question everything about a life shared across decades. Really? It is a shaky premise for a movie if you believe marriage is a partnership rather than some form of ownership. There is something very perturbing about the central couple if their life as a "we" cannot accommodate some "me" about things in the past. Maybe they are just uncomfortably British and repressed. Can you keep a secret?
Son of SaulAnne Murphy
In Auschwitz in 1944, prisoners made up the Sonderkommando, groups who had to dispose of the bodies of their own people.
Watching "Son of Saul" feels akin to being in hell, such is the honesty of this holocaust drama. The film-making is extraordinary in recreating the full horror of the death camps and delivering an intense cinematic experience while keeping the audience riveted to the screen. There's no looking away as we bear witness to it all through one man's eyes. We observe something more gruelling than any imagined living-torment; the overwhelming horror of an unimaginable hell on earth. Devastating.
The biography of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted for his political beliefs during the McCarthy era.
In this story, an important piece of film history is found in the hysteria of the 1940's and 50's that saw many in the industry tarred as red and barred from working for their political views. "Trumbo" speaks to the both fear and moral courage of the time, served with a generous sprinkle of humorous eccentricities. This is an engrossing tale of villains and egos with a well-acted cast of characters, each with an uncanny physical resemblance to the real person being portrayed. And the winner is...
Boston 2002 and a team of journalists investigate decades of sexual abuse by the clergy and its systemic cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The story is familiar, and "Spotlight" hammers home the betrayal of the communities where abuse was perpetrated, often within schools and always by people who were revered and implicitly trusted. The script is excellent, bringing both respect for the victims and damnation for the cover-up. The other point this movie drives is about the value of 'old school' investigative journalism, mostly thanks to an excellent cast and a few notepads (paper ones). Spot on.
The Big ShortAnne Murphy
Three parallel stories of different men who realised how precarious the US housing and investment markets were on the eve of the Great Financial Crisis.
"The Big Short" is a bold movie that is both cynical and humourous in its fact based analysis of the loose and rampant practices of the banking system. It's as scary as it is entertaining while affirming the theory that money markets are driven by fear and greed. Unexpected vignettes serve to explain the almost inexplicable structures used in the bond market, with parody being the perfect vehicle. Could well go a little longer.
1950s New York, a shy young woman and a sophisticated older woman discover a mutual attraction after an encounter in a department store.
"Carol" proves to be as complicated as it is elegant, with a constrained mood that reflects the conservative social mores of the period. The central romance requires a discretion that is perfectly captured by the director in a series of seductively framed small moments. Every element is exquisite, from the refined costumes to the vintage period set details. The desire and longing between the two women is so palpable you can feel your own heart aching. Adulation.
London 1912, an important chapter of the feminist movement is being played out as women protest for the right to vote.
There is a sombre tone to "Suffragette", as it outlines a significant struggle in our all too recent history. The advocates for change were seen as troublesome activists to be quashed, and this convincing film shows that change was not won without a hard fight. Having one woman at the centre of the story serves to highlight the extent of personal sacrifice made. All in all, this is a grim and earnest tale, and one well worth seeing. Radical, militant women.
By the SeaAnne Murphy
The marriage of a heavy drinking writer and his wife comes under scrutiny when they holiday in a small French seaside village.
The celebrity pull of the lead actors is undeniable, and it even feels a little voyeuristic to be watching this couple as they play out their relationship as another imagined pair. "By the Sea" is intriguing and stylish, but also very long. This lengthy movie is not well served by its languid pace, and at times seems to stretch on interminably. In addition to the star power the stunning seaside setting ensures watchability. That sinking feeling.
Mistress AmericaAnne Murphy
A young woman attending college in New York has her life invigorated when she meets her step-sister to be.
Witty dialogue and a tumbling pace combine to make "Mistress America" a beguiling film. The paradox of wondering what will come of us when we grow up and inevitably age is deftly explored. Characters have a sense of self awareness and introspection, but every thought is blurted out in a comic extroverted way. Perhaps this is what life would be like if we tweeted face to face, a curious mix of self-consciousness and vibrancy. Don't Miss(tress) America.
The MartianAnne Murphy
A space mission to Mars leaves an astronaut behind, thinking he perished in a fierce storm.
Forget the man in the moon, now there is a man on Mars. The notion of a person stranded in time and space on the red planet is incredible. Thanks to skillful cinematography the scenario with all of its desolation is surprisingly believable. At least "The Martian" is worthy of suspending disbelief. The best part of this sci-fi escapade; it is filled with humour and humanity, and not to mention a disco soundtrack. Take your protein pills, and put your helmet on.
A re-enactment of the harrowing Everest mountain expeditions on May 10 1996.
"Everest" boasts a big name cast, but the indisputable star role is filled by the mountain itself. The remarkable cinematography shows it as lofty and imposing and all due glory is afforded to nature. Sadly human drama is one of the understated elements. The superficial view of the impassioned and zealous characters is problematic. There are too many people with too many untold back stories, and just too many unanswered questions. Apparently 'the bigger the better' does not always hold true. Ain't no mountain high enough?
The back story to the character Peter Pan; the tale of an orphan boy who embarks on an adventure to discover his history and magical powers.
The target audience will be spell-bound by the central little boy's colourful and daring adventures. In "Pan" the CGI and 3D are used to boisterous effect. There's plenty of derring-do as rip-roaring battles follow one after another. Unfortunately the technical effects don't quite cover for the lack of storyline. The plot is missing from action and it looks like the best parts of this tale have already been told. Pan-handled.
Returning from battle Shakespeare's tragic medieval Scots hero, Macbeth, encounters three witches on a barren moor who foretell him becoming Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter.
"Macbeth" transports you to a purgatory of plotting and scheming. This is a brutal and bloody telling of the familiar story about manic ambition set against a hypnotic scenic backdrop. The words are from the original play, but sensibly pared back. The witches for example don't deliver a cackle between them, but their presence is nonetheless haunting. Consistently strong acting performances and inventive cinematography work to create an exceptional and haunting movie. All hail Macbeth.
An FBI agent is co-opted into joining a special government operation against Mexican drug cartels.
"Sicario" takes us deep into an apocalyptic frontier of the war on drugs. We delve into a complex moral ground where there is no forgiveness, only bloody retribution, and where law enforcers are lawless. Brace yourself for a place where virility is king, sexism is taken for granted and racism is fact. Many lines are crossed, and the question is 'do the ends justify the means'? In either case this brilliant movie amplifies some flaws and futility in our real word. Intense.
Last Cab to DarwinAnne Murphy
A taxi driver with a terminal condition embarks on a long drive to Darwin in order to die with dignity.
"Last Cab to Darwin" is unmistakably an Australian film. You could change the towns and the countryside but the characters are true-blue types not found anywhere else in the world. The cinematography is stunning, with the road trip crossing a magnificent sunburnt country. In addition to the characters and scenery we are rewarded further by the unsentimental exploration of vexing social issues. The movie personalises ordeals, and then tackles them with heart just as any archetypal taxi driver might do. Dinky die.
A Walk in the WoodsAnne Murphy
The writer, Bill Bryson, sets out to walk all 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail with a friend from years ago.
There's plenty to laugh at as this unlikely pair of hikers set out on an extraordinary journey, tackling the unpredictable and unforgiving terrain of the wild. "A Walk in the Woods" is essentially a buddy movie exploring the pleasures of friendship. If there is something to take away from this enjoyable tale, it is the well-known life lesson that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination. Old men walking.
Holding the ManAnne Murphy
The attraction between John and Tim started in High School in the 70s their relationship lasted for over 15 years until John's death due to HIV/AIDS.
The only not quite believable piece in this poignant and earnest story of star-crossed lovers is watching the central actors playing high school boys. They’re adults dressed as boys, and sadly they look it. Apart from this misstep the love story is compelling for the way the relationship endures, especially against the odds. Tissues are recommended, as this powerful movie will have a lasting impact on any beating heart. Never let go.