The Spectacular NowAnne Murphy
A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."
Some matches are made in heaven, and the romantic match central to "Spectacular Now" is made on a front lawn. That should tell you that this is a quirky but down to earth tale. The focus is on the now rather than the future, but the past looms large for the characters. Spectacular suggests grand, but it's the simplicity of the everyday that is most engaging. Then there is self-discovery, ubiquitous and inevitable in coming-of-age movies, and breathtaking here. Simply stupendous.
Obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, a woman travels to a Jane Austen theme park in search for her perfect gentleman.
This is one of those times when the story ought to have remained a literary piece and not have been brought to the screen. The actors ham up romance scenes in a corny but corseted way. "Austenland" is daffy, cute and insubstantial; there is no trace of the wit and wisdom of the author on whose classic works this fantasy piece teeters. Not the end of the world, but it is a relief to reach this land's end.
Enough SaidAnne Murphy
A divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she's interested in learns he's her new friend's ex-husband.
Reading the synopsis you might assume the relationship central to "Enough Said" is fraught, which would misrepresent this intelligent and nuanced comedy. Maybe any romantic pairing is complicated, even the flirtatious liaison that this couple starts out with. While there are complexities inherent in the story line, the movie is deceptively simple, and the realism disarming, almost achingly so. How do you love someone just as they are and not for how you want them to be? Say it again...
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life.
One can imagine there is more to tell about the story of the young woman who 'starred' in a porno film that became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970's, and despite its name was not about a giraffe. The tale is sordid, ultimately it is about degradation and abuse, and it evokes empathy for the main character. The disco soundtrack is excellent and the support actors are credible as thugs in body shirts. Hard core.
I'm So Excited!Anne Murphy
When it appears as though the end is in sight, the pilots, flight crew, and passengers of a plane heading to Mexico City look to forget the anguish.
The raunchy over the top camp moments deliver the most entertaining segments, but there's not much more to "I'm So Excited". The movie under delivers to an extent that makes the title seem paradoxical. The antics in the first class cabin left this viewer enthused. The flamboyance is fun but overall the production fails to soar. I'm so excited, not.
Stories We TellAnne Murphy
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
Having "The Stories We Tell" labeled as a documentary understates the dramatic wonder threaded into this movie. When following her family fault lines, the director allows for interweaving of fact and fiction in a way that is transparent for the viewer, and it serves to intrigue. The story and the various family members who narrate it are compelling in a human and likeable way. The honesty of each in remembering their version is reassuringly recognisable and imperfect. Tall tales but true.
Blue JasmineAnne Murphy
A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister.
This is a global financial crisis aftermath movie, where we are drawn to watching those who had it all, and their lives after the loss of that excess. How do you keep it together when your life comes apart? "Blue Jasmine" exposes a taut human fragility through its characters, family, lovers and strangers. Our simplicity is in full view along with our complexity and a confounding ability to see ourselves as we imagine we are. Sharp, dark and smart, in hues of blue.
An unprecedented look inside the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye.
It's interesting to hear a writer's story told by others but you can't help recognising the irony of this set-up. The author who crafted one of literature's most enduring characters, giving voice to generations of disaffected youth, has little part in the telling of his story. "Salinger" is interesting and well edited but disappointingly shallow as a biography. It's not as engrossing as anticipated, and there must be more to story of the infamous recluse. He remains as enigmatic as ever.
What Maisie KnewAnne Murphy
In New York City, a young girl is caught in the middle of her parents' bitter custody battle.
The protagonist is a six year old and we see only what she witnesses and we hear only what she does. Both her resilience and her fragility are apparent. "What Masie knew" is loaded with emotion and doesn't sink into sentimentality; the tone is delightfully precocious in this uncommonly well-crafted movie. The narcissism of some of the adults comes off as brat-like, their poor behaviours glaringly transparent in contrast to the more opaque and thoughtful attitude of the child. Wise Masie.
The TurningAnne Murphy
A collection of 17 short films, each episode drawn from a different chapter of the book.
Each of the individual pieces to this film is a minor masterpiece, poignant in its own way, familiar stories of longing and regret in an unmistakably Australian setting. Presented as one three hour movie, "The Turning" asks much of its audience. The trouble is that the central linking thread is not always apparent, as each piece has its own writer, director and cast. It's not straightforward to spot the same characters in different stories; they’re more connected in the book than they appear on the screen. Quite a turn of events.
We're the MillersAnne Murphy
A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico.
"We're the Millers" will divide audiences. Some will find it hilarious and entertaining, while others will squirm and remain straight faced. Try this test; do you usually like movies that are advertised in bus shelters? Answer "yes siree", then next stop is the cinema. Answer "meh, I don’t think so", then stay on board. This film doesn't ask much of viewers, yet doesn't deliver much either. Ironically it's about a big deal... but is no big deal.
Valentine RoadAnne Murphy
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during class.
Hours after watching "Valentine Road" tears may very well still well up; this outstanding documentary is deeply affecting. The crime is horrifying, a fourteen year old boy murdered by his classmate. The director reveals layers of complexity as the surrounding influences are explored. Society needs to change, not just one little boy who draws swastikas, after all, no-one is born homophobic. Our hearts aren't yet big enough to allow others to be themselves, and it's heartbreaking.
Now You See MeAnne Murphy
An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.
"Now You See Me" is a dazzlingly stylish but silly movie. This sort of cat and mouse thriller is generally not known for its plausible plot and, holey-moley, this one stretches credulity to breaking point. Thank goodness for the likeable cast who seem to revel in the hocus-pocus. The production lacks some magic, partly because every trick that's conjured is also revealed - a bit of a letdown. Leaves nothing up its sleeve.
100 Bloody AcresAnne Murphy
Brothers Reg and Lindsay are struggling to keep their organic blood and bone fertilizer business in motion.
"100 Bloody Acres" is a splatter-comedy and more Australian than anything seen in donkey's years. From the bush setting to the larrikins and drongos who inhabit the screen, the film's ethnicity is unmistakably true-blue. It's even set on an Australia Day long weekend. The plot is imaginative and original, and the director delivers plenty of scares. Thanks to the cast, who each play their parts perfectly, the way events unfold is funny as well as bloody; bloody funny.