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.
Irrational ManAnne Murphy
A philosophy professor is enduring a deep and hopeless melancholy which lifts after he engineers a murder.
The existential themes from the writer/director are familiar, as is the struggle between right and wrong, which the film's protagonist faces. The material might look a little tired, but the lead actors invigorate the story and bring it to life with strong performances, despite seeing them all losing their moral bearings. "An Irrational Man" holds attention as it plays out thanks in part to the dialogue, which is engaging banter with an intellectual edge. Irrational but sound.
The Diary of a Teenage GirlAnne Murphy
It's the 1970s and the city is San Francisco, and teenage Minnie starts an affair with the handsomest man in the world, her mother's boyfriend
The situation is morally alarming, and the characters are authentic, so it is a relief the story is delivered without preaching or judging. We get to watch an engrossing depiction of discovering one's womanhood. It is a delight to see a story related by a young woman protagonist, especially a tale so daring and honest. We share her joy of embracing all parts of herself, including her angst and self-doubts. Remember your own teenage years?
A disenfranchised teenager who lives in a housing estate in Paris befriends three young women.
The director has employed realism in following one woman's day-to-day life. The central character is marginalised by virtue of her gender, colour, age and impoverished existence. Joining a gang provides belonging. While the filmmaking approach is bold, it's also uncomfortably raw, relying on incidental dialogue and minimal narrative structure. The cost to the audience is coherency. There are a couple of standout scenes but insufficient to save the viewing time from seeming interminable. Girl without a cause.
Tehran TaxiAnne Murphy
An Iranian director banned from film-making drives passengers through the streets of Tehran in a taxi with the camera rolling.
An intriguing cast of passengers ride in the taxi, each with their own colourful contribution to this social commentary on life and politics in Iran. The road trip through the city is captivating, and its laid back style is able to present more insight about living in Tehran than any news broadcast. The subtle serendipitous style of the movie allows us to grasp some of the oppressive realities, and to experience a little humour as life goes on. Call me a cab.
Rules of the GameAnne Murphy
An employment agency in the North of France mentors young people through their job search efforts.
We follow three marginalised young people in their efforts to prepare for job interviews. It's easy to snicker at the disenfranchised youth for now knowing how to pitch their experience and skills to prospective employers. The filmmaker's fly-on-the-wall approach is even handed in that it appears non-judgemental. On the surface the struggles and responses of the kids look a bit funny, and it might have been easy to mock them, but the underlying societal issues are no laughing matter.
1001 GramsAnne Murphy
A scientist works with weights, carefully calibrated and stored, much like her own emotions.
"1001 Grams" has a simple minimalist style, and its glimpse into the world of people who dedicate their careers to validating weights is quite interesting. The director's artistry is most evident visually, with the camera capturing the landscape with geometric precision and to stunning effect. Some audiences might find it difficult to warm to this movie though as the characters persist as annoyingly impenetrable. Interpersonal interactions are so measured that the overall tone is melancholic even in the lighter scenes. Underweight.
A gym owner and a personal trainer get tangled up with a wealthy eccentric client, all three have cause to think about the relationship between love and money.
"Results" speaks to our aspirational future selves; don't we all want to become better versions of who we are? A brilliant cast get a great workout on the screen, and convincingly take us along even as the action goes over the top. The characters are recognisable and complete with questionable motives and all. This slow building story is not to be missed, it has muscle. Results delivered.
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlAnne Murphy
Greg, a high school kid, and his film making side-kick Earl are pressured by Greg's mum into befriending a girl at school who has been diagnosed with leukaemia.
This isn't the first time a romance has centered on a girl with a terminal illness, but "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a rare movie, which confronts the situation head on with refreshing honesty, and lets the characters live without being overshadowed by their doomed relationship. The title gives it away, the story has a sense of humour and a sharp wit, balancing the inevitable heartrending scenes. Lively, until the end.
Malcolm is a high school geek, a virgin who loves hip hop and wants to go to Harvard, all goes awry when he and his friends have a wild encounter with the shady LA drug culture.
"Dope" is a smart coming-of-age story, packed with adventure. The movie opens energetically, rolling with the hero and his best friends. There are laughs to be had as the trio find themselves in more and more trouble. The second half loses pace and dawdles, before finishing with a heavy-handed lecture about race based assumptions. All in all, more awesome than dopey.
A documentary about fashion icon Iris Apfel from legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.
The subject of "Iris" is the elderly and the eccentric... with a distinctive sense of style. Much is made of her age and that of her even more elderly husband, being over 80 years old somehow makes them curiosities. She is a voracious shopper who enjoys a lavish lifestyle, and one of the truly curious things about this woman is her ability to do little apart from shop for clothes and jewellery. Despite its frivolous nature this is a must see for fashionistas of all ages. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Force of DestinyAnne Murphy
A journey of love on a transplant waiting list.
Inspired by the life experiences of the writer/director "Force of Destiny" poignantly shows the shock of receiving a dire medical diagnosis. Thankfully the movie resists overplaying the tragic aspects of facing death, capturing more a sense of the ordinary, which makes the viewing so interesting. The everyday goes on albeit with a heightened sense of grief. Emotions are held down by the characters, as they try to cope with an unthinkable future. While the tone is restrained and sombre, the impact is forceful.