Julia's DisappearanceAnne Murphy
A comedy about aging, youth and other eternal truths.
"Julia's Disappearance" is a sophisticated and diverting exploration about growing older. The central characters are old enough to dread those once-a-decade 'milestone' Birthdays, events that are funny to everyone but the guest of honour. The cast are congenial and witty, so it is a pleasure to be in their company, or at least experience their on screen banter. The plot is threaded with charming short stories, all themed around aging, and thankfully told with enough heart and humour to prevent the topic becoming tiresome. It's well crafted and sophisticated, but where is Julia?
The SilenceAnne Murphy
The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.
A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.
Single by ContractAnne Murphy
A teenage girl falls for the lead singer in a popular rock band without knowing he is famous.
A classic storyline, retold for adolescents, is romantic and pleasing, if schmaltzy. By sticking to a tried and true formula, "Single by Contract" is predictable, but the story is still amusing to watch. The strong affable leads create interest and play out their romance with wit and style. This version of the tale about the celebrity and the simple girl gives something really joyful to an implausible plot... we can even forgive them for being surrounded by a cast of clichéd characters. Apparently contracts are made to be broken.
Nanga ParbatAnne Murphy
Drama about the tragic Nanga Parbat expedition by the two Messner brothers in 1970, on which Reinhold Messner's younger brother Günther died.
Nanga Parbat is a magnificent peak in the Himalaya's; this movie carrying the mountain's name was mostly shot on site, and is similarly magnificent. This is a film to be enjoyed by adventurers, not only for the stunning scenery, but also for the human story of endeavour and conquest. The spirit of the expedition and the climbers as they challenge nature are captured, as are the petty disputes among the team. Always one more mountain to climb...
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.
Barney's VersionAnne Murphy
Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer.
"Barney's Version" is a character study covering 30 years of one man's life. Depth is compromised by span when a life - even a fictional one - is featured in a movie-length couple of hours. This is a rambling, uneven and shallow movie held together by strong acting. The comedic story takes an unexpected and solemn turn towards the end, but by then there's not a lot of emotion vested in the outcome for the amiable but self-centred characters. An interesting soap opera version.
This is a story of a man in free fall, on the road to redemption, darkness lights his way.
An existence where life holds more in memory than it promises in the future is grim, and that's at the essence of "Biutiful". The visual texture of the production is extraordinary, as is the city background as a soundtrack... a gritty combination. The audience is privy to an unflinching view of life where the politics of exploitation and survival play at the edge of society. This film won't be for everybody, but the viewing, while harrowing and demanding, is compelling and ultimately rewarding.
The Butcher, the Chef, and the SwordsmanAnne Murphy
A tale of revenge, honour and greed follows a group of misfits that gets involved with a kitchen cleaver made from the top five swords of the martial arts world.
Ignorance, vengeance, and greed are the vices woven into stories that are furiously threaded together to create this movie. The pace is reckless and the characters are curious, if not downright bizarre, in a comic book sort of way. Not that the production suffers for any of it - it's vibrant, irreverent, energetic and very funny - just hang on for the ride. A slapstick bombardment of this, that, and the other.
I Love You Phillip MorrisAnne Murphy
Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, a member of the local police force, when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life.
"I Love You Phillip Morris" contains some squirmingly uncomfortable stereotyping of various characters, and a flawed portrayal of gay men played for laughs by straight men. It's as unfunny as it is shallow, particularly disappointing is that the central romance is underdeveloped. The story, with its furious pace, covers a lot of events, mostly prison escapes, and unfortunately that's at the expense of real insight or depth. You might love Phillip Morris but probably not Steven Russell.
An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside; a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions.
"Undertow" is a touching study of love and devotion amid a devout community. Life is good in the lethargic fishing village where the pace is languid and everything moves slowly, except the gossip. Even so, there are no villains in this tender tale. The congenial characters are so authentic it's almost impossible not to like them, even with the betrayal implicit in the central love triangle. Very moving, with a haunting undertow.
A junior high school musical, about a frizzy-haired, hermaphrodite, an outcast who fights back.
The main character is called Spork, after an implement that's part spoon and part fork. The name provides a hint about the style of movie this is, where life is played out in an exaggerated comic book style. "Spork" is fun, a singing and dancing movie populated with a likable collection of quirky friends surrounding the central misfit. The movie's theme is one of self-acceptance over fitting in with any group, all realised through a satisfying, if nasty, battle between the outcasts and the mainstream. Put a spork in it.
The story of two close friends who are unintentionally drawn into a love-triangle.
Love lives in the hearts and minds of stylish twenty-something's, as friends vie for the attention of the same Adonis. "Heartbeats" is a sophisticated examination of desire brought to the screen by an assured director. The almost excruciating clumsiness of inexperienced lovers and the intimacy of their relationships is depicted without a physical consummation of the same. Obsession overtakes sanity, friendship is sacrificed for love, and the audience can relate to the qualms and dreams of the protagonists. L'amour, l'amour…
Griff the InvisibleAnne Murphy
Griff, office worker by day, superhero by night, has his world turned upside down when he meets Melody, a beautiful young scientist who shares his passion for the impossible.
This fabulous movie is set against an atmospheric Sydney backdrop. It's not quite Gotham City, but then "Griff the Invisible" is quintessential Australian film-making, both in accent and flair. Featuring a loner who creates his own world, the film is comic without hilarity, and presents with a refreshingly grounded style as a result. Griff is not like everybody else, he wouldn't want to be, he's as much anti-hero as super-hero. I see you.
Violet TendenciesAnne Murphy
A woman tries to distance herself from her gay friends in an effort to land a straight boyfriend.
"Violet Tendencies" is vibrant rom-com. It cracks a rollicking pace and has a buoyant mood to a point of almost being over-loaded with comic social observations. If there are more quips than conversation, it doesn't mean that the flamboyant characters don't take themselves seriously. The various couples and singles are trying to grow up and there's an earnest 'what next?' question being asked. A funny, smutty and entertaining offering that asks little of its audience. Paint me purple.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne ListerAnne Murphy
In nineteenth century Yorkshire wealthy orphan Anne Lister lives with an aunt and uncle, anxious for her to marry well and blissfully, unaware that she is a lesbian.
An historic drama based on the real and extensive diaries of the protagonist. This film is rich with country mansions, beautiful costumes and staid English sensibilities. The highlight is a female lead that is steadfast in her beliefs, refusing to be totally repressed by the expectations of society, and determined to live by her own values. No doubt the secret diaries could reveal much more about this resolute woman who wanted a wife.
The Last Summer of La BoyitaAnne Murphy
Feeling estranged from her older sister, Jorgelina and her father go in their Boyita camper-van, to the countryside where playmate Mario is undergoing some changes of his own.
This coming of age story is set during a long hot summer on the Argentinean Pampas. It's a summer of discovery, particularly of the unknown and unimagined world of inter-sexuality and gender identity. The children's roles are well acted, striking a perfect balance between innocence and precociousness. The sensitive themes are tenderly handled - the film's narration is more through visual imagery than dialogue - and it never becomes clumsy. Can't wait for Autumn.
It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, is put on trial.
Real transcripts of an interview with the poet, his epic poem, and his publishers obscenity trial are all threaded together and linked with clever CGI to create "Howl". Censorship and freedom of speech are perennially rich themes but aren't allowed to become pretentious as the work is dissected by lawyers and academics. This is an intellectual and engrossing look at the voice of a discontent generation, and the movie perfectly captures the mood of the time with howls of rage, passion and despair. Uninhibited baying with delight.
The Clink of IceAnne Murphy
An alcoholic writer is visited by an incarnation of his cancer.
"The Clink of Ice" is as original as it is deeply and darkly humorous. Imagine bantering with your life threatening illness and laughing. The premise of personifying a malignant disease in a suit sets up an intriguing film. Not that there is anything funny about cancer or facing death. Typically we deride perverse situations as being as 'funny as cancer' but the director and cast prove dexterous enough to turn that assertion around. As bleak as the themes of the movie are, the clinking of ice muffles the death knell.
Happy FewAnne Murphy
Two couples fall in love, lose sight of each other in the confusion and end up pulling through.
"Happy Few" covers many relationships between two couples, each person with every other, and then with their children. All of the inter-relationships are handled respectfully, and the characters are strong and credible. It's a shame the emotional development is secondary to the depictions of the physical encounters, and surprisingly, this translates to the movie revealing less intimacy than one might have expected. Still, there's much happiness to be found in this French romp. Many will be happily seduced.
All That GlittersAnne Murphy
Two young women who have been friends since childhood are daring in their attempts to gain access to a social class beyond their reach.
A surprisingly unpretentious comedy that will speak to the aspirations and angst of many adolescents enthralled by the world of glamour and fashion. The film is anchored by the friendship of two central characters, who enthuse the story with their daring and their dreams. There are social messages on many levels, as the girls also manage to dismay with their denial of their backgrounds and family. "All That Glitters" is stylish, energetic, mischievous... and glittering.
Bus PalladiumAnne Murphy
It's the 80's and the boys have formed a band, now all they need is the big time.
Five childhood friends form a rock band as young men, put them on a tour bus, and we're watching the movie equivalent of rock 'n' roll heaven. The stereotypical band members are troubled by nothing more than the usual sex and drugs and making music together, their travails accompanied by an authentic soundtrack that recreates the feel of the era. The boys are as likable as "Bus Palladium" is enjoyable. Get a ticket and get on the bus.
Mr. and Mrs. IncredibleAnne Murphy
In ancient China, a husband and wife, both of them retired superheroes, contend with the high cost of living, infertility, and other contemporary life issues.
A movie that doesn't take itself too seriously is always good viewing, and "Mr and Mrs Incredible" is just such a film. The feel-good story around a happy marital life of the charismatic lead characters is spiced up with a little martial arts action, all delivered in a mythical Chinese style. Fantasy and reality are cheerfully interwoven in a remote village filled with vivid and colourful characters. Bright and enjoyable, rather than incredible.
King Lear (National Live Theatre)Anne Murphy
An aging King invites disaster when he abdicates to his corrupt daughters and rejects his honest one.
The UK National Theatre brings a quality stage production to the cinema screen. The extraordinary passion that underscores this much loved story is evident in the performances of the experienced cast. It's those performances, not to mention the playwright's words, which hold attention. It's an extraordinary play, although the minimalist backdrops provide a simpler visual experience than cinema goers are likely expect. The experience of watching a play on the big screen is unusual and Lear, "...still every inch a King".
Gnomeo & JulietAnne Murphy
Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.