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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power with war.
It's a simple plot that's brought to life in this epic-scaled production. The magnificent courtyards and halls of the Shaolin temple play a starring role. Add sweeping rural landscapes of China to the on-screen splendour and the characters end up as extras. There are no crouching tigers but there are astonishing displays of aerial and on-the-ground martial arts. The well executed and bloody action scenes are furiously fought, not hampered by one side being mostly monks. Even Buddhist principles need defending.