Monsieur LazharAnne Murphy
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
While presented as a simple tale, "Monsieur Lazhar" navigates complex social issues; and the phrase 'deceptively simple' is fitting. Themes of loss and grief are explored within a classroom setting by focusing on teacher and pupil relationships. The result is a tender and moving storyline given life by an excellent cast. It is a pleasure to watch serious subjects played out with a deft touch that neither preaches nor moralises. Bring an apple for this extraordinary teacher.
Damsels in DistressAnne Murphy
A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.
A term often used to describe indie films is 'off-beat', and it's a phrase that perfectly fits "Damsels in Distress". The dialogue delivered by the earnest characters is witty and sparkling, but the plot is a little sluggish by comparison. 'Odd-ball' is another description that springs to mind, and this movie is original if a little bewildering, as it doesn't lead anywhere. No distress, but try precocious, awkward, or delightful damsels.
Chinese Take-AwayAnne Murphy
In Buenos Aires, the bitter and methodic Roberto is a lonely man and the owner of a hardware store.
Don’t be misled by the title, "Chinese Take-Away" is original cinema fare. The characters are human to a fault, simple and uncomplicated. They stumble through day-to-day trying to get through some extraordinary and unexpected circumstances. That is the charm of this movie, perfectly balancing between the everyday-ordinary and the synchronistic and inexplicable. The result is quirky and beguiling, and it's simply delightful to watch the story unfold without being able to predict the direction or outcome. Recommend you eat in.
Hope SpringsAnne Murphy
A middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counselling session to repair their relationship.
The calibre of the acting brings authenticity to the predicament of a couple married so long that they're companions rather than woman and husband. Audiences will empathise with experiences of the central couple in their therapist's office. While noted as a comedy, "Hope Springs" is not played for laughs, although it is quite humourous. This is a film about the loss of romance/losing romance, then striving for what you want, and making love. Hope actually bounces right off the screen and into your heart.
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.
We know the endemic nature of the issue and we know the damaging consequences, yet still kids are expected to stand up to bullies on their own. "Bully" personalises the problem by showing how it is often brushed over, dismissed, tolerated or explained away. It's damning that we might look, rather than stare down, the torment meted out on children by their peers. The film-maker powerfully models change that's needed by reporting concern and evidence around one of the film's subjects, standing up for, and standing with, one boy. Olly olly oxen free...
Shock Head SoulAnne Murphy
In 1903 Daniel Paul Schreber published the most celebrated autobiography of madness ever written.
"Shock Head Soul" is innovative for its use of animation alongside the dramatic reconstruction of the experiences of the protagonist. Interesting documentary techniques utilise interviews and interpretations of modern-day psychiatrists that highlight the austerity of the setting through interesting image distortions. As a result, the movie is both artistic and harrowing, much like the memoir of the high court judge it is based on, an account largely written from the confines of asylum during schizophrenic episodes. Delusional or visionary?
Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
The extravagant excesses and the tech-bubble of late last century are the subject "Cosmopolis". Unfortunately this is a stilted, stagey film. Apparently the original dialogue of the book this movie was adapted from has been used, but it gives the production and its monotone soliloquies a wooden feel. Maybe the best conversations will be the discussions provoked after watching the movie while sipping a cosmopolitan.
Yoga was brought to the west from India by a lineage of male teachers, now there's a generation of women who are leading the way and they're radically changing people's lives.
"Yogawoman" extols the benefits of the practice of yoga and it is a bit like watching a 90 minute infomercial as teacher after teacher talks about the improvements she has gained. The repetitive messages are not followed through with any in depth information about the foundations or philosophy of the art. Watching may confirm the beliefs of practitioners but it may struggle to engage others. Strike out a pose.
And If We All Lived TogetherAnne Murphy
Five old friends decide to move in together as rather than living in a retirement home; joining them is an ethnology student whose thesis is on the aging population.
Confronting fears of aging with defiance and mirth is emerging as a theme of cinematic interest. That's not surprising as populations around the world are more aged than ever before. This is a story of friendship and not letting go, even as the world as it was slips away. The stellar ensemble cast enjoy turning conventional thinking around in this French romp, and the result is delightful. Come on, come on let's live together.
The WayAnne Murphy
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El Camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
'El Camino de Santiago', or 'The Way of St James', has been a Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years and this movie shows why the walk is more travelled now than ever before. The story may be fiction, but the trail itself, the magnificent scenery, and the diverse experiences of pilgrims are real. Not everyone's path, but those who do watch will experience a melancholic and moving film. This way for a life affirming journey.
The reworked truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.
Set in Victorian London, this story is a cheeky reminder of just how recent modern medicine is. While the advent of the vibrator is sufficient to stimulate interest, it's the central romance that is the most entertaining cinematic device. "Hysteria" is tastefully done and inoffensive; viewing won't cause blushing let alone paroxysms. The veracity of the historical content may be a little dubious but nonetheless this is an amusing movie. Not hysterical, but it may tickle your fancy.
As Luck Would Have ItAnne Murphy
An out-of-work publicist who suffers an accident looks to sell the exclusive interview rights to the highest bidder in an attempt to provide for his family.
A film of today that provides plenty of food for thought. Under the director's scrutiny are the media and their audiences, both hungry for sensational news. "As Luck Would Have It" is an original but grim satirical drama about a life and death story that unfolds under full media attention. How ordinary people respond to the extraordinary and ethical questions about the price of a life holds the audience's attention through to the closing frames. Unlucky for some.
Sleep TightAnne Murphy
An embittered concierge plots to make one happy-go-lucky resident completely miserable.
There won't be much sleeping tight or otherwise after watching this tense psychological thriller, it is creepy. "Sleep Tight" is difficult to watch while breathing normally. The plot is suspenseful and diabolical, a callous stalker taunts his victim and all the while she is unaware of the identity of her tormentor or his presence. The most frightening element of this well-crafted and well-acted piece is that the story is close to credible given a sufficiently deranged mind at the centre. Don't let the bed bugs bite.
The Opposite of LoveAnne Murphy
An on-again/off-again couple lays out their ideas on how their relationship should work.
"The Opposite of Love" has a funny 'he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not' plot. The trials of relationship and commitment are played out by a good looking cast in the city of Madrid. The movie is genial, witty, and starts out well, but in true rom-com style it all becomes a little a shallow and interest fades towards the end. This is due, in part, to the sub-plots. The theme of repressed homosexuality is corny, becoming less funny as more screen time is devoted to it. We say opposites attract...
An astonishing cocktail of friendship, resistance and life set among the unexpected landscape of an elderly care facility.
The simplicity of the animation style is key to the appeal of this feature. The style presented complements what is a story told in a simple but direct way from the perspective of the residents of a nursing home, and plays to our worst fears of being confined to a similar place by well intentioned family. There is something melancholic about the mature way the story is related, no-one will want to look to far into their own future after viewing "Wrinkles". Time for botox.
The King is DeadAnne Murphy
Open inspection in a leafy neighbourhood. Max and Therese decide that here is the house for them.
"The King is Dead!" provides an interesting take on a neighbours-from-hell saga that is not quite interesting enough to really delight. It is a clash of cultures when a cosy middle-class couple move next door to simpler drug dealing folk. There are a few laughs to be had as the plot dawdles and drags, but expect stereotypes drawn with a heavy hand, and disappointingly, we watch caricatures rather than characters. Still, you can't help wondering what you might do in this situation. Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…
A young man trying to heal a broken heart is taken by his cousins to the village where they spent summer vacations as kids
'Bro-mance' may not be a standard film genre but it's readily recognisable when we see the escapades of virile young man-friends who love, lose, and laugh together. "Cousinhood" has all the ingredients of its mainstream counterparts, including a thwarted wedding event and a goofy karaoke stage performance. The Spanish seaside setting provides a scenic backdrop and a cast of eccentric extras; both elements colouring and lifting this effort above standard fare. Ole!
The Bad IntentionsAnne Murphy
A young girl convinces herself that she will die on the same day that her brother will be born.
A sullen, spoilt, and maladjusted little girl is the central character of "The Bad Intentions", and few 8 year olds could be as unlike-able as this one. Therein lies a problem, as the story is hers, other characters are ancillary to the plot. It's hard to maintain interest in what befalls a child so disinterested in those around her, background political unrest and the privileged social standing of the girl's family providing the only peripheral interest. The intention is dark humour, but not so good.
An examination of the life of acclaimed 'horse whisperer' Buck Brannaman, who recovered from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert in the interactions between horses and people.
This engaging documentary centres on a horse whisperer who says that rather than helping people with horse problems, he helps horses with people problems. The modest and authentic cowboy is kind in his methods and demonstrates an incredible rapport with and respect for the horses he works with. The message delivered is how to break cycles of abuse with sensitivity, the effect is life affirming and uplifting. Home, home on the range…
Based on real cases, "Polisse" follows the daily lives of a tight-knit team of men and women working in the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police.
People working in child protection roles sometimes say they feel the task is akin to emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. That sentiment is certainly present in this gritty drama, which intertwines many concurrent story lines with realism. Be prepared to witness determination, despair, humour, and some of the most heartbreaking scenes presented on the big screen. This is complex against-the-odds emotional territory as we follow the team from day to challenging day. Help Polisse!
Declaration of WarAnne Murphy
When their young son is diagnosed with a brain tumor, young parents Roméo and Juliette unite in the fight for his survival.
Despite its heart wrenching content "A Declaration of War" is lively and energetic. The movie is based on the experience of the director and her co-writer; part autobiography, part love story and part challenging medical drama. A story of desperately holding to hope is imbibed with familial love and delivered without pathos, and the result is a very moving account of navigating adversity while giddy with grief for what might happen. War, this is what it's good for.
Sympathy for the DevilAnne Murphy
Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil uses both documentary and staged sequences, alternating between an inside look at a rock band's recording process and reflections on politics.
Watching "Sympathy for the Devil" is like opening a time capsule and being transported back to 1968. The viewing is patchy as the camera moves from a recording studio to a yard of car wrecks. The Rolling Stones reveal themselves as incredibly professional as they create their magic, a stark comparison to the intellectualising revolutionaries who become quite tedious to watch. Back in those days, even Jagger didn't move like Jagger, but he was compelling musician.
The Woman in the FifthAnne Murphy
American writer Tom Ricks comes to Paris desperate to put his life together again and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter.
The actor's performances are very good, the cinematography is considered, and dramatic tension is maintained throughout. Audiences will still wonder what happened when the plot is unfolded and will want to decipher what looks like an allegorical representation of the psyche of a writer. This movie will instigate discussions to determine how to explain the outcome. There are no tidy conclusions, and the story will linger beyond first viewing and into the fifth.
Restless CityAnne Murphy
Tells the story of an African immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle and falling in love is his greatest risk.
Senegalese immigrants who survive on the fringe of US city life are the subject of this uneven movie. Perhaps the reason for the rough on-screen presentation and crooked camera angles is to present images as the characters experience them, but it is a bumpy ride for audiences. "Restless City" can also be appreciated as bold and innovative film making, one that will divide opinion but is interesting nonetheless. Restless spirits.