A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.
"Barbara" has an austerity of style reminiscent of life in East Germany - nothing is explained or expounded upon, and the viewer is required to work out the situation for themselves as clues are gradually disclosed. Relationships are taut due to the difficulty in determining between informant and friend. Still, it's compelling to watch as intrigue builds. What looks on the surface to be a simple character study develops into an intriguing story about personal values and freedom of choice. Subtle yet barbed.
Great ExpectationsAnne Murphy
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
"Great Expectations" could be the original coming-of-age tale, and with its themes of social class, justice, love and obsession, it is apparent the original work was written by a social critic. It's probable that those who have not read the source material will enjoy the movie the most, although reading it could be marginally quicker than the film running time. Still, it is well worth taking the time to watch this sumptuous and well acted nineteenth century London drama with its gothic overtones. Expectations exceeded.
Side EffectsAnne Murphy
A woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.
Much like its characters, "Side Effects" is never in touch with reality, not that realism, per se, is necessary for a good movie. The misrepresentation of mental health problems and treatment is a little unforgivable though; an already marginalised population may be further stigmatised, and that's not entertainment. There are lots of twists and turns that build intrigue but somehow the story manages to become more preposterous with each plot revelation, and the suspension of disbelief is necessary for viewing enjoyment. Pharma meets psychodrama.
The ImposterAnne Murphy
In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappeared without a trace from San Antonio, Texas, three and a half years later he is found alive, in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture.
Truth is often stranger than fiction as this jaw-dropping documentary proves. The story would be disconcerting as fiction, and it is cruel and heart-wrenching as the truth. There are as many twists and turns as in a suspense-thriller, and while watching the audience will have to remind themselves that no-one could possibly make up this improbable plot. The spoiler is in the title.
The PaperboyAnne Murphy
A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.
"The Paperboy" is a big, bold, and brash movie, with feint glimpses of beautiful. It's rare to see a US production laden with ironic social content, but there's barely an 'ism' untouched. This film goes all out, led by a cast who dare to go all the way, so don't say you weren't warned. It's the sixties and we're down South. During an unbearably steamy summer filled with the dark foreboding that lurks in the bayous, only one character grows up. Paperboy or iron man?
Anna KareninaAnne Murphy
Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
The sets and staging in this rendition of "Anna Karenina" are impressive, and a glow of opulence illuminates the screen. A theatre stage is used as a creative device that achieves both a contemporary feel and an historic authenticity to the mood of the production, while the dance scenes alone will ignite passions. The grand and daring love affair soars at the centre of the saga, and thankfully questions on morality and society from the original text are preserved. To die for...
A provocative exploration of female sexuality, as a well-off Parisian journalist investigates the lives of two student prostitutes for a magazine article.
This is a film that doesn't impose moralistic judgements about the sexual proclivities of the characters, but leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. Unfortunately, not being more definitive about where 'right and wrong' lines should be drawn is something the movie will probably be judged for. The protagonists' approach is one of openness and accepting of the 'other' in herself, rather than determining to somehow be above her interview subjects. Bold feminist film-making.
West of MemphisAnne Murphy
In 1993 three boys were murdered in West Memphis and three teenagers were convicted of the crime in an extraordinary failure of justice.
Holy snapping turtles, the story of attaining freedom for the men known as the 'West Memphis Three' makes a compelling documentary. The cause was picked up by so many people that this is regarded as the first case of crowd-sourced justice. The crime and the trial that followed are meticulously reviewed on the screen, stirring our values around fairness and integrity to a state of disbelief and outrage. Arkansas law enforcement stands accused of going west.
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Knowing the events on the screen are based on real crimes provides a chill of disbelief for audiences as the scenario unfolds over a day. "Compliance" is a psychological deliberation on rank or authority and power, but mostly is a study of oppression. It is impossible to watch without thinking what you would have done in the same situation, and as much as it is tempting to dismiss people's actions as "only in America", sadly the same could happen anywhere. Deeply disturbing.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark StrangerAnne Murphy
Follows a pair of married couples, Alfie and Helena and their daughter Sally and husband Roy, as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.
The grass is always greener it seems, as the characters follow their hearts looking for love, or forget their senses and succumb to lust. "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is fun but it is also a little frantic with the pace of the action matching the upbeat jazz soundtrack. There's a lot going on in this social comedy, leaving the story a little crowded. Everybody meets somebody.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
Chris wants to show girlfriend Tina his world, but events soon conspire against the couple and their dream caravan holiday takes a very wrong turn.
"Sightseers" operates on two levels. Skimming along the surface is an everyday romance between two late bloomers and beneath that, with a strong undertow, is a darkly disturbing satire studded with serial crimes. The script is clever, and the characters are sharply observed. Original and almost bordering on bizarre but for the biting social comment woven through the macabre story - this is a hilarious movie. A sight well worth seeing.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
The romantic travails of a Parisian pharmacist who receives philosophical advice from a Woody Allen poster.
Everything we love about French film is in "Paris Manhattan" - the stylish characters, their dry wit, and an oddly endearing, eccentric approach to life. It's fortunate that the movie exudes warmth and convivial family relationships, and hard to take exception to this movie even though it is frivolously light on for narrative. The movie is a little disjointed in parts but it frolics along, and if nothing else is a charming homage to romance, not to mention the icon at its core. Paris, Je t'aime.
Love Is All You NeedAnne Murphy
A hairdresser who has lost her hair to cancer finds out her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter's wedding and meets a widower who still blames the world for the loss of his wife.
There is a cocktail of family relationships all being stirred in a lemon grove on the Italian coast. "Love is All You Need" is a subversive and gently amusing comedy about romance the next time around. The scenery is spectacular, the characters credible and likeable, but somehow the story doesn't quite achieve its potential. Maybe a little more is needed.
All the Way Through EveningAnne Murphy
The story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. As you've never heard it before. A musical documentary.
"All the Way Through Evening" documents the rehearsals and preparation of the 20th World AIDS Day concert program to be hosted by an East Village pianist. Her task is a tribute to composers and singers lost from a classical arts community that was ravaged by HIV/AIDS. The concert is both a labour of love and a commemoration of friendships that endure beyond the confines of mortality. The pieces performed are relatively unknown but will fill an evening for aficionados.
Chronicle of My MotherAnne Murphy
A writer harbours a lifetime of bitter resentment towards his mother for abandoning him after the war.
Based on an autobiographical fiction novel "Chronicles of My Mother", this is a family saga that spans 15 years. The story is rendered in subdued tones, as fits the nature of the central character and his family. An affecting thread that spans the story is the decline of the matriarch into dementia; and the responses to her state are emotional but restrained, rather than emotive or expressive. Death and loss are prominent themes that weigh the pace as life slowly ticks on.
The Wings of the KirinAnne Murphy
Detective Kaga Kyoichiro investigates when a man's body is found under the statue of the Kirin on Nihonbashi bridge under strange circumstances.
This is a classic murder mystery that gets more mysterious as the story progresses. The script is taken from a series of Japanese detective novels, and for the most part it's a well structured story, but when translating from book to screen the retention of the many sub-plots appear to weigh the movie down with complexity. At the same time it is the nuances of the story that hold interest despite the measured pace and lack of action scenes. A kirin has wings but doesn't fly.
Step Up to the PlateAnne Murphy
French chef Michel Bras is handing over his restaurant to his son, Sebastien, who has been working with him for 15 years.
Great reverence is shown for the aesthetics of food and the creation of a special meal in this quiet observational movie. The director has filmed with both artistry and simplicity, the story of one dish in a style that compliments the ritualistic approach of the chef and his son. "Step up to the Plate" shows slow-food at its slowest, and 'foodies' will know they're watching something very special being served up. Sit up at the table for a culinary treat.
Celeste & Jesse ForeverAnne Murphy
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Here is a likeable couple who prove that breaking up is hard to do. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is really the opposite of a 'rom-com', so much so it could be labelled as an 'unrom-com' except that it is oddly romantic despite the efforts to part. The script is witty, it skips along with clever banter and we're delivered an honest snapshot of a good, but not quite good enough, relationship. This movie has both endearing moments and painful realisations but on balance there are more laughs then tears. BFF's.
The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnne Murphy
An introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Loners know that adolescence is a time of alienation. While nobody wants to be like everybody else, shyness is a disability, and we tend to have a biting need for friendship and belonging. The director demonstrates remarkable sensitivity in showing the agony of awkward social situations and largely avoiding cliché. The central characters are entrancing as they navigate their lives with quirky individualism, and they're interesting and real. Tissues are recommended for this piercing movie that is as troubling as it is vivacious. It gets better, wallflowers.
The SessionsAnne Murphy
A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.
"The Sessions" is a surprisingly warm and funny film. The story is based in reality and the movie follows one thread of the incredible life of an accomplished and disabled man. Each session is a business transaction, yet even so the sex scenes are intimate, awkward, and explicit as well as tender. There is something remarkable about the man, his condition and the way he tackles life, love and relationships that makes compelling viewing. Strictly business?
Seven PsychopathsAnne Murphy
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu.
You might imagine a movie about seven psychopaths may feature too many deranged killers but in this film the number is just right. With a Hollywood backdrop, quirky script, aggressive all-star cast and numerous acts of murderous violence, the on-screen experience is both viciously funny and hilariously cruel. Some of the jibes delivered by the callous hit men are thoughtlessly unfunny, but are then diluted by the witty development and delivery of the rest of the story. Count them.
End of WatchAnne Murphy
Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
If you hear that "End of Watch" is a cop-buddy movie don't be misled; this riveting and intense drama is much more than that. It's a film that is so good it transcends the simple genre classification, so edgy that it redefines police-buddy movies. Although the pace is fast space is made for a rarely witnessed humanness in uniform, with a friendship that goes beyond mere allegiance. Keep watching.