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.
The Queen of VersaillesAnne Murphy
Follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles.
A riches-to-rags story unfolds as the economic downturn hits the US during the filming of this documentary. The business empire of one mogul and his trophy wife almost evapourates as the cameras roll. The director maintains a sympathetic eye making this compelling, if confronting, viewing. It must have been tempting to create more cynical expose, but the subjects are allowed some likeability. As it is "The Queen of Versailles" is a watchable, if somewhat appalling, peek into the American dream as it crumbles. Eating cake.
Children of the RiotsAnne Murphy
In December 2008, 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by police, and his death prompted thousands of young people to take to the streets in riots that lasted for three weeks.
Almost three years later dissent and riots continue in Greece amid a political environment of relentless austerity measures. A generation growing up amid ongoing unrest are looking for creative ways to live through cycles of violence and protest while seeking a better world. "Children of the Riots" follows the stories of young people drawn into conflict, and does not offer answers except to note that dreams are bullet proof.
One day in Athens, during which six people's lives are being crossed by one and another.
Three stories intersect on a hot oppressive day in a city plagued by power outages. Violence, boredom, and despair are the themes in "Tungsten", which is so virile it almost swaggers on the screen and could almost be subtitled 'testosterone'. Although a macho narrative, the masculinity is central to the movie rather than detracting from it. The film is artistically shot and the simmering anger is amplified by the use of black and white on the screen. Heavy metal.
A playwright whose marriage and career are in a free fall has an explosive run-in with his former neighbour, a right-wing ex-con.
"Collaborator" is an intelligent movie with a slow fuse, the tension builds just a little more with almost every sentence spoken. This is a surprisingly gripping movie, as for the most part, the modest production is set in a lounge room. The familiar setting is loaded with socio-political comment as two estranged neighbours reflect on their shambolic lives. There are observations about relationships, growing up and thwarted ambition, leaving audiences much to think about. Guilty by association...
The WordsAnne Murphy
A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man's work.
"The Words" is a story about a story within a story. With a great cast and the main characters playing authors it's ironic that what this film lacks is script development. Ambitious in scope, it lacks depth and ultimately contains insufficient intrigue to hold interest and it comes across as contrived. There's a melodramatic build to a final twist or surprise, and then the surprise is that there is no surprise; an anti-climax. Writers block?
Searching for Sugar ManAnne Murphy
Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest '70s rock icon who never was.
This well constructed documentary tells of a search for the artist who was largely unknown where he lived in the USA. The story of a humble man and his music is an almost mythic tale, set to an uplifting original beat. Anyone who owned a Rodriguez album in the 1970's probably wore out the vinyl grooves playing the record again and again. Almost better than the memorable lyrics is this astounding story of the man behind them. "Sugar man you're the answer…".
Scandal MakersAnne Murphy
A radio DJ/entertainer in his 30s suddenly learns he may be a grandfather, thanks to a young girl who has a baby son and claims to be his daughter.
The premise of this film is entertaining and it bounces along at a fun pace. The storyline is captivating; imagine what a vain young man with a public profile might do when he discovers he is a grandfather. "Scandal Makers" sets out to amuse and it is family entertainment, Korean style. It's easy to imagine this being subject to a Hollywood re-make. Likeable rather than scandalous.
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...