Cedar RapidsAnne Murphy
Tim Lippe has no idea what he's in for when he's sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention.
"Cedar Rapids" is a surprising and heart-stealing comedy, thanks mostly to the nuanced portrayal of the central character, as a naive and amiable man. This hearty movie is rude and rambunctious while managing to be emotionally earnest. In line with the indie tradition the result is disarming despite the morally dubious convention setting. Movie goers will take away a genial glow even as what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids…
Over the course of a tense afternoon, a gang of five lure three younger boys into a complex street scam in order to rob them.
"Play" is based on real events that happened in Sweden. The movie is shot on location and uses untrained actors, imbibing a mockumentary tone, leaving a funny taste that it is neither fact nor fiction. The interactions between the cocky perpetrators and the intimidated targets make racial tensions uncomfortably palpable, but there's little else on offer. Interesting enough, but real-time drags like slow motion as the film goes on and on without getting anywhere. No fun.
Siblings from Japan get stranded in a small town, Littlerock, while waiting for a replacement rental car.
Viewing American culture, through the eyes of a non-English speaker is interesting but almost insufficient to maintain feature length interest. Perhaps it is the desolate location where nothing much happens, or the listless locals, but boredom stealthily encroaches. At times it feels that not enough is happening on the screen. Even so this story of strangers in a remarkably strange land is unsettling enough to hold attention, leaving a lasting imprint. It's like looking through a magnifying glass and not a kaleidoscope.
A teenage loner, who wears pyjamas to school, is befriended by the slightly oddball Vice Principal.
Perhaps the only thing more difficult than being a high-school teenager is being a teenage misfit at high school. "Terri" is an unexpectedly endearing movie, thanks to the understated but oversized performance of the protagonist and the big hearted, if crazed, turn by the Vice Principal. The honesty embedded into the portrayals of all of the characters contributes to making this disarming film an original gem. The director's eye allows for scenes as bruising as they are amusing without trading sensitivity for laughs. Go Terri.
Matchmaking MayorAnne Murphy
A generation of singles in their 30s live in a medium-sized Slovak village, and their mayor sets out to bring them together.
Marrying is not everyone's goal and there is some pressure to conform to please families and traditional life. The unmarried locals look quite uncomfortable playing along with the Mayor's plans. This is a documentary filled with glimpses of a lifestyle unfamiliar to city dwellers in our sophisticated on-line world. The audience was tickled throughout by the real life characters, but the filmmaker's style is a little gentle to sustain interest. A long build and no punch-line. Imperfect match.
How to Die in OregonAnne Murphy
In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
"How to Die in Oregon" is not an easy documentary to watch, and that is good reason to watch it. Death with dignity is a complex ethical concept to bring to the screen, and this film is an intimate exploration of life and planned death. The film maker is respectful and unobtrusive. The sensitivity is appreciated... he doesn't add his own narrative, the subjects do all the talking. No other voice is needed - their stories are incredibly moving. Choice allows us to die well.
Give Up TomorrowAnne Murphy
When a teenager from a political family in the Philippines is accused of a double murder, the country's entire judicial system is put to the test after years of alleged corruption.
This story is one of such a jaw-dropping miscarriage of justice that it instils outrage. "Give Up Tomorrow" documents 12 years of a murder case with sufficient information and detail to convince even the most hardened sceptic of a gross wrongdoing. The production quality is patchy, even grainy at times, but the story is compelling and impossible to watch without tears. Get through today and you can give up tomorrow.
Beautiful LiesAnne Murphy
An anonymous love letter leads to a slew of misunderstandings.
Frivolous, frothy, and fabulous rather than slight. In short, everything hoped for from a good French rom-com is served up in "Beautiful Lies". It is delectable. The comic storyline is complicated enough to tease out laughter around situations of mistaken identities and misguided efforts of matchmaking. There's no mistaking funny for ridiculous however; this is an intelligent and warm movie that brims with affection. The delightful cast bring depth to the characters, who relate genuinely to each other and the audience can't help but care what happens in the end. Sincerely comique.
Special TreatmentAnne Murphy
A world-weary psychoanalyst and a classy prostitute both struggle with relationship issues.
The premise for "Special Treatment" is intriguing, but unfortunately the film fails to leverage the plot for comic or dramatic interest. While parallels are sketched between the professions of the two main characters, the outlines drawn are insufficient to sustain audience curiosity, which is not encouraged to deepen into involvement. The supporting cast suffer in undeveloped roles, as clients and friends, they fail to bring enough colour to the screen to be appreciated as eccentric, and subsequently end up looking pitiful. Better treatment required to make this movie special.
Mr Popper's PenguinsAnne Murphy
The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and his professional side starts to unravel.
"Mr Poppers Penguins" is perfectly pitched to pint-sized audiences with plenty of play on poop gags. This warm comedy, served with piles of ice, is reminiscent of family movies from another era. The bad guys are sly without being too menacing and the good guys are playful, amusing without hilarity. The penguins, apart from being predictably black and white, are lovable pranksters. It's all well paced and enjoyable, if a little light. Popper's penguin predicament is peculiar and pleasant.
The Tree of LifeAnne Murphy
The story centres around a family with three boys in the 1950s.
The on-screen experience is profound while managing to be tiresomely pretentious at the same time. "Tree of Life" takes itself a little too seriously at times, boldly exploring beginnings, creation, and dinosaurs. It is also a gentle reflection on life and the relationships of children with their parents, navigated in a non-linear manner. A dream-like quality makes easy to imagine that you're watching something akin to the replay of life that we're told happens right before death... only this version doesn't 'flash' and takes its time. A tree with a captivating soul.
L'Amour fouAnne Murphy
Explores the relationship between fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his lover, Pierre Berge.
Filmed after the death of Yves Saint-Laurent "L'Amour fou" provides a candid look into the life, the breathtaking art collection amassed by the couple and its eventual auction to benefit an AIDs charity. The narrative provides as glimpses into a privileged lifestyle without exploring too deeply. Interesting are revelations of an ongoing struggle with depression and resulting addictions, perhaps one of those being the central objects d'art. Archival film footage stills and interviews are used to effect and reveal much about the troubled man of fashion. Melancholic.
Little White LiesAnne Murphy
Despite suffering a traumatic accident, a group of friends go ahead with their annual beach vacation.
"Little White Lies" is an entertaining mix of comedy and drama. The film follows the cracks that appear as little pretences are revealed, straining the relationships among a group of long-time friends. It drifts along with a vacation atmosphere and a song-after-song soundtrack. You will probably wish you were a part of the tight-knit group by the seaside. Deep connections and human foibles are explored and exposed by the extraordinary French ensemble cast. Most enjoyable, and that's no lie.
The Princess of MontpensierAnne Murphy
Set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century, the action centres on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise.
This period drama is sumptuously set and fastidiously costumed. The renaissance, as far as we can tell, is faithfully reproduced and it's magnificent to watch. "Princess of Montpensier" comes complete with dashing sword fights and big bloody battles, but most interest is invested in the dilemmas of duty over love. As the drama is played out the heroine is unable to refuse the allure of true romance, a Queen of Hearts.
Water for ElephantsAnne Murphy
A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet.
"Water for Elephants" is an atmospheric movie evoking an old-fashioned, Hollywood romantic style. Watching this circus-spectacular you might be both sorry and glad you didn't run away to join the circus. Beyond the glitter of show time under the big-top is a tough life, particularly during the Depression of the 1930's. The circus also holds an exotic allure, and the travelling show and its performers enchant as the story unfolds. The elephant steals the show, no junk in this trunk.
Get LowAnne Murphy
Equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party.
"Get Low" is a good old fashioned hokey folky story with warm understated performances from a big name cast, and a mule. It's deftly crafted and charming to watch. There's a slow build around the themes of guilt and forgiveness before the eventual plot reveal. Although tears are coaxed out during the long awaited climax, this movie will be watched for the dawdling journey rather than the ending. Hard not to like but lacking real highs and lows.
A look at the life of serial killer John Bunting.
The world looks like a more sinister place after watching "Snowtown". The story, which recounts real events, is chilling and shows life as you wish it wasn't. The setting is a colourless and unsettling suburban landscape, all the more terrifying for its ordinariness. It's sometimes hard to tell the relationships between the characters, not that it's possible to care for any of them. The dramatic build is slow and we squirm at what's coming and, unsurprisingly, the audience becomes enmeshed in scenes so sickening that they're almost unwatchable. Snowtown is no town to be.
Angèle and TonyAnne Murphy
A fragile woman returns to the seaside town of Normandy on completing a jail term and meets a fisherman through a personal ad.
The sensitivities around relationships are captured with few words in this intimate exploration of human connections. The characters are forthright and defensive, whatever warmth they may have is not to be squandered, and their innermost temperaments are reflected in the windswept coastline and grey subdued ocean. The tone is understated and the film is all the more powerful for the simplicity with which it captures restrained expressions of longing. Tony ❤ Angele and vice versa.
The Last CircusAnne Murphy
Two clowns compete for the love of a beautiful trapeze artist.
"The Last Circus" uses a circus troupe in an allegorical presentation of the horror of the Spanish Civil War. The result is macabre and violent, yet strangely compelling viewing. There's nothing subtle in the telling of the story, it goes right over the top with absurdity, and then it could be argued that the same comic chaos underpins any war. Choosing clowns as the main characters is heavy handed imagery; both the happy clown and the sad clown are grotesque, more than entertaining. This metaphor laden effort is in need of a ring-master.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. EvilAnne Murphy
Red Riding Hood is training in the group of Sister Hoods, when she and the Wolf are called to examine the mysterious sudden disappearance of Hansel and Gretel.
Red is a girl who stands up for herself and knocks her opponents out, delivering action before comedy. Still, the snappy dialogue and cracking one-liners are welcome in movies aimed at younger audiences, providing enjoyment for the grown-ups. Annoyingly, there's some not so subtle stereotyping, and you can't help noticing the baddies are all chubby and the goodies fit and trim. Wink, wink, as all in all, it's more good than evil.
The Human Resources ManagerAnne Murphy
The HR manager of Israel's largest industrial bakery sets out to save the reputation of his business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article.
The plot sounds like the set-up for a punch-line; an HR manager, a journalist, a street kid and the Commissar's husband go on a road trip, as opposed to walking into a bar. "The Human Resources Manager" is a warm and satirical journey across the landscapes of Israel and Romania that reveals man's humanity towards man, and it's as funny as any good bar joke. If only more HR managers were this delightfully quirky.
A TV mini-series, chronicling the exploits of Carlos the Jackal, edited and cut for showing as a movie.
Carlos is an interesting figure to discover more about. He comes across as an opportunistic mercenary rather than a terrorist dedicated to a cause, and what's apparent is the ego of a man who considered himself a revolutionary. Part history and part reconstruction, the use of news footage provides a documentary sense of realism. A small screen budget is evident in the uneven set quality, lighting, and the use of a hand held camera; it's all a bit bumpy. Complex politics make surprisingly tedious viewing.
Brighton RockAnne Murphy
Charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a death wish.
"Brighton Rock" is a moody and suspenseful thriller, set by a gaudy seaside carnival. A serving girl looking for love gets entangled with a criminal establishing the central tension between good and evil. The movie is dark but the chilling tone becomes hard to hold as the odd scene teeters on a melodramatic precipice... almost, but not quite, compromising its otherwise ruthless edge. An unmistakably English veneer of tea-shop gentility is cracked by hardened characters and gripping action. Callous at its core. Brighton rocks unrelentingly.
When her husband is taken hostage by his striking employees, a trophy wife takes the reins of the family business and proves to be a remarkably effective leader.
The 70's are perfectly recreated with all of the colour and fashion to bring on pangs of nostalgia. The social attitudes are missed less. "Potiche" is a light-hearted movie loaded with social comment, looking at the role of women in the workplace, and the incumbent responsibilities of fatherhood. Focused on individual choices and growth, there's no haranguing, and the delivery is affable, warm, and comic. A gold medal for the trophy wife.
A Year Ago in WinterAnne Murphy
A renowned artist must uncover a young dancer's secrets in order to truly capture her likeness for a commissioned work.
"A Year Ago in Winter" deftly explores themes of grief, guilt, and longing; as a meaning for suicide is sought by those left behind asking 'why?'. Troubling family relationships are delicately mined, and troubled souls are sensitively exposed. Various reactions, feelings and emotions, not healed by time, are faultlessly laid bare as winter approaches. However, the cold reality is that there's little sense to be made of the senseless.