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.
Young law student Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in love with Lotte, but Albert Kestner also laid an eye on her.
A key figure in German literature might be considered fusty as the subject of a romantic comedy. Think again, as the author, poet and philosopher is dusted off and enthused with a jaunty vigour. "Goethe!" is a heady and light-hearted costume drama. The rebellious, romantically driven figure may attract new readers, even if the historical integrity of the movie is questionable. The portrayal of the period is superb, and the exploration of the subject's early years is captivating, if shallow.
My Afternoons with MargueritteAnne Murphy
An illiterate and lonely man bonds with an older and well-read woman.
A charming little film set in a French village populated by quirky characters. Affectionate and gentle, "My Afternoons with Margueritte" only just avoids saccharine levels of sweetness with some moments of genuine humanity. This is a heart-warming story of love and unlikely relationships that doesn't delve too deeply into the make-up of the various odd couples. The central roles are well acted, creating endearing, if not entirely believable, people. Best summed up as being a whimsical pleasure, and a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.
The Day I Was Not BornAnne Murphy
During a stopover in Buenos Aires, Maria recognises a nursery rhyme being sung in Spanish.
The storyline of "The Day I Was Not Born" is original and disquieting. Hefty political themes are narrated through a personal lens of family and identity, and the Buenos Aries setting is perfect in capturing a city with an atmospheric sense of the recent past - it looks both foreign and familiar, balancing the disoriented characters. Sensitively told with an assured minimalism, the movie is understated and the acting is restrained, creating compelling viewing. A tale of dislocation that carries both wounds and warmth.
Julia's DisappearanceAnne Murphy
A comedy about aging, youth and other eternal truths.
"Julia's Disappearance" is a sophisticated and diverting exploration about growing older. The central characters are old enough to dread those once-a-decade 'milestone' Birthdays, events that are funny to everyone but the guest of honour. The cast are congenial and witty, so it is a pleasure to be in their company, or at least experience their on screen banter. The plot is threaded with charming short stories, all themed around aging, and thankfully told with enough heart and humour to prevent the topic becoming tiresome. It's well crafted and sophisticated, but where is Julia?
The SilenceAnne Murphy
The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.
A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.
Single by ContractAnne Murphy
A teenage girl falls for the lead singer in a popular rock band without knowing he is famous.
A classic storyline, retold for adolescents, is romantic and pleasing, if schmaltzy. By sticking to a tried and true formula, "Single by Contract" is predictable, but the story is still amusing to watch. The strong affable leads create interest and play out their romance with wit and style. This version of the tale about the celebrity and the simple girl gives something really joyful to an implausible plot... we can even forgive them for being surrounded by a cast of clichéd characters. Apparently contracts are made to be broken.
Nanga ParbatAnne Murphy
Drama about the tragic Nanga Parbat expedition by the two Messner brothers in 1970, on which Reinhold Messner's younger brother Günther died.
Nanga Parbat is a magnificent peak in the Himalaya's; this movie carrying the mountain's name was mostly shot on site, and is similarly magnificent. This is a film to be enjoyed by adventurers, not only for the stunning scenery, but also for the human story of endeavour and conquest. The spirit of the expedition and the climbers as they challenge nature are captured, as are the petty disputes among the team. Always one more mountain to climb...
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.
Barney's VersionAnne Murphy
Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer.
"Barney's Version" is a character study covering 30 years of one man's life. Depth is compromised by span when a life - even a fictional one - is featured in a movie-length couple of hours. This is a rambling, uneven and shallow movie held together by strong acting. The comedic story takes an unexpected and solemn turn towards the end, but by then there's not a lot of emotion vested in the outcome for the amiable but self-centred characters. An interesting soap opera version.
This is a story of a man in free fall, on the road to redemption, darkness lights his way.
An existence where life holds more in memory than it promises in the future is grim, and that's at the essence of "Biutiful". The visual texture of the production is extraordinary, as is the city background as a soundtrack... a gritty combination. The audience is privy to an unflinching view of life where the politics of exploitation and survival play at the edge of society. This film won't be for everybody, but the viewing, while harrowing and demanding, is compelling and ultimately rewarding.
The Butcher, the Chef, and the SwordsmanAnne Murphy
A tale of revenge, honour and greed follows a group of misfits that gets involved with a kitchen cleaver made from the top five swords of the martial arts world.
Ignorance, vengeance, and greed are the vices woven into stories that are furiously threaded together to create this movie. The pace is reckless and the characters are curious, if not downright bizarre, in a comic book sort of way. Not that the production suffers for any of it - it's vibrant, irreverent, energetic and very funny - just hang on for the ride. A slapstick bombardment of this, that, and the other.
I Love You Phillip MorrisAnne Murphy
Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, a member of the local police force, when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life.
"I Love You Phillip Morris" contains some squirmingly uncomfortable stereotyping of various characters, and a flawed portrayal of gay men played for laughs by straight men. It's as unfunny as it is shallow, particularly disappointing is that the central romance is underdeveloped. The story, with its furious pace, covers a lot of events, mostly prison escapes, and unfortunately that's at the expense of real insight or depth. You might love Phillip Morris but probably not Steven Russell.
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.