An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school's Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.
How women find their way in a patriarchal world underscores the story of a girl and her mother, written and directed by a woman. "Wadjda" shows life in a society where women face challenges and day-to-day struggles. There is a sense of defiance but it's diluted by resignation, and the result is a gentleness in the tone of the movie that's borne of a feminine viewpoint. Go girl.
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
I'm So Excited!Anne Murphy
When it appears as though the end is in sight, the pilots, flight crew, and passengers of a plane heading to Mexico City look to forget the anguish.
The raunchy over the top camp moments deliver the most entertaining segments, but there's not much more to "I'm So Excited". The movie under delivers to an extent that makes the title seem paradoxical. The antics in the first class cabin left this viewer enthused. The flamboyance is fun but overall the production fails to soar. I'm so excited, not.
What Maisie KnewAnne Murphy
In New York City, a young girl is caught in the middle of her parents' bitter custody battle.
The protagonist is a six year old and we see only what she witnesses and we hear only what she does. Both her resilience and her fragility are apparent. "What Masie knew" is loaded with emotion and doesn't sink into sentimentality; the tone is delightfully precocious in this uncommonly well-crafted movie. The narcissism of some of the adults comes off as brat-like, their poor behaviours glaringly transparent in contrast to the more opaque and thoughtful attitude of the child. Wise Masie.
Frances HaAndrew O'Dea
A story that follows a New York woman who throws herself headlong into her dreams.
"Frances Ha" is an unassuming and offbeat comedy about life, loves and messy rooms. Shot entirely in inky black and white against a New York City backdrop, the film's colour radiates from the whimsy and charm of the affable Frances. Her flawed character is an aimless yet endearing underachiever, and despite the glaring criticisms her questionable life-choices might draw, her gleeful exuberance and goofball nature has an appeal which makes her disarmingly likeable. An affectionate salute to our disjointed lives; fall for Frances.
The TurningAnne Murphy
A collection of 17 short films, each episode drawn from a different chapter of the book.
Each of the individual pieces to this film is a minor masterpiece, poignant in its own way, familiar stories of longing and regret in an unmistakably Australian setting. Presented as one three hour movie, "The Turning" asks much of its audience. The trouble is that the central linking thread is not always apparent, as each piece has its own writer, director and cast. It's not straightforward to spot the same characters in different stories; they’re more connected in the book than they appear on the screen. Quite a turn of events.
Mood IndigoAnthony Macali
A woman suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs.
"Mood Indigo" is out-there. Riding a fine line between wild creativity and self-indulgence, there are numerous moments of tedious viewing. While the setting appears to be the real world, most of the objects and people we're normally familiar with interact in very peculiar ways. The dreamlike blend of reality and quirkiness is weird, alienating the audience from the characters and their struggles. Despite the subject matter, it's a difficult story to treat seriously. You've got to be in the right mood for this perplexing mess.
Valentine RoadAnne Murphy
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during class.
Hours after watching "Valentine Road" tears may very well still well up; this outstanding documentary is deeply affecting. The crime is horrifying, a fourteen year old boy murdered by his classmate. The director reveals layers of complexity as the surrounding influences are explored. Society needs to change, not just one little boy who draws swastikas, after all, no-one is born homophobic. Our hearts aren't yet big enough to allow others to be themselves, and it's heartbreaking.
The RocketAnne Murphy
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home.
"The Rocket" plays as a crowd-pleaser, perhaps that's because the target audience is hard to define. The setting is post-war Laos and the protagonist is a child but there are scenes that might be confronting for children. The movie is pleasing, quite exhilarating, a crowd-pleaser must be a movie with such broad appeal that you enjoy it even if you don't identify as the target demographic. Not rocket science but it's a blast.
Pussy Riot: A Punk PrayerTom Jones
Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world...
Russia is a bit cray-cray, and not in the good way. Footage of the country's response to Pussy Riot's protests is shocking. Without playing sides, this film traces the events leading up to, and following the arrest of three members of the female activist group. Through interviews with family members, and all access courtroom footage, you really get to know the women behind the brightly coloured balaclavas. They are highly articulate, resilient and funny. It's time, Free Pussy Riot!
The Best OfferAnne Murphy
A story centered on an eccentric art auctioneer and his obsession with an heiress/collector.
Movies are rarely as alluring as this mystery crime story. Not only is the clever story well told, but it's artistically portrayed on the screen, a combination that ensures it is a pleasure to watch. There's a sophisticated mix of obsession and passion; emotions often associated with art and the people who inhabit the rarified atmospheres of galleries and auction houses. The premise is intriguing enough to hold interest right up until the credits, even if you manage to anticipate the outcome. No further bidding required.
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother.
In a movie fraught with dichotomies, a mother and daughter vie for the attention mysterious uncle who is both sinister and smooth. The film is as stylish as the story is twisted. Unfortunately, the more macabre the plot becomes, the more predictable the next development is. The initially promising premise reveals itself as shallow. "Stoker" is visually stunning, almost gothic in style as is hinted at in the title, although the setting is modern day. Chilling but nothing preternatural.
Save Your Legs!Stefan Bugryn
A ragtag team of suburban cricketers get a chance to tour India.
"Save Your Legs" acts better as a postcard of India rather than the team bonding, coming-of-age drama it's meant to be. The film's intentions may be good - it's cute and charming at times - but overall the result is mostly boring, with jokes often bordering on cringe-worthy. It also becomes very predictable, one of the movie's biggest flaws, and the ending can be spotted a mile away. Though substantially well produced, it lacks any real substance... save your pennies.
The story of an aging couple who are crippled by the devastating effects of a stroke.
"Amour" acts like a claustrophobic, tightening grip that doesn't let you breathe until the credits roll, and is certainly an uncomfortable movie to watch. Just as one of the visiting characters states, "...I had a beautiful and sad moment with you", which is exactly what this experience feels like; an observational look at a couple's silent yet divinely emotional demise into old age. The discreet moments and absence of music can be deafening, adding to the overall and ever-increasing sense of tension and sadness. Lots of tough love for the audience.
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.