A day in the life of a Footscray Pawn shop owner and the characters who inhabit the neighbourhood.
The most striking element of "Pawno" is how well observed the characters are. The players assembled by this independent filmmaker are familiar and recognisable, from the scallywags to the battlers, each embodying a part of a quintessentially Australian psyche. There are many story-lines woven into the episodic plot, and a lot of emotional territory is traversed while not straying too far from a particularly interesting shop in a suburb known for its diversity. It's all here, astute and darkly colourful. Pawn stars.
99 HomesAnthony Macali
After being evicted from his home, a father starts working for the very real estate broker who facilitated his dispossession.
"99 Homes" is an emotionally charged story about the economic fallout of the US financial crisis, with a particular focus on the families who lose their homes. The intimate and close-up style, bolstered by the desperate and compelling performances, create a heartfelt and personal story, which is deeply empathetic. From the first eviction, the dramatic tension never lets up, and raises questions of morality at every turn. One good film.
The LobsterAnthony Macali
A man checks into a hotel and has 45 days to find a partner, or be transformed into an animal of his choosing.
The quirky premise of "The Lobster" certainly captures your attention, and for the first half at least, plays out with weirdly dark and terrific humour. The film is laden with allegory, especially in its almost cynical commentary on relationships and the brutal punishment for those who don't conform. Beautifully shot with a formidable supporting cast, it's a shame curiosity wavers towards the end of the story, as our apathy for the characters falters with the plot. The one that got away.
Returning from battle Shakespeare's tragic medieval Scots hero, Macbeth, encounters three witches on a barren moor who foretell him becoming Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter.
"Macbeth" transports you to a purgatory of plotting and scheming. This is a brutal and bloody telling of the familiar story about manic ambition set against a hypnotic scenic backdrop. The words are from the original play, but sensibly pared back. The witches for example don't deliver a cackle between them, but their presence is nonetheless haunting. Consistently strong acting performances and inventive cinematography work to create an exceptional and haunting movie. All hail Macbeth.
The GiftAnthony Macali
A man from the past comes back to haunt a couple, leaving wrapped presents at their doorstep.
"The Gift" is the gift that keeps on giving... the creeps. Hooked from the very first interaction between our lead characters, the suspense builds as their rich and sinister backstories are revealed. Largely set in a single house, this conspicuous setting brings even more unease, in its vulnerability and realism. Interest tends to wane towards the end as the conceit becomes a little monotonous. But the film's greatest achievement is its unpredictability. You don't know how it's going to end, which is a rare cinematic gift.
Holding the ManAnne Murphy
The attraction between John and Tim started in High School in the 70s their relationship lasted for over 15 years until John's death due to HIV/AIDS.
The only not quite believable piece in this poignant and earnest story of star-crossed lovers is watching the central actors playing high school boys. They’re adults dressed as boys, and sadly they look it. Apart from this misstep the love story is compelling for the way the relationship endures, especially against the odds. Tissues are recommended, as this powerful movie will have a lasting impact on any beating heart. Never let go.
City of GoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about famous LA food critic Johnathon Gold.
"City of Gold" is an admirable documentary about a wonderful writer, whose commentary on food transcends boundaries in multiple ways. Apart from his utterly brilliant style, and encyclopedic knowledge and passion for his hometown, he is famous for shining the spotlight on some of the smaller restaurants. Not one to discriminate, Mr. Gold values cooking as a service to a community, and provides a telling insight into multicultural society, where food can bring people together. This guy really likes tacos.
The WolfpackAnthony Macali
Not permitted outside of their apartment, the Angulo brothers only escape is their film collection.
"The Wolfpack" is an intimate look at a large family sadly confined to the boundaries of their apartment. Home-schooled by their devoid mother, the children's only view of the outside world is through the skewed reality of cinema, which could only contribute to their weird behaviour. It's hard to watch, especially as the young brothers gradually realise the misery of their imprisoned existence. Even more heartbreaking is their tethered creative talents, limited to charming re-enactments of famous movies. An agonising insight into social suppression.
The Diary of a Teenage GirlAnne Murphy
It's the 1970s and the city is San Francisco, and teenage Minnie starts an affair with the handsomest man in the world, her mother's boyfriend
The situation is morally alarming, and the characters are authentic, so it is a relief the story is delivered without preaching or judging. We get to watch an engrossing depiction of discovering one's womanhood. It is a delight to see a story related by a young woman protagonist, especially a tale so daring and honest. We share her joy of embracing all parts of herself, including her angst and self-doubts. Remember your own teenage years?
Tehran TaxiAnne Murphy
An Iranian director banned from film-making drives passengers through the streets of Tehran in a taxi with the camera rolling.
An intriguing cast of passengers ride in the taxi, each with their own colourful contribution to this social commentary on life and politics in Iran. The road trip through the city is captivating, and its laid back style is able to present more insight about living in Tehran than any news broadcast. The subtle serendipitous style of the movie allows us to grasp some of the oppressive realities, and to experience a little humour as life goes on. Call me a cab.
Rules of the GameAnne Murphy
An employment agency in the North of France mentors young people through their job search efforts.
We follow three marginalised young people in their efforts to prepare for job interviews. It's easy to snicker at the disenfranchised youth for now knowing how to pitch their experience and skills to prospective employers. The filmmaker's fly-on-the-wall approach is even handed in that it appears non-judgemental. On the surface the struggles and responses of the kids look a bit funny, and it might have been easy to mock them, but the underlying societal issues are no laughing matter.
Deep WebAnthony Macali
A documentary about the 96 per cent of the internet that goes unindexed by search engines.
"Deep Web" is a highly informative and educational insight into the little known and hidden portion of the World Wide Web. The less you know beforehand, the more you will be astounded at 'Silk Road', the illicit drug marketplace at the centre of this investigation, and its equally fascinating libertine founder and administrator. Ultimately the film raises a discussion about privacy in a digital world, and neatly highlights the gaps in today’s Internet freedom. Can the good guys hack the bad guys?
1001 GramsAnne Murphy
A scientist works with weights, carefully calibrated and stored, much like her own emotions.
"1001 Grams" has a simple minimalist style, and its glimpse into the world of people who dedicate their careers to validating weights is quite interesting. The director's artistry is most evident visually, with the camera capturing the landscape with geometric precision and to stunning effect. Some audiences might find it difficult to warm to this movie though as the characters persist as annoyingly impenetrable. Interpersonal interactions are so measured that the overall tone is melancholic even in the lighter scenes. Underweight.
Heaven Knows WhatStefan Bugryn
Two junkies share their on-again, off-again relationship with a chaotic love triangle for heroin.
In an attempt to stay as real as possible, this film falls comfortably short of providing any enjoyment from its visceral experience. It doesn't go further than providing lots of close up shots with an obnoxious accompanied by unsatisfying electronic score. Yes, we are meant to feel like it's authentic, with the actors playing the parts were actually previous junkies themselves, but nothing good comes from the messy narrative. It had much potential from the start, and ends up disappointing us again and again as the story progresses. Heaven knows this isn't good.
A gym owner and a personal trainer get tangled up with a wealthy eccentric client, all three have cause to think about the relationship between love and money.
"Results" speaks to our aspirational future selves; don't we all want to become better versions of who we are? A brilliant cast get a great workout on the screen, and convincingly take us along even as the action goes over the top. The characters are recognisable and complete with questionable motives and all. This slow building story is not to be missed, it has muscle. Results delivered.
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlAnne Murphy
Greg, a high school kid, and his film making side-kick Earl are pressured by Greg's mum into befriending a girl at school who has been diagnosed with leukaemia.
This isn't the first time a romance has centered on a girl with a terminal illness, but "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a rare movie, which confronts the situation head on with refreshing honesty, and lets the characters live without being overshadowed by their doomed relationship. The title gives it away, the story has a sense of humour and a sharp wit, balancing the inevitable heartrending scenes. Lively, until the end.
Malcolm is a high school geek, a virgin who loves hip hop and wants to go to Harvard, all goes awry when he and his friends have a wild encounter with the shady LA drug culture.
"Dope" is a smart coming-of-age story, packed with adventure. The movie opens energetically, rolling with the hero and his best friends. There are laughs to be had as the trio find themselves in more and more trouble. The second half loses pace and dawdles, before finishing with a heavy-handed lecture about race based assumptions. All in all, more awesome than dopey.
A documentary about fashion icon Iris Apfel from legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.
The subject of "Iris" is the elderly and the eccentric... with a distinctive sense of style. Much is made of her age and that of her even more elderly husband, being over 80 years old somehow makes them curiosities. She is a voracious shopper who enjoys a lavish lifestyle, and one of the truly curious things about this woman is her ability to do little apart from shop for clothes and jewellery. Despite its frivolous nature this is a must see for fashionistas of all ages. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Force of DestinyAnne Murphy
A journey of love on a transplant waiting list.
Inspired by the life experiences of the writer/director "Force of Destiny" poignantly shows the shock of receiving a dire medical diagnosis. Thankfully the movie resists overplaying the tragic aspects of facing death, capturing more a sense of the ordinary, which makes the viewing so interesting. The everyday goes on albeit with a heightened sense of grief. Emotions are held down by the characters, as they try to cope with an unthinkable future. While the tone is restrained and sombre, the impact is forceful.
Two Days, One NightAnthony Macali
Sandra discovers that her workmates have opted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
"Two Days, One Night" ponders a precarious dilemma. We learn our protagonist is wrestling a sickness, and feel the helplessness and frustration that comes living with it, amplified by a strong and palpable performance. While the setup is questionable, it enables an interesting and often unseen view of families on the weekend, and the common economic struggles they face. The quiet pace might not suit everyone, but it allows time to properly introduce the various characters, and effortlessly create an emotional connection. Lingers many days after...
What We Do in the ShadowsAnthony Macali
Follow the lives of three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles, like being immortal vampires.
"What We Do in the Shadows" demonstrates that life is hard for a vampire in Wellington. In true mockumentary style, the introduction of a wide-range of housemates is the best and funniest part of the film. The dry humour and deadpan delivery creates many laugh-out-loud moments, as it employs the classic bloodsucker traits and applies them to the modern world. While the lack of a story becomes prevalent towards the end, it doesn't last too long. They do hilarious.
The GrandmasterAndrew O'Dea
The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
"The Grandmaster" is a stylish Kung Fu epic, resplendent in its lush visuals and attention to period detail. Unfortunately the narrative is downright confusing, burdened by disjointed storytelling and a muddled timeline. It disappoints as a biography of its subject, flippantly passing over the opportunity for meaty characterisation in exchange for overly dramatised, prolonged cut sequences. Thankfully, the stunning and explosive fight sequences that redeem this movie, undeniably gorgeous in their choreography and artistic flair. A grand film, but hardly mastered.
A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save Virunga National Park in Congo.
"Virunga" is a vibrant national park full of life and, to much dismay, a place of death. This breathtaking parcel of land happens to fall on a large oil deposit, and the battle between preservation and money plays out extraordinarily on screen. It's a shocking juxtaposition that lets its characters share their messages, from the adorable keepers and their family of gorillas, to the faceless business men contracted to incite war. A fine example of fearless journalism and heartfelt conservation. Primeval.
Paper PlanesAnthony Macali
An imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
"Paper Planes" is a laudable representative of Australian drama, reminding us of some of the more imaginative and simpler pleasures in life. With themes of grief, bullying and the importance of winning, it's difficult to dislike this innocuous outing. While it may struggle to find an audience outside of its target demographic, the performances of the adolescents and uplifting musical score will inspire a generation. Pull out the A4's... and start folding.
An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
'Joe' is a well-revered man and surprising anti-hero to the strange dwellers of his back-wood community. He resides in a neighbourhood full of sinister characters, with troubled pasts and captivating lives. In the middle lies a relationship with the young Gary. Their exchanges form the most rewarding part of the film, as they thrive and learn from their experiences. Despite a lull towards the end, the local menaces will keep on you on edge. A hard-working performance.