The King of Kong: A Fistful of QuartersAnthony Macali
Diehard video game fans compete to break World Records on classic arcade games.
While the premise might not appeal to all, "The King of Kong" goes much further than exploring a simple video game; it's about competition at a world class level. It's arrogant Billy Mitchell, a messiah of the arcade world with many disciples - at his whim against Steve Wiebe, an innocent family man craving to be number one. It's this rivalry, unique characters and a welcome insight into the world of freaks and geeks that makes this a documentary of the highest level.
The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron SwartzAnne Murphy
The story of Aaron Schwartz, a programming prodigy and information activist, who was facing indictment under the very laws he was campaigning to change when he took his own life in 2013.
This is a must see documentary, be outraged, despair, and then promise to change the world in your own way. Who would guess that a story of technology and access to information could be so emotionally involving? If only we all had as much integrity around our ideals for a better society and the sharing of knowledge as this maligned but inspiring young man. All round brilliant.
Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.
It's surprising how touching this black and white animation is. With sharp contours and pale gradients, the film looks astounding, but also portrays a "dark" period of Marjane's life. Her narrative provides earnest accounts of Iran's history, family and moving out of home; growing into an acute perspective of life in these times of revolution. You leave the cinema in a wake of colours, realising the splendour of freedom.
The story recounts the early life of Genghis Khan who was a slave before going on to conquer half the world.
Epic in its scope, "Mongol" details the feuds and hardships Genghis Khan had to overcome in becoming a feared conqueror. Not an accurate historical account, but with great performances, music and cinematography, it's easy to forgive any liberties taken in the story. Replete with rousing battles and satisfying drama, even people who don't like subtitles should see Mongol. Violent, spectacular and moving. Highly recommended.
George Harrison: Living in the Material WorldAnne Murphy
Inter-cut with archive material, friends, family and associates of the musician tell the story of his life and how spirituality became such a major part of it.
ou might guess that this renowned musician had a extraordinary life but it takes the spotlight shone by this exceptional documentary to reveal just how remarkable his life and times were. It helps that much of the history is told to camera by the subject in his own words, and those close to him lovingly colour in the detail. Ultimately this is an affecting and moving portrait of a man whose guitar gently wept.
Dallas Buyers ClubAnne Murphy
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
Central to the "Dallas Buyers Club" is an unusually gritty yet true journey of transformation. The hero is larger than life, a confronting combination of crass profanity and homophobia. It is said that fact is stranger than fiction, and this man's ferocious desperation for life could not have been invented. It's befitting that the lead performances are nothing short of transfixing, making this is one helluva story about tragedy and triumph. Bigger than Texas.
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
"Argo" captures your attention from start to finish. If you're not familiar with the political context, don't stress, as the brilliant opening sequence will give you all the background you need. Once up to speed, you can fully appreciate the treacherous and volatile situation of the time, made even more unbelievable by its grounding in a true story. The ensemble cast is brilliant, doing their best to prolong the exciting suspense and tension throughout. The result is universally good. Ar, go watch it.
The Diving Bell and the ButterflyAnthony Macali
The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is both a beautifully inspiring and tragic story. With clever use of the medium, the director throws us into the perspective of our unfortunate patient. Elle's cynical outlook provides more laughs than sympathy, as he serves his imprisonment and takes the opportunity to seek closure and follow his dreams - such a task our able-bodied selves often find too difficult. A wonderful film, and a celebration of life.
The WalkAnthony Macali
In 1974, French artist Philippe Petit dreams of walking a tightrope across the World Trade Centre.
"The Walk" is an amazing film that grants its audience a true appreciation of the outlandish imagination and endeavour of the feat at hand. Such simple conceit is extended to a marvellous story, revealing the outright madness of its artist and the elaborate logistics of suspending a cable 400m above the ground. The iconic Twin Towers are gloriously reconstructed, and the dizzying view from the top is both beautiful and terrifying. Spectacular visuals and brilliant 3D place you right on the wire, drawing you into a tense and deeply emotional experience. A coup to remember.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
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…".
The Last StationAnne Murphy
A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.
Anchored with a passionate but philosophically-conflicted relationship between a husband and wife, "The Last Station" is a sweeping period piece that manages not to overwhelm with historical trappings. The a story is engrossing where, given the subject, it could have been rather dour. The players resist melodrama; there's an almost capricious tone that makes this film a pleasure to watch. It's not revealing too much to say the last station is the end of line.
Che: Part 2Andrew O'Dea
In 1967, 'Che' leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia.
"Che: Part 2" is the culmination of a fascinating journey that marks Che's ultimate downfall. This film maintains the authenticity of "Part 1", albeit with a darker, more pensive tone. It evokes a sombre sense of impending doom whilst remaining as historically faithful as possible, refusing to glamorise its subject. This uncompromising approach is refreshing, and the lead actor's enigmatic performance is truly worthy of encompassing the man who is arguably the most iconic figure of the 20th century.
The Iron LadyThomas Jones
A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Romance or political drama? "The Iron Lady" could be shelved under either genre as it depicts the political rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher against the backdrop of her mourning the passing of her husband. There is a nice balance of both plotlines and the inclusion of real footage adds conviction to this film. The performance of the lead is so convincing it's like a Madame Tussauds figure coming to life. Thatcher herself endorsed 'doing something' rather than trying to be 'somebody'. With that in mind, do something... go and see this film.
A Dangerous MethodAnne Murphy
A look at how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
"A Dangerous Method" documents the shared origins of what have become rival doctrines, following the professional friendship and falling out of the earliest proponents of 'the talking cure'. The actor's performances ensure compelling, if at times uncomfortable, viewing. The period in modern history is faithfully depicted and attention is paid to details which highlight the differences between the lifestyles and theories of kindred pioneers. Even more engrossing than the look is the dialogue; unsurprisingly the screenplay is based on a non-fiction book. No slips, Freudian or otherwise.
The FighterAnne Murphy
A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980's.
If you thought stories of the boxing hero had retired to their corner, grab a ringside seat... "The Fighter" will get you in a clinch. Oddly the fighter himself is the most conventional, and possibly the least interesting character in the ensemble. There are no glass jaws among his family, brawlers all. While not landing a full body blow, the action is powerful if punishing to watch. The gloves are off, and the audience is delivered a TKO.
Anvil! The Story of AnvilAnne Murphy
At 14, best friends Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever.
This compelling rockumentary shows the travails of best friends still together in a heavy metal band after 30 years and 13 albums. "Anvil" infuses the reality of playing to empty stadiums with the dream of what might be possible with the right record label. At the start the audience can't help but laugh at these aging, bumbling, rock dudes living the ordinary life. However, as their story unfolds the central figures are revealed as funny, despairing, humble, passionate and dogged dreamers. The spirit triumphs and the sniggering stops.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
A mixture of original interviews and archival footage sheds light on the life of Mike Tyson.
This documentary is an extraordinary account of the life of Mike Tyson, told entirely by Tyson himself. No topic is off-limits, and Tyson had no say over what footage made the final cut. It is an astonishingly honest insight into a man often seen as simply a brute. He is surprisingly humble, astute, compassionate and endearingly unsophisticated. The boy from Brooklyn - child criminal, brilliant boxer, convicted rapist, recovering addict - hides nothing, takes responsibility for everything, and unexpectedly inspires admiration, empathy and emotion.
Love & MercyAnne Murphy
In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis.
"Love and Mercy" delivers plenty of good vibrations, relationship fluctuations, and the odd drug induced hallucination and a subsequent oversupply of medications. The story behind the talent of the fresh faced band is riveting. Most impressive is the depiction of the creative process, it's not easy to show how songs are imagined brought to life. The performances are brilliant, even with the challenge of two different actors playing the younger and older versions of the central character. Surf's down and up.
Rescue DawnAnthony Macali
A US Fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission during the Vietnam War.
This film combines two of my favourite things: jungle and escaping prison. The jungle is captured beautifully: green, luscious and dense, impossible to penetrate without a machete. Escaping prison is slow, and painful. But this movie goes as far as showing many negligible details, from a crash-course in picking locks to converging the guards. The prisoners are a colourful bunch, the interplay in their state of delirium is very amusing. This is an exceptional war movie of survival and the jungle.
A documentary on the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
It is hard not to be curious about Amy Winehouse and her demise, but you can't help but feel a sense of irony watching this compelling portrait of a talent who didn't come to terms with fame. Does the doomed singer's story on the big screen subject her to even more public scrutiny? Film footage, drawn from public archives and family sources, is used to create an intimate and affecting story of a woman for whom love was a losing game.
Exit Through The Gift ShopAnne Murphy
The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy.
Is "Exit Through the Gift Shop" documentary or mockumentary? Cleverly constructed and provocative, the film is absorbing as 'documentary', but the tongue-in cheek acerbic tone deftly tilts the balance back to 'mockumentary'. This creatively told story manages to be both an homage to street art and, at the same time, a caustic commentary on the mainstream art world - cynical to say the least. Viva la revolution, as long as you do the required thing and exit through the gift shop.
Julie & JuliaAnne Murphy
Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
Two storylines are baked together, although about 50 years separate them, and the result is delicious. Scenes effortlessly transport the viewer in and out of the lives and kitchens of Julie and Julia, capturing a shared passion for cooking. The characters are wonderful, warm, and loving; their relationships golden roasted and close to perfect. This movie is appetizingly presented and readily devoured. As both Julie and Julia would have said... bon appetit!
The Blind SideAnne Murphy
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
"The Blind Side" has quite a plot, all true, all fairy-tale and all feel-good. With a remarkable story to tell, the film is not unnecessarily cheapened by sentiment. It is related in a down to earth manner that could be described as understated, marred only by the cloying musical score which is definitely overplayed. This pragmatic movie is delivered with faultless performances from the cast, and it is surprisingly moving to watch. Be blindsided.