The TownTom Jones
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.
"The Town" is your classic cops and robbers fare, with a little bit of heart. The robbery scenes are exhilarating and are directed in such a way that you share the thrill of being chased, and the adrenalin which comes with the risk of getting caught. The problem with this film lies in the moments between the robberies, where a story tries to develop but really only slows the whole thing down. Much like its characters, this film is a goodie and a baddie.
The Disappearance of Alice CreedAndrew O'Dea
Two men fortify a nondescript apartment so it can serve as a prison before kidnapping a woman.
"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" sets the tone from the outset, with a dialogue-free opening act that is as methodical and gripping as the film itself. Shot almost entirely in a confined space, excellent camera work and direction help to maintain its claustrophobic nature and sustain an air of tension. It moves from confrontation to revelation with doses of dry humour in just the right places to lace the suspense. With superb acting performances from the cast (all three of them) and a tight focus, you won't need to search any further than this if you're looking for a smart, engaging thriller.
The Killer Inside MeAnne Murphy
A West Texas deputy sheriff is slowly unmasked as a psychotic killer.
Small town post-war America is faithfully captured and depicted in a way that almost elicits nostalgia, even for those of us who weren't there. "The Killer Inside Me" is dark and moody as well as stylish, as is the film-noir tradition. Watching the sociopathic protagonist committing a string of murders while maintaining his deception is profoundly disturbing. Sadistic elements of the story-line are intended to shock; the violence is brutal and administered with pre-meditated determination but most chilling is the demeanour of the murderer. There is not a flicker of remorse inside this killer.
The Burning PlainAnne Murphy
The past and the present have a curious way of affecting one another as several people separated by time and space are about to discover.
This gripping tale is revealed as slowly as a building storm while tension builds. The movie is laden with foreboding, even if you anticipate the outcome before it's played out. The threads involving various characters weave together to reveal the anguish filled origins of the story. "Burning Plain" is moody and filled with loss and remorse, filmed against scenic backdrops that create realism and tension. The plains burn with a slow fuse to create an unforgettable movie.
Animal KingdomWendy Slevison
Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
"Animal Kingdom" is a raw, understated exploration of the ongoing 'dog eat dog' battle between the police force and a criminal family. This is a skewed reality where life is cheap, and survival often comes down to the nonchalant disposal of other lives to ferociously protect your own. Loyalties are fluid, honesty a foreign concept. This powerful film tells its compelling tale with assurance and class, and features superb performances from an ensemble of the finest actors in Australian cinema.
Harry BrownAnthony Macali
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice.
"Harry Brown" is an exceptionally made film, but the revenge takes too long, drawn out to a point where the comeuppance just doesn't match the build-up. There are great depictions of drug-dealer dwellings and troubled youth, creating a genuine sense of discomfort and distress. Invariably such a setup brings violence, including a curiously riotous ending, but digitised blood spurts just don't have the same impact as traditional cinema wounds. Dark and dangerous but a little too slow.
The Secret in their EyesAnne Murphy
A man wants to solve a murder committed many years ago.
"The Secret in Their Eyes" is engrossing as a crime thriller and compelling as a cold case romance. The threads are seamlessly interwoven to create a movie going experience that lingers long after the credits roll. All eyes will be glued on the outstanding cast who fill out the interesting characters. This is a well crafted film that spans 25 years, moving from fear to love visiting every emotion in between. It's no secret that this is a knockout story to be seen with your own eyes.
The White RibbonAnne Murphy
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment.
"The White Ribbon" is visually mesmerising, artistically captured in black and white with a period detail that is meticulously reproduced, particularly in the costumes of the farming villagers. With its fascist undertones this film is a harrowing watch for all of its lengthy run time, and even then there is no reward of a conclusion or explanation. Austere, relentless, seething with hatred and cruelty, this is unforgiving viewing. The film evokes a sense of impending doom, with blue ribbon success.
An unnoticed high school student with no powers or training decides to become a super-hero.
"Kick-Ass" weaves teen melodrama with some of the coarsest language and most gratuitous and glorious violence ever seen on screen. Every action sequence is amazingly original, bolstered by inventive choreography and superb production values. Although the storyline is flimsy in parts, the uneven pacing may be considered deliberate, as our expectations are frequently and often shockingly shattered at any given moment. The director is to be applauded for this completely unrestrained film, free from industry conformity. Genuinely messed up, but totally kicks ass.
A Good ManAnne Murphy
A law school professor witnesses his colleague, friend and mentor murder his own wife.
"A Good Man" is a murder mystery with a twist, and makes for gripping viewing as the tension and angst builds. Although we know what happened and 'who done it', the audience are kept on the edge of their seats as the plot unfolds and develops. The dark and moody production evokes the film noire era in this contemporary setting. The pace is slow - being almost real time - which eases the tension almost as it is built; even so, this is a good film.
A mother desperately searches for the killer that framed her son for an horrific murder.
"Mother" is a suspenseful thriller filmed with an eye for the comedic realities of serious situations. There's plenty of intrigue within a small Korean town, and a dark mood is masterfully painted onto the screen. The story is riveting to watch and delivered with faultless performances; the emotional elements are strong and powerfully expressed. As the gripping story-line is unfurled and the truth behind the crime is revealed, you can't help but admire just how well crafted this film is. A testament to the remarkable tenacity of maternal love.
The Girl with the Dragon TattooAnne Murphy
Swedish thriller based on Stieg Larsson's novel about a journalist and a young female hacker.
Central to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a riveting and complex story that is pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, as investigations progress and secrets are revealed. Intrigue is carried by the solid cast of characters especially thorough the more sadistic and violent scenes. The cold Swedish countryside provides an appropriate backdrop for those grim and confronting elements of the tale, and the result is gripping. A thoroughly modern take on the classic thriller, complete with a fearless super sleuth; she's the one with the tattoo...
Cop OutAnthony Macali
A comedy about a veteran NYPD cop whose rare baseball card is stolen. Since it's his only hope to pay for his daughter's upcoming wedding, he recruits his partner to track down the thief.
"Cop Out" is a deliberate homage to the budding action-comedy films of the eighties, and does them a great injustice. There are some jokes, but they mainly consist of characters behaving badly to themes of terribly distorted music that insult the subject of its imitations. Admittedly, there is fun pondering over the motivations of the cast and if they realised they were a partner to such a flop. This film should be suspended without release.
A ProphetAnthony Macali
Set largely within prison walls, the film details the prison career of Malik, sentenced to six years and chosen by Cesar, a feared kingpin of the prisons reigning Corsican gang, to kill a prisoner.
"A Prophet" meticulously blends the worlds of prison and organised crime. An intriguing and unique makeup of many cultures are carefully observed through the eyes of our protagonist, and his story brokers a high level of tension and suspense, as he deals with dangerous people in dangerous places. We are transfixed by his brutal transformation, as he rises to power in an eternal state of illusion. A truly arresting experience, this distinguished crime classic is masterful.
Law Abiding CitizenAnthony Macali
A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free.
"Law Abiding Citizen" wastes no time delving straight into an egregious game of 'good guys vs bad guys'. At times, the way it manages to sway favour between lawyer and particularly clever murderer hungry for revenge can be intriguing. But flick the switch, and suddenly you find yourself locked into some inescapable moments of sinister dialogue and contrivance. It's a shame this thriller takes such a long time to teach its lesson of justice, only for the the final verdict to be a disappointment.
The Lovely BonesAnthony Macali
Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and killer from heaven.
This movie fields some grim subject matter, only to raise the question: why make it? It's an honest display of a family in disarray, broken and unable to heal. However, apart from this genuine touch, it only manages to wander through a gallery of postcard landscapes in an attempt to inspire hope beyond death. Or perhaps the director just wanted to borrow the climatic scenes of suspense and unease from the book? Like its heroine, "The Lovely Bones" lives in a world of limbo, stuck somewhere in between a good and a bad film.
Sherlock HolmesAndrew O'Dea
Detective Holmes engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis who threatens all of England.
Although faithful to the source material, this movie isn't bound to it, and the legendary detective presented is an eccentric and captivatingly flawed hero that boxes, boozes, and deduces. The stylishly monochromatic production of a grimy 19th century London provides a perfect backdrop as we delight in the exchanges of wit and banter between Holmes and his trusty counterpart Watson. Combining sublime action sequences and a gripping plot to boot, "Sherlock Holmes" equates to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's elementary.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3Anthony Macali
Armed men hijack a subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind.
"The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" is bland remake that favours visuals over drama. Its jilted style is a haze of whirs and blurs as it attempts to generate excitement. However, it fails to provide any genuine tension, leaving the viewer questioning plot holes and character motives rather than placing us on-board the titular train. Not a complete wreck, but this film is plain and predictable, although it might just deliver enough "cool" action to please commuters.
Public EnemiesAndrew O'Dea
The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
"Public Enemies" feels like a series of tommy-gun battles and antique car chases, which although very impressive, do not constitute a good story. It's not terrible, but there's simply not enough build up to pivotal scenes, and the lead actors (who are great in their roles) are hindered by a severe lack of character development. A major annoyance is the camerawork; digitally shot, but not used to good effect. The only heist here is having to pay for admission.
Winged CreaturesAnne Murphy
A group of strangers form a unique relationship with each other after surviving a random shooting.
Normality is shattered by a horrific event and the characters fall apart in ways that beggar belief. Truth is reportedly stranger than fiction, and in this instance the clumsy storylines drawn out of the central trauma have little semblance to possible truth. PTSD reactions should be left to psychologists not scriptwriters. This is as downbeat a movie as you're ever likely to see, and all the more irksome for the condescending portrayals of the working class characters. Fly away.
The Baader Meinhof ComplexAnne Murphy
A look at Germany's terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organised bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s.
This film covers some of Europe's political history in a time of protest and radical activism. The era is faithfully reproduced in what is a technically well-crafted, interesting movie. Depicting real people and events, the tone is necessarily violent and ruthless. It becomes increasingly confronting as the terrorists' motivation fails to be explained, and their actions consequently lack meaning. A complex story about the extremism of idealists without ideals.
A juvenile offender with psychopathic tendencies is released from detention and hooks up with a twisted young girl, while a semi-retired cop dogs their tracks.
An unhinged murderer, a hackneyed lieutenant, and a troubled teenager from a damaged background play out this crime thriller. Reasonable watching descends into cliché as it becomes hard to pick which of the characters is the more stereotyped. Suspense is defused by moments corny enough to elicit laughter. Predictably, neither callousness nor tenderness delivers redemption, not for the players, and not for the film.
Fast & FuriousLuke Bartter
An FBI agent and a fugitive use street racing to infiltrate and take down a notorious crime lord.
For a film about racing fast cars, the pace is sluggish, bogged down with too many characters, and suffers from an over-abundance of pointless non-car chase related scenes. Not completely embracing the ridiculous premise like the previous films, "Fast & Furious" is humourless and juvenile. The lack of fun makes the painful leaps of logic even more obvious, leaving an uneven mess that's rarely explosive or exciting. It may be slick and loud, but unfortunately there's nothing under the hood. For the auto-obsessed only.
Frozen RiverWendy Slevison
Two women are drawn into border smuggling across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River.
"Frozen River" is a stark and gritty portrait of two women struggling on the harsh edges of society, trying to protect their children from the bleakness of their environment, both physical and emotional. Linked by their almost primal maternal determination, their desperation leads them into criminality. There is no allowance for sentimentality in this outstanding film, and the authentic performances leave you feeling that you have much to be thankful for as you return to your much easier (and warmer) life.
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher.
"Appaloosa" respects the conventions of a traditional western, with its slow pacing intersected by the gun-slinging one would expect. The chemistry and repartee between the two leads is superb, and together they excel in dialogue and humour that is as dry and effective as the dusty landscape that dominates the film. However, the fundamental flaw is that it presents a story all too familiar - that's not to say it doesn't make an entertaining western - it's just that, at times, it lacks the tension and emotion of a 'good-ole-duel' to separate it from the rest.