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.
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.
An Irrational ManAnne Murphy
A philosophy professor is enduring a deep and hopeless melancholy which lifts after he engineers a murder.
The existential themes from the writer/director are familiar, as is the struggle between right and wrong, which the film's protagonist faces. The material might look a little tired, but the lead actors invigorate the story and bring it to life with strong performances, despite seeing them all losing their moral bearings. "An Irrational Man" holds attention as it plays out thanks in part to the dialogue, which is engaging banter with an intellectual edge. Irrational but sound.
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?
A disenfranchised teenager who lives in a housing estate in Paris befriends three young women.
The director has employed realism in following one woman's day-to-day life. The central character is marginalised by virtue of her gender, colour, age and impoverished existence. Joining a gang provides belonging. While the filmmaking approach is bold, it's also uncomfortably raw, relying on incidental dialogue and minimal narrative structure. The cost to the audience is coherency. There are a couple of standout scenes but insufficient to save the viewing time from seeming interminable. Girl without a cause.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr. HolmesAnthony Macali
An aged and weary Sherlock Holmes reflects back on his last unresolved case.
In this version of the famous detective, we are introduced to a much more reserved Mr. Holmes, and at the tender age of 93, he's rather dull. Exploring poignant themes of growing old, reflecting on some of life’s big decisions and regrets, this film is more of a human story than a who done it. Moving at a lethargic pace, apart from the odd detective moments and distinguished acting, the constant time shifts in the plot do little to perk our attention. Alas Mr. Holmes lacks vigour.
Civil war in Georgia 1990, an Estonian man has stayed behind to harvest his crops of tangerines.
An extraordinary movie set about a ruthless civil conflict. "Tangerines" stands out as a war drama for its focus on the humanity of the characters, from ruthless mercenaries to farmers. Brotherhood and hatred are thrown together by the situation and we start questioning what is gained by fighting. This is an anti-war film after all, and it becomes apparent to the audience as we watch the climax in horror, that guns and hatred are not the answer. Pithy, sour and sweet.
Far from the Madding CrowdAnthony Macali
Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.
Magic Mike XXLAnthony Macali
Mike rejoins the crew to embark on a road trip to Myrtle Beach and attend the Annual Strippers Convention.
"Magic Mike XXL" does everything in its power to subvert all your expectations. Apart from the final hour, the plot is largely uneventful and bland, severely lacking the level of fun and frivolity from the first magic show. Despite the surprisingly pleasant motion picture visuals, this story of male-entertainers hitting the road on a journey of self-discovery unfortunately sticks too close to the straight and narrow. Put it away.
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.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
A young boy, raised to be an assassin, starts to question the morality of his work.
Conceptually this film is solid, exciting even, and yet it fails to reach its full potential. The stripped back approach is tantalising, and it feels like it could explode into something quite sinister at any moment. But when it doesn't, it's disappointing. Artistically, it holds its own, with respectable attention paid to all elements, particularly the soundtrack, which creates a beautiful layer to the decrepit life of the characters. In some ways, this film works, in others, it doesn't join the party-san.
Wild TalesAnne Murphy
Six short stories involving distressed people.
While we're told revenge is a dish best served cold, in this anthology of short stories we get to watch raging tempers and murderous passions unleashed. Each vignette is more outrageous than the one before, though surprisingly all are still believable, even when viewed from our less hot-tempered everyday world. Maybe we do live too close to the edge and it takes only a little to have exasperation explode into something uncontrolled and unpredictable. Wild and witty with dire consequences.
Testament of YouthAnthony Macali
A young lady decides to become a nurse on the front-line after the involvement of her fiancée and brothers in the World War.
Based on a war memoir, "Testament of Youth" lacks the emotion and passion for such an important film. The slow pace of the story is akin to a pain-killer, over time it dulls the senses. While the setting and romance are beautifully shot, they also distract from the grim reality of life during the depression, and war. There's no question against the nobility and endeavour of the main character. Sadly her underlying message gets lost in the style of delivery. Testament of patience.
Ex MachinaStefan Bugryn
A programmer spends a week with a tech prodigy who is developing his own artificial intelligence, but things begin to unravel as days pass...
Sometimes science fiction is more enjoyable when it is grounded in reality. "Ex Machina" is heightened by this very sense. Its engrossing storyline feels like it could be happening somewhere behind the scenes, even now. The impact of this film delivers more than just ideas to be imagined. The visual palate, filmed sumptuously in an almost dream-like location, could be plucked straight out of a magazine. It delights on many levels, and like an ex, will be hard to forget.
While We're YoungAnne Murphy
A couple's career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.
A comic film with a sharp satirical edge, "While We're Young" takes a critical look at narcissism and self-obsession. In a sophisticated and adult way the story addresses the parts of us, which don't want to grow up. It is refreshing to see a mocking sort of message delivered without sarcasm, a welcome change from other more screwball offerings. The intergenerational humour allows us to recognise ourselves, whatever our age. Nobody wants to be middle aged, not while we're (feeling) young.
Kumiko, the Treasure HunterAnne Murphy
A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of the movie Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.
“Kumiko” is a small miracle, a tale of one woman’s determined and almost mythic quest to realise her dream. The central character is one who inspires legends, an introverted sort of misfit dedicated to her impossible quest. The scenic backdrop is nothing short of breathtaking, thanks to the stunning cinematography. Like any good fable there are many sub-texts and moral messages subtly delivered. And like any good treasure worth digging for, this film is pure gold.
X + YAnne Murphy
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
A tender and affecting film about a type of genius, which comes with seeing the world in a different way. "X + Y" works on all levels thanks to an endearing cast of various misfits, none of whom can solve their own problems. The calculations are interesting but impenetrable for the average viewer. The real joy is in the discovery of something more important than mathematics. Whether you find the plot formulaic or not, it adds up.