A Month of SundaysAnne Murphy
A real-estate agent fumbles through mid-life circumstances, navigates encounters with people from his present and his past.
"A Month of Sundays" is a warm movie where the central character is mired in his less than fulfilling life and uninspired about any future prospects. He is downbeat about his lot, and even working in the buoyant housing market fails to lift his outlook. The introspective nature of the story means that the screen action is a little slow, fortunately the funk lifts and we're delivered a satisfactory, but not so memorable, viewing experience in the end. Wish it was Monday.
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.
Two brothers in Iceland who don't speak to each other are united in their efforts to save their flocks from being destroyed for a suspected disease.
"Rams" can be viewed as a complex, understated drama in an interesting setting that leaves the viewer to connect threads that are not overly explained. Conversely you may find yourself nodding off after counting sheep while the story plods on. There's no denying the beauty of the desolate landscape and the quality of the cinematography, but this movie will be most appreciated by those with a well-developed sense of the bizarre. Baa or bah?
A Bigger SplashAnne Murphy
A taut drama is played out when a music producer visits a singer on an Italian island where she is recuperating with her partner.
A sun-drenched holiday by a pool is no simple matter when much more is bared than naked flesh. "A Bigger Splash" is a sophisticated and complex melodrama centred on relationships. You can't help but enjoy the flaunting of hedonism that only comes of pure narcissism. There are plenty of dark undertones, and the story is one to keep audiences guessing. There's a delicious tension knowing the unexpected is coming. In hindsight though, the symbolism employed is annoyingly blatant. Making waves.
The Lady in the VanAnne Murphy
The true story of an eccentric woman who lived in her van for 15 years while parked in the driveway of a playwright.
This is one of those stories where fact is stranger than fiction. The performance from the actor who plays the lady herself is fabulous, a perfect portrayal of a lonely but cantankerous and independent woman who has her wits about her. Mystery surrounds the character, and our discoveries about her are revealed like jigsaw pieces. The full picture isn't portrayed, not in all those years. Restrained, polite, and very English. Van in no man's land.
10 Cloverfield LaneStefan Sgarioto
After surviving a car accident, a woman wakes up in an underground cellar with two men, who claim that a worldwide chemical attack has left the outside world uninhabitable.
Secrecy is the name of the game in "10 Cloverfield Lane", where the less you know about it, the better it is. While touted as a blood relative but not a direct sequel to the similarly named monster-horror film, it’s implied that monsters come in many more dangerous forms. While this film has a slow build, the pay-off is worth it. Brimming with claustrophobia, paranoia and incredibly tense character dynamics, this suspenseful psychological thriller keeps you guessing until the very end.
45 YearsAnne Murphy
News from the past disturbs a couple as they prepare for a party to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Apparently you can learn something about your spouse that causes you to question everything about a life shared across decades. Really? It is a shaky premise for a movie if you believe marriage is a partnership rather than some form of ownership. There is something very perturbing about the central couple if their life as a "we" cannot accommodate some "me" about things in the past. Maybe they are just uncomfortably British and repressed. Can you keep a secret?
Son of SaulAnne Murphy
In Auschwitz in 1944, prisoners made up the Sonderkommando, groups who had to dispose of the bodies of their own people.
Watching "Son of Saul" feels akin to being in hell, such is the honesty of this holocaust drama. The film-making is extraordinary in recreating the full horror of the death camps and delivering an intense cinematic experience while keeping the audience riveted to the screen. There's no looking away as we bear witness to it all through one man's eyes. We observe something more gruelling than any imagined living-torment; the overwhelming horror of an unimaginable hell on earth. Devastating.
The biography of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted for his political beliefs during the McCarthy era.
In this story, an important piece of film history is found in the hysteria of the 1940's and 50's that saw many in the industry tarred as red and barred from working for their political views. "Trumbo" speaks to the both fear and moral courage of the time, served with a generous sprinkle of humorous eccentricities. This is an engrossing tale of villains and egos with a well-acted cast of characters, each with an uncanny physical resemblance to the real person being portrayed. And the winner is...
In the 1950s a young Irish girl migrates to Brooklyn, where she must learn to fall on her feet.
"Brooklyn" is an old-fashioned, simple, and exquisitely told romance story. It's a gorgeous looking film with the perfect match of characters and locales. For most parts the film dailies along, anchored by mesmerising performances that bring it to life and draw the emotion. The lead features in almost every frame, and could not be better cast. Her portrayal is wonderful to watch, as we observe her character learn, grow and shine in the limelight. Immigrants unite… this is an incredibly charming voyage.
Steve JobsAnthony Macali
A backstage look at Steve Jobs as he prepares for the launch of three of his new computer products.
"Steve Jobs" provides a startling insight into a ruthless business-man, remarkable in his vision and uncompromising in his approach, especially to his unfortunate co-workers and mystified daughter. Don't expect an in-depth discussion of the technology and evolution of Apple products... it's the little known and tumultuous father-story that takes centre stage, and it's the cunning of Jobs that really entertains. While some may find the three-act structure a little repetitive, strong dialogue and a stylish interface give this film air. A tempered innovator.
Michael Stone, an author on customer service, checks into a hotel and goes in search for some excitement to introduce to his relatively dull life.
"Anomalisa" is a curious observation of the mundanity of life, and the effect its simple premise will have on you is fascinating. It's a mesmerising stop-motion animation, and despite an unusual choice of visuals, it remains a deeply human story that deftly explores the beauty of romance in a largely uneventful day. In its search for meaning, there are many droll moments, but also scenes of personal insight that offer a profoundly relatable experience. A beautiful mystery.
Boston 2002 and a team of journalists investigate decades of sexual abuse by the clergy and its systemic cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The story is familiar, and "Spotlight" hammers home the betrayal of the communities where abuse was perpetrated, often within schools and always by people who were revered and implicitly trusted. The script is excellent, bringing both respect for the victims and damnation for the cover-up. The other point this movie drives is about the value of 'old school' investigative journalism, mostly thanks to an excellent cast and a few notepads (paper ones). Spot on.
The Big ShortAnne Murphy
Three parallel stories of different men who realised how precarious the US housing and investment markets were on the eve of the Great Financial Crisis.
"The Big Short" is a bold movie that is both cynical and humourous in its fact based analysis of the loose and rampant practices of the banking system. It's as scary as it is entertaining while affirming the theory that money markets are driven by fear and greed. Unexpected vignettes serve to explain the almost inexplicable structures used in the bond market, with parody being the perfect vehicle. Could well go a little longer.
1950s New York, a shy young woman and a sophisticated older woman discover a mutual attraction after an encounter in a department store.
"Carol" proves to be as complicated as it is elegant, with a constrained mood that reflects the conservative social mores of the period. The central romance requires a discretion that is perfectly captured by the director in a series of seductively framed small moments. Every element is exquisite, from the refined costumes to the vintage period set details. The desire and longing between the two women is so palpable you can feel your own heart aching. Adulation.
The Danish GirlAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, the marriage of artist Einar Wegener comes into question when his penchant for women's clothing prompts a transformation into the female persona Lili Elbe in the 1920s.
"The Danish Girl" is a delicate film, chronicling the extraordinary life of its protagonist in a very intimate way. With art as an ongoing theme, beautiful cinematography surround the intriguing character arcs. Striking, well grounded performances capture the volatility of the central relationship, exploring the ever-confused couple in their great distress. Perhaps falling short in its emotional impact, the story does successfully highlight an absence of social progression. The entangled artist.
Joy, a divorced mother of two, overcomes financial and family trouble to become the founder of a large business dynasty by inventing the Miracle Mop.
"Joy" is a fairly basic story about the rise of an underdog - with the main character navigating failures and defying the odds to succeed. Even in Joy's case, which includes both the support and betrayal of her unconventional family, it's nothing we haven't seen before. The most surprising aspect is that a story about the creation of a mop can be so entertaining. Despite some great casting and quirky dialogue, it does suffer from a confused tonal palette, not always sure where it should be hitting the mark between comedy and drama. Some joy to be had.
A retired composer and his longtime film director friend reflect on their lives at a Swiss Spa.
"Youth" is a film that demonstrates how growing old can change your perception on life, and once seen through the quirky gaze of its main characters, the world opens up. A luxury resort is the perfect setting to host a gathering of eccentric characters, and their odd and seemingly inconsequential behaviour consumes a large portion of the running time. Touching performances are sometimes lost as we attempt to grasp the context of the narrative, which only becomes apparent towards the finale, when the commentary becomes a little more forthright. Mature and weird.
London 1912, an important chapter of the feminist movement is being played out as women protest for the right to vote.
There is a sombre tone to "Suffragette", as it outlines a significant struggle in our all too recent history. The advocates for change were seen as troublesome activists to be quashed, and this convincing film shows that change was not won without a hard fight. Having one woman at the centre of the story serves to highlight the extent of personal sacrifice made. All in all, this is a grim and earnest tale, and one well worth seeing. Radical, militant women.
The RevenantAnthony Macali
After an ugly confrontation with a grizzly bear, Hugh Glass is left for dead in the snow by his crew.
"The Revenant" is unrelenting, unflinching and brutal. It's man against the elements, against nature and fellow man. This astounding tale of survival is wrought with sadness, set against great beauty. Gruelling performances combine with breathtaking visuals to create mesmerising cinematography, amongst terrain so harsh that you feel the chill of the snow along with the awe of the immense landscape. Despite the harrowing experience, this amazing production demands expedition. Extraordinary frontier.
By the SeaAnne Murphy
The marriage of a heavy drinking writer and his wife comes under scrutiny when they holiday in a small French seaside village.
The celebrity pull of the lead actors is undeniable, and it even feels a little voyeuristic to be watching this couple as they play out their relationship as another imagined pair. "By the Sea" is intriguing and stylish, but also very long. This lengthy movie is not well served by its languid pace, and at times seems to stretch on interminably. In addition to the star power the stunning seaside setting ensures watchability. That sinking feeling.
Bridge of SpiesAnthony Macali
An American lawyer defending a Russian spy becomes part of a negotiation of prisoners.
"Bridge of Spies" begins as a curious courtroom drama, laying the foundations for a treacherous negotiation set against the Cold War, where intel and espionage rule. The period is remarkably recreated, the look and detail conveniently transporting us back in time, complete with particularly poignant scenes of the infamous Berlin Wall being erected. For a film that mostly takes place in embassies with officials drinking scotch behind closed doors, it's surprisingly engaging thanks to the fierce dialogue and air of tension. Bridge to a bygone era.
The son of the late Apollo Creed encourages Rocky Balboa out of retirement to coach him into a championship fight.
This film is a solid piece of entertainment. No new ground broken, it works by sticking to the franchise’s tried-and-true formula, veering only slightly to explore one character's dynasty. Packing the biggest punch are the performances, which are genuine, and totally engrossing. Combined with a great traditional sports drama storyline, it introduces old characters to a new audience, whilst never abandoning the loyal fans. Not a knockout, but still puts up a good fight.
In the Heart of the SeaAnthony Macali
Inspired by Moby Dick, a ship is stranded at sea after its hunt for whale oil turns sour after a confrontation with a giant sperm whale.
Being stranded at sea is a terrible experience; hungry and trapped with no end in sight. It's an ordeal similar to watching this film, so make sure you bring popcorn to stave off the hunger. "In the Heart of the Sea" stinks, and no amount of computer-generated whales and their blow-holes were going to save this ship from sinking. The story is so boring and uninvolved that you just don't care; about any of the characters, or their fate. Stay clear of this storm. Disaster of the sea.
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.