Mother and ChildAnne Murphy
A drama centred around three women: A 50-year-old woman, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago and a woman looking to adopt a child of her own.
The relationship between mother and daughter is a rich emotional territory that "Mother and Child" wades right into. The brittle, flawed women wading through their lives and dreams will touch your heart, and then wring it out, as strands of the different characters' stories entwine. The actors give great performances in vulnerable and dysfunctional roles that variously thaw and freeze. Take your Mummy and remember your tissues.
Still LifeAnne Murphy
A council case worker looks for the relatives of those found dead and alone.
If "Still Life" highlights anything, it demonstrates how much things change. Life does not stay still. This movie creates a disquieting sense of emptiness as it peers at the little that's left behind by the lonely and the alone. The story is simply presented and although it is bleak, the delivery of day by day routine is rather matter of fact. There is so little emotional connection in what's played out on the screen it's difficult for audiences to feel very much apart from melancholic. Inert.
The DuchessAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
"The Duchess" is a window into the intriguing life of Georgiana, a view that overlooks her reputable politics in favour of her more lascivious endeavours. Extravagant romanticism flourishes in 1700's England, a time of manners, costumes and beauty. A significant contrast to the inner turmoil that dwells in the Duke's house, burdens of birthing a male heir exact many sacrifices. Outstanding performances portray the many troubled characters of this film, in a period drama that only suffers from an imbalance of love and politics.
A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
"Philomena" is perfectly structured. It is crafted to achieve a fine balance between the wrenching despair of forced adoption 50 years ago and touching comedic present-day moments. The story is based in truth, and the facts raise ire as it's difficult to accept that this treatment of young mothers was even possible. Thankfully there is no oozing of sentimentality and the humanity portrayed by the actors ensures moving viewing.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.Andrew O'Dea
A father's life unravels dealing with a marital crisis and managing the relationship with his children.
This multigenerational love story is a cut above your average romantic comedy, and for the most part, is a funny, honest and insightful film. The only pity is that long stretches of engaging rom-com fare are punctuated by brief moments of that gooey clichéd stuff we're all too familiar with. However, bolstered by a stellar cast who are sublime and charm us senseless in their individual roles, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." still provides a refreshing insight into the humour, tragedy, and wonderfully weird circumstances of love. Whether it's stupid or not is completely up to you.
Wheelchair-bound Christine makes a life changing journey to Lourdes, the iconic site of pilgrimage.
"Lourdes" is a subversive, almost tongue in cheek, exploration of theology, belief and miracles. A contemplative movie that, thanks to an underdeveloped narrative, leaves the audience to imagine what each sideways glance and eyebrow movement on the screen means. This story will appeal to believers and non believers as it captures both the devotion of a pilgrimage to Lourdes and the modern day commercialism of the same. Miracles are now commodities. It's hard to say what St. Bernadette would make of the contemporary Lourdes.
Little Miss SunshineAnthony Macali
A troubled family go on a road trip to enter their daughter into a Young Miss America Pageant.
This eclectic bunch faces all kinds of issues on their trip. From drugs and suicide, to homosexuality and death, all scenarios that will make you cry, make you cringe and most importantly make you laugh. It highlights the value of family and camaraderie, no matter how disturbing your family might be.
North Sea TexasAnne Murphy
A teenage boy's search for love finds him fixated on the boy next door.
It's that time in life when emerging sexual desires inevitably involve the boy next door, as upsetting as that may be to his sister who also fancies the boy next door to her too. That statement about the plot, while accurate, is clumsy in comparison to the tender handling that first love receives in "North Sea Texas", a subtle and moody film. Movies in the understated style of this production often get labelled as 'little films' but there is nothing small about Texas, even when located on the Belgium coast.
Rare ExportsAndrew O'Dea
In the depths of the Korvatunturi Mountains in Finland, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas.
"Rare Exports" is a clever horror comedy that presents a very dark take on the tradition of Santa Claus. The unique and intelligent premise is what drives the film, and although some may find it slow in parts, the unusual story is strangely entertaining. It has a distinct visual style set against the white and cold of remote Finland, and considering its minimal budget, the perfectly apt CGI puts most big-budget Hollywood fare to shame. Perfectly fine stocking-filler.
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 look at the life of serial killer John Bunting.
The world looks like a more sinister place after watching "Snowtown". The story, which recounts real events, is chilling and shows life as you wish it wasn't. The setting is a colourless and unsettling suburban landscape, all the more terrifying for its ordinariness. It's sometimes hard to tell the relationships between the characters, not that it's possible to care for any of them. The dramatic build is slow and we squirm at what's coming and, unsurprisingly, the audience becomes enmeshed in scenes so sickening that they're almost unwatchable. Snowtown is no town to be.
A failed medical experiment turns a man of faith into a vampire.
Take equal parts sex, love, murder, humour, religion, violence and vampires. Add one talented, visually adventurous director and a good dash of excellent acting, and you have a wild and unique cocktail called "Thirst." Drink it up, and you will definitely feel as though you have had an unusual, albeit lengthy, experience. This horror/comedy saga has so much going on that your head will be spinning by the last drop. A taste sensation not for the faint-hearted, but plenty of shocks and laughs for those brave enough to try it.
Me and Orson WellesAnne Murphy
A teenager is cast in the production of "Julius Caesar" directed by a young Orson Welles in 1937.
"Me and Orson Welles" is a coming of age drama within a convincing theatrical setting. The era is authentically replicated, and the characters so well drawn the audience is transported to thinking we're watching Orson Welles in his prime. The raging genius, ruthless manipulator, and ambitious actor and director are all credibly presented. Theatre life and backstage dramas within the chaos of the production process are all used to enthral, and it's crowned by romantic intrigue. This is a well directed movie that ends with applause.
St. VincentAnne Murphy
A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
At some point the audience will realise they're watching the aging lead actor playing his elderly self, or some down-on-his-luck movie character version of himself. Don't feel like a sucker for playing along and enjoying the film. The endearing qualities of the protagonist allow you to put cynicism aside, forgive the unlikely plot elements, and be entertained by the ubiquitous fogey next door with a proverbial heart of gold. Wholly unlikely Saint.
The Snows of KilimanjaroAnne Murphy
After celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, a couple are shattered by two young men, armed and masked, who beat them, tie them up, snatch their wedding rings and flee with their credit cards.
Inspired by Victor Hugo's poem "How Good are the Poor", this warm-hearted movie tackles some of today's social and moral issues within the setting of a small community. Our judgments of others can be black and white but, as this moving story highlights, the reality of another is never so simple. The themes are complex but the motivation of each character is uncomplicated. Let it snow.
A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.
The best songs are born from grief, and in "Once" we are introduced to the loveable guy and girl, who's loneliness and music bring them together. The acoustic overtures not only signal beautiful songs, but a time of reflection to look at our own relationships. This film shows how the most unlikely of people we meet in the world may share passions and dreams similar to ours, and whose simple friendship can bring joy to our sometimes stale lives.
A bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and authorities who want a cut of their profits.
"Lawless" is steeped in dirt and bloody vengeance, painting a grim and violent picture amongst what is a distinct and evocative recreation of depression-era America. Masterfully crafted and beautifully filmed, it's the style and attention to detail that coerces us to overlook the minor storytelling flaws that hold it back from being a potential classic. Performances from the leads as well as terrific ensemble cast are terrific, underpinned by a sublime 'hillbilly' score. Uncomfortable and unsettling, this entertaining jar o' moonshine kicks like a mule.
The Informant!Andrew O'Dea
The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre.
"The Informant!" is densely layered yet unassumingly funny satire. More 'quirky funny' than 'laugh-out-loud funny', it pokes fun at corporate greed as we navigate through a delightful web of deceit. The lead actor is superb, and we struggle whether to critisise or empathise with his goofball character. Although it may not have a lasting impact, the oddity of the film alone is enough to keep you entertained as you grapple with being informed on misinformation.
Made in DagenhamAnne Murphy
A dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against pay discrimination.
A historically important, political story is related in "Made in Dagenham". The birthing of an important precedent comes alive on the screen with archetypal British humour as an uplifting offering. The demarcation lines are drawn, the bad guys mired in their dark plotting as the determination of the good gals to triumph builds. The film is nostalgic and true to the era, delightfully sentimental and humorous. If they can make good in Dagenham, we can make it anywhere.
A Gun in Each HandAnne Murphy
A series of five vignettes exploring the relationship crises of middle aged men.
This movie is a conversation starter. After watching the intimate conversations on the screen, there will much to talk about, particularly with a member of the opposite sex. "A Gun in Each Hand" is thought provoking, and we're given a fly-on-the-wall chance to witness men talking and sharing about their feelings and relationships. They are all struggling in some way and the director's slightly cynical touch is light enough that we can connect with both their desires and concerns. Straight shooters, or trying to be…
After her marriage crumbles and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed tries to put her past behind her and hikes more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, alone.
"Wild" brings an uplifting memoir about seeking redemption through physical challenges from the page to the screen, and is true to original text. While managing to traverse a full gamut of emotion, there are funny and even uplifting moments. It’s impossible to say if it is the walker or the rugged walk that most impresses, and even harder to resist the urge to pull on your hiking boots. Wild thing might make your heart sing.
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
The Boy in the Striped PyjamasAndrew O'Dea
A story seen through the eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a commandant of a concentration camp, who forms a forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence.
This film takes a surprisingly poignant approach to a very difficult subject matter. Credit must go to the filmmakers' remarkable ability to capture, then maintain, a child's naivety and innocence amidst the horror of the holocaust. Significantly, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is to be applauded for avoiding condescension; and although at times some may find it harrowing - almost devastating - for children especially, it constitutes a very important film.
The ConcertAnne Murphy
Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov, the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians.
"The Concert" is a wonderful, formulaic, crowd-pleaser. Of course, formulaic can be wonderful if you can forgive the sense of knowing what's going to happen before it unfolds. As the story builds, the many farcical sequences notwithstanding, there's a sense that something other than the music is being orchestrated. By the time the final concerto is played there is not a dry eye in the house. The magnificent crescendo plays shamelessly to our sentimentality yet it's still uplifting. Bravo.
A story set in Santiago and centered on Gloria, a free-spirited older woman, and the realities of her whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer she meets out in a club.
There is much to like about the authenticity with which one woman's life is depicted, including the loneliness of living alone. "Gloria" is about a real character who is a complete woman. The sex scenes are a highlight with everything played au natural; the audience laughs... but maybe it is true that getting to know someone romantically is no easier at sixty that it was at sixteen. Glorious.