The Woman in BlackAnthony Macali
A lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost terrorizing the locals.
The message is clear from "The Woman in Black". Stay away, or be haunted. A mist-laden and exquisite countryside plays host to the ghost, a town riddled with scary looking kids and impending doom. The film is at its terrifying best with the lead simply exploring the dark house of his confinement. In a time when one cannot simply turn on the lights, every creak and crack builds unbearable tension. Unfortunately this apprehension doesn't last to the end. Good old-fashioned frights.
The Boat That RockedAnthony Macali
A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's.
"The Boat That Rocked" is a dazzling compilation of the best music of the sixties, played and presented by an equally upbeat cast. There is no story, only parody, with scenes that'll either make you cringe, smile or laugh out loud. In fact, it's so wrought with feel-good moments that it may be enough to make you sea-sick. However, if you enjoy being immersed in such euphoria, you'll enjoy this film, maybe even love it, and everyone else can revel in the celebrated soundtrack.
American GangsterAnthony Macali
In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of a heroin kingpin.
"American Gangster" is an epic story of two people. Frank Lucas, a religious and devoted family man; and his polar opposite, Richie Roberts, the incorruptible cop, troubled at home but determined in his lonely pursuit. You can't help but take Frank's side, relishing his journey from rags to riches, and joining his vast corrupted network of cops and soldiers who succumb to greed. It's not until we see the effects of 'Blue Magic' that we're reminded his business is heroin. A brilliant and engaging crime classic.
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.
The First GraderAnne Murphy
The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.
"Based on a true story" the opening credits report, so prepare to learn about Kenya's recent and bloody past. "The First Grader" revisits a brutal episode in history while focused on a redemptive story line, complete with extraordinary African backdrops. The feel good meter runs high while watching this incredible story of one man's experience and his determination to learn to read and write. Elementary.
An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
"Trance" is a demonstration in the odd behaviours associated with art, hypnosis and love. What starts as an apparent heist film quickly transitions into a psychological thriller, challenging the audience to discover the truth. With each chapter, the story introduces new pieces of the puzzle and dissecting each revelation delivers a sense of accomplishment. Driven by a great cast of ensnaring characters, the only frustrating memory might be a plot-twist too many. A riveting piece missing perfection.
Where the Wild Things AreAndrew O'Dea
A disobedient little boy sent to bed without supper creates his own world inhabited by wild creatures.
This film is a strangely endearing adaptation of the literary classic. Though some may find the story languid at times, it's redeemed by spectacular cinematography and an almost despondent poetry. Brief moments of fun and frivolity are usurped by darker, more pensive undertones as we draw an emotional parallel between Max and the exquisitely realised 'Wild Things' that echo his feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration... and it's to be admired for embracing this childhood angst rather than simply condemning it. Let the wild rumpus start!
Anything for HerAnne Murphy
With no legal means left to him, a high school teacher devises a daring plan to rescue his wrongfully imprisoned wife from jail.
"Anything for Her" is a gripping thriller that will be watched heart pumping, and eyes glued to the screen. Tension is maintained throughout this tightly edited and well acted film that moves credibly between middle-class lives and the underside of the streets of Paris. While it may stretch plausibility, it is an action packed yarn that prompts questions about innocence and guilt, love and desperation.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.
The Brothers BloomAndrew O'Dea
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue.
"The Brothers Bloom" is an offbeat, eccentric story. The unique approach to story-telling is utterly refreshing as it blends moments of genuine romance, intrigue and comedy which are complemented by a superb, mostly orchestral score. At times it becomes a little self-aware, but for the most part is buoyed by host of glorious performances that sustain an engagingly quirky and whimsical style. A pleasantly charming film that blooms then blossoms.
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.
About EllyWendy Slevison
A group of friends play matchmaker and a mess of seemingly innocuous deceits prove dire in their consequences.
"About Elly" is a rare and uncompromising glimpse into the lives of a group of Iranian friends on a brief seaside hiatus from their homes in Teheran. While the narrative revolves around Elly, it profoundly affects each of the other characters as they are exposed in various states of vulnerability. The austere backdrop of the Caspian Sea reflects the broiling emotion within the group as the plot relentlessly unfolds in this modest yet beautifully crafted film.
A romantic comedy centered on the daily lives of five Lebanese women living in Beirut.
It appears chick-flicks can transcend world boundaries. "Caramel" is time spent with friends - five women working in a salon, all trying to remove the issues in their lives. Such real-life problems we can relate to; from lust, romance, age, to daunting marriages. With genuine affection from the director's touch, we actually care about these characters, and enjoy their company, all the while adversely sympathising with them in the arduous scenes. This film is a refreshing sweet of cultural insight and winsome friends.
City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, but his rebellious spirit shakes the town up and he sets out to have the rules abolished.
This remake of the classic is bound to have its sceptics, both those who are fans of the original, as well as those who had no interest in it the first time around. All cynicism will be pushed aside however, as this film is simply too fun to not enjoy. The two young leads carry the movie with an authenticity that lifts it from the cheesy mess it could have been, and the impressive choreography gives "Footloose" an exuberance that will have you dancing in the aisles.
Burn After ReadingAndrew O'Dea
A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.
"Burn after Reading" is a wry, satirical comedy that revels in its own quirkiness. The outstanding performances convey a series of characters that haven't a clue what's going on - and neither do we - but therein lies the fun. The plot is as brilliant as it is convoluted. We don't see anything coming as each twist gathers momentum, creating a hilarious sense of the inconsequential. An absurdly entertaining film.
The GreyAndrew O'Dea
In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.
This tale of survival is a surprisingly philosophical one. "The Grey" is still punctuated by enough action to thrill, but at its core remains a meditation on existentiality and an intelligent snapshot about man's primal will to live. Unsparingly bleak, the film's spiritual agenda is stripped as bare as the cold and wild backdrop it's set against; carried by some superb characterisation and the commanding presence of its leading man. Once more into the fray...
In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she's alive.
Bernie is just like that 'uncle' you suspect is using his goodness to suppress a dirty secret or fetish. You can't help but like him, but at the same time you're wondering if he's wearing lingerie under his suit. This mockumentary style tale is as much about the unlikeliest of friendships, as it is about the inhabitants of the deep south and their strict moral code. It’s their commentary as the events unfold that provide much of the comedy. So entertain'n you could butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Little DeathsAnne Murphy
Composed of disturbingly sensual and terrifying short narratives, unified by the twin themes of sex and death.
Stories that usually only live in one's imagination emerge on to the screen. The quality production has a dreamlike quality. The narrative is more creative, more hedonistic, and a little more hysterical than everyday ordinary reality; needless to say it is more enjoyable too. There is more suggested than consummated on the screen, and risqué elements are implied rather than explicit. "Little Deaths" is deftly handled so the libidinous tone doesn't sink to lewd. Good Australian film making lives a little.
Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.
"Mud" is a hold-your-breath atmospheric thriller set down South in the US. As expected, the ol' boys are hardened characters seeking either redemption or revenge but this intense movie really belongs to the two wide-eyed young boys and their adventures in a grim adult world. While distracted by women, they are discovering what it takes to be a man and how the bonds forged between men prove more steadfast than other embittering relationships. Gritty.
Fast FiveTom Jones
Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.
After watching this film, the drive home will feel slower than ever before and any muscles you thought you had will look more like excess skin. The cars and the men in this film put all to shame. The car chases and action sequences are non-stop, over the top, till you drop... and then some. The story, which follows a trio of crims on the run ties these amazingly shot scenes quite nicely together. If you have the need for speed, fasten your seatbelts.
The WindowAnne Murphy
An ill and aged author has his housekeeper preparing for the visit of his estranged son.
Related as a simple tale, this film is a gently paced contemplation of life and death. Scenes are deftly painted with an aesthetic eye. The cinema screen becomes an artist's canvas coloured with the haze of summer and reminiscences. It is a rare pleasure for the audience to be credited with the intelligence to sketch sub-plots, rather than having it all spelled out. A melancholic but unsentimental study of mortality; pausing for a view through this window is recommended.
The MaidAnne Murphy
A drama centred on a maid trying to hold on to her position after having served a family for 21 years.
At times, the long-suffering maid has the dead-pan intensity of a zombie as she mercilessly deals with more junior help and other annoyances. Quite menacing in tone, this film is an intriguing social commentary on the lot of a live-in domestic. The film-maker provides the servant with little identity beyond the family she works for, and almost no voice, yet with extensive power that she wields with an unrepentant wilfulness. "The Maid" serves as an intimate, neurotic and original movie.
17 AgainCourtney Slevison
In 1989, Mike O'Donnell was the star of his high school basketball team. Now 20 years later, with his glory days behind him, a magical encounter gives him the chance to be 17 again.
In a familiar body-swap genre, this movie shines with charm and good-humour. The film is led by the brilliant casting of the main character, with a great supporting cast. While clearly aimed at teenage girls, "17 Again" will reach a broader audience due to its big heart and great comedic moments. The perfect film for undemanding, feel-good fun.
A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.
"Hanna" is a film that will divide action fans. Some will appreciate that this isn't your conventional assassin flick, as it straddles the line between art-house and mainstream cinema. Others will lament the lack of action as it takes the time to explore themes of family and coming-of-age. Although the fight and chase sequences might be sparse, they are each technically captivating, and enhanced by a brilliantly pulsating, almost hypnotic soundtrack. Surreal and wayward, but still hits the mark.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.