Promising the MoonAnne Murphy
A woman with Alzheimers leaves her nursing home and wartime family secrets are uncovered.
Set in Germany and Latvia this movie traverses the past and present as well as the countries themselves. Regardless of the setting, "Promising the Moon" is an emotional drama rather than a war film, a portrait of the bonds between mothers and daughters, and wives and husbands. A story of reconciling strained family relationships is related with a depth of feeling that is absorbing, while a mystery is unfolded and the past is explained in this superior and well-acted production. Promises lead to obligations.
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.
Boldly unconventional and cheerful, that's how one could describe Babou.
Boldly unconventional and cheerful, that's how one could describe "Copacabana", it is that sort of movie. A mother daughter relationship is scrutinised in this story, and strong performances bring the central characters alive. The tension between being true to oneself and being what others expect you to be is intelligently explored with a generous dash of quirky social satire. The result is well captured by the camera, perfectly paced, and the experience is intelligently feel good. More than a place, Copacabana is a state of mind
Cracks in the ShellAnne Murphy
Josephine suffers from not being seen but she also does her best at not being noticed, even though she is an acting student.
It's an emotional journey from auditions and rehearsals to a performance. "Cracks in the Shell" is a movie full of emotional expression as the shy lead actor struggles to meet the expectations of her director. The young woman is pushed, and pushes herself, as she is almost consumed by her own conflicts, taking the plot beyond a coming of age movie and into the territory of a psychological drama. Raw, tough and relentless, it's little wonder cracks emerge
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.
Liberal ArtsAnthony Macali
When 30-something Jesse returns to college for a professor's retirement party, he meets Zibby, a young student.
"Liberal Arts" is an unassuming study of growing up, exploring the many fears and regrets that come with growing older. For most the part, the film is set within the grounds of a college, bringing with it a loaded sense of nostalgia. The quiet setting steers all the focus on loveable pair at the centre of the film, allowing them to share their stories at their own pace. Conversations are funny, charming and sure to resonate with our own. A delightful relationship to reflect on life.
Eastern PromisesAnthony Macali
The film follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai, who is tied to one of London's most notorious organized crime families.
Glimpses of the criminal underworld will always interest us ordinary, nice folk. "Eastern Promises" is no different, with its shady Russian mafia conducting business in equally shady parts of London. A film of mixed emotions, the charismatic performances undermine the atrocities we witness and listen to in a narrated diary. At times this flurry of conscience is uncomfortable, a minimal hinder in this compelling and disturbing piece.
One DayAndrew O'Dea
After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives.
"One Day" represents a promising move away from the fabricated, sickly modern trend of most romantic dramas. This movie poignantly captures the complexity of relationships and the way lives meander and inextricably change, bolstered by the terrific on-screen chemistry of our two leads. We enjoy the way they generate humour and warmth in the same way we appreciate how the film explores themes of love and loss. Whatever happens tomorrow, you'll always have today.
After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy.
"Unbroken" is a prisoner of war drama that shows the limits of how many beatings a single person can take. The camera is placed firmly in the thick of the action and lets the remarkable true story do the heavy-lifting, revealing an incredible, resilient man and his ever-constant fight for survival. Unsurprisingly, this film encompasses all the inspirational quotes accustomed to the genre, but thankfully these clichés don't overshadow the impact. Unrelenting.
Little White LiesAnne Murphy
Despite suffering a traumatic accident, a group of friends go ahead with their annual beach vacation.
"Little White Lies" is an entertaining mix of comedy and drama. The film follows the cracks that appear as little pretences are revealed, straining the relationships among a group of long-time friends. It drifts along with a vacation atmosphere and a song-after-song soundtrack. You will probably wish you were a part of the tight-knit group by the seaside. Deep connections and human foibles are explored and exposed by the extraordinary French ensemble cast. Most enjoyable, and that's no lie.
Russell heads out to a gay club and picks up Glen just before closing time and what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.
"Weekend" is a low key movie grounded in realism that presents a romance between two men who have only a weekend to spend together. The simple naturalistic style of this film is balanced by its emotional honesty. The performance from the two leads is genuine and understated, lending authenticity to this modest but deceptively intense exploration of falling in love. I've got Friday on my mind.
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.
August: Osage CountyAnthony Macali
A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in.
"August: Osage County" plays host to a family steeped in unresolved issues. As each character is introduced, they bring extra weight to the drama. Based on a play, there are no small parts to this story, allowing each member of the ensemble to thrive, most memorably when they sit together in a dining scene to never forget. While the film lingers towards its conclusion, there's no doubt individuals will resonate identify with parts of the narrative before the end. Funny: Sad Family.
In DarknessAndrew O'Dea
A dramatisation of one man's rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.
"In Darkness" is an extraordinary tale of survival. The claustrophobic surroundings are grim and harrowing, a disturbing reflection of the true events upon which the story is based. Although still heavily dramatised, there is still a refreshingly raw honesty and unsentimentality to the film that is both profound and moving. Carried by an exceptional central performance, it confronts issues of morality as it seeps deep into the consciousness of the protagonist and audience alike. We can only hope there is light at the end of humanity's tunnel...
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.
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.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseTom Jones
A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center.
The centre of the world and its inhabitants, as seen and experienced through the eyes and mind of a young boy, are dynamically depicted in this film about loss and the journey one takes to feel found. The central plotline struggles to sustain your interest for the entirety and the loose ends could be tied quicker, but the moments where life and all its eccentricities are pulled back to a very literal and innocent place are quite compelling. All in all, extremely heartfelt, incredibly nice.
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
"Moneyball" is intelligent filmmaking that takes an unlikely subject and makes it interesting. It's a testament to the solid direction and brilliance of the scriptwriters that a story about the business of baseball could be so captivating. You can't help but be drawn in as it explores the opposing philosophies of intuition versus statistics, bolstered by that feel-good sentiment of rooting for the underdog. An entertaining movie that covers all the right bases, this one is right on the money.
Wake Up SidAmit Jain
A romantic comedy involving a lazy, rich, and unmotivated slacker called Sid and a career-oriented aspiring writer.
"Wake Up Sid" is a fresh new age romance set in the urban jungle of Mumbai. A well directed feel-good movie, it has a wonderful all-star cast with a beautifully subtle soundtrack (not the typical Bollywood dance numbers). A relaxed, cool film that accurately portrays modern Indian youth while exploring events that most of us would have lived through.
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.
A look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world.
"Amelia" is an adventurer's biopic with a central character who broke stereotypes, records, and hearts, while viewing borders as horizons. This well told story reflects all of that, and will inspire dreams bigger than the sky. The cinematography is fabulous, whether the landscape is seen looking down from a flying altitude or viewed gazing upward from the ground. The movie soars with Amelia in the pilot's seat.
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.
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.
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
There is much to love and hate about Juno. She undermines the process of giving birth with her contrived banter, and is immature and naive when it comes to adult issues. It's a credit to the film that we still find sympathy for our smart-mouthed hero. She takes responsibility for the impregnation and is deeply appreciative of the varied idiosyncratic characters that support her. "Juno" is an admiring tale that will frustrate and amuse.
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.