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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.
An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
"Nebraska" is the black-and-white story of a rather confused elderly man. His poignant history is revealed during an absurd adventure to the titular destination, ensuring a stop-over at the town of his birth grants us a glimpse of small-town country life. All the characters we meet are equally colourful and droll, while conveying the quiet fragility and banal habits of old age. Simple and stripped-back, the film is a winner thanks to its lovable lead. Rich in sympathy and laughter.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rust and BoneAnthony Macali
Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after a horrible accident.
As the stark title suggests, "Rust and Bone" is a confronting drama. The couple at the centre of the story come with a deep past, and their lives of torment provide the unlikeliest of captivation. Through hardship, they continually find themselves turning to each other for support, and watching the development of their rambling relationship brings the greatest satisfaction. Beautifully shot and personal, this engrossing film challenges your emotions through its entirety. Strength in love.
Fruitvale StationAnthony Macali
The purportedly true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III on the last day of 2008.
Based on a true story, "Fruitvale Station" is the tragic chronicle of Oscar, and the frightful events of his New Year's celebration. A gritty style and clever mobile phone subtitles document the day with added authenticity, in a recollection where the characters admiringly take precedence over incident. Our protagonists aren't perfect, but their portrayals feel genuine, with a focus on family and relationships that add significant emotional weight, which becomes more apparent with the overwhelming sense of dread that arrives at the last stop. A great injustice.
Body of LiesAndrew O'Dea
Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius's 2007 novel about a CIA operative who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan.
"Body of Lies" is a political thriller that presents a current perspective of the turmoil pertinent to the Middle East. Rather than descending into patriotic nonsense, it takes a pointed look behind the veil of the 'War on Terror'. Those with a vested interest in the often volatile yet delicate balance of diplomacy and international espionage will find this film intellectually engaging, while others may find the portion of action sequences, however impressive, lacking.
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.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.