The Princess of MontpensierAnne Murphy
Set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century, the action centres on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise.
This period drama is sumptuously set and fastidiously costumed. The renaissance, as far as we can tell, is faithfully reproduced and it's magnificent to watch. "Princess of Montpensier" comes complete with dashing sword fights and big bloody battles, but most interest is invested in the dilemmas of duty over love. As the drama is played out the heroine is unable to refuse the allure of true romance, a Queen of Hearts.
Water for ElephantsAnne Murphy
A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet.
"Water for Elephants" is an atmospheric movie evoking an old-fashioned, Hollywood romantic style. Watching this circus-spectacular you might be both sorry and glad you didn't run away to join the circus. Beyond the glitter of show time under the big-top is a tough life, particularly during the Depression of the 1930's. The circus also holds an exotic allure, and the travelling show and its performers enchant as the story unfolds. The elephant steals the show, no junk in this trunk.
Knocked UpAnthony Macali
For fun loving party animal Ben Stone, the last thing he ever expected was for his one night stand to show up on his doorstep eight weeks later to tell him she's pregnant.
A cocktail mix of crass jokes and baby sentimentality, "Knocked Up" is a surprisingly touching story that will leave you drunken with laughter. With a premise that is borderline believable, it introduces a unique perspective on birth, one not afraid to poke fun at all parts of the 40 week journey. It shows the miracle of birth, the trials of marriage and how fantastic, difficult and funny life can be.
Declaration of WarAnne Murphy
When their young son is diagnosed with a brain tumor, young parents Roméo and Juliette unite in the fight for his survival.
Despite its heart wrenching content "A Declaration of War" is lively and energetic. The movie is based on the experience of the director and her co-writer; part autobiography, part love story and part challenging medical drama. A story of desperately holding to hope is imbibed with familial love and delivered without pathos, and the result is a very moving account of navigating adversity while giddy with grief for what might happen. War, this is what it's good for.
As Luck Would Have ItAnne Murphy
An out-of-work publicist who suffers an accident looks to sell the exclusive interview rights to the highest bidder in an attempt to provide for his family.
A film of today that provides plenty of food for thought. Under the director's scrutiny are the media and their audiences, both hungry for sensational news. "As Luck Would Have It" is an original but grim satirical drama about a life and death story that unfolds under full media attention. How ordinary people respond to the extraordinary and ethical questions about the price of a life holds the audience's attention through to the closing frames. Unlucky for some.
Dawn of the Planet of the ApesAndrew O'Dea
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is darker than its predecessor, replete with themes of politics, trust, betrayal and family. This brilliantly realised science-fiction movie is both smart and exciting in narrative and amazingly splendid in visual effects, with the on-screen simians appearing just as real as their human counterparts. No monkey business here, this film is an intelligent piece of popcorn entertainment. Movie strong. People enjoy.
La Nostra VitaAnne Murphy
When tragedy befalls a construction worker he leans on his boss to give him his own site to supervise.
"La Nostra Vita" shows a slice of life for a hard working and honest man in present day Italy. Everyday struggles to navigate dilemmas involving ethics, family and friends a system where corruption is rife and how difficult it can be to do the right thing. Filmed with a hand held camera, the choppiness of the screen images highlight the topical edginess of the story-line. The audience is propelled from moment to moment as the odds stack up against the lead good-guy. Astute, perceptive film making.
Cold SoulsAnne Murphy
Paul is an actor who feels bogged down by his participation in a production of Chekov's play, Vanya.
"Cold Souls" has a delightfully original storyline told with a sombre, almost deadpan tone. The movie provides an intelligent and inquisitive voyage into existential angst, a surreal and introspective journey of both the familiar and the unknown. It could have been heavy going but for the well-crafted production, and the result is an entrancing and stylishly minimalistic film where the attention to detail is apparent. More 'funny peculiar' than 'funny ha ha' in style, this comedy is refreshingly soulful to boot.
A controlling sadistic man and his wife keep their three teenage children locked away from the world.
"Dogtooth" is disturbing viewing, as the stunted emotional development of the family becomes apparent. The mood is restrained as day after languid day of simple games are played out with the violent elements gradually emerging and escalating. The infantile mind games endured by the children are harrowing to watch. Their seclusion is not explained but the anguish and increasing desperation of the characters is readily understood. Distressing for audiences, and certainly not recommended for dentists.
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.
The PastAnthony Macali
An Iranian man deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. His wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife's request for a divorce.
"The Past" is a minimalistic drama that firmly holds your attention from beginning to end. Through conversations of the family members, both adults and children alike, a back-story is gently realised that evokes sympathy from the audience. As certain characters are favoured, each new revelation begins to influence judgement, feeding curiosity even further. Unassuming and honest, this film feels like a genuine portrayal of a complicated relationship. Don't look back.
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
Still WalkingAnthony Macali
A family reunites to honour their eldest son, who died saving a boy from drowning 15 years earlier.
"Still Walking" is a sombre tale of the Yokoyama family who struggle to overcome the death of beloved son Junpei and the divisive resentment it brings. Ryota finds it the hardest, never being able to meet the expectations of his gruff father as the shadow of his dead brother looms. This close-up and intimate portrait exposes all their issues, many resonating with our own, as true deep sadness is wrought in the absence of closure. The film reminds us that if we continue to walk away from our problems, we will run out of time to resolve them.
Before the Devil Knows You're DeadLuke Bartter
When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelery store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them hurtling towards a shattering climax.
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a challenging film which has intense performances and a compelling story, but is rarely enjoyable. The crime is revealed early on and shifts between before and after, gradually revealing each of the characters' perspective and situation, with a constant and uncomfortably building tension. Interesting to watch, but ultimately very unpleasant, it's recommended, but remember what you're getting yourself into.
Suzanne is a well to do married woman and mother in the south of France.
"Leaving" is a sensual summertime love story set to the lazy sound of crickets, where passion is taken to the brink of histrionics in this ardent tale of an illicit romance. The realism of the story is first apparent in the soundtrack which consists mostly of the amplified background noises of the everyday. Whatever your moral stance, the strong performances allow audience members to be swept up, embraced in the fervour, held by the story, and then left panting. No leaving early.
The Darjeeling LimitedAnthony Macali
Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other.
It's difficult to relate to this wealthy family, so far detached from reality. Rather, you laugh at their bickering, addiction to cough medicine, fondness of snakes and pepper spray, and other mishaps aboard the Darjeeling Limited. The Indian people and culture suffer from the little attention they receive in this feature, which delivers more of a postcard snapshot than an enlightening journey. What the film lacks in spirit, it makes up for in family camaraderie.
Familiar GroundAnne Murphy
Benoit lives with his invalid father while his sister, Maryse, is desperate for her husband to sell the backhoe sitting abandoned in their suburban yard.
The camera zooms in on family relationships, focussing on small interactions and exchanges. If you've ever wondered what the neighbours are doing, this film is a glimpse of them indulging in the same mundane activities as your loved ones. "Familiar Ground" is understated and wry, full of mini-moments. It manages to be unexpectedly generous too, as this little, almost deadpan, movie delivers a redemptive feel-not-bad, if not feel good, close. Familiar terrain that surprises.
Inspired by a true story about a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis.
This is an unusual and thought provoking comedy that draws humour from the tragedy at its core. The subject is handled deftly, and there is something refreshing about the fact that the laughter, or the tears, don’t feel forced. The fact that we can still laugh with this genuine approach makes the film appealing, coupled by the two likeable leads who play so well off each other. Although parts of the story may border on predictable, there is something affectingly real and touching about the emotional ramble that takes place. 70/30 you'll like 50/50.
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.
Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbour.
A somewhat eccentric addition to the romantic comedy genre, this utterly charming and insightful film deals with a condition not fully understood by most people. The title character is realistically and sensitively portrayed, while the female lead perfectly sustains him, in roles which will help raise public profile about the small yet significant segment of our society who suffers from Aspergers. This movie is a quirky, unassuming and tenderly realised story about a search for love and acceptance, something much more difficult for "Aspies" than most.
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.
Anna KareninaAnne Murphy
Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
The sets and staging in this rendition of "Anna Karenina" are impressive, and a glow of opulence illuminates the screen. A theatre stage is used as a creative device that achieves both a contemporary feel and an historic authenticity to the mood of the production, while the dance scenes alone will ignite passions. The grand and daring love affair soars at the centre of the saga, and thankfully questions on morality and society from the original text are preserved. To die for...
Win WinAnne Murphy
A struggling lawyer and wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
The good-humoured and flawed characters which populate "Win Win" are acted with refreshing individuality. The movie plays out as a down to earth and warm comedy, that is hard not to be charmed by. As the captivating plot develops, and very human problems are encountered, an almost constant tickle of laughter fills the cinema. Audience interest is engaged by the readily recognisable challenges of ordinary people and their relationships, and we're ready to empathise. Nobody loses.
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.
Julia's DisappearanceAnne Murphy
A comedy about aging, youth and other eternal truths.
"Julia's Disappearance" is a sophisticated and diverting exploration about growing older. The central characters are old enough to dread those once-a-decade 'milestone' Birthdays, events that are funny to everyone but the guest of honour. The cast are congenial and witty, so it is a pleasure to be in their company, or at least experience their on screen banter. The plot is threaded with charming short stories, all themed around aging, and thankfully told with enough heart and humour to prevent the topic becoming tiresome. It's well crafted and sophisticated, but where is Julia?