Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he works alongside his computer, GERTY.
"Moon" is no pioneer, but is still a quietly quaint and enjoyable movie. Lacking the grandeur of most space odysseys, this film is all about Sam, and we become immersed in his isolation and apprehension. The atmosphere is boosted by an accomplished score, creating tension in tandem with the computer GERTY, whose indifferent disposition is as discomforting as his voice. It certainly won't rock science fiction, but will definately re-energise the genre.
Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot.
"Australia" reverently captures the culture of our land, from the quintessential outback "aussie" to the native spiritual Aboriginals. This is an ideal, albeit clichéd, backdrop for a romance to develop, and this relationship persistently takes centre stage, overshadowing the many sad events within the story. Ambitious in scope and venture, "Australia" is our country's patriotic film, and despite some underwhelming key scenes, is one to be proud of.
Robot & FrankAndrew O'Dea
Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift: a robot butler programmed to look after him.
Both odd and intriguing, "Robot & Frank" is an intelligent, heartfelt meditation on aging and family. The familiar story may border on over-sentimentality at times, but an assured direction keeps it restrained, and the result is a quietly hilarious, quirky little film. Smart and sweet, its magnetism is driven by a brilliantly understated performance from the lead, whose on-screen chemistry with his robot companion provides much of the gentle humour and profound moments. There's nothing at all robotic about this one.
Saving Mr. BanksAnne Murphy
Author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.
You don't need to be a critic to appreciate a film about the story behind a film, or the story behind the book the film is based on. Fact, fiction and fantasy are woven together in a fabulously entertaining way. "Saving Mr. Banks" fires the imagination and reminds us of the magic of childhood; thanks in part, to the outstanding performances of the cast. It's also an unexpectedly moving tale. See it, spit spot.
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.
Satellite BoyThomas Jones
Pete lives with his grandfather in an old, abandoned outdoor cinema in the desert. When the old drive-in is threatened with demolition, ten year old Pete takes off to the city to save his home.
This film effectively handles the topical issues of mining and land rights, capturing a real innocence on the matter. The way the young Aboriginal boys use the land and the way miners use the land are opposed, the dynamic played out without blatantly plugging any political agenda. With picture-postcard cinematography throughout, the audience can enjoy the story for what it is, as a platform for discussion, or as inspiration for your next getaway. Walkabout anyone?
Summer CodaAnthony Macali
Hitchhiking home to a family she's never known, Heidi meets Michael. In the stunning orange groves of country Australia, they embark on an adventure, discovering their secrets and lives.
"Summer Coda" is a delightful film ripe with colour. The story wonderfully captures the spirit and hospitable culture of its setting, sharing the joy and happiness of drinking and dining with newly acquainted company. The beauty of the scenery and cast is truly enamouring as they make orange picking look terribly fun. While it takes a while to hit the heavy drama, it still garners plenty of emotion when it arrives. Bright and sunny and cheerfully heart-warming.
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!
The Burning PlainAnne Murphy
The past and the present have a curious way of affecting one another as several people separated by time and space are about to discover.
This gripping tale is revealed as slowly as a building storm while tension builds. The movie is laden with foreboding, even if you anticipate the outcome before it's played out. The threads involving various characters weave together to reveal the anguish filled origins of the story. "Burning Plain" is moody and filled with loss and remorse, filmed against scenic backdrops that create realism and tension. The plains burn with a slow fuse to create an unforgettable movie.
A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot.
Set amidst the melting pot of violence and political tension of Belfast in '71, this unconventional yet taut thriller is an introspective into the bitter conflict between Catholics and protestants at the time. There are bombs, bullets and bodies aplenty without being a prototypical action movie, and despite being a slow burn, still maintains an aura of suspense as we accompany our hero through a gritty urban war-zone; the jittery hand-held camera work lending a sense of urgency and immediacy. A willing tale from another decade.
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.
Sound of My VoiceAndrew O'Dea
A journalist and his girlfriend get pulled in while they investigate a cult.
"Sound of My Voice" is thrilling without being a thriller. An intelligent story provides a very broad insight into some of the stranger practices of cults, ranging from lunacy to laughable. All the while though, we remain transfixed as it explores sensitive aspects of the human psyche. Some may find the lack of finality annoying, as the cryptic answers it delivers can be construed or interpreted in a number of uncertain ways. However, credit is surely due to any film that is able conjure questions and creative debate in the minds of its audience. What will you hear? The choice is yours.
Women Without MenAnne Murphy
Against the tumultuous backdrop of Iran's 1953 CIA-backed coup d'état, the destinies of four women converge in a beautiful orchard garden, where they find independence, solace and companionship.
The cinematography is extraordinary, creating a compelling story on the screen. The camera wanders and picks up magical images, mostly of women who would wish to live their lives differently. Each woman's tale is told with insight and appreciation for the individual; a feminist narrative with a political backdrop. Interest is held as the movie weaves through time and dream sequences, even as the plot lacks a little depth. There are men with the women, they're all but incidental.
The Damned UnitedAndrew O'Dea
A look at Brian Clough's 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds United.
A compelling and often humorous biopic, this movie is a football fan's delight, and they will revel in the nostalgia and seamlessly intertwined archival footage. However, you don't necessarily have to enjoy football to enjoy this film. Essentially character-driven, most of the drama occurs off the pitch. Fantastic storytelling, rich and engaging dialogue, and a superb man-of-the-match performance from the lead actor manage to separate "The Damned United" from your typical sports flick. GOOOOOOALLL!!!
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 Mezičres 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.
The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life.
One can imagine there is more to tell about the story of the young woman who 'starred' in a porno film that became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970's, and despite its name was not about a giraffe. The tale is sordid, ultimately it is about degradation and abuse, and it evokes empathy for the main character. The disco soundtrack is excellent and the support actors are credible as thugs in body shirts. Hard core.
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.
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.
The Spectacular NowAnne Murphy
A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."
Some matches are made in heaven, and the romantic match central to "Spectacular Now" is made on a front lawn. That should tell you that this is a quirky but down to earth tale. The focus is on the now rather than the future, but the past looms large for the characters. Spectacular suggests grand, but it's the simplicity of the everyday that is most engaging. Then there is self-discovery, ubiquitous and inevitable in coming-of-age movies, and breathtaking here. Simply stupendous.
Le HavreAnne Murphy
When an African boy is discovered hiding in a shipping container in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
The simplicity of this movie is material to why it will be enjoyed. It is warm hearted and unpretentious. Layers of difficult socio-political issues are pared back to create a story that humanises the plight of immigrants without visas. The kindness shown to one struggling boy and the solidarity of the town’s characters in resisting the law enforcers are natural choices. Compassion and humour perfectly blended.
A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.
"Barbara" has an austerity of style reminiscent of life in East Germany - nothing is explained or expounded upon, and the viewer is required to work out the situation for themselves as clues are gradually disclosed. Relationships are taut due to the difficulty in determining between informant and friend. Still, it's compelling to watch as intrigue builds. What looks on the surface to be a simple character study develops into an intriguing story about personal values and freedom of choice. Subtle yet barbed.
Behind the CandelabraThomas Jones
The tempestuous relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover is recounted.
Surprisingly, for a film about a figure as flamboyant as Liberace, it’s a little dark. The central relationship spirals into some very odd and destructive behaviour; imagine your boyfriend wanting to adopt you as his son. From the fashions and furnishings, to the stigmas surrounding homosexuality, this film accurately captures the era with which it is set. Though at times it does become a bit farcical, there are award-worthy performances all round, particularly from the man who is the candelabra.
Maps to the StarsAnne Murphy
A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.
"Maps to the Stars" is a disturbing social satire that is also an absorbing study of human character, if you can bear to watch it. The bleak yet original story is gripping for the way it gradually unfolds without revealing what happens next. It's involving thanks to the strong cast who bring the reprehensible, self-absorbed characters to life. Everyone has self-destructive tendencies but the desperate violence they wreak on each other is what's most jaw-dropping. A dark night in Tinseltown.
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.
The WacknessAndrew O'Dea
A lonely teenager spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout New York City, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist for treatment.
"The Wackness" follows the empathetic character of social outcast and drug dealer Luke Shapiro, centering on the unlikely friendship he develops with his eccentric therapist, Dr. Squires. In each other they find a solace of sorts, sharing their parallel frustrations with life. This movie is entertaining in its strangeness, as it paints an almost sardonic humour through the juxtaposition of adolescent anxiety and middle-aged depression.