I Am LoveAnne Murphy
A tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan.
The screen images are aesthetically composed and structured with an eye for the pleasing in this most stylish of movies. Sadly, the hand-held camera swirls to a point of disorientation at times. Fortunately the movie is grounded by the compelling performances of the cast. "I Am Love" throbs with tempestuous passion that becomes overwrought. Lust runs amok, building to a frantic conclusion as the film is lifted to its climax by the operatic score; and the viewer left exhausted by the experience. Love it.
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.
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.
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.
King Lear (National Live Theatre)Anne Murphy
An aging King invites disaster when he abdicates to his corrupt daughters and rejects his honest one.
The UK National Theatre brings a quality stage production to the cinema screen. The extraordinary passion that underscores this much loved story is evident in the performances of the experienced cast. It's those performances, not to mention the playwright's words, which hold attention. It's an extraordinary play, although the minimalist backdrops provide a simpler visual experience than cinema goers are likely expect. The experience of watching a play on the big screen is unusual and Lear, "...still every inch a King".
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.
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.
City IslandAnne Murphy
Meet the Rizzos, a family that might get along a lot better if only they could tell each other the truth.
The Manhattan skyline can be seen across the water in this marvellous little film. The setting, the accents, the personalities, the attitudes, and the situations are pure boisterous New York. The central family are all ensnared in complex relationships that ring true, as drama is stirred through with good hearted comedy. "City Island" is marred by an ending that ties up the threads a little too neatly, finishing on an unnecessarily schmaltzy note - even so, this is an island in the sun.
Little Miss SunshineAnthony Macali
A troubled family go on a road trip to enter their daughter into a Young Miss America Pageant.
This eclectic bunch faces all kinds of issues on their trip. From drugs and suicide, to homosexuality and death, all scenarios that will make you cry, make you cringe and most importantly make you laugh. It highlights the value of family and camaraderie, no matter how disturbing your family might be.
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.
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
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.
Elite Squad 2: The Enemy WithinAndrew O'Dea
A Lieutenant-Colonel in the military police force of Rio de Janeiro wages a war to vanquish the city of its drugs and corruption.
Set amongst the slums of Rio, "Elite Squad 2" is a fictionalised yet telling exploration of the harsh political reality in Brazil. A bloody and intelligent political thriller, the guns also blaze in a host of gritty but exceptionally realistic shoot-outs. Through a tale of violence, it highlights the exploitation of the poor to the corruption of the police and bureaucrats who are meant to be preventing the crime they profit from. Not quite elite, but a markedly solid effort nonetheless.
A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after he goes missing in Afghanistan.
"Brothers" is as compelling as it is emotional, a powerful combination. As the title suggests, the focus is our most important relationships, the ones with family. The story navigates some difficult political and ethical terrain and is all the better for doing so without judgement. The audience is treated as intelligent, and almost everything is pared back except the strong performance from the entire cast. The overall tone and simple background setting are downplayed for realism, and the lingering memories are heart wrenching. He ain't heavy...
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.
Rachel Getting MarriedAnthony Macali
A young woman who has been in and out from rehab for the past 10 years returns home for the weekend for her sister's wedding.
Initially, this film is very difficult to watch. The story is high in emotion, and typically these feelings are not good ones, as we see a family worn out from Kym's drug addiction and its haunting consequences. Such sentiments swirl and evolve to the titular finale, reminding us of the everlasting joys in life. "Rachel Getting Married" is a powerfully poignant film that will affect you many days later.
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.
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.
The Imitation GameAndrew O'Dea
During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code.
Part history lesson, part tragedy, "The Imitation Game" is a compelling biopic. This suspenseful drama reveals pieces of the puzzle slow and steady, with flashes of brilliance that unfortunately aren't sustained throughout. Nonetheless, with a constantly shifting chronology, it brings the remarkable legacy of the troubled mathematical genius to screen in an affecting portrait. The lead provides a sensitive portrayal in what is an empathy-stirring performance, outstanding in its awkwardness. An enigmatic man, cryptic and clever.
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...
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.
Mary and MaxAnne Murphy
A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals.
This meticulously constructed claymation is a mostly sombre film for older audiences. The characters and their surrounds are faultlessly observed, giving rise to frequent humorous moments, lifting the tone from what may have otherwise been despairingly gloomy. The predominantly monochromatic landscape serves to reinforce the serious nature of the themes of loneliness and mental illness. The movie is so finely balanced that ultimately the desperate is also oddly endearing.
Follows the relationship between two apprentices working on an agricultural complex south of Berlin.
A real farm setting and improvised dialogue provides "Harvest" with an almost documentary, naturalistic tone. The story is about two young men finding themselves and each other. Central to the film is a carefully observed and tentative romance in a potentially homophobic setting. The emotional tension and subsequent attraction between the two unfolds slowly. This movie enthrals its poetic depiction of emotional confusion and its surprisingly chaste approach to the developing relationship. Watch it and reap.
The son of a courtesan retreats into a fantasy world after being forced to end his relationship with the older woman who educated him in the ways of love.
Visually impressive with sumptuous settings and costumes, this movie indulges with viewing pleasure. The characters are free of social mores in a gilded era. The central theme is love spanning a generational divide. A fading beauty contrasted with a beatified youth. Despite the setting and the situation, the pace is indolent, without the exuberance of emotional highs or troughs of despair. "Cheri" manages to be glorious, even if wistfully restrained.
The Boys Are BackAndrew O'Dea
A sports writer struggles with suddenly becoming a single parent in tragic circumstances.
"The Boys are Back" is a tale of fatherhood. A deeply moving meditation on life, death and the importance of family, the heart-wrenching opening sequence sets the tone for the film's sense of purpose that resonates throughout. Far from manufactured, it avoids being conveniently sentimental as it veers between moments of grief and humour. The cinematography is simply stunning, coupled by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack and sublime male-focussed performances that make this a movie for both boys and girls alike.