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.
Seven lost children wander the night streets while their mothers await their return home.
"Blessed" pulls no punches as it explores a day in several corrugated relationships between mothers and their children. Melbourne is the gritty urban setting, effectively underscored by a pulsing soundtrack. For a film so set on portraying realism, it is surprising that some of the intertwined storylines stretch credibility beyond the boundary of believable. This is counterbalanced by a couple of stand-out performances that could wrench a still-beating heart right of your chest. Dead-beat, down-beat, cursed, cursing and blessed.
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!!!
A bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and authorities who want a cut of their profits.
"Lawless" is steeped in dirt and bloody vengeance, painting a grim and violent picture amongst what is a distinct and evocative recreation of depression-era America. Masterfully crafted and beautifully filmed, it's the style and attention to detail that coerces us to overlook the minor storytelling flaws that hold it back from being a potential classic. Performances from the leads as well as terrific ensemble cast are terrific, underpinned by a sublime 'hillbilly' score. Uncomfortable and unsettling, this entertaining jar o' moonshine kicks like a mule.
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.
A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.
"Hanna" is a film that will divide action fans. Some will appreciate that this isn't your conventional assassin flick, as it straddles the line between art-house and mainstream cinema. Others will lament the lack of action as it takes the time to explore themes of family and coming-of-age. Although the fight and chase sequences might be sparse, they are each technically captivating, and enhanced by a brilliantly pulsating, almost hypnotic soundtrack. Surreal and wayward, but still hits the mark.
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.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' NestTom Jones
Lisbeth is recovering and awaiting trial for three murders. Mikael must prove her innocence, but Lisbeth must be willing to share the details of her sordid experiences with the court.
Millennium fans will be fulfilled by this portrayal of the final book of the series. The magnitude of this story is handled well, despite feeling a little rushed at times. The quickened pace impacts on the suspense, which is never given enough time to really build. Consequently, the film feels less like a thriller and more like a courtroom drama. However, the acting is superb, the story is bold and the climax… revenge has never tasted so sweet. She's kicking nests... and goals.
A group of young vigilantes seeking revenge for a sexual betrayal fall far from grace.
From the outset, "Blame" is quite sinister. It becomes apparent quite early that the act of murder is a difficult thing, especially on a whim and in the hands of the naivety of youth. While the poor execution might raise questions from the audience, it's a suitable plot device to put strain on the determined characters. Across the group, the performances are uneven, but a chilling score chimes in at all the right moments to carry on the drama. If only the director didn’t reveal too many details to make the guesswork easy. Still, you cannot fault the tension.
Recent college graduates try to fulfil their dreams in a band and escape the monotony of regular jobs.
A coming of age movie, where adolescents try to find a life beyond the conventional one that might be expected of them. The soundtrack is loud with original music which conveys the passion of band members; and in contrast, the dull and muted tones of Tokyo reflect the plight of those same characters. Well acted and understated, it is hard not to be moved by the sentimentality and uncertainty of lives dedicated to pursuing one's dreams.
The Informant!Andrew O'Dea
The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre.
"The Informant!" is densely layered yet unassumingly funny satire. More 'quirky funny' than 'laugh-out-loud funny', it pokes fun at corporate greed as we navigate through a delightful web of deceit. The lead actor is superb, and we struggle whether to critisise or empathise with his goofball character. Although it may not have a lasting impact, the oddity of the film alone is enough to keep you entertained as you grapple with being informed on misinformation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Gun in Each HandAnne Murphy
A series of five vignettes exploring the relationship crises of middle aged men.
This movie is a conversation starter. After watching the intimate conversations on the screen, there will much to talk about, particularly with a member of the opposite sex. "A Gun in Each Hand" is thought provoking, and we're given a fly-on-the-wall chance to witness men talking and sharing about their feelings and relationships. They are all struggling in some way and the director's slightly cynical touch is light enough that we can connect with both their desires and concerns. Straight shooters, or trying to be…
An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school's Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.
How women find their way in a patriarchal world underscores the story of a girl and her mother, written and directed by a woman. "Wadjda" shows life in a society where women face challenges and day-to-day struggles. There is a sense of defiance but it's diluted by resignation, and the result is a gentleness in the tone of the movie that's borne of a feminine viewpoint. Go girl.
Crazy HeartAnthony Macali
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him.
"Crazy Heart" has great country songs that will appeal to all fans of music. It plays as an insight of a washed-up musician - old, poor, and often drunk, with little comfort/relief but for his recollections of his time at the top and continued luck with the ladies. Perhaps the story shows too much admiration for 'Bad Blake', who gets away a little too easily with some of his lesser qualities. In the end, the film is a one-man show, with a central performance strong and charming enough to uplift the masses.
A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.
"Drive" is an odd little film about a man, his car, and a story that happens in between. By day, our enigmatic driver is quite reserved, and we watch his encounters with trepidation and a pop soundtrack. By night, the base is turned up, and we're placed in the seat next to him evading the police with great thrill. The middle stint might be slow going, but be warned… the violence revs up, and we have no idea where the story is headed. It's the quiet ones you have to watch.
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.
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.
An EducationAnne Murphy
A teenage girl's life in 1960s London changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.
A particular time and place are depicted with a nostalgic tone in this beguiling movie. Although classic in many respects, "An Education" also bestows a refreshing angle on adolescent transformation. The suave script is brought to life by mesmerising performances from the cast. Social dilemmas of the era are deftly explored in front of scenic city backdrops and meticulously created interior detail as befits the period. A curriculum of seduction and sophistication provides an outstanding education.
A playwright whose marriage and career are in a free fall has an explosive run-in with his former neighbour, a right-wing ex-con.
"Collaborator" is an intelligent movie with a slow fuse, the tension builds just a little more with almost every sentence spoken. This is a surprisingly gripping movie, as for the most part, the modest production is set in a lounge room. The familiar setting is loaded with socio-political comment as two estranged neighbours reflect on their shambolic lives. There are observations about relationships, growing up and thwarted ambition, leaving audiences much to think about. Guilty by association...
It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, is put on trial.
Real transcripts of an interview with the poet, his epic poem, and his publishers obscenity trial are all threaded together and linked with clever CGI to create "Howl". Censorship and freedom of speech are perennially rich themes but aren't allowed to become pretentious as the work is dissected by lawyers and academics. This is an intellectual and engrossing look at the voice of a discontent generation, and the movie perfectly captures the mood of the time with howls of rage, passion and despair. Uninhibited baying with delight.