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.
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.
A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.
"Mommy" is an onerous film to watch, and the deliberate and narrow aspect ratio provides little escape from the situation or cast. The characters steal the focus, and their performances are worthy of our attention. We can feel the despair and helplessness of managing the short-tempered Steve, and the terror in knowing he could snap on a whim. It's a long and emotional sitting, with limited moments of unassuming happiness. Family first.
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.
A doctor's wife becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness.
This allegorical film depicts societal collapse, triggered by mass loss of sight, accompanied by the descent into ugly degradation as people struggle against each other for survival. Filmed with a starkness that provides a sense of the white fog which precedes the blindness, and displaying a fiercely committed performance from the lead actress, this movie is a challenging experience which is certain to stimulate both thought and conversation afterwards.
Corpo CelesteAnne Murphy
Thirteen year-old Marta restlessly tests the boundaries of the catechism of the Catholic Church when her family move from Switzerland to a city in southern Italy.
The protagonist is a stranger in a strange land as she prepares for her confirmation ceremony. A naive view of the Church and the various characters that support the institution are used to question the traditions and rites of its teachings. "Corpo Celeste" gently mocks using symbolism and religious iconography rather than overtly criticising any practice. The movie is effective in that it does plant questions about socially accepted values. You'll never get to heaven...
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.
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.
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 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...
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.
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
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.
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.
Burn After ReadingAndrew O'Dea
A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.
"Burn after Reading" is a wry, satirical comedy that revels in its own quirkiness. The outstanding performances convey a series of characters that haven't a clue what's going on - and neither do we - but therein lies the fun. The plot is as brilliant as it is convoluted. We don't see anything coming as each twist gathers momentum, creating a hilarious sense of the inconsequential. An absurdly entertaining film.
North Sea TexasAnne Murphy
A teenage boy's search for love finds him fixated on the boy next door.
It's that time in life when emerging sexual desires inevitably involve the boy next door, as upsetting as that may be to his sister who also fancies the boy next door to her too. That statement about the plot, while accurate, is clumsy in comparison to the tender handling that first love receives in "North Sea Texas", a subtle and moody film. Movies in the understated style of this production often get labelled as 'little films' but there is nothing small about Texas, even when located on the Belgium coast.
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...
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.
Eastern PromisesAnthony Macali
The film follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai, who is tied to one of London's most notorious organized crime families.
Glimpses of the criminal underworld will always interest us ordinary, nice folk. "Eastern Promises" is no different, with its shady Russian mafia conducting business in equally shady parts of London. A film of mixed emotions, the charismatic performances undermine the atrocities we witness and listen to in a narrated diary. At times this flurry of conscience is uncomfortable, a minimal hinder in this compelling and disturbing piece.
Mozart's SisterAnthony Macali
Beginning in 1763, it follows the Mozart family's exhausting life on the road, traveling by coach from one royal court to the next.
"Mozart's Sister" is a beautiful film, mesmerising in picture and music. In a period of couture and candlelight, the Mozart siblings shine in their bewitching portrayals. For Nannerl, the message is very clear; women should not play violins, or compose. Such narrow-mindedness even causes our central character to dress as a boy at times. These examples of prejudice contribute to the film’s success, highlighting the frustrating loss of genius and talent to the hands of bigotry. This girl can play.
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.
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.
Still LifeAnne Murphy
A council case worker looks for the relatives of those found dead and alone.
If "Still Life" highlights anything, it demonstrates how much things change. Life does not stay still. This movie creates a disquieting sense of emptiness as it peers at the little that's left behind by the lonely and the alone. The story is simply presented and although it is bleak, the delivery of day by day routine is rather matter of fact. There is so little emotional connection in what's played out on the screen it's difficult for audiences to feel very much apart from melancholic. Inert.
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?
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.