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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...
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
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.
Edge of DarknessWendy Slevison
As homicide detective Thomas Craven investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion.
Adapted from a popular British television series, "Edge of Darkness" showcases the leading man in his signature genre, the action thriller. Solidly produced, with strong performances and plenty of dramatic tension, most of the film is a satisfyingly intense ride. Unfortunately, the last section becomes somewhat chaotic, and the body count ridiculously high. A word of warning â€“ the storyline is quite complex, so concentrate or you'll be left in the dark.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne ListerAnne Murphy
In nineteenth century Yorkshire wealthy orphan Anne Lister lives with an aunt and uncle, anxious for her to marry well and blissfully, unaware that she is a lesbian.
An historic drama based on the real and extensive diaries of the protagonist. This film is rich with country mansions, beautiful costumes and staid English sensibilities. The highlight is a female lead that is steadfast in her beliefs, refusing to be totally repressed by the expectations of society, and determined to live by her own values. No doubt the secret diaries could reveal much more about this resolute woman who wanted a wife.
War HorseAndrew O'Dea
Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.
"War Horse" is most definitely a movie for those partial to the majestic beauty of horses, though it's not necessarily a prerequisite. Some may justifiably find the story a little too syrupy and sweet, but it does also take place amidst the brutal theatre of war, where thankfully the film does not shy, and the director is at his dazzling best. Others will enjoy the sentimentality of an extraordinary journey coupled with the bond between man and horse simply too difficult to resist.... if so, then giddy up.
A man moves his two daughters to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident.
"Genova" is a considered and unsentimental movie of living through bereavement. The movie is constructed with a credible style that almost seems unscripted. The plot meanders through the moody Italian setting without unnecessary dramatic tension, moving from moment to moment the way a person coping with life after loss does. The character studies are intelligent, multi-layered portraits of grieving. It's deeply gratifying to see a difficult theme faithfully handled without unnecessary tragic overtones and no tissues required.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
Cloud AtlasAndrew O'Dea
An exploration how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future.
"Cloud Atlas" is a sprawling, thought-provoking film that explores the consequences of our actions, based upon the premise that the choices in one life will influence the next. The scope is epic; narratives are interwoven and re-visited as it spans the centuries and into the future, requiring an utmost attentiveness throughout. The sheer ambitiousness of this movie is sure to polarise. The audience will either be baffled and exasperated by such a layered and complex story, or thrilled by the mystery and profound emotional effect left on their philosophical compass.
In DarknessAndrew O'Dea
A dramatisation of one man's rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.
"In Darkness" is an extraordinary tale of survival. The claustrophobic surroundings are grim and harrowing, a disturbing reflection of the true events upon which the story is based. Although still heavily dramatised, there is still a refreshingly raw honesty and unsentimentality to the film that is both profound and moving. Carried by an exceptional central performance, it confronts issues of morality as it seeps deep into the consciousness of the protagonist and audience alike. We can only hope there is light at the end of humanity's tunnel...