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...
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.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseThomas Jones
A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center.
The centre of the world and its inhabitants, as seen and experienced through the eyes and mind of a young boy, are dynamically depicted in this film about loss and the journey one takes to feel found. The central plotline struggles to sustain your interest for the entirety and the loose ends could be tied quicker, but the moments where life and all its eccentricities are pulled back to a very literal and innocent place are quite compelling. All in all, extremely heartfelt, incredibly nice.
In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she's alive.
Bernie is just like that 'uncle' you suspect is using his goodness to suppress a dirty secret or fetish. You can't help but like him, but at the same time you're wondering if he's wearing lingerie under his suit. This mockumentary style tale is as much about the unlikeliest of friendships, as it is about the inhabitants of the deep south and their strict moral code. It’s their commentary as the events unfold that provide much of the comedy. So entertain'n you could butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Shores of HopeAnne Murphy
Two friends working on the docks in East Germany in the 1980’s make plans to defect to the west.
Friendship, conscience, and politics from the last century make an engaging story, especially as everybody is plotting against somebody. The Stasi, the secret police, are portrayed as bumbling and brutal. It's alarming and intriguing to experience a world where betrayal is rewarded and nobody can be trusted. There is an austerity of style presented on-screen that lends credibility to the tale, and you may just pinch yourself in order to remember this is a story, although the setting was real.
Cracks in the ShellAnne Murphy
Josephine suffers from not being seen but she also does her best at not being noticed, even though she is an acting student.
It's an emotional journey from auditions and rehearsals to a performance. "Cracks in the Shell" is a movie full of emotional expression as the shy lead actor struggles to meet the expectations of her director. The young woman is pushed, and pushes herself, as she is almost consumed by her own conflicts, taking the plot beyond a coming of age movie and into the territory of a psychological drama. Raw, tough and relentless, it's little wonder cracks emerge
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.
Still WalkingAnthony Macali
A family reunites to honour their eldest son, who died saving a boy from drowning 15 years earlier.
"Still Walking" is a sombre tale of the Yokoyama family who struggle to overcome the death of beloved son Junpei and the divisive resentment it brings. Ryota finds it the hardest, never being able to meet the expectations of his gruff father as the shadow of his dead brother looms. This close-up and intimate portrait exposes all their issues, many resonating with our own, as true deep sadness is wrought in the absence of closure. The film reminds us that if we continue to walk away from our problems, we will run out of time to resolve them.
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.
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.
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!!!
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 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.
Louise WimmerAnne Murphy
A woman wages an uphill struggle to put her life back while working several jobs as a cleaning woman and living in her car.
Realism is employed as opposed to a strong narrative structure in this film, and so we watch a series of events without a beginning, middle or end. The protagonist's plight is not explained beyond the events and encounters in her day-to-day survival of struggle. It's an uncompromising style that is perfect to depict a modern story where there is nowhere to go and certainly no room for sentimentality. 'Geez Louise'... or should that be, "Mon dieu Louise".
A controlling sadistic man and his wife keep their three teenage children locked away from the world.
"Dogtooth" is disturbing viewing, as the stunted emotional development of the family becomes apparent. The mood is restrained as day after languid day of simple games are played out with the violent elements gradually emerging and escalating. The infantile mind games endured by the children are harrowing to watch. Their seclusion is not explained but the anguish and increasing desperation of the characters is readily understood. Distressing for audiences, and certainly not recommended for dentists.
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.
A Walk in the WoodsAnne Murphy
The writer, Bill Bryson, sets out to walk all 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail with a friend from years ago.
There's plenty to laugh at as this unlikely pair of hikers set out on an extraordinary journey, tackling the unpredictable and unforgiving terrain of the wild. "A Walk in the Woods" is essentially a buddy movie exploring the pleasures of friendship. If there is something to take away from this enjoyable tale, it is the well-known life lesson that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination. Old men walking.
Forgetting Sarah MarshallAnthony Macali
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's travelling to the same resort as her ex.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a delightful comedy filled with many interesting characters. The best parts are the small snippets that fall in-between scenes. These whimsical moments contain some of the best jokes, but also some welcome insights into our protagonists. The only disappointing bits are the undue vulgarity and contrivances towards the end. This film is a memorable mix of laugh-out-loud scenarios and genuine heartbreak.
Anything for HerAnne Murphy
With no legal means left to him, a high school teacher devises a daring plan to rescue his wrongfully imprisoned wife from jail.
"Anything for Her" is a gripping thriller that will be watched heart pumping, and eyes glued to the screen. Tension is maintained throughout this tightly edited and well acted film that moves credibly between middle-class lives and the underside of the streets of Paris. While it may stretch plausibility, it is an action packed yarn that prompts questions about innocence and guilt, love and desperation.
In the year 2154, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to a grossly polarised Earth.
"Elysium" is an absorbing sci-fi adventure loaded with allegory. Although the political overtones can be heavy-handed at times, it's always refreshing to view a movie where the guns and explosions are balanced by an intelligent and relevant social conscience.The production values are superb, and impressive visuals add weight to a succession of gritty action sequences full of gory violence and splatter. While the conclusion is a little predictable, the brisk pacing and intensity make this film about dystopian class division exciting and imaginative enough to entertain.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' NestThomas 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.
Familiar GroundAnne Murphy
Benoit lives with his invalid father while his sister, Maryse, is desperate for her husband to sell the backhoe sitting abandoned in their suburban yard.
The camera zooms in on family relationships, focussing on small interactions and exchanges. If you've ever wondered what the neighbours are doing, this film is a glimpse of them indulging in the same mundane activities as your loved ones. "Familiar Ground" is understated and wry, full of mini-moments. It manages to be unexpectedly generous too, as this little, almost deadpan, movie delivers a redemptive feel-not-bad, if not feel good, close. Familiar terrain that surprises.
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!
About TimeAnthony Macali
At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life.
"About Time" is one of those sweet romantic comedies designed for everybody to love, with the added gimmick of time-travel to keep the story moving forward. It's a plot device we've all seen before, but the charming set of characters allow a welcome and constant reminder to treasure every moment of our day-to-day lives. Despite the lack of originality, there's enough laughter and plenty of good-will to forgive the film for its obvious flaws. About life.
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.