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.
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 Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.
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.
Frances HaAndrew O'Dea
A story that follows a New York woman who throws herself headlong into her dreams.
"Frances Ha" is an unassuming and offbeat comedy about life, loves and messy rooms. Shot entirely in inky black and white against a New York City backdrop, the film's colour radiates from the whimsy and charm of the affable Frances. Her flawed character is an aimless yet endearing underachiever, and despite the glaring criticisms her questionable life-choices might draw, her gleeful exuberance and goofball nature has an appeal which makes her disarmingly likeable. An affectionate salute to our disjointed lives; fall for Frances.
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.
Story of the 1960's Zodiac Killer who committed a series of murders and taunted police.
"Zodiac" is a movie of obsession, set comfortably in the pale inner city of San Francisco. The start is fractured with murders, orchestrated in a fashion that exhibits the killer's sadistic nature. You can sense the frustration of detectives, an emotion shared for the length of this film. The pace livens on the enthusiasm of cartoonist Robert Graysmith, as you share his fixation in finding the right suspect while sacrificing family commitments. This film rewards patience with the final breakthrough providing a fitting conclusion to a well-told story.
Saving Mr. BanksAnne Murphy
Author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.
You don't need to be a critic to appreciate a film about the story behind a film, or the story behind the book the film is based on. Fact, fiction and fantasy are woven together in a fabulously entertaining way. "Saving Mr. Banks" fires the imagination and reminds us of the magic of childhood; thanks in part, to the outstanding performances of the cast. It's also an unexpectedly moving tale. See it, spit spot.
A provocative exploration of female sexuality, as a well-off Parisian journalist investigates the lives of two student prostitutes for a magazine article.
This is a film that doesn't impose moralistic judgements about the sexual proclivities of the characters, but leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. Unfortunately, not being more definitive about where 'right and wrong' lines should be drawn is something the movie will probably be judged for. The protagonists' approach is one of openness and accepting of the 'other' in herself, rather than determining to somehow be above her interview subjects. Bold feminist film-making.
Before the Devil Knows You're DeadLuke Bartter
When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelery store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them hurtling towards a shattering climax.
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a challenging film which has intense performances and a compelling story, but is rarely enjoyable. The crime is revealed early on and shifts between before and after, gradually revealing each of the characters' perspective and situation, with a constant and uncomfortably building tension. Interesting to watch, but ultimately very unpleasant, it's recommended, but remember what you're getting yourself into.
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.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.Andrew O'Dea
A father's life unravels dealing with a marital crisis and managing the relationship with his children.
This multigenerational love story is a cut above your average romantic comedy, and for the most part, is a funny, honest and insightful film. The only pity is that long stretches of engaging rom-com fare are punctuated by brief moments of that gooey clichéd stuff we're all too familiar with. However, bolstered by a stellar cast who are sublime and charm us senseless in their individual roles, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." still provides a refreshing insight into the humour, tragedy, and wonderfully weird circumstances of love. Whether it's stupid or not is completely up to you.
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 Special RelationshipTom Jones
A dramatisation that traces former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair's relationships with Bill Clinton.
Blair and Clinton's relationship was like every other relationship. There was the honeymoon stage, sleepovers, late night phone calls, an affair, disagreements and ultimately, a break-up. To enjoy this film a knowledge of history or politics isn't necessary, because anyone who has been in any type of relationship will be able to see truth in the depiction of this couple. Unfortunately, the truthful depictions don't extend to the portrayals of some of these well known figures. It leans more towards telemovie than documentary. But rest assured, there are plenty more poltical icons left in the sea.
American TeenAnthony Macali
A documentary on seniors at a high school in a small Indiana town and their various cliques.
All the stereotypes are covered in this down-to-earth documentary, allowing every audience member to find a teen they can relate to. Our young protagonists are a mature lot, providing good material for the camera. As you could imagine, there is plenty of angst and drama, and while most of it is probably staged, it's still fun to experience vicariously. "American Teen" is ultimately about confronting new chapters in our lives, and is definitely worth a look.
One DayAndrew O'Dea
After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives.
"One Day" represents a promising move away from the fabricated, sickly modern trend of most romantic dramas. This movie poignantly captures the complexity of relationships and the way lives meander and inextricably change, bolstered by the terrific on-screen chemistry of our two leads. We enjoy the way they generate humour and warmth in the same way we appreciate how the film explores themes of love and loss. Whatever happens tomorrow, you'll always have today.
Charlie Wilson's WarAnthony Macali
A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
A man hidden from the radar, Charlie Wilson is an amazing character with cause against the Soviets that rivals his passion for women and whiskey. The movie is propelled by the charisma of its lead characters, and all-star cast who delightfully play off one another. There are also many moments in the story that frighteningly resonate with the politics of today. This film is about Charlie's success, America's failures and the causalities along the way.
Russell heads out to a gay club and picks up Glen just before closing time and what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.
"Weekend" is a low key movie grounded in realism that presents a romance between two men who have only a weekend to spend together. The simple naturalistic style of this film is balanced by its emotional honesty. The performance from the two leads is genuine and understated, lending authenticity to this modest but deceptively intense exploration of falling in love. I've got Friday on my mind.
Five Minutes of HeavenAnne Murphy
The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.
"Five Minutes of Heaven" looks back at crimes committed as acts of civil war, exploring important themes of hatred and forgiveness. It's an uneven production that stumbles through some very stagy and clumsy scenes, though is fortunately redeemed by a powerful and unexpected climax. This movie is uncomfortable viewing about the lingering impacts of violence and living with indelible memories that prevent healing. Hard to glimpse heaven from hell.
An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
"Trance" is a demonstration in the odd behaviours associated with art, hypnosis and love. What starts as an apparent heist film quickly transitions into a psychological thriller, challenging the audience to discover the truth. With each chapter, the story introduces new pieces of the puzzle and dissecting each revelation delivers a sense of accomplishment. Driven by a great cast of ensnaring characters, the only frustrating memory might be a plot-twist too many. A riveting piece missing perfection.
A failed medical experiment turns a man of faith into a vampire.
Take equal parts sex, love, murder, humour, religion, violence and vampires. Add one talented, visually adventurous director and a good dash of excellent acting, and you have a wild and unique cocktail called "Thirst." Drink it up, and you will definitely feel as though you have had an unusual, albeit lengthy, experience. This horror/comedy saga has so much going on that your head will be spinning by the last drop. A taste sensation not for the faint-hearted, but plenty of shocks and laughs for those brave enough to try it.
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.
The Twilight Saga: EclipseAnthony Macali
Bella is forced to choose between her love for vampire Edward and werewolf friend Jacob.
It is made abundantly clear that "Eclipse" is about decisions. It's hard to choose between the equally attractive (and buff) leads who continuously confess their undying love. Thankfully, this tiresome triangle doesn't consume the show. A great supporting cast share their interesting back-stories and shed light on the mystical history of vampires and werewolves, building tension for the frantic action showdown. Expect the inevitable lingering kisses amongst mountain tops and fields of flowers, but this instalment offers a little more to feast upon. Your choice.