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.
Rare ExportsAndrew O'Dea
In the depths of the Korvatunturi Mountains in Finland, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas.
"Rare Exports" is a clever horror comedy that presents a very dark take on the tradition of Santa Claus. The unique and intelligent premise is what drives the film, and although some may find it slow in parts, the unusual story is strangely entertaining. It has a distinct visual style set against the white and cold of remote Finland, and considering its minimal budget, the perfectly apt CGI puts most big-budget Hollywood fare to shame. Perfectly fine stocking-filler.
Red CliffAndrew O'Dea
Based on the events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China, The Battle of Red Cliffs.
"Red Cliff" is a plush historical epic of the grandest scale. The scope is enormous and perfectly realised in sublimely sweeping battle scenes. Due in most part to this release being a condensed version of the original, some of the character development has clearly had to have made way in favour of the action sequences. However, the brilliance of the exhilirating battle choreography and dazzling effects alone are enough to render this film a period war movie of the highest quality.
A look at the life of serial killer John Bunting.
The world looks like a more sinister place after watching "Snowtown". The story, which recounts real events, is chilling and shows life as you wish it wasn't. The setting is a colourless and unsettling suburban landscape, all the more terrifying for its ordinariness. It's sometimes hard to tell the relationships between the characters, not that it's possible to care for any of them. The dramatic build is slow and we squirm at what's coming and, unsurprisingly, the audience becomes enmeshed in scenes so sickening that they're almost unwatchable. Snowtown is no town to be.
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".
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.
The Devil's DoubleAnthony Macali
A chilling vision of the house of Saddam Hussein comes to life through the eyes of the man who was forced to become the double of Hussein's sadistic son.
Loosely based on a true story, "The Devil's Double" offers a disturbing insight into the life of a very sick individual. Imagine a man with everything at his disposal and a perchance for fast cars, designer labels and women, acquiring them whenever, and with whatever means, he wants. This glimpse into his rich and lavish life is both captivating and startling. It becomes very clear this is a man who does not belong in this world, and his portrayal is just as astonishing as the story itself. To hell and back.
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.
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.
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.
Made in DagenhamAnne Murphy
A dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against pay discrimination.
A historically important, political story is related in "Made in Dagenham". The birthing of an important precedent comes alive on the screen with archetypal British humour as an uplifting offering. The demarcation lines are drawn, the bad guys mired in their dark plotting as the determination of the good gals to triumph builds. The film is nostalgic and true to the era, delightfully sentimental and humorous. If they can make good in Dagenham, we can make it anywhere.
Le HavreAnne Murphy
When an African boy is discovered hiding in a shipping container in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
The simplicity of this movie is material to why it will be enjoyed. It is warm hearted and unpretentious. Layers of difficult socio-political issues are pared back to create a story that humanises the plight of immigrants without visas. The kindness shown to one struggling boy and the solidarity of the town’s characters in resisting the law enforcers are natural choices. Compassion and humour perfectly blended.
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.
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.
Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot.
"Australia" reverently captures the culture of our land, from the quintessential outback "aussie" to the native spiritual Aboriginals. This is an ideal, albeit clichéd, backdrop for a romance to develop, and this relationship persistently takes centre stage, overshadowing the many sad events within the story. Ambitious in scope and venture, "Australia" is our country's patriotic film, and despite some underwhelming key scenes, is one to be proud of.
Suzanne is a well to do married woman and mother in the south of France.
"Leaving" is a sensual summertime love story set to the lazy sound of crickets, where passion is taken to the brink of histrionics in this ardent tale of an illicit romance. The realism of the story is first apparent in the soundtrack which consists mostly of the amplified background noises of the everyday. Whatever your moral stance, the strong performances allow audience members to be swept up, embraced in the fervour, held by the story, and then left panting. No leaving early.
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.
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power with war.
It's a simple plot that's brought to life in this epic-scaled production. The magnificent courtyards and halls of the Shaolin temple play a starring role. Add sweeping rural landscapes of China to the on-screen splendour and the characters end up as extras. There are no crouching tigers but there are astonishing displays of aerial and on-the-ground martial arts. The well executed and bloody action scenes are furiously fought, not hampered by one side being mostly monks. Even Buddhist principles need defending.
Robot & FrankAndrew O'Dea
Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift: a robot butler programmed to look after him.
Both odd and intriguing, "Robot & Frank" is an intelligent, heartfelt meditation on aging and family. The familiar story may border on over-sentimentality at times, but an assured direction keeps it restrained, and the result is a quietly hilarious, quirky little film. Smart and sweet, its magnetism is driven by a brilliantly understated performance from the lead, whose on-screen chemistry with his robot companion provides much of the gentle humour and profound moments. There's nothing at all robotic about this one.
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 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.
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.
Satellite BoyTom Jones
Pete lives with his grandfather in an old, abandoned outdoor cinema in the desert. When the old drive-in is threatened with demolition, ten year old Pete takes off to the city to save his home.
This film effectively handles the topical issues of mining and land rights, capturing a real innocence on the matter. The way the young Aboriginal boys use the land and the way miners use the land are opposed, the dynamic played out without blatantly plugging any political agenda. With picture-postcard cinematography throughout, the audience can enjoy the story for what it is, as a platform for discussion, or as inspiration for your next getaway. Walkabout anyone?
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.
Elite Squad 2: The Enemy WithinAndrew O'Dea
A Lieutenant-Colonel in the military police force of Rio de Janeiro wages a war to vanquish the city of its drugs and corruption.
Set amongst the slums of Rio, "Elite Squad 2" is a fictionalised yet telling exploration of the harsh political reality in Brazil. A bloody and intelligent political thriller, the guns also blaze in a host of gritty but exceptionally realistic shoot-outs. Through a tale of violence, it highlights the exploitation of the poor to the corruption of the police and bureaucrats who are meant to be preventing the crime they profit from. Not quite elite, but a markedly solid effort nonetheless.