The Princess of MontpensierAnne Murphy
Set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century, the action centres on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise.
This period drama is sumptuously set and fastidiously costumed. The renaissance, as far as we can tell, is faithfully reproduced and it's magnificent to watch. "Princess of Montpensier" comes complete with dashing sword fights and big bloody battles, but most interest is invested in the dilemmas of duty over love. As the drama is played out the heroine is unable to refuse the allure of true romance, a Queen of Hearts.
Water for ElephantsAnne Murphy
A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet.
"Water for Elephants" is an atmospheric movie evoking an old-fashioned, Hollywood romantic style. Watching this circus-spectacular you might be both sorry and glad you didn't run away to join the circus. Beyond the glitter of show time under the big-top is a tough life, particularly during the Depression of the 1930's. The circus also holds an exotic allure, and the travelling show and its performers enchant as the story unfolds. The elephant steals the show, no junk in this trunk.
Get LowStefan Bugryn
An old hermit throws himself a funeral party... while he's still alive.
This thoughtful meditation on forgiveness starts out as a comedy, but unravels to become something much more poignant. The joke of the 'funeral party' lasts only briefly, while the true drama slowly creeps in. What really makes this film work is the fine acting by the three leads. The odd sense of humour, and some truly touching moments are delivered with marvellous poise by the cast. Combined with stylish music, customers and production design, it makes for a very enjoyable movie... and that's the low down!
Get LowAnne Murphy
Equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party.
"Get Low" is a good old fashioned hokey folky story with warm understated performances from a big name cast, and a mule. It's deftly crafted and charming to watch. There's a slow build around the themes of guilt and forgiveness before the eventual plot reveal. Although tears are coaxed out during the long awaited climax, this movie will be watched for the dawdling journey rather than the ending. Hard not to like but lacking real highs and lows.
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.
Angèle and TonyAnne Murphy
A fragile woman returns to the seaside town of Normandy on completing a jail term and meets a fisherman through a personal ad.
The sensitivities around relationships are captured with few words in this intimate exploration of human connections. The characters are forthright and defensive, whatever warmth they may have is not to be squandered, and their innermost temperaments are reflected in the windswept coastline and grey subdued ocean. The tone is understated and the film is all the more powerful for the simplicity with which it captures restrained expressions of longing. Tony ❤ Angele and vice versa.
The Last CircusAnne Murphy
Two clowns compete for the love of a beautiful trapeze artist.
"The Last Circus" uses a circus troupe in an allegorical presentation of the horror of the Spanish Civil War. The result is macabre and violent, yet strangely compelling viewing. There's nothing subtle in the telling of the story, it goes right over the top with absurdity, and then it could be argued that the same comic chaos underpins any war. Choosing clowns as the main characters is heavy handed imagery; both the happy clown and the sad clown are grotesque, more than entertaining. This metaphor laden effort is in need of a ring-master.
Something BorrowedThomas Jones
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
If any actor is quoted saying it was the 'great script', which attracted them to this film, they are lying. Sure the movie promotes itself as a romantic comedy, but it fails in both genres. Every time there are glimpses of comedy, the script turns it on its head and it all becomes really deep. You almost feel sorry for the actors who try their best to make lemonade out of lemons. "Something Borrowed" will borrow your time and never give it back.
A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots.
"Incendies" reveals the remarkable journey of a mother, in search of an explanation for her enduring state of despair. As her kids set out on their quest, the truth is exposed through the seamless weaving of past and present. Nawal's story is one burdened by war, religion and tradition, highlighting the generational gap and the sheltered knowledge we have of the 'primitive' views of a past that can cause so much nurtured grief. The fire burns strong and powerful, but very slow.
The Human Resources ManagerAnne Murphy
The HR manager of Israel's largest industrial bakery sets out to save the reputation of his business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article.
The plot sounds like the set-up for a punch-line; an HR manager, a journalist, a street kid and the Commissar's husband go on a road trip, as opposed to walking into a bar. "The Human Resources Manager" is a warm and satirical journey across the landscapes of Israel and Romania that reveals man's humanity towards man, and it's as funny as any good bar joke. If only more HR managers were this delightfully quirky.
Something BorrowedWendy Slevison
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
Adapted from a popular novel, "Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy of errors, where everyone seems to be in love with the wrong person. The movie is essentially the characters sorting themselves out. Unfortunately, this takes a while, and by the end of the overly long running time, audience investment in the protagonists has wilted a bit. While the actors all do a fine job of their roles, the film lacks freshness and charm. The plot feels a little like something borrowed.
Powerful Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth.
This movie is one of the shiniest you will ever see, from Thor's armour and hammer to his home in Asgard, replete with large gold statues and lots of lens flare. The titular hero is played with great gall and charm, as he is banished from the CGI kaleidoscope of Space to Earth, the perfect place to showcase some of his finer attributes. Aesthetics aside, the film is held together by the power of its cast, who could only have joined the production on the basis of its actor turned director. "Thor" simply gets it done.
A TV mini-series, chronicling the exploits of Carlos the Jackal, edited and cut for showing as a movie.
Carlos is an interesting figure to discover more about. He comes across as an opportunistic mercenary rather than a terrorist dedicated to a cause, and what's apparent is the ego of a man who considered himself a revolutionary. Part history and part reconstruction, the use of news footage provides a documentary sense of realism. A small screen budget is evident in the uneven set quality, lighting, and the use of a hand held camera; it's all a bit bumpy. Complex politics make surprisingly tedious viewing.
Brighton RockAnne Murphy
Charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a death wish.
"Brighton Rock" is a moody and suspenseful thriller, set by a gaudy seaside carnival. A serving girl looking for love gets entangled with a criminal establishing the central tension between good and evil. The movie is dark but the chilling tone becomes hard to hold as the odd scene teeters on a melodramatic precipice... almost, but not quite, compromising its otherwise ruthless edge. An unmistakably English veneer of tea-shop gentility is cracked by hardened characters and gripping action. Callous at its core. Brighton rocks unrelentingly.
Fast FiveThomas Jones
Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.
After watching this film, the drive home will feel slower than ever before and any muscles you thought you had will look more like excess skin. The cars and the men in this film put all to shame. The car chases and action sequences are non-stop, over the top, till you drop... and then some. The story, which follows a trio of crims on the run ties these amazingly shot scenes quite nicely together. If you have the need for speed, fasten your seatbelts.
A Year Ago in WinterAnne Murphy
A renowned artist must uncover a young dancer's secrets in order to truly capture her likeness for a commissioned work.
"A Year Ago in Winter" deftly explores themes of grief, guilt, and longing; as a meaning for suicide is sought by those left behind asking 'why?'. Troubling family relationships are delicately mined, and troubled souls are sensitively exposed. Various reactions, feelings and emotions, not healed by time, are faultlessly laid bare as winter approaches. However, the cold reality is that there's little sense to be made of the senseless.
My Afternoons with MargueritteAnne Murphy
An illiterate and lonely man bonds with an older and well-read woman.
A charming little film set in a French village populated by quirky characters. Affectionate and gentle, "My Afternoons with Margueritte" only just avoids saccharine levels of sweetness with some moments of genuine humanity. This is a heart-warming story of love and unlikely relationships that doesn't delve too deeply into the make-up of the various odd couples. The central roles are well acted, creating endearing, if not entirely believable, people. Best summed up as being a whimsical pleasure, and a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.
The Day I Was Not BornAnne Murphy
During a stopover in Buenos Aires, Maria recognises a nursery rhyme being sung in Spanish.
The storyline of "The Day I Was Not Born" is original and disquieting. Hefty political themes are narrated through a personal lens of family and identity, and the Buenos Aries setting is perfect in capturing a city with an atmospheric sense of the recent past - it looks both foreign and familiar, balancing the disoriented characters. Sensitively told with an assured minimalism, the movie is understated and the acting is restrained, creating compelling viewing. A tale of dislocation that carries both wounds and warmth.
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?
The SilenceAnne Murphy
The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.
A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.
The Lincoln LawyerThomas Jones
A lawyer conducts business from the back of his car while representing a high-profile client.
Films depicting client/lawyer relationships always make for compelling viewing and "The Lincoln Lawyer" is no exception. It's a classic cat and mouse chase, as both client and lawyer work to stay one step ahead of each other until the fat lady sings... seriously. This film seems to end four times before it actually ends. The acting is one-dimensional and there are a few sub-plots that are devoted too much screen time, but the central story will have you hooked. Any appeals to this judgement are denied.
In a Better WorldStefan Bugryn
The lives of two danish families take a turn for the worst as their children form an unhealthy friendship.
This art house film doesn't really go past the point of 'enjoyable'. The so-so storyline is redeemed somewhat by decent acting and rich visuals, but it won't really glue you to the screen the whole time. Don't be mistaken; there are some very hard hitting scenes - the problem is that they're emotionally weak, despite the fact it delves into some pretty heavy themes. It almost feels like an extended version of a Danish soap opera. In a better world, this would have been a better movie.
Barney's VersionAnne Murphy
Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer.
"Barney's Version" is a character study covering 30 years of one man's life. Depth is compromised by span when a life - even a fictional one - is featured in a movie-length couple of hours. This is a rambling, uneven and shallow movie held together by strong acting. The comedic story takes an unexpected and solemn turn towards the end, but by then there's not a lot of emotion vested in the outcome for the amiable but self-centred characters. An interesting soap opera version.
This is a story of a man in free fall, on the road to redemption, darkness lights his way.
An existence where life holds more in memory than it promises in the future is grim, and that's at the essence of "Biutiful". The visual texture of the production is extraordinary, as is the city background as a soundtrack... a gritty combination. The audience is privy to an unflinching view of life where the politics of exploitation and survival play at the edge of society. This film won't be for everybody, but the viewing, while harrowing and demanding, is compelling and ultimately rewarding.