The DebtAnthony Macali
Retired Mossad secret agents learn of some shocking news about one of their colleagues.
A curious remake, "The Debt" is the American production of an Israeli story with Israeli agents. There is no problem translating the narrative, as our main characters live in the present day with a large burden from their past. Their history unfolds through flashbacks, but it's difficult to engage with the younger selves who seem suitably miscast. A sample of their fate is revealed in the beginning, and it does thwart a lot of the suspense. The rest of the history is captivating enough, as our spies execute a mission tainted with emotion. A film that owes much to its story.
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
"Moneyball" is intelligent filmmaking that takes an unlikely subject and makes it interesting. It's a testament to the solid direction and brilliance of the scriptwriters that a story about the business of baseball could be so captivating. You can't help but be drawn in as it explores the opposing philosophies of intuition versus statistics, bolstered by that feel-good sentiment of rooting for the underdog. An entertaining movie that covers all the right bases, this one is right on the money.
A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.
"Drive" is an odd little film about a man, his car, and a story that happens in between. By day, our enigmatic driver is quite reserved, and we watch his encounters with trepidation and a pop soundtrack. By night, the base is turned up, and we're placed in the seat next to him evading the police with great thrill. The middle stint might be slow going, but be warned… the violence revs up, and we have no idea where the story is headed. It's the quiet ones you have to watch.
Our Idiot BrotherAnne Murphy
A comedy centered on an idealist who barges into the lives of his three sisters.
"Our Idiot Brother" is like movie popcorn, light and enjoyable without being really filling. The indie style production is as amiable as the affable main character; it is a comedy with charm. The focus is the special relationships between siblings, close, affectionate, and then relentlessly honest. The plot comprises small family interactions rather than dramatic action. The everyday trials of being part of a family are action enough to hold interest and the film does not stray into over sentimentality. Quite an intelligent idiot.
A political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays.
The identity of one of our greatest writers is scrutinised in "Anonymous", a tawdry tale of fiction staged as lusty historical drama. The audience is kept busy trying to work out who's who as the time-frame jumps into the past and back again, causing confusion when we try to match the older and younger actors of the same character. Sordid conspiracies abound, and it's all a bit fanciful, convoluted and overly long. As they say in the classics, "It's not Shakespeare".
The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts event - a path that puts him on a collision with his older brother.
"Warrior" is a surprisingly affecting movie. The fight choreography is exceptional, and the rush of adrenaline as the kicks and punches fly is palpable. We feel every bone-crunching hit, but the beauty is that there's enough heart to match the violence. Although it may border on cliché at times, there is an undeniable emotional honesty behind the action, carried by a trio of outstanding acting performances from the male leads. A knock-out film that will leave you counting stars...
A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
Midnight in ParisStefan Bugryn
On vacation in Paris, a married man slowly falls in love ... with the city itself.
Imagine you're a writer, and you get the chance to travel back in time to have a conversation with the world's best writers. 1920's Paris with Ernest Hemingway? Pretty cool huh? "Midnight in Paris" rides on this highly original concept, and keeps both the dreamers and thinkers happy. If you're a lover of fine culture, you can't go wrong with this film. The Parisian backdrop will have you in awe; the cinematography is amazing. Not the director's best work, but certainly worth a watch. Tres bien!
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.
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.
A young man sets out to uncover the truth after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website.
This movie feels like nothing more than an extended show reel for the young male lead, dreamed up by studio execs to make an easy buck. The space around the teen heartthrob is filled with an established and highly-regarded supporting cast, who have nothing to work with in a film that has been clumsily put together without even attempting to be clever, entertaining or exciting; all things a good spy flick should be. Underwhelming and completely devoid of any originality or inspiration, "Abduction" is a waste of time.
A Quiet LifeAnne Murphy
The story of a man with a dark past, that inevitably catches up with him.
Mystery is slowly brewed as the story behind the main character is revealed. Initially the plot is vague, and the viewer must sit with some uncertainty as to what is happening on the screen. The lack of story structure is a clever device that adds to the mounting suspense. Tension is maintained amid a seemingly routine domestic situation, and there are ominous hints that all is not as it seems as the violence starts to escalate. "A Quiet Life" is a well-constructed, gripping movie experience... shhh.
Lost KissesAnne Murphy
A girl in the deprived outskirts of a Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
"Lost Kisses" uses cynicism to explore our faith in the inexplicable, and satirically mocks our need to keep up appearances. While not taking an overt stance on one side or the other of religious belief and our desire for miracles, there's a lot going on under the surface-line of the story. It's a pleasure to be allowed to draw your own meaning. A peck on the cheek.
Corpo CelesteAnne Murphy
Thirteen year-old Marta restlessly tests the boundaries of the catechism of the Catholic Church when her family move from Switzerland to a city in southern Italy.
The protagonist is a stranger in a strange land as she prepares for her confirmation ceremony. A naive view of the Church and the various characters that support the institution are used to question the traditions and rites of its teachings. "Corpo Celeste" gently mocks using symbolism and religious iconography rather than overtly criticising any practice. The movie is effective in that it does plant questions about socially accepted values. You'll never get to heaven...
20 CigarettesAnne Murphy
An assistant film director working in Iraq finds himself caught up in a suicide attack.
This movie tells the autobiographical story of its director with a lighter touch than a documentary might have allowed. Iraq is shown as a place where soldiers and peace-keepers are wondering what they were doing there. Injury is graphically depicted, providing a palpable experience of the horror of war. A strong but very watchable political statement is made by bringing a personal story to the big screen. The cigarettes provide an interesting device to contrast everyday life with a day in a war zone. Smoking.
Sorelle MaiAnne Murphy
The director's family is filmed over a 10 year period acting in film roles rather than biographic depictions to create an experimental and dramatic work.
"Sorelle Mai" is an interesting movie that follows the hopes and mostly thwarted dreams of a brother and sister. What makes it really interesting is knowing what the director attempted and the scope of the project. For those sitting in a cinema it's not obvious how ambitious the film-making is, and for the average viewer the slight narrative may be insufficient to captivate. Appreciate this one for being well crafted. Sisters are doin' it...
The Eye of the StormWendy Slevison
A woman used to controlling everything in her life chooses her time to die.
If you've ever doubted what Australian cinema is capable of producing, see "Eye of the Storm". Adapted from the book of the same name, every facet of the crafting of this film is of the highest quality. Featuring a cast of acting nobility who deliver their roles with meticulous insight, superb cinematography and assured direction, the story unfolds with unrelenting potency. As the complex relationships and palpable tensions intensify, you are left feeling that you have indeed been through the eye of a storm, but there is also the exhilaration of having been a witness to the tempest.
15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
There is an underlying idealism and sentimentality to "Submarine" that is tenderly masked by moments of genuine hilarity. Just like sonar, you can't see it, but you can feel it there. The humour is oddball and quirky, but never to the point where it's self-aware. With a soundtrack that is simply sublime, and whimsical visuals to match, this is a stylish and funny story told with great affinity by a clearly talented first-time director. Submarine down. Periscopes, emotion, and laughter up.
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.
A man receives revelations from his elderly father: he has terminal cancer, and a young male lover.
"Beginners" is a poignant, tenderly-crafted portrait of a man's evolving relationship with his father, and the impact it has on other relationships in his life. The writer/director has told his unusual, autobiographical tale in a warm, quirky and original style, skilfully mixing the joys and sorrows in a way that is never over-sentimental or clichéd. The film is ultimately a celebration of life, love and hope. It shows us that in our experiences of love - finding it, and then holding on to it - we are all, at times, beginners.
Win WinAnne Murphy
A struggling lawyer and wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
The good-humoured and flawed characters which populate "Win Win" are acted with refreshing individuality. The movie plays out as a down to earth and warm comedy, that is hard not to be charmed by. As the captivating plot develops, and very human problems are encountered, an almost constant tickle of laughter fills the cinema. Audience interest is engaged by the readily recognisable challenges of ordinary people and their relationships, and we're ready to empathise. Nobody loses.
Jane EyreAnne Murphy
A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
A film adaption of a literary classic is rarely considered as good the book but this one is superb. "Jane Eyre" is likely to captivate all, including the most avid readers among us. This effort is well cast, capturing a perfect balance of brooding passion and guarded vulnerability. The cinematography captures a gothic austerity on the screen that reflects the social confines and well mannered restraint of the times, balanced by a landscape of moody spellbinding moors. Passionate plain Jane.
13 AssassinsAndrew O'Dea
In feudal Japan, a group of Samurai assassins come together on a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.
This period action flick is a tale of vengeance and honour, combining 'old-school' Japanese heroics with genuinely poetic sentiment. The story and electricity builds slowly as we're introduced to the '13', before exploding into one of the greatest extended battle sequences of all time. Blood flows, limbs fly, and heads roll in what is quite simply a ballet of brutality. Yet the film still carries direction and purpose behind the gore, through the nobility of our heroes' cause. A near-flawless, classic Samurai movie. Both incredibly stylish and graphically violent, "13 Assassins" never misses its mark.
The BeaverAnthony Macali
A troubled husband and executive adopts a hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
"The Beaver" is really funny and really sad, chipping away at a frenetic pace. The puppet is strangely hypnotic, with an accent and antics that produce most of the laughs in a performance clearly indebted to his master. We're soon reminded the situation is quite serious, and that some outlets often serve as rather unorthodox modes of therapy. While the audience might have the required patience for such, the characters do not. The son wrestles with issues of his own, pressing a sub-plot that doesn't quite work. On the whole though, this outfit is short, shrewd and deeply moving.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.