The Blind SideAnne Murphy
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
"The Blind Side" has quite a plot, all true, all fairy-tale and all feel-good. With a remarkable story to tell, the film is not unnecessarily cheapened by sentiment. It is related in a down to earth manner that could be described as understated, marred only by the cloying musical score which is definitely overplayed. This pragmatic movie is delivered with faultless performances from the cast, and it is surprisingly moving to watch. Be blindsided.
Shutter IslandAnthony Macali
Set in 1954, Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.
"Shutter Island" opens with a dreadfully ominous musical composition, promptly setting the tone for this dark and disturbing thriller. The hospital for mental health is the perfect setting for the director to play games with the mind, as Teddy's scrutiny slowly intensifies, clouding his dreams with reality. The fragments of his delusions are haunting, as you're drowned in a loud and often exaggerated score. It will send shudders down the spine, keep you guessing, and enthral to the very end.
A ProphetAnthony Macali
Set largely within prison walls, the film details the prison career of Malik, sentenced to six years and chosen by Cesar, a feared kingpin of the prisons reigning Corsican gang, to kill a prisoner.
"A Prophet" meticulously blends the worlds of prison and organised crime. An intriguing and unique makeup of many cultures are carefully observed through the eyes of our protagonist, and his story brokers a high level of tension and suspense, as he deals with dangerous people in dangerous places. We are transfixed by his brutal transformation, as he rises to power in an eternal state of illusion. A truly arresting experience, this distinguished crime classic is masterful.
Edge of DarknessWendy Slevison
As homicide detective Thomas Craven investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion.
Adapted from a popular British television series, "Edge of Darkness" showcases the leading man in his signature genre, the action thriller. Solidly produced, with strong performances and plenty of dramatic tension, most of the film is a satisfyingly intense ride. Unfortunately, the last section becomes somewhat chaotic, and the body count ridiculously high. A word of warning â€“ the storyline is quite complex, so concentrate or you'll be left in the dark.
Law Abiding CitizenAnthony Macali
A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free.
"Law Abiding Citizen" wastes no time delving straight into an egregious game of 'good guys vs bad guys'. At times, the way it manages to sway favour between lawyer and particularly clever murderer hungry for revenge can be intriguing. But flick the switch, and suddenly you find yourself locked into some inescapable moments of sinister dialogue and contrivance. It's a shame this thriller takes such a long time to teach its lesson of justice, only for the the final verdict to be a disappointment.
In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Part grimly realistic and part fairy tale, "Precious" is the gritty story of one girls nightmarish existence. There is a redemptive thread thanks to the resilient core of the central character, but that element alone is insufficient to lift the bleak realism to an entertaining level. At the same time the raw exposed mood is compromised by a couple of plot twists that swim in sentimentalism. The emotional content is as uneven as the camera work. Precious but tarnished.
The RoadAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.
This brilliantly crafted adaptation is a haunting examination of our species. Anchored by staggering performances that are both genuine and raw, the film's arresting take on humanity is smart, honest and brutally real. Pastels of grey and brown dominate a desolate, barren landscape that coupled with an ominous score mirror the relentlessly oppressive mood. Some may find this sombre tone tedious, while others will find an emotional resonance in its savage beauty. Although "The Road" might be a harrowing journey, its an ultimately rewarding one.
Famous film director Guido Contini struggles both professionally and personally, as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife, mistress, muse, agent, and (dead) mother.
This film, for all its pedigree, including an astonishing array of talent and a highly successful director, is a flop. A tedious and uninspiring melange of boring songs, superfluous characters, and very little narrative, it's a rare miscalculation in the career of the leading man, and a blot on the resumes of everyone else involved. Who convinced these people they could sing? Let 'nine' be the number of minutes it takes you to decide on which other movie you'll go and see instead of this debacle.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
Up in the AirAnne Murphy
With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.
A movie for the times, "Up in the Air" is topical and astutely observed. Social satire doesn't get delivered more incisively than this perfectly balanced movie. Just when a character approaches caricature the comedic effect is turned back and some of life's big questions are plausibly presented. We respond with a collective sigh, not to mention the odd tear. Let "Up in the Air" bring you back to earth.
3 IdiotsAmit Jain
Two uni friends embark on a quest to find their lost friend.
This film is witty, emotional and uncontrollably entertaining. Questioning the current education system in India, the movie is subtle in its messages and the many golden rules which can change one's life in a big way. The cinematography and locations used are simply breathtaking. "3 Idiots" is a laughing riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits and preaches not to chase success, but to "...chase excellence and success will follow".
Did You Hear About the Morgans?Wendy Slevison
An estranged couple who witness a murder relocate to a small-town as part of a protection program.
If you did hear about the Morgans, avoid them like the plague. Their movie is dreadful. There is not one redeeming feature. Not the story, not the scenery, and definitely not the two leads. Right from the start, they both seem to know they have made a terrible mistake. It only goes downhill from there. Zero chemistry, performances bordering on caricature and a truly terrible script make this movie an absolute and unqualified disaster. Please spread the word... have nothing to do with the Morgans.
The Lovely BonesAnthony Macali
Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and killer from heaven.
This movie fields some grim subject matter, only to raise the question: why make it? It's an honest display of a family in disarray, broken and unable to heal. However, apart from this genuine touch, it only manages to wander through a gallery of postcard landscapes in an attempt to inspire hope beyond death. Or perhaps the director just wanted to borrow the climatic scenes of suspense and unease from the book? Like its heroine, "The Lovely Bones" lives in a world of limbo, stuck somewhere in between a good and a bad film.
Broken EmbracesAnne Murphy
Harry Caine, a blind writer, reaches this moment in time when he has to heal his wounds from 14 years back.
A film-maker has made a film where the central character is a film-maker; hence a movie is created within this movie. "Broken Embraces" is a multi-layered exploration of love, passion and deception. A tantalising production, stylish to the point of being stylised, this is truly sophisticated viewing. A elaborate timeline is used to deconstruct the typical sequence of events. Questioning where a tale begins or ends, the editor is empowered to determine the story. Embrace with enthusiasm.
Bright StarWendy Slevison
Based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
There are two 'bright stars' in this exquisite film - the leading lady, with her flawless performance, and the poetry, which will have viewers searching for their high school poetry books seeking to revisit the works of the romantic poets. This beautifully filmed glimpse into lives 190 years ago succeeds due to the stunningly simple way it tells its story of an intense and yet ultimately doomed love. Shakespearian in its tragedy, "Bright Star" is exceptional movie-making... a leading light not to be missed.
Nowhere BoyAnne Murphy
A chronicle of John Lennon's childhood.
"Nowhere Boy" is an almost absorbing bio-pic telling the story of the teen years of the boy who became a member of one of the world's most influential bands. It is the little known background of the subject that makes this movie worth watching. Although apparently historically accurate and crammed with period detail, the film doesn't reveal much of a sense of the singer and song-writer we know from his later achievements. 'Nowhere Boy' becomes one of the writer's of 'Nowhere Man', and it's disappointing that the title suggests something more profound.
A politician's relationship with his unusually developed son - the child suffers from a disease that causes him to age rapidly, rendering him an old man.
"Paa" invokes thought on varying subjects of modern Indian urban life from single parenthood and rare disease, to the media and its influence on politics and human relationships. The performances from the entire cast are fabulous, especially the lead who is brilliant in his role. It blends emotion and laughter in just the right places, and makes this film a definite family entertainer.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
Away We GoAnne Murphy
A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family.
This film is a road movie at heart, and disappointingly fails to connect with the audience's heart. A lot of miles are traversed by the central couple but this is a study of people met on the journey rather than the places travelled to. The characters encountered are shallow and vulgar stereotypes, and their depiction is coloured with contempt rather than wit or insight. The resultant product is slight; funny without being funny ha-ha.
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.
The Strength of WaterAnne Murphy
When a mysterious stranger arrives in an isolated coastal town, 10-year-old twins are forced apart.
This film is more mood than story. The brooding characters are burdened with emotion but without anywhere to channel it. Wild New Zealand coastal landscapes are artistically captured, and the screen is laden with images that evoke dark undercurrents and equally dark overtones. The inescapable heaviness of production is not quite balanced by the simplicity that's almost necessary when dealing with big themes through the eyes of children. "The Strength of Water" is strong enough to overpower.
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!
Dorian GrayWendy Slevison
A corrupt young man keeps his youthful beauty eternally, but a painting reveals his inner ugliness.
Set in Victorian London, this film is a turgid and vulgar representation of a fascinating morality tale by an author renowned for his witty social commentary. Sadly, all wit is lost due to the blank, lacklustre performance by the central player. Despite stylishly replicating the era,and having a strong support cast, "Dorian Gray" completely lacks substance, and the CGI effects used for the portrait become increasingly, albeit unintentionally, comic. Regrettably, this movie is as ugly in it's essence as the title character.
Cold SoulsAnne Murphy
Paul is an actor who feels bogged down by his participation in a production of Chekov's play, Vanya.
"Cold Souls" has a delightfully original storyline told with a sombre, almost deadpan tone. The movie provides an intelligent and inquisitive voyage into existential angst, a surreal and introspective journey of both the familiar and the unknown. It could have been heavy going but for the well-crafted production, and the result is an entrancing and stylishly minimalistic film where the attention to detail is apparent. More 'funny peculiar' than 'funny ha ha' in style, this comedy is refreshingly soulful to boot.
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.