Sarah's KeyAnne Murphy
A journalist researching the 1942 Vel' d' Hiv Roundup in Paris uncovers links with Sarah, a Jewish girl, who was arrested with her parents.
"Sarah's Key" is a fictional account of the Holocaust that discloses events from the dark years of World War 2 in an assured manner. A contemporary story is seamlessly intertwined with one from the past as intrigue builds. The actors underplay the poignancy of both narratives, as ordinary people deal with extraordinary dilemmas and strong messages are presented without unnecessary melodrama. The past is not forgotten but sometimes needs to be unlocked.
Blue ValentineAnne Murphy
The film centres on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.
"Blue Valentine" is like stepping through a dream door into the spiral of a failing relationship between a husband and wife; you're drawn into the minutiae of love and frustration. The couple's interactions are intensely scrutinised, almost dissected by the camera, over a period stretching a little more than a day. The experience of watching is both compelling, and at the same time, a little like trying to breathe under water, such is its wrenching emotional grip. Valentines don't come any more blue.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare...
"Lebanon" is a gripping ride. Shot almost exclusively from the tight confines of a rumbling tank, this movie is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking. The tension and intensity is palpable, as the film bears witness to the horrors of war, and we're left gasping for breath from the grimy, claustrophobic atmosphere. The antiwar sentiment is clear, with enough gritty action to match its political, religious and philosophical messages. Shell-shockingly good.
A Lone ScalpelAnne Murphy
A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.
Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.
Villon's WifeAnne Murphy
This enticing period melodrama depicts a long-suffering woman's relationship with her brilliant but self-destructive writer husband in post-war Tokyo.
The drama is heavy going as everyone is laden with sorrow, desire and regret against a post-war back-drop that is sombre and opportunistic. The angst of the artist is captured in the husband's role and balanced by the strong-willed determination of the wife. Much can be read between the scenes, as the drama of dark themes and hard times plays out. "Vilon's Wife" is engrossing with all of the fragile and intertwined relationships of a soap opera; wretched affairs but no divorce.
Enter the VoidStefan Bugryn
A drug dealing youth is killed in Tokyo, and drifts through the city in death watching over his sister.
"Enter the Void" is an experimental film that literally takes you on a beautiful journey through life and death. It's very dreamy and trippy, delving into a kaleidoscope of colours and pictures that can often be mistaken for an exploration of space. The narrative is powerful, often intensely emotional, and is shot almost entirely from the protagonist's view, which makes it all the more engaging. The dark themes and visual onslaught will make it hard viewing for the faint hearted, but all others will love entering the void.
Recent college graduates try to fulfil their dreams in a band and escape the monotony of regular jobs.
A coming of age movie, where adolescents try to find a life beyond the conventional one that might be expected of them. The soundtrack is loud with original music which conveys the passion of band members; and in contrast, the dull and muted tones of Tokyo reflect the plight of those same characters. Well acted and understated, it is hard not to be moved by the sentimentality and uncertainty of lives dedicated to pursuing one's dreams.
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.
Zero FocusAnne Murphy
Spurred by the disappearance of a newly-wed husband, three women in post-war Japan are drawn into a murder mystery.
"Zero Focus" is a mystery thriller set in post-war Japan. The plot is complicated and bodies pile up as the murders out-number the suspects. The movie is moody and melodramatic, evoking the classical work of directors from a past era. Despite the cultural setting there is familiarity to the style and unusual camera angles. The lengthy drama is eventually brought to a lengthy conclusion, but no thread is left unexplained as final scene follows final scene, leaving focus diminished.
Fair GameThomas Jones
A CIA agent's identity is revealed by the White House to discredit her husband after he writes a piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.
"Fair Game" is a dummies take on the 'he said/she said' enquiries which led to President Bush declaring that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Although this political drama is easy-to-follow, you kind of wish there were more thrills, shocks or unforeseen twists in the script, which at times lacks impact. The inclusion of real footage enhances the film; as it goes from being less conspiracy based to looking more like a historical account. Neither right nor wrong, just fair.
Boldly unconventional and cheerful, that's how one could describe Babou.
Boldly unconventional and cheerful, that's how one could describe "Copacabana", it is that sort of movie. A mother daughter relationship is scrutinised in this story, and strong performances bring the central characters alive. The tension between being true to oneself and being what others expect you to be is intelligently explored with a generous dash of quirky social satire. The result is well captured by the camera, perfectly paced, and the experience is intelligently feel good. More than a place, Copacabana is a state of mind
A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity while falling in love with the famous female philosophy professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
This visually extravagant epic looks to the skies pondering shape of our universe, while on the ground bloody religious disputes are fought with stones and daggers. Disappointing is the production sloth that depicts one side as dirty and grey and the other as pale and clean. Barely forgivable, even in the 400AD setting, is a disquieting patriarchal tone discolouring ancient Alexandria. Unforgivable, is the lack of dramatic tension as "Agora" devolves into tedium.
Anything for HerAnne Murphy
With no legal means left to him, a high school teacher devises a daring plan to rescue his wrongfully imprisoned wife from jail.
"Anything for Her" is a gripping thriller that will be watched heart pumping, and eyes glued to the screen. Tension is maintained throughout this tightly edited and well acted film that moves credibly between middle-class lives and the underside of the streets of Paris. While it may stretch plausibility, it is an action packed yarn that prompts questions about innocence and guilt, love and desperation.
Winter's BoneStefan Bugryn
A young girl sets out to find the truth of her father's disappearance whilst looking after her dysfunctional family.
This is a disappointing movie that promises a lot yet delivers little. The whole story acts as a tense build up to a secret a community of drug addled Southerners are keeping. But once you get to where it's headed, you feel like it wasn't worth the time, and it plays out rather banal. The set design and acting are actually both impressive, but they do not make up for the weak storyline. Sticks, stones, and a bad film will break "Winter's Bones"... and your enjoyment.
The MessengerAnne Murphy
An American soldier struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow.
"The Messenger" delivers emotional punches in relentless succession in a context of heartbreaking realism. More than a war film, or even a film about the army, this is a movie about loss and grief, mostly expressed by men. Harrowing exchanges made when people are at their most vulnerable are intense to witness, made no less easy by scenes where withheld emotions seethe within the characters. Thankfully there are strands of camaraderie and humour threaded throughout, and they serve to strengthen the compelling messages.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle ShopAnne Murphy
The owner of a Chinese noodle shop's scheme to murder his adulterous wife and her lover goes awry.
Curiosity is aroused watching the scheming characters play out this tale with pantomime action in a surreal mountainous desert setting. This movie is brightly coloured and visually splendid, a spectacular feast that will leave you a little hungry. More is promised than delivered. The action is slapstick rather than suspenseful, as the goofy cast execute their various self-interested plots and plans. The pace plods a little in this Chinese Cluedo, that's more convoluted than simply a woman, in a noodle shop... with a gun.
Little DeathsAnne Murphy
Composed of disturbingly sensual and terrifying short narratives, unified by the twin themes of sex and death.
Stories that usually only live in one's imagination emerge on to the screen. The quality production has a dreamlike quality. The narrative is more creative, more hedonistic, and a little more hysterical than everyday ordinary reality; needless to say it is more enjoyable too. There is more suggested than consummated on the screen, and risqué elements are implied rather than explicit. "Little Deaths" is deftly handled so the libidinous tone doesn't sink to lewd. Good Australian film making lives a little.
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.
The Social NetworkAnthony Macali
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
"The Social Network" is a telling portrayal of one the world's most unsociable guys. Expertly played, the punk billionaire is depicted as an obnoxious genius, his computer antics spurred by teenage anguish. The film is well informed and doesn't shy away from the geeky mumbo-jumbo, as it creates a real sense of the amazing scale and technical brilliance of 'The Facebook'. The first half of the movie is fast and exciting, but the second half tends to lag with unfavourable characters and court-room exposition. Nonetheless, 'FilmDude' likes this.
Summer CodaAnthony Macali
Hitchhiking home to a family she's never known, Heidi meets Michael. In the stunning orange groves of country Australia, they embark on an adventure, discovering their secrets and lives.
"Summer Coda" is a delightful film ripe with colour. The story wonderfully captures the spirit and hospitable culture of its setting, sharing the joy and happiness of drinking and dining with newly acquainted company. The beauty of the scenery and cast is truly enamouring as they make orange picking look terribly fun. While it takes a while to hit the heavy drama, it still garners plenty of emotion when it arrives. Bright and sunny and cheerfully heart-warming.
The TownThomas Jones
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.
"The Town" is your classic cops and robbers fare, with a little bit of heart. The robbery scenes are exhilarating and are directed in such a way that you share the thrill of being chased, and the adrenalin which comes with the risk of getting caught. The problem with this film lies in the moments between the robberies, where a story tries to develop but really only slows the whole thing down. Much like its characters, this film is a goodie and a baddie.
The events in a night, from dusk to dawn, at a roadside kebab caravan, Kantina.
People come and go throughout the night, what brings them to the canteen is a mystery - most don't drop in for the food. What does happen is a confusion of events and characters. Greek speakers in the audience will chuckle more than the non-Greek speakers, as the subtitles seem to lose something in translation. As the canteen's patrons muddled along throughout the disjointed storyline, it's no surprise the production quality suffered the same fate and was inconsistent from scene to scene. You'll be left hungry after visiting "Canteen".
City of Your Final DestinationThomas Jones
Omar Razaghi wins a grant to write a biography of Latin American writer Jules Gund. Omar must get through to three people who were close to Gund so he can get authorization to write the biography.
Despite lacking in action or drama, don't expect to become restless in your seat or repeatedly check your watch during this film. It's not boring, but relaxing. The greenery, the food, the drinks and the sounds of nature which accompany every scene add to the sense of tranquillity which is created for the audience. The high calibre cast prove why they're at the top with some impressive performances. Until you reach the city of your final destination, sit back, relax, enjoy.
Eat Pray LoveAnne Murphy
A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction.
This movie is true to the book, only with the content trimmed back as is expected of best sellers translated for the screen. It's still big with over 2 hours of viewing. A personal story of discovery, with an angst ridden heroine, fantastic shot-on-location scenery, and the obligatory happy ending. "Eat Pray Love" is so eminently watchable you will even pardon the good looking actors for being so immaculately coiffed. Readers will embrace this girls own adventure and love.
Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq, wh After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin.
'Tis an ambitious undertaking to make a film with only one character and only one setting, especially when that setting is a wooden box. All involved, particularly the lead who battles the worst bureaucracy to try and survive, deserve great credit for achieving this feat in such a compelling way. The suspense is sustained brilliantly. Just when the situation looks like it couldn't get anymore dire, it does, in a most unexpected and nightmarish way. "Buried" is bold, brave and breathtaking.. literally.