The Karate KidWendy Slevison
A single mother moves to China with her young son, and in his new home, the boy embraces kung-fu.
This movie leaves you a little puzzled. Why is it called "The Karate Kid" when it's about kung-fu? Why didn't the editor chop at least half an hour out of it? And... why should people go see this movie? The answer to that is that it's an enjoyable journey - an uplifting tale about a cross-cultural/generational relationship between a pair of improbable allies. Countering the inevitable clichés are skillfully choreographed fight scenes and some truly spectacular scenery. So, in spite of pondering the other questions, you'll almost certainly leave the cinema feeling that the 'kid' did pretty well.
Air DollAnne Murphy
A life-size blow-up doll develops a soul and falls in love with a video store clerk.
Seen through the delightfully innocent eyes of a living doll, scenes are coloured with an appreciation for the everyday. We observe the realities and absurdities of modern day life where everything is eventually discarded and disposed of. "Air Doll" is laden with social comment about our lonely urban lifestyles and it prompts reflection along existential themes. It could have been rather heavy going but for the whimsical touch of the director, and there is as much magic as sadness in the messages. This 'doll' is a sweetie.
World's Greatest DadAnne Murphy
A comedy about a man who learns that the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy, and that being lonely is not necessarily the same as being alone.
"World's Greatest Dad" is uncomfortable viewing centered on an unlikable teenage misfit and his apologetic, underachieving Dad. This movie is so dark it's pitch black, not to mention creepy - a parent's nightmare. Low key but high impact viewing that will stay with you. The messages about popularity and hollow celebrity will skulk at the back of your mind even if you are the world's greatest someone.
In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job till date.
Boldly ambitious on a universal scale, "Inception" is awe inspiring, bringing to life the imagination of the mind in amazing visual detail. Mastering the idea of dreams within dreams may take some time, but it's this kind of challenge, rarely seen in blockbusters, that keeps you absolutely enthralled. It shoots through its running time at a whole new level, immersing you in the sub-conscious of the characters on screen without any contraptions. Unmistakably mind-blowing.
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.
English naturalist Charles Darwin struggles with his revolutionary theories on evolution.
"Creation" provides an interesting perspective on one of the most influential scientists of all time. Rather than visiting the genius of Darwin's theory, this film is more of an intriguing portrait into the man himself. It dissects themes of faith and religion versus science while exploring Darwin's great inner turmoil and his terrible battle with spirituality. Although some might consider it not as highly evolved as it could've been (given the subject matter), a solid script and an absolutely outstanding performance from the lead actor make this movie an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
The RunawaysAnthony Macali
Based on lead-singer Cherie Currie's book 'Neon Angel' - a reflection of her experiences as a rock star in the '70's teenage band 'The Runaways'.
"The Runaways" is a musical biopic of teenage girls and their love for rock 'n' roll. This film exposes their relatively unknown story, charting their seedy formation and rise to fame in mesmerising style. The group is held together by terrifically eye-opening performances from the leads. Despite uneven levels of entertainment, this movie entices you to learn more about its popular music and lessons in addiction. A blur of a band easily forgotten.
The Waiting CityAnthony Macali
A mystic-infused love story that follows a young couple's journey to collect their adopted baby.
The title makes sense... there's a lot of waiting in the beautiful city of Kolkata, India, a cinematographer's dream with its vibrancy and detail. It's a slow journey, burdening the future parents more so than the audience, as a prolonged stay reveals the distressing troubles of their relationship. Mother-to-be Fiona works hard and delivers an endearing performance, but it's difficult to find meaning as themes of family and faith become muddled. "The Waiting City" is an admirable Australian film that will resonate with a small audience.
The HedgehogAnne Murphy
Paloma is a serious, but deeply bored 11 year old, who decides to kill herself on her twelfth birthday.
"The Hedgehog" is a melancholic and elegantly understated character study, artistically crafted and entrancing. The film's direction is deft, uncovering a very moving exploration of the human condition beneath a simple tale. The story is focused on three intelligently drawn characters with rich inner lives in which they insulate themselves from the world outside. The performances of the lead roles are without fault, balancing humorous, absurd, and enigmatic characteristics. We see both the prickles on the outside and the warm hearted inside of a hedgehog.
The Twilight Saga: EclipseAnthony Macali
Bella is forced to choose between her love for vampire Edward and werewolf friend Jacob.
It is made abundantly clear that "Eclipse" is about decisions. It's hard to choose between the equally attractive (and buff) leads who continuously confess their undying love. Thankfully, this tiresome triangle doesn't consume the show. A great supporting cast share their interesting back-stories and shed light on the mystical history of vampires and werewolves, building tension for the frantic action showdown. Expect the inevitable lingering kisses amongst mountain tops and fields of flowers, but this instalment offers a little more to feast upon. Your choice.
I Am LoveAnne Murphy
A tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan.
The screen images are aesthetically composed and structured with an eye for the pleasing in this most stylish of movies. Sadly, the hand-held camera swirls to a point of disorientation at times. Fortunately the movie is grounded by the compelling performances of the cast. "I Am Love" throbs with tempestuous passion that becomes overwrought. Lust runs amok, building to a frantic conclusion as the film is lifted to its climax by the operatic score; and the viewer left exhausted by the experience. Love it.
A bandit leader kidnaps the wife of the policeman who killed his sister, but later falls in love with her.
This film attempts to recreate the Indian mythology of "Ramayana" into a modern tale. The cinematography is amazing, magnificently shot in the remote jungles of India and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. However, even though the music may be a treat to your ears, the film lacks soul in terms of story, and the screenplay lacks substance or the presence of an exciting climax. Although "Raavan" might lose direction in its distinction between the main character's identity as brutal demon or outlaw helping the poor, it's still worth a watch if not simply for the stellar cast.
Lou, a young girl, develops affection for the grandfather she'd never previously met when he comes to live with her and her mother and sisters.
All of the action in this beautifully crafted movie happens within the emotional relationships of the characters. The plot is a little underdeveloped, and there's no crescendo or culmination of action, just day to day experiences of the central family. There's plenty to hold the interest of the audience - the moody and realistic performances of the cast, the Australian landscape, the soundtrack - if only there was a dramatic climax. "Lou" is lovely but could have blossomed into more.
Mother and ChildAnne Murphy
A drama centred around three women: A 50-year-old woman, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago and a woman looking to adopt a child of her own.
The relationship between mother and daughter is a rich emotional territory that "Mother and Child" wades right into. The brittle, flawed women wading through their lives and dreams will touch your heart, and then wring it out, as strands of the different characters' stories entwine. The actors give great performances in vulnerable and dysfunctional roles that variously thaw and freeze. Take your Mummy and remember your tissues.
Mademoiselle ChambonAnne Murphy
Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life.
"Mademoiselle Chambon" is an emotional drama laden with unexpressed feeling that hovers between sensitive and stagnant. While subtlety must have been the director's intention, the effect is slack and stifled. The story has a very long fuse, as restraint is favoured over illicit passion. Unfortunately, the wick is so slow burning that by the final scene interest in the characters has been extinguished. With barely any action and sparse dialogue, the movie fails to ignite (which could be the point), and for many this film will seem pointless.
The Burning PlainAnne Murphy
The past and the present have a curious way of affecting one another as several people separated by time and space are about to discover.
This gripping tale is revealed as slowly as a building storm while tension builds. The movie is laden with foreboding, even if you anticipate the outcome before it's played out. The threads involving various characters weave together to reveal the anguish filled origins of the story. "Burning Plain" is moody and filled with loss and remorse, filmed against scenic backdrops that create realism and tension. The plains burn with a slow fuse to create an unforgettable movie.
Sex and the City 2Courtney Slevison
Two years have passed since Carrie Bradshaw finally bagged John "Mr. Big" Preston, the man she was always meant to be with...
"Sex and the City 2" delivers on its mantra, ensuring that fun, fashion and frivolity are the order of the day. However, some of the best scenes come when the glitzy curtain is drawn back and the struggles of making a marriage and family work are exposed. As a whole, this movie is exactly what you should expect: the script isn't all that great, but as a visual feast it works a treat. So kick back with a Cosmopolitan and catch up with some old 'friends'.
Animal KingdomWendy Slevison
Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
"Animal Kingdom" is a raw, understated exploration of the ongoing 'dog eat dog' battle between the police force and a criminal family. This is a skewed reality where life is cheap, and survival often comes down to the nonchalant disposal of other lives to ferociously protect your own. Loyalties are fluid, honesty a foreign concept. This powerful film tells its compelling tale with assurance and class, and features superb performances from an ensemble of the finest actors in Australian cinema.
City IslandAnne Murphy
Meet the Rizzos, a family that might get along a lot better if only they could tell each other the truth.
The Manhattan skyline can be seen across the water in this marvellous little film. The setting, the accents, the personalities, the attitudes, and the situations are pure boisterous New York. The central family are all ensnared in complex relationships that ring true, as drama is stirred through with good hearted comedy. "City Island" is marred by an ending that ties up the threads a little too neatly, finishing on an unnecessarily schmaltzy note - even so, this is an island in the sun.
Harry BrownAnthony Macali
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice.
"Harry Brown" is an exceptionally made film, but the revenge takes too long, drawn out to a point where the comeuppance just doesn't match the build-up. There are great depictions of drug-dealer dwellings and troubled youth, creating a genuine sense of discomfort and distress. Invariably such a setup brings violence, including a curiously riotous ending, but digitised blood spurts just don't have the same impact as traditional cinema wounds. Dark and dangerous but a little too slow.
Fish TankAnne Murphy
Everything changes for 15 year old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.
"Fish Tank" is a coming of age movie set on a rundown English council estate. The characters are filled with equal measures of frustration, anger, longing and alcohol, without means to release the pressure. The decaying situation is played out with a credibility that leaves the audience unsurprised at the outcomes but gripped by the tension. With nowhere to go but down, the mood is deliberately oppressive. The tank is grimy, and breathing underwater almost impossible, but even so we glimpse gold on the scales of these fish.
The Secret in their EyesAnne Murphy
A man wants to solve a murder committed many years ago.
"The Secret in Their Eyes" is engrossing as a crime thriller and compelling as a cold case romance. The threads are seamlessly interwoven to create a movie going experience that lingers long after the credits roll. All eyes will be glued on the outstanding cast who fill out the interesting characters. This is a well crafted film that spans 25 years, moving from fear to love visiting every emotion in between. It's no secret that this is a knockout story to be seen with your own eyes.
The Book of EliAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.
"The Book of Eli" is a very well made movie, but only from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately, stylish sepia tones and occasional moments of choreographed brilliance are outweighed by a gaping storyline. Even though it manages to raise some intriguing spiritual conundrums, the nonsensical plot fails to lend these questions of morality any real substance. This shortfall is only made worse by an abursd plot twist that fails to be anywhere near as as reverent as it aspires to be. Amen.
Robin HoodAndrew O'Dea
An archer in the army of King Richard becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.
This re-imagining of the classic tale is painted onto an epic canvas. The production values and attention to detail are outstanding, and in terms of scale and spectacle, it's everything you'd expect from the director. But for a film that promises so much action it delivers little, choosing instead to add new dimensions to a character that was already rich enough. The violence is gritty and graphic, yet it's the story in-between that finds itself a little convoluted and lacking at times. "Robin Hood" is enjoyable enough, but nowhere near a bulls-eye.
The White RibbonAnne Murphy
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment.
"The White Ribbon" is visually mesmerising, artistically captured in black and white with a period detail that is meticulously reproduced, particularly in the costumes of the farming villagers. With its fascist undertones this film is a harrowing watch for all of its lengthy run time, and even then there is no reward of a conclusion or explanation. Austere, relentless, seething with hatred and cruelty, this is unforgiving viewing. The film evokes a sense of impending doom, with blue ribbon success.