Edge of Darkness - Movie Poster

Edge of Darkness

3.5 Wendy 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 – the storyline is quite complex, so concentrate or you'll be left in the dark.


Law Abiding Citizen - Movie Poster

Law Abiding Citizen

2.5 Anthony 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.


Precious - Movie Poster

Precious

2.5 Anne Murphy

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 Road - Movie Poster

The Road

4.0 Andrew 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.


Nine - Movie Poster

Nine

1.0 Wendy Slevison

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.


Invictus - Movie Poster

Invictus

4.0 Andrew O'Dea

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 Air - Movie Poster

Up in the Air

4.5 Anne 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 Idiots - Movie Poster

3 Idiots

4.0 Amit 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? - Movie Poster

Did You Hear About the Morgans?

0.5 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 Bones - Movie Poster

The Lovely Bones

2.5 Anthony 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 Embraces - Movie Poster

Broken Embraces

5.0 Anne 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 Star - Movie Poster

Bright Star

5.0 Wendy 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 Boy - Movie Poster

Nowhere Boy

3.0 Anne 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.


Paa - Movie Poster

Paa

3.0 Amit Jain

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.


9 - Movie Poster

9

3.0 Andrew O'Dea

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 Go - Movie Poster

Away We Go

2.5 Anne 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! - Movie Poster

The Informant!

3.5 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 Water - Movie Poster

The Strength of Water

3.0 Anne 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 Are - Movie Poster

Where the Wild Things Are

3.5 Andrew 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 Gray - Movie Poster

Dorian Gray

1.5 Wendy 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 Souls - Movie Poster

Cold Souls

3.5 Anne 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 Man - Movie Poster

A Serious Man

4.0 Andrew 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.


Amreeka - Movie Poster

Amreeka

3.0 Anne Murphy

A drama centered on an immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Illinois.

Warm and funny, "Amreeka" covers important issues of diversity and tolerance with a light and humorous touch. In fact, it is light enough to be a little heavy-handed in delivering the message that people from the middle-east are good people. The immigrant experience looks easy in this setting - a little hardship, a touch of outrage at the attitude of the locals, and each day better than the last. In the land of the free it's possible to feel homesick while smiling. Only in Amreeka?


The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Movie Poster

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

3.0 Anthony Macali

Realising Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward makes the difficult decision to leave.

This sequel significantly outshines its predecessor, as the presence of a storyline improves it in leaps and bounds. The eclipse of romance is welcome, as we share Bella's pain and encourage her recklessness. Despite console from (decidedly buff) friend Jacob, her time spent moping takes a lot longer than the film lets you believe. Their performances are less than desirable, but we find some hope in the small moments of action, laughter and extension of the mythology. Less brood and more mood, "New Moon" has successfully revived the saga.


Sister Smile - Movie Poster

Sister Smile

2.5 Anne Murphy

A biography of Belgian nun Jeannine Deckers, who became a popular singer in the early 1960s and came out of the closet.

It's said that truth is stranger than fiction, and while the 'Singing Nun' had a very strange life, it borders on dull when stretched to fill a feature film. The story is neatly presented in chronological sequence, and beautifully filmed to capture the era. Unfortunately, this bio-pic sticks to the facts and barely scratches the surface with any deeper connection to the characters. Expect a limited life span from this disappointing tale of a one-hit wonder.