The ConcertAnne Murphy
Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov, the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians.
"The Concert" is a wonderful, formulaic, crowd-pleaser. Of course, formulaic can be wonderful if you can forgive the sense of knowing what's going to happen before it unfolds. As the story builds, the many farcical sequences notwithstanding, there's a sense that something other than the music is being orchestrated. By the time the final concerto is played there is not a dry eye in the house. The magnificent crescendo plays shamelessly to our sentimentality yet it's still uplifting. Bravo.
Whisky with VodkaAnne Murphy
A renowned actor named Otto is the epitome of the problematic but beloved ladies man.
Movies about producing movies are always interesting, and "Whisky with Vodka" doesn't disappoint on that front. With lots of takes and re-takes as the talent misbehaves, this film within a film starts to take shape. Themes of aging are explored without connecting directly to the emotions involved, and the script plays more for gags than for soul searching. It suffers from not being more tightly edited, but perhaps there were too many anecdotes drawn from real life to squeeze into the plot. Amiable and spirited without a lasting hangover, it will be dissipated by the morning after.
Accidents HappenAnne Murphy
Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mum, distant brother, and stoic dad.
Stories of tragedy that are constructed with humour, albeit dark or black humour, reflect life a little as we tend to live it, when hanging on and trying to cope. "Accidents Happen" shows how strong the bonds of family can be, how tough and at the same time how vulnerable family members are. The film is carefully crafted to evoke an earlier era and the audience is transported to a typical suburb somewhere where mishaps are the norm. Be warned, as the emotional punch packed by this movie happens to be no accident.
The EclipseAnne Murphy
In a seaside Irish town, a widower sparks with a visiting horror novelist while he also begins to believe he is seeing ghosts.
There's a dose of horror, a hint of romance, a touch of drama, some grieving, and a lot of mystery as we wonder where the plot of this film went. "The Eclipse" begs for a stronger narrative thread as the story plays out as a mish-mash of underdeveloped elements. The moody and uneven Irish coast is scenically captured as a backdrop, however moody and uneven are only gratifying when delivered by nature, not the director. An eclipse of coherence.
The Last SongWendy Slevison
A rebellious girl is sent to a Southern beach town for the summer to stay with her father.
"The Last Song" was specifically created as a vehicle for its female lead to make the shift to more adult dramatic roles, but regrettably it won't help her career as much as she may have hoped. The movie is everything you'd expect â€“ a cheesy, schmaltzy tear-jerker. While the young stars do their best to provide some sense of authenticity to their roles, the overwrought, overloaded and implausible plot make it very hard work for cast and viewer alike. It almost certainly won't be the amiable young star's last song, but sadly isn't her best.
Map of the Sounds of TokyoAnne Murphy
A dramatic thriller that centres on a fish-market employee who doubles as a contract killer.
"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" delivers edgy views of Tokyo, with interesting landscapes you are unlikely to view as a tourist. The movie title bears no relation to the scenes and story - it could be lost in translation. At its core this is a love story, or story of physical yearnings over romantic love. Whatever the level, there is a strong and credible connection between two unlikely characters, each a little lost in their own world. A stylish movie with lots of Tokyo, but no map and no sounds.
A Good ManAnne Murphy
A law school professor witnesses his colleague, friend and mentor murder his own wife.
"A Good Man" is a murder mystery with a twist, and makes for gripping viewing as the tension and angst builds. Although we know what happened and 'who done it', the audience are kept on the edge of their seats as the plot unfolds and develops. The dark and moody production evokes the film noire era in this contemporary setting. The pace is slow - being almost real time - which eases the tension almost as it is built; even so, this is a good film.
A mother desperately searches for the killer that framed her son for an horrific murder.
"Mother" is a suspenseful thriller filmed with an eye for the comedic realities of serious situations. There's plenty of intrigue within a small Korean town, and a dark mood is masterfully painted onto the screen. The story is riveting to watch and delivered with faultless performances; the emotional elements are strong and powerfully expressed. As the gripping story-line is unfurled and the truth behind the crime is revealed, you can't help but admire just how well crafted this film is. A testament to the remarkable tenacity of maternal love.
Bilal, a 17 year old Kurdish boy from Iraq sets off to England to see his love who lives there.
"Welcome" is an authentic exploration of a divisive social issue of our time. The device of narrowing the focus from exiles and asylum seekers to one man allows sensitivity to infiltrate the story, and attitudes of caring emerge from unlikely sources. The movie is grounded with a heartbreaking love story at the core. Strong performances hold the production together, keeping it from showing undue concern in a bleeding heart fashion. Always welcome are extraordinary, powerfully emotional, and well directed films about unwelcome immigrants.
The Last StationAnne Murphy
A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.
Anchored with a passionate but philosophically-conflicted relationship between a husband and wife, "The Last Station" is a sweeping period piece that manages not to overwhelm with historical trappings. The a story is engrossing where, given the subject, it could have been rather dour. The players resist melodrama; there's an almost capricious tone that makes this film a pleasure to watch. It's not revealing too much to say the last station is the end of line.
A drama centred around three high school seniors - an aspiring actress, her misfit best friend, and a loner - who become engaged in an intimate and complicated relationship.
This coming of age movie covers all the social awkwardness of teenagers discovering themselves as friends and lovers. Dollops of naivety and maturity are stirred in to create realistic and likable characters that are topped up with a measure of angst and balanced out with charm. The storyline of "Dare" takes its characters through new experiences and interesting predicaments. It's a little bent yet nonetheless could cross over to a mainstream audience. Dare to be different.
Five Minutes of HeavenAnne Murphy
The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.
"Five Minutes of Heaven" looks back at crimes committed as acts of civil war, exploring important themes of hatred and forgiveness. It's an uneven production that stumbles through some very stagy and clumsy scenes, though is fortunately redeemed by a powerful and unexpected climax. This movie is uncomfortable viewing about the lingering impacts of violence and living with indelible memories that prevent healing. Hard to glimpse heaven from hell.
A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after he goes missing in Afghanistan.
"Brothers" is as compelling as it is emotional, a powerful combination. As the title suggests, the focus is our most important relationships, the ones with family. The story navigates some difficult political and ethical terrain and is all the better for doing so without judgement. The audience is treated as intelligent, and almost everything is pared back except the strong performance from the entire cast. The overall tone and simple background setting are downplayed for realism, and the lingering memories are heart wrenching. He ain't heavy...
Green ZoneAndrew O'Dea
Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.
"Green Zone" is a more of a thriller than an action film. Those expecting a series of gunfights will be sorely disappointed, as the crux of the story stems from its political subtext, interesting as it is. Although the battle footage brings an admirably tense and frenetic realism, the cinematography is at times a little too chaotic, and the grainy hand-held camerawork tends to hold it back rather than enhance. All points to consider before deciding whether or not to spend your green on this one.
Dev who, after spurning Paro's love due to a misunderstanding, turns to drugs and vodka for solace.
"Dev D" is a coming-of-age film that challenges the conventional Bollywood film industry. The story is a modern take on a classic novel, and the amazing cinematorgaphy portaits beautiful rural india and shady parts of Delhi. The music is both breathtaking and bizarre as it reflects the emotional capacities, struggles, and lifesytles of young Indians caught between conservative Indian society and modern western sensibilities.
You'll Miss MeAnne Murphy
The lives of six people converge briefly at an airport, where arrivals and departures are the norm.
"You'll Miss Me" is composed of a delightful series of vignettes that deftly intersect and overlap, exploring loves lost and found. The movie delves into the emotions of people with vastly different lives, the laughs laced with feelings. The production has a warm hearted feel, perhaps only possible because it's French - it's certainly not as theatrical as the English ensemble pieces it is so reminiscent of. Try not to miss this one.
The Hurt LockerAndrew O'Dea
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.
"The Hurt Locker" is far from being just another war movie; it's a brilliantly directed human drama and intense psychological thriller. It ignores plot conventions, pompous flag waving and political commentary in favour of a gritty realism that unceremoniously hurls you onto the front line. The film doesn't glorify violence, yet somehow we're absorbed by an inescapable tension and this supremely masculine story that so vividly presents a sense of what it's like in war-torn Iraq. Simply dynamite.
Crazy HeartAnthony Macali
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him.
"Crazy Heart" has great country songs that will appeal to all fans of music. It plays as an insight of a washed-up musician - old, poor, and often drunk, with little comfort/relief but for his recollections of his time at the top and continued luck with the ladies. Perhaps the story shows too much admiration for 'Bad Blake', who gets away a little too easily with some of his lesser qualities. In the end, the film is a one-man show, with a central performance strong and charming enough to uplift the masses.
My Name Is KhanAmit Jain
Rizwan Khan, a muslim boy from Mumbai suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that complicates socialisation.
"My Name is Khan" is both a love story and a quest with an angle of religion and world- trembling repercussions. The film is captivating, well-acted and amusing in some parts. It preaches important messages about tolerance, hope, persistence, forgiveness and the power of love. Strong performances from the lead cast and strong cinematography and score make this a well made movie that not only entertains, but mesmerises.
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.