Far from the Madding CrowdAnthony Macali
Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.
Magic Mike XXLAnthony Macali
Mike rejoins the crew to embark on a road trip to Myrtle Beach and attend the Annual Strippers Convention.
"Magic Mike XXL" does everything in its power to subvert all your expectations. Apart from the final hour, the plot is largely uneventful and bland, severely lacking the level of fun and frivolity from the first magic show. Despite the surprisingly pleasant motion picture visuals, this story of male-entertainers hitting the road on a journey of self-discovery unfortunately sticks too close to the straight and narrow. Put it away.
Love & MercyAnne Murphy
In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis.
"Love and Mercy" delivers plenty of good vibrations, relationship fluctuations, and the odd drug induced hallucination and a subsequent oversupply of medications. The story behind the talent of the fresh faced band is riveting. Most impressive is the depiction of the creative process, it's not easy to show how songs are imagined brought to life. The performances are brilliant, even with the challenge of two different actors playing the younger and older versions of the central character. Surf's down and up.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
A young boy, raised to be an assassin, starts to question the morality of his work.
Conceptually this film is solid, exciting even, and yet it fails to reach its full potential. The stripped back approach is tantalising, and it feels like it could explode into something quite sinister at any moment. But when it doesn't, it's disappointing. Artistically, it holds its own, with respectable attention paid to all elements, particularly the soundtrack, which creates a beautiful layer to the decrepit life of the characters. In some ways, this film works, in others, it doesn't join the party-san.
Wild TalesAnne Murphy
Six short stories involving distressed people.
While we're told revenge is a dish best served cold, in this anthology of short stories we get to watch raging tempers and murderous passions unleashed. Each vignette is more outrageous than the one before, though surprisingly all are still believable, even when viewed from our less hot-tempered everyday world. Maybe we do live too close to the edge and it takes only a little to have exasperation explode into something uncontrolled and unpredictable. Wild and witty with dire consequences.
Testament of YouthAnthony Macali
A young lady decides to become a nurse on the front-line after the involvement of her fiancée and brothers in the World War.
Based on a war memoir, "Testament of Youth" lacks the emotion and passion for such an important film. The slow pace of the story is akin to a pain-killer, over time it dulls the senses. While the setting and romance are beautifully shot, they also distract from the grim reality of life during the depression, and war. There's no question against the nobility and endeavour of the main character. Sadly her underlying message gets lost in the style of delivery. Testament of patience.
Ex MachinaStefan Bugryn
A programmer spends a week with a tech prodigy who is developing his own artificial intelligence, but things begin to unravel as days pass...
Sometimes science fiction is more enjoyable when it is grounded in reality. "Ex Machina" is heightened by this very sense. Its engrossing storyline feels like it could be happening somewhere behind the scenes, even now. The impact of this film delivers more than just ideas to be imagined. The visual palate, filmed sumptuously in an almost dream-like location, could be plucked straight out of a magazine. It delights on many levels, and like an ex, will be hard to forget.
While We're YoungAnne Murphy
A couple's career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.
A comic film with a sharp satirical edge, "While We're Young" takes a critical look at narcissism and self-obsession. In a sophisticated and adult way the story addresses the parts of us, which don't want to grow up. It is refreshing to see a mocking sort of message delivered without sarcasm, a welcome change from other more screwball offerings. The intergenerational humour allows us to recognise ourselves, whatever our age. Nobody wants to be middle aged, not while we're (feeling) young.
Kumiko, the Treasure HunterAnne Murphy
A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of the movie Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.
“Kumiko” is a small miracle, a tale of one woman’s determined and almost mythic quest to realise her dream. The central character is one who inspires legends, an introverted sort of misfit dedicated to her impossible quest. The scenic backdrop is nothing short of breathtaking, thanks to the stunning cinematography. Like any good fable there are many sub-texts and moral messages subtly delivered. And like any good treasure worth digging for, this film is pure gold.
X + YAnne Murphy
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
A tender and affecting film about a type of genius, which comes with seeing the world in a different way. "X + Y" works on all levels thanks to an endearing cast of various misfits, none of whom can solve their own problems. The calculations are interesting but impenetrable for the average viewer. The real joy is in the discovery of something more important than mathematics. Whether you find the plot formulaic or not, it adds up.
Infinitely Polar BearAnne Murphy
A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier.
This is a goofy, amiable story based on the experiences of the writer and director. The central family make the most of their chaotic home life and there are plenty of funny moments. As enjoyable as "Infinitely Polar Bear" is, you may be left asking 'so what?'. This movie is superficial and bordering on trite, complete with a happy ending. Limited but bearable.
Kolya, with the help with an old friend now lawyer, fights the mayor to save his home.
"Leviathan" is multi-layered Russian drama that boldly investigates themes of corruption, broken families and religion. Centering on the small family in the middle of the dispute and set in the quiet and eerily beautiful sea-side surrounds, it allows us to emotionally connect with the characters and their struggle without obstruction. Arguments and celebrations often lead to the excessive consumption of vodka, and further complications arise when the story takes unexpected turns. Deep, dark and troubled waters.
A Little ChaosThomas Jones
A female landscape-gardener is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles.
Set in the days when periwigs were 'in', "A Little Chaos" depicts one of the earliest examples of a backyard blitz, as our heroine gets her hands dirty to create an outside ballroom at the Palace of Versailles. Overcoming bad weather, a saboteur, and a wheelbarrow full of skepticism, she proves to be more than just a dame in a dress. Despite this garden show including a budding romance and a buried past, ultimately it fails to grow on the audience.
A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot.
Set amidst the melting pot of violence and political tension of Belfast in '71, this unconventional yet taut thriller is an introspective into the bitter conflict between Catholics and protestants at the time. There are bombs, bullets and bodies aplenty without being a prototypical action movie, and despite being a slow burn, still maintains an aura of suspense as we accompany our hero through a gritty urban war-zone; the jittery hand-held camera work lending a sense of urgency and immediacy. A willing tale from another decade.
When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters.
This version of the classic fairy tale "Cinderella" is simply spellbinding and will enchant a new generation of little people, especially those who love dress ups. A thoroughly modern angle is that a young woman is most desired for her kindness and inner beauty. The movie brims with visible beauty too. There are spectacular magical effects, stunning vistas of the mythical kingdom, and watch for a star turn by the fairy good mother. Here's to happily ever after.
Love is StrangeAnne Murphy
After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing.
"Love is Strange" is an unforgettable story of commitment to another that is deep, honest, and real... and there's nothing strange about that. Circumstances test wider family relationships and push them to the limits, and it's emotion rather than action that is key to this story's success. The chemistry between the lead couple is loaded with genuine affection; they deliver unhurried performances that will touch your heart. Life is strange and love is true.
Inherent ViceAnne Murphy
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
"Inherent Vice" is a pleasure to watch, a perfect antidote to straight monochromatic movies. Maybe it could be a little shorter and certainly the story threads could be more coherent - some will consider those points as flaws while others will sink into their seats and revel in the ride. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the actors' flawless performances matched only by a superb soundtrack. Nice vice.
Still AliceAnne Murphy
A linguistics professor and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.
For all of its compassion and sensitivity "Still Alice" is, in part, a horror story. Anyone who has experienced the deterioration of somebody close with any form of dementia will recognise this woman’s descent into confusion and the possibility that the same could happen to any of us. It is a heartbreaking tale to watch, thanks to the talented cast who make each scene believable, and of course there is no chance of a happy ending. Still only a shell of Alice.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelAnthony Macali
Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" recycles the formula of its first incarnation, and succeeds once again thanks to the vigour and humour of its cast. While the plot in this edition is not particularly grand, the beloved elderly troupe carry the drama through the colourful and gleaming streets of India, notwithstanding the addition of a few fresh faces, whose introduction could be considered the only distinction from the first film. Same cup of tea, lots of sugar.
In the midst of a con's latest scheme, a woman from his past shows up throwing his plans for a loop.
"Focus" is a glossy, fairly well-executed con story. Tension builds in a series of twists the audience won't see coming, typically key to a successful thriller. Unfortunately the sheer volume of turns in this film mean they tend to lose their impact with each new revelation. Moments of crude humour are used effectively, and there's a host of likeable characters that help distract us from an uneven plot. Never boring but not all that engaging, it's more cubic-zirconia than diamond: shiny and a little contrived... but otherwise enjoyable.
Fifty Shades of GreyAnthony Macali
Literature student Anastasia's life changes forever when she meets handsome billionaire Christian.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" is a story about the allure of wealth, and bizarre sexual contractual agreements that arise from 'dating' a wealthy man. An introduction to these politics from our two leads is assuredly the most interesting part of the film. Unfortunately the rest is a bitter disappointment, dominated by a tiring and flirtatious game of to-and-fro, a precursor to the passionless and sanitised sex that follows. Attractive leads, inadvertent laughs and very little to love. Don't submit to boredom.
What We Did on Our HolidayAnne Murphy
Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.
While the story is all about celebrating granddad on his birthday, it's his three young grandchildren who steal almost every scene; they are as sassy as they are beguiling. The kids have access to greater intelligence, both rational and emotional, than the adults. The grownups have dibs on inappropriate outbursts, and you have to wonder if you're laughing at them, or with them? Viewing this likable movie may prompt self-reflection and if not you'll have lots of charming holiday images. Now what to do with the rest of our lives?
A ground-breaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a boy named Mason who grows up on screen before our eyes.
"Boyhood" is an epic cinematic feat, filmed over 12 years with a viewing time spanning a few hours. For all of its sweeping scope, this movie is about the small episodes that make up an ordinary life as it is lived. There's no big plot or narrative, the everyday can be unremarkable, the tone easy going and understated. A lot of ground is covered, and watching is memorable for the emotional intimacy achieved on screen. All boy no hoody.
The GamblerAndrew O'Dea
A lit professor and gambler's debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark.
"The Gambler" is a tale of personal redemption and the moral muddiness of gambling. Unfortunately it's difficult for an audience to sympathise with a pretentious protagonist bent on self-destruction, throwing money against the wall while failing to garner any semblance of a lesson from the experience. Despite a host of terrific performances from the supporting cast, the story feels a little over-wrought, as it meanders to a point where we end up not caring enough to be invested in the tormented anti-hero's fate. Got to know when to fold em'...