The GrandmasterAndrew O'Dea
The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
"The Grandmaster" is a stylish Kung Fu epic, resplendent in its lush visuals and attention to period detail. Unfortunately the narrative is downright confusing, burdened by disjointed storytelling and a muddled timeline. It disappoints as a biography of its subject, flippantly passing over the opportunity for meaty characterisation in exchange for overly dramatised, prolonged cut sequences. Thankfully, the stunning and explosive fight sequences that redeem this movie, undeniably gorgeous in their choreography and artistic flair. A grand film, but hardly mastered.
Dawn of the Planet of the ApesAndrew O'Dea
In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is darker than its predecessor, replete with themes of politics, trust, betrayal and family. This brilliantly realised science-fiction movie is both smart and exciting in narrative and amazingly splendid in visual effects, with the on-screen simians appearing just as real as their human counterparts. No monkey business here, this film is an intelligent piece of popcorn entertainment. Movie strong. People enjoy.
An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
'Joe' is a well-revered man and surprising anti-hero to the strange dwellers of his back-wood community. He resides in a neighbourhood full of sinister characters, with troubled pasts and captivating lives. In the middle lies a relationship with the young Gary. Their exchanges form the most rewarding part of the film, as they thrive and learn from their experiences. Despite a lull towards the end, the local menaces will keep on you on edge. A hard-working performance.
A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.
"Mommy" is an onerous film to watch, and the deliberate and narrow aspect ratio provides little escape from the situation or cast. The characters steal the focus, and their performances are worthy of our attention. We can feel the despair and helplessness of managing the short-tempered Steve, and the terror in knowing he could snap on a whim. It's a long and emotional sitting, with limited moments of unassuming happiness. Family first.
Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career.
For its entirety, "Locke" sits firmly in the confines of a car... just a man and his mobile phone. While this premise might initially grab your attention, it's the great dialogue that keeps you listening, and the varied characters in his phonebook keep the conversations fresh. You genuinely fell empathy for the sorrowful Ivan in the most dramatic day of his life. The stress and tension builds with each new dial, as he tries his best to right wrongs in a restricted environment. Locked in your seat.
Still LifeAnne Murphy
A council case worker looks for the relatives of those found dead and alone.
If "Still Life" highlights anything, it demonstrates how much things change. Life does not stay still. This movie creates a disquieting sense of emptiness as it peers at the little that's left behind by the lonely and the alone. The story is simply presented and although it is bleak, the delivery of day by day routine is rather matter of fact. There is so little emotional connection in what's played out on the screen it's difficult for audiences to feel very much apart from melancholic. Inert.
Threatened during confession, a good-natured priest must battle dark forces closing in around him.
Bless us Father if this isn't the most bruising story about transgression and redemption ever filmed. Some of the characters cannot forgive themselves for their situations let alone forgive those who have trespassed against them. "Calvary" is a dark exploration of the human condition and our need for vengeance. This movie is exceptional from the startling opening lines, to the heart rending closing scene. Be warned, while there are moments of gentle humour, it's largely a wounding experience. Days of reckoning.
It's a sweltering summer before the final year of school and Billie and Laura share every secret except for Billie's biggest secret - she's crazy in love with Laura's boyfriend, Danny.
"Galore" is a moody movie that captures the nihilism of youth. It's a grim story of realism as opposed to other more fanciful offerings about youth that create 'Grimm' tales of fantasy. The central 'BFF's' have nothing much to do and nowhere to go but cycle to the local swimming hole for relief from their otherwise stifling situations. Still it is compelling, even as the viewing experience is suffocating. Galore?
Grace of MonacoAnne Murphy
The story Grace Kelly's crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco and France, and a looming invasion of Monaco.
We're informed that this is a fictitious account of real events and it's impossible to discern what's real and what's not. It's an intriguing story that might have worked better as complete fiction. The princess is acted with beauty and grace, pardon the pun, but there are an annoying number of full screen close-ups of her countenance. If the camera is looking for warts shouldn't it focus on a frog or the prince? Airy-fairytale.
For Those Who Can Tell No TalesAnne Murphy
An Australian tourist discovers the silent legacy of wartime atrocities when she arrives in a seemingly idyllic little town on the border of Bosnia and Serbia.
This is a moving portrayal of coming to terms with atrocities of the recent past. The story is based on the real life experiences of one of the writers, who is also the lead actor, and it has an authentic feel. If only the tone didn't get quite so preachy; the superior analysis of an outsider with the privilege of coming in as a tourist does irritate a little. Importantly though it does give voice...
The Broken Circle BreakdownStefan Bugryn
A pair of musicians have their love put to the test when tragedy strikes their family.
This is an emotionally dynamic and musically outstanding film that only comes around every so often. What stands out most, and what you will stick with you the longest, is the stirring soundtrack, which creates a beautiful dream-scape that perfectly embodies the moving storyline. It is a tragic journey that will warm your heart, and break it at the same time; a great depiction of the bohemian spirit, and a bold study of modern beliefs. Close to being a masterpiece that should be viewed by all audiences. Nothing broken here.
The DoubleAnthony Macali
A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite.
"The Double" is dark, twisted and strangely comedic. In a clever expression of loneliness and anxiety, it's easy to sympathise and share in the feelings of the bumbly protagonist. While the setting doesn't always make a lot of sense, the quirkiness is not excessive. Usually such conventions isolate the audience, but it serves a valuable purpose in breaking the mundane and sad overtones with bouts of witty and insightful and laughter. Worth seeing once.
As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fight the threat of artificial intelligence.
"Transcendence" is a story high in concept, but low on explanation. Despite the director's best efforts, it's difficult to succumb to the doomsday scenario dreamed up. Moving at a quantum-like pace, the film readily skips over the 'science' and settles on exploring the apprehension and awe of a supercomputer with a brain. While impressive in its infancy, the plot descends into all kinds of silliness and confusion towards the end. Makes less sense.
An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
"Nebraska" is the black-and-white story of a rather confused elderly man. His poignant history is revealed during an absurd adventure to the titular destination, ensuring a stop-over at the town of his birth grants us a glimpse of small-town country life. All the characters we meet are equally colourful and droll, while conveying the quiet fragility and banal habits of old age. Simple and stripped-back, the film is a winner thanks to its lovable lead. Rich in sympathy and laughter.
A story set in Santiago and centered on Gloria, a free-spirited older woman, and the realities of her whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer she meets out in a club.
There is much to like about the authenticity with which one woman's life is depicted, including the loneliness of living alone. "Gloria" is about a real character who is a complete woman. The sex scenes are a highlight with everything played au natural; the audience laughs... but maybe it is true that getting to know someone romantically is no easier at sixty that it was at sixteen. Glorious.
Blue Is the Warmest ColourAnthony Macali
Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair.
"Blue Is the Warmest Colour" is an intimate and uncompromising story about first loves, sexual discovery and desire. The camera is close-up and firmly focused on the young Adele, adding an emotional reality that leads you to believe you are watching a true story unfold. You cannot imagine any other cast playing these spirited characters, and their performances are fascinating. Some of the more graphic scenes will shock, and although the film is too long, you can't deny the amazing storytelling. Red hot.
An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school's Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.
How women find their way in a patriarchal world underscores the story of a girl and her mother, written and directed by a woman. "Wadjda" shows life in a society where women face challenges and day-to-day struggles. There is a sense of defiance but it's diluted by resignation, and the result is a gentleness in the tone of the movie that's borne of a feminine viewpoint. Go girl.
Winter's TaleAnthony Macali
A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.
The greatest miracle in "Winter's Tale" is how the film was born in the first place. For the most part, it doesn't make any sense, and talk of true love and flying horses only complicates matters even more. The funny thing is (aside from the cringe-worthy dialogue) is that the audience may actually find themselves interested in seeing just what other foolishness they might come up with. It seems the only magic lies in making up rules along the way to suit the story. Destined to fail.
Dallas Buyers ClubAnne Murphy
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
Central to the "Dallas Buyers Club" is an unusually gritty yet true journey of transformation. The hero is larger than life, a confronting combination of crass profanity and homophobia. It is said that fact is stranger than fiction, and this man's ferocious desperation for life could not have been invented. It's befitting that the lead performances are nothing short of transfixing, making this is one helluva story about tragedy and triumph. Bigger than Texas.
The PastAnthony Macali
An Iranian man deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. His wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife's request for a divorce.
"The Past" is a minimalistic drama that firmly holds your attention from beginning to end. Through conversations of the family members, both adults and children alike, a back-story is gently realised that evokes sympathy from the audience. As certain characters are favoured, each new revelation begins to influence judgement, feeding curiosity even further. Unassuming and honest, this film feels like a genuine portrayal of a complicated relationship. Don't look back.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
Labor DayAnne Murphy
Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride.
Five days can pass with a blink in screen time, but in this two hour effort the "Labor Day" weekend seems interminable, and staying engaged takes a bit of effort. This low-action romance might leave you snickering as the credits roll, such is the implausibility, and it's difficult to believe it's supposed to be taken seriously. Fortunately the actors keep the film together with fine performances, yet as hard as they work, their efforts are insufficient to weigh credibility to the story. Even if you're ready for the weekend, just keep Friday on your mind.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
The Great BeautyAnne Murphy
Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, and now it is his 65th birthday.
Interesting characters litter "The Great Beauty" and Rome has a leading role. The ancient and venerated city is the perfect backdrop for a lifetime's reminiscences in a visually exhilarating movie piecing together one man's memories. This wildly creative piece of film-making is a stylish cinematic achievement to be experienced rather than watched. Simply stunning and unmistakably Italian, a contemplation on life, love and meaning that's as intoxicating as an operatic aria. Be seduced.
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased software.
Inquisitive, imaginative and intelligent, "Her" is a touching commentary about the modern realities of human connection. At the film's heart is a poignant relationship between a man and his operating system, but this is not a cautionary tale, rather an elegantly crafted and vulnerable story free of cynicism. The movie's charm lies in the way it will emotionally resonate so differently with different people, underpinned by an exquisite direction and brilliant performances. A wistful meditation about love, loss, and relationships in a rapidly advancing and technological world. She's a beauty.