The RevenantAnthony Macali
After an ugly confrontation with a grizzly bear, Hugh Glass is left for dead in the snow by his crew.
"The Revenant" is unrelenting, unflinching and brutal. It's man against the elements, against nature and fellow man. This astounding tale of survival is wrought with sadness, set against great beauty. Gruelling performances combine with breathtaking visuals to create mesmerising cinematography, amongst terrain so harsh that you feel the chill of the snow along with the awe of the immense landscape. Despite the harrowing experience, this amazing production demands expedition. Extraordinary frontier.
By the SeaAnne Murphy
The marriage of a heavy drinking writer and his wife comes under scrutiny when they holiday in a small French seaside village.
The celebrity pull of the lead actors is undeniable, and it even feels a little voyeuristic to be watching this couple as they play out their relationship as another imagined pair. "By the Sea" is intriguing and stylish, but also very long. This lengthy movie is not well served by its languid pace, and at times seems to stretch on interminably. In addition to the star power the stunning seaside setting ensures watchability. That sinking feeling.
Bridge of SpiesAnthony Macali
An American lawyer defending a Russian spy becomes part of a negotiation of prisoners.
"Bridge of Spies" begins as a curious courtroom drama, laying the foundations for a treacherous negotiation set against the Cold War, where intel and espionage rule. The period is remarkably recreated, the look and detail conveniently transporting us back in time, complete with particularly poignant scenes of the infamous Berlin Wall being erected. For a film that mostly takes place in embassies with officials drinking scotch behind closed doors, it's surprisingly engaging thanks to the fierce dialogue and air of tension. Bridge to a bygone era.
The son of the late Apollo Creed encourages Rocky Balboa out of retirement to coach him into a championship fight.
This film is a solid piece of entertainment. No new ground broken, it works by sticking to the franchise’s tried-and-true formula, veering only slightly to explore one character's dynasty. Packing the biggest punch are the performances, which are genuine, and totally engrossing. Combined with a great traditional sports drama storyline, it introduces old characters to a new audience, whilst never abandoning the loyal fans. Not a knockout, but still puts up a good fight.
In the Heart of the SeaAnthony Macali
Inspired by Moby Dick, a ship is stranded at sea after its hunt for whale oil turns sour after a confrontation with a giant sperm whale.
Being stranded at sea is a terrible experience; hungry and trapped with no end in sight. It's an ordeal similar to watching this film, so make sure you bring popcorn to stave off the hunger. "In the Heart of the Sea" stinks, and no amount of computer-generated whales and their blow-holes were going to save this ship from sinking. The story is so boring and uninvolved that you just don't care; about any of the characters, or their fate. Stay clear of this storm. Disaster of the sea.
99 HomesAnthony Macali
After being evicted from his home, a father starts working for the very real estate broker who facilitated his dispossession.
"99 Homes" is an emotionally charged story about the economic fallout of the US financial crisis, with a particular focus on the families who lose their homes. The intimate and close-up style, bolstered by the desperate and compelling performances, create a heartfelt and personal story, which is deeply empathetic. From the first eviction, the dramatic tension never lets up, and raises questions of morality at every turn. One good film.
A washed-up Chef decides to return to the kitchen, repairing his broken relationships of past.
"Burnt" combines all the common ingredients to feed a familiar story. But the audience's appetite is kept whet as the film goes deep inside the belly of the restaurant beast. The scenes set in the kitchen are hot and temperamental, with many chefs furiously cooking and plating food. The rapid editing grants the audience a genuine sense of the pace and stress of the job. While the character drama isn't so appealing, with its tired and predictable manner, it's enough to satisfy a film genre rarely explored. 3 (non-Michelin) stars.
Crimson PeakAnthony Macali
An aspiring author, haunted by the ghost of her mother, falls in love with an engineer seeking funds for a clay harversting machine.
Early in the piece, mother ghost remarks "Beware of Crimson Peak"... and sadly it's a warning to be heeded by all. This gothic romance is incredibly dull, and no amount of lavish production can bring it to life. Sure it's creepy, and certain characters are appropriately sinister, living in their haunted house brimming with broken timber, oozing red clay, and white snow. For all its effort, it achieves little in the scare or excitement stakes. A hollow tragedy.
The LobsterAnthony Macali
A man checks into a hotel and has 45 days to find a partner, or be transformed into an animal of his choosing.
The quirky premise of "The Lobster" certainly captures your attention, and for the first half at least, plays out with weirdly dark and terrific humour. The film is laden with allegory, especially in its almost cynical commentary on relationships and the brutal punishment for those who don't conform. Beautifully shot with a formidable supporting cast, it's a shame curiosity wavers towards the end of the story, as our apathy for the characters falters with the plot. The one that got away.
The WalkAnthony Macali
In 1974, French artist Philippe Petit dreams of walking a tightrope across the World Trade Centre.
"The Walk" is an amazing film that grants its audience a true appreciation of the outlandish imagination and endeavour of the feat at hand. Such simple conceit is extended to a marvellous story, revealing the outright madness of its artist and the elaborate logistics of suspending a cable 400m above the ground. The iconic Twin Towers are gloriously reconstructed, and the dizzying view from the top is both beautiful and terrifying. Spectacular visuals and brilliant 3D place you right on the wire, drawing you into a tense and deeply emotional experience. A coup to remember.
The MartianAnne Murphy
A space mission to Mars leaves an astronaut behind, thinking he perished in a fierce storm.
Forget the man in the moon, now there is a man on Mars. The notion of a person stranded in time and space on the red planet is incredible. Thanks to skillful cinematography the scenario with all of its desolation is surprisingly believable. At least "The Martian" is worthy of suspending disbelief. The best part of this sci-fi escapade; it is filled with humour and humanity, and not to mention a disco soundtrack. Take your protein pills, and put your helmet on.
A re-enactment of the harrowing Everest mountain expeditions on May 10 1996.
"Everest" boasts a big name cast, but the indisputable star role is filled by the mountain itself. The remarkable cinematography shows it as lofty and imposing and all due glory is afforded to nature. Sadly human drama is one of the understated elements. The superficial view of the impassioned and zealous characters is problematic. There are too many people with too many untold back stories, and just too many unanswered questions. Apparently 'the bigger the better' does not always hold true. Ain't no mountain high enough?
Returning from battle Shakespeare's tragic medieval Scots hero, Macbeth, encounters three witches on a barren moor who foretell him becoming Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter.
"Macbeth" transports you to a purgatory of plotting and scheming. This is a brutal and bloody telling of the familiar story about manic ambition set against a hypnotic scenic backdrop. The words are from the original play, but sensibly pared back. The witches for example don't deliver a cackle between them, but their presence is nonetheless haunting. Consistently strong acting performances and inventive cinematography work to create an exceptional and haunting movie. All hail Macbeth.
An FBI agent is co-opted into joining a special government operation against Mexican drug cartels.
"Sicario" takes us deep into an apocalyptic frontier of the war on drugs. We delve into a complex moral ground where there is no forgiveness, only bloody retribution, and where law enforcers are lawless. Brace yourself for a place where virility is king, sexism is taken for granted and racism is fact. Many lines are crossed, and the question is 'do the ends justify the means'? In either case this brilliant movie amplifies some flaws and futility in our real word. Intense.
Last Cab to DarwinAnne Murphy
A taxi driver with a terminal condition embarks on a long drive to Darwin in order to die with dignity.
"Last Cab to Darwin" is unmistakably an Australian film. You could change the towns and the countryside but the characters are true-blue types not found anywhere else in the world. The cinematography is stunning, with the road trip crossing a magnificent sunburnt country. In addition to the characters and scenery we are rewarded further by the unsentimental exploration of vexing social issues. The movie personalises ordeals, and then tackles them with heart just as any archetypal taxi driver might do. Dinky die.
Straight Outta ComptonAnthony Macali
The story of hip-hop group NWA, who grew up on the streets of LA and revolutionized rap music.
"Straight Outer Compton" is a rags to riches story with a unique hip-hop twist. This fascinating portrayal chronicles the lifetime of NWA, and looks at the blatant racism, which inspired some of their music. The cast is remarkable, eliciting genuine empathy and support in their quest to simply produce dope beats. While the film might lose its way towards the end, unsure which character's story to narrow its gaze, it doesn't affect the overall entertainment and charisma. Straight Outer History.
A Walk in the WoodsAnne Murphy
The writer, Bill Bryson, sets out to walk all 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail with a friend from years ago.
There's plenty to laugh at as this unlikely pair of hikers set out on an extraordinary journey, tackling the unpredictable and unforgiving terrain of the wild. "A Walk in the Woods" is essentially a buddy movie exploring the pleasures of friendship. If there is something to take away from this enjoyable tale, it is the well-known life lesson that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination. Old men walking.
We Are Your FriendsAnthony Macali
An aspiring DJ sets out to produce that one special track to mark his name and launch his career.
"We Are Your Friends" offers a little plastic sachet of party life. While it doesn't shy from the unavoidable sex and drugs associated with the scene, it does ultimately settle on a story about the music. With an acute focus on electronic dance music, this film explores the ambition of youth and the art of the deejay. In one particularly joyful sequence, we are treated to a lesson in syncing rhythm and beats to the human heart. The themes might not appeal to all, but it's certainly throwaway fun. A mashup of ideas.
Holding the ManAnne Murphy
The attraction between John and Tim started in High School in the 70s their relationship lasted for over 15 years until John's death due to HIV/AIDS.
The only not quite believable piece in this poignant and earnest story of star-crossed lovers is watching the central actors playing high school boys. They’re adults dressed as boys, and sadly they look it. Apart from this misstep the love story is compelling for the way the relationship endures, especially against the odds. Tissues are recommended, as this powerful movie will have a lasting impact on any beating heart. Never let go.
Irrational ManAnne Murphy
A philosophy professor is enduring a deep and hopeless melancholy which lifts after he engineers a murder.
The existential themes from the writer/director are familiar, as is the struggle between right and wrong, which the film's protagonist faces. The material might look a little tired, but the lead actors invigorate the story and bring it to life with strong performances, despite seeing them all losing their moral bearings. "An Irrational Man" holds attention as it plays out thanks in part to the dialogue, which is engaging banter with an intellectual edge. Irrational but sound.
The Diary of a Teenage GirlAnne Murphy
It's the 1970s and the city is San Francisco, and teenage Minnie starts an affair with the handsomest man in the world, her mother's boyfriend
The situation is morally alarming, and the characters are authentic, so it is a relief the story is delivered without preaching or judging. We get to watch an engrossing depiction of discovering one's womanhood. It is a delight to see a story related by a young woman protagonist, especially a tale so daring and honest. We share her joy of embracing all parts of herself, including her angst and self-doubts. Remember your own teenage years?
A disenfranchised teenager who lives in a housing estate in Paris befriends three young women.
The director has employed realism in following one woman's day-to-day life. The central character is marginalised by virtue of her gender, colour, age and impoverished existence. Joining a gang provides belonging. While the filmmaking approach is bold, it's also uncomfortably raw, relying on incidental dialogue and minimal narrative structure. The cost to the audience is coherency. There are a couple of standout scenes but insufficient to save the viewing time from seeming interminable. Girl without a cause.
Tehran TaxiAnne Murphy
An Iranian director banned from film-making drives passengers through the streets of Tehran in a taxi with the camera rolling.
An intriguing cast of passengers ride in the taxi, each with their own colourful contribution to this social commentary on life and politics in Iran. The road trip through the city is captivating, and its laid back style is able to present more insight about living in Tehran than any news broadcast. The subtle serendipitous style of the movie allows us to grasp some of the oppressive realities, and to experience a little humour as life goes on. Call me a cab.
1001 GramsAnne Murphy
A scientist works with weights, carefully calibrated and stored, much like her own emotions.
"1001 Grams" has a simple minimalist style, and its glimpse into the world of people who dedicate their careers to validating weights is quite interesting. The director's artistry is most evident visually, with the camera capturing the landscape with geometric precision and to stunning effect. Some audiences might find it difficult to warm to this movie though as the characters persist as annoyingly impenetrable. Interpersonal interactions are so measured that the overall tone is melancholic even in the lighter scenes. Underweight.
Heaven Knows WhatStefan Bugryn
Two junkies share their on-again, off-again relationship with a chaotic love triangle for heroin.
In an attempt to stay as real as possible, this film falls comfortably short of providing any enjoyment from its visceral experience. It doesn't go further than providing lots of close up shots with an obnoxious accompanied by unsatisfying electronic score. Yes, we are meant to feel like it's authentic, with the actors playing the parts were actually previous junkies themselves, but nothing good comes from the messy narrative. It had much potential from the start, and ends up disappointing us again and again as the story progresses. Heaven knows this isn't good.