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Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power with war.
It's a simple plot that's brought to life in this epic-scaled production. The magnificent courtyards and halls of the Shaolin temple play a starring role. Add sweeping rural landscapes of China to the on-screen splendour and the characters end up as extras. There are no crouching tigers but there are astonishing displays of aerial and on-the-ground martial arts. The well executed and bloody action scenes are furiously fought, not hampered by one side being mostly monks. Even Buddhist principles need defending.
The FighterAnne Murphy
A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980's.
If you thought stories of the boxing hero had retired to their corner, grab a ringside seat... "The Fighter" will get you in a clinch. Oddly the fighter himself is the most conventional, and possibly the least interesting character in the ensemble. There are no glass jaws among his family, brawlers all. While not landing a full body blow, the action is powerful if punishing to watch. The gloves are off, and the audience is delivered a TKO.
Black SwanStefan Bugryn
A young ballerina struggles to keep her sanity as she prepares for the lead role in 'Swan Lake'.
Walking into this movie is like going on a ride in a theme park. Your emotions are ripped from your chest and thrown around like a rag doll as you get dragged through this beautifully depressing story. It is emotionally intense, and will stir up a lot of sensations deep in the heart of many audiences. A warning; some scenes will make the squirmish writhe in their seats, as it can be very confronting. However, it is an absolute triumph in every single aspect. Only the truly stilted will walk away unmoved.
A small-town girl ventures to LA and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.
"Burlesque" is everything you might imagine - clichéd, yes. Thin on plot, yes. Largely a performance vehicle for it's leading ladies, yes. But it's more - it's entertaining escapism, and isn't that what movies are all about? The voices are incredibly rich and robust; the dance numbers are glitzy and gaudy, yet tightly choreographed and executed. The entire cast is highly watchable (even if it's just to see if the elder of those leading ladies can actually move her top lip) and combine to deliver a film that is sexy without being salacious.
An engineer and conductor race against the clock to stop an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train.
"Unstoppable" follows a long, loud train powering to a frightening destination. The journey is full of suspense courtesy of the faithful introductory clause, "inspired by true events". It's important the characters get their back story, and they get just enough service. However, the unmanned locomotive is the star, and shines in the hands of a director who loves to film fast moving objects, creating an exciting raw energy. As it weaves between the event and the news coverage, you get the feeling it is all unfolding right in front of you. And once it starts, you can't stop watching.
The DilemmaAnne Murphy
A man discovers that his best friend's wife is having an affair.
"The Dilemma" is a window into the phallocentric world of a couple of blokey blokes, and it might have been best to keep the blinds down. In a series of poorly edited improvisations, naif blockheads blunder around trying to bump into a joke. Serious themes are underdeveloped and presented with a whacky, zany tempo that leaves the effort uncomfortably mired in primitivism. It's disappointing given the plot opportunities to explore infidelity, depression, relationship, addictions, commitment and more. Insight or parody? No dilemma here mate, it's all ham.
Life During WartimeAnne Murphy
Friends, family, and lovers struggle to find love, forgiveness, and meaning in a war-torn world riddled with comedy and pathos.
First up "Life During Wartime" is set in modern day Florida, so don't let expectations be set by the title. Judging by the number of walkouts a few were misled. There is family warfare, every character is a guerrilla and their dark dreadful secrets are the weapons of destruction. This is a difficult drama, in addition to the bleak material the pace is choppy, interactions are stilted, confronting viewing but intriguing nonetheless. Forgive the title and you won't forget the movie.
A hard-living Hollywood actor re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.
Not exactly entertaining, "Somewhere" is a thought provoking look at the world of show business and the people who live it. You get the impression that this depiction is closer to the real thing than the glamorized celebrity lifestyle we're used to being sold by Hollywood. There are a number of extended shots, which gives the audience the chance to think about what such a film is trying to prove, but don't expect to get any answers, here, there or anywhere.
The King's SpeechAnthony Macali
The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.
"The King's Speech" is a masterful example of the classic transformation film, as it follows the stammering son of King George V while he learns and grows to overcome his adversity. The period is beautifully shot and detailed, capturing the new wave of the wireless and the impending prospect of war, elevating the sense of pressure and suspense. To sympathise with a King, with his gilded and lavish lifestyle on show, is an impressive accomplishment. A speech worthy of attention.
Sarah's KeyAnne Murphy
A journalist researching the 1942 Vel' d' Hiv Roundup in Paris uncovers links with Sarah, a Jewish girl, who was arrested with her parents.
"Sarah's Key" is a fictional account of the Holocaust that discloses events from the dark years of World War 2 in an assured manner. A contemporary story is seamlessly intertwined with one from the past as intrigue builds. The actors underplay the poignancy of both narratives, as ordinary people deal with extraordinary dilemmas and strong messages are presented without unnecessary melodrama. The past is not forgotten but sometimes needs to be unlocked.
Blue ValentineAnne Murphy
The film centres on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.
"Blue Valentine" is like stepping through a dream door into the spiral of a failing relationship between a husband and wife; you're drawn into the minutiae of love and frustration. The couple's interactions are intensely scrutinised, almost dissected by the camera, over a period stretching a little more than a day. The experience of watching is both compelling, and at the same time, a little like trying to breathe under water, such is its wrenching emotional grip. Valentines don't come any more blue.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare...
"Lebanon" is a gripping ride. Shot almost exclusively from the tight confines of a rumbling tank, this movie is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking. The tension and intensity is palpable, as the film bears witness to the horrors of war, and we're left gasping for breath from the grimy, claustrophobic atmosphere. The antiwar sentiment is clear, with enough gritty action to match its political, religious and philosophical messages. Shell-shockingly good.
Villon's WifeAnne Murphy
This enticing period melodrama depicts a long-suffering woman's relationship with her brilliant but self-destructive writer husband in post-war Tokyo.
The drama is heavy going as everyone is laden with sorrow, desire and regret against a post-war back-drop that is sombre and opportunistic. The angst of the artist is captured in the husband's role and balanced by the strong-willed determination of the wife. Much can be read between the scenes, as the drama of dark themes and hard times plays out. "Vilon's Wife" is engrossing with all of the fragile and intertwined relationships of a soap opera; wretched affairs but no divorce.
A Lone ScalpelAnne Murphy
A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.
Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.