Baby BluesThomas Jones
Natalia really wanted to have a baby. Now she has got one and her extrovert seventeen-year-old life has suddenly become one big struggle.
Idiotic teenage parents should be outlawed. Prepare for your anger to intensify, as you sit incapable of doing anything, and watch the appalling parenting of an innocent child. Highly stylised, with brightly coloured scenery, and a pretty twisted euro-techno soundtrack, this film is bold in its delivery of such a grim subject. The acting at times is a bit melodramatic, but equally it works at enhancing how unlikable all the characters are. Time to saddle up, and get on your high horse.
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Knowing the events on the screen are based on real crimes provides a chill of disbelief for audiences as the scenario unfolds over a day. "Compliance" is a psychological deliberation on rank or authority and power, but mostly is a study of oppression. It is impossible to watch without thinking what you would have done in the same situation, and as much as it is tempting to dismiss people's actions as "only in America", sadly the same could happen anywhere. Deeply disturbing.
The DebtAnthony Macali
Retired Mossad secret agents learn of some shocking news about one of their colleagues.
A curious remake, "The Debt" is the American production of an Israeli story with Israeli agents. There is no problem translating the narrative, as our main characters live in the present day with a large burden from their past. Their history unfolds through flashbacks, but it's difficult to engage with the younger selves who seem suitably miscast. A sample of their fate is revealed in the beginning, and it does thwart a lot of the suspense. The rest of the history is captivating enough, as our spies execute a mission tainted with emotion. A film that owes much to its story.
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
Lost KissesAnne Murphy
A girl in the deprived outskirts of a Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
"Lost Kisses" uses cynicism to explore our faith in the inexplicable, and satirically mocks our need to keep up appearances. While not taking an overt stance on one side or the other of religious belief and our desire for miracles, there's a lot going on under the surface-line of the story. It's a pleasure to be allowed to draw your own meaning. A peck on the cheek.
This Is Where I Leave YouJan Di Pietro
When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home.
Life isn't perfect, and the dramas and absurdities within it are manageable, so long as there is honesty and communication. "This is Where I Leave You" likens secrets to cancer, positing human beings as creatures who grow through obstacles. A noble message. This neatly wrapped package contains endearing characters who actively cancel out some expository excrement early on. Although the premise is poorly justified, it's a genuinely enjoyable story, living up to the comedy/drama promise. If we all had a portable potty to enjoy anytime, anywhere, things'd be just great.
21 is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
This decidedly Hollywood account of the MIT Blackjack team is fair entertainment that will please gamblers and confuse others. After a slow setup we race through the rules of 21 and jet off to Las Vegas to enjoy the highs of bringing down the house. The movie can't maintain this level of fun, with its weak plot rising to the surface in a manufactured ending that feels contrived. Once you see past the flashy bright lights, you realise "21" isn't a big winner.
The Well Digger's DaughterAnne Murphy
A father, in pre-World War I France, is torn between his sense of honour and his deep love for his saintly daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.
A film that explores class differences, social attitudes and mores could be expected to incite ire, something "The Well Digger's Daughter" is too genteel to do. Perhaps it's due to the likeable and charming actors, the rustic French setting, old fashioned feel or simply the issues that raised eyebrows in earlier times that have less impact now. Whatever it is, all is well that ends well.
Damsels in DistressAnne Murphy
A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.
A term often used to describe indie films is 'off-beat', and it's a phrase that perfectly fits "Damsels in Distress". The dialogue delivered by the earnest characters is witty and sparkling, but the plot is a little sluggish by comparison. 'Odd-ball' is another description that springs to mind, and this movie is original if a little bewildering, as it doesn't lead anywhere. No distress, but try precocious, awkward, or delightful damsels.
Rock the CasbahAnne Murphy
Problems arise when Sofia returns to Tangiers and her family is reunited for her father's funeral.
"Rock the Casbah" leaves a lasting memory of its stunning visual backdrops and scenery, and there's a sense of enjoying something sumptuous being put before the audience. Family relationships are at the fore of this engaging character-driven drama and there are skeletons aplenty coming out of the proverbial closet. The flow is disturbed by uneven acting performances and don't be misled by the title, while some scores are settled these are familial and not musical in nature. Rolls rather than rocks.
The story of Steve Jobs' ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.
"Jobs" follows a small tenure of the famous entrepreneur, from the birth of the home-PC, to the tumultuous times of leading a publicly listed company. In a largely neglectable performance, we discover a determined and at times difficult figure, with a very strict vision and diet. At its best, the story excels in simply documenting the journey, captivating your attention without frills. Once you reach the end, despite the uneventfulness, you'll want to see more evolution. Static and compliant.
Nowhere BoyAnne Murphy
A chronicle of John Lennon's childhood.
"Nowhere Boy" is an almost absorbing bio-pic telling the story of the teen years of the boy who became a member of one of the world's most influential bands. It is the little known background of the subject that makes this movie worth watching. Although apparently historically accurate and crammed with period detail, the film doesn't reveal much of a sense of the singer and song-writer we know from his later achievements. 'Nowhere Boy' becomes one of the writer's of 'Nowhere Man', and it's disappointing that the title suggests something more profound.
A retired composer and his longtime film director friend reflect on their lives at a Swiss Spa.
"Youth" is a film that demonstrates how growing old can change your perception on life, and once seen through the quirky gaze of its main characters, the world opens up. A luxury resort is the perfect setting to host a gathering of eccentric characters, and their odd and seemingly inconsequential behaviour consumes a large portion of the running time. Touching performances are sometimes lost as we attempt to grasp the context of the narrative, which only becomes apparent towards the finale, when the commentary becomes a little more forthright. Mature and weird.
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 sailor returns to the steppes of Kazakhstan with a dream of a simple existence as a shepherd. He discovers love in the life he lives rather, than the love of his life.
"Tulpan" is a story mostly shown in real time. The director uses no special effects, and the unorchestrated soundtrack is composed of the everyday cacophony of life in a crowded yurt, accompanied by the rush of violent windstorms. There are actors, of course, but the most heart-rending scenes are played out by a sheep and a camel. The simple yet tenacious characters save this delightful drama from being pure documentary.
City of Your Final DestinationThomas Jones
Omar Razaghi wins a grant to write a biography of Latin American writer Jules Gund. Omar must get through to three people who were close to Gund so he can get authorization to write the biography.
Despite lacking in action or drama, don't expect to become restless in your seat or repeatedly check your watch during this film. It's not boring, but relaxing. The greenery, the food, the drinks and the sounds of nature which accompany every scene add to the sense of tranquillity which is created for the audience. The high calibre cast prove why they're at the top with some impressive performances. Until you reach the city of your final destination, sit back, relax, enjoy.
We Bought a ZooAnthony Macali
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Based on a true story, "We Bought a Zoo" doesn't have a bad bone in its body. It's an adventure with a menagerie of fluffy animals, great and small, and the odd staff who service them. While an underlying story of grief drives the plot, the film lacks the courage to fully explore the strife and emotion. After all, this is as family-friendly as it gets, and in the end nothing can compete with the excitement of a zoo. A ticket that will leave you warm and fuzzy.
Unmade BedsAnthony Macali
The story of two people living in the same warehouse whose paths never cross until fate steps in.
"Unmade Beds" is a stylishly quirky movie that follows Axl's quest for his father, and Vera's quest for love. The vague plot is forgotten as our characters enjoy a constant flurry of partying and having fun. These experiences are captured with a youthfulness and style that make it a unique joy to watch. Although some viewers will get swept away by the whimsical romance, others will be frustrated by the lack of concrete conclusions. This film is a refreshing piece of art and technique, despite a pacing that may put some to sleep.
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
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.
The UninvitedCourtney Slevison
Anna Rydell returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardised thanks to her cruel stepmother, aloof father, and the presence of a ghost in their home.
What could have been yet another sub-par thriller with predictable plot twists, manages to transcend the status-quo with excellent performances from the leading actresses. The story isn't particularly inspired or original, but it does have a killer twist that you definitely won't see coming. With stylish visuals and the occasional satisfying jolt of suspense, "The Uninvited" makes for a more than adequate Friday night thrill.
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.
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.
Set in 1964, Doubt centres on a nun who confronts a priest, suspecting him of abusing a student.
"Doubt" is an example of the play-to-film translation not always succeeding. Featuring two highly acclaimed actors, a very good support cast, and a fine reputation as a stage piece, what could go wrong? Well, something did. The lead performances, while magnificent, overshadow the subtle material; the glaring metaphorical symbols used are clumsily overworked, and several serious issues, besides the main one, are highlighted and then largely ignored. Worth seeing, as there are some truly great scenes.
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.