Like CrazyAnthony Macali
A British student falls for an American, only to be separated from him after overstaying her visa.
"Like Crazy" is a hazy memory of a distant relationship. A couple separated by an ocean, and thanks to their foolishness, a visa. They walk, they laugh, they fall in love, and it quickly turns saccharine. If you don't sympathise with the plight of the two, the story becomes quite tedious. Captured are some beautifully observed and genuine moments, but they are lost in the introduction of new characters of affection. The experience is like watching two people kissing in a park. You tend to stare, before quickly wishing they would find a room, and not a film.
Caesar Must DieStefan Bugryn
Inmates of an Italian prison rehearse a performance of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'.
The line between reality and fiction are blurred here, where prisoners are acting in a script within a script, and follow the play in and out of real life. The whole film is a novel concept, but it doesn't work perfectly. It has its moments, but the fact that you aren't invited to care about any of the characters doesn't help its cause. Like the prisoners themselves, it tries hard to be quite important, but it's nothing too special. Watch this only if you want to experience something different.
Fair GameTom Jones
A CIA agent's identity is revealed by the White House to discredit her husband after he writes a piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.
"Fair Game" is a dummies take on the 'he said/she said' enquiries which led to President Bush declaring that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Although this political drama is easy-to-follow, you kind of wish there were more thrills, shocks or unforeseen twists in the script, which at times lacks impact. The inclusion of real footage enhances the film; as it goes from being less conspiracy based to looking more like a historical account. Neither right nor wrong, just fair.
Set on a rural farm in New Zealand in 1984, Boy, is the story of an 11 year old with a vivid imagination coming face to face with life's realities.
This coming of age tale is sweet at heart and the unpretentious portrayal of Boy's story is endearing. The comedic moments and the uniquely Maori dialogue make this film. However, the one-incident-after-another plot wears a bit thin at times and leaves a few too many loose threads. Is Boy the man? Nah bro'!
Mood IndigoAnthony Macali
A woman suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs.
"Mood Indigo" is out-there. Riding a fine line between wild creativity and self-indulgence, there are numerous moments of tedious viewing. While the setting appears to be the real world, most of the objects and people we're normally familiar with interact in very peculiar ways. The dreamlike blend of reality and quirkiness is weird, alienating the audience from the characters and their struggles. Despite the subject matter, it's a difficult story to treat seriously. You've got to be in the right mood for this perplexing mess.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1Anthony Macali
The Quileute close in on expecting parents Edward and Bella, whose unborn child poses different threats to the wolf pack and vampire coven.
First there was the brooding, then the moping, followed by a lot kissing... and now the consummation everybody has been waiting for. In "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1" nothing else happens. It feels like the most disconnected chapter of the series, with little reference to the past and no conflict to sink our teeth into. They simply transformed the book into a film, a process that could only be satisfying to its readers. Breaks your heart.
A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.
Plaudits are due to this film for the sheer ambitiousness and difficulty of task in adapting and portraying such a complicated Shakespearean work. There's no doubting the coherency and effective structure as it doesn't tamper in the slightest with Coriolanus' immortalised lines. Unfortunately, it's just that in contrast to the contemporary setting, this particular movie simply doesn't work. There's something entirely foreign about an elite army unit storming a barracks quoting Shakespeare while under fire from semi-automatic rifles and rocket launchers. Not to be...
The Lovely BonesAnthony Macali
Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and killer from heaven.
This movie fields some grim subject matter, only to raise the question: why make it? It's an honest display of a family in disarray, broken and unable to heal. However, apart from this genuine touch, it only manages to wander through a gallery of postcard landscapes in an attempt to inspire hope beyond death. Or perhaps the director just wanted to borrow the climatic scenes of suspense and unease from the book? Like its heroine, "The Lovely Bones" lives in a world of limbo, stuck somewhere in between a good and a bad film.
Restless CityAnne Murphy
Tells the story of an African immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle and falling in love is his greatest risk.
Senegalese immigrants who survive on the fringe of US city life are the subject of this uneven movie. Perhaps the reason for the rough on-screen presentation and crooked camera angles is to present images as the characters experience them, but it is a bumpy ride for audiences. "Restless City" can also be appreciated as bold and innovative film making, one that will divide opinion but is interesting nonetheless. Restless spirits.
Sister SmileAnne Murphy
A biography of Belgian nun Jeannine Deckers, who became a popular singer in the early 1960s and came out of the closet.
It's said that truth is stranger than fiction, and while the 'Singing Nun' had a very strange life, it borders on dull when stretched to fill a feature film. The story is neatly presented in chronological sequence, and beautifully filmed to capture the era. Unfortunately, this bio-pic sticks to the facts and barely scratches the surface with any deeper connection to the characters. Expect a limited life span from this disappointing tale of a one-hit wonder.
Route IrishAndrew O'Dea
A private security contractor sets out to discover the truth about his friend's death in Iraq.
Although gripping at times, "Route Irish" is too often let down by pointless tangents in its story and the fact that it constantly feels the need to explain the plot rather than letting the audience figure it out for themselves. Not exactly the most effective technique when trying to heighten a 'thriller'. Combined with a melodramatic ending and characterisation that is let down by some sub-par acting, the film attempts to make a concerted political commentary on the Iraqi war that doesn't quite have the impact it should. No through-road.
An examination of the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Polish officers and citizens in 1940.
There is no denying the importance of this film. However, its purpose invokes a rather dull and bleak history lesson. The streets of Poland are beautifully recreated on the screen, only to be lost amongst the bombardment of sporadic jumps through time. The interesting aspect of the tragedy is the taboo nature of the subject, but this is only briefly explored and serves as mere introduction to the horrifying and unyielding finalé. "Katyn" provides overdue closure to those connected with the story, but lacks the emotion to connect with the rest.
Margin CallAndrew O'Dea
Follows key people at a bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Greed and opportunism are rife in this ensemble drama that paints a very loose snap-shot of the foundations of capitalist society, bottled into one investment firm on the eve of a financial crisis. The story is dialogue-driven, and although it deftly ponders the volatile issue of money versus morality, it fails to really delve past the numbers, lacking the visceral punch or emotional drive to grab our attention. Some will find this film serviceable enough as financial thriller, but for those wanting a little more emotional involvement, "Margin Call" is not a wise investment.
Law Abiding CitizenAnthony Macali
A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free.
"Law Abiding Citizen" wastes no time delving straight into an egregious game of 'good guys vs bad guys'. At times, the way it manages to sway favour between lawyer and particularly clever murderer hungry for revenge can be intriguing. But flick the switch, and suddenly you find yourself locked into some inescapable moments of sinister dialogue and contrivance. It's a shame this thriller takes such a long time to teach its lesson of justice, only for the the final verdict to be a disappointment.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
The life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm.
Notorious is a biopic of one the greatest, Biggie Smalls, who curiously narrates himself in this film of his life, from hustling on the streets to becoming the king of East-Coast hip-hop. Despite his many indiscretions, Big Poppa is portrayed favourably, because as you know, "Mo Money = Mo Problems". However, such empathy only detracts from the portrait of an already dubious character, even though his music is obviously tight.
Villa AmaliaWendy Slevison
A woman suddenly decides to leave her partner of 15 years, after finding him passionately embracing another woman.
"Villa Amalia" tells the story of a woman who confidently and dispassionately erases everything from her existing life in order to embark on a liberating journey of renewal and anonymity. This movie is almost clinical in its lack of sentiment, and no affection or empathy for the main character is ever garnered. This is obviously the director's intention, but amidst the warmth and sun of the Amalfi coast setting, it's ultimately unsatisfying to feel so cold.
The Book of EliAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.
"The Book of Eli" is a very well made movie, but only from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately, stylish sepia tones and occasional moments of choreographed brilliance are outweighed by a gaping storyline. Even though it manages to raise some intriguing spiritual conundrums, the nonsensical plot fails to lend these questions of morality any real substance. This shortfall is only made worse by an abursd plot twist that fails to be anywhere near as as reverent as it aspires to be. Amen.
Wall Street: Money Never SleepsStefan Bugryn
A young wall street trader learns firsthand about the dark side of America's corporate elite.
Greed continues to reign in this uninspiring tale about everything wrong with modern day capitalism. The subject matter and the characters could have been leveraged to create a much more engaging storyline, but it falls short of a potential Greek tragedy, and turns into a second rate, forgettable drama. Like the money grubbing fat cats it portrays, it looks fancy, but really has nothing much to offer. Greed is still good, but as for this movie... not so much.
As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
Without a preceding interest in the subject matter, "Lincoln" may struggle to win your vote. The historic period is recounted in splendid detail. Fine visuals don't aid the understanding of this important, turgid story that features a lot of bearded men arguing in dark rooms. Despite a remarkable and benevolent performance from the President, interest wanes as the long running-time draws out. Unlikely to please the majority.
Van Diemen's LandAnthony Macali
The true story of Alexander Pearce, Australia's most notorious convict. In 1822, Pearce and seven fellow convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour.
"Van Diemen's Land" plays like a horror/slasher film. The format is very simple: convicts sit by the fire hiding fears they're the next to be killed, and then proceed to walk through the forest (in the most captivating moments of the film), before one is inevitably bludgeoned to death for food. If we were able to associate more with the characters' hunger and desperation, it may have had a greater impact, but in the end it's just simple and barbaric.
Rabbit HoleWendy Slevison
Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident.
"Rabbit Hole" wants to be an authentic and poignant exploration of grief and the differing ways in which people deal with it. Unfortunately, despite excellent performances from a fabulous supporting cast, the film feels slightly contrived and unconvincing - due mainly to the much lauded leading lady, who plays her role with about as much emotional depth as the wrinkles on her forehead. You feel as though you are watching her act the way she thinks someone might behave in such tragic circumstances. The journey through this rabbit hole just doesn't quite lead to wonderland.
White House DownAndrew O'Dea
A policeman must save his child and protect the president from a group of paramilitary invaders.
Action junkies will be enthralled by this fist-pumping spectacle, a shameless popcorn flick that would have its audience believe the President of the USA is capable of firing rocket launchers from a speeding armoured-limousine. Some of the set-pieces are explosive, and while the special effects are impressive, they eventually become tiresome and repetitive. The lead is perfectly suited to his role as the action star, but isn't helped by moments of dialogue and patriotism so cringe-worthy that they become downright hilarious. Was it meant to be a comedy? White House frown.
The TreeAnne Murphy
Fate strikes taking the father of a family of four and leaving his daughter convinced that her dad still lives in the giant fig tree growing near their house.
There is a tension between holding on and letting go, mourning and living that's central to the plot. The idea behind the story is imaginative and unfortunately the movie lacks depth on the screen as does the dialogue that fails to hold interest. Even the characters at their best are blandly stereotypical. Thankfully the Australian countryside is magnificent, as is the titular tree. It just doesn't take root.
In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Part grimly realistic and part fairy tale, "Precious" is the gritty story of one girls nightmarish existence. There is a redemptive thread thanks to the resilient core of the central character, but that element alone is insufficient to lift the bleak realism to an entertaining level. At the same time the raw exposed mood is compromised by a couple of plot twists that swim in sentimentalism. The emotional content is as uneven as the camera work. Precious but tarnished.