Great ExpectationsAnne Murphy
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
"Great Expectations" could be the original coming-of-age tale, and with its themes of social class, justice, love and obsession, it is apparent the original work was written by a social critic. It's probable that those who have not read the source material will enjoy the movie the most, although reading it could be marginally quicker than the film running time. Still, it is well worth taking the time to watch this sumptuous and well acted nineteenth century London drama with its gothic overtones. Expectations exceeded.
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.
The RocketAnne Murphy
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home.
"The Rocket" plays as a crowd-pleaser, perhaps that's because the target audience is hard to define. The setting is post-war Laos and the protagonist is a child but there are scenes that might be confronting for children. The movie is pleasing, quite exhilarating, a crowd-pleaser must be a movie with such broad appeal that you enjoy it even if you don't identify as the target demographic. Not rocket science but it's a blast.
The Clink of IceAnne Murphy
An alcoholic writer is visited by an incarnation of his cancer.
"The Clink of Ice" is as original as it is deeply and darkly humorous. Imagine bantering with your life threatening illness and laughing. The premise of personifying a malignant disease in a suit sets up an intriguing film. Not that there is anything funny about cancer or facing death. Typically we deride perverse situations as being as 'funny as cancer' but the director and cast prove dexterous enough to turn that assertion around. As bleak as the themes of the movie are, the clinking of ice muffles the death knell.
18 Years Old and RisingAnne Murphy
Primo, a boy with a humble background, is studying for University entrance while trying to impress girls who hang out with a crowd of rich young things.
Set in Paris in the early 80's as a Presidential election looms, "18 Years Old and Rising" has an interesting political text for a film of the coming of age genre. Like the main character, this movie takes risks to impress, and it shows a hero's quest for love that is memorable, bold, and fun. It is a pleasure to watch a storyline that delights by not being predictable. Forever young.
Eat Pray LoveAnne Murphy
A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction.
This movie is true to the book, only with the content trimmed back as is expected of best sellers translated for the screen. It's still big with over 2 hours of viewing. A personal story of discovery, with an angst ridden heroine, fantastic shot-on-location scenery, and the obligatory happy ending. "Eat Pray Love" is so eminently watchable you will even pardon the good looking actors for being so immaculately coiffed. Readers will embrace this girls own adventure and love.
One ChanceAnthony Macali
The true story of Paul, an amateur opera singer who became a phenomenon after winning "Britain's Got Talent".
"One Chance" is the inspirational story of Paul Potts, and his competition with the forces preventing him from singing opera. Bullied at school, he received no support from his father and lacks the confidence to hold his nerve on stage. While the film only scratches at the surface of these issues, it's still uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully there are many moments of humour throughout to curb the continuous heartbreak, especially when the road to success is this long. An emotional winner.
Kill the MessengerAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.
"Kill the Messenger" gets caught up not knowing what kind of film it wants to be. Considering the alarming and hard-hitting news of the discovery, the expectant feelings of anger and discontent towards the cover-up are severely lacking. The narrative serves more as a lesson in public relations, as we watch an honourable journalist get discredited; his breakdown not as interesting as the politics. An admirable story to bring to the fore… even if the message isn't clear.
Two sets of parents convene a cordial meeting after their sons are involved in a fight, as their time together progresses, increasingly childish behaviour throws the afternoon into chaos.
Set in one room, "Carnage" is an intimate but dark comedy of manners and, as it turns out, manners that serve only as a thin veneer of refinement when a war of words erupts. A fly-on-the-wall experience is provided and audiences will come away glad not to be like the jousting individuals and couples on the screen, but wanting only to gossip about them. The strong cast avoid both sophistication and annihilation.
Bottle ShockAnthony Macali
The story of the early days of Californian wine-making, featuring the now infamous blind Paris wine-tasting of 1976, which has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris".
Bottle Shock is a whimsical tale of wine, passion and love. Unfortunately, it's the servings of love that are the most unpalatable, with some thin romances used to fill out a lean plot. Such a story accords the film-makers an opportunity to showcase the stunning Californian wine country, and they squeeze every last drop of it, producing a film that should cater to most tastes.
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.
Chronicle of My MotherAnne Murphy
A writer harbours a lifetime of bitter resentment towards his mother for abandoning him after the war.
Based on an autobiographical fiction novel "Chronicles of My Mother", this is a family saga that spans 15 years. The story is rendered in subdued tones, as fits the nature of the central character and his family. An affecting thread that spans the story is the decline of the matriarch into dementia; and the responses to her state are emotional but restrained, rather than emotive or expressive. Death and loss are prominent themes that weigh the pace as life slowly ticks on.
Bus PalladiumAnne Murphy
It's the 80's and the boys have formed a band, now all they need is the big time.
Five childhood friends form a rock band as young men, put them on a tour bus, and we're watching the movie equivalent of rock 'n' roll heaven. The stereotypical band members are troubled by nothing more than the usual sex and drugs and making music together, their travails accompanied by an authentic soundtrack that recreates the feel of the era. The boys are as likable as "Bus Palladium" is enjoyable. Get a ticket and get on the bus.
A young man earns the trust of the owner of a string of fast food outlets, and the attention of the entrepreneur's restless wife. Their liaisons form a classic love triangle.
"Jerichow" is quintessential film noir, balancing the vintage ingredients of lust, betrayal, and suspicion. The scheming characters are restrained and edgy, each wary of one another and careful not to reveal too much. The rural backdrop is similarly subdued with shadows to provide cover for the deceptions. Edge-of-the-seat-tension gradually builds to culminate in a final dramatic twist which while anticipated, is not obvious.
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.
Vantage PointAnthony Macali
With a Rashomon narrative style, the attempted assassination of the president is told from several different perspectives.
"Vantage Point" might seem interesting at first, with its "different points of view" storytelling, large ensemble cast and an American president. In truth, it's a bit repetitive and formulaic, with revelations only coming after we endure the assassination again and again. In the end, the bad guys die, there's a car chase to please all the confused viewers, and the story gets nicely wrapped up. Entertaining enough, but still annoying.
Revolutionary RoadAndrew O'Dea
A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950's struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children. Based on a novel by Richard Yates.
In such an involving examination of relationships, you'd expect this to be a more emotionally engaging film. The thing that sustains it is the phenomenal acting from the entire cast. The two leads feed off of each other's despair so brilliantly it almost hides the fact that the script is very mediocre. That's not to say nothing can be garnered from the tragic beauty of the story; it's just that the monotony at times makes "Revolutionary Road" feel like a one-way street.
State of PlayAndrew O'Dea
A team of investigative reporters try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
This is a reasonably well-executed political thriller. Surprisingly, sharp dialogue provides witty yet sporadic comical relief, while the carefully plotted conspiracy makes for a polished although somewhat uninspired movie. Unlikely contrivances and one climatic plot twist too many mean that, at times, the film seems to meander and lack coherent direction. However, despite this state of flux, "State of Play" is redeemed by an intelligent script and moments of genuine tension that provide enough surprises, thrills, and intrigue to entertain.
A thriller centred on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors.
"Contagion" is a convincing film, possibly too much so considering the subject matter. Although it engages on an intellectual level, it fails to engage emotionally. People get sick and die while the shortfalls of human nature are exposed, but we don’t seem to care all that much. That's not to take away from the oustanding direction which is absolutely world class, nor the pulsating soundtrack that does well to heighten the tension. It's just that you need more symptoms to sustain a story such as this one. Not quite infectious enough…
One day in Athens, during which six people's lives are being crossed by one and another.
Three stories intersect on a hot oppressive day in a city plagued by power outages. Violence, boredom, and despair are the themes in "Tungsten", which is so virile it almost swaggers on the screen and could almost be subtitled 'testosterone'. Although a macho narrative, the masculinity is central to the movie rather than detracting from it. The film is artistically shot and the simmering anger is amplified by the use of black and white on the screen. Heavy metal.
A woman puts herself through long years of law school to prove her convicted brother of innocence.
This movie has all the makings of a textbook 'midday telemovie'; true story, appeals to older females, very sentimental and touching. However, it's a step above the rest, and well worth watching. It is extraordinary to learn about this real woman, who commits her whole life to saving her brother. The acting is amazing, especially from the lead actress who is fantastic in her portrayal of the real life heroine. The directing is sometimes lacklustre, and it feels like it could have harnessed the emotions a lot more. Otherwise, convict yourself to this one!
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher.
"Appaloosa" respects the conventions of a traditional western, with its slow pacing intersected by the gun-slinging one would expect. The chemistry and repartee between the two leads is superb, and together they excel in dialogue and humour that is as dry and effective as the dusty landscape that dominates the film. However, the fundamental flaw is that it presents a story all too familiar - that's not to say it doesn't make an entertaining western - it's just that, at times, it lacks the tension and emotion of a 'good-ole-duel' to separate it from the rest.
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.
Cairo TimeAnne Murphy
A romantic drama about a brief, unexpected love affair that catches two people off-guard.
Cairo creates a magnificent backdrop for this movie, the mood is exotic and the scenery is breathtaking. The pace in the summer heat is languid, and the already heavy atmosphere is laden with meaningful glances. Without meaning to give anything away, the previous sentences provide a full plot description, as not very much happens. "Cairo Time" is well produced and almost serves better as a travel documentary than a romantic drama, as charming as the love story is. Slow, subtle and lingering, it might stay around for a time.
Life of PiAnthony Macali
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
"Life of Pi" charts an amazing story of survival, feats of courage and countless horizons. There are plenty of opportunities to gaze at majestic visuals, from exotic animals to the colours of the sea, enriched with dream-like sequences that grant the freedom to push the artistic boundaries, 3D and all. The film's biggest struggle is the amount of time spent on a life-boat, reaching a point to drive its audience sea-sick. A far from thrilling, yet nonetheless beautiful adventure.