Sister Smile - Movie Poster

Sister Smile

2.5 Anne 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.


In a Better World - Movie Poster

In a Better World

2.5 Stefan Bugryn

The lives of two danish families take a turn for the worst as their children form an unhealthy friendship.

This art house film doesn't really go past the point of 'enjoyable'. The so-so storyline is redeemed somewhat by decent acting and rich visuals, but it won't really glue you to the screen the whole time. Don't be mistaken; there are some very hard hitting scenes - the problem is that they're emotionally weak, despite the fact it delves into some pretty heavy themes. It almost feels like an extended version of a Danish soap opera. In a better world, this would have been a better movie.


Law Abiding Citizen - Movie Poster

Law Abiding Citizen

2.5 Anthony 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.


Rabbit Hole - Movie Poster

Rabbit Hole

2.5 Wendy 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.


The Rite - Movie Poster

The Rite

2.5 Wendy Slevison

A young American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

This is the most recent addition to a select collection of films that deal with the subject of exorcism. Despite eventually falling short of its early potential, squandering both pace and tension, the movie is admittedly somewhat unsettling at times, and leaves you in a rather philosophical frame of mind as you leave the cinema. The senior star plays his part with controlled enthusiasm, and together with the magnificent Roman backdrop, lifts and gives some credibility to an otherwise rather average film. "The Rite" is just alright.


The Tree - Movie Poster

The Tree

2.5 Anne 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.


Zero Focus - Movie Poster

Zero Focus

2.5 Anne Murphy

Spurred by the disappearance of a newly-wed husband, three women in post-war Japan are drawn into a murder mystery.

"Zero Focus" is a mystery thriller set in post-war Japan. The plot is complicated and bodies pile up as the murders out-number the suspects. The movie is moody and melodramatic, evoking the classical work of directors from a past era. Despite the cultural setting there is familiarity to the style and unusual camera angles. The lengthy drama is eventually brought to a lengthy conclusion, but no thread is left unexplained as final scene follows final scene, leaving focus diminished.


Hereafter - Movie Poster

Hereafter

2.5 Tom Jones

A drama centered on three people who are touched by death in different ways.

For a film with such promise; the director and cast are of the highest caliber, this movie really falls short on all levels. With the exception of a couple of scenes (the opening is on another level of film direction), the story, characters, and climax are all rather lame. A film on this material should force audiences to question their faith in the afterlife or the ability to communicate with the dead. Instead, it looks uninspiringly at the experiences of three individuals with no agenda on the subject presented. "Hereafter" - underwhelming in life and death.


I Love You Phillip Morris - Movie Poster

I Love You Phillip Morris

2.5 Anne Murphy

Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, a member of the local police force, when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life.

"I Love You Phillip Morris" contains some squirmingly uncomfortable stereotyping of various characters, and a flawed portrayal of gay men played for laughs by straight men. It's as unfunny as it is shallow, particularly disappointing is that the central romance is underdeveloped. The story, with its furious pace, covers a lot of events, mostly prison escapes, and unfortunately that's at the expense of real insight or depth. You might love Phillip Morris but probably not Steven Russell.


Coco avant Chanel - Movie Poster

Coco avant Chanel

2.5 Anne Murphy

The story of Coco Chanel's rise from obscure beginnings to the heights of the fashion world.

"Coco avant Chanel" is an elaborate, elegant production with stylish backdrops and sweeping scenes of the French countryside. The trouble is the movie doesn't have depth beyond the pleasing visual ambiance. In fact it is a little unforgivable that this bio-pic is uninteresting enough to bore in parts, given the allure and achievements of the central character. Lacking 'oh-la-la' this coco is served unfashionably lukewarm.


Notorious - Movie Poster

Notorious

2.5 Anthony Macali

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.


The King is Dead - Movie Poster

The King is Dead

2.5 Anne Murphy

Open inspection in a leafy neighbourhood. Max and Therese decide that here is the house for them.

"The King is Dead!" provides an interesting take on a neighbours-from-hell saga that is not quite interesting enough to really delight. It is a clash of cultures when a cosy middle-class couple move next door to simpler drug dealing folk. There are a few laughs to be had as the plot dawdles and drags, but expect stereotypes drawn with a heavy hand, and disappointingly, we watch caricatures rather than characters. Still, you can't help wondering what you might do in this situation. Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…


Taken 2 - Movie Poster

Taken 2

2.5 Andrew O'Dea

In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.

"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.


Katyn - Movie Poster

Katyn

2.5 Anthony Macali

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.


Raavan - Movie Poster

Raavan

2.5 Amit Jain

A bandit leader kidnaps the wife of the policeman who killed his sister, but later falls in love with her.

This film attempts to recreate the Indian mythology of "Ramayana" into a modern tale. The cinematography is amazing, magnificently shot in the remote jungles of India and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. However, even though the music may be a treat to your ears, the film lacks soul in terms of story, and the screenplay lacks substance or the presence of an exciting climax. Although "Raavan" might lose direction in its distinction between the main character's identity as brutal demon or outlaw helping the poor, it's still worth a watch if not simply for the stellar cast.


Shadow Dancer - Movie Poster

Shadow Dancer

2.5 Anthony Macali

Set in 1990s Belfast, an active member of the IRA becomes an informant for MI5.

"Shadow Dancer" is the intriguing story of Colette, mother to a son, sister to her passionate IRA brothers, and reluctant spy for the police. The story unveils the struggle on both sides of the war, drawing tension from the faction politics and exquisitely shot surroundings shrouded in mist. You can see the inner conflict etched on their faces, which are impressive to watch, but the rest of the film requires a certain patience. Without being close to the subject matter, it is easy to lose interest by the end. A fire that burns very slow.


The Grandmaster - Movie Poster

The Grandmaster

2.5 Andrew O'Dea

The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.

"The Grandmaster" is a stylish Kung Fu epic, resplendent in its lush visuals and attention to period detail. Unfortunately the narrative is downright confusing, burdened by disjointed storytelling and a muddled timeline. It disappoints as a biography of its subject, flippantly passing over the opportunity for meaty characterisation in exchange for overly dramatised, prolonged cut sequences. Thankfully, the stunning and explosive fight sequences that redeem this movie, undeniably gorgeous in their choreography and artistic flair. A grand film, but hardly mastered.


Precious - Movie Poster

Precious

2.5 Anne Murphy

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.


Anonymous - Movie Poster

Anonymous

2.5 Anne Murphy

A political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays.

The identity of one of our greatest writers is scrutinised in "Anonymous", a tawdry tale of fiction staged as lusty historical drama. The audience is kept busy trying to work out who's who as the time-frame jumps into the past and back again, causing confusion when we try to match the older and younger actors of the same character. Sordid conspiracies abound, and it's all a bit fanciful, convoluted and overly long. As they say in the classics, "It's not Shakespeare".


Like Crazy - Movie Poster

Like Crazy

2.5 Anthony 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.


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Movie Poster

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

2.5 Anthony Macali

When her mother disappears, Clary learns that she descends from a line of shadow hunters.

This story of a fantastical world hidden among ours, a long-standing mythology of good vs evil, and a pair of star-crossed creatures finding love in the unlikeliest of places is starting to feel all too familiar. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" makes up the rules along the way, providing answers to all the supernatural wonders and armaments for our drab protagonists. The continuous hocus-pocus soon transforms into boredom, and the inevitable romance hinted throughout is cringe-worthy, out of place in a film otherwise dark in tone. Full of the mundane.


Boy - Movie Poster

Boy

2.5 Tom Jones

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'!


Flicker - Movie Poster

Flicker

2.5 Anthony Macali

A Telecom Company is troubled by a number of mishaps to its network and employees.

The story of "Flicker" is set in a conventional office, pale and dull and host to a number of workers with peculiar problems. Many are unmotivated or sad, but all of them granted small quirks to make the film that little more amusing. Surprisingly these nuances aren't the problem, as we share a certain empathy in relation to these well-developed characters. The issue is how it all fits into the big picture, and the continual jumps in the narrative becomes frustrating and lacks any real connection (aside from the common employer they share). Not as bright as you might think.


Caesar Must Die - Movie Poster

Caesar Must Die

2.5 Stefan 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.


Coriolanus - Movie Poster

Coriolanus

2.5 Andrew O'Dea

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...