The MistAnthony Macali
A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
"The Mist" is your stock standard horror film where you throw a bunch of people in a room, endanger their lives, and see how they react. The result is a colourful quarrel of religion, reason and rationale. The joy comes from watching the locals get their comeuppance as the poor-looking monsters feast on them. In these films you always find yourself questioning the decisions the characters make. Our protagonists' judgement at the end is truly mystifying.
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.
My Afternoons with MargueritteAnne Murphy
An illiterate and lonely man bonds with an older and well-read woman.
A charming little film set in a French village populated by quirky characters. Affectionate and gentle, "My Afternoons with Margueritte" only just avoids saccharine levels of sweetness with some moments of genuine humanity. This is a heart-warming story of love and unlikely relationships that doesn't delve too deeply into the make-up of the various odd couples. The central roles are well acted, creating endearing, if not entirely believable, people. Best summed up as being a whimsical pleasure, and a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.
Giovanna's FatherAnne Murphy
A protective father stands by his misfit daughter after she commits a terrible crime.
Complex reactions to tragedy are explored in this story of obsession. With war as the backdrop, relationships are ravaged while Bologna is bombed. "Giovanna's Father" is not easy viewing and interest is held by the unconventional story-line. The soundtrack maintains a steady rhythm, and the use of sepia tones aids in recreating a past era of hardship. Superb performances by the lead actors are convincing and avoid being melodramatic, with the spotlight firmly on Giovanna's Father rather than the dastardly deeds of his daughter.
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.
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.
A chronicle on the life and presidency of George W. Bush.
This movie is not what people might expect, as it sets out to construct an almost empathetic "W". The undeniable highlight is the superbly convincing portrayal by the lead actor, who manages to embody the character study so well, sometimes you forget just who's on screen. However, criticism lies in a feeling that the biopic resigns itself not to delve deeper in its attempt to humanise the man. Although this nonpartisan style may disappoint some, the insight provided by the filmmaker makes it a film that shouldn't be "misunderestimated".
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.
The Way BackAndrew O'Dea
Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, "The Way Back" is authentic film-making that proves you don't need CGI to create a sweeping epic. The incredibly long running time and deliberate pacing commands you to appreciate the vast distances and stunning landscapes of the protagonists' journey, step by slow step. One suspects this was entirely the director's intention, and in this regard credit is undeniably due. Some will no doubt be inspired by this sprawling story, but others may get lost along the way.
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.
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.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesWendy Slevison
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The storyline for this movie could be the daydreams of apes that spend their lives in zoos, caged for human entertainment. Featuring remarkable CGI and motion-capture performances, in particular by the lead "ape", this is a gem for buffs, but could leave others a little underwhelmed. The human actors are rather dull, and it takes a long time to get the narrative established. However, with the apes firmly on the rise by the end of the film, stand by to 'go ape' for the upcoming sequel.
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.
Young AdultStefan Bugryn
A deluded writer returns to her hometown to wreck her high school sweethearts marriage.
This is a light film on the outside that ends up being quite socially morbid on the inside, all because of the main character. You probably won't like her... but that's the point. She's the person that never grew up and has all the bad attributes of a 16 year old schoolgirl; spiteful, rude, selfish. But it’s still a very real story, one most people might even relate to. The tone is quite playful, but the themes are actually quite debauched. Gets a tick of approval for young and old.
Be Kind RewindAnthony Macali
A man whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, the two men set out to remake the lost films.
A wave of nostalgia hits you in "Be Kind Rewind" as our affable heroes go about remaking a list of video classics that include Ghostbusters, Robocop and Rush Hour. The intention is to inspire the filmmaker in all of us, but it often feels a little too self-indulgent on the director's part. The video sketches provide plenty of do-it-yourself innovation and a lot of fun; it's the rest of the film you want to fast-forward.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 King is DeadAnne 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…
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.
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.
Dolls and AngelsAnne Murphy
Chririne and Lya are sisters growing into womanhood, who need to escape their abusive father and tense family situation.
Survival in the projects on the outskirts of Paris necessitates navigating the dark shadows of the glamorous city of love. This movie's raw tone is at times hard to watch, depicting love as having many forms of expression, including physical violence. The characters are either so strong (all of the women) or so obnoxious (most of the men) that it's hard to connect with them. The angels become dolls to survive - wooden caricatures more typical of puppets.
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.