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.
Dog TagsAnne Murphy
Two displaced and unconventional men discovering what it is to be sons, fathers, and lovers.
This could have been a road movie, if only the car had been more reliable. Geographically, not a lot of distance is covered in small town USA. It is a different story emotionally, however, as the two central characters encounter each other while each is traversing his respective family landscape. The restrained style of the film lends cohesion to a sequence of unlikely events shared by this improbable pair, as they seek to discover themselves. Identity has infinite possibilities once the dog tags are discarded.
The Good NeighbourAnne Murphy
Two neighbours discover they are lonely kindred spirits until they are involved in a hit and run and events spiral out of control.
A story of a tangled web of deception that gets more convoluted and tense with each scene. The suspense builds, and although tense cinema viewing, it is not quite edge-of-the-seat viewing. As the plot twists and turns and a sense of impending doom builds, it becomes obvious things will not end well. Even so, this well crafted movie holds plot surprises to maintain interest right through to the close. Love thy neighbour.
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.
Powerful Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth.
This movie is one of the shiniest you will ever see, from Thor's armour and hammer to his home in Asgard, replete with large gold statues and lots of lens flare. The titular hero is played with great gall and charm, as he is banished from the CGI kaleidoscope of Space to Earth, the perfect place to showcase some of his finer attributes. Aesthetics aside, the film is held together by the power of its cast, who could only have joined the production on the basis of its actor turned director. "Thor" simply gets it done.
20 CigarettesAnne Murphy
An assistant film director working in Iraq finds himself caught up in a suicide attack.
This movie tells the autobiographical story of its director with a lighter touch than a documentary might have allowed. Iraq is shown as a place where soldiers and peace-keepers are wondering what they were doing there. Injury is graphically depicted, providing a palpable experience of the horror of war. A strong but very watchable political statement is made by bringing a personal story to the big screen. The cigarettes provide an interesting device to contrast everyday life with a day in a war zone. Smoking.
17 GirlsAnne Murphy
Seventeen teenage schoolmates decide to become pregnant at the same time.
The impracticality and rebellious tendencies of adolescents is the central theme to "17 Girls". Many social themes are explored in this surprising gem, including self determination for one's own decisions, peer group pressure and individual empowerment. This is a pensive movie with many scenes depicting one of the characters in solitude, contrasting the lure of being part of a giggling gang of girls. While there is a lot for the audience to think about, there is one too many thoughtful close-ups of furrowed brows. Girls, girls, girls.
The SoloistAndrew O'Dea
An L.A. journalist befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article.
This movie is a sensitive but surprisingly unmoving portrait of a unique friendship. The performances from the two leads are solid, but are wasted on a story that isn't as meaningful as it should be. Although this true narrative admirably raises some important social issues, it also fails to adequately explore them. You can't help but feel what should be a powerful film instead seems prosaic and lacks any real substance, making "The Soloist" a sweet song that simply sings out of tune.
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".
Mademoiselle ChambonAnne Murphy
Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life.
"Mademoiselle Chambon" is an emotional drama laden with unexpressed feeling that hovers between sensitive and stagnant. While subtlety must have been the director's intention, the effect is slack and stifled. The story has a very long fuse, as restraint is favoured over illicit passion. Unfortunately, the wick is so slow burning that by the final scene interest in the characters has been extinguished. With barely any action and sparse dialogue, the movie fails to ignite (which could be the point), and for many this film will seem pointless.
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.
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.
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 GrandmasterAndrew 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Away We GoAnne Murphy
A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family.
This film is a road movie at heart, and disappointingly fails to connect with the audience's heart. A lot of miles are traversed by the central couple but this is a study of people met on the journey rather than the places travelled to. The characters encountered are shallow and vulgar stereotypes, and their depiction is coloured with contempt rather than wit or insight. The resultant product is slight; funny without being funny ha-ha.
The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesAnthony 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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
Public EnemiesAndrew O'Dea
The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
"Public Enemies" feels like a series of tommy-gun battles and antique car chases, which although very impressive, do not constitute a good story. It's not terrible, but there's simply not enough build up to pivotal scenes, and the lead actors (who are great in their roles) are hindered by a severe lack of character development. A major annoyance is the camerawork; digitally shot, but not used to good effect. The only heist here is having to pay for admission.