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.
The Fifth EstateAnthony Macali
The story of Wikileaks and its quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power.
Like the much maligned website, content is king in "The Fifth Estate". Behind every great idea is a great man, and the picture painted of Julian Assange is one of ego and narcissism. Surprisingly, the patchy back-stories of the characters aren't as interesting as the history of the famous site and its technical challenges. By favorably revisiting numerous articles of breaking news, the film successfully underscores the unprecedented impact of the organisation, disrupting everyone in their path minus the journalism they feed. A captivating, yet leaky, source.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
The RunawaysAnthony Macali
Based on lead-singer Cherie Currie's book 'Neon Angel' - a reflection of her experiences as a rock star in the '70's teenage band 'The Runaways'.
"The Runaways" is a musical biopic of teenage girls and their love for rock 'n' roll. This film exposes their relatively unknown story, charting their seedy formation and rise to fame in mesmerising style. The group is held together by terrifically eye-opening performances from the leads. Despite uneven levels of entertainment, this movie entices you to learn more about its popular music and lessons in addiction. A blur of a band easily forgotten.
Year of the DogAnthony Macali
A secretary's life changes in unexpected ways after her dog dies.
Peggy is a thirty-something single women, fixated on her pet dog Pencil and finding it difficult to deal with his death. She cannot hide from her friends or the director's camera, always in her face. This style highlights the talent of the actors, whose detailed facial expressions speak louder than words. It may sound sad, but there are cute dogs and humour to be found. Peggy's transformation into crazy dog lady is both beautifully tragic and utterly hysterical. Animals aside, it's a nice story that shows the consequences of forcing our ideals on others.
The true story of how Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escaped into the Belarussian forests, where they built a village in order to protect about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.
A sincere and authentically portrayed movie, the sublime production values are prevalent throughout. The story itself remains engrossing for the most part, but there's also a permeate feeling that it could've been better had it defied convention; to better convey the inspiration of the actual events. However, despite this flaw, "Defiance" still serves as an entertaining film that does well to appropriately memorialise one of the more extraordinary stories of WWII.
The Karate KidWendy Slevison
A single mother moves to China with her young son, and in his new home, the boy embraces kung-fu.
This movie leaves you a little puzzled. Why is it called "The Karate Kid" when it's about kung-fu? Why didn't the editor chop at least half an hour out of it? And... why should people go see this movie? The answer to that is that it's an enjoyable journey - an uplifting tale about a cross-cultural/generational relationship between a pair of improbable allies. Countering the inevitable clichés are skillfully choreographed fight scenes and some truly spectacular scenery. So, in spite of pondering the other questions, you'll almost certainly leave the cinema feeling that the 'kid' did pretty well.
Thérèse DesqueyrouxAnne Murphy
The unhappily married woman struggles to break free from social pressures and her boring suburban setting.
Based on a classic French novel, "Therese Desqueyroux" is about the boredom of a life of privilege for a woman restrained within a marriage arranged by her family. The movie begins in 1926, but the theme of the suppression of self is timeless, the actions of the protagonist coldly calculated as her martial devotion wanes. Understated and restrained performances serve to highlight the banality of a life lived without passion. Is our fate within or beyond our control? Je ne regrette rien.
Unmade BedsAnthony Macali
The story of two people living in the same warehouse whose paths never cross until fate steps in.
"Unmade Beds" is a stylishly quirky movie that follows Axl's quest for his father, and Vera's quest for love. The vague plot is forgotten as our characters enjoy a constant flurry of partying and having fun. These experiences are captured with a youthfulness and style that make it a unique joy to watch. Although some viewers will get swept away by the whimsical romance, others will be frustrated by the lack of concrete conclusions. This film is a refreshing piece of art and technique, despite a pacing that may put some to sleep.
Kolya, with the help with an old friend now lawyer, fights the mayor to save his home.
"Leviathan" is multi-layered Russian drama that boldly investigates themes of corruption, broken families and religion. Centering on the small family in the middle of the dispute and set in the quiet and eerily beautiful sea-side surrounds, it allows us to emotionally connect with the characters and their struggle without obstruction. Arguments and celebrations often lead to the excessive consumption of vodka, and further complications arise when the story takes unexpected turns. Deep, dark and troubled waters.
Son of RambowAndrew O'Dea
Set in the early 80's, this is a comedy about friendship, faith and the weird business of growing up.
"Son of Rambow" is a quirky comedy that takes us on a nostalgia trip. It rekindles our sense of youthful exuberance as we're invited into the imaginations of a couple of schoolboys as they set about creating their own crude and amusing homemade 'Rambo' movie. Through their unlikely friendship we remember the ecstasy and difficulties of being a kid. Though the story lacks excitement in parts, and suffers prematurely from a relatively dull climax, lovers of heartfelt movies will find it very engaging.
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".
Dolphin TaleAnne Murphy
A story centred on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.
An amazing heart-warming tale, pardon the pun, based on a real story is related in "Dolphin Tale". This movie will be embraced by young audiences as an exciting adventure in an adult world. Older kids may find it formulaic as adversity is transformed into triumph, but nonetheless it's stirring viewing. The dolphin is a scene stealing star that puts the rest of the cast in the drink despite their solid performances in this family friendly fun film. Move over Flipper.
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother.
In a movie fraught with dichotomies, a mother and daughter vie for the attention mysterious uncle who is both sinister and smooth. The film is as stylish as the story is twisted. Unfortunately, the more macabre the plot becomes, the more predictable the next development is. The initially promising premise reveals itself as shallow. "Stoker" is visually stunning, almost gothic in style as is hinted at in the title, although the setting is modern day. Chilling but nothing preternatural.
When a landlady, to protect her sexy niece, turns down two young men eager to rent her apartment, they pretend to be gay.
Similar stories in Hollywood have produced deplorable fare, but how does the Bollywood version compare? Laughs are the same, elicited from the "obvious" humour in straight people playing gay stereotypes. The best scenes involve Sam's mother, who unintentionally becomes aware of his lifestyle change, a key scene that introduces the running themes of family and forgiveness. "Dostana" is superficial, but you will find it hard to resist its glamour and charm.
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.
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.
Whisky with VodkaAnne Murphy
A renowned actor named Otto is the epitome of the problematic but beloved ladies man.
Movies about producing movies are always interesting, and "Whisky with Vodka" doesn't disappoint on that front. With lots of takes and re-takes as the talent misbehaves, this film within a film starts to take shape. Themes of aging are explored without connecting directly to the emotions involved, and the script plays more for gags than for soul searching. It suffers from not being more tightly edited, but perhaps there were too many anecdotes drawn from real life to squeeze into the plot. Amiable and spirited without a lasting hangover, it will be dissipated by the morning after.
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
Midnight in ParisStefan Bugryn
On vacation in Paris, a married man slowly falls in love ... with the city itself.
Imagine you're a writer, and you get the chance to travel back in time to have a conversation with the world's best writers. 1920's Paris with Ernest Hemingway? Pretty cool huh? "Midnight in Paris" rides on this highly original concept, and keeps both the dreamers and thinkers happy. If you're a lover of fine culture, you can't go wrong with this film. The Parisian backdrop will have you in awe; the cinematography is amazing. Not the director's best work, but certainly worth a watch. Tres bien!
An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother's death.
"Faster" is the story of a man's single-minded and bloody revenge mission. His modus operandi is cold-blooded, calculated, and chilling. In spite of this, somehow, we are on his side. Strangely, particularly given the near-silent portrayal by the lead actor, we feel sympathy and compassion for his tortured soul. The movie has other subplots, as well as an awesome car chase, but essentially it is about moving on, and as our "hero" drives off into the sunset, we find ourselves hoping that he finds peace... fast.
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.
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.
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 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.