Brighton RockAnne Murphy
Charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a death wish.
"Brighton Rock" is a moody and suspenseful thriller, set by a gaudy seaside carnival. A serving girl looking for love gets entangled with a criminal establishing the central tension between good and evil. The movie is dark but the chilling tone becomes hard to hold as the odd scene teeters on a melodramatic precipice... almost, but not quite, compromising its otherwise ruthless edge. An unmistakably English veneer of tea-shop gentility is cracked by hardened characters and gripping action. Callous at its core. Brighton rocks unrelentingly.
Harry BrownAnthony Macali
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice.
"Harry Brown" is an exceptionally made film, but the revenge takes too long, drawn out to a point where the comeuppance just doesn't match the build-up. There are great depictions of drug-dealer dwellings and troubled youth, creating a genuine sense of discomfort and distress. Invariably such a setup brings violence, including a curiously riotous ending, but digitised blood spurts just don't have the same impact as traditional cinema wounds. Dark and dangerous but a little too slow.
The KingdomAnthony Macali
A team of US government agents is sent to investigate the bombing of a facility in the Middle East.
"The Kingdom" is an entertaining venture into a world of foreign affairs and the war against terror. The reality is frightening, in particular a bomb-making sequence where the device is constructed under a careful and meticulous preparation that sends chills down your spine. Unfortunately, much of the weight of discussion is lost in the final chapter, where a questionable chase rocket-launches into action. The forensics, politics and explosions will find an audience, but the message is lost in all the debris.
A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother's hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.
Victor Mancini is your atypical hero. Beneath a vivid sex addiction that thrives with perverse nudity is a man affectionate to his mother and seeking redemption from his self-destructive way of life. He also strives to identify his father, which leads to a bizarre and confusing set of events. It's this outlandish story that, complete with moral dilemmas and plot twists, heighten "Choke's" appeal, despite requiring your attention till the end.
Mystery RoadAnne Murphy
An indigenous detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl.
A slow burning thriller without a backing soundtrack, the pace seems all the slower accompanied by the background silence. "Mystery Road" turns the camera on a host of social issues, from racial tensions, alcohol abuse to the dark side of the drug world, prostitution, and domestic violence... and this is only a small town. The problems are observed and not preached about - the only patronising done by the lead characters' colleagues. Disquietingly insightful. The location is certainly no mystery; this is slo-mo Australia.
Jo's BoyAnne Murphy
A well-known retired rugby player who is the son and grandson of well-known rugby players hopes that his son will also play rugby for the big league.
"Jo's Boy" is set a small French village and the film has the rustic feel of a past era when life was simpler. The story moves along with the pace of a good football game, and there are plenty of minor storylines of mateship and a blossoming romance. Light entertaining fare, culminating in an inevitable tense match, its predictability is countered by a humorous directorial touch. Cheers for sports boys.
An astonishing cocktail of friendship, resistance and life set among the unexpected landscape of an elderly care facility.
The simplicity of the animation style is key to the appeal of this feature. The style presented complements what is a story told in a simple but direct way from the perspective of the residents of a nursing home, and plays to our worst fears of being confined to a similar place by well intentioned family. There is something melancholic about the mature way the story is related, no-one will want to look to far into their own future after viewing "Wrinkles". Time for botox.
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 mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots.
"Incendies" reveals the remarkable journey of a mother, in search of an explanation for her enduring state of despair. As her kids set out on their quest, the truth is exposed through the seamless weaving of past and present. Nawal's story is one burdened by war, religion and tradition, highlighting the generational gap and the sheltered knowledge we have of the 'primitive' views of a past that can cause so much nurtured grief. The fire burns strong and powerful, but very slow.
The Angel's ShareAnthony Macali
New Dad Robbie vows to turn his life around after narrowly missing jail.
"The Angel's Share" features the most unlikely of heroes, a band of drop-outs reluctantly serving their community hours and looking for a way out. Their solution lies in the bottle, but not how you might think, as a visit to the distillery makes a connoisseur of some and introduces the audience to the curious world of whiskey collectors. It may take awhile, but to the film's accomplishment, you start to root for the crims, drawing laughs from their haphazard excursions, not-so-smart decisions and odd relationships. They're certainly no angels, but you'll still want them to win.
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.
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.
Gangster SquadAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s.
"Gangster Squad" investigates a time when the most effective way to combat violence was with more violence. The characters are menacing and hard-edged, although this strangely conflicts with the polished look of the film, clearly used to instil a sense of nostalgia for the era. The production is a little too clean and manufactured for the subject matter, robbing the story of the momentous and emotional impact it could have achieved. A talented squad do their best, and excite for the most part, but fail to captivate overall. Plastic gangsters.
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.
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.
The story of an aging couple who are crippled by the devastating effects of a stroke.
"Amour" acts like a claustrophobic, tightening grip that doesn't let you breathe until the credits roll, and is certainly an uncomfortable movie to watch. Just as one of the visiting characters states, "...I had a beautiful and sad moment with you", which is exactly what this experience feels like; an observational look at a couple's silent yet divinely emotional demise into old age. The discreet moments and absence of music can be deafening, adding to the overall and ever-increasing sense of tension and sadness. Lots of tough love for the audience.
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.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2Anthony Macali
After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi.
The immortal franchise has come to an end, with "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" proving they really didn't need to split the last chapter. Picking up from where previous film finished, the going is slow. Thankfully, the vampires of the world come to hand, showcasing their special powers and effectively covering the thin plot. Despite such adversity, the journey eventually gets wrapped up rather neatly, and it's a stirring goodbye. Finally the light goes out on a saga to be cherished... and now forgotten.
The Waiting CityAnthony Macali
A mystic-infused love story that follows a young couple's journey to collect their adopted baby.
The title makes sense... there's a lot of waiting in the beautiful city of Kolkata, India, a cinematographer's dream with its vibrancy and detail. It's a slow journey, burdening the future parents more so than the audience, as a prolonged stay reveals the distressing troubles of their relationship. Mother-to-be Fiona works hard and delivers an endearing performance, but it's difficult to find meaning as themes of family and faith become muddled. "The Waiting City" is an admirable Australian film that will resonate with a small audience.
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 Lucky OneThomas Jones
A Marine travels to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.
If you start to notice more and more photos of women popping up in obscure places, this film is to blame. It gives single women hope that a man could be out there trying to find them right at this minute. Some may call it stalking, but apparently if he's incredibly good looking and has a pet dog it's not weird at all. This film ticks all women's boxes. It is romantic and sad at the same time. If this is what you're looking for, you're in luck.
Inspired by real events, a young Spanish girl is gracious in accepting her imminent death from an aggressive cancer while she is preoccupied with daydreams about a boy from theatre group.
This extraordinary film is both a pleasure to watch, and yet difficult viewing; most disquieting is the way in which the religiously devout are overtly mocked for their piety and fervent belief. Camino is a well crafted movie; particularly notable are the fantasy dream sequences used to escape dark realities and pursue faith in love; an emotional drama overpowering in its intensity.
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.
My Name Is KhanAmit Jain
Rizwan Khan, a muslim boy from Mumbai suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that complicates socialisation.
"My Name is Khan" is both a love story and a quest with an angle of religion and world- trembling repercussions. The film is captivating, well-acted and amusing in some parts. It preaches important messages about tolerance, hope, persistence, forgiveness and the power of love. Strong performances from the lead cast and strong cinematography and score make this a well made movie that not only entertains, but mesmerises.