The SilenceAnne Murphy
The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.
A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.
Map of the Sounds of TokyoAnne Murphy
A dramatic thriller that centres on a fish-market employee who doubles as a contract killer.
"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" delivers edgy views of Tokyo, with interesting landscapes you are unlikely to view as a tourist. The movie title bears no relation to the scenes and story - it could be lost in translation. At its core this is a love story, or story of physical yearnings over romantic love. Whatever the level, there is a strong and credible connection between two unlikely characters, each a little lost in their own world. A stylish movie with lots of Tokyo, but no map and no sounds.
South SolitaryThomas Jones
A veteran lighthouse serviceman and his niece deal with the mismanagement of an island's lighthouse.
"South Solitary" is another display of that overused premise; put an unlikely character in a foreign environment and watch as they struggle to adapt. The quick pace, dynamic characters and moments of black comedy in this film are entertaining, but it ultimately suffers from the monotony, which comes with the territory of lighthouse keeping. However, the audience gets that bit closer to answering the age old question. If you were stuck on an island, what would you take with you? Definitely not a relative with too much baggage (and not the kind packed in a suitcase).
Baby BluesThomas Jones
Natalia really wanted to have a baby. Now she has got one and her extrovert seventeen-year-old life has suddenly become one big struggle.
Idiotic teenage parents should be outlawed. Prepare for your anger to intensify, as you sit incapable of doing anything, and watch the appalling parenting of an innocent child. Highly stylised, with brightly coloured scenery, and a pretty twisted euro-techno soundtrack, this film is bold in its delivery of such a grim subject. The acting at times is a bit melodramatic, but equally it works at enhancing how unlikable all the characters are. Time to saddle up, and get on your high horse.
An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
'Joe' is a well-revered man and surprising anti-hero to the strange dwellers of his back-wood community. He resides in a neighbourhood full of sinister characters, with troubled pasts and captivating lives. In the middle lies a relationship with the young Gary. Their exchanges form the most rewarding part of the film, as they thrive and learn from their experiences. Despite a lull towards the end, the local menaces will keep on you on edge. A hard-working performance.
Lou, a young girl, develops affection for the grandfather she'd never previously met when he comes to live with her and her mother and sisters.
All of the action in this beautifully crafted movie happens within the emotional relationships of the characters. The plot is a little underdeveloped, and there's no crescendo or culmination of action, just day to day experiences of the central family. There's plenty to hold the interest of the audience - the moody and realistic performances of the cast, the Australian landscape, the soundtrack - if only there was a dramatic climax. "Lou" is lovely but could have blossomed into more.
Malcolm is a high school geek, a virgin who loves hip hop and wants to go to Harvard, all goes awry when he and his friends have a wild encounter with the shady LA drug culture.
"Dope" is a smart coming-of-age story, packed with adventure. The movie opens energetically, rolling with the hero and his best friends. There are laughs to be had as the trio find themselves in more and more trouble. The second half loses pace and dawdles, before finishing with a heavy-handed lecture about race based assumptions. All in all, more awesome than dopey.
Shock Head SoulAnne Murphy
In 1903 Daniel Paul Schreber published the most celebrated autobiography of madness ever written.
"Shock Head Soul" is innovative for its use of animation alongside the dramatic reconstruction of the experiences of the protagonist. Interesting documentary techniques utilise interviews and interpretations of modern-day psychiatrists that highlight the austerity of the setting through interesting image distortions. As a result, the movie is both artistic and harrowing, much like the memoir of the high court judge it is based on, an account largely written from the confines of asylum during schizophrenic episodes. Delusional or visionary?
A small-town girl ventures to LA and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.
"Burlesque" is everything you might imagine - clichéd, yes. Thin on plot, yes. Largely a performance vehicle for it's leading ladies, yes. But it's more - it's entertaining escapism, and isn't that what movies are all about? The voices are incredibly rich and robust; the dance numbers are glitzy and gaudy, yet tightly choreographed and executed. The entire cast is highly watchable (even if it's just to see if the elder of those leading ladies can actually move her top lip) and combine to deliver a film that is sexy without being salacious.
The ImpossibleStefan Bugryn
A family is caught in the horror of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
Whilst the production values and direction are both amazing, bringing the seemingly 'un-filmable' to life, they are a little inconsistent. There are some stagey and clichéd moments that will make you cringe momentarily, and the ending is somewhat predictable. Negatives aside, within the patchiness, there are some truly moving sequences. It's hard not to get swept away by the aching melodrama and jaw dropping realism. The tale is truly incredible, and one that is told in an impressive manner overall. Not impossible to enjoy.
Robin HoodAndrew O'Dea
An archer in the army of King Richard becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.
This re-imagining of the classic tale is painted onto an epic canvas. The production values and attention to detail are outstanding, and in terms of scale and spectacle, it's everything you'd expect from the director. But for a film that promises so much action it delivers little, choosing instead to add new dimensions to a character that was already rich enough. The violence is gritty and graphic, yet it's the story in-between that finds itself a little convoluted and lacking at times. "Robin Hood" is enjoyable enough, but nowhere near a bulls-eye.
A young man earns the trust of the owner of a string of fast food outlets, and the attention of the entrepreneur's restless wife. Their liaisons form a classic love triangle.
"Jerichow" is quintessential film noir, balancing the vintage ingredients of lust, betrayal, and suspicion. The scheming characters are restrained and edgy, each wary of one another and careful not to reveal too much. The rural backdrop is similarly subdued with shadows to provide cover for the deceptions. Edge-of-the-seat-tension gradually builds to culminate in a final dramatic twist which while anticipated, is not obvious.
What We Did on Our HolidayAnne Murphy
Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.
While the story is all about celebrating granddad on his birthday, it's his three young grandchildren who steal almost every scene; they are as sassy as they are beguiling. The kids have access to greater intelligence, both rational and emotional, than the adults. The grownups have dibs on inappropriate outbursts, and you have to wonder if you're laughing at them, or with them? Viewing this likable movie may prompt self-reflection and if not you'll have lots of charming holiday images. Now what to do with the rest of our lives?
This Is Where I Leave YouJan Di Pietro
When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home.
Life isn't perfect, and the dramas and absurdities within it are manageable, so long as there is honesty and communication. "This is Where I Leave You" likens secrets to cancer, positing human beings as creatures who grow through obstacles. A noble message. This neatly wrapped package contains endearing characters who actively cancel out some expository excrement early on. Although the premise is poorly justified, it's a genuinely enjoyable story, living up to the comedy/drama promise. If we all had a portable potty to enjoy anytime, anywhere, things'd be just great.
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.
The DebtAnthony Macali
Retired Mossad secret agents learn of some shocking news about one of their colleagues.
A curious remake, "The Debt" is the American production of an Israeli story with Israeli agents. There is no problem translating the narrative, as our main characters live in the present day with a large burden from their past. Their history unfolds through flashbacks, but it's difficult to engage with the younger selves who seem suitably miscast. A sample of their fate is revealed in the beginning, and it does thwart a lot of the suspense. The rest of the history is captivating enough, as our spies execute a mission tainted with emotion. A film that owes much to its story.
The TownThomas Jones
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.
"The Town" is your classic cops and robbers fare, with a little bit of heart. The robbery scenes are exhilarating and are directed in such a way that you share the thrill of being chased, and the adrenalin which comes with the risk of getting caught. The problem with this film lies in the moments between the robberies, where a story tries to develop but really only slows the whole thing down. Much like its characters, this film is a goodie and a baddie.
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.
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.
American HustleAnthony Macali
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.
"American Hustle" isn't a memorable crime caper, but it's thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. It doesn't take long to get swept up by the glamour and characters of the time, parading their retro costumes to the sound of a lively 70's soundtrack. Soon begins a battle of wits, each player out to scam the next, in a clever way to keep the story full of suspense. Moments of tension are broken with scenes of laughter, but ultimately there's no real substance to all the cons. Robbed of empathy.
The Twilight Saga: New MoonAnthony Macali
Realising Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward makes the difficult decision to leave.
This sequel significantly outshines its predecessor, as the presence of a storyline improves it in leaps and bounds. The eclipse of romance is welcome, as we share Bella's pain and encourage her recklessness. Despite console from (decidedly buff) friend Jacob, her time spent moping takes a lot longer than the film lets you believe. Their performances are less than desirable, but we find some hope in the small moments of action, laughter and extension of the mythology. Less brood and more mood, "New Moon" has successfully revived the saga.
State of PlayAndrew O'Dea
A team of investigative reporters try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
This is a reasonably well-executed political thriller. Surprisingly, sharp dialogue provides witty yet sporadic comical relief, while the carefully plotted conspiracy makes for a polished although somewhat uninspired movie. Unlikely contrivances and one climatic plot twist too many mean that, at times, the film seems to meander and lack coherent direction. However, despite this state of flux, "State of Play" is redeemed by an intelligent script and moments of genuine tension that provide enough surprises, thrills, and intrigue to entertain.
Force of DestinyAnne Murphy
A journey of love on a transplant waiting list.
Inspired by the life experiences of the writer/director "Force of Destiny" poignantly shows the shock of receiving a dire medical diagnosis. Thankfully the movie resists overplaying the tragic aspects of facing death, capturing more a sense of the ordinary, which makes the viewing so interesting. The everyday goes on albeit with a heightened sense of grief. Emotions are held down by the characters, as they try to cope with an unthinkable future. While the tone is restrained and sombre, the impact is forceful.
Vantage PointAnthony Macali
With a Rashomon narrative style, the attempted assassination of the president is told from several different perspectives.
"Vantage Point" might seem interesting at first, with its "different points of view" storytelling, large ensemble cast and an American president. In truth, it's a bit repetitive and formulaic, with revelations only coming after we endure the assassination again and again. In the end, the bad guys die, there's a car chase to please all the confused viewers, and the story gets nicely wrapped up. Entertaining enough, but still annoying.
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.