Far from the Madding CrowdAnthony Macali
Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.
A young man who was sentenced to 7 years on prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement.
"Bronson" is a sensationalised biopic of 'Britain's most violent prisoner'. The performance from the lead is both exceptionally raw and stunning in presenting the hulking brute with a penchant for chaos. The filmmaker curiously meshes violence with artistic oddities, and although entertaining, this technique also disappoints in providing any real or meaningful insight. Perhaps intentionally, we see Charles Bronson for 'what' he is, and not 'why' he is.
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.
Dreamgirls follows the lives of three young women who form a singing trio called the "Dreamettes". Their rise to the top is not as smooth as their lyrics.
This film is a continuous exposition of music, illuminated brilliantly on the stage. It's all visually stunning, in particular the montages that race through time. Casting real-life singers to the main roles is an inspired choice that draws strong vocal performances to the screen. But like many good songs, they are overplayed and tire towards the finale.
The RocketAnne Murphy
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home.
"The Rocket" plays as a crowd-pleaser, perhaps that's because the target audience is hard to define. The setting is post-war Laos and the protagonist is a child but there are scenes that might be confronting for children. The movie is pleasing, quite exhilarating, a crowd-pleaser must be a movie with such broad appeal that you enjoy it even if you don't identify as the target demographic. Not rocket science but it's a blast.
Something BorrowedWendy Slevison
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
Adapted from a popular novel, "Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy of errors, where everyone seems to be in love with the wrong person. The movie is essentially the characters sorting themselves out. Unfortunately, this takes a while, and by the end of the overly long running time, audience investment in the protagonists has wilted a bit. While the actors all do a fine job of their roles, the film lacks freshness and charm. The plot feels a little like something borrowed.
Funny PeopleAndrew O'Dea
A seasoned comedian forms a friendship after learning of his terminal, inoperable health condition.
"Funny People" is an inventive albeit meandering comedy. Sometimes sophisticated and sometimes crass, it presents an intriguing blend of humour and sentiment. Terrific performances from the leads and supporting cast are bolstered by a host of obscure cameos, including one of the most hilariously 'honest' Australian characters to be shown in an American film. This movie is far from seamless, and seems to drag in parts, but still retains enough moments of genuine insight and laughter to entertain most.
Great ExpectationsAnne Murphy
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
"Great Expectations" could be the original coming-of-age tale, and with its themes of social class, justice, love and obsession, it is apparent the original work was written by a social critic. It's probable that those who have not read the source material will enjoy the movie the most, although reading it could be marginally quicker than the film running time. Still, it is well worth taking the time to watch this sumptuous and well acted nineteenth century London drama with its gothic overtones. Expectations exceeded.
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.
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.
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.
A drama centered on an immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Illinois.
Warm and funny, "Amreeka" covers important issues of diversity and tolerance with a light and humorous touch. In fact, it is light enough to be a little heavy-handed in delivering the message that people from the middle-east are good people. The immigrant experience looks easy in this setting - a little hardship, a touch of outrage at the attitude of the locals, and each day better than the last. In the land of the free it's possible to feel homesick while smiling. Only in Amreeka?
Is Anybody There?Anne Murphy
Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents.
The movie is charming in a traditionally British way and disappoints for not being more than a quaint period piece, albeit a recent period. A tinkly slow soundtrack accompanies a tinkly slow story. The themes of aging and death don't offer the audience more than creeping rigor mortis as the story fails to engross. See it only for the fine performance of the lead actor and be warned that nobody else is there.
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.
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.
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.
Dracula UntoldAndrew O'Dea
Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself.
"Dracula Untold" is an origin film that injects new blood into an otherwise tired subject. Taking the famous vampire back hundreds of years, there's a degree of thought to the back-story that is both obvious and refreshing. Although the screenplay is most definitely flawed, the trespasses into clichéd territory can easily be forgiven by an audience who will appreciate the charismatic lead and his frequent forays into the grim and gory. Doesn't suck.
Mia MadreAnne Murphy
A film director tries to keep the camera rolling while she copes with her dying mother in her personal life.
"Mia Madre" is an intimate drama about family, raising a daughter and letting a mother leave. The central character is a film director, her movie shoot spiralling out of control while at the same time struggling to hold her personal life together. It is the recognisable lot of any working woman but it's all amplified to fit into a movie length story. Sadly there are not enough emotional hooks to keep us fully connected. Mumma Mia.
The DescendantsThomas Jones
A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
The depiction of suburban life in Hawaii adds some interest to this film, but the central dramas are not particularly compelling or original. The moments of potential intrigue don't last long enough, so the stakes for the hero character are never raised high enough to set your heart racing. The narrative voice-over is unwarranted, something the director obviously worked out a third of the way into making the film, as it's nowhere to be heard in last two thirds. Descending in more ways than one.
A washed-up Chef decides to return to the kitchen, repairing his broken relationships of past.
"Burnt" combines all the common ingredients to feed a familiar story. But the audience's appetite is kept whet as the film goes deep inside the belly of the restaurant beast. The scenes set in the kitchen are hot and temperamental, with many chefs furiously cooking and plating food. The rapid editing grants the audience a genuine sense of the pace and stress of the job. While the character drama isn't so appealing, with its tired and predictable manner, it's enough to satisfy a film genre rarely explored. 3 (non-Michelin) stars.
Bottle ShockAnthony Macali
The story of the early days of Californian wine-making, featuring the now infamous blind Paris wine-tasting of 1976, which has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris".
Bottle Shock is a whimsical tale of wine, passion and love. Unfortunately, it's the servings of love that are the most unpalatable, with some thin romances used to fill out a lean plot. Such a story accords the film-makers an opportunity to showcase the stunning Californian wine country, and they squeeze every last drop of it, producing a film that should cater to most tastes.
A Lone ScalpelAnne Murphy
A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.
Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.
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.
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.
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.