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The Bank JobAnthony Macali
Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was prevented from being told for over thirty years because of a Government gagging order.
"The Bank Job" spends little time on the planning and execution of the robbery, giving a false impression of the relative ease of the operation. The film's prize is investigating the ramifications of the heist, countless sensitive materials in the hands of common thieves caught in a very dangerous situation. Extortion, guns, cars, brothels, dodgy politicians, and the mob all play a part. A slow and erratic start pays off in the rewarding finalé.
The BeaverAnthony Macali
A troubled husband and executive adopts a hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
"The Beaver" is really funny and really sad, chipping away at a frenetic pace. The puppet is strangely hypnotic, with an accent and antics that produce most of the laughs in a performance clearly indebted to his master. We're soon reminded the situation is quite serious, and that some outlets often serve as rather unorthodox modes of therapy. While the audience might have the required patience for such, the characters do not. The son wrestles with issues of his own, pressing a sub-plot that doesn't quite work. On the whole though, this outfit is short, shrewd and deeply moving.
Story of the 1960's Zodiac Killer who committed a series of murders and taunted police.
"Zodiac" is a movie of obsession, set comfortably in the pale inner city of San Francisco. The start is fractured with murders, orchestrated in a fashion that exhibits the killer's sadistic nature. You can sense the frustration of detectives, an emotion shared for the length of this film. The pace livens on the enthusiasm of cartoonist Robert Graysmith, as you share his fixation in finding the right suspect while sacrificing family commitments. This film rewards patience with the final breakthrough providing a fitting conclusion to a well-told story.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
Rare ExportsAndrew O'Dea
In the depths of the Korvatunturi Mountains in Finland, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas.
"Rare Exports" is a clever horror comedy that presents a very dark take on the tradition of Santa Claus. The unique and intelligent premise is what drives the film, and although some may find it slow in parts, the unusual story is strangely entertaining. It has a distinct visual style set against the white and cold of remote Finland, and considering its minimal budget, the perfectly apt CGI puts most big-budget Hollywood fare to shame. Perfectly fine stocking-filler.
Le HavreAnne Murphy
When an African boy is discovered hiding in a shipping container in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
The simplicity of this movie is material to why it will be enjoyed. It is warm hearted and unpretentious. Layers of difficult socio-political issues are pared back to create a story that humanises the plight of immigrants without visas. The kindness shown to one struggling boy and the solidarity of the town’s characters in resisting the law enforcers are natural choices. Compassion and humour perfectly blended.
Martian ChildAnthony Macali
A science-fiction writer, recently widowed, considers whether to adopt a hyper-imaginative 6-year-old abandoned and socially rejected boy who says he's really from Mars.
"Martian Child" is a well-produced film with a simple message and a good heart. The titular Dennis is the most frustrating of all the characters - one scene you want to slap him, the next you want to hug him. The film deals with these problems, how parents struggle with troubled kids, and how kids have trouble facing the real world. Not the most exciting film of the year, but a genuinely human and heartfelt story.
The Way BackAndrew O'Dea
Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, "The Way Back" is authentic film-making that proves you don't need CGI to create a sweeping epic. The incredibly long running time and deliberate pacing commands you to appreciate the vast distances and stunning landscapes of the protagonists' journey, step by slow step. One suspects this was entirely the director's intention, and in this regard credit is undeniably due. Some will no doubt be inspired by this sprawling story, but others may get lost along the way.
A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity while falling in love with the famous female philosophy professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
This visually extravagant epic looks to the skies pondering shape of our universe, while on the ground bloody religious disputes are fought with stones and daggers. Disappointing is the production sloth that depicts one side as dirty and grey and the other as pale and clean. Barely forgivable, even in the 400AD setting, is a disquieting patriarchal tone discolouring ancient Alexandria. Unforgivable, is the lack of dramatic tension as "Agora" devolves into tedium.
Welcome to the RileysAnne Murphy
On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman.
The premise of the prostitute and the man who wants to save her is given a twist and a spin in "Welcome to the Rileys". Lost people, each burdened by their own history, find themselves by embarking on various journeys. Strong performances push the implausible just over the border into credible. This movie is rewarding on an emotional level without tugging too hard on any strings as the tale is traversed. Put out the welcome mat for the Rileys.
Die Hard 4.0Anthony Macali
McClane takes on an Internet-based terrorist organization who is systematically shutting down the US.
This film will appeal those who like their action old school; bad guys and henchman vs the reluctant good guys, carrying an array of bullet wounds and the burden of the country. The director has a real eye for action, the first half of the movie is a refreshing and entertaining thrill of big booms and familiar wisecracks. It's a lot of fun when the baddies die hard, usually with big thuds from large falls. You know it's wandered too far when the pursuits take John to the top of the fighter jet. I prefer my new school action grounded in reality.
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".
The TownTom 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.
Nowhere BoyAnne Murphy
A chronicle of John Lennon's childhood.
"Nowhere Boy" is an almost absorbing bio-pic telling the story of the teen years of the boy who became a member of one of the world's most influential bands. It is the little known background of the subject that makes this movie worth watching. Although apparently historically accurate and crammed with period detail, the film doesn't reveal much of a sense of the singer and song-writer we know from his later achievements. 'Nowhere Boy' becomes one of the writer's of 'Nowhere Man', and it's disappointing that the title suggests something more profound.
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.