Sunshine CleaningAnne Murphy
In order to raise the tuition to send her young son to private school, a mum starts an unusual business, a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service, with her unreliable sister.
This is an endearing movie in a low key 'indie' style. A beguiling cast portray a dysfunctional family facing their everyday relationship challenges. The comedy is so heartfelt that laughs catch on the way up, almost mutating into sobs, before rising as smiles. The tone is as mirthful as it is melancholic, despite the dark storylines. "Sunshine Cleaning" is the perfect antidote for messy everyday lives.
What Just Happened?Wendy Slevison
Two weeks in the life of a fading Hollywood producer who's having a rough time trying to get his new picture made.
What a disappointment. "What Just Happened" is a film boasting an amazing pedigree, but has no apparent storyline or plot, no standout performances and no characters we care anything about; not even the big-name actors playing themselves can do anything to invigorate this lifeless, pointless exercise. Unfortunately, all you are likely to think as you leave the cinema after watching this movie is "what just happened?" And the answer is... not much.
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.
Set in the summer of 1987 and centered around a recent college grad who takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park, only to find it's the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.
Despite its 'indy' pretensions, this story has more heart than its formulaic predecessors. Sure, it might follow your typical boy meets girl scenario, but it rises above the cliché with a cast who wonderfully capture the fun, frivolity and angst of the time. Although short on the laughs it may promise, it still makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Coupled with an awesome 80's soundtrack en-loop, "Adventureland" is a charming ride about growing up and finding love.
My Year Without SexWendy Slevison
An understated look at love and life in middle-class Australian suburbia.
Watching this film feels a bit like peering in your neighbours' window and secretly watching them go about their lives. What you see is familiar in its detail, insightful in its observations, and at times confronting in its honesty. It boldly broaches the big questions, as well as the little everyday ones. Tenderly crafted, and featuring stellar performances, "My Year Without Sex" is an affirmation of the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, family and yes, sex.
Quiet ChaosAnne Murphy
A look at the strange bereavement behavior of an Italian executive.
The portrayal of loss in this film evokes W.H. Auden's poem that opens with the line "Stop all the clocks...". Everything is changed and pared back to essentials by an unexpected death. The everyday world continues on around the slowing of the central characters, drawing empathetic viewers into this well told tale. The movie is a subdued but sure-footed meditation on grieving as lives and priorities are reassessed. More contemplative than chaotic, and recommended for its heartfelt quiet.
The WindowAnne Murphy
An ill and aged author has his housekeeper preparing for the visit of his estranged son.
Related as a simple tale, this film is a gently paced contemplation of life and death. Scenes are deftly painted with an aesthetic eye. The cinema screen becomes an artist's canvas coloured with the haze of summer and reminiscences. It is a rare pleasure for the audience to be credited with the intelligence to sketch sub-plots, rather than having it all spelled out. A melancholic but unsentimental study of mortality; pausing for a view through this window is recommended.
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.
Insignificant ThingsAnne Murphy
Esmeralda is a teenager who collects little objects she finds, creating a box of insignificant treasures.
The movie unfolds through four vignettes tenderly woven together with the shared threads of lives that intersect. "Insignificant Things" explores important relationships that are undervalued and it does so with a deft touch. This is a finely tuned and detailed piece that is incisive and affecting without becoming despairing. A film so well crafted that it mesmerises is a very significant thing indeed.
A couple are considering sending back a difficult adopted child.
The plot outline suggests that this should be a tense and emotional film, as a pair grapples with their situation and subsequent decision. The expected intensity, given the subject of the souring reality of a long-held dream, is not realised. Along with a failure to deliver an emotional punch, there are other difficulties: the real time pace drags, use of symbolism is too overt, and an unlikely sub-plot that detracts from the main story complicates the film. All in all it is a shame.
A Film with Me in ItAnne Murphy
A couple of out of work actors find themselves in a predicament, as accidental deaths pile up around them.
The situation the characters in this movie find themselves in is both dark and comical, but as a black comedy, it fails to deliver. The premise is clever but never witty, and the characters are droll and bumbling, comedic without being funny. There are all of the necessary ingredients to arouse laughter, but when it's served up the dish simply fails to amuse. Something about this film with me in the audience just doesn't seem right.
Samson and DelilahWendy Slevison
Samson and Delilah's world is an isolated community in the Central Australian desert. When tragedy strikes, they turn their backs on home and embark on a journey of survival.
"Samson and Delilah" is an exquisite film which offers an uncompromising yet intimate perspective on the complex problems that face our Indigenous population. Beautifully shot, with almost no dialogue, and featuring 14-year-old untrained actors in the lead roles, this is a poignant, raw, and brutally honest portrait of a race of people we judge so harshly and/or choose to ignore. It should be compulsory viewing for all Australians.
A juvenile offender with psychopathic tendencies is released from detention and hooks up with a twisted young girl, while a semi-retired cop dogs their tracks.
An unhinged murderer, a hackneyed lieutenant, and a troubled teenager from a damaged background play out this crime thriller. Reasonable watching descends into cliché as it becomes hard to pick which of the characters is the more stereotyped. Suspense is defused by moments corny enough to elicit laughter. Predictably, neither callousness nor tenderness delivers redemption, not for the players, and not for the film.
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.
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.
The Boy in the Striped PyjamasAndrew O'Dea
A story seen through the eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a commandant of a concentration camp, who forms a forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence.
This film takes a surprisingly poignant approach to a very difficult subject matter. Credit must go to the filmmakers' remarkable ability to capture, then maintain, a child's naivety and innocence amidst the horror of the holocaust. Significantly, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is to be applauded for avoiding condescension; and although at times some may find it harrowing - almost devastating - for children especially, it constitutes a very important film.
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.
Cultural critic David Kepesh finds his life - which he indicates is a state of "emancipated manhood - thrown into tragic disarray by a student who awakens a sense of sexual possessiveness in her teacher.
This intelligent movie explores the often volatile and intertwined moralities of love, ageing and commitment. Most remarkable is the outstanding performance of the lead actor, whose character engagingly exposes some of the more confronting philosophical and psychological nuances of men. Apart from some unfortunate moments of predictable melodrama, "Elegy" remains a refreshingly provocative film, eloquent enough to be an elegy unto itself.
Mary and MaxAnne Murphy
A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals.
This meticulously constructed claymation is a mostly sombre film for older audiences. The characters and their surrounds are faultlessly observed, giving rise to frequent humorous moments, lifting the tone from what may have otherwise been despairingly gloomy. The predominantly monochromatic landscape serves to reinforce the serious nature of the themes of loneliness and mental illness. The movie is so finely balanced that ultimately the desperate is also oddly endearing.
17 AgainCourtney Slevison
In 1989, Mike O'Donnell was the star of his high school basketball team. Now 20 years later, with his glory days behind him, a magical encounter gives him the chance to be 17 again.
In a familiar body-swap genre, this movie shines with charm and good-humour. The film is led by the brilliant casting of the main character, with a great supporting cast. While clearly aimed at teenage girls, "17 Again" will reach a broader audience due to its big heart and great comedic moments. The perfect film for undemanding, feel-good fun.
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.
The Boat That RockedAnthony Macali
A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's.
"The Boat That Rocked" is a dazzling compilation of the best music of the sixties, played and presented by an equally upbeat cast. There is no story, only parody, with scenes that'll either make you cringe, smile or laugh out loud. In fact, it's so wrought with feel-good moments that it may be enough to make you sea-sick. However, if you enjoy being immersed in such euphoria, you'll enjoy this film, maybe even love it, and everyone else can revel in the celebrated soundtrack.
Let the Right One InWendy Slevison
Oscar, a young bullied boy, meets Eli, a beautiful girl who turns out to be a vampire.
If you thought all the original ideas for vampire movies had been used up, think again. Set in Sweden, this film uses the icy, austere conditions to illustrate and emphasise the lonely isolation of its young protagonists. This film holds nothing back as it deals with issues of first love and bullying, contrasted against the violent world of the vampire. The young stars are astonishingly good, and this innovative movie rates highly among the alumni of its genre.
Summer HoursWendy Slevison
Two brothers and a sister witness the disappearance of their childhood memories when they must relinquish the family belongings to ensure their deceased mother's succession.
The star of "Summer Hours" is the exquisitely beautiful French countryside; the actors are largely wasted in this tepid examination of family dynamics upon the death of the stabilising matriarch. As the film languorously tells its tale, we never really get to know or care about the individual characters and their stories. In fact, it was actually difficult to ascertain any point to the movie at all, and by the end you find yourself longing for a change of season.
The Other SideAnne Murphy
A drag queen returns, bereft, to the village and family he left 17 years ago.
The film has a rhythmic heartbeat as it traverses the delicate territories of love lost and dreams unfulfilled. It is possible to come home and still be on the other side, the other side of understanding and the other side of reconciliation. The landscape of relationship is tenderly navigated and the unrequited yearning of each character is faultlessly depicted. Watching "The Other Side" is like being subjected to open heart surgery with deft and precise incisions that lay bare the most vulnerable of places.