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.
The UninvitedCourtney Slevison
Anna Rydell returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardised thanks to her cruel stepmother, aloof father, and the presence of a ghost in their home.
What could have been yet another sub-par thriller with predictable plot twists, manages to transcend the status-quo with excellent performances from the leading actresses. The story isn't particularly inspired or original, but it does have a killer twist that you definitely won't see coming. With stylish visuals and the occasional satisfying jolt of suspense, "The Uninvited" makes for a more than adequate Friday night thrill.
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.
Frozen RiverWendy Slevison
Two women are drawn into border smuggling across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River.
"Frozen River" is a stark and gritty portrait of two women struggling on the harsh edges of society, trying to protect their children from the bleakness of their environment, both physical and emotional. Linked by their almost primal maternal determination, their desperation leads them into criminality. There is no allowance for sentimentality in this outstanding film, and the authentic performances leave you feeling that you have much to be thankful for as you return to your much easier (and warmer) life.
A teacher opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are about to unfold.
"Knowing" is a movie about numbers and creepy whispering guys who ghost around gifting children smooth black rocks and cute white rabbits. These are but small examples of its absurdity, and should only appeal to those sadistic few who enjoy seeing large groups of people killed in disastrous CGI mayhem (or the constant and expressionless face of the lead actor). Knowing this is what the future may hold, there is no excuse to watch this film.
A group of good looking Israeli men hang out at the same library, bar, and beds.
The physical encounters that make up the greater part of this movie are frequent and torrid. There is more heavy breathing than dialogue, and the storyline feels underdeveloped as a result. Desire and sex are not confused with love, and it's all a little cold as a result. Odd that with such pumping action, emotions are so understated. There is no deceit, an absence of jealousy; the characters are as cool as they're hot. "Antarctica" - little wonder the ice caps are melting.
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.
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher.
"Appaloosa" respects the conventions of a traditional western, with its slow pacing intersected by the gun-slinging one would expect. The chemistry and repartee between the two leads is superb, and together they excel in dialogue and humour that is as dry and effective as the dusty landscape that dominates the film. However, the fundamental flaw is that it presents a story all too familiar - that's not to say it doesn't make an entertaining western - it's just that, at times, it lacks the tension and emotion of a 'good-ole-duel' to separate it from the rest.
Dean SpanleyWendy Slevison
Set in Edwardian England where upper lips are always stiff, a cantankerous old man and his long-suffering son begin a strange journey that eventually allows the old man to find his heart.
This is a truly original story of love, loss, and grief, populated by intelligent and disarmingly eccentric characters. The story starts slowly, but before the viewer can summon a yawn, they are drawn in, entranced, as the well-told tale unfolds - both poignant and comical at the same time. Offbeat, whimsical, moving and very funny, you'd have to be barking mad to miss it.
The life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm.
Notorious is a biopic of one the greatest, Biggie Smalls, who curiously narrates himself in this film of his life, from hustling on the streets to becoming the king of East-Coast hip-hop. Despite his many indiscretions, Big Poppa is portrayed favourably, because as you know, "Mo Money = Mo Problems". However, such empathy only detracts from the portrait of an already dubious character, even though his music is obviously tight.
Dolls and AngelsAnne Murphy
Chririne and Lya are sisters growing into womanhood, who need to escape their abusive father and tense family situation.
Survival in the projects on the outskirts of Paris necessitates navigating the dark shadows of the glamorous city of love. This movie's raw tone is at times hard to watch, depicting love as having many forms of expression, including physical violence. The characters are either so strong (all of the women) or so obnoxious (most of the men) that it's hard to connect with them. The angels become dolls to survive - wooden caricatures more typical of puppets.
A doctor's wife becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness.
This allegorical film depicts societal collapse, triggered by mass loss of sight, accompanied by the descent into ugly degradation as people struggle against each other for survival. Filmed with a starkness that provides a sense of the white fog which precedes the blindness, and displaying a fiercely committed performance from the lead actress, this movie is a challenging experience which is certain to stimulate both thought and conversation afterwards.
Marcelline has the lead role in Turgenev's "A Month in the Country" and is in rehearsal for the stage production while rendezvousing with her real and imagined mid-life crisis.
This is a charming dramatic comedy about arriving at a certain life stage unfulfilled by the journey and irrevocably aging. Time ticks to an off-beat rhythm as players and characters collide, even the director's metronome can't restore a more even beat for members of the cast. It's the off-stage drama that is most engaging, where emotions are held in check only to emerge in theatrically inappropriate ways. Encore.
Based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis.
Séraphine's paintings reflect both her simplicity and her deep commune with nature. The artist's life is appropriately rendered with compelling images of rural life in the French village of Senlis before World War 2. Although visually delightful, the characters and story are sketched without sufficient dimension to enthral the viewer. The aesthetic experience would be enhanced by a stronger narrative dimension.
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".