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".
Last Chance HarveyWendy Slevison
In London for his daughter's wedding, a rumpled man finds his romantic spirits lifted by a new woman in his life.
"Last Chance Harvey" is the story of a late-in-life romance between two dull and dreary characters who feel that life is passing them by. With no sizzle between the stars, and no sparkle in the script, the audience has no investment at all in the relationship. The film is stolid and unsatisfying, offering little more than a chance to have a snooze, which you might as well do at home.
Rachel Getting MarriedAnthony Macali
A young woman who has been in and out from rehab for the past 10 years returns home for the weekend for her sister's wedding.
Initially, this film is very difficult to watch. The story is high in emotion, and typically these feelings are not good ones, as we see a family worn out from Kym's drug addiction and its haunting consequences. Such sentiments swirl and evolve to the titular finale, reminding us of the everlasting joys in life. "Rachel Getting Married" is a powerfully poignant film that will affect you many days later.
The ReaderAndrew O'Dea
Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.
"The Reader" is a compelling story that takes a very different approach to the Holocaust. The impeccably considerate and pensive style of the film helps us empathise with a character who, by rights, we should loathe. Amplified by an extraordinary performance from the lead actress, it exercises our moral compass, forcing us to wrestle with the issue of law versus morality. An ultimately moving and thought-provoking account set against a dark chapter in history.
A grief counselor working with a group of plane-crash survivors finds herself at the root of a mystery when her clients begin to disappear.
"Passengers" is a horrible drama that fails dismally in its feeble attempt to pose as a thriller. Everything about the movie is decidedly uneventful, accentuated by sluggish pacing and an unremarkable script. The gloomy camerawork throughout succeeds only in making the vapid plot seem monotonous; the only respite coming when it inevitably crashes and burns in a dissatisfying twist-ending. If you pay to go watch this film, you will have been taken for a ride.
He's Just Not That Into YouWendy Slevison
This Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting story lines deals with the challenges of trying to understand human behaviour.
Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name, this movie is overpopulated with under-developed characters making mistakes, behaving badly, and being downright stupid - surprise surprise, mostly the women. An ensemble cast, who individually can be very good, get lost in the mire of a script laden with stereotypes. While generally entertaining, there are sections where you find yourself not caring who's just not into who.
Pride and GloryAnthony Macali
A saga centered on a multi-generational family of NYPD officers. The family's moral codes are tested when Ray Tierney, investigates a case that reveals an incendiary police corruption scandal.
"Pride and Glory" is a slick production, albeit with a gritty "handheld" style. The characters shoot through scripted dialogue in indistinguishable fashion, lacking the creativity to generate an interesting "corrupt cops" story. To the films' credit, the ways the 'force' extract information from the bad guys is refreshingly original. The producers should take pride in these rare moments as the rest of the film is slow, tiresome and far from glorious.
A mother's kidnapped son is returned to her, but she realises immediately that the boy is not hers.
"Changeling" is an example of classic movie making at it's most potent. A magnificent unhurried telling of an extraordinary true story, it's also a commentary on social and moral dilemmas still faced today. The authentic visual feel, exceptional cast and old-style direction combine to create an outstanding film. A superb performance by the lead actress pays no heed to her physical beauty, focusing wholly on the anguish, despair and struggle of an ordinary woman fighting to be heard by the powers-that-be. Has anything really changed?
Revolutionary RoadAndrew O'Dea
A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950's struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children. Based on a novel by Richard Yates.
In such an involving examination of relationships, you'd expect this to be a more emotionally engaging film. The thing that sustains it is the phenomenal acting from the entire cast. The two leads feed off of each other's despair so brilliantly it almost hides the fact that the script is very mediocre. That's not to say nothing can be garnered from the tragic beauty of the story; it's just that the monotony at times makes "Revolutionary Road" feel like a one-way street.
The story of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
Harvey Milk was an ordinary man filled with courage and the conviction to create change, who became a modern-day hero. Chronicling the last eight years of the activist's life, as he fights tirelessly for gay rights, the film vividly revives the radical period of the 70's. The convincing and sensitive portrayal by the lead actor, combined with an equally compelling supporting cast, makes this biopic both inspiring and moving. Highly recommended.
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.
Gran TorinoAndrew O'Dea
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal his prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
"Gran Torino" tells the story of a man in transition. The film is driven by a weathered and steely performance from the lead actor, who peerlessly chisels out an insular and reluctant hero. A no-nonsense aesthetic means it shuns political correctness, presenting an unrepentant bigot who doesn't discriminate - he hates everyone. Surprisingly, it's these old school prejudices that create moments of genuine comedy and warmth. Highly recommended.