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.
Based on actual events, a plot to assassinate Hitler is unfurled during the height of WWII.
The strength of this film lies in a superb production design that helps to construct a positively accurate and immersive account of 1940's Berlin. It creates a stylistic period feel that is amplified by a stirring orchestral score throughout. Unfortunately, much of the authenticity, and subsequent integrity, is lost on American and British accents portraying German ones; as well as an unbefitting and uninspiring performance from the lead. "Valkyrie" definitely won't cater to everyone, but those impassioned by this period in history may find it rousing.
Seven PoundsWendy Slevison
An IRS agent with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.
"Seven Pounds" is an average movie that could have been better with a heavier hand from the editing department and a lighter touch from the director. The story, while powerful and engaging, evolves slowly, and there are too many lingering shots of the main character's pained face. When all the pieces of the puzzle do finally come together, the factual implausibility unfortunately weakens the film's credibility.
The WrestlerAnthony Macali
A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit.
In a movie about wrestling, it's only fitting that the acting in this film is superb. "The Wrestler" explores what a human being is capable of, and then what they do. It's this no holds barred honesty that makes this film spectacular. As the camera follows Randy "The Ram" onto the stage of his life, he bears all to his fans, and the audience, in a wonderfully poignant performance. If wrestling is all about acting, then this film is the teaching manual.
Marley & MeWendy Slevison
A family learns important life lessons from their adorable, but naughty and neurotic dog.
"Marley and Me" positions itself as a romantic comedy but unfortunately it fails to deliver. With no chemistry between its lead actors, the characters and plot are difficult to engage with, and you find yourself not really caring about the human stars. It's the 22 adorable Labradors who share the role of Marley that are the best part of this movie, and the only laughs come from the innumerable scenes of chewing and destruction. For dog-lovers with lots of patience only.
I've Loved You So LongWendy Slevison
This powerful story explores the tentative relationship between two sisters who barely know each other, as a shell-shocked Juliette arrives to live with her younger sister Lea, after being away for 15 years.
"I've Loved You So Long" is a raw, sparse film about human pain that is at times difficult to watch, and yet mesmerising. As Juliette slowly but uncompromisingly opens and embraces her new life, we rejoice as she finally begins to reclaim power from the oppressive secrets of her past. With an exquisitely stripped-down performance from the lead actress, this magnetic, emotionally wrenching film is very highly recommended.
Vicky Cristina BarcelonaAndrew O'Dea
Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is an audacious romantic comedy that raises provocative questions on life and love. Set amongst the splendour and beauty of a Catalan backdrop, the affable characters provide a funny and capricious look into human relationships. The arts, love, sexual passion, and desire are blended together, explored, and then endearingly exposed in all of their intricacy - creating a bittersweet, entertaining film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonAndrew O'Dea
Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a beautifully crafted and acted film, but the running time and ambiguity surrounding its message holds it back. Lessons of fate, mortality, life, and death are prevalent - but they remain convoluted. For all their enigmatic symbolism, they are difficult to comprehend and appreciate. However, that's not to say the audience won't be able to draw their own conclusions from the many parables throughout. Indulge your curiosity, watch it, and make up your own mind.
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
"Frost/Nixon" is an intelligent and provocative political drama. The film's strength lies in dialogue that is witty and engaging, delivered by superlative performances from the two leads. Frost and Nixon are combatants slugging out a verbal war, gaining ascendancy only to be countered. Their battle of wills generates cinema that is completely engrossing. Who'd have thought that two men sitting down and talking to each other could be so entertaining?
American TeenAnthony Macali
A documentary on seniors at a high school in a small Indiana town and their various cliques.
All the stereotypes are covered in this down-to-earth documentary, allowing every audience member to find a teen they can relate to. Our young protagonists are a mature lot, providing good material for the camera. As you could imagine, there is plenty of angst and drama, and while most of it is probably staged, it's still fun to experience vicariously. "American Teen" is ultimately about confronting new chapters in our lives, and is definitely worth a look.