Smart PeopleAnthony Macali
Into the life of a widowed professor comes a new love and an unexpected visit from his brother.
"Smart People" is a comedy with a pretentious title, but enough wit to make it enjoyable. The film centres round a naive professor and how most of the people in his life loathe him. He falls in love with his nurse, a former student with an infatuation with the arrogant scholar that is questionable. It's the playful dynamics of his gifted family, and in particular, the sarcasm and rudeness of his daughter which are the most fun to watch. If only all those other issues didn't get in the way of spending time with this family. Interesting people, but not the smartest film.
A romantic comedy centered on the daily lives of five Lebanese women living in Beirut.
It appears chick-flicks can transcend world boundaries. "Caramel" is time spent with friends - five women working in a salon, all trying to remove the issues in their lives. Such real-life problems we can relate to; from lust, romance, age, to daunting marriages. With genuine affection from the director's touch, we actually care about these characters, and enjoy their company, all the while adversely sympathising with them in the arduous scenes. This film is a refreshing sweet of cultural insight and winsome friends.
The DuchessAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
"The Duchess" is a window into the intriguing life of Georgiana, a view that overlooks her reputable politics in favour of her more lascivious endeavours. Extravagant romanticism flourishes in 1700's England, a time of manners, costumes and beauty. A significant contrast to the inner turmoil that dwells in the Duke's house, burdens of birthing a male heir exact many sacrifices. Outstanding performances portray the many troubled characters of this film, in a period drama that only suffers from an imbalance of love and politics.
Street KingsAnthony Macali
Tom is a veteran cop who finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When evidence implicates him in the execution of a fellow officer, he is forced to go up against the cop culture.
"Street Kings" is a dull, clichéd and terrible episode of life on the streets of LA. You have the African-American brother, the Mexicano Esé, the Korean Triad and the hard-boiled cops who always look out for each other and play the tough guy. The whole setup is embarrassing, with very mediocre and laughable dialogue, as well as unthreatening criminals who always end up helping the police. Filmed in a style where excessive grittiness is king, this is actually bad.
Son of RambowAndrew O'Dea
Set in the early 80's, this is a comedy about friendship, faith and the weird business of growing up.
"Son of Rambow" is a quirky comedy that takes us on a nostalgia trip. It rekindles our sense of youthful exuberance as we're invited into the imaginations of a couple of schoolboys as they set about creating their own crude and amusing homemade 'Rambo' movie. Through their unlikely friendship we remember the ecstasy and difficulties of being a kid. Though the story lacks excitement in parts, and suffers prematurely from a relatively dull climax, lovers of heartfelt movies will find it very engaging.
The Diving Bell and the ButterflyAnthony Macali
The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is both a beautifully inspiring and tragic story. With clever use of the medium, the director throws us into the perspective of our unfortunate patient. Elle's cynical outlook provides more laughs than sympathy, as he serves his imprisonment and takes the opportunity to seek closure and follow his dreams - such a task our able-bodied selves often find too difficult. A wonderful film, and a celebration of life.
Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.
It's surprising how touching this black and white animation is. With sharp contours and pale gradients, the film looks astounding, but also portrays a "dark" period of Marjane's life. Her narrative provides earnest accounts of Iran's history, family and moving out of home; growing into an acute perspective of life in these times of revolution. You leave the cinema in a wake of colours, realising the splendour of freedom.
Vantage PointAnthony Macali
With a Rashomon narrative style, the attempted assassination of the president is told from several different perspectives.
"Vantage Point" might seem interesting at first, with its "different points of view" storytelling, large ensemble cast and an American president. In truth, it's a bit repetitive and formulaic, with revelations only coming after we endure the assassination again and again. In the end, the bad guys die, there's a car chase to please all the confused viewers, and the story gets nicely wrapped up. Entertaining enough, but still annoying.
An inside look at Italy's modern-day crime families. Based on a book by Roberto Saviano.
This film is a sprawling mess of characters and storylines. You see a mafia suit distribute money among the neighbourhood, two gung-ho youths wanting to be gangsters, and a guy who creates skirts in a workshop. It leaves us clueless as to how all these scenes fit together to create the big picture. Trying to make sense of it all is a slow and boring exercise. "Gomorrah" is a poorly executed and frustrating insight into the Italian underworld.
Forgetting Sarah MarshallAnthony Macali
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's travelling to the same resort as her ex.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a delightful comedy filled with many interesting characters. The best parts are the small snippets that fall in-between scenes. These whimsical moments contain some of the best jokes, but also some welcome insights into our protagonists. The only disappointing bits are the undue vulgarity and contrivances towards the end. This film is a memorable mix of laugh-out-loud scenarios and genuine heartbreak.
Before the Devil Knows You're DeadLuke Bartter
When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelery store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them hurtling towards a shattering climax.
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a challenging film which has intense performances and a compelling story, but is rarely enjoyable. The crime is revealed early on and shifts between before and after, gradually revealing each of the characters' perspective and situation, with a constant and uncomfortably building tension. Interesting to watch, but ultimately very unpleasant, it's recommended, but remember what you're getting yourself into.
There Will Be BloodAnthony Macali
A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
"There Will Be Blood" is a raw and compelling film about one man, driven to succeed if only to be regarded as successful rather than flourish in riches. Any person who stands in his way is a considered a threat and a competitor, a philosophy that makes him neurotic and psychotic. A vigorous score heightens the dread and tension, and evokes strong emotion in this story of an entrepreneur of undeniable intensity and greed.
An FBI agent tracks a serial killer with the help of three of his would-be victims - all of whom have wildly different stories to tell.
It's always captivating when information is revealed the way this film does. Three victims are interviewed by the cops; three different perspectives are intertwined; and then the audience is left to put the pieces together. The performances are strong across the board, all accessories to driving the speeding tension. A riveting story, twisted narrative and sadistic characters make "Surveillance" an engrossing thriller.
Be Kind RewindAnthony Macali
A man whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, the two men set out to remake the lost films.
A wave of nostalgia hits you in "Be Kind Rewind" as our affable heroes go about remaking a list of video classics that include Ghostbusters, Robocop and Rush Hour. The intention is to inspire the filmmaker in all of us, but it often feels a little too self-indulgent on the director's part. The video sketches provide plenty of do-it-yourself innovation and a lot of fun; it's the rest of the film you want to fast-forward.
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
There is much to love and hate about Juno. She undermines the process of giving birth with her contrived banter, and is immature and naive when it comes to adult issues. It's a credit to the film that we still find sympathy for our smart-mouthed hero. She takes responsibility for the impregnation and is deeply appreciative of the varied idiosyncratic characters that support her. "Juno" is an admiring tale that will frustrate and amuse.
Ben XAnthony Macali
An alternative to getting bullied at school, an autistic teenager retreats into the world of online games.
"Ben X" provides a respectful insight into the direct, and indirect, effects of autism. Frantic mish-mash editing adeptly creates Ben's isolated world, portraying his simple wish to be free from the torments of his peers and social etiquette. Surprisingly, delving into the online-world demonstrates both therapeutic qualities and dangers, as it cleverly weaves the multimedia of the game into the real world. The conclusion is questionable, but doesn't deny the story's warmth and grace. A well-grounded deterrence for bullies round the world.
The Death of Mr. LazarescuAndrew O'Dea
Follows the title character as he is passed on from hospital to hospital waiting for dire attention.
As the health of Mr. Lazarescu deteriorates then fails, so does this film. If the intention was to force the audience to associate with (and endure) Mr. Lazarescu's suffering, then it is a resonating success. The shaky handheld camerawork becomes nauseating, and the drawn out length nearly bores us to death. You can't help finding yourself willing his demise to come sooner, not to end his agony, but your own. Such is the lack of empathy created by unstirring, stagnant scenes. Avoid like the plague.
An examination of the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Polish officers and citizens in 1940.
There is no denying the importance of this film. However, its purpose invokes a rather dull and bleak history lesson. The streets of Poland are beautifully recreated on the screen, only to be lost amongst the bombardment of sporadic jumps through time. The interesting aspect of the tragedy is the taboo nature of the subject, but this is only briefly explored and serves as mere introduction to the horrifying and unyielding finalé. "Katyn" provides overdue closure to those connected with the story, but lacks the emotion to connect with the rest.
In BrugesAndrew O'Dea
Two hit men are sent to hide out in Bruges, Belgium after a difficult job goes wrong in London.
This film is essentially a black comedy that juxtaposes humour with tragedy. Set amongst the churches, canals, and cobbled streets of the titular Bruges, it uses this very setting to accentuate the polar natures of our two leading characters. The highly strung Ray struggles to cope with the lack of excitement, while the older, more refined Ken immerses himself in the history of the town. Amidst the dry humour created by their interaction is woven a very clever story that presents an undercurrent of morality.
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 Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
The Darjeeling LimitedAnthony Macali
Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other.
It's difficult to relate to this wealthy family, so far detached from reality. Rather, you laugh at their bickering, addiction to cough medicine, fondness of snakes and pepper spray, and other mishaps aboard the Darjeeling Limited. The Indian people and culture suffer from the little attention they receive in this feature, which delivers more of a postcard snapshot than an enlightening journey. What the film lacks in spirit, it makes up for in family camaraderie.
The Bucket ListAnthony Macali
Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
The problem about these two men, apart from their uninspired performances, is the fact we don't care if they pass away or not. Their ambitions are more comparable to household chores, as they trudge along each adventure in vapid fashion. The whole act is a little too cheesy, corny, and convenient for my liking. Better suited for a TV midday movie, this film should not be on your list.
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 MistAnthony Macali
A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
"The Mist" is your stock standard horror film where you throw a bunch of people in a room, endanger their lives, and see how they react. The result is a colourful quarrel of religion, reason and rationale. The joy comes from watching the locals get their comeuppance as the poor-looking monsters feast on them. In these films you always find yourself questioning the decisions the characters make. Our protagonists' judgement at the end is truly mystifying.