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.
Charlie Wilson's WarAnthony Macali
A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
A man hidden from the radar, Charlie Wilson is an amazing character with cause against the Soviets that rivals his passion for women and whiskey. The movie is propelled by the charisma of its lead characters, and all-star cast who delightfully play off one another. There are also many moments in the story that frighteningly resonate with the politics of today. This film is about Charlie's success, America's failures and the causalities along the way.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.
The Jane Austen Book ClubAnthony Macali
Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.
Having read zero Jane Austen books, I still found this film mildly entertaining. The fun comes when each member of the club relate the stories to their own tragic lives. This process causes them to break down, and to make spiteful and bitter comments to each other that are often amusing. There is also the benefit of having one guy in the group to serve the males watching this chick flick. The only sour note is the predictable ending where they all invariably find love.
Sweeney ToddAnthony Macali
The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.
"Sweeney Todd" is as dark and twisted as it is a dull and boring. We know Sweeney wants revenge, but can't he stop singing and staring angrily out his window - just get on with the job. Few of the songs are enjoyable, and they all tend to slow the plot to an almost unbearable halt. Some will enjoy the throat-slashing and corpse-thudding antics of the barber, but after having watched this film, I found myself seeking my own vengeance and salvation.
American GangsterAnthony Macali
In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of a heroin kingpin.
"American Gangster" is an epic story of two people. Frank Lucas, a religious and devoted family man; and his polar opposite, Richie Roberts, the incorruptible cop, troubled at home but determined in his lonely pursuit. You can't help but take Frank's side, relishing his journey from rags to riches, and joining his vast corrupted network of cops and soldiers who succumb to greed. It's not until we see the effects of 'Blue Magic' that we're reminded his business is heroin. A brilliant and engaging crime classic.
I Am LegendAnthony Macali
Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.
This post-apocalyptic thriller is all too familiar, with too much focus on a barren New York that becomes dull quickly after the excessive panning. More tameness comes in the form of the terrible infected, tanned a bland grey and lacking physicality. A group of computer generated embodiments are simply not as menacing as real people dressed in pale makeup and blood. Often tense but far from legendary.
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.
Far from a mid-life crisis, I found little to relate to in this sorry tale. Nonetheless, it's impossible not to sympathize with our titular waitress as we suffer her arduous imprisonment. As it hits an all time low, Jenna finally breaks free from her mundane lifestyle. We share her wry smile as she engages in a mischievous relationship with the hilarious and bumbling doctor. "Waitress" is a saccharine and sometimes quirky dish that everyone should try.
Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
"Atonement" is a love story torn by unfortunate circumstance. Briony's interpretation of events are marred by jealously, and cleverly presented in a style that shows the points of view of all involved. These key events play alongside a beautiful score, complete with resounding keys of a type-writer that haunts throughout. This film is a timeless period piece and an admiral adaptation that shows the power of the written-word.
No Country for Old MenAnthony Macali
Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.
Watch this to experience the psychotic Anton Chigurh, whose very presence on screen is terrifying, as he pursues the naive Llwelyn Moss. The chase is brutal and intense, with their confrontations providing breathtaking suspense. The film also serves as an analysis of the human condition, questioning the value of money and the principles we follow in life. "No Country For Old Men" is a mesmerising thriller that all should visit.
Eastern PromisesAnthony Macali
The film follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai, who is tied to one of London's most notorious organized crime families.
Glimpses of the criminal underworld will always interest us ordinary, nice folk. "Eastern Promises" is no different, with its shady Russian mafia conducting business in equally shady parts of London. A film of mixed emotions, the charismatic performances undermine the atrocities we witness and listen to in a narrated diary. At times this flurry of conscience is uncomfortable, a minimal hinder in this compelling and disturbing piece.