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.
What Maisie KnewAnne Murphy
In New York City, a young girl is caught in the middle of her parents' bitter custody battle.
The protagonist is a six year old and we see only what she witnesses and we hear only what she does. Both her resilience and her fragility are apparent. "What Masie knew" is loaded with emotion and doesn't sink into sentimentality; the tone is delightfully precocious in this uncommonly well-crafted movie. The narcissism of some of the adults comes off as brat-like, their poor behaviours glaringly transparent in contrast to the more opaque and thoughtful attitude of the child. Wise Masie.
Monsieur LazharAnne Murphy
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
While presented as a simple tale, "Monsieur Lazhar" navigates complex social issues; and the phrase 'deceptively simple' is fitting. Themes of loss and grief are explored within a classroom setting by focusing on teacher and pupil relationships. The result is a tender and moving storyline given life by an excellent cast. It is a pleasure to watch serious subjects played out with a deft touch that neither preaches nor moralises. Bring an apple for this extraordinary teacher.
Che: Part 2Andrew O'Dea
In 1967, 'Che' leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia.
"Che: Part 2" is the culmination of a fascinating journey that marks Che's ultimate downfall. This film maintains the authenticity of "Part 1", albeit with a darker, more pensive tone. It evokes a sombre sense of impending doom whilst remaining as historically faithful as possible, refusing to glamorise its subject. This uncompromising approach is refreshing, and the lead actor's enigmatic performance is truly worthy of encompassing the man who is arguably the most iconic figure of the 20th century.
The Social NetworkAnthony Macali
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
"The Social Network" is a telling portrayal of one the world's most unsociable guys. Expertly played, the punk billionaire is depicted as an obnoxious genius, his computer antics spurred by teenage anguish. The film is well informed and doesn't shy away from the geeky mumbo-jumbo, as it creates a real sense of the amazing scale and technical brilliance of 'The Facebook'. The first half of the movie is fast and exciting, but the second half tends to lag with unfavourable characters and court-room exposition. Nonetheless, 'FilmDude' likes this.
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.
The Way Way BackAnthony Macali
14-year-old Duncan is having a rough time enjoying his vacation away with his mother and new boyfriend, until finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
"The Way Way Back" is a coming-of-age tale that will make you wish for summertime. The warm beach-side is an interesting setting to play out the conflict, as the shy Duncan wrestles with the reality of his newly blended family. With the help of the most unexpected of strangers, he slowly gains confidence and there is great joy to be found in watching him grow. A wonderful mix of laughter and drama, held together by a fantastic cast. Take the vacation.
A Dangerous MethodAnne Murphy
A look at how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
"A Dangerous Method" documents the shared origins of what have become rival doctrines, following the professional friendship and falling out of the earliest proponents of 'the talking cure'. The actor's performances ensure compelling, if at times uncomfortable, viewing. The period in modern history is faithfully depicted and attention is paid to details which highlight the differences between the lifestyles and theories of kindred pioneers. Even more engrossing than the look is the dialogue; unsurprisingly the screenplay is based on a non-fiction book. No slips, Freudian or otherwise.
The Iron LadyTom Jones
A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Romance or political drama? "The Iron Lady" could be shelved under either genre as it depicts the political rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher against the backdrop of her mourning the passing of her husband. There is a nice balance of both plotlines and the inclusion of real footage adds conviction to this film. The performance of the lead is so convincing it's like a Madame Tussauds figure coming to life. Thatcher herself endorsed 'doing something' rather than trying to be 'somebody'. With that in mind, do something... go and see this film.
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.
The OrphanageAnthony Macali
A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.
There aren't many things creepier than a house haunted by ghost children. In a scare climax, a medium channels the voices and cries of the sick orphans. It might be a little clichéd, but it's far from shallow. It also deals with grief and loss, themes supported by impressive performances. While the story lingers in these moments, the twists of the finalé forgive the build-up. A beautiful story of life and death, "The Orphanage" is a film not to be abandoned.
The Killer Inside MeAnne Murphy
A West Texas deputy sheriff is slowly unmasked as a psychotic killer.
Small town post-war America is faithfully captured and depicted in a way that almost elicits nostalgia, even for those of us who weren't there. "The Killer Inside Me" is dark and moody as well as stylish, as is the film-noir tradition. Watching the sociopathic protagonist committing a string of murders while maintaining his deception is profoundly disturbing. Sadistic elements of the story-line are intended to shock; the violence is brutal and administered with pre-meditated determination but most chilling is the demeanour of the murderer. There is not a flicker of remorse inside this killer.
The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII.
"Restless" is an original take on the often used story of love in the shadow of a looming death. This film falls into an unlabelled genre that is the antithesis of a rom-com, and it does that with a quirky grace. The main characters are burdened with troubling life experiences that underscore the earnestness in their encounters, but it's the gentle grimness as the inevitable approaches that is most disquieting. Emo and edgy.
My Week with MarilynAnne Murphy
Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
There's not a lot of plot to get lost in just an intimate week with the movie star we remember for her reputation for being as fragile as she was glamorous. "My Week with Marilyn" is an engaging in-depth character study. The lead actor delivers a spell-binding and authentic portrait of the screen legend as complex woman who shone in front of the camera and struggled with insecurity behind the scenes. Not only gentlemen will prefer this blonde.
Animal KingdomWendy Slevison
Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
"Animal Kingdom" is a raw, understated exploration of the ongoing 'dog eat dog' battle between the police force and a criminal family. This is a skewed reality where life is cheap, and survival often comes down to the nonchalant disposal of other lives to ferociously protect your own. Loyalties are fluid, honesty a foreign concept. This powerful film tells its compelling tale with assurance and class, and features superb performances from an ensemble of the finest actors in Australian cinema.
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.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
A man receives revelations from his elderly father: he has terminal cancer, and a young male lover.
"Beginners" is a poignant, tenderly-crafted portrait of a man's evolving relationship with his father, and the impact it has on other relationships in his life. The writer/director has told his unusual, autobiographical tale in a warm, quirky and original style, skilfully mixing the joys and sorrows in a way that is never over-sentimental or clichéd. The film is ultimately a celebration of life, love and hope. It shows us that in our experiences of love - finding it, and then holding on to it - we are all, at times, beginners.
127 HoursStefan Bugryn
A man gets stuck under a boulder while he ventures out alone to a canyon in Utah.
It is quite obvious the film-makers wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with the protagonist throughout this harrowingly absorbing ordeal. At times it almost feels like a 'docu-drama'. There's an abundance of uncomfortable close ups as the storyline is confined to that wretched canyon, while 'that scene' is unflinchingly realistic (you won't ever forget it!). In doing so, they created a film experience that is both gruelling and rewarding, and will leave you deep in thought afterwards. Every minute, and hour, is worth it.
This Must Be the PlaceAnne Murphy
A bored and retired rock star sets out to find his father's executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal.
This is a beguiling character study, thanks to the disarming performance of the lead actor. The central role is a captivating mix of unsophisticated naivety and world weariness played with sincerity. This movie, which is one man's search for self-discovery, could be plumbed meaning, and while many messages might be discovered it is better appreciated as adventurous film-making that delights with its originality. "This Must Be the Place" takes audiences to some-place else... if someone asks, this is where I'll be.
Looking for EricAnne Murphy
Eric, a postman whose life is descending in to crisis, receives some life coaching from Eric Cantona.
For the most part, the tone of "Looking for Eric" has a steady down beat of realism as individuals within a loosely connected family tackle emotional issues including loss and depression. The cast extends beyond family to encompass important relationships with friends, heroes, and deadbeats. The plot is refreshingly unpredictable with a triumphant, if somewhat incongruent, conclusion tacked on. All is forgiven as the credits roll... the audience feels good and Eric may have found what he was looking for.
Enter the VoidStefan Bugryn
A drug dealing youth is killed in Tokyo, and drifts through the city in death watching over his sister.
"Enter the Void" is an experimental film that literally takes you on a beautiful journey through life and death. It's very dreamy and trippy, delving into a kaleidoscope of colours and pictures that can often be mistaken for an exploration of space. The narrative is powerful, often intensely emotional, and is shot almost entirely from the protagonist's view, which makes it all the more engaging. The dark themes and visual onslaught will make it hard viewing for the faint hearted, but all others will love entering the void.
The Great GatsbyAnne Murphy
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.
"The Great Gatsby" as a book is a literary classic and it's difficult to review the movie without making comparisons. Most viewers will watch with some sort of expectation. Do so at the peril of your enjoyment, look too critically and you'll see this is not a perfect image of the novel. Forget familiarity, the director has delivered a turbo-charged, multi-coloured and visually spectacular version of the story and intriguing characters alike. This film version is true to the source but somehow greater.
15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
There is an underlying idealism and sentimentality to "Submarine" that is tenderly masked by moments of genuine hilarity. Just like sonar, you can't see it, but you can feel it there. The humour is oddball and quirky, but never to the point where it's self-aware. With a soundtrack that is simply sublime, and whimsical visuals to match, this is a stylish and funny story told with great affinity by a clearly talented first-time director. Submarine down. Periscopes, emotion, and laughter up.
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.