The Disappearance of Alice CreedAndrew O'Dea
Two men fortify a nondescript apartment so it can serve as a prison before kidnapping a woman.
"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" sets the tone from the outset, with a dialogue-free opening act that is as methodical and gripping as the film itself. Shot almost entirely in a confined space, excellent camera work and direction help to maintain its claustrophobic nature and sustain an air of tension. It moves from confrontation to revelation with doses of dry humour in just the right places to lace the suspense. With superb acting performances from the cast (all three of them) and a tight focus, you won't need to search any further than this if you're looking for a smart, engaging thriller.
Insignificant ThingsAnne Murphy
Esmeralda is a teenager who collects little objects she finds, creating a box of insignificant treasures.
The movie unfolds through four vignettes tenderly woven together with the shared threads of lives that intersect. "Insignificant Things" explores important relationships that are undervalued and it does so with a deft touch. This is a finely tuned and detailed piece that is incisive and affecting without becoming despairing. A film so well crafted that it mesmerises is a very significant thing indeed.
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.
Jane EyreAnne Murphy
A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
A film adaption of a literary classic is rarely considered as good the book but this one is superb. "Jane Eyre" is likely to captivate all, including the most avid readers among us. This effort is well cast, capturing a perfect balance of brooding passion and guarded vulnerability. The cinematography captures a gothic austerity on the screen that reflects the social confines and well mannered restraint of the times, balanced by a landscape of moody spellbinding moors. Passionate plain Jane.
The White RibbonAnne Murphy
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment.
"The White Ribbon" is visually mesmerising, artistically captured in black and white with a period detail that is meticulously reproduced, particularly in the costumes of the farming villagers. With its fascist undertones this film is a harrowing watch for all of its lengthy run time, and even then there is no reward of a conclusion or explanation. Austere, relentless, seething with hatred and cruelty, this is unforgiving viewing. The film evokes a sense of impending doom, with blue ribbon success.
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.
A Year Ago in WinterAnne Murphy
A renowned artist must uncover a young dancer's secrets in order to truly capture her likeness for a commissioned work.
"A Year Ago in Winter" deftly explores themes of grief, guilt, and longing; as a meaning for suicide is sought by those left behind asking 'why?'. Troubling family relationships are delicately mined, and troubled souls are sensitively exposed. Various reactions, feelings and emotions, not healed by time, are faultlessly laid bare as winter approaches. However, the cold reality is that there's little sense to be made of the senseless.
Safety Not GuaranteedStefan Bugryn
A group of journalists investigate a classifieds ad seeking a partner to travel through time.
This quirky character, who believes without a doubt he can time travel, has a lasting effect on everyone he comes across. Whether they be amused, surprised, annoyed, or just plain curious, they are all drawn compellingly into his world. This magnetism will also translate to the audience, as his passion and eccentric behaviour are quite simply, endearing. The 'true story' feel to the narrative is hampered a little by recognisable faces, but all in all, this one is a heart-warming winner. Safety may not be guaranteed, but entertainment is.
Inglourious BasterdsAndrew O'Dea
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
"Inglourious Basterds" is history brazenly re-imagined. A stunning ensemble cast bask in the rich characterisation, creating a host of characters each as enthralling as the next. Some of the most memorable moments are simply 'set-piece' scenes of witty, original, and intelligent dialogue. Although used sparingly, every action sequence is a celebration of excess, and the film manages to capture cinema violence at its spectacular, blood-spattering best. Glorious!
Let the Right One InWendy Slevison
Oscar, a young bullied boy, meets Eli, a beautiful girl who turns out to be a vampire.
If you thought all the original ideas for vampire movies had been used up, think again. Set in Sweden, this film uses the icy, austere conditions to illustrate and emphasise the lonely isolation of its young protagonists. This film holds nothing back as it deals with issues of first love and bullying, contrasted against the violent world of the vampire. The young stars are astonishingly good, and this innovative movie rates highly among the alumni of its genre.
The Last StationAnne Murphy
A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.
Anchored with a passionate but philosophically-conflicted relationship between a husband and wife, "The Last Station" is a sweeping period piece that manages not to overwhelm with historical trappings. The a story is engrossing where, given the subject, it could have been rather dour. The players resist melodrama; there's an almost capricious tone that makes this film a pleasure to watch. It's not revealing too much to say the last station is the end of line.
The MessengerAnne Murphy
An American soldier struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow.
"The Messenger" delivers emotional punches in relentless succession in a context of heartbreaking realism. More than a war film, or even a film about the army, this is a movie about loss and grief, mostly expressed by men. Harrowing exchanges made when people are at their most vulnerable are intense to witness, made no less easy by scenes where withheld emotions seethe within the characters. Thankfully there are strands of camaraderie and humour threaded throughout, and they serve to strengthen the compelling messages.
Moonrise KingdomAnthony Macali
A pair of young lovers flee their town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
"Moonrise Kingdom" follows the sweet romance of two misunderstood kids, who find solace in one another after everyone else has given up on them. The narrow island setting is full of quirks, making use of a tour guide to describe some of its more famous tidbits, and adding a homely touch to the affair and adventure. A colourful cast push the expedition along, playing the frustrated parents and companions with good humour and trepidation; but the heart of the film lies in the relationship, a chronicle of a harmonising affection from a simpler time. A love story to rise up and conquer all.
The Private Lives of Pippa LeeCourtney Slevison
After moving to a retirement village with her much older husband, Pippa Lee finds cause to reflect on her life and finds herself having a "very quiet nervous breakdown".
"Pippa Lee" presents us with the familiar premise of a middle-aged life unravelling in the suburbs, re-worked by a smart and assertive script. This engaging and insightful film centres on the theme of identity as a result of circumstance, with a raw and at times disarming honesty. An excellent ensemble cast makes this story of the human condition a powerful experience.
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.
The HedgehogAnne Murphy
Paloma is a serious, but deeply bored 11 year old, who decides to kill herself on her twelfth birthday.
"The Hedgehog" is a melancholic and elegantly understated character study, artistically crafted and entrancing. The film's direction is deft, uncovering a very moving exploration of the human condition beneath a simple tale. The story is focused on three intelligently drawn characters with rich inner lives in which they insulate themselves from the world outside. The performances of the lead roles are without fault, balancing humorous, absurd, and enigmatic characteristics. We see both the prickles on the outside and the warm hearted inside of a hedgehog.
My Year Without SexWendy Slevison
An understated look at love and life in middle-class Australian suburbia.
Watching this film feels a bit like peering in your neighbours' window and secretly watching them go about their lives. What you see is familiar in its detail, insightful in its observations, and at times confronting in its honesty. It boldly broaches the big questions, as well as the little everyday ones. Tenderly crafted, and featuring stellar performances, "My Year Without Sex" is an affirmation of the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, family and yes, sex.
The youngest son of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts event - a path that puts him on a collision with his older brother.
"Warrior" is a surprisingly affecting movie. The fight choreography is exceptional, and the rush of adrenaline as the kicks and punches fly is palpable. We feel every bone-crunching hit, but the beauty is that there's enough heart to match the violence. Although it may border on cliché at times, there is an undeniable emotional honesty behind the action, carried by a trio of outstanding acting performances from the male leads. A knock-out film that will leave you counting stars...
The Last Summer of La BoyitaAnne Murphy
Feeling estranged from her older sister, Jorgelina and her father go in their Boyita camper-van, to the countryside where playmate Mario is undergoing some changes of his own.
This coming of age story is set during a long hot summer on the Argentinean Pampas. It's a summer of discovery, particularly of the unknown and unimagined world of inter-sexuality and gender identity. The children's roles are well acted, striking a perfect balance between innocence and precociousness. The sensitive themes are tenderly handled - the film's narration is more through visual imagery than dialogue - and it never becomes clumsy. Can't wait for Autumn.
Father of My ChildrenWendy Slevison
A film producer struggles with suicidal despair amidst the collapse of his business.
"Father of My Children" explores the emotive subject of suicide, acutely juxtaposing the life of a busy young Parisian family before and after 'the event'. In this sensitive and authentic observation, anger, tears, secrets and stoic determination are all revealed as the people left behind struggle to continue on with life amidst their grief and the financial mess that is their legacy. Based on a true story (only minor details have been changed), this film is a poignant acknowledgement of the very significant issue of mental health in our world. Don't just see this film, talk about it.
Inside Llewyn DavisAnne Murphy
A week in the life of a young singer navigating the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
"Inside Llywen Davis" provides an in-depth portrait of one man, and a reflection on life. The protagonist has been following a dream and starts to realise that he is living a mundane nightmare. There's no plot to speak of, and this portrayal of the daily grind captures a surreal quality. The cinematography is extraordinary, finding beauty in the grim of winter and grime of the city. As for the folky soundtrack, let's just say you can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Anthony Macali
Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest of finding the Dark Lord's three remaining Horcruxes.
From dark, to darker, to pure black, the final installment does not disappoint. The excruciating build-up of Part 1 is justified in this fast-paced climax, high in tension and full of magic, action and spells that shape a siege for the ages. Every wizard is witness to the ultimate assault of good and evil, characters fighting their destinies, confronting love, life and death. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is sombre in mood but not in nature, producing an impressive finale to a much-loved epic.
Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.
When you find yourself weeping in a cinema, why is it that you cry? Is it for the life loves and losses of fictional characters or for your own fragile mortality? Something extraordinary is orchestrated when a writer and director conspire to bring a finely tuned production to the screen. Credit must also go to the talented actors who perform together seamlessly as a quartet. "Performance" is played like a concerto. Bravo!
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 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.