Love is StrangeAnne Murphy
After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing.
"Love is Strange" is an unforgettable story of commitment to another that is deep, honest, and real... and there's nothing strange about that. Circumstances test wider family relationships and push them to the limits, and it's emotion rather than action that is key to this story's success. The chemistry between the lead couple is loaded with genuine affection; they deliver unhurried performances that will touch your heart. Life is strange and love is true.
Air DollAnne Murphy
A life-size blow-up doll develops a soul and falls in love with a video store clerk.
Seen through the delightfully innocent eyes of a living doll, scenes are coloured with an appreciation for the everyday. We observe the realities and absurdities of modern day life where everything is eventually discarded and disposed of. "Air Doll" is laden with social comment about our lonely urban lifestyles and it prompts reflection along existential themes. It could have been rather heavy going but for the whimsical touch of the director, and there is as much magic as sadness in the messages. This 'doll' is a sweetie.
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.
3 IdiotsAmit Jain
Two uni friends embark on a quest to find their lost friend.
This film is witty, emotional and uncontrollably entertaining. Questioning the current education system in India, the movie is subtle in its messages and the many golden rules which can change one's life in a big way. The cinematography and locations used are simply breathtaking. "3 Idiots" is a laughing riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits and preaches not to chase success, but to "...chase excellence and success will follow".
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.
Che: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
In 1956, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
This film is an austere portrayal of the mechanics of Che and his guerrilla war rather than an account of the man himself. His political and social ideals are interwoven - and impressively not championed - as we traverse the sumptuous Cuban landscape and share in his experience that was the armed struggle of the revolution. A stylish overture of sorts opens the film, and it sets the tone for the sprawling and vividly authentic epic that is to come.
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.
The SessionsAnne Murphy
A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.
"The Sessions" is a surprisingly warm and funny film. The story is based in reality and the movie follows one thread of the incredible life of an accomplished and disabled man. Each session is a business transaction, yet even so the sex scenes are intimate, awkward, and explicit as well as tender. There is something remarkable about the man, his condition and the way he tackles life, love and relationships that makes compelling viewing. Strictly business?
The WayAnne Murphy
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El Camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
'El Camino de Santiago', or 'The Way of St James', has been a Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years and this movie shows why the walk is more travelled now than ever before. The story may be fiction, but the trail itself, the magnificent scenery, and the diverse experiences of pilgrims are real. Not everyone's path, but those who do watch will experience a melancholic and moving film. This way for a life affirming journey.
The TurningAnne Murphy
A collection of 17 short films, each episode drawn from a different chapter of the book.
Each of the individual pieces to this film is a minor masterpiece, poignant in its own way, familiar stories of longing and regret in an unmistakably Australian setting. Presented as one three hour movie, "The Turning" asks much of its audience. The trouble is that the central linking thread is not always apparent, as each piece has its own writer, director and cast. It's not straightforward to spot the same characters in different stories; they’re more connected in the book than they appear on the screen. Quite a turn of events.
We Need to Talk About KevinAnne Murphy
The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief - and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions.
Harrowing is the only way to describe "We Need to Talk About Kevin". It's difficult viewing, a chilling and disturbing movie. All credit to the director for the way the mother's haunting story unfolds, threading memories and recollections into the narrative as an explanation for the present. The actor's performances are outstanding while portraying situations more chilling than most horror plots. Maybe we need to talk, but in hushed tones.
Sunshine CleaningAnne Murphy
In order to raise the tuition to send her young son to private school, a mum starts an unusual business, a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service, with her unreliable sister.
This is an endearing movie in a low key 'indie' style. A beguiling cast portray a dysfunctional family facing their everyday relationship challenges. The comedy is so heartfelt that laughs catch on the way up, almost mutating into sobs, before rising as smiles. The tone is as mirthful as it is melancholic, despite the dark storylines. "Sunshine Cleaning" is the perfect antidote for messy everyday lives.
The story of two close friends who are unintentionally drawn into a love-triangle.
Love lives in the hearts and minds of stylish twenty-something's, as friends vie for the attention of the same Adonis. "Heartbeats" is a sophisticated examination of desire brought to the screen by an assured director. The almost excruciating clumsiness of inexperienced lovers and the intimacy of their relationships is depicted without a physical consummation of the same. Obsession overtakes sanity, friendship is sacrificed for love, and the audience can relate to the qualms and dreams of the protagonists. L'amour, l'amour…
Martha Marcy May MarleneAnne Murphy
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
The fragile bonds of family come under scrutiny in this psychological thriller, and makes for tense viewing from the opening scenes right until the second it finishes. The film is dark and taut as memories are seamlessly threaded with the present. The film-maker is deft, using the past to explain today and develop a sense of impending threat in the audience. While watching it becomes harder to breathe as the story unfolds. Mal-adjusted mentality methodically manipulated.
An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
"Flight" begins with one of the most exhilarating cockpit sequences you will ever see, and never lets up. This tale centers on the pilot, riddled with a substance addiction, and the morality that surrounds his heroic endeavour. It's an investigation that generates further intrigue and suspense as it travels along, despite the odd scene that undermines its gravity. A truly riveting story and performance from the lead. Strap yourself in.
The Eye of the StormWendy Slevison
A woman used to controlling everything in her life chooses her time to die.
If you've ever doubted what Australian cinema is capable of producing, see "Eye of the Storm". Adapted from the book of the same name, every facet of the crafting of this film is of the highest quality. Featuring a cast of acting nobility who deliver their roles with meticulous insight, superb cinematography and assured direction, the story unfolds with unrelenting potency. As the complex relationships and palpable tensions intensify, you are left feeling that you have indeed been through the eye of a storm, but there is also the exhilaration of having been a witness to the tempest.
A fading actor tries to reclaim his past glory by starting a Broadway play.
"Birdman" is a remarkable movie. Its a continuously moving story in narrative, emotion, and camera-work. It feels like one unbroken scene, pieced together with a seemingly single shot. We're situated more like an observer than an audience, peering over shoulders and watching a man's life falling apart piece by piece. More European in style than American, it's still intangibly Hollywood. The highlight is the performances, you can't walk away without remembering them. It's all really unique, almost a little absurdist at times, but definitely worth your time. High in the pecking order.
Everlasting MomentsAnne Murphy
In a time of social change and unrest, a young working class woman wins a camera in a lottery.
"Everlasting Moments" is a captivating drama set at the turn of 20th century and told from the perspective of a woman of modest means. Beautifully captured by the camera, and produced in sepia tones, the movie is burnished with a historic patina. The central relationship is acutely observed as years pass, a wife beleaguered by her domestic situation and her oafish husband. Themes of resilience and acceptance are sympathetically related rather than viewed through a romantic lens. Lasting impressions.
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.
35 Shots of RumWendy Slevison
The relationship between a father and daughter is complicated by the arrival of a handsome young man.
This is a beautifully fluid, soulful film full of quiet observations about the journeys we take towards change. Simplicity and complexity are subtly juxtaposed, just as in 'real' life. Relationships and facts are hazy, crediting the viewer with enough intelligence to come to their own conclusions... often a rarity in movies these days. The intriguing character studies, together with the haunting musical score and delicate metaphors, make these "35 Shots of Rum" rich, warm, and easy to ingest.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Blue JasmineAnne Murphy
A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister.
This is a global financial crisis aftermath movie, where we are drawn to watching those who had it all, and their lives after the loss of that excess. How do you keep it together when your life comes apart? "Blue Jasmine" exposes a taut human fragility through its characters, family, lovers and strangers. Our simplicity is in full view along with our complexity and a confounding ability to see ourselves as we imagine we are. Sharp, dark and smart, in hues of blue.
Arthur ChristmasWendy Slevison
On Christmas night, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for a mission.
"How DOES Santa deliver ALL those presents in one night?" Well, here is the answer, in this charming and engaging addition to the Christmas movie genre. Santa's family are just like any other family, so it seems, with their squabbles and power struggles. Ultimately the job must get done though, and despite some quirky yet substantial obstacles on this particular Christmas Eve, it eventually does. With voice work provided by a quite dazzling array of well-known actors, this delightful romp is guaranteed to imbue Christmas spirit into even the most cynical of viewers. Merry Christmas!
True GritAndrew O'Dea
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.
"True Grit" is a film that holds the idea of a classic western in high reverence. The spectacular cinematography is a highlight in this story of retribution, and the directors' hands are clearly present; the storyline contains all the wit, deadpan humour and fleeting moments of brutality that one has come to expect from them. Although some may be dismayed at the tonal slur that is the dialogue, the language is drawling yet authentic, and we revel in the interplay between the leads, each impeccable in their roles. Gritty n' good.
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.