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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Tree of LifeAnne Murphy
The story centres around a family with three boys in the 1950s.
The on-screen experience is profound while managing to be tiresomely pretentious at the same time. "Tree of Life" takes itself a little too seriously at times, boldly exploring beginnings, creation, and dinosaurs. It is also a gentle reflection on life and the relationships of children with their parents, navigated in a non-linear manner. A dream-like quality makes easy to imagine that you're watching something akin to the replay of life that we're told happens right before death... only this version doesn't 'flash' and takes its time. A tree with a captivating soul.
Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq, wh After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin.
'Tis an ambitious undertaking to make a film with only one character and only one setting, especially when that setting is a wooden box. All involved, particularly the lead who battles the worst bureaucracy to try and survive, deserve great credit for achieving this feat in such a compelling way. The suspense is sustained brilliantly. Just when the situation looks like it couldn't get anymore dire, it does, in a most unexpected and nightmarish way. "Buried" is bold, brave and breathtaking.. literally.
Dean SpanleyWendy Slevison
Set in Edwardian England where upper lips are always stiff, a cantankerous old man and his long-suffering son begin a strange journey that eventually allows the old man to find his heart.
This is a truly original story of love, loss, and grief, populated by intelligent and disarmingly eccentric characters. The story starts slowly, but before the viewer can summon a yawn, they are drawn in, entranced, as the well-told tale unfolds - both poignant and comical at the same time. Offbeat, whimsical, moving and very funny, you'd have to be barking mad to miss it.
The ConspiratorAnthony Macali
Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
"The Conspirator" is a peculiar story of injustice, made more rewarding to those with very little knowledge of its origins. We switch sides in historic pace to Mary, and mother of the unquestionable killers. The rest of the film unfolds in an enthralling manner, cutting between the prison, court-room and flashbacks to reveal the truth as our forsaken lawyer does. The period is faithful, the soft-light irksome, and the cast stellar, best epitomized by witnessing one of the best case summaries put to screen. Poorly executed title, good film.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
The Day I Was Not BornAnne Murphy
During a stopover in Buenos Aires, Maria recognises a nursery rhyme being sung in Spanish.
The storyline of "The Day I Was Not Born" is original and disquieting. Hefty political themes are narrated through a personal lens of family and identity, and the Buenos Aries setting is perfect in capturing a city with an atmospheric sense of the recent past - it looks both foreign and familiar, balancing the disoriented characters. Sensitively told with an assured minimalism, the movie is understated and the acting is restrained, creating compelling viewing. A tale of dislocation that carries both wounds and warmth.
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.
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.
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.
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.
Dev who, after spurning Paro's love due to a misunderstanding, turns to drugs and vodka for solace.
"Dev D" is a coming-of-age film that challenges the conventional Bollywood film industry. The story is a modern take on a classic novel, and the amazing cinematorgaphy portaits beautiful rural india and shady parts of Delhi. The music is both breathtaking and bizarre as it reflects the emotional capacities, struggles, and lifesytles of young Indians caught between conservative Indian society and modern western sensibilities.
Winter SleepJan Di Pietro
A former actor runs a hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife and sister.
The Turkish landscape provides a chilling setting for this excellent drama. The script is audaciously intelligent, and demands serious investment from its audience. It's a marathon of dense dialogue that can become difficult with subtitles, but edge-of-your-seat performances will haul you through the emotional terrain and across the finish line. "Winter Sleep" addresses difficult social issues too. Poverty, health care, charity, and morality allow the director to dissect the human condition with confidence and poise. Be brave and face reality.
Mao's Last DancerWendy Slevison
Based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin, who was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet.
This movie tells an extraordinary tale of passion, sacrifice and political tug-of-war, centred in Communist China and the United States in the late 70's. With all the elements of a grand saga, this story of a modest and unassuming young man discovering his love and talent for ballet is both absorbing and incredibly moving. His fight for choice, at immense personal cost, is inspiring and unfortunately still very relevant in much of the world today.
After being abandoned for eight years in boarding school, a young teenager returns home.
"Udaan" is a narrative about a young teenager and the complex relationship he shares with his father. The story is well scripted with an amazing screenplay that portraits the association and issues between the main characters. The director has handled the subject very well, capturing situations from everyone's life and infusing the characters with realistic emotions. Situational based sound tracks and lyrics ignite your thoughts, as the film inspires you to take responsibility, follow your passion, break all boundaries and fly towards freedom.
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 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.
Ten WintersAnne Murphy
Timing is everything as friends who are drawn to each other miss opportunities to become a couple but keep connecting by chance during a decade.
Winter in Venice looks cold, the back drops are frosty, a stark contrast to the central characters who are warm and real. There is a good deal of restraint exercised, and love-lorn resignation experienced, by the friends as they fail to connect romantically over the ten year period covered by the movie. The unrequited attraction of the couple is understated and compelling to watch as each year passes and fate conspires to keep them apart. "Ten Winters" is one great story.
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...
Fish TankAnne Murphy
Everything changes for 15 year old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.
"Fish Tank" is a coming of age movie set on a rundown English council estate. The characters are filled with equal measures of frustration, anger, longing and alcohol, without means to release the pressure. The decaying situation is played out with a credibility that leaves the audience unsurprised at the outcomes but gripped by the tension. With nowhere to go but down, the mood is deliberately oppressive. The tank is grimy, and breathing underwater almost impossible, but even so we glimpse gold on the scales of these fish.
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.