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.
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.
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.
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 IntouchablesStefan Bugryn
The true story of a quadriplegic aristocrat who forms an unlikely friendship with a young man.
"The Intouchables" could very well have been a cliché ridden odd-couplestinker, but instead, proves to be an amazingly touching experience. The loveable characters manage to make light of a hard situation with ease, avoiding cheesy sentimentality by delivering one of the most genuine friendships in modern cinema. The storyline is so charmingly simple, with much of the beauty derived from the fact that you find yourself laughing along with them in an otherwise depressing situation. Topped off with a mesmerising piano score, this one can't be ignored.
The Blind SideAnne Murphy
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
"The Blind Side" has quite a plot, all true, all fairy-tale and all feel-good. With a remarkable story to tell, the film is not unnecessarily cheapened by sentiment. It is related in a down to earth manner that could be described as understated, marred only by the cloying musical score which is definitely overplayed. This pragmatic movie is delivered with faultless performances from the cast, and it is surprisingly moving to watch. Be blindsided.
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.
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.
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.
A powerful billionaire goes to desperate measures to sell his crumbling empire and keep his secrets.
This film will leave you pondering just how many stories like this happen in real life. Many, no doubt. The lead actor, though probably not deserving of any awards, will convince you it does. He is a smooth operating anti-hero that keeps up appearances to keep out of jail. It is electric, intense, startling and thoroughly enjoyable. It's slick in every way, both in production values and storytelling. The unusual way it ends, may disappoint some, but a good script is one with surprises, and there will definitely be those who will enjoy it.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Holding the ManAnne Murphy
The attraction between John and Tim started in High School in the 70s their relationship lasted for over 15 years until John's death due to HIV/AIDS.
The only not quite believable piece in this poignant and earnest story of star-crossed lovers is watching the central actors playing high school boys. They’re adults dressed as boys, and sadly they look it. Apart from this misstep the love story is compelling for the way the relationship endures, especially against the odds. Tissues are recommended, as this powerful movie will have a lasting impact on any beating heart. Never let go.
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.
You'll Miss MeAnne Murphy
The lives of six people converge briefly at an airport, where arrivals and departures are the norm.
"You'll Miss Me" is composed of a delightful series of vignettes that deftly intersect and overlap, exploring loves lost and found. The movie delves into the emotions of people with vastly different lives, the laughs laced with feelings. The production has a warm hearted feel, perhaps only possible because it's French - it's certainly not as theatrical as the English ensemble pieces it is so reminiscent of. Try not to miss this one.
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.
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!
Salmon Fishing in the YemenWendy Slevison
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realise a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a film that's as original as its title. Adapted from the novel of the same name, it is a refreshingly imaginative and appealing cross-cultural narrative featuring warmly authentic performances from an extremely likeable cast. Humorously juxtaposing the frenzy of politicians clamouring for public approval against the solitude and grace of fly-fishing, this movie takes you on an improbable but decidedly pleasurable journey that's well worth the fare.
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.
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlAnne Murphy
Greg, a high school kid, and his film making side-kick Earl are pressured by Greg's mum into befriending a girl at school who has been diagnosed with leukaemia.
This isn't the first time a romance has centered on a girl with a terminal illness, but "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a rare movie, which confronts the situation head on with refreshing honesty, and lets the characters live without being overshadowed by their doomed relationship. The title gives it away, the story has a sense of humour and a sharp wit, balancing the inevitable heartrending scenes. Lively, until the end.
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
"Frost/Nixon" is an intelligent and provocative political drama. The film's strength lies in dialogue that is witty and engaging, delivered by superlative performances from the two leads. Frost and Nixon are combatants slugging out a verbal war, gaining ascendancy only to be countered. Their battle of wills generates cinema that is completely engrossing. Who'd have thought that two men sitting down and talking to each other could be so entertaining?
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.