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 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.
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.
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.
The Skin I Live InAnne Murphy
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin.
The narrative of "The Skin I Live In" is as intriguing as it is twisted, central to the plot is a contemporary and perverse Frankenstein character. This is an ethically challenging story of an obsessive patriarch, sinister gender control is stirred with psychological intrigue to create a morally unsettling but memorable movie. The nightmarish elements are balanced by the visually sophisticated and vibrant tone presented on screen. Your skin may crawl, but an imprint is left getting right under the skin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
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.
The Woman in the FifthAnne Murphy
American writer Tom Ricks comes to Paris desperate to put his life together again and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter.
The actor's performances are very good, the cinematography is considered, and dramatic tension is maintained throughout. Audiences will still wonder what happened when the plot is unfolded and will want to decipher what looks like an allegorical representation of the psyche of a writer. This movie will instigate discussions to determine how to explain the outcome. There are no tidy conclusions, and the story will linger beyond first viewing and into the fifth.
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.
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.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare...
"Lebanon" is a gripping ride. Shot almost exclusively from the tight confines of a rumbling tank, this movie is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking. The tension and intensity is palpable, as the film bears witness to the horrors of war, and we're left gasping for breath from the grimy, claustrophobic atmosphere. The antiwar sentiment is clear, with enough gritty action to match its political, religious and philosophical messages. Shell-shockingly good.
Nameless Gangster: Rules of the TimeStefan Bugryn
A customs official teams up with a vicious gangster to create the most powerful crime partnership.
A story like this always remains timeless. It is a classic tale of loyalty and betrayal within the confines of the Korean crime underworld. The film is so smartly pieced together, you will forgive it for relaying too much information too quickly. Look away for barely a second and you might find yourself struggling to keep up… pay attention, and you will be rewarded generously. Everything about this movie is just so cool; from the upbeat music, crazy Korean fashion and hairdos, to the amazing storytelling. You can name this one - awesome!
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.
Accidents HappenAnne Murphy
Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mum, distant brother, and stoic dad.
Stories of tragedy that are constructed with humour, albeit dark or black humour, reflect life a little as we tend to live it, when hanging on and trying to cope. "Accidents Happen" shows how strong the bonds of family can be, how tough and at the same time how vulnerable family members are. The film is carefully crafted to evoke an earlier era and the audience is transported to a typical suburb somewhere where mishaps are the norm. Be warned, as the emotional punch packed by this movie happens to be no accident.
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.
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.
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 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.
Zero Dark ThirtyAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful thriller that isn't driven by an ideology or political agenda. The film serves as a dramatised yet convincing chronicle about the hunt for the world's most wanted man, made all the more authentic by an exceptionally superb cast, leads and cameos alike. While it maintains momentum with an almost clinical focus, the tension builds to a riveting finale; and even though the ending might be a foregone conclusion, the night-time incursion where they "get their man" is as exhilarating and gripping as the complex story itself. A confirmed thrill.
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.
Quiet ChaosAnne Murphy
A look at the strange bereavement behavior of an Italian executive.
The portrayal of loss in this film evokes W.H. Auden's poem that opens with the line "Stop all the clocks...". Everything is changed and pared back to essentials by an unexpected death. The everyday world continues on around the slowing of the central characters, drawing empathetic viewers into this well told tale. The movie is a subdued but sure-footed meditation on grieving as lives and priorities are reassessed. More contemplative than chaotic, and recommended for its heartfelt quiet.