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Dallas Buyers ClubAnne Murphy
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
Central to the "Dallas Buyers Club" is an unusually gritty yet true journey of transformation. The hero is larger than life, a confronting combination of crass profanity and homophobia. It is said that fact is stranger than fiction, and this man's ferocious desperation for life could not have been invented. It's befitting that the lead performances are nothing short of transfixing, making this is one helluva story about tragedy and triumph. Bigger than Texas.
Tomorrow, When the War BeganAnne Murphy
When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight unlikely high school teenagers band together to fight.
If a hostile invasion were to occur it might play out just as it does in "Tomorrow, When the War Began". Action laden exploits are built on a gripping premise that stays just within the bounds of credibility. The interaction between the affable teenage characters is laden with coming of age insecurity as they try to work out what's happening and what to do. Tension is palpable as bewilderment develops into determination to survive. The gang rallies and the adventure begins...
13 AssassinsAndrew O'Dea
In feudal Japan, a group of Samurai assassins come together on a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.
This period action flick is a tale of vengeance and honour, combining 'old-school' Japanese heroics with genuinely poetic sentiment. The story and electricity builds slowly as we're introduced to the '13', before exploding into one of the greatest extended battle sequences of all time. Blood flows, limbs fly, and heads roll in what is quite simply a ballet of brutality. Yet the film still carries direction and purpose behind the gore, through the nobility of our heroes' cause. A near-flawless, classic Samurai movie. Both incredibly stylish and graphically violent, "13 Assassins" never misses its mark.
The WrestlerAnthony Macali
A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit.
In a movie about wrestling, it's only fitting that the acting in this film is superb. "The Wrestler" explores what a human being is capable of, and then what they do. It's this no holds barred honesty that makes this film spectacular. As the camera follows Randy "The Ram" onto the stage of his life, he bears all to his fans, and the audience, in a wonderfully poignant performance. If wrestling is all about acting, then this film is the teaching manual.
Burning ManAnne Murphy
An English chef with a restaurant on Bondi Beach is trying to put his life and his relationship with his son back on track.
"Burning Man" is a pastiche of scenes that don't follow a sequential time-line but nonetheless build into a sorrowful narrative. Forget chronological sequencing, this is a compelling portrayal of grief, a time when events don't evolve in a linear sequence, and emotion reigns. It's just in time for the audience that the jigsaw of memories piece together and the emotional impact of the story is felt, packing a punch. Tears will quench the flames.
Bilal, a 17 year old Kurdish boy from Iraq sets off to England to see his love who lives there.
"Welcome" is an authentic exploration of a divisive social issue of our time. The device of narrowing the focus from exiles and asylum seekers to one man allows sensitivity to infiltrate the story, and attitudes of caring emerge from unlikely sources. The movie is grounded with a heartbreaking love story at the core. Strong performances hold the production together, keeping it from showing undue concern in a bleeding heart fashion. Always welcome are extraordinary, powerfully emotional, and well directed films about unwelcome immigrants.
Black SwanStefan Bugryn
A young ballerina struggles to keep her sanity as she prepares for the lead role in 'Swan Lake'.
Walking into this movie is like going on a ride in a theme park. Your emotions are ripped from your chest and thrown around like a rag doll as you get dragged through this beautifully depressing story. It is emotionally intense, and will stir up a lot of sensations deep in the heart of many audiences. A warning; some scenes will make the squirmish writhe in their seats, as it can be very confronting. However, it is an absolute triumph in every single aspect. Only the truly stilted will walk away unmoved.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
The Science of SleepAnthony Macali
Stéphane works in a boring calendar job. He's only joy lies in his infatuation with his neighbour Stéphanie, where their relationship blossoms in his imagination and dreams.
The dream sequences are magical, a collage of intricate cardboard cut-outs, floating cotton clouds, and swimming through the sky. The lovable Stéphane escapes from his mundane life interweaving reality and imagination, a vague existence that eventually overwhelms and restrains him. It shows to live the life we want, we must craft our reality and not our fantasy.
A teenage loner, who wears pyjamas to school, is befriended by the slightly oddball Vice Principal.
Perhaps the only thing more difficult than being a high-school teenager is being a teenage misfit at high school. "Terri" is an unexpectedly endearing movie, thanks to the understated but oversized performance of the protagonist and the big hearted, if crazed, turn by the Vice Principal. The honesty embedded into the portrayals of all of the characters contributes to making this disarming film an original gem. The director's eye allows for scenes as bruising as they are amusing without trading sensitivity for laughs. Go Terri.
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...
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.
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 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.
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.