The RocketAnne Murphy
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home.
"The Rocket" plays as a crowd-pleaser, perhaps that's because the target audience is hard to define. The setting is post-war Laos and the protagonist is a child but there are scenes that might be confronting for children. The movie is pleasing, quite exhilarating, a crowd-pleaser must be a movie with such broad appeal that you enjoy it even if you don't identify as the target demographic. Not rocket science but it's a blast.
The Bling RingThomas Jones
Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes.
Anyone who admires or tries to emulate the lives of celebrities, prepare for disappointment. You'll find little inspiration here, except maybe the very cool soundtrack. This film does not glamorise, or popularise this culture, which is arguably a healthy step in the right direction. The characters have zero substance, except what they snort. They're not likable, funny, endearing, or worth pitying; their story isn't even compelling, just repetitive. Steal, party, steal, party, you get the picture.
The Best OfferAnne Murphy
A story centered on an eccentric art auctioneer and his obsession with an heiress/collector.
Movies are rarely as alluring as this mystery crime story. Not only is the clever story well told, but it's artistically portrayed on the screen, a combination that ensures it is a pleasure to watch. There's a sophisticated mix of obsession and passion; emotions often associated with art and the people who inhabit the rarified atmospheres of galleries and auction houses. The premise is intriguing enough to hold interest right up until the credits, even if you manage to anticipate the outcome. No further bidding required.
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother.
In a movie fraught with dichotomies, a mother and daughter vie for the attention mysterious uncle who is both sinister and smooth. The film is as stylish as the story is twisted. Unfortunately, the more macabre the plot becomes, the more predictable the next development is. The initially promising premise reveals itself as shallow. "Stoker" is visually stunning, almost gothic in style as is hinted at in the title, although the setting is modern day. Chilling but nothing preternatural.
Before MidnightAnne Murphy
We meet Jesse and Celine in Greece, almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on a train bound for Vienna.
The talkies were invented for the couple in this story. "Before Midnight" is a conversation first and foremost, and film is merely the medium it's recorded on. Relationships are complex and involve compromise. It's a pleasure to be privy to an intimate but seemingly everyday sort of dialogue about lives spent together and the future to come. All is achieved with a natural style and there is little feeling that what plays out is being acted out. Magical without pumpkins.
Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.
"Mud" is a hold-your-breath atmospheric thriller set down South in the US. As expected, the ol' boys are hardened characters seeking either redemption or revenge but this intense movie really belongs to the two wide-eyed young boys and their adventures in a grim adult world. While distracted by women, they are discovering what it takes to be a man and how the bonds forged between men prove more steadfast than other embittering relationships. Gritty.
Lost in the forest, a group of friends wander around in a desperate search, trying to avoid their already written story.
Without trying you may find yourself becoming part of this film, the sixth soul looking for a way out. Your vision is impaired when what you see is contained to a single lens. If you keep watching, and don't turn from the screen, the effect of these extended single shots can be surprising. You hear things, and see things - bodies, shapes, shadows. Then as the camera moves you deeper into the woods…there's nothing. It's creative, compelling, and complex. And green, it's very green.
A Gun in Each HandAnne Murphy
A series of five vignettes exploring the relationship crises of middle aged men.
This movie is a conversation starter. After watching the intimate conversations on the screen, there will much to talk about, particularly with a member of the opposite sex. "A Gun in Each Hand" is thought provoking, and we're given a fly-on-the-wall chance to witness men talking and sharing about their feelings and relationships. They are all struggling in some way and the director's slightly cynical touch is light enough that we can connect with both their desires and concerns. Straight shooters, or trying to be…
Baby BluesThomas Jones
Natalia really wanted to have a baby. Now she has got one and her extrovert seventeen-year-old life has suddenly become one big struggle.
Idiotic teenage parents should be outlawed. Prepare for your anger to intensify, as you sit incapable of doing anything, and watch the appalling parenting of an innocent child. Highly stylised, with brightly coloured scenery, and a pretty twisted euro-techno soundtrack, this film is bold in its delivery of such a grim subject. The acting at times is a bit melodramatic, but equally it works at enhancing how unlikable all the characters are. Time to saddle up, and get on your high horse.
Alberto forms an unusual friendship with Luly, the manager of the 24-hour gym where he works as a night guard.
For anyone who finds the idea of open caskets a bit nauseating, this film is like looking in one for a really long time. And instead of an embalmed body with nice clothes and make-up, imagine if it was undressed and still decomposing. This is not a horror flick in the 'who's behind the door' kind of way, but its real-life quality makes it so disturbing and quite hard to watch. Not suitable for children, or anyone having a good day.
Satellite BoyThomas Jones
Pete lives with his grandfather in an old, abandoned outdoor cinema in the desert. When the old drive-in is threatened with demolition, ten year old Pete takes off to the city to save his home.
This film effectively handles the topical issues of mining and land rights, capturing a real innocence on the matter. The way the young Aboriginal boys use the land and the way miners use the land are opposed, the dynamic played out without blatantly plugging any political agenda. With picture-postcard cinematography throughout, the audience can enjoy the story for what it is, as a platform for discussion, or as inspiration for your next getaway. Walkabout anyone?
In the HouseAnne Murphy
A sixteen-year-old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher.
"In the House" cleverly and deliberately blurs the line between fact and fiction. As the plot develops, we are left to ponder what game is being played. This is a clever movie where the audience could feel as manipulated as any of the characters; is there a disquieting undertone of malevolence or was it imagined? After all, this is a witty story about story-telling and it is a good story well told. Inside, outside, and upside down.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...
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.
A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.
"Snitch" seizes upon the value of a 'based on true events' premise and tells the story of an amiable father who throws himself into the most dangerous of situations. Trying to win the trust of shady drug lords isn't easy, creating an atmosphere loaded with suspense. It quickly becomes apparent that our wishful hero is out of his depth, and the film is successful enough in its character portrayals that we actually care. Each move may be predictable, but the ride is enjoyable enough. Dobbed in.
A Lisbon woman seeks out a man who has a secret connection to her neighbour’s past life on a farm by Mount Tabu in Africa.
The film-maker's craft is skillfully realised in stunning black and white, and "Tabu" is visually rewarding. Innovative audio techniques leave the telling of the background story to a narrator with a flat style that eventually weighs down interest. The real let down is a plot that lacks depth. The movie is not redeemed by its symbolism... a crocodile obviously warns of lurking danger. Ironically it's the very same reptile that remains the only snappy thing about this film. Not fabu(lous).
An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
"Trance" is a demonstration in the odd behaviours associated with art, hypnosis and love. What starts as an apparent heist film quickly transitions into a psychological thriller, challenging the audience to discover the truth. With each chapter, the story introduces new pieces of the puzzle and dissecting each revelation delivers a sense of accomplishment. Driven by a great cast of ensnaring characters, the only frustrating memory might be a plot-twist too many. A riveting piece missing perfection.
Shores of HopeAnne Murphy
Two friends working on the docks in East Germany in the 1980’s make plans to defect to the west.
Friendship, conscience, and politics from the last century make an engaging story, especially as everybody is plotting against somebody. The Stasi, the secret police, are portrayed as bumbling and brutal. It's alarming and intriguing to experience a world where betrayal is rewarded and nobody can be trusted. There is an austerity of style presented on-screen that lends credibility to the tale, and you may just pinch yourself in order to remember this is a story, although the setting was real.
Rust and BoneAnthony Macali
Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after a horrible accident.
As the stark title suggests, "Rust and Bone" is a confronting drama. The couple at the centre of the story come with a deep past, and their lives of torment provide the unlikeliest of captivation. Through hardship, they continually find themselves turning to each other for support, and watching the development of their rambling relationship brings the greatest satisfaction. Beautifully shot and personal, this engrossing film challenges your emotions through its entirety. Strength in love.
Hyde Park on HudsonAnne Murphy
The story of the affair between FDR and his cousin Daisy Suckley, centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King of England visited New York.
The most entertaining thread of "Hyde Park on The Hudson" comes from the pronunciation of 'hot dog' by the royal couple. Disarmingly straight-faced, they consider whether to eat one. It's a small highlight in what is an otherwise lacklustre production about a philatelist president and his dowdy cousin. "How I longed for him" is typical of the narration provided, courtesy of the mooning paramour to explain what isn't apparent on the screen. The Hudson reduced to a rivulet.
A Lady in ParisAnthony Macali
Anne leaves Estonia to come to Paris and care for Frida, an elderly Estonian lady who emigrated to France long ago. Anne soon realizes that she is not wanted.
"A Lady in Paris" is a people movie with a small ensemble. The nature of the story grants our leads time to open-up, and the slow pace will not suit most. With some patience, the characters become a little more interesting as they begin to reveal the fun and frivolities of Frida's past. While the setup is rather conventional, it's the small details that set this film apart, sharing thoughtful insights into the perils of growing old and reflecting on life choices. An affair to last a lifetime.
Mt. ZionAnne Murphy
Turei's family are hard-working potato farm workers in rural New Zealand.
The town is Pukekohe and the year is 1979, it is hard to break away from family and community and young men have big dreams. "Mt Zion" is a modest movie that appeals with its simple earthy feel. You're left to wonder if we grow up too quickly and lose imagined possibilities. Subtitles are provided when a Maori dialect is spoken and there is the odd line of English dialogue that could use translation too, if you know what I mean bru. Singing songs of Zion.
North Sea TexasAnne Murphy
A teenage boy's search for love finds him fixated on the boy next door.
It's that time in life when emerging sexual desires inevitably involve the boy next door, as upsetting as that may be to his sister who also fancies the boy next door to her too. That statement about the plot, while accurate, is clumsy in comparison to the tender handling that first love receives in "North Sea Texas", a subtle and moody film. Movies in the understated style of this production often get labelled as 'little films' but there is nothing small about Texas, even when located on the Belgium coast.
Somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Komona a 14-year-old girl tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war.
The atrocities that surround a girl kidnapped by rebels when she was 12 years old are inhuman in their ruthlessness. Seen through her eyes, the story is a work of fiction but the situation is as credible as the one shown on screen. With its understated approach, "Rebelle War Witch" looks to be drawn from reality. Told from a child's perspective, the depiction of the fate of child soldiers is so plausible it's horrifying.
Thérèse DesqueyrouxAnne Murphy
The unhappily married woman struggles to break free from social pressures and her boring suburban setting.
Based on a classic French novel, "Therese Desqueyroux" is about the boredom of a life of privilege for a woman restrained within a marriage arranged by her family. The movie begins in 1926, but the theme of the suppression of self is timeless, the actions of the protagonist coldly calculated as her martial devotion wanes. Understated and restrained performances serve to highlight the banality of a life lived without passion. Is our fate within or beyond our control? Je ne regrette rien.