Liberal ArtsAnthony Macali
When 30-something Jesse returns to college for a professor's retirement party, he meets Zibby, a young student.
"Liberal Arts" is an unassuming study of growing up, exploring the many fears and regrets that come with growing older. For most the part, the film is set within the grounds of a college, bringing with it a loaded sense of nostalgia. The quiet setting steers all the focus on loveable pair at the centre of the film, allowing them to share their stories at their own pace. Conversations are funny, charming and sure to resonate with our own. A delightful relationship to reflect on life.
Trouble with the CurveAnthony Macali
An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip.
Don't expect too much baseball in "Trouble with the Curve". Instead, this offering plays more like one of those 'father-daughter relationship' movies. The father, grumpy and old, is stuck in his ways, spending most of his time grumbling and moaning while watching the game he loves. His daughter, a lawyer, is busy, career driven and resentful. The performances are heartfelt, but sadly the film is a little dull, and ties all the loose ends ever so neatly. No curve balls here, this story is predictable as can be... better picks out there.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Chronicle of My MotherAnne Murphy
A writer harbours a lifetime of bitter resentment towards his mother for abandoning him after the war.
Based on an autobiographical fiction novel "Chronicles of My Mother", this is a family saga that spans 15 years. The story is rendered in subdued tones, as fits the nature of the central character and his family. An affecting thread that spans the story is the decline of the matriarch into dementia; and the responses to her state are emotional but restrained, rather than emotive or expressive. Death and loss are prominent themes that weigh the pace as life slowly ticks on.
The Wings of the KirinAnne Murphy
Detective Kaga Kyoichiro investigates when a man's body is found under the statue of the Kirin on Nihonbashi bridge under strange circumstances.
This is a classic murder mystery that gets more mysterious as the story progresses. The script is taken from a series of Japanese detective novels, and for the most part it's a well structured story, but when translating from book to screen the retention of the many sub-plots appear to weigh the movie down with complexity. At the same time it is the nuances of the story that hold interest despite the measured pace and lack of action scenes. A kirin has wings but doesn't fly.
The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnne Murphy
An introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Loners know that adolescence is a time of alienation. While nobody wants to be like everybody else, shyness is a disability, and we tend to have a biting need for friendship and belonging. The director demonstrates remarkable sensitivity in showing the agony of awkward social situations and largely avoiding cliché. The central characters are entrancing as they navigate their lives with quirky individualism, and they're interesting and real. Tissues are recommended for this piercing movie that is as troubling as it is vivacious. It gets better, wallflowers.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2Anthony Macali
After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi.
The immortal franchise has come to an end, with "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" proving they really didn't need to split the last chapter. Picking up from where previous film finished, the going is slow. Thankfully, the vampires of the world come to hand, showcasing their special powers and effectively covering the thin plot. Despite such adversity, the journey eventually gets wrapped up rather neatly, and it's a stirring goodbye. Finally the light goes out on a saga to be cherished... and now forgotten.
Robot & FrankAndrew O'Dea
Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift: a robot butler programmed to look after him.
Both odd and intriguing, "Robot & Frank" is an intelligent, heartfelt meditation on aging and family. The familiar story may border on over-sentimentality at times, but an assured direction keeps it restrained, and the result is a quietly hilarious, quirky little film. Smart and sweet, its magnetism is driven by a brilliantly understated performance from the lead, whose on-screen chemistry with his robot companion provides much of the gentle humour and profound moments. There's nothing at all robotic about this one.
The Angel's ShareAnthony Macali
New Dad Robbie vows to turn his life around after narrowly missing jail.
"The Angel's Share" features the most unlikely of heroes, a band of drop-outs reluctantly serving their community hours and looking for a way out. Their solution lies in the bottle, but not how you might think, as a visit to the distillery makes a connoisseur of some and introduces the audience to the curious world of whiskey collectors. It may take awhile, but to the film's accomplishment, you start to root for the crims, drawing laughs from their haphazard excursions, not-so-smart decisions and odd relationships. They're certainly no angels, but you'll still want them to win.
The SessionsAnne Murphy
A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.
"The Sessions" is a surprisingly warm and funny film. The story is based in reality and the movie follows one thread of the incredible life of an accomplished and disabled man. Each session is a business transaction, yet even so the sex scenes are intimate, awkward, and explicit as well as tender. There is something remarkable about the man, his condition and the way he tackles life, love and relationships that makes compelling viewing. Strictly business?
Seven PsychopathsAnne Murphy
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu.
You might imagine a movie about seven psychopaths may feature too many deranged killers but in this film the number is just right. With a Hollywood backdrop, quirky script, aggressive all-star cast and numerous acts of murderous violence, the on-screen experience is both viciously funny and hilariously cruel. Some of the jibes delivered by the callous hit men are thoughtlessly unfunny, but are then diluted by the witty development and delivery of the rest of the story. Count them.
The MasterStefan Bugryn
In 50's America, a lost soul floats through life after WWII, falling under the charm of a cult leader.
Despite the ongoing sense of anticipation, there was little in the way of 'big' moments throughout this extended 'bro-mance'. At times, you can't help but feel a little lost with where the story is heading, or exactly what it's trying to achieve. However, what saves it are the stellar performances from both leads, as well as the luscious production values and direction. The score, which really makes the pace of the story feel energised, is mesmerising. It all looks and sounds great, but feels a little lacklustre. Not a master, but perhaps its apprentice.
End of WatchAnne Murphy
Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
If you hear that "End of Watch" is a cop-buddy movie don't be misled; this riveting and intense drama is much more than that. It's a film that is so good it transcends the simple genre classification, so edgy that it redefines police-buddy movies. Although the pace is fast space is made for a rarely witnessed humanness in uniform, with a friendship that goes beyond mere allegiance. Keep watching.
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.
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
"Argo" captures your attention from start to finish. If you're not familiar with the political context, don't stress, as the brilliant opening sequence will give you all the background you need. Once up to speed, you can fully appreciate the treacherous and volatile situation of the time, made even more unbelievable by its grounding in a true story. The ensemble cast is brilliant, doing their best to prolong the exciting suspense and tension throughout. The result is universally good. Ar, go watch it.
Neighbouring SoundsTom Jones
Life in a middle-class neighborhood in present day Recife, Brazil, takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of an independent private security firm.
In Brazil, Moses must've had nine commandments. Love thy neighbour, clearly the exception. In this place even your own family can't be trusted to rip you off, or in one case, rip your hair out. This unique film provides a window, albeit barred and wired with security, to a world where the threat of violence is a constant and where silence is not golden, but met with fear. Cleverly shot, with an incredible soundtrack, it's a trip worth taking.
Dead EuropeTom Jones
A photographer transporting his father's ashes learns of something sinister from his family's past.
Despite compelling performances and powerful depictions of Europe, it is hard to ignore some very lazy script development. The central conflict, which successfully sustains intrigue for most of the film, is resolved in the most underwhelming way; a character is literally introduced to provide all the answers. How this character knows everything is never addressed and the central character’s response is even more ridiculous. You just found out some of your relatives committed atrocities, any questions? Apparently not.
One day in Athens, during which six people's lives are being crossed by one and another.
Three stories intersect on a hot oppressive day in a city plagued by power outages. Violence, boredom, and despair are the themes in "Tungsten", which is so virile it almost swaggers on the screen and could almost be subtitled 'testosterone'. Although a macho narrative, the masculinity is central to the movie rather than detracting from it. The film is artistically shot and the simmering anger is amplified by the use of black and white on the screen. Heavy metal.
A playwright whose marriage and career are in a free fall has an explosive run-in with his former neighbour, a right-wing ex-con.
"Collaborator" is an intelligent movie with a slow fuse, the tension builds just a little more with almost every sentence spoken. This is a surprisingly gripping movie, as for the most part, the modest production is set in a lounge room. The familiar setting is loaded with socio-political comment as two estranged neighbours reflect on their shambolic lives. There are observations about relationships, growing up and thwarted ambition, leaving audiences much to think about. Guilty by association...
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.
The WordsAnne Murphy
A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man's work.
"The Words" is a story about a story within a story. With a great cast and the main characters playing authors it's ironic that what this film lacks is script development. Ambitious in scope, it lacks depth and ultimately contains insufficient intrigue to hold interest and it comes across as contrived. There's a melodramatic build to a final twist or surprise, and then the surprise is that there is no surprise; an anti-climax. Writers block?
Shadow DancerAnthony Macali
Set in 1990s Belfast, an active member of the IRA becomes an informant for MI5.
"Shadow Dancer" is the intriguing story of Colette, mother to a son, sister to her passionate IRA brothers, and reluctant spy for the police. The story unveils the struggle on both sides of the war, drawing tension from the faction politics and exquisitely shot surroundings shrouded in mist. You can see the inner conflict etched on their faces, which are impressive to watch, but the rest of the film requires a certain patience. Without being close to the subject matter, it is easy to lose interest by the end. A fire that burns very slow.
A bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and authorities who want a cut of their profits.
"Lawless" is steeped in dirt and bloody vengeance, painting a grim and violent picture amongst what is a distinct and evocative recreation of depression-era America. Masterfully crafted and beautifully filmed, it's the style and attention to detail that coerces us to overlook the minor storytelling flaws that hold it back from being a potential classic. Performances from the leads as well as terrific ensemble cast are terrific, underpinned by a sublime 'hillbilly' score. Uncomfortable and unsettling, this entertaining jar o' moonshine kicks like a mule.
Taken 2Andrew O'Dea
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
"Taken 2" is a classic action-film guilty pleasure. Our hero gallivants around Istanbul destroying Albanian bad-guys like a grenade thrown amongst a cluster of defenceless pigeons – without mercy – and to the point of almost being comical. The plot holes pile as high as the body count, and if you expect anything remotely more than bullets, karate-chops and explosions then you will be sorely disappointed. If that's the sort of thing you're after... then get taken... again.
On the RoadStefan Bugryn
Two aspiring young writers continuously take off across America to find 'it', and themselves.
"On the Road" effortlessly embodies the universal free spirit, and will tap into the inner adventurer in many people. The scripting is very literary, and it feels like it has been written more as a novel rather than a screenplay. The characters talk in an almost Shakespearean dialogue, and embody a Greek philosophical mindset. Their relationship with each other, and themselves, is very fleeting and empty, but thankfully, the gas tank is always full, and it’s interesting to sit in the passenger seat of their drug-fuelled ride across America.