The story of an aging couple who are crippled by the devastating effects of a stroke.
"Amour" acts like a claustrophobic, tightening grip that doesn't let you breathe until the credits roll, and is certainly an uncomfortable movie to watch. Just as one of the visiting characters states, "...I had a beautiful and sad moment with you", which is exactly what this experience feels like; an observational look at a couple's silent yet divinely emotional demise into old age. The discreet moments and absence of music can be deafening, adding to the overall and ever-increasing sense of tension and sadness. Lots of tough love for the audience.
As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
Without a preceding interest in the subject matter, "Lincoln" may struggle to win your vote. The historic period is recounted in splendid detail. Fine visuals don't aid the understanding of this important, turgid story that features a lot of bearded men arguing in dark rooms. Despite a remarkable and benevolent performance from the President, interest wanes as the long running-time draws out. Unlikely to please the majority.
Anna KareninaAnne Murphy
Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
The sets and staging in this rendition of "Anna Karenina" are impressive, and a glow of opulence illuminates the screen. A theatre stage is used as a creative device that achieves both a contemporary feel and an historic authenticity to the mood of the production, while the dance scenes alone will ignite passions. The grand and daring love affair soars at the centre of the saga, and thankfully questions on morality and society from the original text are preserved. To die for...
A provocative exploration of female sexuality, as a well-off Parisian journalist investigates the lives of two student prostitutes for a magazine article.
This is a film that doesn't impose moralistic judgements about the sexual proclivities of the characters, but leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. Unfortunately, not being more definitive about where 'right and wrong' lines should be drawn is something the movie will probably be judged for. The protagonists' approach is one of openness and accepting of the 'other' in herself, rather than determining to somehow be above her interview subjects. Bold feminist film-making.
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Knowing the events on the screen are based on real crimes provides a chill of disbelief for audiences as the scenario unfolds over a day. "Compliance" is a psychological deliberation on rank or authority and power, but mostly is a study of oppression. It is impossible to watch without thinking what you would have done in the same situation, and as much as it is tempting to dismiss people's actions as "only in America", sadly the same could happen anywhere. Deeply disturbing.
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.
An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
"Flight" begins with one of the most exhilarating cockpit sequences you will ever see, and never lets up. This tale centers on the pilot, riddled with a substance addiction, and the morality that surrounds his heroic endeavour. It's an investigation that generates further intrigue and suspense as it travels along, despite the odd scene that undermines its gravity. A truly riveting story and performance from the lead. Strap yourself in.
Silver Linings PlaybookAnne Murphy
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
From the beginning to the triumphant (if predictable) end, "Silver Linings Playbook" is funny and enjoyable, and has the audience wanting good outcomes in the complicated lives of the irresistible characters. The strong cast bring the story to life with a jangling frankness. Performances are quirky and comedic, rather than screw-ball hilarious, which endows a sense of realism and balance given that the movie dares to dance with themes of mental wellness. Happy to play along.
The ImpossibleStefan Bugryn
A family is caught in the horror of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
Whilst the production values and direction are both amazing, bringing the seemingly 'un-filmable' to life, they are a little inconsistent. There are some stagey and clichéd moments that will make you cringe momentarily, and the ending is somewhat predictable. Negatives aside, within the patchiness, there are some truly moving sequences. It's hard not to get swept away by the aching melodrama and jaw dropping realism. The tale is truly incredible, and one that is told in an impressive manner overall. Not impossible to enjoy.
Django UnchainedAndrew O'Dea
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Unbridled violence is unleashed in this Spaghetti Western, teetering between comedy and gore. The profanity and blood flow in a celebration of excess, belying the film's racial consciousness and intelligent commentary on a dark period in American history. Although undermined by elements of self-indulgence, the director also brings to "Django Unchained" a trademark penchant for witty dialogue, sharp storytelling and sublime style. Unshackled and foolishly fun.
Gangster SquadAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s.
"Gangster Squad" investigates a time when the most effective way to combat violence was with more violence. The characters are menacing and hard-edged, although this strangely conflicts with the polished look of the film, clearly used to instil a sense of nostalgia for the era. The production is a little too clean and manufactured for the subject matter, robbing the story of the momentous and emotional impact it could have achieved. A talented squad do their best, and excite for the most part, but fail to captivate overall. Plastic gangsters.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
Life of PiAnthony Macali
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
"Life of Pi" charts an amazing story of survival, feats of courage and countless horizons. There are plenty of opportunities to gaze at majestic visuals, from exotic animals to the colours of the sea, enriched with dream-like sequences that grant the freedom to push the artistic boundaries, 3D and all. The film's biggest struggle is the amount of time spent on a life-boat, reaching a point to drive its audience sea-sick. A far from thrilling, yet nonetheless beautiful adventure.
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.