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.
A powerful billionaire goes to desperate measures to sell his crumbling empire and keep his secrets.
This film will leave you pondering just how many stories like this happen in real life. Many, no doubt. The lead actor, though probably not deserving of any awards, will convince you it does. He is a smooth operating anti-hero that keeps up appearances to keep out of jail. It is electric, intense, startling and thoroughly enjoyable. It's slick in every way, both in production values and storytelling. The unusual way it ends, may disappoint some, but a good script is one with surprises, and there will definitely be those who will enjoy it.
Monsieur LazharAnne Murphy
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
While presented as a simple tale, "Monsieur Lazhar" navigates complex social issues; and the phrase 'deceptively simple' is fitting. Themes of loss and grief are explored within a classroom setting by focusing on teacher and pupil relationships. The result is a tender and moving storyline given life by an excellent cast. It is a pleasure to watch serious subjects played out with a deft touch that neither preaches nor moralises. Bring an apple for this extraordinary teacher.
Your Sister's SisterTom Jones
Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack's drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris' sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.
'Written and directed by…' is the first credit. Ironic considering this film seems to be stripped of all script and direction. Applying their craft in the purest form, the cast improvise each scene and create a compelling and honest story of love and relationships. This style may turn some off. The dialogue and scenes lack the structure we are more accustomed to. But, like a woman removing all make-up, at first it may seem different, but its true beauty lies beneath.
Damsels in DistressAnne Murphy
A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.
A term often used to describe indie films is 'off-beat', and it's a phrase that perfectly fits "Damsels in Distress". The dialogue delivered by the earnest characters is witty and sparkling, but the plot is a little sluggish by comparison. 'Odd-ball' is another description that springs to mind, and this movie is original if a little bewildering, as it doesn't lead anywhere. No distress, but try precocious, awkward, or delightful damsels.
Chinese Take-AwayAnne Murphy
In Buenos Aires, the bitter and methodic Roberto is a lonely man and the owner of a hardware store.
Don’t be misled by the title, "Chinese Take-Away" is original cinema fare. The characters are human to a fault, simple and uncomplicated. They stumble through day-to-day trying to get through some extraordinary and unexpected circumstances. That is the charm of this movie, perfectly balancing between the everyday-ordinary and the synchronistic and inexplicable. The result is quirky and beguiling, and it's simply delightful to watch the story unfold without being able to predict the direction or outcome. Recommend you eat in.
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.
The Devil's DoubleAnthony Macali
A chilling vision of the house of Saddam Hussein comes to life through the eyes of the man who was forced to become the double of Hussein's sadistic son.
Loosely based on a true story, "The Devil's Double" offers a disturbing insight into the life of a very sick individual. Imagine a man with everything at his disposal and a perchance for fast cars, designer labels and women, acquiring them whenever, and with whatever means, he wants. This glimpse into his rich and lavish life is both captivating and startling. It becomes very clear this is a man who does not belong in this world, and his portrayal is just as astonishing as the story itself. To hell and back.
Holy MotorsStefan Bugryn
The mysterious Monsieur Oscar spends a day vaulting from one persona to the next…
Be warned: this surrealist fantasia is one hell of a challenge. Like an abstract painting, precious little is explained, and almost everything is open to interpretation. More questions are raised than answered, which will no doubt instigate discussion and arguments after viewing. Sadly, the majority of those questions are just plain pretentious, self indulgent, and weird. It will confound, confuse, shock, tease, frustrate, and ultimately, divide the audience. If it doesn't captivate you, it will simply disgust you. But that's the beauty of cinema, right? Well, not for everyone.
Hope SpringsAnne Murphy
A middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counselling session to repair their relationship.
The calibre of the acting brings authenticity to the predicament of a couple married so long that they're companions rather than woman and husband. Audiences will empathise with experiences of the central couple in their therapist's office. While noted as a comedy, "Hope Springs" is not played for laughs, although it is quite humourous. This is a film about the loss of romance/losing romance, then striving for what you want, and making love. Hope actually bounces right off the screen and into your heart.
A Telecom Company is troubled by a number of mishaps to its network and employees.
The story of "Flicker" is set in a conventional office, pale and dull and host to a number of workers with peculiar problems. Many are unmotivated or sad, but all of them granted small quirks to make the film that little more amusing. Surprisingly these nuances aren't the problem, as we share a certain empathy in relation to these well-developed characters. The issue is how it all fits into the big picture, and the continual jumps in the narrative becomes frustrating and lacks any real connection (aside from the common employer they share). Not as bright as you might think.
In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she's alive.
Bernie is just like that 'uncle' you suspect is using his goodness to suppress a dirty secret or fetish. You can't help but like him, but at the same time you're wondering if he's wearing lingerie under his suit. This mockumentary style tale is as much about the unlikeliest of friendships, as it is about the inhabitants of the deep south and their strict moral code. It’s their commentary as the events unfold that provide much of the comedy. So entertain'n you could butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Caesar Must DieStefan Bugryn
Inmates of an Italian prison rehearse a performance of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'.
The line between reality and fiction are blurred here, where prisoners are acting in a script within a script, and follow the play in and out of real life. The whole film is a novel concept, but it doesn't work perfectly. It has its moments, but the fact that you aren't invited to care about any of the characters doesn't help its cause. Like the prisoners themselves, it tries hard to be quite important, but it's nothing too special. Watch this only if you want to experience something different.
Sound of My VoiceAndrew O'Dea
A journalist and his girlfriend get pulled in while they investigate a cult.
"Sound of My Voice" is thrilling without being a thriller. An intelligent story provides a very broad insight into some of the stranger practices of cults, ranging from lunacy to laughable. All the while though, we remain transfixed as it explores sensitive aspects of the human psyche. Some may find the lack of finality annoying, as the cryptic answers it delivers can be construed or interpreted in a number of uncertain ways. However, credit is surely due to any film that is able conjure questions and creative debate in the minds of its audience. What will you hear? The choice is yours.
The SapphiresAnne Murphy
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian indigenous women learn about love, friendship and war when they entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Based on a true story, "The Sapphires" is funny and moving, but most of all it is entertaining, a tribute to the adventurous central singing group. The cast of this crowd pleaser is strong and sassy and rarely miss a beat. Political issues of the era are captured but this movie doesn’t become mired in the campaigning for change. There is sufficient daring and activism in what the women achieve in their own lives, and they sure can sing. A gem.
Shock Head SoulAnne Murphy
In 1903 Daniel Paul Schreber published the most celebrated autobiography of madness ever written.
"Shock Head Soul" is innovative for its use of animation alongside the dramatic reconstruction of the experiences of the protagonist. Interesting documentary techniques utilise interviews and interpretations of modern-day psychiatrists that highlight the austerity of the setting through interesting image distortions. As a result, the movie is both artistic and harrowing, much like the memoir of the high court judge it is based on, an account largely written from the confines of asylum during schizophrenic episodes. Delusional or visionary?
11 FlowersStefan Bugryn
A young boy experiences the Cultural Revolution in China in a very confronting, personal way.
This is a child's point of view of a very turbulent time for China, a tale of a poor family in a small town. There is a creepy, almost ominous feeling beneath the narrative, but the whimsical playfulness of the main character and his young friends break the gloom and manage to keep the tone light for the most part. Despite the actors' very young age, their performances are actually quite commendable. The visuals, even though filtered with many bleak colours, are quite rich and powerful, and are as beautiful as a 100 flowers for the eye.
Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
The extravagant excesses and the tech-bubble of late last century are the subject "Cosmopolis". Unfortunately this is a stilted, stagey film. Apparently the original dialogue of the book this movie was adapted from has been used, but it gives the production and its monotone soliloquies a wooden feel. Maybe the best conversations will be the discussions provoked after watching the movie while sipping a cosmopolitan.