The Woman in BlackAnthony Macali
A lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost terrorizing the locals.
The message is clear from "The Woman in Black". Stay away, or be haunted. A mist-laden and exquisite countryside plays host to the ghost, a town riddled with scary looking kids and impending doom. The film is at its terrifying best with the lead simply exploring the dark house of his confinement. In a time when one cannot simply turn on the lights, every creak and crack builds unbearable tension. Unfortunately this apprehension doesn't last to the end. Good old-fashioned frights.
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.
Restless CityAnne Murphy
Tells the story of an African immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle and falling in love is his greatest risk.
Senegalese immigrants who survive on the fringe of US city life are the subject of this uneven movie. Perhaps the reason for the rough on-screen presentation and crooked camera angles is to present images as the characters experience them, but it is a bumpy ride for audiences. "Restless City" can also be appreciated as bold and innovative film making, one that will divide opinion but is interesting nonetheless. Restless spirits.
Cracks in the ShellAnne Murphy
Josephine suffers from not being seen but she also does her best at not being noticed, even though she is an acting student.
It's an emotional journey from auditions and rehearsals to a performance. "Cracks in the Shell" is a movie full of emotional expression as the shy lead actor struggles to meet the expectations of her director. The young woman is pushed, and pushes herself, as she is almost consumed by her own conflicts, taking the plot beyond a coming of age movie and into the territory of a psychological drama. Raw, tough and relentless, it's little wonder cracks emerge
Café de FloreAnne Murphy
A love story between a man and woman, and a love story set four decades earlier between a mother and her son.
"Café de Flore" has two distinct threads that are separated in time and interwoven into one movie like a dream within a dream. The story is one of love and obsession and it is told with a sense of unease that builds along with anticipation about what might transpire. This movie is as engrossing as it is puzzling, with content so emotional you can't help but be drawn in and watch entranced. Book a table.
StreetDance 2Wendy Slevison
After suffering humiliation by the crew Invincible, a street dancer looks to gather the best dancers from around the world for a rematch.
If the numbers in the title of this film cause a little uncertainty, listen to that feeling, and save your money. Actually, to call this a "film" is being quite generous - it's really just a succession of dance sequences. The dancing is very good, but that's it. The plodding, formulaic plot is like an afterthought, and the dancers are appalling actors anyway. Cheap, clumsy 3D effects do nothing to enhance what is essentially a rehash of all the other dance movies of recent times. Sit this one out.
The Well Digger's DaughterAnne Murphy
A father, in pre-World War I France, is torn between his sense of honour and his deep love for his saintly daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.
A film that explores class differences, social attitudes and mores could be expected to incite ire, something "The Well Digger's Daughter" is too genteel to do. Perhaps it's due to the likeable and charming actors, the rustic French setting, old fashioned feel or simply the issues that raised eyebrows in earlier times that have less impact now. Whatever it is, all is well that ends well.
The Good NeighbourAnne Murphy
Two neighbours discover they are lonely kindred spirits until they are involved in a hit and run and events spiral out of control.
A story of a tangled web of deception that gets more convoluted and tense with each scene. The suspense builds, and although tense cinema viewing, it is not quite edge-of-the-seat viewing. As the plot twists and turns and a sense of impending doom builds, it becomes obvious things will not end well. Even so, this well crafted movie holds plot surprises to maintain interest right through to the close. Love thy neighbour.
Promising the MoonAnne Murphy
A woman with Alzheimers leaves her nursing home and wartime family secrets are uncovered.
Set in Germany and Latvia this movie traverses the past and present as well as the countries themselves. Regardless of the setting, "Promising the Moon" is an emotional drama rather than a war film, a portrait of the bonds between mothers and daughters, and wives and husbands. A story of reconciling strained family relationships is related with a depth of feeling that is absorbing, while a mystery is unfolded and the past is explained in this superior and well-acted production. Promises lead to obligations.
The Lucky OneTom Jones
A Marine travels to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.
If you start to notice more and more photos of women popping up in obscure places, this film is to blame. It gives single women hope that a man could be out there trying to find them right at this minute. Some may call it stalking, but apparently if he's incredibly good looking and has a pet dog it's not weird at all. This film ticks all women's boxes. It is romantic and sad at the same time. If this is what you're looking for, you're in luck.
Salmon Fishing in the YemenWendy Slevison
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realise a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a film that's as original as its title. Adapted from the novel of the same name, it is a refreshingly imaginative and appealing cross-cultural narrative featuring warmly authentic performances from an extremely likeable cast. Humorously juxtaposing the frenzy of politicians clamouring for public approval against the solitude and grace of fly-fishing, this movie takes you on an improbable but decidedly pleasurable journey that's well worth the fare.
The HelpAnthony Macali
An aspiring author decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work.
"The Help" is a remarkable film that tells an important tale without being heavy-handed. It succeeds in reflecting the period effortlessly, but the true brilliance is in the story-telling. All the characters have an interesting experience to share, with a common agenda to highlight the glaringly obvious injustice of the time for both maids and women alike. While it's not without some humour, this movie is essentially heartbreaking and heart-warming stuff. No assistance required to watch this one.
Margin CallAndrew O'Dea
Follows key people at a bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Greed and opportunism are rife in this ensemble drama that paints a very loose snap-shot of the foundations of capitalist society, bottled into one investment firm on the eve of a financial crisis. The story is dialogue-driven, and although it deftly ponders the volatile issue of money versus morality, it fails to really delve past the numbers, lacking the visceral punch or emotional drive to grab our attention. Some will find this film serviceable enough as financial thriller, but for those wanting a little more emotional involvement, "Margin Call" is not a wise investment.
This Must Be the PlaceAnne Murphy
A bored and retired rock star sets out to find his father's executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal.
This is a beguiling character study, thanks to the disarming performance of the lead actor. The central role is a captivating mix of unsophisticated naivety and world weariness played with sincerity. This movie, which is one man's search for self-discovery, could be plumbed meaning, and while many messages might be discovered it is better appreciated as adventurous film-making that delights with its originality. "This Must Be the Place" takes audiences to some-place else... if someone asks, this is where I'll be.
A Dangerous MethodAnne Murphy
A look at how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
"A Dangerous Method" documents the shared origins of what have become rival doctrines, following the professional friendship and falling out of the earliest proponents of 'the talking cure'. The actor's performances ensure compelling, if at times uncomfortable, viewing. The period in modern history is faithfully depicted and attention is paid to details which highlight the differences between the lifestyles and theories of kindred pioneers. Even more engrossing than the look is the dialogue; unsurprisingly the screenplay is based on a non-fiction book. No slips, Freudian or otherwise.
Mirror MirrorAnne Murphy
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
A favourite story recounted for today's audiences. The charming prince, while handsome, is more affable than heroic and it's the beautiful princess who achieves her own victories. The story retains all of its original elements and is retold with a fabulous sense of humour and spellbinding magic. "Mirror Mirror" is magnificently staged and gloriously costumed; it is also CGI enhanced, but only just enough to ensure no wrinkles. The fairest of them all.
The Best Exotic Marigold HotelWendy Slevison
British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel.
This movie may well leave you dreaming of a trip to India! Set amidst the colour and vibrancy of the city of Jaipur, and featuring a delightful cast of veteran British actors, its warmth and appeal is enchanting. Yes, it may be a little contrived, but this is not a film that is trying to be clever, it is simply a charming, languidly-paced character study that is a pleasure to witness. The Marigold Hotel comes highly recommended.
Le HavreAnne Murphy
When an African boy is discovered hiding in a shipping container in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
The simplicity of this movie is material to why it will be enjoyed. It is warm hearted and unpretentious. Layers of difficult socio-political issues are pared back to create a story that humanises the plight of immigrants without visas. The kindness shown to one struggling boy and the solidarity of the town’s characters in resisting the law enforcers are natural choices. Compassion and humour perfectly blended.
A man's unhappy existence comes unravelled after a chance encounter with an old friend's son.
Post-apartheid South Africa looks dated, painted in sepia tones, in this film about repression and infatuation. The central character is tormented with closeted rage. He is so emotionally taut there is an almost explosive undercurrent threading the increasingly uncomfortable scenes. Although noisy with background sounds there are long sequences without dialogue which serves to add to the dangerous mood. Ultimately the narrative is insufficient to provide coherence, which lets down interest as the pace stumbles. Mirror mirror on the wall not much beauty here at all.
Follows the relationship between two apprentices working on an agricultural complex south of Berlin.
A real farm setting and improvised dialogue provides "Harvest" with an almost documentary, naturalistic tone. The story is about two young men finding themselves and each other. Central to the film is a carefully observed and tentative romance in a potentially homophobic setting. The emotional tension and subsequent attraction between the two unfolds slowly. This movie enthrals its poetic depiction of emotional confusion and its surprisingly chaste approach to the developing relationship. Watch it and reap.
Inspired by a true story about a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis.
This is an unusual and thought provoking comedy that draws humour from the tragedy at its core. The subject is handled deftly, and there is something refreshing about the fact that the laughter, or the tears, don’t feel forced. The fact that we can still laugh with this genuine approach makes the film appealing, coupled by the two likeable leads who play so well off each other. Although parts of the story may border on predictable, there is something affectingly real and touching about the emotional ramble that takes place. 70/30 you'll like 50/50.
Jo's BoyAnne Murphy
A well-known retired rugby player who is the son and grandson of well-known rugby players hopes that his son will also play rugby for the big league.
"Jo's Boy" is set a small French village and the film has the rustic feel of a past era when life was simpler. The story moves along with the pace of a good football game, and there are plenty of minor storylines of mateship and a blossoming romance. Light entertaining fare, culminating in an inevitable tense match, its predictability is countered by a humorous directorial touch. Cheers for sports boys.
The Snows of KilimanjaroAnne Murphy
After celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, a couple are shattered by two young men, armed and masked, who beat them, tie them up, snatch their wedding rings and flee with their credit cards.
Inspired by Victor Hugo's poem "How Good are the Poor", this warm-hearted movie tackles some of today's social and moral issues within the setting of a small community. Our judgments of others can be black and white but, as this moving story highlights, the reality of another is never so simple. The themes are complex but the motivation of each character is uncomplicated. Let it snow.
A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.
Plaudits are due to this film for the sheer ambitiousness and difficulty of task in adapting and portraying such a complicated Shakespearean work. There's no doubting the coherency and effective structure as it doesn't tamper in the slightest with Coriolanus' immortalised lines. Unfortunately, it's just that in contrast to the contemporary setting, this particular movie simply doesn't work. There's something entirely foreign about an elite army unit storming a barracks quoting Shakespeare while under fire from semi-automatic rifles and rocket launchers. Not to be...
17 GirlsAnne Murphy
Seventeen teenage schoolmates decide to become pregnant at the same time.
The impracticality and rebellious tendencies of adolescents is the central theme to "17 Girls". Many social themes are explored in this surprising gem, including self determination for one's own decisions, peer group pressure and individual empowerment. This is a pensive movie with many scenes depicting one of the characters in solitude, contrasting the lure of being part of a giggling gang of girls. While there is a lot for the audience to think about, there is one too many thoughtful close-ups of furrowed brows. Girls, girls, girls.