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 SoundsThomas 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 EuropeThomas 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.
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 SisterThomas 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.