Kumiko, the Treasure HunterAnne Murphy
A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of the movie Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.
“Kumiko” is a small miracle, a tale of one woman’s determined and almost mythic quest to realise her dream. The central character is one who inspires legends, an introverted sort of misfit dedicated to her impossible quest. The scenic backdrop is nothing short of breathtaking, thanks to the stunning cinematography. Like any good fable there are many sub-texts and moral messages subtly delivered. And like any good treasure worth digging for, this film is pure gold.
Two astronauts try to make it back to Earth after an accident leaves them stranded and adrift in space.
This is a triumph in film-making. It's a captivatingly visceral and immersive experience grounded by jaw dropping visual effects and sound design, complementing one of the most engaging stories of survival you will see. So much truth is given to every aspect of the journey, making it feel incredibly authentic and genuinely absorbing. "Gravity" is edge-of-your-seat drama and action that will remain with you long after the credits roll. A modern classic.
The Dark HorseJan Di Pietro
A man who searches for the courage to lead finds purpose and hope in passing on his gift to the children in his community.
The truth is never abandoned nor betrayed in this incredible story, as it builds roads from joy to sadness and back again in heartbeats. It deconstructs male identity, belonging, and social values in front of your eyes on the back of an outstanding cast, script, and visual style. "Dark Horse" should be lauded for its bravery, and revered for its execution. Shines bright, this is where heroes are made.
Please GiveAnne Murphy
In New York City, a husband and wife butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in apartment the couple owns.
Manhattan films about nothing should be a genre of their own. Equal parts smart drama-comedy and introspective reflection on the human condition, "Please Give" is grounded in the angst of reality and near perfect. This is a chick flick populated with grown-ups who are still growing up. The city dwellers dealing with the everyday while struggling with life's big issues like guilt and insecurity are imperfect as well as sharp and funny. Nothing to give just breathe it in.
Bright StarWendy Slevison
Based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
There are two 'bright stars' in this exquisite film - the leading lady, with her flawless performance, and the poetry, which will have viewers searching for their high school poetry books seeking to revisit the works of the romantic poets. This beautifully filmed glimpse into lives 190 years ago succeeds due to the stunningly simple way it tells its story of an intense and yet ultimately doomed love. Shakespearian in its tragedy, "Bright Star" is exceptional movie-making... a leading light not to be missed.
In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job till date.
Boldly ambitious on a universal scale, "Inception" is awe inspiring, bringing to life the imagination of the mind in amazing visual detail. Mastering the idea of dreams within dreams may take some time, but it's this kind of challenge, rarely seen in blockbusters, that keeps you absolutely enthralled. It shoots through its running time at a whole new level, immersing you in the sub-conscious of the characters on screen without any contraptions. Unmistakably mind-blowing.
A Mayan village is overrun by a vicious tribe, imprisoning the men and sentencing them to be sacrificed.
"Apocalypto" throws you deep into the jungle, welcoming the simple life of hunting to eat, tribal dances and procreation. The editing is fast, setup brilliant and characters superb. You will be gripped and curious and always anticipating the fate of our heroes.
Threatened during confession, a good-natured priest must battle dark forces closing in around him.
Bless us Father if this isn't the most bruising story about transgression and redemption ever filmed. Some of the characters cannot forgive themselves for their situations let alone forgive those who have trespassed against them. "Calvary" is a dark exploration of the human condition and our need for vengeance. This movie is exceptional from the startling opening lines, to the heart rending closing scene. Be warned, while there are moments of gentle humour, it's largely a wounding experience. Days of reckoning.
Before MidnightAnne Murphy
We meet Jesse and Celine in Greece, almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on a train bound for Vienna.
The talkies were invented for the couple in this story. "Before Midnight" is a conversation first and foremost, and film is merely the medium it's recorded on. Relationships are complex and involve compromise. It's a pleasure to be privy to an intimate but seemingly everyday sort of dialogue about lives spent together and the future to come. All is achieved with a natural style and there is little feeling that what plays out is being acted out. Magical without pumpkins.
Broken EmbracesAnne Murphy
Harry Caine, a blind writer, reaches this moment in time when he has to heal his wounds from 14 years back.
A film-maker has made a film where the central character is a film-maker; hence a movie is created within this movie. "Broken Embraces" is a multi-layered exploration of love, passion and deception. A tantalising production, stylish to the point of being stylised, this is truly sophisticated viewing. A elaborate timeline is used to deconstruct the typical sequence of events. Questioning where a tale begins or ends, the editor is empowered to determine the story. Embrace with enthusiasm.
A ProphetAnthony Macali
Set largely within prison walls, the film details the prison career of Malik, sentenced to six years and chosen by Cesar, a feared kingpin of the prisons reigning Corsican gang, to kill a prisoner.
"A Prophet" meticulously blends the worlds of prison and organised crime. An intriguing and unique makeup of many cultures are carefully observed through the eyes of our protagonist, and his story brokers a high level of tension and suspense, as he deals with dangerous people in dangerous places. We are transfixed by his brutal transformation, as he rises to power in an eternal state of illusion. A truly arresting experience, this distinguished crime classic is masterful.
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.
Blue ValentineAnne Murphy
The film centres on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.
"Blue Valentine" is like stepping through a dream door into the spiral of a failing relationship between a husband and wife; you're drawn into the minutiae of love and frustration. The couple's interactions are intensely scrutinised, almost dissected by the camera, over a period stretching a little more than a day. The experience of watching is both compelling, and at the same time, a little like trying to breathe under water, such is its wrenching emotional grip. Valentines don't come any more blue.
Samson and DelilahWendy Slevison
Samson and Delilah's world is an isolated community in the Central Australian desert. When tragedy strikes, they turn their backs on home and embark on a journey of survival.
"Samson and Delilah" is an exquisite film which offers an uncompromising yet intimate perspective on the complex problems that face our Indigenous population. Beautifully shot, with almost no dialogue, and featuring 14-year-old untrained actors in the lead roles, this is a poignant, raw, and brutally honest portrait of a race of people we judge so harshly and/or choose to ignore. It should be compulsory viewing for all Australians.
This is a story of a man in free fall, on the road to redemption, darkness lights his way.
An existence where life holds more in memory than it promises in the future is grim, and that's at the essence of "Biutiful". The visual texture of the production is extraordinary, as is the city background as a soundtrack... a gritty combination. The audience is privy to an unflinching view of life where the politics of exploitation and survival play at the edge of society. This film won't be for everybody, but the viewing, while harrowing and demanding, is compelling and ultimately rewarding.
Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.
It's surprising how touching this black and white animation is. With sharp contours and pale gradients, the film looks astounding, but also portrays a "dark" period of Marjane's life. Her narrative provides earnest accounts of Iran's history, family and moving out of home; growing into an acute perspective of life in these times of revolution. You leave the cinema in a wake of colours, realising the splendour of freedom.
I've Loved You So LongWendy Slevison
This powerful story explores the tentative relationship between two sisters who barely know each other, as a shell-shocked Juliette arrives to live with her younger sister Lea, after being away for 15 years.
"I've Loved You So Long" is a raw, sparse film about human pain that is at times difficult to watch, and yet mesmerising. As Juliette slowly but uncompromisingly opens and embraces her new life, we rejoice as she finally begins to reclaim power from the oppressive secrets of her past. With an exquisitely stripped-down performance from the lead actress, this magnetic, emotionally wrenching film is very highly recommended.
An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside; a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions.
"Undertow" is a touching study of love and devotion amid a devout community. Life is good in the lethargic fishing village where the pace is languid and everything moves slowly, except the gossip. Even so, there are no villains in this tender tale. The congenial characters are so authentic it's almost impossible not to like them, even with the betrayal implicit in the central love triangle. Very moving, with a haunting undertow.
The Best OfferAnne Murphy
A story centered on an eccentric art auctioneer and his obsession with an heiress/collector.
Movies are rarely as alluring as this mystery crime story. Not only is the clever story well told, but it's artistically portrayed on the screen, a combination that ensures it is a pleasure to watch. There's a sophisticated mix of obsession and passion; emotions often associated with art and the people who inhabit the rarified atmospheres of galleries and auction houses. The premise is intriguing enough to hold interest right up until the credits, even if you manage to anticipate the outcome. No further bidding required.
A mother desperately searches for the killer that framed her son for an horrific murder.
"Mother" is a suspenseful thriller filmed with an eye for the comedic realities of serious situations. There's plenty of intrigue within a small Korean town, and a dark mood is masterfully painted onto the screen. The story is riveting to watch and delivered with faultless performances; the emotional elements are strong and powerfully expressed. As the gripping story-line is unfurled and the truth behind the crime is revealed, you can't help but admire just how well crafted this film is. A testament to the remarkable tenacity of maternal love.
13 AssassinsAndrew O'Dea
In feudal Japan, a group of Samurai assassins come together on a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.
This period action flick is a tale of vengeance and honour, combining 'old-school' Japanese heroics with genuinely poetic sentiment. The story and electricity builds slowly as we're introduced to the '13', before exploding into one of the greatest extended battle sequences of all time. Blood flows, limbs fly, and heads roll in what is quite simply a ballet of brutality. Yet the film still carries direction and purpose behind the gore, through the nobility of our heroes' cause. A near-flawless, classic Samurai movie. Both incredibly stylish and graphically violent, "13 Assassins" never misses its mark.
A newly unemployed cellist takes a job preparing the dead for funerals.
If the subject matter were handled less reverently it could be disconcerting, and "Departures" is tender, loving, and absorbing. The symphonic soundtrack is moving, but it is the characters and their stories that will cause tears to gently spill. This film, centred on the rituals following death, is surprisingly life affirming. Reflecting Japanese sensibilities, it is contemplative and almost zen-like, avoiding melodrama while tackling some of life's most difficult passages. This departure is a welcome getaway from the everyday.
The WrestlerAnthony Macali
A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit.
In a movie about wrestling, it's only fitting that the acting in this film is superb. "The Wrestler" explores what a human being is capable of, and then what they do. It's this no holds barred honesty that makes this film spectacular. As the camera follows Randy "The Ram" onto the stage of his life, he bears all to his fans, and the audience, in a wonderfully poignant performance. If wrestling is all about acting, then this film is the teaching manual.
Tehran TaxiAnne Murphy
An Iranian director banned from film-making drives passengers through the streets of Tehran in a taxi with the camera rolling.
An intriguing cast of passengers ride in the taxi, each with their own colourful contribution to this social commentary on life and politics in Iran. The road trip through the city is captivating, and its laid back style is able to present more insight about living in Tehran than any news broadcast. The subtle serendipitous style of the movie allows us to grasp some of the oppressive realities, and to experience a little humour as life goes on. Call me a cab.
The King's SpeechAnthony Macali
The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.
"The King's Speech" is a masterful example of the classic transformation film, as it follows the stammering son of King George V while he learns and grows to overcome his adversity. The period is beautifully shot and detailed, capturing the new wave of the wireless and the impending prospect of war, elevating the sense of pressure and suspense. To sympathise with a King, with his gilded and lavish lifestyle on show, is an impressive accomplishment. A speech worthy of attention.