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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A mother's kidnapped son is returned to her, but she realises immediately that the boy is not hers.
"Changeling" is an example of classic movie making at it's most potent. A magnificent unhurried telling of an extraordinary true story, it's also a commentary on social and moral dilemmas still faced today. The authentic visual feel, exceptional cast and old-style direction combine to create an outstanding film. A superb performance by the lead actress pays no heed to her physical beauty, focusing wholly on the anguish, despair and struggle of an ordinary woman fighting to be heard by the powers-that-be. Has anything really changed?
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.
Red DogWendy Slevison
Based on the true story of Red Dog, who united an outback community while in search of his master.
Watching this movie feels a bit like sitting around a camp fire listening to your mates tell a darn good yarn. It's a quintessentially Aussie experience with wonderfully personal characterisations and a truly incredible story. The first-class cinematography brings the mining area of Western Australia gloriously to life in a visual feast of red and turquoise. The human actors do a fine job of portraying the mateship that forms in the small mining towns, but of course the dog steals every scene he's in - what a talented boy! A blue ribbon for "Red Dog".
The story of Joseph, a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction.
"Tyrannosaur" is harrowing viewing. Filmed with an uncompromising eye for realism, there’s an intensity to this movie that’s rarely captured with such bruising effect. Anger, rage and torment are central to the story and expressed without inhibition. Expect a confronting experience, one that will leave audiences wrung out, if not reeling from the relentless blows landed. The cast are credible and the performances delivered are absolutely convincing, particularly when somewhere from the depths of hopelessness something transformative is glimpsed. As riveting as it is grim.
The CounterfeitersAndrew O'Dea
The Counterfeiters is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936.
"The Counterfeiters" presents a completely different sort of holocaust story. Saloman Sorowitz is captured and forced into a concentration camp to produce fake banknotes for the Nazi's. It challenges us through Saloman's quandary by raising provocative moral dilemmas. The movie doesn't impose a right or wrong, instead the viewer is subtly invited to ascertain their own beliefs. This brilliant film is surely no fraud, it's near enough a masterpiece.
Beautiful KateWendy Slevison
A writer is asked to return to the family home, to say goodbye to his father who is dying.
There is so much in this stunning film that is beautiful. The performances from the male leads are superb, and it's the direction and script, from a first-time feature director, that make it possible. The cinematography perfectly captures the beauty and isolation of the homestead where the story takes place; and the music score does what the best do - enhance, while not overtaking. "Beautiful Kate" is a memorable and significant contribution to Australian film-making and viewing.
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 Broken Circle BreakdownStefan Bugryn
A pair of musicians have their love put to the test when tragedy strikes their family.
This is an emotionally dynamic and musically outstanding film that only comes around every so often. What stands out most, and what you will stick with you the longest, is the stirring soundtrack, which creates a beautiful dream-scape that perfectly embodies the moving storyline. It is a tragic journey that will warm your heart, and break it at the same time; a great depiction of the bohemian spirit, and a bold study of modern beliefs. Close to being a masterpiece that should be viewed by all audiences. Nothing broken here.
The Secret in their EyesAnne Murphy
A man wants to solve a murder committed many years ago.
"The Secret in Their Eyes" is engrossing as a crime thriller and compelling as a cold case romance. The threads are seamlessly interwoven to create a movie going experience that lingers long after the credits roll. All eyes will be glued on the outstanding cast who fill out the interesting characters. This is a well crafted film that spans 25 years, moving from fear to love visiting every emotion in between. It's no secret that this is a knockout story to be seen with your own eyes.
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.