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.
12 Years a SlaveAnthony Macali
In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is more than just a black man sharing his first-hand account... it's a raw and visceral experience. This narrative isn't afraid to hide the senseless violence and bigotry of the time, revealing a truly horrifying portrait of humanity. It's a stark contrast to the beautiful visuals of the film, which also serve to scar in our memory with some of the more striking scenes. A story of equal intrigue and importance. Many years an injustice.
127 HoursStefan Bugryn
A man gets stuck under a boulder while he ventures out alone to a canyon in Utah.
It is quite obvious the film-makers wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with the protagonist throughout this harrowingly absorbing ordeal. At times it almost feels like a 'docu-drama'. There's an abundance of uncomfortable close ups as the storyline is confined to that wretched canyon, while 'that scene' is unflinchingly realistic (you won't ever forget it!). In doing so, they created a film experience that is both gruelling and rewarding, and will leave you deep in thought afterwards. Every minute, and hour, is worth it.
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.
17 AgainCourtney Slevison
In 1989, Mike O'Donnell was the star of his high school basketball team. Now 20 years later, with his glory days behind him, a magical encounter gives him the chance to be 17 again.
In a familiar body-swap genre, this movie shines with charm and good-humour. The film is led by the brilliant casting of the main character, with a great supporting cast. While clearly aimed at teenage girls, "17 Again" will reach a broader audience due to its big heart and great comedic moments. The perfect film for undemanding, feel-good fun.
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.
18 Years Old and RisingAnne Murphy
Primo, a boy with a humble background, is studying for University entrance while trying to impress girls who hang out with a crowd of rich young things.
Set in Paris in the early 80's as a Presidential election looms, "18 Years Old and Rising" has an interesting political text for a film of the coming of age genre. Like the main character, this movie takes risks to impress, and it shows a hero's quest for love that is memorable, bold, and fun. It is a pleasure to watch a storyline that delights by not being predictable. Forever young.
20 CigarettesAnne Murphy
An assistant film director working in Iraq finds himself caught up in a suicide attack.
This movie tells the autobiographical story of its director with a lighter touch than a documentary might have allowed. Iraq is shown as a place where soldiers and peace-keepers are wondering what they were doing there. Injury is graphically depicted, providing a palpable experience of the horror of war. A strong but very watchable political statement is made by bringing a personal story to the big screen. The cigarettes provide an interesting device to contrast everyday life with a day in a war zone. Smoking.
21 is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
This decidedly Hollywood account of the MIT Blackjack team is fair entertainment that will please gamblers and confuse others. After a slow setup we race through the rules of 21 and jet off to Las Vegas to enjoy the highs of bringing down the house. The movie can't maintain this level of fun, with its weak plot rising to the surface in a manufactured ending that feels contrived. Once you see past the flashy bright lights, you realise "21" isn't a big winner.
3 IdiotsAmit Jain
Two uni friends embark on a quest to find their lost friend.
This film is witty, emotional and uncontrollably entertaining. Questioning the current education system in India, the movie is subtle in its messages and the many golden rules which can change one's life in a big way. The cinematography and locations used are simply breathtaking. "3 Idiots" is a laughing riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits and preaches not to chase success, but to "...chase excellence and success will follow".
35 Shots of RumWendy Slevison
The relationship between a father and daughter is complicated by the arrival of a handsome young man.
This is a beautifully fluid, soulful film full of quiet observations about the journeys we take towards change. Simplicity and complexity are subtly juxtaposed, just as in 'real' life. Relationships and facts are hazy, crediting the viewer with enough intelligence to come to their own conclusions... often a rarity in movies these days. The intriguing character studies, together with the haunting musical score and delicate metaphors, make these "35 Shots of Rum" rich, warm, and easy to ingest.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.
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.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.
This gorgeously animated film is extraordinary in its detail. Definitely not for children, the imaginative premise is rich in symbolism and provides some exhilarating (and at times gruesome) action sequences. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't come close to matching the visual style, and it often labours and fails to engage on an emotional level. Though their character development may be flawed, there is still something oddly compelling about our numerical heroes. More style than substance, "9" falls quite a bit short of the perfect 10.
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.
A Few Days in SeptemberAnthony Macali
September the 1st, 2001. Elliot, an American CIA agent holding top secret information on the immediate future of the world.
This film is best summarised in its title. It simply follows a couple of people spending a few days in September. They talk; sometimes they meet people, only to have to wait a day to meet them again, allowing more hapless discussion. The direction features a series of blurry shots throughout, with an impact undermined by the headaches they induce. The dialogue is ambiguous, characters ever-so irritating and an ending more irksome than profound.
A Film with Me in ItAnne Murphy
A couple of out of work actors find themselves in a predicament, as accidental deaths pile up around them.
The situation the characters in this movie find themselves in is both dark and comical, but as a black comedy, it fails to deliver. The premise is clever but never witty, and the characters are droll and bumbling, comedic without being funny. There are all of the necessary ingredients to arouse laughter, but when it's served up the dish simply fails to amuse. Something about this film with me in the audience just doesn't seem right.
A Good ManAnne Murphy
A law school professor witnesses his colleague, friend and mentor murder his own wife.
"A Good Man" is a murder mystery with a twist, and makes for gripping viewing as the tension and angst builds. Although we know what happened and 'who done it', the audience are kept on the edge of their seats as the plot unfolds and develops. The dark and moody production evokes the film noire era in this contemporary setting. The pace is slow - being almost real time - which eases the tension almost as it is built; even so, this is a good film.
A Gun in Each HandAnne Murphy
A series of five vignettes exploring the relationship crises of middle aged men.
This movie is a conversation starter. After watching the intimate conversations on the screen, there will much to talk about, particularly with a member of the opposite sex. "A Gun in Each Hand" is thought provoking, and we're given a fly-on-the-wall chance to witness men talking and sharing about their feelings and relationships. They are all struggling in some way and the director's slightly cynical touch is light enough that we can connect with both their desires and concerns. Straight shooters, or trying to be…
A Lady in ParisAnthony Macali
Anne leaves Estonia to come to Paris and care for Frida, an elderly Estonian lady who emigrated to France long ago. Anne soon realizes that she is not wanted.
"A Lady in Paris" is a people movie with a small ensemble. The nature of the story grants our leads time to open-up, and the slow pace will not suit most. With some patience, the characters become a little more interesting as they begin to reveal the fun and frivolities of Frida's past. While the setup is rather conventional, it's the small details that set this film apart, sharing thoughtful insights into the perils of growing old and reflecting on life choices. An affair to last a lifetime.
A Little Bit of HeavenTom Jones
A guarded woman finds out she's dying of cancer, but when she meets her match, the threat of falling in love is scarier than death.
This film is the most superficial and farcical depiction of a woman battling cancer ever to grace our screens. It goes so far the wrong way (think puns about colon cancer) that anyone who has experienced or been affected by the disease is likely to be offended by the way the subject is treated. The acting is of a quality you'd expect from a high school drama class and the script is terrible; heaven is a white cloud. Hard to like, even a little bit.
A Lone ScalpelAnne Murphy
A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.
Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.
A Mighty HeartAnthony Macali
The film is based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying and unforgettable story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death.
"A Mighty Heart" is a genuine and heartfelt account of tragedy. The excellent performances reflect a true sense of the frustration, determination and suffering of all those involved. The film struggles to draw the audience into the investigation, presumably of little concern to the director with motives that seem to favour accuracy over entertainment. An authentic portrayal with a good heart, but little excitement.
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.
A Quiet LifeAnne Murphy
The story of a man with a dark past, that inevitably catches up with him.
Mystery is slowly brewed as the story behind the main character is revealed. Initially the plot is vague, and the viewer must sit with some uncertainty as to what is happening on the screen. The lack of story structure is a clever device that adds to the mounting suspense. Tension is maintained amid a seemingly routine domestic situation, and there are ominous hints that all is not as it seems as the violence starts to escalate. "A Quiet Life" is a well-constructed, gripping movie experience... shhh.