10,000 BCAnthony Macali
A prehistoric epic that follows a young mammoth hunter's journey through uncharted territory to secure the future of his tribe.
I can only imagine how this film's pre-production went. "We can have a script or generate a woolly mammoth? We could cast decent actors or generate another woolly mammoth? Maybe consider throwing in some pre-historic authenticity, or just go with another one of those impressive woolly mammoths?". As empty as the desert, and unintelligent as the dialogue and cavemen that inhabit this film, "10000 BC" is one of the worst films in history.
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.
King Leonidis leads a band of elite warriors to war in the defence of their revered Sparta.
A gourmet for the purest of action fans, "300" is a visual feast. It doesn't concede to that typical movie concept whereby our heroes find themselves vastly outnumbered only to overcome insurmountable odds. Amidst all the testosterone and glistening abdominal muscles, it still does well to conjure inspiration and give substance to the brave three hundred's valour and sacrifice. It's brutal, but ultimately moving. With ferocious battle sequences choreographed using superlative CGI, and a plot to match, slaughter never looked this good.
300 Rise of an EmpireAndrew O'Dea
Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is an epic spectacle of video-game violence and gore. This stylised action fantasy retains the familiar and flashy comic-book style of the franchise, replete with blood-spattering slow motion and enough visceral excess to keep the senses engaged. Although it pales in comparison when evoking the same emotional vigour of its predecessor, the void is redeemed by the sultry, murderous heroine at its center who steals and carries the show. Not bad as a stand-alone movie, it's just missing some limbs.
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 historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity while falling in love with the famous female philosophy professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
This visually extravagant epic looks to the skies pondering shape of our universe, while on the ground bloody religious disputes are fought with stones and daggers. Disappointing is the production sloth that depicts one side as dirty and grey and the other as pale and clean. Barely forgivable, even in the 400AD setting, is a disquieting patriarchal tone discolouring ancient Alexandria. Unforgivable, is the lack of dramatic tension as "Agora" devolves into tedium.
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.
Bridge of SpiesAnthony Macali
An American lawyer defending a Russian spy becomes part of a negotiation of prisoners.
"Bridge of Spies" begins as a curious courtroom drama, laying the foundations for a treacherous negotiation set against the Cold War, where intel and espionage rule. The period is remarkably recreated, the look and detail conveniently transporting us back in time, complete with particularly poignant scenes of the infamous Berlin Wall being erected. For a film that mostly takes place in embassies with officials drinking scotch behind closed doors, it's surprisingly engaging thanks to the fierce dialogue and air of tension. Bridge to a bygone era.
A TV mini-series, chronicling the exploits of Carlos the Jackal, edited and cut for showing as a movie.
Carlos is an interesting figure to discover more about. He comes across as an opportunistic mercenary rather than a terrorist dedicated to a cause, and what's apparent is the ego of a man who considered himself a revolutionary. Part history and part reconstruction, the use of news footage provides a documentary sense of realism. A small screen budget is evident in the uneven set quality, lighting, and the use of a hand held camera; it's all a bit bumpy. Complex politics make surprisingly tedious viewing.
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?
Che: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
In 1956, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
This film is an austere portrayal of the mechanics of Che and his guerrilla war rather than an account of the man himself. His political and social ideals are interwoven - and impressively not championed - as we traverse the sumptuous Cuban landscape and share in his experience that was the armed struggle of the revolution. A stylish overture of sorts opens the film, and it sets the tone for the sprawling and vividly authentic epic that is to come.
Che: Part 2Andrew O'Dea
In 1967, 'Che' leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia.
"Che: Part 2" is the culmination of a fascinating journey that marks Che's ultimate downfall. This film maintains the authenticity of "Part 1", albeit with a darker, more pensive tone. It evokes a sombre sense of impending doom whilst remaining as historically faithful as possible, refusing to glamorise its subject. This uncompromising approach is refreshing, and the lead actor's enigmatic performance is truly worthy of encompassing the man who is arguably the most iconic figure of the 20th century.
Five Minutes of HeavenAnne Murphy
The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.
"Five Minutes of Heaven" looks back at crimes committed as acts of civil war, exploring important themes of hatred and forgiveness. It's an uneven production that stumbles through some very stagy and clumsy scenes, though is fortunately redeemed by a powerful and unexpected climax. This movie is uncomfortable viewing about the lingering impacts of violence and living with indelible memories that prevent healing. Hard to glimpse heaven from hell.
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
"Frost/Nixon" is an intelligent and provocative political drama. The film's strength lies in dialogue that is witty and engaging, delivered by superlative performances from the two leads. Frost and Nixon are combatants slugging out a verbal war, gaining ascendancy only to be countered. Their battle of wills generates cinema that is completely engrossing. Who'd have thought that two men sitting down and talking to each other could be so entertaining?
Get LowAnne Murphy
Equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party.
"Get Low" is a good old fashioned hokey folky story with warm understated performances from a big name cast, and a mule. It's deftly crafted and charming to watch. There's a slow build around the themes of guilt and forgiveness before the eventual plot reveal. Although tears are coaxed out during the long awaited climax, this movie will be watched for the dawdling journey rather than the ending. Hard not to like but lacking real highs and lows.
Giovanna's FatherAnne Murphy
A protective father stands by his misfit daughter after she commits a terrible crime.
Complex reactions to tragedy are explored in this story of obsession. With war as the backdrop, relationships are ravaged while Bologna is bombed. "Giovanna's Father" is not easy viewing and interest is held by the unconventional story-line. The soundtrack maintains a steady rhythm, and the use of sepia tones aids in recreating a past era of hardship. Superb performances by the lead actors are convincing and avoid being melodramatic, with the spotlight firmly on Giovanna's Father rather than the dastardly deeds of his daughter.
Young law student Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in love with Lotte, but Albert Kestner also laid an eye on her.
A key figure in German literature might be considered fusty as the subject of a romantic comedy. Think again, as the author, poet and philosopher is dusted off and enthused with a jaunty vigour. "Goethe!" is a heady and light-hearted costume drama. The rebellious, romantically driven figure may attract new readers, even if the historical integrity of the movie is questionable. The portrayal of the period is superb, and the exploration of the subject's early years is captivating, if shallow.
Hyde Park on HudsonAnne Murphy
The story of the affair between FDR and his cousin Daisy Suckley, centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King of England visited New York.
The most entertaining thread of "Hyde Park on The Hudson" comes from the pronunciation of 'hot dog' by the royal couple. Disarmingly straight-faced, they consider whether to eat one. It's a small highlight in what is an otherwise lacklustre production about a philatelist president and his dowdy cousin. "How I longed for him" is typical of the narration provided, courtesy of the mooning paramour to explain what isn't apparent on the screen. The Hudson reduced to a rivulet.
In the Heart of the SeaAnthony Macali
Inspired by Moby Dick, a ship is stranded at sea after its hunt for whale oil turns sour after a confrontation with a giant sperm whale.
Being stranded at sea is a terrible experience; hungry and trapped with no end in sight. It's an ordeal similar to watching this film, so make sure you bring popcorn to stave off the hunger. "In the Heart of the Sea" stinks, and no amount of computer-generated whales and their blow-holes were going to save this ship from sinking. The story is so boring and uninvolved that you just don't care; about any of the characters, or their fate. Stay clear of this storm. Disaster of the sea.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
An examination of the Soviet slaughter of thousands of Polish officers and citizens in 1940.
There is no denying the importance of this film. However, its purpose invokes a rather dull and bleak history lesson. The streets of Poland are beautifully recreated on the screen, only to be lost amongst the bombardment of sporadic jumps through time. The interesting aspect of the tragedy is the taboo nature of the subject, but this is only briefly explored and serves as mere introduction to the horrifying and unyielding finalé. "Katyn" provides overdue closure to those connected with the story, but lacks the emotion to connect with the rest.
As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
Without a preceding interest in the subject matter, "Lincoln" may struggle to win your vote. The historic period is recounted in splendid detail. Fine visuals don't aid the understanding of this important, turgid story that features a lot of bearded men arguing in dark rooms. Despite a remarkable and benevolent performance from the President, interest wanes as the long running-time draws out. Unlikely to please the majority.
Made in DagenhamAnne Murphy
A dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against pay discrimination.
A historically important, political story is related in "Made in Dagenham". The birthing of an important precedent comes alive on the screen with archetypal British humour as an uplifting offering. The demarcation lines are drawn, the bad guys mired in their dark plotting as the determination of the good gals to triumph builds. The film is nostalgic and true to the era, delightfully sentimental and humorous. If they can make good in Dagenham, we can make it anywhere.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
Marie AntoinetteAnthony Macali
The story of French Queen Marie Antoinette, crowned at the age of 19 and living the glamorous life.
This movie showcases a beautiful 18th Century France, a portrait of extravagant costumes, intricate set pieces, lavish parties; all playful and frivolous. Don't expect a pressing insight into the trials of ruling an empire. The most difficult decision Marie Antoinette has to make is if she should sneak out of the castle to attend a costume party (spoiler warning, she does). Like the numerous cakes the Dauphin indulges in, the film is sweet but not quite fulfilling.