Zero Dark ThirtyAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful thriller that isn't driven by an ideology or political agenda. The film serves as a dramatised yet convincing chronicle about the hunt for the world's most wanted man, made all the more authentic by an exceptionally superb cast, leads and cameos alike. While it maintains momentum with an almost clinical focus, the tension builds to a riveting finale; and even though the ending might be a foregone conclusion, the night-time incursion where they "get their man" is as exhilarating and gripping as the complex story itself. A confirmed thrill.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
Based on actual events, a plot to assassinate Hitler is unfurled during the height of WWII.
The strength of this film lies in a superb production design that helps to construct a positively accurate and immersive account of 1940's Berlin. It creates a stylistic period feel that is amplified by a stirring orchestral score throughout. Unfortunately, much of the authenticity, and subsequent integrity, is lost on American and British accents portraying German ones; as well as an unbefitting and uninspiring performance from the lead. "Valkyrie" definitely won't cater to everyone, but those impassioned by this period in history may find it rousing.
The Young VictoriaAnne Murphy
A dramatization of the first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.
This film proceeds at a gentile and regal pace with sumptuous sets and lavish costuming as befits the era. It is to be enjoyed as a love story rather than for revealing any political machinations of the time. Romantic and majestic, "The Young Victoria" is restrained but entertaining, without indulging in any unnecessary frivolity of life at court. Perhaps a sequel with a middle-aged Victoria would deliver more intrigue and drama, or at least some hot flushes... a satisfying and elegant period piece.
The White RibbonAnne Murphy
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment.
"The White Ribbon" is visually mesmerising, artistically captured in black and white with a period detail that is meticulously reproduced, particularly in the costumes of the farming villagers. With its fascist undertones this film is a harrowing watch for all of its lengthy run time, and even then there is no reward of a conclusion or explanation. Austere, relentless, seething with hatred and cruelty, this is unforgiving viewing. The film evokes a sense of impending doom, with blue ribbon success.
The Special RelationshipThomas Jones
A dramatisation that traces former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair's relationships with Bill Clinton.
Blair and Clinton's relationship was like every other relationship. There was the honeymoon stage, sleepovers, late night phone calls, an affair, disagreements and ultimately, a break-up. To enjoy this film a knowledge of history or politics isn't necessary, because anyone who has been in any type of relationship will be able to see truth in the depiction of this couple. Unfortunately, the truthful depictions don't extend to the portrayals of some of these well known figures. It leans more towards telemovie than documentary. But rest assured, there are plenty more poltical icons left in the sea.
The Social NetworkAnthony Macali
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
"The Social Network" is a telling portrayal of one the world's most unsociable guys. Expertly played, the punk billionaire is depicted as an obnoxious genius, his computer antics spurred by teenage anguish. The film is well informed and doesn't shy away from the geeky mumbo-jumbo, as it creates a real sense of the amazing scale and technical brilliance of 'The Facebook'. The first half of the movie is fast and exciting, but the second half tends to lag with unfavourable characters and court-room exposition. Nonetheless, 'FilmDude' likes this.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne ListerAnne Murphy
In nineteenth century Yorkshire wealthy orphan Anne Lister lives with an aunt and uncle, anxious for her to marry well and blissfully, unaware that she is a lesbian.
An historic drama based on the real and extensive diaries of the protagonist. This film is rich with country mansions, beautiful costumes and staid English sensibilities. The highlight is a female lead that is steadfast in her beliefs, refusing to be totally repressed by the expectations of society, and determined to live by her own values. No doubt the secret diaries could reveal much more about this resolute woman who wanted a wife.
The Princess of MontpensierAnne Murphy
Set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century, the action centres on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise.
This period drama is sumptuously set and fastidiously costumed. The renaissance, as far as we can tell, is faithfully reproduced and it's magnificent to watch. "Princess of Montpensier" comes complete with dashing sword fights and big bloody battles, but most interest is invested in the dilemmas of duty over love. As the drama is played out the heroine is unable to refuse the allure of true romance, a Queen of Hearts.
The Other Boleyn GirlAnthony Macali
Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a serviceable period drama of a rather unpleasant story. It paints a time of great class divide, where there is no shame in marrying into wealth and using seduction as a perfectly acceptable way to do so. While the film could have drawn parallels with sex and politics in society today, it's forced to rush scenes to fit into the decades of history. It has more in common with a soap opera, as it parades bitter characters that we can't relate to or pity - their struggles leaving you unfavourably depressed.
The Man Who Will ComeAnne Murphy
In the winter of 1943, Italian peasant families in an Italian village carry on with life while Nazi soldiers seek to wreak revenge on partisan fighters.
Apparently "The Man Who Will Come" is based on historic events, unfortunately that is not learned in the cinema watching the film. The film is lightly narrated leaving the viewer to piece together the story. We're not helped by the sparse dialogue or the fact that much of the action is viewed through the eyes of a child. The war atrocities depicted as the story builds are truly horrifying, stupefying the audience. Shame on mankind, whoever it is we're waiting for.
The Last StationAnne Murphy
A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.
Anchored with a passionate but philosophically-conflicted relationship between a husband and wife, "The Last Station" is a sweeping period piece that manages not to overwhelm with historical trappings. The a story is engrossing where, given the subject, it could have been rather dour. The players resist melodrama; there's an almost capricious tone that makes this film a pleasure to watch. It's not revealing too much to say the last station is the end of line.
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.
The EagleAndrew O'Dea
In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father's memory by finding his lost legion's golden emblem.
Full of action-adventure appeal, "The Eagle" is a completely serviceable movie for those who like films with swords n' sandals. Based on the famously lost Ninth Legion of Rome, the plot is erratic, but is carried by actors who surprisingly acquit themselves with a good deal of restraint in delivering likeable characters. Although it may all feel a little too familiar, it's supported by some splendid cinematography that makes for an enjoyable enough story. It might not soar, but it definitely flies.
The DuchessAnthony Macali
A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
"The Duchess" is a window into the intriguing life of Georgiana, a view that overlooks her reputable politics in favour of her more lascivious endeavours. Extravagant romanticism flourishes in 1700's England, a time of manners, costumes and beauty. A significant contrast to the inner turmoil that dwells in the Duke's house, burdens of birthing a male heir exact many sacrifices. Outstanding performances portray the many troubled characters of this film, in a period drama that only suffers from an imbalance of love and politics.
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.
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.
The ConspiratorAnthony Macali
Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
"The Conspirator" is a peculiar story of injustice, made more rewarding to those with very little knowledge of its origins. We switch sides in historic pace to Mary, and mother of the unquestionable killers. The rest of the film unfolds in an enthralling manner, cutting between the prison, court-room and flashbacks to reveal the truth as our forsaken lawyer does. The period is faithful, the soft-light irksome, and the cast stellar, best epitomized by witnessing one of the best case summaries put to screen. Poorly executed title, good film.
The Baader Meinhof ComplexAnne Murphy
A look at Germany's terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organised bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s.
This film covers some of Europe's political history in a time of protest and radical activism. The era is faithfully reproduced in what is a technically well-crafted, interesting movie. Depicting real people and events, the tone is necessarily violent and ruthless. It becomes increasingly confronting as the terrorists' motivation fails to be explained, and their actions consequently lack meaning. A complex story about the extremism of idealists without ideals.
Testament of YouthAnthony Macali
A young lady decides to become a nurse on the front-line after the involvement of her fiancée and brothers in the World War.
Based on a war memoir, "Testament of Youth" lacks the emotion and passion for such an important film. The slow pace of the story is akin to a pain-killer, over time it dulls the senses. While the setting and romance are beautifully shot, they also distract from the grim reality of life during the depression, and war. There's no question against the nobility and endeavour of the main character. Sadly her underlying message gets lost in the style of delivery. Testament of patience.
London 1912, an important chapter of the feminist movement is being played out as women protest for the right to vote.
There is a sombre tone to "Suffragette", as it outlines a significant struggle in our all too recent history. The advocates for change were seen as troublesome activists to be quashed, and this convincing film shows that change was not won without a hard fight. Having one woman at the centre of the story serves to highlight the extent of personal sacrifice made. All in all, this is a grim and earnest tale, and one well worth seeing. Radical, militant women.
Boston 2002 and a team of journalists investigate decades of sexual abuse by the clergy and its systemic cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The story is familiar, and "Spotlight" hammers home the betrayal of the communities where abuse was perpetrated, often within schools and always by people who were revered and implicitly trusted. The script is excellent, bringing both respect for the victims and damnation for the cover-up. The other point this movie drives is about the value of 'old school' investigative journalism, mostly thanks to an excellent cast and a few notepads (paper ones). Spot on.
Shock Head SoulAnne Murphy
In 1903 Daniel Paul Schreber published the most celebrated autobiography of madness ever written.
"Shock Head Soul" is innovative for its use of animation alongside the dramatic reconstruction of the experiences of the protagonist. Interesting documentary techniques utilise interviews and interpretations of modern-day psychiatrists that highlight the austerity of the setting through interesting image distortions. As a result, the movie is both artistic and harrowing, much like the memoir of the high court judge it is based on, an account largely written from the confines of asylum during schizophrenic episodes. Delusional or visionary?
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power with war.
It's a simple plot that's brought to life in this epic-scaled production. The magnificent courtyards and halls of the Shaolin temple play a starring role. Add sweeping rural landscapes of China to the on-screen splendour and the characters end up as extras. There are no crouching tigers but there are astonishing displays of aerial and on-the-ground martial arts. The well executed and bloody action scenes are furiously fought, not hampered by one side being mostly monks. Even Buddhist principles need defending.
Rescue DawnAnthony Macali
A US Fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission during the Vietnam War.
This film combines two of my favourite things: jungle and escaping prison. The jungle is captured beautifully: green, luscious and dense, impossible to penetrate without a machete. Escaping prison is slow, and painful. But this movie goes as far as showing many negligible details, from a crash-course in picking locks to converging the guards. The prisoners are a colourful bunch, the interplay in their state of delirium is very amusing. This is an exceptional war movie of survival and the jungle.