The WitchAnne Murphy
A devout family of Puritans, in early colonial America, are outcast from their community.
"The Witch" gets off to a flying start. Pardon the pun as there are no broomsticks involved, and this film is without humour. The story does start well and builds some tension, but ultimately fails to deliver any real spine-tingling chills. The offering is not all that satisfying as we're left to interpret the action, and it's a bit too open ended. What did happen? Does religious fervour invite evil acts? What we do know is that this is an atmospheric folk-tale, or a moralistic warning. No cackles.
A Bigger SplashAnne Murphy
A taut drama is played out when a music producer visits a singer on an Italian island where she is recuperating with her partner.
A sun-drenched holiday by a pool is no simple matter when much more is bared than naked flesh. "A Bigger Splash" is a sophisticated and complex melodrama centred on relationships. You can't help but enjoy the flaunting of hedonism that only comes of pure narcissism. There are plenty of dark undertones, and the story is one to keep audiences guessing. There's a delicious tension knowing the unexpected is coming. In hindsight though, the symbolism employed is annoyingly blatant. Making waves.
10 Cloverfield LaneStefan Sgarioto
After surviving a car accident, a woman wakes up in an underground cellar with two men, who claim that a worldwide chemical attack has left the outside world uninhabitable.
Secrecy is the name of the game in "10 Cloverfield Lane", where the less you know about it, the better it is. While touted as a blood relative but not a direct sequel to the similarly named monster-horror film, it’s implied that monsters come in many more dangerous forms. While this film has a slow build, the pay-off is worth it. Brimming with claustrophobia, paranoia and incredibly tense character dynamics, this suspenseful psychological thriller keeps you guessing until the very end.
The Hateful EightStefan Bugryn
Eight cowboys that are stuck together in a cabin during a blizzard soon discover something sinister has been planned.
"The Hateful Eight" is more talk than action, and a lot longer than it should be. Fortunately, the entertaining dialogue and colourful characters save this film from being a complete bomb. The entire setup feels staged, as if the actors are playing out a theatre production, rather than a big Hollywood piece. It takes almost more than an hour to make progress, with everything prior lacking any real substance. If you break it down, it's just a couple of angry guys trapped in a room together arguing. Resentful two and a half.
Irrational ManAnne Murphy
A philosophy professor is enduring a deep and hopeless melancholy which lifts after he engineers a murder.
The existential themes from the writer/director are familiar, as is the struggle between right and wrong, which the film's protagonist faces. The material might look a little tired, but the lead actors invigorate the story and bring it to life with strong performances, despite seeing them all losing their moral bearings. "An Irrational Man" holds attention as it plays out thanks in part to the dialogue, which is engaging banter with an intellectual edge. Irrational but sound.
Before I Go to SleepAnthony Macali
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
"Before I Go to Sleep" is more frightening than one might think. Living with amnesia is a damned reality, and the film vehemently captures the constant fear and mistrust our protagonist is feeling. With eerie photos and distressing video diaries, each daily cycle will keep the audience guessing, as strong performances from the cast pull in many different directions, mentally and emotionally, before descending into the darkness of the final act. Sweet dreams.
Gone GirlAnthony Macali
With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
"Gone Girl" is a compelling investigation into the fallout of a missing person... where nothing is what it seems to be. The extraordinary story plays out with a candid reality that elevates this thriller to a class above, with countless twists and turns that continually renew your interest during an extensive running time. Supported by great characters and an electrifying score, this chilling film will linger long after the case is closed. Masterstroke found.
In the HouseAnne Murphy
A sixteen-year-old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher.
"In the House" cleverly and deliberately blurs the line between fact and fiction. As the plot develops, we are left to ponder what game is being played. This is a clever movie where the audience could feel as manipulated as any of the characters; is there a disquieting undertone of malevolence or was it imagined? After all, this is a witty story about story-telling and it is a good story well told. Inside, outside, and upside down.
An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
"Trance" is a demonstration in the odd behaviours associated with art, hypnosis and love. What starts as an apparent heist film quickly transitions into a psychological thriller, challenging the audience to discover the truth. With each chapter, the story introduces new pieces of the puzzle and dissecting each revelation delivers a sense of accomplishment. Driven by a great cast of ensnaring characters, the only frustrating memory might be a plot-twist too many. A riveting piece missing perfection.
Cloud AtlasAndrew O'Dea
An exploration how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future.
"Cloud Atlas" is a sprawling, thought-provoking film that explores the consequences of our actions, based upon the premise that the choices in one life will influence the next. The scope is epic; narratives are interwoven and re-visited as it spans the centuries and into the future, requiring an utmost attentiveness throughout. The sheer ambitiousness of this movie is sure to polarise. The audience will either be baffled and exasperated by such a layered and complex story, or thrilled by the mystery and profound emotional effect left on their philosophical compass.
Alex CrossAnthony Macali
A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.
"Alex Cross" is your typical crime-thriller that some studio thought warranted a big-screen production. The titular detective is a notable presence, showing off his impressive analytical skills and wracking his brain to solve the puzzle and motive of a crazed killer. The pace is mild, and the rather psychotic turn mid-way adds some weight to the situation, but the shift is rather abrupt and dubious. An investigation-by-numbers that is moderately suspenseful.
Safe HouseAnthony Macali
A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
You can't help but laugh at the irony of "Safe House". What is supposed to be a temporary detention and interrogation room for captured criminals is a mere launching pad for the first of many intense shoot-outs and car chases. The action doesn't stop, and the film's suspense remains taut throughout thanks to some handy camerawork, a pumping soundtrack and the frenzied senior officials all pointing fingers at one another. Guns, lies, espionage… nobody's safe.
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyAnthony Macali
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement.
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is terribly confusing. The cast is fantastic of course, but there are too many of them to keep track of. This isn't helped by the constant time shifts and the fact that everyone's story is marred with some kind of secret orcover-up. Perhaps if you can manage to look past the elegant period setting and splendid-looking pastels, and concentrate hard enough, the pieces of the puzzle will all fit. Most however, will reach the end only to wonder, "what the hell just happened?!" You'll need a dossier to accompany the screening.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsAndrew O'Dea
Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is a film dotted with action, mystery, intrigue and humour, picking up right where its predecessor left off. The audience will once again regale in the superbly realised relationship between Holmes and Watson, their chemistry and witty banter providing the perfect accompaniment to an intricate storyline and a series of gripping action sequences. Although some may find this instalment overly stylised, most fans will no doubt be satisfied. It's elementary.
A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots.
"Incendies" reveals the remarkable journey of a mother, in search of an explanation for her enduring state of despair. As her kids set out on their quest, the truth is exposed through the seamless weaving of past and present. Nawal's story is one burdened by war, religion and tradition, highlighting the generational gap and the sheltered knowledge we have of the 'primitive' views of a past that can cause so much nurtured grief. The fire burns strong and powerful, but very slow.
Source CodeAndrew O'Dea
An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.
Although the premise of this film is both complicated and perplexing, you inevitably appreciate the refreshing inventiveness and deft touch of a director who clearly knows how to build suspense. The sublime and deliberate pacing, which is difficult to maintain considering the film revisits the same scene over and again, still manages to keep you intrigued. The constantly changing plot will keep you guessing on an immersive ride that makes "Source Code" equal to, or greater than... entertaining.
Red Riding HoodAndrew O'Dea
In a medieval village, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure.
"Red Riding Hood" is a bumpy ride. Imagination and creativity certaintly aren't lacking, and the film somehow manages to maintain an air of mystery amongst some seriously banal dialogue and laughable clichés. The hackneyed script is offset by some splendid cinematography, impressive production values and a mesmerising lead actress. Yet it's these unfortunate let downs that will constantly have you lamenting a darker promise unfulfilled, without the hindrance of what is clearly poor, one-dimensional direction. Definitely a case of big ears, big eyes, big teeth... no bite.
Zero FocusAnne Murphy
Spurred by the disappearance of a newly-wed husband, three women in post-war Japan are drawn into a murder mystery.
"Zero Focus" is a mystery thriller set in post-war Japan. The plot is complicated and bodies pile up as the murders out-number the suspects. The movie is moody and melodramatic, evoking the classical work of directors from a past era. Despite the cultural setting there is familiarity to the style and unusual camera angles. The lengthy drama is eventually brought to a lengthy conclusion, but no thread is left unexplained as final scene follows final scene, leaving focus diminished.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
Harry, Hermoine and Ron race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes.
This penultimate chapter of the Potter franchise undoubtedly cements its transition from children's story to mature fantasy. Tinged with frightening scenes and violent action sequences, the decidedly dark and brooding tone is established from the outset. Credit is due to direction that still manages to strike a balance between tragedy and humour, while the special effects throughout are simply spectacular. This film basically serves as a vehicle to build suspense and anticipation for the climactic final installment, and now the stage is set for what promises to be a magical conclusion...
Shutter IslandAnthony Macali
Set in 1954, Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.
"Shutter Island" opens with a dreadfully ominous musical composition, promptly setting the tone for this dark and disturbing thriller. The hospital for mental health is the perfect setting for the director to play games with the mind, as Teddy's scrutiny slowly intensifies, clouding his dreams with reality. The fragments of his delusions are haunting, as you're drowned in a loud and often exaggerated score. It will send shudders down the spine, keep you guessing, and enthral to the very end.
Sherlock HolmesAndrew O'Dea
Detective Holmes engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis who threatens all of England.
Although faithful to the source material, this movie isn't bound to it, and the legendary detective presented is an eccentric and captivatingly flawed hero that boxes, boozes, and deduces. The stylishly monochromatic production of a grimy 19th century London provides a perfect backdrop as we delight in the exchanges of wit and banter between Holmes and his trusty counterpart Watson. Combining sublime action sequences and a gripping plot to boot, "Sherlock Holmes" equates to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's elementary.
The Imaginarium of Doctor ParnassusAnthony Macali
The story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary 'Imaginarium', a travelling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom.
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" daringly paints a picture of the adventurous world that is your fantasy. The mystery behind the mirror provides plenty of curiosity and suspense, as we take a front-seat to the allure and charm of the 'Imaginarium'. To our modest disappointment, the production loses some of the gamble on its hollow and luckless storyline. Creatively colourful and grand, this film is an entertaining show for those with an open mind.
The BoxAnthony Macali
A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple, who know that opening it will grant them a million dollars and kill someone they don't know.
Based on a short-story, this creepy film doesn't live up to its promising premise. A lot of weird stuff happens - blood noses, gateways, lightening and other unintentionally funny moments of suspense. The score is atmospheric, performances solid, but intriguing questions of morality are lost in the frustratingly ponderous revelations. The lesson here is to stay at home in your box, perhaps watch the box, and avoid the confusion that is "The Box".
Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he works alongside his computer, GERTY.
"Moon" is no pioneer, but is still a quietly quaint and enjoyable movie. Lacking the grandeur of most space odysseys, this film is all about Sam, and we become immersed in his isolation and apprehension. The atmosphere is boosted by an accomplished score, creating tension in tandem with the computer GERTY, whose indifferent disposition is as discomforting as his voice. It certainly won't rock science fiction, but will definately re-energise the genre.
Van Diemen's LandAnthony Macali
The true story of Alexander Pearce, Australia's most notorious convict. In 1822, Pearce and seven fellow convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour.
"Van Diemen's Land" plays like a horror/slasher film. The format is very simple: convicts sit by the fire hiding fears they're the next to be killed, and then proceed to walk through the forest (in the most captivating moments of the film), before one is inevitably bludgeoned to death for food. If we were able to associate more with the characters' hunger and desperation, it may have had a greater impact, but in the end it's just simple and barbaric.