Maps to the StarsAnne Murphy
A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.
"Maps to the Stars" is a disturbing social satire that is also an absorbing study of human character, if you can bear to watch it. The bleak yet original story is gripping for the way it gradually unfolds without revealing what happens next. It's involving thanks to the strong cast who bring the reprehensible, self-absorbed characters to life. Everyone has self-destructive tendencies but the desperate violence they wreak on each other is what's most jaw-dropping. A dark night in Tinseltown.
Folies BergereAnne Murphy
Brigitte and Xavier are a couple of cattle farmers living and working together in Normandy.
A movie about cattle farmers is bound to have a rustic feel. "Folies Bergere" has just that, and there is something very simple and charming about this film. There is also something lacking; most stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. This one has a beginning, a middle, more middle, and yet another middle before it tapers off and the credits roll. The actors are impeccable, the country and Parisian backdrops picturesque, but regrettably, the overall experience is not entirely satisfying. The folly of a director?
The One I LoveAnne Murphy
Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them.
"The One I Love" is an offbeat exploration of affairs of the heart and it's amusing if not outright funny. The plot is intriguing with a premise that confounds before it unfolds, so be sure not to let anyone reveal the story before you see it. Apart from the captivating performances of the lead actors, what makes this movie so diverting is the puzzle it presents. She loves me, she loves me not.
Rock the CasbahAnne Murphy
Problems arise when Sofia returns to Tangiers and her family is reunited for her father's funeral.
"Rock the Casbah" leaves a lasting memory of its stunning visual backdrops and scenery, and there's a sense of enjoying something sumptuous being put before the audience. Family relationships are at the fore of this engaging character-driven drama and there are skeletons aplenty coming out of the proverbial closet. The flow is disturbed by uneven acting performances and don't be misled by the title, while some scores are settled these are familial and not musical in nature. Rolls rather than rocks.
Particle FeverJan Di Pietro
Physicists are on the cusp of the greatest scientific discovery of all time - or perhaps their greatest failure.
High drama plays out in this film through vigorous debate, ambition, and a hardcore desire to find the truth – about everything. The scientists crusading for cosmic knowledge at the core of "Particle Fever" are the real story here, and the ultimate winner is physics, as it fully consumes its worshipers. These die-hard geniuses are stuck in a fever of ignorant pursuit, hurtling towards a likely end of nothing, but relishing every second of the journey. So goes life.
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.
Winter SleepJan Di Pietro
A former actor runs a hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife and sister.
The Turkish landscape provides a chilling setting for this excellent drama. The script is audaciously intelligent, and demands serious investment from its audience. It's a marathon of dense dialogue that can become difficult with subtitles, but edge-of-your-seat performances will haul you through the emotional terrain and across the finish line. "Winter Sleep" addresses difficult social issues too. Poverty, health care, charity, and morality allow the director to dissect the human condition with confidence and poise. Be brave and face reality.
The DropAndrew O'Dea
Bob Saginowski finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood's past.
"The Drop" is a terse, arresting crime-thriller that explores themes of obligation and morality. Below the surface of this film is a complex character study, with great performances that are as gritty and moody as the bleak urban landscape in which it is set. The story is a slow-burn, building a sense of unease as the screws are gradually tightened. While it mightn't satisfy those accustomed to punchier underworld movies, rest assured the fuse is wired for a palpable conclusion.
U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
As funny as it is rousing, "Pride" is not to be missed. Flamboyant meets frumpy when two disparate communities come together in difficult times, and while it's not all solidarity and sunshine their story makes for an engrossing movie. Knowing the plot is based upon recent socio-political history brings poignancy, as we watch people put aside their differences to stand together. Can one review hold more superlatives? Riotous, rampaging and romantic, just suffice to say this effort stands proud.
Two Days, One NightAnthony Macali
Sandra discovers that her workmates have opted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
"Two Days, One Night" ponders a precarious dilemma. We learn our protagonist is wrestling a sickness, and feel the helplessness and frustration that comes living with it, amplified by a strong and palpable performance. While the setup is questionable, it enables an interesting and often unseen view of families on the weekend, and the common economic struggles they face. The quiet pace might not suit everyone, but it allows time to properly introduce the various characters, and effortlessly create an emotional connection. Lingers many days after...
The Young and Prodigious T.S. SpivetAnne Murphy
A ten-year-old scientist sets out from his family's ranch in Montana and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.
Prodigious? Perhaps. Beguiling? Absolutely. This movie reaches out from the screen to engage with the imaginations of the audience and it is a delightful experience to see the world through the eyes of a serious young boy. While whimsical and almost naive in style, the heart wrenching back story of a family divided by trauma directs us to regard this as a mature tale. Not only cowboys are born under a wandering wondering star.
Kill the MessengerAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.
"Kill the Messenger" gets caught up not knowing what kind of film it wants to be. Considering the alarming and hard-hitting news of the discovery, the expectant feelings of anger and discontent towards the cover-up are severely lacking. The narrative serves more as a lesson in public relations, as we watch an honourable journalist get discredited; his breakdown not as interesting as the politics. An admirable story to bring to the fore… even if the message isn't clear.
Living Is Easy with Eyes ClosedAnne Murphy
Spain, 1966, a high-school teacher, Antonio, drives to the town of Almeria in hopes of meeting his hero, John Lennon.
The most striking aspect of this movie is the warmheartedness of the central characters, the teacher, a young woman, and a boy who has left home. On the road together they create an engaging tale, each on their own journey of discovery. Instances of random cruelty provide a caustic note and serve as a reminder of the political backdrop of a country under fascist rule. Close your eyes and this is a feel good story, but living is just not that easy.
Advanced StyleAnthony Macali
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.
"Advanced Style" is a lovely documentary that will invigorate and enliven. As it fleetingly delves into the profiles of the stylish ladies who make up this blog-inspired film, we get exposed to some deeply creative and driven elderly women that one might not normally notice walking down the street. We also learn that with age comes a great sense of humour, with the interviewees encouraged to share stories just a little more philosophical than the contents of their wardrobe. A passion for fashion.
What We Do in the ShadowsAnthony Macali
Follow the lives of three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles, like being immortal vampires.
"What We Do in the Shadows" demonstrates that life is hard for a vampire in Wellington. In true mockumentary style, the introduction of a wide-range of housemates is the best and funniest part of the film. The dry humour and deadpan delivery creates many laugh-out-loud moments, as it employs the classic bloodsucker traits and applies them to the modern world. While the lack of a story becomes prevalent towards the end, it doesn't last too long. They do hilarious.
The GrandmasterAndrew O'Dea
The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
"The Grandmaster" is a stylish Kung Fu epic, resplendent in its lush visuals and attention to period detail. Unfortunately the narrative is downright confusing, burdened by disjointed storytelling and a muddled timeline. It disappoints as a biography of its subject, flippantly passing over the opportunity for meaty characterisation in exchange for overly dramatised, prolonged cut sequences. Thankfully, the stunning and explosive fight sequences that redeem this movie, undeniably gorgeous in their choreography and artistic flair. A grand film, but hardly mastered.
A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save Virunga National Park in Congo.
"Virunga" is a vibrant national park full of life and, to much dismay, a place of death. This breathtaking parcel of land happens to fall on a large oil deposit, and the battle between preservation and money plays out extraordinarily on screen. It's a shocking juxtaposition that lets its characters share their messages, from the adorable keepers and their family of gorillas, to the faceless business men contracted to incite war. A fine example of fearless journalism and heartfelt conservation. Primeval.
Paper PlanesAnthony Macali
An imaginative children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
"Paper Planes" is a laudable representative of Australian drama, reminding us of some of the more imaginative and simpler pleasures in life. With themes of grief, bullying and the importance of winning, it's difficult to dislike this innocuous outing. While it may struggle to find an audience outside of its target demographic, the performances of the adolescents and uplifting musical score will inspire a generation. Pull out the A4's... and start folding.
An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
'Joe' is a well-revered man and surprising anti-hero to the strange dwellers of his back-wood community. He resides in a neighbourhood full of sinister characters, with troubled pasts and captivating lives. In the middle lies a relationship with the young Gary. Their exchanges form the most rewarding part of the film, as they thrive and learn from their experiences. Despite a lull towards the end, the local menaces will keep on you on edge. A hard-working performance.
A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.
"Mommy" is an onerous film to watch, and the deliberate and narrow aspect ratio provides little escape from the situation or cast. The characters steal the focus, and their performances are worthy of our attention. We can feel the despair and helplessness of managing the short-tempered Steve, and the terror in knowing he could snap on a whim. It's a long and emotional sitting, with limited moments of unassuming happiness. Family first.
Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career.
For its entirety, "Locke" sits firmly in the confines of a car... just a man and his mobile phone. While this premise might initially grab your attention, it's the great dialogue that keeps you listening, and the varied characters in his phonebook keep the conversations fresh. You genuinely fell empathy for the sorrowful Ivan in the most dramatic day of his life. The stress and tension builds with each new dial, as he tries his best to right wrongs in a restricted environment. Locked in your seat.
The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.
"Predestination" revels in the very paradoxes created in its story. The two characters at the centre are as intriguing as the subject matter, and their stories of the past make for a fascinating plot. Once swept away by the narrative, the 'time-travel' arc kicks in… and so does the confusion. It's difficult to make sense of it all upon first viewing, but time passes quickly, and the journey is enjoyable enough. Predestined to bemuse.
Appropriate BehaviourAnne Murphy
Shirin is struggling to become an ideal Persian daughter, politically correct bisexual and hip young Brooklynite but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities.
Well this is 'the' city and there is plenty of sex, but there's no mascara, cocktails or designer shoes; this is a down to earth production starring real girls. Central to the story is the disintegration of a relationship, and the breakup seems to have plunged the characters into an affect-less zone with little emotion. The flat-lining and eye-rolling mostly creates a quirky mood that works partly because the film finishes before the opportunities for dialogue run out. Nothing inappropriate.
Still LifeAnne Murphy
A council case worker looks for the relatives of those found dead and alone.
If "Still Life" highlights anything, it demonstrates how much things change. Life does not stay still. This movie creates a disquieting sense of emptiness as it peers at the little that's left behind by the lonely and the alone. The story is simply presented and although it is bleak, the delivery of day by day routine is rather matter of fact. There is so little emotional connection in what's played out on the screen it's difficult for audiences to feel very much apart from melancholic. Inert.
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.