A Little ChaosTom Jones
A female landscape-gardener is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles.
Set in the days when periwigs were 'in', "A Little Chaos" depicts one of the earliest examples of a backyard blitz, as our heroine gets her hands dirty to create an outside ballroom at the Palace of Versailles. Overcoming bad weather, a saboteur, and a wheelbarrow full of skepticism, she proves to be more than just a dame in a dress. Despite this garden show including a budding romance and a buried past, ultimately it fails to grow on the audience.
A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot.
Set amidst the melting pot of violence and political tension of Belfast in '71, this unconventional yet taut thriller is an introspective into the bitter conflict between Catholics and protestants at the time. There are bombs, bullets and bodies aplenty without being a prototypical action movie, and despite being a slow burn, still maintains an aura of suspense as we accompany our hero through a gritty urban war-zone; the jittery hand-held camera work lending a sense of urgency and immediacy. A willing tale from another decade.
Love is StrangeAnne Murphy
After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing.
"Love is Strange" is an unforgettable story of commitment to another that is deep, honest, and real... and there's nothing strange about that. Circumstances test wider family relationships and push them to the limits, and it's emotion rather than action that is key to this story's success. The chemistry between the lead couple is loaded with genuine affection; they deliver unhurried performances that will touch your heart. Life is strange and love is true.
Inherent ViceAnne Murphy
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
"Inherent Vice" is a pleasure to watch, a perfect antidote to straight monochromatic movies. Maybe it could be a little shorter and certainly the story threads could be more coherent - some will consider those points as flaws while others will sink into their seats and revel in the ride. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the actors' flawless performances matched only by a superb soundtrack. Nice vice.
Manny LewisJan Di Pietro
The film follows the story of a famous fictional stand-up comedian Manny Lewis, who connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to one person.
"Manny Lewis" is a heartwarming story told with refreshing simplicity. Fortunately, it lacks the typically overt, 'Aussie-brand' larrikin humour exhibited by some Australian comedies. The result is a film with great heart, poignancy, and many sobering laughs. Some scenes drown in rom-com cliches, but understated, lovable characters make it bearable. I wouldn't watch it 'Manny' times, but once was good enough.
What We Did on Our HolidayAnne Murphy
Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.
While the story is all about celebrating granddad on his birthday, it's his three young grandchildren who steal almost every scene; they are as sassy as they are beguiling. The kids have access to greater intelligence, both rational and emotional, than the adults. The grownups have dibs on inappropriate outbursts, and you have to wonder if you're laughing at them, or with them? Viewing this likable movie may prompt self-reflection and if not you'll have lots of charming holiday images. Now what to do with the rest of our lives?
A ground-breaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a boy named Mason who grows up on screen before our eyes.
"Boyhood" is an epic cinematic feat, filmed over 12 years with a viewing time spanning a few hours. For all of its sweeping scope, this movie is about the small episodes that make up an ordinary life as it is lived. There's no big plot or narrative, the everyday can be unremarkable, the tone easy going and understated. A lot of ground is covered, and watching is memorable for the emotional intimacy achieved on screen. All boy no hoody.
The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul.
"Foxcatcher" is not an ordinary tale of Olympic endeavour. This story is bleak, and rarely strays from desolate tone and colourless surroundings. The striking transformations and uneasy performances from the central characters are the films greatest strength, creating tension and a sense of discomfort as the drama unfolds. With authentic wrestling and a glimpse into the lavish, the setting is good but lacks the emotion to successfully engage its audience. Not a gold-winning team.
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.