Mia MadreAnne Murphy
A film director tries to keep the camera rolling while she copes with her dying mother in her personal life.
"Mia Madre" is an intimate drama about family, raising a daughter and letting a mother leave. The central character is a film director, her movie shoot spiralling out of control while at the same time struggling to hold her personal life together. It is the recognisable lot of any working woman but it's all amplified to fit into a movie length story. Sadly there are not enough emotional hooks to keep us fully connected. Mumma Mia.
Purple RainAnne Murphy
The Kid is making his way as a performer with his band The Revolution, battling his inner demons and falling in love.
The screen belongs to the central performer of this film, and his music and moves are as mesmerising as is his mascara. Forget the barely there script and the stilted performances of the supporting cast, and allow yourself to be hypnotised by the singer - you know the one. There are a few too many macho aggressive moments that only serve to confirm the superficiality of the story-line, but all is redeemed by the leading man and his songs, the artist formerly known as Prince.
A Month of SundaysAnne Murphy
A real-estate agent fumbles through mid-life circumstances, navigates encounters with people from his present and his past.
"A Month of Sundays" is a warm movie where the central character is mired in his less than fulfilling life and uninspired about any future prospects. He is downbeat about his lot, and even working in the buoyant housing market fails to lift his outlook. The introspective nature of the story means that the screen action is a little slow, fortunately the funk lifts and we're delivered a satisfactory, but not so memorable, viewing experience in the end. Wish it was Monday.
A day in the life of a Footscray Pawn shop owner and the characters who inhabit the neighbourhood.
The most striking element of "Pawno" is how well observed the characters are. The players assembled by this independent filmmaker are familiar and recognisable, from the scallywags to the battlers, each embodying a part of a quintessentially Australian psyche. There are many story-lines woven into the episodic plot, and a lot of emotional territory is traversed while not straying too far from a particularly interesting shop in a suburb known for its diversity. It's all here, astute and darkly colourful. Pawn stars.
In 1920's France, Marguerite Dumont is a wealthy woman and aspiring Opera singer, however everyone around her is afraid to tell her she can't sing.
"Marguerite" is a story about the power of wealth and perils of social courtesies. From the onset, it's very clear the well-intentioned lover of music cannot sing, and her naivety is only matched by the cowardice of her peers. They're all afraid to tell her the truth, and it's that awkward conversation she has with everyone unfortunate enough to hear her voice that provides the most delight. But there's more to this film than purely amusing theatrics. While the point is hammered home loudly, it dolefully explores a woman yearning for her husband. Poor Marguerite.
Two brothers in Iceland who don't speak to each other are united in their efforts to save their flocks from being destroyed for a suspected disease.
"Rams" can be viewed as a complex, understated drama in an interesting setting that leaves the viewer to connect threads that are not overly explained. Conversely you may find yourself nodding off after counting sheep while the story plods on. There's no denying the beauty of the desolate landscape and the quality of the cinematography, but this movie will be most appreciated by those with a well-developed sense of the bizarre. Baa or bah?
Eye in the SkyAnthony Macali
A military operation to capture terrorists in Kenya comes under question when the request for a drone strike to bomb the target causes a heated debate across government factions.
"Eye in the Sky" might be divisive in nature, but the thrills and tension it provides are unquestionable. Although lacking certain subtleties, it incisively poses the question: "What is an acceptable cost of life to kill a terrorist?" The conundrum is debated with great vigour from the superb global cast, creating a captivating drama. Favouring back-room politics over guns and explosions, this film successfully reveals how modern warfare is controlled by static soldiers behind computer screens. Eye for suspense.
A documentary about the role of Sherpas on Everest was being filmed in 2014 when an ice fall resulted in a significant loss of life.
The ways of Sherpas and mountain climbers are brought into sharp relief in this engrossing social commentary. Much of what we witness beggars belief, as the camera captures entrenched exploitation, all exacerbated by different belief systems and communication styles. Day-to-day activities highlight the inequalities, climbers enjoy a hot towel and a cup of tea brought to their tent, while Sherpas carry supplies including a toilet up the mountain. Appalled in Nepal.
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.
The Lady in the VanAnne Murphy
The true story of an eccentric woman who lived in her van for 15 years while parked in the driveway of a playwright.
This is one of those stories where fact is stranger than fiction. The performance from the actor who plays the lady herself is fabulous, a perfect portrayal of a lonely but cantankerous and independent woman who has her wits about her. Mystery surrounds the character, and our discoveries about her are revealed like jigsaw pieces. The full picture isn't portrayed, not in all those years. Restrained, polite, and very English. Van in no man's land.
45 YearsAnne Murphy
News from the past disturbs a couple as they prepare for a party to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Apparently you can learn something about your spouse that causes you to question everything about a life shared across decades. Really? It is a shaky premise for a movie if you believe marriage is a partnership rather than some form of ownership. There is something very perturbing about the central couple if their life as a "we" cannot accommodate some "me" about things in the past. Maybe they are just uncomfortably British and repressed. Can you keep a secret?
Son of SaulAnne Murphy
In Auschwitz in 1944, prisoners made up the Sonderkommando, groups who had to dispose of the bodies of their own people.
Watching "Son of Saul" feels akin to being in hell, such is the honesty of this holocaust drama. The film-making is extraordinary in recreating the full horror of the death camps and delivering an intense cinematic experience while keeping the audience riveted to the screen. There's no looking away as we bear witness to it all through one man's eyes. We observe something more gruelling than any imagined living-torment; the overwhelming horror of an unimaginable hell on earth. Devastating.
The biography of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted for his political beliefs during the McCarthy era.
In this story, an important piece of film history is found in the hysteria of the 1940's and 50's that saw many in the industry tarred as red and barred from working for their political views. "Trumbo" speaks to the both fear and moral courage of the time, served with a generous sprinkle of humorous eccentricities. This is an engrossing tale of villains and egos with a well-acted cast of characters, each with an uncanny physical resemblance to the real person being portrayed. And the winner is...
In the 1950s a young Irish girl migrates to Brooklyn, where she must learn to fall on her feet.
"Brooklyn" is an old-fashioned, simple, and exquisitely told romance story. It's a gorgeous looking film with the perfect match of characters and locales. For most parts the film dailies along, anchored by mesmerising performances that bring it to life and draw the emotion. The lead features in almost every frame, and could not be better cast. Her portrayal is wonderful to watch, as we observe her character learn, grow and shine in the limelight. Immigrants unite... this is an incredibly charming voyage.
Michael Stone, an author on customer service, checks into a hotel and goes in search for some excitement to introduce to his relatively dull life.
"Anomalisa" is a curious observation of the mundanity of life, and the effect its simple premise will have on you is fascinating. It's a mesmerising stop-motion animation, and despite an unusual choice of visuals, it remains a deeply human story that deftly explores the beauty of romance in a largely uneventful day. In its search for meaning, there are many droll moments, but also scenes of personal insight that offer a profoundly relatable experience. A beautiful mystery.
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.
1950s New York, a shy young woman and a sophisticated older woman discover a mutual attraction after an encounter in a department store.
"Carol" proves to be as complicated as it is elegant, with a constrained mood that reflects the conservative social mores of the period. The central romance requires a discretion that is perfectly captured by the director in a series of seductively framed small moments. Every element is exquisite, from the refined costumes to the vintage period set details. The desire and longing between the two women is so palpable you can feel your own heart aching. Adulation.
The Danish GirlAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, the marriage of artist Einar Wegener comes into question when his penchant for women's clothing prompts a transformation into the female persona Lili Elbe in the 1920s.
"The Danish Girl" is a delicate film, chronicling the extraordinary life of its protagonist in a very intimate way. With art as an ongoing theme, beautiful cinematography surround the intriguing character arcs. Striking, well grounded performances capture the volatility of the central relationship, exploring the ever-confused couple in their great distress. Perhaps falling short in its emotional impact, the story does successfully highlight an absence of social progression. The entangled artist.
A retired composer and his longtime film director friend reflect on their lives at a Swiss Spa.
"Youth" is a film that demonstrates how growing old can change your perception on life, and once seen through the quirky gaze of its main characters, the world opens up. A luxury resort is the perfect setting to host a gathering of eccentric characters, and their odd and seemingly inconsequential behaviour consumes a large portion of the running time. Touching performances are sometimes lost as we attempt to grasp the context of the narrative, which only becomes apparent towards the finale, when the commentary becomes a little more forthright. Mature and weird.
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.
The RevenantAnthony Macali
After an ugly confrontation with a grizzly bear, Hugh Glass is left for dead in the snow by his crew.
"The Revenant" is unrelenting, unflinching and brutal. It's man against the elements, against nature and fellow man. This astounding tale of survival is wrought with sadness, set against great beauty. Gruelling performances combine with breathtaking visuals to create mesmerising cinematography, amongst terrain so harsh that you feel the chill of the snow along with the awe of the immense landscape. Despite the harrowing experience, this amazing production demands expedition. Extraordinary frontier.
A young jazz drummer, inspired by the tutelage of his psychotic teacher, does whatever it takes to be the best.
"Whiplash" is exceptional... with all its encompassing blood, sweat and tears. No musical background is required, as this brilliantly determined film will completely absorb you with commanding performances, enchanting rhythm and rapid editing. The story is a strong is a character piece, with the spotlight shining on the obsessive culture and lengths some of the orchestra members go to better their skills, expertly captured in the films contained and manic style. Just the right tempo.
99 HomesAnthony Macali
After being evicted from his home, a father starts working for the very real estate broker who facilitated his dispossession.
"99 Homes" is an emotionally charged story about the economic fallout of the US financial crisis, with a particular focus on the families who lose their homes. The intimate and close-up style, bolstered by the desperate and compelling performances, create a heartfelt and personal story, which is deeply empathetic. From the first eviction, the dramatic tension never lets up, and raises questions of morality at every turn. One good film.
Mistress AmericaAnne Murphy
A young woman attending college in New York has her life invigorated when she meets her step-sister to be.
Witty dialogue and a tumbling pace combine to make "Mistress America" a beguiling film. The paradox of wondering what will come of us when we grow up and inevitably age is deftly explored. Characters have a sense of self awareness and introspection, but every thought is blurted out in a comic extroverted way. Perhaps this is what life would be like if we tweeted face to face, a curious mix of self-consciousness and vibrancy. Don't Miss(tress) America.