Mao's Last DancerWendy Slevison
Based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin, who was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet.
This movie tells an extraordinary tale of passion, sacrifice and political tug-of-war, centred in Communist China and the United States in the late 70's. With all the elements of a grand saga, this story of a modest and unassuming young man discovering his love and talent for ballet is both absorbing and incredibly moving. His fight for choice, at immense personal cost, is inspiring and unfortunately still very relevant in much of the world today.
A story following the relationship between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
The perfect time capsule of a film-making era that is fondly remembered through timeless movie classics. The larger than life director's film triumph looks to be authentically replicated, thanks mostly to the outstanding cast. The story from behind the camera is captivating. Audiences may find themselves wanting to know what happened next and more of the back story. You will certainly want to watch 'that movie' and the shower scene again. The Master of Suspense, warts and all.
15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
There is an underlying idealism and sentimentality to "Submarine" that is tenderly masked by moments of genuine hilarity. Just like sonar, you can't see it, but you can feel it there. The humour is oddball and quirky, but never to the point where it's self-aware. With a soundtrack that is simply sublime, and whimsical visuals to match, this is a stylish and funny story told with great affinity by a clearly talented first-time director. Submarine down. Periscopes, emotion, and laughter up.
Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq, wh After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin.
'Tis an ambitious undertaking to make a film with only one character and only one setting, especially when that setting is a wooden box. All involved, particularly the lead who battles the worst bureaucracy to try and survive, deserve great credit for achieving this feat in such a compelling way. The suspense is sustained brilliantly. Just when the situation looks like it couldn't get anymore dire, it does, in a most unexpected and nightmarish way. "Buried" is bold, brave and breathtaking.. literally.
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 Ides of MarchStefan Bugryn
A game of dirty politics plays out behind the scenes of the campaign for a Presidential candidate.
This is minimalistic film-making at it's best. The movie tackles some truly hard-hitting notions, but packs its punch with the little things. It's captivating to watch the actors hold back the emotion, where the drama is implied rather than thrown in your face. The long stares. The knowing eyes. It all sizzles in the background… but you can definitely feel it. The director could have easily gone for high melodrama, but instead went for the complete opposite, and it paid off remarkably. A vote of confidence.
127 HoursStefan Bugryn
A man gets stuck under a boulder while he ventures out alone to a canyon in Utah.
It is quite obvious the film-makers wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with the protagonist throughout this harrowingly absorbing ordeal. At times it almost feels like a 'docu-drama'. There's an abundance of uncomfortable close ups as the storyline is confined to that wretched canyon, while 'that scene' is unflinchingly realistic (you won't ever forget it!). In doing so, they created a film experience that is both gruelling and rewarding, and will leave you deep in thought afterwards. Every minute, and hour, is worth it.
Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
Although "Rango" might contain guitar playing owls and animals aplenty, it's not really an animation suited for kids. Like a lucid dream, our philosophical lizard ventures into the desert, and through an amusing account of luck and classically trained theatrics, becomes a leader to an eclectic bunch of western inspired creatures. Superb aesthetics, scarily realistic textures and political motifs central to the film create a very odd, yet surprisingly enjoyable experience. Cool, clever and deeply refreshing.
Animal KingdomWendy Slevison
Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
"Animal Kingdom" is a raw, understated exploration of the ongoing 'dog eat dog' battle between the police force and a criminal family. This is a skewed reality where life is cheap, and survival often comes down to the nonchalant disposal of other lives to ferociously protect your own. Loyalties are fluid, honesty a foreign concept. This powerful film tells its compelling tale with assurance and class, and features superb performances from an ensemble of the finest actors in Australian cinema.
The Blind SideAnne Murphy
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
"The Blind Side" has quite a plot, all true, all fairy-tale and all feel-good. With a remarkable story to tell, the film is not unnecessarily cheapened by sentiment. It is related in a down to earth manner that could be described as understated, marred only by the cloying musical score which is definitely overplayed. This pragmatic movie is delivered with faultless performances from the cast, and it is surprisingly moving to watch. Be blindsided.
Knight and DayAnne Murphy
June Havens finds her everyday life tangled with that of a secret agent who has realised he isn't supposed to survive his latest mission.
"Knight and Day" is as much video game in style as it is action movie, and it's pure high-energy entertainment. While they have fun and resist taking themselves too seriously, the big name leads are compelling with their on-screen chemistry. The pace doesn't let up, with exhilarating chase after chase. There's a captivating mix of comedy, romance and an upbeat soundtrack in this fabulous Hollywood fare that holds attention throughout. Fun viewing day or night.
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.
Jane EyreAnne Murphy
A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
A film adaption of a literary classic is rarely considered as good the book but this one is superb. "Jane Eyre" is likely to captivate all, including the most avid readers among us. This effort is well cast, capturing a perfect balance of brooding passion and guarded vulnerability. The cinematography captures a gothic austerity on the screen that reflects the social confines and well mannered restraint of the times, balanced by a landscape of moody spellbinding moors. Passionate plain Jane.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
An unnoticed high school student with no powers or training decides to become a super-hero.
"Kick-Ass" weaves teen melodrama with some of the coarsest language and most gratuitous and glorious violence ever seen on screen. Every action sequence is amazingly original, bolstered by inventive choreography and superb production values. Although the storyline is flimsy in parts, the uneven pacing may be considered deliberate, as our expectations are frequently and often shockingly shattered at any given moment. The director is to be applauded for this completely unrestrained film, free from industry conformity. Genuinely messed up, but totally kicks ass.
Gran TorinoAndrew O'Dea
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal his prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
"Gran Torino" tells the story of a man in transition. The film is driven by a weathered and steely performance from the lead actor, who peerlessly chisels out an insular and reluctant hero. A no-nonsense aesthetic means it shuns political correctness, presenting an unrepentant bigot who doesn't discriminate - he hates everyone. Surprisingly, it's these old school prejudices that create moments of genuine comedy and warmth. Highly recommended.
Children of MenAnthony Macali
In 2027, as humankind faces the likelihood of its own extinction, a disillusioned government agent agrees to help transport and protect a miraculously pregnant woman.
This is a disturbing look at London in anarchy, rife with violence and refugees impounded in cages. The future is glum when no children exist. The Bexhill refugee camp scenes towards the end are breath-taking. If you don't understand why there are no children in this movie, or continue to question it, this movie is not for you.
The Secret Life of Walter MittyAnne Murphy
A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action.
Suspend disbelief and step into the sort of adventure we ordinary folk only dream about. In addition to the ripping story line there are quirky characters and a stunning visual presentation, a magical combination. There is an interesting sub-plot about corporatism and the value placed on the bottom line rather than employees which has us hoping that someone can pull a rabbit from a hat. Remind the cynics when they scoff that it is the star gazers who create the magic. Shhh.
The HangoverAnthony Macali
A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
"The Hangover" premise is familiar and simple, the perfect breeding ground for plenty of laughter and stupidity. While the trailer might steal most of the best moments, the film is still hilarious. The characters are half as likeable as they should be, but it does make it funnier when bad stuff happens to them. It only struggles towards the ending, as jokes resort to bad cameos and slapstick. Despite a few headaches, it's still a winner.
Guardians of the GalaxyAndrew O'Dea
A group of misfits finds themselves the target of a manhunt after acquiring an all-powerful orb.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is utterly dazzling as a sci-fi spectacle, but its real strength lies in the charisma of its characters. The band of atypical yet weirdly loveable heroes at its core affirms the film's goofy and energetic nature, as it strikes a cosmic balance between rollicking action and humour. It also proves to be a musical treat, with the eclectic soundtrack providing a slew of classic songs to compliment the irreverent fun. Relive that feeling of being a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon with this awesome addition to the movie universe.
The ConjuringAnthony Macali
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Rooted in the origins of a true case, "The Conjuring" is frightening. Largely set in an eerie country home, this story doesn't appear to bring anything new to the genre, but the execution is haunting. The tension slowly builds and the heart-rate jumps with each scare. Even with the lights on you don't feel safe. There are few moments of silliness, but they are lost in the shadowing score, and the many bumps and thumps that mark the return of the exorcism. The film is possessed.
It's ComplicatedWendy Slevison
During their son's graduation, Jane hooks up with her ex-husband, Jake, who's now remarried. As well as becoming her ex's mistress, Jane also finds herself drawn to Adam, a smitten architect.
This movie, a quirky variation on the typical love triangle premise, is extremely funny. On many occasions throughout, the entire cinema was laughing uproariously, a somewhat rare experience. The delightful stars work fabulously together, and appear to be having an absolute ball. The feeling is contagious. It's really not complicated at all â€“ for a good laugh and a bit of fun, see this film!
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Drag Me to HellAnthony Macali
A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell.
"Drag Me to Hell" is silly, funny, and far from scary. There are some frights and jumps, often summoned by a shadowy silence broken by loud crescendos. Any moments of genuine terror are banished by absurd humour, and its this release of tension that makes the film such a joy. While the second half might not match the quality of the first, it breaks the curse of formulaic cinema and is a movie that is equally distinct and entertaining.