The Hunger Games: Catching FireAnthony Macali
Katniss becomes a target of the Capitol after her victory in the Hunger Games sparks a rebellion.
The best thing about "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is you know there's going to be another games. Like the first installment, the anticipation and build-up to the event is as thrilling as the tournament itself. Be prepared for refreshing new costumes, players and sinister threats as our heroes unwillingly participate in a constant battle of determination and wit against their oppressors. While some of the character scenes are a little patchy, thematically the film remains a victor. The fire burns bright.
Enough SaidAnne Murphy
A divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she's interested in learns he's her new friend's ex-husband.
Reading the synopsis you might assume the relationship central to "Enough Said" is fraught, which would misrepresent this intelligent and nuanced comedy. Maybe any romantic pairing is complicated, even the flirtatious liaison that this couple starts out with. While there are complexities inherent in the story line, the movie is deceptively simple, and the realism disarming, almost achingly so. How do you love someone just as they are and not for how you want them to be? Say it again...
Stories We TellAnne Murphy
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
Having "The Stories We Tell" labeled as a documentary understates the dramatic wonder threaded into this movie. When following her family fault lines, the director allows for interweaving of fact and fiction in a way that is transparent for the viewer, and it serves to intrigue. The story and the various family members who narrate it are compelling in a human and likeable way. The honesty of each in remembering their version is reassuringly recognisable and imperfect. Tall tales but true.
Blue JasmineAnne Murphy
A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister.
This is a global financial crisis aftermath movie, where we are drawn to watching those who had it all, and their lives after the loss of that excess. How do you keep it together when your life comes apart? "Blue Jasmine" exposes a taut human fragility through its characters, family, lovers and strangers. Our simplicity is in full view along with our complexity and a confounding ability to see ourselves as we imagine we are. Sharp, dark and smart, in hues of blue.
What Maisie KnewAnne Murphy
In New York City, a young girl is caught in the middle of her parents' bitter custody battle.
The protagonist is a six year old and we see only what she witnesses and we hear only what she does. Both her resilience and her fragility are apparent. "What Masie knew" is loaded with emotion and doesn't sink into sentimentality; the tone is delightfully precocious in this uncommonly well-crafted movie. The narcissism of some of the adults comes off as brat-like, their poor behaviours glaringly transparent in contrast to the more opaque and thoughtful attitude of the child. Wise Masie.
The TurningAnne Murphy
A collection of 17 short films, each episode drawn from a different chapter of the book.
Each of the individual pieces to this film is a minor masterpiece, poignant in its own way, familiar stories of longing and regret in an unmistakably Australian setting. Presented as one three hour movie, "The Turning" asks much of its audience. The trouble is that the central linking thread is not always apparent, as each piece has its own writer, director and cast. It's not straightforward to spot the same characters in different stories; they’re more connected in the book than they appear on the screen. Quite a turn of events.
100 Bloody AcresAnne Murphy
Brothers Reg and Lindsay are struggling to keep their organic blood and bone fertilizer business in motion.
"100 Bloody Acres" is a splatter-comedy and more Australian than anything seen in donkey's years. From the bush setting to the larrikins and drongos who inhabit the screen, the film's ethnicity is unmistakably true-blue. It's even set on an Australia Day long weekend. The plot is imaginative and original, and the director delivers plenty of scares. Thanks to the cast, who each play their parts perfectly, the way events unfold is funny as well as bloody; bloody funny.
The Way Way BackAnthony Macali
14-year-old Duncan is having a rough time enjoying his vacation away with his mother and new boyfriend, until finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
"The Way Way Back" is a coming-of-age tale that will make you wish for summertime. The warm beach-side is an interesting setting to play out the conflict, as the shy Duncan wrestles with the reality of his newly blended family. With the help of the most unexpected of strangers, he slowly gains confidence and there is great joy to be found in watching him grow. A wonderful mix of laughter and drama, held together by a fantastic cast. Take the vacation.
Pussy Riot: A Punk PrayerTom Jones
Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world...
Russia is a bit cray-cray, and not in the good way. Footage of the country's response to Pussy Riot's protests is shocking. Without playing sides, this film traces the events leading up to, and following the arrest of three members of the female activist group. Through interviews with family members, and all access courtroom footage, you really get to know the women behind the brightly coloured balaclavas. They are highly articulate, resilient and funny. It's time, Free Pussy Riot!
What's in a Name?Anne Murphy
At a dinner with family Vincent announces the name for his future son, the revelation ignites a discussion which surfaces unpleasant matters.
We say that familiarity breeds contempt, and the conversation over dinner with family can be sharper than would come forth in the same setting with friends. The erudite and witty repartee shared during thisgathering is bitingly sharp, with accidental disclosures that could only be tolerated by spouses or relatives. Tempers rise and civility slips, but the dialogue is so well crafted and funny that enjoyment builds frame to frame. Call me anything... but don't call me late for dinner.
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.
Lost in the forest, a group of friends wander around in a desperate search, trying to avoid their already written story.
Without trying you may find yourself becoming part of this film, the sixth soul looking for a way out. Your vision is impaired when what you see is contained to a single lens. If you keep watching, and don't turn from the screen, the effect of these extended single shots can be surprising. You hear things, and see things - bodies, shapes, shadows. Then as the camera moves you deeper into the woods…there's nothing. It's creative, compelling, and complex. And green, it's very green.
Alberto forms an unusual friendship with Luly, the manager of the 24-hour gym where he works as a night guard.
For anyone who finds the idea of open caskets a bit nauseating, this film is like looking in one for a really long time. And instead of an embalmed body with nice clothes and make-up, imagine if it was undressed and still decomposing. This is not a horror flick in the 'who's behind the door' kind of way, but its real-life quality makes it so disturbing and quite hard to watch. Not suitable for children, or anyone having a good day.
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.
The Great GatsbyAnne Murphy
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.
"The Great Gatsby" as a book is a literary classic and it's difficult to review the movie without making comparisons. Most viewers will watch with some sort of expectation. Do so at the peril of your enjoyment, look too critically and you'll see this is not a perfect image of the novel. Forget familiarity, the director has delivered a turbo-charged, multi-coloured and visually spectacular version of the story and intriguing characters alike. This film version is true to the source but somehow greater.