A fading actor tries to reclaim his past glory by starting a Broadway play.
"Birdman" is a remarkable movie. Its a continuously moving story in narrative, emotion, and camera-work. It feels like one unbroken scene, pieced together with a seemingly single shot. We're situated more like an observer than an audience, peering over shoulders and watching a man's life falling apart piece by piece. More European in style than American, it's still intangibly Hollywood. The highlight is the performances, you can't walk away without remembering them. It's all really unique, almost a little absurdist at times, but definitely worth your time. High in the pecking order.
When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant.
"Nightcrawler" is a film that will immediately capture your attention and maintain it throughout. Roving through the night is a chilling anti-hero, unabashed and unafraid to succeed. His unrivaled determination forms the film's backbone, exposing society's startling and interminable thirst for news, bloody news. It's a brilliantly eerie performance from the lead, and combined with edge-of-your-seat thrills, will be sure to shock and entertain its viewers. Must-watch video.
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.
A battle-hardened sergeant commands his 5-man Sherman tank crew on a deadly mission.
As much an 'anti-war' as it is an action film, "Fury" depicts an uncompromising and morally provocative story immersed amongst the horrors and futility of WWII. Along with an astonishing attention to detail, there is also a starkly grim authenticity to the brutality of tank warfare; and it's amidst the claustrophobia we're able to get to know the characters so intimately. Visceral and violent, brutal and unrelenting, it leaves little room for sentimentality, culminating in an extraordinary combat scene sure to leave its audience reeling. Harrowing.
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.
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.
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.
22 Jump StreetAndrew O'Dea
After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
"22 Jump Street" is one of those rare sequels that meets expectations and perhaps even improves upon its predecessor. This satirical comedy is preposterous in the best possible way, and the effortless chemistry between the leads keeps their bromance constantly amusing and often hilarious. The self-referential humour is both senselessly silly and witty, making fun of its own recycled nature – be sure to stick around for the end credits. Bring on the jump to 23.
Edge of TomorrowAndrew O'Dea
An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race.
Funny, suspenseful and imaginative, "Edge of Tomorrow" plays like a smart and engaging video game. With brains to match the brawn, the film's repetitive premise never becomes predictable. Exhilarating action sequences are broken up by moments of dark humour, and tension is maintained thanks to deft pacing and an intelligent script. This captivating sci-fi adventure serves as a fine counter to the formulaic alien-invasion thrillers to which audiences have otherwise become accustomed. Good enough to revisit, and again.
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures threaten our very existence.
"Godzilla" is back bigger and better than ever. This reincarnation of the story does not lay dormant for very long, feeding nuclear fears and manifesting them in the grandest and most terrifying of creatures. The special effects are superb, with hellish production sets and gravitating action that will leave you in awe. However, this monster's greatest success is the decidedly human element, brilliantly capturing the universal threat and far-spanning emotional reactions of all characters involved. Let them fight.
The DoubleAnthony Macali
A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite.
"The Double" is dark, twisted and strangely comedic. In a clever expression of loneliness and anxiety, it's easy to sympathise and share in the feelings of the bumbly protagonist. While the setting doesn't always make a lot of sense, the quirkiness is not excessive. Usually such conventions isolate the audience, but it serves a valuable purpose in breaking the mundane and sad overtones with bouts of witty and insightful and laughter. Worth seeing once.
Bad NeighboursAndrew O'Dea
A couple with a newborn face unexpected difficulties after they're forced to live next to a frat house.
Thanks to witty script and inventive humour, "Bad Neighbours" successfully teeters the fine line between being clever and tasteless. The life of a college party animal is juxtaposed with the role of responsible parent in this foul-mouthed, low-brow frat house comedy about people denying the inevitable changes that come with getting older. Energetic and engagingly stupid, the unlikely duo at the films core drive the laughs, as hilarious generational warfare accelerates from one over-the-top set piece to another. Welcome to the neighbourhood.
Fading GigoloAnne Murphy
Fioravante decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend, Murray.
The themes of love, morality, and mortality are explored as a florist ventures into what is known as the oldest profession in the world. "Fading Gigilo" is richly textured and unexpectedly charming thanks to the characters and larger than life actors who play them. When watching, tenderness is found in the smallest moments, a glance, a sigh, or a word not spoken. The only discordant note comes from the soundtrack as the background music dominates at times. Be seduced.
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.
The Great BeautyAnne Murphy
Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, and now it is his 65th birthday.
Interesting characters litter "The Great Beauty" and Rome has a leading role. The ancient and venerated city is the perfect backdrop for a lifetime's reminiscences in a visually exhilarating movie piecing together one man's memories. This wildly creative piece of film-making is a stylish cinematic achievement to be experienced rather than watched. Simply stunning and unmistakably Italian, a contemplation on life, love and meaning that's as intoxicating as an operatic aria. Be seduced.
Inside Llewyn DavisAnne Murphy
A week in the life of a young singer navigating the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
"Inside Llywen Davis" provides an in-depth portrait of one man, and a reflection on life. The protagonist has been following a dream and starts to realise that he is living a mundane nightmare. There's no plot to speak of, and this portrayal of the daily grind captures a surreal quality. The cinematography is extraordinary, finding beauty in the grim of winter and grime of the city. As for the folky soundtrack, let's just say you can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles...
The Book ThiefAnne Murphy
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others.
A German town becomes the backdrop for a story about the humanity and personal politics of ordinary people when their lives are assaulted by World War II erupting around them. The simplicity needed to tell the tale from a child's perspective is not compromised by the scale of this production, a feat that creates absorbing viewing. As a novel "The Book Thief" was a best-seller and on the screen it becomes a very moving experience. Steal a look.
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 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.