X-Men: First ClassAndrew O'Dea
In 1962, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend... and future archenemy.
"X-Men: First Class" is a successful revival of the franchise. Fans won't be let down as the movie remains faithful to its source material, managing to deliver a solid story replete with witty dialogue and pulsating action sequences. The dazzling CGI provides an entertaining showcase of mutant powers, while the superb cast are just as impressive, underpinning character development and bringing real substance to the story. Top of the class.
Get LowStefan Bugryn
An old hermit throws himself a funeral party... while he's still alive.
This thoughtful meditation on forgiveness starts out as a comedy, but unravels to become something much more poignant. The joke of the 'funeral party' lasts only briefly, while the true drama slowly creeps in. What really makes this film work is the fine acting by the three leads. The odd sense of humour, and some truly touching moments are delivered with marvellous poise by the cast. Combined with stylish music, customers and production design, it makes for a very enjoyable movie... and that's the low down!
Angèle and TonyAnne Murphy
A fragile woman returns to the seaside town of Normandy on completing a jail term and meets a fisherman through a personal ad.
The sensitivities around relationships are captured with few words in this intimate exploration of human connections. The characters are forthright and defensive, whatever warmth they may have is not to be squandered, and their innermost temperaments are reflected in the windswept coastline and grey subdued ocean. The tone is understated and the film is all the more powerful for the simplicity with which it captures restrained expressions of longing. Tony ❤ Angele and vice versa.
The Human Resources ManagerAnne Murphy
The HR manager of Israel's largest industrial bakery sets out to save the reputation of his business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article.
The plot sounds like the set-up for a punch-line; an HR manager, a journalist, a street kid and the Commissar's husband go on a road trip, as opposed to walking into a bar. "The Human Resources Manager" is a warm and satirical journey across the landscapes of Israel and Romania that reveals man's humanity towards man, and it's as funny as any good bar joke. If only more HR managers were this delightfully quirky.
When her husband is taken hostage by his striking employees, a trophy wife takes the reins of the family business and proves to be a remarkably effective leader.
The 70's are perfectly recreated with all of the colour and fashion to bring on pangs of nostalgia. The social attitudes are missed less. "Potiche" is a light-hearted movie loaded with social comment, looking at the role of women in the workplace, and the incumbent responsibilities of fatherhood. Focused on individual choices and growth, there's no haranguing, and the delivery is affable, warm, and comic. A gold medal for the trophy wife.
A Year Ago in WinterAnne Murphy
A renowned artist must uncover a young dancer's secrets in order to truly capture her likeness for a commissioned work.
"A Year Ago in Winter" deftly explores themes of grief, guilt, and longing; as a meaning for suicide is sought by those left behind asking 'why?'. Troubling family relationships are delicately mined, and troubled souls are sensitively exposed. Various reactions, feelings and emotions, not healed by time, are faultlessly laid bare as winter approaches. However, the cold reality is that there's little sense to be made of the senseless.
The Day I Was Not BornAnne Murphy
During a stopover in Buenos Aires, Maria recognises a nursery rhyme being sung in Spanish.
The storyline of "The Day I Was Not Born" is original and disquieting. Hefty political themes are narrated through a personal lens of family and identity, and the Buenos Aries setting is perfect in capturing a city with an atmospheric sense of the recent past - it looks both foreign and familiar, balancing the disoriented characters. Sensitively told with an assured minimalism, the movie is understated and the acting is restrained, creating compelling viewing. A tale of dislocation that carries both wounds and warmth.
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.
Last Train HomeThomas Jones
A family embarks on an annual journey along with 200 million workers to reunite with their family.
To all who think New Years is overrated, your pessimism will pale in comparison to the endeavors made by the Chinese migrant workers who get home to celebrate their Chinese New Years. The footage captured in this movie is mind blowing. From the aerial shots of the crowds waiting (sometimes days) to board the trains to the more intimate moments depicting Chinese family life, it is astonishing to think that this film is real. A compelling documentary, which realises despite all cultural differences, for everyone, there's really no place like home.
The story of two close friends who are unintentionally drawn into a love-triangle.
Love lives in the hearts and minds of stylish twenty-something's, as friends vie for the attention of the same Adonis. "Heartbeats" is a sophisticated examination of desire brought to the screen by an assured director. The almost excruciating clumsiness of inexperienced lovers and the intimacy of their relationships is depicted without a physical consummation of the same. Obsession overtakes sanity, friendship is sacrificed for love, and the audience can relate to the qualms and dreams of the protagonists. L'amour, l'amour…
The Last Summer of La BoyitaAnne Murphy
Feeling estranged from her older sister, Jorgelina and her father go in their Boyita camper-van, to the countryside where playmate Mario is undergoing some changes of his own.
This coming of age story is set during a long hot summer on the Argentinean Pampas. It's a summer of discovery, particularly of the unknown and unimagined world of inter-sexuality and gender identity. The children's roles are well acted, striking a perfect balance between innocence and precociousness. The sensitive themes are tenderly handled - the film's narration is more through visual imagery than dialogue - and it never becomes clumsy. Can't wait for Autumn.
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.
First LoveStefan Bugryn
Three young girls share their love of the waves as they make a trip to Hawaii.
This film is a hidden gem. As the title suggests, you fall in love with these young playful girls as you follow their inspiring passion for surfing. You get swept up in their carefree attitudes, and it really does make you want to pick up a surfboard and hit the waves! It is stunningly shot, where every shot looks like a masterpeice. It almost feels like a young girls scrapbook, where even the soundtrack and editing add to the lively tone. Don't miss this one.
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.
True GritAndrew O'Dea
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.
"True Grit" is a film that holds the idea of a classic western in high reverence. The spectacular cinematography is a highlight in this story of retribution, and the directors' hands are clearly present; the storyline contains all the wit, deadpan humour and fleeting moments of brutality that one has come to expect from them. Although some may be dismayed at the tonal slur that is the dialogue, the language is drawling yet authentic, and we revel in the interplay between the leads, each impeccable in their roles. Gritty n' good.
Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
The FighterAnne Murphy
A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980's.
If you thought stories of the boxing hero had retired to their corner, grab a ringside seat... "The Fighter" will get you in a clinch. Oddly the fighter himself is the most conventional, and possibly the least interesting character in the ensemble. There are no glass jaws among his family, brawlers all. While not landing a full body blow, the action is powerful if punishing to watch. The gloves are off, and the audience is delivered a TKO.
Alex and his sister run a business designed to break up relationships.
"Heartbreaker" is a sparkling rom-com that delights as it delivers everything you hope for from the genre. The movie is even a little tongue-in-cheeky, as it pokes fun at some of the romantic clichés we endure on the screen from lesser offerings. The ingredients are perfect - the lead characters being likeable rogues, a stylish Monaco setting, some knock your socks-off romantic wooing, and a satisfying conclusion that is not teased out for feel good purposes, but still manages to feel good. All in all, a charming heart warmer.
Sarah's KeyAnne Murphy
A journalist researching the 1942 Vel' d' Hiv Roundup in Paris uncovers links with Sarah, a Jewish girl, who was arrested with her parents.
"Sarah's Key" is a fictional account of the Holocaust that discloses events from the dark years of World War 2 in an assured manner. A contemporary story is seamlessly intertwined with one from the past as intrigue builds. The actors underplay the poignancy of both narratives, as ordinary people deal with extraordinary dilemmas and strong messages are presented without unnecessary melodrama. The past is not forgotten but sometimes needs to be unlocked.
TRON: LegacyAnthony Macali
A virtual-world worker looks to take down the Master Control Program.
"TRON: Legacy" is a digital extravaganza, highlighting the progress of special effects in the many time cycles between its predecessor, barely a required prerequisite. The visual artistry in this film is unparalleled, constructing a highly immersive universe that is truly dazzling. The retro illuminations harness a mesmerising force, luring you into a journey of exhilarating action and adventure. Complete with a distinctive futuristic soundtrack, the experience will struggle to escape from your memory. Close to perfect.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare...
"Lebanon" is a gripping ride. Shot almost exclusively from the tight confines of a rumbling tank, this movie is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking. The tension and intensity is palpable, as the film bears witness to the horrors of war, and we're left gasping for breath from the grimy, claustrophobic atmosphere. The antiwar sentiment is clear, with enough gritty action to match its political, religious and philosophical messages. Shell-shockingly good.
Enter the VoidStefan Bugryn
A drug dealing youth is killed in Tokyo, and drifts through the city in death watching over his sister.
"Enter the Void" is an experimental film that literally takes you on a beautiful journey through life and death. It's very dreamy and trippy, delving into a kaleidoscope of colours and pictures that can often be mistaken for an exploration of space. The narrative is powerful, often intensely emotional, and is shot almost entirely from the protagonist's view, which makes it all the more engaging. The dark themes and visual onslaught will make it hard viewing for the faint hearted, but all others will love entering the void.
Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
Just when movie-goers have been lulled into thinking we've seen it all before, along comes a creative take on science fiction earth invasion that defies genre classification. Part adventure in a spectacular South American setting, it's the impending threat of romance blossoming, not the foreboding menace of the creatures, that provides most interest. The monsters are inventively depicted, and scary enough, but not as central as the title suggests.
The MessengerAnne Murphy
An American soldier struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow.
"The Messenger" delivers emotional punches in relentless succession in a context of heartbreaking realism. More than a war film, or even a film about the army, this is a movie about loss and grief, mostly expressed by men. Harrowing exchanges made when people are at their most vulnerable are intense to witness, made no less easy by scenes where withheld emotions seethe within the characters. Thankfully there are strands of camaraderie and humour threaded throughout, and they serve to strengthen the compelling messages.
The Loved OnesAnne Murphy
When Brent turns down Lola's invitation to the prom, she concocts a wildly violent plan for revenge.
"The Loved Ones" take ingredients familiar to the horror genre, lonely country roads, self-conscious teenagers, power tools and a high school dance, and creatively serves them up in an inventive story. This movie is both frightening and funny, typically the comic moments are more frightening than fun. The recognisably Australian production is all the more macabre for having been achieved without shiny special effects, no gloss. It's crowned with shockingly good performances from actors we'll see more of. There's a haunting message that love hurts.