The Disappearance of Alice CreedAndrew O'Dea
Two men fortify a nondescript apartment so it can serve as a prison before kidnapping a woman.
"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" sets the tone from the outset, with a dialogue-free opening act that is as methodical and gripping as the film itself. Shot almost entirely in a confined space, excellent camera work and direction help to maintain its claustrophobic nature and sustain an air of tension. It moves from confrontation to revelation with doses of dry humour in just the right places to lace the suspense. With superb acting performances from the cast (all three of them) and a tight focus, you won't need to search any further than this if you're looking for a smart, engaging thriller.
The Kids Are All RightAnne Murphy
Nic and Jules had the perfect family, until they met the man who made it all possible.
Watching this grown-up drama is an engrossing experience. The central family with its two Mums is more normal than many more traditionally conventional families. The complex and real characters are mature until they do something impulsive or all too human in a wonderful reflection of modern family life. There are tensions, teenage angst, love, and a good deal of craziness in this refreshing comedy. Without preaching and never condescending, we're immersed in a new normal. The kids are alright and their Mums are too.
Father of My ChildrenWendy Slevison
A film producer struggles with suicidal despair amidst the collapse of his business.
"Father of My Children" explores the emotive subject of suicide, acutely juxtaposing the life of a busy young Parisian family before and after 'the event'. In this sensitive and authentic observation, anger, tears, secrets and stoic determination are all revealed as the people left behind struggle to continue on with life amidst their grief and the financial mess that is their legacy. Based on a true story (only minor details have been changed), this film is a poignant acknowledgement of the very significant issue of mental health in our world. Don't just see this film, talk about it.
The Killer Inside MeAnne Murphy
A West Texas deputy sheriff is slowly unmasked as a psychotic killer.
Small town post-war America is faithfully captured and depicted in a way that almost elicits nostalgia, even for those of us who weren't there. "The Killer Inside Me" is dark and moody as well as stylish, as is the film-noir tradition. Watching the sociopathic protagonist committing a string of murders while maintaining his deception is profoundly disturbing. Sadistic elements of the story-line are intended to shock; the violence is brutal and administered with pre-meditated determination but most chilling is the demeanour of the murderer. There is not a flicker of remorse inside this killer.
Everlasting MomentsAnne Murphy
In a time of social change and unrest, a young working class woman wins a camera in a lottery.
"Everlasting Moments" is a captivating drama set at the turn of 20th century and told from the perspective of a woman of modest means. Beautifully captured by the camera, and produced in sepia tones, the movie is burnished with a historic patina. The central relationship is acutely observed as years pass, a wife beleaguered by her domestic situation and her oafish husband. Themes of resilience and acceptance are sympathetically related rather than viewed through a romantic lens. Lasting impressions.
Peepli LiveAndrew O'Dea
In the village of Peepli, two poor farmers face losing their land over an unpaid government loan.
With a running joke about suicide at its core, "Peepli Live" is an eccentric film that will make you laugh but also delivers a potent message. Buoyed by a witty script, the production values are grand, and the unknown ensemble cast are brilliantly authentic and often hilarious in their individual roles. Funny yet ultimately sobering, it examines India's rural class struggle while the director uses comedy as a vehicle to firmly skewer those who exploit the situation; from corrupt government officials to the depravity of the media and the levels to which they often stoop â€“ certainly no joke.
The Red ChapelAnthony Macali
Two Danish comics, one of them a spastic and both born in Korea, join the director on a trip to North Korea, where they have been allowed access under the pretext of wanting to perform an act.
"The Red Chapel" provides a rare glimpse into a hellish world. The hosts, who happen to police the crew on their visit, appear dutifully polite, but it becomes apparent their overstated hospitality is a mask of fearful obedience to the dictatorship. Our protagonists walk a fine line between injecting their comedy into the regime and heeding to the Great Leader, apprehensive in their attempts to salvage their show overtaken by propaganda. An eye-opening insight into a country of no humour.
Air DollAnne Murphy
A life-size blow-up doll develops a soul and falls in love with a video store clerk.
Seen through the delightfully innocent eyes of a living doll, scenes are coloured with an appreciation for the everyday. We observe the realities and absurdities of modern day life where everything is eventually discarded and disposed of. "Air Doll" is laden with social comment about our lonely urban lifestyles and it prompts reflection along existential themes. It could have been rather heavy going but for the whimsical touch of the director, and there is as much magic as sadness in the messages. This 'doll' is a sweetie.
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.
The HedgehogAnne Murphy
Paloma is a serious, but deeply bored 11 year old, who decides to kill herself on her twelfth birthday.
"The Hedgehog" is a melancholic and elegantly understated character study, artistically crafted and entrancing. The film's direction is deft, uncovering a very moving exploration of the human condition beneath a simple tale. The story is focused on three intelligently drawn characters with rich inner lives in which they insulate themselves from the world outside. The performances of the lead roles are without fault, balancing humorous, absurd, and enigmatic characteristics. We see both the prickles on the outside and the warm hearted inside of a hedgehog.
Exit Through The Gift ShopAnne Murphy
The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy.
Is "Exit Through the Gift Shop" documentary or mockumentary? Cleverly constructed and provocative, the film is absorbing as 'documentary', but the tongue-in cheek acerbic tone deftly tilts the balance back to 'mockumentary'. This creatively told story manages to be both an homage to street art and, at the same time, a caustic commentary on the mainstream art world - cynical to say the least. Viva la revolution, as long as you do the required thing and exit through the gift shop.
The A-TeamAndrew O'Dea
A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed.
"The A-Team" might get a "B" for the script, but it more than makes up for it with an "A" for action. The elaborate stunts and explosions littered throughout are all absurd yet ingeniously creative, and the film delivers completely when it comes to pure escapist entertainment. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and in doing so manages to blend preposterous set pieces with some seriously funny moments. Action fans will be sure to love it when this plan comes together...
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.
Fish TankAnne Murphy
Everything changes for 15 year old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.
"Fish Tank" is a coming of age movie set on a rundown English council estate. The characters are filled with equal measures of frustration, anger, longing and alcohol, without means to release the pressure. The decaying situation is played out with a credibility that leaves the audience unsurprised at the outcomes but gripped by the tension. With nowhere to go but down, the mood is deliberately oppressive. The tank is grimy, and breathing underwater almost impossible, but even so we glimpse gold on the scales of these fish.
The White RibbonAnne Murphy
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment.
"The White Ribbon" is visually mesmerising, artistically captured in black and white with a period detail that is meticulously reproduced, particularly in the costumes of the farming villagers. With its fascist undertones this film is a harrowing watch for all of its lengthy run time, and even then there is no reward of a conclusion or explanation. Austere, relentless, seething with hatred and cruelty, this is unforgiving viewing. The film evokes a sense of impending doom, with blue ribbon success.
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.
Accidents HappenAnne Murphy
Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mum, distant brother, and stoic dad.
Stories of tragedy that are constructed with humour, albeit dark or black humour, reflect life a little as we tend to live it, when hanging on and trying to cope. "Accidents Happen" shows how strong the bonds of family can be, how tough and at the same time how vulnerable family members are. The film is carefully crafted to evoke an earlier era and the audience is transported to a typical suburb somewhere where mishaps are the norm. Be warned, as the emotional punch packed by this movie happens to be no accident.
A man and his friends come up with an original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers.
The campaign against some big bad guys that's mounted by a group of comical misfits is as inventive as it is enchanting, largely due to the truly marvellous production design. "Micmacs" is a visual feast, and the resourceful inventions created from recycled junk are captivating, all of which covers for a plot that's a little thin. Part fairy-tale, part comic book, this movie is zany, whimsical and totally engaging. Ponder the underlying social comment about arms use later and enjoy the quirky on-screen antics today.
The Last StationAnne Murphy
A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.
Anchored with a passionate but philosophically-conflicted relationship between a husband and wife, "The Last Station" is a sweeping period piece that manages not to overwhelm with historical trappings. The a story is engrossing where, given the subject, it could have been rather dour. The players resist melodrama; there's an almost capricious tone that makes this film a pleasure to watch. It's not revealing too much to say the last station is the end of line.
How to Train Your DragonAndrew O'Dea
A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely owner of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.
"How to Train Your Dragon" is a beautifully imagined film driven as much by its story as the dazzlingly rendered visuals. The intelligent script provides plenty of fun for adults and kids alike, as thrilling elements of action and adventure combine to create stunning 3D flying sequences. We're enchanted and charmed by a wonderfully eclectic bunch of characters, particularly the relationship between Hiccup and his pet dragon. Sensationally entertaining from head to tail, this movie soars.
An indictment of closeted politicians who lobby for anti-gay legislation in the U.S.
This is a fascinating consciousness-raising documentary presented through interviews and film clips. The movie is a compelling compilation of vignettes that are on public record. The filmmaker relentlessly exposes the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who vote against the civil rights of the gay and lesbian community. In doing so, the constituencies whose prejudices are pandered to are also shamed. The ethical quagmire isn't navigated with a strictly even hand but with a sense of injustice and anger. The situation is indeed outrageous.
Dev who, after spurning Paro's love due to a misunderstanding, turns to drugs and vodka for solace.
"Dev D" is a coming-of-age film that challenges the conventional Bollywood film industry. The story is a modern take on a classic novel, and the amazing cinematorgaphy portaits beautiful rural india and shady parts of Delhi. The music is both breathtaking and bizarre as it reflects the emotional capacities, struggles, and lifesytles of young Indians caught between conservative Indian society and modern western sensibilities.
You'll Miss MeAnne Murphy
The lives of six people converge briefly at an airport, where arrivals and departures are the norm.
"You'll Miss Me" is composed of a delightful series of vignettes that deftly intersect and overlap, exploring loves lost and found. The movie delves into the emotions of people with vastly different lives, the laughs laced with feelings. The production has a warm hearted feel, perhaps only possible because it's French - it's certainly not as theatrical as the English ensemble pieces it is so reminiscent of. Try not to miss this one.
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.
Shutter IslandAnthony Macali
Set in 1954, Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.
"Shutter Island" opens with a dreadfully ominous musical composition, promptly setting the tone for this dark and disturbing thriller. The hospital for mental health is the perfect setting for the director to play games with the mind, as Teddy's scrutiny slowly intensifies, clouding his dreams with reality. The fragments of his delusions are haunting, as you're drowned in a loud and often exaggerated score. It will send shudders down the spine, keep you guessing, and enthral to the very end.