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.