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 cinematography portrays a beautiful rural India and the shady parts of Delhi. The music is both breathtaking and bizarre as it reflects the emotional capacities, struggles, and lifestyles of young Indians caught between conservative 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.
The RoadAndrew O'Dea
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.
This brilliantly crafted adaptation is a haunting examination of our species. Anchored by staggering performances that are both genuine and raw, the film's arresting take on humanity is smart, honest and brutally real. Pastels of grey and brown dominate a desolate, barren landscape that coupled with an ominous score mirror the relentlessly oppressive mood. Some may find this sombre tone tedious, while others will find an emotional resonance in its savage beauty. Although "The Road" might be a harrowing journey, its an ultimately rewarding one.
To unite South Africa, Nelson Mandela enlists the national rugby team to win the Rugby World Cup.
"Invictus" is a charming true story that strikes a seamless balance between politics and sport. The director delivers a meticulously sincere picture that not only presents a truly 'human' portrait of Mandela, but also a remarkable achievement by the Springboks. Stunning cinematography provides the perfect backdrop to sporting sequences that dazzlingly capture the tension and brute force of bone-crunching rugby action. Above all, the performance of the lead is nothing short of brilliant as he so effortlessly embodies and personifies the dignity and wisdom of one of history's greatest men.
It's ComplicatedWendy Slevison
During their son's graduation, Jane hooks up with her ex-husband, Jake, who's now remarried. As well as becoming her ex's mistress, Jane also finds herself drawn to Adam, a smitten architect.
This movie, a quirky variation on the typical love triangle premise, is extremely funny. On many occasions throughout, the entire cinema was laughing uproariously, a somewhat rare experience. The delightful stars work fabulously together, and appear to be having an absolute ball. The feeling is contagious. It's really not complicated at all â€“ for a good laugh and a bit of fun, see this film!
Bran Nue DaeAnne Murphy
In the summer of 1965 a young man is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome - fishing, hanging out with his mates and his girl.
It's a pleasure to watch a colourful Australian film that doesn't skirt around serious indigenous issues. Even with its underlying messages "Bran Nue Dae" is far from sombre; humour and music are the vehicles used to stir the collective conscience of the audience. This is a funny, high-spirited and rollicking road trip with an outstanding ensemble cast. If only every day dawned so brightly...
3 IdiotsAmit Jain
Two uni friends embark on a quest to find their lost friend.
This film is witty, emotional and uncontrollably entertaining. Questioning the current education system in India, the movie is subtle in its messages and the many golden rules which can change one's life in a big way. The cinematography and locations used are simply breathtaking. "3 Idiots" is a laughing riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits and preaches not to chase success, but to "...chase excellence and success will follow".
Sherlock HolmesAndrew O'Dea
Detective Holmes engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis who threatens all of England.
Although faithful to the source material, this movie isn't bound to it, and the legendary detective presented is an eccentric and captivatingly flawed hero that boxes, boozes, and deduces. The stylishly monochromatic production of a grimy 19th century London provides a perfect backdrop as we delight in the exchanges of wit and banter between Holmes and his trusty counterpart Watson. Combining sublime action sequences and a gripping plot to boot, "Sherlock Holmes" equates to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's elementary.
A cowardly shut-in is forced to join up with a seasoned slayer in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.
"Zombieland" has zombies aplenty, but it would be unfair to label it this genre alone. In between the biting scenes you'll find a buddy comedy, and an adventure into the malevolent unknown. There are enough guns and gore to satisfy the blood-hounds, but also lessons in surviving the unreal epidemic, often shooting across then screen in its own typically amusing style. The characters are fully-fleshed out and thankfully realised in a world populated by a critical few. Fast, funny and terribly infectious.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable GirlsAnne Murphy
A profile of the world's only comedic, singing, dancing, lesbian twin sisters.
"Topp Twins" evokes the '100% Pure New Zealand' tourist campaign that showcases the pure hearts and honest lifestyles that are recognisably typical of our imaginings of life in nuclear-free New Zealand. This documentary chronicles the careers of two remarkable characters that are both subversively and overtly political, and the tone is musical and humorous. The movie is threaded with a cabaret performance, recent and archival footage cleverly edited to tell this down to earth, and at times quite moving, story. Topp viewing.
A Serious ManAndrew O'Dea
A Midwestern professor watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him.
"A Serious Man" is an exquisitely executed - albeit extremely ambiguous - black comedy about the uncertainty of life. The deadpan style is complemented with an almost sardonic dry wit that makes it both agonisingly depressing and bemusing. We watch as Larry grapples with random events that happen with no discernible purpose or reason, as the movie philosophises about faith and the ultimate futility of searching for answers. An intriguingly profound film that will frustrate those who require resolution, but give others inspiration to seriously ponder.
Capitalism: A Love StoryAnthony Macali
An examination into disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans.
"Capitalism: A Love Story" is a compelling perspective of America's social system, often highlighting its evil... at times literally. The greed driving some institutions is sickening (and legal), as the film covers the history of the American government's economic reform that perpetrated the great financial crisis. Amongst the criticism and hard facts are some genuine heart-felt moments, which work well to destroy any notions of opportunistic America, and inspire the lower and middle classes to fight those controlling all the money and the world.
Julie & JuliaAnne Murphy
Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
Two storylines are baked together, although about 50 years separate them, and the result is delicious. Scenes effortlessly transport the viewer in and out of the lives and kitchens of Julie and Julia, capturing a shared passion for cooking. The characters are wonderful, warm, and loving; their relationships golden roasted and close to perfect. This movie is appetizingly presented and readily devoured. As both Julie and Julia would have said... bon appetit!
Mao's Last DancerWendy Slevison
Based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin, who was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet.
This movie tells an extraordinary tale of passion, sacrifice and political tug-of-war, centred in Communist China and the United States in the late 70's. With all the elements of a grand saga, this story of a modest and unassuming young man discovering his love and talent for ballet is both absorbing and incredibly moving. His fight for choice, at immense personal cost, is inspiring and unfortunately still very relevant in much of the world today.
Che: Part 2Andrew O'Dea
In 1967, 'Che' leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia.
"Che: Part 2" is the culmination of a fascinating journey that marks Che's ultimate downfall. This film maintains the authenticity of "Part 1", albeit with a darker, more pensive tone. It evokes a sombre sense of impending doom whilst remaining as historically faithful as possible, refusing to glamorise its subject. This uncompromising approach is refreshing, and the lead actor's enigmatic performance is truly worthy of encompassing the man who is arguably the most iconic figure of the 20th century.
Che: Part 1Andrew O'Dea
In 1956, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
This film is an austere portrayal of the mechanics of Che and his guerrilla war rather than an account of the man himself. His political and social ideals are interwoven - and impressively not championed - as we traverse the sumptuous Cuban landscape and share in his experience that was the armed struggle of the revolution. A stylish overture of sorts opens the film, and it sets the tone for the sprawling and vividly authentic epic that is to come.