The HangoverAnthony Macali
A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
"The Hangover" premise is familiar and simple, the perfect breeding ground for plenty of laughter and stupidity. While the trailer might steal most of the best moments, the film is still hilarious. The characters are half as likeable as they should be, but it does make it funnier when bad stuff happens to them. It only struggles towards the ending, as jokes resort to bad cameos and slapstick. Despite a few headaches, it's still a winner.
Sunshine CleaningAnne Murphy
In order to raise the tuition to send her young son to private school, a mum starts an unusual business, a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service, with her unreliable sister.
This is an endearing movie in a low key 'indie' style. A beguiling cast portray a dysfunctional family facing their everyday relationship challenges. The comedy is so heartfelt that laughs catch on the way up, almost mutating into sobs, before rising as smiles. The tone is as mirthful as it is melancholic, despite the dark storylines. "Sunshine Cleaning" is the perfect antidote for messy everyday lives.
Set in the summer of 1987 and centered around a recent college grad who takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park, only to find it's the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.
Despite its 'indy' pretensions, this story has more heart than its formulaic predecessors. Sure, it might follow your typical boy meets girl scenario, but it rises above the cliché with a cast who wonderfully capture the fun, frivolity and angst of the time. Although short on the laughs it may promise, it still makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Coupled with an awesome 80's soundtrack en-loop, "Adventureland" is a charming ride about growing up and finding love.
My Year Without SexWendy Slevison
An understated look at love and life in middle-class Australian suburbia.
Watching this film feels a bit like peering in your neighbours' window and secretly watching them go about their lives. What you see is familiar in its detail, insightful in its observations, and at times confronting in its honesty. It boldly broaches the big questions, as well as the little everyday ones. Tenderly crafted, and featuring stellar performances, "My Year Without Sex" is an affirmation of the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, family and yes, sex.
Quiet ChaosAnne Murphy
A look at the strange bereavement behavior of an Italian executive.
The portrayal of loss in this film evokes W.H. Auden's poem that opens with the line "Stop all the clocks...". Everything is changed and pared back to essentials by an unexpected death. The everyday world continues on around the slowing of the central characters, drawing empathetic viewers into this well told tale. The movie is a subdued but sure-footed meditation on grieving as lives and priorities are reassessed. More contemplative than chaotic, and recommended for its heartfelt quiet.
Insignificant ThingsAnne Murphy
Esmeralda is a teenager who collects little objects she finds, creating a box of insignificant treasures.
The movie unfolds through four vignettes tenderly woven together with the shared threads of lives that intersect. "Insignificant Things" explores important relationships that are undervalued and it does so with a deft touch. This is a finely tuned and detailed piece that is incisive and affecting without becoming despairing. A film so well crafted that it mesmerises is a very significant thing indeed.
Star TrekAndrew O'Dea
A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members.
"Star Trek" is by all accounts a very successful instalment that will both entertain and appease trekkies and non-trekkies alike. Chronological events are sewn superbly into a reconstituted storyline that births an 'enterprisingly' new and exciting contemporary model. The characters are drawn carefully, remaining faithful to the Star Trek legacy, and thrive amongst an array of visually dazzling action sequences. Set phasers to fun, because this is a franchise destined to live long and prosper.
Let the Right One InWendy Slevison
Oscar, a young bullied boy, meets Eli, a beautiful girl who turns out to be a vampire.
If you thought all the original ideas for vampire movies had been used up, think again. Set in Sweden, this film uses the icy, austere conditions to illustrate and emphasise the lonely isolation of its young protagonists. This film holds nothing back as it deals with issues of first love and bullying, contrasted against the violent world of the vampire. The young stars are astonishingly good, and this innovative movie rates highly among the alumni of its genre.
The Other SideAnne Murphy
A drag queen returns, bereft, to the village and family he left 17 years ago.
The film has a rhythmic heartbeat as it traverses the delicate territories of love lost and dreams unfulfilled. It is possible to come home and still be on the other side, the other side of understanding and the other side of reconciliation. The landscape of relationship is tenderly navigated and the unrequited yearning of each character is faultlessly depicted. Watching "The Other Side" is like being subjected to open heart surgery with deft and precise incisions that lay bare the most vulnerable of places.
Frozen RiverWendy Slevison
Two women are drawn into border smuggling across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River.
"Frozen River" is a stark and gritty portrait of two women struggling on the harsh edges of society, trying to protect their children from the bleakness of their environment, both physical and emotional. Linked by their almost primal maternal determination, their desperation leads them into criminality. There is no allowance for sentimentality in this outstanding film, and the authentic performances leave you feeling that you have much to be thankful for as you return to your much easier (and warmer) life.
Dean SpanleyWendy Slevison
Set in Edwardian England where upper lips are always stiff, a cantankerous old man and his long-suffering son begin a strange journey that eventually allows the old man to find his heart.
This is a truly original story of love, loss, and grief, populated by intelligent and disarmingly eccentric characters. The story starts slowly, but before the viewer can summon a yawn, they are drawn in, entranced, as the well-told tale unfolds - both poignant and comical at the same time. Offbeat, whimsical, moving and very funny, you'd have to be barking mad to miss it.
Marcelline has the lead role in Turgenev's "A Month in the Country" and is in rehearsal for the stage production while rendezvousing with her real and imagined mid-life crisis.
This is a charming dramatic comedy about arriving at a certain life stage unfulfilled by the journey and irrevocably aging. Time ticks to an off-beat rhythm as players and characters collide, even the director's metronome can't restore a more even beat for members of the cast. It's the off-stage drama that is most engaging, where emotions are held in check only to emerge in theatrically inappropriate ways. Encore.
The ReaderAndrew O'Dea
Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.
"The Reader" is a compelling story that takes a very different approach to the Holocaust. The impeccably considerate and pensive style of the film helps us empathise with a character who, by rights, we should loathe. Amplified by an extraordinary performance from the lead actress, it exercises our moral compass, forcing us to wrestle with the issue of law versus morality. An ultimately moving and thought-provoking account set against a dark chapter in history.
Role ModelsAnthony Macali
Wild behavior forces a pair of energy drink reps to enroll in a Big Brother program.
This film is testament to those 'crass-comedies with charm' which have now grown to become their own sub-genre. Whilst containing your typical vulgar jokes, it doesn't rely on them for cheap laughs. Instead, the most uproarious scenes are generated by low-key interplay shared between some of the movies' more eccentric characters. There's never a dull moment as it propels you into the hilariously crazy and endearing world of 'Live Action Interactive Roleplaying Explorers', or L.A.I.R.E. "Role Models" is definately a comedy to aspire to.
The story of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
Harvey Milk was an ordinary man filled with courage and the conviction to create change, who became a modern-day hero. Chronicling the last eight years of the activist's life, as he fights tirelessly for gay rights, the film vividly revives the radical period of the 70's. The convincing and sensitive portrayal by the lead actor, combined with an equally compelling supporting cast, makes this biopic both inspiring and moving. Highly recommended.
Gran TorinoAndrew O'Dea
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal his prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
"Gran Torino" tells the story of a man in transition. The film is driven by a weathered and steely performance from the lead actor, who peerlessly chisels out an insular and reluctant hero. A no-nonsense aesthetic means it shuns political correctness, presenting an unrepentant bigot who doesn't discriminate - he hates everyone. Surprisingly, it's these old school prejudices that create moments of genuine comedy and warmth. Highly recommended.
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
"Frost/Nixon" is an intelligent and provocative political drama. The film's strength lies in dialogue that is witty and engaging, delivered by superlative performances from the two leads. Frost and Nixon are combatants slugging out a verbal war, gaining ascendancy only to be countered. Their battle of wills generates cinema that is completely engrossing. Who'd have thought that two men sitting down and talking to each other could be so entertaining?
The OrphanageAnthony Macali
A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.
There aren't many things creepier than a house haunted by ghost children. In a scare climax, a medium channels the voices and cries of the sick orphans. It might be a little clichéd, but it's far from shallow. It also deals with grief and loss, themes supported by impressive performances. While the story lingers in these moments, the twists of the finalé forgive the build-up. A beautiful story of life and death, "The Orphanage" is a film not to be abandoned.
Quantum of SolaceAnthony Macali
Seeking revenge for the death of his love, secret agent James Bond sets out to stop an environmentalist from taking control of a country's water supply.
"Quantum of Solace" continues the story of a re-invented Bond and sustaines him brilliantly. The film speeds to life in its CG-adverse approach, parenting action that is gritty, real and constant. What really shines is the comparable emotional conflict of 007, rebelling from his seasoned superiors and contending with the revenge that consumes him. This is still quintessential Bond, revamped, reenergized and welcome solace for an equally stirring future.
Iron ManAnthony Macali
When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armored suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.
"Iron Man" is a fun action flick with wide appeal. Set in the real world, Tony Stark deals with issues prevalent today that make the movie believable. In all comic-book adaptations, it's the transformation that is the best part, and this is no exception. The lustrous suit is super cool, and its construction is a hilarious process. If only the suit looked better in the cgi-mess which is considered the final fight. This is a superhero movie that is actually good.
An FBI agent tracks a serial killer with the help of three of his would-be victims - all of whom have wildly different stories to tell.
It's always captivating when information is revealed the way this film does. Three victims are interviewed by the cops; three different perspectives are intertwined; and then the audience is left to put the pieces together. The performances are strong across the board, all accessories to driving the speeding tension. A riveting story, twisted narrative and sadistic characters make "Surveillance" an engrossing thriller.
Diary of the DeadAnthony Macali
A group of young film students run into real-life zombies while filming a horror movie of their own.
The internet video revolution has spawned a number of these "home camcorder" films. This medium is ideal for creating a claustrophobic and isolated environment, the perfect playground for zombies to scare. A relentless sense of dread seeps from the screen, a feeling that augments the relief and humour of other parts of the story. Scenes often end in fits of laughter, with the living dead dispatched in an array of innovative manners. With a mix of solid scares and laughs, and a fresh new perspective, "Diary of the Dead" is great fun.
Ben XAnthony Macali
An alternative to getting bullied at school, an autistic teenager retreats into the world of online games.
"Ben X" provides a respectful insight into the direct, and indirect, effects of autism. Frantic mish-mash editing adeptly creates Ben's isolated world, portraying his simple wish to be free from the torments of his peers and social etiquette. Surprisingly, delving into the online-world demonstrates both therapeutic qualities and dangers, as it cleverly weaves the multimedia of the game into the real world. The conclusion is questionable, but doesn't deny the story's warmth and grace. A well-grounded deterrence for bullies round the world.
In BrugesAndrew O'Dea
Two hit men are sent to hide out in Bruges, Belgium after a difficult job goes wrong in London.
This film is essentially a black comedy that juxtaposes humour with tragedy. Set amongst the churches, canals, and cobbled streets of the titular Bruges, it uses this very setting to accentuate the polar natures of our two leading characters. The highly strung Ray struggles to cope with the lack of excitement, while the older, more refined Ken immerses himself in the history of the town. Amidst the dry humour created by their interaction is woven a very clever story that presents an undercurrent of morality.
Kung Fu PandaAnthony Macali
Po the Panda is the laziest animals in all of the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.
Animated films continue to lead the way in family entertainment, and this one is no exception. This picture is invariably breathtaking, set amongst impressive landscapes and showcasing the very fast and fluid kinetics of martial arts which make it exciting to watch. The film presents enough vibrant and infectious fun to make it impossible to despise. "Kung Fu Panda" is funny, witty, and truly awesome.