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.
3:10 To YumaAnthony Macali
A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma.
The track to Yuma is a windy road that will keep you constantly guessing. The landscape and period are captured beautifully, from small humble towns, shining pistols, and humble town-folk. Unlike your traditional western, these characters have names and bring their colourful history to the screen. They create a conscious conflict as you guiltily admire the charismatic bad guy and resent the bitter and weak good guy. This film harbours a swag of strong performances in an enjoyable and riveting ride.
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.
Far from a mid-life crisis, I found little to relate to in this sorry tale. Nonetheless, it's impossible not to sympathize with our titular waitress as we suffer her arduous imprisonment. As it hits an all time low, Jenna finally breaks free from her mundane lifestyle. We share her wry smile as she engages in a mischievous relationship with the hilarious and bumbling doctor. "Waitress" is a saccharine and sometimes quirky dish that everyone should try.
Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
"Atonement" is a love story torn by unfortunate circumstance. Briony's interpretation of events are marred by jealously, and cleverly presented in a style that shows the points of view of all involved. These key events play alongside a beautiful score, complete with resounding keys of a type-writer that haunts throughout. This film is a timeless period piece and an admiral adaptation that shows the power of the written-word.
A Crude AwakeningAnthony Macali
A theatrical documentary on the planet's dwindling oil resources.
This film is terribly powerful because it affects everyone. There is no end to the list of products fuelled by oil, and such a spoiled lifestyle of abundant cheap energy will come to a conclusion sooner than you might think. An irritating flaw in this feature is the simple and repetitive structure, a small hindrance among the wide number of interviews and facts that enlighten us on how fossil fuels have been very good to us; but that all good things must come to an end.
Rescue DawnAnthony Macali
A US Fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission during the Vietnam War.
This film combines two of my favourite things: jungle and escaping prison. The jungle is captured beautifully: green, luscious and dense, impossible to penetrate without a machete. Escaping prison is slow, and painful. But this movie goes as far as showing many negligible details, from a crash-course in picking locks to converging the guards. The prisoners are a colourful bunch, the interplay in their state of delirium is very amusing. This is an exceptional war movie of survival and the jungle.
The Science of SleepAnthony Macali
Stéphane works in a boring calendar job. He's only joy lies in his infatuation with his neighbour Stéphanie, where their relationship blossoms in his imagination and dreams.
The dream sequences are magical, a collage of intricate cardboard cut-outs, floating cotton clouds, and swimming through the sky. The lovable Stéphane escapes from his mundane life interweaving reality and imagination, a vague existence that eventually overwhelms and restrains him. It shows to live the life we want, we must craft our reality and not our fantasy.
King Leonidis leads a band of elite warriors to war in the defence of their revered Sparta.
A gourmet for the purest of action fans, "300" is a visual feast. It doesn't concede to that typical movie concept whereby our heroes find themselves vastly outnumbered only to overcome insurmountable odds. Amidst all the testosterone and glistening abdominal muscles, it still does well to conjure inspiration and give substance to the brave three hundred's valour and sacrifice. It's brutal, but ultimately moving. With ferocious battle sequences choreographed using superlative CGI, and a plot to match, slaughter never looked this good.
Bridge to TerabithiaAnthony Macali
A preteen's life is changed after befriending the new girl at school.
This is a rare film that encourages children to use their imagination. The beauty of "Terabithia" is its growth parallels the children's minds and does not appear instantly on the other side of the looking glass. A large proponent of the film confronts relevant issues facing young adolescents. While bullying gets the most attention, the story also touches class distinction, religion, friendship and death. This fable shows how the power of imagination can help cope with the real world and bearing an "open mind" is good.
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixAnthony Macali
With their warning about Lord Voldemort's return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts.
Harry endears Hogwarts, a home of magic tricks, lavish feasts and Quiddich heroics, which is not as much fun when he who should not be named (Voldemort) is tormenting his mind. Potter fights some real evil this time around; defending against the dark arts, blinding dementors and stunning evil Azkaban escapees. Join the wonderful ensemble cast of Dumbledore's army in the most terrifying and suspenseful instalment of the series yet. Darker is better.