Far from the Madding CrowdAnthony Macali
Bathsheba Everdene is an independent women, who inherits a farm and spends her days between her work and fending off potential suitors.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" is a literary adaptation and period piece, traditional in its story-telling and romance. The landscape has never looked so radiant, and the diligent and strongly developed characters are a breath of fresh country air. A variety of personalities are at play, the knowing glances and careful courtship a delight to watch. Farm life might not suit everyone, but this film is far from disappointing.
The Mafia Kills Only in SummerAnne Murphy
Inspired by real events, this is a black comedy about 20 years of history of Sicily from 1970s to 1990s, mocking Mafia Bosses and restoring the generosity of the heroes of Antimafia.
A comic yet powerful depiction of the dark criminal forces which pervaded the everyday life of one boy as he grew up. Relating history of the mafia through fiction, with a satirical spin is satisfyingly original and enjoyable even with the annoying narration. A surprisingly affecting movie for the homage it pays to officials who died trying to bring the good fellas to justice. Killing in all seasons.
Frank and Casey travel to a place somewhere in time and space known only as Tomorrowland.
Despite captivating visuals and an exciting imaginative palate, this space mission struggles to keep steady traction due to inconsistent storytelling. On the one hand the audience isn't bogged down with too much science. On the other, the film refuses to divulge any secrets behind the mysterious "Tommorrowland" until the third act. This waiting game makes the story slightly less engaging. But it's still an epic adventure; filled to the brim with spectacle, positivity and hope. Take me to "Tomorrowland" today.
Woman In GoldAnthony Macali
Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee exiled from her country during the war, fights a legal battle to restore ownership of paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis.
"Woman in Gold" tells an important story rich in history, but its retelling in this feature is bland and uninspired. Relying heavily on flashbacks to give the otherwise uneventful narrative some much-needed action, the chaos of the war is captured shrewdly, stirring the emotions. While the life of this restitution battle remains decidedly one-sided, the two leads show strong and engaging performances, which ultimately make this picture worthwhile. A court battle of pure gold.
Pitch Perfect 2Anthony Macali
In a bid to overturn their recent suspension, The Barden Bellas compete in the A Capella World Championships, where they meet their international rival Das Sound Machine.
"Pitch Perfect 2" will find it hard to rival the success of its first outing, but there are still plenty of witty jokes, crude slapstick and politically incorrect commentary to delight audiences. The weakest part of this sequel is the story, which invests more in the laughs, than the drama. While the strength of the original cast is bolstered by fresh additions, the film ultimately lacks the rhythm and catchy tunes of the predecessor. Corny, forgettable, yet still very funny. Das good.
Infinitely Polar BearAnne Murphy
A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier.
This is a goofy, amiable story based on the experiences of the writer and director. The central family make the most of their chaotic home life and there are plenty of funny moments. As enjoyable as "Infinitely Polar Bear" is, you may be left asking 'so what?'. This movie is superficial and bordering on trite, complete with a happy ending. Limited but bearable.
Kolya, with the help with an old friend now lawyer, fights the mayor to save his home.
"Leviathan" is multi-layered Russian drama that boldly investigates themes of corruption, broken families and religion. Centering on the small family in the middle of the dispute and set in the quiet and eerily beautiful sea-side surrounds, it allows us to emotionally connect with the characters and their struggle without obstruction. Arguments and celebrations often lead to the excessive consumption of vodka, and further complications arise when the story takes unexpected turns. Deep, dark and troubled waters.
A Little ChaosThomas Jones
A female landscape-gardener is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles.
Set in the days when periwigs were 'in', "A Little Chaos" depicts one of the earliest examples of a backyard blitz, as our heroine gets her hands dirty to create an outside ballroom at the Palace of Versailles. Overcoming bad weather, a saboteur, and a wheelbarrow full of skepticism, she proves to be more than just a dame in a dress. Despite this garden show including a budding romance and a buried past, ultimately it fails to grow on the audience.
Manny LewisJan Di Pietro
The film follows the story of a famous fictional stand-up comedian Manny Lewis, who connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to one person.
"Manny Lewis" is a heartwarming story told with refreshing simplicity. Fortunately, it lacks the typically overt, 'Aussie-brand' larrikin humour exhibited by some Australian comedies. The result is a film with great heart, poignancy, and many sobering laughs. Some scenes drown in rom-com cliches, but understated, lovable characters make it bearable. I wouldn't watch it 'Manny' times, but once was good enough.
In the midst of a con's latest scheme, a woman from his past shows up throwing his plans for a loop.
"Focus" is a glossy, fairly well-executed con story. Tension builds in a series of twists the audience won't see coming, typically key to a successful thriller. Unfortunately the sheer volume of turns in this film mean they tend to lose their impact with each new revelation. Moments of crude humour are used effectively, and there's a host of likeable characters that help distract us from an uneven plot. Never boring but not all that engaging, it's more cubic-zirconia than diamond: shiny and a little contrived... but otherwise enjoyable.
What We Did on Our HolidayAnne Murphy
Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.
While the story is all about celebrating granddad on his birthday, it's his three young grandchildren who steal almost every scene; they are as sassy as they are beguiling. The kids have access to greater intelligence, both rational and emotional, than the adults. The grownups have dibs on inappropriate outbursts, and you have to wonder if you're laughing at them, or with them? Viewing this likable movie may prompt self-reflection and if not you'll have lots of charming holiday images. Now what to do with the rest of our lives?
The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelAnthony Macali
Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" recycles the formula of its first incarnation, and succeeds once again thanks to the vigour and humour of its cast. While the plot in this edition is not particularly grand, the beloved elderly troupe carry the drama through the colourful and gleaming streets of India, notwithstanding the addition of a few fresh faces, whose introduction could be considered the only distinction from the first film. Same cup of tea, lots of sugar.
The Theory of EverythingAnthony Macali
A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
"The Theory of Everything" is an inspiring look into the great physicist, focusing on his endeavour rather than his achievement. With great heart and warmth, and minimal mention of science, we see a man confronted with a terrible condition and the inescapable effects on his relationship. Together with his equally resilient wife, they battle each obstacle and embrace it with good humour. The central performances are seamless, and as remarkable as they are, thankfully do not distract from the story considering the subject. The theory is sound.
The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul.
"Foxcatcher" is not an ordinary tale of Olympic endeavour. This story is bleak, and rarely strays from desolate tone and colourless surroundings. The striking transformations and uneasy performances from the central characters are the films greatest strength, creating tension and a sense of discomfort as the drama unfolds. With authentic wrestling and a glimpse into the lavish, the setting is good but lacks the emotion to successfully engage its audience. Not a gold-winning team.
Folies BergereAnne Murphy
Brigitte and Xavier are a couple of cattle farmers living and working together in Normandy.
A movie about cattle farmers is bound to have a rustic feel. "Folies Bergere" has just that, and there is something very simple and charming about this film. There is also something lacking; most stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. This one has a beginning, a middle, more middle, and yet another middle before it tapers off and the credits roll. The actors are impeccable, the country and Parisian backdrops picturesque, but regrettably, the overall experience is not entirely satisfying. The folly of a director?
Men, Women & ChildrenAndrew O'Dea
Parents and their teenagers grapple with the many ways the Internet affects their lives.
"Men, Women & Children" is a character-driven ensemble drama that provides a glimpse of our cultural evolution (or some may argue devolution) through social media. Perhaps a victim of its own scope and ambition, the exploration of this Wi-Fi culture across a multi-story narrative is thought-provoking, although the delivery is somewhat heavy-handed. The vulnerability and sentiment at the film's core is sure to divide its audience; it will either resonate or leave them with a sense of contrivance. A family conversation still worth having.
Rock the CasbahAnne Murphy
Problems arise when Sofia returns to Tangiers and her family is reunited for her father's funeral.
"Rock the Casbah" leaves a lasting memory of its stunning visual backdrops and scenery, and there's a sense of enjoying something sumptuous being put before the audience. Family relationships are at the fore of this engaging character-driven drama and there are skeletons aplenty coming out of the proverbial closet. The flow is disturbed by uneven acting performances and don't be misled by the title, while some scores are settled these are familial and not musical in nature. Rolls rather than rocks.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1Anthony Macali
In District 13, Katniss Everdeen works to a nation moved by her courage under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends.
Just as this franchise begins to catch fire, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is reduced to a slow-burn, which can only be attributed to its division into two separate films. World war has begun and the images are striking, but their emotive impact is lost when the characters continue to tread over the same ground... literally. The strength still lies in the ensemble cast, as their bravado resides over some of the more spectacular set pieces. It's less games, more politics.
Two Days, One NightAnthony Macali
Sandra discovers that her workmates have opted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal.
"Two Days, One Night" ponders a precarious dilemma. We learn our protagonist is wrestling a sickness, and feel the helplessness and frustration that comes living with it, amplified by a strong and palpable performance. While the setup is questionable, it enables an interesting and often unseen view of families on the weekend, and the common economic struggles they face. The quiet pace might not suit everyone, but it allows time to properly introduce the various characters, and effortlessly create an emotional connection. Lingers many days after...
Kill the MessengerAnthony Macali
Based on a true story, A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.
"Kill the Messenger" gets caught up not knowing what kind of film it wants to be. Considering the alarming and hard-hitting news of the discovery, the expectant feelings of anger and discontent towards the cover-up are severely lacking. The narrative serves more as a lesson in public relations, as we watch an honourable journalist get discredited; his breakdown not as interesting as the politics. An admirable story to bring to the fore… even if the message isn't clear.
This Is Where I Leave YouJan Di Pietro
When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home.
Life isn't perfect, and the dramas and absurdities within it are manageable, so long as there is honesty and communication. "This is Where I Leave You" likens secrets to cancer, positing human beings as creatures who grow through obstacles. A noble message. This neatly wrapped package contains endearing characters who actively cancel out some expository excrement early on. Although the premise is poorly justified, it's a genuinely enjoyable story, living up to the comedy/drama promise. If we all had a portable potty to enjoy anytime, anywhere, things'd be just great.
Hector and the Search for HappinessAnthony Macali
A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is an exotic journey about discovering oneself, which usually involves skipping from one continent to the next, navigating through stereotypes and clichés. The outset is promising, good-natured fun... before the patchy ill-directed plot wanders into the tiresome and mawkish. Exploring such a noble topic, we feel obligated to welcome the premise, but you can't help but think there's a missed opportunity to expand on the many laughs experienced. Nonetheless, the idea is cute enough to please those who will give it a chance. Still searching.
Before I Go to SleepAnthony Macali
A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
"Before I Go to Sleep" is more frightening than one might think. Living with amnesia is a damned reality, and the film vehemently captures the constant fear and mistrust our protagonist is feeling. With eerie photos and distressing video diaries, each daily cycle will keep the audience guessing, as strong performances from the cast pull in many different directions, mentally and emotionally, before descending into the darkness of the final act. Sweet dreams.
Dracula UntoldAndrew O'Dea
Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes looks to make a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - without succumbing to the darkness himself.
"Dracula Untold" is an origin film that injects new blood into an otherwise tired subject. Taking the famous vampire back hundreds of years, there's a degree of thought to the back-story that is both obvious and refreshing. Although the screenplay is most definitely flawed, the trespasses into clichéd territory can easily be forgiven by an audience who will appreciate the charismatic lead and his frequent forays into the grim and gory. Doesn't suck.
Advanced StyleAnthony Macali
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.
"Advanced Style" is a lovely documentary that will invigorate and enliven. As it fleetingly delves into the profiles of the stylish ladies who make up this blog-inspired film, we get exposed to some deeply creative and driven elderly women that one might not normally notice walking down the street. We also learn that with age comes a great sense of humour, with the interviewees encouraged to share stories just a little more philosophical than the contents of their wardrobe. A passion for fashion.