Something BorrowedWendy Slevison
Friendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel falls for Dex, her best friend Darcy's fiancé.
Adapted from a popular novel, "Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy of errors, where everyone seems to be in love with the wrong person. The movie is essentially the characters sorting themselves out. Unfortunately, this takes a while, and by the end of the overly long running time, audience investment in the protagonists has wilted a bit. While the actors all do a fine job of their roles, the film lacks freshness and charm. The plot feels a little like something borrowed.
Powerful Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth.
This movie is one of the shiniest you will ever see, from Thor's armour and hammer to his home in Asgard, replete with large gold statues and lots of lens flare. The titular hero is played with great gall and charm, as he is banished from the CGI kaleidoscope of Space to Earth, the perfect place to showcase some of his finer attributes. Aesthetics aside, the film is held together by the power of its cast, who could only have joined the production on the basis of its actor turned director. "Thor" simply gets it done.
Brighton RockAnne Murphy
Charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a death wish.
"Brighton Rock" is a moody and suspenseful thriller, set by a gaudy seaside carnival. A serving girl looking for love gets entangled with a criminal establishing the central tension between good and evil. The movie is dark but the chilling tone becomes hard to hold as the odd scene teeters on a melodramatic precipice... almost, but not quite, compromising its otherwise ruthless edge. An unmistakably English veneer of tea-shop gentility is cracked by hardened characters and gripping action. Callous at its core. Brighton rocks unrelentingly.
Scream 4Courtney Slevison
Ten years have passed, and massacre survivor Sidney Prescott has returned to her hometown.
This instalment of the popular horror franchise reinvents the slasher genre for a savvy new audience. From the hilarious and scream-inducing opening sequence, it's clear that while the film doesn't take itself too seriously, you will definitely be in for a scare. While some of the plot twists are quite predictable, there's some fantastic dialogue and great performances from the predominantly young cast. "Scream 4" plays with the traditional horror formula, letting you believe you know what's coming next, before shocking you with a plot twist that will leave you screaming for more.
Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.
Science-fiction films usually present good value, and especially ones with extra-terrestrials, but you leave wanting more from "Paul". What was once cute about a bromance road trip loses its charm when the bond between the self-confessed geeks becomes a little too pronounced. The movie strives for mainstream appeal, fielding a varied range of jokes from satirical science-fiction writers, toilet humour and a galaxy of cultural references. In the end, the quips are hit and miss, invariably creating a funny, but not fantastic film. Average alien fodder.
Young law student Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in love with Lotte, but Albert Kestner also laid an eye on her.
A key figure in German literature might be considered fusty as the subject of a romantic comedy. Think again, as the author, poet and philosopher is dusted off and enthused with a jaunty vigour. "Goethe!" is a heady and light-hearted costume drama. The rebellious, romantically driven figure may attract new readers, even if the historical integrity of the movie is questionable. The portrayal of the period is superb, and the exploration of the subject's early years is captivating, if shallow.
My Afternoons with MargueritteAnne Murphy
An illiterate and lonely man bonds with an older and well-read woman.
A charming little film set in a French village populated by quirky characters. Affectionate and gentle, "My Afternoons with Margueritte" only just avoids saccharine levels of sweetness with some moments of genuine humanity. This is a heart-warming story of love and unlikely relationships that doesn't delve too deeply into the make-up of the various odd couples. The central roles are well acted, creating endearing, if not entirely believable, people. Best summed up as being a whimsical pleasure, and a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.
The SilenceAnne Murphy
The bicycle of a missing girl is found in the exact place where another girl was killed 23 years ago.
A cold case that mirrors a current crime is reopened, and the dual storyline is effective as each amplifies the loss and despair of the other. Beyond the suspense of the police investigation are stories of suffering by the families of the victims. Not surprisingly, the criminals are revealed as unsettling individuals. It's the depth of the characters, revealing chilling psychological profiles of the transgressors, that sets this movie apart from TV dramas with similar story-lines. Worth talking about.
Single by ContractAnne Murphy
A teenage girl falls for the lead singer in a popular rock band without knowing he is famous.
A classic storyline, retold for adolescents, is romantic and pleasing, if schmaltzy. By sticking to a tried and true formula, "Single by Contract" is predictable, but the story is still amusing to watch. The strong affable leads create interest and play out their romance with wit and style. This version of the tale about the celebrity and the simple girl gives something really joyful to an implausible plot... we can even forgive them for being surrounded by a cast of clichéd characters. Apparently contracts are made to be broken.
Nanga ParbatAnne Murphy
Drama about the tragic Nanga Parbat expedition by the two Messner brothers in 1970, on which Reinhold Messner's younger brother Günther died.
Nanga Parbat is a magnificent peak in the Himalaya's; this movie carrying the mountain's name was mostly shot on site, and is similarly magnificent. This is a film to be enjoyed by adventurers, not only for the stunning scenery, but also for the human story of endeavour and conquest. The spirit of the expedition and the climbers as they challenge nature are captured, as are the petty disputes among the team. Always one more mountain to climb...
How I Ended This SummerStefan Bugryn
Tensions rise between two russian men stationed in antartica when one keeps a life-changing secret from the other.
The strength of this movie is in its use of suspense. There is no shortage of 'edge of your seat' moments, and the cinematography is brilliant. Yet what could have been a modern-thriller-classic is ruined by odd periods of... well, nothing, as it seems to linger on many shots for no apparent reason at all. This puts a dent in the pacing of the film, and makes it much longer than it should be. Still highly original, and a good way to end any season.
The Lincoln LawyerTom Jones
A lawyer conducts business from the back of his car while representing a high-profile client.
Films depicting client/lawyer relationships always make for compelling viewing and "The Lincoln Lawyer" is no exception. It's a classic cat and mouse chase, as both client and lawyer work to stay one step ahead of each other until the fat lady sings... seriously. This film seems to end four times before it actually ends. The acting is one-dimensional and there are a few sub-plots that are devoted too much screen time, but the central story will have you hooked. Any appeals to this judgement are denied.
Barney's VersionAnne Murphy
Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer.
"Barney's Version" is a character study covering 30 years of one man's life. Depth is compromised by span when a life - even a fictional one - is featured in a movie-length couple of hours. This is a rambling, uneven and shallow movie held together by strong acting. The comedic story takes an unexpected and solemn turn towards the end, but by then there's not a lot of emotion vested in the outcome for the amiable but self-centred characters. An interesting soap opera version.
The Butcher, the Chef, and the SwordsmanAnne Murphy
A tale of revenge, honour and greed follows a group of misfits that gets involved with a kitchen cleaver made from the top five swords of the martial arts world.
Ignorance, vengeance, and greed are the vices woven into stories that are furiously threaded together to create this movie. The pace is reckless and the characters are curious, if not downright bizarre, in a comic book sort of way. Not that the production suffers for any of it - it's vibrant, irreverent, energetic and very funny - just hang on for the ride. A slapstick bombardment of this, that, and the other.
A junior high school musical, about a frizzy-haired, hermaphrodite, an outcast who fights back.
The main character is called Spork, after an implement that's part spoon and part fork. The name provides a hint about the style of movie this is, where life is played out in an exaggerated comic book style. "Spork" is fun, a singing and dancing movie populated with a likable collection of quirky friends surrounding the central misfit. The movie's theme is one of self-acceptance over fitting in with any group, all realised through a satisfying, if nasty, battle between the outcasts and the mainstream. Put a spork in it.
Violet TendenciesAnne Murphy
A woman tries to distance herself from her gay friends in an effort to land a straight boyfriend.
"Violet Tendencies" is vibrant rom-com. It cracks a rollicking pace and has a buoyant mood to a point of almost being over-loaded with comic social observations. If there are more quips than conversation, it doesn't mean that the flamboyant characters don't take themselves seriously. The various couples and singles are trying to grow up and there's an earnest 'what next?' question being asked. A funny, smutty and entertaining offering that asks little of its audience. Paint me purple.
The Clink of IceAnne Murphy
An alcoholic writer is visited by an incarnation of his cancer.
"The Clink of Ice" is as original as it is deeply and darkly humorous. Imagine bantering with your life threatening illness and laughing. The premise of personifying a malignant disease in a suit sets up an intriguing film. Not that there is anything funny about cancer or facing death. Typically we deride perverse situations as being as 'funny as cancer' but the director and cast prove dexterous enough to turn that assertion around. As bleak as the themes of the movie are, the clinking of ice muffles the death knell.
Happy FewAnne Murphy
Two couples fall in love, lose sight of each other in the confusion and end up pulling through.
"Happy Few" covers many relationships between two couples, each person with every other, and then with their children. All of the inter-relationships are handled respectfully, and the characters are strong and credible. It's a shame the emotional development is secondary to the depictions of the physical encounters, and surprisingly, this translates to the movie revealing less intimacy than one might have expected. Still, there's much happiness to be found in this French romp. Many will be happily seduced.
All That GlittersAnne Murphy
Two young women who have been friends since childhood are daring in their attempts to gain access to a social class beyond their reach.
A surprisingly unpretentious comedy that will speak to the aspirations and angst of many adolescents enthralled by the world of glamour and fashion. The film is anchored by the friendship of two central characters, who enthuse the story with their daring and their dreams. There are social messages on many levels, as the girls also manage to dismay with their denial of their backgrounds and family. "All That Glitters" is stylish, energetic, mischievous... and glittering.
Bus PalladiumAnne Murphy
It's the 80's and the boys have formed a band, now all they need is the big time.
Five childhood friends form a rock band as young men, put them on a tour bus, and we're watching the movie equivalent of rock 'n' roll heaven. The stereotypical band members are troubled by nothing more than the usual sex and drugs and making music together, their travails accompanied by an authentic soundtrack that recreates the feel of the era. The boys are as likable as "Bus Palladium" is enjoyable. Get a ticket and get on the bus.
The Way BackAndrew O'Dea
Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, "The Way Back" is authentic film-making that proves you don't need CGI to create a sweeping epic. The incredibly long running time and deliberate pacing commands you to appreciate the vast distances and stunning landscapes of the protagonists' journey, step by slow step. One suspects this was entirely the director's intention, and in this regard credit is undeniably due. Some will no doubt be inspired by this sprawling story, but others may get lost along the way.
A woman puts herself through long years of law school to prove her convicted brother of innocence.
This movie has all the makings of a textbook 'midday telemovie'; true story, appeals to older females, very sentimental and touching. However, it's a step above the rest, and well worth watching. It is extraordinary to learn about this real woman, who commits her whole life to saving her brother. The acting is amazing, especially from the lead actress who is fantastic in her portrayal of the real life heroine. The directing is sometimes lacklustre, and it feels like it could have harnessed the emotions a lot more. Otherwise, convict yourself to this one!
No Strings AttachedTom Jones
A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical.
What works in this film, is that the leads, despite being impossibly good looking, are relatable, likeable and convincing - not just actors trying to be comedians. The majority of the comedy comes from the supporting cast, who handle the often dirty/toilet humor in a way that makes you laugh and not gasp. Complimented by a superb soundtrack, this movie is hard not to enjoy on some level, but don't expect it to break any new ground for the genre. When it comes to romance and comedy, the strings are still very much attached.
An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother's death.
"Faster" is the story of a man's single-minded and bloody revenge mission. His modus operandi is cold-blooded, calculated, and chilling. In spite of this, somehow, we are on his side. Strangely, particularly given the near-silent portrayal by the lead actor, we feel sympathy and compassion for his tortured soul. The movie has other subplots, as well as an awesome car chase, but essentially it is about moving on, and as our "hero" drives off into the sunset, we find ourselves hoping that he finds peace... fast.
A small-town girl ventures to LA and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.
"Burlesque" is everything you might imagine - clichéd, yes. Thin on plot, yes. Largely a performance vehicle for it's leading ladies, yes. But it's more - it's entertaining escapism, and isn't that what movies are all about? The voices are incredibly rich and robust; the dance numbers are glitzy and gaudy, yet tightly choreographed and executed. The entire cast is highly watchable (even if it's just to see if the elder of those leading ladies can actually move her top lip) and combine to deliver a film that is sexy without being salacious.