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.
Morning GloryAnne Murphy
An upstart television producer accepts the challenge of reviving a struggling morning show program with warring co-hosts.
"Morning Glory" is as cute as a kitten, and just as fluffy and playful. Audiences will find it either predictably amusing or predictably irritating, as it it sticks to a tried and true formula, offering no surprises and delivering on all expectations. This is a bright funny film with a big name cast, who appear to enjoy acting like cornflakes. It bubbles along with all of the snap, crackle, and pop that many enjoy in the morning.
Life During WartimeAnne Murphy
Friends, family, and lovers struggle to find love, forgiveness, and meaning in a war-torn world riddled with comedy and pathos.
First up "Life During Wartime" is set in modern day Florida, so don't let expectations be set by the title. Judging by the number of walkouts a few were misled. There is family warfare, every character is a guerrilla and their dark dreadful secrets are the weapons of destruction. This is a difficult drama, in addition to the bleak material the pace is choppy, interactions are stilted, confronting viewing but intriguing nonetheless. Forgive the title and you won't forget the movie.
A hard-living Hollywood actor re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.
Not exactly entertaining, "Somewhere" is a thought provoking look at the world of show business and the people who live it. You get the impression that this depiction is closer to the real thing than the glamorized celebrity lifestyle we're used to being sold by Hollywood. There are a number of extended shots, which gives the audience the chance to think about what such a film is trying to prove, but don't expect to get any answers, here, there or anywhere.
A Lone ScalpelAnne Murphy
A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.
Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.
Villon's WifeAnne Murphy
This enticing period melodrama depicts a long-suffering woman's relationship with her brilliant but self-destructive writer husband in post-war Tokyo.
The drama is heavy going as everyone is laden with sorrow, desire and regret against a post-war back-drop that is sombre and opportunistic. The angst of the artist is captured in the husband's role and balanced by the strong-willed determination of the wife. Much can be read between the scenes, as the drama of dark themes and hard times plays out. "Vilon's Wife" is engrossing with all of the fragile and intertwined relationships of a soap opera; wretched affairs but no divorce.
A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity while falling in love with the famous female philosophy professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
This visually extravagant epic looks to the skies pondering shape of our universe, while on the ground bloody religious disputes are fought with stones and daggers. Disappointing is the production sloth that depicts one side as dirty and grey and the other as pale and clean. Barely forgivable, even in the 400AD setting, is a disquieting patriarchal tone discolouring ancient Alexandria. Unforgivable, is the lack of dramatic tension as "Agora" devolves into tedium.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle ShopAnne Murphy
The owner of a Chinese noodle shop's scheme to murder his adulterous wife and her lover goes awry.
Curiosity is aroused watching the scheming characters play out this tale with pantomime action in a surreal mountainous desert setting. This movie is brightly coloured and visually splendid, a spectacular feast that will leave you a little hungry. More is promised than delivered. The action is slapstick rather than suspenseful, as the goofy cast execute their various self-interested plots and plans. The pace plods a little in this Chinese Cluedo, that's more convoluted than simply a woman, in a noodle shop... with a gun.
Life as We Know ItTom Jones
Two single adults become caregivers to an orphaned girl when their mutual best friends die in an accident.
The title captures the entire essence of this film. Everything about it is what we have seen, have known and have come to expect from this type of feel good film. There is nothing really new or different. The cast play the same roles we all know that they'll play. The plot has all the ingredients we know are needed to make a romantic comedy; romance and comedy. "Life as We Know It", is as we know it and nothing else.
La DanseTom Jones
The film follows the production of seven ballets by the Paris Opera Ballet.
At first, "La Danse" feels like a realistic and unpretentious glimpse into the Paris Opera Ballet. There's no commentary, no interviews and very little editing. However, at the two and half hour point, it could be accused of lazy film making and bordering on self indulgent. The talent and physiques of the dancers are to be marvelled, but an entire movie on this subject is unnecessarily long.This is one fly-on-the-wall film where you wish someone would hurry up and squat the fly.
The TownTom Jones
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down.
"The Town" is your classic cops and robbers fare, with a little bit of heart. The robbery scenes are exhilarating and are directed in such a way that you share the thrill of being chased, and the adrenalin which comes with the risk of getting caught. The problem with this film lies in the moments between the robberies, where a story tries to develop but really only slows the whole thing down. Much like its characters, this film is a goodie and a baddie.