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 LawyerThomas 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 AttachedThomas 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 ItThomas 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.