Film Reviews

A Touch of Sin

February 8, 2014
Actor Wu Jiang stars in the film 'A Touch of Sin' (2013)

For this week’s second film I’m going to depart from the mainstream and discuss Jia Zhang-ke’s A Touch of Sin, screening throughout February at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. To give a first viewing to important movies that have yet to find a distributor in this country is one of ACMI’s … More

12 Years a Slave

February 1, 2014
Chiwetel Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave', 2013

It used to be commonplace for directors to cut their teeth in the theatre before moving on to the cinema. In the future it seems likely there will be more directors who begin their careers at art school making videos and installations before progressing to full-length features. Steve McQueen is currently the most prominent example … More

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

February 1, 2014
Andrew Jacobs in 'Paranormal Activity: The Markes Ones', 2014

Paranormal Activity has become one of those franchises that seems destined to drag on forever, with each new installment introducing a few small innovations to keep the fans interested. The original Paranormal Activity of 2007 was a low budget sensation. Reputedly made at a cost of US$15,000, it has grossed more than US$100 million since … More

The Great Beauty

January 25, 2014
Toni Servillo in 'The Great Beauty' 2013

From one wild party to another. The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) was the opening attraction of last year’s Italian Film Festival. This week it gets a theatrical release, having just been nominated for the Academy Award for the best Foreign Language Film. Whether it wins or not, director Paolo Sorrentino has made a movie … More

The Wolf of Wall Street

January 25, 2014
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' 2013

With most films if we can’t find any sympathy for the lead characters it’s a bad night at the cinema. The Wolf of Wall Street is the exception to the rule. A three-hour roller coaster ride that keeps us clinging to the handrail from start to finish, this orgiastic vision of greed and excess on … More


January 18, 2014
Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her', 2013

Somebody had to make a film such as Her, and Spike Jonze was a good candidate. His last feature was an accomplished fairy tale, Where the Wild Things Are (2009); the previous one, the clever Adaptation (2002). In between there have been shorts, documentaries, and music video clips. Yet Jonze is a more mature filmmaker … More

Inside Llewyn Davis

January 18, 2014
Oscar Isaac in 'Inside Llewyn Davis', 2013

In The Folk Song Army the satirist Tom Lehrer took aim at the folk revival that swept the United States in the early 1960s. “You have to admire people who sing these songs,” he said. “It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out … More

The Book Thief

January 11, 2014
Sophie Nélisse in 'The Book Thief', 2013

Last month, for the first and only time in my experience, the author of the book behind the film was present at a preview. Markus Zusak has a German father and an Austrian mother, but he grew up in the Sydney suburbs. Zusak published his first young-adult novel, The Underdog (1999) at the age of … More

Short Term 12

January 11, 2014
Brie Larson in 'Short Term 12', 2013

I’ve been in two minds this week about a second review: whether to go with Jonathan Teplitzy’s The Railway Man and its maudlin “true story” of an aging train-spotter who compulsively relives the nightmare of imprisonment by the Japanese in World War Two; or Short Term 12, an American indie about a young woman who … More


January 7, 2014
Judi Dench in 'Philomena', 2013

Stephen Frears is one of the most versatile of British filmmakers, although the standard price of versatility is inconsistency. It’s hard to think of a truly great Frears film but there have been some very good ones. More of a tradesman than an artist, he has the ability to get an outstanding performance out of … More