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  • The Theory of Everything

    The Theory of Everything 2014

    ★★★ Watched 08 Feb, 2015

    Committed performances from the leads can’t fix a script that’s incapable of conveying the magnitude of Hawking’s legacy, preferring instead to dwell on (and partially revise the chronology of) his domestic infatuations.

  • The Babadook

    The Babadook 2014

    ★★ Watched 29 Jan, 2015

    Starts out well, bearing a little black Aussie humour and employing the kind of abrupt cuts between scenes that push the narrative along briskly while also conveying that something’s a little off-kilter. Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are perfect as sparring widow and son. But as the tension builds and the central premise is revealed, there isn’t enough in the mechanics of the story to justify where it ventures thematically, and the ending feels hackneyed and expected.

    Plus, not actually very scary.

  • Force Majeure

    Force Majeure 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 01 Jan, 2015 6

    The Loneliest Planet with talking. If that film appealed, you might consider this its vaguely spiritual sequel. Östlund offers some delightfully understated observations on marital disharmony and male delusion, but struggles to maintain his singular vision into the final act, ultimately weakening the film’s resolution by trying to force a role reversal that doesn’t ring true.

  • The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

    The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 22 Dec, 2014

    This intimate look behind the veil of Japan’s Studio Ghibli reveals as much about its two star directors (each in the process of completing his final film) as it does about the studio’s approach to filmmaking. Miyazaki’s quiet, thoughtful side might be guessed at by viewing his films, but the playful cynicism (and rivalry) shown here is at odds with the earnestness he bestows upon each of his pictures. I was particularly taken by some of the smaller moments, such…

  • Neighbors

    Neighbors 2014

    Watched 14 Aug, 2014

    It’s currently a toss up between Rose Byrne and Jude Law for worst Australian accent of the decade so far, and one of them is Australian…

  • Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets

    Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 24 Jul, 2014

    Reminded me a little of LCD Soundsystem’s farewell film Shut Up and Play the Hits, but where that overdosed on concert footage at the expense of a more revealing peek behind the curtain, this finds a better balance and with it a lot more charm.

    Both films focus on the shy but exuberant performer at the centre of their respective bands, as they examine their careers and the act of ending a great thing. Habicht’s superpower is his ability to…

  • Orphans & Kingdoms

    Orphans & Kingdoms 2014

    ★★★ Watched 20 Jul, 2014

    A lovingly crafted and pretty effective home-invasion story made on Auckland’s Waiheke Island for a minuscule budget with a largely young and unknown cast. Uniformly strong performances from the antagonists, but the father/son relationship behind much of the film’s emotional weight didn’t really work for me.

  • Need for Speed

    Need for Speed 2014

    ★★½ Watched 15 Jun, 2014

    Plenty of driving and posturing and contrivance and a healthy dose of Micheal Keaton in shock jock mode, but utterly and comprehensively implausible: I mean, there’s no way in hell an educated, well spoken Englishwoman who buys multi-million-dollar supercars for a living would use the word ‘invite’ as a noun.

  • Godzilla

    Godzilla 2014

    ★★★ Watched 18 May, 2014

    Like Edwards' previous film Monsters (which a friend called his feature-length audition tape to direct this film), Godzilla is at its best during its quieter, more tense moments. It’s an artful mix of smoke and monsters that works its way Jaws-style to the eventual creature reveal, and sustains attention beyond that point, where many might fall away. But don’t worry, there’s still enough cardboard cutouts on the sidelines and in the situation room to ensure we remember exactly what we’re watching.

  • The Wolf of Wall Street

    The Wolf of Wall Street 2013

    ★★★ Watched 29 Jan, 2014

    An uncredited Spike Jonze in a minor role as a middle manager gives the best performance in this whole, elaborate mess. He should get a better agent.

  • United 93

    United 93 2006

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 20 Jan, 2014

    Ruthlessly economical filmmaking that so effectively illustrates just how unexpected and unfathomable the events of 9/11 were for the passengers and ground crews involved.

    Once past the opening hotel room and boarding gate scenes, the film never strays beyond the walls of the hijacked aircraft or the military and civilian command centres that responded. Director Greengrass provides no explanation — other than perhaps nerves — for the hijackers’ delayed gambit on board, and deliberately downplays most of the day’s iconic…

  • Enough Said

    Enough Said 2013

    ★★★ Watched 12 Jan, 2014

    Solid performances and some genuine, heartfelt moments, but hamstrung by a script that tends towards both farce and out-of-character behaviour, and editing that too often sacrifices continuity of emotion or reaction. That said, Gandolfini is a star. I would love to have seen him get out his gentler side more, as he does here in spades.