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Review: Miss Potter and three more ...

By March 21, 2007November 17th, 2010No Comments

Miss Potter posterFavourite chil­dren’s author Beatrix Potter takes her turn for a silver-screen biop­ic this week in Miss Potter. Renée Zellweger plays Potter with the help of her finely-honed English accent and her little act­ing friends “Squinty” and “Pouty”.

Potter is an unmar­ried daugh­ter of upper-class par­ents with a per­son­al­ity dis­order (my own dia­gnos­is) that means she talks to the twee little painted wood­land folk who pop­u­late her books. Unexpectedly, she falls for Ewan McGregor (Is he a des­cend­ant of Old Mr McGregor who chases Peter Rabbit around the veget­able patch? That would be nice…). Tragedy inter­venes, she bounces back, and that’s about it really.

The Descent posterNeil Marshall’s bril­liantly effect­ive low-budget hor­ror The Descent first played in Wellington at Ant Timpson’s V Movie Marathon in 2005 and I hope it has­n’t had a dif­fer­ent end­ing added or any­thing like that, because I’m going to recom­mend it on the basis of the dim memory of that screen­ing. A group of women go on a cav­ing exped­i­tion beneath the remote Appalachian moun­tains. This turns out to be a bad idea as some very nasty things live in those caves. You will jump and you will jump more than once, trust me.

Freedom Writers posterEvery gen­er­a­tion seems to get a film like Freedom Writers, where an ideal­ist­ic young teach­er goes to the ghetto (or the ‘Hood) and gets the young gang-bangers to stop the hurtin’ with the help of bas­ket­ball, rap, ball­room dan­cing or (in this case) essay writ­ing. I’m teas­ing here, because Freedom Writers is actu­ally a very good film des­pite its cookie-cutter premise. Solidly dir­ec­ted by Richard LaGravenese from his own screen­play and fea­tur­ing a geeky per­form­ance from Hilary Swank as naïve, whitebread, teach­er Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers is based on the kids own pub­lished works and is all the bet­ter for let­ting their voices stand front and center.

The Good German posterThe Good German by Steven Soderbergh is a worthy, but ulti­mately failed, exper­i­ment in recre­at­ing the clas­sic Hollyowood noir of the 1940’s, using the same cine­mat­ic tech­niques – and even the same equip­ment. Inspired by The Third Man, Casablanca and count­less oth­ers, the film drops us into broken post-war Berlin just before the Potsdam Conference seals the divide between East and West for the next 45 years.

George Clooney plays war cor­res­pond­ent Jake Geismar, ostens­ibly in Berlin to cov­er the con­fer­ence but really try­ing to find a former lov­er (Cate Blanchett). Of course, in a city of nearly three mil­lion people she turns out to be bonk­ing his driver (Tobey Maguire). All the American char­ac­ters, except for Maguire, have German sound­ing names which is prob­ably artist­ic­ally import­ant but I did­n’t care enough to think any more about it.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 21 March, 2007.