Favourite 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.
Neil 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.
Every 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 naive, 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 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.