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One of the unwrit­ten rules for film review­ers is to try and sep­ar­ate the film you are watch­ing from the envir­on­ment you are in while you are watch­ing it. Whether you are in the leath­er arm­chairs at the Embassy or at home peer­ing through the time­code on a DVD, water­marked to pre­vent you from copy­ing it and stick­ing it on youTube, you are sup­posed to be able to see the inher­ent art with­in. Or the lack of, as the case may be.

Which is fair enough up to a point, but when you man­age to escape the howl­ing wind and driv­ing rain of the first rage of winter and curl up for a day on one of the couches at the toasty Empire in Island Bay its hard not to steer a few brownie points in the dir­ec­tion of the films you watch there.

So bear in mind, when I say I really enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia (a note-perfect kids film with the good taste to cast the lumin­ous Zooey Deschanel and then have her sing Steve Earle’s “Someday” to her music class) and Ocean’s 13 (a fun but for­get­table exer­cise in old-fashioned star power with a tired look­ing George Clooney without a romantic foil) it may well have more to do with the screen­ing con­di­tions than it should.

Scenes of a Sexual Nature posterAnd when I say I did­n’t have much time for Scenes of a Sexual Nature (a rather point­less col­lec­tion of stor­ies set on Hampstead Heath in London fea­tur­ing setups and gags that would struggle to make it in to an aver­age epis­ode of “Terry & June”) that might be to do with see­ing it in the bunker at the Rialto. No, bug­ger it, I stand by that one.

Containing actu­al scenes of a sexu­al nature, unlike the limp tease of the film before, is Bertrand Blier’s odd com­edy How Much Do You Love Me? So odd, in fact, that I’m not sure if com­edy is the right word to describe it. Bernard Campan is François, a lonely middle-aged man who wins the lot­tery and offers pros­ti­tute Daniela (spec­tac­u­lar Monica Bellucci) 100,000 Euros a month to live with him until the money runs out. François’ friends envy him to death but her gang­ster hus­band (Gérard Depardieu) thinks it is get­ting too cosy and muscles in. There’s a uniquely French dis­cus­sion in there about pros­ti­tu­tion versus oth­er kinds of whor­ing but in the end the film makes too little sense for it to matter.

Pierrepoint is the true story of Albert, the last in a fam­ily of British exe­cu­tion­ers (played to per­fec­tion by Timothy Spall). I now know rather more than I ever wanted about the busi­ness of hanging people but, while the aes­thet­ic of the film reeks a little of the tele­vi­sion it was made for, I can recom­mend it as a simple story, well told.

Puppy movie posterThe micro-budget Australian drama Puppy is a beau­ti­ful look­ing thing – the cine­ma­to­graphy and art dir­ec­tion writ­ing cheques that the script and act­ing just can­’t cash. Aiden is a good-looking tow-truck driver (yeah, right) who goes off his meds and hal­lu­cin­ates that pretty Lizzie is his estranged wife Helen. So he kid­naps her. But she’s got issues of her own, and a reas­on to want to stay.

Finally, a quick stat­ist­ic­al ana­lys­is of Shrek the Third: out-loud laughs = 6 (50% of those for Puss-in-Boots); smiles = 12; gags where you think “that was funny” but don’t actu­ally make you laugh or smile = over thirty.

Published in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 20 June, 2007.