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I was expect­ing to come out of Operation 8 fired up but instead I emerged depressed and dis­pir­ited. I knew that New Zealand’s default polit­ic­al set­ting was benign com­pla­cency but I hadn’t real­ised that the full force of a – frankly – barely com­pet­ent police state was being brought to bear on the few of us who were actu­ally agit­at­ing and protest­ing for a more pro­gress­ive society.

Operation 8 is Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones’ unashamedly par­tis­an telling of the 2007 “Urewera 18 17” scan­dal in which dis­par­ate protest groups across New Zealand (with the focus on Tuhoe’s inde­pend­ence move­ment) were viol­ently raided, imprisoned and – now about to be – giv­en a tri­al without a jury. It’s a shock­ing lit­any of state arrog­ance and ineptitude, all the more depress­ing for com­men­cing under a Labour Government.

That these trav­esties occurred without pub­lic out­cry is thanks to our old friend, the late and unla­men­ted Osama Bin Laden – one out­come of his butchery is the increas­ing reach of the police state in places like ours that should be pro­tect­ing free­dom rather than attack­ing it. See Operation 8 and take as many people as pos­sible with you.

It’s a good week for inde­pend­ent, vir­tu­ally home-made, kiwi fea­tures: play­ing along­side Operation 8 at the Paramount (and at select oth­er loc­a­tions) is Hook, Line & Sinker by Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader. Rangimoana Taylor is truck driver PJ. When his eyes start going he sees his live­li­hood, his sense of self-worth and pos­sibly his san­ity going along with them. His part­ner Ronnie (Carmel McGlone) might be able to step in to the fin­an­cial breach with her grow­ing wed­ding gown busi­ness but that just makes things worse for proud PJ.

Hook, Line & Sinker is a tre­mend­ous show­case for some great Wellington act­ors. McGlone and Taylor are joined by the vet­er­ans Geraldine Brophy (Second Hand Wedding) and Kate Harcourt along with young­sters Elizabeth McMenamin and Eli Kent. My only qualm about the film on the big screen is the reli­ance on wobbly hand-held cam­er­a­work – I should point out that this is a styl­ist­ic decision not a lack of craft – that threatened to give me a head­ache at times. When the cam­era was still the act­ors really got a chance to shine.

There are three New Zealand fea­tures this week and the third cost some­thing like ten times the amount of the first two put togeth­er for no bet­ter out­come. Tracker is a hand­some look­ing his­tor­ic­al drama about a Boer farm­er (and former “ter­ror­ist” him­self) who travels to New Zealand in 1903 to start a new life after defeat by the British. Played by the legendary Ray Winstone, Van Dieman is a tor­tured soul whose track­ing skills are enlis­ted by Major Carlyle (Gareth Reeves) in order to bring to justice a wrongly-accused Maori har­poon­ist Temuera Morrison.

Traipsing all over the scen­ic Queenstown lakes area, Tracker plays fast and loose with geo­graphy as well as his­tory. It’s biggest crime though is lack of pace – with more energy in the chases the lovely quieter scenes where Morrison and Winstone teach each oth­er about their respect­ive cul­tures might have had more weight.

Source Code is Duncan Jones’ high concept follow-up to his sci-fi hit Moon from 2009 and until about five minutes from the end it deliv­ers on all that prom­ise. Jake Gyllenhaal is a mil­it­ary heli­copter pilot unwill­ingly enlis­ted in a secret tech­no­logy pro­ject: the boffins can recre­ate the last eight minutes before a ter­ror­ist (that word again) event in soft­ware, inject him into it and ask him to find out who did it. And they can do it over and over again until he finds out what they need to know.

It’s a clev­er set up and Jones (who will one day dir­ect a Bond film, I feel it in my bones) works it extremely well. I just have this feel­ing that the end­ing we get is a cop out and not the one that would be truer to the rest of the film.

I found myself watch­ing Your Highness along­side anoth­er review­er and both of us had to prove the strength of our crit­ic­al back­bone by stick­ing it out to the end – no mat­ter what the long term psy­cho­lo­gic­al harm might be. It’s prob­ably the least deserving van­ity pro­ject ever – a vehicle for per­petu­al third banana Danny McBride (Land of the Lost, Tropic Thunder) – and it takes great delight in its unfunny vulgarity.

Somehow McBride and dir­ect­or David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) have coaxed some decent act­ors into appear­ing in this bilge includ­ing Natalie Portman (con­tinu­ing to undo all the crit­ic­al kudos she received from Black Swan) and Zooey Deschanel. McBride is young­er and more cow­ardly broth­er to Prince Fabious (James Franco). The two go on a quest to res­cue Deschanel from the clutches of the evil wiz­ard Justin Theroux. I feel I too went on a quest – to the sum­mit of Mt Dismal. Where’s my prize?

Finally, Babies is a wild­life doc­u­ment­ary about tiny humans and like all wild­life docos the char­ac­ters are heav­ily anthro­po­morph­ised – the even give the little tack­ers names, bless – and the emphas­is is on almost ter­min­al cute­ness. It fol­lows the first year or so of four dif­fer­ent babies from dif­fer­ent cul­tures (Mongolia, Namibia, Japan, USA) and relies way too much on easy ste­reo­typ­ing: the African kid eats a lot of dirt; the Japanese kid is learn­ing arith­met­ic; the American kid goes to Baby Yoga. Not par­tic­u­larly insightful.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 11 May, 2011.