Once again the Coen Brothers set a standard for every other film to try and match. True Grit is every bit as brilliant as its reputation would suggest: the best western since Unforgiven and a central performance from Jeff Bridges that is twice as good as the one he secured an Oscar for last year (Crazy Heart).
Bridges plays irascible one-eyed Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, a man with a taste for whiskey and a distaste for authority. He is hired by spunky 14 year old Mattie Ross (astonishing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her law abiding, decent, citizen father. Also, hunting Chaney for a huge Federal reward (that dwarfs Mattie’s small bounty) is suave Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and soon the chase is on, into lawless Indian territory where the fugitive is holed up.
What is there left to say about Harry Potter films? It seems like only yesterday that I wrote of The Order of the Phoenix: “this Harry Potter is not a hugely enjoyable experience. The young actors, despite lots of practice by now, haven’t got any better (poor Rupert Grint as Harry gets found out every time they point the camera at him). Daniel Radcliffe as Harry doesn’t seem to be able to carry the weight of the emotion or the action and Harry himself still seems like a bit of a wimp.” And nothing much has changed this time around.
In the latest film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry is under pressure from headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)to find out the truth about returning potions professor Slughorne (Jim Broadbent) who knows the secret of Dark Lord Valdemort’s whereabouts. But Dumbledore’s motivations are murky and the loyalty of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is called in to question. There is also a humourless and tedious diversion into the romantic lives of our heroes that does nothing but confirm the absence of acting talent on offer.
The world of Harry Potter takes on an Orwellian tone in The Order of the Phoenix, episode 5 in the Hogwarts soap, which sees the magic bureaucracy in London desperate to keep a lid on the news of Voldemort’s return.
If that last sentence didn’t mean very much to you then you will have a hard time enjoying the latest Harry Potter as very few efforts have been made to appeal to the tiny minority of us who haven’t read the books or seen the films. I shouldn’t really complain too much – the Star Trek universe is one that has always appealed to me and therefore I get pleasure immersing myself in it. It’s no different here, except this time I am not in the club.
For an outsider, though, this Harry Potter is not a hugely enjoyable experience. The young actors, despite lots of practice by now, haven’t got any better (poor Rupert Grint as Harry gets found out every time they point the camera at him). Daniel Radcliffe as Harry doesn’t seem to be able to carry the weight of the emotion or the action and Harry himself still seems like a bit of a wimp to be honest.
Which brings us to the story-telling, supposedly the series’ strength. Generally, screenwriters will tell you that introducing a new character half way through a film purely to solve a problem for the hero two scenes later is pretty poor form. Maybe it’s a weakness from the books, or a general difficulty with episodic fiction, either way its terribly unsatisfying for a neutral.
The picturesque seaside suburb of Maroubra in Sydney’s inner city is the setting for the compelling documentary Bra Boys, narrated by Russell Crowe.
Nestled between the sewage farm and Australia’s biggest prison, Maroubra was settled as state housing in the early 20th century, replacing the local tent slums. Despite the idyllic beachfront setting Maroubra is more South Central LA than Oriental Bay and, like any kids in the ‘Hood, the only way out is usually via a casket, a prison van or sport. Two of the four central characters, the Abberton brothers, made it as pro surfers (eldest Sunny is the writer and director) and some of the lunatic surfing footage is pretty exciting.
But Bra Boys is more than a surf movie: in its 90 minutes it veers from social history to family drama and then finally to political commentary, and the Boys’ story justifies every twist and turn. It gave me a lot to think about.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times, Wednesday 18 July, 2007. The Bra Boys review was cut for space reasons which is a shame as I think its worth seeing.