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sara stretton

Review: Then She Found Me, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mrs. Ratcliffe’s Revolution, The Ten Commandments, [REC] and The Third Richard

By Cinema and Reviews

It’s babies every­where in the cinemas at the moment. Last week I reviewed the Tina Fey com­edy Baby Mama about a middle-aged woman des­per­ate for a child and this week we have a Helen Hunt drama about a middle-aged woman des­per­ate for a baby and even Hellboy is going to be a daddy.

Then She Found Me posterThen She Found Me, Helen Hunt’s debut as writer-director, is a sens­it­ive and well-acted piece of work (and often much fun­ni­er than the Fey ver­sion). She plays a New York primary school teach­er whose adopt­ive moth­er dies two days after her hus­band (Matthew Broderick) leaves her. Like many adop­ted chil­dren, the desire for a blood-relative is what pro­motes the desire for a child, but that desire is soon swamped by the arrival of the birth moth­er she nev­er knew (Bette Midler) and a ready-made fam­ily led by Colin Firth. Witty and humane, Then She Found Me is set in a New York people actu­ally live in, pop­u­lated with people who actu­ally live and breathe. I was quite moved by this film, but then maybe I’m just a big sook.

Mrs. Ratcliffe's Revolution posterBack in the 1980s, toil­ing under the yoke of Thatcherite crypto-fascist intol­er­ance, we used to dream of the German Democratic Republic where accord­ing to apo­lo­gists like Billy Bragg, “you can­’t get gui­tar strings but every­one has a job and decent health care.” Now, of course, thanks to films like The Lives of Others, we know that the rulers of East Germany were just fas­cists with anoth­er uni­form and that social justice may be import­ant but isn’t the only kind of justice we need in our lives. Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution is a low-budget British com­edy about a naïve fam­ily of Yorkshire com­mun­ists in 1968 who fol­low their dreams of a work­ers’ para­dise and emig­rate to East Germany only to find the truth very much not to their liking.

There might have been an inter­est­ing story here bur­ied under the broad com­edy – some­times it seems like Carry on Communism – but the tone is all wrong and it feels as if it has gone intel­lec­tu­ally off the rails. There’s some nice archi­tec­ture although the film­makers had to go to Hungary to find it.

Hellboy II posterSometimes, when you go to the movies, you get the per­fect match of film to mood. Not often, but some­times. Last Friday night, after a week where the ambi­ent stress level at work had amped up yet again, I needed to see some­thing that did­n’t require any­thing of me except my pres­ence and I got it with Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Featuring lots of bright shiny things to keep my atten­tion, lots of loud noises to keep me awake and not much in the way of story to worry about, I enjoyed myself a lot but don’t remem­ber very much. Except not­ing that, unlike The Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan, dir­ect­or Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth and the forth­com­ing Hobbit duo-logy) shoots fight scenes so you can fol­low what’s going on.

The Ten Commandments posterThe Paramount’s eclect­ic (if not schizo­phren­ic) pro­gram­ming policy throws up some odd com­bin­a­tions. The pres­ence of the hideous, anim­ated, Bible-story The Ten Commandments is simply inex­plic­able while Spanish shock­er [REC] is per­fect Paramount fod­der. And at the same time, Danny Mulheron’s lov­ing home-made doc­u­ment­ary about his grand­fath­er, The Third Richard, is get­ting a well-deserved brief sea­son. The Ten Commandments barely belongs in the $5 DVD bargain-bin (or as a free gift when you sign up with your loc­al evan­gel­ic­als). It’s a sign of how our cul­ture has changed that in the 50s we got Charlton Heston bring­ing the tab­lets down from the moun­tain, and now we get Christian Slater. And what to make of the subtle re-writing of the com­mand­ments them­selves: Thou Shalt Not Murder gives you a little more wiggle-room in the killing depart­ment than the old-fashioned Thou Shalt Not Kill. Reprehensible.

[REC] posterOne is either in to zom­bie movies or one isn’t, and if one is one will be very happy with [REC]. Set in a Barcelona apart­ment build­ing where a fly-on-the-wall tv crew are fol­low­ing fire-fighters on an emer­gency call, [REC] at one point man­aged to make me jump three times in less than a second – that’s not easy.

The Third Richard posterThe story of Richard Fuchs, archi­tect and com­poser, emigré and grand­fath­er, is very well told by Danny Mulheron and Sara Stretton. Based around a “rehab­il­it­a­tion” con­cert in Karlsruhe, last year, where Fuchs’ music was played in pub­lic for the first time since his escape to New Zealand in 1939, the film has some styl­ist­ic choices that I might not have made but the heart and intel­li­gence of the filmm­makers shine through. It’s a Wellington story, too, and you should see it if you can.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 3 September, 2008.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution was inter­rup­ted twice by the house lights (a Sunday morn­ing screen­ing in Penthouse 2, still suf­fer­ing from the annoy­ing screen flick­er caused by incor­rect shut­ter tim­ing and the hot spot in the centre of the screen). And I had to go down and close the door at the start of the film. At [REC] quite a few of us were sat in the Brooks (Paramount) amidst the bottles, empty glasses and gen­er­al rub­bish from a whole day’s screen­ings. <Sigh>