Polar Bears and Police

Blog by Ray Philp | 22 Apr 2009

You shouldn’t mess with the police, or bears. It’s not the indiscriminate thwack-a-thon that befalls anyone lairy enough to stroll past a group of police officers that you should beware of. Nor should you be too worried about taking a trip to the zoo and gaily leaping into the polar bear enclosure, because, obviously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The danger, rather, lies in trying to capture these jolly japes on film – not only does the camera add ten pounds, but it also has a habit of making things look a lot more dangerous. So thanks to the recent video footage courtesy of the G20 protests and the Berlin Zoo, not only do police now look really, really bad, but Knut the polar bear looks much less cuddly.

The inimitable Werner Herzog is no stranger to bears, having pieced together footage shot by amateur naturist Timothy Treadwell in documentary Grizzly Man. This week sees him turn his attention to the Antarctic in Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary film in which he follows the lives of the scientists and researchers that live in the desolate plains of the South Pole. If you like Werner Herzog and snow, together, then consider this another worthy addition to his oeuvre.

As far as the police go, their lower class cousins are given a psychoanalytic once over in Jody Hill’s dark comedy, Observe and Report. Seth Rogen’s latest flick offers an insight into what might happen when you hand over a walkie-talkie and a pair of felt epaulettes to a Scorcesian sociopath. Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) is a mentally disturbed shopping centre security guard who dotes after vacuous make-up counter tart Brandi (Anna Farris). When a roving flasher gives Barnhardt the opportunity to flex his authority, he is eager for action, only to be rendered utterly impotent when real police take over proceedings. Punch-drunk and humiliated, Barnhardt pretty much loses the plot – you suspect that the film itself might be following suit in presupposing the inclusion of a date rape scene to be wholly necessary.

The ignominy doesn’t stop there – Outlander, allegedly from the producers of Lord Of The Rings, also arrives this Friday. The Guy That Played Jesus (Jim Caviezel) is a man from the future in a spaceship that crashes in 709 AD Norway; so far, so god awful. What’s more, the third coming of Christ is not greeted by the ecstatic throng that he might expect, but rather, the bemused gathering that greet him are very much your bog standard, goat-trading peasant fodder.

State of Play is a world away from swords and sandals, and that’s just as well, because Russell Crowe has visibly given up that sort of lark long ago. Much has been made of Brad Pitt being the initial choice for the leading role of burnt-out journalist Cal McAffrey, and director Kevin MacDonald has been at pains to suggest in more than one instance that Crowe suits the part more anyway, and judging by his recent CV (Touching The Void, The Last King of Scotland), it’s hard to disagree with him. Based on BBC television drama State of Play, the eponymous film relocates to New York where McAffrey is tasked with investigating the death of a US Congressman’s mistress. Support from Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, and Rachel McAdams completes the line-up here.

The Italian Film Festival is still running at the GFT and the Edinburgh Filmhouse. For those of you outwith this narrow strip of Scotland that might wish to catch a pizza the action (sorry), film goers in Dundee can see Ferzan Ozpetek’s A Perfect Day, screening from this Friday at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Based on Melania Mazzuco’s titular novel, this is a multifaceted work that touches on subjects as wide as domestic violence, teenage rebellion, and corruption. Antonio (Valerio Mastandrea) is a bodyguard who’s marriage to Emma (Isabella Ferrari) is gingerly teetering on a precipice. In his desperation to reconcile, Antonio becomes increasingly deranged, and you can be pretty sure that a thrilling orchestral score will accompany his meltdown. A Perfect Day is perhaps a shade reminiscent of Michael Douglas thriller Falling Down, but that’s no reason not to give this one a go, because while there are three words that have thrown his more recent career into comfortable mediocrity (Catherine Zeta Jones), there are two words that undermine everything else – Wall Street.