Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
First time feature director Blomkamp expands on the elaborate world established in his 2005 short, Alive in Joburg, by further developing the story of aliens unexplainably arriving in South Africa, only to be set up in a government-enclosed refugee camp, among the shanty towns of Johannesburg. Naturally, the film's setting lends itself to themes of apartheid and racism - as well as war, and corporate and governmental bureaucracy and brutality - but isn't satisfied to be bogged down as a "message movie, " instead heading in directions you won't expect. While that's probably a good thing, District 9 sometimes goes so many strange ways that the story borders on silly, but nonetheless, is routinely brought back to its captivating, intense premise.
In focusing on the chaos of the slum the creatures inhabit, and the panic that ensues when military contractor MNU's "relocation" plan goes awry, the film calls to mind two of the most effective sci-fi entries in recent memory: Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (for its assaultive war zone depictions) and Cloverfield (for its minimalist, handheld approach to monster-fighting), both of which made effective use of their reasonably modest budgets. That District 9 - nearly every scene of which features effects shots, often heavily - doesn't look any cheaper than its summer movie competition, at a fraction of the cost, is a testament to Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson's ability to do more with less.
For better or for worse (usually, the former), this is a film that takes risks, starting not only with its inversion of the typical "Aliens Attack!" plotline, but with the fact that we don't much like the protagonist, MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe - or the aliens, for that matter. Like many great science fiction tales, District 9's story is a pretty bleak one, centering on humankind's capacity for inhumanity and self interest - as well as brief glimpses of hope.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
First up is the second trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, which, if you've followed this blog at all, you know I'm superpumped about. Aside from a couple of minor quibbles (I'm still beyond glad that they used Jim Henson Co. instead of going 100% CGI for the Wild Things, but their animated faces might take some getting used to), it doesn't disappoint:
Next is another revered children's book adaptation, Wes Anderson's take on Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox. I've speculated that a change of pace might be just what the director needs to break out of his Andersonian box, and I love me some stop-motion animation, but I'm not sold yet...if this weren't a Wes Anderson movie, would we be thinking about it as something other than fairly typical looking kids' fare? Although, I gotta say, Jason Schwartzman is pretty hilarious:
Rounding out the book adaptations is the decidedly not-for-kids Lovely Bones. I'd say the jury's still out on this one for me; if it weren't helmed by Peter Jackson, or based on such an interesting novel, I wouldn't be very intrigued:
Finally, the first glimpse of the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man is a little surprising: it's a comedy set in the '60s midwest, but its edgy trailer (edited, Tom Waits-ishly, to various percussive sounds from the movie) seems to occupy the avant-garde territory of Barton Fink humor, rather than Burn After Reading screwballism. It's strange, tense, and funny - and thoroughly Coen Brothers: