Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

District 9 Exceeds All Expectations

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

district9posterGuest Review By Troy Wagner

Sometimes movies completely surprise you. They leave an impact that you never saw coming. Perhaps it’s because you go in with lowered expectations, believing that what’s to be on the screen will be nothing more than a formulaic summer movie with some explosions and, get this, aliens. While District 9 has both of those things, there’s no way you will be calling it formulaic, and is likely to be one of the best movies you see all year.

Okay so, movies about aliens. That should seem pretty familiar to most people up to this point. We’ve seen them terrorize countless space crews, attack arctic research labs, and outright invade on plenty of occasions, be it on patriotic national holidays or not. The main problem with these, however, is the fact that they’re not all that rooted in reality. What would realistically happen if aliens were to come to Earth? District 9 has a pretty good guess.

The aliens, later known as the “prawns”, have arrived. Their enormous mothership comes to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. Once the millions (yeah, MILLIONS) of prawns are taken off the ship, they are placed in holding areas sectioned off by the government, the eponymous district 9. Time passes and these areas soon become slums, occupied by the prawns, who have now become dirty, diseased foragers. The government decides to rellocate them to a more isolated area to appease the paranoid public. A beaurocratic pencil-pusher named Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copely) is appointed to lead the massive undertaking.

In all honesty, that’s all you should know when going into the theater to see District 9. It is made all the more fantastic the less you know beforehand. This could be said for any given movie, but it really needs to be emphasised in this case. It’s inspiring to see how the filmmakers turn such a simple premise into something pretty remarkable.

Essentially every aspect of District 9 is masterfully executed. It’s director Neill Blomkamp’s first feature, yet it easily excells above other, more well-established films of the genre. However, while nearly all of it deserves praise, lead actor Sharlto Copely is the centerpiece that holds everything together and makes it work so well. He’s the lead amongst very few flesh-and-blood counterparts, and plenty of CGI prawns (not to mention the fact that many of his scenes are improvised AND District 9 is Copely’s acting debut). Wikus is a very complex character to watch on screen. He goes from being despised, to tolerated, to loved, and back again multiple times. It’s just staggering to realize that Sharlto Copely had never truly acted for the camera before until District 9. His performance is incredibly powerful at points. It really just blows you away.

District 9 is right on the verge of being revolutionary. But it’s not flat out perfect. Jumps from the documentary style to being behind the fouth wall can be jarring, and the CGI is dodgy in rare instances. But those are relatively small blemishes on an otherwise amazing film. As long as you’re not squeamish about intense violence, of which there is only a handful, District 9 is a fresh and exciting film that absolutely deserves to be seen.

9 1/2 out of 10

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‘Knowing’ is Predictable, But Enjoyable

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Knowing Poster

Knowing Poster

Knowing, the latest Nicolas Cage film, paints a bleak picture of man’s future and delves into philosophical questions pertaining to the order (or lack thereof) of life’s events. Themes of destiny, futility, and spirituality are all wrapped up in a suspenseful plot that’s entertaining, yet entirely predictable.

The film begins in the year 1959. To commemorate the opening of their new school, a group of elementary school students lower a time capsule into the ground. Inside the capsule is a drawing from each student, illustrating his/her vision of the future. However, one disturbed little girl named Lucinda inserts a piece of paper filled with numbers.

Flash forward to present day. John Koestler (Cage) is an MIT professor and single dad with his own set of emotional issues. His son Caleb is handed Lucinda’s paper when the capsule is opened at a school ceremony and John starts to believe that the numbers have accurately predicted world tragedies from 1959 to the present. Only three events have yet to happen and John’s hope is that he can stop each tragedy before it occurs and uncover the truth about the origin of the numbers.

Although entertaining, Knowing has an abundance of plot holes and scenes that feel way too expository. For example, at one point in the film John’s sister confronts him about his fractured relationship with their father. It’s a scene that tries to bring some humanity to Cage’s character, but it seems out of place and forced.

The film also becomes a mixture of several genres. Dramatic and emotional scenes between father and son are followed by moments of intense action; those moments are followed by elements of mystery and suspense; and in the wake of those scenes are moments suited for sci-fi. Some might see this as a case of identity crisis – a movie trying to be too much of one thing without really developing it’s strongest point. Others might see this as a device to hold an audience’s interest and maintain quicker pacing. By movie’s end, however, Knowing becomes a bit muddled by all these devices and the overall impact is weakened.

5 out of 10 stars

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