Sunday, September 20, 2009

District 9 [2009]

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Robert Hobbs
Rating: Teen (violence, pervasive language)
Comment: "Deep, disturbing and no doubt one of the most powerful and important sci-fi flicks in recent times..."

If it was not for the trailer, I might have opted to pass on this one. As big a sci-fi fan as I am, one would have to admit; sci-fi films have gotten too formulaic to be any good, particularly if it is about aliens from outer space. But the trailer definitely did what it was supposed to do. Namely to make people realise that this movie has a lot of potential, more than it meets the eye.

District 9 refers to an area that segregates humans and the aliens that got stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa - an obvious reference to it's apartheid history. In the story, the aliens, derogatorily referred to as "prawns" came to Earth about twenty years ago, specifically around the year 1989. But against all expectations, they did not come to Earth to invade or conquer. As mentioned previously they were stranded here. It was not until twenty years after when tension escalated to such a high level when the South African government decided it is time to relocate the alien population to a much farther encampment - away from humans.

From there, the story narrows down to the character Wikus van de Merwe, a representative of Multinational United (MNU) whom on his assignment to get the aliens out of District 9, suffered a mishap with a Prawn technology. Slowly, he is mutating into one of them. From there, he has to decide whether to trust his fellow humans to help him, or seek help from the aliens.

What makes a good sci-fi is when the mythology of it has it's footing in reality and stems from actual science. Along the way are the oft-repeated themes of how to use technology to our advantage instead of misusing them. District 9 has it all, albeit it takes the kind of emotions commonly associated with sci-fi to a higher level. For once, you will see a blatant example of how we are our own worst enemy. Worry not about those from the outer space or even the ones that lurk in hell, if you have not yet consider the sins of mankind. District 9 tells all these without getting too preachy, and it is without a doubt one that will become a landmark in sci-fi film history; worthy of mention alongside heavyweights such as the Alien series, Predator [1987] and Terminator II: Judgment Day [1992].

The movie was shot in a faux-documentary fashion, which might take bit of a getting used to in the beginning. It might even draw a chuckle or two. But the technicalities of the movie is actually part of what makes this movie so powerful and memorable. In a way, it increases the credibility of the movie, you will find yourself being able to take it seriously as opposed to a Michael Bay-like cinematography where everything and everyone is a prop. Combine that with obvious hints to actual world history, District 9 will remain the benchmark of sci-fi flicks to come.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good story
- Original
- Meaningful
- Engaging cinematography

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Up [2009]

Director: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Cast: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Rating: General
Comment: "Like chicken soup to the soul, warm and endearing..."

Very very rarely one can weep for a puppet. But that is exactly what Up is capable of, even though they are merely digital puppets, the feeling that they evoke is nothing short of authentic.

Up begins with a short animation which pretty much set the mood for the the entire movie. A sky full of clouds making all sorts of infants; ranging from humans to animals and even items at times. No dialogue takes place here between the clouds and the stork, but still the story is well-told.

Soon after, the feature presentation begins. Carl Fredricksen, a quiet but very imaginative boy befriends a tomboy, Ellie, whom would later become is life partner. Together, they share a dream of moving to Paradise Falls. However, they are not blessed with some of the best things in life , beginning with their inability to conceive a child and Carl eventually end up alone after Ellie dies. Soon after, Carl is reduced to be a disgruntled old man ignored by society. All that changes however, when he realises that he has nothing else to live for but a dream he once shared with Ellie. From there, he embarks on the biggest adventure of his life.

A strong appeal of the movie comes from the character Carl, despite the ill-tempered nature of the character, still he remains loveable. Combining that with the chemistry he has with a little boy he unintendedly befriends with, Russell makes for a memorable and no doubt one of the best animated features ever made.

All warmth and mushy-ness aside, the movie also deals with some of the most inspiring themes ever; it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with bodily strength or even youth - all that you need is passion and the will to do it.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good story
- Endearing
- Memorable

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 10 = 100 points
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