Tuesday, August 18, 2009

District 9

There is a surprise as we near the end of a summer movie season filled with disappointing crap.
A whole lot of Hollywood outsiders team up with producer with clout to make a movie that is clearly the best action movie of the summer action season.
District 9 is directed by Neil Blomkamp, a special effects artist and filmmaker from South Africa who managed to get Peter Jackson involved in the process as a producer. Possibly because of Jackson's weighty name on board, but hopefully because the audiences spoke out for well made movies, they managed to unseat GI Joe on it's second weekend as the top box office spot.
Unknown actors, documentary style shooting and low budget looking sets (how much could it have cost to build shacks in Johannesburg?) are offset by amazing special effects and high-caliber story telling.
Blomkamp builds a world that is simultaneously surreal and believable. Surely part of that is his background in special effects and 3D animation. His previous, much less known endeavors seem to have similar traits of seamless integration of special effects on top of the live actors and scenes.
The story is a straightforward commentary on race relations and apartheid in Blomkamp's home country.
Even though the metaphor is so obvious, it still works extremely well. That is a strong testament to the quality of the script, acting and especially the directing.
There is already a lot of talk surrounding the idea of a sequel, which Blomkamp seems to be in favor of, so audiences will probably be seeing more of him, if this story is continued or not, the solid numbers in the box office mean Blomkamp has found his place in the Hollywood scene.
District 9 gets an A-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Thursday, August 6, 2009

G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

It's bad when a movie isn't being screened for critics prior to the public seeing it.
There has never been a case where it was just that good that they didn't want the movie ruined by critics spoiling the plot.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is bad.
Not Transformers 2 bad, but still pretty bad.
The saving grace of G. I. Joe is that the story is actually fun and mildly engaging. Interesting for an action movie based on a cartoon from the 80's and a toy line that's even older.
The major flaws center around horrendous acting and even worse dialogue. Poor casting did not help matter much either.
Channing Tatum is supposed to be Duke, a super-soldier with a brilliant mind and the ability to lead. Instead, Duke seems like a punch drunk buffoon who at times seems like he's lucky to form full sentences without serious coaching. But we're supposed to believe he can operate sophisticated machinery and weapons as soon as he picks them up with no training?
There really isn't enough to be said about how Marlon Wayans single-handedly murdered my childhood with how bad his portrayal of Ripcord was. Maybe it was the script, maybe it was the delivery, maybe it was a perfect storm of lack of talent and hatred of quality filmmaking that rolled into Wayans' performance, but whatever the case, damn was he bad.
The only passable performances really came from Destro, played by Christopher Eccleston, and the underutilized Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty.
Even the high-end special effects were inconsistent enough to be laughable in some scenes. One moment, a high tech armor suit seems plausible, the next minute it's running through the streets of Paris so poorly integrated into the footage that it looked like it was a scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Possibly the worst crime in this debacle was the foisting of not one, but two half-assed love stories upon an audience that clearly needs none of that nonsense. The biggest part of this audience is men 35 and under who played with the toys as kids and watched the cartoons religiously as a boy (myself included). This is not an audience looking for depth and passion. This is an audience looking for a fun story with good action and some half decent acting. Lots of stuff blowing up and great special effects would be good too. There is not a need to uncomfortably force romance into every movie released in the world. Some movies can work without any hokey sentimentality jammed in for no clear purpose other than to show that women have no place in cinema unless they are victims, mothers, love interests or a bizarre combination of any or all of these. Why does the fact that an attractive, intelligent female character is on the screen mean that one of the male characters must possess her and make her his at some point in the movie? This movie would have worked just fine if Scarlet was just a strong soldier, but I guess the viewing public would be uncomfortable thinking that a woman could be happy on her own.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra gets a D+.
--John Berry, Online Editor--