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Wow, Three In a Row? District 9 is Very Good / Greatish

Wow, Three In a Row? District 9 is Very Good / Greatish

Three good movies in a row?  Pretty amazing given all the crap that’s made its way to the big screen this summer.  This hits especially close to home as it’s set in Johannesburg, South Africa; as you may be aware, I recently spent a significant amount of time (eight hours) in “the Burg,” as we townies call it.  I intentionally avoided any plot description given how spoiler-filled the world is now.  All I knew was that the film was made by a first-time director (Neill Blomkamp), with a no-name South African cast, set in South Africa and was some kind of apartheid allegory.  Producer Peter Jackson apparently owed Blomkamp a favor as he’d been scheduled to direct the Halo film, only to see it fall through due to studio squabbling.  So Jackson helped District 9 get made (it’s somewhat an expansion of an earlier Blomkamp short film).

I will not give away too much of the plot here, not for spoilery concerns, but because I’m pretty fucking lazy and want to get this done quickly, with not a lot of concern for quality of content.  The first and last bits of the film are in the increasingly popular “mockumentary” format, detailing how aliens landed in the Burg twenty years ago and how they’ve been integrated with South African society.  Did I say integrated with?  I meant segregated by. (Hint: I smell allegory!)  The documentary focuses on the main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, (channeling both Michael Scott and David Brent at the onset) who is in charge of the movement of the entire alien ghetto (District 9) to a smaller, more-removed-from-Joburg ghetto (District 10).  This documentary foreshadows that our Michael/David is going to deal with some adversity – the rest of the movie details those adverse situations and how he deals with them.  That’s enough about the plot.

The actors are all great, you’ve probably seen most of them on Law & Order or CSI: Salt Lake City at some point.  Actually, no, not a familiar face to be seen.  Honestly, I think movies benefit from casting unknowns in major roles, it’s becoming more and more difficult to separate oversatured actors from their most prominent roles (and near continuous media coverage).  (For example, maybe Christian Bale could star in less than eight movies per year?  He is bringing his (intentionally) wooden Batman persona to all his roles.  And he’s also apparently a dick.)  The lead is a 35 year old first-time actor named Sharlto Copley – I enjoyed his work here.  He was pretty entertaining from the onset as the naive office manager happy to enforce species discrimination for his monolithic multinational employer, but with a bit of a soft spot for the aliens (lovingly called “prawns”).  At some points his transformation doesn’t ring true, but I attribute that more to the script.  It’s unclear what his motivation would be for a couple of his actions in the last act of the movie.  Everybody else is largely a stock character ably brought to life – evil corporate CEO, evil military guy, too-hot and somewhat disbelieving wife, sentient alien lizard named Christopher Johnson – you’ve seen them all before.

Just hangin
Just hangin

The broad plot outline is fine, but there are some gaping holes in the will-be-important-later details.  Even if the mother ship landed in the Burg, it seems to me there would be a multi-national team of scientists/military covering every square inch of the area to figure out what’s what.  That’s not how it’s depicted here and the local police/military overlook some pretty important details.  I thought the Nigerian gang that ran the black market in the ghetto was a nice touch and rang pretty true, except they took a few extraordinary risks late in the movie and ran fewer email scams than I would’ve expected.  Is this an outlandishly fresh concept?  No, you’ve seen similar in 80’s fare like V, Alien Nation and They Live, but this is a nice extension of the concept, with some grown-up ideas integrated with the basic alien shoot-em-up.

Did I say shoot-em-up?  Yeah, there is a lot of shit blowing up in this flick.  Lots of heads/bodies exploding, limbs torn off, etc.  Several scenes evoke The Fly, and several evoke any number of video games involving big fucking guns that cause people to burst.  At one point a gun is shot that apparently shoots a fucking pig at someone – the porcine ammo does a surprising amount of damage.  (And I assume the shrapnel is bacon, which is pretty delicious during a firefight) I’ve seen some complaints of shakey-cam, but I didn’t really notice.  In that regard this was less offensive to me than the typical fight scene in a Jason Bourne movie.  Probably the coolest part of the movie is a very Transformer-like exoskeleton that possesses the heaviest of alien artillery.  They made this movie for $30 millionish and it looks friggin great, making one wonder why X-Men Origins, Transformers, etc don’t look 5 times better than they do.  To summarize: if you enjoy a side of shit blowing up with your apartheid allegory, then this is probably the movie for you.

Where do I rank this?  I have to say it’s behind The Hurt Locker, although it’s probably 85% as intense, which is a high compliment indeed.  I enjoyed it slightly more than (500) Days of Summer, so I’ll rank it #2 in my summer 2009 rankings.  Does Inglorious Basterds dare make it four in a row?  We will see….



Some Friday Stuffs

Some Friday Stuffs

1.  Mad Men returns!  (Avoid if relative attractiveness and well-dressedness are self esteem issues for you)

2.  District 9 looks sweet, hoping to check it out this afternoon. I’ve skipped the details but the reviews from top critics look encouraging.  This will be my first chance to apply my South African knowledge/experience, I should certainly be able to verify the film’s cultural and historical accuracy.

3.  So You Think You Can Dance did not screw the pooch.  It looked like Evan, the dorky white dude, might win given his enormous “fan base” or “group of similar dorks with access to telephones.”   He was terrible.  Ultimately the judges came right out and said “if you continue to vote for Evan, then you are a fucking moron.”  In something of an upset, Jeanine won – she was a bit disadvantaged working (and possibly boning)  the one-dimensional Phillip Chbeeb for half the season.  Nice outcome.  It’s a little shocking that the last two girls were only 18 or so, given how objectified the women typically are on this show.  I guess if “dancer” is the professional path you’ve chosen, you are need to quickly get used to prancing around 90% naked in front of a lot of people.

The huge downside to the season’s end is that Evan’s fucking balding older brother is on the next season of SYTYCD.  That season starts in like two weeks, so that means I will be subjected to more of this broadway-loving, camera-mugging retard family.  Hopefully that older one doesn’t make the top 20 and we can be done with this quickly.

Again, you should be watching this show.  For reasons I cannot accurately convey, it is highly enjoyable.  As is America’s Best Dance Crew, which is also back on Sunday nights on MTV.  Haven’t watched the first episode yet, but I’m certain it will maintain its high level of excellence.  Watch them both.

Find the dissimilar item
Find the dissimilar item

4.  KFC is very popular in South Africa.  It’s by far the busiest spot in the Joburg airport and a standalone store in Cape Town was also going gangbusters.  I hear, but haven’t personally verified, the same about its popularity in China.  Combine that with the outstanding quality of the Nachos Supreme and Meximelt I had yesterday at the 14th and 5th T-Bell/Hut, and you’ve got a reason to buy some YUM Brands shares.  Ticker symbol?  YUM.  I might have to add to my already deep position.

5.  One of the Kardashians is pregnant?  Awesome, further advancement of the gene pool.  I really don’t understand why anyone gives a shit about that family?  Is it their propensity to date second tier professional athletes (sorry, Reggie, you are not even one of the better third down backs in the league)?  Kim has a big ass and was wheelbarrowed by Ray J on film.  The other ones get pregnant or arrested for DUI.  And now there’s a new show with the non-Kim ones, with ads plastered all over my regular reads like The EconomistUS Weekly, and The Atlantic.  I am seriously concerned about our society as a whole; at this point having all the mouthbreathers strapped into The Matrix pods looks like an optimistic outcome.

The one thing I find even remotely interesting about the Kardashian family is Bruce Jenner and how he’s handling the transition from ostensible “One of the Five Most Famous People in the World” following 1976 Olympic gold medal to bumbling husband/stepfather to (apparently) amoral, star-fucking, fame-seeking gold digger clan.  He seems to enjoy remote control helicopters and facelifts, but he is also the voice of reason/moral center of the household, so I’d say he’s faring pretty well.

6.  Happy Madden Day!  As one of the first people to own a Playstation in the U.S. (it debuted in September 1995 and I got mine in either October or November after uncannily predicting that eight weeks of Groton winter would be akin to a stint in Siberia) I can lay claim to a pretty rich, if dated, gaming history.  Shockingly I have never played Madden.  When I bought my Playstation, I opted for NFL Gameday, likely because it had William Floyd on the cover.  It was pretty complicated so I quickly gave up.  Then on my boat we played some NFL Blitz, which I also quickly abandoned as one of my mentally challenged colleagues figured out how to make Mark Bruener of his beloved Steelers open every single play.  Even though he averaged less than one catch per game in his real career, that fucking Bruener would score like seven TDs per game against my virtual Niners.

I hate football video games, because I suck at them.  But I do admire the Madden franchise and the fact that they’ve made its annual release a virtual holiday for slackers, nerds and sports enthusiasts alike.  Nice work.  Enjoy the holiday.

7.  “Make Her Say” – Pretty cool song combining some of my favorite things: Kid Cudi (check out “Day and Night” if unfamiliar with his oeuvre), Kanye and Lady Gaga.  Common too, but I’ve never been a big fan.  This song was originally called “I Poke Her Face” which for some reason the producers felt might not be radio friendly.  Those fickle marketers.

One complaint – can we please quit rhyming “medulla oblongata”?  Whodini was doing that shit like 25 years ago, so it isn’t exactly fresh.  And, Kanye, I know I’ve heard it from you at least as many times as you’ve rhymed “knowledge” and “college.”  Anyway, nice collaboration here.

8.    How quickly the scales of the court of public opinion shift – is that too wordy?  I was trying to evoke that blindfolded lady holding the scale with right on one side and wrong on the other or whatnot.  Anyway, about six months ago everyone felt sorry for that Jon Gosselin fellow because his wife seemed a raging controlling bitch.  Now he’s sporting Ed Hardy gear, earrings, banging random chicks and hanging out with Lindsay Lohan’s dad and everyone fucking hates him.  Hopefully, if you are reading this, you don’t fucking care.  I generally don’t fucking care either, except for the fact that I am besieged by his doofus image in much of the highbrow media I consume.

But one thing really got me riled up, he recently quoted about some new girlfriend: “she loves me for who I am, not for what I do.”  What exactly do you do, beyond over-employing fertilization routines and tv crews?  Seriously, this guy has no fucking job, he got canned.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, many of the smartest, most attractive and hilariousest people get canned)  But seriously, what does this fucking guy do?   I am seriously getting sick of these reality “stars” – of the shows I don’t watch, of course.

All the single ladies, form an orderly line!
All the single ladies, form an orderly line!

9.  I recommend checking out some Florence + The Machine if you are hurting for new music.  She sounds a little like Natalie Merchant on a dianabol cycle to me.  I favor the lady singers, so there’s always the chance I’m overenthusiastic. “Kiss With a Fist” is pretty sweet but the video is tres lame, so I offer “Dog Days” instead.


10.  Since it didn’t make sense to stop at #9, here’s a herd of buffalo:

Bring on the lions
A Gary Larson wet dream

Have a swell weekend,

Chilly17, wasted potential personified