Wednesday, August 19, 2009

District 9 (2009)

Every once in awhile a movie comes from left field to deliver an experience rather than an entertainment. District 9 is one such film. Shot primarily in documentary style, complete with sea sickening jerky camera motion for almost its entire duration. What we are presented with though, is a tight, tense and graphic political commentary on immigration, capitalism and racism, hidden beneath the Vail of a science fiction movie.

In the not too distant future an alien mothership parks itself over Johannesburg, its contents are revealed as a race of aliens that appear to be a cross between a shellfish and a cockroach (and bear a remarkable similarity to the alien from Men in Black). They are starving to death and in need of assistance, something which is granted to them in the short term, by way of an immigration camp known as District 9. The film picks up a number of years after their arrival when it is decided that the "prawns" should be moved a further 200km away to another camp.

During this attempted eviction the leader of the group assigned to this immense task (there are over 1.5 million aliens) , comes into contact with an alien substance that sets off a remodeling of his DNA. Of course this makes him a most lucrative asset to his employers as all alien technology is genetically based and by having a human hybrid, the technology may well be within their reach.

The film makes no assumptions about what it portrays, it simply lays it all out in front of you and allows you to witness everything for yourself. This makes a refreshing change from most science fiction films that are very set in their ways. It is also violent, some may say needlessly so, but I think far worse happens in real life, and very much so in stories about apartheid (of which in all honesty this is one), but sadly towards the end of the film the violence almost appears to be used as comic relief which distracts from its initial shock and impact.

My only real criticism though is for the cinematography. Whilst I appreciate that hand held camera operation adds to the realism and "you're there" feel, I think the film could have benefited greatly from at least a few locked off shots that were not relevant to its documentary styling. (I know at least 1 patron at my screening left due to illness)

District 9 is certainly a refreshing change and a welcome addition to the ranks of great science fiction film making and I hope that it will be seen by a wide and just as appreciative audience!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coraline (2009)

Coraline is a modern day fairytale, but not your backyard Disney variety. Instead we are treated to a dark and grim world in which the heroine is not a nice innocent little girl, but an unpleasant outspoken tween with an attitude. A refreshing change if you ask me.

Coraline's world is anything but perfect. Her parents are busy with their own lives and largely ignore her efforts for attention. As a result of a recent move she has no friends, although she makes no attempt to gain any either. One evening she finds a small hidden door in the living room. Upon opening it she finds herself in an alternate version of her life; a mirrored opposite if you will. At first glance this world appears more suitable to Coraline, her Mother and Father adore her, her new stalker friend can no longer speak and the crazy neighbors seem more inviting, but on closer inspection things might not be all they seem. The story shares more than a few similarities to Alice in Wonderland and the usual array of morals and values are also included.

The film looks incredible, it is safe to say that it creates a visual style all of its own. The stop motion gives a level of realism and dimension not seen in current CGI fare. The use of 3D was not as distracting as I thought it would be, though I still think 3D has a lot of work to do if it intends to be mainstream.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

R.I.P John Hughes

A man who defined a generation and made countless people laugh.

Mr. Hughes I salute you and wish you all the best, wherever you may be now!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trailer Alert - The Lovely Bones

I was so pissed off when Peter Jackson swooped in and grabbed the rights to this book away from Director Lynne Ramsay. This trailer only helps fuel that fire somewhat...... it has quite a number of spoilers if the film is following the book closely. The cast looks strong, but I really have my reservations about this. The film was in far better hands with Ramsay, who was a perfect choice to direct a film based on a book as melodic and sad as this one. Peter Jackson has just thrown a wad of cash at it and made it a CGI fest with a "name" cast. But I guess I will have to see the film before I can pass a true judgment on it.

From the images in the trailer the film visually looks like a rip off of What Dreams May Come....with both the "heaven and earth reality".

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Studio Ghibli Week (Month)

With the release of Ponyo immanent in the U.S (and my viewing of the movie a few weeks back, thanks to an English friendly Japanese release) I decided to get back on the Studio Ghibli bandwagon. It helped that my girlfriend had not seen many of the films as it is always nice to introduce people to movies you like and see their reactions.

So, the list of viewing thus far....

We started with Spirited Away. The film most audiences have likely seen and winner of the best animated feature Oscar in 2003. It follows Chihiro as she and her family get lost in the spirit world after taking a wrong turn. It is a fantastically animated spectacle with a moving story and brilliant characterization.

Then we watched Howl's Moving Castle. This was only my second viewing of Howl's Moving Castle and the first with the original Japanese dialog. I must admit I enjoyed it a lot more this second time, not sure what it was that made it any better, but I think I understood a bit more of what was happening.

It was decided that we would then start going into the back catalog, so we started with Laputa: Castle in the Sky. I really enjoyed the film for this my third viewing, I still feel that it is a great story with some fantastic animation and a nice message that isn't too political or in your face. I am not sure that "Disney of the East" really reflects Mayazaki's films, but I guess it makes sense as far as the man himself goes, his attention to detail is clearly evident in films like this and Nausicaa.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the first so-called-Studio Ghibli film (although the studio was actually formed after its creation) and another great tale with awesome animation. This film has quite the underlying moral story too which is not preachy, but certainly gets its message across. Again we are presented with a style of animation that was unseen until this film. It is also an introduction to the Ghibli heroines. Miyazaki is a feminist and it clearly shows in all of his films with his use of strong female lead characters and even strong female incidentals...which brings us to...

Porco Rosso is one of those films that has issues never resolved or explained, but that are imperative to the story. The main character is a pig (or at least his outward appearance.) We learn that this is because of a curse...though we never learn the specific how or why. Although the films main character is in fact male, there is a very strong female presence and the issue of "dont judge a book by its cover" is also used to great effect.

Pom Poko is quite possibly the weirdest Ghibli film (at least of the ones I have seen thus far), It is part comedy part drama and again has an environmental message to tell (a recurring theme in more than half of the Ghibli films) I wasn't blown away by the animation as much as I have been by the others, but this was my first viewing so maybe I was more focused on the story than the art.

Whisper of the Heart is a personal favourite of mine. Proof that animation can be heartfelt, moving and above all human. My only concern is what seems like a rushed ending, but otherwise the film is flawless. It has a melancholic pace that draws you slowly into the world of its characters who are full and rich. The dialog is also believable and realistic.

So Ghibli week turned into Ghibli fortnight and is now in its 3rd up I have The Cat Returns to watch and then onto some of the more serious Ghibli films as well as a couple of rareties including their "made for TV movie" Ocean Waves".

Stay tuned....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

TV is all the go.....Weekly Round-up

This week I spent my time in front of the magic glowing box watching the usual series and some oddities.

Penn & Teller were up first with their Bullshit episode on Organic Foods. I really like this type of episode that doesn't actually debunk the idea, just the reasons people choose to justify their decisions.

This followed on with the latest Eureka episode in which Carter has to find who is stealing nuclear based power cells.

I am not really sure if I will continue with Warehouse 13. The concept seems flawed and I am not really identifying with the characters as much as I would hope. I may stick with it as none of my other series are starting till we shall see.

Of course the latest episode of Top Gear was in there as well...not quite sure why there were dinosaurs though? but a new episode tonight will keep me occupied :D

I have also started watching Season 8 of C.S.I just for something new....wasn't a fan of the Without A Trace crossover though....never really got the point of these kind of things?

I have also been revisiting all of the Studio Ghibli films recently, but I am working on a post for that so stay tuned....also reviews of Coraline (3D) and Bruno are on their way...