Friday, August 14, 2009

District 9

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Starring Sharlto Copley

Over the years, it seems Hollywood has its creativity, and most of the films we see made are sequels, or remakes of older classics. Just look at this summer; Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator, and Transformers 2. With the exception of Star Trek (which was till now my favorite action blockbuster this summer), the rest of these films were either so-so or complete abominations. But sometimes, a few creative minds get together and make a completely new, original intellectual property. This is where District 9 comes in. And is, by far, the best, and most fun movie this summer.
Producer, Peter Jackson (who really needs no introduction, but for a few of you out there who don't know him, Lord of the Rings) oversees newby feature film director Neill Blomkamp. Neill's work prior to this project mostly consisted of some of the best advertisement commercials out there. Originally the crew was to make the Halo movie, but because of doubts of Blomkamps skill in directing, the project was pushed aside and they made District 9 instead. After seeing this film, there is no doubt in my mind that Blomkamp can perfectly execute a Halo, so please Hollywood execs, greenlight it.
Now, lets move on to why District 9 is so great. First is the backstory; twenty years ago an alien ship makes its way to Earth, hovering above Johannesburg, South Africa. For unknown reasons the ship cannot leave, so the aliens (also known as prawns, a nickname given to them by the people of Earth) are stranded on our planet. After many months of riots and violence between the two species, the prawns were relocated in District 9, which eventually turns into a slum with poor living conditions. I don't want to say too much about it, I'm all for people to go in and learn it for themselves.
Second is how the story is told. The first twenty minutes of the film is presented like a documentary. With interveiws from people of the city and the organization MNU ( Multi-National United), a company who has control over the aliens for science and weaponry study. Gradually the film moves out of its documentary style and moves into a narrative story.
Like in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson hired WETA Workshop for special effects. And they are spectacular. Not only were they able to enhance the action sequences and make them absoutly thrilling. But they were able to make characters, fully fleshed out from CG, that you simpathise for and actually care about.
Summer blockbusters have a reputation for being big and dumb. Something you just go into, not expecting to find any substance to it, but just to gawk at. District 9, however, seems to have some very interesting underlying social commentary. One in particular is segregation, how because a people may be differant, or we don't understand them, we seperate them from ourselves, instead of trying to reach out. Or how these prawns were probably at one time a peaceful race, but because of the living conditions they were forced into, turned them dangerous and untrustworthy towards humans. It's just something to think about, which is a nice change from a big bugdet film like this.
So yes, District 9 is a must see. I can't think of one scene where I wasn't completely engrossed in the film. It's smart, fun, interesting, and I forgot to mention very violent. This isn't one to take the kids to. Make sure you experiance this while its still in theaters. It's a film that join along side other sci-fi classics in the years to come.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cove

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

We've all been to a zoo and have seen a dolphin show. They jump out of the water and majestically flip into the air. What probably doesn't cross your mind as you watch is where these dolphins came from. The zoo keepers probably say they were bred in captivity, but the chances are higher that the dolphin was caught from the wild. From its home where it was free, swimming along the ocean at 40 miles per hour. Now it spends its day doing laps around a tank the size of your living room. What a great life capitivity must be. And where was this dolphin caught? Chances are Taiji, Japan, who not only exports wild dolphins for show around the world, but the rest they catch are slaughtered for their meat. Over 20,000 dolphins a year are killed. The fishermen in Taiji claim its tradition that they harvest dolphins, yet no one else in Japan even eats dolphin meat, or even knows about anything that happens in that small fishing town. So why do they do it?
I'm sorry, I'm going on a rant. Trust me, its hard to write a review for this film without getting frustrated and having the activist inside me flare up. So where was I? Oh yeah, The Cove. The single most important documentary to come out in years. It tells the story of filmmaker and Ocean Preservation Society's leader, Louie Psihoyos. Along with Richard O'Barry, who is most famous for his work on the show Flipper that started this multi billion dollar industry. Richard has realized the wrong things he has done in the past, and for the past thirty years been fighting for the right that dolphins don't belong in captivity. Their goal is to get footage from the unseen cove in Taiji where the wild dolphins are taken, and to expose to the world what really happens there.
But to do that they need a top notch crew ready for the job. It's almost like watching Ocean's 11, but with dolphins, and less funny. Each crew member has their own specialties and talent they bring to the table. They even get help from ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) to make spy cameras disguised as rocks, or a small log. They infiltrate in in the dead of night, praying not to be caught be security. These scenes are extremely intense, and even more so eerie as it is shot with nightvision. Being caught by the guards would mean serious trouble and would bring all of their hard work and planning to nothing. Not only that, but these fisherman will do anything to keep their secret safe, and will kill to do so. It wouldn't be the first time.
The footage they do get that is saved for the climax of the film is nothing short of gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and horrifying. The Japanese government has been trying to keep this under wraps. Claiming that the animals are killed humanely and instantly. That is definitly not the case.
What The Cove does best is making the audience feel like something must be done, and that they can partake and help. The filmmakers make the connection that dolphins have with humans. Though we cannot communicate with them by voice, there is a connection and understanding . Dolphins are much smarter than we take them for, they are self aware, they have their own conscious decisions. We humans believe that because we can't interact with them on the level we interact with ourselves that means they are inferior, and there for we believe we have the right to exploit them and do whatever we please. Sorry, another rant.... anyways....
The Cove is a powerful and emotional tour de force that should be seen by everyone. Though it mostly only covers dolphins, there is a bigger picture to see here. With all the things happening in out ever changing world, if we can't stop one small problem like this, how are we as humans, suppose to tackle to bigger issues out there. To support the cause of the filmmakers see the movie, PAY to see the movie. Secondly sign this petition, the link is below. Once again, I'm sorry, this hasn't been much of a review. Just me on a soap box. But see the movie, that's all I'm telling you.

5 out of 5 stars