This South African film opens with visually impressive news footage of a massive alien spacecraft hovering above Johannesburg, apparently stranded. Months later, when troops enter the space craft, they find an emaciated alien species, whose crustacean-like appearance causes them to be dubbed "prawns". The prawns are confined en masse to a government compound (District 9), which rapidly becomes a ghetto, a hotbed of poverty, unrest and violence.
You can be forgiven for thinking that director Neill Bloomkamp watches a little too much South Park, but he was not, in fact, just ripping off the Crab People episode. District 9 is actually a scathing commentary on xenophobia and segregation. It has moments of dark humour, most of it via the highly sympathetic main character of Wikus van de Merwe, a cheerful devoted family man, whose task it is to lead the forced relocation of the residents of District 9. During a raid on the shack of one of the resistant prawns, Wikus is exposed to a mysterious dark fluid, which sets into effect a mutation process.
Despite the film then segueing into hyper-active violence, it remains an intelligent and unique commentary on apartheid. Wikus becomes a fugitive from his own employers, who want to harvest him for biological material that would allow them to develop the ability to use the alien's complex weaponry. He is forced to forge an uneasy alliance with Christopher Johnson, one of the leaders of the prawn species. Oh yeah, and the Nigerian gangs also pursue him, believing that devouring his mutating limbs will impart them with extraordinary powers.
There is nothing formulaic about District 9. It is an original and highly engaging film and you should watch it.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey are comic geniuses. You already knew that, of course, but whoever thought to play them opposite each other, in a film where they are a highly believable time-stressed, permanently exhausted married couple from New Jersey, is some kind of casting genius.
The only thing I couldn't buy was Tina Fey's ability to run from the bad guys in those heels. Only Dana Scully can run in heels like that.
I'm not saying I want Phil and Claire Foster to be my next door neighbours, but I sure wouldn't mind going out for dinner with them on occasion. Just not that dinner.
The Resident Offspring, always the consummate film critic, picked out this 2005 French film on a whim. It's filmed in black and white and is subtitled, so if that bothers you, then maybe this isn't the right film for you. On the other hand, maybe it is, because if you've got a problem with black and white subtitled films, then you are missing out on a lot of good stuff.
Sebastian, a struggling labourer hired to repair the roof of a seaside house, overhears the owner discussing his monetary woes and his opportunity for a financial windfall. When the owner dies of an overdose and Sebastian stumbles onto an envelope containing a train ticket and some rudimentary instructions, he decides, in an act of desperation to recoup some of his lost income, to use the ticket and take the dead man's place.
What he finds himself embroiled in is a deadly lottery,where he is the 13th man in a sinister game, a pawn in a secretive world where fortunes are made and lost by men gambling on the lives of other men.
13 Tzameti is a really compelling and brutal psychological drama which had me holding my breath with the tension. Be sure to see it before the American remake, starring Jason Statham and Mickey Rourke, is released later this year. Yeah, seriously.