District 9: Movie Review

For anyone who has read my reviews on here or talked to me personally, you probably know that I’m a movie geek.  There’s nothing I like more than a good action, sci-fi, comic or fantasy movie.  So, when I first saw trailers for District 9, I knew that I would have to see it and check it out.  I couldn’t get much from the trailers other than it was about an alien race that landed on Earth and for some reason they weren’t leaving.  There were some fight scenes and aliens running about all over the place, but they didn’t reveal much in regards to the story.  This is the way trailers should be.  Give you a sense of what’s going to happen, but not reveal too much.  So, when I went in to view this movie, I had no clue as to what to expect and after it was over, I was thrilled by the movie experience I had just witnessed.

The story line of this film is fairly simple and comes in three parts.  The first part includes an alien ship that for some reason land over the city of Johannesburg in South Africa.  It was firing on the city, aliens weren’t falling from the sky attacking people, and no one knew what they were doing here.  After awhile of nothing happening with the ship, an air crew was sent up to investigate.  This entire beginning section is shot very much like a documentary.  It gives it a sense of reality and history.  This is very unique to the sci-fi genre.  When the air crew gets inside the ship, they see thousands of aliens in the ship looking very weak and malnourished.  So, they decide to fly them down from the ship, give them places to stay in a large enclosed area and do what they can to make them comfortable.

The second part of the story comes when the city has decided to move the camp full of aliens to a different location about 200 miles away from the city.  They citizens of Johannesburg are tired of the aliens being so close to their city and the mess, trash and outlaw behavior that is happening within the walls of the alien compound.  Just like any other slum, there are weapons being sold, prostitution, drugs and gang type activity happening and they want to move them away.  So the institution that has been set up to patrol the aliens is now in charge of evicting them from their homes that have lived in since arriving twenty years previous.  This is where the story gets really interesting.  I don’t want to talk about the third chapter, but it went in a direction that I was totally not expecting and the ride was a great one.

Going in to see this film, I had no idea that I would be confronted with such complex social issues.  They tackle bigotry, slum life, poverty, illegal sale of weapons, unjustified eviction and fear of the unknown.  The aliens in the film are no more than another race.  The humans give them the hateful name of “Prawns” and don’t give them any respect or privacy despite their intelligence and not harming anyone unless attacked.  We see the family life of the aliens and get to know that they are more than just invaders or intruders on the planet.  They have their own humanity and just want to keep to themselves or find a way to get back to their home.

This film was far more that I expected it to be.  It was action packed, thoughtful, touching, funny, and scarily close to what happens so some people in the real world we live in.  This was unlike any other alien film I’ve ever seen and that is a very good thing.  I hope that they follow this up with another one equally as good.  Go see this movie and I bet you’ll be glad you did.

~J. Chandler

Miyazaki’s Ponyo is both Beautiful and Creative! Movie Review

When most people think of the great names in animation, the two that usually come up the most are Walt Disney and Pixar.  Well, I believe that there another name that should be included in this list is Hayao Miyazaki.  He is the genius that has created such classics as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro.  If you haven’t seen these movies, go out and rent them as soon as you can.  It’s hard to describe his movies other than saying part fairy tale, part fable, totally original, epitome of Japanese anime style, and expanding the limits of imagination.

His new film is called Ponyo.  It’s a simple story involving a young gold-fish (at least that’s what they called her although she has a human face and didn’t look like a regular gold-fish) that gets rescued by a boy who then takes care of her.  She realizes that she loves the boy and wants to become a human herself.  Her father is a wizard who lives in the sea and has powers of the fish and the waters itself and her mother is the goddess of the earth or ocean.  Think along the lines of The Little Mermaid.  There’s also a little bit of social commentary about the pollutions we pour into our waters and how it can affect the balance of nature and man.

This film is beautiful both visually and creatively, however it does seem to lack some of the magic from some of the previous works of Miyazaki.  He does however get more back to his roots with a more simple story line and more of a child-like animation and perspective.

I would not consider this one of Miyazaki’s best films, but it is certainly better than most animated films you see now-a-days and it is a worthy addition to his most impressive list of credits.  If you enjoy his films at all, go see this before it leaves the big screen.

~J. Chandler

GI Joe: Movie Review

I have to admit that some of my fondest memories of playing with toys when I was younger were with my G.I. Joe vehicles and action figures.  I loved that there were so many characters, both heroes and villains, a ton of cool vehicles that you could put together yourself before playing with them and a really great cartoon show to go along with them.  I would go out to the backyard with all my figures, vehicles and Cobra command center, invite some friends over and play for hours.  Those were some good times!  When I heard that they were finally going to make a live action movie based on these toys, I was totally jazzed.

A couple of months before the release, I started to hear some bad press coming out about this movie.  I heard about bad screenings, issues between the studio and director and general apathy towards the film.  I began to be really skeptical on whether or not this would turn out to be anything worth watching or not.  Luckily, in my opinion, all of these fears and doubts were completely unnecessary and what I saw this weekend was one of the best big budget summer films I’ve seen.
When viewing this movie I was taken back in time to the memories I had of playing with these toys and I began remembering all of the different characters and toys.  I loved the fact that they included so many of the different heroes and villains and used a number of the different vehicles that I remember playing with and enjoying.  They had Hawk, Duke, Scarlett, Ripcord, Heavy Duty, Snake Eyes, Destro, the Baroness, Storm Shadow, Dr. Mindbender, Cobra Commander, Breaker and Zartan.  I remember every one of these and loved how they brought them to life.  There was some great casting made with this movie and I hope that they signed the entire cast to a sequel.

The script admittedly is not the most sophisticated in the world, however, it follows the formula you would expect from a Joe movie, good vs. evil.  The special operations unit called G.I. Joe is used when every other team has failed.  In the case of this movie, the army has failed to protect a highly destructible weapon that a secret society has captured, and the Joes have to get it back before it can be used against the civilians.  It’s that simple.  However, it doesn’t need to be complex to make it enjoyable.  This is a scenario that most kids that played with these toys have thought up themselves.  That’s something I enjoyed about the movie is that it put the scenarios I thought of when I was a kid into a live action film.

Also, the performances are nothing to write home about, but they are solid and serve the purpose of the film.  I thought each person was cast brilliantly, but I will give props to Sienna Miller for her take as the Baroness.  She manages to steal every scene that she comes into.  The biggest show steal of the movie are the special effects and action sequences.  They are spectacular!!!  I was on the edge of my seat for these scenes and got kind of giddy inside seeing these characters in action and kicking butt.

I really enjoyed this movie myself.  I’d love to hear what everyone else that has seen it thinks.  Honestly, it’s one of the few films that has come out this year that I can’t wait to see again!!

~J. Chandler