Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Celluloid #57

In Theaters

District 9 (2009) Blomkamp - An alien ship stops over Johannesburg, and once evacuated, the aliens are placed in refugee-style camps segregated from other South Africans. The first half of the movie sets up characters, history, and intersperses documentary-style footage with more traditional scenes. The second half gets a bit boring for me when the relentless gunfire and explosions take the forefront, but without much plot advancement. Many critics have tried to find an allegory regarding apartheid...a notion that makes sense given the setting, but a problematic correlation--the aliens don't outnumber the South Africans, they don't want to be in South Africa, and they are destructive to the point that it even makes sense for their segregation. I can go along with the idea that this film is smarter than your average blockbuster, but overall I found it lacking. 3/5

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino - A fictional tale about a group of misfit and Jewish soldiers and their plot the kill the most notorious Nazis. The "Basterds" are presented as an ultraviolent arm of the secret service. Brad Pitt is funny and the Nazi Exploitation is so over the top, that you can't help getting a little pumped. There are a few elements that seem really out of place (Mike Myers, I'm looking at you) but in general a really fun, silly, gory movie. 4/5

In Home

Beau Travail (1999) Denis - Stylish film about French legionaires stationed in North Africa. One soldier, Sentain, is a particular favorite of the troop and the senior officer, but not his immediate supervisor. Interesting use if the soundtrack, beautiful scenes, and a worthwhile climax after so much tension...plus any movie featuring a crazy dance scene brightens my day. 4/5

the Boys of Baraka (2005) Ewing - This is a documentary about a group of middle school boys from Baltimore chosen to participate in a program in Kenya. It's fun to see the boys act like boys (picking up lizards) rather than junior thugs. Unfortunately, the program was supposed to last two years, but the school closed after the first year due to security issues. This makes the documentary much less interesting and made me upset for the boys...adding one more disappointment to their lives. 3.5./5

the Brave One (2007) Jordan - A revenge vigilante film, much in the vein of Ms. 45, but takes itself way too seriously. Erica and her boyfriend are beaten up--she ends up in a coma for a few weeks, but he dies. She gets herself a gun, and instantly a ton of bad things begin to happen around her. Erica also intentionally places herself in dangerous situations where she inevitably ends up killing a bunch of criminals. 3/5

Kikujiro (1999) Kitano - A little kid wants to see his mother during his summer break. His retired gangster neighbor agrees to take him, but with plenty of detours along the way. The music is cheesy, and the movie most resembles a Disney live-action picture. A very disappointing and out-of-character movie for Kitano. 2/5

Manderlay (2005) von Trier - First off, this is basically the sequel to Dogville...and if you hated that, you probably won't like this either. It's filmed in the same basic style (no real set, houses marked by lines on the floor, looks like a play, etc.). The story this time deals with a slave colony in the Deep South in the 1930s. Grace, a young woman, decides to emancipate the slaves and write up deeds to the land. She thinks she knows best and is being helpful, but turns preachy about "democracy" and "liberation." Throw in a dose of fetishism on her part, and ultimately she proves to cause more problems than good. 3/5

Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Allen - Emmett Ray is a fictional character known as "the second best guitarist in the world." The film is set during the Depression and plays out like a biopic. Lots of oranges, browns, and reds, and a great couple of supporting actresses (Samantha Morton & Uma Thurman). 3.5/5

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