District 9

8 09 2009

District 9 Film Poster

Release: Friday 28 August 2009
Running Time:
111 minutes
Age Restriction:
10 (Language, Violence)
Website: Official site, IMDB

If you have been hiding in a cave or wherever you go that doesn’t let you access news or any hype of any kind, let me break down what District 9 is. It’s a South African directed movie, based in Johannesburg, about a group of aliens that get stranded on Earth and are put into a special district for them that quickly degenerates into a slum. Now, in an eerie mirror of real life forced evictions, the aliens must be moved into a new area specially built for them, and that’s when things get interesting…

Ok now you know the basic premise of the movie. I suppose it doesn’t sound like much when it’s all in black and white like that, but really it’s quite a powerful movie. Interspersed with interviews of experts, the story is told of how the aliens arrived on Earth, how they got stuck and what we know about them. The story then shifts onto Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) who has just been appointed head of the operation to evict the aliens from District 9, where they are living in squalor.

Seriously though, this movie has it all. From moments of comedy from the seemingly inept and well-mannered Wikus (some of the more memorable quotes and moments had me laughing out loud), to deep introspective moments where you think to yourself “wow, mankind really is the worst”. Just little details that have been added, like the aliens all been given easy-to-pronounce human names like the black people were given during Apartheid, or the way the aliens are treated in general (called Prawns, abused, no effort made to relate to them). It really made me think.

In addition to the comedy and introspective moments mentioned above, District 9 also had action scenes and tearjerkers. I won’t spoil the tearjerkers, but let’s just say the action involves some pretty sweet alien weaponry and a giant mech.

I think everybody should go see District 9, if only to see what all the fuss is about. You’ll either love it or hate it, but chances are you will love it. I did. 10/10.

And now, some bonus facts about the movie that you may not know.

  • A single actor (Jason Cope) played all the Prawns in the movie.
  • Most of the dialogue in the shack eviction sequence was improvised between Cope and Copley
  • The alien shacks featured are actual shacks that actual people had recently been evicted from.
  • The film is based on director Neil Blomkamp’s short film “Alive In Joburg

Buy District 9 on Blu-Ray

Buy District 9 on DVD


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

20 07 2009

Half-Blood Prince Poster

Release: Wednesday 15 July 2009
Running Time:
153 minutes
Age Restriction:
10 (Violence)
Website: IMDB, Official

I must say, before I start this review, that I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this movie. I’ve seen all the previous ones, and honestly they disappointed me. Maybe it was just that they didn’t capture every single thing that happened in the books, or maybe the director’s (David Yates in this case) vision of Hogwarts differed from mine. Whatever it was, it blunted my view of the movies, as in the back of my mind I was constantly nit-picking the movie: “That wasn’t in the book.”, “What was that? Where did that come from?”, “Oh they totally ignored that whole sub-plot.”

Half-Blood Prince was no exception to the above, and I felt myself constantly thinking back to the book and comparing it to the movie I was watching. In comparison, it is no contest: the book wins hands down. As a movie by itself, however, I think that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a decent movie.

For the two people in the world who haven’t read the book OR seen the movie, here is a brief plot synopsis: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in his sixth year of school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Attending school with him are his best friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). This year, however, is marked by dark undertones, as the evil Lord Voldemort has openly declared war on the wizarding world. It is against this backdrop that Albus Dumbldedore (Michael Gambon) sets out to learn more about Voldemort, and find his weaknesses to ultimately destroy him.

There isn’t much more to be said about Half-Blood Prince. If you’ve seen the other movies, you will be familiar with the various faces and characters, and will ultimately enjoy the movie’s high-budget special effects and quality script. If you’ve read the book, the same things will impress you, but perhaps your enjoyment, like mine, will be dampened by having read the books. Either way, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my favourite of the Harry Potter movies so far.

Final verdict: 7/10. Now go read the book.

Buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Blu-Ray

Buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2 disc DVD

Buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hardcover book

Van Wilder: Freshman Year

15 07 2009

Van Wilder: Freshman Year

Release: Tuesday July 14 2009 (DVD only)
Running Time:
98 minutes
Age Restriction:
18 (Language, Sex)

You must surely have heard of 2003’s Van Wilder: Party Liason? Not? Ok well basically it was awesome, telling the story of a legendary college guy, Van Wilder, and the parties he organised. After that was the sequel, Van Wilder: Rise of Taj, which didn’t even feature Van Wilder. I didn’t enjoy that one at all. The third movie in the series in this one – Van Wilder: Freshman Year.

I didn’t go into this movie with very high expectations, because generally sequels are bad. Especially to movies which didn’t require them, such as the aforementioned original movie. However, with Freshman Year, I was pleasantly surprised. Let me just say that I feel Freshman Year is more of a reboot of the series than an actual prequel: for example it’s supposedly set years before the original, but everybody’s using iPhones. That being said, I’m all for a reboot, as long as they do not get bogged down in mediocrity. *cough* American Pie: Beta House, American Pie: Naked Mile *cough*.

The story is basically exactly the same as that of the original: Van Wilder (Jonathan Bennet) is introduced, hot girl (love interest) Kaitlin Hayes (Kristin Cavallari) is with asshole boyfriend who makes Van’s life hell. Lots of sex, character development, typical gross-out scene, feel-good moment, partying, resolution. This is all nothing new. However, why change a formula that works? I enjoyed it in the original movie, and I still enjoy it in this one.

If you get this movie expecting anything less than a gross-out comedy, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for something slapstick and relatively mindless, then this is the movie for you. The girls are sexy, the jokes are funny, the slapstick is well done, the acting is believable and the characters are just crazily over the top to be enjoyable.

While not as good as the original, Freshman Year is an excellent addition to the series, (and I feel it far exceeds Rise of Taj) and I hope they continue with Van Wilder: Sophomore Year. All in all, I give Van Wilder: Freshman Year a solid 8 / 10.

Buy Van Wilder: Freshman Year DVD

Surviving Evil

11 07 2009

Surviving Evil Movie PosterRelease: Friday 10 July 2009
Running Time: 86 minutes
Age Restriction: 16 (Language, Violence)
Website: IMDB

Surviving Evil is a rather odd movie. It’s short, features a strange mix of South African and Hollywood stars, and isn’t very long. It also isn’t the greatest movie in the world, but more on that later.

Ok, so the premise is this: Seb Beazley (Billy Zane) is a type of Bear Grylls survival expert, who hosts a survival show on various inhospitable places. However, while filming on a particular Philippino island, the supposedly mythical Aswang awaken and begin to hunt the party.

So the storyline is a little thin. Come on, were you really expecting much better from a horror movie? Last I checked they weren’t exactly the best written scripts in the world. So if you can get over the relatively weak plot, you can truly appreciate the mediocrity of the rest of the movie. That being said, there was a distinct lack of cheese present in Surviving Evil; something that is not true for a lot of other recent horror movies. Plot holes are also kept to a minimum, so I suppose the script isn’t that bad after all.

The acting, if I were to describe it in one word, would be overdone. Grossly exaggerated, weak and over the top in places, it is not a total failure. It’s just the actual reactions to the monsters that left a lot to be desired. Relationships between the crew were merely hinted at, and underdeveloped, leaving me wondering more about this ill-fated TV crew. Why, for example, does the director have a drinking problem? Why is Chill Reyes (Natalie Mendoza) even doing on this expedition? We never find out.

Otherwise, Surviving Evil is a decent movie. It was a little annoying at the constant flashes of the Aswang that are interspersed literally throughout the entire movie, as if hinting at some terror still to come, and the monsters themselves seemed a little too weak to be truly terrifying: I mean I want my movie monsters to be all-powerful and utterly terrifying, not human enough to be killed by a homemade bow and arrow. That being said, they still manage to kill 80% of the film crew (come on, it’s a horror movie, you knew it was going to happen), which is a plus.

Flaws aside, I think Surviving Evil is still a fairly decent movie. As I’ve said, it’s probably not going to win any awards or anything, but it’s good to see local (South African) cinema advancing. Go see it, get a good laugh (and maybe a fright) or two, and see what you think.

In conclusion, I give Surviving Evil a 5/10.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

24 06 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen posterRelease Date: Wednesday 24 June 2009

Running Time: 147 minutes

Age Restriction: 10 – Language, violence

Website: IMDB

Following the major success of 2007’s Transformers, a sequel was all but inevitable. This is that sequel.

Now, if you’ve seen the original movie, this movie shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. There are giant transforming robots that get into epic fights with each other. Stuff (lots of stuff!) gets blown up in spectacular fashion. Megan Fox is hot. But you know all of this already.

The story of Revenge of the Fallen takes place two years after the events of the first Transformers. The Autobots (the good robots) have formed a special team with the United States government to hunt down and destroy any and all Decepticons that are on Earth, either that have recently arrived, or that have been hiding on Earth.

Of course, with new enemies comes new friends, and there are a number of new Autobots which have joined the ranks under Optimus Prime’s command. Unfortunately, of these five or so new robots, only two are actually introduced and given character, while the rest serve mainly as background characters. Awesome giant transforming robot background characters, but background characters non-the-less. The two that are given character annoyed me to no end, being two small useless robots with wannabe-gangster personalities. I don’t know if they were supposed to be funny, but they just annoyed me with their pseudo ghetto tough talk and arrogant swagger.

The main antagonist in this movie is an ancient Transformer known as The Fallen, who seeks to destroy the Autobots and humanity in general. Cue epic battles scenes, big explosions and cool special effects. Hmmm … speaking of special effects, there are some which are excellent, like the animation on the Transformers themselves and the large-scale CGI, but in certain parts it just looked cheap and obviously not real, which detracted from the general suspension of disbelief that exists when viewing a movie.

The actual story of the movie is decent. I actually found it quite interesting, which is unusual because the writing on these type of movies is usually pretty bad, or mediocre at best. That is to say that the writing is usually quite cliched and formulaic, and Revenge of the Fallen‘s writing was quite good.

All in all, it’s a solid sequel, and a fairly good movie to boot. I give it a 7 / 10.

Buy Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen on Blu-Ray

Buy Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Deluxe Edition Blu-Ray

Buy Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen DVD

Twilight (Film)

26 01 2009

The Twilight movie poster

The Twilight movie poster

Release Date: Friday 19 December 2008

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Age Restriction: 13 (With mature accompaniment). Violence

Websites: Official Site, IMDB

Based on the first book of a series, Twilight is the story of Bella Swan (Kristen Steward) and the relationship that develops between her and immortal vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

Bella has been living with her mom after her parents’ divorce, but moves in with her father in a small town when her mom decides to go on the road with her new husband. Her interest is immediately drawn to the unusual Edward Cullen, who initially shows disgust towards her. In the quest to find out more, she discovers that Edward is a vampire, part of a whole family of vampires who have chosen to only eat animal blood.

For some reason, Edward is unable to read Bella’s thoughts (the only person he claims that he is unable to do this to), and this fascinates him. Ultimately a relationship develops between the two, but trouble arrives when a group of nomadic vampires arrive and begin hunting Bella.

Having not read the book that this movie is based on, I still have no trouble recommending that if you liked this movie, you should definitely consider picking up the book. Movies based on books, no matter how great, generally provide less information and exposition on characters etc. than their celluloid counterparts, and thus I personally find the book experience to be much more rewarding.

That being said, this movie is excellent. I really found myself being drawn into the characters and their struggles. First, Bella has to fit into an unfamiliar town, then to try and understand Edward, then as she attempts to get close to him, coming into Edward’s conflict with his desire to keep her at a distance. Himself conflicted with the desire to kill her and drink her blood, Edward must battle his inner animal instinct to protect Bella.

Good acting all round, even minor characters such as Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who is an old friend of Bella’s when she still lived there with her parents, is well portrayed. As a member of the Quileute tribe of Native-Americans, his tribe and thus himself are mortal enemies of vampires, due to old history between the two groups.

This movie is not an action extravaganza that one might be expecting from a vampire themed movie. This is no Underworld people. Instead, expect a well-written, character driven romance with an unusual twist. Also, since this is based on the first book in the series, don’t expect any concrete endings, but rather an open ending that makes room for the next movie (expected 20 November 2009) in the series.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. I am a big fan of movies with strong character development, and Twilight scores high in that respect. It doesn’t hurt that it is well written and acted as well. In general, I didn’t much notice the music, and I suppose this is a good thing, as it doesn’t steal the focus away from the movie itself.

I give this movie 8/10.

Yes Man

21 01 2009
Poster for the film Yes Man

Poster for the film Yes Man

Release Date: Wednesday 31 December 2008

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Age Restriction: 13. Sex, Language, Nudity

Website: IMDB Page

Yes Man is a movie about a man, Carl (Jim Carrey), who always says “No” to everything. Since his wife left him, he avoids friends, takes no risks and is stuck in a dead-end job working as a junior loans officer at a bank. This all changes when he meets an old friend who convinces him to attend a “Yes!” seminar, where he decides to say “Yes” to all propositions put towards him.

As we can expect from a Jim Carrey movie, this leads to a number of humourous situations, including un uncomfortable encounter with his inappropriately affectionate elderly neighbour, getting hammered drunk with his friends in the bar (after they make him pay for all the drinks), and ordering a wife online after receiving spam. Standard Jim Carrey situations then, all at least marginally funny.

The crux of the movie comes when the very first things Carl says “Yes” to lead him to meet Allison (Zooey Deschane). She is a free-spirited, eclectic woman who paints, sings in a band, and teaches photographic jogging classes. Normally she would be the total opposite of Carl, but because of his new lifestyle, they end up having a relationship.

However, saying “Yes” to everything eventually causes problems, and Carl must find a way to balance his life.

While this movie is decent and production values are high, it feels like it is missing something. Something that I can’t quite place, as the stunts, acting, soundtrack and story are all spot on. Maybe it is the fact that the movie does not take itself seriously enough to make any real impact. People who watch this movie probably won’t remember it in 6 months time. I guess I would say that Yes Man is just too light on theme and conflict to actually convey any serious message.

However, being light as candyfloss means that this movie is a good time passer, and is definitely a decent way to pass 104 minutes. However, don’t expect a groundbreaking movie. Overall, a good way to escape the worries of the real world for a while.

Rating: 6/10

Interesting factoid: Jim Carrey didn’t get paid any money upfront, but instead will receive 36.2% of the film’s gross profits.