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district 9 Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Elysium poster

Review: Elysium, Stoker, We’re the Millers, The Heat, Giselle, Private Peaceful, Reality and Now You See Me

By Cinema and Reviews

Matt Damon in Neil Blomkamp's Elysium (2013).

With this year’s festival now a rapidly diminishing memory — and my recovery from that event (plus another magazine published, some “live” podcast recordings, a few Q&A’s, some director interviews and a Big Screen Symposium) almost complete — I return to the commercial cinema and what do I find? Twenty-three new films have been released since my last set of reviews. Twenty-three! I only turned my back for a second. So, bear with me while I try and do some catching up. Some of these films deserve more space than they are going to get here (and some of them don’t) but you can’t have everything, am I right?

Elysium poster[pullquote]R‑rated these days appears to mean lots of unnecessary cursing and comic male nudity.[/pullquote]Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was a surprise smash-hit in 2009 and his follow-up, Elysium, is what we call ‘eagerly awaited’. Watching it I was reminded of the great strengths of that first film: a vividly created future society, dysfunctional yet plausible; a great plot setup with a genuine dilemma for the central character. Then I remembered the third act of District 9 — one long fight/chase/fight. And so it proves with Elysium. Wasted potential as — like so many films this year — the film is resolved by who can punch harder rather than who can think better. I have lots of other problems with it but that’s the main one.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Monsters and Lebanon

By Cinema and Reviews

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 1 posterHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the seventh film in the series but only the third that I’ve had to review in these pages. Sadly, my conclusions are almost always the same — and almost always irrelevant. These films are increasingly made for Potter fans only and there are so many of them that box office success is guaranteed regardless of churls like me.

And, of course, the Potter films are as important to the British film industry as The Hobbit is to ours — hence why the final book in the saga has been, in a breathtaking act of commercial cynicism, been split in to two blockbuster films. If you were expecting any kind of conclusion (satisfactory or not) then you’ll have to wait until June. Maybe.

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2009 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

Welcome to the 2010 “cut out and keep” guide to video renting (or downloading or however you consume your home entertainment these days). I suggest you clip this article, fold it up, stick it in your wallet or purse and refer to it whenever you are at the video shop, looking for something to while away the long winter evenings of 2010.

First up, the ones to buy – the Keepers. These are the films that (if you share my psychology and some of my pathologies) you will cherish until you are old and the technology to play them no longer exists. Best film of the year remains Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Mashing together several archetypal stories with a vivid visual style and a percussive energy, Slumdog may not represent India as it actually is but instead successfully evoked what India feels like, which is arguably more important. After Slumdog everything I saw seemed, you know, old-fashioned and nothing has been anywhere nearly as thrilling since. There are films you respect, films you admire and films you love. Slumdog is a film you adore. “Who wants to be a … miyonaire?” indeed.

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Review: Inglourious Basterds, The Age of Stupid and Departures

By Cinema and Reviews

Inglourious Basterds posterPlaying like the fever-dream of an obsessive teenager fallen asleep after reading a stack of Commando comics late at night, possibly after too much cheese, Inglourious Basterds is another contender for most entertaining film of the year. In a 17 year career that includes only six actual feature films (if you count Kill Bill as one), Quentin Jerome Tarantino has dedicated himself to proving that following the rules is a path made for fools and sissies. If only more filmmakers were listening.

QT himself has described Inglourious Basterds as a spaghetti western meditation on the war film and that’s as good a description as any, I suppose. In Chapter One we meet wicked Nazi “Jew hunter” Hans Lander (Christoph Waltz — a revelation) as he forces a nervous French dairy farmer to reveal the hiding place of a local Jewish family. It’s a great set-piece opening, tense but leavened with moments of absurdity and it gets you in the mood for the thrilling nonsense that is to come.

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Review: District 9, Sunshine Cleaning, The Man in the Hat, The Rocket Post and Case 39

By Cinema and Reviews

It’s going to be a massive few months for Wellywood — District 9 seems to have come out of nowhere to take the world by storm (Currently #35 in the IMDb All Time list, just below Citizen Kane. I kid you not) and The Lovely Bones trailer is whetting everyone’s appetite at just the right time. This Friday, Wellington audiences are the first in the world to see a fifteen minute sampler of the locally shot Avatar (Readings from 11.45am, free of charge) and three more Film Commission features are due for release between now and Christmas: The Strength of Water, Under the Mountain and The Vintner’s Luck, all of which have a significant Wellington component to them.

District 9 posterAnd if the Hollywood big cheeses were worried about The Lord of the Rings shifting the tectonic plates of entertainment industry power they ought to be terrified by District 9, a new world demonstration of the SANZAR spirit (minus the Australians) that achieves in spades everything that this year’s big-budget tent-pole features like Transformers and Terminator failed to do. It works thrillingly as pure entertainment and yet at the same time it’s a little bit more.

Aliens have arrived on earth but unlike in the 70s and 80s they aren’t here to tell us how to connect with the universe and expand our consciousness. And it isn’t like the 90s when they arrived to caramelize us with their death rays. These aliens have arrived for remarkably 21st century reasons — their ship is crippled and with no way home they are destined to become refugees, outcasts, misunderstood second-class citizens.

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