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neill blomkamp 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: Where the Wild Things Are, The Informant!, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Zombieland and The Cake Eaters

By Cinema and Reviews

Is it too early to suggest that we might be living in a golden age of cinema? Think of the filmmakers working in the commercial realm these days who have distinctive voices, thrilling visual sensibilities, solid intellectual (and often moral) foundations, a passion for combining entertainment with something more — along with an abiding love of cinema in all its strange and wonderful forms.

I’m thinking of the Coens, obviously, but also Peter Jackson (and protégé Neill Blomkamp), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz and the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim), Jason Reitman (Juno and January’s Up in the Air), Guillermo Del Toro (working hard on The Hobbit in Miramar), and even Tarantino is still producing the goods. This week we are lucky enough to get new work from two others who should be in that list: Spike Jonze and Steven Soderbergh.

Where the Wild Things Are posterJonze made his name with oddball stories like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and the first thing you notice about his interpretation of the beloved Maurice Sendak children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is that it simply doesn’t resemble anything else you’ve ever seen. With the help of writer Dave Eggers (the novel “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, Away We Go) he has used the book as a starting point for a beautiful and sensitive meditation on what it is like to be a child (a boy child specifically).

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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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