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"District 9"

Directed by Neill Blomkamp.
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell.
Starring Sharlto Copley, and...some other people.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  8/14/09


Solid.  That's all I could mutter to myself time and again after leaving the theater today; "District 9" is simply solid.  At times, it is spectacular.  At times, its alternative vision of the present is amusing mainly because it is so plausible.  And, even as it rips off movies like "The Fly" or even recent films like "Cloverfield", it defines its own space and gives us a solid capper to what I think overall was a great summer of movies.  (And, it's not even over yet!!)

"District 9" covers a three-day stretch in modern-day Johannesburg--aliens have been living in South Africa for more than 25 years, and most of that time has been spent living in slum-like prison camps outside of town.  A global conglomerate known as MNU has decided to move them 200 kilometers farther from Johannesburg into what can only be considered concentration, even as they have remained mostly peaceful, MNU has to evict the aliens from their slums and with the assistance of their private military, they ask MNU employee Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) to lead the alien eviction efforts.  Things mostly go okay, for everyone except Wikus...

The film's faux-documentary style works well early on to set up the "new now" that the movie's alien background requires...and, once the eviction process begins, the film becomes an excellent mix of sci-fi, action and a very, very small touch of drama.  Nigerian gangs, shady corporations, alien technology, run-and-gun firefights...the mix of things in "District 9" is sassy, but it's done in a way that was more engaging than I thought even given the film's great trailers.  The film's no-name cast is perfect for a film like this; the alien look is great; some of the alien technology is sweet; some of the action effects are flat-out nasty.  Films like this do even better when there are no subplots, or no time for for a couple of so-so cell-phone calls made by Wikus later in the film, there isn't a single wasted sequence.  Why can't more movies do this?

I am already excited to see this one again on DVD.  Catch this puppy ASAP!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 08/14/09