Tag Archive: district 9


Back in 1975 Jaws became the highest grossing film to date. It’s arguably one of the most famous films ever that has been parodied and referenced in countless numbers of films and has a theme tune that everyone can hum and recognise. The release and the popularity of Jaws marked the arrival of the summer blockbuster, which would become a staple in the cinema calendar; the summer blockbuster spots are reserved for the biggest studios to bring out the big guns and rake in the profits over summer. The whole idea of a ‘blockbuster film’ has gone through celebration and survived criticism but you can not deny that they are still apparent and, as we have seen this year, are the most bankable films of the year. But the originality has gone, and with that so has some of the fun.

Among the top ten highest grossing films of the year so far there are eight films that have been released in the summer. Only one of those is an original concept: Pacific Rim. When Jaws was released it marked a trend of ‘event’ films that major studios released to compete with Jaws and its sequels. Taking this into account Pacific Rim seems like a typical summer blockbuster remade for a modern audience. It seems like everything a summer audience want: mindless action, giant robots fighting gigantic aliens and what’s more the film had major clout behind it as it was directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Pacific Rim only just managed to double its budget worldwide despite all the hype surrounding it and Idris Elba booming “today we are cancelling the apocalypse” before every other summer film that you would go and see. Of course, one reason why Pacific Rim could have fallen short of expectations is because Michael Bay did such an awful job with the Transformers film that any film with robots in will now be tossed aside without thought.

 

But then a film with fighting robots also became the fifth highest grossing film of all time: Iron Man 3. So this seems to suggest that that was not the only reason for Pacific Rim‘s failure to make a huge impression on the audience. In a world with so many sequels it is becoming more important to see those sequels when they come out, especially with what Marvel are doing with each film becoming a huge stable of cinema in itself and an unmissable event. People want to see what they already know because the first films are so good and successful that it gives a sequel credibility before it is even released. The likes of Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, Monsters University and even Despicable Me 2 cracked the top ten highest grossing films – all coming off the back of successful franchises or original films. World War Z and Man of Steel also join the list but they’re coming from hugely successful books and comic books. With World War Z it also seems to suggest that star power is also important for a summer blockbuster with Brad Pitt no doubt being responsible for some of the surprisingly huge audience the zombie action film found.

So what of Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp? Three of the biggest movie stars on the planet absolutely tanked at the box office in 2013. Smith’s After Earth and Cruise’s Oblivion both seemed pretty similar in their basic premise: Earth has been abandoned and now Will Smith/Tom Cruise come back to Earth and find out that it’s not as bare as they might have thought. It was assumed that one film would take the spoils because they were too similar but as it turned out, neither film did and both failed. Johnny Depp looked to bring a new franchise to the big screen and should have been more successful being as though The Lone Ranger is integrated in popular culture – everyone has heard “Hi-Yo, Silver!” at least once in their lives. But a difficult time in production seemed to put an end to any plans Disney had of making a sequel. And the less said about R.I.P.D the better.

 

Another one of the most anticipated films of the year was Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. After Blomkamp’s debut feature District 9 was an Oscar nominated film people were expecting something exceptional from Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. However, as of now it has only just managed to make back its budget and not set the world alight as people expected. Of course, a late summer release won’t have helped being as though it seems everyone had already spent their money on previously mentioned films. So why is it so hard to find a spot for originality in the summer months?

For me, I think it comes down to the cost of going to the cinema. Over summer the children are off school and people go to the cinema as a family. This means that you’re going to be spending around £25-£35 on tickets and then another £20ish on drinks and popcorn which makes it seem pretty expensive just to go and sit down for a couple of hours. Nobody wants to go and see a bad film at the cinema anyway but when it’s costing that much you want to know that you’re going to enjoy what you watch. Therefore, I believe people are more likely to go and see Iron Man 3 when Marvel have a spotless record and you’re guaranteed a great performance from Robert Downey Jr. rather than take a chance that something like R.I.P.D or Pacific Rim which you don’t know much about.

 

In the next couple of years we are going to see more Marvel films – Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. The Man of Steel sequel featuring Batman is coming out too, the same as the seventh chapter of Star Wars and presumably a third in the new Star Trek trilogy: add to that another Fast & Furious film, a sequel to World War Z and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It seems like so many huge franchises are begging for people’s money that it seems impossible for anything new to turn heads. For the sake of cinema that has to change sooner rather than later.

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UK Release Date: 20th September 2013

Stars: Neill Blomkamp (director), Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Alice Braga, Diego Luna

Plot: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

This is the very hotly anticipated film Elysium. So hotly anticipated thanks to the brilliance that was Blomkamp’s debut feature film, District 9. He again teams up with the incredible Sharlto Copley (although in a supporting role this time).

Technically, this trailer is superb. As a futuristic science-fiction film it is important for audiences to believe the world in which the film is set. The trailer for Elysium instantly introduces us to that world, with the wealthy living a perfect life where cancer can be cured just by laying in a simple machine. Utopia.

While the audience are placed with Matt Damon on Earth, the complete opposite. Damon’s character is equipped with an incredibly powerful weapon and embarks on a mission to Elysium in an attempt to bring peace to the two worlds. There is a little action, a great view of the beauty that the film will bring and enough of an introduction to wet the appetites of audiences.

In the coming months, expect more and more of Elysium to be seen as it is sure to make an impact at the box office and with the critics. Here’s hoping Neill Blomkamp is not a one hit wonder.

Sharlto Copley is a man who clearly loves film. When he was growing up he wanted to become an actor and now that dream has been realised. But before that, Copley started up his own production company Vasbyt Films LLC and became South Africa’s youngest television producer at the age of 25. At age 22 Copley first met a 16 year old Neill Blomkamp (a name you’ll be hearing a lot in the coming paragraphs and years) and Blomkamp began working at Copley’s production company in return for the use of the computers at the company for Blomkamp to furthur his passion of 3D animation and design.

Over ten years after this meeting Sharlto Copley made his acting debut in short film Alive in Joburg about a close encounter of the third kind in Johannesburg. Copley also produced the six minute film which was directed by Neil Blomkamp. In 2009 Copley made his feature film acting debut, again directed by Blomkamp, in science fiction masterpiece and Oscar nominated film District 9, an adaptation of Alive in Joburg. You can read my review of District 9 here, but one thing I didn’t mention in the review was just how good Copley’s performance is. This was the first time he had acted in a full length feature but he looks right at home in front of the camera, his performance is excpetional and he is nothing but loveable in his role. The change and development his character goes through is unbelievable and the emotion that Copley is able to bring to the role is just wonderful. I think this is one of my favourite performances of recent years.

This performance and the success of District 9 allowed Copley to make another of his dreams come true. Thanks to his performance he was noticed by the Hollywood executives and cast in the film remake of one of Copley’s favourite television shows, The A-Team. Now, the cast looks pretty good on paper with the likes of Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper among the names and token eye-candy-in-summer-blockbuster Jessica Biel included, and there were some good action scenes that made it a fun popcorn movie but there was nothing to it. However, Copley’s performance as “Howling Mad” Murdock was the shining light of brilliance among the film and he even gained praise from Dwight Schultz, the man who made the character famous in the TV series.

Having tried his hand at action and science fiction it seems clear which one he enjoyed the most as a look at his upcoming films will tell you that Sharlto Copley is sure to become one of science fiction’s greatest ever actors. His next film is Europa Report about a crew of international astronauts sent on a mission to Jupiter’s fourth moon. Another upcoming film is the intriguing Open Grave which will see Copley try his hand at horror: Copley’s character wakes up in a pit of dead bodies with no memory and must try to find the serial killer or decide whether he himself is actually the killer.

After this Copley is set to team up with old friend Blomkamp for Elysium, another science fiction film, however not connected to the earlier District 9. There is a lot of anticipation and expectation surrounding Elysium because it is Blomkamp’s follow up project and it also features Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and William Fichtner among the cast. Copley’s role in Elysium is set to be completely different from District 9 as he plays a bad-ass and vile South African mercenary: his versatility is set to be tested.

With roles in the Oldboy remake and the retelling of Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent alongside Angelina Jolie Copley’s career looks to be a path that is very well chosen. All we are going to see over the coming years is just how good and how versatile Copley is. Such a talented actor, he already has a cult fan base but he is deserving of even more!

District 9 (2009) Review

Back in 2008 a viral marketing campaign began entitled “Human’s Only” that first brought people’s attention to District 9. Then, upon its release, it received acclaim from all angles and really helped to launch the careers of its South African director Neill Blomkamp and leading man Sharlto Copley.

District 9 is the story of Sharlto Copley’s Wikus van de Merwe. Almost thirty years prior to the events of this film a large spaceship stopped above Johannesburg in South Africa and its alien occupiers came down to Earth and now inhabit the slums of South Africa. Wikus van de Merwe is a government agent chosen to lead the camp relocation by serving the aliens with eviction notices. However, after uncovering a deep secret about the alien’s technology he becomes a kindred spirit of the alien race.

The film begins in a very interesting documentary style and remains this way throughout the first half an hour. This allows the audience to be given a fantastic insight into the alien race and their history, as well as the opinions held of humans about this new species on their planet. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout as we hear the talking heads talking about their colleague Wikus and we know that something bad happens to him, but we are never quite told what. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Wikus, this happy, charming, loved up government worker who is, not all the time competent, but always means well.

Then the story moves on and we suddenly come out of the documentary style and we are welcomed to a more conventional style of story telling. We know get introduced to the aliens and learn what they are doing here and what they intend to do with their spaceship, and how they intend to go back home, if they want to. The aliens are brought to life magnificently by Jason Cope who plays a huge part in the making of this film by providing the voices for all as well as playing the lead alien, Christopher Johnson.

As well as being an enthralling piece of drama District 9 also brings up several strong themes surrounding humanity. Right from the title through to its treatment of aliens District 9 is a sure fire criticism of Distric Six. District Six, an inner-city residential area in Cape Town, was declared a “whites only” area by the government in 1966, with 60,000 people forcibly removed and relocated to Cape Flats. Racism and xenophobia are explored with the aliens being the subject of the hatred. The use of the word ‘prawn’ is a very evident replacement for racist words used in the past. It’s not the first time the science fiction genre has done this but District 9 is certainly one of the best to have used this tact in their film making.

It is amazing that on such a low budget Blomkamp has managed to bring to life one of the greatest science fiction/fantasy films of this century so far. A fine piece of art!

My Rating: 9/10.

Not many directors ever get THAT famous among mainstream cinema fans. It really, I believe, takes someone special and a great storyteller, someone who is good enough to make sure that every single one of their films stands up on the big screen to both critics and fans alike; the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese and Danny Boyle have been able to do this and are a few of the most famous directors around but are there any new directors around who could one day join the ranks of the best directors EVER? For my choices I have limited the candidates to have directed, at most, 3 feature length films or have shown enough in two or just the one feature film that they have great potential as a director. In no particular order, let’s have a look.

 

Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson has to be the first person I mention because it was him that influenced me to write this blog. I recently saw Johnson’s latest film Looper and along with his previous two feature films (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) Looper was both written and directed Johnson and also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt (although JGL’s appearance in The Brothers Bloom was a cameo). Looper has really announced Johnson on the scene as one of the best story tellers around. I won’t go into too much detail but if you read my review of the film here, you will get an idea of just how good Johnson is. He has managed to revolutionise the science fiction genre and the whole theories surrounding time travel. I think Looper will inspire a new generation of film makers and if Johnson continues to direct at this high standard he will be regarded as one of the best ever.

 

Joss Whedon

If you don’t know who Joss Whedon is by now where have you been all year? Whedon has a vast amount of experience in television and film working as a screenwriter for many years and having created hit shows such as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse. Yet this year Whedon was welcomed with open arms to the masses as he directed this year’s highest grossing film Marvel’s The Avengers. Whedon’s only previous feature film was Serenity (a continuation of the Firefly universe) and, of course, flopped at the box office. However, I thought Serenity was great and there is no doubting Whedon’s talent for writing believable characters and dialogue. With him signed on to oversee Marvel’s phase 2 and direct The Avengers 2, the world is his oyster.

 

Marc Webb

Marc Webb is the only director on this list who I would not class as a science fiction director (despite the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man could be described as science fiction but I think that the superhero genre is now a genre in itself rather than a subsidiary of sci-fi but that’s a whole other argument). Webb arrived on the scene with the incredible, hilarious and touching story in (500) Days of Summer and then, like I mentioned, went on to have another summer hit this year with the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man which was more than capable of holding its own against The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Webb seems to specialise in relationships and he has this amazing ability to capture moments in relationships and develop them over time that I haven’t seen in a long time. I hope he continues to work in other genres but keeps his focus on character.

 

Neill Blomkamp

These last two are a little more unknown than the previous candidates but that doesn’t mean they are not as good. Blomkamp has, at the time of writing, only directed one feature length film with Disctrict 9. However, the praise that District 9 gathered and all the rave reviews about it really reshaping the genre of science-fiction and the sequel to his debut smash is highly anticipated, despite his next film being something completely unrelated to that. His next film is another trip into sci-fi and stars Matt Damon and is entitled Elysium. If this does as well as District 9 then stardom really does beckon for this man.

 

Duncan Jones

And finally we have Duncan Jones. Jones’ first film Moon is one of the greatest directorial debuts I have ever seen. Moon is a true masterpiece and Sam Rockwell’s performance along with the directorial skill of Jones is enough to grab the audience without having a mass of characters. His follow up Source Code was purely his directing and this time he had no part in the writing of the film yet still managed to pull off a great action film and again, a magnificent piece of directing because seeing the same 15-20 minutes over and over again can become tiresome for the audience but Jones manages to sustain interest. His next project is a biopic of Ian Fleming and Duncan Jones could well have another hit on his hands.