Tag Archives: director

#5 ‘District 9’ (2009)

Get on the barby... Time for munch



*Sharlto Copley

*Jason Cope

*David James

Director:- Neill Blomkamp

Distrct 9 is a feature film evolved from the 2005 short – ‘Alive In Joburg’, directed by Neill Blomkamp. It tells the story of a stranded Alien race, who have been forced to live in sheltered, monitored camps overseen by the South African government and military. And of course, their struggle to return to their home world.

I watched the film when it was first released in cinemas in the UK, and I found it a very enjoyable film. The factors were mainly down to its setting and not adhering to the generic big USA city locations that we’re used to seeing on sci-fi/action movies. Not to mention that the film was extremely well-produced for only a budgeted $30 million dollars. I didn’t really take the time to pick out much in terms of the performances of the actors, or any underlying plot points that I may have missed out on.

I watched it again, twice in the last 10 days.

It’s absolutely astounding how a strong, positive opinion on a film can change with repeat viewings.

It’s really difficult to pinpoint one thing that District 9 struck badly with me. It’s a lot of small, niggling little aspects that began to grate slowly and steadily against my quarter-century brain. Again, minimal/hardly any spoiler here while I carefully dissect this one.

The main character is African bureaucrat for a private military company, Wikus (last name I will not attempt to spell), who is charged with the duty of unceremoniously removing the alien immigrants from their location in District 9, to District 10. But after an accident at one of the shelters, Wikus begins to resonate and form an understanding with the aliens (derogatorily nicknamed ‘prawns’ due to their similarity in appearance), and also is faced with their own struggle. Copley, who portrays Wikus in his firs big acting role, brings a degree of humour to his character’s obviously difficult mission, but his lack of experience in this kind of big(ish) budget flick does show very prominently. It was enough to bag him a role in A-Team, but I’m almost certain that this will be a serious case of typecast Hollywood. It’s a real shame.

The most obvious thing that was completely oblivious to me at first viewing, was that District 9’s story is such a tried a tested formula. Although it has been tweaked in places to give an audience the impression that it was something completely fresh and original. It really, really isn’t.

From the outset, we see a holding camp for aliens that crash landed on Earth…. That’s the straight-to-the-point concept and story of the movie, it’s what we have to go on. It IS an interesting take on a tale that has been told for decades.

 However, there’s a broad, or more obvious hint that the structure of this film is built around the concept of several different genres of film and camera work. From the beginning, District 9 appears to take an almost ‘mockumentary’ tone – With a lone cameraman supported by crew that follow Wikus as he visits the camp accommodation of the stranded species. Which is what I initially perceived this film to progress with. Almost without warning, the film then takes a different spin, and the narrative is akin to sci-fi television programme ‘Alien Nation’. Where we see the ‘prawns’ living their lives in Johannesburg through conventional camera work.

The film (minor spoiler) culminates with a CGI, Transformers style battle sequence. Which further ‘alienates’ (heh heh) us from what this film is really trying to be, let alone what message it’s attempting to give.

I can say what I want about blatant plagiarism, stolen ideas, homages etc. But District 9, aside from its huge merits in some areas of originality, interesting concepts and ideas – seems to be a confused, muddled mess of a sci-fi drama (or actioner, or documentary – you decide…). Without much emotive support from non-lead cast, or convincing reasonings behind the actions of the antagonists – it’s a fairly watchable couple of hours for a non-repeater.


#4 ‘Crazy Heart’ (2009)


Jeff Bridges

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Robert Duvall

Colin Farrell

Director:- Scott Cooper


Let me be the first to admit – Jeff Bridges is one of my favourite actors of all time. This guy can seriously act his chops off and put the world to rights in the space of ten words. His cult iconic role in Coens classic ‘The Big Lebowski’ put Bridges well and truly on the map and ushered in a phenomenon of popularity for the character he portrayed – The Dude. Arguably, the ‘coolest’ man ever. Jeff later went on to star in K-PAX with Kevin Spacey, Iron Man and 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy (balls up there I think…)

But yes, it is a one-sided opinion, and I’ve been fairly off the mark with these things before. My only argument for this one in particular? Academy Award. Jeff scooped the best actor award at 2009’s Oscar ceremony, where he was heralded by his peers and mentors. Far fucking out man…

As it’s nearly Oscar time for the last 12 months of cinema, I thought I’d recap the film that gave Jeff the opportunity to win the award. Crazy Heart.

He plays country music legend, Otis ‘Bad’ Blake – For the duration of the film though, he only refers to himself as ‘Bad’, and will be ‘Bad’ til the day he dies – so he says. An audacious method of separating the good side from the ‘bad’ side – See what I did there?

Travelling across the States armed only with his guitar, bottle of whisky and a packet of smokes, Bad performs at downtrodden, beaten bars and bowling alleys to a pack of beer-swilling, slack-jawed fans of yester-year.  Bad’s problem (apart from this one), is that he’s on his last legs. After years of smoking and alcohol abuse, he’s pretty much one step from being face down in the dirt – but trucks on to make good on his gig commitment and to bag himself some well-needed cash.

Bad Blake, as a character is a screamingly obvious homage to stars like Kris Kristofferson. Jeff’s natural ability toward the character does make it seem so much more grounded and humble. Almost like watching a biopic or documentary – A whirlwind career turned sour. I found myself very skeptical of how the film would pan out however, questioning whether Crazy Heart would have a bigger payoff from either ending in Blake’s ultimate downfall, or ultimate rebirth. A little disappointed I was with the general ending, but it was one of a few niggling aspects which pinched this film of repeat viewings.

The performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as journalist/love interest Jean was kind of out of place. Maggie’s a solid actress with a lot of good credits behind her – but her connection with Bridges is slightly…awkward(?) And at sometimes creepy. At times I thought this could be a show of pity toward Blake, a show of empathy. Sure, it looks lovely and full of ‘awwwness’ on screen but you may find yourself peeling back the layers and taking a closer look into her real intentions.

I’ll summarise this fairly rapidly…. Was Crazy Heart a great film? Not really. Was Jeff Bridges deserving of his Oscar? Hell yes.

Although formulaic and little too predictable (yesss) at times, it really wasn’t about the story that made it watchable – it was Bridges’ performance. Bringing such a subtlety of class during the musical numbers, and an eerily disheartening feeling in a deleted scene depicting Blake’s relapse into alcoholism and his unforeseen woes at being rejected by Jean.

With credible support from Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell (yes, Colin Farrell ain’t too bad at all here). Crazy Heart, although not his best movie to date, definitely Jeff Bridges’ best performance to date. Best watched with a cold beer, and a couple of smokes.

That’s how The Dude abides.





100 Favourite Films Upto 2010

These are my personal favourite 100 films that I have seen for the last 24 years. It has nothing to do with how the production was, how the acting or story was – or any of that critical crap. Generally it’s all down to if it struck any sort of chord with me. The ascending order from 100-01 is based on how often I would watch the film again, recommendation to others, how often I think I visited the toilet during viewing, and how much it prompted me to find other films by the actors/actresses starring.

100. Control
99. Apocalypse Now
98. Harry And The Hendersons
97. Sin City
96. True Lies
95. The Temple Of Doom
94. American Graffiti
93. Swingers
92. Blue Velvet
91. The Untouchables
90. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
89. The Godfather Part 3
88. Independence Day
87. The Incredible Hulk
86. Ringu
85. The Bourne Identity
84. Seven
83. The Abyss
82. Rocky II
81. Up
80. Short Circuit
79. Training Day
78. The Lion King
77. The Town
76. Being John Malkovich
75. Home Alone 2 – Lost In New York
74. Requiem For A Dream
73. Leon
72. Heat
71. Good Will Hunting
70. The Hudsucker Proxy
69. Terminator
68. Full Metal Jacket
67. Clash Of The Titans (1981)
66. Willow
65. Spider-Man
64. The Departed
63. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
62. Moon
61. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
60. Kick-Ass
59. Once Upon A Time In The West
58. Bubba Ho-Tep
57. True Romance
56. American History X
55. The Birds
54. Toy Story
53. 2001: A Space Odyssey
52. Ghostbusters
51. Scarface
50. Con-Air
49. Die Hard
48. Platoon
47. Spirited Away
46. Pulp Fiction
45. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
44. Memento
43. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
42. Commando
41. Once Upon A Time In America
40. The Goonies
39. Hot Fuzz
38. 28 Days Later
37. Reservoir Dogs
36. Terminator 2 – Judgment Day
35. Spider-Man 2
34. Toy Story 2
33. Drop Dead Fred
32. Raging Bull
31. The Godfather Part 2
30. Return Of The Jedi
29. Dogma
28. Fargo
27. Dumb And Dumber
26. Transformers (Animated Movie)
25. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
24. Blade Runner
23. Star Wars
22. South Park – Bigger, Longer and Uncut
21. The Prestige
20. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
19. Falling Down
18. Labyrinth
17. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
16. Tron
15. Little Miss Sunshine
14. Dog Day Afternoon
13. Taxi Driver
12. Alien
11. The Hangover
10. A Clockwork Orange
09. Fight Club
08. Batman Begins
07. The Empire Strikes Back
06. The Godfather
05. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
04. Inception
03. The Dark Knight
02. Aliens
01. The Big Lebowski

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