16 August 2009

Matt's Movie Review: District 9 and The Worst Movies I've Seen So Far

Today Collin and I saw District 9, the new sci-fi movie from first time director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson. The film's premise is fascinating. 20 years ago an enormous spaceship arrived on Earth and coasted to a stop hovering right over Johannesburg, South Africa. Then, nothing happened for a while. Eventually the South African authorities decided to cut open the spaceship and see what was inside. What they found were about a million aliens who were leaderless, malnourished, and revolting. They were transformed to a temporary relocation camp which eventually became a permanent fenced slum. The aliens, derogatorily referred to as prawns, live in filth, are discriminated against and widely reviled, and are preyed upon by a gang of Nigerian criminals that exploit their addiction to a certain substance.

As the film begins, the aliens are about to be moved into something closer to a concentration camp by MNU, a giant multinational corporation with a sizable military wing (think Haliburton with a dose of Blackwater). This sets the stage for a scathing political allegory about man's inhumanity to those it considers the other (it is no coincidence that the film is set in Johannesburg, where there was a giant slum during apartheid known as district 6).

Unfortunately, after the initial brilliant setup, at some point the film becomes a rather cliched and almost dull summer action movie. While still at times entertaining and often visually stunning (the CGI is fantastic), the story seems thrown together, with the main character just happening to end up where the story needs him to end up. All in all, I feel that the last half to two thirds of the movie simply don't do justice to the brilliant opening and the brilliant concept. I think there are enough interesting elements to the movie to recommend it, but ultimately it falls somewhere short of its initial promise.

Worst movies of the year so far:

3. Duplicity

Duplicity should have been great. It was directed by Tony Gilroy, who directed the tremendous film Michael Clayton. The cast is stellar: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson. The concept of a high stakes con movie combined with a screwball romantic comedy sounded interesting. Unfortunately for whatever reason it just didn't come together. I am including it in part for Mandy, who truly hated it.

2. Friday the 13th

I know, I know, I shouldn't expect much from slasher flicks. But this one was truly awful. It was a long exercise in watching an uninteresting killer come up with increasingly uninteresting ways to kill even more uninteresing victims. I cared about absolutely no one in this movie except for the funny Asian stoner kid, and he gets killed about halfway through. Just awful.

1. Terminator: Salvation

I dealt with this extensively in an earlier post. Probably not technically as bad as Friday the 13th but more egregious given how cool it potentially could have been.

Finally, it's time for the Daddy Day Camp award. This most coveted bad movie award goes annually to a movie that I don't even see, but grow to hate after I suffer through its trailer multiple times. This year's Daddy Day Camp award goes to--drumroll--The Time Traveler's Wife. (It narrowly beat out GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.) You would have to strap me in a chair and pry my eyes open a la Alex from A Clockwork Orange to get me to watch this thing. If any of you have seen it or any of these other flicks and want to defend them or pile on, leave us a comment.


  1. I feel like I should point out how miserable I was during Duplicity. Like Matt, I had been excited to see the film. Once it started, though, I felt the movie narcolepsy coming on, and I fell asleep for about 10 minutes. When I finally woke up, I had no idea what was going on.

    Apparently those 10 minutes were very important to anyone who wanted to understand the plot of the film, and it was during that time that the whole con was explained.

    I spent the next 100 hours of my life trying to figure out what was happening, angry and trapped in a movie theater wishing I had just gone to Target instead. (But I was afraid that if I just got up and left I would ruin Matt's movie-going experience; either that or he would think that I was mad at him for some reason.)

    Damn you, Duplicity! I want my time [and money] back!

  2. I actually liked District 9. I guess we'll talk about why I'm wrong at trivia.

  3. Don't get me wrong, Steve, I did like District 9. I wasn't suggesting that it was one of the worst movies I've seen this year. However, I do think it didn't quite live up to either its hype or its opening sequences. On balance, I would recommend it, just not as enthusiastically as I had hoped.

  4. Child, please.

    I'm more interested in finding out what parts lost you as an educated, intelligent viewer than looking to criticize.

    I can where after the first act, you expect to be blown away for another hour, but what scenes or moments specifically let you down as you were watching.



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