Watch the whole thing HERE!
Posts Tagged ‘Neill Blomkamp’
Watch the whole thing HERE!
The word ‘short’ has many meanings.
Pair it with ‘pants’ and it evokes memories of childhood summers. Match it with the syllables ‘and sweet’ and it conjures up a pleasant feeling but when you partner it with the word film, as in short film, you open up a world of possibilities. Just ask Tim Burton, Paul Thomas Anderson or Sam Raimi.
Each of them started by making shorts, several of which were later expanded upon to become well known features.
Burton’s Frankenweenie first saw life as a Disney short way back in 1984. The Dirk Diggler Story is the 1988 mockumentary short written and directed by Anderson that became the basis for Boogie Nights and Within the Woods was the short calling card that helped Raimi get Evil Dead made.
This weekend short films inspired two big releases.
The Babadook is the feature directorial debut of Australian Jennifer Kent. The horror movie plays up the most terrifying aspect of a primal relationship—the bond between mother and child—coupled with a young boy’s fear that a storybook beastie, the titular Babadook, is going to spring from the page and eat them both. The ideas that make The Babadook so unsettling first took shape in a ten minute short called Monster that screened at 40 festivals worldwide.
“I had a friend who had a child that she was really having trouble connecting with,” Kent told Den of Geek. “He was little and he kept seeing this monster man everywhere. The only way she could get him to calm down was to get rid of it as if it was real. And then I thought, well what if it was actually real? That’s how the short idea came about.”
Eleven years ago District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s short Tetra Vaal asked the question, What would happen if we could build a robot to police developing nations?
The answer may lie in his new feature, this weekend’s Chappie. The South African-born, Vancouver-based director said Chappie is, “basically based on Tetra Vaal,” with the spirit of the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord infused in the story. The minute-and-twenty-second short features Blomkamp’s signature mix of gritty realism and high tech computer generated images and stars the “ridiculous robot character” with wild rabbit ears—inspired by Briareos from the manga Appleseed—played by Sharlto Copley in the big screen adaptation.
Blomkamp said he made his shorts as “a collection of work so I could get representation as a commercial director,” but they soon opened a world of possibilities for him when they caught Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s eye. To paraphrase Dave Edmunds, “from small things baby, one day big things come.”
Imagine “Short Circuit” shot with hand held cameras. Or maybe “Bicentennial Man” with better special effects. Or a less politically astute “RoboCop.” No matter how you wire it “Chappie” is a movie that feels like a bucket of nuts and bolts borrowed from other films.
Set next year in Johannesburg, “Chappie” is the story of Scout 22, an “officer” in a droid police force created by arms corporation Tetra Vaal lead designer Deon (Dev Patel). The mechanized cops use ultra-violence to subdue drug dealers, gangsters and other assorted criminal riff raff.
Deon’s creations are a success but he wants his androids to be more than just killing machines. He wants them to think and feel, to write music, appreciate art [and] “have original ideas.”
When Scout 22 is injured in the line of duty, Deon Wilson—counter to Tetra Vaal’s CEO, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) and hardline hardware designer Vincent’s (Hugh Jackman) wishes—scoops up the ‘bot’s broken bits and pieces with the idea of reprogramming him to become sentient. “I brought you into this world. A machine that can think and feel,” says Deon.
Before Deon can create his new synthetically sensitive robot, however, he and the pile of damaged droid parts find themselves held hostage by a trio of gangsters, Yo-Landi, Ninja (Die Antoord’s Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja) and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who want Deon to shut off Jo’burg’s robocops so they can roam free and pull off a heist with no police interference.
When the terrified programmer explains there is no off switch for the crime fighters, a plan is hatched to turn Scout 22, now dubbed Chappie (a motion-captured Sharlto Copley), into “Indestructible Robot Gangster Number 1.”
The reprogrammed Chappie is “raised” by his “maker” Deon and the gangsters, with whom he forms a defacto family. From Deon he learns creativity; from Ninja and Co. he finds an appreciation of “Masters of the Universe,” street lingo and bling. While Deon is busy trying to prevent Vince from sabotaging the Scout project, Ninja and Amerika manipulate Chappie into doing the one thing he swore he would never do—break the law.
“Chappie” feels like a kid’s movie; a violent and action packed children’s film. The character has a childlike wonder about the world, and there are several almost Disney-esque moments—but the feel-bad Disney where parents die and defenceless characters are left to fend for themselves. Trouble is none of those moments have the same oomph as “Your mother can’t be with you anymore, Bambi.” For all of Chappie’s childlike innocence there’s nothing particularly endearing about him and without an emotional connection to the main character he is little more than a computer with legs and funny rabbit ears.
Director Neill Blomkamp’s trademarked mix of gritty realism and sleek state-of-the-art CGI are present in “Chappie” but one-note performances—I’m looking at you Ninja!—and a story that feels cobbled together from other, better robot movies makes one wish for more intelligence—artificial or otherwise—in the storytelling.
Director Neill Blomkamp’s big screen debut, “District 9,” a mockumentary (and Best Picture nominee) that examined themes of apartheid in a sci fi context, had thrills to spare and a real beating heart.
The South African born, Vancouver-based Blomkamp brings that same kind of humanity to “Elysium,” but it doesn’t feel quite as fresh this time around. It’s exciting, has some great action and ideas and stars everybody’s boyfriend Matt Damon, but for all that, it feels much more standard than I hoped it would be.
Set in 2154, humanity has split into two sections, the 1%, who live on an Eden called Elysium that hovers high above Earth, and the 99% who toil on what’s left of our dystopian planet. The 1% have it all plus medical care that can cure any ailment in seconds.
On earth Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-thief who has always dreamed of living in Elysium and is now working a straight job in hopes of saving enough to buy a ticket. When he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation he makes a deal with crime boss (Wagner Moura) who hires him to do one last job in return for a one-way ticket to Elysium and health. In his way are Elysium’s Secretary of Defence (Jodie Foster) and a wild-eyed mercenary (Sharlto Copley).
Most of “Elysium” works well.
The set-up is interesting, even if it is reminiscent of everything from “Oblivion” and even “WALL-E.” For the first hour it does what good sci fi should do, comment on the human condition. The speculative elements of the story serve as a backdrop for a story about class struggle, the will to live and the primal nature of power struggles. For sixty minutes Blomkamp and company mix and match sci fi and real human drama but in the last forty minutes “Elysium” becomes an ordinary bash-‘em-and-beat-‘em action movie with sentimental and mawkish overtones.
It’s not bad, and, in fact, by times is pretty great, just not as great as I expected.
Damon impresses. He’s believable as both the sensitive guy with a dream and the lethal, half-cyborg warrior capable of opening a can of futuristic whoop ass on everyone in his way.
Copley is entertaining, chewing through the scenery like he hasn’t eaten in a week and Jodie Foster is nicely cast as the ice cold Donald Rumsfeld style villain, but I found her perfect diction REALLY distracting. Every word she says seemed to have its own finely honed shape to the point where I almost had a hard time understanding what she was saying.
Beyond that the action scenes are frequently exciting (especially early on) and there are some crazy weapons—like the explosives that turn people into meat bombs. If only the last forty minutes lived up to the promise of the first sixty.