THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: Moviegoers Will Be On Cloud ’9′
After months of quietly building buzz, the Peter Jackson-produced, Neill Blomkamp-directed sci-fi thriller District 9 is hitting theaters with a bang. The story centers on a remote South African colony that is home to a group of alien refugees. Critics are already calling it an instant classic. Steven Rea, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, says,
What is absolutely impressive are the visual effects: the hordes of aliens, the mother ship, the seamless blending of the real with the fantastic. The allegorical allusions to ghettos and concentration camps, the street signs reading ‘No nonhuman loitering,’ the callous degradation of an entire race: It isn’t hard to see what this talented South African director is getting at.”
Will audiences turn out for it? It remains to be seen whether, in this summer of Transformers and G.I. Joe, audiences will turn out for a huge blockbuster movie that’s not also completely brain dead.
Hayao Miyazaki‘s sweetly engaging fairy tale Ponyo also opens this week and it seems the prolific animation auteur has delivered another tour de force. Scott Foundas, of The Village Voice, writes,
The advance word on Ponyo had suggested that the film would mark a conscious return by its director to the gentler, more kid-friendly style of movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service, and while that may be the case, the appeal of Ponyo is hardly limited to the Romper Room set. It’s a movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki himself, can still happily commune with his inner five-year-old.”
Content aside, I’m just thrilled that someone has the guts to still use the hand-drawn animation technique. It’s depressing how many computer-generated cartoons come out every year. They pop up like toys on an assembly line. Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, Ice Age, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and on and on. I miss the beauty, complexity, and rich detail of the images in movies like The Lion King and The Iron Giant. Just because a new technology exists, doesn’t mean it has to be overused to death.
For the tween set is Bandslam, a coming-of-age musical drama starring Vanessa Hudgens and Lisa Kudrow, among other rising stars. The movie has received surprisingly good reviews. Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, writes,
It’s no minor compliment that Bandslam gets a stamp of approval from David Bowie, who plays a small but pivotal role. Given that it’s aimed at High School Musical fans, Todd Graff‘s romantic dramedy is considerably cooler than it needs to be. Yes, the plot is totally predictable. But the smart script consistently tweaks the formula, allowing director/cowriter Graff to pull off the near-impossible: making a movie that neither sells out nor talks down to teens.”
I’m sure John Hughes would be proud.