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Tag Archive: District 9


The 5th Wave invasion

The aliens have arrived.

It’s flat-out one of our favorite sci-fi sub-genres.  The alien invasion flick.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T, the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Predator (1987), Alien Nation (1988), They Live (1988), Independence Day (1996), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Men in Black (1997), Starship Troopers (1997), Signs (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Cloverfield (2008), District 9 (2009), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  These are some of the most exciting and fun sci-fi movies to watch and re-watch.

Kick-Ass and The Equalizer’s Chloë Grace Moretz stars in a new Sony/Columbia Pictures release, The 5th Wave, which looks like it’s mixing the alien invasion film with the disaster movie, the epidemic movie, and the body snatcher movie.  The only thing missing is zombies.  But body snatchers are close enough.

Alien ship in The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave co-stars Office Space star Ron Livingston, X-Men Origins and The Sum of All Fears’ Liev Shreiber, and Prime Suspect and Assault on Precinct 13’s Maria Bello.  Is Moretz a normal Earthling or one of us taken over by the aliens?

Check out this first trailer for The 5th Wave:

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Chappie police robot

First we saw CNN’s Anderson Cooper reporting in the Black Widow comic book series, now he’s leading up the latest trailer for Neill Blomkamp’s 2015 release Chappie.  Columbia Pictures has switched gears since the original trailer was released, from a quirky preview about a Pinocchio-esque robot trying to be real to a story that looks a lot like RoboCop.

It gets better–this trailer actually may bring in more moviegoers.  It reveals more action, the kind of action that Blomkamp showed us he could provide in his Academy Award-nominated geopolitical sci-fi thrill ride District 9.  And where the first trailer sidelined stars Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, now they’re front and center.

RoboCop or Chappie

It still looks to be more light-hearted like Blomkamp’s District 9 and certainly less dark than his Elysium, but that might be a good thing, too.  Elysium sorely lacked any heart, and this may be an attempt to re-balance Blomkamp’s movies for a wider audience.

See for yourself–check out this new trailer for Chappie, after the break:

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Chappie dog skyline

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp has a unique vision for his sci-fi films.  His first foray, District 9, resulted in a rare nomination for the genre for an Academy Award.  District 9 looked at the social upheaval caused by a future immigration of aliens from a doomed spaceship.  Last year, he turned Matt Damon into a cyborg making an escape to a Utopian world in Elysium.

Now Blomkamp again looks at human society and culture but this time in the context of a robot with artificial intelligence in Chappie.  Chappie is a fish-out-of-water story about a robot experiencing what it means to be alive.

This modern take on the 1980s robot movie Short Circuit and update to Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial intelligence stars Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as an inventor who creates the robot that thinks and feels.  His creator role is like that of Geppetto from Pinocchio, and Chappie experiences his own growth like the puppet that wanted to be a real boy.

Chappie movie poster

As with Blomkamp’s prior sci-fi films, the special effects look to be superb.  The robot moves freely like a human, and it’s easy to predict that moviegoers will fall for this new creation.

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Automata poster A Automata poster B

Antonio Banderas is not someone you might think of as star of sci-fi or futuristic tales, but evidently this is one he’s had in play for a while.  He’s producing and starring in his next feature film–taking inspiration from Isaac Asimov short stories his new Automata looks a bit like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence meets Elysium or District 9.

Something about the variety of low-end tech robots and independent film vibe might show some promise, but it also may reflect a low production quality film, too.  It’s hard to say whether this is a poorly conceived trailer or reflective of what we’re going to see in the theaters. We’ll be waiting for early reviews before jumping in to see this one.

Automata also stars Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, and the great Robert Forster.  Gabe Ibáñez directs.

Here’s the trailer for Automata:

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Oblivion or Top Gun 2

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re in sync with Joseph Kosinski’s latest science fiction flick Oblivion, you may find yourself thinking about it days after you watched it.  Who exactly was (or will be) Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), his companion Vica (Andrea Risenborough), and the new arrival Julia (played by Bond girl Olga Kurylenko?  How do you know what is real and what is not?  A science fiction film can do something entirely new, or it can mix together quintessential science fiction elements in a new way.  Last summer’s moderately well-received Oblivion, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, is the latter.  It is a good mix of many things that ultimately serve to continue to prove that Tom Cruise knows how to pick scripts that entertain.  

Oblivion is post-apocalyptic, but without the dismal brown tones of most films in that genre.  It contains typical science fiction warning signs, including the age-old “beware of technology,” but also asks the question “are you sure you want to promulgate drone technologies?”  It mixes action and sci-fi in a visually impressive way.  But it does a lot more.

Oblivion clip A

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Elysium-The-Art-of-the-Film

Art designers or aspiring art design students will want to pick up Mark Salisbury’s new look at creating sets, costumes and props for a world of the future in Elysium: The Art of the Film Incorporating commentary from the up-and-coming science fiction director of the geo-political sci-fi thriller District 9, Neill Blomkamp, this new large format hardcover delves into the creative process from early ponderings to the imagery that made it to the final film cut.

Like listening to the first demo tapes of your favorite band or scanning the rough sketches of your favorite artist, taking a peek at the development of Hollywood magic through various aspects of a film can teach you a lot about a designer.  Watching the development of a cyborg exo-skeletal costume from inception to final crafted piece challenges the reader to agree or disagree with what is cut and what isn’t.  What physical elements, like utilitarian tubes and pipes, plastics or metals, make us think of the visual “future”?

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EUROPA-REPORT-Poster

We’ve previewed the first trailer for Matt Damon’s science fiction film, Elysium, earlier this year.  Writer/director Neill Blomkamp offers his next entry in the science fiction as social commentary vein following his very successful District 9, one of the few films ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This second trailer for Elysium reveals a far more layered and interesting film than that shown in the first preview, however, it suffers from the problem on the other side of the spectrum:  It just reveals too much.  It’s possible the marketing folks think they need to show more to get people interested and into the theaters, but you wish there was a better, middle ground to be found.  Still, it looks great.

Check out the second trailer released for Elysium:

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Elysium Poster

We included the new Matt Damon sci-fi vehicle Elysium in our list of twenty-four movies to look for in 2013 back in December.  District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, in only his second major film, and Tristar Pictures have just released the first preview.  We had an idea that Damon would be decked out in some type of cybernetic gear but no idea that it would factor into his role in the film so much, as revealed in this first trailer.

The year is 2154.  The affluent in society live away from Earth in a space habitat in Earth’s orbit called Elysium.  Earth has been laid to waste and mankind is left destitute.  As with Blomkamp’s critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated first film District 9, Elysium promises to wrestle with hefty political issues, including class struggle, poverty, and immigration.  And there looks to be plenty of summer blockbuster action and slick borg circuitry attached to Damon’s hero character, Max Da Costa.

Wait no further, here’s the first trailer for Elysium:

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While we wait for the opening night of Cowboys and Aliens on July 29, two days ago we walked through the top western movies to get psyched for Jon Favreau’s big budget clash of Old West and classic sci-fi story.  Today we run down the best alien movies Hollywood has created.  We’re not thinking so much about aliens in their native environment, or Star Wars and Star Trek films would top the list, but unexpected human encounters with otherworldly, friendly and not-so-friendly brethren. 

1.  THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).  It should be no surprise that a movie from the director of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and the editor of Citizen Kane and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) makes the top spot of this list.  Robert Wise’s classic story would fit solidly alongside the best Twilight Zone episodes.  And story is the point–no modern glitz and special effects necessary.  Michael Rennie appears to be just a man.  But he is not.  He is Klaatu, a visitor who has come to observe us in his flying saucer with the giant robot Gort.  How would we react to an alien visitor?  The first look at ourselves revealed paranoia and fear–it is the original self-reflection story that would later inspire V and Alien Nation.

2.  PREDATOR (1987).  He’s a hunter.  A collector.  And he’s on vacation.  That doesn’t sound like a high calibre story description.  Substitute the alien visitor and Predator is a western not unlike High Noon.  Our creature is a visitor with a secret past like any of a number of Clint Eastwood gunslingers.  And he is just as cool, a hunter that would stand firm alongside Boba Fett, Bossk, Dengar and Zuckus.  His make-up is unreal–truly alien to us–and he looks like a Nausicaan–that race that shoved a pool cue though Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Let’s see, who has an unusual skull that would look good on his trophy mantle?  How about that melon on Arnold Schwarzenegger?  There’s a cool vibe throughout the film and a great cast–and what other genre film features two future state governors?  And one of those gauntlets looks like Daniel Craig’s from the Cowboys and Aliens trailers.

3.  CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977).  But for Star Wars this picture would have gone off the charts the year it was released.  Because of multiple Star Wars viewings by me in 1977 and 1978 (I saw it ten times with my brother and sister instead of going to see anything else), I didn’t get to see this movie until years later when it was released on video.  But once I saw it, I realized how grand in scope it was.  Mix all the episodes of Leonard Nimoy’s old TV series In Search Of… and you’ll end up here.  A ship in the middle of the desert, a 1940s squadron appears out of nowhere, and we keep seeing this shape, painting it, making models of it.  Near the place where the Sundance Kid grew up is a destination for sci-fi fans now, at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.  And those five musical tones.  And an alien kidnapping scene, revealing nothing about the aliens, toys that seem to come alive, shocking and scary.  Invaders or friends?  Richard Dreyfuss’s second best movie.  One of Spielberg’s best.

4.  E.T.,THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982).  Not only did Close Encounters and The Day the Earth Stood Still teach us that aliens can be our friends, with E.T. a lot of us would never think to put up a fight when the invasion arrives.  Ugly but lovable, E.T. was funny, thrilling, and made us all cheer.  Ignore the recent edited, updated version–the original was just fine, thank you very much.  A classic pop culture film that gave us several catch phrases: “Home,”  “I’ll be right here,” “Be good,” “Phone home.”  And I am still addicted to Reese’s Pieces.  Another great Spielberg picture in his long list of blockbusters.

5.  ALIENS (1986).  Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson had it right when he said, “Game over, man, game over!”  The polar opposite of the aliens-as-friends films, these exoskeletal aliens have nothing in common with humans.  As villains, there is nothing for us to sympathize with.  They will just exterminate us.  This was a wake-up call for everyone who wants to meet our galactic neighbors.  Stay home and draw your curtains instead.  It was destiny that someone would pit them against Predator years later and it was no contest that we’d cheer the Predator.   And I don’t care what anyone says about the first movie with these monsters, Alien–Aliens, the sequel, was tons better with less unnecessary gross-outs.  You’ve seen one stomach burst, you’ve seen them all.  Skip the sequels but check out Aliens vs Predator for even more fun.

6.  THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984).  When Robert Preston, the original salesman from River City in The Music Man, comes to your planet looking to sell you something, like being a Starfighter, you know you have a different kind of film.  Here we expand the alien movie archetype from either good  or bad–aliens are shades of gray, like people, some are good, some are evil.  Directed by Nick Castle, John Carpenter’s colleague, a simple, quiet movie that has a lot of heart and makes everyone wish they’d get Alex Rogan’s calling.  And Grig’s make-up was the greatest thing until Enemy Mine.   With a great ending for the bad guys, with an all-time classic exchange:  “We’re locked into the moon’s gravitational pull!  What do we do?”  Answer?  “We die.”  Back in the days of arcades, this movie rivaled Tron as to coolness factor.  “Greetings, Starfighter.  You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.”  Where can I sign up? 

7.  THEY LIVE (1988).  This is a John Carpenter classic reviewed in an earlier post and puts Carpenter’s storytelling up there with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Here, the story goes that Earth has already been invaded and They have been living amongst us.  We could just ignore them.  After all they aren’t hurting anyone.  But once we see them they are sooo ugly.  And we were here first.  Some of us will play along to get the “good life”.  But for one guy trying to keep to himself, this is something he can’t ignore.  The truth must get out.  Roddy Piper is here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubblegum.  But no happily ever after will be had here.  They are here to stay.  On the one hand, some movie watchers and critics dismiss They Live as just another action flick.  But if  you pay attention, like with all Carpenter movies, you can see Carpenter’s masterwork is much more complex and dips into our own world’s politics and those who do, and those who don’t, sell-out.

8.  ALIEN NATION (1988).  Much more than just a morality play and allegory to our own prejudices, Alien Nation digs into the struggles all lifeforms surely must face in a multi-species environment.  What motivates us, how do we get along with others?  James Caan (The Godfather, Elf) and Mandy Patinkin (Princess Bride) were perfectly cast as human and Tenctonese cops.  The film’s themes prompted an immediate successful TV series starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpont.  Beyond the deeper themes, it’s a great police story and an odd, but fun, buddy movie of the Odd Couple variety. 

9.  WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005).  I almost didn’t see this remake in the theater.  But Tom Cruise movies are exciting and enjoyable 95% of the time.  So I saw it and just re-watched it a few weeks ago.  Here we see the futility of combating an invasion of even slightly more technology and might than us.  The situation really is hopeless.  All one can do is run.  As in They Live, with War of the Worlds the aliens have been here for a long time, only here they parked their vehicles here and are just now coming back to rev ’em up.  This movie has great special effects, truly creepy unsympathetic villains, and a lot of dread.  You really feel the pain of the result of alien visitors who don’t want to be our friends.  Yet another Spielberg blockbuster.

10.  DISTRICT 9 (2009).  A great film of political complexity.   A variant on Alien Nation, yet the same basic story.  An extraterrestrial race is forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth.  Their vessel runs out of resources and parks itself over South Africa.  It’s a blunt morality tale about the brutality of prejudice.  This one will strangely make you cheer against the humans.  Luckily for the visitors, they find a kindred spirit in a government agent who is accidentally exposed to their biotechnology.  You’ll find yourself asking:  What are your values?  How do you treat others who are different?  Where would you draw the line between life worthy of mutual respect and not?  Its documentary-style filming and non-American cast is refreshing and new.  And half the time you have to cringe at the protagonist’s actions.  Are we with him or not?

Honorable Mention: Starship Troopers (giant bugs destroy Rio de Janeiro, Johnny Rico is a classic western hero type), Enemy Mine (like Stagecoach, a human is stuck with an alien and even without a common language they come to realize how alike even different species can be and how valuable relationships can be formed by just trying to get along).

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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