Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DVD Round-Up: District 9, Music Within, The Maiden Heist,

I'm a bit behind in reviewing my DVD viewing, mostly because I haven't seen anything so amazing, I want to shout the news. However, I have seen a few I enjoyed, so here they are.

District 9 came out last summer and is another good version of a short film being extended into a feature film (the best recent example I can think of is Frozen River). It's a documentary-style film for the first 45 or so minutes, following a civil servant, Wikus Van De Merwe, in South Africa whose job is to go get the signatures of aliens who are being moved from their current squalor situation to a different one further from the human population of Johannesburg. The aliens arrived 20 years ago, starving, and unable to space travel any longer. They've been living in South Africa, existing on cat food and garbage, and being exploited, studied, and basically cast into the most subservient roles in society. Then the movie takes it's action movie turn. Our hero becomes infected with a strange liquid while touring the shacks of aliens. He starts changing physically and comes under the jurisdiction of a military-type company who wants to exploit him for the alien weapons. When he escapes, the only place he can find help is in the home of Christopher Johnson, a "prawn" who has been trying to find a way off earth. Lots of action sequences follow as the human military tries to capture Wikus, Johnson tries to get his space ship running, and Wikus tries to become human again. Most of the movie is really interesting, with some extended sequences that go on a bit long. The main character, played by newcomer Sharlto Copley, is compelling enough to keep you interested, and the novelty of the story makes any sci-fi fan come back for more. Overall, good movie, 3 of 5 stars.

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The next movie I saw on DVD is Music Within. It originally arrived on my Netflix queue because I like its star, Ron Livingston, and his story seemed compelling from the preview on another disc. Livingston plays Richard Pimental, one of the writers and proponents of what would become the Americans with Disabilities Act. Pimental returns from Vietnam, where he went because he couldn't afford college, with severe hearing loss. He has trouble getting and holding jobs due to his disability. He is able to go to college thanks to the GI Bill, and meets Art, a brilliant man with severe cerebral palsy who also has difficulty getting around a college university in the late 1970s and early 1980s (he's played by the wonderful Michael Sheen). Pimental has learned to read lips, and because of that is able to understand Art better than most hearing people. While they spend a lot of time arguing, and Pimental has to overcome a particularly dysfunctional childhood that led to dysfunctional romantic relationships. It's an inspiring look at a time and situation that few born after 1980 would be really aware of. I grew up aware of the ramps, and the handicapped accessibility, or lack thereof of most buildings. A good family friend was once responsible for helping the NYC transit system become completely handicap accessible (I now know they were complying with the newly passed Americans with Disabilities Act). This movie, while inexpertly written, shows glimpse into how that all came about. 3 of 5 stars/lambs

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The last movie I've seen recently was a straight to DVD release that I saw advertised in Entertainment Weekly when it was released. The Maiden Heist would likely have bombed at the box office, but the stars and story make for a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon. It's a simple story of 3 museum security guards (luckily not the same ones as A Night at the Museum), played by William H. Macy, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Walken, who are each in love with a piece of art at the museum they protect that will be sent away in a new exhibit. Rather than move to Denmark, the site of the new exhibit housing their loves, they decide to steal their pieces. Their inexpert thievery and individual idiosyncrasies (Freeman is gay and lives with lots of cats, Macy likes to pose naked with the object of his affection, and Walken's wife, Marcia Gay Harden is awesome) makes for some very funny scenes and stories. It's almost an over the top farce, but still remarkably enjoyable. It's predictable, but watching four Oscar-worthy actors perform outside their normal roles is lots of fun. 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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Rachel said...

I didn't go crazy for District 9 like a lot of folks. By the time I got to see it, it had already been extremely hyped, which is never good. I also went to see it after a very exhausting week of Mia being in the hospital, and it just wasn't what I needed at the time, so in the end I really didn't like it. However, I realize the circumstances greatly affected my attitude going in, so I'm willing to give it another shot one of these days.

Jess said...

First, I love your profile pic - such a cutie. Second, I agree. While it's originality carried it further than a lot of other movies, it wasn't everything a wonderful movie has to be. It was good, but not great. I bet you'd enjoy it on DVD. Plus, the extras on the DVD are actually really good.