It's always amazing to see a new and interesting director come onto the scene, and then utterly disappointing to see them crash and burn. I was as excited as anyone to see what M. Night Shyamalan would do after The Sixth Sense and maintained that excitement through Unbreakable (under appreciated in my opinion and holds up way better than Sense in repeat viewings). But I have slowly gone from great anticipation over what he’s doing next to complete ambivalence as he continues to make the same movie over and over (in increasingly disappointingly fashion again and again). In a similar way the Wachowskis have never lived up to their own hype after The Matrix. Although unlike Shyamalan, they at least continue to take big swings and try to make interesting films (even if they usually wind up failing at it).
And now we have Neil Blomkamp. His District 9 was an intelligent, passionate, allegorical piece of science fiction that (I thought) heralded a new face for the genre. He followed it with Elysium, which was much more ham-fisted in its presentations of big ideas, and now his latest film Chappie has been pretty well mauled by critics.
That film, like his others is set in a slightly futuristic South Africa, but in this one the government has purchased super robots to do the heavy lifting for the police force. As one might expect, trouble ensues. Dev Patel plays the creator of the robots and he wants them to be more than just giant enforcers with a badge. So he creates CHAPPiE out of spare parts and installs a new AI prototype that gives the robot human-like intelligence and emotions. Then come the bad guys looking to use CHAPPiE for their own nefarious ways.
Etc., and so forth. That sounds interesting to me and Blomkamp is the sort of guy one hopes can take those ideals and plot points and make something amazing. Apparently, if pretty much everyone is to be believed, he fails miserably at it. But you know what, sometimes you just gotta take a chance, throw caution to the wind, and hope that pretty much everyone is wrong. Which is why, against popular opinion, I’m making Chappie my Pick of the Week.
For those of you who still believe in Blomkamp, there is a nice-looking boxed set of all three of his films with lots of new extras and a big 64-page digibook.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films (My Dinner with André, Vanya on 42nd Street, A Master Builder) (Criterion Collection): Wallace Shawn is best known for his role in The Princess Bride, but he’s actually a well respected writer, essayist, and playwright. I’ve not seen any of these films but they’ve long gotten rave reviews from the critics.
Spirited Away & The Cat Returns: A couple of classic Studio Ghibli films get a Blu-ray upgrade. For my money, Spirited Away is one of the studio’s greatest films, which places it high on my list of greatest animated films of all-time.
Welcome to Me: Kristne Wiig stars a a woman who wins the lottery, quits her psych meds, and buys her own talk show. It also stars James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Linda Cardellini. For some reason I’ve seen very little of Wiig’s work, but those who get nerdy about comedy seem to love her so I’m ready to give her a shot. In his review, Chris Morgan writes, "It’s definitely worth seeing."
Wild Tales: This Argentine/Spanish comedy features six short films united by a common theme of violence and vengeance. Its won a bunch of awards and is apparently the biggest Argentine film of all time.