Two thousand and nine had already seen it’s fair share of sci-fi stunners with Transformers, Star Trek, Monsters vs. Aliens and Terminator Salvation all hitting screens before District 9; but with the late surge it has certainly made a claim to be the strongest of the bunch. Of the former Star Trek was the most fully rounded actioner, while Monsters vs. Aliens brought lots of fun so there was plenty of room for District 9 quench our thirst.
The district in question finds us in Johannesburg twenty years after the historic arrival of an alien ship full of over a million aliens known derogatorily as ‘prawns’. These prawns are moved down into a shanty town settlement outside the city where they have lived under the watchful eye of ubiquitous mega corporation MNU (Multi-National Corporation). With resentment towards their truly international neighbours growing, the populous are appeased by MNU’s plan to rehouse the alien colony to slightly further afield in what amounts to a concentration camp. With this in mind they promote Wikus van de Merwe to spearhead the operation, from their Department for Relations with Extraterrestrial Civilizations (who happens to be married to the bosses daughter) and it is from here the fun begins.
Watch out! Tarantino is back to carpet-bomb our senses once more with another elaborate and loud feature with his usual eclectic mix of guns, explosions, satire, music, sex and endless film references…but this time there are Nazis! Tarantino has never been known for his subtlety and this new offering is no exception. With an even more epic plot, shattering violence and more film references than you can shake a stick at, it is business as usual for the avid director. You can’t blame some critics for being slightly apprehensive about the arrival of Inglorious Basterds as Tarantino’s latest efforts have been somewhat below par compared to his early films, and it seems with every new offering Tarantino is just trying far too hard to cram all of his favourite movies into a two hour feature. I have long wished to see a return to the Tarantino of old whose movies had a real edge to them and were truly visceral masterpieces; namingly Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It’s not a surprise to hear the mixed receptions that met Inglorious when it arrived; it has been hailed as a hark back to his early films and although there were generally good write-ups, some at Cannes claimed Tarantino had ‘lost his power’ and the film failed as satire and as entertainment. Yet thus far it has become a modest success for Tarantino. There are definitely some great moments in Inglorious that are worthy of Tarantino’s best films but there are many signs that this could be the beginning of the end for Tarantino’s gargantuan presence on modern cinema.
Like a greasy kebab after a night on the cold hard tiles, the Final Destination franchise rears it’s deathly head again. This time with an ominous “The” prefix and the promise of even more stunning death scenes thanks to the 3D Force Engine behind the zero plot, zero character, all action chasis.
In all I’m a fan of the Final Destination series, while never scaling great heights the first and third installments were fun and tenacious efforts that delivered a decent balance of gore, ingenuity and cool that was enough to have me smiling and wincing in equal measure. I was looking forward to what they might do with the 3D engine as it could have been the thing to give the series the much needed kick in the balls it required to stave its decent into death porn mediocrity. Sadly, and on almost every level I can think of, it disappoints.
On the strength of this showing you’d be hard pressed to believe that the premise began as an X-Files spec script as there is absolutely none of the clever story writing and character development on display in ‘The’ Final Destination. Cardboard characters of no specific background are left floating in a peed in pool of effects, predictable plot twists and self parody .
I can say without a doubt, that this is the greatest movie about high tech FBI super spy guinea pigs ever made!
That said, I can’t name any other movies that fit that description. There are many examples of anthropomorphic shenanigans in Hollywood from Disney’s Robin Hood to Who Framed Roger Rabbit but I can honestly say none are quite like this fun fare from Jerry Bruckheimer’s studio. The film follows the four pint sized heroes as they battle against a corporate villain, the FBI and themselves to stop an evil range of coffee machines taking over the world! I kid thee not.
Our main protagonist is Darwin (Sam Rockwell) the leader and inspirational icon for the G-Force team. He leads the team of courageous mini-guini-spies on their dangerous mission into a world they don’t well know. We get various set pieces that range form the exciting (car-on-hamster ball chase, espionage action and big bot battle) to the amusing (homes, pet shop) and they each run the story along at a comfortable if never deft defying pace. The G-Force crew all fit your classic ‘team’ templates, the feisty foreign female, rag-tag ‘gangsta’ playboy and playful comedy geek and they would likely be left flat if it weren’t for some capable voice acting from the likes of Penelope Cruz, Jon Favreau and Nicholas Cage. A short turn from Steve Buscemi as pet shop hamster Bucky drew a warm smile from this reviewer as much as any of the on screen action or scmhaltz.
All in all it’s a fairly light-hearted affair with little indication the cast or crew took it too seriously. The plot is predictable and the ‘twist’ wont lose you any sleep but there is enough here to warrant a viewing that you’ll find enjoyable but forgettable. A definite for the kids or anyone with an automatic “aww” reflex when they see small fluffy animals do human things. Certainly while I watched it there were two girls I thought might explode in a candy floss hurricane of uncontrollable cutesy joy as the diminutive heroes went about their stuff. It all boils down to one huge chase and ‘bag guy’ battle that aren’t immediately stimulating but lent enough oomph by the 3D camera work to draw out a gasp, even if it’s only a pet sized one.