District 9

This is the movie "Transformers" should have been, although Michael Bay has never shot such an involving, coherent actioner! This exciting sci fi drama makes good use of the considerable resources which producer Peter Jackson ("Lord of the Rings" trilogy) brings to the table: the screen is teeming with human-sized, insectoid, sentient creatures which require LOTS of talented, high-cost CGI technicians!

A gigantic space ship hovers low over Johannesburg, South Africa; it has been there for 20 years. Early on, military forces were sent to cut their way into it. They discovered thousands upon thousands of extra terrestrials who were starving to death, so they brought them to earth and placed them in a huge camp called "District 9." Over the years, the camp evolved into a militarily enforced prison compound where the poor refugees have become targets of anti-Prawn activism. (They are called Prawns because of their unusual physiognomy.) A mafia-like gang of Nigerians has taken over all commerce inside District 9 because discrimination will not allow the creatures to work outside.

This is the setup and from here on I will only talk to the JayFlix folks who can deal with hard-core sci fi. The rest of you go see a quieter film, okay? "Julie and Julia" comes to mind...smile...

This terrific film has one of the best character arcs I have seen in years: A timid, eager-to-please government functionary is being videotaped as they document his efforts to evict the ETs and move them to District 10; the local citizens are out of patience and have started a strong anti- Prawn movement. From his early naïve attempts to serve eviction notices on the ETs, our hero is pulled into a no-holds-barred interspecies struggle and we side with him as he evolves into an action hero.

The clever quasi-documentary style seems to be the only reason why "Cloverfield" was even mentioned in the same breath as this enjoyable movie. The aforementioned catastrophe had no cohesive story, no relatable characters and certainly no one to root for. By contrast, "District 9" manipulates us into a sympathetic view of the ETs and we cheer as our milquetoast climbs into a gizmo much like Ripley's in "Alien" and rips some hateful militants a new one! The screening audience applauded.

We see lots of blowie uppie stuff, all of which makes sense; hear lots of profanity, all of which is appropriate; discover a love story, which is unexpected; and easily follow a complicated plot despite lots of yelling, many many explosions, and big-time fire power (which only works with a particular DNA...yup, that's what I said...trust me!).

Go see this movie!