30 August 2009
It’s hard to remember a film with a more bleak outlook on humanity than the sci-fi tale District 9.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp, whose resume includes only commercials, music videos and the 2005 short Alive in Joburg, upon which District 9 is based, and produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), the movie offers a frightening take on human nature and what might occur if aliens ever make it to Earth.
The setup is genius. About 20 years ago, a giant spaceship parked itself here—not above New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, but Johannesburg, South Africa. It hovered there until humans forced their way inside and found the insect-like alien inhabitants, more than a million malnourished worker drones, their leadership gone and now lacking the ability to make their own decisions.
Though I was not hopeful, I wanted to like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. G.I. Joe—both the toys and cartoon—was a big part of my childhood.
But watching the movie is like watching a prequel to a film that doesn’t exist. Director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) and his three writers spend the whole movie trying to sell us on a sequel, but they neglected to make this one good enough for us to care about what happens next.
G.I. Joe, which always was a very American fighting force in the toy line, animated series and comic books, is now a multinational, top-secret military group. Led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), its base of operations lies beneath the deserts of Egypt (a lot going on down there in the Hasbro universe). The bad guys, led by Scottish arms dealer McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), are holed up underneath the polar ice cap. My head hurts thinking about the construction costs.
In a movie called Funny People, you expect the people in it to be, well, funny. There are flashes of it—the natural comedic talents of the people involved won’t stay hidden forever—but maybe the inherent unlikability of the characters is part of the point of Judd Apatow’s third directorial effort.
The movie concerns George Simmons, an Adam Sandler-like comedy superstar, conveniently played by Adam Sandler, whose esteemed resume includes titles like Merman and Re-Do, in which his head is placed on a baby. George is a miserable, manipulative man who sleeps with a different girl (or two) every night and has an ego that desperately needs regular attention.
Then a doctor diagnoses him with a form of leukemia and ... nothing changes. He uses his likely fatal illness to reconnect with Laura (Leslie Mann), the one who got away years earlier because he cheated on her. She’s now married, with two kids.