"The World's Greatest Dad" (2009) Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait - Robin Williams stars as a shleppy high school teacher who profits from faking his son's suicide (the lout in fact expired from auto-erotic asphyxiation) and then can't take the guilt and shame of his fraud. Yup, after a long haitus, Robin Williams is back scrounging for street cred in a low budget black comedy. Unfortunately his sense of sheer chutzpah has been dulled by years of easy ass work in dreck like "Patch Adams"or sentimental trash like "RV", that plus the fact that the script while audacious is light on laughs makes for an indifferent viewing experience. However mega props to Daryl Sabara who turns in a bravura performance as Williams' thoroughly appalling teenaged son whose death sets the whole mishaugas rolling.
"District 9" (2009) Directed by Neil Blomkamp - BEST sci-fi movie I've seen all summer! Directed by an unknown and full of unknown South African actors, I mean who knew???
Unsightly insectoid aliens land in South Africa, where they are immediately segregated into a giant shanty town and exploited mercilessly. Eventually their numbers grow to the point where the government resolves to relocate them to a concentration camp. Sharlto Copley plays a geeky bureaucrat charged with running the forced re-location at least until he gets exposed to some secret alien goo and starts mutating into one of them!
Science fiction preachments is one of the hardest genres to get right, so it is nice to see a good honest stab at using the prism of speculative fiction to examine issues of class and race, somewhere in Valhalla, Rod Serling is wiping away a tear.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) Directed by Quentin Tarantino - Well I wanted to like this one very much, I am normally a big QT apologist, but this film just rambles way too much despite its many virtues. chiefly a great star turn from Brad Pitt as "Aldo the Apache" a US Army commando sent to France with an all Jewish guerilla team to harass the Nazis in preparation for the Normandy invasion. Well they get mixed up in a bid to kill Hitler and the Nazi high command at a Paris film premiere. this all sounds great and a perfect set up for the old Tarantino ultra-violence, but the Basterds of the title get sidetracked half way thru the film while Melanie Laurent's story (a vengeful Jewish Theater owner in Paris) and Diane Kruger's arc (a turncoat German actress) hold sway. In short the story meanders horribly.
And another thing, Tarantino has a gift for great dialogue it is very baroque but the ear tunes to it naturally, when it is rendered as German or French subtitles something is definitely lost.
Nonetheless the performances are all very strong especially Eli Roth as a vengeful member of the Basterds and Christoph Walz as a Jew-hunting member of the SS, all very recognizable Tarantino character types. And let me take a moment to note that whatever else is lacking in this film, Tarantino does have the courage of his convictions, other directors would make a long discursive arc around the issue of historic accuracy, not Quentin though, he wants to put Hitler and Goering in a Parisian fire fight and damn the consequences, too bad the film is never more than the sum of it's parts.