December 29th, 2009

EXTRACT (2009) ** ½

Joel (Jason Bateman) owns an extract factory that is on the verge of being bought out by a major corporation. The deal falls through though when one of his workers loses a testicle in a freak factory accident. Not only does Joel have an impending lawsuit hanging over his head, he also has to contend with his cheating wife (Kristen Wiig), a sexy con artist (Mila Kunis), and his dopey bartender buddy (Ben Affleck).

Extract had a lot of potential but the flick is just as vanilla as the extract the main character sells. On one hand it’s good-natured and sorta funny; on the other hand, it’s innocuous and mostly forgettable. Although director Mike (Beavis and Butthead Do America) Judge is good at spotting humor in everyday situations (like the ever-so annoying neighbor); it’s not enough to sustain a feature length movie. More than anything, Extract seems more like an overlong unsold sitcom pilot.

Thankfully, the performances are uniformly great. Bateman does his umpteenth variation on his patented straight man shtick but is quite likable. It’s Ben Affleck though who makes the movie. He gives what’s probably his best performance of his career. He’s never been more relaxed and confident, and brightens the movie up whenever he’s on screen. Gene Simmons also puts in a memorable turn as a slimy shyster.

DISTRICT 9 (2009) **

A giant spaceship has been hovering over South Africa for the past twenty years while it’s inhabitants; “Prawns” (giant cockroaches) have been corralled into a slum called District 9 by a mysterious government agency. When a company axe man named Wickus (Sharlto Copley) is dispatched into the area to evict the extra-terrestrial tenets out of their homes, he inadvertently gets sprayed with some glop that turns him into a half-human-half-cockroach mutant. The government quickly kidnaps Wickus so they can conduct bio-weapon experiments on him. Eventually he escapes and teams up with a cockroach scientist named Christopher to get back to the ship so he can turn him back to human again.

A lot of District 9 is just plain stupid. Most of the stupidity comes from the government’s big plan to contain the cockroaches. If that was me, I’d just call in the Orkin Man.

The thing that irked me the most about the movie was that the first half is filmed in a fake documentary style. This whole concept has been done to death and we really need to put a moratorium on this sort of shit. The mockumentary aesthetic is hard to take on it’s own terms but director Neill (“I was supposed to direct the Halo movie but no one would give me 200 million bucks”) Blomkamp still keeps up with the stupid Shaky-Cam stuff even after the flick stops with all the “found footage” crap.

I guess the filmmakers were trying to make a “statement” about apartheid because they set the flick in Johannesburg. Whatever message they were trying to send is hopelessly muddled. It also doesn’t help when the flick rips off everything from The Fly (Copley loses his fingernails and turns into an insect) to Laserblast (alien weaponry falls into a dumbass human’s hands).

And at 112 minutes, it’s just way too fucking long for it’s own good. If Blomkamp had just abandoned all the lame-o phony-mentary baloney, District 9 might’ve been worthwhile. It’s a shame too because once Copley hops into a ED-209 looking robot and starts annihilating people left and right; it actually becomes pretty enjoyable.

District 9 is at least novel for having the bad guys be Nigerian. Instead of trying to fill Copley’s email inbox with junk mail scams, they try to cut of his insectoid appendage and eat it. You don’t see that kind of thing every day.

What makes the film tolerable is the performance by Sharlto Copley. I have to give him props for convincingly turning into a mutant insect man. I also have to give him props for being named Sharlto Copley. If this guy was around in the 50’s, the studio would’ve probably made him change his name into something more manly like “Rock Blitzen” or “Dirk Roberts” or something.

In short, District 9 gets One Star for the shitty mockumentary filled first half. I’ll be generous and give it Three Stars for the blow-shit-up-real-good second half. That makes for a Two Star average. As man-into-mutant-insect movies go; it’s no Mansquito that’s for damn sure.

BODY PARTS (1991) **

My dad took me to see this movie for my 13th birthday but the dumbasses that worked at the theater wouldn’t let me in. Even though the movie was rated R and my dad was with me, they still wouldn’t let ANYONE under 17 into see the movie because of the “intense nature of the film”. Watching it now 18 years later, I can’t see what all the fuss was about. It’s got a couple cool scenes of dismembered arms and legs but nothing 13 year old me hadn’t seen before.

Jeff Fahey stars as a professor who loses his arm in a car crash. A creepy doctor offers to transplant another arm onto his stump but neglects to tell him that the limb came from an executed killer. It doesn’t take long before Fahey’s arm starts acting on it’s own and slaps his wife and kids around at will. In the end, Fahey learns that the killer is still alive and HE WANTS HIS ARM BACK!

Body Parts plays on a couple major fears of mine: A hatred of hospitals, a general mistrust of doctors, and the fear of getting mangled in a car crash. It doesn’t do this very well though and suffers from far too many sluggish spots in the action. We do get a pretty tight operating scene and a cool high speed car chase where Fahey gets handcuffed to the killer.

Ultimately, the flick never really catches fire; mostly because it doesn’t milk it’s premise for all it’s worth. I think the movie would’ve been a lot better if Fahey had gotten the killer’s dick transplanted onto his body too. That way he could’ve went around banging hot chicks instead of just slapping his family around. That shit would’ve been awesome.